Happy Holidays!


My work has risen to mountainous new heights and I shall be spending Christmas weekend pounding away at the keyboard trying to get stuff for my paper out (it's about bloody time to graduate, goddammit!). But I just wanted to wish everyone a good holiday season and thank you for being such good readers over the last year, particularly putting up with my bellyaching over the state of affairs and my rambling, tortuous posts. I hope your Christmas is filled with lots of love, ham, chocolates and all things nice.

Gearing up for the winter blues



1. From top to bottom: A.P.C. pinafore dress, A.P.C. Liquette dress, Y.M.C. Peter Pan shirt, A.P.C. Oxford shirt, OLO Nationale 6/7; 2. A.P.C. Suede Ankle Boots; 3. Primoeza cabin sweater from Anaise

The missing-in-action routine is becoming a norm for me. My deepest apologies for disappearing for weeks on end, I've been uninspired of late to blog and also recently succumbed to some idiotic injury involving klutziness, the stairs, the emergency room and three stitches across the brow. I'm fine now, if you're wondering, albeit with an ugly red scar, a bruised ego and a hospital bill that stretches into the hundreds.

Anyway, now that the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I find myself constantly schlepping around in dorky clothing - an oversized parka, sweaters, thick socks, a really ugly hat and gloves. My tendency to feel blue during the winter means that I've been consoling myself with mindless and sometimes dumb purchases. I've been indulging in the awesome sales that began over Thanksgiving. On Net-A-Porter, I procured several A.P.C. pieces including the ubiquitous oxford shirt, a shirtdress and a corduroy pinafore. I'm not usually one for girly outfits, but there's just something about a button down, a pull-on dress and wooly tights that makes me all fuzzy inside. As proof of how I'm starting to embrace a wee bit of my feminine side, I picked up a bottle of OLO Fragrance's Nationale 6/7 at the Open-for-Business pop-up in Portland. I'm not really a fan of perfumes, but the gentle whiff of sandalwood, jasmine and lemon coming from a dab of Nationale 6/7 behind the ears is calming and sensual all at once. I think a combination of the fragrance, good oolong tea and a full spectrum light is helping me get through the cold.

In a sudden onset of madness, I plonked down quite a few dollars (and by that I mean quite a lot) for a pair of Isabel Marant Dixies. I've worn them approximately 3 times, and they seem to stretch out every time I put them on. The heels are also not as comfortable as I envision them and I've been hopping around for weeks like a crazy person, debating if I should sell them or just put in a pair of insoles. For some reason, I find that the length of the shaft hits me (edit: I didn't realize how obscene this sounds) at a very odd height such that it makes my legs look like dead tree trunks. As you can imagine, I've been both upset and annoyed at this wasteful predicament. In fact, I've been so upset and annoyed that I went right out and bought the seasonless A.P.C. suede ankle boots. Don't ask me why - I just felt like I had to buy them and boy am I glad I did! It's probably the most comfortable ankle boots I've ever worn, barring my Hope Chys. Why no one makes a bigger deal about these shoes is beyond me. It has the right shaft height and a wonderfully sturdy construction with just enough heel height and width to walk around in all day. Once again, I find myself caught up in the Isabel  Marant hype and being disappointed.

I realize that I may sound like a hypocrite after this last post about shopping more locally and ethically and having left a comment on Lin's blog about A.P.C. My closet is now almost half-filled with A.P.C. pieces - they seem make the best basics with just the right amount of classiness that I can't seem to find elsewhere. While I am trying to slowly veer most of my purchases towards small-batch, handmade goods such as the alpaca sweaters crafted by the superb Elizabeth of Primoeza, it's proving to be a slow and difficult process. As the year comes to close though, and I look back on my purchases and shopping habits, I think that I've always known that sustainable fashion isn't only about the brands you buy, it's about shopping only as you need with a strong focus on garment longevity and wearability.

How are you gearing up for winter (or the end of the year) and do you have any New Year resolutions for your style philosophy?

Twenty-nine






Flowers & books c/o husband; birthday breakfast: buckwheat, millet & quinoa  porridge with cranberries & coconut; Rhonda Zeilenga yunomi c/o of husband; new shoes c/o mum; birthday walk with  Chief Rascal in Residence

I am grateful for everything. 

The simplicity of imperfection


My apologies once again for going almost a month without a post or update. I've been getting back into cooking more, with concentration on trying to lose the few pounds I've steadily gained over the last two years. I guess my insecurity about looking like a ballooning glutton explains why I haven't really been posting outfit pictures. I'm finding that cooking (like any hobby other than online browsing) is distracting me from my sartorial pursuits. In fact, other than trying on and returning a few items to replace my work bag, I've been steering clear of the usual suspects i.e. La Garconne and her ilk.

I've also started falling back into reading - something which I have consistently put off ever since I bought a lighter, more portable laptop. Other than the aforementioned 'To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?' by Lucy Siegle, I've been reading some books on wabi-sabi and Epicureanism in hopes of finding more of what I want from and in life. The whole nihilistic part of me is constantly threatening to spiral out of control and I needed something to balance it out - to find some hope or meaning even when everything I read or work on is telling me otherwise.

The funny thing about the wabi sabi philosophy and Epicureanism and is that they espouse essentially the same thing: life is fleeting and that in order to achieve some sort of inner peace, austerity, simplicity and kindness are a must. Regardless of whether you're an atheist or not, I think the take home message of these intriguing doctrines is that in order to live fully, you just have to enjoy the simple imperfection that is the everyday life. Avoid clutter, avoid the overconsumption and avoid overindulgence.

