Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day Fourteen: Dressing for Myself (and the dogs, of course)

Trying to get this draft of my WIP done in the next couple weeks, so I expect I'll have a lot of casual days coming up. I do work better when I'm dressed. And it's nice to be able to go out for a spontaneous lunch date and not have to wear a ball cap and trenchcoat.

Monday's ensemble:

I was excited about this one because I think it looks cute and modern, but casual and comfy, too.

The hoodie is a light, cotton ribknit with extended bands on the sleeves and snaps up the front. The handwarmer pocket is kind of dorky, but it works okay. I tried a black Norma Kamali tank beneath it, but it didn't look right. The gray hoodie looked disembodied over it. So the tank is actually a charcoal gray heather. Shorts are black cotton with 1-inch bands around the legs (not tight at all), pockets, and a drawstring waist.

I first thought to just put these sandals with it. Seemed natural.

But I really wanted to wear these since I didn't get to wear them Sunday. They looked great, I think, and gave the outfit a little style. The dogs seemed to appreciate it anyway.

Jewelry: Simple silver posts. (Had to take them out after dinner because they started to itch my earlobes. Hypo-allergenic doesn't necessarily mean all-day wearable.

Overall: It was fun to feel comfortably stylish while I hung out at home, making up stuff. Faded Glory gray hoodie: $10; Norma Kamali Shorts: $10; Miley tank: $6; Norma Kamali flats: $20 Earrings: $5 (I think) Total: $51

Tuesday I was Field Trip Mom. Visited the DuQuion State Fairgrounds all day. Will let you know what I came up with tomorrow.

Next Week: Southern Festival of Books panel with fabulous thriller-writer chicks J.T. Ellison and Meredith Cole. First professional appearance in a Walmart ensemble. Nervous much?!

Thanks for hanging in there with me. Your support for this wacky project means a lot!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day Thirteen: Is That Me Disguised as a Sitcom Granny?

Forty-seven is an awkward age. I'm about the same age as Felicity Huffman, Demi Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ally Sheedy, and Marcia Cross. It's not realistic to compare myself to these professionally beautiful women, I know. I'm also the same age as:

But I can't sing like she does. Not even close.

I don't want to look like a teenager, or even a twenty-five year-old. I certainly don't want to look like one of The Golden Girls, either. (Stylish as they were/are.)

Things I avoid: miniskirts, Converse, too-graphic tees, pirate insignia, too much cleavage, capri pants, sensible shoes, patchwork, caftans, bright pink polyester, lap rugs and housedresses.

Sunday's Ensemble:

I love the print on the skirt, especially the subtle color combination. It hits just above the knee.


I lightened up the detail on the linen shirt so you could see the cut-out detail on the front. The black tank was only moderately successful. It's cheaply made, and the fabric has very little body to it. I found myself having to adjust it because it kept sagging to reveal the top of my black bra.

My issue with the linen shirt: It looked just plain frumpy without the tank beneath it, despite its snappy mandarin collar. Its straight hem indicates that it's meant to be worn untucked, which is fine for some. I confess that I think a shirt needs to have some shape or very interesting movement and detail to be worn out, or it ends up looking sloppy. (Depends on one's body shape, too.) This shirt also needed to remain unbuttoned--a look that feels awkward for me.

These ladies look fab, but I'd just as soon wait 20-30 years to emulate their style. (Well, except for Bea Arthur who always looked fierce and totally sophisticated in her appearance photos.)

(photo via TVLand)

Shoes: My mom found these Norma Kamalis at a Walmart near Cincy (thanks, Mom!). I wanted to wear them, but they just didn't work. Too contemporary for the outfit, and too much shoe for the linen/cotton combo. Don't you love them, though?!

I chose to go with these--again, not so obviously shiny in person. Their light color kept the attention from my feet, though they're not quite nude against my skin.

Overall: 2.5/5 points for classic style elements and color combination.

White Stag Linen Shirt: $12; George Cotton skirt: $7 clearance ($16); Faded Glory cotton tank: $5; Shoes: $7 clearance ($11); 10K Gold hoop/dolphin earrings $30 clearance ($40); No Boundaries bangle: $8 (part of set)   Total: $69

Note: Bea was definitely my favorite Golden Girl, but I'd rather have Betty White as my grandma. You?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Twelve: A Rough and Tumble, Three-Quarters Kind of Day

Saturday was Soccer Mom Day. It's tough to get out of bed and roll out to the soccer field on the only day of the week we might sleep in. But I love watching the games. I confess that after Bengal did a quarter-long stint as goalie (his first, and they only scored twice on him! : ), my attention was drawn to the 4 year-olds playing on the tiny field behind me. They didn't run after the ball--they swarmed it. The parent coaches were having a hard time not laughing. It reminded me of my daughter's fourth birthday when we had a pinata, but it was too rainy to go outside. Nineteen four year-olds attacked the doll pinata on the floor--It was like a scene from that ancient film Gremlins.

Too fun!

What I wore:

The shorts look a little washed-out here because there wasn't much natural light--but they're still dark brown. I still have an issue with the faux cargo pocket. I keep unsnapping the flap to try to put stuff in it. Like the shirt a lot. It's a rich navy. Ribbed, v-neck. Very flattering. Had to wear a belt to keep the shorts up. They're a Juniors' eleven and a tad big. But the fit is okay below the waist.

Faded Glory shirt: $8; L.E.I. Shorts: $7 (clearance from $13?); Dr. Scholl Brown flipflop sandals: $13; Beige pearl Earrings: $7 (part of $20 set of 3); George Necklace: $7 (part of set)  Total: $34

This is a transitional look--so glad summer is almost gone. Still a little worried that it's going to be a cooooold winter in my Walmart clothes. I'm thinking field trip to Sam's Club....

