Boots 101

With winter upon us and the end of the 40-Day No-Buy* just days away, it’s a good time to talk about my favorite subject, boots.

Boot are a fantastic foot casing for a number of reasons. Practical, warm, hardworking, durable, fashionable, they’re a statement piece, with a statement worth making.

So I’ve put together a boot primer, what to wear different boots with, a few caveats and rated each type of boot on a “difficulty to style” scale of 1 to 5 If you have specific questions or ideas about how to wear boots, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any curiosity about boots and socks, please check out this article Sock Love.

Here are the boots –

Ankle Boots

Simple, warm and understated, ankle boots are an easy first step for most people into the glorious world of boots.

A simple Chelsea boot would be a great place to start.

Wear with: Cuffed jeans, ankle pants, casual trousers. If you are feeling adventurous, try them with tights and skirts

Teva boots are durable and easy to wear.

Be aware of: Channeling an elf. Skinny jeans and pointy toe ankle boots can bring you dangerously close to looking like you popped out of a Christmas special, particularly if you are given to striped shirts. Save pointy-toe versions to wear with more fluid pants.

Difficulty to style: 1

 

Lace-up Ankle Boots

These have a decidedly casual feel. They look great with a flannel or cozy sweater and jeans. They are a good choice for a weekend spent outdoors, spectating at a sporting event, or a casual event with friends.

Wear with: Jeans and casual pants are the easiest, but they also look good with a shorter fitted skirt, a knit dress, or cords. You can even try them with a flowing skirt for a 1980s look.

Be aware of: a military and/or Laura Ingalls Wilder vibe. These do well with fitted pants tucked in to them and a fuzzy sock peeking out the top, but a looser pair of pants tucked in to lace up boots will recall images of combat that you probably aren’t going for. And unless you long for a homesteader look, when you wear them with a dress or skirt, skip the calico.

Difficulty to style: 3

My favorite Timberland boots.

 

Mid-calf Boots

A mid-calf boot is more casual than a tall boot, and a little more edgy. Moto boots and harness boots fall into this category. A well-worn pair of favorites is absolutely effortless-cool.

Wear with: Dresses, skinny jeans and pants tucked in, chunky socks

Be aware of: The fact that you won’t ever want to take them off.

Difficulty to style: 2

 

Tall Boots

A great way to stay warm on a dress-up occasion, boots hitting just below the knee in suede, soft leather or some other buttery material are a great addition to your wardrobe.

This looks fun.

Wear them with: an above-the-knee knit dress or skirt, dark skinny jeans, leggings, or with a longer a-line skirt. When in doubt, feel go with tall black boots and black pants.

Be aware of: The hem of your skirt competing with the tops of your boots. Give yourself at least 5 inches on either side of your hem with tall boots. Knee-high boots with a knee-length skirt is just too much action around the middle of your legs.

Difficulty to style: 2

 

Riding Boots

Riding boots are so elegant… which is probably why I don’t wear them very often. Whenever I see a woman in tall, simple riding boots I always admire the look, but I’m just not in an elegant stage right now. If you are, invest in a great pair and enjoy endless classic looks with them.

Wear with: Long skirts or dresses, a sleek pair of jeans or pants, or substantial leggings and a sharp blazer. Keep the whole look long and lean with a streamline jacket or tunic.

Be aware of: Tight calves. Make sure your boots have some room in the calves so you can move, and even layer them with socks if you want to. Bjorn and other companies make wide calf widths for those of us with leg muscles.

Difficulty to style: 4

 

Mud Boots

It is hard for me to express how much I love mud boots. Warm, dry feet encased in a comfortable shoe are a beautiful thing.

My faithful mud boots.

Wear with: whatever you wear when walking through the mud

Every pair of Bogs is tempting

Be aware of: trying to make them into something they are not. Mud boots are pretty trendy right now, with Sperry and AE marketing their take on the duck boot, and everyone running around in her Hunter boots no matter what the weather. So long as there is mud on the ground, and you are going to be outside at some point, these are totally appropriate. If it’s 70 degrees and you are driving to the mall, I would skip the mud boots.

