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People Don’t Dress Up Anymore, All They Do Is This…

I just read an awesome article from the Huffington Post titled, “7 Ways Your Grandmother Dressed Better Than You.” It was so freaking on point and so true.

The list basically talks about how our foremothers were serious about the proper undergarments and proper fit of their clothing. It also discussed how because clothes were so expensive for everyone, knowing how to sew was a must among most American women of that generation. (Do they even have home economics anymore?)

That is totally a thing of the past unless a child has the fashion bug, and wants to be a designer and seeks out their very first sewing machine on their own. As an 80s baby, I had an Easy Bake Oven and I had a for real operational kid’s sewing machine. I feel like my generation was the last to be made to go to home economics, but honestly, when I can hem my pants or sew buttons for a boyfriend, it makes me feel like a hot commodity.

I actually want to take sewing lessons and learn how to make some things myself. It wasn’t uncommon back in the day for the older women of the neighborhood or some older person in your family to make a new baby a blanket, a christening outfit, prom dress or wedding dress.

The way things are now, I bet for most young women the first time they’ve ever worn tailored clothing is if they are a bride’s maid in someone’s wedding. There was a friend of mine a short thang who said she always had to get her pants and jeans tailored.

Tailoring! I had forgotten all about it. So when my jeans that fit right everyplace else but were too long and dragging on the ground, I realized, stupid, you can get these tailored!!!

It doesn’t even cross one’s mind and that’s sad. But as the article points out, what is the point of a good tailoring job if the fabrics are cheap and practically disposable anyway?

I didn’t realize how much we as a society, in America don’t dress up until a few years ago, my dad, who is quite stylish, visited me and we went out to dinner. He had on a button up shirt, slacks and blazer. I wore a dress. But all around us, people were wearing jeans.

My dad shook his head. To him dining out was an experience, therefore you dress up. I agree with him, although I eat out with my friends ALOT and I tend to be a jeans wearer, a lot of times, I do like to turn it up a notch and look like it’s a special occasion.

Then the last few times I’ve gone to the Kennedy Center for performances, I noticed that there were old school folks who dressed to the nines, like myself and others in….jeans.

In my opinion, the Kennedy Center is too beautiful to not show up looking your best. It’s one of my favorite places to go, because it feels so grand. But I guess the general consensus is you are sitting in the dark and no one will see you any way or you aren’t the one on stage.

We’ve gotten way too casual and it’s sad. I do think people feel better about themselves and hold themselves to a higher standard when they dress up for certain events and are expected to. There’s an increased level of civility. I know I walk with my head higher, I have better posture. What’s even worse is when you do go out for an event and everyone says, “Wow, you’re really dressed up.”

Actually, you’re way too casual. I love looking at blogs with street style in Europe and seeing how people in Milan and Paris turn everyday places into runways with a certain style and sophistication.

But here in the land of the free, home of the hamburger, we’ve gotten sloppy and slutty.

I’ll admit, I have moments I pull out a freakum dress or short shorts, but every occasion doesn’t call for that. I’ve been to weddings where people wore flip-flops (they are acceptable and smart during the reception only) and funerals where people wore jeans and tee shirts. (At hood funerals if said tee-shirt has a photo of the deceased, I’ll allow it).

Why can’t we even honor those moments with being well-dressed. We’ve gotten lazy as a society. “Clothes don’t represent who I am.” “I shouldn’t be judged by what I wear.” “People should accept me for who I am.”

I’m old school. I think people should dress nicely for church and I rarely wear pants to church, and if I do they are dress slacks, because that’s how I was raised. It’s not about showing off, or acting like wearing the best clothes is a status symbol or I want to be seen, but I want to respect myself and the occasion. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that or it makes me a dinosaur.

So hell yes, our grandparents dressed better. People may have been poorer or had less education, but they had way more class and self-respect. They had expectations and because they knew how to stretch pennies and make things happen, they knew how to cook and sew and fix things, we benefitted greatly, but it made us lazy.

Eartha Kitt photographed by Gordon Parks as she was being fitted for a dress by a woman who I am 99.9% sure is none other than the pioneering fashion designer Zelda Wynn Valdes in 1952.

Photo from blackvintageglamour.tumblr.com The amazing Eartha Kitt and her almighty seamstress.

Percy Verwayne (1895-1968) was the original Sportin’ Life in the 1927 Broadway DuBose and Dorothy Heyward play, “Porgy,” the precursor to the iconic 1935 George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.” Mr. Verwayne was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) and appeared on Broadway, on radio and in several films for at least thirty years, but he was best known in his day for originating the role of Sportin’ Life. He was also a former athlete and that came in handy in 1941 when he was robbed of 75 cents by a very unwise 18-year-old within two blocks of his Harlem home at 400 West 128th street. The incident was gleefully reported in the New York Amsterdam News on August 9, 1941 under the headline, “Mugger Gets Wrong Victim.” According to the paper, when the mugger tried to run away, “Verwayne chased him for a block, grabbed him by the seat of his trousers and socked him into submission. When the cops arrived, Verwayne was in complete control of the situation.” I’ll bet he was… haha! Photo: New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Collection.

