Winter Color

In many months of the year I question the fashion industry, but none so much as January. It is cold, dark and raining, and yet everywhere I look spring fabrics flutter seductively. “Spring is coming,” they whisper, “a sleeveless dress is just what you need.”

Yes, technically spring is coming, what with the orbitting of the earth and all. But the 2020 summer Olympics are also also coming, and I’m not exactly preparing my wardrobe. Warm weather is a long way off here in Oregon.

In all honesty, January can feel like a bit of a bummer, fashion-wise. The rich colors and cozy plaids that felt so relevant through November and December seem a little stale now.

The trick to blowing off our winter fashion blues is to use color, rather than style or fabric, to express our longing for warmer months. Comb your closet for clothing that is warm and cozy, but with colors that point us towards spring. We can all wear satisfying ensembles throughout the winter without giving in to an airy tank top before it is time.

Here are a few color combinations to pull you out of your winter doldrums, along with some of my favorite mid-winter pieces.

Cognac and Denim

I’m pretending to be an extra in Thelma and Louise.

I always love this southwest-inspired combination, but never so much as in the middle of winter. If I’m not actually in a the American Southwest hiking through sun-baked canyons, at least I look like I could be.

Spring green and deep brown

So I like to dress like my garden? I just avoid anything striped and/or a red hat, and there’s no chance of looking like a gnome.

Spring green is such a fun color. Paired with brown you can brave the mud of February and still look sharp.

Pink and grey

Pink and grey remains a January/February classic. Soft fabrics and knits are toasty warm while the colors are soothing and easy. A little 1950s, a little 1980s, it’s all good in pink and grey.

Other fun winter combinations are black and teal, cream and light blue, and navy and white.

My winter favorites

I have several pieces that keep me style-positive through these dark months. Here are a few favs:

Talbot’s Heart Sweater

I’m pretty sure I longed for this exact sweater my entire 5th grade year.
Hearts!!!

I love this sweater. It is so easy to wear, a perfect weight for indoors, but it can easily be layered if I am heading outside.

Soft-color plaid flannel chores shirt

Thanks Owen!

My son bought me this shirt for Christmas. The cheerful colors make this chores top perfect for winter. Most Saturdays I can be found wearing this top while I muck around with my family and goats. It’s warm and uplifting.

A seriously warm Stio coat with bright pink lining

My please-let-it-be-cold coat.
Look, there’s a pink pineapple on the back! Or a pinecone. Or whatever.

My forever down jacket is from Stio, and while it is practical six ways to Sunday (water proof, down fill, all sorts of ventilating, etc, etc) it also has a bright pink lining that is so unexpected it makes me giggle, leaving me warm and happy.

Pink Patagonia Puffer Vest

 

 

This puffer has gotten a lot of play on this blog. I do apologize for reusing the pictures but it is such a great piece. You probably have something similar, a lucky thrift store find that you pull out year after year.

Bright green jacket

Keeping things merry and bright long after the holidays are over.

I bought this green jacket to wear to my son’s football games (his school colors are green and white) As it turns out I wear it everywhere, all year round: Track meets in the spring, cold nights camping in the summer, football in the fall, instead of a sweater in the winter. In all honesty this is not a great color on me but I really don’t care. The color puts me in a good mood and the nanopuff keeps me cozy.

I can belay my husband on his project in this jacket, too!

With a little fortitude, and a lot of color, we can make these winter months as fashionably fun as any other time. Go raid your closet and see what you can find!

Do you have a favorite winter color combination, or an article of clothing that gets you through the first months of the year? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

Hey mom, did you know that the outcome of my sporting events has absolutely nothing to do with the color of your jacket? It’s true. Also the ref doesn’t seem to be taking your advice, so you can stop yelling now.

Cold Mom Edition: The Art and Science of Keeping Warm

I’m blogging from Bend, Oregon this morning, where it’s a refreshing 14 degrees outside. We’re here for the USA Climbing Regional Youth Bouldering Competition. My daughter wasn’t 5 minutes into the comp when I realized that while my ensemble was stylish, I was gonna freeze in that drafty rock gym.