Difficulty to style: 0

LL Bean with the classic

Snow Boots

As with mud boots, when the weather calls for snow boots there is nothing more wonderful. Mine feel like I am wearing two fuzzy hugs on my feet.

Wear with: fun patterned leggings, regular leggings, jeans, knit skirts or dresses with cozy tights.

Be aware of: your intentions. Snow boots will keep you warm and look fantastically stylish. But like mud boots, if they are not worn for practical purposes they wind up looking a little off. It also goes without saying that you should never wear snow boots with bare legs, because that’s just silly.

Difficulty to style: 2

 

And finally, here are a few types of boots I don’t wear but you might want to

Over-the-knee Boots

For a night out, a pair of elegant, simple suede knee boots could be really fun.

This will never be my go-to on a Friday night, but they might be yours.

Wear with: something simple like a solid-color fitted dress, leggings and elegant top, or a short swing dress.

Be aware of: any busy detail. Over the knee boots are statement enough in themselves. Any flashy embellishments will look like you are trying too hard.

Difficulty to style: 5

 

High-heeled Booties

There are all sorts of heeled booties on the market right now, ranging from chic to sexy. They are a nice alternative to classic pumps.

Maybe for work?
Probably not for work.

Wear with: Slacks or an elegant skirt or dress for work, a party dress or trendy jeans for going out.

Be aware of: I hate to sound like a grandma here, but these can look a little cheap. Make sure yours are high quality, and remember the more the shoe has going on, the less your outfit should.

Difficulty to style: 4

 

Cowboy Boots

I love the look of a confident woman in a well-worn pair of cowboy boots. To pull them off, the boots need to be authentically you. I’ve always thought that when I turn 50, I’ll but myself a really great pair and wear them everywhere for the rest of my life.

Someday.

Wear with: Anything casual, jeans, pants, flowing dresses. Personally I think they would be tough to wear with a suit, but that didn’t stop George W Bush.

Be aware of: Inauthenticity. Cowboy boots can smell your fear and they just won’t work for you unless you are all in.

Difficulty to style: this all depends on you

 

Do you have a favorite pair of boots or way to wear them? Leave you ideas in the comments below.

* If you are new to Mud and Grace and don’t know about the 40-Day No-Buy, check it out – Prepare for the No-Buy Style Challenge

 

The Ultimate Cozy Wardrobe

Long nights and rainy days are finally here. The leaves have fallen in a great shudder of gold and red, and the northern hemisphere feels a deep longing to snuggle in with a good book by the fire.

And I’m cold.

I would suggest that while looking good and being cozy are not mutually exclusive, it’s still pretty tricky. Here are my thoughts on balancing the two. I’ve identified four categories of clothing and offered thoughts on how to cozy ’em up, then examined a few potential cozy pitfalls.

Work:

“Casual Fun” is the term I keep returning to when I think of my ideal work wardrobe. Like many people in creative careers, my work and weekend looks are fairly similar. I want to look stylish, but not like I’m trying too hard.

A mix of high quality sweaters, trendy flannels, great jeans, soft pants, easy dresses and as many boots as I feel I need, keeps me feeling warm and stylish. On particularly cold days, a silk undershirt feels amazing and fights the chill.

The trick to making these cozy favorites work-appropriate is fit and fabric. Overly long sleeves or too-wide shoulders are more sloppy than cozy. Sweatshirt fabric feels too casual for work.

Soft, high-quality sweaters, jeans and skirts feel and look fantastic.

Weekend:

The two elements I add to my work wardrobe for weekends, where a lot of the fun to be had is outdoors, are a great coat and a flattering scarf. Most of you have read about my coat theory before – if you have a great coat and boots, nothing else really matters. A few scarves in flattering colors will not only make your skin look fantastic, you also look instantly put together.

Just pick a favorite coat…
…and add a scarf in a flattering color. You honestly don’t need to think any further than this.

Under the coat and scarf I am most likely wearing my general uniform of jeans, boots, sweaters and flannels. Or maybe I’m wearing my pajamas.

