Stuff to Wear

I bought Ada an Easter dress a couple of days ago. As I have done for many, many years I cut the bow off the front of the dress.

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I really hate bows. I always have. I don’t mind a bow on a dress that naturally occurs, say on the sash of a dress. But I hate bows that are sewn on to clothing for no other reason than to just make a dress more . . . busy.  I don’t know if this simple act has somehow been passed on to my daughters, none of whom like frilly clothes. Although I don’t want to give you the wrong idea: I love layers of  ruffles. If I see something with ruffles, I must buy it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Same for polka dots. I cannot control myself. But bows? That is another story.

Things are not so bow-covered now but that wasn’t always the case. Back when India was a baby in the mid-90′s there was a movement to encase little girls in more bows and floppy collars and gobs of fabric than should have been allowed. This movement was called Daisy Kingdom. You most likely have blocked these clothes from your memory, either because you bought it for your kids or you are young enough to have been dressed in this hideous stuff yourself. Or maybe you’re in your early 30′s you only saw these monstrous dresses from afar.

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The distinguishing factor of these dresses–besides the sheer volume of fabric and superfluous use of bows–was the cutesy bunnies and bears everywhere. I have always hated cutesy crap. Somebody made us one of these as a wedding gift and we were supposed dress it in baby clothes (different outfit for each season!) and have it sitting around our house. Naturally it found its way to Goodwill within a few month of the wedding. Who gives a grown woman a stuffed animal?

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I was living in Portland during the Daisy Kingdom heyday and we actually had a humungous Daisy Kingdom store downtown. I remember going down there and being simply overwhelmed by the ruffliness of everything. On paper I theoretically liked this stuff. I love little girls in pinafores! But in reality these clothes were much too over-the-top. I don’t remember if you could actually buy these dresses or if everything was just patterns and fabric and it was all do-it-yourself. But you know Mormons and how crafty we are. There was a parade of little girls with crazy curls wearing these dresses week after week at church. And it was just to sickly sweet for my taste.

And there I was picking the bows off of everything. I had to buy expensive socks from a catalog because that were the only place I could find non-ruffly socks (oh yeah, I only hate ruffles when they’re on socks. Or pageant dresses.)  Nowadays you can buy classy kids clothes all over the place but I still find myself picking off bows trying to make my girls look as non-cheesy as possible.

Have you ever gotten sucked into a world that a few hours earlier you didn’t even know existed? That was me, today. Somehow I ran across a picture of an adorable dirndl dress on Pinterest. I knew that ladies in Austria and southern Germany still wear them occasionally but I had no idea that they are still a big deal. Being the good little Austrian girl that I am, I actually have a dirndl. Ok, two. (Three if you count my grandmother’s dirndl that is around here somewhere but I couldn’t fit in it to save my life.) I never wear them. It seems a little silly here in Texas. But that’s going to change because I’ve seen the world of gorgeous dirndls and it is the world I want to live in. Of course, these dresses cost a pretty penny. I think the cheapest one of the dresses below is €500. Looks like I’ll be sewing one for myself.

Look at how lovely and charming they are! It’s like a cross between Snow White and a milkmaid. Which is a very good thing. Austrian and Bavarian women really wear these! Not every day, but for special occasions. Last time I was in Austria lots of ladies wore them to church. Every dirndl has a gathered skirt; a vest-like bodice with (usually but not always) a little blouse underneath; and, of course, an apron.

blue and pink dirndl

 

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There are even dirndl fashion shows (Folk costumes are called Trachten. This includes lederhosen and menswear too.) I guess it’s to show the latest in old-fashioned clothing. Pretty funny, really.

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But this! This takes the cake; this exactly the life I want to be mine:

 

If you’re dying to know more about dirndls in general, here’s an interesting little news piece I found (in English!)

If you are a man or a crazy person you should probably skip this post. I’m not trying to be shocking or graphic; it’s just that most of my readers wear bras and probably yours is the wrong size. This is really a public service announcement.

