Fractions. Do they still teach fractions in math, I wonder? Fractions, proportion, percentages. I remember, when I was in school, kids rolling their eyes, or blurting out in frustration… “When am I ever going to use this?”

Ah… like… all the time, kid. It’s amazing how many times I use the skill of manipulating fractions or playing with percentages in real life. And I don’t mean manipulating fractions like when Hubby decides that he’s going to double or triple a recipe for chili, and he needs to know how many 1/2 tablespoons of whatever. I’m talking fashion.

Fashion Math. And it’s been a long time since math class for most of us, so we need a summer school refresher course. On fractions and proportion. Don’t you think?

Now, I don’t mean proportion in the sense of choosing a short, slim jacket over wide leg pants, or a long, loose top over skinny jeans. Although I would probably wear those combinations. In fact, do wear those combinations. I’m not talking about the changing proportions in fashion either, all those huge pooling pants, or hilariously long sleeves. Let’s not go down that road again. Been there, wrote the post. I mean proportion in the sense of achieving balance between the feminine elements of an outfit and the masculine, between the edgy and the classic.

looks from and from Bloglovin'
Original sources on my Pinterest board.
Like these two looks above. A casual yet classic sweater, with masculine pants, albeit rolled into edgy cuffs, and casual cool sneakers. I love this look. 1/2 classic and slightly serious, 1/2 casual sporty. Or the gorgeous, feminine full skirt on the right, with that primly buttoned blouse, sleeves rolled up in a very masculine fashion, and anchored by those sneakers. This look inspired me to try my full skirt with my Stan Smith Adidas. Minus the pom-pom on the purse. This one is 2/3 lady-like and 1/3 edgy casual. And 2/3 +1/3 = 3/3 = 1 very pulled together outfit. Are you still with me, class?
Or the outfit below. Toughening up and dressing down a feminine dress and strappy sandals, on the left, with a leather biker jacket. Or dressing up distressed jeans and a sloppy sweater with a sheer lacy underpinning and very feminine pointy-toed pumps. I would have worn this back in the day. I used to love wearing high heels with my jeans…. back when I wore high heels. I mean high heels. But even though I might not wear stilettos anymore, the idea is transferable. The idea of balancing the percentage of masculine with feminine, or dressy with casual. Fashion fractions, if you will.
looks and from
Original sources on my Pinterest board
Achieving this balance is important for me. Especially now that I’m… ahem… a person of a certain age. And a retired one at that. I want to look casual, but not old-lady frumpy. And be comfortable, but not look like I’ve given up on style. And I want to look modern, as if I know what the trends are, but not embarrass myself by following them slavishly.
And since I’m committed to my curated closet. To trying to update the pieces I already own. And not shop too, too much. I tried styling some of my former work skirts, this spring, so they were a bit more edgy, and a little less prissy. I’ve embraced the idea of sneakers with skirts, instead of pumps or sandals. Edgy is just so darned comfortable, people. And the math works out. 2/3 classic, business wear + 1/3 trendy casual = 1 happy middle-aged errand-runner who feels modern, but not like mutton dressed as lamb.
restyling work skirts with sneakers for my more casual retirement life
And I recently tried to play with the proportion of feminine in styling my new Rag and Bone dress. I wore it to a retirement party and dinner with my new Munro sandals and my pink Cole Haan bag (seen here.) Very lady-like. Dressed it down a bit with my black flat sandals and Mackage bag. Okay. I like this. And then tried the same with my sneakers and just felt silly. I thought I was using the same proportions as in other outfits, but the numbers didn’t add up. Whatever the reason, I just didn’t feel good in this combo.
Rag and Bone dress, Munro sandals, Michael Kors sandals, Mackage bag, Stan Smith Adidas
Speaking of my Munro sandals, in the spirit of my curated closet ethic, I really should be wearing them more. And this sleeveless, silk Judith and Charles top with the navy panels in the sides has yet to make it out the door this season. This top can look a bit frumpy if not paired with the right bottom. I never wear it anymore with the navy capris I bought to go with it. Ickkk. But I do like it with skinny, dark denim, like these Paige high-rise jeans, and my Munro sandals. The colour of the sandals goes well with the top, and the jeans keep the shoes from looking too fussy. I’d wear this shopping or out for a casual lunch.
Judith and Charles silk blouse, Paige skinny jeans, Munro sandals
And if the weather cools down I can add my Paige jean jacket. Double denim toughens up lady-like shoes. I might even carry my pink bag. So that would be 3 lady-like pieces + denim x 2 = uh… who the heck knows. See, I knew I needed a refresher course in math. My fashion instincts tell me the proportion of feminine to sporty casual is right. But it’s just like math class; I leap to the correct answer, but don’t get full marks because I can’t explain how I got there. I can’t “show my work.” Ring any bells? Sigh. As a kid I found that frustrating. But as a former teacher who has good friends who are math teachers… whom I love and don’t want to alienate… I totally understand the principle involved. Sheepish grin here.
Judith and Charles silk blouse, Paige jacket, Paige skinny jeans, Munro sandals
So that’s it then, folks. No earth-shaking fashion inspiration, nothing too edgy, or terribly fashion forward. Just changing up a few old pieces with some newer ones. Looking for the balance between being sixty but not dead, and not being twenty. Gad. Not that I want to be twenty again.
Because for me the formula for getting older but staying current and modern is a balancing act. A matter of proportion. It’s not rocket science. It’s just Fashion Math…. Fractions Refresher. See how useful fractions can be?
Okay that’s enough enough school for now. It’s summer. And despite the fact that I’m more of the Alice Cooper “School’s Out for Summer” vintage… I’ve never been much of an Alice Cooper fan, in all honesty.  I prefer this joyous, 1980s, we’re not in school, let’s go wild and crazy, scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I loved that movie.
How about you folks? What formula do you use to stay current but not look like you’re trying to be twenty?


