8-Step Plan for the Perfect Summer Wardrobe

Summertime! Whether you are out adventuring, lazing around the house or knocking tasks off your list, you still get to have to get dressed. And yes, you do have to wear something.*

But it’s 110 degrees!

We often neglect summer wardrobes because the season is more casual. I’ve seen a woman with a crush of holiday cocktail dresses cramping up her closet and not one great pair of shorts.** With this post, I hope to help you create a wardrobe out of which you can get dressed in a snap every morning, pack in 15 minutes or less for wherever you’re headed, and feel great in your clothes no matter what the day might bring.

Some things I wear in the summer.

This post is not earth-shatteringly different from my advice to you in the past. It is a gentle reminder to put some forethought into your closet, freeing you to spend the day on larger questions than “Does this top look OK?” What follows is a list of questions to consider as you put your wardrobe together. You can download a worksheet here.

Summer Wardrobe Planning Worksheet

What are you doing?

Look at your summer plans and think through specific clothing needs. Gardening, hiking, running kids around, flying somewhere, hanging out at the pool, wrestling goats out of the cob bin? Be specific and honest about the activities you will be engaging in. I hope to spend a lot of time writing this summer, which means sitting in a deck chair with my computer on my lap. My routine includes multiple daily runs down to the garden, so everything needs to work with dirt. I don’t have any weddings this summer, and no formal events, so I can get by with a pretty casual wardrobe.

I don’t need you, fancy dress. But man are you fun to try on!

What do you want to wear?

Last summer my wardrobe had a strong athletic vibe. This year, I feel like including a few more pretty items: soft, loose tops, easy shorts, a few more skirts. I still have my share of caves to explore and boulder problems to get shut down on, I’m just drawn to prettier items in which to do it all this year. Take some time to flip through magazines or read a few style blogs to figure out what you want. A summer full of elegant maxi dresses? Runners’ skorts with tank tops? Don’t deny that inner voice that says “Ohhhh! Pretty!” Wear what you want to wear.

I added fun shorts this summer.
See? They have a bird on them. Birds always make shorts fun.

What type of care are you willing to give to your clothing?

In my case, the answer to this question is zero. I will not iron, hand wash, steam or possibly even fold anything. I shop accordingly. Everything in my summer wardrobe can get by with a quick shake when it comes out of the dryer. If you want to trade off trips to the dry cleaner’s for a gorgeous dress, go for it. Just be clear about the realities of care your clothing will need.

You are the perfect summer shirt.

How many options do you want?

Because I don’t go in to work in the summer,*** I can get away with relatively few options. There have been lean times where I have rotated through about 4 ensembles all summer long. Now that I can afford more, I don’t always want that much more. I have another friend who has racks of fun summer dresses. She enjoys choosing from a wide variety of options.

Even my somewhat minimalist summer wardrobe includes 4 white tank tops, because I’m never not in the mood to wear a white tank top.

Where will you put your money?

Can I answer this one for you? Good shoes. Sandals, a pair of cute sneakers and you’re golden. If you bought your shoes last summer and they’re still in good condition, then you’re free to invest elsewhere. Here is a post about summer basic that can help any active woman’s wardrobe. Mud and Grace Summer Essentials

I’m pretty sure there’s a drinking game at the U of O where you take a shot every time I post a picture of these sandals.

As you budget, think about durability and longevity. That cute top at your favorite second hand store may not wear well for more than one summer, but it might just make this summer fantastic. A good pair of comfy denim shorts could last for years.

This may not last another year, but I’m going to have a great time in it while it’s here.

What do you already have that you truly love?

Have some summer favorites already? Fantastic. But those shorts look just OK? Ditch ‘em. Lay out your summer favorites and keep only those that look and feel fantastic. Use these as the base for your summer wardrobe.

Summer officially started five days ago and I have already worn this Patagonia dress on four separate outings.
If you are the last remaining Mud and Grace reader who has not bought a Columbia Skort, let this inspire you to go grab one.

Give yourself a shopping time frame

Take a week or two to knock your list out. If that means a trip down the freeway to a larger mall, spending a Saturday hitting every 2nd hand shop in town, or ordering a number of different pairs of shorts in different sizes from a catalog to be sure of a good fit, then taking care of the returns immediately, get ‘er done. Your goal should be to have everything you need hanging in your closet in a relatively short time frame.

Too busy standing in a vortex to shop.

Aaaand stop

Once you have gathered your essentials, stop shopping. You will have gotten into the habit of hunting and gathering, and that is not what you want to spend your summer doing. When your wardrobe is complete, wear it and get on with your life. If you couldn’t find something just right, live without it for this summer and try again next year. I never found a casual jersey dress that I loved. Oh well.

I’m not saying you can’t step foot in a store all summer. I delight in finding off-season steals in 2nd hand shops. This is the perfect time to find a good, used ski jacket. But if you are constantly on the prowl for this season’s clothes, you will never stop to enjoy what you have. The beauty of a functioning wardrobe is never doubting that it can see you through any occasion that comes your way.

I gave last summer’s jersey dress to a friend, because while it looked fine on me, it looked fantastic on her. I have yet to find this summer’s dress, and yet I have survived and gotten dressed every day. It’s a miracle.

Putting the time and energy into your summer wardrobe will set you up for summer after summer of easy wardrobe maintenance. Once you have everything you need for one summer, you’ll have an excellent base for the next summer. Then suit up and get out there and have some fun!

Happy Summer!

Need more shopping advice? Check out my post Shopping 101

* “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” –Mark Twain

**You know who you are.

*** Whoop! Whoop!

 

Dos and Don’t of the Statement T-Shirt

T-shirts are far and away the most fun pieces of clothing. Comfy, soft and colorful, our t-shirts can actively express our feelings, personalities and daily moods.

This week I teamed up with Jenna, Maddy, Talia, Melissa, Julia and Lucy on their last day of high school to figure out right way to wear a statement tee.

Jenna, Lucy, Maddy, me, Julia, Melissa and Talia in our statement tees.

What follows are a list of Dos and Don’ts for the statement tee.