I know a lot of what I've written above may come across as some hoity-toity, intellectual gibberish, but a lot of the ills of the world could be cured if we pared down our consumption and choose wisely the things we buy. Climate change, decimation of species, exploitation of women and children, and the destruction of nature can be traced back to human consumption and greed. In Lucy Siegle's book, she writes about the evils of things as ubiquitous as sandblasted jeans, leather, and wool. Even while I pare down on other aspects of my life, those are the things that I could never give up. Instead, I am trying now to sift through brands that offer me some sort of comfort when it comes to the ethical treatment of the environment, of animals, and of humans.

I am going to try, as an experiment for  the next year, to only buy items that can be traced to its source (man, do I sound like the stereotypical elitist hippie from Portlandia). I'm going to try to buy as locally as possible - from the food I consume to the dishes I use to the clothes I wear. And if they aren't local or from the USA, it should be at least be from a company that I know has high ethical responsibility and manufacturing standards. I'm sure it would prove to be a very difficult and expensive challenge, but perhaps this will actually encourage me to consume less, to appreciate things when I actually do buy them and to marvel at the mere effort of finding something that will become a heirloom.

I don't really know what this blog will become without having something to show on every post, be it a new purchase or something fancy or something that encourages consumerism. Even the notion of a "wishlist" is starting to irk me. I feel that it it is my personal duty and responsibility, as someone who studies climate and environmental science but loves fashion and all things materialistic, to encourage others to consume more mindfully in hopes that I may still leave a sliver of the beauty of the world to the generation after me. It is a responsibility that we as humans ultimately have towards the earth.

Some really good recommendations for weekend reading are:
1. To Die For - Lucy Siegle
2. Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers - Leonard Koren
3. The Essential Epicurus - Epicurus (translated by Eugene O' Connor)

And if you have too much time on your hands:
4. De Rarum Natura (On The Nature of Things) - Lucretius


P/S: I want to thank the people who have linked to and recommended this blog on numerous occasions. Thank you for being such kind and patient readers even when I go off on obtuse and roundabout angles constantly.

Outfitting for Fall

Barbour Beadnell Jacket; APC Grey de Chine Wool Sweater; J.Crew Elan Trousers; Steve Mono Bob Postman Bag; Bvlgari Solotempo; Sophia Costas Llama Scarf; Fratelli Rosseti Loafers 

I finally got around to reading Lucy Siegle's "To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?". It's well...  depressing, as you can already tell from the title. However, since I've been a real  buzzkill over the last couple of posts, I've decided to spare the self-righteous pessimism about the state of affairs and take a completely obtuse angle instead; I'm going to focus on telling/showing/explaining to you what I've been wearing lately now that fall is finally here (it never really left Seattle, it just lingered on the periphery of the sun).

I bought the Barbour Beadnell about a month ago when my Bridge and Burn jacket fell apart. While I want to support local companies (B& B is based in Portland) and understand that not everything 'Made in China' disintegrates instantaneously, the jacket developed a hole in the pocket and the sleeve button fell off 18 months after I bought it. 18 months and I've worn it only maybe half of the time! I did patch up the hole and resew the button because it's obviously an easy thing, but it made me wonder sometimes if the whole idealized notion of "dealing locally" is just a sham to prey on people with an ethical conscience. The Barbour jacket on the other hand, has surpassed my expectations. I wasn't really expecting much, considering that it is a somewhat recently trendy item, and the production capacity is probably on overload. But surprisingly, the stitches and material are extremely sturdy and the jacket is still proudly made in England. The husband thinks that I look a little country butch (???!) in it, but it keeps me dry and warm and snugly, with the soft tartan lining being my favorite aspect of the jacket.

The other thing that I've been living in are pants from J.Crew. It's interesting that you can still find some quality goods at J.Crew, particularly in the suiting section. I'm in love with their Super 120s material - it's cool enough for spring and comfortable in fall and winter with some thick socks. The material drapes beautifully and the cut is flattering. I've been trying to emulate the slouchy Scandinavian look alá Hope but their pants always made my arse look like a flattened doughnut. While I may never be blonde and/or tall, I can at least wear some well tailored slouchy pants now and not feel like a fraud.

With the exception of rotating sweaters and shirts, the moodboard above is basically what's been getting I've been wearing to school and work on most days (on the other days I embrace being a Pacific Northwest girl and put on a fleece jacket and sweatpants... kidding!). I feel like I'm in a rut sometimes because I'm always reaching for the same things, the Brooks Brothers shirt or the same sweater, but I do really like my routine because it's easy and most of all, it's really comfortable.

On the last note, if you haven't already read Lucy Siegle's book, I strongly encourage you to pick it up and give it a go. I'll admit that the book is rambling and repetitive at times, but it makes for an interesting read if you're looking to become an ethical consumer. She does talk a lot about fast fashion stores like Primark, Topshop and H&M which I'll very snobbishly say I've not shopped at for over 15 years, but then again, maybe my equivalent of fast fashion are those cotton knickers from Victoria's Secret and the insane amount of gym clothes I have from Target. Either way, the book was an eye opener and I'll be posting more about it in the next few weeks.

A question of finances

(via jak&jil)

In case you didn't already know, there is a fiasco involving an Anthropologie clothing specific blogger who apparently ran a 'personal shopping scam'. It is a really sad story, both for the blogger in question and the victims, and while I don't really know all the details (and I want to steer clear of any speculation), the whole thing has made me reassess my priorities and abilities as a blogger, a style enthusiast, and at the very core of it, a gullible consumer with limited monetary resources.

The sobering thing about the alleged scam is that it makes one question the motive of the blogger. One of the theories is that she was scamming in order to feed her shopping habit and that she was running into tremendous debt. Anthropologie is hardly the cheapest store to shop at (even though it is a tremendously crappy store), and this blogger who apparently works as an office administrator, had different outfit posts almost weekly. I've come to realize that a lot of style bloggers (especially the popular ones) must feel really pressured to constantly be on display. Let's face it, the reason most people go on style blogs anyway is for living vicariously through someone else.