Another option for casual fun would be leggings and a great tunic or long sweater. I don’t generally wear this look, but you might love it. Make sure the sweater fits in the shoulders so it hangs appropriately, and you’re good to go.

I don’t feel right in leggings/ jeggings and big sweaters or tunics, but they look fabulous on a lot of people.

Date night:

Just because I have a date with my husband, doesn’t mean I want to be cold. This is why tights were invented.* I have three go-to outfits for winter dates. 1. A knit dress, tights and boots. 2. A knit skirt, tights, a shrug and boots. 3. That same shrug, jeans and boots. And yes, I have one pair of date boots. My husband is in no way aware of the fact that I always wear the same shoes when we go out.

My stepmom Lynn and I are heading out for very different New Years Eves, but we still match!

Chores:

There are a lot of indoor/outdoor work days around our place. I like to wear something cozy that can hold up to the cold or drizzle outdoors, but requires minimal shedding of garments for when I run inside. And I don’t want to be so layered down I can’t move, or have excess fabric getting in my way as I’m chasing down a goat or chicken.

A cozy flannel and up-for-anything jeans are my work day favorites. I can pop outside by throwing on a pair of boots, a beanie and possibly a puffer vest if it’s really cold. Again, consider the fit and style. There is just as much pleasure in looking good around the house as there is in looking good anywhere else.

I get unreasonably proud about competent use of the leaf blower.

Avoiding cozy pitfalls

There’s a reason people wear un-cozy clothes. It’s hard to looks sharp when you put comfort first. I’ve identified three potential cozy pitfalls and offer solutions.

Pitfall # 1: Looking as though you have just stepped out of the 1990s

On Wednesday of this last week I was asked by Eugene School District 4J to show a video on bus evacuation safety. You may imagine how much my students enjoyed the film. It must have been shot right around 1994, because every single human wore severely oversized clothing. Pants and shirts and jumpers were all flopping around their human framework. It was amazing the children could evacuate the bus at all, with all that fabric getting in the way.**

To avoid – Be aware of proportion. If you have a big, cozy sweater, pair it with leggings or slim pants. If you are wearing a baggier “boyfriend” jean, or boot cut slacks, make sure your sweater has a trim fit.

This sweater hugs the ribcage, making it ideal for slouchy pants or joggers.

Pitfall # 2: Too casual to get anything done

A person can be too comfortable. As a high school teacher, I need to be ready for anything. I mean, literally anything.*** There are some outfits that aren’t ready for much more than a cup of cocoa.

To avoid – Blend your favorite cozy element (a big scarf or snow boots) with something a little more professional (a sharp skirt, sleek pants) Swap out any sweatshirt material for something more professional.

Nothing will be accomplished today.

Pitfall # 3: Stuck in an extremely narrow rut

Every winter I get to the point where I want to wear my favorite cozy outfit every single day. This is not a good look. It’s not a good smell, either. Often the outfit has become something of a security blanket in my world as I try to negotiate a frenetic winter pace that nature could not have possibly intended.****

To avoid – create a small, cozy capsule that can get you through these dark days. A few great sweaters, jeans or pants to mix and match, a couple of knit dresses, scarves that feel like a hug.

Please let it be black puffer day!

As I have said before, how we dress directly effects how we feel. A well-planned, warm and cozy winter wardrobe will help us make it through the darkest days of the year. Do you have a favorite cozy piece or outfit? Tell us about it in the comments below.

* That’s probably not true.

** For the record, I am pro-bus evacuation, a firm believer in the sit and scoot over the hop and squat.

*** This is not a misuse of the word literally. You wouldn’t believe the things a high school teacher needs to be ready to deal with on a daily basis. Unless you have teenagers at home, and then you totally get it.

**** Anyone else feeling this?

Back to school style for teachers

Books, papers, coffee, exploding pens, slamming lockers, split second decisions, and a constant swirl of humanity: it’s school! We’re back for another year of bright lights and big workloads, and I can’t wait. I am so grateful for this noisy, crazy, beautiful job of teaching.

Celebrating my 40th year of back-to-school!

In honor of back to school, here is the best style advice culled from my teacher friends. As Bobbie, our fashionable staff president, says “For better or worse, students notice what we wear. I want to be, and to be noticed as, confident, interesting, engaged in the world, and pulled together.”

