Monday, July 30, 2012


When I was a kid, I read a lot of fantasy and a fair amount of science fiction. I loved the glimpse into different worlds, and the feats of imagination of the authors who created those worlds. I fell out of the habit at some point, probably in college when I spent my reading time reading whatever my non-science classes assigned, namely a lot of philosophy and social sciences, and a few novels heavy on meaning. Not that I'm complaining- I am glad to have the foundation in philosophy, and I discovered some authors I might not have found otherwise, such as Nagib Mahfouz, whose Palace Walk was a true delight, and was, in its own way, a glimpse into a world completely different than mine.

I don't know why I didn't pick up with sci-fi and fantasy again once I got to graduate school. I can't actually remember much of what I read in graduate school at all. I was dating a man from Ireland, and I remember reading some fine Irish books. Strangely, the one that sticks out the most is Finbar's Hotel, a novel in which each chapter was written by a different author. It is great fun.

Anyway, it wasn't until my husband moved in with me that I rekindled my interest in sci-fi. He is a huge William Gibson fan, and so one of the things I did was read the Gibson I hadn't already read, which I think was everything except Neuromancer, which I distinctly remember reading at my parent's house, perhaps during my stay there between college and graduate school.

I've gotten behind on my Gibson again, for no reason I can pinpoint other than being busy and being in a book club that doesn't read sci-fi (except we're about to read The Hunger Games, so maybe the rule is that we don't read much sci-fi). The last book of Gibson's that I read was Pattern Recognition, which I read not long after it came out. I remember liking it, but have only a vague recollection of the plot now. I remember three things very strongly, though: the "he took a duck in the face at 250 knots" quote, his description of mirror worlds (which I riffed on previously), and Cayce Pollard's clothing preferences, which are so strong that they are essentially a uniform.

For those who haven't read the book, one of the quirks of the main character Cayce Pollard is that she has a strong reaction, almost like an allergy, to commercial brands. Therefore, she favors plain t-shirts and Levi's with the branding removed. She also wears only black, gray, and white.

Cayce's sartorial quirks have stuck with me, perhaps because on some level, I am jealous of them. Think of how easy getting dressed would be! Obviously, there is nothing preventing me from adopting a similar uniform, but I don't really want to do so. I like color.

In uniform
I have realized, though, that I have a bit of a uniform, too. I prefer t-shirts in a solid color, with a v-neck and a slightly fitted drape, not so loose as to be boxy, not so tight as to show off my less than perfectly fit abs (or to make me self-conscious of my large chest).  I don't mind a bit of decoration at the neckline, and will occasionally vary to a scoop neck t-shirt or a polo shirt. Every once and awhile, my husband talks me into buying a shirt with a print, but this has mixed success. Sometimes I end up really liking the shirt, sometimes I end up feeling that it is too loud for me.

I've really struggled to find the perfect source of shirts. I don't really enjoy shopping these days, and would rather find something I can order online with confidence. Nordstroms had great t-shirts for awhile, but the trends have moved on and I find their shirts less flattering now.  They do carry a brand called Glima, with which I've had quite a bit of luck- but not enough luck to be able to just order them online without trying each new style on. I tried L.L Bean, since their online store is quite nice, but find their shirts don't have the right fit for me. If the shirt is big enough through the chest, then it is too big and baggy around the waist. I just received my first order from Eddie Bauer, and it looks like their shirts may be more what I like, but it is too soon to say how they'll wear.

On the bottom, I wear almost exclusively solid colors, and at work, almost exclusively pants. My office is too air conditioned to make skirts comfortable. Also, I need pockets, since I need to carry my cell phone with me at work (in case day care calls- a not infrequent occurrence, given Petunia's propensity towards fevers), and most of my skirts don't have them. Finding the perfect pair of pants is even harder than finding a good shirt. The Gap used to have some great ones, but either my body changed or their cut changed, and now I can't find anything that fits properly there. The best fitting pair of trousers in my closet right now came from New York and Co, but when I bought the same trousers in the same size but a different fabric, I got something that doesn't fit at all. Shandra explained why in a comment on an earlier post, but the result is that I can't just go online and order more of the same. Very frustrating. I am seriously considering splurging on getting some pants custom tailored, but figure I should wait until I am happy with my weight- I am currently in an active weight loss period (I'm down two pounds so far. I go slow).

