Month: September 2012

Things I can’t get away with anymore

Most of the time, I feel less like I should and more like I’m in denial; that is, I feel less like an adult and more like a teenager pretty much every day. You might think that having a kid of my own would have changed that, but no. Having a kid just made me realize that society will let just about anyone have a kid if they choose to. Occasionally, my friend Joe will roll his eyes when I try to make a funny, and tells me that it’s such a “Mom joke”. When that happens, I feel like I’ve suddenly aged about twenty years, and then I have to check that I’m not wearing high-waisted jeans and rocking a shoulder-length bob.

I get a similar sensation when I walk into certain stores, like Aritzia, Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters. On the rare occasion I get drawn in by a cute item in the window display, I inevitably end up standing before a changing room mirror hating whoever came up with the phrase “mutton dressed as lamb”. So apt, and oh-so-cruel. It was my recent experience in one of the Forever 21 clone stores that inspired today’s (ungrammatical) post topic: things I can’t get away with anymore.

Floral skinnies

Floral skinny jeans were a big trend this year, and every cute, young thang out there in the style blogosphere rocked a pair at some point in the last 9 months. My weakness for all things floral finally got the best of me one day, and I ended up wandering into said Forever 21 clone to make a straight beeline the skinnies I had spotted in the window. I grabbed a pair that seemed like it would fit – let me pause here to say that sizing in places like these seems somewhat arbitrary – and proceeded to the changing rooms. The good news is that my eye had not betrayed me, and the jeans fit. The bad news was that, once I looked in the mirror, a weird, creepy sensation came over me. Have you ever put on a piece of clothing only to immediately want to take it off because it made you feel … well, not like yourself? The jeans actually looked cute enough, and my shopping pal assured me they were flattering, but I just couldn’t stop staring at them and thinking that they made my legs look like they’d been attacked by a particular aggressive fungus. They just looked so wrong on me.

Five years ago, I would have rocked floral skinnies. Hard. Instead of writing this post, I’d be showing you six new ways to wear them. Alas! It’s no longer meant to be. I’m going to stick to my new (thrifted) pair of dark-wash William Rast flares, and leaving the floral skinnies to people whose adolescence is not just a frame of mind.

Statement jewelry

One of my top wishlist pieces a few years ago was the J. Crew bubble necklace.

The “it” necklace of style bloggers everywhere


It was a sold-out hit when first released (and subsequently re-released), and has since been co-opted by pretty much every style blogger, like, ever. Except for yours truly. For a time, I simply could not afford the price. Later, I couldn’t justify it. [I still think that $178 is steep for a piece of costume jewelry] Recently, though, I realized that the bubble necklace was never going to find its way into my closet for a totally different reason: I’ve stopped wearing chunky, showy jewelry. This is the sort of jewelry I mostly wear nowadays:

Swarovski necklace

Again, I can’t really pinpoint why I no longer wear “statement” pieces, even though I still admire them on others. All I can say is that they just don’t feel comfortable anymore. The “costume” aspect stands out too much; when I wear them, I feel like I’m playing dress-up, and not in a fun way. And, of course, chunky pieces are very impractical now – my son loves nothing more than having something big and colourful to grab and shove in his mouth.

Mermaid hair

Ironically, I started writing this post right after I decided to start growing out my hair again. But! The plan is to aim for a chin-length, dramatically angled bob a la Victoria Beckham circa 2008. [Here’s another thing that makes me feel old: typing out “2008” and realizing it was FOUR years ago. Four!] No more half-hearted attempts to get what I like to call “mermaid hair”: long, wavy, possibly ombre locks that would put a Pantene spokesperson to shame. The reality is that, for me, mermaid hair was never meant to be. My hair, once it grows past a certain length, refuses to curl. It also refuses to do much of anything except look like an unkempt haystack, and that is after significant investment in sundry hair products and gadgets.

Two other things conspire against me now. One, I am lazy. OK, I have always tended to be lazy when it comes to my hair, but age has definitely not improved me in that category. Also, if I could magically get that extra 25th hour of the day, I would not spend it doing it my hair. Two, one year post-pregnancy, I have come to resemble a particularly deciduous cat – I’m shedding madly. If I don’t end up entirely bald at the end of this fun episode, then my hair will have most likely reverted to its original thickness … which never looked that lush because my hair is very, very fine. Sigh.

