Month: July 2013

Remix Challenge: week 45

I know, I skipped a week. More on that in a moment.

This week’s recap starts on a high note; on Saturday, we celebrated Luka’s 2nd birthday. I’m still amazed that my little boy is now 2 – TWO! I’m also amazed that he’s only been a part of our life for 2 years, because I can’t imagine it without him. Ok, enough mommy-gushing. Just take a look at how much he’s grown in the past year:

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What a difference a year makes!

We had a low-key birthday party with the extended family only, which was a fun and low-stress way to end a week that started with a middle-of-the-night trip to the emergency room. The previous Sunday night, I experienced some worrisome symptoms and we decided it was best to have them checked out at the hospital; after hours of monitoring and testing, my doctor eventually agreed to release me on condition that I stay put in bed for 3 days. It sounds like a dream, right? Except that bed-rest gets pretty, well, restless after a while. Anyway, long story short, no Remix Challenge post last week.

Saturday, July 20, 2013: Luka’s birthday party

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Dress, J. Crew (consignment); cardigan, Banana Republic Factory; necklace, Tiffany; shoes, Gossip

Two years ago exactly, my outfit was a lot less stylish, and consisted of a hospital gown. For this occasion, I wanted to look nice but still wear something sort of practical, so a cotton summer dress seemed like a good bet. I added a cardigan for that extra “mommy” touch (and also because our AC is now fixed and the boys have a completely different internal thermostat than me), and sparkly shoes for the party vibe.

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Manicure: Chanel Mimosa

Of course, the guest of honour looked pretty cute himself:

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The birthday boy

Monday, July 22, 2013: work and friend’s birthday party

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Dress, Diane von Furstenberg (gift); tank, J. Crew Factory; necklace, Swarovski; shoes, J. Crew (consignment); bag, Marc Jacobs (consignment)

I have pretty awesome friends. For example, friends who, for their birthday, decide to spoil others by cooking them an amazing feast. With that knowledge in mind, I knew my outfit had to not only be office-appropriate for day, but also extremely comfortable and, um, accommodating for the evening’s planned festivities (aka lots and lots of eating). A wrap dress seemed like a natural choice.

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Manicure: A England Briarwood

Tuesday, July 23, 2013: work

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Pants, maternity; blouse, Moda International (consignment); cardigan, Winners; shoes, Ferragamo

The blouse + cardigan combo is one of my office go-tos; it’s not much of a fashion statement, but it’s a classic. This time I went with a subdued (for me) colour scheme of black and white. My nails, on the other hand, were anything but plain.

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Manicure: Nubar Iris Dust over A England Briarwood

Wednesday, July 24, 2013: work

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Dress, Moda International (consignment); earrings, Swarovski; shoes, Prada

I bought this dress during my last pregnancy, but didn’t get a ton of wear out of it. I bought it initially for a wedding, and afterwards felt it was a little too fancy for work (something about the shiny, satin-y fabric). This time around, I decided I was going to make it office-appropriate no matter what. To play down its dressy vibe, I paired it with delicate jewelry and neutral shoes; I had a few other ideas for remixing it but, unfortunately, I waited a bit too long to wear this dress – possibly a side effect of my denial as to my current circumference. As a result, this is likely the one and only time I’ll get to wear it – again.

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Oh, baby!

Thursday, July 25, 2013: work

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Pant, maternity; top. Jacob Connexion (consignment); cardigan, J. Crew (eBay); shoes, Ferragamo (vintage); necklace, Banana Republic (gift); bag, J. Crew

Two “pants days” in a week! It’s a BCRL record! This is a slightly different take on the blouse + cardigan combo. In contrast to Tuesday’s outfit, I went with a bright colour palette and a slighly more unusual colour match – purple and aqua. What do you think of the combination?

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Manicure: A England Sleeping Palace

Friday, July 26, 2013: work

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Jeans, maternity; tank top, J. Crew Factory; cardigan, J. Crew (consignment); cameo necklace, vintage (Etsy); shoes, Stuart Weitzman; bag, Louis Vuitton (consignment)

You could say it was a cardigan-heavy week – this one is #4. This is a pretty basic outfit – bonus: it can be thrown together in less than 2 minutes! – that can be nicely dressed up with accessories so it looks anything but plain and boring. The best of Friday casual in my books.

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Manicure: China Glaze On a Trek + OPI My Private Jet

See you next time!

Style Flashback: 23 & 33

I am turning 33 in August, which means two things to me. One, birthday presents!!! I love birthday presents, and will never be too old to get excited about them (even if I’m buying them for myself). Two, I am getting another year closer to my official “mid-thirties”, which is kind of disconcerting. Not distressing, mind you. Just … disconcerting. In my mind’s eye, I am perpetually on the brink of 19 – kind of an adult, but not really. To think that there will soon enough be two generations of 19 year olds born during my lifetime is … like, trippy!