So, even with a uniform of sorts, finding clothes is not as easy as I'd like. And finding good books to read is apparently too easy, since Gibson's later books are still in my "to read" queue!

What about you? Do you have a uniform? How do you find new clothes? Any books (or genres) you aren't reading and don't know why?


  1. mom2boy4:00 AM

    I totally forgot the name and author of Pattern Recognition and that I'd read it (and loved it) until the description of her aversion to labels. When in doubt, I pick black. I really thought she was onto something with her wardrobe choice.

    Here is my tip: Alterations. Not custom made clothes. Just off the rack clothes taken to alterations to make them fit.

    If you accept that you will never be able to find clothes off the rack that fit just right, you can start looking for clothes you like and then make them fit. Yes, this is throwing money at a problem, but being able to go into your closet and pull out clothes that fit is worth totally it.

    Expensive or cheap - clothes never fit me off the rack. I've fought it and fought it and shopping was so miserable because I always wanted to walk into a store and walk out with something I could wear the next day. Not going to happen in this lifetime.

    That said - we live in Target v-neck t-shirts. Under expensive suits, with shorts, however, they are a go to.

    Seriously, alterations are not just for expensive clothes.

    1. I've done alterations some- when I lived in New Jersey for awhile, I had a tailor I trusted. I haven't found one here in San Diego, which is silly. It isn't the money- it is the time to take stuff to a tailor, especially when I am shopping around for one, and would only take one piece at a time (to see how the tailor does).

      I've tried the in store alterations at Nordstroms, and they are just so-so.

    2. mom2boy7:46 AM

      Yeah the making time aspect is a good point. I have three skirts I need to take and just keep putting it off. But then again I hate looking at them and wishing they fit, so my frustration is my own fault.

  2. Man, sounds like I need to try Gibson! I rarely read fiction (I'm in grad school, so I read papers, or I just watch trash TV and fall asleep trying to ignore papers). I used to read tons of sci fi, fantasy and historical fiction.

    Also, I do have a uniform and it's gonna need to change. It consists of science t-shirts and cargo shorts (or jeans in winter). I get the shirts free at conferences and my relatives just pick ThinkGeek shirts for every gift-giving occasion, and I love science jokes! But one of these days I'm gonna need to start dressing like a grownup. I have one pair of gray slacks, which I call my "thesis meeting pants." Its that bad.

    1. Well, if you're in the lab, there isn't any point in getting fancy clothes, is there? I ruined so many things during my lab days....

  3. mary D6:47 AM

    My uniform is almost the same as yours. Sometimes I add a fun necklace to the solid t-shirt. I had gotten them at Kohl's for years, and like you I don't know if my shape changed or their shirts changed, but they hang funny around the waste now. I don't feel like looking around for another brand so I'm putting up with it for the summer. I have a nice St. John's Bay one from JCP but haven't been able to find them in the same material there. I have pants in black, khaki, and grey. I had some navy ones but need to lose a few pounds to fit back into them. :( We're actively on the weight-loss wagon as well (at the glacial pace of 1 lb/week but if I try for more I get starving and grouchy) so I'm hanging on to buy more pants then. Kohl's and JCP are my go-to places for pants, but I also need pockets for cell phone and work keys.

    1. I'm moving at the breakneck speed of roughly 1 lb per month... but my personal history shows that when I lose in this way, I maintain (barring pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weaning, I suppose!) so I'm not unhappy.

      I've tried Kohls for t-shirts, but they don't last for me- they stretch out and lose their shape too quickly. Have I mentioned that I don't like to shop? :)

  4. I wear the same uniform. I sometimes add a scarf to mix it up a bit. Or fun shoes. I'll have to try necklaces.

    I'm always in search of the plain perfect t-shirt too. I've had mixed success with LL Bean and Land's End (lots of variation even with shirts ordered at the same time). Eddie Bauer almost works, but the mediums shrink until they're too short and large is too big. Most of my current shirts are from shirt.woot! ( One of the few perks of being a postdoc is the uber casual dress code.

