Could you go an entire year without buying any clothes?

With little fan fare and no social media postings, Jessie decided, starting February 1st, 2017, not to buy any clothes for one year. To be clear, for Jessie this is not a moral crusade. She’s not a crazy stoic, and she is the last person on earth to pass judgment on another. She just wanted to see if she could do it.

At 32-years-old, Jessie has plenty of clothes; a beautifully curated wardrobe of high quality pieces, some classic, some fun. But she found herself trapped in a cycle of always looking for something new. “Because of my size, buying clothes is a quest,” Jessie says, relating a never-ending cycle of buying on-line, returns, justification of spending, and constant searching.

Then there was the Canada Goose Jacket. If you’re not familiar with Canada Goose, it’s crazy high quality outerwear that costs about as much as triple bypass surgery. “What if I bought nothing for a year, then could I buy that coat?” she wondered. And that was the thought that changed everything. Could she buy nothing for a year, even without the lure of a purchase that could significantly impact the GDP?

“I realized I needed to break the cycle of constant shopping,” she says.

Jessie, warm and adorable despite lack of Canada Goose label.

8th months in, Jessie says, “It’s been quite a journey. I will not pretend this has been easy.” Here are a few of the realizations she’s had over the last few months.

There is a huge element of fantasy in clothes shopping

Early on Jessie learned just how much she used clothes shopping as a form of escapism. “We’re not just buying clothes,” Jessie says, “we’re buying a fantasy.”

How many of us have been there? I want to be the sort of woman who walks home to her chic loft in the city after a Zen-like yoga experience… so I buy a sweater? I’m still me, only now I’m trying to get my goats off the barn roof in a sweater that catches on everything, no yoga, no Zen, no city loft.

“We have to focus on what we want in our lives, rather than what we want to wear,” Jessie says. “Bring yourself back to what you’re actually trying to achieve by buying.” So rather than shop for a cute, warm plaid shirt, Jessie finds herself planning the camping trip that she imagined herself going on in the cute, warm plaid shirt.

You can have a really good time at a party, even if you’ve worn the dress a few times previously.

You can always find something to wear

Life goes on, as it is inclined to do whether you are buying clothes or not. Starting in the spring, Jessie’s partner Michael broke ground on a bouldering gym that had been years in the planning. Everyone has been pitching in. While Jessie’s wardrobe is full of pencil skirts and fun t-shirts, she never really invested in heavy work wear.

“I wanted to pressure wash, and despite the fact that I was born and raised in Oregon, apparently I own no rain pants. So I just took a couple of garbage bags and wrapped one around each leg,” she said of her rain bloomers. Jessie’s been wearing a pair of Ann Taylor Loft skinnies as work pants, and despite the fact that they are not Carharts and have no abundance of pockets, she’s managed to sand, drill, spray and climb in them.

When you don’t have the option of buying, Jessie says, “You really see what you reach for again and again.”

Balloon pants rule.

There will always be something new to want

The most profound realization of this year for Jessie is that if you indulge in wanting, it’s an endless cycle. You can find the perfect t-shirt, or suede bootie, but then there will always be something else to want. “It’s difficult to recognize how we are being manipulated by the media,” she says. Jessie, like so many of us, really likes looking at clothes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s a fine line between enjoying a flip through the new Patagonia catalog, and deciding you must have another cozy beanie. Part of Jessie’s journey has been recognizing that buying anything, even a Canada Goose jacket, isn’t going to stop the wanting. “We are never going to have the perfect wardrobe, because we’re never going to stop changing,” she says.

Not shopping allows you to love the clothes you have.

There is relief in choosing not to buy

“I’ve been surprised to find that the overwhelming sensation… isn’t disappointment or deprivation: it’s relief. I don’t have to play the game. And I had no idea how much energy the game was draining from me until I stopped playing,” Jessie says of taking to option to buy off the table.

