Polka Dots and Gwynnie Bee

2014-07-22 18.14.24Way back when, I tried Gwynnie Bee for a while.  And then cancelled it.  It wasn’t working for me then, mostly because I wasn’t wearing dresses all that much and their non-dress inventory wasn’t from the better brands.

The dress thing has changed, and I gotta tell you; if you wear dresses and live in the U.S.,  you cannot find a better way to spend your money than Gwynnie Bee.  If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the deal:  You pay a monthly fee and basically borrow garments for as few or as many days as you like.  The fee defines how many you can have out at the time.  When you are done with something, you send it back; they wash/dry clean it and make it available for the next person.  If you love it, you have the option to buy it at a reduced price (since technically it’s used).

Gwynnie Bee has been helping me on my style search.  I’ve been able to try shapes, brands, and fabrics that I never would have otherwise (particularly as long as so many plus size vendors are online only).

This dress is a Jessica Howard – The waist is ruched and it is sleeveless, something I tend to avoid.  The reviews on the site pointed out that the high neck and longer skirt make it a touch matronly, and I suppose they are right about that, but that also makes it very appropriate for a work dress.  At the office, I threw a red sweater over the top to keep my arms warm and felt very pulled together all day long.

2014-07-22 18.16.13That having been said, looking at pictures I’m not sure I will wear it again or keep it; the print (which is actually polka dots) feels too busy to me.  Moreover the ruched waist makes shapewear a requirement, and it is FAR too hot for that in Arizona in August.  And thus the wonder of Gwynnie Bee – I send it back and they will send me something else!

You will see a lot more Gwynnie Bee dresses over the next couple of months.  I’ve become quite fond of dresses and have found some things that do and don’t work for me.

Things that don’t work for my shape:

  • Shift dresses – I’m a pear, and every shift dress I’ve tried on so far is too tight in the hips and loose in the chest – bad on both accounts.
  • Set-in waist bands or belted waists – This is less about the pear shape and more about that noticeable roll right between my boobs and my waist.  If I don’t wear heavy duty shapewear with these types of dresses, the line isn’t right. That is part of the problem with this dress.
  • Narrow straps or halters – One of the things with being a pear is that my hips are wider than my shoulders.  These types of necklines make that appear even more unbalanced.
  • Strapless – I’m a 42G – the amount of engineering required to make a strapless bra that will support me cannot comfortably be made into a strapless bra. Key here being COMFORTABLY – I know they make long-lines and such that can do it, but I don’t want to wear them.

So what does work?

  • Fit and flare – room for my hips, emphasize my smaller parts. These don’t all have things like contrasting or set-in waists, so finding the ones that don’t is my current mission.
  • Empire waists – my smallest measurement is my bra band, so raising the waist does good things on me.

I’m sure I’ll find more with time.  Stay Tuned…

(I’ll work on getting better at cell-phone selfies.  And getting a new camera…)

*Note about Jewelmint:  When you purchase a piece from them, you agree to essentially a monthly subscription – you either need to cancel or buy something each month, otherwise they charge your account and give you a credit.  This was quite a surprise the 1st time it happened, and not a happy one.  However they often have nice pieces at a decent price, so I’ve gotten good at remembering to skip.

Finding MY Style

I mentioned before that I have purchased things that didn’t work.  This blog revision 1 was actually really useful for me in terms of figuring out what some of those things are.

  • Small prints and florals
  • Chunky knits
  • Pale/pastel colors
  • Mustard yellow, no matter HOW cute it looks on others

At the same time, though, just eliminating things doesn’t leave you with a style. I needed a new way of thinking about developing my own style. In the process of looking around for ideas, I came across an interesting series of articles title The Wardrobe Architect.  So far it is really helping me narrow in on some things I hadn’t considered previously. In week 1 it asks you to reflect on how we are different and how that affects our choices.  Several of the questions brought out some interesting thoughts for me.

