Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Easy Button


Do you know that commercial where you can press the easy button, and everything just magically gives you what you need. It's an office supply store, but I love that idea for all the obvious reasons, like having what I want immediately. But also because it would be nice sometimes for someone to actually tell me what I need. Instead of doing loads of research on any specific item, I could press a button, and voila, this is the blazer you've been hunting.

Working long hours has put me into a whole new mindset with regards to ease in certain habits. I find myself dreaming of neat little rows of bras, underwear and socks, in only 2 colors, black and nude. This is something actually quite groundbreaking for me because I don't buy anything repeatedly. I'm always looking for something just a little better, more suited for me, or newer.

I dig through my sock drawer at 4 something every morning, trying to find the right color socks. I usually don't by the way. As I cross my legs on the bus, I'm slightly embarrassed that my socks are faded or don't match at all. There is a stark contrast with black socks and brown suede. It's really the equivalent of grinding teeth, visually. If this were someone else on the bus, my delicate visual sensibility would definitely be affected! When I look down, I have to just close my eyes. :)



So tout de suite a solution to this situation is coming. My project for the weekend is to clean out, organize and decide. The deciding factor is the part of the easy button I wish for the most. There is no trying on, matching, or shopping. Alas, it must be done. It has come a time in my life where I have to create my own easy button. It looks like this:

Decide what brand and style works best for me. For bras, I already know that Chantelle are the best for my body. Socks from Ann Taylor, Banana Republic last longer than the cheaper ones. It really is worth the extra money. I haven't decided on the underwear, but I bought a few from Nordstrom this summer. They were Donna Karan and Felina. Hanky Panky and Cosabella seem to have the editor's heart of many magazines, but I'm not sure I believe them. I haven't been willing to pass over the $18.00 plus tax to find out. I got fitted at Nordstrom for a bra and I really recommend it so you can know what size you really are. See www.Oprah.com for lots of great bra recommendations.

Decide what colors. I find that black and nude can work for everything. They do ring an alarm on my boring radar, but for simplicity sake, let that be the base colors. Adding a third, wild color can't do any harm, but for me I'll make these two the majority.

Decide how many. Since I handwash my lovelies, fewer is better. This also enables me to buy better quality. So how many is enough. I think 10-12 underwear, 10-12 socks in black, brown, nude & pattern (argyle), and 4 bras. The bras are a personal preference depending on your needs. I need a strapless nude, black t-shirt bra, nude t-shirt bra, and a lace basic bra. Actually, I have more than that, but after this weekend that may not be the case. I have heard the word "greige", but never actually in advertising a desirable color in brassiers.

Which leads me to, maintaining them. Let's you and me remember that when you trade your hard earned money for these delicate beauties, we must take care of them. Love them, treat them well. Wash them by hand after every wearing if you can. They dry overnight. Taking care of your things takes time, but it creates an appreciation for what you have. It is taking time for you when you take care of your lingerie. This is something basic that can be a ritual. Rituals give connections through your day. Trust me, it is comforting.

I plan to order some things from www.thelaundress.com, especially for their stain remover. They also have a lingerie wash. Nordstrom has a couple of choices. Or you can use baby shampoo. I know that it is done, but I don't know what the actual, ahem, "professionals" opine on using baby shampoo on your delicates. I can assure you that it IS better than throwing them in the washer, so don't fret about it. Those others are quite pricey and if you can't afford them, I'll bet baby shampoo works fine. They also have lavendar scented.

Put them in the sink in cold water. Swish around a few times, leave a few minutes. Empty sink. Rinse with fresh water. Gently squeeze, don't wring, out excess water. Hang to dry. I shape mine over the shower head.

Bonne chance!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Home From The Range


I haven't written for awhile because I have been recovering from my move back to Houston. I was expecting to winter in Wyoming, but my company sent me back to Houston to work on another project. Can I just say that I adored Wyoming! It is a special place, so beautiful, quiet and serene. Coming back to Houston was a bit of a heartbreak. Although when I left Houston I loved it, when I returned I found her a little overdone, loud and much too busy. She wears too many strip malls and focuses on all the wrong things. I felt sad to leave the little pocket of peaceful paradise, even though I was happy to come back to my boyfriend and friends.

But, bygones are bygones! When I returned, I found out that I'd be working in downtown Houston, which is like another planet (and just as far) for a little Suburbanite like myself. Officially, I am a commuter taking the bus to work. It's very Big City and it's so different that it's fun too. I like that I can read an extra two hours a day. And when I get to work, it's only tall buildings, coffee runs and work.

Which brings me to my next subject, coffee. For all those who may have been offended by my Starbuck's post, I must say that I now understand you. It's something to look forward to during the day. It's a little bit of pampering and a break from work. It is a welcome jolt of caffeination for the body that really needed that sleep. Yes, I understand you now!!! I confess to a morning Starbuck's every day, mostly because I am leaving the house before 6:00 am and don't need coffee until about 8:00 am, but also because it's just something nice. I order a drink not on the menu that is very reasonably priced (considering it's Starbuck's), and it's called a Misto. It's half coffee and half steamed milk, $2.00 if you bring your own cup.

Besides the coffee, here's what I LOVE about downtown Houston, the fashion! These girls aren't playing around! There are two little used-to-be-overstuffed chairs in the lobby at Starbuck's and sitting there is like a little fashion show before my eyes. Also, there is the display of girls who should be on the back page of Glamour magazine with their eyes barred out for anonyminity. But, I just let them pass by with only a subtle acknowledgement to myself to make sure my pants aren't too short for my shoes.

I have made a few notes of many easy looks that are just smashing!