“It’s like I have an emotional buffer in place, and suddenly I can analyze more objectively,” she says. “And when I feel my heart start to speed up and the cycle of craving rear its ugly head, I can shrug it off and think “Nope, not an option! Now what else do I want to put my energy into?”

In not shopping for clothing, Jessie has learned to focus on other things. “I’d never realized how shopping for and buying clothes was emotional for me,” she says. To go a year without shopping, “you have to be ready to take a good long look at the negative sides of yourself.”

So what’s next for Jessie? She’s not sure. “I don’t know what my relationship with clothes will look like after this,” she admits. But one thing is for sure, Jessie is no longer on a quest for the perfect selection of 37, color-coordinated pieces of clothing. “I’m not trying to make a flat lay, I’m trying to make a life,” she says.

“I hope to find a balance,” Jessie says of the happy place between a love of clothing and a full and rich life.

Here’s to the ongoing adventure!

Inspired by Jessie? I am. I’m planning on starting small with a two-month no-buy, dates TBA. Are you in? Let me know in the comments below, or by email, if you want to accept the No Buy Challenge, mudandgrace@gmail.com

I hope you enjoyed Jessie’s story. Please consider subscribing to Mud and Grace for more on what we wear and how it effects our lives. Next week I’ll examine the lessons learned in a year of no buying limits at all.

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.

 

Simplify Your Life With Micro-Capsule Wardrobes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My winter camping capsule.

2. Cheering

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

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

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

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

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

3. Workout

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

The world’s least inspiring photo.

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

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

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

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

4. Loungewear

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

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

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

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

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

I can belay my husband in fan wear.

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

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

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

What is the highest quality you can afford?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

7 Excuses For Not Building A Capsule Wardrobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experimenting!
  1. You hate laundry

I don’t think I need to elaborate here.

  1. Capsule” is a relative term

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

  1. You don’t want to

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

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

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

 

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

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

***And one Mud and Grace writer

Spring Break 2017, Oregon Style

Spring break is upon us and the blogging world is full of women patiently explaining their resort choices for 2017. It seems that everyone is preparing her wardrobe for a week’s trip to a trendy resort in Florida or a cruise through the Caribbean. Retailers are crowding their rain-drenched front windows with paper-thin maxi dresses and crisp white shorts.

Is a noisy beach party really the only option for spring break? As a native Oregonian, I don’t understand a crowded beach, and please don’t make me take a cruise. I don’t think I could stand being packed like a sardine into a tiny room on a ship full of strange people with absolutely no hiking for a week.

To each her own, I suppose.

My son, standing on my idea of a beach.

While my spring plans do include the beach and the mountains, I’m not looking at fashionable resort towns. * Over break I will be climbing and hiking in central Oregon, and there are weekend trips to the Oregon coast on the horizon.

For years I was bamboozled by the Boden catalog’s insistence that I needed sun dresses and espadrilles at this time of year, despite the fact that I had planned a camping trip that would include 30-degree nights, muddy mountain biking and possibly clam digging.

This is no place for strappy sandals.

Blessedly, I got older and smarter. My “resort” capsule can take me from the blustery Oregon Coast to a cool and cloudless day at Smith Rock.

Here’s what I’m packing:

Base layer

Full confession, I have a hard time with layering. That’s because layering is really hard. Pieces get all tangled up over one another and pants that might look fantastic with a certain sweatshirt don’t work at all with my tank. Blech! I finally have a system, but it’s not nearly as simple as “just layer!”

For my upcoming trips, I’ll keep it simple. The base layer consists of a tank with a built-in bra, and leggings. I can climb, run or hike in this outfit, and it’s not likely to get so hot I’ll wish the leggings away. The muscle tank will be a light cover up when needed.

Mid-layer

You’ll notice a stack of t-shirts, two sweatshirts, and a mid-weight jacket. These are easy to pull on and off. They’ll take the brunt of the wear over the week, so I feel fine packing all three.

