Sunday, January 31, 2016

Clothes Knit Family

   It’s a little known fact that my dad had about seven different jobs throughout his years in high school.  I state, “It’s a little known fact,” not because I expect everyone to know that one adolescent, Clark Hallman, worked his butt off when he was a kid, but rather to emphasize the fact that I had no idea.  His own daughter... I've known the man for 36 years and I had no idea he worked at the Holiday Inn, a gas station, or…and this is really entertaining…a sandwich shop!  The idea of Clark working with food is absolutely hilarious to me.  Let’s just leave it at this, messy food and sticky fingers…forget about it!  Today, I think about this man who is one stereotypical finicky librarian when it comes to preparing even a Tyson chicken patty and think, “This person might have spread dripping condiments on someone else’s sandwich?  Not a chance!” 
   However, through one of his blog posts Clark shares with his audience a wide spectrum of surprising jobs he held during his teenage years.  Yes, I said his blog.  Like myself, my dad has his own blog.  Writing is merely one of the freakishly frequent things him and I have in common.  Of course, we definitely have our differences as well.  For instance, some of us don’t have that sticky finger phobia.  No, not me, I just replace that one with many others.  
   Getting back to my father’s blog, the concept behind it is a well-constructed collection of letters he's writing to his older brother who lives a long distance away.  In these letters he often reminisces about their family, his hometown, and his overall past experiences.  While I was very supportive of my father starting this blog in the hopes of creating a frequent dialogue between him and his brother, my real reasons for wanting him to do it were purely selfish.  I wanted to get to know him better.  I wanted a glimpse into the person Clark was, before he was Rayna’s dad.  I'm happy to report that through his blog I’ve begun to piece together the story of a person I knew was so much more dynamic than just the title, “Dad.”
   During his post regarding the many jobs he held as an adolescent, I learned that my father worked at the Puritan Sportswear Knitting Mill in Altoona, PA.  My dad ran knitting machines?!  My dad made sweaters?!  Wait, so between this and the sandwich shop, he knows how to cook and sew?!  Boy, is my mom gonna be pissed when she finds this out after all these years.  Clark describes his job at the mill as an unsuccessful attempt at him trying to, “operate four big knitting machines, continuously feeding out flawless sweater material.”  After reading this all I could visualize was some kind of, “I Love Lucy,” type skit starring my teenage father causing calamity in a factory production line.  I imagined the people of Altoona, PA (circa 1967) walking around with crazy Dr. Seuss type sweaters, each with a stretched out neck hole and three sleeves for arms.  People would pass by each other and shout, “Hey, I see you have one of those Hallman kid sweaters on!”  It was at that moment that I became obsessed.  My dad made sweaters.  I had to have one.
   Immediately after reading his post, I began trolling my favorite vintage clothing sites in the hopes of finding a Puritan Sportswear Knitting Mill sweater made in the USA during the 1960s.  It took a while, but I’m a rather skilled shopper and was finally able to hunt down the sweater I’m wearing in the above pictures.  Upon arrival, I was ecstatic to see how cool this piece actually was.  I love it’s rather Inuit art inspired design and the color was red! (A favorite of mine, and I believe Clark’s as well)  The day I wore this sweater I got plenty of compliments from people who walked by, one individual even stated, “That’s just such a classic sweater!  I love it!”
   Writing this now, I have to agree with that statement.  I love this sweater too, but for many different reasons than merely its appearance.  I love what it symbolizes to me.  When I wear it I’ll always think about my dad, during a time before he was anyone’s dad.  I’m proud to be related to such a responsible young man who took on so many different jobs, some clearly not suited for him, in an effort to help contribute to his family.  I now understand this sense of responsibility is simply part of his character, and I'm deeply grateful for all the years he worked so hard to establish security for my family.  In addition, I love this sweater because it reminds me that my dad had a life before me.  Once upon a time, he too was a goofy teenage kid who probably got into, “trouble,” between shifts at the sandwich shop.  I suspect, he continued to get into, “trouble,” throughout college and even after he met and married my mom.  However, it’s now clear to me that my dad’s sense of responsibility is very commendable, and despite any, "shenanigans," that may have occured, and through his blog posts I’ve read there were more than a few, he always has been a dependable individual. 
   At this point, you’re probably wondering if I really believe that my teenage father knitted the sweater I’m wearing.  I have to admit for just a moment I had my doubts.  However, while I was wearing it I happened to look down and noticed a fairly decent sized flaw in the stitching at the top.  There it was, proof that Clark was once again screwing around while running the knitting machine.  At this time I want to thank you dad for not only making this awesome sweater for me, but being such a remarkable person.  I guess even as a kid, you were preparing to, "put the clothes on my back."

