Category: Life

Clothing Swap: The Big Ten

ten years!!
ten years!!

It seems impossible somehow, but this year marked the 10th (TENTH!) anniversary of my annual clothing swap. I started hosting these parties when they were barely a blip on the ethical fashion radar — indeed, when ethical fashion itself wasn’t yet a “thing”. I can’t recall now how I heard about the idea of clothing swaps, but I was immediately drawn to it. Free clothes? A fun afternoon/evening with friends? Yes, please. At the party this year, I joked that my clothing swap is one of my longest running relationships; I started dating my husband a year after the first swap. All joking aside, the swaps have been a lovely way to, most of all, stay connected with friends I don’t get the chance to see often, and make new friends along the way. I was really excited this year when 3 new peeps were able to join the “swap sorority”, including Nicole. You can read her post on the swap here.

red, white and black
red, white and black

Every year, I choose a “theme” for the party. I am usually inspired by whatever decorations I have lying around the house, but this year my theme came to me in a different way. A while back, I noticed that one of the booths at the antique mall used playing cards to display vintage earrings and brooches, and I thought the idea was super neat. I decided to use it as a springboard for my party decorations, which then evolved into a red, black & white theme. As it turns out, I never did end up using the playing cards to display the available jewelry because I only had bracelets and necklace to swap. Oh well. The fruit-and-marshmallow kebabs, “garnished” with Oreos, looked lovely next to the red roses in their milk glass vases.

milk glass & roses
milk glass & roses

I am especially proud of this arrangement, which utilized an old piece of that green spongy stuff that real florists use in their arrangements — salvaged from a bouquet I received last year. Yep, I collect all kinds of trash — some of which even comes in handy. (By the way, if anyone knows what that stuff is called and where I can buy more of it, I would be forever grateful.) I thought it was a neat way to use one of the newest additions to my milk glass collection. I love roses, but I hate displaying them in their long-stemmed state, so I’m always looking for clever ways to showcase them.

the other grub
the other grub

I tried to continue the theme with the food — hence the bocconcini and tomato skewers — but I quickly gave up. Cheese and meats (or, if you want to be fancy, charcuterie) is where it’s at, theme or no theme. I can’t make them look artistic and Instagram-worthy, but believe me when I say that they were delicious. Mmm, prosciutto.

Moving on … oh, look who made me take a selfie. Only for you, friend. Only for you.

well, hello
well, hello

Being the dedicated blogger that I am, I forgot to take photos of the pile of clothes I contributed to the swap. Let’s just say that there were 3 enormous bags … and a half dozen pairs of shoes … and a couple of bags … and some jewelry. Oh, and nail polish too. Combined with the goodies that the other lovely ladies brought, we assembled a veritable Mount Everest in my living room. And that was just the rejects! (Everything that was left over after everyone had their picks was donated.) I did manage to take snaps of the things I ended up choosing and keeping.

Clockwise from top left: Anthropologie, Ted Baker, Anthropologie, Daniel Rainn
Clockwise from top left: Anthropologie, Ted Baker, Anthropologie, Daniel Rainn

The white popover and sweatshirt jacket are both Anthro brand, and both destined for my casual/loungewear capsule. The black Ted Baker jacket and Daniel Rainn vest are going to mix up my casual summer wardrobe.

left: Milla; right: Lululemon
left: Milla; right: Lululemon

The long vest on the left was a more experimental selection; we’ll see how it works as a casual summer topper. The Lululemons will be house pants. I foresee many hours of happy Netflix-ing in our future.

Left, Anthropologie; right, Coach
Left, Anthropologie; right, Coach

My two favourite pieces are probably this Anthro-brand skirt (from Nicole!) and this Coach tote. The skirt’s green colour is not in my wardrobe palette, but the silhouette is right up my alley — it’s a gorgeous midi pencil style. Styling it might prove to be a challenge, but I’m definitely up for it. The Coach bag has been in heavy use already. I’m not a fan of the monogram print and wish it was a solid colour, but the overall colour scheme is nice and versatile. The size and organization of the bag, on the other hand, is perfect for a work tote. I LOVE that it has not one, but two outside pockets (for easy access), as well as a zippered main compartment, and two sets of handles. The only issue I’ve discovered is that the handles start hurting a bit if you weigh the bag down with stuff, and carry it on your shoulder for a while. It’s not a huge issue for me, because my commute is not that long. I might just start looking for this style on eBay, in a different finish/colour.

