04 January 2010

What to Wear, What to Say

I. Clothing

Since becoming a parent, getting dressed is an exercise in choosing a pair of pants and a shirt or sweater that "go together." I can't quite define what I mean by "go together," but it has something to do with the colors not clashing and the general look being somewhat similar. Sometimes I mix it up by wearing a skirt instead of pants. As for shoes, it's usually Dansko clogs. I have red ones. And black ones. And Mary Jane style ones, also black. I even have Dansko boots! Yes, black.

I've never been what one might call fashion-forward, but something about the all-consuming nature of parenthood has taken me off the fashion grid completely. I've talked to other parents who feel the same way. Caught up in the daily grind of work and family, shopping for myself seems both indulgent and, for the most part, uninteresting. I have amassed a utilitarian wardrobe that is nice enough for work and can get me through the weekend in comfort and without looking like a total slob.

Most of the time, I'm fine with this state of affairs. But there are times when I'll see someone wearing an outfit that is so perfectly suited to him or her, something that catches the eye but not in a flashy way, in a comfortable and confident way, and I can remember that it was once fun to find clothing that I liked and that suited me. I get the urge to go out and do a little shopping, to try a few things on, to allow myself a bit of indulgence.

I'm not so much of a martyr that I don't think I deserve such a luxury. But the thing is that I don't even know where to begin. I have no idea what the almost-forty set wears, what's "in" right now. Frankly, I don't actually care what's in, or what other people my age are wearing. It's mostly that I don't know what I like anymore, and if I did know, I wouldn't know where to get it. But I did get a Nordstrom gift card for Christmas, so maybe that's where I should start.

II. Makeup

About four months after the twins were born, I looked in the mirror one morning and thought to myself: You look old, and tired. My body did not feel like my own, my clothes didn't fit, and I felt frumpy and unattractive.

My sister-in-law came to my rescue. She is beautiful, and knows how to make the most of her natural good looks. Her style can vary from subtle to dramatic, but it's certainly never trashy or overdone. I asked her to go with me to the mall to pick out some makeup that would be easy to apply and just keep me from looking uneven and exhausted and aging. I think I even blogged about this event at the time, although I am too lazy to go back and look. In any case, she came up with a great regimen for me, something that only took five minutes to put together but made me feel a million times better.

Three years later, guess what? I'm all out of that makeup! Have been for a while! Have I replaced it? No. Have I missed it? As the twins have gotten older and I've reclaimed my body and gotten more sleep, I've generally felt less like I need or want that kind of enhancement. I still have some decent lipstick and mascara, so when the situation warrants it, I can come up with a little something more than nothing. But not much more than nothing.

III. Flirting

I bought myself some new running shoes yesterday. For the first time ever, I went to a real running shoe store, where they have you jog on a treadmill and analyze your gait and give you recommendations on shoes and then $100 later you are ready to burn up the road.

The guy who helped me was knowledgeable and friendly. He brought out a bunch of shoes for me and asked if I ever ran any races. I asked if he could recommend some good ones for springtime. We talked about the east coast (he was an upstate New York transplant) and the Red Sox. I chose my shoes and paid.

On the way out to the car, my coworker, who had been with me for the whole transaction, said, "Was he flirting with you?"

"I don't know! Was he? I would have no idea."
"I think he was."
"How do you know? How should I know? I always think people are just making conversation."
"I think he was flirting."

Then we went to a frozen yogurt shop were the slimy guy at the counter definitely flirted with me, in a way that was obvious even to me and was not pleasant. When we left the store, I said to my coworker, "Now that guy was flirting with me, but that's yucky." She agreed.

IV. Conclusion

I don't know how to dress myself. I need new makeup. I have no idea what artful, grown-up flirting looks like.

