Friday, October 30, 2009

Day Forty-Four: Pearls With A Hoodie? Why Not?

Wednesday was one of those blessed "Clothes Optional" days at my house. While I'd never go for full starkers--we have too many windows and too many FedEx and UPS folks coming and going--there are times when I can certainly get away with sweats and jammies. Writing days. Reading days. Three-movie days.

P and I did go out for a lovely date/lunch. I neglected to take a photo, but I'm wearing the basics in the photo below. Off-white shirt, pearls, blue jeans. Earlier I was also wearing shoes, and a gray cardigan. The cardigan has weird buttons and looks a tad grandpa-ish. Photos next time. I also wore my zippy red scarf and rain boots.

Pearls are pretty much always appropriate. They instantly add elegance to an outfit. I'm always sad when they add a tad too much elegance to, say, a black dress for daytime wear. Pearls on black have a very evening look--unless they're paired with linen or a fun, nubby sweater.

The pearl studs I've worn since I was sixteen came from my parents. They're much more polished than the pair I bought at the mothership. There have been a few times when I've temporarily misplaced them, but otherwise I've kept track of them for 31 years. Pretty good for someone who's lost two pearl bracelets, a white gold bracelet, and dozens of single earrings.

Did you know that pearls can lose their lustre if they're put away and not worn for years or even months? They need a person's body warmth and skin oils to remain wearable. Here's a great site for all the pearl knowledge a girl could ever want:

I bought this 18" strand of cultured pearls for about $20 at the mothership. (Nearly all pearls on the market now are cultured. These are small because they only took months instead of years to form.)

Ensemble: White Stag Cotton 3/4 sleeve top: $10; Faded Glory blue jeans: $15; Green Tea hoodie: $19 (Sam's Club); Cultured Pearl necklace: $20; Pearl studs: $7; no shoes        Total: $71

Yesterday I went shopping with a former student of P's. She's starting out as a new teacher, and she needs to be comfortable, but not frumpy. I'll tell you more about that later. Also, I need to figure out my H'ween costume makeup!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day Forty-Three: In Which I Don't Look Scary at All and The Scoop on the Witch's Graveyard Autopsy

Do I look like someone who would give you nightmares? (Husbands, current and otherwise, may think of this question as rhetorical.) Of course not. I look like someone's mom.

Personally, I thought that treating roughly 75 Scouts to an in-the-dark pretend graveyard autopsy experience at the Pack's Halloween party was a great idea. Wouldn't your mom have done the same?

We did this activity nine years ago at a Halloween party at our house. I still feed bad about making the six year-old son of a good friend cry. Wish I'd been a little more sensitive back then.

Here's a pic of my kids from that long-ago party:

Take one candlelit room. Play spooky music in the background. I used "Night Pond" sounds rather than traditional haunted house stuff. (This was a graveyard autopsy, not a haunted house.) Set out individual bowls filled with the following: a coyote skull (well bleached, not gooey); cold, cooked spaghetti (well-oiled); 30 pieces of candy corn; 2 sticky toy eyeballs (can use peeled grapes--ew!); crushed up taco chips; gummy worms; packing peanuts; rice puff cereal; gelatin (any flavor, cooked and cold) [Thanks to FB friends Valerie H and Cindy G for the gelatin and cereal ideas!]

Blindfold child. Take him by the hand and gently lead him to the table--carefully now, because he can't see. Tell him that if he's too worried, he can take off his blindfold. About 50% will take you up on it. The ones who do will be very relieved, and still have fun. It's more fun to do it blindfolded, though.

(Let me interject that I understand that it's politically incorrect to do a "witch" autopsy under any circumstances. Feel free to replace "witch" with goblin, someone's mother-in-law (not mine--I'm very fond of her), or politician of your choice. Given that this blog is about WALMART, I think the whole political correctness thing is obviously a non-issue for me.)

The skull is the faithful werewolf companion of the witch; spaghetti is the hair; candy corn/teeth; eyeballs/eyeballs; chips/fingernails and toenails (salt is the grit--ew!); gummy worms/guts; packing peanuts/her soft toes; cereal/warts we scraped off; gelatin/toe jam.

Each tour only takes about a minute or two. Then the "victim" steps outside to get a paper towel and hand sanitizer. (Still a mom!)

Here's the skull:

And the sign:


Back to Tuesday's ensemble. I didn't wear a costume--I figured the activity was scary enough without some freak answering the autopsy room's door.

Faded Glory cotton sweater: $10 (bought gray and off-white colors also, but need to exchange sizes--this is a small and it's plenty big); George blouse: $12; No Boundaries belt: $8: Norma Kamali Career black Pants: $15 (these streeeeeetched while I wore them--by the beginning of the party at 6:00, I had to take the belt off of the sweater and hike my pants up with it! If you buy, err on the small side); Earth Spirit black shoes $30; Earrings: $7; Raincoat $29      Total: $111

Got your pumpkin carved? I need to bring ours in the house tonight--they're much easier to scoop out and carve if they're warm.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day Forty-Two: This is So Not My Boyfriend's Jacket

Last month I bought this jacket from Walmart online:

I eagerly anticipated it. A tailored jacket is definitely on Tim Gunn's List of Ten Essentials. (You should definitely own this book, no matter what your budget.) But I found this jacket to be a little baggy, a little too boyfriend-ish. And the shawl collar? Maybe if you're Steve McQueen or Sinatra. (Though I could go for this from Barney's or this awesomeness from Alexander Wang.) So I sent it back. Norma Kamali had a regular lapel version at the Walmart in Kirkwood, MO, but the overall effect was still too baggy, too mannish. If you're tall and waif-thin, like the model above, it could be cute. My own facial features are strong enough that I don't need a polyester-fueled testosterone injection.

