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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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.


Late summer wardrobe chores


It’s mid-August, and my husband and I have been spending time in the garden. We harvested half the potatoes and spread them out to cure in the attic of the barn. We braided garlic and shallots to hang in our kitchen over winter. We reseeded garden beds with fall crops of broccoli, beets and lettuce. These little jobs are satisfying and fun, but more than that they ensure good food for months to come.

So many potatoes, such tasty garlic…


Similarly, while I have no immediate clothing needs, I do have a few chores to take care of as summer comes to a close. Here’s the Mud and Grace work list:

Evaluate your summer wardrobe

Now is the perfect time to take note of what you’re wearing, and what you aren’t. Go through your summer clothes. Is there one dress you’ve been wearing over and over? Is there anything that’s just hanging there, never making it into the mix? These are your work horses and your space hogs, and I’ve got plenty of both.

A few reflections on the Mud and Grace Summer Essentials…

The hiking shorts were too big.

I wore my Maison Jules tank tops all summer.

Man I love this skirt!

This sweatshirt is cute, but it only worked with a few of the other items and I didn’t wind up wearing it all that often.


What do you reach for, but never find in your closet?

Next up, evaluate what you don’t have. Like me, you’ve probably searched your closet for something that just wasn’t there. A light cotton dress, maybe? An easy pair of market pants?

Last summer, it was t-shirts. I had about 20 of them, but none fit right, and I was constantly shuffling through my drawers trying to find that magical t-shirt I’d never taken the time or energy to find and purchase.

This summer I found myself reaching for a light denim jacket. I have a wonderful jacket that I bought in Rome nearly 20 years ago, but the shape and color are heavy and it just doesn’t work well with my summer ensembles.

It’s not you… it’s me. I just need some space until it cools off a little.

I also keep reaching for a classic, cross-body leather bag. I have a whimsical, not-cross-body bag that is bright yellow in which my wallet and sunglasses don’t fit. I keep looking at it, hoping it had changed color and grown a strap. It hasn’t.

Keep tabs on what you reach for, and make a list. When I plan for next summer, I’ll be sure to remember the jacket and the bag.

Perfect bag, where are you?

Stock up on anything you know for sure you’ll wear next summer

Overbuying and stocking up on things you’ll never wear is not stylish. But knowing what works and preparing in advance is. Think of it this way;  I’ll can about 50 quarts of tomatoes this summer because I know we’ll use them. I’ll only can about 10 pints of pickles, because I haven’t settled on a good pickle recipe yet, and we just don’t eat that many of them.

If you know you’ll wear something again next summer, go get it while you can find it. It’s probably on sale by now. I ordered more of those tank tops in neutral colors, and replaced my too-big shorts. (Read about the ill-fitting shorts here The Complete Camping Road Trip Wardrobe, Summer 2016 )


Hello my neutral colored friends! I’ll keep you cozy and fresh until next summer.

On the other hand, as much as I love it, I didn’t buy another Boden jersey dress. This one is so well-made it will last at least one more summer if not two. By that time I’ll want the pleasure of picking out a new dress.

New: Boden
Love! For now…

Sell your space hogs to a resale shop while they’re buying

It’s still summer. If you have nice summer pieces in good condition, a second hand shop will be interested. Free your space hogs to become work horses for another woman.

Start looking towards fall

Stores and catalogs are beginning to scatter a little fall foliage around. You can definitely start thinking about what you want to be wearing in the coming months. When you sit down with a catalog, flip through it without any intent on buying. Look at the colors and shapes and note what appeals to you. Stop by your favorite shop in the middle of running errands one afternoon, and just walk through. Do you like the outfits coming out this fall? What colors do you want to base your wardrobe around? Think about the activities your fall is likely to include, and plan ahead for them. This is the style equivalent of looking through the Territorial Seed Company Catalog in January.

Can I build my entire fall wardrobe around this Lululemon sweatshirt?

Make a list

You should be keeping a style notebook by now. In it, make a detailed list of everything you’d like to have for fall. I mean everything everything, even the unders you haven’t replaced in forever. Don’t worry your list is crazy-long. Our list for seeds was crazy-long, and look where it got us. Pre-planning is for more than just your retirement portfolio.

