Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My 2016 Spring Capsule, Part II

This is Part II about my spring Project 333 capsule - read Part I here. Here are some of the factors I considered in putting this together -

Wearability - Everything ought to be comfortable (for instance: not tight around the shoulders, not too short in the torso - two of my common problems). Nothing that I only wear out of the house and want to change out of the second I get back. This principle sounds obvious but I haven't prioritized it like I should sometimes. If there are major drawbacks to an item, I'll usually leave it hanging in the closet and opt for something that won't risk me being in pain or self-conscious. The navy strap wedges are somewhat untested and the riskiest on this criteria.

Practicality - Clothes that fit my life (currently stay-at-home mom). I need casual stuff that is easy to care for. My white denim capris probably score lowest in this category due to pesky dirt, but are still easy to wash. Conversely, I'd like to include a silk shirt but the maintenance would deter me from ever wearing it. It's also obviously important to choose clothes that are practical for the season, in this case spring in Virginia. On the first day of spring, the high here was 43 degrees. By June, it might be hitting the 90's! I've probably weighted this group towards the warm weather, because I find that it's easier to vary the outfits when layering is an option in the cool weather. Four of my five long sleeves (2 cardigans, 2 button-downs) can be worn open as a top layer. Whereas I like having more items from which to choose when I am stuck with shorts and t-shirt every day.

Affordability/Sustainability - These are not the same thing, but they work out the same for me by shopping at thrift stores. 13 items were bought new (4 of which I've had since before having kids, over eight years ago, which makes them officially Older Than Dirt. Only one of my new items, the burgundy tank, is new this season) and 19 were secondhand, mostly from Goodwill for $5 or less.

Cohesiveness - Everything works together. That's really the underlying point of capsule wardrobes - fewer items are all you need if they all go together. This is where Stylebook was handy because I could see the group at a glance, not having to visualize everything in my head from a list. My tops match all, or all but one, bottom and can layer with each other. The neutrals are mostly navy and white, with brown leather. There is no one accent color, but I aim for cool tones.

Style - In terms of fashion, I will not be winning any awards for wearing a t-shirt and jeans every day. Good thing that's not the point at all. By style, I mean colors and silhouettes that suit me, and have some consistency. "Disheveled preppy" is how I lovingly term my current aesthetic :) I try to make sure there is adequate level of contrast with some combination of light, dark, and color.

My single favorite piece is the navy with white polka dots button down (J Crew Factory from Goodwill). It's lightweight and comfortable, fits great, and can be worn under, over, or by itself. Should be in heavy rotation all season. The saver in me, though, still has to fight the urge not to wear it so I won't wear it out because I like it so much! It's just an instinct that I have to talk myself rationally out of.

 You can learn more about Project333 here.  I mostly go by the traditional terms, except I don't count my one pair of sunglasses and the eight pairs of earrings I wear year-round. Here they are, looking fancy on the blue pipe cleaner I strung between two hooks on the wall:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Project 333 - Spring 2016 Capsule Wardrobe using Stylebook

 I've taken some time off from Project333 (wear same 33 items for 3 months), probably about a year that coincides with me not blogging here. Hard to believe my first session was over 3 years ago! here and here After a number of seasons participating in the challenge, I had cut back to the point where I didn't feel like I needed to be quite so intentional for a while, and wanted to experiment with the idea of uniform dressing as well.

But I'm back for spring 2016 because items were staring to pile up and get a little chaotic again. And I just enjoy it. AND because I got a new app called Stylebook that makes it even better...

The first premise of Stylebook is to photograph the items you have in your closet. Then you can sort them by category (t-shirts, trousers, etc), as well as color or season, and see at a glance what you own instead of digging through drawers, or when you're out shopping. So yes, getting started is rather burdensome because you have to actually take all the photos of your wardrobe and edit some of them. .(The app has a feature automatically screen out the background, which worked great on about half my pieces, usually the darker ones). Once that part is done, it's very convenient to use.

For Project 333 purposes, I used a feature called "Packing List" to narrow down my items to the 33 I wanted for spring. I made a list called Spring Capsule and just included the pieces I was going to use. The app keeps count of the number (see "32 clothing items" in the photo above), and it's easy to add or delete as you want to tweak the capsule.  Here is what mine looks like at a glance:

And as you can see from the top screenshot, there's a second section for "Looks" - making different combinations of the pieces in the capsule. I have 44 looks with these items so far, but there are many more possibilities; I just haven't gotten around to creating them all! It's great to brainstorm ideas in advance instead of reinventing the outfit wheel every time I walk into my closet. My brain doesn't function well when I wake up at 5:45am, so I try to look up the next day's weather and grab my clothes the night before.