Not wearing some approximation of the right thing is a huge pet peeve of mine.

But, this being Bend, home to stylish mountain ladies, I had ample time to admire how these moms keep warm and stylish. And this being a climbing competition that lasts all day, I had more than ample time to contemplate the best ways to keep warm.

What follows are my favorite “Cold Mom” ensembles from the day, and somewhat scientific* tips on keeping warm.

Busy Day Mom

At first glance, this woman had paired an expensive, long black puffer with skinny jeans and quality boots, which is a perfectly functional uniform. What I liked about her style was that the deep red jeans and denim shirt she wore under the coat could take her from the rock gym, out to a nice lunch or baby shower, or whatever else she had on her calendar. The coat looked good, but could easily be discarded as she moved on with her day.

Flexible, practical.

Fun Mom

This cheerful, spring green coat stood out among a sea of black, brown and olive. I loved her bold choice, along with athletic-shoe styling on her boots. Add a favorite t-shirt and a worn in pair of jeans, and she looked completely in her element.

I could just tell we were going to get along.

Minimalist Mom

Simple black puffer, cargo pants and great ankle boots. I know I’ve posted similar outfits before on this blog, but this mom just looked so perfect for the occasion. This ensemble works in a dusty, cold, crowded rock gym, it would also work in a school, in a casual work environment, out for a day of errands, just about anywhere.

I imagine this woman has five changes of clothes, and a fantastically busy life.

Elegant Mom

A masterful combination of wine and cognac, set against a backdrop of black, this woman looked amazing. She also looked as though spent more time on her hair and make up this morning than any reader of this blog is likely to spend all week long.

I could pull this off in the imaginary world where I’m never late and don’t spill coffee on myself.

Hip Grandma

There were A LOT of grandmas at this competition, and all of them looked fantastic. My favorite was an older woman with short silver hair peeking out of a beanie. She wore girlfriend jeans, a cozy sweater and a chic bomber jacket.

I have every intention of rocking a bomber jacket in my late 70s.

So they all looked fantastic, but exactly how is it they were keeping war? Keep reading…

The science of keeping warm

You exist with a heater on at all times, set to 98.6. Your job is to keep that heat in, and keep moisture and wind away from your skin. Here are the keys to doing so:

  1. Wear a wicking layer to pull moisture away: A base layer of silk or wool pulls moisture from the inside of the fabric to the outside of the fabric, and it stays there. You only really need this layer is you are going to be sweating. That said, silk long underwear is really cozy and I wear it even if all I’m going to be doing is lesson planning in front of the fire.
  2. Keep the heat in: Ideally, you want to trap the warmth your body produces and keep it near you. It’s the same concept as insulating your house. You do that with what’s called loft, or air space. Goose down is not warm in and of itself, but the feathers in a down coat create space where warm air can be trapped. The thicker your down coat, the thicker the layer of warm air you’ve trapped around you.
  3. Beware convection and evaporation: You know that awesome feeling of a soft breeze in the middle of a of summer day, evaporating the moisture from your skin and cooling you down? If you want to stay warm, avoid that. Keeping wind at bay with a “shell” or coat is essential, as is wicking all moisture away from your skin, be it sweat, rain or melted snow.

What about layers?

Layers don’t actually keep you warm. They can help trap heat, but piling on one layer after the other doesn’t create warmth. Conceivably, if you are just going to stand around, you could wear a long down jacket and boots with nothing on underneath and be just as warm as a lady with 12 layers on. **

The number of layers you choose to wear has to do with the activities you have planned. Planning on sweating? Wear a wicking layer. Planning on standing still in the cold? Wear a thick insulating layer. Planning on changes in your body temperature due to movement like hiking or snowshoeing? Wear several layers that you can peal off and on as you warm up and cool down.

Margaret was down to her last layers by the final problem.