I love Jen from Cake Wrecks. Last week on her other blog, Epbot, she wrote all about how she got sucked into the crazy world of bra-sizing and how she figured out she had been wearing the wrong size of bra. As I was reading this I thought, “well, I always check my measurements so surely I’m not one of the 80% of American women who wear the wrong size of bra.”  No, that could never be!  But then my complacent life in bra-world was turned upside-down by finding out the proper way to measure yourself for a bra: Bending over.   Say what???

Here’s something else you probably didn’t know: the band of your bra (the part under your boobs that wraps around your chest/back) is supposed to do 90% of the lifting. The straps are responsible for only 10%.  Shocking, I know! Which means that the band is supposed to be snug. Really snug.

There is a whole giant forum on Reddit that will blow your mind. You need to go read the bra fitting guide  here.  Really. Go read it. I’ll wait. According to the bra fitting guide, the bras I had been wearing were a size too big in the band and three cup sizes too small. I shan’t get into numbers, but I was extremely stunned.

I spent the next hour or so perusing online bra choices in my splashy new size. After being completely overwhelmed I decided to find a really good bra store and see what reality had to say. It’s one thing for a computer to tell me what my bra size is, but another one to actually try one on. (And by the way, Victoria’s Secret is a joke. They have no idea how to find your correct size. They give their employees a brochure on how to measure people. That’s it. Nordstrom is a step up but their bra selection is pretty limited.)

Luckily for me there is a store in Austin called Petticoat Fair and it is the most phenomenal shop. They carry every brand of bra from around the world and help you find exactly the right ones. I showed up first thing in the morning and was met by Lea who was super sweet and helpful. I came wearing my current (non-fitting) bra and a thin t-shirt. Lea measured me (fully clothed) several different ways and brought me a bunch of bras to try on. She stepped out of the changing room every time I tried on a new bra. The whole thing was very discreet and there was no staring at my boobs. If you’ve never wanted to be fit for bras because you’re modest and shy, you have nothing to worry about.

Here’s how bra fitting has always gone for me in the past: I choose some bras that look cute/ won’t be too obnoxious under a t-shirt. I go into the dressing room and try them on. I stare at myself and think, “well, I guess that fits” and then buy whatever is cheapest. Some bras fit better than others but mostly I have never thought that much about it.

So here I was with Lea. She handed me the first bra (which was actually the same size the aforementioned bra guide said I would be) and it seemed to fit pretty well. Lea came into my dressing room and adjusted the straps and had me lean over and shimmy the girls into place. And then she announced that the band size was too big. So she came back with more bras for me to try on. We repeated the try-on drill about 15 times. After I put on each bra Lea would come in and give me her verdict. You guys, this was amazing! Finally I was able to try something on and know for sure if it fit properly! No more guessing at sizes. Lea also was great because she knew which bras ran big or small and exactly which ones fit my needs as far as styles and colors I was looking for.

By the end of an hour I had eight bras that I absolutely loved that made my chest look fantastic. I’m not exactly a small-busted girl and I never would have been able to find the right sizes at Kohl’s, where I usually shop for bras. (Here’s something interesting that Leah told me: D cups are a pretty average size. We tend to imagine a D-sized bra as being huge, with a DD being stripper-sized. But they aren’t that big.) After all was said and done, I ended up in a bra that was two band sizes smaller and four cups sizes bigger than the bra I had been wearing. Isn’t that crazy???

Here’s the sad thing: good bras are expensive. I honestly have never paid more than $25 for a bra ever. I checked out the bras on the Petticoat Fair website before I went in so I wasn’t dying of sticker shock. Each of the bras I liked was over $60. That seems kind of appalling, since it’s not a whole lot of fabric. But you aren’t paying for fabric; you’re paying for something that is going to keep your breasts perky and feeling good. A good bra will make your chest look fantastic and you will feel amazing.