Tailored is much more my taste. So I was thrilled to come across this jacket at the Kirkwood Walmart:

It's called the NK Terry Pea jacket. Love the tailoring, love the fit. Because I don't have much of a waist and broad shoulders, I don't usually look good in double-breasted jackets. But this jacket is nipped in at the waist so I kind of look like I have a waist.

After Day Forty-One's ego-killer, I was delighted to be able to put together a look that approximated the one the Kim Novak Lookalike was wearing.

Here I am, doing my best Cheerful Emma Peel:

And my best Scary, Way-too-old-to-be-Emma Peel:


Norma Kamali Terry Pea Jacket (black): $20; Nine West dark denim jeans: $17 (Sam's Club); To The Max blouse: $16; Earth Spirit Shoes: $30; Paisley Scarf: $5; No Boundaries red bracelet: $8; George earrings: $8   Total: $104

Just wish I could find a decent tailored jacket or blazer that wasn't terry fabric. This one will do for fun, casual wear, but I'm afraid to wash it. Though I need to, because terry fibers got all over the blouse.

**Top photo via and NK Terry Pea Jacket photo via

Have a delightful Wednesday! L.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day Forty-One: In Which I Become a Shopping Zombie and Stalk a Kim Novak Look-Alike

New rule:

I don't ever go shopping alone at the mothership without my iPod earbuds firmly ensconced in my ears and the music turned up to full volume.

On Sunday, I came to consciousness standing behind my grocery cart in the peanut butter aisle, mumbling in response to a man's recorded voice that was saying, over and over: "You loved Hostess Cupcakes as a kid. Remember the delicious cream filling? Your kids will love them, too."

Yes! Yes, I do love them! Take me to them, please!

Have you seen the video screens? They're strategically placed eye/ear level and play loops of perky mom-types smiling into the camera and extolling the virtues of hand-sanitizer, food wrap, mini-pads, brownies, detergent, turkey bags, diapers, denture cream, etc. etc. etc.

I don't mind the occasional commercial--even when it comes before a theater film. But I do get uncomfortable when my subconscious mind is subliminally hijacked. My big problem is that I zone out pretty easily--I think it comes from years of training my mind to slip into that place where everything is possible. I'm very open there. Vulnerable. Before I know it, I have a cart full of Twinkies, chicken nuggets, organic pomegranates and an eight hundred pack of clothespins. Or I get a call from my daughter asking if everything is okay and, btw, am I coming home?

So, on Sunday, I was not only wearing pants that felt like cheap pajamas and made me itch in uncomfortable places, but I spent about $100 more than I planned on food and left the store with three black belts, a questionable sweater, and this stuff:

 Haven't tried it yet. But as I'm lash-challenged, I will very soon. I'll let you know.

The other thing:

Envy. I'd noticed a particular woman in the store and saw her again as I was stuffing my eight hundred bags into the trunk of my car. She'd given me a rather cold look inside--not surprising as I was probably staring rudely at her. She wore dark denim jeans that broke just perfectly on her black boots, a tailored black gabardine jacket, a white blouse, and a red scarf. Her blond, bobbed hair was perfect, too. The effect was cool and polished.

She depressed me immeasurably. I realized that I was not only jealous of her gorgeous clothes, but I was getting angry with myself for being so jealous. Wish I'd taken a picture of her, but I'm sure she would've had me arrested. I love how dignified she looked. I, however, was not feeling particularly dignified.


I know it's wrong to be a hater. But I really hate these shoes:

They're shapeless and plastic and not at all nice. Well, maybe I kind of like the snakeskin pattern--but that's it. Hardly worth the $11 full price.

As to the rest of the ensemble: I refer you this link.  Don't know why I'm not in love with the striped NK shirt. The lines are too harsh, I think, in addition to being horizontal. Wearing the inexpensive black jersey pants instead of jeans didn't help my mood much, either.

Norma Kamali OTS Striped Henley in Cobalt: $12; White Stag black cardigan: $12; White Stag black jersey pants: $12; George Slimming Cami $10; Shoes: Earth Spirit Mules $30; Jewelry: $7 and $7 Total  $90

Good news: I'm THRILLED with tomorrow's outfit. Will post in the morning!

P.S. Do you have your Halloween costume ready?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day Forty: Sometimes Vanity Gets a Girl All Wet--Or Her Shoes, Anyway

Can't believe I did this!

I thought I was so clever taking this picture of my beloved red patent Norma Kamali heels out in the colorful garden a few days ago:

Well, after I posted, this happened--nearly two inches of rain:

Leading to things like this fungus growing in the nearby mulch:


So, you can imagine I was dismayed to find--48 hours or so after I took the shot--the shoes still in the garden:

They were completely soaked through. I was lucky that a raccoon or the roaming hound that marks my garden when we're sleeping didn't carry them off. But the good news is that plastic doesn't shrink! I'm watchful of the soles and footpads, lest the glue become un-gluey. While they were drying in the bedroom, I had to grab one to smash a ginormous spider that was about to attack me in the bathroom. P thoughtfully wiped the spider guts off the toe--My hero! They're resting in their flannel baggies now. Baggies that cost half as much as the $20 shoes.

The boy has been sick, sick, sick. So yesterday I didn't do much as far as getting dolled up for photos. I'm all Barbalooted, as we call it around our house. It's from the Barbaloots in the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax. You know...Barbaloot suits!