Now that’s bespoke. Photo from blackvintageglamour.tumblr.com

And now this is what we have today…

Rihanna Getty Images via Huffington Post.

So, I think deep down we want to dress awesomely. Aside from the storylines, people LIVE for the fashion of shows like “Mad Men,” “Sex and the City,” and most recently, “Scandal” because of the clothes, and the fit of the clothes. I am among a whole lot of people who created pinterest boards based on the fabulous Olivia Pope.

Folks aren’t just salivating over her steamy love scenes, but whilst live tweeting, you see folks going crazy over her coats, and amazingly chic clothing she wears sitting on the couch with her red wine.

http://scandalmoments.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/oliviapopefashionallsaintsepisode5scandalseason2.png?w=620

Photo from scandalmoments.com Please see the wonder that is Olivia Pope in all of her fashionable glory. God, this show.

One of my personal faves. Grandmother would be proud, Liv.

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Photo: Scandalmoments.com

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Lucky Girls

Great wall of Lucky covers! Ultimate Lucky Girls.

Great wall of Lucky covers! Ultimate Lucky Girls. (Screencapture Google Image Search)

When I was a bright-eyed college student, one of my roommates always bought Lucky magazine.

I’d read hers, and eventually I was hooked myself.

In the beginning, during the college years, I would marvel at all of the great clothes, shoes and handbags I couldn’t afford.

But what seemed to get me the most were the women they featured. Not the celebrities, but the “regular” women they called “Lucky girls.”  They really inspired me. Especially the ones who were editors and writers and gadget queens.

*Sidebar, I don’t know what the hell happened over at Lucky, but they have really stepped it up in terms of diversity. There are way more women of color in there now and I’m loving that they are doing features with plus sized and regular sized women with curves. They have made me fall in love with them all over in a very real way.

They weren’t much older than me, but they wore the awesome clothes, shoes and handbags and they had great jobs…IN NEW YORK and other ridiculously expensive places.

I wanted nothing more than to one day be able to attain enough professional success, and effortless, classic style so I could land in Lucky’s pages.

I’m 30, and I look at those pages in a different way. I’ve managed to work my way up from grinding as an editorial intern, a metro desk reporter, to a web editor, and I guess you could say, hey throw on an outfit and Lucky, where’s my close up?

But, I look in the pages and now I see these uber fabulous women who are younger than me. I’m jealous again. But knowing fabulous women personally, and being one myself, it’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s frustrating and difficult. The expectations fabulous women place on themselves are enough to cause permanent scoliosis. There is pressure, there is wanting to stay ahead of the curve and the fear of falling behind and never being able to catch up. There is keeping up the appearances. Making others happy, staying sane, proving you deserve everything you’ve got and everything else you’re trying to get. They are duty bound to their loved ones, they are leaders in what they do.

I take nothing from the gals who grace those pages. I’m certain they had to work very hard, but as I reflect on my career, and my closet (which doesn’t have that many luxury brands, but is still friggin fab) , I’m wondering, am I a Lucky girl?

Did I do enough? There are some over 30’s in the magazine, don’t get me wrong. But seeing 27-year-old powerhouses who still have early 20’s bodies and dream jobs, luxury apartments, etc. it makes me feel some kind of way.

When you feel like you’ve hit a rut, even the most supportive people in the world like me tend to lose it when they see people who are too fabulous to be true. A friend emailed me an amazing article in Apartment Therapy about this stunning woman who had an insanely awesome apartment in a chic area of Northern Virginia. Something about it kind of sent me in a funk.

Then, one of my best friends, who was in a funk, just whisked herself away to a resort out of the country for the last 7 days.

I am jealous of these people. I just am. Keep in mind, in comparison to other people I know, I’m blessed beyond ridiculous belief. I can afford to live on my own, and even though I had to suffer a pay cut last year, I’m still able to pay my bills comfortably– something I could not do two years ago, for sure. I’ve rebuilt my credit. I actually have a credit card again and I know how to use it properly now.

I don’t have to take care of any children or anything like that.

I know with more money or with more anything, one has even more stresses and responsibilities, but there are days where being the Lucky girl seems so far away.

On the flip side, the current economic climate isn’t a joke. I’m well aware, which makes my bellyaching sound so self-indulgent and insensitive to the millions of people who are unemployed and working very hard to really get their lives going. There are so many young people coming out of colleges and universities to a very bleak situation. I have friends with multiple degrees, struggling.

