Did you miss me?  My husband and I are back from our lovely vacation to Vancouver and I'll soon have a post finished about the ins and outs of vacation and cruise wear. 
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My husband's family lived in Vancouver for a while (and he was born there) but they haven't been back since they moved away.  It was our year to plan the family reunion so we made it a special "siblings & spouses only" trip.  We had absolutely pristine weather the days we were in Vancouver, which I understand is rare and made my packing choices perfect (more on that later).

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The next afternoon we boarded this ship, the Holland America Ryndam, for a quiet 4-day cruise from Vancouver to San Diego.  A wonderful time was had by all but admittedly,  as soon as we hit the airport we couldn't wait to get home to kiss our girls.  I don't yet have my land-legs back (I sway a bit when I come to a stop or turn fast).  We hope to do another trip like that again someday.  It was a great opportunity to get to know all my in-laws better.  One tends to really let their hair down on a cruise and just relax.

 
 
It was my birthday Friday, and our anniversary in a few weeks so Saturday night my husband took me to a fabulous dinner and performance of Cirque de la Symphonie.  It was INCREDIBLE!  If you've ever seen Cirque de Soleil you have an idea of the amazing feats of human performance going on while the symphony played wonderful pieces.  Amazing like Jarek and Darek, the Living Statues pictured below.  If you haven't seen these jaw-dropping performers, here's a link to a little preview video.  
http://www.cirquedelasymphonie.com/videopreview.php
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It was a delicious, exciting, enchanting, romantic and sublime evening.  I encourage you, no, I implore you, to find a performance near you and go.  And when you do, you sure as heck better dress appropriately!  Because the tragic outfits I saw that night have forced me (much like the Sunday Best experience) to once again shout from the rooftops, "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO EVENING WEAR!?!"

My parents had season symphony tickets while I was a teenager and I was lucky enough to go to a few performances every year.  The casual dressers bothered me back then too.  This is the first performance I've been to in several years and the blow it struck me was appallingly fresh.  We walked out the door behind a man in khakis and a ratty polo shirt and a woman in a very worn Docker-style skirt and Teva's.  I kid you not.  And among the appropriately dressed patrons were plenty of jeans and t-shirts.  The Ringling Brothers circus was at the venue 2 blocks down so I think they got lost. 
I wanted so badly to tap the couple on the shoulder and say, "Hello.  I'm writing an article about how people make their fashion decisions.  Could you please tell me what possessed you to put this on before you came here tonight?  Did you not know where you were going?" 

People, there IS such a thing as a Dress Code and how to dress appropriately.  I was pondering the confusion about how to honor a Dress Code and came up with too many possibilities for this post; the casualization of society has killed the standards, people would like to dress appropriately but don't know how or how to shop, too many titles for the same code, etc.  We'll explore them more in future posts.  Today we're talking about the symphony or opera.  So let's discuss WHY it's a good idea to dress up.
  • It's not about "fitting in" it's about respecting the situation, the performers, the people around you and yourself.  It's about showing you have class and that you understand where you are.  
  • As I often do I searched for other answers already given to this type of question and in about half a nanosecond I found some very wrong ones.  Such as, "Dress as nicely as you can.  No one will notice anyway." Wrong!  Everyone notices.  Someone else said, "Dress any way you want.  They're not going to throw you out."  Oh.. if only they would!!  I had a nice time daydreaming of the petite little usher at our entry manhandling the offenders right out onto the street.  Then there was this one, "The symphony doesn't care, they just want butts in the seats."  Sadly, that last part is true.  They DO care but they also need to fill the seats, especially in an economic cycle where people are cutting back on entertainment spending.  Trust me, they care.  One answer was particularly good and made the same point I'm trying to make about respecting the performers, the occasion and the venue and she added, "the others who have been going to symphonies in suits and evening gowns for decades, the ones whose season tickets and donations make the symphony possible at all."  Very insightful!!
  • Lastly, why WOULDN'T you want to dress up?  I honestly can't think of any reason I wouldn't want to pamper myself and treat myself to an evening of looking and feeling fabulous.  Mom's especially sometimes need to look for excuses like this, so take the opportunity when it knocks!
And when it comes knocking, what should you wear?  Well, most symphonies have an "informal dress code."  This does not mean you can dress "informally", it means the dress code is not forcible, but recommended. And the dress code at the multiple symphonies I found who actually post one is Business Formal to Business Casual.  Business Formal = suits and ties or tuxedos for the men and fancy dresses or evening gowns for the women.  Business Casual = sport coats for the men and cocktail dresses or fancy pant suits for the women.  The exception is the Saturday or Sunday matinee performance when casual dress (khakis and collared shirts) is more appropriate. 
 
No denim. Don't even think about it.  You can never go wrong with a black dress, which every woman should have in her wardrobe if she also has a pair of jeans.