Do wear that statement tee if…

It reminds you of good times: If you have a t-shirt from a fun summer softball league, a favorite play, your 7th grade chess championship game where you came in last but still had a great time, these are always, aways appropriate.

Melissa is wearing a shirt from her grade school that she “borrowed” from her former teacher, the beloved Sally Krueger.

It perks you up, and shares some fun with the world: There are a ton of fun message Ts out there that just bring a smile to your face. If you find one you love, go for it.

Jenna, in an adorable happy planet T
My daughter Margaret, in the “Ask me about my goat” t-shirt that Maddy gave me and Margaret quickly stole.

If references your loyalties: School, team, band, Hogwarts house of choice, an outward statement of your loyalties can be a conversation starter, as well as just throwing some support into the universe for something you believe in.

Every college Julia applied to was hurling scholarship money at her in an attempt to lure her their way. In the end, she accepted Syracuse, and says so proudly with this t-shirt.
When Julie and I saw Duran Duran in concert last summer, Simon Le Bon came out for the last set in a t-shirt like this one. I made matching 1978 tees for me and Julie to remember the fabulous fun we had that night.*

It’s funny: Some t-shirts are just plain funny. If you find one, enjoy the joke and let others in on it too.

Jessie at Bishop, expressing her opinion on sleeves.

It makes a statement about you: There are plenty of statements worth making. We can use our fashion choices to stand up for something we believe in, or simply state how we want the world to be.

This small and slightly blurry picture of Lucy (Nasty Woman) and Maddie (Stay Weird) tells you what to expect from this pair of brilliant girls. 

You love it: Sometimes, you come across a statement tee you just plain love. Wear that shirt and others like it as much as you want.

Talia wears Patagonia pocket tees all the time. They look fantastic.
The girls made me a t-shirt with silly pictures of all of them collaged onto it. I love it more than words can say.
A close up shot of the Greatest Shirt of All Times and Peoples.

Statement Tees to avoid: Some statement Ts are a don’t. Everyone is going to have her own opinion here, but these are my personal guidelines.

The Boastful T: It’s one thing to see a 9-year-old in a Nike “Been there, won that” t-shirt. Her brain is not fully developed yet, and her sports-oriented aunt-with-no-children probably thought it was adorable when she bought it. The rest of us can refrain from shirts that talk about how we destroy on the soccer pitch, can’t lose playing Connect Four, or whatever.

The fact that this fits a 7-year-old makes it extra funny.

The Whining T: I am sorry if you didn’t get your coffee / don’t like my face / are bored with the world at large, but advertising that fact on your t-shirt doesn’t do much for anyone. Even, and especially, the sad person who feels the need to express their general unhappiness on their chest while rolling about in this world.

If you wear this in class I’m gonna make you turn it inside out.

The contradiction: An environmental message on a mass-produced, $5 t-shirt from Target? You are never going to feel right wearing this. Ditto goes for anything that says Namaste unless you are actually doing Yoga / Meditating / attempting to communicate in Hindi while bowing to the divine in someone else. Statement Tees are only cool when they are authentic.

This is so wrong I don’t even know where to begin.

The concert you didn’t attend: You may love a band or musician, but a fake faded t-shirt of a concert you didn’t attend looks a little silly. The only exception to this rule is if you find an actual faded concert t-shirt in one of your parent’s or older sibling’s drawers. That’s cool.

Dad, please tell me you kept this shirt.

So there you have it, the dos and don’t of statement tees. Do you have a favorite t-shirt? Send in a picture, the Mud and Grace community would love to see it!

* When you make your friend a t-shirt, do not, under any circumstances, deliver the t-shirt in a timely manner. Be sure to forget to bring it to their birthday party, leave it at home if you are meeting for lunch, whatever you have to do. Keep that shirt for months, even a full year! That way you can celebrate the anniversary of the t-shirt inspiring event by wearing matching shirts and apologizing profusely.

No one can stop looking at my amazing t-shirt. Except for Melissa and Talia.

Eco Beauty: Three steps to a more sustainable beauty routine

Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to mash up oats and avocados and out them on your face. Who does that? Eat oats, yes. Paste them on my body? No thank you.

But after the exciting, or rather “exiting” news of the week, combined with a solo trip to the dump* I had to take a good hard look at my own footprint on this earth. What follows are ways to lesson the impact of our beauty routines on the environment, and put our money into local businesses rather than multinational corporations.

I’ve targeted three problems and come up with possible solutions. If you’re already a sustainability pro, sit back and read smugly, then please leave your best advice in the comments below. If you are still on the path to environmental enlightenment, like your blogger, choose one or two changes to make. Like any lifestyle change, small regular steps in the right direction reap more benefits than a huge leap you are unable to sustain.

Little Sam agrees, oats are for eating.

Problem #1: The waste produced in making and packaging beauty products is being dumped all over the earth in huge, nasty piles.

Solution: Local handmade products

So much waste comes from the packaging of shampoo, lotion, soaps and shaving creams. Who needs that garbage?

We can skip the trash by seeking out locally made products with minimal or reusable packaging. Find a shop (like Uncommon Scents in Eugene, http://www.uncommonscentsmeridian.com/index.php) that sells locally crafted soaps, shampoos and lotions. Not only can you reuse your containers, but these products haven’t traveled across the country, or even the world to make it to your neighborhood Target.

My favorite soaps are made by retired teacher Barbra Hascall. There is nothing more adorable than a retired teacher running around smiling and making soap. My guess is that wherever you live, you can find a similar lady, with fabulous products. Barbra’s soaps are made sustainably, with love and a minimum of packaging.

http://barbarasoaps.com/

Hello lovely handmade soap, basking in the sunlight on the window sill.

Problem #2: Beauty products are full of various chemicals that you don’t fully understand, but rub all over your body and send down the drain into our lakes and rivers.

Solution: Find natural alternatives that actually work.