First Look:
This is a beautiful lady that sat across from me on the bus: Brown wool pants with pinstripe, cashmere orange cardigan over shirt (I couldn't see the shirt), MATCHING orange cashmere scarf, Black pea coat in light raincoatish material, large fishnet stockings, patent t-bar high heel shoes with chunky heel. As I looked at her, I was wondering how this outfit worked on her and on me it may look a little too country club. Well, it was her fabulous, funky haircut. She was also wearing a very subtle makeup with a pretty glossy lipstick. The details that made the outfit work and really showed her creative personality were her haircut, the fishnets, the obviously top quality patent brownish shoes, and the matching sweater and scarf that screamed quality and personality. As I exited the bus, I told her how much I loved her outfit!! I hope it made her day.

Second Look:
There are two girls that come together to Starbucks, both with beautiful long curly hair. They are both so well groomed and dresssed that I always notice them. On inspection, I see that it is the small details that give these girls their presence. The one with the black hair wears a particular outfit that I like. It's a black turtleneck, a little blousy with ribbed band around the waist, cream colored wide legged pants with a cuff, black boots, and a long delicate gold necklace that goes to the waist. The look of white on the bottom is very new, and much better than black on bottom and white on top.

Third Look:
The other girl with long curly hair always looks great. This past week she wore a very fitted multi-color jacket, cropped black pants with a cuff, and stacked heel black boots. I went straight over to her to inquire where this jacket had come from! Target! She said she got it two years ago (bummer) and when she got it two co-workers followed suit. Obviously a trendsetter, that one.

I love to spot the great fashionistas among us! I only wish I could take their picture. I'll be happy to report any treasures that I can share here. It's great inspiration and I'm currently looking for one of those long, delicate twisty necklaces. Sometimes it just takes the accessories and a great haircut to elevate your basic pieces to very stylish and of the moment.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

I am thankful for this Blog and for ALL OF YOU reading it!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Don't Deserve

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the dangers of always thinking "I deserve", but what about always thinking "I don't deserve"?

For a little background, I have been a francophile since college when I was entranced by the style wonders of the French girls I knew. There was something special and different about them, but I couldn't tell you exactly what it was until I began studying french women a few years later. When I say studying, I mean reading the onslaught of books that has hit the market in the last few years. One of the messages that conflicted with my own was that I was always thinking "I don't deserve" which led me to make poor choices in my wardrobe. French women somehow know that they are worthy of high quality and are willing to pay the higher price.

In my mind it goes something like this. Those shoes are $150, well I can't afford that (meaning I am not worthy of $150 shoes)! So I may buy a pair for $50, and perhaps there will be a sale and I'll pick up the next pair for 1/2 off. Well these shoes probably weren't what I really wanted and not the best quality, but they certain aren't $150 and they are kinda cute. THIS mentality directs my spending habits which usually keeps me looking for what I truly wanted, and in turn unsatisfied. And to tally up the totals, in the end spending more than the original, seemingly extravagant price of $150.

This is where I bring in the French girls shopping mentality again. In order for me to change, I have to understand that they do not WANT all the shoes that I feel I NEED. It is a cultural difference for so many reasons, but there it is. As an American, I have been trained that it is truly necessary to have many options, even if I don't wear them. Those closet fillers ensure me that I am not poor.

My issues with "I don't deserve" come from not being able to afford things growing up. It has manifested itself metaphorically like a dieter. I would deprive myself of calories, only to binge (shop) when I felt too deprived. Instead of eating a simple, high quality diet, I would overdose on the junk food. Telling myself that I don't deserve high quality only led me to make poor decisions financially and in the quality of my clothes. It seemed more reasonable to buy more for less.

Once I recognized that I was an American girl through and through in this way, I have made my own adjustments to eventually get to the holy grail of closets. I've been working for years, and it is a process that is ongoing. What I have done every season to propel me forward into closet simplicity and perfection is:

1. Wear what I have. If I don't wear it, I release it. Since I started actually wearing my clothes, (I know, what a novel idea! Hey, don't judge me, I know you've had tags still on your clothes hanging in your closet too) I have noticed what terrible quality some items are after only a season of wearing. When you own something of great quality you will see the difference.

2. Buy only items that coordinate with what I have. No new complete wardrobes that ignore the clothes I have decided to keep. It's so easy to do, especially those end of season sales where you are getting such great deals! Buy pieces that work with what you have, but don't reinvent the wheel.

3. Magazine shopping, Internet dreaming. I've realized that I don't actually have to buy anything. I can rip out pages of magazines and go shopping online to keep me dreaming of what I will buy next, when the time is right. For me, when the time is right is when I have saved the money.

4. Do not be seduced by sales, outlet shopping, or consignment shops. We tend to become so distracted by lower prices and trendy items that when we return home, these things really don't work with what we have. (This is the royal "we", as in me!)

5. Change my perspective on having so many clothes. I realize that I can combine outfits creatively to express myself in an interesting way with fewer items.

When you are ready to add or replace an item in your wardrobe, if you are in the "I don't deserve" camp, let's go back to the scenario I mentioned earlier. First step is to realize that when you are building your wardrobe, take a page from the french girl's book. Quality, not quantity. And understand that by buying a quality item one time you are saving yourself money, not to even mention that the quality shows!

Since I am going through this process myself I plan to make the investments of tropical weight wool pants, high quality leather shoes, one leather purse, and a cashmere sweater. I may wait until January when items are on sale, or not. I may ask for something special for Christmas. I want something as classic for me as possible. Almost everything looks dated eventually, but an item flattering to my body can last for a long time, regardless of the trends.

My dream is to have a small, quality, appropriate for anything wardrobe that perfectly reflects my personality. As I whittle down my clothing season by season, it becomes more and more obvious how important accessories are. I am a huge fan of scarves, the little neck ones. Camis aren't exactly accessories, but they can add a layer of color to add interest to your outfit. Since I have learned that most of my wardrobe charm comes from accessories and my own creativity, I know that I can multiply my outfits this way. I also like to have at least one interesting pair of shoes, whether it's a solid color or pattern. My only criteria is that I must be able to wear them with many, many things.

1 part wardrobe, 2 parts creativity, we deserve to make smart financial decisions in our shopping and that means having fewer clothes of better quality.