Sweater:  Vintage  (Puritan Sportswear)
Dress:  Thrifted  (Tommy Hilfiger)
Boots:  Ugg
Purse:  J. Jill
Sunglasses:  Cole Haan

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Decaf be Damned!

   "Day twenty four and I still don’t see an end to this bleak month.  I’ve been surviving off a strict regiment of fish sticks, crappy drive thru food, and of course, Pepperidge Farm cookies.  The only way I can seem to stay warm is by wearing the same old, “beating a dead horse,” Ugg boots every day.  I can no longer stand taking style pictures outside, due to the cold.  Instead, I’ve resorted to the shelter of the garage.  Here, I attempt to look chic among the piled up yard furniture and tomato cages.  I try to break up the monotony of this long month by alternating reading my books at Starbucks and the public library.  Of course, the last time I went to my regular coffee spot I was told the decaf machine was out of order.  This news darn near had me ordering my first caffeinated beverage in over twelve years.  I almost ordered a caffeinated beverage!  What has become of the woman I know myself to be?  I fear this bleak wasteland may be getting the best of me, if not surely my selection of footwear."
   The above paragraph would be an excerpt from this South Dakotan woman’s winter survival journal, (if she had one.)  During these long desolate months, this blogger finds it difficult to report on anything new or interesting.  Honestly people, its winter and I’ve hit a funk again.
   Proof of this statement happened the other day when I running an errand.  I had just left a store after getting my sunglasses tightened so they would stop sliding down my face.  Since I was downtown I had to walk a fair distance to my car which was parked at a meter a few blocks from the building I had just exited.  Now, being a person who has lived in larger cities in the past I'm not accustomed to always waiting for the crosswalk light to change before I start walking across a street.  Especially if the street is a one way, leaving me only one direction to turn my head in order to check for traffic.  On this particular afternoon there was a group of rather punk rock looking teenagers waiting on the opposite side of the road facing me.  They were also waiting for the cross walk light to change.  As stated before, I’ve lived in Mpls.  During that time I became familiar with a rather hurried pace.  Considering the street I was crossing only had one car approaching in the far lane I started to cross the road before the light had changed to, “Walk”.  I reasoned that the vehicle would be long far past by the time I actually set foot in the lane it was driving in. 
   At this point, I think it would be relevant to interject that I admit winter is not my best time of the year.  I believe strongly in the relevance of seasonal depression and while I myself, thankfully, do not feel smothered in sadness, I do get a little bit crabby…a tiny angry…a smidgen aggressive…sigh, OK…I can be a real bitch.  However, on this day I was feeling pretty good with my newly fixed sunglasses on my face.  I was pleased at how they complimented the outfit I had on and happy when a nice looking gentlemen walking by nodded his approval at me.  I thought, “Hey it’s winter.  I’ve been wearing the same boots for about six weeks, but I’ve still got it.”  Of course, this was all before I started crossing the street.
   As mentioned earlier, I was walking toward the punk kids on the other side of the road.  My pace was seriously slow, as I was attempting to let the car in the far lane pass with plenty of time. Now, what do you think happened?  I’ll tell you what.  The car stopped dead on the road with the driver inside looking at me and pointing expressively at the crosswalk light while shaking his head.  I SNAPPED.  I’m pretty sure a possession occurred on Phillips Avenue that day because as soon as I saw the guy in the vehicle motion to me like I was an idiot, I went demonic on his ass.  I finished walking up to his car window, which thank God for him was rolled up, and proceeded to scream…let’s just leave it at, "not so nice stuff,"…in his face.  All the while I was motioning with my arms in an exaggerated way to, "Keep on driving. What the he…ck was he stopping for?!”  I continued to ridicule his decision to stop and obvious lack of city driving skills at the top of my lungs only to hear the punk kids on the other side of the road gasping, pointing, and snickering at my outward display.  There was a lot of, “Oohhh!” and, “DAMN!” being shouted from them.  However, this didn’t really register with me at the time because I was too busy unloading, (possibly in Latin, remember I was possessed),  on the wide eyed, now terrified man sitting in his vehicle. Finally, the driver got his wits about him and slowly started to proceed forward to the intersection he could have long ago passed through.  I continued to walk to my vehicle now feeling calmer and remarkably peaceful.  Of course, when I walked by the punks they gave me a wide berth, but also a look of something like respect.  While I’m certainly not proud of my ridiculous actions of aggression, I can honestly say I felt a lot better after it.  Also, I’d like to note that sometimes it’s the rather polished looking thirty-something lady in desinger sunglasses and Ugg boots that one should look out for, not the teenagers with green hair.  Good thing Starbucks had decaf that day.