Day Eleven: The LBD Test

What's that? A social-ish event flickering in the dim, distant lights of Carbondale, Illinois? Most of my socializing takes place when I'm on the road touring or attending publishing/writing conferences. But sometimes a girl needs to shake off the day-to-day housebound writer blues and spend time with dear girlfriends close to home.

Through the devices of my nine year-old son, who has a charming passion for country music, I've made friends at--and even appeared on--WDDD, an area radio station. Their mother corp. is one of the sponsors of an annual charity wine tasting/Little Black Dress party. So off I went in my Walmart finest.

I wrote an update on my Norma Kamali post, explaining how dumb I felt when I realized I hadn't figured out that her batwing dress is actual this fabulous All-In-One-Jersey-Dress.

(Photo from Walmart site)

I'm a little slow sometimes. But I finally figured out that the model pictured six times on the tag wasn't wearing six different dresses--just a single dress.

I tried wearing it every way pictured, and most of them looked pretty good. Only one version made me look like I was being strangled.

So, here I am after I got home. (As usual, I was running late out the door, and so didn't get one before the party.)

I was pretty pleased with the overall look. Like the feel and weight of the fabric. Was delighted with the way the hemline looked straight despite the fact that I had the dress's sleeves (!) tied around my neck. It's a fairly amazing dress--especially given that it cost me only $20.

Drawbacks--I felt a little self-conscious about the way the sleeve seams were exposed--though they were more prominent when the dress was tied another way. The good news is that the dress is unlikely to be worn beneath harsh, revealing light.

The other issue is specific to me. Given that I'm only 5'5" and short-waisted (too few inches between the bottom of my ribcage and the top of my hips), I really need a dress with some slight asymmetrical definition in the waist area. I felt a tad rectangular in this incarnation--but not so much that it bugged me.

If I could have improved on two things, they would've been the jewelry and the bag. Style is definitely in the details, don't you think?

But in all I count the outfit a success.

Shoes: Also Kamali. Simple black patent slingbacks with a small heel. Love them!
Jewelry: Wide silver bangle, crystal and faux pearl studs, silver necklace with hanger.
Bag: This cracks me up. Just try to find an evening bag at Walmart. I finally ended up in the wallets. Bought this one in copper. It's nice and long and has two old-fashioned knobby clasps that open into long change pockets. It can be laid open to expose slots for credit cards/license as well. I was able to fit all this inside: lipstick, phone, two tissues, various cards and a comb.

Totals: Norma Kamali All-In-One-Jersey Dress $20 (now $24 online); Norma Kamali black patent slingbacks $20; Bag: $10; George Necklace $7; White Stag Earrings $4; No Boundaries bracelet: $8 (part of a set w/ thin bangles); Plain Black Wrap $3 (Clearance from $7)   All: $72

Here are a couple photos from the party. From left to right: Karla, Hope, me. (The first pic is for Michelle Gibson, who styles our hair. We love you, Michelle!)

All I can say is "whew." Glad I made it through. I confess I was worried. I probably wouldn't have bought a new dress for this event. I have a really lovely long, cotton halter dress that I bought at a boutique in Roanoke, VA. I've only worn it once, so far. Guess it will be another year before I can again.

A special welcome to my new followers. I love having you along!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day Ten: One of Those Days

Did you ever have one of those days when you got up and put workout clothes on, then didn't work out, but spent all day looking like you did?

Still hate this jacket, but it's cozy when the a/c's on.

$12 Danskin Shoes. Haven't done anything high impact, but fine for walking and Wii Active at home. Insides are made of recycled plastic bottles (!)

Total: Danskin Top: $8; Danskin Long Shorts $8-ish; Jacket $3; Shoes $12; Hanes socks from pack of 6: $1    For all: $32

Tomorrow: Photos of the LBD girls' night out and the dress--Hope you're having a great weekend!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day Nine: It's the Little Things

May I vent?

I'm no laundry goddess. I wash. I dry. I fold. I rarely iron. Actually, I don't even use the dryer that much. I hate it when things shrink.

I have an aunt and uncle who are so dedicated about making their clothes last a long time that they hang up pretty much all of their clothes to dry in the basement. Being fairly conscientious about making clothes last myself, I hang up things in my laundry room. (I've been looking for an automatic clothesline that's longer than nine feet for my deck/backyard. There's none to be found out here on the prairie, oddly enough. Not even at the Rural King.)

I was dismayed to discover that I'd accidentally put one of my favorite new tee shirts in the dryer. This  gray one:

Already, it was a Medium in juniors, so it was smallish on me. Now it would be tight even on my nine year-old. Ugh.

Then, as I was sorting laundry, looking at tags, I discovered that my fun new Norma Kamali athletic dress is 60/40 cotton/poly. Don't know why I didn't notice that before--probably because I bought it online, rather than in a store. Cotton/poly blends don't shrink a lot, but they have a tendency to pill. (I owned a clothes shaver once. A clever toy, but useless.)I don't want to take a chance that the Kamali stuff will pill or shrink--I want it to last!

Almost all the Wal-Mart clothes I've bought thus far will require special treatment to make it through the year. I have to hang up pretty much everything except, perhaps, blue jeans, pajamas, and workout wear.

A day or two ago, I posted a pic of me in my new red rain boots. I didn't mention that I had bought a fabulous new pair of Hunter Wellies just the week before I decided to take on this insane project. I've had a fun pair of blue patterned wellies from Lands' End for several years, but I was ready for something new. For me, wellies aren't just a fashion statement.