Jones New York velour pants: $16 (Sam's Club--we'll talk about what I like to call "vanity pricing" soon.) Laura Ashley v-neck tee: $8 (Sam's Club--lo, how the mighty have fallen); That Damned Necklace: $7 (Why I had that on, I don't know); George earrings: $7 ; No shoes: (Probably socks. Definitely miss my Uggs.)  Total: $38

Tomorrow: Walmart envy and a new rule.

Have a fabulous week!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day Thirty-Nine: The Most Sam Clothes I've Ever Worn at Once

Fall is layering time, I hear. As I've mentioned before, it's not much fun to layer piles of polyester jersey. My skin gets all creepy-crawly because polyester and skin just don't get along all that well. Polyester is made from petroleum products, so I'm not terribly surprised. (Though, as this blogger attests, not all polyesters are equal. Some do have better breathing capabilities and a nicer hand. My Norma Kamali dresses are an excellent example.)

On Friday I took about $100 worth of clothes back to Walmart, and almost all of them were of the polyester variety from the White Stag label. The styling wasn't too grisly, but I'd bought them all in the earliest days of the project. I was frantic for something appealing to wear and worried about my October appearances in Nashville and Indianapolis. I've gotten to be quite the professional at returning things to the mothership: On each receipt I put red dots beside the skus of the items I'm returning and put all the items from that receipt in a single bag. I had seven bags on Friday. If you shop at Walmart, you know how they stop you at the door with any returning merchandise so they can tag it? Well, the greeters just wave me through now because I'm there almost every damn day.

I'm not going to whine anymore today about the lack of natural fibers in the mothership's clothing. But I might if the weather turns cold again soon. Fair warning....

While my folks were here, we went to Harbaugh's Cafe, my favorite breakfast place in town. (Wish their coffee were better--it's very diner-ish and I get some elsewhere on the way home.)

I have to post a pic with my parents because they're so cute:

My ensemble:

I'm hating on the belt. It's way too motorcycle mama for wear with a very conservative outfit. It definitely needs fewer holes. I like the bronze accents, though, and it works with That Damned Necklace. Also unhappy with the fact that the skirt is fading oddly and too big. I need to have it taken in, but I'd have to spend $15, and it's a $10 skirt. By the end of the day I'd safety-pinned its waist.

London Fog Raincoat: $30 (Sam's Club); Faded Glory denim skirt: $10; No Boundaries Belt: $8; Faded Glory Cami: $5; White Stag Sweater: $3 (clearance); George tights: $4; That Damned Necklace: $7; Earrings: $7; Awesome Red Rainboots: $25   Total: $99

And the tights are too shiny. No, the umbrella isn't from WM. I'm not exactly wearing it....

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day Thirty-Eight: A Simple Sweater, A Sticky Frog

The leaves are falling fast. Finally, after a long, wet summer and fall, we have a few days worth of color on the trees:

Love the red accent halfway up the drive--Wish we had a whole row of these bushes.


This is perhaps the season's last spiderwort. 

With so much color around, it seemed like a good day to not try to compete:

My mom cracked me up when she said how jealous she was that she didn't see this RL sweater at Sam's Club. I bought it in gray, red, and off white, of course.

Ralph Lauren sweater: $21; Faded Glory jeans:$15; White Stag earrings: $7 Total: $43

These sweaters are the warmest indoor clothing I have now. I'd wear them every day, but that's a whole other blog.

How wet has it been? We even had frogs trying to get into the house Friday night:


Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day Thirty-Seven: Field Trip Number Two--The Sleepy Slacker Edition

Twenty-four hours ago, I was sitting here on the couch assuring my mother that I would go to bed just as soon as I finished this blog post. An episode of Inspector Lewis, my favorite mystery series, was playing in the background. Next thing I knew, Jimmy Fallon was making a joke that was more obnoxious than charming, the dishwasher had finished running, and my laptop was out of power. So much for daily diligence...but I still have a few minutes before today becomes yesterday.

On Wednesday morning, I had the pleasure of driving three pre-teen girls to an inter-school music competition. They were cute and silly, and were stunned when I let them choose the radio station and eat snacks in the car. And I think I earned their undying loyalty when I passed around the Tic Tacs. There's something so appealing about the affection of teenagers--maybe because it can be so mercurial.

I really hated being a teenager. I think that's why it makes me so happy to see kids that age having a good time and being themselves. At least I assume they were being themselves--I know I was very busy trying on different personas back when I was twelve or thirteen.

Our last field trip was to the Conservation Fair. This time I wore a much more comfy ensemble and didn't take a sack lunch.

I try not to wear an outfit more than once every two weeks. (I don't know what Scout is eating in the pic--probably a stick. He's mad for sticks.) But this is one of my most comfy Norma Kamali outfits, and it's perfect for those days when one doesn't have a lot of time to get dressed.

See how much lighter the leggings look than the dress? They seem to have faded some with two washings. (The difference seems more pronounced than it is here.) Or it could be that they're just a different color all together.

Norma Kamali Athletic Dress: $18; NK leggings: $10; NK Tank: $8; NK Black ballet flats: $20; Jewelry: $7; Goofy Dog: Priceless.  Total: $63+

This may have been the last day for me to wear this outfit this fall. But I couldn't resist. I did throw a jacket in the car as well because the weather's getting cool and unpredictable.  I'm just not ready to give myself over to fall and winter. (Maybe it's because I can't seem to find anything that's warm enough to wear--except for coats!)

Oh, wait! I forgot to post this yesterday. It may explain the supercilious look on my face in my preppy ensemble pic. She was right above my head!