Would you like to have new posts automatically delivered to you? Sign up below, and when new content appears on the website, we’ll send the story to you via email. 

* indicates required


Would you like to have new posts automatically delivered to you? Sign up below, and when new content appears on the website, we’ll send the story to you via email. 

* indicates required

From the archives


Staying Chic in the Face of Adversity

We’re undergoing bathroom renovation at the moment. That has caused major adversity when it comes to staying chic. Or at least presentable.


Maggie and Me… That’s Atwood, not Thatcher

On Monday night, I set off with my friend Susan to see, and hear, my …


Time Marches On and All That

Since my Mum has grown older, I’ve learned that it can take a village to care for the elderly.

34 thoughts on “Fashion Math… Summer School”

  1. I know exactly what you mean – I guess I just eyeball it. Like cooking without a recipe, but you know it needs more salt and a little something charred;).

    1. I am comfortable eye-balling my outfits… but NOT cooking without a recipe. Well except for pasta sauces…that's my specialty. Even if I do have a recipe for pasta sauce I look at it as a "guideline." Eye balling is a good word for that fact that one pair of black pants, for example, might look good with a top but another pair look dreadful. And I can't always explain why.

  2. Hi Sue, so has your birthday been and gone? If so, belated happy birthday! I guess 60 really is the new 40! As for the formula, I like how Lisa puts it, like cooking without a recipe – but I do love that pinterest board of yours for inspiration, thanks.

  3. (Previous comment deleted b/c of typos.) Ohhh, I •love• your mesh dress! May I suggest carrying the yellow bag with it- or a light neutral? The dark bag looks heavy and not summery.

    I have a longtime friend who talked about this concept decades ago; she said she consciously 'softened' or 'hardened' her look with fabric type and colour. When she had to kick butt at work it was the navy suit, when she was out with a sweetheart, silks and soft colour.

    1. You're right about the Mackage bag. I tried my gold Michael Kors tote but it seemed too large. So when I wore the dress to lunch with Frances, I carried a black and white structured bag with a cross-body strap and it was muuuuch better that the Mackage one.

      P.S. I love your story about kicking butt in a serious dark suit:)

  4. Love that dress! Am pleased that I've met it IRL 😉 Curious — do you think the Math would work out any better if the sneakers were a different colour or shape? i.e. is the high contrast between the black and the white subtracting from the look's success. My thoughts are divided on this . . . I also quite like the sneakers with the full skirt and I envy your height in being able to carry this off.
    Fun post — thanks!

    1. I don't know. They are quite bright white and the dress is so dark, you might be right. I also think they are too heavy for the dress. I should play around to see if I can find a combination that works. I took that shot a few weeks ago and almost deleted it because I wasn't going to use it…then I thought it was a good example of something that doesn't work but in theory should work.

  5. So many cute looks. I really love the last one with the rose sandals, jeans and J&C top. And I smiled at your comment re: navy capris. I too had a pair, tried them on this spring and thought, NO. Not sure why, but they always make me feel frumpy. They went to Goodwill that week.

    Love your blog!

    1. Thanks, Hope. I guess I should have added that I never ever wear the capris now. I try them on and just shudder… the cut and length seems so frumpy now.