This Patagonia half-zip is incredible at keeping drizzle and wind at bay. It if weren’t so comfy I’d think it was made of steal.

This is pretty much what everyone looks like at the Oregon coast, all the time.

Pants

I’m bringing a pair of climbing pants, and one pair of stretchy jeans. I can climb in the jeans, and they’re great if I need to run into town for anything. The pants are from Title Nine (Thanks Julie!) They drape nicely but are still super tough.

Title Nine does a better job of photographing their pants than I do.

Campfire-cozy layer

The puffer vest and cable knit sweater won’t join me on a hike. They will remain back at the camp to snuggle up in as the evenings get cool.

If you can’t wear a fisherman knit sweater at the beach, where can you wear it?

Shoes

I’m always going to want to go for a run, so sneakers will be involved in my packing. These trail running shoes are fantastic. Great for a run on or off trails, perfectly adequate for hiking, easy to slip off if I want to put on my climbing shoes. I love them.

These boots add a little more warmth in the evenings and early mornings.

A really good raincoat

My husband bought me this jacket when we were dating. It, and he, have been a great defense to whatever the world throws my way.

Way better than flowers and chocolate.

Color pallet

Having an outdoor-clothing color pallet has cut down on the amount of clothing I feel the need to pack, and the amount of time I spend packing. The concept is pretty simple: I buy neutral pants (grey, black, etc.) then keep everything else neutral or in the color pallet. A few years ago I went with purple, orange and olive. Right now I am enjoying navy, deep red and orange** as the primary colors. When making the purchase of something that will get stuffed into a bag and hauled through in the dirt of central Oregon, I just make sure it works with those colors.

Since my climbing bag is orange, everything else might as well be, too.

Make your own resort collection

Whatever your spring break plans, having go-to pieces that feel great and can hold up to the weather makes everything easier. It took me a while to get my spring break/weekend get-away look locked down, and a lot of trial and error, but I’m glad I have it.

Step 1 – Think about the following questions: What do you want to do? What do you have to do? What does the weather look like where you want to do it? Then plan the ideal wardrobe for your activities. Don’t hold back here. What would you really like to be wearing?

Step 2 – Search your closet: Find clothes you have, and honestly like, that will fit the bill for your upcoming adventures. Be wary of packing something you don’t really love just because it fits a need. If you don’t like your rain jacket at home, you’re not going to like it any more once you’ve drug it half way across the state and gotten caught in a rain storm.

Step 3 – Fill the holes: While Mud and Grace is a huge proponent of using what you have and buying 2nd hand whenever possible, outdoor gear isn’t something that can be easily fudged. Water resistance, sweat-wicking, quick drying; these technologies can make the difference between a miserable or fabulous experience. For your outdoor gear, buy what you need, and keep it forever. Think about keeping it to neutrals and three main color choices.

Step 4 – Get out there and have fun.

My daughter includes every possible color in her climbing pants. It keeps things simple.

We live in a country where a crazy beach or boat full of people in full-price name-brand clothing is sold as the norm for a spring get-away, but my guess is many of us opt for something different. Invest in the clothing you need for your idea of relaxation, whether you are snowshoeing in the backcountry, or curling up with a book at a cabin by the lake. There will be plenty of time for sundresses and espadrilles come summer.

My favorite part about camping is the sunrise coffee.

* Sorry, Yachats. I love you, but there are simply too many utilikilts per capita for you to be considered fashionable.

**Orange? That’s not a color you see a lot of on Mud and Grace. But somehow it just keeps showing up in my outdoor stuff, so I’m going to roll with it.

Perfect 10-Item Loungewear Capsule

 

There’s something about looking good when no one else is looking that makes me feel like I’ve pulled one over on the beauty industry. It’s like, “Ha! I’m not out being the perfect mom/giving a major presentation at work/meeting my well-groomed friend-set for drinks. I’m on my sofa, making grading essays look good.”