So to sum up: Keeping warm us about trapping heat, repelling moisture, and stopping the wind from coming into contact with your skin.***

What about my ridiculously cold hands and feet?

When you begin to get cold your body limits blood flow to your extremities (hands and feet) so it can keep that warm blood in your vital organs. The saying “Cold hands warm heart” is quite literally true.

The trick to keeping your hands and feet warm is to start with warm hands and warm feet. Before putting on gloves, warm your hands. You can rub them together, hold them over a heater, whatever. Warming the gloves helps too. Sometimes I place mine on an air vent and let warm air blow into them. Whatever you do, don’t put cold hands into cold gloves. It’s like putting a cold cozy around a cold can of soda.

Mittens keep your fingers together, sharing the warmth.

The same goes for your feet. Start warm, add warm socks and shoes that won’t let any cold in, and you are good to go. Again, your goal is to trap warm air next to your skin.

Should I wear a hat?

Is it true that you lose 50% of your heat through your head? I have no idea. I don’t even know how someone could measure that. You do have a lot of blood flowing up to your brain, and most people don’t store fat along their skulls, so whether it’s 50% or 10 % or whatever, a hat or hood makes sense.

The easiest way to get comfortable pulling on and off a beanie and making sure it looks right is (and I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve done this) practice. Stand in front of a mirror, figure out the best angle for your hat and how your hair should look underneath, then just practice pulling it off, and putting it back on again. It will take 5- 10 minutes, then you will never hesitate to wear a beanie again.

We are living in a great age for cozy hats.

Putting it all together

Like so many lessons I’ve learned in this style blogging adventure, dressing to keep warm takes planning and intelligent investments. I casually threw an outfit that would work at our climbing gym into a bag without really thinking it through, or even checking the weather in Bend. I have a warm coat, good boots and perfectly flexible outfits to wear with them, I just didn’t take the time to plan in advance. Next time, I will remember the chill in my bones, and the inspiration of other women. Rather than being Cold Mom, I can just focus on being Mom, which is an art and science in and of itself.

Do you have a favorite cold-weather ensemble? Share it with us in the comments below!

*As scientific as I’m ever likely to get.

** You could do this, but I would judge you.

***Please memorize this for a pop quiz that will take place sometime in January.

 

The Packing List: Active Girls’ Weekend

Several years ago, I struggled to pack a bag for a trip to central Oregon with a group of girlfriends. An oversized case held nearly every article of clothing I owned and nothing to wear. Fast forward a few years, throw in my own personal fashion bootcamp, and last month I was able to joyfully and decisively throw just the right articles in a bag and head out the door  join friends for a weekend of outdoor exploring.

Currently, many Mud and Grace readers are in the middle of a 40-Day No-Buy. I figure, since we’re spending less time shopping, we all have more time for fun. So go plan a girl’s weekend and pack ’em up!

Here’s the formula for a 3-day, outdoor-focused trip: Mix-and-match activewear, one-and-a-half “town” outfits, one awesome pair of lounging pajamas, a cute coat

We arrived at Smith Rock at 6:45 on Friday evening. It was still light as we headed up Misery Ridge, but that light was fading fast as we headed down the back side. And you know what’s really creepy in the dark? Monkey Face. Forget climbing it, I just wanted to get away from that hunk of rock as quick as possible.

Mix and Match Activewear

My activewear is mostly black, white and grey. If I ever feel like throwing in a splash of color it’s easy enough to do, but for the most part I feel good in black, white and grey.

For this trip I brought tops and bottoms in varying weights and lengths, then layered as needed. Since we were doing everything from late evening hikes to mid-day runs*, having a variety of activewear that I could pull on and off as the weather changed was key.

Evening hike (Vest: Eddie Bauer, T-shirt: Old Navy, Leggings: Lululemon)
Mid-day run (Jacket: Lululemon, Tank: Old Navy, Best Running Shoes Ever: Nike Pegasus Zoom, Shorts: Under Armour)
Afternoon hike (Jacket: Lululemon, Tank: Alternative, Leggings: Girlfriend Collective)
I really should have re-thought the full length leggings for this particular hike.

