34th Street

November and December are busy, stress-filled work times for fundraisers and liturgical musicians. To combat the anxiety of too-much-to-do-and-not-enough-time, I’m going to make it a point to note the coalescing points of sweetness that inspire feelings of happiness or appreciation of beauty. Because the little moments matter.


The sweetest holiday display that I’ve seen in NYC so far is “Yes, Virginia” in the windows at Macy’s. I pause each morning in my commute to peek at the cheerful, vintage-y colors and rich details, relishing the story and not feeling compelled to shop.

The easternmost window in the current Macy's display

Virginia and the bearded man

Closing Out the 31 Days, 31 Ways Challenge

October ended a week ago, with a bit of a whimper; I spent the last week of it (and the first in November) working 10 to 12 hours at a clip, on top of the 4 hours of commuting each day.

I didn’t want to comb my hair, let alone pick out cute clothes; while I did do both daily, I didn’t take a single photo, and I don’t feel a bit badly about that.

What I’ve Learned
The experience of being intentional with what I wear did open my eyes to a few things:

1. I have a healthier body image than I thought. I’m physically heavier than I was a year or two ago, but until I was intentionally dressing to create different silhouettes, I didn’t realize that the weight is from increased density rather than increased mass. Wow are my legs strong. And wow, I can lift things with my arms and shoulders and legs that I couldn’t have budged a year ago. And yes, I want to figure out some simple exercises for my obliques and glutes, but I’m not a candidate for The Biggest Loser.

2. I have really nice clothes. I am incredibly fortunate to have beautiful, well-made, good-fitting clothes in my closet – far more than I need. I have a new appreciation for my “haves” now. I also took a good look at pieces I haven’t worn in the last year+ and brought a big bag of interview- and work-appropriate clothes to Big Brothers Big Sisters on Saturday, where I hope some young lady will feel good and capable and prepared for the world in them.

3. I am not allowing myself to purchase anything black or gray for the next six months. The best, most frequently worn pieces I have are all black, charcoal, or dove colored. I like them very much, but found myself reaching constantly for the same few pieces to brighten them: a green blazer, a mustard handbag, a purple scarf, a teal-and-navy print blouse, blue suede shoes. If I do decide to shop for anything new, I’ll look for more colors, retro prints, and fabric with beautiful drape.

4. Getting dressed can be fun.
I will never be a fashion-addict, and I’m never really going to care about the objective/subjective merits of one style over another. But there is something delightful about pulling garments out of drawers or closets and putting them on together to see what happens. It’s like painting with color and texture and light and shadow through fabric, with my body as both backdrop and canvas. It’s a little freeing. And it’s fun.

I’ll probably never do something like this again. And I’ll probably stop pinning outfit ideas to Pinterest (though that can be a really good way to pass time on a crowded train, so we’ll see). But I’m glad to have completed the month.

Outfit Post #3 (31 Days 31 Ways)

For this week, I set myself the challenge of building outfits from my closet inspired by ones I’ve pinned, and then adding a little something “extra”.

Monday
Inspired by a fairly classic but disheveled look, I put together a base of skinny black pants, a blue button down, and a camel-colored sweater, then added leg warmers and calf-high boots, a printed scarf tied shawl-style, and a stacked/beaded bracelet. With my forest green corduroy swing coat and oxblood leather handbag, it was a terrific outfit.
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Tuesday
I had intended to build a skirt outfit on Tuesday, but the cold and the fact that my purple shoes and sweater vest are packed somewhere made for an on the fly readjustment in the morning. Based on another simple outfit, I swapped the pencil skirt for pinstripe trousers, added an all over patterned button down, and topped that with a short-sleeved cashmere sweater and a denim jacket. It’s been more than a bit chilly so I added a woven cowl and a pair of crocheted fingerless gloves, with gray loafers.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo snapped.