Here are a few ways to do just that.

Set up a your outfit formulas

Reading Harry Potter, I’m always a little jealous that I don’t get to wear a long wizard’s robe to work. Forget turning myself into a cat, looking professional and being comfortable everyday would be magic enough. Fortunately, muggle and blogger Anuschka Rees has come up with the outfit formula.

Essentially, outfit formulas are combinations of clothing you know will work. My go-to formula is jeans or a moto pant, blouse and jacket. My second outfit formula is a knee length dress with boots. With the exception of an occasional sweater thrown in, my teaching formulas don’t change much. To learn more about outfit formulas, check out this post.Outfit Formulas, 101

Beautiful Helen, in her favorite pixie pant/blouse/sweater combo. 

Here are some teacher outfit formulas my friends go in for:

Helen: Old Navy Pixie pant, blouse, cardigan

Julie: Bright knit maxi dress (sandals in the summer, boots and cardi in the winter)

Ann: Long fluid top, drapey sweater, skinny pants or knee length skirt

Sarah and Dani: Jeans, quirky t-shirt, hoody.

Sarah and Dani: Seriously, would you not LOVE to be taught science by these people??

Have some fun

I don’t mean to insult other professions, but educators have a unique potential for fun. Where else can you run around acting like Louis XIV? Literally nowhere. My friends Dani and Sarah have fabulous collections of fun t-shirts, and even have matching wonder woman sweatshirts. If I’m feeling particularly spunky I might go for double denim, or a homemade message T, or twin with a co-worker or student.

Helen, who is going into elementary education, owns seven critter sweaters*

 

Maddy and me, making the day a little more fun by twinning.

Wear the gear, or the pajamas

Every teacher will at some point be asked to wear tie-dye, or her pajamas, or come to school as her favorite Dr. Seuss character. Just do it. Having a few nice tops in your school’s color will help. If you hate your school’s colors, black or white with accents of the school color works just fine.

Our staff president, rocking the axe.

You do you

Students are incredible gauges of authenticity. They will respond to your enthusiasm for a topic, tell at a glance which teachers will follow a cell phone policy and which won’t, and can smell your fear. So while I might be able to fool the lady at the DMV with a smart outfit, my students can sniff out my attempts at dress up in a heartbeat.

Elle is drawn to dramatic, fashion forward choices. Not afraid to experiment, she’s often trying new colors or shapes. Julie wears long, bright maxi dresses in teal or purple. While I can pass these women in the hall everyday and exclaim over their fabulous ensembles, the bright, elegant choices would be inauthentic on me.

Elle, looking fabulous while teaching Spanish.

Wearing clothing authentic to who we are helps us relax. And anything that lessons the tension of this somewhat crazy job is a win in my book.

Letting it all hang… in

Listen up! No one at school wants to see all y’all’s anything hanging out. Ever. You’d think I wouldn’t have to say that, but in the last 23 years of teaching you wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen.

For the most part, teachers want to and will dress appropriately. But wardrobe malfunctions happen. A friend once wore an ill fitting pair of jeans and unwittingly had a photograph of her behind circulating on snapchat.** One day last year I wore a dress that had shrunk up in the wash, but I didn’t notice until I sat down on a stool. I ran to Ann’s classroom and she actually took off the leggings she was wearing under her more modest dress and gave them to me for the day. That’s a friend.

For every new outfit, do the bend and sit test. Bend over and see if anything falls out in front or behind. Then sit and see how far your skirt comes up, or your pants ride down, or if the change in posture produces any gaps in your top. If you have any doubts, change now.

When in doubt, just wrap yourself in a large blanket. Better safe than snapchatted.

A few more things to ponder

How are you going to haul all your stuff? A roomy bag or backpack that coordinates smartly with your outfit formulas will pull everything together. Big arm loads of papers and an old Grocery Outlet bag will not.

Can you get the marker stains off that? Teaching is a messy job, literally as well as figuratively. According to Elle you should “buy quality fabrics that can be worn and washed in real life and stay nice-looking.” White pants are almost always an elegant fashion choice but between my goats and my students I haven’t worn them in years.