One-and-a-half town outfits

When I get together with Ann and Lynette, there’s always at least one trip to shops and possibly a tapas bar. I like to have something in my suitcase that’s fashion-forward, but still me. That generally consists of Frye boots, jeans and a cute top or sweater. While we only had one trip into Bend planned, I still brought a second top incase I wasn’t feeling the first.

I love the detail on this shirt, smocked top, bell sleeves. But the gunmetal grey color keeps it low-key. It’s perfect for a half-tuck into jeans.
I’ve had this silk-blend sweater for years. It always works.
An easy hack to look put together while traveling: match your bag to your boots. (Then set them on a vintage trunk in gentle lamplight and photograph)

Lynette and Ann had similar town ensembles, only each clearly in her own style. Lynette wore a gorgeous white sweater with a deep V in the back, black boots and dark jeans. Ann also had jeans and boots, and a beautiful taupe sweater with a coordinated blouse. The proprietress of a coffee shop liked Ann’s top so much she gave Ann free coffee. Now that’s a sweater!

I can’t remember the name of this place in Bend, but it sure was fun…

One awesome pair of lounging pajamas

I love these so much. And honestly what’s a women’s weekend for if not a little lounging. Or a lot of lounging.

It’s like a pants suit for lazy people.

A cute coat

Just check the weather, and pack your favorite.

You can’t go wrong with a cute coat. You could pack the worst combination of clothing ever, then throw on a cute coat and no one will ever know.

Looking back five years ago, I realized a big part of the problem with my packing was feeling like the weekend was so special, the clothes I already owned wouldn’t do it justice. I also wanted to “keep up” with my stylish friends. A few years of wisdom under my belt,** along with a concerted effort to honor the fact that I really do love clothes, I realized that when you have what you need for your everyday life, you have what you need to travel. Pulling out my favorite pieces to spend time with some of my favorite people was a snap. I’m hoping to take a girls trip to Seattle this winter, and can count on my wardrobe to be there for me when I start packing.

Until next time!

*We had every intention of going on that run in the morning.

** Has anyone else noticed how much smarter we get between the ages of 40 and 50? Honestly, it’s so awesome.

Back to school style for teachers

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

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

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

Here are a few ways to do just that.

Set up a your outfit formulas

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

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

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

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

Helen: Old Navy Pixie pant, blouse, cardigan

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

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

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

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

Have some fun

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

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

 

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

Wear the gear, or the pajamas

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

Our staff president, rocking the axe.

You do you

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

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

Elle, looking fabulous while teaching Spanish.

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

Letting it all hang… in

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

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

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

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

A few more things to ponder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go get ‘em!

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

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

** A little known hazard of the profession

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

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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.

Rectangle

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

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

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

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

Square

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

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

Triangle

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

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

 

Commonly asked questions:

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

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

Q: What are the best colors for shorts?

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

Q: Should I invest in active or tailored shorts?

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

This summer squares an navigate canyons AND traffic.

Q: Can I wear a tunic top with shorts?

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

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

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

Q: Do I have to wear shorts at all?

A: Nope. Read on, my friend.

Not shorts.

How not to wear shorts

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

Skirts / skorts

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

Wide leg pants

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

Joggers

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

Sundresses

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

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

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

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

**white pants

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

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

Color Boot Camp: The Two-Week Color Challenge

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

I just don’t get it.

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

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

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

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

This is going to be fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** 144 days of rain

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

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

Simplify Your Life With Micro-Capsule Wardrobes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My winter camping capsule.

2. Cheering

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

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

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

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

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

3. Workout

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

The world’s least inspiring photo.

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

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

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

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

4. Loungewear

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

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

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

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

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

I can belay my husband in fan wear.