This deliciousness was brought to you by foresight.

Enjoy your summer style chores, then kick back with the knowledge that you’ve made getting dressed that much easier for yourself in the coming months and years.


The Complete Camping Road Trip Wardrobe, Summer 2016


Every summer my family and I hit the road for a few weeks, seeking adventure and a better understanding of the world we live in.

We do our best to use dispersed camping in national forest lands, rather than stay in crowded campgrounds. We make most of our meals on a two burner stove out of the back of the car. We plan on getting dirty.

Arches are so cool.

This year our family took off for Southern Utah and Colorado. I’d give my packing job a B+; perfectly acceptable, but with room for improvement. Here’s what I learned…

Pack your uniform

The Mud and Grace Summer Essentials are largely road trip ready, so I packed up the rougher elements like the hiking shorts and trail running shoes, and left the linen and jersey to have a stay-cation in the closet. Having a bag full of familiars, rather than untested outfits was golden. The questions of the day were largely “Tank or t-shirt? Red or blue?” This eliminated that vacation horror of looking through the pictures your husband has taken and coming across a snap of yourself in something really awkward.

Stemming at Bryce Canyon
Stemming at Bryce Canyon

If you don’t wear it at home, you’re not going to wear it on vacation

I bought the long PrAna shorts four years ago because I thought they would be practical. Over the years they have slid down when worn with a backpack, rubbed terribly at the hem, clashed deeply with my climbing harness, and consistently bunched out at the pockets.

So naturally I packed them and brought them on the trip.

After taking these shorts on a 3,100 mile drive with my family, I threw them in a bag and sold them at Buffalo Exchange. If I never wanted to wear these shorts in Oregon, why on earth would I want to wear them in Utah?

The offending pants, being itchy at Red Rocks, 2014

Respect the Dust

Sand, dirt, silt, red dust, brown dust, it was everywhere. Every item of clothing, every shoe, every bag was covered (and at times filled) with dust.

And I had actually packed white clothing?

Packing with respect for the dirt you intend to play in makes any camping trip easier. When throwing your clothes in a bag, imagine them a little wrinkled and dirty. How’s that going to work? My summer wardrobe has a lot of black and white, which are not the most dust-friendly hues. I’m beginning to understand why khaki is the original outdoor sportsman color.

Not exactly shredding the gnar in Moab

Be ready for anything

I didn’t know we’d go scrambling up a canyon when I put this dress on. The Patagonia sport weight dress made the packing list because we planned to visit the ruins of the Ancestral Pueblo at Mesa Verde. Cliff dwelling is so spectacular, it calls for a nice ensemble.

Just out for a walk, right?

But when the day also included a scramble, a long drive, and dinner out, the dress hung in there. It also came in handy when my husband hurt his knee and we had to stay in a casino/hotel in West Wendover (now that’s an experience…)

Really more of a scramble than a free solo

In the ideal camping road trip wardrobe, none of your clothes should be at all limiting. You just don’t have the packing or mental space for it. By all means bring a dress, just make sure it’s ready to move.

Mesa Verde never fails to take my breath away.

Your britches may get too big for you

I am a compulsive sizer-upper when it comes to shorts. I want to move! But apparently there is a limit to how large you want your pants.

When I tried on the shorts in the store, they were roomy. After a day of hiking, they got baggy. After five days of running amok in the Southwest, getting washed in a river and laid out to dry on a scrub bush, they were huge. The same went for a few of my tops, but that didn’t present the same issue of total clownishness. Pack pants that fit.

Starting to look sloppy in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Re-purpose and share useful pieces

My kids and I ran across the gnat encrusted expanse for about a half mile until we hit the Great Salt Lake. Upon reaching the water (still gnat-full) we had to wade out another quarter mile before it was deep enough to try floating. Having come so far, we submerged ourselves in the salt water. While we did, as expected, bob like corks in the salt water, we also felt searing pain in every scratch and bite we’d endured over the last week and a half. The three of us came screaming out of the water and ran all the way back to the car.