Sweater:  Gift from Al  (Free People) 
Skirt:  Ann Taylor Loft
Boots:  Ugg
Purse:  J. Jill
Scarf:  Thrifted

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Clifford The Big Red Blog

   Lately, with the weather being as cold as it is my personal style blog has been giving me major feelings of, “Meh.”  Basically, when the temperature outside has dropped well below zero it’s hard enough for me to crawl out from under the denim patchwork quilt on my bed, let alone try to put together an ensemble that is both cute and can keep me alive in the elements.  I’ve been thinking since it’s so darn cozy, maybe there’s a way for me to convert my beloved bedtime blankie into a poncho type garment.   I can easily make the argument that this lady loves her patchwork and denim.  Also, what greater way to make one feel secure during these rather troublesome bleak months?  To heck with women wearing their pajama pants in public!  Just cut a head sized hole in your favorite comforter and add a stylish concho belt to give your silhouette a little shape.  Ta-Da!  All of a sudden my handmade patchwork quilt has that Southwestern boho vibe that people, (including myself), go crazy for.  Seriously though, I’m pretty sure I could pitch this particular garment to Free People and sell it for a mint.  Of course, now it’s beginning to occur to me that this idea is just a glorified version of the, “Snuggie.”  However, I added a belt and was starting to consider fringing the ends so…
   “Sigh,” my initial point of this blog post was simply to state , “It’s freakin’ cold outside and I’m having a very hard time remaining enthused about my wardrobe when all I want to do is wear a hoodie, jeans, Ugg boots, and a parka every day.”  This being stated I’ve been trying to, “up my game,” as much as possible.  Instead of the standard puffy parka I’ve been wearing more of my vintage coats, taken from the obscene collection I’ve hoarded over the years.  I’ve always justified buying such a large quantity of outerwear by the fact that I live in an area of the country that has the ability to produce snow seven months out of the year.  Seven months allows a lot of time for, “costume changes.”  Unfortunately, I’ve found the most stunning coats to be the least effective in the elements.  I liken this concept to the flowers one might find in their garden.  Like the beautiful Datura, one may adore the gorgeous blooms this plant produces but don’t count on eating it in a pinch unless you want to risk being fatally poisoned.  Likewise, don’t take a long car trip to Fargo, ND in the month of January wearing only your fetching vintage tweed coat.  Make sure your big ugly parka or makeshift denim, patchwork poncho is somewhere in the backseat.
   Upon first inspecting these photographs, I was disheartened at my lack of overall, “style.”  I felt dread at the idea that January would be a month full of pictures of me wearing the typical coat, scarf, and Ugg boot uniform.  I already long for the days when I can walk more than five steps from my backdoor to take pictures without potentially getting frostbite.  Seriously though, I could never fess up to permanently damaging the nerve endings in my fingertips just because I was attempting to get some good, "glamour," shots for the week.  As a result, the photographs I did end up getting for this particular blog post mustered up some serious feelings inadequacy.  This combined with the idea that one should not try to pass off your basic coat, scarf, and Uggs as a fashion blog look, (And how many times have I actually done this?...probably, every), made this blogger feel not only inadequate, but a tad red in the face.  All I could think of was, “You dog!  Trying to pass yourself off as an expert in fashion.  There’s nothing original or creative about this look…Ok, now wait, I do like the red coat.”  Hence, the title of this post was born, “Clifford The Big Red Blog.”  I know, clear as mud, right?
   Anyway, I’m fairly certain this whole line of thought can simply be chalked up to winter blues.  I’d like to point out I’m combating this as much as possible by not only wearing red, but also continuing to brave the frigid temperatures outside in order to take my blog pictures!...even if they’re crappy.  I’m glad I did too, because just when I was about to call it a day on this failure of a photo shoot I snapped the last image of this post.  I have to state, I think it’s one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken of myself.  Due to this single self portrait my mind all of the sudden transformed this coat, scarf, Ugg fiasco into an adorable vintage ensemble I would be proud to plaster all over the internet.  Simply because of this one image, I was able to beat down my insecurities and confirm, “Boy howdy, can I style an outfit!”  I guess a picture is worth a thousand words, even if they’re really outdated ones.

