I’m taking off for a few adventures, some much needed rest and serious binge reading. I’ll be back in few weeks. Enjoy the summer!
T-shirts are far and away the most fun pieces of clothing. Comfy, soft and colorful, our t-shirts can actively express our feelings, personalities and daily moods.
This week I teamed up with Jenna, Maddy, Talia, Melissa, Julia and Lucy on their last day of high school to figure out right way to wear a statement tee.
What follows are a list of Dos and Don’ts for the statement tee.
Do wear that statement tee if…
It reminds you of good times: If you have a t-shirt from a fun summer softball league, a favorite play, your 7th grade chess championship game where you came in last but still had a great time, these are always, aways appropriate.
It perks you up, and shares some fun with the world: There are a ton of fun message Ts out there that just bring a smile to your face. If you find one you love, go for it.
If references your loyalties: School, team, band, Hogwarts house of choice, an outward statement of your loyalties can be a conversation starter, as well as just throwing some support into the universe for something you believe in.
It’s funny: Some t-shirts are just plain funny. If you find one, enjoy the joke and let others in on it too.
It makes a statement about you: There are plenty of statements worth making. We can use our fashion choices to stand up for something we believe in, or simply state how we want the world to be.
You love it: Sometimes, you come across a statement tee you just plain love. Wear that shirt and others like it as much as you want.
Statement Tees to avoid: Some statement Ts are a don’t. Everyone is going to have her own opinion here, but these are my personal guidelines.
The Boastful T: It’s one thing to see a 9-year-old in a Nike “Been there, won that” t-shirt. Her brain is not fully developed yet, and her sports-oriented aunt-with-no-children probably thought it was adorable when she bought it. The rest of us can refrain from shirts that talk about how we destroy on the soccer pitch, can’t lose playing Connect Four, or whatever.
The Whining T: I am sorry if you didn’t get your coffee / don’t like my face / are bored with the world at large, but advertising that fact on your t-shirt doesn’t do much for anyone. Even, and especially, the sad person who feels the need to express their general unhappiness on their chest while rolling about in this world.
The contradiction: An environmental message on a mass-produced, $5 t-shirt from Target? You are never going to feel right wearing this. Ditto goes for anything that says Namaste unless you are actually doing Yoga / Meditating / attempting to communicate in Hindi while bowing to the divine in someone else. Statement Tees are only cool when they are authentic.
The concert you didn’t attend: You may love a band or musician, but a fake faded t-shirt of a concert you didn’t attend looks a little silly. The only exception to this rule is if you find an actual faded concert t-shirt in one of your parent’s or older sibling’s drawers. That’s cool.
So there you have it, the dos and don’t of statement tees. Do you have a favorite t-shirt? Send in a picture, the Mud and Grace community would love to see it!
* When you make your friend a t-shirt, do not, under any circumstances, deliver the t-shirt in a timely manner. Be sure to forget to bring it to their birthday party, leave it at home if you are meeting for lunch, whatever you have to do. Keep that shirt for months, even a full year! That way you can celebrate the anniversary of the t-shirt inspiring event by wearing matching shirts and apologizing profusely.
Capsule wardrobes are very hot right now. You can’t swing a striped shirt without bumping into someone’s perfect spring capsule wardrobe (!).
There are a lot of good reasons to winnow your wardrobe down to a few great pieces. It’s better for the environment, your wallet, your busy mornings. While Mud and Grace has long been a proponent of less is more, a strict capsule just doesn’t feel right in every situation.
Next week we will look at several appropriate places to build capsule wardrobes,* but in advance of that I want to give you some good excuses for not doing a single one if you don’t want to.
For funsies, go to pinterest and google ‘capsule wardrobe.’ You will find a beautiful selection of black, white, grey and pale blue clothing with maybe one or two other colors thrown in. These pictures are beautiful, each piece of clothing artfully curated by some Zen master of style. And yes, ideally most of your tops should go with most of your bottoms. But the idea that everything has to match is just silly. I like light blue and grey as much as the next woman but I don’t want to lock myself down for the sake of a good pinterest picture.
I have no doubt there are women who have a dress code that takes them through all their day’s activities with no more than a change of earrings. For most of us, that’s just not the case. If you work, have kids, a full class load, a few hobbies, and/or a social calendar that includes everything from camping to carpooling, you need options. A pair of black flats will only take you so far. Many fashion bloggers who promote capsule wardrobes work from home and by their own admission have lives that include relatively few outfit needs and positively no goats.