How well does your school’s heating and cooling system function? In the winter, I always plan on wearing a coat that I can keep on all day if the heat isn’t functioning. In warmer months, I wear layers and sometimes even bring a pair of sandals to change into if my feet get hot. ***

Can you walk a mile in those shoes? Because you are going to. I know it’s shocking to read on Mud and Grace Style, but invest in good shoes. Every teacher who weighed in on this article stressed the importance of good shoes. If your feet hurt, you will yell at your students. This is a fact.

Bobbie is ready for anything, which is probably what the day will bring.

My final piece of advice is to make sure you have what you need. Teachers spend so much time prepping their classrooms and lessons so everything will run smoothly once the crazy whirlwind called school kicks in. Spend some time prepping your wardrobe as well. Are your tights full of holes and likely to sag? Go get new ones. Are those once-cute ankle boots still in good shape, or do they need to be resoled and cleaned? Are all your foundational garments functioning as they should, because you really don’t want to be tugging at a bra strap during class. A little prep time on your wardrobe will leave you confident as you take on the most important job anyone could wish for.

Go get ‘em!

Me and Ann, on the last day of school in our uniforms, minus the jacket or sweater.

* I think once you own more than 5 critter sweaters, you automatically go into Primary Education.

** A little known hazard of the profession

*** I hate it when my feet are too hot

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Sock Love

We humans love our socks, and with good reason. There are somewhere around 7000 nerve endings in your feet, and every one of them wants to be cushioned in soft, cozy warmth.

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Happy in my simple raglan socks.

But beyond the longing of our feet for climate control and happiness, socks can be the final word on a person’s style. Anyone can pull on a smart looking jacket, but the perfect pair of socks peaking over the edge of a boot? That’s one powerful inch of knitwear.

Today, I have a few tips on how to wear socks, and then a few socks you might want to try.

With tall boots

Socks and boots can be mastered easily if you keep proportion and weight in mind. Tall, heavy boots can handle several inches of chunky sock. Delicate boots require less sock. A moderately oversized top, or a big comfy scarf will help balance everything going on down below. Unless the boots and socks are really sleek, a tight top can look a little out of place.

Outfit ideas for socks and tall boots:

• Boots, chunky sock, leggings, plaid shirt

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Your blogger was having fun creating outfits on Polyvore this morning.

• Rain boots, two or three layers of sock, skirt, fitted fleece top

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Tights would not be amiss here on a cold day.

• Boots, chunky cable knit sock, jeans, cozy sweater

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This picture makes me want to justify another pair of brown boots.

When starting out, stick to neutral palettes in your comfort zone. Socks that are close in color to your leggings or jeans will look more natural.

Caveat: make sure your boots aren’t squishing your calves so the socks are spill out like ripped sausage casing. For some reason the fashion industry thinks women have really small calves right now. I look for boots with a wide shaft so there is plenty of room for my muscles and a fun pair of socks.

With ankle boots

When wearing ankle boots with jeans and socks you have two choices

One: Wear the sock on the outside of the jeans

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Simple and easy. Plus the rain doesn’t get into your boots

Two: Cuff the jean (one large cuff or several turns in a 1980s look are both fine right now) and let the sock peak out an inch or two.

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You probably have all this in your closet.

Caveat: When wearing chunky ankle boots (like Timberland) with socks be careful of a Europe-in-1937 look. Boots are cool, the rise of fascism is not. If your feet remind you of folks gunning for a rematch of World War One, switch it out.

Socks with Docs

I will never have the sort of urban cool it takes to pull off a pair of Doc Martins, but in my sock research I came across a fun trend of statement socks with Docs. Tall socks were worn with a skirt, shorter socks were paired with sharp cropped pants. It’s a cute look that I can admire without feeling the need to try.

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This look will never be me, but it might be you.

Socks with sandals

That’s fine. I won’t judge. Honestly, once you’ve crossed that sock/sandal line, anything goes.

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You do you, honey.

