11 August 2014

Style Dilemma: 10 Steps to Packing for Vacation

Those of you following on twitter, Instagram, and facebook know we're about to head East to Europe. It's been 14 years since I've been to the part of the world I consider a second home, and it'll be the first time for the Beans.

The last time I was in a German-speaking country, this is a shot from German-speaking Italy, up in Tirol.

Needless to say, we're all a little excited.

This will be our view for 3 days of the trip, my host parents' place in the Alps.

We're in the final throes of preparation. We all have our passports, and we have friends picking up our mail. We test-packed a month ago to see what luggage it really made sense to take. You see, if it were just H and me traveling, we'd pack the morning of our trip. With two Beans in tow, though, it's a different story.

This past weekend, then, we started packing for realz.

Let me set this straight: I am NOT a pre-packer. My MIL will start packing for a trip a month in advance. I pack that day. I cannot, usually, get over the idea that I have certain things out of commission while I pack, and there's always one thing I have to use up until the Very Last Minute that prevents me from closing the suitcase.

This time, though, I want to be done, no worries, no rushing, just hop in the car with at least 5 separate devices (2 cell phones, a Nook, a laptop/tablet, and the Beans' 2 cameras - maybe 3, if I take the plunge), and get to the airport with more than enough time to let the Beans get excited about the airport and the things we adults think are boring.

I'm also a little panicked about the packing. For, despite my friends' Allie (Wardrobe Oxygen) and Rosana's (DC Style Factory) advice, and Chelsea's faith (The Chelsea Chronicles) that I've got it altogether in the packing department, I'm worried.

Will I take enough?
Will I take too much?
Will I take the right weight clothing?
Will I take the "right" clothing?

That one? That last one? That's my panic. As a 17 year old heading not only away from home but overseas for the first time ever, I had no worries and no real inkling that there was a thing called "looking like an American." By the time I finished my year in Austria, my German was fluid enough that I was mistaken for native. Fast forward through a college year in Germany, then trips back and trips to Romania and Greece with H, well, I'm hyper aware, now, of That Phenomenon.

And I don't want to be Those Americans.

Despite accepting the fact that we are, after living years in Europe, decidedly in the Tourist Camp this time around, I just can't bear the idea. Of course, we ARE Americans, and we're proudly so, but you know the stereotype traveler.

So in addition to guiding the Beans in their packing, I'm selecting my wardrobe carefully. We want to step it up a notch from what we might schlump around in here on a weekend. For the Bean, she happily paired her skirts with blouses and ditched her favorite shorts for a tennis dress. For No.2, who will happily wear a suit to church, he won't even don a polo shirt on a regular day. We picked their things out last night, and we'll see how that goes.

As for me, my packing goals are two-fold:

1) Efficiency - everything in there has to be multi-purpose, and dress up or down
2) Anti-American - 'nuff said. I tried on a few pieces last night and that was the H-test: "Do I look like an American?" He chortled, and humored me.

So here's how I'm doing it, step by step:

1) Know your trip - We're going somewhere slightly more formal, even in casual wear. Where are you going? Is there any variation?

2) Color-Coordination - I picked one color story, to borrow Rosana's term, then pulled easy pieces out. For me, it's grey/black/navy/white. It all goes with everything.

3) Easy, but fitted fabrics - the easiest way to look schlumpy in any language is to be a slouchy mess. You know me, I'm a sucker for a good deliberate slouch, but I made sure to pick pieces that fit well AND are comfortable. Predictably (and is does this mean I'm old?), there's a fair amount of jersey and pique in the mix, with a few light synthetics.

4) Cross-training - I laid it all out on my bed, and tested each top with each bottom, making sure I had at least double-use out of each piece (I did the same with the Bean, to teach her).

What I thought I was bringing - 5 weeks ago. It hasn't changed much, but I have thought through it more.

5) The Pre-Pack - my new tool. With my first run laid out, we put it all in the suitcase to see if it would fit. With that information, we know not only which luggage works, but whether or not we have any wiggle room. (I'm a roller, by the way. H hates it, but I swear by it.)

6) Time - I checked IG. I posted the pick of our "pre-pack" 5 weeks ago. Since then, I've thought and considered, wondered whether I had the right things, and even bought an item or two to round things out. I should be writing it all down, as I'm a habitual list-maker, but maybe the pre-pack took its place this time (only so many grown-up, organized things a girl can do at once).

The Bean's pre-pack. Note the print-on-print-on-print pattern mixing and her own color story. When we swapped out a few things last night, we tested each of them with the others to make sure they work. There was nothing to which she said "No." Brave fashion girl.

7) Pull - Make like your own stylist and pull the items you intend on packing. Last night, we all pulled the actual clothing we're packing. I still have a consideration or two (whether to buy a pair of shorts in case we hike up an Alp).

8) The Plane - Pull the pieces you're carrying with you - we're only taking one change of clothes on the plane in case of the luggage disaster, but for the little one, we need to take more. Those, along with our outfits for the plane (all considered in the packing selections), are all set aside.