If you are interested in more of the "French Girl Style", I started with Anne Barone's books 7 years ago. Her first one is wonderful and she also has an in depth web site. It's www.AnneBarone.com. This looks like a diet book and it is, but it also has a chapter on how the French view simplicity in their wardrobes and rely on accessories.

My Disclaimer: If you find great quality at low prices, even better! I'm not saying you have to spend a lot of money to find it, but often you do get what you pay for...as the saying goes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Quality: A Tale of Expectations

I'm curious about something. What do people expect from the quality of their clothes? I realize that we have become a somewhat "disposable" mentality in our society, but I have to report what happened to me yesterday.

I thought I'd found the impossibly cheap but good quality t-shirt with a fabulously flattering neckline from the George line at Walmart. OK, red flags already, I know, but I needed some layering pieces for Wyoming weather and I was very impressed with the colors of these boat neck, three quarter sleeve silky like t-shirts. I was very happy with how they felt and how they looked.

Then, I suppose I made the mistake of actually expecting to wear these shirts more than once or twice. The quality of the fabric was so poor that after two wearings it looked as if I'd scrubbed my tub with it. The fabric was rubbing off everywhere, pilling and discoloring. I am not a rough wearer of clothes, being in the office all day. I'm not doing anything like holding a baby or moving around file boxes. I just sit there.

For the principle of it, I took them back to Walmart. The girl at the customer service looked at me as if I was a cheapskate like she had never seen. She refused to take them back. They have been worn. Uh-huh and see the fabric, I explained. The second lady comes over. They have been worn. Yes, ma'am and can you see the fabric? I just bought them and haven't even washed them yet. If I had washed them, I'll bet it would be even less of a shirt to bring back. Third, much more reasonable (but not apologetic, more like indifferent) manager is called and he allows me to return them.

Indignantly, I ask the first girl, "You understand why I'm returning this, right?" She shakes her head in disbelief, gives me a sparkly, gold-toothed half smile that made me think she thought I was pathetic, and says "Well, I wouldn't have brought them back." So that begs the question, what do people do with these shoddy shirts? I know they must keep wearing them, but after it wears out completely as it is destined to do, it's in the trash I suppose. And I'm assuming from this girls perspective of me, that it is really without a second thought that she would spend money (no matter how little), realize her shirt was worn out, and just move on probably back to Wal-Mart to buy another one.

Immediately I left the Walmart, and had three things on my mind.

First, am I alone in daring to return such a shoddy product? I am a frequent and unashamed returner if I don't like something, even drugstore cosmetics, so I thought maybe I am not in the majority on this issue. By the way, I recommend that you do return items to at least put a dent in the poor quality madness, if not stop it.

Second, how can quality this poor possibly be acceptable? Even if you are buying something at Walmart, does that mean it has to be such poor quality that it is practically disposable? I also bought a Mossimo T at Target and it is holding up very well. It was $6.82 so price is not always indicative of quality. Old Navy also is very good quality of everything that I have purchased. The t-shirts from there have lasted me 3 years already.

And third, that this mentality is not really helping those who can only afford these $8.82 shirts since they are forced to replace so often. Wow, what a vicious circle! It's overwhelming to think how this affects those who really can only afford a certain price level, OR SO THEY THINK! What if they bought one shirt for $25.00 that lasted 2 years, wouldn't that be better?

Well the questions keep coming. Should I boycott Walmart? I heard they pay poor wages and don't give their workers healthcare by keeping them part-time. If that isn't a good enough reason, then the lack of understanding from "customer service" certainly is.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Beauty Money Saving Tips

I just found these tips on Carmindy's site. If you watch What Not to Wear, the American version, Carmindy is the makeup artist. I love that part of the show where she teaches people how to wear the makeup. I just love that show period!

I'm not sure about all these tips, but I love to pass on money saving beauty tricks. Here are some of my own:

*Mix distilled water and baby shampoo to make eye makeup remover. It's actually better than any I've ever bought, including Clinique and drugstore brands. One part shampoo to 3 parts distilled water. I just saved my last bottle to put it in.

*Use white vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.

*Mix olive oil and sea salt or sugar to make a scrumptious body scrub. You can use other kinds of oil too. I think almond oil or jojoba oil is recommended for the skin. You can also do this on your face.

*Baby shampoo for cleaning lingerie. I currently use Nordstrom's lingerie cleaner, but when I run out, this is the way to go. And forget about the $10 a bottle for cleaning my precious Chantelle bras. You can get the lavendar scent baby shampoo to smell the same as Nordstrom's.

*Baby shampoo for cleaning makeup brushes. Also conditioner occasionally. I currently have Mac brush cleaner. I can't remember what the price was, but I'm sure it was too much. I've been doing a lot of research to see if it works and it has good feedback.

Please share your tips. This kind of information is so useful! I'm a huge fan of multi-tasking products to keep the clutter down. I'm still doing research on making my own cleaning products using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. I know it can be done, but I haven't run out of my others yet.

Shout OUT for Beauty Products

Occasionally I come across some outstanding combinations and I wanted to share.

HAIR:
My hair is fine and my natural color (finally!) so I needed something that would give it grip, volume and hold. Bumble and Bumble Prep first, then Thickening Spray has been miraculous. I am on my second day and I usually have to wash it every day, but I just sprayed more thickening spray and voila, same hairstyle as yesterday! I don't need hairspray or anything else. This is an expensive combination, but I think you will find B&B salons generous with their return policy if you don't like it. Also, they have smaller travel sizes for about 1/2 to 1/3 the price.