Here is what I'm wearing today (plus belt):

Stylebook also allows you to add looks to the Calendar to track what you wear each day, if that is interesting or helpful to you, and it will calculate cost-per-wear if you enter the initial cost of the garment in addition to other "Style Stats."

 You can learn more about Project333 here.  And Stylebook is $3.99 in the app store. I received nothing for telling you about it :)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Skip for now, forever

Kodak Gallery photo site closed in the summer of 2012. My Kodak photos were transferred to Shutterfly, the site I used for photo books. To access the transferred photos, all I had to do was either enter my Kodak Gallery login credentials or the access code Shutterfly emailed me.

This was two and a half years ago. I took the screenshot above today.

For two-and-a-half years, every time I have logged into Shutterfly, this screen has popped up.

And every single time, I've clicked "Skip for now" (see red circle I've added)

I could have picked "Do not remind me again." But then I would have forgotten about it, and I couldn't remember if I had any important Kodak photos.

I should have just entered the access code. But I would have had to open my email and search for it. And it was just easier not to. I could have even asked the code to be resent! But again, there's the obstacle of switching over to email to find it. I had vague hesitations that it would be complicated, and wouldn't work. I've always been in the middle of some other photo mission and couldn't deal with it then. I didn't really stop to think about it.

It's just easier to click the skip button. I've clicked it a hundred times, maybe more. 

Today I dealt with it. I tracked down my access code. It took maybe twenty seconds of searching my email for the word "Kodak," and the July 2012 email popped up. I entered it, my photos showed up.

It turns out I only had about 20 photos, all duplicates of ones I already have in my Shutterfly account.

I'm telling this story because it matters to hoarding. It matters if you're someone like me, who has trouble dealing and would rather go to the small effort of ignoring, skipping, working around a problem a million times, instead of taking the time to conquer the obstacles and solve it once.

What's an "access code" that you're going to stop skipping and find today? Instead of being digital, it very well might be an item sitting in the way somewhere that it doesn't belong.

The first step is noticing that you're skipping. You are probably so used to doing it that you hardly pay attention any more. Then figure out why you started. What obstacles is your brain throwing out that seem tough enough to make avoidance preferable? Saying them out loud (at least in your head) makes them sometimes not as intimidating as leaving them vague.

Then just do it. Chances are it won't take long and you won't face the possible problems anticipated. And real problems are always more solvable than imaginary ones!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Camper Home Style

Even though it seems like all I've managed to write about, I've been doing more than reading and plotting wardrobes this year. Another area of my focus has been our home.

When we bought this house nearly eleven years ago, I was just shy of twenty-two, newly married, and my experience with home decorating and maintenance was limited to my dorm room and a couple months in our apartment. I hadn't given it much thought in my life to that point.

But suddenly I had a whole house to paint, furnish, etc. 

So, obviously, "themes" represented the epitome of style to my newly initiated homeowner self. The kitchen was pepper themed (red accents and chili peppers of course) because Brad loved Tabasco so much. The dining area and guestroom had a vaguely Asian flair, with muted greens and bamboo (I even made an abstract green painting). The bathrooms were tropical. Lots of palm trees. The dark den, Brad's favorite, had wine paintings and wine coasters. Because we love to drink wine. And the living room revolved around some lovely sailboat prints which my in-laws gave us. It was soft blue and cream and so forth.

Most of this was decided in the first year, and despite various room reshufflings, the decor has remained remarkably undisturbed in the intervening seasons.

If you were being charitable, you might refer to the whole as sweetly schizophrenic. 

But I did what I knew at the time, and I now know making a house OUR home requires not only intentional, coherent style and vision, but also time. It's not a race, it's a process that spans a lifetime. There's layers. You change your mind. You build bit-by-bit.

The tweaking is underway. I'm trying to look beyond matching towel motifs and paint colors to the full spectrum of homey-ness. What brings me joy to look at? What helps guests feel at home? How can I use ordinary things, and things we already have, to double as decorative?

I've benefitted from creating "home" and "Believe to be beautiful" Pinterest boards, and looking for the commonalities in my pins to help me better understand and define my style (The boards are set to secret so you can't view them, but I can invite you if you'd like to check it out!)

A photo of the boys' colored pencils

What I've identified so far:
I love white space.
I like green plants.
I dig white plaster and terra cotta walls.
I heart pops of color, almost anything in the rainbow, but especially sunshine yellow, tangerine orange, and sky blue.
I adore strings of white lights (yes the kind used by college students, and the slightly larger globe kind) (This is not my house, just showing you a pretty Pinterest pic of lights:)

I read The Nesting Place this fall and love The Nester's mantra: "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful"

How I'm using what I've learned:
Right now, my working title for my design aesthetic is "Happy Camper." It's not literally about loving camping - there are no plans for campfires and sleeping bags - but incorporating happy colors with the nature, travel, and temporary-ness associated with camping.