Hope you're ready for a fun weekend! L.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day Thirty-Six: Chainsaw 101

A quick update on Tuesday's Chainsaw 101 class and what I wore. My parents are coming to visit today and I have to run around and wipe down light switch plates.

P and I were so excited about this class. We have several trees that came down during last spring's inland hurricane that we need to cut up, and we're anxious to get to work as soon as the weather cools and the neighborhood snakes go into their hidey-holes. I bought P a chainsaw for his last birthday, and we haven't used it very much.

P tells me that the format of the chainsaw class was much like a concealed carry permit class. Lots of info, but nothing hands-on. I envisioned each us at our own little outdoor stump and chainsaw station, ready to bust things up. But it was not to be. It was all classroom instruction led by a very nice man who was handy with Power Point. We did see plenty of grisly accident pics, and learned how to avoid chainsaw "kickback," something that can be very dangerous. I will say that I now have way more information than I need about how to sharpen my own chains.

Very little flannel there. I think the DNR guy in the audience was wearing it. There was plenty of camo, but also several older people in khaki and sensible shoes who looked a tad too delicate to be chopping up trees.

P and I did learn that we're going to have to load up on safety equipment for our project. Here we are modeling some:

Here's P showing us some chaps. I think they have Kevlar in them or something.

This is the fancier of the two safety helmets. Love the attached ear muffins and the mesh face screen.

We also need gloves w/ Kevlar and steel-toed boots. Will have more pics when we suit up for real.


Faded Glory hoodie: $10; George gray cami $6 (Didn't really want the lace, but the other gray cami was in the laundry (when I went to wash this one, I found the plastic price sticker still stuck to the front of it!); Faded Glory Jeans: $15; Shoes-Danskin Athletic shoes: $14 (?); Jewelry-Earrings $7   Total: $52

Wasn't really happy about the white athletic shoes. I felt conspicuous. I only like to wear them when I'm exercising. Time to get those steel-toed boots, don't you think?

Tomorrow: Field trip

Have a safety-conscious day!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Thirty-Five: Little Red Shoes and the Well-Dressed Nun

Before I get into Monday's ensemble, I wanted to address J.T. Ellison's reference to red shoe rules. There are very few hard and fast rules about fashion here in the waning days of western civilization, but people still like to have guidelines--especially when highly visible trends pop onto the scene.

I first started noticing red handbags in the department stores about two years ago. I bought a deep red one, not usually being a fan of candy apple or fire engine red when it comes to adults' clothing, etc. It was an odd purchase for me. Changing purses is such a pain in the butt. I tend to like having one good handbag for winter and one for spring and summer, and carry evening bags when necessary. So I buy sturdy, expensive bags. Long ago, it was Dooney and Burke, then it was Coach--my latest crush is on Brahmin bags. I use them for at least two years each, so the cost-per-use is actually pretty low, even if the bag is in the $300-400 range.

Then last year it was red shoes. I looked for some red pumps for my book tour, but I didn't find any that I liked. So I settled for a red dress. That was fun.

But this whole Walmart thing has left me pining for interesting accessories since I've had to stick primarily to basic clothing colors like off-white, black, gray, and denim blue. Thus the Norma Kamali shiny red shoes ($20) I wore this past weekend.

I knew red shoes would be kind of an issue, which is why, I think, I hesitated last year. As with most questions, I went to the Internet.

Here's what I learned: A lot of people think red shoes should only be worn by children and hookers and would never put them on their own feet. Red shoes + red purse = A LOT of look. The most cogent opinion I found was that red shoes are so noticeable that they tend to be the thing someone will notice first when the wearer comes into the room--and few women want to have their feet noticed first.

If you wear them: Don't wear red hose with them. Be sure to wear something else with a bit of red in it, to keep the shoes from looking too noticeable. A bracelet, scarf, or jacket detail will make you feel put-together instead of conspicuous. So, wear. Enjoy. Just don't go all Bozo the Clown.

Monday's Ensemble:

Seriously--I don't know what was going through my mind when the camera went off. At least I wasn't grinning like a corpse!

Monday was one of those days when I just wanted to get dressed, dressed even though I wasn't going anywhere. It's kind of a nunnish, preppy little outfit that makes me feel all 1980, and like I should be carrying one of those little wood-handled handbags with the changeable button-on covers. (You watch. They'll be back if they aren't already.)

Cable and Gauge sweater, Cotton, Nylon, Spandex (Says to machine wash and dry. Don't think so.): $19 (Sam's Club); Miley/Max gray cami: $6; Faded Glory black corduroy skirt: $10; George tights: $4; Norma Kamali black ballet flats: $20; That Damned Necklace $7; Earrings$7   Total: $73

Tomorrow: Chainsaw 101!


P.S. Go and buy Loretta Lynn's album Van Lear Rose, if you don't have it already. It came out about 5 years ago and it's her collaboration with Jack White. One of the songs is Little Red Shoes. Here's a link to someone's very unofficial video to go with it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day Thirty-Four: The Continuing Search for Norma K.

Today you get picture of the Holy Grail instead of me because I spent Sunday wandering through various Walmarts looking non-photogenic:

(pic via, though it's everywhere out there)

What does the Holy Grail have to do with my wardrobe project? It's a purely literary allusion--I've been on a quest for my own version of the Holy Grail and it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with Norma Kamali, of course. (yes, I'm a Christian, but I don't think alluding to the Holy Grail in a lighthearted way is a salvation issue--also I'm thinking of it much more in the spirit of Monty Python than the Mt. of Olives)

I confess (I do that a lot, don't I?) that I wouldn't have been as enthusiastic about this project if I hadn't remembered--somewhere back in my addled brain--that Norma Kamali was involved with the Walmart people in some way. The style of Norma K's clothing is very pleasing, and a welcome relief from WM's usual fare of inexpensive fabrics and ho-hum designs.