A few weeks ago, someone left a comment asking me how I could afford to purchase expensive items with a grad school salary. I want to first point out that I have a pretty small wardrobe - I have enough clothes just to rotate through two weeks without washing. You know the whole 30 pieces for 30 outfits thing that is supposedly a minimalist approach to dressing? I would kill that challenge. If you took away lingerie, undershirts, socks, pajamas and gym clothes, thirty clothing items are all I have, bags and jackets included. I'd like to think that my minimalist approach to dressing is all it takes to afford nice, expensive items. Unfortunately, that isn't really the case.

The truth is that I'm blessed to have a spouse who earns a decent amount and I've always had a pretty strong financial support system ala mom. I'm a perpetual spoilt brat whose vapid indulgences annoy the heck out of even myself sometimes. We're not by any means rich, but I'd like to think we're pretty comfortable and fortunate. I went to college and grad school on scholarship (hence no school loans) and don't carry any credit card debts. Basically, my only real expenses are groceries, household items and dog care; the rest of my income goes into savings and the occasional splurge. The husband is thankfully, very frugal - he has two pairs of shoes, wears free t-shirts and spends most of his leisure time at used bookstores or gaming. He has absolutely zero interest in sartorial indulgences and thinks my blog a wee bit silly. We have a small car and live in a small rented house, sans kids and sans any kind of grandiose home improvement bit.  And thankfully, we're both antisocial creatures who enjoy each others' company enough that our favorite source of entertainment is either watching movies and drinking at home, or having a pint at the local taphouse and talking about politics (note that drinking is a common theme).

I try to save as much as I can on things that don't really matter to me, like skincare and hair care and makeup. I make my own oil cleanser at home and use the bare minimum of natural skin products (witch hazel, argan oil, moisturizer, eye cream and sun block). I get a haircut about once every three months in Chinatown for $17 including tips. I guess I'm pretty lucky to have mostly problem free skin (apart from a severe case of eczema in the winter) and my hair always looks the same no matter where I get it cut. I have one set of Laura Mercier eye shadow kit that has probably gone rancid and my mascara is just one big goopy thing that has sat on the bathroom counter for eons. I also pack my own lunch to work every day, make dinner most nights and hardly go for coffee runs, even though I need tri-hourly caffeine fixes. I know that doesn't sound like much, but when you put it all together, it remarkably adds up to a lot.

I think I've been spending more just this past 12 months because I have a blog. I've bought more shoes than I have over the last five years and I've indulged in really expensive things that would have given me a heart attack just a few years ago. I know I've beaten this into the ground, but this constant visual stimulation of pretty things causes indiscipline and downright stupidity sometimes. I wanted to share with you this very personal side of my lifestyle mostly because I want my readers to understand that while a lot of bloggers would have you believe that their lives are filled with expensive purchases and idyllic circumstances that spring out of thin air, it's most often not the case. Most bloggers probably have some sort of really good financial support system, be it in the form of a trust fund or a sugar daddy. Others probably work in high salaried jobs, so more power to them. And unfortunately, there are also a good handful that are probably living on debt. It would be wise to read style blogs with a more discerning attitude and a pinch of salt, because bloggers are really just people after all.

It's troubling times

via Seattleite

Following the last post about the price that La Garconne charges for a sweater, I wanted to share some excerpts from an interview with Jill Wenger, the owner of the high-end boutique, Totokaelo:

How do you deal with the cost of raw materials increasing?
If my prices increase, they increase. My customer isn't looking for the best deal, and I don't like working with that customer. If a customer notices the prices are going up, it goes back to educating your staff and your clients. It's important to explain that the cost of gold is rising therefore this gold necklace will be more expensive. The customer understands that.

Has the economy affected your customer base?
The clients that I lost when the economy fell apart were the younger crowd, like my hairstylist or the waiter down the street that relied on tips for that extra money. Our core customer remained the same, but I did hear more things like, 'I don't need another black dress.' Before all this happened, I didn't hear people talk about what they needed. People are buying less stuff and thinking more about their purchases. I can get behind that. I won't let people walk out of the door with a bunch of stuff they won't wear, and that's exactly why I don't pay my staff on commission. Our sales people can't have trust with their client if something is money-motivated. Our selling strategy and open return policy are the reasons why our return rate is so low.

I wanted to share that interview mostly because I wanted to point out that the luxury business isn't really concerned about the middle class. I mean if you think about it, (edited 01.25.2012) retailers can put out any kind of prices they want because there will always be someone buying it. The top income earners (if you make more than US$133, 000, you're in the top 20%) make more than enough to sustain the industry, which explains why Louis Vuitton has raised their prices by almost 50% over the last year even while people are losing their jobs. I think Wenger's statement that she doesn't want to work with people "looking for the best deal" says it all. I'm not sure exactly what she means by the 'best deal' but my over-analytical interpretation is that if you go in to Totokaelo and you're looking for something that is reasonably priced with all the perks, you're not going to get it. They're not a Hyundai dealership - they're catering to the Aston Martin crowd. So truth be told, high-end stores don't really want people who spend the bare minimum, they want people who can throw away $600 for a sweater without batting an eyelash. And that's exactly why La Garconne can afford to have a stupid return policy and bad customer service because someone is always going to shop there for the mere exclusivity.


