Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Keeping it Real -- What I Wore on the Mountain . . .

I must admit that I've become increasingly less interested in the Visibility Project, as I'll call it, on a variety of blogs. Jennifer and I talked about the What I Wore phenomenon when we were lucky enough to meet for lunch a few weeks ago, and we both admitted to being either bored or perplexed, sometimes even a bit irritated, at this overflowing manifestation of Older Women Wearing Clothes. Yes, I very much value the initial motivation of refusing, as women of a certain age, the invisibility which we face, particularly in the world of fashion retail. We exist, we still care about style, and we want designers and marketers to acknowledge us.

A very good cause, no?

But I'd like our range of visibility to be a bit broader, thank you very much.
I'd love us to talk a bit more about what we DO when we're wearing those clothes. Way back in the early days of Blogging Style for the Woman at Mid-Life, writer Linda Grant had these pertinent words on her masthead page: "Because you can't have depths without surfaces." So true, and a wonderful repudiation of the snobbery that dismisses a concern with Style, with Fashion, with shoes and jeans and leather jackets, as being superficial. Deciding what to wear, when, where, and in what company is a particular pleasure for many of us, an integral part of our daily life, and those of us who enjoy, even love, shopping and styling and making and restyling clothes have often found our interest dismissed, minimized, scorned as lightweight.

So I have been glad to have company, here on the Web, to share my interest in What We Wear. Just as, back when I had time for inviting girlfriends over, I would pull a few recent purchases out of my closet to show off, or ask for an opinion on whether these shoes work with that skirt, I've found blogging friends to share my excitement about a new find or help me decide whether to splurge on a passing trend or advise me whether the latest fashion is just a mistake for my short-waisted figure.

A very few bloggers are so good on blending lively, credible, accessible Style with a strong sense of, oh, I don't know, Person? Self? even a sense of Back Story? that I continue to enjoy them, despite watching some of them move increasingly into the territory of Fashion Retail, obviously, if so far gingerly, tastefully, monetized.

Many others, however, while I'm happy they find expression and company in this gorgeous community, simply don't model a style that I might emulate, and collectively, the phenomenon overall offers many women in mid-life showing What We Wear but not telling or showing us anything else interesting about themselves. And while most readers seem to agree with Patti on her recent "break-up with Lady Mags" , finding blogs a crowd-sourced substitute for fashion and lifestyle magazines, I was one of the few dissenters. I value those magazines for scrupulous editing, sharp writing, top-notch journalism in the best magazines, and beautiful formatting overall. I'd love to see more of that in the blogs I read daily before I surrender my magazines.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I'm looking for here, nor even quite what I'm trying to say. But if you know where I can find some sharp or thoughtful or witty, even sad or moody or nostalgic, writing about life, particularly for women my age, please help me point my browser in that direction. So far, I love Miss Whistle, who never talks about her clothes but writes beautifully, often poignantly, often inspiringly, on many other topics, and 60goingon16, who writes only sporadically but whose posts are always worth waiting for. My good friend Alison is also a sporadic but delightful blogger, and although she's always so stylishly dressed that I wish she would post on this important topic occasionally, she doesn't talk clothes. Nor do Pondside or FabricPaperThread, yet they make aspects of life in these middle years visible enough for us to recognize each other. If you let me know other favourites, perhaps I can compile a list. . . .

Meanwhile, here's a thoroughly un-stylish example of What I Wore while hiking down our local mountain, Mt. Benson, the same one whose summit I was triumphantly photographed atop, back here. I had a bad spill on the way up, smashing my left knee and leaving three fingers purple, swollen, and very sore. But I still got to the top, and then on the way down, Pater insisted on taking a photo of me trying out my new trekking pole (he tried out the other one of the pair, discarded in the background by his pack -- we both found they made the descent easier).
Nothing the least bit fashionable about this gear and, except for the poles, nothing particularly appropriate to hiking. My Nike Frees were a slippery abomination on the scree slopes, and I'm picking out a pair of decent boots as soon as I can get to an outdoor store. I only ever wear shorts for running or yoga, so these were all I had -- again, since we seem to be fitting in hikes regularly, I'm going to have to pick up pants more suited to the enterprise, probably a "technical" shirt as well. The hair. . . Well! I did manage to pull the curls back into a ponytail . . . how's that for style?!