Coat:  Vintage
Jeans:  Guess
Boots:  Ugg
Purse:  Matt & Nat
Scarf:  The Limited
Gloves:  Vintage
 Sunglasses:  Gift from Al  (Versace)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"We're Men, We're Men in White, WHITE, Socks"

   Once upon a time, not so long ago there was a little show called, “Sex And The City.”  Like many women at the time, I found myself drawn to the plot lines, characters, and most of all clothing that was presented in this program.  During the course of this show there were many scenarios introduced that I found similar to my everyday life.  Whoa…now wait, am I talking about an urban lifestyle full of clubbing, casual sex, wealth, and binge shopping?  The closest my life gets to any of these topics is the last.  However, I don’t recall Carrie ever hitting the Goodwill with her charge card. While this South Dakotan woman may not be sporting Manolo Blahniks to her holiday gatherings, she still gets a little irate when being asked to remove her Ugg boots upon entering a door.
   Like Carrie’s character on the show, I too am a fan of shoes.  They’re the last element I add to an outfit and often I see them as the, “cherry on top,” (or in this case, bottom) of a look.  Basically, it’s not uncommon for shoes to make, or break an outfit.  Here’s an example, certain pairs of skinny jeans make my thighs look huge.  This obviously is an illusion created by my bony ankles and long ski like feet.  It certainly couldn't be caused by my ongoing taste tour of Pepperidge Farm cookies.  (Man, those Sausalitos are the, “bee’s knees.”…big knees, that are hard to fit into skinny jeans.)  What I’m getting at here is by simply combining a chunky boot, like Ugg, with my skinny jeans I’m all of the sudden confident of not only my look, but also my cookie intake.  Who knew shoes could make a woman look slimmer?  I wonder if Ugg has ever thought of doing a partnership with Pepperidge Farm?  I mean the log cabin pictured on the cookie bag appears like its’ covered in snow.  I think a couple of well-placed Ugg boot prints leading up to the building would look mighty cozy.             
   Anyway, the reason I’m going on about Pepperidge Farm is because I'm hungry.  More importantly, the reason I’m discussing, “Sex And The City,” is because recently I was reminded of the episode where the character Carrie was invited to a friend’s baby shower and forced to remove her shoes at the door.  During this episode Carrie is horrified by the idea of having to separate her lovely Manolo high heels from the rest of her ensemble.  Not only were her shoes a luxury item that costed a lot of money, but they were a vital accessory toward her overall look.  Now I ask you, “Am I the only woman in the Midwest that feels this way too?”  I specify, “Midwest,” because it seems traditional in this area that if one enters another’s home you immediately take off your shoes.  I accept the fact that to a certain degree this is just Midwesterners being polite.  I also understand that during the winter months this is one of the only ways a home owner can keep their floors clean.  However, there have been many occasions that I have gone to parties feeling very good about my meticulously planned outfit, only to have someone request that I leave my shoes at the door.  This is an occurrence that makes me simultaneously regret those two cookies I had at lunch, and the amount of money I invested on a pair of boots I promised myself I would show off at every event.
   The pictures above are an example of this.  I recently wore this outfit for a day spent at holiday parties in various homes.  Upon taking these photographs I was pleased with my overall appearance.  Of course, this confidence lasted no longer than the moment I stepped through the first front door and was asked to please remove my boots and add them to the growing mass of shoes on the floor.  Not only was I not wild about leaving one of my favorite pair of boots in a wet pile, I was embarrassed by the fact that I had worn extremely white socks under them.  I’m talking WHITE, like glow in the dark white.  So now, not only did I have wide thighs, I had glowing ski feet as well.  I knew things were bad when my fashion impaired, special manfriend turned and looked at me saying, “I don’t think your socks match your outfit.”  Thank God the party had cookies.