But what I find is that lately, after months of wanting to do nothing but get myself home, enjoy some time with the kids, and watch TV in my fleece pajamas, I feel subtly and not-so-subtly pulled outward. I'm more interested in what I wear and how I look, more interested in the interactions I have with people. I'm intrigued by figuring out what I might like to wear beyond the pants on the top of the stack and the shirt hanging in the front of the closet. I am interested in working on the art of conversation.

It's still decidedly winter, but it feels like spring.


Keen said...

I liked your conclusion, and I like how all four parts are tied together... sounds like some shopping is definitely in order! Can't wait to hear about your fashion finds.

Also, the phrase "almost-forty set" made me laugh out loud. Because I guess we are.

Ruthie said...

I can relate - beyond spending the money, just taking the time in the mornings to put on nice clothes or makeup feels like a luxury I can't quite afford. Just curious, which brand of makeup did your sister-in-law recommend?

I would go along with the springtime impulse and see what comes of it!

Amber said...

Love it! Especially the flirting part... because it's hard to tell, and other times it's painfully obvious!!

Audrey said...

I went through a similar transition a year or so ago. Makeup -- I like the mineral stuff. I just order it from Sephora. It's expensive, but it seems to last forever. Flirting -- I was pretty clueless to that forever too. I guess you just get used to being out-of-the-loop when married/widowed.

Part of my transition (much to my son's chagrin) was recognizing that I am indeed a sexual being (again). Once I made that mental shift, it was easier to recognize the flirting and to pull together my face/body/makeup/clothing/attitude.


Snickollet said...


My sister-in-law recommended Benefit dandelion powder (comes in an adorable little box!), a NARS pencil eyeshadow with a bit of sparkle, a NARS blusher (in a shade rather, uh, overtly named "Orgasm"), and a lip gloss that I can no longer remember. Very simple. I liked all the products a lot, but the blusher takes a light hand as you can easily go from "glowing" to "slutty harlot."

Samantha said...

I'd use that Nordstrom card to get some good makeup. I use Bobbi Brown (sold at Nordstrom) and their products are great. The makeup artists will really help you find products that you like and actually will use. I am pretty minimalist when it comes to makeup, and when I go to get new stuff I always tell them that I don't want to spend a lot of time on it every morning and that I don't like foundation. They are never pushy, never try to get me to buy stuff I won't use, and always create a really natural look.

As for clothes, I wear sweats all day so I'm not much help. :)

Good luck!!!

Ginevra said...

I love you so much, Snick. :-) I will be thinking springy thoughts for you. Especially tomorrow. (Or wait--is it tomorrow? I think you know to what I refer.) Anyway. As for the phrase "almost-forty set," it makes ME want to run away screaming. Will have to work on that.


OTRgirl said...

Great last line. It'll be fun to see where your spring takes you.

Madelyn said...

For quick style inspiration, pick up a copy of InStyle. It does a great job of accessible looks for all ages. Sometimes it just takes a simple accessory to transform basics into a "look.". Also, just walk through an Ann Taylor or Banana Republic for ideas. Actually, even Target has some great, affordable pieces.


Flicka said...

I've got not style advice but I love your last statement!


LauraC said...

I have never ever worn makeup but am finally at the age where I need to wear makeup. Also my skin looks better with a little tan but I had melanoma last year so that plan is out the window. As my "beat melanoma" present to myself, I went to Origins and had them do a makeover. They gave me some really great makeup ideas and I was able to say - I want something that takes five minutes but makes me look like a grown up.

Also love the eco angle of Origins.

Ruby2 said...

I learned alot from watching "What Not To Wear" on TV. Should someone nominate you?

Sandy said...

Oh! Someone nominate me!

Sandy said...

I would love to have the help of What Not to Wear. But I could not stand that kind of scrutiny. I would definitely cry. How about you, Snick?

Anonymous said...

Check out the forums on youlookfab.com for help with clothes. I highly recommend the makeup consults at Nordstrom. I've never had much luck at Sephora.


Nina said...

What a great post.