Since I have been on strike against highlighting, finding a product to make my natural hair manageable is worth every penny to me. It's also a considerable cost savings. How much do you spend on hair maintenance a year? Which brings me to another question, what gave everyone the impression that their natural hair color needed to be changed?

www.bumbleandbumble.com

SKIN:
I ordered samples of Jane Iredale's mineral foundation from http://www.skin-etc.com/janeiredale.html. I tried the loose powder and the pressed powder. The loose powder turned an awful shade of orange on me. I may not have used it right because I didn't have the special brush to apply it. However the pressed powder is wonderful. It is nothing like Bare Escentuals, not shiny and cakey. I just used a powder puff from Sephora and smoothed it on. As a base/moisturizer/primer, I use Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. The results are perfect skin! It covers up all the redness in my face. I think the makeup is supposed to have spf, but I still like to use a sunscreen every day. I haven't figured that part out. It seems that the more I goop on my face, the worse it looks.

NAILS:
I am not normally a painted nail kind of girl, but I've been keeping shorter nails and wanted a little bit of polish. After testing many colors at the store, I found a great natural and polished look. It's Essie "Vanity Fairest". Most of the light colors I used were different in the bottle, but exactly the same on my nails. This one is more milky when applied. It is also very shiny. If you take the time to file and push cuticles back when you are taking a bath (Thank you, my Grandmother taught me that!), you will have beautifully manicured nails for the cost of a bottle of polish.

www.essie.com

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Then What

Coming to Wyoming has been quite an experience so far. As in every new situation, I am learning so much about myself and pushing myself in new ways. Since I normally write about style and life, I've been thinking along those lines wondering what would inspire me here.

My main focus here is to work, and being in a city that is going to be very cold very soon, I am not very interested in building an Alpine wardrobe. After all, I will return to Houston next year. So being in a new city where I won't be working on my wardrobe has got me thinking about the "then what". What else is on the menu?

I've been thinking about our society and culture in general. How much of our lives are spent trying to obtain a perfect wardrobe or perfectly decorated home only to find that the fashion wind blew and now you're out of date. It is an endless cycle, a chasing after the fashion wind. This is the nature of fashion, so our goal isn't to change it, but to change our perspective of it. We take what we want from it and move on to more important things in our life. It serves us. We choose how we take from the neverending array of choices and put it into our style.

The process of building a great wardrobe never ends, but that doesn't mean that you have to be constantly obssessing about it.

The problem with these goals is that they are a standard that keeps moving, and we may never attain them because of that. Sometimes people don't want to think of beyond these goals because that would take too much effort. I'm sure you noticed that most people would rather buy a pill to lose weight, rather than actually exercise. Well that's an easy one. How about it's easier to complain about your job or your significant other than actually do the work it takes to make those improve.

I think we spend too much time on these big ticket goals, and don't get around enough to the after. Many women don't think their life should begin until they lose weight, until they get married, until they have their house redecorated, or even find the perfect concealer. Let's get on to the after part. If you are waiting for all of your life to be perfect to begin your "then what", I would encourage you to at least contemplate what you would like to do then. Why not?

I spent most of my college years checking off the days on the calendar, then I got to work and spent my time waiting for the weekend. This is no way to live! Carpe diem is easier said than done though. It's much easier to buy our way or eat our way to living. It takes so much work to dig deep and see what our real potential in the world can be. Each of us is so unique and has so much to offer one another and ourselves. I am proposing that we get to the "then what" right now. Let's look
beyond money, possessions, clothes and houses and get to the heart of life. God, relationships, self discovery, and hobbies can bring us real satisfaction and peace.

Having said that, a simplified wardrobe can also bring you peace. It's a different kind of peace and maybe we should call it ease. Deciding what works for you will help you in your "then what" activities. Remember that clothes are supposed to work for you, not you for them. What good is a $500 purse going to do you next year when it is out of style (trend) if your goal is to be in style? Remember that style is not the trends, style is a reflection of you.

Let's move forward to the "then what" in our lives. What is holding you back from taking the next step towards your dream? When you make those excuses in your head, write them down and see if you can work through them. My theory is when you need an excuse, ANY excuse will do! Don't wish your life away. Today is your life.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Luxury of the Poor

I heard somewhere that Starbuck's is the luxury of the poor. People that can't really afford a $4 coffee are springing for it because it feels like a small luxury and something that they can count on every day. It makes them feel included and exlusive, after all it is "the best". This concept has me thinking through what other little pleasures could be considered the luxury of the poor. What am I purchasing to make myself feel included and luxurious?

I can say for sure that for me it is makeup. As I read through any fashion magazine, I realize that I have been like a sheep to the slaughter/cash register buying up all the editor's favorites. It almost rings of propoganda and conspiracy when I realize that I have "chosen" to buy certain repeated favorite and most popular items. There is the Nars Orgasm color blush, the Nars Dolce Vita lipstick, the Shu Uemera eyelash curler, the Rosebud lip salve, and don't even get me started on the products that give volume to fine hair, most often Phyto Actif at a startling $26 for a petite bottle.

Does buying these things make me feel luxurious and included? You bet they do! Is $26 for a lipstick really a reasonable price? I think not.

So why do these little luxuries have such a hynotizing affect on us? The included part is a huge draw. When I read those magazines and already have one of those selected products, I feel affirmed in my decision making. Isn't it startling how much these lists influence your buying decisions. I go to the store already wanting to buy a certain color because I've been programmed to know that a certain celebrity or editor recommends it. So what if there is another color better. Well I may not even look at another color because it hasn't been recommended. Or I may feel such an emotional attachment to that recommendation already that I buy it anyway.

I like to think that I make good, sound financial decisions to meet my needs, but I can see in my own life how I give myself these luxuries that actually add up and may harm me financially. This is true especially if you are using credit for any of these purchases. Heaven forbid that you are putting Starbuck's on a credit card and paying interest to boot.

I am going to say that the boom on handbag sales can also be classified as luxury of the poor. They have created whole lines of status bags classified as "medium" price range, and that's around $400-$500! For me, that would be very high price range, but that is an example of how marketing affects our thinking regarding luxury. If they can convince us that that price is average, then better for them.