The upcoming anniversary made me think back to the previous decade, and my personal style as a 23-year old. If I had to describe it in one word it would be: non-existent. Which is not to say that I dressed terribly … not all of the time, anyway. But I had little or no sense of a style identity and, hence, no “personal style” to speak of. Here is a little trip down memory lane.

2003 was not a particularly great time in my life. I was under tremendous stress in school, and not in a great frame of mind. My body was at its (unhealthy) skinniest point; as a result, a lot of my clothing choices were dictated by the desire to finally wear things I considered “thin clothes” – tight jeans, body-con dresses and skirts, etc. If something was a size “0” and fit, I bought it. Few things were memorable or particularly stylish. In fact, I wouldn’t be caught dead today wearing 99% of it, and not only because of the atrocious trends involved.

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These jeans should have been burned for crimes against style

Two further factors contributed to the overall “blahness” of my early-twenties wardrobe. First, I was a student, and so I didn’t have much occasion for “dressing up”; jeans and a T-shirt was a perfectly acceptable daily uniform. My idea of accessorizing involved picking between black or brown shoes.

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A rare attempt at glamour (when in Monaco …)

Second, I didn’t have a lot of money. As a result, I shopped at the cheaper mall chains, where the selection, fit, and quality were not great. This was in the days before local H&M and Zara stores – which, for all their other faults, at least offer access to current runway trends. Back then, I didn’t shop much second-hand. I had shopped at thrift stores for most of my adolescence, by necessity. As soon as I started working and had some disposable income, all I wanted was to “upgrade” to mall shopping. I was under the (mistaken as it turns out) belief that higher prices equaled better clothes. It took me years to figure out that isn’t necessarily true, style-wise or quality-wise.

Comparing my 23-year old self’s style to my current style is like looking at two different people (inside and out, for that matter). I actually have something that can be called “personal style” now – for better or worse. And I learned a few important lessons along the way.

1. Accept and love your body. This was a hard lesson to embrace and live, and it took years to get there. Ironically, in many ways, I was most critical of my body when it was thinnest, even though I considered that a goal. When I finally reached acceptance was also when I first started to enjoy clothes and fashion. For the first time, I began dressing for myself, not for what I assumed others would find acceptable or pleasing. The reason I love clothes so much now is because they represent another way in which I can express myself. They are as much my “voice” as is my writing. Accept and love your body, because it means that you are celebrating you.
2. Follow your own drum beat. Just because something is sold in a fancy store for a lot of money, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. There is a difference between fashion and style, and being a slave to the former makes you a victim of the latter. [Also, you’ll probably end up bankrupt if you shop like you’re a latter day Carrie Bradshaw.] The most important information about a piece of clothing is not found on the label tag; it’s found in the mirror. It’s not so much about how it looks. Does it make it you feel amazing? It’s perfect.
3. You can eat your cake and have it too. You can be savvy with your money and still enjoy buying pretty new things. You just need to learn how to spot true value. If your shopping experience revolves around malls exclusively, this can be hard because retailers spend millions implementing strategies whose sole aim is to separate you from your money. [I recommend reading Priceless by William Poundstone, which explains why our conceptions of value and pricing are largely arbitrary, and easily manipulated.] But it’s never too late to learn.

4. Less is more. Not when it comes to sparkle, or colour, or fun patterns – more is more, as far as I’m concerned. But less is more when it comes to buying quality. We may not be able to emulate those effortlessly stylish French women, but learning the tricks of a carefully edited, classic, well-made, perfectly fitting, perfectly you wardrobe is worth a try, at the very least.

I don’t regret my early twenties; after all, they helped to make me the person I am today (someone I happen to like). I do wish I had been easier on myself all those years ago, and spent less time fretting about things that, in the scheme of things, weren’t so very important. The best I can do for the girl I was back then is to remember the lessons I’ve learned from her experiences.

What style lessons have you learned in the last decade?

Shopping Dream List

I love making lists. In fact, I have several notebooks devoted to different kinds of lists – and if that’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right. One of the most fun kinds is the shopping “dream list”.

The shopping dream list is part fantasy, part pragmatism. I like to keep track of things I want and could feasibly buy because it helps to keep me focused on what’s most important to me; kind of a big deal when you’re as easily distracted by pretty things as I am. If a purchase involves a significant chunk of change – say, over $100 – it had better be on my dream list for at least the previous month or two. Otherwise, there is a strong possibility that it will end up being merely an impulse buy to be regretted down the line. [So, you could say that my dream list is my version of “sleeping on it”.]

I also like to keep track of things I want and probably will never buy because, well … you never know. A once-in-a-lifetime deal might come up, and it will be doubly sweet for affording me the chance to cross a big ticket item off my shopping dream list. If they’re not too fantastical, some of my dream list items also make for great “special occasion” presents (anniversaries, birthdays, special milestones, etc.).

