Mud and Grace Summer Essentials


In the summer, you are on the go. You want cool and easy pieces that will take you from a walk with friends, to harvesting lettuce in your garden, to hopping in the car for the family road trip. I’ve assembled 12 lucky pieces for your summer adventures.

This year, my summer wardrobe is primarily light blue, red and white, with basics in black, navy and tan. Every item can be worn with every other item. Everything can be washed, or stand up to a dip in the river. Enjoy!

Number 1 – A sport weight dress

2nd Hand: Patagonia
2nd Hand: Patagonia

This is one of my favorite all time dresses. I found it second hand in both blue and black. The halter looks dressy, while the fabric keeps it casual. There are a hundred sport weight dresses to choose from. My advice is to choose one in a solid color and isn’t too tight. Any fabric with shine will draw the eye in, so adding a loud pattern can be a bit much. A solid color will create a long, lean line.

Number 2 – An easy jersey dress

New: Boden
New: Boden

Jersey dresses are one of the best parts of summer. Soft, fun and easy to care for, you really can wear your jersey dress anywhere. Because jersey is matte, you can indulge your love of prints (last summer my jersey dress had sailboats all over it!) You can find great styles at all price points, but remember that jersey will eventually pill. Like long summer nights, the jersey dress is a fleeting pleasure. Find yours, wear it all summer long, and say goodbye when it starts to pill.

Number 3 – Perfect tanks and tees

New: Maison Jules
New: Maison Jules
New: Maison Jules
New: Maison Jules

Finding the perfect t-shirt is a pain. It’s the type of shopping we all put off, but having the perfect t-shirt is the biggest win in an effortless summer wardrobe. (I have been road testing t-shirts for 6 months leading up to this post – not my idea of fun) This summer, I found Maison Jules fit me nicely, and I liked the lightweight fabric. But what works for me will not necessarily work for you. You’ll need to hoof it around town to find your t-shirt, and it will be so worth it when you do.

Number 4 – A Chambray shirt

2nd Hand: American Eagle
2nd Hand: American Eagle

The chambray shirt is actually a year-round Mud and Grace essential. Button it up, leave it open, tie a knot in front, you name it, the chambray is a true workhorse. This one is made of Tencel, a buttery soft fabric that doesn’t wrinkle and washes well.

Number 5 – A wear-it-with-anything sweatshirt

2nd Hand: no tags
2nd Hand: no tags

This sweatshirt can take a beating. In fact, looking at this picture you’re probably thinking, “Obviously, it already has…” This cozy piece will keep me toasty around the campfire, and warm on a chilly morning at home. Essential. If you want to look a little more chic, and your climate gets quite cool at night, substitute a fisherman knit sweater. Personally, I want to be able to spill hot cocoa on my warmth layer.

Number 6 – A sport weight skirt with shorts inset 

New: Columbia
New: Columbia

I love this skirt so much that my personal view of the apocalypse would be a world in which I had to get dressed without it. The Mud and Grace response to the ubiquitous pencil skirt, this piece is endlessly flattering, but you can move in it. I have worn this to every imaginable event, and get compliments every time I slip it on.

Number 7 – linen shorts

New: AllenAllen
New: AllenAllen

Something about well-made linen shorts just epitomizes a relaxed, stylish summer. The banded waist on these keeps them causal and simple to style. I love them for running around town, and having friends over.

Number 8 – Hiking shorts

New: The North Face
New: The North Face

Some summer days, you’re just going to get dirty. If you’re lucky, that will be most of them. These shorts fit loosely (I abhor stiff, tight hiking shorts!) They are not so “hiker chick” that I can’t wear them around town without looking like I just escaped from a Pam Huston essay (Not that that would be a bad look. I should be so lucky. But you know what I mean.) Extensive testing has revealed that they dry very quickly after jumping into a river.

Number 9 – Cut-off shorts

Old: J Crew
Old: J Crew

Because it’s summer. Be sure to sew down the cuffs so you’re not spending your whole summer rolling up your shorts.

Number 10 – Go everywhere sandals

2nd Hand: Merell
2nd Hand: Merell

The are tough enough to wear into a lake. They are comfortable enough for a long day of walking. They are nice enough to wear with anything else in the essential summer wardrobe. Yes, there will be times when you want to wear a pair of heals with one of the dresses, or a cute pair of sneakers with shorts or a skirt, but nice, wearable sandals will get you a lot of mileage. This year I was lucky enough to find a great pair second hand. In the past I have spent more money on nice sandals than on the rest of my summer clothes combined. Because if your feet hurt, you’re not going to be any fun at all.

Number 11 – Trail running shoes

New: Nike
New: Nike


These are the perfect outdoor adventure shoe. You can hike, run, kick around town, and they pack up pretty small. Unless you are doing a major backpacking trip, most of us don’t need full-on hiking boots for ordinary hiking needs. These give you plenty of traction on a hike, but don’t weigh you down. Plus, you can start trail running!

Number 12 – The hat-o-your-choice

New: Patagonia
New: Patagonia

You need a hat. Get the hat you want. Pay full price and love the fact that you don’t have sun blazing into your eyes. Always wanted to try a cowboy hat? Do it, you’ll look great. Like the floppy suede hats the girls working at Buffalo Exchange are always wearing? Buy one. I danced around this Patagonia snap-back trucker for months. Then I bought it. When I can keep it off my daughter’s head, I wear it all the time.