In general, fancy dress tends to manifest itself either in color or fabric.  For example, a pair of nice pants and a top in all black can be just as fancy as a satin sheath dress or sequined skirt in a lighter color.  It's another version of the teeter-totter principle.  If I totter down, as in down to more casual pieces (which pants are for women) then I should also take the color down.  If I teeter up to a fancier cut garment, such as a fitted dress or skirt, I can up the color. 
I'm painting with very broad brush strokes here to help clarify the big picture.  I saw a gorgeous sequined black dress on Saturday night, as well as a lovely pair of pale pink satin pants and a matching embroidered strapless top over which the woman had draped a black pashmina to cover her shoulders.  Both women were wearing nice accessories, fabulous shoes and looked wonderful.

So how 'bout it?  Can't we all just dress up when the occasion calls for it?  Can we commit to elevating our style and enjoying those times we get to look amazing?  It'll be a refreshing change for the better that our society could really benefit from.

Please feel free to comment with your thoughts on why you think Evening Wear  (or appropriate dressing in general) has taken such a hit.  Simply click the word "Comments" at the top of this post.
 
 
A friend asked me the other day how I manage to "always dress up" when I leave the house and the events of about an hour ago perfectly illustrate my answer of, "To maintain my sanity!" 
Let me first say that I do not "dress up" every time I leave the house.  Dressing up for me entails fancy clothes, sparkly things, and sky high heels.  But since much of society of late has adopted a sadly low form of casual dressing that I am on a crusade to eradicate, I'm sure I look a little more dressy compared to the average Jane around me.  But I have 3 little girls.  A two year old and 7 month old twins.  I wear my most expendable clothing at home and here is why.
Two year old is napping... babies are getting done playing and ready for their afternoon nap.  I lift baby nearest me, smooch her and instantly zero in on that damp, oozy feeling that every mother dreads.  We've blown out a diaper.  I was asleep at the wheel.  Blind to the signs.  Should have caught it at least 10 minutes earlier.  And so a few seconds later I'm kneeling in front of my ottoman/makeshift changing station (when #1 is napping) cleaning as much as I can before plopping baby into sink for a sponge down.  But this is a 7 month old baby who will not go quietly into the sink.  She must kick first.  Kick her feet into things I'm trying to clean up.  Then kick her feet onto... me. 
While cleaning this twin, the other twin decides she wants to join the fun and so I get to repeat the previous 5 minutes of fun but thankfully without the kicking mess.
This is my day.  All day, every day.  And despite the poopy-tone of this post, I love it.  I was cracking up at the insane mess of it all because I know it'll be gone in the blink of an eye.  I have decades left to channel my inner Donna Reed.  I don't have decades of these little wonders.  But my inner Style Maven cries out for attention too and so, when I do get out of the house, be it a Costco run, grocery stop or trip to the park, I try to look better than my daily expendable uniform. It keeps me sane, keeps me cute, keeps me Woman as well as Mother.
And in case you're curious... these are my little style assassins.    
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Welcome to the first of our Fall/Winter Style Series! Since we figure the cycling of trends is here to stay (as discussed here) we might as well cover what's current, how to make it work and what to run from screaming! First...

The Lovelies -
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Motorcycle Jacket!  Leather jackets never really go out of style and the main point of this trend is that it's fitted and hip length.  A nice simple blazer-style leather jacket fitting that description will work great.  Do not pair with heavy leather boots.  The jacket should be the only biker item in the ensemble.
  • Have one?  Pair it with your ultra feminine pieces to tone down the more sugary sweetness of spring & summer and carry those items through fall & winter.
  • Looking to invest?  The biker jacket is miles more versatile then a long Matrix-style coat.  Look for a close-fitting jacket without too many bells and whistles; i.e. avoid multiple heavy zippers and tons of superfluous seaming. 

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Bright Coats!  Fall and winter coats are NOT something most people want to replace often.  That's why we buy black, brown or tan.  Neutral colors that will stand the test of time.  But a bright coat will do the same - as long as it's cut in a very classic style.  A brightly colored trench brings much needed vibrancy to fall and winter clothes and carries effortlessly through to spring. 
  • Have one?  Don't be afraid to pull it out and wear it as long as the weather will allow.  Pair it with neutral scarves, gloves and hats so as not to compete with the coat.
  • Looking to invest?  Keep the style classic.  Don't be afraid of pattern.  I have a bright pink trench with tiny white polka-dots that garners tons of compliments year after year. Consider a water resistant trench instead of wool.  It will be easier to keep the lighter color clean.

