31 Days, 31 Ways

It’s been an odd year for me with clothing. Well. Not that odd; don’t women usually chop off their hair or do something else that feels dramatic to change their appearance after a big break-up? Whatever; I’ve been a bit of a clothes horse since last summer.

It’s unusual for me to focus so much energy on what I wear, but for a number of reasons, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Last winter I tried a number of subscription services; StitchFix, Elizabeth&Clarke, Birchbox, ShoeMint, Wantable. In the spring I started working with a personal stylist from Keaton Row. As a result of paying attention I’ve started seeing “fashionable” people and items and tips everywhere – billboards, shop windows, ads for street style websites, fashion week coverage – it’s entered my consciousness.

Since last August, I’ve read a ton and tried on a great many options outside of my comfort zone. I learned a lot – mainly that patterns are wonderful, bright shoes make me incredibly happy, sheer fabrics are always inappropriate for my life (unless paneled in a formal gown), and fashion professionals love to push the envelope on defining “office appropriate” – often in quite inappropriate ways. (Side note: I would love to write a tiny handbook on clothes for very young people embarking on office jobs. “Rule one: if your supervisor or a colleague says to you, “you must be chilly with the A/C on,” that’s code for “You aren’t covering enough skin; please put on a sweater/jacket/longer skirt/pants/etc so I don’t have to be more explicit and mortify us both.” (And its fine if you think [the person saying this] is a fuddyduddy , but his/her opinion matters more to your livelihood than Teen Vogue’s.))

But I digress. I had a great time, but I’m tired of buying stuff; I have “enough” clothes and shoes and handbags and jewelry. And since services and stylists are in the commission business, I needed a “non-shop” inspiration source.

Enter Caitlin of Greater Than Rubies. Caitlin is a tall woman. She works for a human services nonprofit that requires a professional image. She’s married and settled into the pattern of an adult life (and doesn’t seem obsessed with clothes to the exclusion of all else). She’s stylish, and works hard to ensure that “her outsides match her insides”, as my Grandma Jane once said. She dresses well – but her life philosophy is at odds with a disposable economy. So, a few years ago, she “broke up with shopping” and started a blog (and a side business) focused on “remixing” all of the things she already owns into new and unexpected outfits.

Ta-Da! This is exactly the kind of role model and advice I’m looking for.

I signed up for the GTR email list, and have had a great time trying “new things with old stuff” for the last month. I’m not embarking on Caitlin’s own challenge of not buying anything new for a year – since I don’t have the time or energy for rigidity – but I am taking on her October “remix” challenge.

The concept is basic: for 31 days, match up things in your wardrobe that you haven’t worn together before. Drop your “favorite” outfits and find some new ones. (There are all sorts of “rules” you can apply to make it harder or more interesting, but they’re not for me.)

So. For the next month I’ll be trying new things. Cataloging different outfits, noting what works and what doesn’t, what’s comfortable and what isn’t.

Wish me luck!

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STILL SINGLE – reviewing a reading

It’s no secret that I generally prefer seeing new-works-in-development to seeing finished theatrical productions, so my opinions should always be taken with a pinch of salt. But — I saw a beautifully executed reading of a new work today.

STILL SINGLE (Karen Bishko, Nat Bennett, and Suzanne Heathcote) is a special piece of work (if not perfectly named). It’s the story of Leah, a 36-year-old divorce attorney who is perfectly satisfied with her life – until she realizes it’s a mess. She is, of course, still single, and can’t figure out why her romantic liaisons go so terribly awry — until she begins to look critically at “the one that got away”. Leah’s best friend (Jessica) and singing coach (Gabriel) are working through some similar issues of their own, and while all three interact with a host of uniquely realistic supporting characters, they each learn to face their own issues and grow by supporting one another.

Script-wise, this is a fascinating, round story for three people. It’s richer, more nuanced, and more deeply contextualized than most book musicals – the writers demand the audience’s attention and insists we engage with what’s happening on stage (or be hopelessly lost). It’s the most vulnerable script I’ve seen, perhaps ever, and I yearned for each character to find his or her way to happiness almost from each moment of introduction. I hovered on the cliff’s edge of tears for recognized pain for more than half of the first act and a good chunk of the second.

That said, it’s a work in progress and that shows. In particular, the script is fat in a few places, while the transitions into and out of the scenes involving Jessica’s infertility are too thin to deliver the story in a satisfying way. Predictably, there are moments where the action drags.

The score is pop music, sometimes leaning toward rock, at others distilling to a light folk sound, and occasionally opening up to the rawness of a soul lyric. The first two songs are a little underwhelming, but the third — written and sung by lawyer-Leah — and those that follow deliver — albeit without the romantic musical theater sound and reprises that allow for an audience to walk out humming. Because they’re so thoughtfully woven into the story, I imagine that the right band (rather than merely a piano and a six-string) would provide a fabulous show.

If a show is a garment, this one needs some alterations, and some of the visible stitching needs to be properly masked. But this is a project to watch, and support, and wait for.

(And if you’re in midtown right now, head to the Roy Arias Studios (300 W 43rd Street) and snag a ticket for the 7pm reading.)