These are the big 12 pieces of summer. You’ll have your own favorite pieces to work in as well. Other good bets for summer are a swim suit you love so much you can’t wait to go swimming (It does exist) Simple pieces of inexpensive jewelry (I have a piece of heart-shaped Tigers Eye strung on silk) sports bras to wear with everything (I like Reebok) and classic sunglasses (It’s hard to beat an old pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers)

Do you have a summer essential that would inspire Mud and Grace readers? Send in a picture of yourself wearing your summer favorites and look for it in Inspiration.




What to wear to a (Shakespeare) festival

Do you love how every fashion magazine and clothing website can’t wait to get us all suited up for “festivals”? As though each woman in America is ready to throw on a $1200 boho gown and go experiment with hallucinogenics for three days in a muddy field.

While alt-music festivals may be the provision of hipsters and college students, a woman with a busy, muddy life may well find herself at any number of other 3-day affairs where she wants to look and feel her best.

In this case, I’m writing about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Like Utah and Colorado, this theater festival truly is world class. I want to give a nod to their efforts by looking good, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself by being too fancy.

Day 1:


Activities: Travel, checking in, lunch out, exploring the town, matinee production of Twelfth Night.

For the first day I planned upscale casual. We didn’t have an evening production to go to, so nice jeans, my Sanctuary jacket and the trusty Fryes were sharp but not fancy.

Day 2:

Perfect for sitting around and yammering about the impact of set design on the quality of a play
Perfect for sitting around and yammering about the impact of set design on the quality of a play

Activities: Morning walk, rock climbing, lunch and dinner out, matinee of Vietgone, evening production of The River Bride.

Because of the extremes in the day’s schedule, I needed two outfits, and had to change quickly as we’d be pushing it to get from the rock gym, through lunch and into the theater for a 1:00 matinee. A t-shirt and my Athleta joggers got me through the morning.

This wrap dress was perfect. It moves well and walks the line between dressed up and easy that I strive for. I’d let you know the brand but I found it second hand, and the tags had been cut out. We’ll just call it DVF. Why not? The sandals are Naturalizer, incredibly comfortable with just the right amount of height.

Day 3



Activities: Morning run, write in cafe, long walk in Lithia park, lunch and dinner out, matinee of Yeoman of the Guard, evening production of Roe.

The weather was hot this day, but I was going to be spending as much of my time in air-conditioned theaters and restaurants as I would outside.

For this day, I pulled out my favorite Patagonia summer dress. The halter top, low back and color make it elegant, but the fabric is casual. I carried a camel colored cashmere wrap with me, which feels exactly like a snuggly blanket. (Let’s be honest, it it a snuggly blanket)

The final analysis:

This little wardrobe was great, taking me from hot, sunshine-filled jaunts on the sidewalks of a quaint little town, into soulful theater experiences. The only thing I hadn’t anticipated was that breakfast at the hotel turned out to be quite a social affair. We stayed at the Ashland Springs, along with a number of other theater goers, and always wound up chatting over the plays. By day three I wished I had something other than my climbing-chalk-covered Athleta pants and one t-shirt for mornings. I’ll make appropriate changes for the next time.


Join the Mud and Grace research team

If a woman wants to look good, the natural thing to do is pick up a book, right? My quest for effortless style began in the pages of every book, magazine or website I could find. I read extensively and watched a mind-numbing number of YouTube videos in attempt to feel comfortable in my wardrobe. You can find the most helpful books in Books We Love. Here is the collective wisdom of very style guru from Kate Spade to Coco Chanel distilled for you:

Figure out what looks good on your body

Come up with a signature style

Mix it up with something different every now and then

Less is more

Buy a white shirt

That’s it; the entire body of my research.

So… I’ll just do that then? Figure out what looks good on my body? Come up with a signature style? Right.

And there’s another problem to add to the inherent difficulties of distilling a style from the millions of possible looks available. Nearly all current style is geared towards women, who, please forgive me if I offend anyone, don’t seem to have much of a life.

Take this for example; Stylistas are constantly admonishing us to wear high heels. They say heels will lengthen the leg, raise the behind, make us look slim.

Wow! What a shoe.

So, my day starts by letting the chickens out, then I’ll ride my bike to school, teach all day, and wind up waiting for my son to finish football practice on a muddy field. In high heels?

And don’t even get me started on white pants.

I began to dig through research on style for busy women, working women, active women, women with children. Again, all of the advice seemed to be geared towards women who live in urban areas and definitely don’t have dogs that shed.

Is there nothing out there for a bicycle-commuting girl living on six muddy acres with a job, family and escape-artist goats?

OK, maybe that niche is a bit specific. How about style for the women with a little mud in her life?

There is research to be done helping women with busy and even messy lives find style that works for them.

Mud and Grace is the website I couldn’t find when looking for style advice. I’ll share my own fashion journey of trial and error as you work to front load your own style, and hopefully you will share your triumphs and mistakes as well. Together, our collective wisdom will make getting dressed a joy for women with real, wonder-filled lives.

Do you have a favorite ensemble that you’d be willing to share with other active women?

Do you have a Mud and Grace inspired outfit that works for you?

Please, send in a picture with a brief description and I’ll run it in inspiration. All ages and all types of beauty are encouraged.