Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Interview Your Clothes

This particular time when you are still in the heart of a season, but you know the end is coming is just the right time to interview your clothes. At nearly the end of each season, I like to look through the closet and see what I haven't deemed worthy to wear for the last few months. The timing is crucial because you have to have enough season left to test out these neglected items. If you wait until the weather changes, you are likely to look at each item, declare your undying love for it and put it away for next year.

So, just stop right there. Take a look at the pieces you haven't worn and put them aside to wear this week. There is a reason you are not wearing them and we're going to find out what it is.

Here is the strategy. First, take the time to combine new outfits. Maybe you haven't worn something because it doesn't go with anything you own. Try to work it in to what you already have without buying anything new. Be creative with colors or layering. I'm always surprised at the colors that can work well together. Trinny and Susanna's book What You Wear Can Change Your Life has many surprising, but beautiful color combinations. Paint chips are also an interesting (and free!) inspiration for color combos.

Try on your outfit. If it makes it out the door, be aware of how it makes you feel. We are investigating why you haven't worn this item all season. Is the color bad for you? Does it not fit well? Too short? Too long? Does it just make you feel yucky? Is it worn out? Sweater pilling? Stain? Pay attention! Sometimes I have done this exercise only to come home at lunch and put the item in the to-go box. If you realize now why you don't like it, LET IT GO. You have given this garmet it's trial and now it is guilty, so bu-bye.

Always have a to-go bag or box. Someone will be very happy to receive these things! My to-go box contains read magazines, lipsticks that don't work for me, jewelry I don't wear anymore, clothes, products I don't like for some reason. I have various people I donate my things to and it's great! I bring magazines to a friend at work who has a teenage daughter. I donate clothes to a charity unless I know someone in particular who would like them. It really is fun! It's important to keep the FLOW going in your home. Bring it in and take it out.

If you haven't realized it yet, this is actually just a sneaky way to get you to start cleaning out your closet. I know it is hard to get rid of things that you purchased. You may be in "I may need it someday" camp and I understand! I hope this helps you to see that if you don't like wearing it today that you will never like wearing it. This also slows down the closet cleaning process to one item at a time which is a pace that some people need. Evaluate each item based on the strategy above, and be aware next time you are in the dressing room to evaluate the same way. Don't be seduced by a great price or a brand. If it doesn't work for you, let it stay at the store.

On the other hand, now is also the time to fill in the gaps of your winter wardrobe. As you go through your closet make notes, yes literally write it down, of what would be an asset to combine with your current pieces.

The sales are on their last leg here, but you can still find wool and cashmere at great prices. If you need a winter coat, boots, sweaters, wool pants, or winter accessories-hat, scarf, gloves, now is the time to find those things on sale. When I am shopping, I already have a list in my head of what I want/need. I like to be open about the details, but I have guidelines. For example, I need some a couple new wool sweaters and I found a merino wool orange turtleneck at Banana Republic for $18.00. It's perfect because I wanted it, needed it, and found it in a color I can combine with my wardrobe.

Ladies, it's not perfect when you have to reinvent your wardrobe to match the great deal. Beware of having to buy more to work around it. This new item should go with many things that you already have. If it doesn't, be realistic and ask yourself if you are buying it for a fantasy wardrobe that doesn't fit your actual lifestyle.

And this is a rule I always apply. If you haven't worn a new item in a week, please take it back. Spend your money on what you will actually wear. I know it may be lovely or a great deal, but what is the point of it hanging in your closet unworn? This action defies logic, but I have done it and I bet so have you.

The exception to the take it back rule is a replacement. When you are interviewing your clothes, make a note of any item that will need to be replaced within the next year. Maybe they are ok to get you through this season because there isn't much season left, but take advantage that you have almost a whole year to find your perfect replacement. You can shop wisely and be selective when you have so much time.

Most of all, have fun! Editing and acquiring a great wardrobe for yourself takes years. Both steps are required to keep your personal style current and your clothes in good condition.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Puerto Rico-Isla del Encanto



This is Gustavo and me in Puerto Rico over Christmas. I am eating oysters for the first time ever. Closing my eyes seemed appropriate in preparation for the rumored sliminess I had been afraid of all my life. The first one I sucked into my mouth, and I said "Do I chew it or just swallow it?" I should have had instructions first. I always heard that you just swallow them, so the first one I swallowed. I didn't really see the point of eating something that I didn't even taste. So the next many, many that I ate, I chewed. I was completely entranced by the freshness of the oyster combined with the saltiness of the ocean and tartness of the lime. If the ocean could itself could be served, it would taste like this.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Very Stylish Girl

Style is hard to define isn't it? It is such an individual pursuit and each of us has to define it for ourself. I believe there are two sides of style or chic. There is the outward expression and the inward expression. The line between the two is crossed very easily because someone who is very stylish outwardly, but unkind or harsh loses their stylish status to me. Of course there is also the phenomenon where someone who doesn't appear to be stylish at all on first glance turns out to exude such passion and warmth that you find yourself looking again.