    1. I used to wear earrings and the occasional necklace. Now that Petunia is old enough not to pull on things, I should start that again.

      I'm totally going to check out, on the basis of the name alone.

  5. I actually wear skirts all the time because I can't find pants to fit me properly after kids. I love love skirts with pockets, for the cell phone & keys...that is my new requirement on skirts, but I have a bunch without pockets from when I didn't care. I'm learning to sew so I can make simple pocket-ed skirts. I got some really nice Ts with embellished scoop neck from Loft recently & I stocked up in multiple colors.
    I barely manage to read my book club picks, though I did devour the Hunger Games last month. The first book took two nights. The others dragged on a bit.

    1. I used to wear a lot of skirts for the same reason you mention. Then I had a job in which I was in charge of the physical IT stuff as well as my usual software stuff, and discovered that any day I wore a skirt was going to be a day I had to crawl under a desk and check a cable. So I fell out of the habit. I should get back into it.

  6. Anonymous12:35 PM

    After working at Macy's for 5 months, I've realized that finding clothes that fit well is just hard for everyone. Most women don't like their bodies and have difficult times finding clothes.

    I like Ralph Lauren and Tommy tops (most are 100% cotton so they do shrink). They are less loud in their patterns than other brands.

    I personally suffer from "gap in the back" syndrome with pants. If I find a pair that fit in the hips and thighs, the waist is too big. Several brands have started carrying a curvy fit pant, but you usually need to go a size smaller.

    1. I had a much easier time before kids! I used to have pretty standard size 12 proportions. Now I'm too big on top and my bottom seems to be reconfigured....

  7. Oof. I currently wear exclusively things that have pockets in the style and size of jeans, which means I almost exclusively wear, well, jeans (or jeans skirts), though never let it be said I am ubercasual: if I am at work, they are not blue (well, the skirts, yes, but the jeans, no). The keys go in the front right pocket, the wallet in the back, the cell phone in the left front. No purse.

    On top is a t-shirt (usually Hanes V-neck or ... I own a few with prints from various origins), sometimes topped with a blouse that I usually wear open. If a blouse, then sometimes a tank rather than a t-shirt. Substitute sweater when weather is colder.

    Fortunately in academia, I can mostly get away with this, though it would be much easier were I a geeky male. I'd like to have more variety, but I'm at a point where I'm just not willing to have the pocket configuration I desire, or to put much effort into finding it.

    1. Oh, jeans are the hardest thing for me to find right now. Curse you, Gap, for changing your jeans!!!!

    2. Yeah, that's another issue, of course. I have been doing OK with a certain cut of Lee jeans, though now I -- ahem -- need to lose 5 lbs (that I recently gained) to make that true again...

  8. Astra2:14 PM

    Perhaps unusually for a female scientist (at least in my neck of the woods), I like fashion. I hate to shop, though. I found a small store in my city that has the styles I like. The owners know me so when I drift in twice a year or so, they throw a bunch of clothes that will work in my direction, I try them on, and voila! business attire achievement unlocked. I also find clothes on travel more than I do at home. Shopping in Paris sounds more fun than shopping at home, I guess.

    I mostly wear skirts with shirts and sweaters and the occasional dress; rarely pants because it is such a pain finding a good fit.

    1. That is awesome. I want a store like that!

  9. I may be the character from the book -- I wear mostly black and gray, with deviations being blue jeans and an occasional purple or dark green element, such as a T-shirt. I have a lot of issues finding clothes that fit. My bra size is 38HH, so most shirts that fit across the chest look like I am wearing a tent. I tried going plus size, but the fits are not good -- if they fit across the chest, the shoulders are too narrow and they are too wide around the waist. I have had good luck with Eddie Bauer, so I think you will be happy. Their XXL T-shirts tend to fit me pretty well.

    I wear only pants, dressy black ones for conferences and the like, jeans otherwise. Tops are mostly black with v-neck, ovals, boat-neck... I feel very good in black, I feel comfortable. Too much color makes me self-conscious, feeling somehow exposed.