This is where I spend much of my time

mucking about with the dogs. And we have long periods of rain, and this:

Things get messy.

Let's compare: (Hrothgar will help!)

On the left, the $25 Wal-Mart slick red rubber rain boots. Cute. Sturdy. But way too short to be desirable unless you're nine. (They reach almost to my son's knees.) On the right, the $110 Hunter Wellies. I so want to wear these boots! To walk the dogs, to pick up the boy at school, to go for coffee. I know it sounds silly to pine over a pair of boots that I could take out of the box and put on right now--but it's small things like lovable rubber boots that come together to create one's personal style.

Wednesday's ensemble:

It was a writing/errand sort of day. Damp. Blue jeans were in order.


These are the lighter wash jeans. Again with the decor on the back pockets. Can't be helped. This brand fits better than the Lee jeans and we're not even going to talk about the L.E.I. jeans. Yes, that's the same style shirt as the one that shrank. I have a red one, too. Choices are very, very limited at the mother ship. The brown gladiator sandals were good with this, though I would've liked to have something with a little height. I'm getting very bored with the brown pleather necklace and bronze pendant. *yawn* I picked up an three-pair assortment of cultured pearl single earrings the other day, but I'm apparently too lazy to photograph them today.

Total:  Faded Glory blue jeans: $15; Miley Cyrus/Max Azria tee $8; L.E.I. gladiator sandals $11 (clearance); necklace: $7; earrings $4  (3 pairs/$12)   Together: $45 (Are you seeing a trend here, too?)

Major challenge tomorrow. Attending a Little Black Dress fundraiser with girlfriends. Two choices: the Norma Kamali batwing dress in black ($20), or the George sheath ($16).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Eight: Laura Goes Kamali

My ginormous box of Norma Kamali for Wal-Mart clothes arrived on Friday. I wouldn't let myself open it until I got my fiction word count done for the day because I have such powerful self-discipline (Read: brutal masochistic streak). Spent a delicious hour on Sunday trying on clothes and flinging them about the living room.

Norma Kamali became famous for her sleeping bag coats and swimsuits in the late seventies. In the eighties, when I was working for the Mega Beer Company , I owned an aubergine Kamali or Kamali-inspired batwing dress that I adored. (I have a slide of me wearing it, but I have no idea how to turn it into a digital file.) It looked something like this, only in wool jersey and not so tent-like. I wore a pair of 3-inch, matching snakeskin-patterned strappy sandals with it. Kamali's styles are classic in their simplicity. Given that the eighties are rearing their padded shoulders back into contemporary fashion, I'm not surprised that her aesthetic is current once again. (BTW--if you are a strong-shouldered girl like me, don't even think about getting trendy with big, padded shoulders. You will look like a linebacker and scare small children on the street. Just saying....)

I bought Kamali's latest incarnation of the batwing dress in Wine and Black.Tried to find a picture online, but the dresses must have flown off the shelves at the warehouse.  Can't decide if I'm going to keep them. DH says they look too bag-like for his taste. I put a wide black belt on the Wine dress, but it spoiled the lines. We'll see. I'll post a picture if I wear it.


From the I-swear-my-IQ-is-bigger-than-my-dress-size department: All week I thought that the pics on  the batwing dress hangtag were other  dresses available in the Kamali line. Turns out that the dress is actually her All-In-One-Jersey Dress, and it can be worn six or seven different ways. It's amazing! So glad I bought it in wine as well.

Other goodies: Strapless jersey dress, a boyfriend slouchy jacket (like a sportcoat, narrow, rounded lapels), several pairs of leggings (more on that later), a couple of cute tees, and something called an athletic dress.

Most of the Kamali stuff I bought is for travel and writers' conferences. Black is the dominant color. I like color, but black is so easy. I've tried to season my new purchases with a few jewel-tone accent pieces. (Did anyone else think this year's Emmy red carpet solid, jewel-tone dresses were tasteful but boring?)

Tuesday's ensemble:

Not quite Kamali from head-to-toe, but close. Now, being well over the age of twenty-five, I'm skeptical about wearing leggings. I did the leggings thing in both the eighties and the mid-nineties. My seventeen year-old daughter looks adorable in a mini skirt w/ leggings--I at least have enough dignity not to even try. So, dress it is.

I wish I'd shot the dress zipped up a bit--that's how I wore it, with the blue&black rose peeking out. Because it's such a casual outfit, I didn't want to load it down with jewelry. I just wore a pair of thin silver hoop earrings and no necklace.

Dr. Scholl's black sandals:

Try to ignore the strange white advertising all over the footbed. I expect it will wear off. Speaking of wearing off--we've had a lot of rain recently and I had to walk through the damp grass at my son's soccer game. About the middle of the game, I looked down to see that both of my feet had dirty black stripes across their tops. (Yes, I had slipped my sandals off. Always do. Please never look underneath the table if we're having
dinner together.) Funny, that dye never rubs off of my Donald Pliners.

NKAthletic Dress $18; NK Leggings $10; NK Tank/Tee $6;  Shoes $13; Earrings $12 (?) Total: $46

BTW--When did Zappos dot com start selling dresses?!

(not sure who to credit for the Norma Kamali pic--via here)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day Seven: Estee and Me--Codependent Forever?**

I miss my makeup.

I miss my Estee Lauder Individualist Foundation in Ivory Beige.
I miss my Estee Lauder Dual Finish Powder in Matte Buff II.
I miss my rainbow of free EL & Lancome gift eyeshadow shades in their tiny, jewel-like containers.
I miss my Dior Concealer. (The best ever.)
I miss my Automatic Lip Pencil Duo.
I really, really miss my LancĂ´me CILS BOOSTER XL Super-Enhancing Mascara Base (Have I mentioned that I'm eyelash-challenged?)