What do you think? Am I over-reacting? Or, worse, setting up a Straw Woman to pelt rocks at? I do remember feeling this way last year, for somewhat different reasons. And I must admit that while the feeling has been building for some time now (I find myself clicking my way through my reader, Read, Read, Read, without bothering to open more than one or two posts), I haven't yet pinned down my reasons, but nonetheless blundered my way through this post. I hope I'm not offending anyone, but perhaps you'll help a Sister Figure it Out! You know I always love your comments. . . .


49 comments:

  1. Your comments are interesting because I have found my blog list coming to include more literary blogs. I have only been participating in the blog world for less than a year and I enjoy seeing "real" women of a certain age wearing clothing that they enjoy, however, our clothes are only the wrapping on the package. It is by sharing experiences, insights, joys, fears, and even sadness that women empower each other.

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    1. It sounds as if you've got more quickly to where I'm at . . . I really do enjoy seeing real women, something like near our age, wearing clothes that suits them, but I would like to see more of what the clothes envelop. I suppose I want it all! Greedy, eh?

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  2. It's an interesting post on many levels.
    Great that you and Jennifer got together for a visit.

    Pondside and Lorrie do meet up, I have yet to meet Lorrie and hope that we do get the chance...Pondside is genuine and honest...and I consider myself fortunate to have met her.

    I have hardly any clothes that fit me now and yet posts that I publish where I am wearing my OOTD seem to be popular....go figure!

    Blogging is still a learning curve for me...somedays I think I am done with it and others I am so energized. Time will tell.

    Be well Mater.
    XO

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    1. You're lucky to have a number of other bloggers in our circle to meet up with there in the Victoria area.
      You do such a good job blending your OOTD posts with the rest of your lifestyle posts, giving a rounded glimpse into life at a certain age. I do find that the OOTD posts boost the stats, but at the moment, I'm trying to resist that temptation. I do wonder what the tolerance level of my readers is should I wander too much in the direction my pen seems to be drawing me at the moment. We shall see . . . Thanks

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  3. The thing about outfit posts is I get SICK of seeing ME ALL THE TIME. REALLY. And sick of colour too as it happens. I'm in a phase shift to I don't know where. Do I reveal more of myself and go beyond the dreamer/imp or keep up the fences? I love a thoughtful, well-written post, like yours is here. But then I wonder how much my brain wants to suck up on this level. Gaaah. You look great in your mountain gear but that's because I see you feeling great too, which is what counts.

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    1. Oh Melanie, I should have cited your blog as well -- an always exciting example of clothing used to do something different, to break boundaries, you iconcoclastic woman, you! But I also sense that you have more to think through than you can do through OOTD posts -- I suspect that because this form of self-expression pulls readers in, we sometimes get trapped in it when there are other elements we'd like to write about. But that might just be me . . . ;-) Keep on rocking that Bag and Beret!

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  5. Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I don't write a blog. I've been tempted, but I've not been able to develop a theme that I feel would make a worthwhile contribution to what's already out there. However it is so delightful to discover blogs to follow that have substance (like yours!). You've asked for recommendations of good blogs: try Women's Voices for Change. I've been following it for a while now and really enjoy the variety it presents!
    I am in my early 60's, and while I enjoy sees how women of a similar age express themselves sartorially, I love reading about their thoughts and how they cope with life at this challenging age.
    Your posts are a bright spot in my day. Thanks
    Vivian

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    1. I've added WVC to my Following list at Bloglovin'. Thanks for the suggestion and for the very kind words. Sounds as if we have much in common.

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  6. Opps, meant "seeing". That's what happens when I don't proofread.....

