Style and Ethical Consumerism Lessons Learned from My Child

Back in the olden days, the natural order of things was parents passing wisdom and valuable lessons down to their children because parents were the ones who KNEW THINGS. But that was long ago — way back when you had to stay in one spot to talk on the telephone — and times have changed. Now, parents KNOW NOTHING and we depend on our children to keep us up-to-date. At least that’s how it works in my family. Older Daughter, for example, is the one who got me hooked on Pinterest, TOMS and an interesting book called “Hunger Games.” And recently Younger Daughter has introduced me to two new obsessions: Acure Facial Toners and Roma Boots.  I can’t even begin to tell you how good these products are — for you and for others. Acure uses organic and Fair Trade ingredients (as well as minimal and recyclable packaging) in its skin- and body-care lines, and this facial toner is seriously good stuff. I’ve got a bottle stashed at the office — the refreshing hydrating spray of wonderfulness is perfect when you need more than a brisk walk to the break room for gossip and coffee to revive you. And it smells oh-so-good! Roma Boots smell, good, too —  not only in that brand-new-shoe smell that makes you feel rich and prosperous but in that I’ve-done-something-good-for-someone-and-I-look-damn-cute-too sort of way. Roma Boots was started by a native of Romania, who was anguished to see Roma (or “gypsy”) children in the cold and wet streets without proper — or any — shoes. The company will donate a pair of boots plus school supplies to a child in need when you buy a pair of Roma’s all-weather lightweight, stylish and natural rubber-soled boots. That’s TWO people with dry feet for the price of one — a deal you cannot pass up.

September Sales Bring April Awesomeness

This is why I love shopping post-season clearance sales. These two spring/summer dresses? Total price — less than $30, which is less than I spend on a typical Starbucks order. Because you might as well pick up one of those oh-so-cute coffee mugs while you’re there. And some extra Via. But back to the dresses. Going by the original price tags, I would have spent about $200 on these. And of course, when I picture myself wearing these dresses, I also have long tanned legs and perfectly toned arms. And, if I’m fantasizing, might as well thrown in some soft and shiny hair. Sorry for the mental meanderings here — saving close to $200 makes me giddy.

Why I Should Never Write About Fashion

You know how you get dressed in the morning and you think you look perfect respectable and even nice but then somehow you get a glimpse of what you REALLY look like and It Is Not Good and you wonder “Why did I think I should wear that?” Yes. You know what I’m talking about. (Un)luckily, I got this opportunity recently when I covered a corporate cooking competition for a feature story for the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Ala. It was a hot summery day outside but I knew it would be below freezing in the building where we’d be, so I dressed in layers — that’s me in the pink pants and white sweater, taking notes. (Also, if you wear a white jacket/sweater to a cooking thing, be prepared to answer such questions as “Excuse me, but where’s the milk?” and “Do you think we should saute or broil this?”) From the front (photo on the left), you can see that my outfit works okay. Not the most flattering, but okay. However, from a side view, you can see that I should have never left the house in this and should be condemned to watching extra reruns of “What Not To Wear.” This is what happens when you wear six layers of clothing — underwear, jeans, camisole, belt, top and white droopy sweater. Also, when you eat cupcakes for breakfast. But I mainly blame fashion.

Why You Shouldn’t Borrow A 6-Year-Old’s Wardrobe

You’ve seen those adorable little girls’ clothes made out of cheerful cotton prints. They’re everywhere, from upscale children’s boutiques to outdoor craft shows, and I love them. I love the contrasting patterns and the coordinating colors. I love the exuberance of swirling paisley and whimsical florals. I love the simplicity of form that let the fabrics shine. I love the ribbons and ruffles and the sweet girlishness of it all. And I’d often wondered, “Why aren’t there clothes like this for grownup women? I’d sure buy them!” Then I came across a booth in an antiques/gifts/clothing co-op that had both girls’ and women’s handmade clothing in this style and when I saw them side-by-side, I realized why adult women generally don’t dress like 6-year-old girls. It’s just too … too … cute. But I loved the aprons, and those easy breezy cotton skirts? Perfect for a summer shopping trip — possibly to somewhere that has real grownup clothes.

