I’m functional and I know it.

I love Mother Nature but she really needs a makeover.

During the last few years I’ve poured more and more energy into trying to spend time outdoors. I think traveling to Africa and seeing such immense beauty made me realize how different the world can look when we’re not separated from it by windows and wheels. Although always an athlete I had never been extremely adventurous or outdoorsy. I made gymnasiums my home and I  memorized the echo of a basketball bouncing inside a vacant building. The smell of leather, popcorn and sweaty knee pads. The feel of seams, cold concrete walls, and humming water fountains. I soaked them in like they were my homeland and didn’t leave much room for other loyalties.  I’ve started to replace these familiars with challenges much less concrete, rewards much more spectacular, and bathrooms with way fewer walls.

As much as I want to enjoy nature and the beautiful state I live in, it’s not always that easy. Having two young children can make being outdoors incredibly challenging. “Exposing them to the elements” and “letting them explore their environment” are wonderful concepts on paper. If life would follow lesson plans then I would have the greenest, hippest, budding scientists on the planet. But it doesn’t follow written instructions like that. It follows nap schedules, potty training, fighting and meltdowns. The idea of taking kids into the wilderness is wonderful until you actually do it. Then it’s an intense form of self inflicted torture. It’s taking unpredictable creatures and putting them in an unpredictable playground. Kids around fire? Nerve racking. Kids around rivers? Exhausting. Kids in freezing temperatures? Maddening.

As challenging as the kid situation is it’s not my main hang up with Mother Nature. I am actually willing to stand in the freezing cold dragging two sobbing children behind me while I convince them sledding is fun. I will take them camping and listen to them howl louder than the wolves all night because they want to sleep on top of me. I will fend them from sunburns and bugs and snakes and wild animals and I will listen to their endless whining and fighting and growling and much more all in the name of loving nature. However, I at least want to look good doing it.

I’m not high maintenance. I rarely brush my hair, I often times don’t wear makeup and I have no idea what the word couture means except they used it a lot in season one of Project Runway. I don’t care about fashion or brand names and I buy 90% of my clothes from consignment stores. However, I love clothing. I love standing before a closet or rack of endless possibilities. I love expressing myself through fabrics, patterns, and color choices. I despise outdoor clothing. It’s the physical manifestation of the  word drab. It all looks grey to me, no matter what color it actually is.

I’ve found myself so limited recently by my new found habits. No more can I decide what I want to portray myself like each day. Now I have to ask myself questions like “can I kick my leg over a bike in this?” or “can I roll this up so my chain does eat the leg off these pants?” and “could I discreetly squat in the woods to pee in this?” There  are VERY few outfits that fit this criteria that I actually want to wear.

A few months ago I thought I had figured it out. I found an outfit that fit my mood and was also biker friendly. I wore casual capris (that I practiced doing kicks in so I knew I wouldn’t fall over while getting on my bike, which yes HAS happened several time when I didn’t do the kick test first). They were high enough that I didn’t have to roll them up. I wore sandals with a strap in the back so they wouldn’t fly off while I was pedaling. I topped it off with a dressy sleeveless blouse that allowed me to stay cool while cruising. I pushed off and let my gleefulness about fooling Mother Nature trail along behind me. My outfit worked brilliantly until I woke up the next morning to bike home and remembered Mother Nature is one temperamental lady. My ingeniousness from the night before had coasted into ignorance as the 80 degree evening shifted into a 42 degree morning. I lost again.

There was a lot of commotion and shuffling around to find me clothes that would fit and would prevent frost bite. When it was finished I stood before my bike wearing the dress capris from the night before, hiking boots, the blue sleeveless blouse with a green Forest Service vest over it, wool gloves and a burnt orange hunting cap. Mother Nature had her revenge. My boyfriend looked at me and with full sincerity said “you look great.” I looked back at him like he had just delicately placed scrambled baby birds before me on the breakfast table and I tried to utter a single sentence to describe the horror of the outfit. He elaborated with “You do! You look completely functional!”

Completely functional? I didn’t even realize that was a thing you could be while being dressed. So if I’m understanding this dressing for the outdoors business correctly, you get points for being able to move all your body parts and bonus points if you don’t freeze any of them off? In that case for my next wardrobe purchase I should consider this.

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Until I’ve saved up enough money for it, I’d love any other suggestions on what to wear.

10 comments

  • Lol, REI.com. Also check the outlet tab for better deals. Sierratradingpost.com has good deals too. I love the Columbia psych to hike pants. Convertible pants are great because you have pants, shorts, and capris everywhere you go. North face has some really cute tank tops with shelf bras and quick dry blouses that are colorful and recently not just square. Columbia has some blouses that have roll up sleeves and nice colors. Check yard sales that list a lot of outdoor equipment or gear swaps for used. I love consignment shops too but had to break down and buy new for the outdoor gear. Got tired of having to choose fashion or comfort.

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    • Thanks Lacey! I just bought some of those Columbia pants that convert to capris or shorts. Excited to try them out! Glad I’m not them only one facing this dilemma!

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  • Hate to say it babe, but that outfit would get tangled in your bike chain. And then it would eat your entire outfit. Thank goodness for Lacey – she’s been doing this longer! LOL

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  • So true! Especially the kids in the wild part! We have persisted and it has improved over time, but I remember driving around at 4am feeding Toby Cheerios so we would wake the rest of Yellowstone with his 10-month-old protestations to camping. 🙂
    As for clothes, I always covet clothes in the Althleta and Title Nine catalogs and though I can’t afford it, Patagonia’s women’s outdoor garb is pretty non-drab.

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  • i can totally see mike sincerely insisting how functional you are! and loving every minute of it. 🙂 thanks for the laugh, sis. i wish i had recommendations on functional, attractive clothing. it exists (lululemon), but i’m pretty sure it’s more expensive than every piece of impractical clothing i own!

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  • I’m just getting to this after my crazy summer kid vacation….and just to let you know, even when kids turn into teens, it only gets a little better outdoors. Mostly they just want to watch YOU pack up the river camping gear while they whine about bugs or putter around the campsite. Good times. Ok, it was a little fun…
    And I consider myself an outdoor-clothing pro after Everest, and yes, that stuff is overpriced. But call me a sucker because I have a closet full of it! Just take Chanel eyeshadow and no one will notice the clothes….heehee! xoxo –

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