  6. "I want to look casual, but not old-lady frumpy. And be comfortable, but not look like I've given up on style. And I want to look modern, as if I know what the trends are, but not embarrass myself by following them slavishly."

    Wow, Sue, I think your summation of style desires for our age group absolutely nails it. To stay casual, comfortable and modern without any hints of old-lady or fashion victim. It truly is an ongoing balancing act and you are achieving it admirably! — Catbird Farm

    PS> can I also just add that I really appreciate that your fashion posts are not always "buy, buy, buy" – it is so off-putting and disappointing to see favorite bloggers achieve a certain level of cyber-influence and turn into brand shills for non-stop shopping. Thanks for keeping it real. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I used to have only Hubby to explain my fashion theories to. He'd listen patiently…albeit with one eye on the hockey game. Now with the blog I have all you guys to talk fashion to:)

  7. Hi Sue– Great post– Love the sneakers with the full skirts. Wanted you to know that the Aritzia black tank arrived yesterday and it is perfect! Got the racer back bra and love the whole thing. I'm also working on a curated wardrobe (doing the 33 for 3 month challenge that started on the first) and I am really enjoying a much smaller wardrobe. Hope you're having a good day, Beth

    1. Oh…I'm so glad you like the tank Beth. Good luck with the curated wardrobe. It's so much nicer to know exactly what you have and that everything goes together, isn't it?

    2. Not only is it nice to know that everything goes together but it is so refreshing to open my closet door and not feel like it is full but I have nothing to wear! I love having fewer things that I know I like. I definitely do better with fewer choices. Can't wait to spend more time checking out your book recommendations. I just finished My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and liked it very much.

  8. You have a really good eye for what suits you . I like to think I have too , but I can never explain why It looks right . That's what makes this an interesting post . Fashion advice in magazines should be like this – but it isn't .it seems we have to be very careful not to be too 'ladylike' now or overmatch stuff – it's a minefield- but keeps us on our toes
    Wendy in York

    1. Thanks, Wendy. I don't trust fashion advice in magazines anymore. Factual stuff about what designers have shown etc etc. okay. But even the "trends" stories seem to be manufactured sometimes. As in we have three shots of this kind of shoe let's use them in the trend article. But maybe I'm just getting jaded. Or smarter. Or just being sixty:)

  9. My last day at work is tomorrow. One of the things I'm looking forward to is clearing all the office wear clothing out of my closet for good. You've inspired me to keep some items that I like to balance my future very informal wardrobe. And to play with some different outfits too.

    Re the "Nothing Doing" outfit, those white sneakers remind me of the 80's when women wore running shoes on the bus and changed to their heels at the office. I'm with Materfamilias – perhaps if they were a different colour? Yet I like them with the white blouse and skirt, so it's all a matter of taste.

  10. Oh my goodness I just LOVE this take on getting dressed. I am totally going to try this, Love the sneakers with the skirt look too, although I need to practice it a bit more. I never reach for it, although my new white chucks are getting a work out so far this summer. For the record I like your black dress with white sneakers, I think it looks great on you 🙂 Stopping by from Living on Cloud Nine

    1. Thanks very much. Who knew we would all be wearing sneakers with skirts again. I mean after the age of ten. I love them. Thanks for stopping by:)

  11. First of all, let me say that I like YOUR version of full skirt with the sneakers better than the "fashun" shot. Why? Because your full skirt is proportionally better. The longer length of the other skirt is just too long and looks slightly frumpy. Back in March, I did a post about wearing maxi dresses and the right proportions–so I think your math class is well-needed.
    I also love the masculine/feminine aspect to clothing. Part of that love goes with wearing a masculine scent with a feminine outfit!
    In addition, I thank you for your pics. Not only do you look fantastic, but you are NOT posing pigeon-toed. God–how I hate those fashun shots with the dopey pigeon toed. We are not three year old toddlers. It is not an attractive look!
    My maxi post for your enjoyment and review:
    I'm glad I found your blog!

    1. Thanks, Catherine. For the compliment and for stopping by. I will definitely return the favour and check out that Maxi post:)

  12. I enjoyed this post and I am with you – I know it when I see it. Sometimes the best plans just don't work out. I have to try on to see if it works on me. I love the navy mesh dress on you and how you paired it with the sandals – perfect.

  13. I'm not too sure about the math angle…for me it either works or doesn't, but this was a fun post! I am a little slow getting around to visit the blogs who linked to the July My Refined Style Linkup. Thanks for adding your fabulous style to our over-40 party!


Comments are closed.