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    1. It's not a medium that encourages proofreading, somehow. . . but I knew what you meant. ;-)

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  7. This is a lovely post, it raises all sorts of interesting questions about what women are thinking and feeling. I read a range of blogs, primarily book blogs, but also a smattering of more general blogs (I have been a fan of Miss Whistle for some years because I find her writing inspirational and moving) I admit I'm not so interested in fashion but more in how women of a similar age cope with life's challenges as Vivian said above.

    In your blog you create an atmosphere where people feel able to speak freely and that is a wonderful achievement.

    Sue

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    1. Oh, you're very kind Sue, thanks! I'll admit easily that I am interested in fashion, but I'd like to have more of the other mixed in. I worry that we're falling again into that old pattern of keeping the two separated. In reality, for many of us they fit side by side into our daily lives.

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  8. Mater, I know exactly what you mean. It's just not enough to see an outfit on someone you don't know. An outfit pose -- and the outfit itself -- just doesn't tell us what the person wants to convey, who she wants to relate to, what she really thinks about. When you're pulling a new dress out of your closet to show a friend, you already have a history, and you've already talked about a book, a story from your childhood, or something that made you sad. Showing the dress is mostly surface. Not that this is bad, but I'm feeling reluctantly bored by the show lately. So, oddly enough, I've been drawn to a tumblr that is all surface, but it's fun to look at because it's visually interesting, maybe a version of the well-edited mags you mentioned: http://delacalifornieaparis.tumblr.com/
    So I don't have any deep insights or remedies, just saying I think I know what you mean. Please keep musing; your blog always makes me think, and this is good. Diane

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    1. So interesting that you've turned to a tumblr site. In fact, if I'm only going to be given OOTD, I'm really looking for something convincing, really worth looking at, if that's at all fair (well, it's the way it is, that's all) . . . and maybe your tumblr site is a version of this. There are a number of blogs I look at regularly that ONLY do outfit posts, but those outfits are really good in at least some important detail, so that I learn from them.
      Thanks for thinking about this alongside me. And for reading. And for commenting so kindly and thoughtfully.

      And can I just say, "I still don't get Tumblr"! but I'm checking out From California to Paris right now, thanks!

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    2. Yes! Here's my completely uninformed take on Tumblr: Good tumblr = compelling photos with a visual narrative. (The visual narrative isn't necessarily planned, but I feel like I get to know the author when the narrative emerges over time, as it does on a good tumblr.) I just discovered the Cali to Paris one, and like it because the author finds great photos, a lot of them. She/he is a good editor with a good eye. It must take a lot of time to do this.

      I hear you on learning from outfit posts. That's what I want, and it feeds my conviction that we're all on this planet together, even if that person (and her outfit) doesn't look like me. I have a deadline in my real life right now, or I'd try to examine this new-to-me idea: maybe my reluctant boredom with outfit posts comes from expecting too much. So, I like your idea that the outfit posts you look at are really good "in at least some important detail." This is key. Thank you again!

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  9. It's not enough to just look nice anymore. At my age its more important to be living a life filled with authenticity and joy. I am clicking through and not opening a lot of blogs myself these days. It holds no allure to open a post, see an outfit and be told where to buy the items. Especially if the blogger is offering her untrained "style advice" with click through monetizing attached for her benefit. There are qualified professionals on the web, who can give me more insightful perspective. What I do find sad are the number of women posting their outfits for all to see, offering no insight as to why they're wearing what they're wearing and asking for no feedback. If we are a community of like minded women who all want to look stylish, wouldn't we benefit from asking others opinions, like you do? Women do it to total strangers in store changing areas all the time. Why not with women we have come to know and trust through blogging? I welcome feedback, because I do not want to live in a vacuum.
    Thanks for writing this. I've been trying to figure out my thoughts on this subject since we had lunch! It was so fun to meet you. Hopefully we can do it again next time I'm up. Kir next time!!

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    1. My take is a bit different than yours in that I do see a reason to post one's outfit just out of an exuberance that wants to be shared. I don't always want advice, quite frankly, although I do think it's useful to solicit it occasionally. For me, the fatigue comes from the fact that so many of our outfits are NOT as inspired as we might think they are, given that so few of us are either style professionals or even talented amateurs. . . what would enliven them for me is to know something about the wearer.