I periodically review my shopping dream list to keep it up to date, not only adding new items but, more importantly, deleting things I’ve re-considered in the meantime. To give you a sense of the process, over the last year or so, I have deleted almost as many things off my shopping dream list as items bought off of it. I typically only add things that are likely to cost a fair bit (as I mentioned, $100 is generally a good benchmark), or are likely to be hard to find. I add the latter mostly so I don’t forget about wardrobe “gaps” that need to be addressed.

Here’s a peek at my current shopping dream list:

Green bag

I had a green Kate Spade bag, but gave it to my mom last year; I wasn’t crazy about the shape, and didn’t seem to get a lot of wear out of it as a result. Since then, I have become somewhat obsessed with green (as an accessory colour, in particular), and miss having a bag in that colour. I don’t have a specific type/brand in mind, which makes my search more difficult; this is one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” situations. Lately, I have been thinking about “borrowing” back the Kate Spade from my mom, who never seems to use it, at least as a short-term solution.

Plaid pleated skirt

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Plaid skirt

This is on the list because I love all things preppy, and this is about as old-school (literally) as it gets. I even have a vintage YSL Rive Gauche skirt picked out on Etsy, though I am holding off on buying it (or anything else in this category) until I am able to figure out what my post-baby figure will look like.

Crewneck sweaters (in yellow, green, cream, purple)

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J. Crew Tippi sweater

I love crew-neck sweaters for layering over collared shirts and blouses. Good quality, flattering crew-neck sweaters (ideally in lightweight knits) have been surprising hard to find for me, at least at a price I am willing to pay. I did pick up a black version I love at the J. Crew Factory store during a big clearance sale, but they didn’t have other colours I wanted (based on my wardrobe needs). I’m basically hoping to find more of the same, either second-hand or on huge clearance.

Crewneck cardigans (cream, navy, leopard print)

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J. Crew cashmere cardigan

Same dealio as with the sweaters – wardrobe staples that are hard to find. You might think that after my recent cardigan-buying extravaganza, I have enough – but not so. I wear cardigans at work in preference over jackets or blazers, and they come in awfully handy all year round (but especially winter). So, basically, I can never have enough. As far as crew-neck versions go, I have exhaustive specifications for what I need, which would be too boring to detail here, but they basically add up to the cardigan equivalent of a unicorn.

Cartier Love bracelet

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Cartier Love bracelet

You can probably guess which category this falls under. I have loved this bracelet (from afar, naturally) for a long time, and even the fact that all the Kardashian-level celebs out there seem to wear it has not diminished its attraction. If it’s still on my list when I turn 40, it may be something I actually consider getting.

Ferragamo Vara/Lillaz flats (nude/beige, cognac, oxblood)

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Ferragamo Vara flats

Yes, I have 3 pairs of the same shoes on my shopping dream list (and already own 2 other pairs). Yes, this is entirely necessary. At this point, I would be completely happy if I wore no other flats but Ferragamos, ever again. In fact, I might adopt that as an actual wardrobe objective. If I stalk eBay/Etsy patiently enough, I expect that it could be an objective that wouldn’t cost an obscene amount of money to accomplish.

Vintage needlepoint embroidered bag

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Dolce & Gabbana Miss Sicily bag

I am a little bit obsessed with all things that look like grandma’s old couch, so it should be no surprise that I adore the Dolce & Gabbana Miss Sicily embroidered handbags that were released a few years ago. With that said, even my obsession does not blind me to the fact that these bags don’t exactly scream “everyday use”, and cost $2K+. So, instead, I’m looking to go with the original inspiration: a vintage, old-lady, embroidered bag.

Valentino Rockstud pumps

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Valentino Rockstud pumps
I know … another style blogger cliche. These shoes are ubiquitous if you’re a regular blog reader, but I don’t care – they are bee’s knees in my book. Considering they retail for around $900, you can be sure that they will never be one of my casual purchases. In fact, I’m pretty certain that – possible lottery jackpot win aside – I will never consider $900 shoes to be a reasonable purchase. I have these on my dream list in the hope that I will one day find them second-hand at a deep (deep) discount.
Vintage Schiaparelli earrings/necklace set
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Vintage Schiaparelli clip-on earrings
As I’ve mentioned before, I love watermelon rhinestones. Some of the most stunning examples I’ve seen are Schiaparelli pieces, which have the added bonus of representing a little piece of fashion history. I just haven’t convinced myself yet that spending $100+ on some costume earrings is a good idea.
J. Crew Edie bag in red (or similar style)
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J. Crew Edie bag
I have the Edie in light blue, and love the structured shape. I haven’t had a red bag in a while, and kind of miss having one. Since the Edie represents one of my favourite bag styles, I think it would be a great addition in red. For some reason, red Edie bags sell for ridiculous amounts on eBay, and are not currently available in stores, so I will have to bide my time. Alternately, I may go with a similar style in another brand – time will tell.

And there you have it – my current shopping dream list. Have you ever thought about putting one together and, if so, what would be on it? The comments are open again, so share away!