Mighty Life List
May 29 2012

Packing Light: Oahu

So this is (almost) everything I packed in my carry-on for the press trip I took to Oahu. There was also a photo of me in a bikini that I took with my cell phone the hotel bathroom mirror. As you might imagine, it was a little… much. So this is everything I packed for four days in Hawaii except the photo of me in a blue bikini with ruffles. If you’ve already seen me naked, I will totally send that to you. Otherwise, use your imagination.

For trips to warm places, I try to pack mostly one-pieces (dresses, rompers) because they pack smaller and you don’t have to waste any time worrying about whether you’re packing stuff that matches everything else.

I wore this dress to travel, with a yellow slip underneath so my skin doesn’t show through the perforations. It’s poly, so you can pretty much roll it into a ball and it doesn’t wrinkle, and it also unzips all the way down the front, so you can layer it over things in interesting ways.

Here’s a full shot of the dress, which I also wore on our tour of the Turtle Bay Resort where we were staying. I look so happy here because the dress cost six bucks. I’m genetically unable to shut up about that.

I wore this to the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, the dress is Urban Outfitters, and the sweater is thrifted. I’ve since shrunk the dress to half its original size, so look for it as a shirt in future posts.

This romper is by a San Francisco designer whose brand I forget, of course. (She’s in the Mission, tiny shop on one of the numbered side streets between Valencia and Dolores. Anyone?) Anyway, it’s an oddly functional piece of clothing. I can belt it, wear it with tights and a long sleeve shirt, add something with a collar to switch it up. It’s become a bit of a uniform, but ultimately it’s a romper. For romping.

There, that’s better.

This is me in a ruffly dress from H&M, wielding a machete. Machetes are apparently still a thing in Hawaii.

Here’s the full dress with one of the vintage cardigans I brought. I used that sweater constantly, by the way. It was warm, but the breeze at night was a little chilly and there was some rain while we were there.

To save space, I try to pack jammies that can double as clothes if I need them. This is an Old Navy tank, and a pair of workout shorts from American Apparel. Can you imagine how bad the aforementioned bikini shot has to be if I’m willing to post this? Exactly.

Beach coverup! I wore this Urban Outfitters romper over my swimsuit when we headed down for surf lessons at Turtle Bay.

I got the sunglasses at a flea market. They’re made for shooting, and they feel heavenly because of those little side shades. Our trip lead, Mike, said they make me look like a 70-year-old man. I told him to get off my lawn.

American Apparel high-waisted side zip shorts and a random transparent shirt I’ve had forever. This shirt is an awesome suit coverup, so I wore it kayaking because I knew it would fit under the life jacket.

Like so.

(Aside! Holy crap, have you ever seen a sea turtle? These sea kayaks had glass bottoms, so you could see them swimming around, and I didn’t expect to be so affected by them. One looked right up at me, and it was like I could feel my heart beating in my mouth. Please put “see a sea turtle” on your Life List.)

This is my American Apparel bikini top, which I bought for a trip to Jamaica. The bottom is super high-waisted, which is convenient if you have stretch marks from baby havin’.

You can also cover stretch marks with a lightweight scuba skin, which is excellent for snorkeling. And sexy times.

Sep 7 2011

Our Skin

I’ve been following the comments on my link to the Dark Girls documentary over the last few days, and it has been an education for me. Excerpts from a few comments that I thought deserved more attention.

“…When I came to college, I was able to learn more about the history of Africa and learn about where my family comes from. I didn’t meet black guys who were interested in me which I thought came from me not being involved in a black sorority or in the Black Student Union. When I started to interact with other black students through work and volunteering, I still felt very separated from the “traditionally black” groups. Save for black girls with real (meaning really close) roots in Africa or the Caribbean (a girl whose parents are from Senegal and another whose roots are Native American and Haitian have been two friends I’ve made in the past four years) I’m dismissed by other black girls, too.

I feel guilty saying that it’s because of my dark skin color, because that discounts the fact that maybe I’m an awful person (and maybe I am!) or maybe our personalities don’t sync up. But, I’ve seen girls and boys who have ignored me in African American and African Studies classes excitedly interact with groups of friends I have who run the gambit in personalities but who represent the whitest end of the color spectrum. So, in four years, I’ve learned to draw conclusions.

It’s complicated and it’s a big deal, as evidenced by the little girl in the video who sees race as an indicator of intelligence and beauty, so it’s really hard for me to draw conclusions outside of the ones that I’ve made for myself.

