Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 2.6: Miles of Piles

Step 1: Put on a top you like.
Actually, it's more important, I found, to put on a bottom I like. I changed out of a pair of pants I was wearing into my favourite jeans because I wanted to tell whether it was the top--or the pants--that was making my tummy and hips so awful. A good brassiere would help too.

Step 2: Pile
Pile 1: Torture Devices.
Surprisingly, this was a huge pile. 21 tops, to be precise. What put most tops in this pile was their lack of fit at the waist. I'll analyse this in more detail later.

Pile 2: Velveteen Rabbits: 3.

1) A red knit, collared open neck with three buttons, long banded sleeves, square cut bottom with little notched Vee's at the side. (Pilling badly. Tiny stains at waist level.)

2) An elbow length sleeve, v-neck button down in denim blue and red with embroidery on the pocket and placket. (Missing buttons).

3) A dark green cotton shirt, similar in style to the previous. (missing buttons).

Pile 3: Stalwart Staples: 6.

1) Navy silk jewel neck short sleeve t-shirt.

2) Blue 3/4 sleeve brushed knit boat neck.

3) Black jewel neck jersey cotton T-shirt with teeny shoulder pads and elbow length sleeves.

4) Burgundy knit turtleneck.

5) Black mandarin collared button down shirt in a soft shirt-weight cotton, with buttoned wrist length sleeves.

6) Dark green ribbed cotton elbow length sleeve knit with a jewel collar with one button.

Pile 4: Superstars: none.

Pile 5: Same Time Next Year: I have outfits in this category, not merely tops, so I didn't include them. As well, I didn't go through my summer clothes.

Pile 6: Sentimental Journeys: 1.

a) A rugby shirt in purple and white from Journalism school.

Pile 7: Mysteries of the lost shopping trip. 0.
Confession: I haven't shopped in years. All of my clothes come from my mother who has been downsizing and clearing out her wardrobe for a few months now. During the summer, I was receiving about a garbage bag full of clothes every week. She's moved on to sizes that won't fit me, now, so the inflow has thankfully stopped. Everything that might have been in this category went into "Torture device."

Step 3: Distinguish between personal classics, stuff that's pretty good and rampant errors.

Shoulders: I have sloping shoulders. I have trouble even keeping my bra straps up. The "books" say I should wear shoulder pads...even tiny ones. But my shoulders are also broad. So--with a shoulder pad--I tend to look like a line backer, even in the smallest one. I don't know if I just haven't found one small enough, or if I should just live with my natural "Gibson Girl" look (see illustration).

Sleeve cut. Anything with the sleeve cut right on my shoulder looked fine. Anything with the sleeve cut on the arm looked terrible. I also have a small ribcage. When I'm skinny, it's nice. When I'm heavy, it simply means I can carry a lot of weight without it being terribly noticeable. BUT, it also means that big loose fitting tops add bulk where there isn't any. As I tried on top after top I just looked BIG. But the three garments in the VR pile saved me. And, of course, now I know why they're still in the closet even though two are missing buttons, and one is piling beyond tolerance (and is a wee bit stained). The seem sits right on top of the shoulder which means the fabric under the armhole falls straight down. There's nothing extra between my arm and my torso.

Sleeve length: OK, we already know a "cap" sleeve, sleeveless, and spaghetti straps would be ridiculous on me. But that was also true when I was skinny. For some reason my upper arms are beefy--even when I'm skinny. It took a LOT of toning back in the day to make them look good.

The same can be said for sleeves which fall right to the elbow. It's better when the sleeve is cut on the shoulder (see above) but still puts mass where it shouldn't.

3/4 length sleeves look OK. They really are shortest I ought to go.

Long sleeves: Those which button and billow just at the wrist add bulk to my hips when I stand at attention (though, really, who ever stands at attention except when trying on clothes?). I dislike sleeves which fall below my wrist, so it doesn't matter what they look like. Those which fall right AT my wrist are fine. Better if they are buttoned--so I can unbutton them and roll them up when I need to wash the dishes. Anything that is tapered to the wrist is frustrating (like my PJ top, actually. I have to change out of it to plunge my hands into the dishwater).

Neckline: I have been blessed with a long neck. Almost any neckline looks good. In my Stalwart Staples pile I had one each: jewel neck, V neck, boat neck, crew neck and a turtle neck, and a mandarin collared shirt neck.