For the first 40 years of my life nice loungewear was not on my radar. I wore ratty old pajamas around the house. I did not own sweatpants or slippers. I did own five or six cocktail dresses for cocktail parties I rarely managed to stay up late enough to attend, but no comfortable, around-the-house-clothes.

What I really want to be doing on any given evening…

Dressing nicely for yourself feels satisfying on a level that dressing for others simply can’t match. When your loungewear can take you from a good book to the goat pen in comfort and style, you will feel downright smug. Here are my thoughts on the matter –

The basics

My loungewear capsule consists of two pairs of leggings, three sweatshirts, one pair of joggers, one stretchy black skirt, a stack of t-shirts in varying sleeve length, slippers and boots. Like the outfit formulas mentioned last week, all of this can be mixed and matched easily, creating 12+ outfits and keeping me easily ahead of a laundry bomb.

Loungewear should spend as much time as possible basking in the late afternoon sun, or if that’s not possible, hanging on the bedroom wall.

Invest

My loungewear is the most expensive clothing in my wardrobe, by a long shot. It seems counterintuitive to spend more on clothing that fewer people see, but none of these purchases were frivolous, and everything is earning its keep when considering cost per wear. Every piece with the exception of one t-shirt* was bought new, and in my closet that is rare. Second hand loungewear is rarely in good condition. These high quality pieces are soft, they last forever, and for the most part are largely responsibly made. Because no one else will see them, styles and trends don’t matter. You can wear a good sweatshirt for 20 years if you like it. Just ask my husband.

This simple wool skirt is one of only two legit designer pieces I own, and I have never worn it for a night out. Isabel Marant.

Keep it flexible

Grey and black, with a couple of colorful sweatshirts, is an easy color pallet to maintain. Pick two neutral colors for your bottoms and t-shirts, then buy sweatshirts or sweaters in colors that make you happy. The stretchy skirt and boots make it easy to step out to run a few errands if need be.

These shirts go with everything, even the peeling paint on  my deck railing. Top: used Banana Republic. Bottom two, Alternative Apparel.

Keep it simple

Nothing is less relaxing than getting mired down in a jumbled mess of leggings, t-shirts and sweatshirts.** You don’t need much loungewear. I have 10 pieces of clothing total, and it all fits neatly into one drawer. Except for the boots, because that would be weird.

Skirt, leggings, sweatshirt, easy-peasy.

Don’t forget your feet

I used to wear socks around the house. Ratty, hole-in-the-sole, old socks. Then I slipped on our slate-covered staircase while carrying the vacuum cleaner down on Christmas Eve and got a nasty bump that is still visible. Quite coincidentally, and owing nothing to the unpleasant “stair incident,” I received three pair of slippers within the next 24 hours. The universe, it seems, wanted to me move past the socks. The universe had a good point.

Negotiate your stairs with ease! Ugg slippers from Dad and Lynn.

I’m also including this pair of boots as part of my capsule, which I put on if I have to run down to the barn, across the street to get the mail or out for an errand.

Merrell boots, because I can’t consider any segment of my wardrobe complete unless there’s at least one pair of boots…

Don’t forget to actually lounge

Every year it seems my co-workers, friends and students are busier and busier. We get so caught up in “busy” that even when we do have downtime we don’t know what to do with it. Investing in loungewear helps me remember to slow down. By blocking out time, and an ensemble, for reading, writing, or just staring off at the river, I find myself taking the time to relax.

What teachers really do after school…

Internet wisdom would have us believe that we should always dress nicely because we might run into someone we know, or a neighbor might come to the door. Out where I live, I can easily go all day without seeing anyone with fewer than four feet and/or a pair of wings. Wearing high quality, comfortable, beautiful clothing when you are alone is one sign of self-respect. It’s like making your bed, or flossing. No one will ever know if you skip it, but in the action of these things you are caring for yourself. Creating a simple, flexible loungewear capsule make this self-care reflexive and easy.

Umm… lady, shouldn’t you be reading a book right now?