Style to me is definitely more than what I am wearing, but I can't say that it doesn't include what I am wearing. They are both important, but ultimately being a stylish girl is cultivated inside of me. I propose to you that fixing your inside style will make your outside style glow, and you will be one of the impossibly stylish girls who has it all.

With that I give you my Very Stylish Girl List for 2007.

1. Simplicity is an ever-hopeful goal. I long for simplicity in all areas of my life from my skincare, makeup, wardrobe, cooking, budget and relationships. The irony is that attaining simplicity isn't simple at all. We are constantly bombarded with things that we need or want. Before seeing it on the commercial, in the magazine or in the store we didn't actually need it or want it, but now do. That is good marketing.

Simplicity requires thought, organization and a certain state of mind. Well, I am not perfect, and maybe ultimate simplicity will always be my unreachable goal, but I find it very stylish to manage my life so that I have simplicity where I can.

2. Recycling, because it make me conscious of the impact I have on the environment. I have to take my recycling to the center and it is not convenient, but I consider it important. To me, it is just a basic responsibility. The act of recycling connects me to the cycle of buying. I don't just put it in the trash and consider that it disappears. It goes somewhere.

3. Choosing my purchases in a decided and conscious way. Most of the time (not always!) we are the victims of our own decisions, not victims of circumstances outside of our control. When you choose to purchase a car or house or too many shoes that keeps you working overtime and stressed, know that it is your choice. Part of living consciously is knowing that if you want that house or car or shoes that is ok, but enjoy them fully knowing that you are trading your life energy (or work) to own them. How we spend our money affects us in so many ways, so be informed. Don't just be a product of marketing or competetion with others. Remember that trends always change and you will never really keep up with them. What you decide to purchase impacts other parts of your life.

4. Cultivating relationships with family and friends. Let's face it, family and friends are really what makes life worth living. Connection to others is so precious and valuing them more than things is something we need to work on as a culture. We have become a nation of neighborhoods where people don't know their neighbors, we work too much and are too materialistic. Our focus has turned away from relationships with people and towards relationships with our cars, houses and credit cards.

5. I have been on a mission for a long time to make a campaign against shopping as the national pasttime. I am guilty as anyone except that I don't actually enjoy shopping, but it is necessary if you want to buy something. The point is that shopping as your only hobby is just not chic. It is not living your life. It is buying the illusion of living your life. Think about this for yourself. Do you shop when you are bored or depressed. If you have a free afternoon, do you go to the mall? Do you have other passions in your life? Shopping can be an addiction, and it's not cool, which leads me to my next one.

6. Being debt free is totally stylish. I am personally on a mission to get out of debt in the next six months. I was out of debt 2 years ago, got into debt by investing in a home office for work, moving to Houston & not finding a job for 6 months. The great thing about accomplishing something once is that you know you can do it again. When I graduated from college I had $25,000 in debt. In four and a half years I paid it all off and bought my first condo. Ok, I didn't pay the condo debt off, of course. I did not have a high salary, but I did have a very modest lifestyle. It led me to live a creative life and I loved it.

7. Eliminating clutter. I just read the book Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui. She talks about stuck energy. The concept is self explanatory. Clutter leaves you stuck. You need to move it out to move on with your life. This is something that I've instinctively known for a long time. I know how difficult it is to get rid of things. When you look at a pile or an object, describe what you are feeling. There is a reason you can't let it go.

8. When in doubt, just be generous. This is a motto that Gustavo and I came upon while traveling over Thanksgiving. He had his shoes shined and when it came time to tip he gave the guy a dollar for a $4 service. It seems adequate, but he was lamenting about it all the way to the next concourse. It occurred to us, why not just err on the side of being generous. I personally feel that tipping has gotten WAY out of control in many venues, but in some cases it is the right gesture. I'm not sure about tipping on the drivethrough to Starbucks, but why not tip generously the guy who just lifted your suitcases out of the shuttlebus?.