      And I'm also a bit disturbed that while we're insisting on our visibility, we're presenting women of a certain age as STILL being concerned about having people look at us. I remember hoping that there would be a day when I was had such confidence, such life experience, and above all such engagement with what I was doing, that my looks wouldn't be what I was being judged by. And I'm not sure we're showing our daughters that possibility. . .

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    2. Oh, and I want to add that I so enjoyed that lunch -- I'm sure the servers were surprised we sat for so long, given that we told them we were meeting for the first time!
      And Kir, for sure!!

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    3. You do put things so succinctly! We are so much more than how we look. I suppose that's why my time on the island is so special. I focus on what I read, see, feel and think, rather than what I wear. It's heavenly to me.

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  10. I'm feeling something similar. It's not that I don't care what I look like, and I enjoy seeing women my age and older wearing outfits that express confidence and creativity. But I am a little bored with it. Maybe it's just because I - right now - sartorial expression is not a focus of my own life. Much of what I wear is dictated by what I DO. I teach Art two days a week, so there's no room there for wearing anything I care deeply about - black jeans, grey Converse and something on top that I'm not precious about is my uniform. For my other teaching and writing work, it's a uniform of pants, tee and a blazer. And my leisure time involves yoga, walking, gardening and cooking (and reading) ... Linda Grant's surfaces and depths quote is a great one - perhaps it's the surfaces without the depths that I'm not so interested in at the moment.

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    1. This might be part of what I'm feeling right now as well -- I love the rhythm I fall into during those weeks of summer when I mostly live on the island. As much as I love following Style/Fashion, I also value stepping out of that realm, letting it go for a time while I focus on the natural world around me, among other things (reading, music, friends, family). . . .

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  11. First of all, thank you for the blog like - I'm truly flattered. When I think back to my reasons for beginning blogging, I was all about finding other creative souls and my blog's name reflects my interests at the time. I'm still involved in that community but have grown beyond that to encompass style blogs and slice-of-life blogs. The very best ones, like yours, integrate all of life.

    I echo your thoughts in wanting to see not only what women wear, but why and where. I find myself looking at my daughters and how they fit into their clothes and I mourn the loss of my youthful figure. So I'm so happy to see women being proud of what they wear and feeling good about themselves. I am working on accepting this middle-aged body I now inhabit on which clothes hang differently. It's a mental thing for me.

    I wear what fits my activities, and I loved seeing you in your hiking gear. Being active is far more important than having the "right" clothes. As the Nike ads said, "Just do it." At the same time, I like fashion and dressing well. Taking cues from other bloggers is fun. Your striped Gap dress has me going into the store when I'm in the mall (rarely) looking for something similar. I want to be a little bit braver in style without feeling uncomfortably "out there."

    Lots to think about in this post - and I'm still planning on taking Alison's seminar in the fall so we can meet then, hopefully.

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    1. I love the way your blog has the creative domestic arts at its centre but reaches out to encompass life around you. I think we can all learn from each other, and I do think it's great to see how others our age (and younger, and older) dress -- and you make a good point about us all working to accept our bodies as they are.
      I'm looking forward to meeting in the fall -- and I know you'll love the seminar!

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  12. I'm still so impressed with you for pushing past your fear of heights to take up hiking! Lisa's an your blogs, as well as Duchesse's (isn't she due to return from hiatus soon?) are still among my favorites for "rounded" content. I've been feeling guilty lately that I'm always so rushed these past few weeks that I'm not able to comment as much or as in-depth as I'd like or that a particular post deserves.

    I do tend to focus a lot on style because it's always been an interest of mine but I have so few people IRL to share that interest with; the blog began and has remained my outlet for that. I do like seeing other women's outfit posts for inspiration (hey, I have similar pieces in my closet I've never thought of putting together like that!) as well as an alternative to the distorted imagery in fashion magazines. At the same time, I enjoy most those bloggers who include some context and maybe a bit about their lives and other interests. (Ooh look, gardens!!) Thank you again for such a thought-provoking post. Hope your knee is all better!