In the past week I wore a tank top, a wool sweater and three different coats on three different days. I do have what is essentially a capsule in the summer, because Oregon summers are pretty predictable.** Springtime? No way.
I don’t mean to be rude here, but you have to have a really good sense of your style before you can narrow your look down to five colors and 37 pieces. Many Mud and Grace readers*** are still experimenting with their style, and having a ton of fun along the way. Why lock yourself down in a capsule for 6 months? Go try those palazzo pants and if they don’t work, you don’t have to wear them until October.
I don’t think I need to elaborate here.
Like any trendy concept, the capsule wardrobe has come to have a number of loose interpretations. Many women espouse the beauty and ease of a gorgeous capsule that in reality serves only a fraction of their wardrobe needs. If you don’t include t-shirts, layering pieces, shoes, workout clothes, outside work clothes and outerwear in a capsule then, yes, it’s pretty easy to winnow it down to 25 pieces. By omitting the truth, this type of style writing makes our closets seem out of control. Truth be told, you’re probably wearing less than 25 pieces regularly as it is.
When contemplating capsule wardrobes, I often reflect back on Yana and Sarah’s closets of abundance in One and Done. ( One and Done: The Daily Dress Code) Both women had a plan (wear a dress) but significant variety to choose from as they did. Having easy, effortless choices at your fingertips is absolutely the goal of this blog, but that can come in a lot of different ways.
I don’t want anyone to have an over burdened closet full of underutilized clothing. Any streamlined approach to getting dressed can be brilliantly helpful. But I also don’t want anyone thinking they have to go minimalist to have great style. A middle ground, where we capsule what we want and keep the door to possibility open in other areas will keep us looking good and feeling inspired. Tune in next week when we look at the pros of capsule wardrobes and how you can incorporate a few into your closet.
*Spoiler, I’m a proponent of having several micro-capsules for different areas of your life
** And by predictable, I mean perfect. We suffer through the rain all year and then enjoy glorious July, August and September.
***And one Mud and Grace writer
“Define your style!” the quiz lures me in with promises of a definitive label for my look, along with a handy shopping list for the perfect capsule wardrobe.
Dutifully I start ticking off answers. All too soon it becomes apparent that there are not only no right answers, there are no right questions either. But I keep trying, assuming the problem is me and not the quiz. When I finish the numbers proclaim me somewhere between a French minimalist* and a preppy, and that’s only because I can’t in anyway be considered a glamorista or modernist. Then the quiz tells me to go buy a trench coat and some ballet flats, and I throw the whole thing out in disgust.
Are those really my only options? French minimalists, preppy, glamorista and modernist?
Not according to Hollywood costumer Alison Freer. In her book How to Get Dressed**, she suggests that we should all strive to be the costume designer of our own life by developing a signature style. While that sounds like the baffling sort of thing only crazy, high-achieving women do, it turns out to be both simple and brilliantly freeing.
Freer suggests you start by making a list of things you love. There need be no actual connection to clothes, just list things you are drawn to. Soon you will see patterns emerging. Elements of your heritage, tastes and interests will simmer there on the list, eventually bubbling up into a cohesive style. Freer suggests grabbing a thesaurus if you need to find just the right words for your style.
Then name your look. Be playful and have fun with it. This works like magic. Once I discovered the thrill of Freer’s technique I began trying to name the styles of friends: “Quirky preppy,” “European Eugenian,” and “1970s trust-fund on the run.” Freer describes her own style as “Backwoods Nuveaux,” combining her Texas roots with a heavy 1980s new wave influence.
What follows was my own process: First the list –
It took less than 10 minutes to list my words, and I was surprised to see what came up in a stream-of-consciousness “Things I like” list. Then I just stared at it for a while. And like reading an alethiometer or creating a patronus, it was just there.
1940s Pin-up Hiker.
Everything became clear. This is why I wear pearls with cargo pants. The 1940s pin-up hiker has a curvier figure, rather than then the willowy women I see in the Prana catalog. Her active wear is well made and meant to last seasons if not generations. She smiles. My 1940s pin-up hiker look is wool, cotton, linen, denim and silk. It’s neutral colors and classic accessories. The look is unapologetically feminine and sporty.
But this signature style doesn’t quite fit all my moods. Freer suggests we all have more than one signature style waiting to walk out of our lists. I stared at the words a little longer until I put my finger on the look I have been unwittingly moving into for the last 8 years.
