Month: January 2015

What I Wore: December Work Capsule

Oh, December. You deceptively festive month.

work wardrobe capsule; monthly capsule; office style capsule
one, two three
work wardrobe capsule; monthly capsule; office style capsule
four, five, six
work wardrobe capsule; work capsule; office wear capsule
seven, eight, nine
work wardrobe capsule; work capsule; capsule wardrobe
ten, eleven, twelve
work wardrobe capsule; work capsule; capsule wardrobe; capsule dressing
thirteen, fourteen, fifteen
work wardrobe capsule; office wardrobe capsule; capsule dressing
sixteen, seventeen

There are some really unfortunate hair situations happening up there. I had my semi-annual re-perm at the beginning of the month, and that always results in a few Bad Hair Days until the curl settles. I also worked an insane amount of hours in the first couple of weeks of December, and everything of a personal nature kind of fell by the wayside. Which is by way of saying that … if December posts have been a little sparse, now you know why. I don’t mind sharing all of my outfits here, for the sake of realism or whatever, but I really don’t wish to dwell on many most of them in long post format.

So, I didn’t have many favourites this month. My new Ralph Lauren dress (#8 and 16) was comfortable. And I liked outfits #7 and #12. That’s about it. Let’s bring on January!

Style Confessions, vol. 6

Quality Matters More When You’re Not a Size 2

This is a self-evident truth if you happen to not be a size 2 (or 4, or 6), but it’s been a while since I’ve been in that boat, and I had forgotten.

Now, before a bunch of you guys jump on me, I know that quality and fit are difficult to find (and precious) for everyone who shops off-the-rack. Pant legs and hemlines are either too long, or not long enough. Sizes are wonky. Everything is cheaply made in third world countries. This is true, and it is a pain, whether you’re a size XXS or XXL.

It just matters more if you’re on the larger end of the spectrum.

When it comes to fashion, skinny is still the ideal. Skinny can wear anything and everything; even on the worst day, it might look ridiculous or sloppy, but skinny will still look skinny – even if wearing the proverbial potato sack. You can conceal a lot of design and manufacturing flaws if you’re putting the clothes on someone who is a size 2. I know because I used to be a size 2 … and I rarely didn’t buy something because it looked terrible on me. It might have looked goofy, or even too big – but, hey, that’s sometimes a trend in itself.

I’m not a size 2 anymore. A few weeks ago,  I went to the J. Crew Factory store (because they had a big sale, and I haven’t gone in ages, and don’t judge me, ok?), and tried on some skirts. In fact, the skirts I tried were skirts I used to own a couple of years (and sizes) ago – and loved. They used to look quite nice, considering the price point. I sized up to my current size, and … I hated the fit. The skirt rode up and wrinkled on me while I was standing in the changing room. I tried one size bigger, and then the size after that too. And those looked bad too, for other reasons. More importantly, I looked bad, wearing the skirt. I didn’t just look like I was wearing a poorly made garment; I looked to be in worse shape than I am. And I guess that’s where my body acceptance runs out, because I’d really rather not. (Which is a discussion for another day.)

So, if you care about conventional style rules – which are all about not looking bigger than you are, but ideally skinnier if possible – then quality is not just a “nice to have”; it’s a “must have”. The right fit, the right fabric, the right proportions: they make all the difference between a potato sack and a cute pencil skirt.

I Don’t Photoshop For the Blog

But maybe I should; all the cool kids are doing it.

Fran wrote an awesome post about the reasons why more and more fashion bloggers are succumbing to drastic Photoshopping. Skinny sells, yes? There are very few fashion bloggers who don’t blog for money (or aspire to). This is understandable, because who doesn’t want a hobby that pays for itself? The downside is that, sooner or later, everyone encounters ethical dilemmas, whether it’s shilling a sponsored product the blogger wouldn’t buy with her own money, or posting heavily edited photos to attract followers and sponsors. Of course, for some people, these are not really dilemmas at all and, for the most part, they are rewarded for their, ahem, pragmatism. Some of us may chuckle at parody Instagram accounts like We Photoshopped What, but the majority of the fashion blog-reading public is unaware of the behind-the-scenes manipulation … and left in admiring awe. So, Photochop is the new normal.

I’m too lazy, and not sufficiently invested in this whole blogging game, to bother with it. For the most part. Because here’s the thing: I’m still as vain as the next peacocking blogger. As much as I want to be honest with you guys, I have no desire to (intentionally) put unflattering photos of myself on the internet. Who would? Nobody, that’s who, and if someone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. So I’ll edit away blemishes, and slap on eleventy million Insta filters, because it only feels a little bit wrong. I try to be upfront about that as much as possible, because it’s important that you know that no one wakes up with perfect, pore-less looking skin, especially anyone over the age of 12. (And no cream, or powder, or foundation is ever gonna beat the magic of Instagram filters. Trust.)