And, of course, there's my Lancome Definicils Mascara.
Oh, oh, and my EL Pure Color Crystal Lipstick in Tiramisu.

There's more, but I think you get the idea.

I'm aware that department-store cosmetics are kind of a rip-off. They use more expensive fragrances and packaging and advertising than the drugstore/discount store brands. They make an elaborate show of "giving away" tons of product to justify charging exorbitant prices for their goods. Many women swear by their $85 per .5 oz moisturizers and anti-aging products, but, really, how exceptional can they be?  I truly can't imagine anything more effective on my (very) sensitive skin than Nivea's Q10 Night Cream (now discontinued, the bastards) and Eucerin's Daily Moisturizer with 30 spf for daytime. (Sunscreen. Use it. Now.)

I used the Clinique system of soap, toner, moisturizer for years until I finally realized that it no longer suited my skin. I was addicted.

But I think that I'm most attracted to the luxury of it all. It's so nice to be fussed over by a well-groomed, amusing person who smells pretty. Even though they're just trying to sell product, I'm willing to buy into their act of faux intimacy. Even faux intimacy is, well, intimate. Sometimes there's even gentle piano music in the background. And the cases and brushes and bottles have an appealing weight to them. One doesn't have the sense that, if they're dropped, some plastic bits will come off and they will never work again. When I'm sitting on that cushy, tall, stool, I just have the feeling that I'm a grownup and that no matter what's happening outside those revolving or ridiculously wide double glass doors--disaster, storm, economic catastrophe, famine, or revolution--all will be well. At least for that particular twenty minutes.

That was then.

Here's what I bought last week at the Mother Ship:

I think I spent an hour in the Wal-Mart makeup aisles. Revlon, Wet 'n Wild, Physician's Formula, L'Oreal, Almay, Neutrogena, Max Factor. (Max Factor invented the first motion picture makeup, makeup for b&w film, pancake makeup and, believe it or not, lipgloss.) It was extremely frustrating because I couldn't sample anything at all. Things I bought and had to take back: Physician's Formula Tinted Moisturizer (looked like industrial makeup you put over scars--plus, it made me break out) and Revlon Color Stay Powder (too thick). Pleasant surprises: The Wet 'n Wild eyebrow pencil in Light and L'Oreal's Double Extend Mascara that includes a separate base. I also exchanged the PF Moisturizer for  Cover Girl brand "Aqua" Tinted Moisturizer. Much better than I expected and wears well.

The lipstick was just plain weird. It's Physician's Formula, and it promises to "plump" one's lips. I'm not sure how it does this....All I know is that it made my lips tingle unpleasantly.

Note: WM will take back opened makeup. If you don't have the original box, you can get one off of the shelf so they can use the number on it.

In all, I spent about $65 on makeup. That would've purchased two bottles of moisturizer at Estee Lauder.  We shall see....

Last thing:

I did get dressed on Monday! I don't know why, but I enjoyed wearing this outfit (much cuter on): Faded Glory Denim Skirt $5 (lighter version of Saturday's) Faded Glory pullover white, white vneck shirt $8; brown pleather necklace w/ bronze pendant $7 (no earrings because I didn't want to wear matchy ones) ; Dr. Scholl tan thong sandals ($13 clearance); Faded Glory belt ($8). Total: About $41

I love bright white with denim. The whole out fit is very American, Ralph Lauren Lifestyl-ish.

Remind me to tell you about the creepy couple in the shoe dept., Norma Kamali, and the rub-off black dye!

**Note to Clair: It should technically read: "Estee and I." Yes? But I needed the rhyme. Dispensation please?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day Six: Shoes Become an Issue and What Should One Wear to Clean Gutters?

Finally! A reason to get a little dressed up. I'll put church in the Parent/Social category. First off--let me just tell you that I arrive late for everything. I was born a week after my due date and I haven't yet caught up. I have no doubt that I'll be late for my own funeral. And Sunday is one of those days when I luxuriate in not having to get up at the crack of birds to toss children out the door at 7:30. So I exercise, feed the birds, eat breakfast sitting down, la la la...Then it's a mad dash in and out of the shower and a quick faceful of makeup and I'm off.

Church clothes are usually easy: many are drycleanable, which means they're hanging all neat and tidy in the closet. This week, I had fresh, new clothes. That helped. But I didn't have shoes to co-ordinate with the cute print skirt and black linen shirt I planned to wear. The gladiator sandals were--oh, I don't know--too bondage-ish for church and looked dumb with flowers. There went ten minutes I didn't have.

I went with a paler option: coral, tan and ivory skirt, plain ivory shirt and bronze sandals. Worked pretty well.

Sorry about the photo. I put a jacket (which I didn't wear) behind the scoop-neck top so it wouldn't get lost on the door. How cute is the skirt?! I love the color combination and the hand of the fabric is quite soft and the copper/tan color has a bit of sheen to it.

Shoes: Went with these. The fit is just as sloppy as the pewter pair.

They aren't as shiny as they look here. I'm not much of a photographer anyway--but I'm even worse when I'm taking pics on the fly when I'm already late.

Went with the bronze version of the matching disc/earring set. Cute. But I still can't bring myself to wear a perfectly matched earring/necklace combo. Ew. So I was light on jewelry, but I think the outfit came off well.