Jacket:  Vintage (Inherited from a friend)
Skirt:  Upcycled sweater purchased at a craft fair
Boots:  Ugg
Purse:  Michael Kors
Ring:  Purchased at a craft fair

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Habits of Haute (A Year of Style 2015)

   “Hello year three of my blogging career!”  I have a hard time believing I’ve been yakking on about virtually nothing for this many posts.  Wait, okay anyone who knows me realizes that’s a total lie.  I absolutely love concentrating on the trivial.  The reason behind this is simple.  Contrary to what a style blog may suggest about a person, I confess that I'm anything but trivial.  Unfortunately for me, and most of the people I speak with, I'm an individual who worries…like, a lot…about things that go beyond the silly topics I discuss on this blog.  This being stated, I consider it a luxury for me to periodically concentrate on the mundane while writing these posts.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do worry about a lot of really stupid things.  I worry that if I wear denim too much I won't be viewed as a legitimate fan of fashion.  I worry that the absolutely stunning Rag & Bone purse I’ve been ogling at for about a year now will go on sale and I will miss it.  (Which I did!!!  Why God?!)  I worry that my overbite looks huge in every picture I smile in.  Therefore, 2015 is full of blog pictures of one pissed off looking, denim wearing woman who just missed the biggest sale of the year at Rag & Bone.  So let me tell you, I worry.
   What I don’t often broadcast to the public is the real things I stress about.  I find myself concerned with how much time I spend alone.   I go to coffee by myself and read every day I have off work.  I spend most of my evenings locked away in my sewing room either crafting or composing posts for my two blogs.  In addition, lately if not reading or writing, I find myself going through some sort of early midlife crisis where I have the overwhelming urge to purchase a beanbag chair in order to listen to vinyl records in comfort while burning Nag Champa incense.  I must admit as immature as it sounds, a beanbag chair would be a nice alternative to simply laying on my Indian rug, (“Big Lebowski,” style,) which is what I’ve been doing for about a year now.  I fear with the arrival of 2016, and the dreaded turning 37, I’m not sure how much longer my back can actually take lying on a hardwood floor.  Even wannabe hippies start to lose the ability to sit cross legged in a drum circle…of one.
    Of course this subject addresses my biggest worry.  As time goes by I find myself increasingly fixated on my age.  Does this blogger who takes hundreds of, “glamorous,” pictures of herself stress about mundane things like gaining weight, going gray, and getting wrinkles?  Definitely, I believe most women are concerned when faced with the reality that their appearance is changing.  It seems so unfair that one can feel like just, “one of the girls,” only to later be confronted with some well-meaning, yet utterly na├»ve twenty something calling her Ma’am.  Side note:  Unless you’re from the South, (As I understand, this is a common term used to address females there), please do not address any woman under the age of 70 as Ma’am.  Personally, I prefer Ms.  However, Miss, hon, or gorgeous would also be acceptable.  At this point you’re probably shaking your head in disgust while thinking, “I knew someone who takes that many pictures of herself would worry about such ridiculous things.”  While I agree that these concerns are, "small potatoes," compared to the issues other individuals face on a daily basis, I want to state that they are still valid.  In addition, they're actually the precursor to the true subjects this blogger frets about.  The real reason I worry about growing older is all the things I fear I haven’t accomplished.  Sometimes, I feel like standing up in a room full of people and proclaiming, “I’m a 36 year old woman who is unmarried and has no children.  I have a career in retail and will always have a job where I’m required to stand on my feet all day.  I still work nights and weekends.  I’m not certain I will ever be able to retire.  I don’t have dental insurance, and the previously mentioned overbite is most likely the least of my problems regarding teeth.  I seem to be getting increasingly antisocial especially since most other individuals want to hang out in bars.  I worry that someday I will lose control and once again want to hang out in bars.  Lastly, I don’t know which side of the engine my car battery is on…or how to open the hood for that matter.  Apparently, this is something most grownups should know.” 
   In conclusion, lately everyone I talk to seems to be under an enormous amount of stress.  I blame this on the New Year.  It’s a holiday that causes people to reflect on the future, the present, and most prominently the past.  I guess I wrote this post in an attempt to create some sort of solidarity with anyone of my readers who may be struggling with their own worries.  Don’t get me wrong, 2015 marked a lot of wonderful events for this blogger.  However, despite this, real life is not always as perfect as, “glamour,” shots can make it look.  So, if you find yourself this New Year’s confronted with pictures of someone else that seems to have the, “world by the ass,” remember, people generally represent their lives in the most positive way possible, despite whether this representation is truly honest.  Nobody wants to appear like they’re struggling or lagging behind.  Some of us collect a year’s worth of, “pretty,” pictures in order to help ward off these feelings of inferiority.  This being stated, some of us look back at these pictures and think, “Dang, 36 looks better than I thought it would.”  This thought alone is enough to make even a girl with the biggest overbite smile.