9) Don't touch the pile - The Beans and H are under strict orders not to touch the things we're packing. That goes for me, too.

10) Pack - It won't be tonight (I still have to stop at Target for those shorts I think I'm packing, and there's a load of laundry today), but by two nights prior to our trip, the suitcase will be zipped.

And the most important...

If we get there and don't have the right stuff? No worries. Go to the store and fix it. While we don't want to buy loads, we aren't going somewhere obscure. If we forgot something, we can pick it up or do without.

I promise a pic or two of my actual selections and their logic, but for now,

How Do You Pack? How do you decide what to bring? When do you zip up the bag?

22 April 2014

Healthy Style: 5 Ways to "Make it Work" When You've Lost Your Style Mojo


"I've been struggling lately with food and activity, not to mention work-life balance. My #healthyme clothes don't fit like they did (10+ extra lbs will do that), so I find myself returning to old comforting strategies: perfect shoes, bright toes, and color. Lots of color. It may not improve my mood much right now, but every little but helps #WW #ootd #wearing @gap perfect khakis, @lillybeeshoes Ann, and pedi colors picked by the Bean"

When I put my tootsies up on Instagram this morning, I wasn't feelin' it. I haven't been feelin' it much at all lately. I've been feeling like I added an extra layer in a lot of ways - not the least of which is from extra food and increased inactivity.

I've lost my #healthyme mojo.

I'm not sure where I lost it, but I've been struggling some over the last year, starting last Easter. You see, I had a major run in with some jelly beans. That reminded me how sensitive I am to sugar, and sent me into a bit of a spiral. My activity stayed up for a while, so I was able to maintain reasonably, and even get back to my happy body place and fit into an amazing yellow dress.

But for the last few months, it's been worse. I've been eating well, cleanly, and happily. I've been eating too much. And then, after running a lot, I've stopped. As much as I love it, I haven't lifted a toe, really. So on came the pounds.

And then the clothes don't fit. Getting dressed in the morning isn't interesting right now, as much as I like my closet. When I can't wear whatever I want, it's just not.

So I'm calling "truce" with my body, and listening to my soul. I'm going to slowly return to the strategies that got me to my #healthyme goal, and adjust as needed. In the meantime, I'll reuse strategies that comfort me like I did today. These 5 things will help me "make it work" until I'm out from under the cloud.
  1. Find 3 things that work. 3 things that, with other stuff in my closet, will get me through. I don't have to love them. Number 1? The power pants.
  2. Reuse those 3 things to no end. We think others are keeping track, but they're not. And reusing things makes it easy, if only for a little while.
  3. Get a manicure. Or a pedicure. Or both. Nothing does a lady good like pretty fingers and toes. Really. I could look at mine all day and they make me smile. Currently, these pink butterflied toes and silver sparkly fingers.
  4. Pick out the one pair of shoes that makes me walk taller - whether they're heels or not. I haven't worn these old favorites in ages (um, winter), but I'm so glad I broke them out. I'll be reusing. Many times.
  5. Find one item - be it clothing, shoe, or accessory - that's as bright as can be. You guessed it: reuse it. Wear it to death. Make it a "signature piece."

Only I'm not sure how many times I can wear my "power pants" before it gets a little ridiculous.

19 March 2014

Renegade Style: Pushing the Fashion Limits

Who knew that there were renegades in sports fashion? Heck, who knew that there were strict attire rules against which renegades could buck? Sure, there's the whole deal around tennis whites, and then there's the glory of golf togs (and the rules regulating them at courses and clubs worldwide). Let's face it, though, tennis and golf are moneyed sports that didn't originate in the United States.

Redblooded American sports though? Baseball? Football? Basketball?

Yup. There are standards, apparently. Very strict ones, in some places. There's a long history of rule-making authorities and the athletic personalities that want to express their creativity with their garb. And we're not just talking about adding a ribbon or a patch to a jersey to honor someone or a cause.

We're talking about rules about whether or not a player can untuck his shirt.

Though all I wanted to do was turn off all electronics last night and go to bed, H talked me into watching ESPN's 30 for 30 Short, "Untucked," all of 14 minutes and 44 seconds long.

I might have rolled my eyes a bit (internally, I swear) when he suggested a post on it. To tuck or untuck a jersey? Really? Within seconds, though, I was pulled in.

The 1970s Marquette basketball team was a group of unwieldy trailblazers. As they tell the story, they essentially had nothing to lose. They were a group of relative misfits cobbled together by an unusual coach named Al McGuire, who grew up in a bar - and coached like it. Turns out that one of these misfits, Bo Ellis, recruited to play, told his coach that he wanted to study fashion design.

Marquette didn't have a fashion design program, so McGuire found a way for Ellis to be the first man studying at a nearby sister university. Then he laid the gauntlet down - unintentionally. He said his player could design new uniforms. He didn't think his offer was serious.

As the players recount, the next morning, and after sketch after sketch, a new uniform design was on the coach's desk. He just happened to also own part of a business that produced uniforms.