What I didn't expect was the pure, foolish legwork involved in finding Norma Kamali-wear in its natural habitat.

The Walmarts in my area are the retail equivalents of basic-model Chevy Luminas: serviceable, but hardly glamorous. I'm very aware of what clothing they have, and in what sizes. The selection is slim, and no one in women's apparel has ever heard of Norma Kamali. That's not a criticism--it's just a fact. So I'm online daily to see if there's anything new and fun available.

I searched for the Norma K. line when I was in Nashville. Heard a rumor it might be available a thirty minute drive away--in the exact opposite direction from where I needed to go. My sister didn't see anything in her local St. Louis store, either. My blessed mother and father went to three different Walmart stores in the greater Cincinnati area just to find me Norma K. shoes. As far as I know,  Northern Kentucky is the only place they're sold between Indiana and the Atlantic Ocean.

I did do my homework. As soon as I realized the Norma K. stuff had a limited release, I used WM's handy store locator widget to see where it was kept in stock. No need for me to go into the details, but just let me tell you that "limited stock" means "we have one skirt someone bought at another store and returned, but we have no idea what in the hell to do with it." So much for their famous inventory skills.

This is madness I know: On Saturday, I spent half an hour in a BP parking lot on my GPS and cellphone trying to confirm Norma K. sightings at five different St. Louis Walmarts. The BP parking lot was half and hour west of Terre Haute, over two hours from my house (and there was no Norma K. in the Terre Haute WM, btw). Why St. Louis? I had to be there on Sunday, and didn't want to miss any Norma K. possibilities.

On Sunday, I did find Norma K. at ONE store in St. Louis. I drove to three, called five. Even Bengal, who was with me, was excited when we finally found the mother lode.

Before you all start thinking it's time for an intervention, let me tell you what I found in St. Louis: I found...clothes. Lots of black and blue and white clothes. I found Norma K. displays with pretty, thin models, and quite a few pieces that didn't suit me at all. Was I disappointed? Well, yes. For a while.

I think it was one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for moments. It took me two hours to try everything on. I averaged about 50% between likes and dislikes. Bought lots of $7 goodies for next (!) summer. A few wear-now pieces.

I feel a little deflated. I wonder what the next big challenge might be. Shoes? Jewely? The perfect Argyle leggings?

Right now I have to get ready for Chainsaw Class--still have no idea what to wear. I've avoided buying flannel. Can you see me in this? Waving a chainsaw?

(photo from

Hope your day is full of blessings--L.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day Thirty-Three: This Post Is Not About What I Thought It Was Going to Be About

Before I started writing this post, I was pondering the title: "Rock The Dress--Even If It Only Cost You $20." But that post/title didn't happen.

Maybe it's that I've had only four hours sleep in the past forty hours, or that I'm emotionally drained from several days' worth of engaging with other readers and authors, plus our girl's return to college--I've come to the conclusion that all my sartorial fretting about my Bouchercon panel Saturday morning actually had very little to do with what I would wear.

My Walmart dress did cost $20. So did my shoes. The bracelet was $8, the necklace $7, the earrings $12. what?

What was the last big occasion for which you bought a new outfit, or spent hours agonizing over what you would wear? A wedding, perhaps? A job interview? Court appearance? When the event was over, were you thinking about the clothes you wore, or were you thinking about how you felt, how you acquitted yourself, how others behaved? (Hm. Don't know what all the legal references are about today.)

Saturday's panel had me worried. I've always relied heavily on my costume to help carry me through significant events--and for me, sitting on a panel with four smart, successful, generous, bestselling writers is freaking significant. I don't mean to go all analytical, but I think that my tradition of fretting about what to wear might be a little, uh, misplaced.

Image is important, of course. How I look is part of the Author Girl package (I seem to have adopted the Author Girl phrase from a good Author Girl friend. It just fits so well. Author Woman or Author Lady or Author Female isn't the same, somehow. Hope she doesn't mind. : ) But how much more important is it that whatever comes out of my mouth or off of my keyboard makes reasonable sense? How much more important is it to offer something useful/entertaining/encouraging to my friends, colleagues, and readers who are gracious enough to give me a few minutes of their time?

As I sat up on the dais, was I worrying about whether Lee Child thought I looked like a cheap tart in my red shoes and $20 dress? No. I was worrying about whether I was going to sound like I belonged up there. The latter feels way more appropriate to me than the former. And now that I think about it, I've pretty much always felt that way. I just believed that an expensive costume would act as a kind of armor: if I looked like I belonged, then that was half the battle won.

Funny how we're all the stars of our own shows, all the time. I laugh to think that I sat through four or five panels this past week and couldn't tell you who was wearing St. John, who was wearing Haute Cato, or who was wearing Sean John. (Well, except for one of my real-life fashion heroines, Hank Phillipi Ryan, who is always dressed with impeccable taste. I always notice what she's wearing!) Talk about an ego-killer. Really, I don't know that many of us see very far beyond ourselves.

So, here's the $20 Norma Kamali Long-Sleeve Jersey Dress. For what it's worth, I enjoyed wearing it. Or, I should say that I didn't really think about wearing it. Which is how it should be, don't you think?

 Have a fabulous week!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Day Thirty-Two: Another Day, Another Costume Change in Indy, with Extra-Added Requisite Politeness, Please

Today was a big travel day. I was sad to leave Indianapolis and Bouchercon, the World Mystery Conference. But our daughter's college break is over and I must drive her to St. Louis so she can catch an airplane to go back to school. Sad day.