In the end I wanted to hug Leah. But I didn’t because she had just seen a lot of me that most people don’t see and I thought that would be awkward. But I did buy two everyday bras and a sports bra. And now I feel like a Bravangelist that needs to spread the word that, yes, you too are probably wearing a bra that’s the wrong size.

 

P.S. I wish like anything I had known about a place like this when I’d been nursing. I got mastitis a total of nine times and I’m convinced it was because of poorly-fitting bras.

My youngest four kids have all outgrown their bathing suits so I had to do some suimsuit shopping before we left for Spring Break. Being in Texas I take swimwear very seriously; in the Summertime the kids practically live in it. If the kids want to play outside when the heat gets oppressive (round about May-September), the only way it’s going to work is if there’s water involved.

You probably disagree with me but I find little girls in bikinis completely appalling (hey, pedophiles, check out my sexy 5-year-old!). A naked jaybird frolicking in the waves somehow seems less sexual than a child wearing a bikini. Don’t ask me why I feel this way, I just do. Especially for the older girls. I like a nice one-piece for my daughters (or a modest tankini) and lucky me I get to dress them however I like.

I’m seriously in the minority when it comes to preferring one-pieces so that means I have to get most of the girls’ swimwear online (one-pieces are like the red-headed stepchild of the swimsuit world). Unlike the rest of the year when I wait for deals, when it comes to swimwear I just bite the bullet and pay full price. Especially this year since we needed them at the beginning of March. Swimsuits sell out fast and with all the wear and tear they get, I feel like we get our money’s worth.

In the past we’ve been let down by the quality of swimsuits from the Gap. They have never made it a whole season without losing their stretch so I avoid them if possible.  Target bathing suits aren’t the best in quality but they’re cheap and pretty much available year-round so we always end up with at least one. They also do quite a lot of one-pieces. Arabella settled on a stripey Target bathing suit and a flowery one from Land’s End. Land’s End really makes the best quality suits. They’ll easily give you two years of wear, although it’s rare to have kids that will stay the same size that long. This year they dropped the ball and of all the suits Arabella liked, none were available at the beginning of March. She really had her heart set this flowery one so we ordered it just recently.

We did pretty well at Mini Boden this year. They always have plenty of one-pieces. Ada loves red and she fell in love with this suit:

 

Ada also went gaga over this suit from Children’s Place. It has a cute matching rash guard too. I love rash guards because kids with sunburns are the biggest babies of all time. If it’s between 11-3:00 my kids have got to have a rashguard on. Of course they’re slathered with sunscreen too, but rashguards keep sun exposure from getting out of hand.

 

And then there are the swimsuits for teenage girls. Good grief. India is pretty cool about wearing a modest bathing suit. She is not they type who: 1) cares about wearing the same exact thing as everyone else, and 2)doesn’t have that insecure teen-girl need to wear as little clothing as possible (I swear they’re thinking, “If I dress like a hooker maybe boys will like me more!”) The good news is that every year it seems like there are more and more tankinis in the Juniors department. I’m hoping this means that not every teenage girl wants to look like a skeeze. We wound up with a couple of cute tankinis from Kohl’s. Easy Peasy.

(Obviously modesty and good posture do not go hand in hand.)

As for me, I’ve been sporting the same bathing suits for the last four years. The thought of swimsuit shopping is enough to send me reaching for the Valium. I can barely handle trying on pants these days. My weight loss isn’t coming along as well as I’d hoped; I’m thinking of moving on to more drastic measures. Which do you think would work better: a tapeworm or tuberculosis?

Happy almost-swimsuit season!

 

 

Let’s talk about fashion first: Watching the Oscars is a bit lame when you don’t have cable. You can’t switch between four channels to make sure you don’t miss a single dress on the red carpet. Instead I had to sort through pictures on the internet this morning to see if there were some stunners I missed.  There weren’t. My opinion is that color is good. Neutral tones really don’t flatter many people. I mean, some of those grey/white/bronze dresses looked nice but think how much prettier they would have looked in a nice peacock blue. Especially that knock-out Jessica Chastain (At least she had some bright lips to perk things up). And Amy Adams hair? It looks Nanny and the Professor. Ew.