The locals, I am told, don’t go to Salt Lake.

I learned another lesson that day as well. After a quick outdoor shower, I was so anxious to leave I pulled a tank over my swim top and left the paddle board shorts on for the drive. It was a cute ensemble. The next day I put the shorts on again and wore them with a different top. New shorts!

Similarly, when my daughter stole my hat on the third day of the trip, I asked her what I was supposed to do for sun protection. She offered up one of the hats she’d brought. From then on the two of us traded ball caps each morning, expanding our hat options. I can’t wait until we can share shoes.

Thanks for the hat, kiddo!

Insurance policies

I only wore the flannel shirt and joggers once, and I never took the rain jacket out of the bag. But if you don’t pack a warmth layer, you will need it. I could have packed smaller, throwing in silk or wool underwear instead, but I like having a warmth layer I can easily pull on, rather than strip down to get warm. No, although largely unworn, I wouldn’t want to travel without these three essentials.

A chipmunk working the crowds in Bryce.

The ultimate wardrobe

Overall, I have never felt so well prepared for a camping road trip. Getting dressed was easy and for the most part I felt presentable everywhere we went. My plan for next year’s two-week road trip? The following:

Three pairs of hiking shorts that fit

One pair of running shorts

4 tank tops, 3 t-shirts

3 sports bras

A 2-piece swim suit of top and swim shorts

1 or 2 hats, coordinated with daughter

1 pair of sandals

1 pair of trail running shoes

6 pairs of socks

1 sport weight, solid color dress

An insurance policy of 1 pair of joggers, 1 flannel shirt and 1 rain jacket

All of these items need to look good with dust, and be willing to play.

Until next time!




The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies

Truth be told, I’ve never been one of those women who loves make up and beauty products. I didn’t experiment with make up as a child, I never took the time to learn about skin care in my teens.

If fact, my lowest grade in college was Theater Make Up (Yes, that was required for my major.) I would have failed had the poor professor not taken pity on me and gave me some credit for effort.

On my Mud and Grace style journey I’ve learned that a little really can go a long way. I’ve adopted a minimal beauty routine I can maintain for most of the year. But in the summer? Seriously? I just can’t be bothered with creams and powders and straightening agents. And even when I do make the effort, I find myself with lovely straight hair and fabulous make-up, confronted by a river I really want to jump into but can’t because I don’t want to ruin all that work.

Me, being super lazy about my beauty routine. Lip gloss, no hair product, no make up; ready to jump in any river that comes flowing my way.

I’m motivated to find any treatments that allow me to spring out of bed looking good enough for all normal purposes. These cost a little upfront, but ultimately save money as I wear no make up, and never feel like I have to run out and buy something to look right at the last minute. Here is a collection of my findings for minimal effort summer beauty routines won’t slow you down or hold you back.

Number One: Get you eyelashes tinted

My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.
My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.

Yes, that can happen. Rather than mess around with mascara that runs and clumps no matter how water-proof it claims to be, tinted eyelashes allow you to pop out of a sleeping bag looking fantastic with absolutely no effort at all. For years I would look at summertime pictures of myself and think, “Why do my eyes look so small?” It was an eyelash thing. Tinted lashes frame my eyes but look natural. And while you are at the salon…

Number Two: Go for professionally shaped brows

Me, not worrying about my eyebrows at Yosemite.

Finding a good wax treatment is golden. Stop in once a month for 15 minutes, then don’t waste one moment thinking about your brows in between treatments. If you’ve tried professional waxing before and didn’t like the results, find an esthetician with good reviews, and bring in several pictures of the brow shape you are looking for. A well-groomed brow polishes your look instantly and effortlessly.

Number Three: Eat your sunscreen

“Um… ew,” you’re thinking. But hang with me.

We live in an age of extreme sunscreen application, and for the very fair skinned among us this will save lives. But humans have existed on this earth for centuries with no sunscreen at all. Louis XIV lived to be 76, had no major sun damage, and he was The Sun King.

