Saturday, February 4, 2012

The importance of looking good in the pictures

I always thought of myself as of only-recently-fashion-evolved. I had this idea of my ugly duckling past firmly embedded in my self-image, even as I was always hoping to become this stylish confident woman when I (finally) grow up.

"Why did I waste my youth wearing ugly track suits, ill fitting jeans and cheap sale dresses?" I complained once to my long time friend.
"I don't know what are you talking about, you never wore track suits" my friend sounded genuinely puzzled.
"I didn't!?"
"No, you had those cute blazers, awesome combat boots (!) and what ever happened to that hat you were always wearing?"

I started to think about it. Maybe she was right. I remember that cool black leather trimmed blazer I had (from the Limited). Oh, and the Calvin Klein dress I really liked, and yes, the newsboy hat. I tried to ignore the combat boots part. I remembered that the coworker once said I was "the best dressed person in the whole department" leaving me shocked and embarrassed.

Hmmm, maybe I did not look so bad, but why do I remember it differently? Part of it was that I grew up in the shadow of my fashionista mother (see here). I was poor and could never afford things I liked. I was very focused on my career and I didn't want to admit I was even interested in fashion. I thought I was a tomboy.

But then it hit me. It is because of the pictures!

My family liked to spend our vacations camping, hiking, swimming and sightseeing.  And, of course, taking tons of pictures while doing it. Since I always prided myself on being able to pack in a small single suitcase, I ended up taking only practical, durable clothes, shoes that were meant for walking etc.

Wrong! Those clothes ended up looking really ugly in the pictures. My mother was onto something, after all. With her multiple stuffed suitcases, amidst my exasperated father huffing and puffing (but secretly feeling proud of her), she is always beaming in our vacation photos.

Elegant women, like DaniBP,  are wise when they plan their color story inspired vacation wardrobe. Dani always has the best packed suitcase when she goes on vacation, and I have learned a lot from her. Actually, I tried to pack Dani style on our recent vacations and I was much happier with the outcome. Finally, I came of (fashionable) age!

I never liked to spend too much on my special occasion outfits. You only wear it once, I thought, it is a waste of money. So there I am, attending weddings and First Communions, wearing dresses that were 'good enough', but never what I really look good in.

Wrong! While the cost-per-wear is still atrocious, the memories-per-wear are pennies. For my daughter's First Communion last year I bought the dress that was more expensive than my wedding dress (which was very cheap). I felt pretty and confident. I never wore it again (but I will have the pictures forever). I have no regrets.

Then, there are all those goofy pictures, taken by surprise by my talented photographer husband. "Mom, you have to see it, you look soooo awful" my daughters are always in hysterics when going through the evidence.

Why didn't anybody take pictures of me at work, I wonder?  That would show them. Remember my wise coworker? Well, nobody usually does, unless, of course, you do it yourself. So there is another purpose of this blog! 3o years from now, I will be able to pass those pictures to posterity without shame. Ha! I have outsmarted the system!

See children, even in the bathroom, grandma was a-stylin

As for the goofy business I found a solution too. I am buying my lounge wear and work out/hiking/skiing gear with the same amount of thought as my occasion dresses and work clothes. They can be comfy but at the same time still 'give me the feeling', ykwim?

After all, you don't need more than one 'painting the basement' outfit, right?

Go ahead, take a goofy picture now

Hope you are having a great weekend. 

How do you see your style evolving over the years?  Do you see yourself as fashionable as you want to be? Do you like looking at your old pictures? Please share.


  1. Thanks for the kind words ajc! You know my own obsession with vacation wardrobes is because of The Pictures, in my case the pictures from our Prague vacation in 2008, I look hideous in all the photos. I wore all black and I had an ugly pair of walking shoes. And a horrible black nylon bag from the travel store. I look perfectly ill in every scene.
    Funny you mention it I'm working on vacation wardrobes now, Florida which is coming up quickly, then NYC and my favorite: Paris in the autumn. I know, good times taking clothing pictures and obsessing over color stories!

    So to answer your question I am happy with my wardrobe now, vacation and otherwise. And I hate looking at my old pictures, especially Prague 2008!

    1. Dani, I cannot imagine you looking hideous but ikwym. I saw your post on your new color story, many great ideas, like always. I look forward to seeing more of it!

  2. I have amassed a good number of dresses that I've never worn. I was convinced that the obsession is because I wore things my mother liked/approved of but I never felt really pretty in. A few months ago a friend of mine gave me a photo of us in grammar school. I was in a very pretty dress. I have no recollection of that dress or even that day. Up until recently it was a big deal to take a photo & have it developed. We didn't own a camera when I was little so the first few years of my childhood are missing. I can only imagine there are other outfits I probably liked, but have no photo of. Same thing in later years. I have to say that red lipstick was hot in the 90s (Sade!) so I have a few photos proving that I was into the brights before J Crew hooked me in. *lol*

    I also have a lot of uninspiring outfits on in travel photos. I pack heavily, but am always afraid my feet will ache in high heels or that I'll be too cold in X dress. I think I've done pretty well as a new mom, still wearing dry clean only items. *lol* Now I just need to clean up my travel gear and will be all set. I really enjoyed this post. Love the part about cost/wear vs memories per wear!

    1. It is amazing how long it takes to cut that umbilical cord, maybe we can never do it completely. I don't have many photos from my childhood either, it was completely different world back then. You should frame that photo, so you can smile at that pretty little girl you were, it is good for the soul.
      I think you are doing amazing as a new mom, you definitely look great! And isn't it surreal that one day Mini G will have to develop her own style and she will be looking at your photos trying to unravel the mystery that our moms always are, no matter how well we think we know them.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. It's very easy to think "I already have X, it is good enough to wear". Please post a picture of the First Communion outfit you wore! My son's is coming up this spring and I am determined to find a dress to wear. A dress that gives me the feeling.

    1. Thank you Kristin! It was a Kate Spade dress, you can see it here

    2. Just beautiful! I've seen some KS online at Nordstrom's website that I thought would be nice. At J Crew I like the origami dress and the marielle but I think they veer a little too career looking. For a First Communion I think I'd like something a little more pretty. I need to get to a large Nordstrom and see if I can find some KS to try on.

      I love your choice. You need to create an occasion to wear it again! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great post, very true about the photos! I am not really happy about any of my photos from when I was in my 20s but that has more to do with where I was at with my life, and living under the controlling influence of my mother and sister, both of whom have very conservative views on fashion. After striking out on my own, I've been able to be more adventurous and have consequently been happier with my outfits.

    1. Hi Louise, welcome to the club! You definitely seem to be successful in defining your style, I loved your recent color blocking outfit with spearmint cashmere tee and citron skirt, I keep it in the back of my mind for inspiration!