Follow Me Over To Highland Fashionista's Blog

I'm playing in Kristin the Highland Fashionista's sandbox today while she's on holiday. You can read my guest post for her series, Forty is the new Forty, at her website today.

Spashionista Report Turns One

No joking. One year ago I posted my very first blog post, Meet Your Spashionista. It seems like a lifetime ago. So many things have changed while others have stayed the same.

When I started this blog I wasn't sure if I would have an audience interested in what I had to say. After all, I have a unique perspective. It would be disingenuous to confine my subject matter to fashion without including my unique experiences as a disabled woman over 50. But it would be a boring misrepresentation of myself to dwell on my age and disability on a constant basis to the exclusion of my sense of style.

Was the blog going to be too geared towards the disabled to be interesting to able-bodied women, or too mainstream to be of any value to the handicapped? Did I dress too old for the young fashionistas or too bright and youthful for the 40+ crowd? Was I too round for the trendy blogs and too thin for the plus sized bloggers? Could I impart my sense of style within a low enough budget to be of help to women of limited means without being snubbed by the higher end style blogs?

It turns out the answer is all of the above. over the past year many of my suspicions, both positive and negative, have been confirmed. My audience runs the gamut of abilities and ages. Women who have cerebral palsy, bell's palsy,  rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, limb differences, and disabled daughters. Followers ranging in age from 17 to 70 with fashion aesthetics that are whimsical, restrained, colorful, reserved, chic, bohemian and everything in between. Tall, thin women; short, round women; thrift store aficionados to  high-end label wearers.

I've been written about and written to by many. Praised for being an inspiration, cursed for being an elitist cripple. Complimented on my wardrobe, derided for daring to put up my palsied pictures. Embraced as an icon and written off as too old and fat. Called fashion-forward and dismissed as mutton-dressed-as-lamb. Told my clothing is too cheap and berated for shopping anywhere but Goodwill.

I haven't won any awards or had any sponsors clamoring to put their swag up on my blog. I've been wooed by link submission "branding" sites that have to date rejected 99% of my posts. But I've always been honest about the things I wear and the people I meet, and I'm used to being the square peg that doesn't quite fit into the round hole.

I have met some incredible, amazing, beautiful, gutsy, sweet, sincere women - and a few terrific guys, too. If you're reading this then you are probably one of them. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for following me and showing me tons of support in chronicling my adventures as your one and only Spashionista. I'd also like to ask you if there's anything in particular you'd like to see me address in the next year of this blog. What can I do to make this blog more interesting and a farther-reaching voice for anyone who has ever been made to feel less-than-beautiful because of their imperfections? I really value your input and appreciate all of the help and advice I've received so far.

Here's to another year of fabulousness!

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The Long And The Short Of It

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I spent the bulk of my late 20's and 30's with hair so long I could sit on it.

Initially it was a rebellious move. I was railing against all the years of short, bad, pixie-like haircuts that made me feel like a bigger Spaz than I already was. In high school all the pretty girls had long tresses, some with, some without the iconic Farrah Fawcett feathering that permeated that era. The cool girls could style their coif perfectly with a flick of their wide-toothed comb and proved expert in sporting the perfectly peroxided lightened hair. In junior year of high school I dumped two bottles of peroxide on my chestnut hair and promptly turned it orange. By the time I got to college the mullet, mohawk, and punk locks were the styles of choice. I had a short, bad perm - which was the result of salvaging a long, bleached out, burnt up perm. By the time it had grown out enough to be shaped into a mullet with perfect 80's triangular sideburns I decided from that point forward to swear off beauty salons altogether.

And I did for about four years and nearly 12" of hair growth. It was only about two months before my wedding that I opted for a layered, just-past-the-shoulder cut. After that I experimented with color at home; badly. I dyed my hair all the wrong shades of red and even attempted a do it yourself "frosting". Keep in mind that my fine motor skills suck and you should get the gist of the results. After a while I had moved too many times and ventured too far from anyone I trusted could do anything, so I did nothing. I twisted my hair up and secured it with a giant banana clip at the back of my head. I even slept that way. It looked atrocious, but at that time I hadn't yet reached my epiphany concerning the impact my appearance had on others.