The point of this blog entry is to get you thinking about your little luxuries, how they make you feel, and how they are affecting your financial situation? Ask yourself "What are you really buying?". Be honest and dig deep. The power that marketing holds over us is STRONG and strong probably isn't even a strong enough word. I would venture to say we are sometimes powerless against it. That is unless we can look it in the face and recognize it for what it is.

So look at your current obssession and see what you are really getting for it. Is it inclusion into a select group? Is it a "I deserve it" reason? Are you feeling deprived and buying that Starbuck's makes you feel a little rich? Are you making up for a childhood of hand-me-down's? (Me, raising my hand.) Or maybe you just don't like to think about money and have bought into the belief/lie that you must buy those things and you "need" them.

I'll be digging deep in my own psyche as well. Have fun and let me know what you discover in there!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Challenge for the Closet Therapist

I found out last Friday that I will be moving from Houston, TX to Cheyenne, Wyoming for 7 months on a project for work. I find myself putting my own advice into practice and have learned even more about simplifying in order to make my wardrobe work for me.

We are almost finished with our 1200 mile road trip, writing to you from Ft. Collins, Colorado. I am making mental notes of the lessons I've learned and want to share with you when I get some time. I can say there are new goals I have for myself regarding simpflifying the beauty product area of my life. And having your wardrobe pared down to only a few color groups definitely makes layering and small wardrobes feasible.

More on these things later:

Layering summer clothes in with winter clothes

Avoiding "vacation panic" syndrome

Same colors-different shades

Beauty Closet breakdown

Thanks to everyone who stops by for a peek at my blog. This topic is one of my favorite passions, and I hope it inspires you to simplify your wardrobe so that you can live more LIFE!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Journey IS The Destination

I've posted one of my favorite poems below, and the reference in the title is a line I read in Mireille Guilliano's French Women Don't Get Fat. They both say that our life, our endeavors are meant to be treasured for what we learn and what we become along the way. Our experiences, good and bad, are what shape us so that we are wise and happy by the time we come to the destination. We become the journey.

Building a wardrobe works best in the same regard. Personal style is not something you can buy from a store. When you are younger, experimentation is a wonderful way to express yourself. You may even figure out what style fits your personality best. But if you're like most people, one day you become frustrated and realize you don't know what "your" style is. So begins the pursuit and desire for a silver bullet to figure it all out for you. But it's not that easy. It takes time.

So often we (that's me too) are trying to rush ourselves along in having the perfect wardrobe right now. Maybe you feel like rushing right out to get the latest in the shop window. But that is not the way style works. Being truly stylish is sometimes as elusive as truly knowing yourself. Chanel said "Fashion changes, style remains." We also aspire to be stylish, not trendy. As you find out what gives the most pleasure from expression through clothing, you will start forming your own personal style.

I want to help you get going in the right direction so you can begin building your own style. That means removing the things that are blocking the view. Here is your Closet Mission:

INTERVIEW YOUR CLOTHES:

Take out of your closet what ISN'T you. This really is the easy part. If you haven't worn it all summer, now is a great time to say bu-bye. Don't pack it away again for next summer. Now, also is a really great time to wear what you think you wanted to keep, but haven't worn yet. Take it out, plan an outfit and wear it today or tomorrow. If you can't bring yourself to wear it, say bu-bye. If you wear it, and it doesn't fit right, or the color looks bad on you, guess what, say bu-bye. Keep a bag going all the time so you can easily take it to a friend or charity.

Next, we will look at what to do with what remains in the closet. Enjoy the poem and YOUR JOURNEY.

ITHAKA by Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Itaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Perfectly Messy

Did you know that perfectionism can manifest itself into clutter and hoarding?

I'm fascinated by the fact that the pyschological dysfunction of OCD and perfectionism are linked. That someone who has a hugely cluttered home and has a fear of letting go of things, is actually a perfectionist is completely bizarre to me. Here is a website on the subject.

http://www.ocfoundation.org/hoarding/index.php

I see people all the time at the local superstore buying organizing materials. Now, I love to organize, but are you organizing clutter that you really don't need to keep? Are you storing things away to never be touched again? I'm not asking this from a pedestal, but from experience!! I still have to look at every piece in my home and ask myself if I really need it and it IS hard to part with things for so many reasons. Look at these common themes/excuses for hoarding.

*They want to be responsible with disposing of things, thus may not get around to doing so

*Want to organize things, but become confused because they want to place similar things together, but see everything as unique

*They buy things just in case they need them

*They have trouble throwing out things because they fear having to replace them

*Incoming material far exceeds outgoing material

Hoarding is not a commonly used term except in the extreme cases, but I believe as a society that we have a problem with hoarding. Is it completely unacceptable to go around telling people they are hoarders, but I want to make a stand against accumulating all these things!!!! I want people to be free of owning so much that it ends up owning them.

Here is your Closet Mission for this week:
Find something that you are "saving" and give it your attention. Do you need it, well probably not. But do you love it? Ok, do you use it? You probably don't. Why not? What are you saving it for? If you love it, use it!! Burn those candles! Use your china! Read those magazines!

If just reading this is giving you the heeby jeebies, consider how you are feeling. I'm not telling you to throw out what you love, but remember that if you are not using these things someone else can and will. If you are not sure, put these things in a box to revisit in a month.

Practice letting go. After all practice makes perfect.

Monday, August 14, 2006

$$$ Opportunity Cost = Your Life

Part of my mission as The Closet Therapist is to battle the materialism and marketing we are tempted with everyday. I want to teach others to see clearly the fashion choices they make in order to cater to a false ideal. What you wear should be appropriate, but essentially you. Your choices should allow you to focus on other aspects of enriching your life, not only the way you look.

The marketing tends to confuse people and keep them chasing after something they will never catch, usually at a personal sacrifice that is great. The cost is monetary, but also the opportunity cost is a consideration. Credit card debt is obviously a burden, but the opportunity cost is what you could have been doing with your life if you weren't obsessing over the "it" shoes or looking like a celebrity.