It sounds so trite and Dove campaign-y but I love my skin. In my skin I see my grandmother, a woman I’ve only known in pictures; I see the skin of my ancestors, whom I’ve never seen but who I know looked like me. I see history and I am so lucky to be able to carry that around with me.” -Beatrice

“[On my camera,] I use the ‘lighter skin tone’ setting and flash, sickened by my preference for a lighter me…

The girl I babysit, a sweet, Caucasian girl of age seven, asked the other day, “Do you like having brown skin?”

I stuttered and said something along the lines of, “I guess,” ashamed that I was ashamed of something so natural and uncontrollable as the color of my skin, hating myself for hating myself.” From “Let us be colorful, darling” a post by Lamisa

“…I am Indian. My mother was light/fair skinned and my father was dark skinned. I inherited my father’s darker tones. My mother would scold me constantly for being in the sun and hated when I looked dark. She had stupid creams on me when I was little that would blister and burn my skin.” -Calypso

“You know what’s crazy? That a lot of white girls spend a ton of time and money trying to make their skin darker… Understand: I am in no way trying to say that it’s the same thing as the experience of dark-skinned women… But it just struck me, why are we all programmed to want to be different from how we are?” -Amy

“Wow…unfortunately, this brings back sad memories for me. As a dark skinned African American woman I too heard these comments throughout my life. My saving grace was my beloved grandfather who told me every day that I was beautiful and special and a gift from God. Because of his counter attack on all the negative comments, I grew to love my brown skin. Just goes to show that love can wipe away a multitude of sins.” -Dar

Aug 23 2011

Wardrobe Basics from Real Women

Right now, my closet looks like the wardrobe rack at an amateur theater company — bright, bedazzled, schizophrenic. As an avid thrift and vintage shopper, my dresser drawers overfloweth. Still, I seem to wear the same ten things again and again.

The clothes I buy on a whim always get the most play, and that got me wondering about other women’s wardrobe standbys. So I asked some stylish girlfriends about their basics.

Susan Wagner from The Working Closet

“My go-to item this summer has been the khaki City Mini from J. Crew.”

“It has an elastic “paperbag” waist that is perfect with a tank or tee and a skinny belt and a great A-line shape that makes my legs look thin (score!). I just bought the winter version, which is wool rather than cotton/linen, in bright dahlia, because it’s the perfect skirt and will go with everything I own and require no thought at all when I get dressed in the morning.”

Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo

“I’m obsessed with Emersonmade’s skinny jeans. They’re ridiculously flattering; honestly, they make me feel so sexy and shapely when I wear them.

“They’re super dark because they’re dyed with indigo. I wear them all the time, with T-shirts or blouses or sweaters.”

Katie Spence from Your New Favorite

“It is so very hot in Austin that mostly I wear skirts and dresses to keep things breezy. My favorite skirt this summer has been a chambray skirt that I got at Land’s End, but which is currently sold out.”

“However there is one on sale at Madewell that is almost identical. Lately I’ve been obsessed with natural fabrics, like cotton chambray and linen.”

Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day!

“These Gap slim crop pants in black. I can wear them with ballet flats or heels.”

“People dress up more here in Paris than in the US so these are my version of casual everyday pants.”

Rebecca Woolf from Girls’ Gone Child

Had to think about this because I don’t fit into any of my “usual” go tos (Ed note: Rebecca is currently 32 weeks pregnant with twins!), but last Fall it was this little corduroy half-jacket my friend Dani got for me at a thrift store:

(Ed note: If you want a crop jacket of your own, here are two to consider: 7 For Mankind Leather Crop, and a pattern for a simple cropped blazer.)

“My ‘go-to outfit’ is the dress + cardigan + booty + sock combo:”

Melissa Cotton from Poppy Cotton

“These are the most perfectly iconic ballet flats I have ever come across, and I have bought so many over the years looking for the perfect look and fit.”

“They are truly transformative to both my legs/feet and my outfit, quietly underscoring my entire fashion identity — classic and pulled together with a nod to the mid-century.”

Margaret Stewart from Fountly

“I have a dress I got this summer from Anthropologie that has proven to be the most versatile article of clothing I’ve ever owned. Seriously. I took it on a month long trip and wore it morning, noon, and (literally) night. Was great for sightseeing, casual or fancy meals, and (genius!) also an incredibly comfy nightgown.”