I think places like Banana or J. Crew are great when you don't know where to start with your wardrobe. They have attractive basics that appeal to a lot of people, but are still "fashion forward."

For makeup, I think tinted moisturizer is nice for people who don't like heavy make-up (I wear Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20). A subtle blush (I like Bobbi Brown), some mascara, lipstick (Clinique's Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is a nice, non-overwhelming color)...I don't think anymore is practical for everyday. Maybe an easy eyeliner if you like it.

As for the fine art of conversation...well, I can never tell if somebody is flirting except when they're really gross about it too.

Anonymous said...

Regarding clothes - go to nordstroms and ask someone to help you find a good pair of jeans that fit you right. They might be expensive but trust me it will make you feel like a million bucks. Get a few tops in basic colors that flatter your figure and you're good to go! But, and I think you already know this, enhance your style, not someone elses....so figure out what tops look good with your new jeans and your dansko shoes:)

Regarding makeup, figure out what kind of moisturizer your face needs (I like aveeno)....then just go with a good foundation (I like nuetrogena), some mascara, a little blush and BRONZER. Everyone needs a little color - I recommend MAC. The whole thing takes less than five minutes. Good luck!

Jen said...

Ah, love this post! I'm going through a similar renaissance myself -- got two cute tops at a fancy boutique, bought new cleansing cream and moisturizer. Now I'm motivated to stop by the Nordstrom make-up counter! Something about the new year has brought me out of my shell a bit, too. Here's to a more social 2010!

Knowledge Safari said...

Great post - so well written! I am glad "spring" is on the horizon.

Snickollet said...

Ruby2: Someone should totally nominate me for What Not to Wear! I could take it. I have no illusions about my lack of fashion sense.

Aimee said...

Trying to quickly find info about body shapes to get ideas/tips for shopping for clothes. I'm sorry I don't have time to really read through these, but they give basic definitions of body shapes and what styles work best. If anyone has better info, please post!



Natika said...

Use your Nordy card at "The Rack!" I think you can and your $$$ will go so much further.
As for makeup...the blending powders work very well at minimizing fine lines and they don't feel heavy. There are many different brands out there for you to choose from. The powder, some mascara and some lipstick is all you need.

The flirting...haven't had to do it in over 11yrs. I don't think it would ever again come naturally. That's some scary stuff and I wish you all the luck in the world.

beyond said...

may i suggest an excellent pair of jeans?
i just bought a relatively cheap pair (at h&m) and they're my new favorites.
i can't weigh in on the make-up. i just wear moisturizer, mascara and lip balm; you're light years ahead of me...
as for the flirting, i never really understood it, neither did my husband. maybe that's why we ended up together. ; )
keep us posted!

Sandi said...

I'm lucky. My mother is completely fashion-forward and should really hire herself out to the fashion clueless.

Most department stores have personal shopper who can help you choose clothes that are right for you ala Stacy and Clint, but without the insults.

Sarah said...

What a fun post! When I finally started paying attention to clothes in my early twenties, I took my most shopping-loving, fun-clothes-loving friend with me out for an afternoon. She made me try on things I would not have normally chosen. While not everything worked, it helped open my mind to new possibilities. It was great.

On the makeup (and related, skin care) front: Origins. No question. They will help you, and their products are amazing. Join their e-mail list, and you'll get coupons too.

You didn't mention hair, but if that comes up as part of the agenda, I've found Aveda salons to be consistently nice, as are their products. I don't get my hair cut very often, and I am very low maintenance, and those folks take that into account and give me something that will look nice if I don't blow dry.

Good luck and have fun!

Lonesome Dove said...

Aw...to be in the "almost forty set" again. :) I have no fashion sense either. One of my daughters actually busted out laughing at a pair of jeans I was wearing once and then proceeded to explain to me what I should look for in jeans. I now am the proud owner of a few pair of Sweetheart jeans from Old Navy. They fit good, they feel good, and they don't look bad, plus they are cheap enough that I could splurge on a few pair. As for the makeup, I hate wearing it, but unfortunately at my age I have to, so I splurged for Bare Escentuals. I LOVE IT! Quick, easy and it last a long time. Also, after years of letting my hair "go natural" (read GRAY), I recently went in for some highlights. Subtle but effective.