Length: Nothing shorter than my, ahem, cr*tch will do. Anything shorter than that just looks awful. Maybe it was the way my pants fit, but still. Even then, it's best if it is a tad longer. Nothing longer than the top of my thighs is a good idea, either. As lorijo put it--the "hobbit" look is not what we're after!

I'm not sure what this is called--but I think I need darts at the bust-line. That would reduce the bulk through the torso and give me some shaping where there is actually so nice shaping to show off. I do not have anything in this style.

No-nos from the Torture pile: orange, aqua, gray, both light and dark (though I'm not really sure about these), pure white.
Yeses from the Torture Pile: any blue except aqua, purple, burgundy, red, black.
I have two dark foresty green tops in each of the stalwart staple and Velveteen rabbit categories...but I'm not confident the colour works for me.
I had nothing in cream, pink, or yellow. (If I do, they're packed away for summer).

Fabric: (sigh). No big knits. My favourite sweater is a bulky grey knit. I looked like an elephant. No thick cotton--such as is found in budget friendly turtlenecks. It could have been the cut. No corduroy. No matter how fine the whale. Nothing sheer. (shudder).

Step 4: Gaps.
1. No shirts.
Mom gave me a four dressy shirts, sorry, blouses. The cut is beautiful--all straight edged at the bottom, falling in just the right place. Sleeves were inset, the wristbands all button. The collars had a little embroidery and pointed down. Some had nice hidden buttons down the front creating that attractive vertical line the "dress slimmer" pundits advocate. Nice dressy (albeit crepe polyester) shirts--but ALL see through. It was horrible. I put these shirts in the torture category because of their sheerness. But if I could fix that, I may have some very nice blouses. Any ideas what I could do?

Other than these shirts, I have nothing "dressy" to wear to Church (or anywhere else for that matter. If we went anywhere else).

I think I need a nice button down shirt, probably in a fine cotton, with some shaping in the torso (those dart things) with button sleeves (to roll up). I've always loved these types of shirts.

2. Now that most of my shapeless turtlenecks are in the Torture category, I have precisely one left. Two more would be nice. I do get cold once in a while.

3. No decent T-shirts. (see 2 above). But, now that I've analysed my fitting needs, there probably isn't a decent T-shirt anywhere out there. I do have one Velveteen rabbit silk t-shirt --maybe that's the way to go?

Step 5: Setting Priorities.
Broad goal: Dressier casual clothes that fit well, are machine washable, and don't require ironing.

Specific goals: Fill in the above identified gaps. Most urgent--probably the turtlenecks. Maybe something dressyish for Church? I don't know--I think we have to look at bottoms for me to clarify what's necessary here.

And I think I have come to end of the exercise. I feel like I'm missing something--please let me know. And if anything occurs to you--a style to look at, for example, which meets my criteria, I'd be happy to go look. Suggestions welcome (as always)!

And Wende, I can now fully understand your frustration trying to find a well-fitting top. Now that I am hyper-aware of what's not going to work, I'm not at all willing to settle for anything that won't make me look the best I can--not even if it's free.


smallcitybeth said...

Hi, I goofed, and put my comment about this post together with my comment about the (un)Holy Grail post below. I wonder if a cut and paste is possible? Or do we just live with the fact that my brain zoned out and lost track of which post I was commenting on? ;)

Rosie said...

Hey Alana,
I just wanted to let you know I'm following along on your wardrobe cure, and wishing you lots of luck!
I was wondering if you'd looked at for some more affordable options - they often have blouses and dressy t-shirts in the $8-$20, which isn't as good a deal as getting them free from your mom, but it might be useful for filling in your gaps.
What about something like this for a new button-down dress shirt?
-Rosie (from AT)

Rosie said...

Opps, I guess that link didn't work, but click around under the cleance section, and the shirts & blouses section at chadwicks, there's a few things that might be what you're looking for...

Alana in Canada said...

Hi rosie! It's so nice to "meet" the folks reading my blog. I'll definitely check out chadwicks. Thank you.

And Beth, we live with it! Don't stress. It's not like I don't check each comments section!

drwende said...

How did I miss this whole post until now?

You've analyzed heroically! And darts are exactly what you need. Darts allow a woman to show a bust and a waist, rather than having all the fabric hanging straight down from our shoulders and bosoms. If you have a bust, it's hard to look shapely when fabric just HANGS off it, and we can't all go around in skin-tight clothes.

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