There has always been something about the well-heeled suburbanite woman that fascinates me: the shiny-clean house, the finely tuned to-do lists, the Olympian commitment to physical appearance. But I would never want that life. I have too much affinity for the mess and chaos of this world to settle down into well-ordered perfection.
My Stepford Hippie looks says, “Yes, I got my kids to all their sports practices on time, and have the most delicious, nutrient rich meal in my shiny clean crockpot. But I got it all done because I’m wearing a special Tiger’s Eye necklace I bought in Sedona to engage the vibrations of the vortex in my everyday life.”
Stepford Hippie is second hand Hunter mud boots. It’s the perfect jeans, diamond stud earrings*** with a hand-me-down boho top. My Stepford Hippie follows most of the rules, most of the time. The look embraces my roll as a mom and wife, and as an individual.
Words are powerful. So take your time in choosing just the right phrase for your look. Once you have established your own, signature style, getting dressed is a breeze. Shopping becomes so much easier. Rather than being handed a list of “French minimalist capsule” pieces**** that may or may not work with your body or your life, you decide.
* Why is it always French minimalist? Why not Polish minimalist? Or Norse maximalist?
** If you jump over to the Book List tab you’ll find a link to Amazon for this book.
*** Always faux or second hand. The Stepford Hippie isn’t giving one penny of her money to the diamond industry.
**** I honestly have no use for a trench coat.
You will notice I am wearing my “chores” shirt. That’s because you and I have some work to do, my friend.
You know all those items in your closet that hang there, taking up space, but you never actually wear? They fit your style, they are practical, they… just don’t make it into the mix. Like that package of quinoa you’ve been meaning to cook up, you know you should, but you don’t.
Well, it’s January, time to use it or lose it.
Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style is a seven-day, no BS strategy to get you wearing all those perfectly nice pieces in your closet you never wear. Here’s the plan:
Be honest here. We all have a few, beautiful, beautifully made pieces that just don’t make the cut in the mornings as we get dressed. Take a good hard look at the items hanging in your closet or shoved in the back of your drawers. Choose seven pieces you would like to start wearing. Don’t ask yourself if you want to get rid of it. Don’t ask yourself if you should wear it. Just ask yourself if you want to wear it.
There are myriad of social and cultural pressures that stand behind every purchase. My guess is Mud and Grace readers tend to make pretty good decisions when they shop. But not every well-thought out purchases gets worn.
After you have chosen seven pieces that you aren’t wearing, think back to the day you bought them. A pair of pants currently on my chopping block looked fantastic in the dressing room, but I came home to find the color didn’t work well with the rest of my wardrobe. Maybe you found a deal too good to pass up, and now you own a valuable sweater you never wear. You could have been pushing yourself to try a new style, and were brave enough in the store, but not on a daily basis as you get dressed. Remembering what it was you loved about an item can help you in your quest to use it or lose it.
Spend some time on Pinterest or Polyvore looking for inspiration. Narrow your search so you’re not falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole of ridiculous outfits and impossible breakfast casseroles. Type in the name of the item you want to work into your wardrobe (i.e. ‘red tunic sweater’, or ‘brown leather jacket’) and something about your demographic (‘women’s fashion over 40’, or ‘college student’)
If you are using Polyvore, find something that is similar to the item you want to match up (let’s pretend I found that leather jacket at Buffalo exchange.) Then surround it with ideal pieces.
Take your seven unwearables and pair them with your wardrobe workhorses. Too often when advised to ‘shop you closet,’ people are told to pair one lost and lonely item with several others. Just put a belt around the whole thing and it will be fine, right?
Instead, I want you to put your very favorite pieces with these closet orphans; your denim jacket, ( Friends for Life – You and Your Denim Jacket) the favorite pair of boots, (Kick-start your wardrobe with one investment piece) your best jeans. Let the fairy dust from these items rub off on the others. Once you’ve come up with a few ideas on how to wear the each piece, pair items together in your closet so they are ready to go in the mornings that will follow.
Every day, for seven days, wear something that is not in your regular rotation. Once you are dressed, snap a quick picture of yourself.
The rules are you have to wear the item all day, and feel terrific. The ensemble must pass the Allan test. (For more on the Allan test, see Lessons From a Chronic Closet Cleaner)If it works, you get to keep the item. If not, it’s out.
Caveat: Try not to buy anything new to make an item work, but don’t be weirdly unreasonable.
If you have a skirt that needs a certain type of tights, that’s fine. Go get the tights. But don’t be out buying five items to make that weird scarf work. This is an exercise about using what you have.