  1. History:  In reflecting on this, I realized that my parents style of dress (well, really my Dad’s; my Mom wore what my Dad wanted) has had a lingering impact on my tastes.  My father had a VERY conservative style and pushed my mom toward the same; very classically cut Pendleton Wool Suits, meticulously matched purse/shoes/belts, that kind of thing.  I still have to fight the urge to match my purse and shoes when I dress.  I also was used to seeing suits, so I get VERY fussy about matching colors; I steer clear of Navy because it is so hard to match unless you buy all the pieces together and only wear them with their matching pieces.
  2. Community: When I think about it, I have always been heavily influenced by the wardrobe choices of my friends.  When my best friend was leaning toward the hippy/new agey side, so did I.  Even now, my husband explicitly doesn’t like certain things, so I don’t wear them.  Most aren’t a big loss (I agree with him that Capri’s don’t really look good on anyone, although in AZ they would be nice), but I sometimes miss some of the more edgy styles.
  3. Location: Arizona is Hot.  Even when it’s cold for those of us who lives here, it’s still in the 50s.  Because of this my wardrobe has drifted to be made up of lots of tanks/tees and cardigans that I can wear over them when indoors.
  4. Body, Part 1: I’m fat.  I’ve been fat all my life, with a lowest adult size of a US16.  I have no image of myself as thin, but that doesn’t stop me from struggling with what I see in the mirror every time I look. Because of that I tend to wear my clothing looser than a lot of plus sized women.  That impacts the silhouettes that I wear.  Too tight and I feel like all people see is the lumps and bulges.
  5. Body, Part 2:  I’ve read any number of times that more structured clothing is good, but I hate it.  HATE it.  I suppose in some ways that I reflect the lack of structure in my figure into my clothing, but all I know is that I feel uncomfortable and hyper-aware in highly structured clothing – like they are trying to force me to be a shape I’m not.

These questions have helped me to understand a little bit about where some of my own preferences and, frankly, odd choices come from.  With any luck being aware of these things will help me decide whether they serve me well or are things to be fought against.

I’ll take a look at part 2 in my next post (I promise there will be pictures soon), but I’m glad I found this program.  I feel as though I noticed a few things today that were important, first about my history and second about my (still problematic after all these years) body image. Things to mull over …

Fashion vs style

One of the things I’ve struggled with over this last break was this idea of “my style”.  You see, it’s very easy to get caught up in fashion – the latest, the greatest, whatever is trendy at the time.  Lately it’s been crop tops, last summer it was fatkini’s, and so on.  And for a while I felt like if I was going to blog, I had to try each and every one of those trends.

The thing is, the results weren’t always good.  Getting ready to restart the blog, I went back through the posts.  With some distance it was easier to see where I had made mistakes or which outfits didn’t quite work.  I wore colors that weren’t flattering (mustard yellow), styles that didn’t do me any favors, and spent money I shouldn’t have in order to get the latest and greatest things, many of which were only worn once.  That’s a mistake.

Your 40s allows you to kick the trends to the curb, or at the least the ones that don’t fit your personal style.  Oxblood was a trend a couple years ago, but it will ALWAYS be part of my wardrobe (whether it’s the current thing or completely out of vogue) because the color is a great one for me.   Neon, not so much.  Color blocking is good, florals are not.  Fit-and-flare dresses are a win, crop tops are not happening.

Imogen Lamport at InsideOutStyleBlog.com puts it really well (although this is somewhat paraphrased):

Fashion is what they sell at the store. 

Style is how you put it together. 

Call it a prerogative of age, but I no longer feel the need to go along with what is in fashion at any given moment.  I am going to focus on the colors I know I look good in, regardless of whether they are “in” at the moment.  I choose to have my own style, even if it seems dull, updated with new, trendy elements ONLY when they fit my overall look.

The next step, of course, is refining what that style actually is…

Is this thing on?

So it’s been about 9 months since I posted.  I have a pile of excuses, not the least of which is that the puppy ate my camera. (No, really.  She chewed it up until it wouldn’t work anymore…) But quite honestly I had reached a point where the process of taking pictures every day was kind of a pain and so I stopped.