I guess I should amend the above statement to say that white girls shouldn’t wear neutrals. My favorite dress of the night was on Zoe Saldana who is one of the most gorgeous women ever. It’s a pearly grey but it doesn’t look washed out since Zoe has that lovely cappuccino skin. Love the layers at the hem and the flowers up top. LOVE!

 

Normally I hate everything about Jennifer Aniston but she looks 100% gorgeous.

I thought everyone looked pretty decent. This isn’t like the Oscars of the 80′s when everyone looked ridiculous. But there were a few things that caused me to raise my eyebrows:

Oh Anne, the satin and the darts combine to create the perfect storm. I’m sure your nipples are lovely but we really don’t all need to know. Her diamond necklace is adorable but I hope the “necklace on backwards’ trend ends quickly. It’s weird.

And then there are a couple of ladies taking a footnote from the 80′s. Halle Berry gets all Alexis Carrington while Jane looks like she’s on her way to the Captain’s table on The Love Boat.

 

But enough about clothes. Let’s talk about movies. I haven’t seen most of them. Although Mister and I did catch a screening last weekend of all the live action and animated shorts. It was three hours long but completely enjoyable.

I’m still not sure who Seth MacFarlane is but I quite enjoyed him. And what a nice singer. I loved the stage set. So bright and pretty. But I’d have to give the broadcast a thumbs down. Why? Too much singing! This isn’t the Tony’s! It’s like the producers said, “Oh look how popular Les Mis is. People must like singing. Let’s have lots of singing!”

No, people just want to see the awards. And who could possible agree that Chicago is the best musical of the last 10 years? I hate Chicago! And that lady singing Goldfinger? She rocked the last note but what a waste of five minutes. Same with Barbra Streisand. I was like, “I’m going to go make some cookies. Tell me when the singing’s done.”

I love that Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the stairs. She is such a funny, honest person. She recovered beautifully. I’m sure if it had been a prima donna like Catherine Zeta-Jones she would have promptly committed suicide.

Daniel Day Lewis is the best actor ever. Anyone who could give us Abraham Lincoln, Cristy from My Left Foot, Hawkeye from The last of the Mohicans and Cecil from A Room With a View is completely brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones, on the other hand, was nominated for an award despite playing the exact same grumpy jerk that he plays in every single movie he’s ever been in. How is that even acting?

I was really hoping Ben Affleck would win because I really feel for him because of all his struggles. And I love Jennifer Garner. His acceptance speech was so humble and touching.

And the whole Michelle Obama thing? Odd. Especially with that passel of footmen (and footwomen?) surrounding her. Although it makes sense considering the love affair that Hollywood and the Obamas have with each other. That relationship also explains how Obama can blame everything and everyone for the violence that is exploding in our society EXCEPT for blaming Hollywood. People like Quentin Tarantino aren’t chastised for making horrendously violent films that glorify murder, torture, anger and revenge –they’re celebrated and honored for it. It really sickens me.

OK, sorry for the outburst.

Let’s lighten the mood by discussing the ubiquitous aging European men with flowing blond hair. In case you were wondering what Legolas would look like as a middle-aged man:

 

Even more bizarre? The mystery of Renee Zelweger’s scrunched up face. Maybe she needed a Claritin? And Kristin Stewart? How does this person have a career? She is peevish, sullen and thoroughly detestable. She couldn’t even pretend to be charming for three minutes while presenting an Oscar. I think I hate K. Stew more than any other actress.

What were your highlights and bombs of the Oscars this year?

Who’s done with their Christmas shopping? Not me! And it’s less than a week away. But thank goodness for the internet. Not only because I can shop at 6 am before the kids are awake but because I can find pretty much anything out there.

