May 082011

Those of you with bolder tastes and more flair will look at this picture and see a pretty ordinary outfit. But if you knew me you would realize this represents some serious chutzpah on my part. And I credit biking for that.

You see, I’m pretty monochrome. Let me show you some pictures of my closet. Look at those jackets. See any prints? Ha! My most frequent look consists of two solid colors, and usually one of them is black. Or gray.  If I do buy a print it’s one that could easily pass as a solid, like the black and white mix you’ll see in one of the jackets.

I’ve also had pretty traditional/conservative taste in officewear over the years, primarily suits.

Solid colors, of course. My mother’s voice says in my head, “If you’re buying separates on sale, always get all the matching pieces. You never know when you’ll find something else to go with that color.”

So I have tended to wear outfits exactly the way the manufacturer shipped them to the store. Black jacket? Black pants/skirt, of course.

The pale end of my monochrome jacket spectrum.

When everyone wore nylons, I wore nylons.

When everyone went to bare legs, I went to bare legs.

My motto for shoes was “Beauty before comfort.” High heels, of course, even when they were wildly impractical.

I wear so much green it has become a signature color, but it's still a solid.

Loved straight skirts, both short (around knee length as I got a bit older, thanks to Stacy on “What Not to Wear”) and long.

Then I started biking and the ability to hop on and off the bike at stop signs created new fashion issues. Long straight skirts? Out, definitely out, although I have one left that I just hike way, way up to ride.

aaaannnd all the way to brown, gray, and black. I really whoop it up with the color choices.

Even shorter straight skirts make it harder to climb on my road bike than a skirt with a little flippier hem.

I still love beautiful shoes, but they need to have enough grip on the sole to stay on the pedal.

And a bike definitely doesn’t care whether your top and bottom were manufactured from the same fabric.

Something about the sense of freedom I get from riding my bike freed me up to make different choices in my personal style.

Hence this outfit. A number of things make this the “new Barb” style instead of “old matchy-matchy Barb” style:

  • That peachy sweater: That color does not appear in the skirt! I would have sworn you always had to have a fleck of one color in the other piece for the two to work together.
  • Tights: They’re great for that tiny bit of warmth I like to have on my knees for these days when it’s still around 35 degrees for my morning commute, warming to the 60s midday. These aren’t the SmartWool tights I plan to find, just something from TJ Maxx or Ross or Fred Meyer. (I’m cheap thrifty.)
  • Shoes: They’re from The Walking Store and are simply great for both walking and riding. I wouldn’t have found them girly enough, once upon a time—heel not high enough, foot a little more covered than what I was used to. Now I think those attributes are just dandy because the shoe stays on my foot while I pedal.
  • Jacket: Note that the jacket and skirt are not the same color. Whoa. This neat little number is a vegan jacket made of PVC, of all things.
  • Scarf: The scarf is what makes it work for me, since it has the peach of the sweater and the browns and tans of the skirt and jacket. This beauty is from Finders Keepers II, a great little shop on West Main not far from where I work that has beautiful scarves.

Now granted, this mixing-it-up bit doesn’t make me Lady Gaga or Bjork by a long stretch. But I’ve stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone.

Given all this, the fact that I started a blog that claims to have something to do with style? That’s the real boundary stretcher. But you’ll help me, right?

Your turn

How about you? How has biking changed what you thought you “had” to wear for work or for fun?

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