We are all trying to limit the human-manipulated chemicals that we put into contact with our bodies. While it’s often easier to grab the same old BB cream and run, a little investigation can set you up with products that work. And the good news is that once a company starts down the rabbit hole of good practices, they often double and triple up. So a company that is certified cruelty free** will often go vegan, and maybe even plant based organic. The following link gives you a good place to start. The PETA website also has great information.

http://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/18-natural-organic-makeup-brands-your-face-will-love-you-for

Deodorant is a special concern for a lot of women. Mainline antiperspirants contain aluminum, which some people think is linked to breast cancer and/or dementia,*** which nobody wants. Then again, nobody wants to smell bad either.

Recently, Reviews.com tested a bazillion natural deodorants. Working with a chemist, a dermatologist and professionals in the industry, they looked for “aluminum-free formulas with pleasant scents, goop-free application, and minimal residue.” Here is a link to their results. http://www.reviews.com/natural-deodorant/

Barbra (see smiling retired teacher, above) makes a nice deodorant, too.

All I want is to be able to climb all day in 80+ degree temperature and not smell bad. Is that too much to ask???

Problem #3: You want to look good, but have limited time to spend on beauty routines, and some lady is writing blog articles about how your favorite products are destroying the soul of the earth

Solution: Invest in beauty processes, rather than products

I have always been fantastically lazy about my beauty routine, no time more so than in the summer. In The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies I write about a few beauty processes that allow me to skip the daily use of any product, all summer long.**** You don’t need make up/hair gel/ eye cream if your skin and hair already look great. When I go to see my wonderful hairdresser and lovely esthetician, my money goes into the pockets of local business women rather than multinational corporations. When I eat vegetables straight out of my garden, my hair and skin reap the benefits. When I ride my bike rather than drive, I glow in a way that no foundation can mimic. Better for the earth, the local economy and my psyche.

The best sustainable beauty products. Also, I have ton of lettuce right now so hit me up if you need any.

My beauty routine is by no means perfectly, ethically, environmentally pure. There are things that come in packages (toothpaste) that I am not willing to give up right now. But if we all take one step towards a more humane and eco-friendly lifestyle, then another, and just keep walking, we can do this. We have to. And if that means supporting local business, having a house full of the most amazing soaps and not ever having to go to the dump again, I’m in.

What are your tips for sustainable beauty practices? Please share in the comments below.

 

Laughing with friends is another environmentally sound practice.

* Holy Cow! The dump!!! You should totally go. You will be so inspired to cut your consumption.

** I have trouble believing it’s 2017 and we still have to seek out cruelty free beauty products. Did Legally Blond II inspire no one?

*** I can feel that my scientist mom wants me to tell you that the aluminum/breast cancer/ Alzheimer’s link has not been conclusively proven, and you should not take a style blog written by a woman who once thought that frogs perform photosynthesis as gospel for the evils of antiperspirant.

**** By all summer long I mean the extent of our family’s camping / outdoor rock climbing season, which goes from March through October. In the winter my vanity battles with my laziness, and some sort of a brow pencil / lip stain peace accord is met but not without a lot of 6 a.m. skirmishes.

A practical guide to wearing shorts, or not.

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with shorts. Love: the weather, activities, and casual vibe that go along with wearing them. Hate: finding and styling shorts for our real and fantastic bodies, rather than that of a stick figure with really great skin.

Shorts in and of themselves are not the enemy. The problem is the way in which they break up the line of vision. We’ve previously discussed on this blog how the eye likes to run unhindered in the vertical line of an ensemble. This is why the Duchess of Cambridge so often wears a monochrome coat and dress, and looks fantastic in every single picture ever taken, including the days she must be in a crazy-bad mood. Shorts* throw a block of contrasting color in the middle of an outfit, causing the eye to stutter over your mid section. Add to this a top that may or may not bunch up all funny and your shorts angst makes perfect sense.

So here’s a guide to the three basic shapes of shorts, and a number of other options in case you still aren’t sold on shorts at the end of this article:

Shorts come in three general shapes: Rectangle, square, triangle. The trick is to figure out which woks best for your body and activity, and what to wear with each.

1. Put on shorts. 2. Head for deck chair. It’s pretty simple.

Rectangle

A rectangle shape can run from a full on Bermuda short to a mid-thigh pair of hiking shorts. They come through season after season in different fabrics and patterns, but they remain a fashion staple. They are practical for outdoor activities, and can be dressed up easier than short shorts. You just have to keep them from looking frumpy.

You want your rectangle shape to say “I chose these shorts because they are fantastic and fit my busy, active lifestyle,” not, “I don’t want anyone to see my thighs.” A floppy top hanging over a pair of ill-fitting long shorts is among the most awkward ensembles out there. It’s also the signature look of middle school boys.

To keep from looking like an Oompa loompa in your rectangle shorts…

  1. Wear a slightly fitted top, like a heavier weight v-neck t-shirt, a nicely structured polo, a button down.
  2. Or, if you choose a looser fitting top, make sure it finishes at your high hip. Ideally, it should still show a little of your shape
  3. Show some collarbone. Anything from a modest boat-neck top to a spaghetti strap tank will help draw the eye up.
  4. Beyond your choice of top, keep your longer shorts simple. Unless you really need the extra pocket space, skip cargo shorts. Make sure they fit well, the pockets lie flat, and the waist hits you at that perfect point. It is not weird to have your shorts altered to fit you correctly.
This could pretty much keep you clothed for the whole summer.

Square

Think a great pair of denim cut offs, or soft linen shorts you slip into after work, a square shape is classic. By far the most common short shape, the wrong square shorts run the risk of being too short, too long, bunching up and generally looking like a ratty mess of fabric wadded up in the middle of our outfit. Squares can be comfortable, easy to move in, and have an easy, casual vibe. It’s time you find the right pair. Here are a few tips

  1. Try sizing up. You are on the go in the summer, or in the hammock. Neither scenario calls for anything pinching against your skin.
  2. The top options are endless with the classic square: a fitted tank, a sweet peasant blouse, a chunky fisherman’s sweater in the evening. Just be sure that you have a good 3 inches of shorts showing below the hem of your top.
  3. Go for a fabric that moves. I can’t tell you how many wrinkly, stiff pairs of square shorts I have tried to make a go of. Soft linen, denim and synthetic fabrics feel and ultimately look better.
  4. Make sure the waist stays where you want your waist to be. Squares, like all pants, may have a tendency to slide down. This can produce an uneven waistline that looks particularly ridiculous.
  5. Consider a flat, wide elastic waist. I don’t know what genius thought of attaching this waistband to shorts but it is comfortable, flattering and perfect for a half-tuck.
Square shorts are not brain science.