Ask any of them, and I’m sure they’d slap me for this woe-filled post of rambling.

Bi*&^, you are a Lucky Girl. Shut up.

I am a Lucky girl. I don’t need a fancy title or to be a 20-something with a multimillion dollar startup and $500 pumps.

I am where I am right now. And that needs to be ok. It’s fine to keep dreaming and to keep striving, but to keep beating myself up, because I drive a 13-year-old car, I rent an apartment in an area that is increasingly annoying me (the smell of weed wafted into my place last night), or going nuts over and over about my current job. It’s exhausting.

And the college girl who looked at those magazines and dreamed would probably be in awe of the 30-year-old writing this post right now. She’d probably be thrilled that we actually made it this far and not figuring out which relative to ask for money this month because she asked so-and-so last month.

I’ve come a long way, and for that and nothing else,

I am a Lucky girl.

Confession: I Thought I Was Too Grown for Sneakers

Tracee Ellis Ross is a grown woman who rocks sneakers right and appropriately. My inspiration to wear sneaks again. Photo courtesy of solecollector.com

When I was a kid, a teen and through my first two years of college, if I wasn’t at church or a formal function, I was wearing sneakers or tennis shoes– whatever you like to call them.

I lived in em. They were easy and comfortable. They were just, me.

Somewhere down the line during my matriculation at the prestigious and oh so fashion forward Howard University, where I watched girls teeter on 4-inch heels, with Louis Vuttion bags sitting in the crooks of their elbows, faces made up to perfection for 8 a.m. classes, their influence– no matter how vain I thought they were– was seeping into my psyche.

I slowly let go of my Old Navy baseball caps, sweatpants and my beloved athletic shoes.

I started to morph from the sporty tomboy of freshman year (to this day people know me as the chick with the baseball caps) to a young woman who wasn’t as extreme as the pseudo model co-eds, but was developing what I thought in my mind,  a more mature look. To truly achieve this, to truly become my more feminine and mature self, it was clear, my all-purpose athletic shoes had to be the first to go.

It all was a gradual transformation. I left the sneakers for leather booties with a two inch heel, to go with form-fitting jeans and shirts to hug my curves. Eventually, I full out fell in love with heels, and wore them everywhere like the “pretty girls” I mocked.  By the time I got into my latter 20s I realized, all I owned were heels.

I looked in my closet and I may have only had one pair of sensible flat shoes that didn’t hurt my feet. So, I turned my shoe obsession to kitten heels and cute flats and wedges. In my latter 20’s I still wanted to be cute, but I still needed to be able to walk, handle business and not take off my shoes at the end of the day and be mistaken for a ballet dancer from the ankles down (ankles up, I’m all about it).

When I joined the company softball team one spring, I realized the only pair of sneakers I owned were the faithful pair I wore in college, before my “metamorphosis to maturity.”

Even when I purchased a new pair for the team and to wear when working out, I never, ever wore them casually. It seemed young.

Since I recently bought a jazzy pair of Nikes for Zumba, and I decided one day to wear my Zumba shoes out with jeans, I had a revelation.

It was cute! And comfortable!

And I didn’t look crazy.

Hold up.

So, as I mentioned in a previous blog, there is a pair of casual Pastry brand sneakers I’ve been eying. I had to ask at least two friends if I’d be one of those pathetic women trying to pretend she’s a teenager when she’s well into her 40s, whose entire wardrobe consists of items from juniors departments, Forever 21 and Delia’s. I like Junior’s departments, Forever 21 and Delia’s, but these days, I purchase few and very specific items from those stores.

I was going to go ahead and buy the sneakers anyway, but this photo of one of my girl crushes and style mentors, actress Tracee Ellis Ross confirmed (so did a mail solicitation from the Scooter Store) for me that sneakers can be rocked right by grown women too outside of the gyms and running trails.

To all of the sneakers I passed up thinking I was too grown/good for you, I’m sorry. I’m so, so, sorry. I was wrong. Take me back, old friend. I didn’t realize how much I missed you.

As for the baseball caps… I never gave those up. I upgraded to a sprawling collection of Kangols that every man in my life, including my father, has tried to steal or trade.

All Sewed Up

foto76/freedigitalphotos.net

This may seem random, but the more I think about it, this totally makes sense.

I want to relearn how to sew.

Among business classes and classes about Flash and HTML I want to take, I want to add sewing to the mix.

We all took the home economics class in middle school that gave us the basics. But I want to step it up a notch. I want to make pencil skirts and cute shorts, or a blouse.

I’ve always had respect for people who knew how to sew and make their own clothes. There’s one particular blog/website that I dig called http://www.newdressaday.com/ where homegirl goes thrifting, and finds the most hideous of moo moos and other garish garments, and transforms them into pure hotness.