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  13. And materfamilias, thanks for the mention, and thanks for being one of my first and best blogger friends! I've been trying to figure out how we can schedule another trip up that way to see you again.

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    1. We've been doing this a while, haven't we?! I still think of your kindness in "coming over" to comment on a shoe post, way back when,just because I invited you. . . It would be great to be able to have another IRL visit! Someday . . .
      And please, please, don't feel guilty for not commenting, ever. We do guilt so well, so many of us, but we should try to keep the blogging a guilt-free zone, n'est-ce pas?

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  15. Mater, you have to look at this blog that I just stumbled across: lolaandrogynous.blogspot.com/
    Not sure what the full story is, but at least get to the Jan 2013 post. It's a son who photographs his very stylish, avant garde mother. There's a visual narrative, and his words get us just below the surface. Would love to hear what you think. No time for me to check further. If this is an ad campaign, it's a good one, but it's personal too. Just when I thought I was ready to give up on outfit blogs.

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    1. Wow! Much talent here, in both mother and son. Deep pockets, also, apparently, judging by the labels tossed around nonchalantly. You're right that it's tough to figure out quite what's going on here, but there's enough eye candy to make me want to visit again. Thanks for the pointer. . .

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    2. Oh, yes, the wealth factor is worth a whole other discussion. My fave counterpoint to the inherent discomfort of viewing those deep-pocket sites is to turn to the wonderful Rags Against the Machine, terrific for her personal thoughts and inventive thrifting.

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    3. Terri does a wonderful job, at Rags Against the Machine, of making her What I Wore posts do something larger than simply signal her own visibility. I should have linked to her as well -- thanks for the reminder.

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  16. Even though my blog is primarily a "fashion sewing" blog, I deliberately chose to read your blog entry today because you were hiking which tells you something about the range of my interests I'm an outdoors gal who also loves to get gussied up and enjoys fashion and girlfriend time. I'm glancing through Bloglovin in the few moments before another sewing girlfriend comes over to have a wardrobe discussion since we're both retired now and figuring out what to wear each day beyond "dog walking clothes." I love the creativity of making something and love seeing and hearing how others make their choices and decisions. I am blessed with a very fortunate life and sometimes feel that the why and where of my clothing choices is less important than just encouraging others to give it a go and try something new. I think sharing the ups and downs of those decisions is useful although I'm not so sure that input from others is so desirable or easily understood. But thanks for a thoughtful post.

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  17. Yours is a great example of a blog that shows a richness of what life can be at our age, even though your primary focus is sewing. I peek in from time to time, although I've not sewn for decades, and I notice that you will often talk about your many other interests -- yours is a good place to find new books to read, for example. Above all, you make retirement seem like a place I want to get to soon!

    I'm not sure, either, how "desirable or easily understood" that "input from others" is, and I think that might, at some level, be what I'm thinking about. Thanks for taking time to comment and pushing my thinking on just a bit further.

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  18. Oh how I enjoyed not only this post... but the thoughtful comments it elicited! Well done my dear! I am in agreement with you in respect to being bored with blogs of only outfits... and no substance behind to make them credible. I myself read very few blogs.. the ones I do are the ones where I feel a personal connection with the writer.

    I read blogs where the author shares of her authentic self. I am less interested in the OOTD, than the story of the woman... because we all have a story... and we are all connected by being here on the planet at the same time... and many of us, for similar lengths of time.

    To speak honestly, I blog to combat a certain amount of loneliness. I have had the great fortune of truly connecting with some fascinating women of substantial character... clothes were merely the connecting point.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post... it is the epitome of blogging at it's best. Not only because of the quality content, but the community conversation elicited.