Here's the view from my room in Indy. I was so delighted to be able to look out on Indiana's beautiful state buildings. I usually end up with a nice view of a rooftop HVAC system.

(Did you know that the dome of the West Virginia State Capitol Building is covered in gold leaf? Odd, but very striking to see when you come into the Kanawha River valley.)

Must drive away with the girl within hours--so without further ado....

Friday's ensembles:

I stayed pretty casual during the day. There was nothing official I needed to do, so I attended some panels and had lunch with a few beloved friends.

Sweater: Ralph Lauren (Sam's) $21; Scarf (love the color and pattern) $5; Nine West jeans $17; Earrings: $7; Shoes: (Last year's) $24   Total: $74


Yes, I was being silly, sitting inappropriately on a chair in my hotel room. What do you do in a hotel room when you're all alone on a Friday night and are completely sober?  (I also blogged, read, packed some, and did email. I didn't suffer too much, though. Attending the Random House party was part of my Author girl job, but it was a lot of fun. Then there was after-party sushi with vibrant writer-chicks Lois Greiman and Jeannie Holmes to top off the evening.)

Sweater: Cable and Gauge (Sam's) $17; George scoop-neck shell $12; Norma Kamali Wide-Leg Pants: $18; Norma Kamali Black Patent Sling-Backs $20; Jewelry: $29   Total: $100 (Most expensive yet, maybe?)

Many thanks to J.T. Ellison for taking the daytime pic!

More later.

BTW--I've had to switch to comment moderation because of spam and a couple of rude, anonymous comments. Too bad. Leaving a nasty comment on a person's blog is like putting a bag of flaming dog shit on their front porch, ringing the doorbell, and running away. Thanks, but no thanks.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day Thirty-One: Costume Change!

I'm still in Indianapolis at Bouchercon. Saturday morning is my last event--an International Thriller Writers panel about an anthology--100 Must Read Thrillers--that will be out in 2010. I feel so privileged to have an essay on a Sherlock Holmes tale, The Hound of the Baskervilles, in it, though I'm terribly nervous about appearing on the panel. On Thursday, I attended a panel featuring several Sherlock Holmes experts. Wish I could have them all with me on the thriller panel!

Here's what I wore on Thursday:

That's the delightful Julie Kramer, author of the mysteries Stalking Susan and Missing Mark, on my right. One of the best things about attending a conference is getting the opportunity to spend time with friends.


Finally found a lightweight, black, v-neck cotton sweater. It's delicate and so will take special care.

Sweater: George $3 (clearance from $12); White blouse: George $12; Norma Kamali Classic Career Pants: $15; Shoes: Earth Spirit Black Leather $30; Jewelry: Necklace $8; Earrings $7 Total: $75

Evening Ensemble:

Had a great time at a restaurant called "Tastings." You purchase reloadable wine cards that let you dispense 2 oz portions of wine from specially tapped bottles. Very cool. And the food was amazing, too. (And just a tiny bit of shameless name-dropping...drank wine with wonderful writer chicks J.T. Ellison, Erica Spindler, and Sue Grafton. So much fun!)

Cable and Gauge Sweater (Sam's) $17; Norma Kamali Wide Legged Pants $18; George satin-trimmed black shell $8; Norma Kamali Red Shoes $20; Bracelet $8; Sparkly pearl earrings: $5  Total: $76

Props to the fabulous Keith Raffel for being brave enough to shoot the picture for me. Thanks, Keith!

Have a blessed weekend! xo

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day Thirty: (Day 30!!!)

With this post, I pass my first landmark goal. Thirty days!

I'm a little stunned to have made it this far. Two thoughts immediately come to mind: 1) I have eleven months to go; and 2) This is harder than I thought, but not in ways that I thought it would be.

Eleven months is a long time. It's roughly the gestation period for a horse or a mule. Twelve months gets you a buffalo or a camel. Thank goodness I didn't go for the elephant project, which would have been two years.

I decided to do this for a year because, well, a year gets me through every season plus transitional periods. September is a fashion transition period: You can't really wear white, but it's not yet time for sweaters and long pants. I tried not to overbuy for this period. I did end up overbuying of course because I panicked (love the word "panicked" because you get to add that K) and was afraid I'd be half-naked for the early fall. Everyone advised me to wear layers. Layers are useful, yes. But layering inexpensive poly jersey (bought a lot of it I'll be returning) is neither comfortable nor attractive.

More transitions will come between winter and spring.  One advantage of not overbuying is that I can check out spring clothes just as soon as they're available and get them in the sizes I need.

The challenges: I've already posted about the photography issues, and Best Beloved Friend Maggie has generously offered to advise me on them from afar. Assembling outfits is much more time-consuming than I imagined. There are many days when I just want to throw on sweats to write or do housework, but I feel pretty compelled to look like I haven't given up. (In life and on the blog) The last challenge is shopping. I'm not a big shopper. I'm a buyer. I tend to do big shopping excursions five or six times a year--they're often connected to Author Girl events. Now, I'm at freaking Walmart five or six times a week! And often when I travel. Oh, and there's the writing and picture posting. Really, that's the best part.

The night before a convention opens is like the first night on a cruise ship: nobody really dresses up because they've been traveling and probably haven't yet unpacked. I packed an outfit for evening just in case, but I ended up just wearing down to the bar the outfit I'd worn all day:

I love, love, love this Norma Kamali Snow Trees shirt. So comfortable, plus I like the extra-long sleeves. (The flash washed it out--it's a good, solid black color.) I wore the George Slimming Black Cami beneath it so I'd be warm.