Total: White Stag Cotton Scoopneck shirt: (I think it was $8 not on sale); George skirt: $7 (clearance from $16) Earrings: $7 (partial) Shoes: $7 (clearance)  All: $29

This was my first Sunday at church since the beginning of the project. I can't tell you what a hard time I got from two of my good friends there--each of them has a wonderful sense of style. They're excited about the project, but teased me to no end about not getting my hair cut and colored at Wal-Mart. (I've already explained why I won't do this in The Completely Arbitrary Rules post....and I'm NOT changing my mind! : )

And now for the gutter-cleaning portion of the program.

I have a House date with my sweetie starting now, so let me explain it this way:

Big rainstorm.
Clogged gutters.
House on slab.
Flooding child's room.
5:45 meeting in town for which I have to be dressed.

Here I am about to go and do my thing. (Branda, this picture is for you.) And there was no way I was going to pose for this picture with the shower cap on. The hood covered it fully when I was out-of-doors. Small mercies....

Picked up the raincoat at Sam's after church. Black, single-breasted trench. Just what I needed! $29.95. (Why WM doesn't have raincoats, I don't know. I learned today that they no longer carry slips. Weird.)
Bought the boots a week ago--$22. Worth it. Charming if a couple inches too short to be cool.

I'm sure the shower cap came from Wal-Mart. Definitely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day Five: Overdressed at the Festival

Saturday was a perfect day to throw on a pair of hiking shorts, flip flops, a tee-shirt, hat, plus plenty of sunblock, and run out the door with the kids to do something fun. Gorgeous sky, 75 degrees, and sunny, sunny, sunny. The town of Murphysboro that's just up the road from us has its annual Apple Festival every September and we haven't missed the parade since we moved here over three years ago.

It's a great festival and parade, with tons of personality. Finally, this year, I remembered to take a folding chair, which made it even better.

After the previous day's shorts fiasco--and faced with no clean shorts at all--I settled on a skirt I'd bought at WM on Thursday.

Here's the ensemble:

This marbled (better word for it than heathered) gray tee is one of my favorite new purchases--despite the fact that it bears a Miley Cyrus/Maxx Azria label. Unfortunately, I could only get it in small, when I'm more comfortable in a medium. The shoulders were fine, but my cleavage looked a little, uh, squeezed. And not in a good way.

The skirt is dark indigo denim, which I like a lot. It's a ten, and stretchy, so it's on the biggish side. Will wash and try to shrink it a bit.

Now, I had to tuck in this shirt. It still feels strange to be doing that again. Back in the late eighties, when I was a skinny thing, one of my favorite looks was a fine cashmere sweater tucked into gray flannels pants. Sadly, the whole childbearing thing ruined most tuck-in possibilities.

Both on Saturday and Sunday, I kept hoping that I had already purchased a darling pair of black flat sandals and just hidden them away to surprise myself. Alas, I hadn't. Had to go with the pewter/silver sandals I wore on Thursday. They didn't match the black belt, but I just had to relax my standards. They're getting looser and looser--Soon they'll be like clown shoes on my feet, darn it. Plus, I'm vehemently opposed to wearing open shoes to fairs and festivals. Ew!


Details:  Miley tee: $8; Faded Glory Skirt $5 (clearance); Belt: $8; Earrings (silvertone--from the black leather necklace set); shoes--$7 (clearance) Total: About $20-$23.

I'm kind of shy about posting hundreds of random picutres of myself on the web. But I thought I'd give you a peek at what it looked like in, yes, the Wal-Mart dressing room. (The boy and I went there on a recon mission in the afternoon, of course) I confess that I felt VERY uneasy about having my outfit so matched-up.

I had to look pretty closely at the picture to see what happened to my left leg!

Next Post: Dress-up Day & Gutter maintenance in the rain. Good times!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day Four: The Secret Life of Writers

If you're a writer, co-habitate with a writer, have a writer in the family, or deliver packages, mail, food or subpoenas to writers, you already know what I'm about to tell you:

Sometimes writers don't get dressed. Sometimes we spend the day in our pjs. Sometimes we spend the day in our pjs until about five minutes before the kids (or spouse or parents) get home, then take a two-minute shower, throw on clothes and smell-pretty stuff and pretend we've been dressed all day. Sometimes we wait until two minutes before they get home, throw on extra smell-pretty stuff, and take comfort in the fact that we (probably) showered the previous day. Most of us remember to brush our teeth if things are going well.

Glamorous, huh?

There are times--conferences, booksignings, interviews--when we have to leave our hidey-holes, put on our writer suits, and pretend we're just like everyone else. I think that part is a lot of fun. Many writers do not. You'll recognize the men by the out-of-the-package, unironed creases on their dress shirts and the women by the way they seem a little unsteady on those 3.5" heels that looked SO cute at the store they stopped in on the way to the hotel, and the longing looks they give your Crocs or flip-flops.

I basically maintain 3 wardrobes (as most women do): Work (travel, signings, etc.), Parent/Social, and Sleeping/Exercising/Gardening, etc. (I used to maintain a fourth--Lingerie. But the lines are a little blurred these days and let's just say my unfailingly polite, longsuffering UPS man, Ron, probably knows more about me than he cares to.) This project is becoming progressively daunting given WM's narrow selection of clothes and categories.

It's the fallback, wear-at-home wardrobe that's been particularly challenging to build. I hate to spend money on hanging out clothes. There are just those days when I absolutely don't want to leave the house and I don't want to have to worry about doing the whole hair/makeup/dressed thing. It doesn't happen all that often. But now that I take pictures of what I wear each day, I'm feeling a tad self-conscious. It's like those studies from Psych 101 in which an experiment's outcomes are changed because the subjects know they're being observed. (Why do I suddenly feel like I'm in an old Twilight Zone episode?)