But I promise to try very, very hard not to end up with “soccer mom hair”.

Your turn: are there any new trends, or old standbys, that you no longer feel comfortable wearing? Do you think age is just a state of mind when it comes to style?


The Remix Challenge: week 1

The first week of the Remix Challenge went off without a hitch, although it’s obviously early days. So far, shooting “on location” has proven to have some hazards – uninvited intruders, auto-focus issues, and lighting to name but a few – but I promise to persevere and hopefully bring you better quality shots in the future. The key is that I have been photographing the actual outfits I’ve been wearing, as opposed to the ones planned – and they are not always one and the same. I typically plan an entire week’s outfits in advance, for the purpose of cutting down on my prep time each morning. Sometimes, though, an outfit will “look” better in my mind’s eye than in reality, in which case last-minute tweaks are needed – or it’s back to the drawing board entirely. Because I tend to coordinate my nail polish to my (planned) outfits, and paint my nails the night before, overhauling an outfit entire on the day of can be a bit of an inconvenience – it’s so annoying to have clashing nail polish on! Yeah, I can be a total nit-picker.

Anyway, on to the week’s outfits.

Sunday, September 16, 2012: family outing @ Devonian gardens

Skirt, BCBG; jacket, Joe Fresh; turtleneck, no label; scarf, Winners; shoes, Nine West; brooch, Ibon; tights, HUE; bag, vintage Coach

I had in mind a fall palette when I put together this outfit, but I didn’t realize just how bright the chartreuse skirt would be in direct sunlight. And, boy, was it sunny! Blindingly bright skirt aside, this was a surprisingly comfy outfit (everything was stretchy) and perfect for a warm fall afternoon. No nail polish on this occasion – I had just taken off Butter London Black Knight.

Bonus photo time:

Sunflower of true sun-blocking dimensions

Monday, September 17, 2012: work

Skirt, Valentino R.E.D.; vest, Costa Blanca; shirt, consignment; necklace, Banana Republic; shoes, LAUREN Ralph Lauren; bag, Chanel

First attempt to take a photo outside, and I get photo-bombed by the neighbours’ cat. Figures. I found this chambray shirt at My Favourite Aunt’s, and it seemed like a steal for $12. Loved balancing its boyish vibe with a statement necklace. Got quite a few compliments on this outfit, so I guess the combo was a hit. I wore OPI Parlez Vous OPI, a dusty mauve polish, which seemed to suit the colour theme of the outfit.

Parlez-Vous OPI

Tuesday, September 18, 2012: work

Pants, Theory; camisole, Jacob; jacket, Joe Fresh; shoes, consignment; necklace, H&M; bag, Mulberry

Navy, navy, navy. One thing I learned quickly is that pants with pockets cut on the side do not photograph well. The pockets inevitably gape, and add volume in the hip area. I swear, they are more flattering in person. My polish was Chanel Dragon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012: work

Skirt, Joe Fresh; cardigan, Banana Republic Factory; camisole, Talbots; shoes, Nine West; brooch, Ibon; bag, Mulberry

I went back and worth on this outfit quite a bit, but looking back on this photo, I’m glad I tried it. My favourite part was the brooch, a $5 find from Ibon (check out its new location on Calgary Trail south). I am still wearing Dragon, because I couldn’t be bothered to change it. A burgundy polish might have been a better match, perhaps something like OPI DS Extravagance. Next time!

Thursday, September 20, 2012: work

My son turned 14 months! Incredible. Some days I still find it hard to believe I am somebody’s mom.

Dress, Trina Turk; jacket, Jacob (via swap); shoes, Nine West; necklace & earrings, Banana Republic; bag, MARC Marc Jacobs

Moving on, I decided to pair my new Trina Turk dress with a jacket, thereby avoiding the need for an overcoat. Pale aqua accents provide a pop of colour. I almost wore the same nude Nine West pumps as the previous day, but decided at the last minute to give my feet a break and go with lower heels; still nude, still Nine West. My polish is OPI Hey, Get in Lime! – a lovely, soft, faded Tiffany blue.