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Fast forward ten years of looking like a Grateful Dead groupie. Then one day someone dear to me commits suicide. I am not surprised, but I am devastated beyond words. In a show of mourning I cut most of my hair off myself. It was a symbol of a time ended that would never return. It looked awful, but I didn't care. Eventually I summoned up the courage to go into a small local salon. Being new to the place I didn't know who to ask for, let alone what to expect.

I really lucked out that day. Turns out I not only got a great haircut, I also made a great friend. In the 12 years since Lani Barrett has cut, highlighted, and dyed my hair a myriad of colors in three different salons. When we met she was not confident enough in her own abilities to give me the style she thought I should have. Today I sport a cut from the Twilight movies - the "Alice" to be exact - and it was entirely her idea. It's the best hairstyle I've ever had (and the worst movie I've ever seen).

Six years ago, out of the blue, she asked, "Want a blue streak in your hair?"

How could I resist? I loved it, hubby loved it. Everyone else hated it, so we switched to purple, which I've been wearing in some capacity ever since. In fact, as I write this I have two foils at either side of my head feeding purple dye onto two bleached out sections of my hair. In case you're wondering I'm not at the salon. Every other week my friend comes over and helps me clean my house. It's more accurate to say I help her because she does the bulk of it. Aside from Mr Spashionista and I Lani also did more to help rebuild this house after the Nashville 2010 flood than anyone else. She even cooked and delivered a surprise 20th anniversary dinner for us that year because, obviously, we weren't able to celebrate otherwise.

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If only she liked to go shopping.  Oh, well; nobody's perfect.

Lani currently works at Cindy's Hair and Tan in Ashland City. If you're lucky enough to live in the area you can make an appointment by calling 615 792-1141.

Do you have any "hair-raising" experiences in the evolution of your style? Are you okay with showing your grey or do you banish it from sight? Do you think it's fun or folly for women over 40 to dye their hair in non-traditional colors?

Passionate About Girls Who Eat Lunch

"Where are the clothes for the girls who eat lunch?" I jokingly asked a meek little salesclerk at an upscale clothing store. I was looking for any article of clothing in a size higher than an 8. Just a little higher, mind you, not even close to plus size.

She snickered - because I made a funny - then sheepishly replied, "We don't have any."

So, let me see if I understand this correctly. It doesn't matter that I'm healthy and in great shape. It doesn't matter that my cholesterol is normal, my blood pressure is borderline low and I'm not diabetic.  It doesn't matter that I exercise daily and limit my caloric intake to the recommended amount for my age and height - less, actually. What matters is I can't squeeze into what you've decided are acceptable measurements for a woman's body?

I left, annoyed but not devastated. I get frustrated when I see something pretty that I can't get in my size but it doesn't make me feel less attractive. I've fought hard to get to a place of self acceptance and nobody is going to take that away from me.

On this day before Valentine's Day, a holiday that can be very difficult for many women who feel lonely or unloveable, I want to remind my fellow Spashionistas that you have to love yourself first regardless of what the scale says. Even girls who eat lunch can be knockouts. Just take a look at these lovely ladies courtesy of Pinterest.

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Last, but certainly not least, my personal favorite.

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Love yourself first and others will find you irresistible. Now, who's hungry?

A Month To Be Passionate About

How cliche would it be to go all Cupidy-Bonbon-and-Red-Rosey this time of year?

So cliche that I'm not going to do it. Well, not literally, anyway. Lots of my fellow bloggers are doing a fine job with traditional Valentine's Day iconography so I'm going to focus on the most intense, undistilled facet of love.

I want to talk about passion. Passion is more compulsion than emotion. It focuses our attention on how something or someone makes us feel and compels us to act. It pushes any rational thought out of our minds and replaces it with a never-ending quest for fulfillment of that compulsion. Addiction is passion taken to the extreme. Extremes are usually ultimately negative and rarely a good thing.

But passion is always a good thing. It's about living instead of merely existing. So this month I'm going to share some of my passions with you, and some of them may raise an eyebrow or two.

For example, take a look at this outfit.