Fresh Produce

Full disclosure: This is not me — it’s the photo from the Fresh Produce catalog. However, I do have dark hair, especially when I’ve forgotten to go to the salon; I do love a walk on the beach; and my Fresh Produce Buttonside Henley makes me smile, too.

You’re probably like me — you go through spurts of obsessing over liking a specific clothing style and you simply cannot get enough of whatever it is and you’re determined to add to your closet every single one you find and can afford. Because if one is good, then more than one is better, yes? But not always. Best-forgotten phases for me include tribal scarves (I’d spend 20 minutes trying to get that carelessly-thrown-on look and then immediately pull the thing off a minute after I left the house because I felt silly. And as if I couldn’t breathe), yoga-inspired T-shirts (Note: Be careful about where Buddha is placed) and the unfortunate brown-pants period when I pretty much looked like a UPS delivery person. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) More successful forays have been  into pencil skirts, non-see-through leggings (true treasures!)  and shades-of-black sheath dresses that somehow disguise muffin tops and lumpy thighs. But the thing I’ve been reaching for when I’m not trying to fool people into thinking I’m a grownup I get home after work is a nice soft and comfortable henley top. You know — those sort-of preppy, cotton-knit, three-button, collarless and usually-quarter-sleeve pullovers. I can layer a T-shirt or a tank-top underneath, add a sweater or roll up the sleeves. So when women’s clothing company Fresh Produce offered to send me anything I wanted from its summer catalog in exchange for blogging about it, I bypassed all the easy-and-breezy (and relaxed-cute) dresses, shorts and skirts and went straight for the henley tops. Okay, I was influenced, as always, by the photo of carefree beach-walking, because that is what I wish I could do every single day. But, my new Buttonside Henley in Classic Stripe — I chose the cheerful Periwinkle color — is an acceptable substitute. Cool and casual, it fits perfectly. (Check the size chart because, according to Fresh Produce measurements, I needed to order a size down from my usual. And the size chart was correct.) Plus, this style passes the Husband Test — unlike the bright-pink jeans I’m waiting until he’s out of town to wear. Overall, a winner! Fresh Produce was co-founded and still is run by mom-entrepreneur Mary Ellen Veron and primarily is made in the U.S. You’ll find the clothing sold in Fresh Produce stores, online and in more than 500 specialty retailers throughout the U.S. and Caribbean.

Woo-hoo for Wu!

Anybody still yearning for some Jason Wu should go to the Target in my town of Florence, Ala., where there still is plenty to choose from -- although, naturally, not the gold peplum top and blush lace skirt that I wanted. I did get the gray t-shirt with the lace print on the front, just because it fit and I liked it, as evidenced by three similar ones already in my closet. But I couldn't not buy something, you know. The dresses and tops were a bit too young and a bit too unstructured for me, but adorable just the same.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Sweaters

This looks like a cute and perfectly basically simple purple sweater, doesn’t it? It’s from Cynthia Rowley, known for her free-spirited ladylike style, and Younger Daughter grabbed it with delight as we were picking through a TJ Maxx clearance rack. The front of this sweater looks as if it’s saying, “Put me on with a pair of jeans and killer boots and let’s have a great Sunday afternoon just kickin’ around.” It’s casually cool, which pretty much describes Younger Daughter. She was grinning as she placed her find in our cart. But then she picked the sweater back up, looking puzzled. Because she’d gotten a good look at the back, which looks as if it’s saying, “I used to be a super hero entitled to full-cape privileges but then got demoted to merely super assistant. Plus, my back is cold.”