The groundbreaking kits came to life. Not only were they downright snazzy in their use of the school colors, but their player number and university name placement was practically irreverent. These weren't the uniforms of serious white boys lined up and tucked in neatly for team photos.

Pardon my last-year-in-the-ACC-yes-I'm-a-Terp prejudice, but it doesn't get much more straight laced than the Duke 1977 team. Image via

These were, one can only imagine, players in all senses of the word. They took their sport incredibly seriously, going on to win a national championship no one thought they could win.

Their discipline took them all the way to the very last seconds of the championship. And they won. Video via

Their irreverence and their coach's atypical style had folks thinking they were fly-by-night and undisciplined.

See? Players. Image via

Not so, it turns out. Turns out these players - this team - with their designed-to-be-untucked jerseys was one of the most disciplined groups of players out there.

Listening to the players and some fans talk about the time at Marquette, there was clearly a spirit of rebellion. There was clearly a sense of "we're different." There was clearly a sense of "let's do something no one else has done before."

It might have been an untucked jersey, but it was created like any other groundbreaking design on the fashion week runways: so that the wearer wants to - can't wait to - put it on, and so that, once on, the wearer feels better than they've ever felt before.

These jerseys were fashion.

I only wish I knew what else Bo Ellis designed.

For a little more on the history of "the untucked jersey" across college and professional sports:
here's a great piece by Paul Lukas over at ESPN

or check out the "Sportsartorialist" over here at Grantland (Scott Schumann, eat your heart out. There are pictures and writing.

07 March 2014

Healthy Style: Why Running is Important to Fashion

Running is critical to fashion.

"Ummmm...?" you say?

Season after season, show after show, pin after pin, and every time I see someone on the street that gives me pause, I've come to realize something. Fashion is about knowing your strengths and taking chances.

Sure, we have our uniforms. Designers, especially, are famous for theirs. Donna and Karl prefer sleek black. Dame Vivienne hasn't wavered - in 30+ years - from wearing that which she designs. Regular people, too, find what works and stick with it: a shape, a fabric, a color.

And then, one day, they - and we - try something different. We see something, are inspired by something, and decide to play.

Sometimes playing comes easily, and it works. Sometimes, the play feels uncomfortable, and it falls short.

Wish I knew where the image was from...

If you've been following me for a while, you know about the #healthyme journey I started in 2012. I started not because I wanted to play, or even because I was inspired. I started because I was unhappy and didn't feel good.

Well, my friends, it turns out playing does wonders for the physical and emotional souls.

You see, somewhere along the line, I learned to play, thanks in large part to my work with TrainerJen. I took a chance, helpless, almost, and willing to try anything, and she coached me into bear crawls and leaps and jumps.

And running.

She claims, actually, that I told her we could do anything she wanted - except running. I have no recollection of that brash statement, but apparently, I made it.

And then, about a year later, I took it back. Little voices started speaking to me, telling me to go for a run. They were kinda like those voices that claim you should try the fancy sweatshirt trend even though you don't think you like it and in fact you really despise it because you did it already in 1987. Then those voices keep repeating themselves every time you walk past the rack at Target and you think, "Well, maybe, it's kinda cute...but I can't."

"I can't run. I hate running."

"Well, if I'm going to try a trend, I might as well try it from Target, where it's not going to cost me as much."

"Going for a run won't cost me anything but time outside. And those voices."

So a year ago now, I went for a run. And then I signed up for races, and ran at least a mile for 64 out of 65 days straight. And now I'm willing to try almost anything, athletically or sartorially, because you never know what will work or make you stronger or happier or healthier. You never know what muscles you'll learn to flex and what new heights playing will take you to.

All of this is really warm up. Because I'm about to be a running pusher. You see, TrainerJen has a new program, and it kicks off this Monday night. She's hosting a Spreecast Webinar to talk about why everyone should consider adding running to their fitness program.

And no, the only reasons to add running are not just in case of zombie attack or to be able to wear a Viktor & Rolf gown.

But they're pretty good ones.

What: Why Everyone Should Run Webinar
Why: Zombies and gowns and playdates, oh my!
When: Monday, March 11, 7:30pm
Where: online - Spitfire Fitness Arts' facebook page has the details

03 March 2014

Paris Fashion Week: Kenzo Fall and Spring 2014 RTW Through the Bean's Eyes

 
 
"The foll cklleckshin was vare martin if the sprening was tieek that I wad sae that dut the sprening ckleckshin was spntacklear."
 
Translated, she wrote: "The fall collection was very mod-er-in. If the spring was [I'll update it when she's up in the morning] that I would say that the spring collection was spectac-lee-ar."
 
She bugged me for a full 24 hours until I put up her review. I may have created a monster. Here are her picks, some of which she noted in the left hand column above.
 







 

 

 
Images courtesy Style.com
 
Should you care to read a review of Kenzo's Fall 2014 RTW collection, hop over to my review on Glass.