This isn't something to gut the house for and start over. It just gives me some purpose and direction in the choices I get to make going forward, as we replace a rug or sofa, or shuffle a room again. It also points out some areas I've neglected, such as greenery and lighting.

I've started a few small projects that are bringing a different feel, even as many of the main home elements remain the same. The photo at the top of this post is of some hanging herb planters I recently made by punching holes in soup cans and attaching colored bungee cords. They're beautiful in the sunlight and come in handy cooking too!

This was a project from last year, when I realized I had a collection of pretty bottle caps that weren't doing me any good in a bag in a drawer:

The first attempt involved elaborate gluing of thumbtacks and was an all-around flop. The caps promptly all fell off the tacks, and it looked lousy anyway.

The second effort was Brad's suggestion of using blank white canvas (caps are glued straight to it, I did burn my fingers a couple times) and I loved how it turned out.

Lots 'o maps! You can see our giant world map on the living room wall below, as well as one of the sailboat prints.

I have two Richmond maps too, the Richmond Type Map in the kitchen and the Richmond Neighborhood map has been bouncing around (currently in the living room in a frame that's too big, giving it a rakish industrial air):

My most recent addition is this picture I created yesterday by painting a black frame around a blank canvas and taping an old photo of a citronella candle in the center (from one of many picnics at my aunt and uncle's house when they lived in the country). Almost insultingly easy, and very easily changed. I am slightly obsessed with white canvas, so cheap and so many possibilities.

If I could snap my fingers and change everything in the living room this second, there would be a different sofa (not totally sure what kind, but simple with some wood elements), an indoor-outdoor rug that wasn't hideously uncomfortable, globe lights strung across the ceiling, and a bunch of blue folding "Captain's chairs" (like you take to outdoor events) that could be shifted and removed as needed. 

But there's no rush :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Uniform Appeal

Following the #33in33 challenge, I find myself inclined in an opposite direction, towards adopting a uniform. A uniform just wearing more or less the same combination of things every day, ie: a signature look that people picture you wearing when they think of you.

I liked this post by Alice Gregory on jcrew:

"Low maintenance and iconic, it’s a cheap and easy way to feel famous...
You save a lot of money by relinquishing trial-and-error shopping—those items you buy and never wear, try and fail to return. Gone is the mental math that goes into calculating how much you “paid per wear” for that sweater you only put on three times. And nobody thinks of a person who wears the same thing every day as unstylish. Rather, it’s simply a classification that does not apply."

She cites Madeline, Babar, and Eloise; I think Big Bang Theory - Sheldon's print tees over long sleeved shirts, Leonard's layered hoodies and jackets, Raj's sweater vests, and of course Howard's turtlenecks under plaid paired with oversized belt buckles. They aren't shining examples of style, but as Ms. Gregory mentions, the term ceases to apply. They are predictably the unique geeks they are. These fictional characters don't wake up every day and try to choose new and exciting ways to express themselves.

Maybe I'm trying too hard. (Maybe? ;-) )

Maybe the next step is just to look for contentment in sameness. Maybe this is the ultimate conclusion of Project333. Pick my best bet of fit, look, and flexibility and go with it. To be continued!

Monday, November 3, 2014

#33in33 Recap

So for the past 33 days I've been participating in BeMoreWithLess' #33in33 challenge - Create 33 different looks over 33 days with your Project333 pieces.

The challenge came at a good time for me, to add a little variety to my year and just to see if I could. Here's what I wore:

Every single one of my Project 333 items got worn at least once* Not surprisingly, pants and shoes were most repeated -

  • Skinny jeans 11x
  • Flip flops 11x
  • Sandals 7x
  • Capris 6x
  • Purple cardigan 6x
  • Brown sketchers 6x
  • Brown boots 6x
  • Bootcut jeans 5x

Most other items had 3-4 wears. Least utilized was my blue striped sundress (once).

*Two of my original Project pieces from seven months ago have been changed: one t-shirt was damaged beyond repair, and towards the end of the 33in33 challenge I made my first intentional substitution. The navy blue J Crew skirt you see in a few of the last outfits has taken the place of the white bohemian style skirt I initially included. As the month went on, I realized I was avoiding wearing that white skirt - I didn't like the way it looked and it just never felt "right" So I decided it's silly to keep something I so obviously dislike and pulled the navy skirt instead. It has pockets which I'm loving, and seems to be fitting much more seamlessly with the rest of my wardrobe. I also dislike those baggy khaki corduroy pants, but they serve a purpose and I'm leaving them in for the moment.