Triangle

Marilyn Monroe, Meghan Trainor, Jennifer Lopez, these women have all shown us the beauty of a triangle short. Fitted at the waist, flaring out over the behind, these shorts are feminine and attractive. These have never found a place in my active wardrobe, but if you’ve figured out a way to take these into the woods, let me know.

  1. Tuck in your top. To make the most of this shape, you need to show your waist.
  2. Fitted tops work best. You’ve got a lot of fabric going on with these so you need to keep proportions balanced.
  3. To make the shape work, they really do have to be short, with a 4 in inseam or shorter.
  4. Because the look is retro, try to add a few modern, grown up details like a leather cuff bracelet or a strong pendant necklace. Triangle shirts with a gingham top, pigtails and pearls is a bit too precious.
These shorts are not me, but they might be you.

 

Commonly asked questions:

Q: Can I wear the same shape of shorts all summer, or should I mix it up?

A: No mixing is necessary. Ever. If you’re rocking the rectangle no one is going to question it. I spent all last summer in squares and managed to evade the fashion police successfully.

Q: What are the best colors for shorts?

A: Navy, black, denim, deep red and olive are the easiest colors to work with. They don’t show dirt, and dark bottoms tend to ground an outfit. With these colors you will have a lot of options for tops. That said, there are a lot of fun patterned shorts out there in bright colors. The eye will be drawn to the brightest, lightest, busiest part of an outfit, if you want that to be your shorts, go for it.

Q: Should I invest in active or tailored shorts?

A: Tailored shorts can look amazing, but unless your workplace gives a nod to shorts, they aren’t super practical on a Mud-and-Grace scale. If you run a lot of errands all summer, are vacationing in a city, or are just an uncommonly neat person, go for it. Otherwise, more active styles and fabrics can be worn neatly for town chores, and still take a beating on camping trips, gardening and other summer adventures.

This summer squares an navigate canyons AND traffic.

Q: Can I wear a tunic top with shorts?

A: It’s pretty difficult to pull that off without a kindergarten art-smock vibe. Fitted ankle skimmers are a better option for tunic tops, unless you are a tunic master, in which case please send me a picture.

Q: If I’m over 40, do I have to follow the One Skin Rule?

A: I like to think of “One Skin” as an interesting option, rather than a rule. Blogger Erin Busbee, of Busbee Style, suggests only showing one area of skin per ensemble. So if you go with a tank top, you would wear long pants. In shorts, you would choose a long-sleeve top. These ensembles look great. One Skin is a nice guideline for work or more dressed up occasions for women of any age. Even Ms. Busbee, who lives in Texas, admits there are days so hot that she throws out her own rule. Most of my summer days don’t include anything even bordering on dress up, and my shorts and tops are modest enough I don’t feel like the one skin rule is necessary.

Q: Do I have to wear shorts at all?

A: Nope. Read on, my friend.

Not shorts.

How not to wear shorts

One of my favorite things about growing up is figuring out I don’t have to wear anything I don’t want to.** You can find cool, active, summer appropriate clothes that will never, ever call to mind lederhosen.

Skirts / skorts

There are so many fantastic summer options for skirts and skorts.*** From sport weight fabrics to classic chino or denim, you can grab your favorite and go. Just look at the shape (Rectangle? Square? Triangle?) and style accordingly.

Wide leg pants

A pair of light, wide leg pants and a tank top is a classic summer look. If this is you, rock it all summer long and never look back.

Joggers

An easy pair of sport weight joggers are great for running errands, or hiking though poison oak infested hillsides.

Sundresses

My grandma wore an easy summer shift dress with pockets everyday, all summer long.**** In this look she gardened, pickled, canned, dealt with all manner of cats, dogs, cattle and hogs in the sweltering mid-west summer heat. This is your official endorsement to wear a dress all summer long if you want to.

It would not kill you to give this a try. But why take chances?

Have a picture of yourself in your favorite pair of shorts or other summer ensemble? Send it in to mudandgrace@gmail.com and I’ll run it in Inspiration.

* which are much more appropriate for a camping trip than a monochrome coat and dress.

**white pants

*** skorts are now skirts with shorts sewn into them, not the skirt in front, shorts in back abomination that was popular 20+ years ago.

**** with the exception of Sunday mornings, when she might be inclined to rock a pantsuit.

Color Theory Simplified: Two weeks in Color Boot Camp reaps initial confusion, ultimate clarity.

For the last two weeks I have been in Color Boot Camp; a challenge to myself and readers to really figure out what colors look best on us, and to shake us out of our neutral color zones. The plan was to wear a different color everyday and keep track of how we felt and how others reacted to us.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

For me, the first week went OK. As expected, blue was a hit, as were deep red and white. My favorite bright red plaid shirt scored zero comments. Not even from my husband. Whatever, I’m going to wear it anyway.

I still love you.

Olive was a mixed bag. I love this color, and wear it all the time. One jacket garnered a lot of positive reaction, while a dress seemed to make me look sallow.

By day 6, I was running out of colors. The challenge had resulted in a mini closet purge, as I pulled out a number of colorful items I hadn’t been wearing, and after 10 minutes walking around the house realized I was never going to wear. I began to long for my gray t-shirts. I got sick. I tried to keep up the challenge, but… I was sick and looked sick in anything I put on. I began to wonder why I’d come up with this dumb idea in the first place.

I’m just going to wear gray and stare at the horizon.

Then I had a hair appointment. The world is always better when I get a text reminding me there’s a trim coming up. I absolutely love how my hair goes from raggedy-frizzy to shiny-smooth in a magical two hours with Margaret Fairchild, the wizard of keratin and perfectly subtle layers.