The state of current affairs is depressing the heck out of me (see this article from The Atlantic), and I cannot, for the time being, allow myself to be sidetracked from reality by talking about shoes, bags and things that cost a three-month pay check. The unfortunate truth is that it's getting harder for the masses to have any form of upward mobility and that America is descending into a banana republic. It also explains why I've been missing from the blogosphere over the last month - I've been sitting and contemplating about my own finances and I've realized that sooner than later, I may no longer be able to afford imported prosecco or small batch raw cheese and I'll be that hairdresser or waiter who is no longer welcomed at Totokaelo.

P/S: Feel free to correct me if you think I misrepresented the interview. I'm probably the most pessimistic person I know and tend to over analyze and rant. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Correction: This article was last edited on January 25, 2011.

Fall is in the air...


Things I'm probably going to buy this fall:
1. A cardigan
2. A black wool sweater
3. A pair of black loafers
4. The Sofia Coppola PM bag in cobalt

Those sweaters from the La Garconne in house label (named Moderne) seem to be perfect - a little slouchy, made with all-natural materials (alpaca and merino wool) and assembled locally. They do cost an astronomical amount, but with care and an occasional rotation, it seems to me like they should last for at least a few good years. I'm particularly drawn the to the beige cardigan which is hand-knitted in Peru of baby alpaca wool (much softer and less scratchy than regular alpaca). I can envision it paired a silk top, a slim pair of black pants and my Hope Chy boots - it's a combination that would probably keep me warm all through autumn, winter and spring.

Other than that, I'm basically keeping my consumption habit at a minimum by avoiding blogging and blogs in general, and focusing on saving for that coveted Sofia Coppola duffel (now in a smaller size and perfect for every day use!). I think just staying away from blogs and having a goal has been good for my wallet, but perhaps not very wise when it comes to blog readership.

A brief note on a Saturday.

Soft-shell crab BLT at Lecosho

My summer outfits are very Margaret Howell inspired.
Apologies for being a berk and wearing my hat indoors.

Hello, folks.  A couple of things:
  1. Thank you to everyone who commented in the last few posts, I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to reply to comments (I do read them!) and I wanted to say that I appreciate everyone stopping by. I've been extremely busy with work and all the unfortunate things associated with graduate school - which leads me to my second thing...
  2. I'll be heading to Boulder, Colorado for an entire week starting Monday for a workshop. It's one of those trips that isn't going to be fun because there's going to be lots of work (A LOT!) and it's absolute shite weather in Boulder (85 degrees! Thunderstorms!). I'll be stuck in lectures from 8am to 5pm and I'm sure I'll be dog knackered at the end of the day, but I wanted to solicit some advice on places to visit and eat in Boulder. Any recommendations are most welcomed. 
  3. Lastly, the sun finally came out today. So after lunch at Lecosho (can't speak highly enough of this place) I managed to try on some new Isabel Marant pieces today at Totokaelo (the Idea jacket, the Istan jacket and some tops). Just a heads up, the jackets ran big, were unlined (hence ultra scratchy) and fit really funny. Also, the size zeros were humongous, so unless you're 9 feet tall and sized like a football player, the jackets would look more like a carpet bag than an actual... jacket?
I have some really interesting posts I've been meaning to write up over the next few weeks. I just need to stop procrastinating and getting around to it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the rest of the week.

Protecting your clothing investments


I have a confession: last week, before I went off the edge of a cliff and decided to rant about my mid-year wardrobe assessment, I bought exactly two pairs of shoes which culminated in my actually falling off the edge of aforementioned cliff. The shoes I bought were another pair of Dieppa Restrepo Calis in black (from Totokaelo on sale), and the gorgeous Hope Chy Boots per Mommy Style. In effect, I got rid of two other pairs of shoes and a bunch of clothes at the consignment store which sort of covered a meagre fraction of the new shoes. Not that it's any excuse, but I think we shall move beyond this and resume shoe shopping only next year, no?

Leather and wool are my downfall when it comes to shopping for clothes, and those are the only things I am willing to pay premium price for. I don't particularly like silk and linen, which I find really difficult to care for and while I try to buy organic cotton whenever possible, but I don't really get frustrated if I don't. I am however a little embarrass to admit that I'm rather fond of quick-drying polyester and the whole cotton/poly/tencel blend is a life-saver when traveling.

Anyhoo, over the last few years, ever since I was old enough to buy my own clothes, I have realized that part of making your wardrobe investments worthwhile is learning how to take care of your prized possessions. People write about investing in quality and choosing well-fitting clothes but no one really talks about how to make those purchases last such that your cost per wear actually amounts to something. It surprises me that most people don't really know or care about the right way to treat their clothes e.g. hanging heavy sweaters, not using shoe trees or dry cleaning cashmere etc.

The first (and I reckon the most important thing) I do when I get a new pair of leather shoes is to apply a coating of leather conditioner and put in shoe trees. If the soles are made of leather, I scuff the bottoms up a little by wearing it on tarmac for two weeks, then I have sole grips put on. About every 8 weeks thereafter, I try to clean and condition my leather goods, mostly everything in one go. While I use all natural products with low toxicity, I still make sure that the Little Rascal (aka Dieter the Dachshund) is locked away upstairs and all the windows are opened to allow some air circulation. Cleaning and conditioning leather ensures that your items remain soft, pliable and won't crack. Creases are inevitable, but using shoe trees and stuffing your purse with rags or tissue will help keep its shape. Also, since I live in a perpetually damp climate, I keep my shoe and bags somewhat water resistant with the miracle known as Montana Pitch-Leather Dressing (a combination of mink oil, pine pitch and beeswax). A word of caution: the leather dressing does darken items by one shade, but it protects leather from water damage and helps keep the leather looking so shiny and supple that I think it's absolutely worth it. I don't have any suede shoes at the moment, but back when I had a pair of suede oxfords, I find that Apple Garde works miracles.