I am a bit of an oddball and have raised my children to be rather oddball-ish too. While I generally like the fact that they refuse to wear Hollister t-shirts, sometimes it’s a big pain. My 15-year-old son York, for example, has developed a love for Feiyue sneakers (pronounced FAY-yoo-ay. For the longest time I couldn’t read the writing on York’s shoes and thought it was FYE-view. Duh). They’re are what all the Kung Fu people wear (he’s been taking Kung Fu for years). Feiyue started in Shanghai a long time ago but now they’re run by a French company and are pretty hip elsewhere in the world.  Think Chinese-French Chuck Taylors. I don’t get it, but he adores them so whatever.

Thanks to the interwebs I got York two pairs of his dream shoes for Christmas.  It tickles me that my PayPal account looks like this.


Nothing’s going to stand in the way of the perfect gift! Except for #5 on York’s list. I think we’re going to have to pass on the accordion.

Last weekend was India’s first prom. Strangely this has never been a moment I’ve thought much about as I’ve raised my daughters. Probably because I never had a boyfriend (or a date for that matter) in high school so the Prom was always a source of anxiety and frustration rather than excitement.

But India is a 16 year-old sophomore so she could potentially go to three proms during her high school career. Guess who is not excited about that? (hint: me.) Not that I don’t want her to go to the prom. Just that it’s expensive coming up with a dress and shoes and all that. Not to mention the three hours it took to do her hair, nails and makeup.

Mormons in the metropolitan Austin area have their own prom. The regular high school proms feature skanky half-naked girls, lusty teenagers gyrating all over each other and lots of alcohol. There are many parents who are of the “if you let them drink at home at least they’ll do it more responsibly” school of thought*. So while there isn’t much alcohol at the prom itself (just a few hidden flasks and “water bottles”), before and afterwards are quite a different story. Yet again, our teenagers get to feel like oddballs when tell their friends that they are going to the prom and yet not going to the prom.

Trying to find a modest prom dress is a fool’s errand. Most high school girls these days are aiming for a look somewhere between stripper and prostitute. If you live in Utah finding something at least knee-length and covering the shoulders can be a little easier, but we Mormons in the wilds of Texas have to buy something on the internet or get out the old sewing machine.

After a fruitless trip to the prom dress store (would you like something strapless, strapless or maybe strapless?), we sat down with my mom to create something similar, minus the hoochie factor.

My mom put her mad sewing skillz to use and came up with something similar to the dress India liked most at the Prom dress shop. She loved it and she and her date looked so adorable. He’s a really sweet boy.

I had to give India a quick tutorial on looking gorgeous:

1. Shoulders back, boobs out, hips to the side, front knee bent, toe pointed forward.

2. Your smile is your best asset. (She and I both have a similar curse: ugly serious faces. We should be smiling always. That is a hard pill to swallow for an introverted, shy teenage girl.)

I think she worked it pretty well for an amateur!

*If you think that letting your kids drink alcohol in your own house is somehow a better alternative, you are wrong. So, so, so wrong. And you are also a coward about telling your kids that their behavior is not acceptable. It is the job of a parent to tell kids what is right and what is wrong, It doesn’t matter what you did as a teenager; give them rules! (I’ll get off of my soapbox now.)

 

 

 

It’s March. It’s 80°. All week long.  Does this mean I can wear sandals?

You northern-y people are saying “Of course! 80 degrees definitely means sandals!”  But there is some unspoken code in warm-weather places. Growing up in Michigan I don’t know this code. In Michigan I wore snow boots with my Easter dress every single year.

But when it’s 80° in Texas, most people still wear pants. And if you’re wearing pants, you’re probably not wearing sandals either.

So are sandals like white shoes, dictated by the calendar?  Or are they for warm weather, no matter what the time of year?

Pros:

I’m tired of ballet flats

My toenails are cute

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Cons:

My sandals are all in a box at the very tip top of my closet. A mighty heavy box.