“Normally I shy from things without a waist; it’s my best feature! But in hot weather, it’s too binding to have a fitted anything! This thing was so damned comfy.”

Gabrielle Blair from Design Mom

“A scarf from J.Crew. It’s silk, but feels more like cotton, which I like.”

“It’s a warm pink and it has an almost florescent pink printed pattern. I picked it up on clearance last summer and I’ve worn it way too many days over the last year.”

(You can still find a couple of these babies on eBay, happy bidding.)

Interesting, right? Thanks, ladies!

Ok, team, now you. What’s your favorite item of clothing? If you have a link, all the better.

Jun 8 2011

Mighty Closet: Liz Stanley

This is my extraordinarily efficient friend Liz Stanley of Say Yes to Hoboken. In addition to being a total party animal, Liz is one of those people who can complete a cross stitch sampler, repaint the living room, and start a successful small business before she meets you for brunch.

She also has my favorite smile ever.

See?

Liz and I share a penchant for cruise director chic. Her khakis are American Eagle, and the gold striped tank is J.Crew from eBay. As you can see here, her house is just as well curated as her closet.

Liz’s pink ribbon necklace is also J.Crew and her blue blazer is from a thrift store. She says, “Shrunken blazers look hot with almost any outfit, but check the little boys section of your local thrift store for a cheap/vintage alternative to that $150 one you’ve been eying from J.Crew. I always find some great ones to add to my closet there.”

Her pink/gold heels were consignment, and they’re such a flattering neutral. The shine gives them a little more depth than a straightforward nude, and the pink is warmer too. Plus I love how a T-strap shoe always reduces blisters. I wonder if these were originally tango shoes.

Liz has baby-fine hair, so messy updos are a quick option for her. Everyday Princess Leia.

I told Liz I would crop the firewood out of the shot, but then the photo looked less awesome without it. Sorry, Liz. Now everyone will know you use your fireplace. Probably for something illicit.

Liz says, “Once you slip into a pair of high-waisted stretchy jeans like these, you’ll curse whoever came up with the idea of a low rise. There’s a reason our moms wore them in the ’70s, they’re incredibly comfortable. Plus, thanks to J. Lo’s butt, we can all embrace the full size of our behinds in high-waisted jeans.”

The scarf is from Target. If you always wonder how people make cool headbands from scarves, Liz recently posted a tutorial on her favorite turban ties. Go read it.

Her long-chain necklace is the Color Study Locket by Verabel on Etsy.


Bag by Fabric and Handle, excellent for toting your macrame project. Her sandals are Bernardo.

Here’s Liz with a pillow she probably whipped up in the ten minutes before she had a dozen guests over for dinner. Liz, I will pay you to be my wife. Tights by American Apparel, brown boots are Diesel from a consignment store, and the gray dress is H&M.

Liz and I were talking about what makes someone’s style stand out, and her theory is layering. She says, “With a kind of boring dress like this gray one I like to add unexpected pieces like an oxford shirt underneath and bright tights. I’m a big fan of oxfords as an under layer. Just be sure to roll up the sleeves and unbutton the top to prevent looking too stiff and formal.” Shirt is H&M, belt is from a thrift store

This sweet J Crew headband would get lost in my hair, but I love it paired with a chignon or a casual ponytail. Well played, Stanley.

Liz got this ombre silk skirt from a consignment store. She says, ““Elastic waist skirts aren’t always the most flattering on their own. Add a belt to cinch your waist and hide the extra bulk around the hip they’re giving you with a shrunken blazer.”

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of Liz’s neutral-colored layering pieces feature an understated print like this tiny polka dot blouse from Urban Outfitters. It adds interest, but the overall effect is still classic. The blazer and brown belt are thrifted.

These boots are made for typin’ (by Zara).

Gah! I so covet this dress. She found it at a thrift store in Utah, and orignially it was sleeveless, backless, and nearly floor length, “I’m not a great sewer but I worked my fingers to the bone to refashion this outdated dress into something more my style.” You can see the whole process right here.

Here she’s styled the dress for day and evening.

Liz throws on a cardigan from Express, a the thin belt is H&M for a creative business look.

Also, there’s a removable back panel so Liz can still wear the dress to church.

For evening, she dresses up her shoes. Liz made these sequin shoe clips herself, but you can buy them readymade from Ban.do.

Here’s what the heels look like naked. (My Google search traffic on this post just skyrocketed.)