General sock caveat: A sock breaks up the line of your leg, that’s why you rarely see socks on a model in a catalog. Socks look warm, fun, creative and interesting, but they also put a glitch into the line of your leg. If you’re going for a long, lean look, the socks will mess that up. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.

Socks Sampler:

Here are a few sock ideas to try. Also, this doubles as my list to Santa.

Simple

Start your sock quest with a few high quality pairs neutral colors.

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Cable knit socks are always lovely.

Wool

In a highly scientific Facebook study, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who felt passionately about wool socks. Smartwool socks are beautiful, comfortable and wick moisture away from your feet. Lynette (previously mentioned on this blog as my most-put-together friend) wears Smartwool socks nearly everyday in black, brown and navy.

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Smartwool makes people happy, except for those it makes itchy.

Bright and mismatched

Anyone in contact with humans under the age of 25 have seen the love these people have for mismatched socks. There are some gorgeous socks out there in this style. Of course you can just mismatch socks you already have, with also cuts out the family chore of matching socks out of the dryer…

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Free People socks are fun.

Bas de Laine

My friend Sandy, a native of Eastern Canada, swears by these socks, which you can find in wool or cotton. According to Sandy, “In French Canada if you are called a ‘bas de laine’ it means you are an earthy person …we would say a ‘granola’. I guess that defines me. My kids wear their warm socks in their Birkenstocks – true west coast ‘bas de laine’ kiddos!!”

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Sock monkey socks are apparently called Bas de Laine.
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Now I have a name for my favorite scarf, too!

Boot toppers and leg warmers

These are nice alternatives to socks for tall boots because they tend to be roomier and not smush your pants into your legs. They also don’t pull against your toes when you tug them up past your boots. I like leg warmers better because they serve function (warming your legs) as well as fashion. Boot toppers come in every imaginable color and style, and are ridiculously easy to get on and off.

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Boot toppers are fun and inexpensive. I never feel quite right in them, but I know any number of readers out there could rock a pair.

DYI leg warmers

In my extensive search for sock style I learned that you can make your own leg warmers by cutting the arms off old sweaters.

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The about-to-be-worn-again sweater.
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“Look ma! I have cashmere leg warmers!!! All my 1980s dreams are fulfilled!”

Now, before you start eyeing your sweater drawer like Lord Asriel looking at the connection between Roger and his daemon,* remember that this only applies to sweaters you really won’t wear anymore. Say a moth bit a chunk out of the front of your favorite cashmere sweater. You can’t hunt down that moth and make her serve her time, but you can enjoy some new legwarmers.

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Legit moth hole in sweater.

Statement socks

Fabulous, graphic socks aren’t just for 8-year-olds anymore. My friend Alli loves her Narwhal vs Unicorn socks. I know another young woman who wears wild Harry Potter-themed socks. The internet is awash with novelty footwear. Go find you favorites.

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Alli’s best socks.

Homemade socks

My mom makes the most beautiful socks. If you are a knitter, invest in beautiful wool and make yourself some cozy, beautiful socks.

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Thanks mom!

Do you need new socks?

A person can have too many socks. If your sock drawer resembles a mass of swarming, multicolored eels, you may need to go through your collection and get rid of unusable socks.

Recycle your socks if: they have holes in them, they fall down and scrunch up in your boots, they itch, or they in anyway impede your life.

Socks can be recycled into receptacles for loose chalk for your climbing chalk bag. They also make great sock puppets, which are always appropriate at work or in social situations.

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How much fun is it to teach about Einstein when he’s actually in the room?!

Socks, being practical, comfortable and stylish are a Mud and Grace must have. In stepping up our socks, we are showing much needed love to our feet. That said, don’t feel like you have to go sock-crazy. I will always love the simple line of jeans and Fryes, or an ankle boot quietly resolving a pair of slim cargos. And your socks can function just as well without your shoes, all you need is a lazy afternoon, nowhere to go and the nice, cozy pair of your choice. 7000 nerve endings will thank you.

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Contented feet.

*If you haven’t read the Golden Compass you really ought to.

