Category: Pearls of wisdom

Style Confessions, vol. 6

Quality Matters More When You’re Not a Size 2

This is a self-evident truth if you happen to not be a size 2 (or 4, or 6), but it’s been a while since I’ve been in that boat, and I had forgotten.

Now, before a bunch of you guys jump on me, I know that quality and fit are difficult to find (and precious) for everyone who shops off-the-rack. Pant legs and hemlines are either too long, or not long enough. Sizes are wonky. Everything is cheaply made in third world countries. This is true, and it is a pain, whether you’re a size XXS or XXL.

It just matters more if you’re on the larger end of the spectrum.

When it comes to fashion, skinny is still the ideal. Skinny can wear anything and everything; even on the worst day, it might look ridiculous or sloppy, but skinny will still look skinny – even if wearing the proverbial potato sack. You can conceal a lot of design and manufacturing flaws if you’re putting the clothes on someone who is a size 2. I know because I used to be a size 2 … and I rarely didn’t buy something because it looked terrible on me. It might have looked goofy, or even too big – but, hey, that’s sometimes a trend in itself.

I’m not a size 2 anymore. A few weeks ago,  I went to the J. Crew Factory store (because they had a big sale, and I haven’t gone in ages, and don’t judge me, ok?), and tried on some skirts. In fact, the skirts I tried were skirts I used to own a couple of years (and sizes) ago – and loved. They used to look quite nice, considering the price point. I sized up to my current size, and … I hated the fit. The skirt rode up and wrinkled on me while I was standing in the changing room. I tried one size bigger, and then the size after that too. And those looked bad too, for other reasons. More importantly, I looked bad, wearing the skirt. I didn’t just look like I was wearing a poorly made garment; I looked to be in worse shape than I am. And I guess that’s where my body acceptance runs out, because I’d really rather not. (Which is a discussion for another day.)

So, if you care about conventional style rules – which are all about not looking bigger than you are, but ideally skinnier if possible – then quality is not just a “nice to have”; it’s a “must have”. The right fit, the right fabric, the right proportions: they make all the difference between a potato sack and a cute pencil skirt.

I Don’t Photoshop For the Blog

But maybe I should; all the cool kids are doing it.

Fran wrote an awesome post about the reasons why more and more fashion bloggers are succumbing to drastic Photoshopping. Skinny sells, yes? There are very few fashion bloggers who don’t blog for money (or aspire to). This is understandable, because who doesn’t want a hobby that pays for itself? The downside is that, sooner or later, everyone encounters ethical dilemmas, whether it’s shilling a sponsored product the blogger wouldn’t buy with her own money, or posting heavily edited photos to attract followers and sponsors. Of course, for some people, these are not really dilemmas at all and, for the most part, they are rewarded for their, ahem, pragmatism. Some of us may chuckle at parody Instagram accounts like We Photoshopped What, but the majority of the fashion blog-reading public is unaware of the behind-the-scenes manipulation … and left in admiring awe. So, Photochop is the new normal.

I’m too lazy, and not sufficiently invested in this whole blogging game, to bother with it. For the most part. Because here’s the thing: I’m still as vain as the next peacocking blogger. As much as I want to be honest with you guys, I have no desire to (intentionally) put unflattering photos of myself on the internet. Who would? Nobody, that’s who, and if someone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. So I’ll edit away blemishes, and slap on eleventy million Insta filters, because it only feels a little bit wrong. I try to be upfront about that as much as possible, because it’s important that you know that no one wakes up with perfect, pore-less looking skin, especially anyone over the age of 12. (And no cream, or powder, or foundation is ever gonna beat the magic of Instagram filters. Trust.)

There are also pictures that you will never get to see on the blog. For example, can you guess which one of these two made the cut?

instagram photoshopping
you don’t need 3 guesses on this one

This begs the question: is what I’m doing any different than what the Photoshop queens are doing? Lying by omission is not the same as being honest. But is it closer to it than this?

instagram photoshop
lazy man’s version of the skinnifying app

I don’t know. We could probably have an interesting debate about it. But I’ll leave you with this pearl of wisdom: never, ever assume that what you see on a blog is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Style Confessions, vol. 3

Ready for another round of ‘fessing up? Pull up a comfy chair.

1. I Still Struggle With Body Image … Sort Of

A friend recently reminded me of a post I wrote almost two years ago on this topic. I went back and re-read it and thought to myself, “damn, why am I not writing like this – and about this – anymore?” And the answer is not straightforward. In part, it’s because it felt superfluous. When you’re writing to a mostly empty room, there isn’t much in the way of discussion happening. Monologues are great and all, but I’m already convinced that I’m right, so there really isn’t any need to write essays to preach to the choir. And then, of course, it’s also because I’m busier now, but also lazier, and my attention span has been whittled to practically nothing.

But let’s talk about body image again, for a moment. I’ve got nothing to add to my earlier post; I fully stand behind it. Still, things have gotten more complicated, again. I’m now two years and one extra kid older than I was then, and these are both, in their own way, things that bear on the discussion.

After I had my son, many things changed, in both small and profound ways. One thing that didn’t really change was my body image. I was relatively fit going into my first pregnancy, and together with my genetics, that ensured that my postpartum body didn’t look all that different from the body I knew as “my self”. What minor changes did occur were mostly of the funny-anecdote variety. (Did you know that your ribcage could permanently expand after pregnancy? No, neither did I. True story.)