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Long Gloves!  Around my neck of the woods cooler temps can come early but nothing so frigid as to warrant carrying a coat around all day.  A definite do is pairing long gloves and scarves with short-sleeved items.  It's elegant and unexpected and they're easy to carry with you. 
  • Have some? Pair with simple, more sophisticated tops, avoiding graphic tees and active wear.  
  • Looking to invest?  Leather gloves wear for decades.  Look for gloves and scarves in complementary tones but not necessarily matchy-matchy.  (click here for info on coordinating vs matching)

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Fun winter accessories!  Have a black coat?  Add color around your face with a bright scarf and hat.  Dark coats beg for fun colors and patterns.
  • Have some?  Keep a lint roller in your car.  That lighter, brighter lint will show up fast on a dark coat.
  • Looking to invest?  Dots, stripes, plaids, and animal prints are timeless.  Choose the best material you can afford (ideally cashmere) so they will resist pilling and look great for years to come.

The "Maybies" -
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Tough call, these over-the-knee-boots.  Personally, I think they look cool but you have to get skinny jeans that tuck into them easily.  And I'm not a fan of skinny jeans.  Thick leggings might also work, but that's a big might, and only with a longer tunic top.  Tricky... very tricky.
  • Have some? Nobody with any taste is wearing them with mini skirts and dresses (too tarty!).  Keep everything above the boots short and nicely covered up, like a cute short trench coat.
  • Looking to invest?  Only if you're in love with the style and are certain you'll wear it more than one year.  These boots don't come cheap (and if they do - double check the construction!)  Look for a simple cut that will more easily stand the test of time.

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Neon.  I'm an 80's child.  We did neon like never before and I agree with the sartorial mantra that if you were around the first time the trend hit, you can't wear it the same way the second time. Do a quick search for neon clothing and accessories  and many tacky results will suddenly glare from your screen.
  • Have something?  Make it an accent to neutrals.  The brights will look great with whites, tans, and denim.  Pull out those long lost bangles and pop 'em on your wrists.  Or let the neon grace the tip of a shoe or the straps on a sandal. 
  • Looking to invest?  Don't.  It's practically a guarantee you won't pull out that neon dress next year.  Instead, dip a toe in the trend, literally.  Neon nailpolish is a cheap way to have fun.  Me?  I'll be enjoying my bright orange toenail polish.  Later, when you don't want a full set of neon feet, it can become polka-dot or flower accents for a fun summer look.

The Nevers -
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Harem Pants. DO NOT bother with the "boxy pant"/harem pant/baggy pant trend.  It's unflattering on everyone and will be gone in the blink of an eye.  Even if I have to gather every pair and bonfire them myself.  Who wants their hips to look huge, their legs to look short, and their crotch to hang down to their knees?  Run away from this one.  Far away.
  • Have some?  Turn them into cleaning rags.  Show the kids how cloth burns slower than paper, and how to dispose of the ashes.

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Boyfriend Blazer/Boxy Blazer.  Ladies, anything that hides your shape is a don't!  This trend will make you look like... wait for it... A BOX!  Not good.  Check out this picture vs the one below it.  Even on this tiny little model - she looks shapeless and heavier than she is.
  • Have one?  Get thee to a tailor! (as discussed here)  It can most likely be taken up and in at all the right places to get you a flattering piece.  If not, stick it in the dress up box for your kids to be "daddy" and future hobo costumes.
  • Looking to invest?  Spend your pennies more wisely on a blazer like the one below.  You'll breathe sighs of relief for years to come. 

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Ahhhh.  Much better.  Nice shape.  Timeless, slimming, flattering.

Hope this has helped excite you for the coming months!  I love jacket season.  Not so much "I-have-to-shovel-my-way-out-the-front-door" season, but jacket season is great. 
Stay tuned for Fall Style Series 2!
 

 
 
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From practically the dawn of the cartoon and film world, our future selves have always worn a version of simple spandex unitards, or long flowing robes. Apparently, at some future point we universally declare "We're over it!" where fashion is concerned and opt for simple in the extreme.  It also seems we have no weight problems at that point as well.  Maybe perfect figures are worth the price of a fashion void. 

But when does our future get here?  Or will it always be Trends vs Trek?

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The artists of two centuries ago drawing 100 years in the future certainly didn't depict what was actually worn in the late 18- and 1900's.  And we obviously aren't wearing what the artists predicted for the new millennium.
We keep having cycles of trends instead of Trek-like simplicity.  The future of clothing may never arrive.  Looking back at my school days I wish I'd had a uniform.  It would have made dressing so much simpler.  And I know, folks who had uniforms often tell me they wished they'd had "normal" clothes.  The grass is always greener...  The uniforms we may or may not wear in the "future" will certainly make dressing easy.  But where's the fun in that?  How do I express my love of retro nipped waistlines and full-skirts in an adult onesie?

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You must admit, if we were to walk the street like this (and this was from a fairly recent collection) the first public assumption would be that we were headed to a sci-fi convention.