“How’s your color challenge going?” she asked, draping me in a chocolate brown smock. I babbled everything to her I’ve just babbled to you about this hackneyed experiment. She listened thoughtfully, then said. “I bet blues worked really well,” she said. “And white?” Absolutely. How did she know this? “And maybe lavender, and gray, you look so beautiful in gray.*”

It turns out that Margaret used to be a professional color draper, back in the day. She has all the color swatches and everything.** Apparently, I’m a summer.

Possible Summer palette

As Margaret worked her magic on my hair and explained this color theory to me, I went into hyper focus. I have never understood the Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter Color Me Beautiful concept, and while it has been expanded on greatly, it really is the only time-tested theory out there. I’ve read dozens of internet articles on the topic but never could figure out what season I was. Here was my chance to get it!

According to Margaret, summer and winter are people with cool undertones to their skin. Spring and fall are people with warm undertones. To figure out which one you are, just ask if you would look better in a silver silk blouse or a gold one. You may already gravitate towards the metal that works best on your skin.***

Let’s be honest, no Mud and Grace reader would ever wear any of these. OK, maybe Bobbie could pull off the gold dress on the far right, but I just don’t see any of us in a silver jumpsuit.

Autumn and winter then are people who have more contrast between their hair, eyes and skin. So my friend Julie and I both have cool undertones. She has dark hair and eyes, and delicate pale skin, making her a winter. I have lighter hair and eyes, and less contrast with my skin color. Julie can pull of bolder colors that play up that contrast, while I do better in lighter colors.****

Winter Palette

So the reds and olives that look good on me have cool undertones, while the bright red of my favorite plaid shirt has just enough warmth in it to wash me out. This is why peach never, ever works on me. It explains why that gold-toned bridesmaid dress was such an abomination. It explains why painting my bathroom lavender made me look fantastic in the mirror.

Fall palette, which I may just decide to wear anyway.

Here are a few more basics I learned from Margaret.

Your season may change

While you will have a squarely cool or warm skin tone, the contrast between our skin and hair may change as you color your hair, tan or even age. I look better in white at the end of the summer, and deep red in February. That old rule about not wearing white after Labor Day may have been made up by a summer.

Me, happy in white in the middle of summer.

Most of us are probably doing a lot right already

Intuitively, you probably already discovered your best colors years ago. Julie has always worn a lot of black, red and gray. While she can expand on that, at the end of the day she looks really good in black, red and gray. All of the chambray shirts and dresses in my closet got there because they looked great on me in the dressing room. Your go-to colors will probably tell you a lot about your ideal color pallet.

It’s OK not to like your color pallet

Margaret (a spring) and I talked about a number of the “Easter egg” colors in our pallets that we don’t love. I’m drawn towards earth tones (they don’t show dirt) and can wear them as much as I like. I just need to consider the colors I wear next to the face. This is a great excuse to go buy a couple of cute pocket scarves.

Spring palette

As Margaret finished styling my hair we applied these ideas of cool/warm, high contrast/low contrast to people we knew. I enjoyed the old familiar pleasure of learning something that changes the way I view the world. Like when I finally grasped the effects of Bolivian silver mining on the economy of China during the Ming Dynasty, or the fact that butter was probably better for me than margarine. My color experiment pushed me out of my comfort zone, and put me in a place where I was open to Margaret’s understanding of color theory.

So I guess it was a good idea after all. Did you participate in Color Boot Camp? I’d love to hear how it went for you. Comment below or send a picture to mudandgrace@gmail.com

Maia, rocking some saturated color in Morocco.

* I love my hairdresser

** Anyone else feel like we should have a 1980s-themed party with wine coolers and color draping?

*** I don’t, I’ve always preferred gold, but a pretty gold ring on my finger isn’t going to wash out my entire completion.

**** This in no way is going to deter me from borrowing Julie’s clothes. We’re still the same size.

Summer Travel Capsule 2017

I am passionate about travel wardrobes. It’s a passion born out of So Many Travel Failures. Shivering with cold as I stood at the Oracle of Delphi, swimming in unstylish pants and a stupid hat as I rode an elephant in Thailand, feet screaming in pain as I retraced the steps of Julius Caesar on the streets of Rome, I have had every inappropriately dressed travel experience you can imagine.

But no more. A little research and a few investments later and I have become a packing ninja.* Whether you are spending 5 weeks in Europe,** or visiting family across the country, a small bag packed with adventure-ready ensembles will make your vacation.

The triumvirate of packing light

Layers – You need a color coordinated mix of pieces that can easily layer. Easier said than done, I know, but take your time and make this a priority.

Laundry – Your clothes need to be tough enough to withstand a hotel laundry service or a washout in the hostel sink. Look for pieces that won’t wrinkle, shrink and can dry relatively quickly.

Love – You better love everything you pack, because you are going to be wearing it over and over and over again.

The following all-purpose capsule can be modified to suit the needs of your destination. If you a touring cities in Europe, pieces need to look sharp. If you are hiking in Costa Rica, pieces need to be tough. If you hate shorts, don’t bring any, take an extra skirt or flowy long pants. Never, ever wear dresses? Pack extra pants and a top.

This is a combination of PrAna and Patagonia. The sandals are Merrell.

1. Three or four tops: High quality t-shirts in colors that look great on you work for many occasions. A tunic or floaty boho top are fun.

2. Two or three bottoms: Depending on the location and your preferences, choose from pants, shorts and skirts.

This Columbia skirt has build in shorts and is the most flattering, non-stain showing item of clothing I own.

3. One or two dresses: I love dresses for long airplane trips and sightseeing. Solid colors are the most practical for a travel capsule, but if you can’t resist a fantastic print, go for it. You’re on vacation, after all.

These are all Patagonia, and if you really love dresses I see no problems in packing all three.

4. One fantastically cozy sweater: You will be wearing this with pretty much everything at one point or another, so make sure it is warm, soft and in a good neutral color. Camel or navy are nice, travel-ready neutrals. If you’re headed someplace warm, swap out a sweater for a long sleeved shirt.

5. Two pairs of shoes: Cute sneakers, nicer sandals

Great support, but without all the stripes and swooshes.

