Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy birthday, Classy Local!

Classy Local turns one!

Before beginning the celebrations of a new year, I would like to recognize the past year as the Classy Local blog celebrates its first year of existence!

For anyone who has ever kept or followed a blog, we know that many tend to peter out after several weeks or months, so one year is quite a milestone for a blog-- especially for this busy blogger!

I started Classy Local after spending quite a bit of time reading my two favorite blogs: How to Be Chic and The Daily Connoisseur. I enjoy these blogs so much because they are inspiring and remind me of my time spent overseas. Whether it is simply because I had been enjoying a leisurely vacation, or because those Europeans really do have things figured out, my time abroad has been a wonderful and powerful experience for me-- not just from the magnificent sights and sounds of Europe, but because of its everyday culture and lifestyle. Reading and writing about these little aspects of everyday living serves as my reminder to live well every day (or as much as I possibly can)!

Most importantly, both of my favorite blogs are very well-written! As someone who teaches writing, I strongly believe that teachers must practice what they preach-- namely, for me, I must be a writer myself if I wish to teach writing successfully. I am glad that for the past year, I have been able to do this in a small but consistent way through my blogging.

Hopefully, I can continue writing and simultaneously cultivating my inner bon vivant for another year or more. Here's to another year of style, celebration, and creativity.

The above photo was taken by me of a room in Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland in 2009. It was originally posted on the first Classy Local blog post (ever!), here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What’s Christmas without a steam whistle?

Local traditions are a great way to enjoy the holiday spirit, no matter how strange they may seem.

This afternoon, I listened to a 15-minute-long rendition of “God Bless America” as played by a steam whistle.

It was… strange.

An eerie, haunting, and kind of mournful sound. The steam whistle brings to mind days of early risers and efficiency, of men in overalls walking to the factory with lunch pails in hand.

Yet the only time citizens of York, PA (within a 5-10 mile radius) hear this call from days past is on Christmas Eve, when the steam whistle at the New York Wire Co. plays carols conducted by Whistlemaster (yes, that seems to be an official job description) Donald Ryan.

Today, I listened to the practice session for tomorrow night’s concert. Having totally forgotten about this annual ritual since I heard it for the first time last year, I was really spooked when I heard the high-pitched wailing from afar, and wondered if either 1.) a neighbor kid was whining somewhere, 2.) a lost dog or a pack of wolves was howling, or 3.) someone’s saxophone practice wasn’t going so well.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Suiting up: the interview

The style struggle between personality and professionalism becomes especially clear when one is dressing for an interview, a time when first impressions are crucial.

Interviews are often difficult, uncomfortable situations. Aside from the obvious tension and nervousness resulting from the job-hunting process, deciding what to wear for this important occasion can be especially daunting. An interviewee wants to look the part, but also wants to stand out. This is not a time to be boring in one’s attire! Let your true self stand out, while still fitting in to the corporate culture.

I always recommend wearing a suit to a professional interview, because not only are they office appropriate, but suits are also expected in 90% of professional job interviews. I believe that everyone should own at least two great suits—you want to be ready for that second-interview call! The key to wearing a suit is to have confidence: project an air of surety, professionalism, and control. (Remember, there is truth to the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it!) Knowing that you look great can be the first step toward projecting this self-assured image.

Some notes on suits:

Women at work: what to wear?

Building a beautiful work wardrobe takes time to master. Following three basic style rules (color, texture, and balance) can help you to feel more comfortable at work and with yourself.

Sky-high heels, low-cut blouses, and miniskirts might be key components in many women's closets (though hopefully not worn all together), but these pieces would never see the light of day in an office setting. Unlike men, who have more clearly defined rules on what is or is not acceptable to wear for professional attire, women often have a balancing act to play when it comes to work wear.

What a woman might wear for a night out is often radically different than what she might wear to the office the next day. Femininity and fashion are sometimes sacrificed at the expense of professionalism. Furthermore, when you factor in issues like corporate culture and industry expectations, the style guidelines become even more blurred. A lawyer or teacher might not be able to get away with wearing the same styles that a graphic artist might wear, for instance.

I believe that professional wardrobes should be a compromise between personal style and   professional expectations. One should not be a substitute for the other. Many times, women (especially younger women) feel pressured to play it safe and wear clothes that are boring and do not truly express their own style or personality. This may happen for several reasons: in order to be taken seriously, to compensate for their youth or inexperience, to avoid harassment (worst of all), or simply because they haven't figured out that balance yet between their individuality and their professional look.

As a default, many women turn to work-wear staples that mirror the men's: suits, slacks, and button-up, collared shirts: essentially, the same clothes that a man would wear to work on a daily basis, minus the tie, and made in women's sizes. Although these clothes are certainly office appropriate, inwardly, they make my inner fashionista shudder. They just don't seem very feminine—especially the collared shirts. Furthermore, they are a pain to constantly iron, and they feel stiff and restricting.

Even when tailored for women, menswear (or menswear-inspired clothing) can simply make one feel very unfeminine. Androgynous, even. While it is necessary to have a collection of professional pieces to wear to work, it is important to never violate the all-important principal of being both practical and chic: if you don't love it, don't wear it! Don't even buy it! Save your money for clothes that you love and that make you look and feel gorgeous.

Fortunately, there are plenty of clothing items that are both beautiful and office-appropriate. And, even for office-attire staples, like a button up shirt in classic white, or a pair of go-to khaki pants, there are ways to incorporate these items into a work wardrobe in a way that can make you look and feel feminine and professional. (Yes, these can co-exist!)