OPI Hey, Get in Lime

Friday, September 21, 2012: work-related function … or, just work

Jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch; top, winners; blazer, RW&Co; belt, Tommy Hilfiger; necklace, H&M; shoes, LAUREN Ralph Lauren; bag, Chanel

I was supposed to attend a work-related function on Friday night, but ended up feeling really under the weather and bailed. Still bummed out about it. My work outfit was based around the top I was going to wear at the function. The dress code for this (evening) event was “business attire”, but there was no way I was going to wear a suit. I hate suits! I decided to go with separates (black pencil skirt would have been my choice), including a bit of a “wild” print. On my nails, I had Butter London Wallis.

Butter London Wallis

Saturday, September 22, 2012: birthday party

My BFF turned 30 (shh!) and I, along with other friends and family, helped her celebrate the big day in style. Still feeling under the weather, but there was no way I would miss this special occasion. To pep things up, I went with a fun mix of prints for my outfit – and pearls, for added effect.

Skirt, Joe Fresh (thrifted); shirt, Tommy Hilfiger; belt, Holt Renfrew (consignment); pearls, thrifted; shoes, Stuart Weitzman

My polish was OPI DS Fantasy.

OPI DS Fantasy

And so concluded my first week of the Remix Challenge. What do you think of my efforts so far? If you’re playing along at home, how did it go for you? Stay tuned for week 2!!

Friday Flashback: Historical romance novels – an overview

This week’s flashback post, entitled “Fluff piece”, was originally published in September 2007.


What I’m about to say may shock you. It’s certainly not something I ever thought I’d say.

Recently, I’ve started reading romance novels. Historical ones, to be precise.

Let that sink in for a moment. Just between you and me, it’s not quite the first time I’ve done it. I’ve snuck in a few before, here and there, over the years; it was always a furtive, shamefaced admission of defeat on the part of my better judgment. However, it’s a sign of maturity, I’m told, to accept one’s shortcomings. I am ready, then, to admit that I’ve countenanced my last literary taboo. It’s rather a painful admission but, having made it, I’m not going to try to soften its impact. I’m not, for example, going to try to shrug it off as some sort of ironic-hip pastime – like knitting or watching Battlestar Galactica – because a little white lie is not going to bandage this particular rip in my self-respect. The truth is banal; one gets bored – bored enough to get curious about all kinds of questionable pursuits. Romance novels have an unfortunate reputation, mostly deserved – the writing is indifferent at best and often much worse, the plots and characters formulaic. They are also widely disseminated; the evidence is in the garage sales.

Now, as I am about to show, my latest endeavour has not been an entire waste of time. Along the way, I made certain observations of the subject matter, which I propose to share with you. The primary benefit, I would imagine, is that you will now no longer have to read such material yourself. If you ever had a passing spark of curiosity on the subject – what does lie between those gaudy covers? – it can now be satisfied without further exertion on your part.

I must note that, while this is not an academic study, it is mostly disinterested and, thus, practically scientific (or what passes for scientific in the media these days). What have I gleaned from my study? Read on.

1) The hero in the historical romance novel is always rugged, virile and over 6 feet. He is never plain and never pretty. If he is dark (and he frequently is), he is also brooding. Not surprisingly …

2) The hero is always damaged. He gambles, carouses and sleeps around, generally being indistinguishable from the villainous rogue – in the beginning. The difference, of course, is the love of a good woman. Good women are rare; in fact, they number one in every case. Our hero, for example, was previously saddled with a perfidious mother, fiancée, wife and/or mistress – who, needless to say, is mostly responsible for the aforementioned gambling, carousing and sleeping around. Thank goodness, then, that the hero meets the heroine in short order, before the tertiary syphilis has set in. It’s all really quite heart-warming.

As an aside, I have to say that I remain puzzled by women’s evident fascination with the idea of reforming the rogue, whose amenability to reformation generally ends on the page. I admit – bad boys have their undeniable appeal. But it seems counterintuitive, once one has secured such a specimen, to undertake every conceivable stratagem to house-train him. Sure, it’s a challenge – but so is climbing Mount Everest. Statistically speaking, the latter is likelier to happen. Bad boys, of course, are rarely bad through accident or apathy; it’s a vocation. So they’re hardly afraid of a little holy water. After all, the missionary’s fervour has its pleasant aspects. The romance novel merely takes some liberties with the rate of conversion.