I forgot to take pictures, but I also took home a lovely Linea Pelle bag, some nail polish (I’m fresh out, you guys!), and a couple of pieces for my mom — including some Manolo Blahnik shoes! A special thanks, and shout-out, to my friend L, who donated those. (My mom loves them.)

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the clothing swap was a “jackpot” for all of us who attended. Here’s to another 10 fun years!

State of the Wardrobe: Spring 2017

Over the past couple of months, several readers have asked me to write about the most recent phase of my style evolution, and so I have been thinking about how to best approach that hypothetical post – this post – for a while. Though I love to wax analytical about style (it’s my modus operandi in all things, after all), I am all too conscious that such musings can very easily degenerate into a big ole pile of TL;DR. My Fashion Blogger Struggle® is finding the right balance of writing and photographs, and I often end up feeling less than successful. Because of that, my first instinct was to let the evidence speak for itself. I think the direction of my style – which is not entirely new, but not precisely “same old, same old” – is becoming more and more evident with each monthly recap. And, to be honest, it’s not something I have been over-thinking to the degree that is my usual practice. Which is to say, while I have a rough idea of where (I think) I’m going, I don’t have a concrete road map to talk about. Mostly, I’m just following my gut – whether that be when buying new clothes, letting go of old ones, and putting together outfits.

With that said, as I was going through this process, I came across the whole personal colour analysis/style archetype phenomenon, which did help to crystallize some of my more vague gut feelings. I’ve talked about my updated wardrobe colour palette before. I think my palette ended up being very close to what is recommended for Soft Summer. I may or may not be a Soft Summer; I’m still debating investing the money to get an actual consultation with a qualified colour analyst. But, for now, I am using that as a rough guide when considering new purchases.

soft summer palette
soft summer palette

The biggest issue with this is that black is supposed to be a “no go” colour; meanwhile, black is one of my core “anchoring” neutrals. I have no desire to run out and replace all my black clothing with charcoal or navy equivalents, so instead I am being more mindful about how I use black in my outfits. (I still love wearing it head to toe from time to time.)

I am also not running out and buying all the colours from the Soft Summer palette. Instead, I’m focusing on my preferred subset of colours. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is the importance of an least somewhat cohesive colour palette. If the colours in your wardrobe are harmonious, it is much easier to weather any style evolution because you can mix old pieces in new ways.

Moving on, I have also self-diagnosed as a Dramatic Classic style (based on my facial features in particular, as recommended by this article), and have started using the tools available online – like Pinterest boards – to guide my style choices. I will say that the DC archetype alone is a bit simplistic, and does not fully capture my personal preferences. I prefer the triad system used by the Truth Is Beauty blog; in particular, I have been leaning towards the Dramatic-Classic-Ingenue and the Ethereal-Dramatic-Classic aesthetics.

Looking at things from this perspective/framework, I realized that my style hasn’t so much changed as evolved in terms of its emphasis on various sub-components. For example, my love of Anthro very much skewed to the Ingenue side of things; as I get older, it is perhaps not unnatural that I should feel more drawn to another existing component (e.g. Classic) or switch to a new one (e.g. Ethereal). Ultimately, this process has become more about fine-tuning than over-hauling, although there has certainly been some turnover in my closet as a result — mostly from things being purged, as opposed to added.

As far as my closet goes, I am largely happy with it — especially as it has become more stabilized over the last few months. I will never not love experimenting with different looks, but I am becoming more and more appreciative of cohesiveness. I do enjoy clothes as a hobby, but the more experimenting I do, the more time-consuming it becomes. Narrowing the scope of that experimenting has freed up time for other hobbies, like reading (and soon, perhaps, writing once more). Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a question of one hobby being better or worse than the other; just different. Right now, I am excited about different things.

With that said, I am embracing a kind of “French wardrobe” approach to my closet. I’m treating 70-80% of it as a “core” — stable, with low turnover anticipated. The balance represents my “statement” pieces, and this is where I expect to focus my experimenting going forward. Even in that respect, I am quite happy with my current pieces; the main exception is the dress category (and, specifically, my work dresses), where I feel like I need to shake things up a bit. To help me with the process, I’ve divided the current work dresses listed in my Stylebook app into two categories: core and statement. Here is a not-great snapshot of the 8 pieces in the latter category:

stylebook app snapshot
stylebook app snapshot

None of these are super old, but there are at least 2 or 3 that don’t spark joy as much as they used to (or don’t quite fit my evolving style as before). I plan to continue wearing them for the time being, but I will be keeping an eye out when I thrift for possible upgrades or replacements.