Always optimistic, however, Younger Daughter tried the schizophrenic sweater on and and it fit perfectly. Always willing to ruin new clothes by trying to rework them attempt alterations on my own, I offered to take it home and attack it with scissors fix it. Some careful trimming made it more wearable. But now when I watch Ms. Rowley on “24 Hour Catwalk,” I’m just sort of thinking, “Really, Cynthia? You don’t like that designer’s pink feathered-and-satin top with the velvet bows? Because I’ve seen what you do like, and honestly, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge.” And speaking of “24 Hour Catwalk,” can we somehow A) buy hairbrushes for Ms. Rowley and Alexa Chung — and demonstrate how to use them and B) ask Ms. Chung to please maybe wear clothes that fit and have some relevance to what normal 21st-century women actually wear — or, if not, to stop talking about designers creating clothes that fit and have some relevance to what normal 21st-century women actually wear. Two-facedness Schizophrenia apparently is rampant.

A Penney Saved?

                                               Because I’m a dedicated and enthusiastic shopper investigative fashion reporter, today I delayed my usual weekday routine of getting home from work and plopping down on the couch in my PJs. Instead, just for you all, I went shopping covered the breaking fashion news of new pricing at JCPenney. All day I’d been hearing and reading  about JCP ditching multiple sales and discounts for a simpler three-tiered pricing schedule, and I wanted to see for myself. I expected to find crowds of curious shoppers eager to check out this new approach — and maybe that was true at some JCPenney stores. But not at mine. You pretty much could hear the crickets chirping at the JCP I visited … along with laughter and animated conversation coming from the employees, who were having way too much fun talking to get distracted by mere customers. I have to admit that I’m not a JCP fan and I didn’t see anything on my recon run that would change my mind. But in the pursuit of truth and justice and possible bargain buys, I’ll keep looking. Just for you.

Bowling for Fashion

We’re making our way through college football’s bowl season leading up to Monday’s Bowl Championship Series once-in-a-century twice-in-a-century showdown between SEC West powerhouses LSU and Alabama. And the most pressing question is not “What? Them again?? When is ‘Dancing with the Stars’ coming back on???” but rather “How can I look stylish and exhibit team spirit while squashed between screaming drunk people while it’s 35 degrees outside?” At the recent Music City Bowl, Mississippi State fans pretty much took over the downtown area of host city Nashville, Tenn., and swamped the LP Stadium at game time with maroon and white. But opponent and eventual loser Wake Forest showed up with a few fans who braved the freezing temps in black and gold.

 

When I Grow Up …

When I grow up, I want to be just like Felice Green, this wonderful woman here. Felice is a local retired educator, and I imagine that if you had her for a teacher, your life was changed forever. For one thing, she has a gorgeous voice. It’s rich and gracious and she enunciates every syllable so distinctly that you’re like, “Oh, so that’s how that word is supposed to sound.” Also, Felice does not put up with foolishness. Of any kind. She just looks at you and you know that by the sheer force of her will, she simply Is Not Stand For It, thank you very much, so you’d Better Straighten Up and Fly Right. (I still call her “ma’am” when I talk to her.  I can’t help it.) And then there is Felice’s style. Like her tutorial counterpart Mary Poppins, Felice is practically perfect in every way. She is impeccably groomed and immaculately dressed and I only wish I could rock this over-sized man’s suit jacket hand-painted with a Santa Claus and other symbols of  holiday cheer that she found in a vintage boutique. But instead of looking  chic and stylish and even sort of royal as Felice does, I think I’d simply end up looking foolish — a word that’s probably not even in her vocabulary. I first met Felice when I was a staff writer for the local newspaper and she helped with her sorority’s annual hosting of the Ebony (magazine) Fashion Fair, the world’s largest traveling fashion show. Fashion Fair brought high-end designs and runway productions to the normal everyday small-town Sears-clearance-rack-wearing folks like me, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve tried to talk Felice into organizing our own version of Fashion Fair, but she’s too busy hanging out with her grandchildren and doing good works. And looking fabulous, as always.