One of my lifestyle heroines, Marla Cilley at, insists that one should "get dressed to the shoes" on getting out of bed each morning. She has a point. Does your day go much more smoothly if you're, well, dressed? I know mine usually does.

Okay. I've delayed enough....

Thank goodness I don't have a picture of myself in this outfit!

You might recognize the shirt from...I think it was Day One. Only it's a different color. I have four of these shirts. Yes, four. (Told you the selection was slim!) I have two in 4/6 and two in 8/10. Neither fit great. But at $5 each, I can wear the worse-fitting ones on the days when getting dressed is an option. And it's not really the shirt that's a problem.

The shorts are very cute, and they fit reasonably well. They're just WAY too short. I bought two pair--they didn't seem so short in the dressing room. But once I put them on with the slightly-too-small-shirt, I felt very exposed. And not in a good way. They're not Daisy Dukes or anything like that. They just feel kind of tacky on my 40-something body. They're fine for the house and yard, but not picking up the kids at school or the grocery store. (Unless it's a run up to the 7-11 to get beer!)

Now, this is really embarrassing. I don't know why, but the material for this jacket reminds me an awful lot of a bathrobe I once bought my grandmother for Christmas. And once I got that image in my head, there was no dislodging it. You'll just have to imagine it topping the above outfit. I can't help it--I get COLD in the house as I sit on my giant exercise ball to write.  Maybe I am turning into my Grandma, bless her soul.

 (You can probably guess that it only cost $3)

Cost: Faded Glory Shirt (pea green) $5 (clearance); Short shorts, Faded Glory $5 (clearance); Danskin fleece jacket $3 (clearance)    Total: $13

And, no, I don't think I put shoes on all day. Needless to say, I didn't have to go to WM all day, either!

Next: Day Five: Overdressed at the Festival

P.S. I'm loving having followers--Thanks to everyone who put his or her smiling face on my front page. And secret thanks to the folks who want to remain a secret!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day Three: No Maternity Shirts, Please

At 2:00 Thursday morning, I was wandering around the house looking for this:

I was so excited to put up the site, that I completely forgot to plan for pajamas. Pajamas have always been an issue for me. Could have something to do with the way my mother loved to get my sisters and me into identical pajamas even though I was ten feet taller than either of them, and much older.

I have a 200 year-old dresser that's stuffed with jammies. But I couldn't touch them, no matter how much I wanted to. I finally decided on a tee shirt that I'd bought on my first WM shopping round. $3 Danskin with a leaping figure in tiny rhinestones. Everyone needs a tee shirt for gardening, right? Or cleaning toilets. Or sleeping. But it's short & I thought immediately of a pair of comfy cotton shorts that I got on Ocracoke Island eight years ago when I took the only solitary vacation I've taken in my adult life. (Gorgeous, peaceful, such a gift of a place with an amazing national preserve) A still, small voice inside me that definitely wasn't God whispered, "Go ahead. Put them on. No one will know. You'll sleep much more comfortably." I wrestled with that particular angel for twenty minutes. And it didn't win! I put on an extra pair of underwear and slept fine. Temptation is the worst.

Later in the day I found the pictured $3 sleep shirt (clearance) on top of Scout's kennel, covered up by the blanket we drape over his kennel at night. (He's noisy as a parrot when the sun comes up).

So, yesterday I had to make my fifth trip this week to the mother ship. I found 850 Op pj sets made for teenage elves who have no buttocks. And a similar number of pajamas that looked like wardrobe refugees for Roseanne, circa 1996.  While I was searching, I discovered the cutest little boy hiding behind a mirror desperately trying to open a much-handled package of regular M&Ms. I must have looked disapproving because he ran to his mother immediately. (Really, I couldn't disapprove. When the kids were little, I always opened graham crackers or PF Goldfish as we cruised the aisles, then paid for them at checkout. Kids get hungry!) Suffice it to say, I eventually dug up a couple more comfy tees and some sleep shorts that I can answer the door in if need be.

To the ensemble:

This was a tough one. The weather is still hot, but it threatened rain Thursday afternoon. Had to take the boy to soccer practice, then we went out for dinner. I didn't really want to wear jeans, but they were the best I could come up with.

I like the peasant-style top, but it was a tad sheer, so I put a tank underneath it. Two things about the top: I hate the ties at the 3/4 sleeve. One of the things that can mark an item as being of high quality is attractive detail. I get what they were trying to do here, but there's plenty of pintucking in the front of the shirt. I would've preferred a standard long sleeve that I could turn up a fold or two. (I don't usually wear 3/4 sleeves because I don't have much of a waist, and putting another horizontal line at waist-level just makes a wide-waisted person look wider.) Second thing--I felt like it looked like a maternity top. And I'm way too old for that look. It would've been nice to have a tie at the back to make it less blousey.

Probably would not have bought a similar-style shirt at another store. But it's something I can work with.

Like the tank. Great deep heathered gray color.

Not bad. Good fit. I like the deep blue color, which looks a tad dressier than regular denim blue. I'm not one for embellishments on pockets, but these aren't obnoxious. I washed and dried them first to shrink them a bit and they came out fine. Will probably hang them to dry in the future to preserve the color and texture.

Shoes: Still feeling limited in this department. I have my mom scouting Cincy Wal-Marts for cute ones. (Have I mentioned that all of our area Wal-Marts in Southern Illinois are of the lower-end variety? And that our Plus-Size departments are better-stocked than Misses? Hello, Wal-Mart? There are people of all sizes and tastes down here....)