Norma Kamali Snow Trees Shirt $10 (?); Nine West Jeans (Sam's) $17; Earth Spirit Black Clogs $30;
Jewelry: That Damned Necklace $7; Earrings: Sterling Hoops $12  Total: $76

****Special thanks to the lovely and talented Answer Girl for taking the picture. And welcome, Tribe!

Having a fabulous time. Very nervous about my morning panel with David Morrell, Gayle Lynds, and Lee Child! Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day Twenty-Nine: In Which I Feel Rather Ordinary and Wear Old Shoes

I'm here in Indianapolis this week for Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. It's a thrill to have the con back in the Midwest again. My first Bouchercon was in Madison, Wisconsin, back in 2006. I was just an observer then. My book wasn't to come out for months--and in fact was pushed back so that it ended up being a full year later. Bouchercon Alaska was the following year, and I missed Baltimore last year.

Bouchercon Madison was the start of my Author Girl Wardrobe. I dressed very, very carefully. After a month of wearing entire outfits that cost an average of fifty or sixty dollars, it's a little shocking to realize that I once spent about $2000 on clothes to wear over four days of a convention. Plus, I spent one afternoon in Madison shopping and ended up replacing the awards night outfit I'd packed with a new skirt, shoes, a $70 cami and a sheer top to wear over it. (Let's not even discuss what I spent before each of my month-long book tours.)

I still have all of those clothes. I buy good clothes and keep them a long time. That's one of the advantages of buying clothes that are flattering and enhance one's personal style, rather than clothes that are wedded to a particular trend.

It's a little weird to be here at Bouchercon again with hangers and drawers loaded with new clothes from a discount store--the most expensive piece with me is the $80 leather jacket I bought at Sam's Club. Next in line is the $30 pleather bomber I'm wearing below. But if you knock off the leather jacket, the average piece I brought with me cost $15. Including shoes. Less if you count jewelry.

I find discussing the cost of things kind of awkward. It just occurred to me that you might be curious. Me, I'm still adjusting. But in a positive way, I think.

So, my dears. Here's the jacket you voted in. You have good taste! (Even my daughter covets it. I told her to get her own. She can afford the $30.)

Please ignore the shapeless eggplant shirt. I dislike it. I made a huge pile of clothes that I need to return and my closet is suddenly emptier. Also, we might call the shoes a kind of a fudge. Both Walmart and Kohl's had these brown mules last year. Same manufacturer, same style. I bought them at Kohl's last fall, then was reminded of them when I saw a last, super-discounted, identical pair at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. (It seemed way too stupid to buy identical shoes. Judge says the fit the spirit of the law, if not the letter.)

Faded Glory pleather bomber: $30; Faded Glory jeans: $15; White Stag Eggplant cotton 3/4 sleeve shirt: $10; That Damn Necklace: $7; Earrings: $7; Shoes: $24   Total: $93

Still hate the shirt.

Here I thought I was being brave....This woman wore the same dress for a month. Wow! I agree with many of her points, but the piece is way too short, leaving me to want more.

Have a great Thursday. TTFN!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day Twenty-Eight: A Big Gray Sweater and A Very Revealing Photo Session

Shooting this photo was a quite the revelatory experience:

I know that I'm not much of a photographer. I'm still trying to learn the ins and outs of the five year-old Canon Power Shot A95 that my mom is lending me for this project. I have only regular floor and table lamps with daylight bulbs to light my office door and whatever I'm shooting. There's never enough light, unless I'm shooting early in the morning. The room's single window has an eastern exposure. I'm lucky to have a tripod.

Still, I had to take upwards of thirty pictures to get this just-acceptable shot. It was very time-consuming. If funds weren't an issue, I'd shift around my entire office to accommodate better lighting. From everything I've read, I don't need a more expensive camera. I just need to use this one more productively. I've always wanted to take decent photographs, and it's much more complicated than I ever imagined. I've always had as much respect for good photographers as I do good writers and painters, but pursuing this project has solidified the facts for me. Photography is a difficult art and an even tougher craft.

But beyond the photography, there's the issue of the subject. Remember a few days ago when I mentioned that a woman who wears a size six is considered to be Plus Size in the industry? Well, now I can see why. I'm reliably a size six or eight. More often an eight, unless I'm wearing a high-end designer. (Size four in St. John Knits--but they're notorious for their vanity sizing.)

Granted, this Norma Kamali Sweater Coat is not particularly flattering on me anyway, darn it. But, really, it does point out the fact that I am short. And not a size two or four.

Here's what it looks like on a mannequin/form. Funny, huh?

Damn. If only it looked like that on me.

I knew even before I looked in the mirror that I needed to be taller to wear this sweater. I thought "heels" immediately. Possible fixes: Heels, of course--two to three inches. Also, black pants that hang from the hip to keep me from having that snake-that-swallowed-a-rodent-yesterday look. Leggings or cropped pants make everyone look shorter. Not good, unless you have extra height you want to get rid of. And the belt. The shapelessness of the sweater is only enhanced by the insubstantial belt. Doesn't matter that it's the same color.

Norma Kamali Sweater Coat: $20; Norma Kamali Leggings: $10; Norma Kamali Ballet Flats: $20; Jewelry: White Stag Earrings: $12; Necklace $7  Total: $69

This is all getting a bit depressing, I fear. This project has revealed to me that I'm heavier than I think I look, shorter than I think I look, and that I'm a very limited photographer! No. I'm just kidding--sort of. There's so much to learn here. I've done enough reading and listening and watching to know why this particular outfit (along with others) looks bad. The question remains the same: Can I find enough variety through one retailer to dress myself with some sense of style and attractiveness for an entire year? Here at the one month mark (I blog a day or two behind), I'm still not sure.