Think about how you want to create your life, what is important to you. If you are unbalanced in the clothing and appearance sector, let me help you have a new perspective. While you are learning how to edit and choose the right clothing, you are getting to know yourself. It's wonderful to know who you are and stop trying to be that fantasy person you are trying to dress. You are going to uncover yourself the more you stop buying things that don't really fit you or your life.

Closet Mission: Gift or donate one fantasy item in your closet that you never wear but you realize that it doesn't fit you or your lifestyle. Oh, and please don't buy those peg-legged jeans!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

WARNING: HISTORICAL NOVELS MAY ALTER VIEW OF REALITY

After I finish my bedtime reading of Elizabeth Goudge's Pilgrim Inn, I feel transformed. Little ideas start to tweak my subconcious until they bubble into full blown ideas, where I promptly pop them after they have submerged into today's reality. But I love that feeling in the moment where I believe that I will change my life to be more like it was in the past, be in the 18th century or this post war novel I'm now reading.

Just as I'm playing with these ideas, I'm hoping that I can develop them into something that is here to stay. Why not? I imagine myself detached from today's pushy ideals of an American woman, where I am not expected to develop my resume and career so that I am gradually achieving more money and better titles. I am not expected to compete with men by becoming like them. The idea of traveling somewhere for a month long vacation with my family is ok because I don't only have two weeks vacation a year which I have to divy out in paltry long weekends throughout the year.

Just as I am writing this, I realize how incredibly ungrateful I sound for not appreciating the rights I have as a woman today. Forgive me, but this is my daydream and in my daydream I still have all the rights, but not the pushy expectations imposed upon me by society.

May I continue? I am imagining how my household would be different in those times. They had fewer belongings and those items were cherished. Life was difficult back then, but I can still borrow some of those forced values on myself.

Start with that month long vacation, where I will take my sparse but perfectly fitted, tailor-made wardrobe and my few beauty products in my trunk to visit my family. While visiting we will share meals together while NOT watching the tv, we will talk, listen to music (ok in this daydream I play the piano), drink tea and make jokes about past times together. There will be a contentment hanging in the air that first night as we all enjoy one another and experience only what the evening is offering.

I sense the importance of material items like clothes and gifts, but there is a reverence toward them that is foreign today. I want to feel that reverence for what we buy ourselves or each other. That is something worth bringing back, heartfelt sentiment and true gratitude.

Really, I intend to grab these pearls of wisdom from the past because they are worth coming back in style. If neon can make a comeback, I can certainly make my case for fewer clothes, appreciation for what we have & creating my lifestyle instead of following some prescribed plan.

See that bubble is about to burst because I'm already feeling very mumsy and old-fashioned for writing this. See, POP!, there it goes, but now I have recorded it while in my time machine induced daydream so I can remember it forever.

Say Cheese!



C'est moi!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Contentment is Anti-Christ of Fashion World

As I am almost through with my month-long goal of no credit card usage and no Galleria shopping, I'm starting to have these strange feelings. They are feelings of peace and contentment with myself and my belongings. I've decided that feelings like these are the anti-christ of the fashion world. You know they fully operate on us not being content with what we have.

So that leaves me with the question, could I be getting over the addiction after only one month? Have I magically put everything in the perfect perspective after just one short month of cold turkey? Well, I don't think I am cured, but it's a step in right direction. There are rumblings in my head that I may be missing something, perhaps a sale or a preview for the fall. It is natural to have withdrawal pains, I guess.

This month has helped me stay focused on other things that are important to me. I've organized my house, read books, talked with friends, cooked new recipes and practiced new eye shadow techniques (right before I take it off--bad green eyeshadow!). That was the point of this project, to not just be interested in my appearance, but devote the time to cultivate other interests not related to something I need to buy to feel pretty or complete. I can approach my wardrobe in a sane, thoughtful process to serve me, and not be filling some emotional need or responding to an ad campaign or free gift with purchase.

Currently I am thinking about my fall wardrobe, making a wish list as I see what is coming around and what I wanted last year but didn't get. I have to say I'm not impressed with the new fashions, the ones very reminiscent of Madonna circa 1985. They say if you live through a trend once, you should forgo it the second time. Supposedly it's because you are too old when it happens, but I think it's just that queasy feeling because you remember what it was like to BE that age. Who wants to go through adolescence again?

Being on a sabbatical from shopping helps me think clearly about what I will purchase for fall. I can dream of my fully functioning wardrobe without being distracted from all the other items that I don't need in the stores. May I suggest an actual WISH LIST for yourself. It can be infinitely useful because when you are shopping you remember that you really needed a brown turtleneck and not another red purse. Also, when someone wants to buy you a present, you remember something that you really wanted. I have books and cds on my list too.

I am continuing my experiment for the rest of July and perhaps even August, but I don't know, let's not get too crazy. I will have the goal to continue this feeling of peacefully and proactively planning my wardrobe. It deserves thought and my hard earned money deserves to be well spent. When I have a flashback of scavenging through those sale racks wishing that lady out of my way because she is looking at my size, well I don't even know who that girl is anymore. Now, that's progress.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Houston, we have a problem.

I don't think it is only me that has a big dilemma between my fashion sensibility and my fashion reality. I am talking about champagne taste on a beer budget, people. Ok this isn't a groundbreaking realization, or is it?

Well it certainly isn't a new idea, this buying more than we can afford because we feel like we need it. So the realization is not that people live way over their clothing budgets, but that doing so is ridiculous. THAT is where I want you to commune with me, in the place of reality, where money doesn't grow on trees (thank you Randy for preaching that!)

Come with me to where a magazine, celebrity, television, or movie does not dictate how I live my life. Maybe you are saying that I am crazy, and this doesn't apply to you. Ok then, but let me tell you how it might. How important is the way you look, how much time, money and thought do you dedicate to it? How often do you go to the hairdresser, get your nails done, buy fashion magazines, read about Jennifer Aniston or Reese Witherspoon (my personal weakness), go shopping, go looking, look at catalogs, online shopping, reading books about fashion, fretting over what you need to have to be cool, modern, up to date, appropriate? Do any or many of these apply to you? Then, this IS a big part of your lifestyle. The question is what are you sacrificing to achieve this lifestyle?

