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!