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

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

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

What is the highest quality you can afford?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Playing the Trends: A guide to using momentary fashion for a lifetime of style

Welcome back to Mud and Grace Style! I want to start by thanking you all for making last week’s post the most read, most shared post in the 7-month history of Mud and Grace. While I knew I needed to write about body image if I was going to write about style, I had no idea people would react to it so strongly. It seems that many of us have a body/stress connection that plays out on our closet floor each morning, proving once again that clothes are so much more than just a way to keep ourselves warm. Thank you for joining ranks in this battle for the right to feel good in our own skin.

Me, being super happy all week long. Also attempting to eat an avocado with with corn chips.

Now on to today’s topic: Playing the Trends.

Today’s trends are largely created by the fashion industry to make you spend more money. I hate to be so glum, but there you have it. On the other hand, trends are often fun, creative ways of expressing yourself. To pretend that they don’t exist or that they don’t affect us would be silly. Like, just because Mother’s Day is over-commercialized doesn’t mean I’m going to boycott presents and my family cooking for me on a nice Sunday in May, right?

You don’t want to be a slave to trends, that’s uncool. Nor do you want to ignore them all together, that’s just stubborn. Ultimately, you want to develop a good working relationship with trends, so that you are the master of what you buy, what you wear, and what you communicate to the world through your clothing.

To get there, I’m going to investigate types of trends, then look at how you can apply them to your wardrobe. Stay tuned for next week when I discuss Spring 2017 trends, what I plan to incorporate, and what I will pass on this time around.

A sneak peak at next week’s post.

Trend types

To understand how to make trends work for us we first need to understand what they are. Most trends can be broken down into the three following categories.

Long-term trends

Long terms trends are patterns of dress that reflect the aesthetic of a time period. Think the tiny waists of the 1950s, or the men’s leisure suits of the 1970s. Long term trends last 8-12 years,* and are generally seen in the shape and purpose of clothing. Currently, fitted pants are the long-term trend for men, as opposed to the massive baggies that were in throughout the 1990s.

This long term trend is no longer in style for men. Thankfully.

Seasonal trends

Seasonal trends are the pieces that flood stores regularly at the beginning and middle of each season. A so-called “it bag” or a specific height of boot can be on-trend for a season, talked up in magazines and on line, then passed over for the next bag, or new boot height. Color is the most noticeable of the seasonal trends. It will seem like robin’s egg blue is everywhere, until suddenly it isn’t. A seasonal trend can get so much air-time that it is exhausted, and we’re all mighty sick of looking at it. Until the next time it comes back, which might be in 6 months or 12 years.

This season’s boho top.

On-trend classics

These are classic pieces that are always in style, but occasionally get so much play on the runway, and then in stores and magazines, that they become trendy. Striped shirts are having a moment right now. That doesn’t mean they will be out of style next fall, they just won’t be on trend.

 

Sometimes work boots are on trend, sometimes they aren’t. I just keep wearing mine all winter, every winter.

Basic trend tricks

  • When trying out a new trend, I suggest second hand shopping first, to lessen the impact on your wallet and the environment. In most towns there are high-end resale shops that only sell current, on-trend clothing.**
  • Keep it low-key by finding the item in a fabric, color or cut in which you are already comfortable
  • Pair the new item with your favorite pieces and give it a good, honest try. Three wears is enough to know if it’s going to work for you.
  • If something was really trendy last year, tuck it away for a breather. I have a few high-low hem shirts that need a rest.
I found a bomber jacket in a comfortable denim. If I really like it, I’ll invest in a beautiful leather one.

Classic country music saves you from becoming fashion’s victim

The ultimate truth about working trends can be found simply in the words of Kenny Rodgers: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, know when to run.

If you are sadly unfamiliar with this song, here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj4nJ1YEAp4

And if you didn’t have a childhood, here is the Muppet’s version

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNnrTNFWcsg

Kenny Rodgers, in a classic white oxford with a decidedly 1970s collar and gold chain, Muppet in snazzy bomber.