Wednesday
My pinspiration on Wednesday came directly from Caitlin at GTR. Her beige sweater and olive pants tugged at my memory of a beautiful, hand-painted belt I bought in Budapest. I rarely wear belts outside of waistband loops, so this belted sweater look is outside my comfort zone. I like it – moreso after I figured out how to loop the belt backwards through the buckle to keep it in place.

The whole outfit consists of khakis, a long-sleeved white tee, the Allende sweater from Elizabeth & Clarke, leather walking shoes, the Hungarian belt, and teapot earrings made by my Nana. And the coral-colored socks from lands end, because they always make me smile.
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Thursday
I despise logo t-shirts. With a fiery passion that should be reserved for far more important things, but there it is. I am incredibly offended by the idea that a human being should be a walking advertisement, and the more respect I have for the organization whose logo is on the shirt, the more ragey I get when required to wear one.

Thursday, I worked late at a phenomenal event for Covenant House, which I loved, but had to wear a custom printed t-shirt in order to do so. I thought it might be helpful to build an outfit around the shirt so I wouldn’t dread changing into it at 5 – a logo tee with jeans and a blazer. I was so, so wrong – took the tops off after three minutes and replaced them with a simple navy and white jersey stripe and a knit wrap with sleeves and a tie-able, drape-able front. The hated tee went on in between the other layers at the last possible second.

This photo was taken at 1:30 in the morning when I arrived home, the striped tee just peeks out from under the screen-printed one on the right side.
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Friday
After the super-late Thursday and a full weekend, I don’t recall what I wore on Friday. Instead, I give you a Sunday outfit: jeans, striped tee, navy blazer, ankle boots, and silver earrings – what I wore for my first sweater-knitting class yesterday morning.
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Outfit Post #2 (31 Days, 31 Ways)

So, week two of the challenge was far more successful in choosing clothes — I spent very little time and felt fabulous every day — but far less successful in the taking of photos. For a few reasons:

  • It’s now dark when I leave for work in the morning, and dark when I leave the office for the train home. I’m a terrible wimp at getting out of bed when there isn’t even a hint of light glimmering through the window, so He’s not had even thirty seconds of spare time to snap my photo in the morning.
  • Weekends this month have been swamped with renovations and travel — which means that I’m either reusing outfits I created during the week to make myself presentable for family and friends, or wearing my oldest, ill-fitting jeans and ratty t-shirts to scrub out the fireplace and chimney/pull things out of crawl spaces.

I’m not displeased with this state of affairs in terms of my life, but it does make the “progress reporting” a little less than terrific. So, here goes — four outfits new for this week.

Tuesday

I stayed late at the office on Tuesday, putting some extra hours in on a big project, since time would be tight later in the week. Comfort for productivity was paramount, so I opted for cozy pieces:

  • Gap khaki Chinos with a brown leather belt
  • Audrey Hepburn-inspired ballet tee
  • My favorite cardigan (similar)
  • Veyla fingerless gloves
  • Trainers

Wednesday

Wednesday involved a full day with lots of meetings, dinner with a friend who had quite a lot of news to share, a many-hours long music rehearsal, and then a drive that meant sleep happened some time after midnight. Comfort and solid footwear were a must again.

Thursday

Thursday was my first public performance in 15 years, singing with a group of wonderful performers at a cabaret in uptown Manhattan. It was also pouring down rain when I woke up, necessitating a quick shift from the cocktail-dress-plus-suit-jacket I had planned to wear.

I really love the way the wrap top fit snugly over the flowing tunic; I pushed up the black sleeves and then rolled/pinned the purple cuffs to elbow length.

Friday

After a week of long hours, Friday was reserved for date night: a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, light Mexican fare for dinner, and the viewing of a new musical at the Brookyln Historical Society with my favorite guy. (Forgive the terrible expression on my face — the construction dust was flying!)

  • Gap 1969 jeans
  • Rose-colored tank
  • Gray shawl-collar sweater
  • Sanne Kalkman’s Percy shawl in lilac cashmere, tied as a scarf inside the sweater
  • Trainers (I *really* need to find my fall walking shoes, wherever they’re hiding in storage during renovation!)