If my ramblings haven’t put you to sleep yet, I would love to hear what’s new in your sartorial lives. With spring and summer just around the corner (mother nature willing), what are your plans for your closet? Share everything in the comments.

What I Read: All the Mysteries

Well, not all of them, not yet anyway. Thanks to Sherry, I recently discovered the Phryne Fisher series, and quickly read my way through the first 3 books. I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about the protagonist, although I appreciate that she’s not your typical 1920s detective. (Weirdly enough, Phryne’s spending habits stress me out. I am perpetually worried that her seemingly endless supply of funds will run out. As I said, weird.) I unreservedly love the author’s attention to detail (especially for clothes, swoon) and ability to recreate the atmosphere of the era and location (Melbourne, Australia). I’m a bit miffed that the books are rather pricey; I like buying my favourite mystery novels, as I tend to re-read them periodically, but the series is some 20 plus novels strong and counting, and at $15+ a pop I don’t fancy my odds of collecting the whole lot. I haven’t been to the public library in years — it may be time for a visit.

On a related note, if you love the fashion described in the books as much as I do, I suggest checking out this Reddit sub for some Phryne #styleinspo.

For Christmas, one of the gifts I bought my husband was a copy of the Atlas Obscura, which struck me as the sort of thing he would enjoy; he is forever looking up obscure factoids on Wikipedia, and emerging from some unlikely rabbit hole hours later, way past his bedtime (ahem). To be honest, though, it also looked like the kind of book I would enjoy reading as well, and indeed I have been dipping in and out of it over the last few weeks. It’s similar to an encyclopedia, except with more photos. Would definitely recommend for the adventurer-at-heart in your life.

Branching out a bit from the usual here, but I would be remiss if I did not tell you to watch the new Victoria series on PBS (Sunday nights). I have been waiting for this show to come to our side of the Pond for months, and so far it has not disappointed. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, you may be disappointed; but if you love watching gorgeous people wearing gorgeous clothes on gorgeous sets, then you will be hooked. The cast is led by Jenna Coleman, whom you may recognize from Doctor Who (which I have not watched since Rose and the Tenth Doctor parted ways) and who is fantastic as teenage “Vicky”, and Rufus Sewell, who is always fantastic and whom you may recognize from my occasional drooling posts. Sewell plays Lord Melbourne, who was a sort of (much older) father figure to the young queen at the beginning of her reign, prior to her marriage to the “dreamboat” Albert. By rights, this should make the Vicbourne “ship” a tough sail except that I am *totally* on-board, no questions asked — and that is even after Lord M rocked some truly unfortunate looking high-waisted trousers in the premiere episode. Albert who? I have an enormous soft spot for RS as Aurelio Zen — another, too short-lived “must watch” series — but Lord M might be one of my favourite roles of his to date. His chemistry with Jenna Coleman is strong enough to make me sit through the palace servants’ Downton Abbey knockoff storyline without too much grumbling.

[Fun historical fact: Lord M was married to Caroline Lamb, who had an infamous fling with Lord Byron. The spouses apparently reconciled after the scandal, only to separate again later. He never remarried. He also didn’t look as dashing as Rufus Sewell but then again, nobody does. The man would have chemistry with a phone book, and I volunteer to play the part of said phonebook in any future screen adaptation.]

On to some interesting articles … this Refinery29 post took a look at the (typically negative) way in which women with fertility issues are portrayed in pop culture — The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, anyone? Personally, I think it’s just a part and parcel of the problematic way that women in general are depicted — female characters are frequently either negative stereotypes, Mary Sue improbabilities, or completely lacking in agency. And I say that as a white woman, who at least gets to see characters who look like her, no matter how unsatisfactory their personalities and actions. Invisibility in the media is still, in 2017, a thing that women of colour have to deal with, sadly. On that note, I am really excited to go see Hidden Figures.

On a style-related noted, The Fashion Law recently featured a good article on counterfeit couture. Knock-off designer bags are a well-known issue in the industry and among consumers, but few people realize how pervasive counterfeiting is; everything can and is being knocked-off, from clothes, to all kinds of accessories, to perfume and make-up — and with the off-shoring of so much luxury manufacturing, the counterfeits are becoming harder and harder to distinguish from the real deal. One thing that the article did not touch upon was the dark side of the counterfeit business; I know that, in the past at least, the trade in knock-off bags was linked to gang activity, which added a whole other level of ethical/moral issues to the discussion. I’m not sure if the same is true nowadays, and particularly in respect of high end counterfeits, and I’d be interested to read more on that topic.