That’s it. Five easy steps to shopping your closet, with consequences. I can’t wait to see what the week will bring!
Here are my seven pieces on the chopping block this week: The swingy white sweater, the cargo jacket, the thneed, the rust colored sweater, a piece of fan wear, the odd colored pants, and the bat wing sweatshirt.
“I need a pantsuit!” several readers have written in distress. “Should I go out and buy one?”
If you’re planning on being the next president of the United States, yes. For the rest of us, we can shop our closets if we’re feeling a strong urge to don supportive garments this week.
I offer you three options: classic, collegiate and casual
You probably have something like: Black leggings, a black blazer, a silk tank. Pair them with neutral shoes and simple jewelry. Spend the entire day in a power stance.
For my teacher and professor friends, there’s no need to give up the corduroy just because you want to make a political statement. Pair your favorite cords with a vintage blazer and chambray shirt. Add shoes in which you would be able to run at least a mile, or possibly the country.
Nothing says “can do” like a denim power suit.
It’s your choice, rock the Canadian Tuxedo, or start considering relocating to Canada.
Mud and Grace readers, I wish you the best of weeks ahead. No matter what your politics, women matter in this, and every election. Go vote!
Have you tried Stitch Fix?
Stitch Fix may be the most brilliant marketing idea I’ve come across. You register with the company, letting them know your sizes, your likes and dislikes. A stylist then reviews your profile and selects clothing for you. Stitch Fix sends you a package of 5 items, and a return envelope for anything that doesn’t work.
It’s like getting a surprise present from yourself.
I can just imagine the stylist “Jessica,” looking through my profile, scanning my Pinterest, going through what I imagine to be an enormous, brightly lit warehouse, picking out the perfect striped t-shirt just for me.
OK, she probably did it all on a computer, but whatever.
There are three primary reasons to give Stitch Fix a try;
It’s really fun having a box of surprise clothes sent to you door. Having someone with authority (Jessica, no less!) choose clothing for me felt somehow reassuring. I also appreciated the lack of packaging. You get a neat, cardboard box with five items wrapped in tissue paper. The only plastic is in the form of the return envelope they send.
My experience with Stitch Fix was mixed. I tried Stitch Fix twice before writing this article (This blog is such a heavy responsibility…) here’s what I learned abut getting your best Fix.
Enter your measurements into you style notes. Don’t skip this. They can then get a sense of your shape and best looks.
They advise you to set up a Stitch Fix Pinterest. Do this. It’s kind of fun to go scrolling through Pinterest and create your own look book, and the stylists take it seriously.
Try everything on twice. Part of the reason you’re getting a Fix is to move out of your comfort zone and try something new. In my first Fix I pulled out a pair of pants and thought “Oh, no way.” But the second time I had them on I said, “Maybe?” I now wear them all the time.
Don’t feel bad about sending anything back. You want them to get to know you and your style.
Be clear about what you want. I didn’t want Stitch Fix sending me footwear, because, as you might have noticed, I’m pretty picky about shoes. Unclick the boxes for anything you don’t want.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t want this to be my primary source of clothing. I know my needs better than the girls at Stitch, and I enjoy the hunt. There is also the problem of fit. Like all the other women in the world, I span sizes. Every fix had clothes that didn’t fit, or didn’t work with my shape.
There are no sales prices, so I wound up paying more for items that I might have ordinarily. Add to that the cost of having some things tailored, these clothes were more expensive, but not of substantially higher quality than my regular shopping haunts. On the other hand, I am paying for the service of being introduced to new brands and looks, and that should be factored in to the overall cost.
Fair warning, Stitch Fix can be highly addictive. The pleasure of wondering “What are they going to send? Will it be the magical sweater that goes with everything and brings about harmony in the universe?” is intense. I knew after the first two fixes that this wasn’t a service I particularly needed, but I was tempted to keep going back. So I had to go cold turkey after two hits.
Plus, if all my clothes came from Stitch Fix, how boring would this blog be? “Yep, got another box of clothes. Wearing them. Yeah…”
I know women whose entire wardrobes come from Stitch Fix. They look great and enjoy the ease of the service. If this is you, go have fun, honey!
I see myself possibly using this service to make updates, and try new things.It would also be good for unusual fashion situations, like travel or a new activity. And anytime you want a surprise present from yourself.