6. Good quality cross body bag or backpack: For hands-free sight seeing. I’m not a fan of travel specific bags, but that’s just me.

7. Good-looking raincoat: They pack up small. Just take it.

8. Thin, flexible belt: To add polish to your travel wardrobe. You can belt your sweater around your dress to create a waist and feel less frumpy, or tuck a t-shirt into your shorts and finish with the belt when heading to lunch, the possibilities this little piece brings are endless.

I think I’ve had this since high school.

9. Scarf: A lightweight scarf will protect you from the chill of air conditioning, a blazing sun, and the possibility of getting bored with your wardrobe. ****

Pretty and practical.

10. PJs: Something comfy that you can be seen in

My husband got me these fabulous silk Everlane pjs for Christmas. They are officially the World’s Hardest Item of Clothing to Photograph.

11. Activity specific clothing: Swimming? Hiking? Working out? You’ll need to bring the appropriate gear. My Title Nine swimsuit is a two-piece with paddle board shorts on the bottom. I can easily run in the shorts, and the top works as a sports bra.*** Just slip on a tank top and no one knows I’m running in my swimsuit. There are a lot of great trail running shoes that could stand in for your cute sneakers. Be creative about working gear into your regular wardrobe.

Don’t judge.

Color pallet ideas

In a travel capsule, you really can and should pare down your color choices. Start by choosing one or two neutrals (navy, black, brown, gray, wheat, pink, denim, white) Obviously, lighter colors will show more dirt. You know how much of a dirt magnet you tend to be, choose accordingly. Then pick two more colors that will work with these neutrals. You can also choose another neutral as your color. I like navy and black together, throw in a dash of red and a light neutral like wheat or camel, you are set. Here are some other ideas:

Navy, pink, burgundy and blue

Black, white, teal and fuchsia

Denim, cream, peach and sage

Black, denim, red and white

This is what I wore to Sedona last summer.. and what I’ll be packing for Pleasant Hill, Illinois this summer.

Dos and Don’t of Travel Packing

Don’t plan for every eventuality: Plan for normal weather and activities. If something comes up, there are clothing stores in other places. My beloved denim jacket was bought from a street vender in Rome for 10 Euro on a particularly cold spring day. If you wind up at Bayreuth, Germany and someone hands you tickets to a Wagner opera, you can run out a buy a nicer dress.

Do give it a trial run: Plan your vacation wardrobe, then trying wearing it in your daily life for a week. You’ll be able to work out glitches this way and make sure everything really works.

Don’t dress like a tourist: Rather, dress like an out of town guest. You won’t, and shouldn’t try to blend in with local populations. Whether you are in Poland or Poulsbo, Washington, no one expects you to know the local vibe. But dressing nicely will signal to folks that you are honored to be in their hometown.

Do buy what you need: Having the right gear for your travels will free you up to focus on your adventure. Great looking sandals in which you can walk for miles don’t come cheap, but neither did your airfare. It makes no sense to invest the time and money into travel, only to be miserable with blistered feet once you get to your destination. And it’s not like you’ll never wear this stuff again. My travel wardrobe is basically the nicer half of my summer wardrobe, and I’m packing the same things to visit family in the midwest this summer that I took to Sedona last summer.

I love these Merrell sandals. If Wonder Woman needed sandals, these are the ones she would choose. They can do anything.

Don’t forget to check the weather: Look at average temperatures for the dates of your trip in the place you are traveling to. Be realistic about what this means. If it’s likely to be 95 degrees and raining every afternoon, you are not going to want a draped jersey dress with ¾ sleeves, no matter how much you love it.

Do consider your fabrics carefully: Linen feels fantastic, but will wrinkle if you look at it funny. Synthetic moisture wicking fabrics are amazing, but they will hold a stench something terrible. Anything shiny will look funny in photographs. Personally I like to travel with cotton blend fabrics, a little bit of stretch to hold off the wrinkles, but I don’t sweat a ton so the wicking isn’t as important to me. I’ve had good luck with fabric made from bamboo, as it feels great and doesn’t wrinkle as badly as straight cotton. You know yourself and your plans. If quick drying fabric is a must, go with synthetics and wash them tenaciously. If the feel of the fabric matters to you, try a cotton blend.

Do save room for a take away: A piece of jewelry or article of clothing that can send you back to your vacation years later is a gem. Just be realistic about what you will wear in your everyday life back home.

I’m back on vacation every time I wear this.

Don’t worry about wearing the same thing over and over: Left to our own devises, most of us would wear the same thing over and over if no one noticed. When you are traveling, no one will notice because the only people you’ll be seeing regularly are your travel companions.

Do have a fantastic time! Have any pictures of your favorite travel ensembles? Please send them in and I’ll run them in inspiration.

 

* Do ninjas check bags? Use a carry on? Actually I’m picturing a backpack.

**Have such a good time, Jenine!

***Yes, I realize this is a lot easier for us A and B cup girls.

**** Check out Maia’s comment below. Here is a link if you want to find that scarf.

 

Color Boot Camp: The Two-Week Color Challenge

Full truth: I’m not completely comfortable with color. I understand it well enough to put together a decent ensemble and coordinate a micro-capsule, but what I haven’t taken the time to learn is how to coordinate my colors with myself.

I just don’t get it.

All that spring, summer, fall business of Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful never really worked on me, and there aren’t a lot of alternate color theories out there. So for the past 40 years my color selection has been somewhat hit or miss. The occasional red or pink top mixed in with lots and lots of gray, blue and olive.

Hard to deny there’s a pretty clear pattern here.

Confirmation bias* at the ready, I made excuses for myself when confronted with an article that chided me to “bring more color into your wardrobe!” Some of my best were: ‘Gray is minimalist and elegant,’ or ‘Color makes me look like I’m trying too hard,’ and my personal favorite self-deception, ‘I look good in gray.’

Color is powerful, and beautiful. It can cheer us up, brighten our eyes and skin, draw attention exactly where we want it, send a clear message, and done right it looks fantastic. So after what feels like the longest, grayest winter in Oregon history,** I’m ready to tackle this color issue head on.