Recently, however, I’ve realized that I still have things to say, do and show.  So I’m back.  I will not be pushing to post every day, nor will I be posting every outfit.  It’s July in Arizona – sometimes it’s just too hot.  I also am not going to try to compete with all the bloggers out there with people who will take their pictures for them; my husband has neither the will nor the ability.

However I am back with new outfits, new ideas and a new philosophy about my clothing.  But that’s for another post….

Color Theory: What’s your best palete

I find color theory fascinating.  There are certain colors (and therefore outfits) that look amazing on others but awful on me.  Heck, I even have a Pinterest board titled “Can’t wear but wish I could” full of cute outfits in colors that just don’t work on me.

Back in the 80s I had my seasons done and was told I was a winter.  That didn’t seem quite right; I wear both gold and silver jewelry, have clothing in earthy shades of rust as well as bright red (while looking deathly ill in the lemon yellow that a winter is supposed to be able to wear), and looked considerably more yellow skin-toned than my husband.  Since then, however, there have been a number of refinements made to the seasonal model that make it seem closer to on the mark for me.

Specifically, the idea of adding dimensions of dark/light/true/bright came in, making subtle changes to the base colors.


What is neat about these additions is that they make clear why certain color combinations worked and others didn’t.  In fact I appear to be a dark winter or dark autumn (two palates that share a lot of the same colors).

It turns out that if you look at my “Can’t Wear” board, most of the items are soft colors (taupe, cream, dusty rose, lilac, etc).  Soft Autumn/Soft Summer colors.  Colors that wash me out.  However knowing the colors that work best on me has made shopping a great deal easier.  Even using two palates instead of one, it has made decisions a lot easier.

dark winter

dark autumn













The similarities in the palates are clear, although I believe that my home palate is still dark (sometimes called deep) winter; I have always looked better in a pure white than an off-white (which is one of the big tests of cool vs. warm palate).  It’s hard to miss the cross-over of colors, though, and there is an entire page by one web-based color site talking about how to tell the difference between the two.

The danger, of course, is that “your” colors aren’t always in style.  It’s a struggle to be a dark ANYTHING in the spring, which is why I wear so much black and white or color and white that time of the year.  The contrast works well on me.  Of course, it’s hard for a light spring to shop right now, whereas I am overwhelmed with the choices in my colors.

If you’ve never had your colors done, it may seem a bit overwhelming at first. However, there are some shortcuts and tools to use.

  1. Skin tone:  Use this chart to determine whether you have a cool, warm or neutral skin tone.  If you are clearly cool, that will make you a summer or winter.  If you are clearly warm, that will make you a spring or autumn.  If you are neutral, keep going.
  2. Jewelry:  Look at your jewelry.  Is it almost all silver or gold?  If it’s almost all silver, that suggests cool. If it’s almost all gold, that suggests warm.
  3. Eye and natural hair color:  Take a look at this chart.  It shows not just the skin tones (which can be hard to judge) but also the hair colors and eye colors that naturally appear, matched with their palate. I have dark brown eyes, pale skin, and medium brown hair.  Deep winter and deep autumn are the only palates that match that combination.
  4. The RED Test:  Finally follow these instructions using red clothing you already own to tip the scale between the cooler shades and warmer.  In my case, I don’t look as good in tomato red as I do in a true red or blue-tinted red, leading toward a conclusion of cool.

Once you have your colors, this pinner had a board for each color palate.  Use those colors as a guideline for what to add and what to consider a basic in your wardrobe.  This blog also has a TON of resources.

One last thought:  Just because a color isn’t in your palate doesn’t mean you can NEVER wear it.  It means you need to keep it away from your face.  A mustard sweater isn’t my best choice, but with a bold scarf in my colors it can be lovely.  Start collecting scarves NOW that can tie those other colors in and you will have an infinite number of combinations.

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