Comfort and Joy: Your style guide for the holiday season

We have a really mellow holiday season planned. We’re just going to host Thanksgiving… and Christmas Eve…  Oh, and a birthday party and the staff party, then my sister’s coming up from California with her family, and my brother just called from Japan to confirm that we can host a dance party on New Year’s Eve.

No problem.

Our plans for visiting are just about as laid back as our home life. Fortunately, most of our events, like yours, are relatively casual. That said, I want to give a nod to the holiday season and dress up festively, if not elfishly.

Here’s my holiday wardrobe:*

Guest

This is my favorite dress. With a sparkly necklace it becomes fancy. Add simple accessories and it’s casual. There is no wintertime party to which I can’t wear this dress. Plus it’s soft and stretchy, so I can eat all the cheese and Carrs water crackers I want and not feel uncomfortable.

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Tip: Don’t wear boots if you’re going to a confirmed no-shoe household.

This top is just plain fun. I can pair it with black leggings for a grown-up, dress-up occasion, and jeans for everything else.

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This top could probably show up to the party without me and have a great time all on its own. Unfortunately, it can’t drive.

Hostess

I love these fluid joggers for hosting events in my home. This olive, silk top is open at the neck, balancing the weight of the pants, while still keeping up with the casual/elegant vibe. Plus the whole ensemble goes with my best apron.

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Flats? Check. Ponytail? Check. Drink?** Check. Let the guests arrive!

I like this for hostess as well. You can layer it over a little black dress, or leggings and a tank.

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What do we want to call this? Shawl? Kimono? All-purpose fringed party garment?

The non-ironic holiday sweater

If you want to go full-on reindeer, don’t let me stop you. I prefer something that gives a nod to the season without any flashing lights. These sweaters have a winter motif, but are in unexpected holiday colors.

Do you remember this Gap holiday sweater from the mid-1990s? I found it 2nd hand fifteen years ago and I’m still wearing it.

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It’s such a happy sweater. You can tell because it’s waving at you.
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I really stretch the season on this one. You can totally wear stars through February, right?

Off duty

Most of my holiday season will be spent with family and close friends. I love a cozy plaid shirt for hanging out and doing nothing, or doing everything, as is often the case at this time of year.

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Just one more cup of coffee before we head back out…

A little sparkle picks my mood up. I wear this t-shirt under a simple gray cardigan for a look that says, “Yes, I understand there are rules, and I totally plan on following them… for now.”

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Can you see the sparkles?
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Here’s an up-close of its sparkly loveliness.

Secret Weapon – The Holiday Coat

There is no better way to stay warm, cozy and appropriately festive than the holiday coat. You can wear absolutely anything under the coat and no one will ever know.

Headed out to a tree-lighting ceremony? Grab the coat. Volunteering to run your kids around as they gather cans for the school food drive? Put yer coat on. Running between three different Thanksgivings? Coat time!

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The September through November coat…

I have faced more holiday seasons without appropriate clothes than I care to remember. But now that I have the coat, no worries. I could wear my pajamas under it if I were so inclined.

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…and the November through February coat.

Jewelry

All over the world, there are celebrations of light at the darkest time of year. While I prefer very simple jewelry for everyday, this is the time to sparkle. Pull out your auntie’s broaches, your big pendant necklaces and that one piece of real jewelry you never wear because it’s not a special enough occasion. You, your friends, and your family? I can’t think of a better reason to break out the tiara.

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If there is ever a time to wear the cipher of Peter the Great, it’s at a dinner party.

Ultimately, this season is about coming together in love and friendship. You shouldn’t be worrying about a pilling sweater or a skirt that really doesn’t go with your top. Pick a few go-to hostess and party looks, and wear them every for every occasion from November through the middle of January. Then set yourself free to focus on peace of earth, and goodwill towards everybody.

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Pippin, ready to greet the guests in his winter coat.

*This post covers casual to moderately dressy events. For more formal events, see the next post, 38 Minute Fancy.

**The drink I’m holding is called The Slow Burn. I made it up. It’s a habanero / lime cocktail. Message me if you want the recipe.

**Drinking alcohol is for people of age, whose frontal lobes are fully formed and are not driving and/or are avoiding alcohol for any one of a number of good reasons. For you folks I have a sparkly version of the same beverage. It burns just a little bit hotter.