Your post was such a boost in a positive direction. Thanks for sharing.

carosgram said...

Sounds like the deep freeze is finally melting and I am glad for you.

Anonymous said...

Must be the age... I turned 40 on Christmas eve and suddenly realized I needed to spruce up my wardrobe too.


sarzini said...

Love this entry. My suggestion - try Sephora or MAC - they are awesome at listening to what you have/need to get done for makeup and arrange it for you. As for wardrobe - I live either at the GAP or Banana Republic or J Crew so I'm of no help - if it's not in their stores then forget it. And are those Dansko clogs comfortable? I need something kind on the feet - apparently once you hit 40 your feet go!

sarzini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJ said...

I went to the "What Not To Wear" website to see if I could nominate Snickollet even though I don't know her, but it turns out that you need to include "2 pictures that illustrate her bad fashion sense (this is a must!)" - so I can't do it. But one of you who actually does know her really should do a nomination - she'd be perfect not because she has no fashion sense, but because of this post. So, one of you, please go to http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/whatnottowear/geton/ and nominate her, and be sure to include in the nomination how Snickollet's readers think she deserves this.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Oh my, I could have written this post now that I am coming out of my twin fog. I was just commenting to a friend how every item of clothing I own (with the exception of my wedding dress) is completely utilitarian and very boring. I own not one makeup item-- not even chapstick. Someone at Sephora needs to have their way with me STAT.

Wishful Nals said...

i am a mid-twenties professional with no kids, and i can often relate! good luck!

also, i'm doing a giveaway today, for anyone whose interested! :)

Anonymous said...

Chiming in on the clothes-shopping front. As both a major devotee of Nordstrom and fellow gal who lives in Danksos, I would second the suggestions to invest in a good pair of jeans. Get a sitter for the kids and plan to spend an afternoon...trying on jeans can be trying (heh), but bring in a dozen different pairs and once you find a pair you like, take the plunge. Nordstrom has a really phenomenal selection, and since most of the shi-shi brand jeans are made for people with legs for days, you can also have Nordstrom hem them for you, and they do it in such a way that you can't even tell they were shortened. Maybe $20 or so, I think? As for tops, they have some great clearance racks, especially this time of year you can find cute sweaters on sale ... a simple black cashmere t-neck will look really chic with your new jeans and fun red Danskos.

Anonymous said...

ok, so I think you will be able to find your own way with all this stuff, but either way, here's what I do:

For makeup - try Trish McEvoy; it's goes on clean and light and you will end up beautiful!! Their makeup artists never do "caked-on" makeovers, so you'll probalby LOVE them

For jeans - get a pair of Seven's. No need to spend 200+, they have them in Marshalls/TJ Maxx for half that and they are modern yet comfortable. You will look very chick with not a lot of effort, I promise

Flirting - look men in the eye and smile; That's all you'll need :)

Anonymous said...

i second the nomination for What Not To Wear!!! :) What a great way to get a professional makeover and a new start!!

Lynnette said...

I think I would use the gift card for make-up, too. I get a Lancome Dual Finish compact because it streamlines my make-up. Pat on dry over moisturizer (Oil of Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin, unscented, VERY lightweight, and cheap) Throw on some mascara (usually from a free Lancome gift with purchase), Cherry Chapstick and a little lipstick if I'm feeling it that day (also usually from a free Lancome gift with purchase) or if its nighttime, eyeshadow (ditto) and go.

I have recently been buying a few things from Coldwater Creek. Their quality is great, all mostly comfortable styles, there is usually a sale and you can get some unusual items there, that people will notice in a good way. Don't be alarmed by the older women that seem to frequent the place. The clothes are cool. I just bought a beautiful teal, taffeta dress to wear to a formal wedding my twins will be flower girls in, and I feel like I'm going to the prom or something. I haven't really dressed up in ages!