She’s become so successful at this, her faithful readers even send in monstrosities they’ve found and she transforms them. Oh, and did I mention, she does this everyday with a garment she purchased for $1?

The girl has skills. She’s making stuff that could easily sell out at H&M from products that were rejects from Dress Barn.

In today’s times of recession, this girl has got the right idea. She’s got the heart and style and innovation of Anna Wintour, but with the logic of Suzie Orman.

It always made me feel sexy when I’d fix buttons on my ex’s coat, or shirt or whatever. I think he thought it was hot too. Sometimes I hem my own pants when I step on them by accident (which shouldn’t happen if I went to get them tailored).

It also doesn’t help that my latest reality obsession is the show Fashion Star. Where talented wanna be designers compete each week to get their designs into Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue or H&M, and after the show you can go online and into the stores and purchase the winning designs! Swoon. Even if the designers don’t win the whole shebang, they still have opportunities to sell their designs to these powerhouse retailers and have their products in the stores. That’s a win-win for everyone.

When I was a kid, I knew women from church and the neighborhood who knew how to sew. They took it seriously and informally competed with one another. For previous generations, sewing was a given and it was a mandatory discipline every girl had to know.

I often like to shout out grandmothers and great grands who survived the Great Depression. They were resourceful as hell with so little. They knew how to cook, keep a clean house and they knew how to sew.

Folks could not afford to drop money on new clothes, so they had to tailor what they had, or buy fabric and make their own. I won’t be arrogant or delusional. I’m quite sure there are women all over the world who have to make their own clothes, and to them I also give them many props.

Our generation has been fortunate. We usually only sew as a hobby or because we aspire to be fashion designers and not out of necessity.

But like our foremothers, I think it’s just a good skill set to have in the arsenal.

To me there was something about family members and loved ones making baby clothes, or prom and even wedding dresses for people they cared about. It made that piece of clothing even more special and sentimental. You felt the love that went into making it and the person who wore the clothes wore them with pride, giving the person who made it the highest compliment by wearing it well.

There have been times folks made stuff for me that wasn’t so flattering, but my mother made me wear it at least once to show appreciation for the time, energy and love that went into it. It was a sobering, yet good lesson to learn. Maybe it wasn’t stylish, but someone cared enough to make it with their own hands, just for me.

Maybe that’s why I go nuts when people make things for me. It just means so much. I had a roommate in Detroit who knitted me the warmest most awesome wool scarf of all time. I was so touched by her gift, that to this day, it is hands down one of my faves.

So in addition to all of the other ambitious things I want to learn how to do in my 30’s, I want to make my own outfit from scratch.

We shall see…

Suit Yourself: The Professional Woman’s Clothing Conundrum

Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

When it comes to women’s suits, there aren’t many options. But what’s out in the marketplace surely says a lot about how professional women are perceived.

You can either look like a broke-ass Hillary Clinton, a flight attendant, church first lady (usually shiny, or with a print), or in the case of Victoria’s Secret suit collection, an executive level seductress.

The one most amazing suit I ever owned, I purchased in college.  I considered it an investment and spent a pretty penny on a lovely pin striped number  from United Colors of Benetton. It was amazing because it was flattering for women who have small waists, but a nice round bootay. I wore that suit out for years.

But now, that I’m older and have gained eh, about 30 pounds since then, that suit is long gone unless I get on the Jennifer Hudson plan.

I mourn the loss because that suit saw me through a few interviews and professional conventions. It wasn’t just a suit, it was a lucky suit. I was confident, I made the right connections, and obviously, I made the right impression and landed some great opportunities.

Lately, I’ve been fudging it by wearing blazers over dresses, or doing the separates thing. While that’s cool, and as much as I hate the idea of a suit, I still feel the need to have a new one in my closet that fits properly, but isn’t wack.

In my opinion, none of the suits out there represent me or reflect my true style.

Most of them are boxy and unflattering, regardless of the price point. I’ve seen $500+ suits that make me want to slap the designers personally. Psychologically, maybe that’s the point. Maybe suits are supposed to be drab and unflattering so women can go into professional situations without being looked at as intellectually inferior, sexual objects and the men and women we are brokering deals with can actually concentrate on our ideas and not our ta tas.

On the flip side, Victoria’s secret is on to something in terms of recognizing a woman’s curves, but they really emphasize selling yourself… literally. Their suits are just too damn tight and overtly sexy.

I honestly don’t know anyone who has purchased a Victoria’s Secret suit, and if they did, I’m guessing they were wearing it for their man when they were playing “naughty executive assistant”, “naughty intern”, “naughty accountant”, yeah you get the drift.

Ugly ass suits are not only a necessary evil for the professional woman, they are the driving force that fuels our obsession with shoes and handbags.

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