Know when to hold ‘em

Occasionally a trend comes blowing through that is so you, you want to buy out the front window of every store you pass. Maybe you love the bright florals we’ve been seeing recently, or feel fantastic in a bomber jacket. In these cases, buy the best quality pieces you can afford. It won’t read “trendy” when it’s beautifully made and fits you perfectly. Right now, you can find beautifully embroidered denim. If you invest is a well-made piece with classic lines, you can easily wear it for years. Right now it will seem trendy, and in a year it will be an essential in your own, unique style.

Over time, a silhouette may go out of style (Think paper-bag cinched waists of the 1980s) In these cases, you can either have the item altered to fit the current aesthetic, or tuck it away until it comes back (Think the paper-bag cinched waist of the spring, 2017 runways.)

I hope my friend Elle never lets go of this  gorgeous top. Here she has paired it with classic dark denim and nude heels. Perfect classic-with-an-edge-Elle.

Know when to fold ‘em***

Trying a trend just for the sake of trying something new is fantastic. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Fold it up, and place it in the resale pile.

I tried my best with boyfriend jeans. There are women who can wear these sagging, distressed creations and look really cool. I cannot. I don’t look like an LA fashion model who rolled out of her artist / DJ boyfriend’s bed and pulled on his pants on her way to a photo shoot. I look like a mom, wearing mom jeans that she rolled up at the cuffs.

I don’t have to try that again.

When a trend doesn’t feel like you, move on. It doesn’t matter how much you spent, or that you only wore it three times, or that your best friend looks fantastic in it, if it’s not you, it’s not you. Throw in the cards and wait for the next shuffle.

Not you? That’s fine. It’s not 1978 anymore.

Know when to walk away

Growing up in Eugene, I had a friend with a stay-at-home mom who wore polyester pants suits and her hair in a fantastic Beehive hairdo. The year was 1980. I have no doubt that when she married, the suit and the hair were at the height of fashion, but a 30-something women in 1980 probably should have moved on.

There will be times when you gleefully master a long running trend. Maybe it’s athleisure, or skinny jeans. You rock it season after season, and look fantastic. Then one day, you will wake up and the trend is over. Really over.

At these times, you’ll want to carefully rethink the outfit formula you’d been wearing, and reimagine it in a more modern feel. Having trouble accepting the waning years of fuzzy Ugg boots? Try Hudson rain boots with cozy liners. It’s OK to be sad. I had to give up double denim for 18 years. But now it’s back!

All I had to do was wait.

Know when to run

Sometimes, a trend just doesn’t work. I never felt comfortable exposing my middle, not in the early 1980s, not in the mid-1990s and not now. It makes me cold and feels too cheeky for me. If you don’t feel absolutely fantastic, just run. I don’t like wearing leggings in public, even on my way to the climbing gym. Many, many other people wear leggings all day, everyday. It would be completely stylish to run my Saturday errands in leggings but I won’t. Trends will roll through and while I can love them on other people, I can skip them and remain stylish. Any attempt to solider on in a trend that doesn’t work for me will only render me fashion’s victim, and even Kenny Rodgers’ down-and-out gambler would call me on that.

In my world, leggings are for reading, not for actually getting anything done.

I hope this broad overview is helpful as you negotiate the flood of spring trends coming our way. Tune in next week for my take on this year’s looks.

*I just completely made that up, but I think it’s largely true.

** If you don’t, let me know when you are in Eugene and I will take you to Buffalo

***Actually, you fold ‘em when they come out of the laundry, and in truth my husband does the folding at our house (yes, I am that lucky) so I don’t fold anything, on trend or not.

**** Wait, there weren’t four asterisks anywhere in this post! But I wanted to ask if you’d thought about subscribing. You can just put your email into the box up at the top right and Mud and Grace will come straight to your home (OK, in-box, whatever) each week with no unnecessary clicking involved! Plus my heart always jumps a little when there is a new subscriber.

 

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.