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    1. I'm so flattered by your kind words and pleased that the post resonated with you -- thank you!
      As I begin to draw on the many responses -- and yes, I'm thrilled with the conversation elicited by the post -- yours is a point that really strikes me. There's a huge social component to our reading, in many ways a positive difference from those "Lady Mags," but in some ways a complication of, and to, our response what these on-line friends are posting. I'm going to think about this . . .

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  19. First, of course, thank you for calling me out:).

    Second, if I were to sum up my feelings, it's that I like any blog that's well done (good images, good writing) with at least an ostensible topic I'm interested in. So, cooking, clothes, travel, books, would all work. Gadgets, knitting, wouldn't.

    And I like some musings, if they are related to musing I myself engage in...

    So if a style blogger has good photos, and wears clothes I like, and covers style from a perspective I endorse, I'm OK.

    xoxox

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    1. Oh, you're so sensible and succinct! and you're welcome, and thanks! ;-)

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  20. I am glad you posted this. Sometimes I am interested in clothes and sometimes I am not at all. I like colour and I like the very occasional event which makes me "scrub up well", and it pleases me that I still do. But mostly clothes are just packaging and most of things I love to do simply come with particular clothing which is nothing more that what you need to wear. I like hillwalking so have boots and waterproofs (very necessary here in Wales!). I like yoga so have cheap but stretchy yoga clothes. I like gardening for which I wear ancient jeans and t shirts and cooking for which I wear less ancient jeans and t shirts. I like thinking and writing and reading for which I wear whatever is lying on the chest by the bed. Visibility and invisibility are much more complicated than the idea that older women need to reclaim visibility. Sometimes invisibility is great! You have got me going now. I might have to blog about it.

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    1. And I just had a look -- not sure how you managed to come up with such an articulate, thoughtful, and well-organized post so quickly! I love this notion (which Duchesse echoes below) of the value of invisibility. Can't wait to see how the conversation continues over at your Welsh Hills! (I'm hoping to come back to this in the next week and when I do, I'll link up to your post)

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  21. I find the expressed purpose of WIW posts (giving succor and profile to older women) a bit questionable when a poster is wearing is the same bag, jeans or jacket shown in every InStyle-type magazine. Some of these posts are inspiring but most of them, meh.

    I prefer wearing something quiet and being invisible... I can observe so much more, feel freer and relaxed. Am curious why being visible is so prized; I don't relate to it. As long as my true love finds me beautiful, that's all I need. Could it be the posts are more about feeling loved than being seen?

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    1. I remember that you blogged about your distance from, puzzlement about, these posts many, many months ago -- in fact, I mentioned that when Jennifer and I were chatting over lunch. I tried unsuccessfully to find that post as I would have linked back to it. At the time, I didn't feel much about the phenomenon, but I've definitely wearied of some aspects by now.
      I really like the way you pick up and extend with Elizabeth says. And I do wonder about what it is we're looking for when we post What We Wore, although I think it might be dangerous to generalize. . . .
      Looking forward to reading you again, but meanwhile, I hope you're enjoying, absolutely savouring, these last weeks of summer.

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  22. Mater, I am bored too, but then I was never that excited about style to begin with. What Duchesse wrote in the 2nd paragraph of her comment is exactly how I feel. For me style came down to well being and some playfulness. Once in awhile I want to be visible, bold even, but most of the time I am content being quiet.

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    1. Yours (and Martin's) approach/contribution to style is one I was quite interested in, though. You look at garments from the inside out, constructing your own from idea to execution, and you're always alert to the semiotics of what we wear. But I think that, like me, you're wary of the potential distraction away from so much of the rest of what makes life interesting and worthwhile.

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    2. I just saw this and wanted to say thank you.

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  23. Well, I love your blog because it is not really about style, but also acknowledges that clothes and what we wear are a part of who we are. Your style posts, are never just about the clothes or you wearing them...

    Anyway, I love the photo of you hiking, a woman doing something, wearing something appropriate to what she is doing, and I love all your musings. You make me think. And well, I have my own issues with "what I wore posts".

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    1. Thank you! They really are vulnerable-making, aren't they, these posts, and what I mind is what they don't show, often what I consider the more interesting parts of myself. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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