P.S. Want to check it out? Here’s the link – https://www.stitchfix.com/
Do you love how every fashion magazine and clothing website can’t wait to get us all suited up for “festivals”? As though each woman in America is ready to throw on a $1200 boho gown and go experiment with hallucinogenics for three days in a muddy field.
While alt-music festivals may be the provision of hipsters and college students, a woman with a busy, muddy life may well find herself at any number of other 3-day affairs where she wants to look and feel her best.
In this case, I’m writing about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Like Utah and Colorado, this theater festival truly is world class. I want to give a nod to their efforts by looking good, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself by being too fancy.
Activities: Travel, checking in, lunch out, exploring the town, matinee production of Twelfth Night.
For the first day I planned upscale casual. We didn’t have an evening production to go to, so nice jeans, my Sanctuary jacket and the trusty Fryes were sharp but not fancy.
Activities: Morning walk, rock climbing, lunch and dinner out, matinee of Vietgone, evening production of The River Bride.
Because of the extremes in the day’s schedule, I needed two outfits, and had to change quickly as we’d be pushing it to get from the rock gym, through lunch and into the theater for a 1:00 matinee. A t-shirt and my Athleta joggers got me through the morning.
This wrap dress was perfect. It moves well and walks the line between dressed up and easy that I strive for. I’d let you know the brand but I found it second hand, and the tags had been cut out. We’ll just call it DVF. Why not? The sandals are Naturalizer, incredibly comfortable with just the right amount of height.
Activities: Morning run, write in cafe, long walk in Lithia park, lunch and dinner out, matinee of Yeoman of the Guard, evening production of Roe.
The weather was hot this day, but I was going to be spending as much of my time in air-conditioned theaters and restaurants as I would outside.
For this day, I pulled out my favorite Patagonia summer dress. The halter top, low back and color make it elegant, but the fabric is casual. I carried a camel colored cashmere wrap with me, which feels exactly like a snuggly blanket. (Let’s be honest, it it a snuggly blanket)
The final analysis:
This little wardrobe was great, taking me from hot, sunshine-filled jaunts on the sidewalks of a quaint little town, into soulful theater experiences. The only thing I hadn’t anticipated was that breakfast at the hotel turned out to be quite a social affair. We stayed at the Ashland Springs, along with a number of other theater goers, and always wound up chatting over the plays. By day three I wished I had something other than my climbing-chalk-covered Athleta pants and one t-shirt for mornings. I’ll make appropriate changes for the next time.
If a woman wants to look good, the natural thing to do is pick up a book, right? My quest for effortless style began in the pages of every book, magazine or website I could find. I read extensively and watched a mind-numbing number of YouTube videos in attempt to feel comfortable in my wardrobe. You can find the most helpful books in Books We Love. Here is the collective wisdom of very style guru from Kate Spade to Coco Chanel distilled for you:
Figure out what looks good on your body
Come up with a signature style
Mix it up with something different every now and then
Less is more
Buy a white shirt
That’s it; the entire body of my research.
So… I’ll just do that then? Figure out what looks good on my body? Come up with a signature style? Right.
And there’s another problem to add to the inherent difficulties of distilling a style from the millions of possible looks available. Nearly all current style is geared towards women, who, please forgive me if I offend anyone, don’t seem to have much of a life.
Take this for example; Stylistas are constantly admonishing us to wear high heels. They say heels will lengthen the leg, raise the behind, make us look slim.
Wow! What a shoe.
So, my day starts by letting the chickens out, then I’ll ride my bike to school, teach all day, and wind up waiting for my son to finish football practice on a muddy field. In high heels?
And don’t even get me started on white pants.
I began to dig through research on style for busy women, working women, active women, women with children. Again, all of the advice seemed to be geared towards women who live in urban areas and definitely don’t have dogs that shed.
Is there nothing out there for a bicycle-commuting girl living on six muddy acres with a job, family and escape-artist goats?
OK, maybe that niche is a bit specific. How about style for the women with a little mud in her life?
There is research to be done helping women with busy and even messy lives find style that works for them.
Mud and Grace is the website I couldn’t find when looking for style advice. I’ll share my own fashion journey of trial and error as you work to front load your own style, and hopefully you will share your triumphs and mistakes as well. Together, our collective wisdom will make getting dressed a joy for women with real, wonder-filled lives.
Do you have a favorite ensemble that you’d be willing to share with other active women?
Do you have a Mud and Grace inspired outfit that works for you?
Please, send in a picture with a brief description and I’ll run it in inspiration. All ages and all types of beauty are encouraged.