This is going to be fun.

Thus I invite you to Color Boot Camp, a two-week color-wearing challenge. The purpose is to find out what colors look best on you, and finally get comfortable wearing them. Here are the rules:

Rule # 1: Actively select a different color to wear next to your face every day. This is the time to break out all those well-intentioned purchases of colorful blouses and dresses you haven’t gotten around to wearing. Borrow tops from a friend if you need to.*** We have 14 days, so if you really want to explore the effects black, white or gray, it’s OK to wear them each once. The other 11 days need to be colors. And since I’m assuming you don’t have 14 solid colored tops lined up Roy G Biv in your closet, patterns are a go, as are different shades of the same color, within reason.****

Rule #2: Keep a record of responses. While I don’t expect strangers to say “Wow, that sea foam blue really brightens your complexion,” I do expect friends, co-workers and family members will react to you as people generally do. Listen for things like, “I love that top!” “You look pretty / rested / great, etc.” or, “Your eyes look really beautiful today.” Any positive comment counts, as the people in your life are not necessarily color experts and may have no idea why you look great.

Rule #3: Keep a record of how you feel. What do these colors do for your mood? Do you feel bright, elegant, hopeful, energized… or conspicuous, sallow, like you want to curl up in a pile of gray jersey and just forget the whole thing? The most important factor in a choosing color for your wardrobe is how it makes you feel. There are certain pastels in which I feel exactly like a troll doll, and I won’t be wearing them no matter how much they bring out my eyes.

This top and sweater are obviously feeling pretty good about themselves.

Special considerations: If you wear a uniform to work, you may want to stretch out your challenge to include a few more weekends and nights off. If you have no interest in bringing color into your wardrobe, just skip the whole thing.

And that’s it. Two weeks, 14 colors, we can do it! If you come across a particularly great color on yourself, send me a picture and I’ll include it in the wrap up post in two weeks!

Let me know if you want to borrow this, because I only get to wear it once in the next two weeks.

*Confirmation bias is the human tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already believe. Like when you click on that article about how drinking red wine leads to weight loss and completely ignore all the others about exercise, diet and sleep. Not that I ever clicked on that article or anything…

** 144 days of rain

***Seriously, message me. I’ve got lots.

****I’m talking to you, Miss 15 shades of light blue

Simplify Your Life With Micro-Capsule Wardrobes

I am not a minimalist. As much as I admire people who live in crazy-clean houses with a curated selection of all-white clothing, that’s just not me. But I’m perfectly happy to hone in on the idea of minimalism if it leads me to a thoughtfully prepared collection of great looking clothes.

As discussed in last week’s post, a full-on capsule wardrobe, while fabulously trendy, isn’t for everyone. But there are areas in our lives where paring down choices and increasing the quality of what we wear can make getting dressed more simple and satisfying.

What follows are a series of micro-capsules. These are little pockets of clothing for specific areas of your life. I began to build these capsules for activities I engage in regularly, but I never felt I had the right thing to wear. Your tricky spots may be different from mine, but hopefully these will serve as an inspiration to get you started on your own micro-capsules.

  1. Camping
Sample summer camping capsule, all you would have to add is a rain jacket. This is all from Title Nine**

My family and I are not exactly glampers. We’re more grunge camper than glam camper.* That said, I still want my clothes to fit well and look good, even if I will be sleeping in them.

How much do you need? Two tops, two bottoms, one base layer of silk or wool, one outer layer (cozy top and pants you can wear over other garments) and depending on the situation, one coat and/or rain gear and/or something you can swim in.

What should you look for? Quality and color. Outdoor gear is one area of your life where the quality of your clothing cannot be overlooked. A poorly made rain jacket is not a rain jacket; it’s just something that will collect rain and keep it sealed into your clothing for the duration of your trip. Buy a few good pieces in coordinating colors and wear them forever.

My winter camping capsule.

2. Cheering

After the sixth straight track meet of not knowing what to wear I finally accepted that I had a problem. With two athleticly-minded children and a coach for a husband, I spend a good deal of my free time clapping and encouraging people to run fast, hold a block, or get that dyno. Creating a uniform that I could slip on easily for these events has been a huge relief. No more shivering,** limping around a muddy field in the wrong shoes, or inadvertently showing up in the colors of the opposing team.

How much do you need? Two or three tops, one ball cap or beanie, neutral pants and appropriate shoes. For outdoor sports make sure you have at least one sweatshirt/sweater, and appropriate outerwear.

What should you look for? Color. You don’t have to wear official fan gear or a pin with your child’s face on it, just the color of the team is enough.

Purple… green… it’s all good so long as my feet are dry.

Special note: Outerwear. If you attend a lot of outdoor sports, a good coat in the appropriate color makes getting dressed for these events ridiculously simple. My friend Lynnette had a deep purple jacket she wore to watch her son’s soccer games for years. Another option is to do a black coat with a team-appropriate scarf or hat. Since our family cheers on two rival teams (we get a lot of funny looks at cross country meets) we bought grandma a good black coat and made her scarves in both purple and green.

3. Workout

This would be the appropriate place to show you a picture of the perfect micro-capsule I’ve created for myself, but the truth is I don’t have one yet. I’m exploring workout options and trying to pare down the mess of workout clothing I’ve amassed. Look for a post on workout wear coming soon.

The world’s least inspiring photo.

How much do you need? Two complete ensembles for every type of work out you do regularly, and then one more for each day of the week you do it. (So if you go to spin class once a week, two ensembles. If you go twice a week, three ensembles.)

What should you look for? Feel and function. Slipping into comfortable, good looking workout clothes is so much more motivating than stuffing yourself into the ratty old spandex shorts you never liked to begin with. The clothes also need to function properly. Running tights that slip down, workout tops that ride up should be banished from your closet, stat.

Special note: Wear and tear. Sadly, some workout clothes wear out pretty quickly. Keep an eye on your workout capsule and make sure you replace smelly, pilled and frayed pieces regularly.

I could run in this, I guess. Honestly work out gear is my fashion struggle.