I bought a pair of brushed silver and a pair of bronze sandals in this style. They're flat. Fit is kind of awkward and my feet tend to slide a bit in size 9. But my toes hung out in the 8.5s. No precision at all here. Cute, though. Understated.

Jewelry: Sterling silver hoops. The closure is very soft, bends too easily. I used the $2 silver slider on the black pleather necklace from Wednesday.

Haven't taken a picture of the black purse yet.

Cost: White Stag Blouse $5 (Orig $10); Miley Cyrus/Maxx Azria (who I keep confusing with Hank Azaria--love him!) Tank $6; Faded Glory Jeans $15; Sandals $7 (orig $15) Jewelry: George & White Stag $12  for a total of  $45

Would have been perfectly comfortable if the blouse didn't have the ties and had better sleeves. (Will def. wash this on delicate.)

Why do I see lots of ironing in my future? (ugh)

A note about habits: Aren't they hard to break? This transition phase is a little much. Early fall is the time when I always have piles of clothes and laundry around anyway because the weather is so changeable. Now I have Wal-Mart clothes all over the guest room, and my closet half-emptied in the bedroom. Shoes everywhere! I hate not being able to roll out of bed and into a beloved hoodie and shorts and flip flops to take the boy to school. (Wait until you see the only flip flops I could find at WM!) So much to plan. And I confess I'm kind of tired of going to WM every day. But I'm pretty sure I'm set for the weekend. Yay!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day Two: Rule of Seven and One of those plastic tag thingys*

There are all kinds of fashion rules--most of them outdated and, like so many cultural customs, of very obscure origin. Then there's my personal favorite: Never leave the house naked.

I have no idea where I picked up the Rule of Seven, but I've lived by it for a very long time. (If anyone knows where it comes from, do let me know. My eyes are weak from Googling!)

Rule of Seven: After you're dressed and accessorized, first count how many different colors you're wearing (three or fewer is best & shoes count). I always count a pattern as two. Then add a count of one for each piece of jewelry, belt, or scarf you have on. So, if you're wearing, say, a white shirt and patterned skirt, you're already at three. Add 2 for earrings. Then you can add a bracelet, perhaps, or a necklace. Add a watch, and you're done. If you can count more than seven, remove an item or two. Or three!

Seeing it on the page, it sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it? But it's useful when you want to look polished, and not overwhelmed by your clothes.

Today was another easy, easy day. I managed to buy some Danskin athletic shoes at WM yesterday afternoon, along with a selection of earrings and necklaces. Didn't work out because I had to get my pages done for my actual job.

I don't think I even wore seven items yesterday. The WM jewelry selection is slender--not tragic, but not compelling either. I like stones, leather, wood, and interesting metals. Artsy and unique pieces. Not much of that to be found there. After I was dressed, I went by and picked up a few things--several pairs of earrings and a black faux-leather necklace with a silver and black pendant. Then I went by again today and bought a killer red enamel bracelet and a leather necklace/pendant in brown. The women at the jewelry counter and returns desk now look alarmed as I approach, poor things. I'm sure I now have my own folder on WM's Security Hard Drive.

Day Two's Ensemble:

I liked this! The pic doesn't do the tee justice. It's a gorgeous washed-out pomegranate color and the shorts are dark chocolate brown. If the cargo pocket on the shorts were an actual pocket instead of a faux-pocket with a flap, and there were fewer loose threads, I'd say they definitely compare favorably to the DKNY $45 shorts I bought at Dillard's this summer. We'll see how they wash....The shirt is definitely a swipe from the Buckle or Lucky Brand folks--without the graphics or detail.

Liked the sandals a lot, too. I'm fairly conservative when it comes to everyday sandals because I have to walk the dogs and poke around the garden frequently. The gladiator style never really appealed to me because they can look clunky. These are surprisingly comfy. And not leather. I prefer leather. We'll see how they wear.

My pic of the day has to be the necklace. Can't tell it's not leather; it came with very matchy earrings. I don't do matchy earrings, but they'll be fine on their own. (I wore the black today, but will wear the new brown one w/ that outfit in the future.)

Wore the little silver ball earrings pictured and a brown belt as well. The shorts have beltloops, but also a drawstring, for some unknown reason.

Pricing: Tee-Miley Cyrus (I know!) $8; Shorts-L.E.I. $7 (clearance); Sandals--$11 (sale/$17) Necklace/Earrings $7/set (balls were from a $3 set) Belt: $8

Total: $41

Price really isn't the issue here, of course. It's how the clothes make me feel. I felt pretty put-together today & loved the colors, like yesterday. Hope abounds! Though I'm a little down thinking about winter coming on. The coat and sweater situation doesn't look good. Ditto the shoes/boots. I'm already missing the long brown shearling I bought 18 months ago and it's 85 degrees outside!

*In true Laura tradition, I discovered about five minutes ago (near midnight) that I had ripped the price tag from the left sandal, but didn't cut off the bracelet-sized plastic hanger from the upper strap. You can dress me up.... *sigh*

Day One: Forgot the Shoes

For someone who really likes to plan her clothes ahead of time, I didn't do such a great job on Tuesday. It wasn't a big day as activities go--a meeting with Bengal's teacher, and a trip to Wal-Mart, of course. Writing all morning. A good day for something casual and comfy, but that says I can dress myself like a grownup and take my child's education seriously. (Meetings with new teachers are always hard.)

I had great hopes of working out this morning, but after I put on my brand new Danskin shorts, workout top, hoodie and brand new socks, I realized I'd forgotten to buy tennis shoes. Nice. Living room salsa dancing or Wii Active isn't easy in bare feet. This is what I had to wear:

Not very useful. But at least I was dressed!