For leather shoes/boots and bags I use:
1. Meltonian All-Purpose Cleaner and Conditioner
2. Apple Leather Conditioner
3. Montana Pitch-Blend Leather Dressing
4. Cedar wood shoe trees
5. Apple Garde Rain and Stain Repellant

I'm a terribly lazy sod when it comes to laundry, so I just put all my wool sweaters in a mesh bag (from the dollar store), chuck them in the washer on delicate (no spin) and air dry them on a towel atop a clothes rack. I probably only wash my woolens about 3 times during the winter season and brush them with boar hair bristles or a sweater stone when they start to get a little grungy. For that reason alone, I stick to merino wool and try to minimize the amount of cashmere I own since the delicateness of cashmere warrants a gentle swishing in cold water by hand. Another tip is that I always try to wear an undershirt (cotton/silk blend) with my sweaters so they don't get particularly musty. I find that 'Woolite' tends to make my wool sweaters stiff, so for American consumers, my pick is the Ecover Delicate Laundry Detergent which is both environmentally friendly and works really well.

For wool coats, I mist vinegar and water mixed with cedar and pine essential oils and brush them out with boar hair bristles about once a month. Before I pack them away for the summer, I make sure to let them air out completely (preferably outdoors when it's warm but under the shade), brush them clean then store them in a vacuum bag with cedar chips. I have never dry cleaned anything in my life and I don't intend to.

For wool clothing I use:
1. The Laundress Clothing Brush
2. Cedar wood balls
3. Mesh laundry bags
4. Ecover Delicate Wash Laundry Detergent

I find that with proper care and attention, my most well-made clothes, shoes and bags have lasted at least 5 or 6 years of constant use with minimal signs of wear and tear. I have a merino sweater from Scotland that has lasted since my first visit to the UK in 1997 which I attribute both to fine workmanship and care. Do you have any tips on how to keep your wardrobe items in tip-top condition? Please share!

Update: The Laundress is offering a 25% off all products with code "Lindsey2011". Expires 6 August 2011. 

P/S: For Americans following the debt ceiling negotiations, I think it wise to maybe stop buying for a bit and get as much use out of the items you currently own - who knows what the children in Congress will do to further screw us over.

The Isabel Marant Dixie Boot

I know this is probably the wrong time to be talking about shoes (hypocrite warning!) and what-nots but look at what I stumbled across today:


I like it much better than the Dicker mostly because the lower heel (1.5") means I won't have an 80% chance of falling down and making a fool of myself. The lack of a 1800s Wild West shootout vibe is also a plus factor. But at $615, I'm not sure if I'm willing for this to be my first venture into the world of Isabel Marant. Can I say this is the first time that I've actually thought that an IM item is worth the price and the hype? I can already see all the hipsters in New York trudging around in these shoes - what, the back pull-tab is an excellent touch.

The Mid-year Wardrobe Assessment


The past few weeks have been pretty intense for me - work has been insane, there has been bouts of illnesses in the house and we've been traveling across state lines and international borders. I've only recently gotten around to separating my spring cleaning clothing piles into those I need to donate and those I need to take to consignment. That being said, I think it's only apt that I go through the things I've learned so far, my progress in fulfilling my New Year's resolution and what I will try to achieve for the rest of this year.

In the beginning of the year I wrote about buying less and living a little simpler. I think for the most part, I've stuck to the resolution, except that I gaffed on several very expensive items and I'm hitting myself on the head about it. For some reason, it had never been a big deal in the past because I was never quite as experimental about my dress sense. If anything, running this blog has made me more prone to obsessing about things I want because I see them sitting so prettily on other people, if you know what I mean (and I think you do). This year, I have started shopping at La Garconne a bit more, I've bought more handmade items and I haven't tried anything on in person as much before buying. All those have turned out to be relatively disastrous undertakings.

Five things I've learned so far:
  1. Invest in a good tailor as per this post.
  2. Whimsy and girlish does not work on me. Nothing flowery, summery, frou-frou, loud or drapey - I look simultaneously idiotic, matronly, and with child.
  3. Floppy does not work on me and by that I mean things that are obviously over three sizes too big and not just 'relaxed'.
  4. My uniform works. I keep forgetting that I have, had, a uniform for a reason - they've never failed me and it's easy. 
  5. Never buy anything you can't return, even if it costs much less. 
The running consensus on a lot of blogs that promote a less conspicuous approach to buying is that online shopping is a vice and the only way to stop the insanity is to turn off the computer (or shut the laptop) and stop obsessing. My method of dealing with the obsession to browse and buy is to clean the house, harass the dog, then read a book. I am still intent on making sure I finish twenty Cary Grant movies by the end of the year (I haven't seen one, not even one, blasphemy!). I'm also intent on reading at least ten books from the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the Twentieth Century list, and by list I mean the Critics' list. The Readers' list is a right joke because seriously, who the heck votes for 'Atlas Shrugged' as the Best Novel last century (blasphemy!)?

Anyway, sorry for going off on a tangent, but my point is that I've made mistakes even though I am trying to be more conscientious when purchasing clothes. In fact, I am beginning to suspect that I end up spending so much more because I fret and overthink until it eats away at me and I feel like I just have to have a particular item. Most of the time, unfortunately, the very things I fret about turn out to be enormous disappointments.

I think for the most part, I'm pretty done with shopping for a bit - I'm still very keen on getting the J.W. Hulme Linwood bag because I've been pining over one for a while (my PS1 is a disaster and the Clare Vivier messenger bag just doesn't compare), I will probably buy a couple of cashmere sweaters (gray and black) before year's end and maybe some new lingerie. But at the moment, I am trying my best to stay away from sites that peddle sartorial pleasures and instead focus my energy into finishing this dratted PhD and saving for the honeymoon next year.