If you’re interested in this project, head on over to Greater Than Rubies and see who else is linking up, and how they’re interpreting the challenge.

Climbing the fire escape in Francis

Outfit Post #1 (31 Days, 31 Ways)

The remix challenge has been both interesting and challenging, though not in the expected ways. I had a few twists thrown in due to real life:

  • Our home is under renovation and October became “rip apart the upstairs” month.
  • In the hurry to prepare, I rather haphazardly put half of my clothes (including most of my shoes and nearly all of my accessories) in temporary storage.
  • All of the mirrors in the house have either been removed or are sized such that they reflect just 1/3 of my frame.

These circumstances have required that I piece together outfits by color, pattern, and feel — and then trust that they’ll be okay, since I don’t know what they look like until after each morning’s photo shoot — reviewed while aboard the train bound for my office. If something didn’t work, it was way too late to change it!

This turned out to be quite freeing. Surprisingly so. For which I’m grateful and a little bit humbled — I’m actually spending a lot *less* time thinking about clothes, choosing outfits, and trying things on than I ever did before.


The outfits.

1. Wednesday

On Wednesday, I had an ordinary day at work planned, followed by a full evening at home. I wore a pair of Gap chinos (gray), with a tie-neck blouse in navy and teal and a navy schoolboy blazer — finished off with black patent flats and a black belt. I was focused on defining the waist of a flowing top.

2. Thursday

Thursday was an extra-long work day followed by a long walk home from the train station while He was at work. I wore a pair of black/gray pinstriped trousers with a pink and white gingham checked button down, my gray Nada te Turbe handknit shawl and a denim jacket as the completer piece. I wore trainers for the walk and switched to my favorite soft leather loafers (gray, from Børn) in the office. I was focused on mixing patterns.

3. Friday

Friday is casual in my office, and was the start of a weekend getaway that includes 2 hours on a train and 2 in a car. Focusing on comfort, I wanted to try dressing down a piece I usually treat as formal, so wore my favorite jeans (Gap, 1969 boot cut) with a lacy top extender under a drape-necked shell that is usually reserved for my favorite suit. I topped it with my most comfortable sweater — a somewhat clingy cardigan with a hood and great drape in oatmeal and gold. Trainers for the trip, ankle boots in the office.

4. Saturday

For a season-opening gala at a beloved regional theater, I wore long, sleek, charcoal-colored trousers, a slightly sheer white blouse dotted with black and gray hearts over a rose-colored camisole, and a knee-length belted black vest with ankle boots and sparkly earrings.

5. Sunday

Sunday’s outfit has no photo. I was at home working on the house all day, so tried out the “make a cuff” prompt by rolling a pair of straight leg, slim cut jeans worn with a boat neck white tee and my favorite cardigan. I hated every second of having the cuffed pants on my body – even after unrolling them. After sticking it out for three hours, I spent the rest of the day in flannel pajamas!

6. Monday

I fared better on Monday. With a full day of work followed by an evening of cabaret dinner theater on the schedule, I opted for a pair of black CK skinnies with black riding boots, a charcoal-and-cream striped tee, a teal scarf, and an evergreen-colored wool blazer that has been heavily tailored to fit me well. I wore the blazer open without the scarf at work, and felt great all day.

7. Tuesday

Tuesday was a long day of work, and comfort was paramount. I tried a few Pinterest combinations that I’ve seen but never tried — a long-sleeved top (black) under a short-sleeved, knee-length dress (red) and ankle boots (black). I added a denim jacket since it was quite chilly, but will definitely return to this outfit – with or without the topper.


Verdicts:

  • Tight pant cuffs aren’t for me.
  • I’ll try combining a regular pattern (pinstripes) with a slightly less regular one (think paisley or floral rather than gingham) next time.
  • Structured tops combined with slim bottoms are beautiful.
  • Dressing up or down a single piece is much easier than I thought.

Here’s to round two!