Add a vintage clutch, and you’re all set for some serious partying. That donkey tail isn’t gonna pin itself.

May 9 2011

Packing Light, New Orleans

As you know, I’m all about the carry-on luggage. A carry-on and a backpack can get me through almost anything, mostly because carry-ons will hold way more than most people think, especially if you’re going somewhere warm. Here’s what I packed for New Orleans.

The denim skirt is thrifted and the striped top is Urban Outfitters. Anna Beth Chao only weighs like three pounds, so you can fold her right down into the exterior pocket of the carry-on. I take her everywhere. Chao and champagne.

The silk scarf is vintage Vera, and the aviators are from Anthropologie. When I wear them, I like to ask people for their license and registration at regular intervals.

There was a cocktail party that first night, so I wore my vintage fringe happy dress, which requires zero ironing. I take it everywhere.

These are my fallback shoes, which operate on the theory that if you’re a woman over six feet tall in heels, no one notices what you’re wearing anyway. I need a new pair, because I’ve had these for nearly a decade. It’s impossible to find stable, comfortable, unreasonably tall shoes, but it’s time. Help a sister out, Internet.

The next day was my presentation. I like to be totally comfortable on stage, so I went with this simple navy shift from H&M and swapped the belt out for a striped scarf. The orange travel flats are Tieks, and I also wore two square glass orange rings, because I like to be matchy matchy like that. You’ll see those below.

A group of us went to dinner later that night, and I wore a romper I got at Forever 21 for 16 cents. Cheap prices for disposable clothing is why I continue to shop there, even though they purposefully play music to annoy people my age. You’ll have to more than blast Avril Levigne to drive me away from prices like this Forever 21! Actually, I love that “What the Hell” song, so I’m golden. I am bopping in the aisles, Forever21.

I wore the romper with very basic open toe black flats from H&M. I don’t have any full-length shots of this outfit that you haven’t already seen, so I’m cheating by using a shot from New York. There are, however, several shots of me looking naked at dinner:

“Oh, don’t mind me. I put a dinner napkin on the chair before I sat down.”

This is my impression of cruise director Julie McCoy. Can you feel me setting a course for adventure?

The skirt is from Buenos Aires, and the tennies are knockoff Bensimons, which I got on the cheap at the now-defunct Martin and Osa. I need to replace those badly, but can’t bring myself to spend $50 on a pair of slightly more awesome canvas Keds.

Scarf is another vintage Vera tied as an ascot. The button-up shirt is from The Limited, which makes great shirts for business travel because they aren’t 100 percent cotton, which means they have stretch to them and don’t wrinkle nearly so easily. My glasses are Dolce and Gabanna.

That night I wore an American Apparel dress for my reading, with the same heels we talked about earlier.

As you know, I like to take jammies that I can wear as clothes in a pinch. This time, I packed this grey romper, also from Forever21, also 16 cents. The cashmere sweater is from the Alameda Flea Market.

I stayed a couple extra days with Anna Beth, so I revisited the navy shift for lunch at Commanders Palace. Here you can see the aforementioned orange rings, which I got from street vendors in Buenos Aires:

I also wore my stripe top again, this time with a little black mini from Urban Outfitters:

And a scarf from H&M:

Again, I failed to get a photo of what I wore on the plane due to exhaustion. I know this makes you rabid, so I’ll say I wore a short cotton mini-dress over tight jeans with the gray striped sweater, a blazer, and the white sneakers.

And that’s it, team.

One day soon I’ll do a post about what I wear on planes to maximize comfort and go from cold (San Francisco) to warm (everywhere else). Speaking of which, do you have a standard travel outfit? If so, spill. I could use a variation on the dress/leggings/sweater theme.

Also, keep an eye on this space, because I asked Roxanna from Everyday Treats to tell me what she packed for New Orleans. She always looks amazing, and she sent photos. Hooray, Roxanna!

Nov 1 2010

Flashback Monday: Women’s Fashion, Part IV, Accessories

 

In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, I’ve been posting articles that originally appeared elsewhere. This piece was originally published by the The Morning News in 2003. Thanks to Rosecrans Baldwin, for the edits.

Fashion Standbys from Decades Past _ Mighty Girl

A girlfriend of mine just went through a particularly hard year — divorce, career upheaval, the possibility of leaving her beloved bungalow. We were talking about New Year’s resolutions, and she said she was going easy on herself. Her only resolution was to accessorize better. Screw the gym — this is a goal I can get behind.