When it came to getting cleaned up for the afternoon, I had a pretty good idea about what to wear. Normally I'd go for a casual cotton dress or a pair of DKNY bermudas and a Lucky Brand tee. (I don't drop names to drop them--it's just explanatory to give you an idea.) But it's not the dress, skirt or shorts that are significant. It's the accessories. I have a few pieces of jewelry that I really love to wear--pieces that pull many different kinds of outfits together.

I think jewelry is going to be a BIG challenge for this project. As of yesterday, I'd only bought a couple pairs of silver earrings and a serviceable Timex. (But I LOVE the indiglo thing--wish it were on every watch.)

Here's the outfit:

Please forgive the over-the-door photography. I'm still working it out.

What I like about this outfit is the colors. They're very like other things in my closet that I bought in the spring. They're vibrant. Relevant (well, as relevant as clothes can be). I'm not much into tucking shirts in. That's been out of fashion for a long while, now. I think it's because so many of us need to lose ten or more pounds and that tummy fat is a nightmare! But this definitely looked right tucked in, the skirt (skort) worn at the hips, the belt tied. Wore it with the above flip-flops and the faux-leather brown tote you'll see a LOT of. (I bought one brown bag, one black.)

Price: (Both pieces on clearance) Faded Glory Brand Shirt--$5, "George" Skort--$3 Total outfit, without watch: $45.

There was another, similarly-colored shirt I bought in the junior department (L.E.I. Brand.) It had a brown embroidered design on the back and brown edging at the armholes, neck and just below the smocking on the shirt's ruffled bottom. I bought another in peach. Unfortunately, it's actually made for twelve-year-old girls! The smocking would hit some skinny thing right at the hips above her skinny tights. Me--not so flattering. That whole tummy thing came right into play. *sigh*

For jewelry, I settled for the watch and silver hoop earrings.

Here's the jewelry I would've preferred to wear:

The necklace is one of my very favorites. I bought it at the only local store where one could get fairly hip, handmade jewelry. It's closed now (of course). The brushed gold hoops are from Talbot's; the other earrings I've had since, hm, 1990, maybe?

Have I mentioned I hold onto things a looooooong time?!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Completely Arbitrary Rules

Every game has to have rules. Mine are completely arbitrary, but I've made them now, and so plan to stick to them with all my stubborn will.

1. I can only purchase and wear clothes, shoes, cosmetics, and non-optical accessories from Wal-Mart Stores, through, or from Sam's Club. (It would be a shame to leave out Sam, since he's in the title and all.)

2. I reserve the right to call evening and/or surgical gown exceptions if warranted. Sam doesn't deal in evening gowns, or surgical gowns. I promise to look there first, though--just in case.

3. Minor and customary alterations for length and fit are allowed.

4. I reserve the right to occasionally whine (decorously and quietly, of course) if I'm feeling abused by the arbitrary nature and/or results of these rules.

5. Even though my local Wal-Mart has a hair salon, no one there is going to lay a finger on my hair. I consider a haircut a major surgical event--an extensive, delicate amputation, if you will. I know there are many talented stylists at Wal-Mart, but I'm a one-stylist kind of girl.

6. Year ends on September 14th, 2010.

7. The rules are the rules. No changes. Even on my birthday. And pray that my daughter doesn't decide to get married before she turns nineteen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Wardrobe by Sam: What It's All About

Dearest Reader,

Sometimes a girl needs to play in a serious way.

My life has been comprised of a long succession of style changes. From hair to makeup to hemlines and blue jean shapes, I've done it all, worn it all. (Except for fake hair, eyelashes, and nails. Could never go there.) Like many other women, I often cringe to see photos of myself in clothes from the distant past. My personal regrets include the Q-tip Head hair era, the "So Many Men, So Little Time" graphic tee I had when I was *gasp* fourteen, and any number of big-shouldered jackets with epaulets. (I have broad shoulders and looked like a linebacker.) But now that I'm a certain age, I've finally developed a style that I have confidence in, and it continues to evolve.

One thing. I'm vain about my clothes. I depend on them to give me confidence that I don't necessarily feel inside. It's a terrible habit that's only been exacerbated by my career as a writer. If I don't feel like the author I am or want to be, I at least want to look like her!

This next year is a kind of test for me. Yes, I'm kind of a snob when it comes to clothes. I can pretty much buy the clothes I want to buy when I want to buy them. (Within reason, of course.) I love, love, love a true bargain and will spend four hours in a TJMaxx, spend $50 and come out with five pieces that retail for $500. But I'm not averse to buying a $500 dress if the occasion warrants it. Then I'll wear $30 shoes with it and $30 earrings. It just all has to work!

I also like to have fun. I love puzzles and challenges. So this year I'll be shopping exclusively at one of the world's most reviled but also most innovative retailers--Wal-Mart (including and Sam's Club)--for all of my clothes, accessories, makeup, jewelry, lingerie and shoes. (Note the single exception in the "Rules" section! Hey, they're my rules!) There will be those who will accuse me of "slumming," but they don't know me very well--or at all. This is the place where I often buy my groceries, home goods, eye drops, etc. This is a personal challenge for me.

If you think this project is silly or trivial, it is on some level. I won't be hurt or angry or anything if you find it's not your cup of tea. But it's also a serious project for me. It has nothing to do with anyone else or their circumstances. Yep. It's all about me.

We'll see what I learn. About myself. About the world. About planning ahead. About other people. Along the way I'll tell you about some stuff I know or learn about. I plan to enjoy myself. I hope you'll think it's fun, too.