    So I guess I do have a uniform. I am too working on losing weight, but it hasn't been easy. I am thinking of joining Weight Watchers online or something similar. feMOMhist had a nice post where she mentioned an app she'd been using, I will have to check it out in more detail.

    As for reading, I am ashamed to say that it's been a while since I finished a book a fiction. I am very restless and easily distracted, and it's been a long time since anything has hooked me enough to finish it... Recently tried reading "Super Sad True Love Story," didn't get far before just abandoning it. The last one I really remember liking was "Olive Kitteridge." I am planning on reading "The Conscience of a Liberal" by Paul Krugman on this vacation.

    1. Oh, I hear you on the tops. I am "just" a 38F (or 36G- I am in between), and that is hard to fit. To think, I used to complain about how hard it was to fit as a 36D (pre-kids)!

    2. Same here, and sadly, good bras don't come cheap.

      @GMP, I'm also about to start reading "Olive Kitteridge."

  10. I loathe shopping, and pretty much always have (even when I was a size 4 with 4% body fat). I'd just...rather do anything else with my time.

    I worked with a stylist/personal shopper as a gift to myself last year, which was awesome, the one day I went with her. I haven't been shopping like that since then (last...May?). I found a line of direct sales clothes (I know, I know) that I liked fairly well through some blogging connections, and I actually ended up becoming a consultant purely for the discount--now I mostly order from them (don't have to leave the house, yay!) & then supplement with tshirts and other stuff that won't last more than a year or so from Target or Gap.

    If I could just have someone shop for me ALL THE TIME, I totally would do that.

  11. NYDJ for casual pants, but only the styles with contoured (instead of straight) waistbands.

    Lands' End Fit 2 also works for me.

    Nordstrom Studio 121 for dressier pants. The cut fits my post-baby body better than the other departments. The curvy fit at JCPenny also works, but the fabrics don't last anywhere as long as the much pricier ones from Nordstrom.

  12. I used to have somewhat of a geek uniform: oversized t-shirts, jeans. But then I met my French husband and kind of bowed to his (loving and respectful but insistent) pressure to dress more like a girl. And then I moved to Paris and I had to get into the game one way or another.

    I'm no fashionista, but I've started to enjoy picking out clothes for myself. I've learned a lot from observing other women in the Paris M├ętro: what works, what doesn't, and since I'm looking at real women and not fashion models, I can actually project what might look good on me. It's kind of fun, actually, like matching patterns or working out a puzzle or something.

    Maybe I'm alone, but when I lived in the US I used to fall into false reasoning of "Don't look good in the style du jour (because you're short and, although fit, have actual curves)? Feel bad about yourself and just buy nondescript clothing!" Recently I've realized that everyone can dress to flatter themselves; you just need to start with a realistic, appreciative idea of what looks good on you and start playing around from there. Also, I no longer buy things that kinda sorta work because they seem practical or a bargain or whatever. If I don't look in the mirror and say "yes!" then it goes back on the rack. But I don't hesitate to spend a little extra when I do find something that inspires me.

    I may be overplaying the whole French influence, though... I think maybe the new perspective came for me after having kids, when I became both more realistic and more appreciative of my body, despite its imperfections. Maybe it's age. Who knows.

    I do have go-to brands, and they aren't French: Banana Republic, LL Bean, a German brand called Zero, and this mail-order British company I just found, Celtic Sheepskin. I wear a ton of knits because I refuse to spend my precious free time ironing. I've
    yet to find any French brand that is reliable. Except for shoes...! That's my new weakness. I never thought that a geek
    like me, who used to wear one pair of sneakers rain
    or shine until they fell apart, would turn into a Shoe Girl. But it's happened.

    1. Astra9:43 AM

      The same thing happened to me when I joined a research institute with many Italian women. I upped my style and rather prefer it that way.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I was far more interested in fashion when I was younger. Now I'm more interested in what I'd call style- having clothes that look good and I am comfortable in, but not necessarily up on the latest trends.

      I am a complete shoe hound. Maybe I should do a separate post for shoes! I prioritize comfort and style, which means my shoes are now usually quite expensive. But worth it!

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