Lynnette said...

Oh and I just noticed Coldwater Creek is having a sitewide 75% off sale through the end of the day today! Maybe "I" need a few more things??

rose said...

Bare Minerals or whatever it's called-the ubiquitous infomercial makeup. I am not a big makeup person, but as I edge closer to 50, I find it's nice to take the edge of. A couple of friends recommended it to me and I love it. It's very easy to put on and so I tend to use it more often. It looks very natural. I think it's about $60 for a set at Sephora. I use mine a couple of times a week and have had it over two years.

Susan said...

Great post Snick. I'm sure Nordstrom's will definitely help with the clothes but I also second The Rack if you have one. Make up, lol, I need help in this area as well. I have to admit I am a drug store makeup purchaser :( I would love to have a makeover. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

fun! my two cents: bare minerals settles into fine lines after a few hours wear and i don't like it for myself over 30. likewise, very sheer foundation was the bomb -- when i was 30. now i still want only light coverage, but with a little filler and lift in a foundation. channel makes one. o therwise why bother with anything more than concealer ya' know?

for color, benefit is fun for everyday and weekends if you don't like makeup, and babbi b. or trish m. are great for a polished look that can go from day to -- dare I say -- NIGHT!

Anonymous said...

That last line was perfect.

Watercolor said...

Nordstroms and their fantastic customer service... can you make an appointment with a personal shopper there to help you shop for clothes? And girl, lord have mercy, get some cute shoes! lol. (I'm 41.) Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft have great fashionable stuff that is comfy and gorgeous.

Before you protest, if you are willing to go on WN2W, you would be going home with that sort of stuff. :) So go, try on things you might not ordinarily put on.

As you approach 40, no sparkle in the makeup. You ain't a kid anymore. Sorry. It was a shocker for me, heh. You want pretty matte colors.

Jen said...

For makeup, mineral powder is great. I use Bare Escentuals or Everyday Minerals. Love it, not too heavy and not cakey at all. I like their eye shadows as well. I need help with clothes too, as I'm 35 and have no idea what works for me. I know the feeling.

Lee C. Thomas said...

Love the way you ended this post.

Lise said...

I'm no help with the flirting and the makeup, but I do know a bit about clothes. I agree with the suggestion about buying a good pair of jeans. Be sure to try on jeans with a tight-fitting top so that you can tell if the jeans are giving you muffin-top. Many women wear jeans that are too low and too tight in the waist. The best looking jeans are the ones that fit you well. If you go to Nordstrom, a sales clerk can steer you toward the brands that fit your body best (Joe Jeans are good for women with a larger waist, Earl brand trouser jeans make the butt look a bit rounder, etc.)

My job requires me to look fashionable but casual. My winter "uniform" is a cashmere turtleneck or crewneck sweater, good jeans, and a cute winter scarf. And I'm part of the "oh god, not only am I past forty but nearing fifty" set.

Roads said...

Sounds to me like you definitely need another pair of running shoes, just in case. Or maybe even three.

Reminds me of a time I'll relate shortly when I became very interested in having multiple haircuts.

Spring comes at all times of the year, as you say.

Yamin said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Yamin said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Soon, Then said...

You are a great writer.
I enjoy putting my clothes together for the day, but I also grow tired of it sometimes. I used to have a million things in my closet that I half-liked. Talk about frustrating and exhausting! I have decluttered my closet since then.
I think getting some good basics that you feel good and attractive in is enough. A couple of pairs of jeans you feel sexy in are nice, and some tops that you can layer a few different ways. That way you can still pull whats on top of the pile and more often than not, it will go together and you will feel stylish.
I put makeup on everyday and I definitely tire of that. I wish I were in a place where I felt comfortable NOT wearing makeup. For that, I applaud you.