These items in moderation shows an attention to detail and your personal appearance, but it's the excess in detriment of other parts of your life now and your future that I am concerned about. It is the constant focus on these things that aren't lasting in fashion or your life, but yet you are trading a considerable portion of your life in pursuit of something you may never catch.

My goal of this blog is to show you a simpler way to look at your clothes, a way that is appropriate for you, not conforming to someone else's ideal. You take what you want for fashion and have it conform to you. It is your servant, you are not it's slave.

I am asking you to take a look at your daily life, your expenses and judge for yourself how important fashion and your appearance really is to you. You need to have a balance in your life, all parts need to sum up to a complete picture of you, your past and your future. If you are spending your paycheck on the bare minimum of bills, then shopping with the rest with no savings, you are out of control. You are letting this dominate you and you need to get back in control of your budget. I recommend putting away the credit card and stop shopping altogether for a period of time. Just like an alcoholic can't go to a bar, you can't go to the mall. Evaluate yourself and see where your priorities are! Look at those past bills and see what you have to show for it. Was it worth spending all that money for what you have in your closet. If you invested well, attagirl! or attaboy!

Go to the library and read about Madame Bovary and Marie Antoinette. These ladies lived the life of luxury, fashion and endless pursuits of the fleeting and look where they wound up! Just think about what you are sacrificing when you are spending all your time and money on something that will be on the "not" list in the not too distant future. Invest in clothing that lasts, and most of all invest in yourself, your interests, your family, friends & learning how to let fashion serve you.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pantone Fall 2006 Colors

Pantone has released their colors for Fall 2006. They are RICH and DEEP and oh so NOT my colors! I am a "summer", and mustard yellow is not in the plan for me. For those of you who can wear these earthy autumn colors, you are getting your revenge for all those years of pink, pink, pink.

Here is Pantone's website link:

http://tinyurl.com/oqvum

As I'm sure you have seen The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda clearly explains how the top fashion designers desicions trickle down to the mass market stores. I am fascinated and appalled at the idea that I clearly have no choice as to the assortment of colors from which I can choose . If you are like me, and your colors aren't "in style", follow me down the mustard yellow brick road.

First of all, figuring out the colors that flatter you are essential. Otherwise you will waste a lot of money on clothes. I suggest finding out what "season" you are. Take a look at Carole Jackson's Color Me Beautiful book. It is dated, but it will give you a start. If you can't get it from the library, I think www.half.com usually has cheap copies.

For color inspiration I like the book What You Wear Can Change Your Life by those cheeky What Not to Wear Girls. This book is worth skimming through because of the unusual color combinations. I love mixing colors like green and turquoise, both the same level of color and it makes such an interesting contrast. Using this idea can give you so many more combinations with the clothes you already own too. You can also get some funky color combos at the paint store on the paint cards where they combine colors for you. There is nothing "basic" about this type of color combining. When you dare to do this, it will definitely elevate you to advanced fashion status! You will notice people noticing your outfit and how utterly unique it looks.

Now, what if you are in need of clothes. Is the trend this season "you"? Have you been waiting for "your" colors to come around again? I suggest choosing carefully some pieces that will last you awhile. How about a cashmere sweater in a color that matches your eyes?

If these aren't your colors, don't buy them just because they're in style!!! Can I say that again??? KNOW what looks good on you and don't ever buy a color because it is trendy! Avoid a trendy color if it doesn't work for you. If it does work for you, then it doesn't have to be a trend FOR YOU! See what I mean...the trendy color now becomes a classic for you because it is YOUR color.

You know the neutral colors are also trends, but there will always be black and white. I try to avoid it because I wore it too much as a waitress in college, but it looks stunning on some people, usually "winters"

When I say neutral I mean black, navy, chocolate, taupe, british tan, camel, ivory, grey etc. If you are in the need of a suit and your neutral is in stores, you may want to consider a purchase in the next year. There is always black, but grey, navy and the others are difficult to find when you need them. I have been looking for a charcoal grey suit for years and am so happy they will be arriving soon.

Lastly, if you need to purchase and are frustrated with the color selection, don't forget about consignment shops where you can find older styles and maybe just the right colors for you. When you can do without any clothing purchases, take the opportunity to save your money for a purse or accessory that will last you a long time.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More of Myself

Just like I have been editing excess things out of my life, I have been growing out the blonde highlights in my hair. I jumpstarted the process by having about 7 inches cut off. I thought I would miss that hair, but I feel more and more like myself as it grows out. That hair was me trying to be something that I wasn't...well a bleached blonde. It is a freeing process as you stop doing things, or buying things to make yourself become someone different.

Now, I am not saying I'll never get highlights again. After all I am a woman and I like to change things up a bit. That is my disclaimer, but my goal is actually to work with my natural color and texture. It's the same with all other bits of marketing that we buy into that makes us believe that we are not good enough as we are. Have you noticed that we are constantly told we are not good enough? We become convinced that we need to look outside ourselves to be complete, in particular we need to BUY something or even eat or take something miraculous.

This constant attack of marketing sends us in constant pursuit of buying health and happiness. I am currently taking July off from shopping and have deemed it the no credit card use month. It is a breath of fresh air to stop seeing everything that I don't have but may want. If you take a month to quit the addiction of "want" and stop to see what you already have, it may just change your perspective and eventually your life outlook.

So, my mission is to help you clear out the closet clutter from your house and the psychological clutter from your heads. Start by taking a month for no shopping. Look around you and see what you can donate to others. Organize a drawer and start to love and treasure what you own. Wash your lingerie by hand with a lavender scented soap. See the beauty you own already!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Illusion or Reality?