That all changed with my second pregnancy. Physically, it was a tougher experience. I was less fit going into it, and became almost entirely sedentary quickly thereafter due to completely normal, albeit inconvenient, pregnancy symptoms. I was also two years older, and though the age difference might seem insignificant, who knows. When it was all over – and my daughter was born – things didn’t really go according to plan. And by that, I mean that my body didn’t “snap back” like it had the first time. My body looks different now that it did 2 years ago, and not only because of extra weight. None of the changes are “good things” by conventional societal standards. I won’t lie: they are things that did – and still do, occasionally – give me pause.

And yet.

For the most part, I don’t care. I. Have. Zero. F**ks. To Give. I was kind of surprised to realize that, because  I still give myself the frowny once-over every now and then (surely a sign that I must care). How do I reconcile that with my complete apathy towards the idea of “improving” my body in any way?

There are many wonderful things about getting older. (Don’t ever let them tell you otherwise.) One of the most wonderful of those things is the freedom to not give a shit; the older I get, the shorter the list of people whom I respect or admire – but, more importantly, the shorter the list of people whose opinion I value on an equal basis with my own. At this point, I can count those people on one hand. One of those people thinks I look beautiful no matter what; as for the others, I’m pretty certain they have no opinion about my appearance, if they ever think about it at all. Which is great, because the only opinion I’m left with is my own. As it should be. (Always.)

This is not to say that other people don’t have opinions. Anybody and everybody who sees me can have an opinion about my body. My not caring doesn’t negate their opinions, nor erase the potential consequences of those opinions. (If only life worked that way … about everything … past the age of 4.) For one thing, I’m becoming more and more aware that I’m inching ever closer towards that slide into social invisibility that claims most women after a certain age if they are no longer playing for the “hot ‘n sexy” sweepstakes. Slight ego bruising aside, I’m fine with that. My livelihood doesn’t depend on being desirable, as judged by the collective social gaze. My concept of self never did, because, since childhood, I have been the “smart one” (not the “pretty one”). So, in a way, I feel a sense of relief. I can just go back to being what I’ve always been, and stop trying to play a game that seemed rigged for all the usual reasons, and then some.

So, then, why do I still frown at my missing thigh gap sometimes? Honestly, I think it’s just a vestigial reflex. Fifteen years of conditioning – to be critical, to pick out and apart flaws, to be permanently dissatisfied – doesn’t disappear overnight. I guess the key might be to remember – in that frowny moment – that it is just that. That I have grown out of it. That it is the memory of a battle I once fought, not a present struggle.

2. But I Realize My Privilege

Listen, I might be 20 lbs fatter now than 2 years ago, but I’m still a relatively thin, not unattractive, 30-something (white) lady. I fit in regular off-the-rack sizes, and people occasionally tell me that I look like her. To say that I don’t struggle with body image issues as much as before, despite being older and heavier than I used to be, isn’t really much of an achievement – it’s not that big of a mountain to climb. More like a hill. A smallish one. Would I be able to be as body positive if I had gained 40 lbs instead of 20? 100? If I started to look older than my age? Wrinklier than a Sharpei? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to know … because I have a feeling I might not like the answer. So, I guess, I still have a lot of work to do – on the inside, if not the outside.

Fashion Budget: Style Management Triangle

style management triangle; shoe spiral; spiral of shoes; rainbow of shoes; shoe rainbow

I have a lot of opinions. Pertinent to this blog, and this post in particular, I have a lot of opinions about clothes, the buying thereof, and budgets. I’ve been trying to condense my thoughts into a manageable post size, and finally decided that they’re best encapsulated by a bastardized, fashion version of the Project Management Triangle. To wit:

When it comes to a shopping budget, you have 3 constraints to consider: quantity, quality, and newness. To stick to a modest budget, you get to pick two of the three. Any two. But not all three. You can buy lots of new things, but they will have to be of the “fast fashion” variety. Or you can buy only a few, new things of good quality. Or you can buy lots of quality things that aren’t brand new. Your choice entirely, of course.

Let’s break it down some more. If your budget is, say, $150, you can:

A) Buy 10 new items for $15 apiece;
B) Buy 1 new item for $150; or
C) Buy 5 secondhand items for $30 apiece (each of which might have originally retailed for upwards of $100).

(This is obviously dumbed down to third grader level, but you get my point. I’ve hopefully made it without screwing up the math. #thirdgraderscanprobablykickmybuttatmath)

If you’re even a casual reader of this blog, you will know I’m a big fan of the third approach. That doesn’t mean it’s the best one. It’s the best one for me, c’est tout. It comes down to priorities … and shopping personalities. I like nice things. (Obviously, this is an incredibly subjective statement, so feel free to substitute “expensive” for “nice”. It’s not 100% equivalent, because I like plenty of cheap fashion, but it will suffice.) And I like a LOT of nice things. I like variety. I have the attention span of a gnat. Need I go on? On the other hand, I really don’t care if my clothes come straight from the hands of retail fairies – or from the consignment or thrift store down the road – as long as they’re in excellent condition. Buying the majority of my clothes secondhand means that I maximize the two values that matter most to me: quality and quantity.

Those are not necessarily the values that matter most to you. You might value minimalism, or environmental conservation, or being a trendsetter, or impulse shopping, or bargain hunting … or whatever floats your boat. Just remember the Triangle, and pick the two criteria that best align with those values.

And keep in mind that you have some flexibility.


Well, yes. No one says that you must always only buy piles of cheap stuff. Or only super duper expensive pieces. I sometimes buy $2 t-shirts at Old Navy or $10 shorts on super clearance at J. Crew, and I sometimes spend upwards of $200 on other things.* But it’s always a trade-off, because remember – you can’t satisfy all 3 constraints in the Style Management Triangle at the same time unless money is no object. In which case, let me know where I can send you my fall shopping wish list.


* Bags. Always the bags.