A few quick thoughts about the challenge itself:
- October weather varied less than I had initially expected - most days had highs in the 70's, which meant a lot of jeans/tshirt/long sleeve layer.
- It certainly wasn't difficult to come up with new combos (statistically there are tons of possibilities). I tried to vary more than just shoes or jewelry for different outfits, so I think there are no looks with the same top and bottom.
- On the other hand, it was too much work to think about coming up with new outfits every day and checking to see what I'd worn, and a few other Instagrammers seemed to feel the same way. I think part of the appeal of Project 333 is that the limits give us permission to wear our favorite things over and over, and makes dressing a relatively low-thought process. 33in33 kind of counteracted those benefits, plus added the hassle of taking a daily photo.
- Overall it was worthwhile to me since I have not been a Project 333 person who tracks what gets worn when, and this provided a helpful visual record of my style and choices to analyze! I would not have made that skirt switch otherwise. And it confirmed that, indeed, a limited wardrobe still provides a huge scope of possibilities.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Year of Project 333: "I smell like sunscreen" edition

 I need to up my selfie game - less bathroom, more shoes

Here's the background on my current Project 333 (for one year)

The dog days of summer might be the toughest time for Project 333. I usually hear folks fretting about the extremes of the transition seasons, but spring and fall are probably my favorite - with the weather variety and options for light layers, it's never boring.

Summer has been a little boring, and sweaty. If I weren't squeezing winter AND summer into my Project 333, I'd have had a few more options. During stretches of hot weather I have precisely 2 tanks, 3 tees, 2 shorts, one skirt, and a dress from which to choose (also one medium-length bohemian blouse that seems to work in heat).

Even when I don't get sweaty, everything ends up smelling like sunscreen!

It's not even remotely that big a deal. I wear whatever's [relatively] clean. Whatever's dirty, I wash on gentle and air-dry 'cause I want it to last 'til April. Some days I rock a few wrinkles and a spritz of eau de sunscreen and remember to give thanks for the clothes on my back.

And I still get creative when I can. A good Project 333 is a little like a tough round of Boggle (the old-school, pen-and-paper kind that we used to play on family game nights) -
  • You know, sometimes you get an awesome shakeout that is so full of words you're scribbling furiously and still know there's loads of combos left as the last few grains of sand drop from the timer. This would be like a fashionista's wardrobe - unlimited possibilities of fabulous outfits. But they may not get fully explored or utilized just because there are so many.
  • Sometimes you get a lousy set where there are a few hopeful possibilities, and they all turn out to be disappointingly so-close-but-not-quite. This is probably more like the closet I used to have, with lots of options and little connection. 
  • And then there are the sets that are discouraging at first glance. Q's and Z's all over. But you're stuck with them and you stick with them until the time runs out. You take a second look and realize there are a couple promising combos. You zero in on those and work them every direction you can; directions you might not have tried if there was anywhere else on the board to look. You hunt down the tough words... Kind of like my year-round closet with only a few items on the hangers. But they are items I've picked somewhat carefully to mix, match, and generally accommodate whatever life throws my way. So when I get bored, I'm forced to remix my basics and look at outfits from a different angle. Exhibit A, the photo at the top of this post. I have never attempted long sleeves over shorts until this summer. It doesn't exactly solve my dog days of summer sunscreen issue, but it provides a little scope for the imagination, as Anne Shirley might say.
Kind of like Courtney wrote recently (explaining why she doesn't tell you what brands, etc. she's wearing): 
I remember my pre-333 days thinking that a new dress that I saw in a magazine would make me improve my life, or scoring an amazing deal at a semi-annual sale would make me happy and finally complete my wardrobe, but it never did. I always needed more. There is nothing you can buy that will finally make you anything. The secret to having it all is recognizing that you already do.
I'm still prone to pursuing the perfect closet mirage (just on a smaller scale). I have this itch for change and newness. But this year is helping me practice contentment with inevitable imperfection and creativity with what I've got.

I just suffered my first wardrobe casualty, unexpectedly. Unbeknownst to me, Brad started using some sort of facial medication which is known to bleach clothing. He fell asleep on my shoulder... and one of my t-shirts bit the dust. Per the mental parameters I set at the start of the challenge, I'm making a substitution because I have to get rid of something, switching in something from my existing stock (nothing new!) that is as similar as possible. So, Gap stripe tee becomes Ann Taylor gold stripe tee. This makes an argument for buying cheap and/or second-hand basics - you just can't control life!