I was thinking about how people tend to shop for clothes that don't always fit their needs. It seem that what you need to buy should be a logical, straightforward task that involves a list of things to buy, then buying them. HA!!! Is there anything more confusing and distracting than shopping? It is so hard to keep focus when you walk into the store, it's no wonder we can't answer the questions "Who am I?" and "What do I need to wear to suit my lifestyle?" It's so much more appealing to imagine yourself an off-duty ballerina or perhaps a long, lean lady suited to wear those Ralph Lauren equine looks.

Wouldn't it be great to have a reality mirror, where you can see yourself as you really are? This mirror isn't meant to show you actual lumps and bulges, (we see those!), but to say to you that this outfit doesn't really suit your lifestyle. Perhaps a reminiscence of Snow White's mirror? Mirror, mirror on the wall, will this outfit be ok after my child spills chocolate milk on it and I have to launder it? Will this outfit take me from the park with said little clumsy child to a relaxing evening with my husband? Does this outfit say to the world what I want to express? Mirror, are you there?

Well, I suppose a trusted friend, a truly honest, fashionable friend could perform this service for you. Or me, if you are in Houston, but why is it so difficult to see these things for ourselves? Are we living in an illusion of who we are, or who we hope to be?

What is the reality of your lifestyle, and how can you dress for it? Look in your closet and see what you keep buying that may fit a dream life that you don't actually have. Maybe this is an indication that it's time to do something about that dream. Or perhaps you need to realize you are not a teenager anymore.

What's in your closet? Please send your comments!

Peaches & Crust

I KNOW that this is not really relevant to this blog, BUT I am so proud of myself and I just had to share! And well, it's my blog and I'll post if I want to!!!

I was gifted with the most beautiful ripe peaches this week, and Susie Homemaker that I am, made the most delectable rustic peach tart last night.

Homemade crust (hmmmph! Yes I made my own and you can too!)
3/4 stick of butter cold and cut up into little pieces
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp cold water

Mix all ingredients but water, mash all together with tips of fingers (FAST!) so that butter doesn't melt. When it is evenly distributed, add water, and form a ball. Put in frig for 30 minutes. Take out of frig, and with heels of hands spread onto baking sheet. I spray the baking sheet with Pam, then put a little flour over it. I make mine in the form of a square.

Filling
3 Tbsp Jam (I used apple, but peach is probably better)
2 peaches
heavy cream
sugar
brown sugar

Cut peaches in half then into pieces (not diced). Spread jam over bottom of crust, arrange peaches leaving 1 inch of crust around edges. Fold extra crust over peaches. There will be a lot of peach exposed in the center. Sprinkle brown sugar over peaches. Brush cream on exposed crust, then sprinkle white sugar over crust.

Bake 400 for 25-30 minutes.

I also made whipped cream. 1 pint heavy whipping cream, 3 tsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and mix on low with hand blender until starts to stiffen. Don't beat too long or you will make BUTTER!!!

Bon Appetit, and bring the smelling salts because there will be swooning over this dish.

Are you living in the Hoarding Zone?

Why do we hold on to clothes we never wear? What is the allure of owning so many things? I believe that keeping unuseful things could be supported by a fear of poverty, a sense of guilt, or an unwillingness to move away from the past.

Poverty Thinking
I have heard so many times "Oh, I may need those, so I don't want to get rid of them." If you haven't worn an item in a year and can't seem to get rid of it, think about it...do you believe that you will not afford to replace it if the time comes? This kind of thinking leads to hoarding because there are so many things that you "may" need. We have to trust the universe to give back to us when we need it. You reinforce this theory with others when you give away what you have to provide them what they need. I guess you could call it clothing karma.

Got Guilt?
Look through your clothes, one at a time, and see what emotions you feel as you behold each one. Did you spend too much money on that blouse? Are you still waiting to wear that sparkly dress to a party when you rarely go to parties? Are all those pants too small on that side, too big on the other side? When you feel guilty looking through your clothes, it makes you feel stagnanted. You don't want to deal with a stagnated closet, and others don't want to deal with a stagnated you! Get rid of the guilt by getting rid of those unneccesary clothes.

Moving on!
Start moving on, by letting go of those old memories, sizes that don't fit you, and a fantasy life that you don't live. When you see a clear view of who you are right now, it gives you a peace in your mind. You don't have to deal with the clutter of your past, or any failures when you look at your clothes. By releasing these past "sins" from your home, you can finally forgive yourself for not being that old size. Be who you are at this very moment. You are the one who decides what to keep and what to let go. You know the offenders and what is keeping you from moving forward.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

May I present myself...

I call myself the Closet Therapist because I have deemed it a physchology of sorts to investigate people's closets. Pardon the cliche, but there really are skeletons in people's closets. I love to root around and figure out what psyschoanalysis I can perform by just seeing the contents of one's closet.

Although I am no fashion guru, I'm great at minimizing and helping people just say no to clunky shoes and even tunic sweaters, yes they do still exist. Sometimes it comes to an all out tug of war with articles of clothing, but I usually win. Usually I don't have to resort to outright shame for wanting to keep things, but it has been known to happen. It is for the best of all involved.

Now, all is fine and dandy when I am called upon to do an overhaul on someone else's wardrobe, but I also have my own neuroses. This is why I can relate to other people because I know how hard it has been to let go of sentimental dresses, expensive designer clothes, oh you get the idea. So occasionally I will become pedantic about other's downfalls, but only because I have jumped over that hurdle and am beckoning them to join me. Join me in the land of free from closet clutter, that is!

It is a beautiful thing to have a pared down closet, always a work in progress. The progression is the fun though! Having a great wardrobe is a reflection of your developing relationship with yourself. The better you know yourself, the better your clothes will reflect that self.

Join Me in An Experiment in Minimizing Makeup

Every once in a while I'll need a good escape to youtube videos and I'll find some "project pan" videos.  Why is this a th...