Designers draw from the past, and so should you. The oft-repeated rule is that styles are recycled every twenty years or so. Wearing something that was once all the rage but has since fallen out of style will make you seem fashionable without risking disasters.

This is my list of standbys from decades past. I skipped the ‘90s because I still don’t have enough emotional distance to recommend that you bust out your shrugs. Forgive me.

1910s
Full-Size Umbrellas

Why do we wear shoes that make our feet bleed, but refuse to carry an umbrella that won’t tuck into our purse? Half the convenience, ten times the appeal, the full-size umbrella with a wooden hook handle is too charming to abandon. How forlorn to browse in a bookstore, sip a latte, or buy a paper on a rainy afternoon without one.

1920s
Fans

Aren’t fans sweet? They’re light, compact, and they drop right into your purse. If you live somewhere hot, or you like to go out dancing, it’s such a comfort to have a portable cooling system with you, and so much more attractive than fanning your sweaty neck with a magazine. If you live in a big city, head to the nearest Chinatown and pick one up for a buck or two. I’m a sucker for cherry blossoms.

1930s
Gloves

Without a decent pair of gloves, what do you suppose you’ll use to slap your offenders? Maybe white cotton gloves are a little too precious (and OCD indicative) for afternoon shopping trips nowadays, but dress gloves are so suave with an evening gown. I’m also in favor of colorful, soft, leather gloves for the winter. Try deep green with your black coat or a soft blue to offset chocolate. Leather gloves give such a satisfying thwack when defending one’s honor.

1940s
Back-Seam Stockings

You can wear them slutty, classy, or somewhere in between. Where else can you get that kind of versatility for ten bucks? Back-seam stockings lend ba-boom to the most mundane dress or shapeless skirt. Black is a classic choice. Please straighten your seam, or you’ll look as though you’ve just had a tryst in the broom closet.

1950s
Vices

Cigarette smoking is a nasty habit. Don’t cigarette cases make it ever so much more attractive? Press the precise, silver button, and pop! A tidy row of cigarette soldiers waits to defend you against the evening chill. Offer one to a friend; give him a light with your shiny flip-top lighter. (Plink! Tiny flame. Plink! Pocket-ready.) And for god’s sake, get yourself a drink. Why do you think they call it a cocktail dress?

Brooches
Brooches are nostalgic, and rarely the first choice when you’re digging through your jewelry box. They’re just grandma enough to qualify as quirky, and a very simple outfit is elevated with the right pin.

1960s
False Eyelashes

A kittenish sidelong glance is nothing without them. Buy a pack of individual lashes and some lash glue at the drugstore. Put a couple of lashes on the outside corner of each eye, and maybe one in the middle to even things out. Paint on some black liquid liner and give yourself a slow wink in the mirror. If you don’t want to have sex with your own reflection, you’re doing it wrong.

1970s
Pom-Pom Hats

The more interest you take in your wardrobe, the more you’ll realize that caring too much about what people think can be the kiss of death. When everyone is wearing their sleek little black watchmen’s caps, nothing says ‘piss off’ like a ‘70s-style pom-pom ski cap in Lifesaver colors. Orange and green stripes, or navy blue and white topped with a cherry-red pom—this is clothing that bobs when you walk! Right on.

Crocheted Beer Can Hats
Perhaps you’ve seen one of these at a thrift store. You cut beer cans into squares or ovals and then crochet them into a hat. Eh? Eh? I’m kidding. Take it off.

1980s
Bows

You had to give up your side ponytail, but don’t let go of the bow. Try it at your waistline, on your shoes, or tie a long scarf into a headband with a bow at the top.

The Details
Every time you leave the house, consider wearing, or carrying, one unique thing that makes you a happy kid. If you have an unusual accessory, you can throw on a black turtleneck and a ho-hum pair of jeans and still seem hip. The unexpected diverts attention from the mundane, and stocking up on wacky vintage brooches is a lot cheaper than buying an electric-green Cashmere coat. Also, electric green isn’t your color.

Apr 26 2010

They Come with an Invisible Plane and a Lasso

I love the idea of these kitschy transparent boots, but reviews say they’re poorly made. Still, I’ve fallen for the smokey ones:

If I didn’t mind visible, condensed sweat beading inside my shoes, I’d be all over those suckers. Ah well.