* I bought this black, short-sleeve Banana Republic t-shirt from a neighbor at her garage sale over 12 years ago for $10. At the time $10 struck me as an exorbitant price for a used t-shirt, but I really liked the way it fit. I have gone on to wear the shirt once or twice a week for 12 years, making it possibly the best clothing investment of my life.

** This might be an overstatement.

Meet the rest of the capsule:

Leggings from left to right, Lululemon, Eddie Bauer.They are good friends.
US Blanks. Super cozy.
Under Armor joggers. Love.
I adore this Lululemon sweatshirt. If I were to ever put the hood up, I would look exactly like a sporty Jawa.
If my thoughts get any deeper I will NOT be able to get up out of this chair…

Outfit Formulas, 101

The stated goal of this blog is for all women to effortlessly pull perfect outfits out of their closets every morning, every day for the rest of their lives, and then be free get on with the important work of this world.

We may be a few months off from total success, but I have high hopes.

One key to effortless style is what Anuschka Rees calls outfit formulas. The premise, found in her lovely book The Curated Closet, is that we all have certain outfit formulas we fall back on. Other writers have called this “finding your uniform.”

Hard to get me out of boots/jeans/jacket.

Women who have their style dialed in like this are easy to spot. Google image search a few women whose style you admire and their outfit formulas become clear.

Jennifer Aniston has three formulas that she tops with a navy blazer or black moto jacket.

  • Neutral tank top/stretchy skirt
  • Neutral tank top/slim cargo pants
  • Neutral tank top/jeans.

The Duchess of Cambridge has two casual formulas. She wears these with wedge heels, boots or cute sneakers.

  • Striped Breton t-shirt/skinny jeans or pants/navy blazer
  • Printed blouse/skinny jeans or pants

Michelle Obama’s bright dress/cardigan sweater/basic pumps took her through 8 years of extreme scrutiny.

Honestly, if I had Michelle Obama’s arms, I would never, ever cover them up with a cardigan sweater.

Benefits of an outfit formula

Outfit formulas are a way of understanding and organizing your closet. They take the guesswork out of getting dressed. Here are a few of the many upsides to thinking in formulas.

They can be mixed and matched without draconian color schemes

One of my springtime outfit formulas is a printed boho top/skinny jeans or pants/short jacket.

With three jackets, four tops and three pairs of jeans/pants I have 12+ ensembles, and I love all of them. Every piece doesn’t need to look good with every other piece, I just keep the jackets and pants fairly neutral and pick any crazy colored top I want.

So long as I don’t wear the olive jacket with the olive pants, or all four shirts at the same time, I’m golden.

You know they work for your life

The best thing about a well-established outfit formula is that you know it will work for pretty much anything life throws your way. In the spring I’ll be riding my bike around town, teaching, watching track meets, meeting friends, occasionally heading out to dinner or a play. My two spring outfit formulas can handle all of this easily.

Outfit formulas help you shop

When you want or need to refresh your wardrobe, having a few formulas to fall back on helps you target your purchases. You can invest in quality pieces because you know you will wear them in specific combinations. They can also keep you from purchasing closet orphans, those sad and lonely pieces that seemed like a good idea at the time but never get worn.

You will always have friends in this wardrobe.

How to use outfit formulas

Ideally, you have two or three outfit formulas per season. Items from one formula can certainly be used for another. My spring formulas are as follows

Classic top/skinny jeans or pants/ cardigan sweater

Printed boho top/skinny jeans or pants/short jacket

Casual dress

Can I call it a formula if it doesn’t have to go with anything else?

I’ll wear these with boots until it warms up, then switch to tennis shoes or sandals. I’m not above mixing the formulas, either. I will certainly wear a classic top with jeans and my denim jacket. If it’s cold, I’ll pair a cardigan sweater with a dress.

I just get up, check the weather and run down my calendar for the day, then decide what to wear.*

Find your formula

The first place to look for your formula is in your closet.