There are also pictures that you will never get to see on the blog. For example, can you guess which one of these two made the cut?

instagram photoshopping
you don’t need 3 guesses on this one

This begs the question: is what I’m doing any different than what the Photoshop queens are doing? Lying by omission is not the same as being honest. But is it closer to it than this?

instagram photoshop
lazy man’s version of the skinnifying app

I don’t know. We could probably have an interesting debate about it. But I’ll leave you with this pearl of wisdom: never, ever assume that what you see on a blog is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

OOTD & a Book Review

Purple plaid pleated skirt
Skirt, consignment; sweater, J. Crew Factory; scarf, Winners; shoes, Cole Haan

Hey, look: I wore some clothes to work. The day before Christmas break, this counted as making an effort.

Purple plaid pleated skirt
I tried

Ok, reading break time.

One of the things I managed to do over the Christmas break that did not involve eating my weight in carbs was finish The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones. Ostensibly, this is a George R.R. Martin book, but don’t be fooled by his name (writ large) on the cover: the co-authors are actually responsible for the majority of the book, and its contents are basically a re-hash of information you can get on any ASOIAF wiki.

There are no spoilers, no previously unknown tidbits. The World of Ice & Fire skims over those parts of the story that have given rise to “conspiracy theories” – basically, all the interesting stuff that GoT fans want to talk about – with less detail given than in the GoT books themselves. This is presumably a deliberate choice on the authors’ part, to avoid “spoiling” future GoT books; understandably so, Martin is saving all the revelations for himself. All of this is made possible by the format of The World of Ice & Fire, which is framed as a history text authored by a maester writing in the time of Robert Baratheon’s reign (i.e. the beginning of the GoT books timeline). The maester is, essentially, an unreliable narrator.

To take one example: he writes of the death of Elia Martell and her children as though the killer (and his puppet master) was not known, even though readers of the GoT books will know better. Now, this omission can be explained by either “in world” political exigency (Tywin Lannister is still a powerful lord in Westeros at the time the book is written) or practical considerations (the maester is not omniscient, and is not privy to knowledge that other GoT characters have or subsequently acquire). This narrative device is useful to the authors of The World of Ice & Fire in avoiding having to address the unresolved questions arising from GoT, but it can be frustrating for devoted readers of the canon. Especially given that, as I understand it, Martin gave his commitment to this book as one of the reasons why he hasn’t gotten around to writing the next book(s) in the GoT series.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I can understand why some disgruntled fans have called this book a “cash grab”. After I finished it, I definitely felt a sense of … being cheated a little bit. With that said, I would still recommend it, and here’s why.

One, the artwork is gorgeous. The drawings of the various characters is a bit too stereotypical for my taste (all the women look like they’d belong on a romance novel cover), but the maps and depictions of the various castles are excellent. If you’re into that sort of thing, this could be a nice coffee table book.

Two, as a history nut, I enjoyed reading The World of Ice & Fire a lot. That caveat is important. My expectations when reading a work of historical non-fiction are different than when reading (quasi)historical fiction. History books tend to get bogged down, more or less frequently, in details one may or may not care about – something you get used to if you read enough of them. The World of Ice & Fire reads like a very zippy history book – lots of remind-me-why-I-care details, but they fly by pretty quickly – which is perfectly fine by me. Someone expecting book 6 in the GoT series will be disappointed, because the prose is sub-par from that perspective.

Three, and related to the above, The World of Ice & Fire provided a handy backgrounder on some of the exposition I (ahem) skipped in the GoT books. When I’m reading fiction, I tend to skip over “filler” paragraphs, especially if they’re lengthy and there is a good plot twist coming up. (Note: there is always a good plot twist coming up in GoT.) Reading the GoT books, there were many “historical” characters I never bothered to keep straight (all the Targaryens, for example) because they didn’t seem to be of immediate importance. The World of Ice & Fire covers all of these and more, fully fleshing out the background to the GoT books for lazy selective readers like me.

So, actually, my only big complaint about The World of Ice & Fire is the restricted narrative structure. Rather than an “in world” history book, I wish this had been written as a straight up encyclopedia (or companion guide), with annotations on all of the unresolved questions arising from the GoT books. It would have better helped me to remember all the important bits, and provided a nice bridge into next season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and, hopefully, the next book. As written, The World of Ice & Fire only goes so far. Nonetheless, for a GoT fan, it’s still a fun, curl-up-on-the-couch-and-pray-the-kids-don’t-find-you kind of book.

It needs more of this though:

thanks, HBO!
thanks, HBO!