 

What say you?

I’m over at Segullah today posting this. But since I know you’re probably too lazy to click over there, let’s get a discussion going here too. I’m really interested in everyone’s opinions.

My 14-year-old son, York, has a pair of bright orange silky shorts. I loathe silky basketball shorts. I’m sure I must have bought them for him because I buy all his clothes. But what was I thinking? Was I so exasperated with clothes shopping that I just said “fine” when he waved them in front of me? Oh, we somehow ended up with a red pair too.

Every time he wears his bright shorts I want to tell him to go change. There is no way those are stylish in any crowd at high school.  I want him to look cute in public. But I also don’t want to be one of those bratty moms who has too strong an opinion about what her kids should and shouldn’t wear (except when it comes to Holiday outfits).

I have a friend like that. I love her but she’s always got some issue about what her daughters are wearing, whether its high heels to school, or a belt that’s really jangly, or anything striped (“stripes don’t look good on anyone!” she says.)

I reckon that as long as my kids are being modest then they should be able to wear what they want. But then I think of those stupid basketball shorts.  I really would like to “accidentally” spill bleach on them.

When I think back to the dreadful clothes I wore (anything fluorescent, T-shirts with biking shorts, the month where I wore shoelaces in my hair) and my appearance in general  (disgusting perms, purple and blue striped eyeshadow and, horrors, white lipstick!), I wish my mother had maybe stopped me once or twice as I was walking out the door and had me rethink my choices.

But it probably would have turned into a giant fight.  I’m not sure whether my mother was being wise or simply didn’t care.

Do you think that we have the right to help our kids make fashion choices?  It can be futile to insist that a three-year-old change her clothes but what about a thirteen-year-old?

What about husbands? Do you let the man in your life wear whatever he likes? Do you disagree? Do you even care? Does he?

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that Easter is this coming Sunday. I mean I knew that. There are giant bags of candy hidden in my closet. (I’m on top of the really important things.) But I kind of forgot about the whole Easter dress thing. Which is kind of a big, humongo deal at our house. In case you missed this basic fact, I love to dress my kids alike. There has not been a Christmas, Easter or family portrait in the last 14 years that has not featured matching clothes*. I realized this week that I simply do not have the wherewithal to track down a bevy of coordinating outfits. Especially when I now have to shop for India and York in the grown-up departments. No longer can I swing by the Children’s Place or Hartstrings and buy everything I need in 20 minutes.

So I tried making my peace with our motley assortment of church clothes (nobody even has anything new, let alone matchy). But I could not. I tried to tell myself that the days of matching clothes are over. However, I found myself wandering the aisles of the fabric store this morning. Surely I could whip up at least a few skirts. And then I could maybe make something for the boys**. Right?

Right! I got out the sewing machine and serger and went to town. I made three skirts for the girls this afternoon. The Fates smiled on me: I bought enough fabric. I had the right thread and elastic. I didn’t even sew any pieces together wrong. There were perfectly matching shirts at Target ($5 each!) and only one child threatened not to wear her ensemble (India, of course. Like I care what she thinks. So what if she’s fifteen?)

Tomorrow I’ll attempt to make neckties. I’ve never made them before but how hard can it be? (famous last words!) I even asked York if he’d wear a tie made of the really bright pink and green floral fabric I used for Arabella’s skirt and he was like, “yeah, whatever.” (I love easygoing children! They are the best ever!)

*I don’t know why I love matching clothes so much. One too many viewings of the von Trapps, I suppose. Which might also explain my large family. Whatever the reason, people give you major props if your kids are dressed alike. They believe–erroneously–that matching children indicate superior parenting skills. Chumps! But I’m not about to tell them that.

**It’s pretty much because of my obsession with dressing my children that I became good at sewing. My mom taught me how as a teenager, but it wasn’t until I tried to find coordinating brother-sister clothes that I buckled down and really figured it out. So it hasn’t all been pointlessly superficial.