3) The villain in a historical romance novel is typically a debonair, suspiciously good-looking fella who has either watched too many Bond movies or not enough. Unfortunately, he hasn’t grasped the fundamental principle that, having finally gotten the hero/heroine in his depraved clutches, with less than 20 pages to go until the end, he just needs to keep his mouth shut and put a bullet (or historical equivalent) between his captive’s eyes as soon as possible. However, his ineptitude is a lucky stroke considering …

4) The hero is always rich, aristocratic or a pirate. Sometimes all three. Not to be outdone …

5) The heroine is plucky, fluent in the Classics, and endowed with the bounteous assets of a swimsuit model. She needs all the assets Nature can muster since …

6) The heroine’s character, generally along with her virginity, is impugned within the first 30 pages. This leads to a charming revelation for the hero at a very delicate moment later on. [That moment is never awkward, brief or otherwise unmemorable but its depiction is, sadly, often unreadable.] Having chosen to strand one’s fierce little feminist firecracker in the 1820s, the romance writer understandably feels obliged to assiduously preserve the heroine’s virginity (for at least 100 pages or so), despite the conspicuous absence of other claims to historical authenticity. I won’t quibble about the astonishingly speedy transformation of the chaste virgin into a ravishing vixen – a couple of paragraphs suffice – since she naturally has to keep up with the hero who is, without fail, uncannily proficient in that department. What I find sort of fascinating is that the hero tends to develop an odd reaction to sex.

He gets attached.

The first sexual encounter is, as predictably as clockwork, the turning point in the romance novel courtship. Heretofore, the hero has been a cynical, questionably-intentioned wooer, befitting his outward caddishness and disillusion-hardened soul. Upon discovering, lo and behold, the heroine’s erstwhile purity (as well as her blind disregard for social norms, newly discovered unquenchable sexual appetite and telepathic ability to intuit his dirtiest fantasies), he begins to thaw. The L word is not grunted, sighed or whispered until the last 10 pages or so, but it is a foregone conclusion. He will not let his woman go. She trusts him, dammit (despite the scar, the unsavory reputation, or the history of insanity in the family). They shared a moment (and 3-pages’ worth of sexual hijinks). Somehow, she is different than his floozy of a first wife. Clearly, these are precisely the thoughts of your average male after sex. At this point, the hero is already planning on how he’s going to introduce his vivacious new bed-mate to his (haughtily aristocratic) relatives, challenge someone to a duel over her honour, throw a jealous tantrum or three, and make a heartwarming speech on the occasion of their children’s birth. Hey, it happens all the time in real life. Speaking of real life …

7) When they’re not busy having great sex in every corner of their 120-room estate, the lucky couple never fights about money; they fight over misunderstandings about how much they love each other. Mothers-in-law are either kind, absent, banished by their sons, or dead. Children are little angels, never underfoot, and precocious to boot. Conveniently, they frequently appear on the last page.

Now, it is sometimes said that women have unrealistic expectations. Clearly, if romance novels are anything to go by, that is not the case. Judging by the standard historical romance novel plot, women’s expectations are not nearly grandiose enough. Perhaps one can say that historical romance novels are chock-a-block full of anachronisms. Perhaps one might sniff at the overabundance of Byronic earls and dukes, overeducated Playboy bunnies, improbable plot devices, and the inability of any suavely degenerate, moustache-twirling villain to shoot straight. It’s too easy, though, to bash romance novels. They are so eternally hopeful, like cute little puppies. And who wants to kick puppies?

September 2012: Gosh, re-reading this post kinda makes me want to read a romance novel, know what I mean? The crap that nowadays routinely finds its way onto the bestsellers lists gives me a new-found appreciation for this much-maligned genre … and I say that as someone who’s done my fair share of maligning over the years. Not a single one of the two dozen (or more, I’m not saying) romance novels I’ve read over the years comes even remotely close to matching the literary atrocity that is Fifty Shades of Grey. [I feel compelled to clarify that my assessment of the latter is based solely on reading a few excerpts online; nothing – and I mean nothing short of a 3 or 4 figure sum of cold, hard cash – could compel me to read the whole thing.]

But speaking on the subject, I should add that, since I wrote this post, I came across a romance novelist whose books are quite delightful, albeit “tame” by modern standards. Georgette Heyer – who also wrote a series of charming, Christie-esque detective novels – penned a number of Regency romance novels that evoke the spirit of Jane Austen, with a dash of extra spice. A “dash” only – alas, for anyone looking for stronger thrills, that means no sex scenes. Definitely worth a lazy Sunday afternoon (should you be so fortunate as to get one) for anyone looking to satisfy a craving for fluff.