Learning from my mistakes

( photo credit: Sandra Juto )

Some days I think I'm a bore. I've been trying for a while now to branch out of my comfort zone into something a less predictable and unfamiliar. I don't usually wear dresses  but for some reason, a  few months ago I bought a handmade dress that didn't quite turn out to fit me (not that it was the maker's fault, it was advertised as being cut in a 'relaxed fit'). Last winter, I bought a wool dress that ran both wide and short, again, being tailored and marketed as somewhat relaxed. I recently bought an oversized sweater for an insane amount of money because (a) I was misinformed about the sizing and (b) it looked too damn good. It's now languishing in my closet, waiting to be resold.

I'm not sure what my "branching out" constitutes, but I think that the whole oversized, relaxed ideal of style doesn't really work for me even though I want it to. I keep forgetting that I am only 5'1" with ample hips and narrow shoulders and that anything that is wider than short is going to make me look like a runaway cupcake.  It's a little depressing sometimes when height and size works against you such that the smallest item from APC runs long and what is sometimes marketed as "fitted" actually becomes boxy against a backdrop of a non-existent chest.

I have gotten into the habit of shrinking my clothes in the washer and dryer whenever I can - I have an Alexander Wang jacket that ran big in the bust, so I threw it into dryer and now it looks like an outfit for juggling midgets. Alas, many articles of clothing I own are slightly less robust now than when I first got it, after a 40 minute stint in the mighty Whirlpool home shrinking contraption. I know I should start investing in a tailor, but a good one is hard to come by and the good ones would most certainly mean that I'm paying twice as much for an item of clothing. If I'm already paying an amount that would feed a small country, I don't know if I want to indulge in a tailor. Off the rack should mean exactly that, right? Off. The. Effin'. Rack!

I've come to the realization that the things that work for me - jeans, button downs, tee shirt and sweaters may be ubiquitously boring, but maybe I should learn from my mistakes and avoid spending copious amounts on something that I can never quite pull off and embrace the fact that I will never be able to look like a slouchy gamine (genetics, I blame genetics!) or a Zooey Deschanel wannabe. And I guess in retrospect, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing after all.

Saturday




- Had lunch at Lecōsho
- Watched 'Super 8'
- Picked up some miniature roses
- Barbecued with office mates
- Shrunked my oversized APC Madras top
- Bought some Pigeon Toe Ceramics bowls
- Bedtime at 9pm because I'm down with the flu

Happy July 4th, folks!

The Essentials: Quality lingerie



Lingerie is one of those things that are often overlook and only replaced when they no longer perform according to function. In terms of personal style, I think that undergarments, a good haircut and well-groomed eyebrows are the best things you can and should invest in. I know it's cliched, but proper underwear not only holds everything together (not that I really have anything to hold *hee*), it often makes me feel much more confident and slightly sexy. I've recently been turned on to bralettes, but I think that having lingerie for every occasion is a necessity. It's also a necessity that they should feel comfortable and help retain a sleek silhouette. Since I'm lazy and don't like hand washing anything, I just toss everything (even the more expensive ones) in a net bag on a delicate cycle in the washer and they seem to have lasted pretty well. I get most of my daily underwear from Marks Spencer's when I visit London, and occasionally on birthdays and the New Year's I splurge on something extra fancy.

What is your take on spending extra on lingerie and is there a particular brand you would recommend?

P.S: I've updated the shop with a CdG sweater and I've marked down all the other remaining items.

P.P.S: Blogger has been pretty screwed up lately and I spent 3 hours on this post trying to figure out why I keep getting a 400 error. I apologize in advance if the post appear incoherent. I am contemplating moving to Wordpress.

Costume jewelry



  From top: A Little Dot Cubic from Etsy, Quarry Triangle Necklace & Hunter Gather(er) Stone Necklace

I'm not one usually for wearing jewelry and shunned away from them for the longest time. On regular days, I have a watch and engagement ring, nothing more. Lately however, I've been quite taken with minimalist handmade jewelry that seem to add a touch of je ne sais quoi to an outfit - the kind of jewelry that seem to elevate a simple combination of tee shirt and jeans into something with a little more personality.

Over the weekend I had some time to saunter downtown and check out the sales at Barney's and Totokaelo. I am happy to report that I picked up nothing at Barney's (leftovers of a dismal selection of Band of Outsiders, Isabel Marant and Rag & Bone). At Totokaelo however my willpower was tested and broken. I tried on various items that didn't quite fit but pick up two new Hope Byronesse tees (my collection is complete! Black, white and stripes!) and the Quarry by Ninh Wysocan Triangle Necklace that I've been pining over for a really long time. For some reason, the abstract shapes seem really amusing and interesting to me.

Along with what I call costume jewelry as shown above, I have a pearl lariat necklace which was the first jewelry the then boyfriend ever bought me and a Wouters & Hendrix necklace I bought on sale from La Garconne. I occasionally also wear a white gold necklace with a cross that my mum got for me for my 16th birthday. I think I'm finally at the point where I can say no to any new jewelry but since I saw the interview with Charlotte Gainsbourg posted by Miss Sophie, I'm now wanting a simple diamond solitaire on a short necklace.

China: Part 2

The giant panda in captive spends about 50% of the time eating, 40% of the time 
sleeping, and the remaining time pooping and playing. Pandas in the wild aren't so lucky. 

Sichuan peppercorns are used in a hot pot in Chengdu to lend a 'ma la' taste - it's a weird 
numbing sensation with an aftertaste reminisce of camphor.

 
Rice field terraces at Guilin. Looking down the terraces, one is 
reminded of the scales on the backbone of a dragon.


Taking a boat trip down the Li river to Yangshuo county. 
The mountainous rock formations are pretty awesome.