As is turns out, nature had a way of protecting us all along. Vegetables.

Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.
Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.

We all know that eating lots of fruits and veggies is great for out skin,  but did you know the carotenoids and antioxidants found in veggies improve our sun tolerance, helping to both prevent and repair sun damage?

Here’s what the Wellness Mamma has to say on the topic http://wellnessmama.com/2619/avoid-sunburn-tan-better/

All that said, if you live in a sun-intense climate and are fair skinned, keep on applying protection, just add veggies into your sun screen arsenal. Your skin will thank you!

Number Four: Pick between the two hairstyles of summer

Hair Style A: Short enough that you have no responsibility to do anything to it.

Hair style B: Long enough to pull up in a pony tail, or wear in braids.

It’s hot, muggy and my hair is being funky. Braids!

Stay away from the bob and complicated layered cuts, unless your hair falls perfectly on its own. Mix up your look with a bandana, Buff or ball cap.

Can I think of a lazier hairstyle than a ponytail?
Yes. Yes, I can.
A Buff says, “You don’t know how many days I’ve slept in my van with no access to a shower.”

Number Five: Keratin treatments

Being of the frizzy hair persuasion, keratin makes everything easier. I used to hesitated to swim, or even sweat, for fear of not wanting to go back and take another 45 minutes to wash, dry and straighten my hair. Keratin is, essentially, hair (or rather the chemicals that make up hair) that the stylist applies. It strengthens, thickens and smooths, moving you from fizzy lumps to smooth waves, depending on your natural hair texture. Check with a stylist about how keratin would affect your hair. After 40 years of fighting with my hair, we are now at peace. Thank you Keratin!

Number Six: Remove all non-summer clothes from your closet

Wouldn’t it be great if every piece of clothing in your closet was something you can, and want to wear right now?

Whose turn is it today?

Clearing your drawers of winter’s sweaters and wool pants will allow your summer wardrobe to breath and expand. Hanging in your closet, and filling your drawers, should only be clothes you will wear over the next two months. Box up your ball gowns, off season clothes and ski parkas, and allow yourself a sparse and simple wardrobe for summer. (Here’s mine; Mud and Grace Summer Essentials)

Hang everything so you can see it. (Yes, I know Marie Kondo suggests folding, but there’s something so wonderful about being able to see everything!) Dressing is a snap when you don’t have to wade through three sizes of out-dated, out-of-season clothing.

Goodbye friend! I’ll see you in late September.

So there you have it, six lazy girl summer beauty strategies. Do you have a summer beauty strategy you’d like to share with Mud and Grace readers? Send it in, along with a picture, for our Inspiration section. mudandgrace@gmail.com

Travel lesson I learned from my stylish friends in Sedona


Three friends, five days, 115 degrees; the girls’ trip to Sedona was awesome! With a plan to hike in early mornings and evenings, then run around the hip town of Sedona in the heat of the day, I stashed a selection from Mud and Grace Summer Essentials in my pack. But I was curious to see the clothing my friends would bring. More experienced outdoors women than I am, Ann and Lynette also are beautiful, with the sort of easy grace of women who have known what to wear and what to pack for years.

Ann, Lynette and me on a 6 a.m. hike.
Lynette, looking elegant in 100 degree heat heading up Cathedral Rock.
Lynette, looking elegant in 100 degree heat heading up Cathedral Rock.

Lesson 1: Beat the sun with technology

You’ll notice the chic little scarves both of my friends are wearing? It’s not to elevate their hiking boots with a Parisian detail. They are cooling bandanas. You soak the little scarf in cold water, and retains the cold for hours. Plus you look adorable.


Next, check out Ann’s robin’s egg blue shirt. We’re pretty sure that Ann is Scottish royalty. She’s good with horses, hates to cook, her skin burns with the hint of sun, and breaks out in hives against any jewelry that’s not 100% precious metal. Her long-sleeved shirt was cool sun protection for every hike we took. REI and Columbia have nice options. She also brought light, colorful scarves to keep the sun off her decolletage.