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If any of you find this attractive please turn in your "Fashionista" card immediately. It's a hideous outfit; $8 velour hoodie from Old Navy, $3 Victoria's Secret sweatpants via Music City Thrift, white wool knee socks, and 2007 model Ecco Mary Janes via EBay. The only redeeming article of clothing here is the black tee with Mr Spashionista's logo on it - and it's only appropriate outside of this application when worn underneath a jacket. For the longest time I thought the lettering across the back of the sweats read, "Oink" instead of "Pink". I'm not making that up.

But I'm passionate about this outfit and wouldn't part with it for the world. This is my workout wear for the winter months. Because I am a 51 year old woman with CP being as fit as possible is important to me. Several years ago I had a leg injury that required I go through physical therapy. While I was there I learned how to stretch and exercise and began getting stronger. Now I exercise every day. I also walk around my back yard with my two dogs as often as I can. That's the reason I'm so particular about my footwear.  It's very difficult for me to walk outdoors, even with my crutches, and I've found these shoes have the best fit for that specific activity. However, they don't work well for indoor exercises or even the stationary peddler I've been using since Christmas so I usually lose them before I  work out indoors.

None of this will cancel out the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy, but it does make me healthier in other ways, and I am healthy compared to a large number of my peers. If I have to forego my workout for a day I find my body craves it. Who knew that it would take me almost a half century to become passionate about exercise?

By the way, If you think this getup is bad I actually have a Muppet-pelt parka I add if it's hovering around freezing when I go for my walk. I'm not going to show you that gem - just think Snufflecripagus.

Don't Buy That Yet

If you've been a regular reader of Spashionista Report you know that I love a good bargain and I hardly ever pay retail for anything. Now, it's obvious to any smart shopper that you go for the places, sites, and items that are on sale. But did you know that there are actually optimal months, even days of the week, to buy certain things? No? Well, let me clue you in on a strategy that can save you lots of money. Let me elevate your retail IQ.

• January is filled with post-holiday sales, clearances, and closeouts.

• February is the best time to buy winter shoes, boots, socks and tights. Lingerie is typically on sale as Valentine's Day approaches.

• March is denim discount month. Buy your jeans now. Small electronics like DVD players and iPods see a price drop this month as well. If you need luggage this is the month to pick it up.

• April brings us big spring clothing sales, especially women's and girl's dresses and shoes. Computers can also be had for less this month.

• May sees a resurgence in lingerie sales as well as athletic clothing and shoes. Swinmwear begins to be marked down while inventory is still plentiful. Jewelry is deeply discounted for Mother's Day.

• June heralds in the men's clothing and power tool sales in honor of Father's Day.

• July is a prime month to buy a bag or a swimsuit. Men's shoes go on sale, too.

• August ushers in all the back to school sales - which include sales tax holiday weekends in some states. Coats and cosmetics can also be had on the cheap.

• September sees another big price decrease for jeans. Fall fashions are unveiled at sale prices, and gardening supplies are on clearance this month.

• October is the best time to do some early holiday shopping. The weekend before Halloween typically sees big sales on clothing and computers.

• November marks the cornucopia of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales - which are starting earlier every year. If you're going to take advantage of have a list and a budget with you before you dive in. If you need a sweater this is the month to buy one.

• December brings the lowest toy and children's clothes prices yet along with the usual holiday sales. After Christmas holiday decorations are deeply discounted, as is any inventory that didn't sell by December 25th. The last week of December marks the lowest clothing prices of the year.

Need more help? According to ShopItToMe.com, a San Francisco company that analyzes more than 750,000 sales items a year from more than 200 online retailers:

• Mondays: Shoppers can save nearly 50% on men’s and women’s dress pants, and about 55% on sunglasses.

• Tuesdays: Expect to save more than 40% on men’s apparel.

• Wednesdays: Shoppers save about 40% on shoes and children’s clothes.

• Thursdays: Save 36% on handbags.

• Fridays: Pay 42% less for jewelry, belts and scarves.

• Saturdays: Lingerie (37% off) and jackets/outerwear (51% off).

• Sundays: Swimsuits (52% off).

There is a bit of fluidity in these categories that may vary from region to region within the US, but this should give you a framework to start shopping more strategically and intelligently.

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