A dragonfly, a symbol of good luck landed on my window during the river cruise.

Shanghai looks pretty much like Manhattan. At least they had some decent
bars that served passable wine though.

We were fed really well in China. Apparently, restaurants and hospitals are the 
two most important things to the Chinese. Food quality however, ranged from 
passable to amazing, with my favorite places to eat being the second part 
of the trip, in Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai! 


I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in China over the last month. As a quick recap, I visited the cities of Beijing, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai. You can read  Part 1 here.

From Lhasa, we flew back into China and visited Chengdu. Chengdu is not only reknown for its tea houses but their most famous inhabitants are the current mascot of the WWF and the subject of a new Disney cartoon starring Jack Black. They are also really adorable animals. The Giant Panda Research Base was probably the congregation spot of most of the white tourists in China. It was  a really interesting place to watch people from all over the world and figure out if we are more alike to our stereotypes than we would care to imagine e.g.: loud white tourist, pushy Chinese tourists etc.

Guilin was the ancient holiday spot for emperors and it's one of the most beautiful places on our itinerary. The area is a gorgeous combination of mountains, rivers and lakes. We visited the rice terraces which were all hand tilled from way back in Ming dynasty (ca 1400s) and we took a 4 hour hike to stand atop one of highest mountains in the area to look down on the "Backbone of the Dragon with Scales" hence the name Longji rice terraces. That night we also saw the "Yangshuo Impressions Light Show" which was apparently choreographed by the same people who did the opening night at the 2008 Olympics.

The last leg of our trip was two nights in Shanghai, and all I have to say about it is that the United States needs to up the ante on infrastructure and stop living in 1950s and wondering why the Chinese are overtaking us in terms of economy, education and technology. We need to stop thinking of China as an imminent enemy bent on brainwashing their citizens and redistributing wealth. China does have its fair share of evil agendas. Freedom of speech there is really as bad as you hear on the news - I could not log on to Facebook and Twitter or even view any Blogspot pages. Every which way you turn on the streets, there is some sort of construction going on such that there was barely a day in the major cities where we could see the blue sky beyond dust and smog. I lost count on how many coal-powered plants we passed by while driving along the highways. The environment is practically being massacred on an enormous scale. People in China are also infinitely rude, a far cry from the Confucianism principals of being considerate and respectful. If you have a death wish, try crossing a major intersection in Beijing during rush hour. The chances of being killed by cars and/or bicycle is almost foolproof. Brian and I had a running joke that in order to get a driver's license in China, part of test would be to kill three pedestrians at a crosswalk during the test.

But for all the negative traits associated with the Chinese, it is also one of the most beautiful places in the world. The grandeur of the ancient world is fascinating, from the Forbidden City to the Terracotta Soldiers to the grand palaces and gardens of kings. Modern China is equally amazing, if not slightly scary and depressing, in the sense that the rate of progress has been so exponential that the standard of living for a majority of people has improved significantly over the last 20 years. The skyscrapers, cars piled up bumper to bumper, shopping malls, electronic billboards are all testament to how China has advanced. I don't think China will ever be able to recapture its glorious past but it may come close, and while the West is more concerned with inward political bickering and general slothfulness and indolence, many countries that were once impoverished are ascending in term of national superiority and we yet witness the rise and fall of nations in our lifetime.

Summer wish list & Chinese souvenirs


I'm not usually one for massive purchases on vacations unless it's specifically a shopping trip, which in all fairness, only happens once every few years. I find that souvenirs are usually pretty tacky and I tend to avoid tourist traps at all costs. The worse kind of stores are the ones where they walk you through quickly about how certain items are made and then force you to exit through a gift shop. The fiance and I have a pact to sit outside and wait while our group goes through the motion. I'm sure we appear pretty cheap, but at least I can keep my annoyance in check! Another really cheap habit I have is doing my laundry in the hotel room, so I usually pack quick drying clothes (tip: the Hope jersey tee-shirts are the best things ever! They dry almost instantaneously! Don't forget detergent!). That way, I don't really have to buy new clothing on trips and I save on over priced hotel laundry services.

From my recent trip to China, I managed picked up a sun hat in Lhasa (USD$7), a little Laughing Buddha statue (USD$20) and a traditional hand loomed throw  (USD$10). I also picked up a "pashmina" (no doubt a fake) scarf for USD$2! The laughing buddha statue is something I've been pining for a long time, it makes me happy when I get up in the mornings, so I think all in all, it's a pretty worth while purchase.

I think the scarf will be a nice pairing for my summer to-buy list which is as follows:

1. A good white summer-weight tee
I don't believe in spending too much money on a white tee-shirt especially ones where you're likely to wear to a barbecue or to a summer picnic. However, you also want to balance quality with price, making sure that the tee isn't too likely to stretch out or thin out in the wash. I've had cheap, lightweight tees unravel and develop a hole within the first wash. My favorites are ones from Banana Republic or Canvas by Land's End. I like them a little loose, and the scoop-neck, boyfriend tees are light and airy enough without looking drab. If I had my druthers though, I would pick up this one by Rag & Bone in a jiffy.


2. Clare Vivier Messenger bag in grey
I think the grey color is a good all-season bag and is large enough for toting around books and other junk e.g. sunscreen, iPod, wet wipes, picnic blanket etc. etc.  

3. Conroy & Wilcox small Signet Ring
I feel like I should keep things a bit low key when I'm wearing tee shirts & shorts and a signet ring just seems to bring everything together.