What is your favorite outfit? Say you have a knee-length skirt you wear with leggings, boots and a slouchy sweater that you always feel perfect in. Find a couple of similar sweaters, another knee-length skirt and pull in a few other pairs of leggings and you have a mini-wardrobe that will feel fantastic.

Grab a couple of pairs of leggings and you could spend all winter in this mini-wardrobe.

The second place to look is on the women you see everyday. The ladies you work with, the other moms at your children’s school, women picking up groceries. Look for patterns in their style of dress. My guess is your will find a few formulas you could try.

Finally, as noted above, a google image or Pinterest search of stylish women is inspiring. Just be sure to look at the entire ensemble and know you can commit to the details. Sophia Coppola has fantastic style, but that woman always has exposed ankles. I’d love to try a few of her outfit formulas but none of them would work with socks or boots and I simple refuse to have cold ankles.

If you can wear it with flats you can wear it with ankle boots…right?

How to try a new formula

When trying out a new look, I always suggest shopping second hand. Your town probably has a few trendy resale shops (I love you, Buffalo) where you can score pieces at a fraction of the retail price and at significantly less environmental cost.

Be sure to complete the entire look when trying out something new. A few years ago, I wanted to try out an elegant pair of fluid joggers for hostessing. This involved buying a pair of flats and finding the right top to go with them. Since then, I’ve been able to bring a few pairs of casual joggers into my wardrobe using the same principles.

Currently, I’m working on how I can incorporate high waisted jeans into a formula without a crop top (because I’m 45 and I don’t ever have to wear a crop top again if I don’t want to. Sorry, 1985.) I found a pair at Buffalo exchange, and have been pairing them with things on my closet until I find something that feels perfect. If need be, I will wear them out shopping and try different tops on with them. Once I hit on a formula, I can incorporate a few auxiliary pieces into it and have a new look to enjoy. But right now, it’s a struggle…

Oh forget it…I’ll just wear plaid with everything.

Potential Problems

You can get stuck in a rut

I’ll never forget seeing a woman attend a funeral in bootcut jeans with rhinestone detailing, a plunging neckline blouse and stiletto heals. It was obviously a formula she felt very comfortable in, but really not appropriate to the situation.

I have to be careful not to fall into the black hole of puffer vest/t-shirt/jeans in the wintertime. This is an easy problem to manage, though. Just plan a few outfits in another formula and have them ready to go at the front of your closet. You will remember you love them in no time.

But it’s so warm…

Other people’s outfit formulas will not necessarily work for you

When googling Jennifer Aniston, the Duchess of Cambridge and Michelle Obama, I was seized with a desire to go buy a neutral tank top, a navy blazer and a bright colored dress, before remembering that my life might be significantly different than all of theirs. While incorporating the ideas of other, inspiring women, be sure to make the look your own. Always come back to your life, your body, and your style.

An outfit formula challenge

Your task for this afternoon, should you choose to accept it, is to head up to your closet and find a few outfit formulas you love. Let me know how it turns out!

Just hanging out, waiting for spring so I can wear my spring formulas…

* Actually, that’s not true at all, I just get dressed and hope the weather and my day fall in line with what I’m wearing.

Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style:Part 1

You will notice I am wearing my “chores” shirt. That’s because you and I have some work to do, my friend.

There may be mud involved.

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:

  1. Choose 7 items

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.

I don’t even know what to call this, but I definitely want to wear it.
  1. Remember why you bought each piece

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.

I bought this scarf because I love sock monkeys.

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.

  1. Pre-plan

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.

I could spend all day on Polyvore.
  1. Set items up for success

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.

This shirt is like that smart, easy-going student who is willing to work with anyone on the group project.
  1. Spend a week dressing dangerously

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.

Everything should make you feel like a super hero.

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.

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.

IMG_6703
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?

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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.

IMG_6719
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.

IMG_6670
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…)

IMG_6688
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Until next time!