So much to consider--I could write chapters on this body image thing alone. And when in the world did I start looking like this woman, bless her heart?! (So, I'm not a pear shape, but the resemblance is still there.)

Last but not least,  I really need to get going on my fiction, or else I won't even be able to shop at Walmart!

Off to Bouchercon in Indianapolis--TTFN!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day Twenty-Seven: What I Wore the Day My Son Army-Crawled Underneath 10 Pews to Get to the Front of the Church

Yes, the title says it all.

As I was downstairs in the church nursery with my darling, incredibly well-behaved seventeen year-old daughter, minding toddlers and a cranky baby or two, my son was upstairs having a great adventure.

If I may say, "Sweet Jesus," I experienced one of the most horrifying moments of my mommyhood when a friend came downstairs to tell me that ten year-old Bengal was making his way to the front of the church by army-crawling on his belly, through and around the feet of the congregation. I arrived at the sanctuary door just in time to see him pop up in the second row, dart around the end of the pew (this would be in the center aisle), run in front of several people in the front pew, and sit down in the middle of it. Reader, I confess that I knew not what to do in the face of all the smirks, raised eyebrows, and nervous laughter.

 My first instinct was to march into the church, drag the child out by his ears, and move to another state. But God mercifully told me to run. Away. Fortunately, my daughter came to the rescue. I sent her upstairs to sit with the boy until the service was over. He's still alive, btw.

I could tell you more, but you're not here for the grisly details of such things, I know. It just tended to overshadow the rest of the day, the week, etc....

Here's what I wore for nursery duty:

I had planned to wear this shirt with the black NK jeans as well, but they were waaaay too long. They have to lose 3 inches at the hem, at least. I'd rather have to shorten them than be irritated about their being an inch too short--the Faded Glory jeans could all be longer.

I like the shirt. I've never been one for horizontal stripes, of course. Horizontal lines tend to broaden the body, as you can see. But I think the whole effect with the dark jeans is a little odd, don't you? It makes me look small on the top, but kind of roundish in the middle, and smaller again at the legs. Weird. Kind of like a stripy snake who's digesting a large rodent.

Also, the shirt is a little to low and broadly cut for my taste, so I layered it over a white cami. It worked reasonably well, I think.

B+ overall, despite the fact that I look like an unhappy wax dummy here. I apparently learned nothing from watching America's Next Top Model and Project Runway season after season. It didn't help that I shot this at 10:00 at night after a long day.

Norma Kamali OTS Striped Henley in Cobalt: $12; Nine West Jeans $16 (Sam's Club); George Slimming Cami $10; Shoes: Earth Spirit Mules $30; Jewelry: $7

Tomorrow: Off to Bouchercon! Still not sure what to wear....

Have a lovely, non-mortifying day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day Twenty-Six: Houndstooth, My Favorite Dress Ever and Ethics Be Damned

Thoughts on a slow fashion day....

This is my very favorite daytime dress, ever:

As I write this, my teenage daughter is home from college for the week. I quote: "Wait. THAT'S your favorite dress, ever? Are you a crazy person? I can see liking it. But...really?"

And Tim Gunn would probably say: "Hm. That's a lot of look."

This is one of those times when I wish I'd already invested in a dress form so you could see what the dress actually looks like. I'd model it for you, but it's about five pounds too tight on me right now. I could get away with it, but, uh, no. It fit me wonderfully when I was 127 pounds. Form-fitting in that (this is for you, Joan!) sexy librarian way.

The cuffs, collar, and pocket trims are all black velvet. Buttons are also covered in black velvet. 100% wool with an amazing stretch to it. Just below the knee length. Very chic for 1988, when I bought it at the Adrienne Vittadini store in Frontenac in St. Louis. (I did remove the shoulder pads right after I bought it.) It cost me about $300. I was probably still paying off that credit card three years later.

I know. It's houndstooth. Who wears houndstooth? Houndstooth is terminally retro and I do love it.

See, I even loved it in 1965:

Kudos to my mom, Judy, for selecting this awesome ensemble!

To Walmart**:


The jury's out on this one. I like the idea, and the ribbed knit cuffs are a nice detail. It's double-breasted, though, and has a very wide collar--two design elements that don't much complement my rather squarish torso and broad shoulders. I haven't seen it in the store, yet, and so haven't been able to try it on. May or may not order it. Thoughts?

**Photo from website.

Okay. So now the squishy ethics part.

Here's the outfit I wore on Saturday. Red sweater, black pants. (The pants pictured may be the black NK jeans I'm having altered. I actually wore NK Black Classic Career pants. Like the pants very much. Nice drape, long enough to cover a 2" heel.) Ralph Lauren Sweater: $21.47 (Sam's Club); Norma Kamali Black Classic Career Pants: $15; Shoes: Black Earth Spirit Mules $30; Jewelry: Silver stud earrings $7

The sweater is Ralph Lauren, from Sam's Club. I bought it in red, gray and off white because I usually wear a LOT of sweaters as soon as the weather turns and there's next to nothing available at Walmart that's not acrylic. This sweater is 100% cotton and fits me like a glove.

Of course, RL is the same purveyor of this b.s. But I figure that, with many people, I'm already considered to be about as principled as a baby seal hunter with a backpack full of baseball bats for shopping at Walmart anyway. *sigh* In for a penny, in for a pound as they say. : )

Happy Monday!