Ann and I in our solid color, sport weight dresses. Ann is rocking some stylish, product free sunblock.
Ann, rocking some stylish, product-free sunblock.

Lesson 2: Free and easy makes for stylish downtime

A casual evening on the town.
A casual day in Jerome, or evening on the town.

“I want to steal that dress right off you!” a woman told Ann as we were wandering through a lovely little shop. You can’t blame her. The simple silhouette and color blocking with the embroidered neckline are just gorgeous. Lynette’s patterned shorts and swinging silk top are fun but still elegant. Like Lynette, the ensemble is up for anything.

Even the graffiti in Jerome is stylish.
Even the graffiti in Jerome is stylish.

Lesson 3: Pick a color

You’ll notice that in almost every picture, Lynette is wearing white, Ann is wearing blue and I am wearing red. Too bad we weren’t there over the 4th of July. Both my friends complimented her primary color with black and tan, but most of what they packed was in one color that looked great. There certainly is a time and place for trying new colors and stepping outside your comfort zone, but we had plenty on our plates without fussing about new color combinations. Simplicity is stylish.

Lynette, competent horsewoman. Ann, accomplished horsewoman. Me, desperately trying to keep my horse from running away and/or eating grass.
Lynette, competent horsewoman. Ann, accomplished horsewoman. Me, desperately trying to keep my horse from running away and/or eating grass.
Feelin' the vortex
Feelin’ the vortex, inadvertently coordinating with the rock.

Lesson 4: Pack light, buy a remembrance.

Ann and Lynette both wore one necklace, a wedding ring and one cocktail ring. Then we went shopping. Learning about jewelry is part of my Mud and Grace journey, and Lynette and Ann were great people to learn from. Lynette found a gorgeous ring. Ann took a long time in choosing this perfect bracelet.

Ann’s turquoise bracelet

I found this fun bracelet. Next step? Learn to wear it with confidence.



Lesson 5: Bring the best, leave the rest

Much of the success of this trip was in what we didn’t bring, but it wasn’t just excess shoes or a second maxi dress left in the closet. Here’s a list of what to shed before you even hit the TSA line.

Leave behind your insecurities, and with that your jealousy won’t want to make the trip. My friends are smart and beautiful, and sometimes I feel like a spare-parts corgi trying to keep up with a couple of greyhounds.  But these girls love me despite, and even because of, my goofiness.

Don’t pack in your diet, and ditch your body image issues. A few days away from home with great food, and I don’t have to cook or clean up? Yes please! And I’ll have bread with that, thank you.

Leave your guilt at home. Do you want your kids to grow up to develop strong friendships? Your children will benefit by watching you deepen relationships with friends, and take time for yourself. You’re not leaving your family, you’re setting a good example!

Ultimately, the most important pieces we brought weren’t in our wardrobes. On this girls’ trip I learned to never forget the following: a few childhood stories, trail-map reading skills, and one or two really good pieces of gossip. A ready laugh and a relaxed attitude take up no space in a carry-on, and always come in handy. Finally, throw in a little curiosity, empathy, generosity and wonder, and you’re set for a magical vacation.

Sedona girls' trip!
We’ll be back!



Mud and Grace Summer Essentials


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

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

Number 1 – A sport weight dress

2nd Hand: Patagonia
2nd Hand: Patagonia

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

Number 2 – An easy jersey dress

New: Boden
New: Boden

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

Number 3 – Perfect tanks and tees

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

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

Number 4 – A Chambray shirt

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

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

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

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

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

Number 6 – A sport weight skirt with shorts inset 

New: Columbia
New: Columbia

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

Number 7 – linen shorts

New: AllenAllen
New: AllenAllen

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

Number 8 – Hiking shorts

New: The North Face
New: The North Face

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

Number 9 – Cut-off shorts

Old: J Crew
Old: J Crew

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

Number 10 – Go everywhere sandals

2nd Hand: Merell
2nd Hand: Merell

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

Number 11 – Trail running shoes

New: Nike
New: Nike


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

Number 12 – The hat-o-your-choice

New: Patagonia
New: Patagonia

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

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

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