4. Loungewear

This was the first micro-capsule I created, and it has been such a luxury. You can read more about it here. (Perfect 10-Item Loungewear Capsule )The basic concept is that creating a simple, flexible loungewear capsule makes self-care reflexive and easy.

How much do you need: I have of two pairs of leggings, three sweatshirts, one pair of joggers, one stretchy black skirt, t-shirts in varying sleeve length, slippers and boots.

What should you look for: Quality and comfort. My loungewear capsule includes the most expensive pieces I own. These quality pieces feel amazing, wash up well, and look fantastic season after season.

This is my loungewear capsule, which I photographed while the pieces themselves were lounging.

A final word: All of these micro-capsule wardrobes are living entities. Over time your needs will change, pieces will wear out, and new items will filter in. If you find you are not utilizing a capsule, reevaluate its contents and purpose. If you find you want more options for a certain area of your life, abandon the capsule completely. Try to keep your capsules fluid, you can and should use pieces from one capsule in another. My fantastic plum colored lounging sweatshirt looks great at a track meet and enjoys going camping with me.

I can belay my husband in fan wear.

These little interlocking mini-wardrobes have helped cut decision-making and ensure that I feel comfortable and stylish in all aspects of my life. Sometimes I had to get rid of wardrobe debris and other times I had to lay down cash to buy what I needed. To create your own micro-capsule think about the following questions:

Which activities in your life that have you stymied as you stand in front of your closet?

What is the bare minimum you would need to have a decent selection each time you dress for this activity?

What is the highest quality you can afford?

Which colors would work well for the activity, and go together so you can mix and match all the pieces?

Investing a little time to create a few mix-and-match, go-to outfits allows you to forget about your clothes as you get on with the fantastic business of being you. I’d love to hear about the micro-capsules you create. Comment below and let me know how it goes!

 

*What would you call a grunge camper? A Gramper?

** There are things I love and hate about Title Nine. Love: the ethic, the thoughtful coordinating of fun colors, most of the quality, the swimwear. Hate: the price, the percentage of women riding bikes and skateboards with no helmets in their advertising, a lot of the fit of their clothing.

*** OK, I was shivering at the Kelly meet in early April, but no one expected that wind.

 

7 Excuses For Not Building A Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes are very hot right now. You can’t swing a striped shirt without bumping into someone’s perfect spring capsule wardrobe (!).

There are a lot of good reasons to winnow your wardrobe down to a few great pieces. It’s better for the environment, your wallet, your busy mornings. While Mud and Grace has long been a proponent of less is more, a strict capsule just doesn’t feel right in every situation.

Next week we will look at several appropriate places to build capsule wardrobes,* but in advance of that I want to give you some good excuses for not doing a single one if you don’t want to.

This works for one little corner of my life, but by no means every situation for 6 months.
  1. You like more than four colors

For funsies, go to pinterest and google ‘capsule wardrobe.’ You will find a beautiful selection of black, white, grey and pale blue clothing with maybe one or two other colors thrown in. These pictures are beautiful, each piece of clothing artfully curated by some Zen master of style. And yes, ideally most of your tops should go with most of your bottoms. But the idea that everything has to match is just silly. I like light blue and grey as much as the next woman but I don’t want to lock myself down for the sake of a good pinterest picture.

Your standard capsule base.
  1. Your life requires more than one type of clothing

I have no doubt there are women who have a dress code that takes them through all their day’s activities with no more than a change of earrings. For most of us, that’s just not the case. If you work, have kids, a full class load, a few hobbies, and/or a social calendar that includes everything from camping to carpooling, you need options. A pair of black flats will only take you so far. Many fashion bloggers who promote capsule wardrobes work from home and by their own admission have lives that include relatively few outfit needs and positively no goats.

I would argue that this outing could not be better served by the perfect trench coat and a classic pump.
  1. The weather is unpredictable

In the past week I wore a tank top, a wool sweater and three different coats on three different days. I do have what is essentially a capsule in the summer, because Oregon summers are pretty predictable.** Springtime? No way.

The week ahead looks beautiful and rainy, with a 50 degree swing in temperatures.
  1. Your style isn’t developed enough

I don’t mean to be rude here, but you have to have a really good sense of your style before you can narrow your look down to five colors and 37 pieces. Many Mud and Grace readers*** are still experimenting with their style, and having a ton of fun along the way. Why lock yourself down in a capsule for 6 months? Go try those palazzo pants and if they don’t work, you don’t have to wear them until October.

Experimenting!
  1. You hate laundry

I don’t think I need to elaborate here.

  1. Capsule” is a relative term

Like any trendy concept, the capsule wardrobe has come to have a number of loose interpretations. Many women espouse the beauty and ease of a gorgeous capsule that in reality serves only a fraction of their wardrobe needs. If you don’t include t-shirts, layering pieces, shoes, workout clothes, outside work clothes and outerwear in a capsule then, yes, it’s pretty easy to winnow it down to 25 pieces. By omitting the truth, this type of style writing makes our closets seem out of control. Truth be told,  you’re probably wearing less than 25 pieces regularly as it is.

  1. You don’t want to

When contemplating capsule wardrobes, I often reflect back on Yana and Sarah’s closets of abundance in One and Done. ( One and Done: The Daily Dress Code) Both women had a plan (wear a dress) but significant variety to choose from as they did. Having easy, effortless choices at your fingertips is absolutely the goal of this blog, but that can come in a lot of different ways.

I own more plaid than is strictly necessary, a fact that makes me gleefully happy.

I don’t want anyone to have an over burdened closet full of underutilized clothing. Any streamlined approach to getting dressed can be brilliantly helpful. But I also don’t want anyone thinking they have to go minimalist to have great style. A middle ground, where we capsule what we want and keep the door to possibility open in other areas will keep us looking good and feeling inspired. Tune in next week when we look at the pros of capsule wardrobes and how you can incorporate a few into your closet.

 

*Spoiler, I’m a proponent of having several micro-capsules for different areas of your life

** And by predictable, I mean perfect. We suffer through the rain all year and then enjoy glorious July, August and September.

***And one Mud and Grace writer