APC Oxford Denim blazer; Rachel Comey Clan Shorts;  Rag & Bone Boyfriend Scoop neck tee; Claire Vivier messenger bag; Madewell Park Bench fedora; ALittleDot Cubic necklace; Rachel Comey Wala clogs

I think I'm pretty much set for summer, Seattle has had really silly weather so I'm not sure if any major purchases of summer clothing are warranted. I'll probably be lounging around in cropped pants or shorts, light tee shirts and flats or sneakers. I'm very quite determined to lose about 5 lbs over the next few months, but I'm not sure if my summer staple of Caprese salad with mozzarella di bufala (*grin*) will help me achieve that. Any ideas or word of advice on how to avoid drinking too much prosecco and eating too much ice cream on warm summer nights are welcome!

P/S: I apologize for not responding to the various comments left on previous posts. I've been sick with various kinds of self-diagnosed ailments, but I do appreciate all the nice comments left and I hope to get back into the regular mode of things soon.

P.P/S: I am still sorting through the pictures from China and for those who are interested, I'll post the second part of my trip in the next few days!

China: Part 1

I'm back after two hectic weeks trampling through the hazardous, polluted streets of 6 cities (including one  that's questionably located) in China, each famed for its individuality in history and each as unique from one another as the myriad dialects, minority groups and political ideals that make China such an interesting yet depressing country.

My journey started one day late from Vancouver due to some timing problems with Air Canada (oh, Canada!) and we ended up having to take away a day from our Beijing tour. The gist of the trip was basically to go on a rampage of Beijing, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai - all in 14 days including a boat ride and 5 domestic flights. If you couple that with the fact that people in China are crazy nutcase suicidal erratic drivers with absolutely no regard for traffic regulations (ironic, no?), completely disastrous bathroom conditions and insufferable pollution, it's pretty much a recipe for a holiday trip that is guaranteed to end with a few immobile days in bed nursing a cough and a cold.

Anyhow, since my last trip to Beijing about 9 years ago, things have changed remarkably. There are much more cars, air quality has spiralled insanely out of control and where there were once ancient streets and private houses are now massive apartment blocks and mega malls. American fast food chains ala KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut have sprouted on every street corner and mobile phones are more likely a daily essential than bicycles.



 

The obvious tourist-y things to do in Beijing include taking a picture of Chairman Mao at Tiananmen Square, visiting the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace, hiking along the Great Wall, and strolling through the 'hutongs' (old houses) and night markets. The night market is a great place to sample some exotic insects e.g. scorpions and silkworms, although I would highly advise against it if you're get easily queasy like me =P. On the other hand, I'm quite amused to report that fast food chains have also infiltrated the old defense system of Far East - you can now easily order a turkey sandwich with easy mayo from the top of the Great Wall via Subway.



From Beijing we continued on to Xian to pay the semi-excavated Terracotta Warriors a visit. The sheer size of the mausoleum is amazing, each of 8000 warriors have different physical characteristics modeled after real soldiers. It's a little bit chilling to think about how much effort and lives were put into building tombs and projects for ancient kings; about 800, 000 people at any one time were reported to have worked on the tomb over 40 years. While I am quite upset at the rate environmental degradation in the name of progress in modern China, I am actually glad that humanity has moved towards a less cruel ways of constructing things.



On the fifth day we flew to Tibet. The sights were incredible, from the majestic mountains to the exquisite Buddhist temple carvings to the colorfully dressed local Tibetans. Lhasa was perhaps my favorite place that we visited on the trip even though the hotel was pretty nasty and the bathrooms treacherously disease-plagued. Our guide told us stories about summers with the warmest temperatures on record, of yaks that had to move higher up into the mountains because their thick coats could not withstand the heat, and of water intensive vegetable farming brought in from across China. Local Tibetans cannot leave the city proper without some form of approval by the Chinese government and even to obtain a travel permit, it involves some sort of bribery and bureaucracy. In some weird way, it felt to me that I was watching a final curtain call of a greatly produced movie, a masterpiece that was fleetingly close to finishing and that once it was over, there will never be another quite like it.




This photo below is one of my favorite from the trip to Lhasa. It captures the very essence of modern life in Tibet. Kids are now more fluent in Mandarin than in Tibetan due to compulsory Chinese schooling , and yet for all the colonisation and urbanization China brings, these two boys are still here playing with primitive soldier figurines on the street outside a laundromat on a school day.


In Part 2, I'll be visiting Chengdu, Guilin, Yangshuo county, and Shanghai!

On a short hiatus

 "Autumn skies over River Valleys" by Guo Xi (ca. 1050) via wiki

I'll be gone for two weeks on one of those trips that involve climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Teracotta soldiers, eating dumplings, tickling some pandas and haggling over jade. I'm packing almost nothing but washable tee-shirts, a pair of shorts and a pair of black pants. I promise a picture spam post and tales of travel when I return but until then, I hope everyone is starting to enjoy some sunshine!

Black, white, stripes and camel




I apologize for being both being lazy at updating this blog with more informative and thoughtful posts, but my excuse is that I am hard at work and when I come home most days, I just want to sink into a chair with Jimmy Stewart movies and a large glass of wine. In the meantime, however, here's a pretentious photo of me looking at my new Dieppa Restrepo shoes over the weekend. I'm surprised they fit extremely true to size, perhaps even a tiny bit short. I hope the week has been treating you well so far!

Edit: I've received a couple of questions about the sizing on the DP shoes, and they do run very true to size at least in my opinion. I'm a 5.5/6 in US sizing, 36 in European and I got the size 6. A lot of websites have stated that the shoe runs 1/2 size big, I find that this really isn't the case. Either take your true size or if you're in between sizes, take the larger one. Width-wise, the shoe also runs true to size, I have really narrow heels and these have no slippage, which is good. The leather is really lovely, but I think in terms of manufacturing, I find that my Heschung for CdG oxfords are much, much more comfortable and well-made.