We have to live with our conscience. When it comes to being generous, go ahead and pay the compliment, give the tip, hold the door open, smile at someone, or bake cookies for your neighbor. It isn't always necessary, but do it anyway. I find that I'm the one who actually receives the blessing because it feels great.

9. Forgive. Holding grudges is not chic. Besides the whole wrinkling issue with fretting, be compassionate with your forgiveness and you will feel more peaceful inside and look more peaceful outside. This takes practice and sometimes a good imagination. Not if, but when you feel assaulted by someone just imagine that they have a reason for being so nasty. Be happy that you don't. Stop the anger by putting up your little guard that deflects their energy into another universe and doesn't absorb into you. You choose how to react. You decide who you are, and same for them. Forgiveness is an action that shows that you are in control of yourself. That is stylish. Don't regret yesterday and don't worry about tomorrow. Don't waste your time holding grudges.

10. Cooking is so chic. After all, didn't someone say that food is love? Cooking is a creative outlet that gives immediate rewards and endears you to the recipients of your epicurean delights. This is a hobby that nourishes our bodies, our minds and our relationships. Having a dinner party can be as simples as soup, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. Where there is food, people gather. Even if you are alone, take pride in your food. Buy yourself the best. What you put IN your body is more important that anything you put ON it. Cooking isn't about perfection, but it is about the experience of enjoying a basic need of life.

11. Smile with your eyes from your heart. Be a sylish girl on the outside, and let your inner beauty come out through your smile. We are in certain places and with certain people for a reason. Smile because you can. You can find joy in your life no matter the circumstances.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Spring 2007 Color Report

Heavens to Betsy, I'm in love! The Pantone fashion color report for Spring 2007 shows a beautiful display of midtone colors. I so excited that I may finally get something yellow in my wardrobe. I adore the grapemist too, looks like periwinkle. Browse through the download on the site and have a gander of what's to come.

Remember that this chart pretty universally dictates what colors will be available for you and me when we go shopping. If you love these colors, save up and buy some investment pieces in your colors. If they are not your colors, take the opportunity to shop your closet and wait patiently until your colors come back in vogue again.

If you like a color, but it doesn't like you, there are fun ways to combine so you can get away with it. Try pairing a color that washes you out with a color that doesn't. Or you can keep the color as an accessory away from your face. Oh, just have fun, but don't feel obligated to buy anything if it isn't flattering. There are always consignment shops.

The most important thing is although colors can be trendy, if it is YOUR color it is always stylish for you. The trick is to buy a classic cut in your colors so they will last you many years. Think cashmere sweater, purse, coat, scarf, or suit. Even neutral colors come in and out of style. Black is always around, but navy, chocolate, british tan, etc come and go, so if you want a suit in these neutrals you have to scoop them up when they are in style.

If you already have your base wardrobe, you can update your look with a few tops in these colors or fun jewelry. I love the look of a basic suit with a ruffle front chiffon blouse and coordinating purse & jewelry.

Yellow!! I'm so happy!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yoga Classes

Happy New Year!

I want to report a website that gives a wonderful gift to us, free yoga. The address is www.yogatoday.com and it is a new, fresh daily class transported from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I don't make fitness resolutions, but fitting yoga or pilates into my busy life has been a goal of mine for awhile. The cost, the driving, not knowing where to go, etc. kept me from doing anything besides a few positions I learned from pictures and past classes. And trust me, doing Downward Facing Dog for a total of 45 seconds was only effective for amusing my dog.

The true goal of my desire to do yoga or pilates is improving my posture. Years of hunched over a keyboard causes the shoulders to curve in, the neck and head to go forward, and tension to accumulate in the back. I consciously think about my posture throughout the day or when I'm walking, but the fact is that certain muscles need to be released or strenghtened. Willpower to sit up straight isn't enough.

This site has been a Godsend for me. I am so thankful for these women who have the intention for everyone to have access to yoga. Some days the classes are focused completely on the spine, which is personally my favorite. But having the variety of a new class every day is like a belated Christmas surprise waiting for me to open!

The teachers are knowledgeable and the classes are complete with thorough instruction. It is an education because they are constantly giving little tidbits of information, and I boy do I love to learn. The classes are an hour long every day, but don't feel like you have to do it all in the beginning. Just turn it on and do what you can. I'll bet the next day you'll feel inspired to do a little more. Create for yourself some space on the floor with a towel or mat. Wear loose fitting clothes and no socks or shoes. I felt the tension start melting away almost immediately. And the next day, I was l more relaxed and a little sore actually because it is also a great workout.

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