 

 

 

Top 7 Fall Transitional Pieces

 

All I want from my wardrobe is to pull the perfect pieces out of my closet, get dressed in less than three minutes, and love my outfit all day long, every day, for the rest of my life.

Is that too much to ask?

I hope not, because that’s where we’re heading. But fall can be a tricky season to dress through. We’re all craving our cozy sweaters and wool plaid jackets, but most days are still quite warm. It would be all well and good if it were just hot out, but mornings can be  chilly. Thus we all have to layer, which is one of the toughest chores in fashion.

The following pieces will help build a bridge between your summer and winter wardrobes. Find them in the rich colors you reach for in the fall, along with classic denim. Keep these items in heavy rotation as you eek out a few last days in your sundresses and tank tops. Then stir them into the mix when you start to pull sweaters out of storage.

A classic cargo jacket

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Sanctuary, new last spring

This work horse will slip over you sundresses as easily as it will a cashmere sweater. Wear it with jeans, a skirt or even a comfy pair of joggers on the weekend. It has the hip feel of a leather biker jacket without the weight.

A nano-puff vest

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Isis, new two years ago

Ever wonder why you feel so comfortable in a vest? The longer the eye can run in a straight, uninterrupted line the better it feels. (This is why you are tempted by solid color, sleeveless sheath dresses.) A vest not only adds warmth, it adds visual harmony to the universe.

I suggest a nano puff because they are warm but less bulky than traditional puffer vests. Add one, or five, nano puff vests to your wardrobe for easy warmth and interest. If you need more inspiration just google “Kate Middleton, vest” to see about a million pictures of this wardrobe staple working for one of the world’s most photographed women.

A trendy layer

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Life in Progress, 2nd Hand

Think of trendy items like that soccer player you dated off and on for a few months in college; Cute and super fun, but your not making any plans around them or investing too much. You might try fuzzy faux fur, a jumper or a nautical-inspired scarf. I found this bomber jacket at Value Village (Fall Style Research Part 1 – Value Village)  I’ll pop it on over skinnies or wear it with a skirt when I feel a little trendy energy would help me get through the day.

Skinnies (or your fit of choice casual pant) in a fall color

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From left to right; BDG, Lucky Brand, Old Navy, Generally new

I find skinny jeans are the easiest for my life of bike commuting and Frye-boot wearing, but find a shape that works for your body. ( Kick-start your wardrobe with one investment piece)  I’ll rotate through these, pairing them first with tank tops, then lighter blouses and finally my sweaters.

A light weight plaid shirt

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Target, new last winter

I found this at Target, and I wear it all the time. I sized up to a large, then had it hemmed several inches shorter so it had more of a boxy feel. It satisfies my need for rich fall colors, but the shirt itself is so light I can wear it on a warm day.

Closed-toe sandals and a cute pair of sneaks

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Roxy, new. Clarks, new last summer

When you aren’t wearing boots, an easy pair of slip on shoes can take you all over town and into any number of adventures. Right now you can find so many styles of cute sneakers. Vans and Converse are classics. Toms are always fun. Just because this shoe is casual, don’t assume it isn’t versatile. With a nice blazer you can dress them up easily, with a fun t-shirt they look hip and funky. Find your favorites and wear them all fall.

Closed-toe sandals help transition summer wardrobes into fall by providing a little more warmth and structure. You don’t want your toes freezing off on your bike ride in to work!

The perfect cross-body bag

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Patricia Nash, new

If there was ever a time you needed your hands free, it’s back-to-school, holidays-approaching, pick-up-another-box-of-mason-jars-because-the-apple-tree-is-going-nuts-this-year fall. The size and color of this Patricia Nash bag work for my needs and taste. Find one that fits your life.

These items will tide you over until you are ready to go fearlessly into the cooler weather. You can pull them out again in early spring, when you can’t stand a single item in your winter wardrobe and are itching for your summer clothes.

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Happy Fall!

P.S. Do you have a great fall transitional piece? Email me a picture and I’ll include it in inspiration.