Exhaustion and frustration are the words that marked Day 10 of my fashion experiment. This was not because I was tired of the wardrobe, or exhausted from the heavy duty closet cleaning I am supposed to be engaging in during this experiment. No, it was everything else: sick kids plus husband out of town on business exactly when a new internet platform for my other business had massive tech glitches that were driving my team insane. Oh, and 5 am video calls with Australia (which are great, but just tough for a not-morning-person). I was just getting by, and therefore all the more thankful for my simple white tee-shirt and jean skirt. I was also thankful that I had more than one of those tee shirts – no stressing on working to find a clean one. Crisp clean white is a great look. The thought did cross my mind: wondering how many days could a person survive on coffee alone.
The combination of craziness was like the perfect storm for my mind. First of all, I do not handle “sick” very well. Thankfully our children don’t get sick very often. I think that is God’s mercy on me, because He knows the grace I require when I have sickness around me is very extensive. It’s not that I get ugly with my kids, but rather I worry (and plead with the Lord in prayer) for health. Fear also can grip me because of all those horrible stories I read on the internet, like they were fine one day, they just had the common cold … the next day we were in the hospital, my child in a coma, getting limbs amputated to save them, and on and on. These are the hard places my mind goes. I grab the flashlight on my phone 20 times a day and look in sick little throats to see if redness or spots are appearing. I break out the essential oils, the herbal serums, shop for and administer strategic foods. All-consuming could be an understatement. Couple this with not sleeping well and all the other issues, in between my pleading in prayer, insane amount of laundry and running around like a crazy person with a Lysol can. Thankfully I was able to put out some fires with my business (unfortunately not all), work on my blog and sketch. Sketching and painting is the fun part for me…my luxury escape time was actually doing some ball gowns. I love sketching and painting ball gowns – actually they are why I started my career in fashion design.
As a little girl, I loved gorgeous dresses. Then as life went on and reality hit, at 14 I got a sales position in my cousin’s shoe and accessory store in the mall. I kept that job until college, and while I was deciding on colleges, the idea did cross my mind that I would go to community college and continue to work in the shoe store because it was great money. Then my Dad sent me a newspaper article about a New York fashion school, and my mind started churning. I got an interview, had no portfolio (or even drawing & art skills), but I put on my best smile and the most stylish outfit I could and talked my way into fashion school. That is where I learned to draw, sew, and pattern make.
I worked in the NYC fashion district and also as a nanny to put myself through school. I was driven and tough. These are important qualities for working in the fashion industry which (to the surprise of many) is a brutal work environment: long hours are the norm, and most fashion houses have some element of verbal abuse coupled with inhumane expectations. All the glamour you see does not come without a price: the beauty of this industry is truly only fabric deep. When people hear my background they will sometimes ask, “Is it really like the Devil Wears Prada?” My answer: absolutely, and often it’s worse!
Tips and trends: Crisp white is almost always part of a trend; it’s just the powers that be reintroduce it in different seasons and somehow reinvent it to make it look new and fresh. For instance, last year white jeans in the winter was a big trend, setting all of the traditional Fashion Rules followers on their ear. Now, white year-round is perfectly acceptable and trendy. One of the keys to wearing white successfully is keeping it fresh and clean, and replenishing it often. The idea that you can spend a ton of money on one nice white shirt and wear it for years is a pipe dream. White does have to get replenished every few years, or sooner. You may be able to keep it crisp, but it always yellows, especially with dry cleaning. Bleaching can also cause yellowing over time. Choosing a detergent with optical brightens can help for a while: an optical brightener is a blue tint that counter acts the natural yellowing of the white. Borax or white vinegar can also help brighten. Drying outside will also help to brighten your whites. But be sure to avoid excess heat in your dryer as well as an over-hot iron: these can also add to the yellowing (and hence the reason why dry cleaning whites is just a recipe for unintended yellow). You can try the above techniques to try to whiten your whites if they have already turned yellow – sometimes an investment of cleaning agents and sunshine add up to well-timed TLC. If you are really going for that stylish crisp white, your best bet is to bite the bullet, send those old jokers to goodwill and buy new. This is why when I started this my static wardrobe I got three new white tee shirts, so I could keep the fresh clean look.
When I lived in NYC for 12 1/2 years I had very little (if any) whites. City living is very dirty and does not lend well to keeping whites looking fresh and clean. Have you ever thought why do so many people in NYC only wear black? That is a big part of why: the streets are dirty, the subway is dirty, the air is dirty, just basic living (no matter how clean you are personally) in NYC lends itself to attracting dirt and soot. I loved the look of fresh, crisp, clean whites but I would usually opt for almost-white. I remember standing in Club Monaco and deliberating between an adorable white shirting wrap top and the same top in a pale pink shell color. I really, really wanted the white but went for the pink since I knew my budget was tight and I could not replace my whites at the rapid pace that was required with city living. I loved that top and I remember wearing it on my second date with my husband, feeling very stylish and confident in my khaki pencil skirt, platform sandals and shell-colored wrap top. Moral of the story: sometimes you make fashion substitutes because of practicality. In the end it really works out the way it is supposed to, and I don’t regret 12 1/2 years without crisp whites or missing some of the white fashion trends that came and went during those years.
Stay tuned for more trends and tips. Comment below if you’re interested in a fashion drawing of your own.