I don't mind cycling trends.  Ones I like always come around again. (Harem pants are not one of them!  Oy!  How did those ever resurface?)  And the near infinite variety of clothing lets us express our individuality as well as our common ground.  And you guessed it, in the upcoming posts we will be discussing the fall trends.  Which ones work, which ones to ignore or even run from.  If, like me, the fall weather hasn't hit your area yet it's only a matter of weeks.  And every new season is a reason to assess your style and tweak where necessary, even if you don't buy a single new item.

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SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS!  Comment below with your answer to "Why do we have trends?"

 
 
Elaine's comment on my previous post reminded me that I hadn't yet posted a picture of the FANTABULOUS dress I won through a contest she had on her blog.  She's an adorable college student whose blog is great for image inspiration! Find her HERE and on our Image Inspiration page.  I like how she makes simple pieces not boring.
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A few months ago she ran a contest to give away this dress from Shabby Apple.  I had never heard of Shabby Apple but I immediately loved the dress and scrambled to complete all the various options she had for entering.  And I won! 

Isn't this dress delicious!?  It's so... Mad Men.  So... 60's Sexy Secretary.  Just the right mix of sweet with a wink, you know?  And depending on how edgy or dressy I want to take the dress, I have 3 pair of shoes that will work perfectly.  

When choosing what size I wanted the dress in, the Shabby Apple website said that the dress was sized "generously", and as I've mentioned before, I'm on a quest to get in shape so I sized down.  It's a little small as yet, but rather than exchange it (they have a great exchange policy!) I kept this size.  It's my Reward Dress.  I love it so much I want to be able to wear it for a long time.  And I like having it smiling at me in the front of my closet.  Cheering me on. 

So stay tuned!  I will soon post a picture of me wearing it instead of the dress rack! Please visit Shabby Apple.  You can find them HERE on The Shopping Section.  They have wonderful, modest dresses without the frumpy shapes that so often disguise themselves as modest.

 
 
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The lovely and inspiring Imogen Lamport from Inside Out Style (find her here and on the Image Inspiration page.  You will learn so much from her!) awarded this to the fashion blogs she follows, of which yours truly is honored to be one!  I am to reveal "5 Fashion Facts We Didn't Know Before."  So here goes!

  1. Like Imogen, I also wore tons of hand-me-downs but thankfully not from any brothers.  I was the firstborn for my parents and first grandchild on my Dad's side as well.  His youngest sister is only 4 years older than me, so I had TONS of clothes from her.  I remember some gems - a pair of 70's clunky sandals with wheels that popped out of the bottom. So fun.  My parents had 3 girls in 3 years so my Mom also did a lot of sewing.  You ain't seen nothin' till you've seen three little girls in matching quilted bell jumper dresses!  Contrary to what image that description might bring to mind, we were super cute!
  2. At 13 I cut off and sold almost 3 feet of hair.  I'd had it long my whole life and would have a conniption if my Mom trimmed more than a tiny inch.  For as long as I could remember it had been down to my derriere or longer.  She'd braid or put curlers in it the night before church or the first day of school and I'd have MILES of thick curls.  Random people would come up to us in public and ask to touch my hair.  That part bugged me.  And then we moved to Arizona.  You want heavy?  Try all that hair soaked down in pool water.  My neck couldn't take it.  And in the summer my hair acted like a furnace!  They didn't have Locks-of-Love back then but we found a salon that would buy the hair for wigs for cancer patients.  We chopped it up to my chin and my head felt so weird! My Mom cried.  I was ecstatic.  The salon was thrilled to have all that virgin hair.
  3. I spent nearly 2 years in Germany (served as a missionary for my church and went back for a study abroad program in college) and never figured out their obsession with magenta hair dye.  They do, however, have the COOLEST taste in glasses.  Look for the funkiest, most fabulous pair of eyeglasses - usually on a man - and you've found yourself a German tourist.  I love my Germans!  They're the best.  They also have the best winter hats.  I learned how to do scarves and hats in Germany.  And traveling Europe as much as I have really pounded home the lesson that a great wardrobe doesn't have to be a huge wardrobe. 
  4. I once used masking tape (the only thing I could find in the house I was staying at) to control a couple unflattering body bulges and look better in a bridesmaid dress.  Yeah, didn't work as intended.  And just FYI - something happens when sweat mixes with masking tape adhesive.  At first it causes the tape to unstick, as you would expect, but after a while, it reacts to bond the tape to your skin so thoroughly that you will lose said skin in your attempts to get the tape off. 
  5. My Dad picked out some of my best clothes.  What, you say?  A man, let alone your father, involved and interested in your style?  Yep.  As an eye surgeon, he sees tons of women - both stylish and non - in his office.  While I was growing up all that good and bad style he was observing translated into really good outfits for me.  And sales ladies would love it when he came to shop.  Not that he'd spend a ton of money.  He was frugal.  But he'd get them excited about joining his quest to find something great for his daughter.