3rd quarter State of the Union


I know people make resolutions during the New Year because of some ancient relic of Roman tradition and it's also psychologically easier to say you're going to do something on a significant day rather than on an arbitrary whim. That said, I've felt that I'm meandering through life lately and I really need to figure out exactly what I intend to do with the rest of the year  (and beyond, I guess because I'm horrifyingly bad at New Year resolutions) so that I can actually get started on it as soon as possible instead of spiraling  into some anxiety-laden, wall-staring fit.

Fashion-wise, I think I've finally figured out what works for me most of the time - it's a combination of Japanese work cloths practicality (e.g. Engineered Garments) coupled with the streamlined comfort of organic basics (e.g. Organic John Patrick, Base Range, etc.). I've whittled down a lot of clothes that no longer fit courtesy of my ever-expanding arse, to a few pieces of pull-on trousers, slouchy wool pants and boyfriend jeans. Slim jeans particularly, have given way to more forgiving denim pieces. I've been drawn more to baggy t-shirts and flowy blouses than stripey tops. That whole French thing never really did work for me mostly because (a) I'm not French or even look remotely like anything French - I'm a short, squat Asian with too much body fat and not an ounce of leggy lean-ness and (b) The idea of cigarette pants and breton shirts makes me slightly queasy these days.

Clothing Purchases for 2014:
- Celine trio in navy that was in part sponsored by my mom
- Barbour Shore jacket on sale from Nordstrom
February N/A
- Dries van Noten sandals from Barneys
- Eileen Fisher dress on sale from Nordstrom (for traveling)
- Hope Rescue top on sale from La Garconne
- Hope Won Sweater on sale from La Garconne
- Rennes Gretel Tote with a discount
- MHL cotton linen tee on sale from Mill Mercantile
- Ilana Kohn Darryl shirt on sale from Mille
- Ancient Greek Thais Sandals (leather instead of pony hair) at a discount from Shopbop
- Band of Outsider Pin-tucked top from La Garconne
- Rennes Meeting dress (custom made)
- Reinhard Plank Fanelli hat on sale from Totokaelo
- Lauren Manoogian Wide Jacket from Myth & Symbol
- Chanel ballet flats
- 6397 pull-on trousers from Need Supply
- Eileen Fisher Twill Utility Jacket on sale from Nordstrom 

I have no real explanation for why I bought the things I did, except they were all pretty much warranted and I couldn't find similar pieces for a lower price. Julia's (of Rennes) bags are of exceptional quality so I have no regret picking up one of her totes when she had a promotion going on (and before the recent well-deserved price increase). I found myself eventually buying one of the Rennes duffel bags for my mom as well (who after much coaxing and pouting by me, actually gave me the bag; yes, I'm a 14-year old trapped in the sagging body of a 32-year old).  The only sort of impulse buy was the Lauren Manoogian sweater which I had been eying for a while. Can I also just say that I'm not sure if it's the age I'm at but I've been browsing for Eileen Fisher stuff more than I want to!

The weird thing is that I've been rotating through every single thing that I've bought at quite an astonishing rate. I find myself wearing almost the same thing every time I have to leave the house with the Rennes meeting dress, MHL top and Celine Trio probably getting the most use. While I realize that I do indeed spend an insane amount on clothes I have actually been happier with my purchases this year than I have been in a very long time. I'm certain that you can achieve the same sense of contentment with a much lower budget but I'm a lazy person and the only places I even bother shopping at anymore are Mill Mercantile, Nordstrom and La Garconne. I think it's the "not caring" part that has made me happier - I'm buying things that fit into my lifestyle and that makes me comfortable, rather than something trendy or something that conforms to this idealistic notion of what the perfect closet should look like.

I think I'm pretty much good for now in terms of clothing. I've really been drawn to the brimmed hat trend of late for some reason, so I'm going to pick up a nice floppy felt one even though I think at some point I'm probably going to throw away the hat and revert to rain jackets with a hood. I'm also waiting for the sales to pick up an A.P.C. sweatshirt and track pants.

Somewhere in between those articles of clothing, I've also spent money on a Smythson organizer which in my defense was at 50% off, lots of terribly expensive ceramic planters, Cire Trudon candles, woven rugs, weavings, exercise clothing and trainers, and tons of crap from Beautyhabit. I cannot for the life of me understand why gym clothes are so expensive, and anything that doesn't make your butt look ghastly and squished tends to cost you your first born.

In other news, I've started weaving! I'm slightly embarrassed to showcase my handiwork, but over the next few months, I'm hoping that they'll look good enough for me to post a preview - I've been drawing inspiration for the tapestries from hikes around the Pacific Northwest and my strange fascination of late with old Japanese movies and Lady Murakami.

In yet other news, I'm finally drawing to a close on my PhD; I just need to put the final touches and find a real job instead of doing odd-and-ends like dog sitting and doing small projects with no real income. I guess my wardrobe of late also reflects that I'm in a field where I would probably be wearing more archival clothing than Charvet shirts. Still, in an attempt to maybe one day squeeze into a pencil skirt for my future congressional hearings (haw haw), I've taken up fitness martial arts. It's kind of brutal, but it also feels strangely fulfilling to have an avenue where I can release all this pent-up existentialist rage.

So instead of a new year's resolution, I'm actually going to work towards these following things in the next few months and beyond:

1. Save for traveling by cutting on frivolous purchases like flowers, house wares and expensive alcohol, and avoid going out to expensive bars. We're planning for trips to Korea and Japan, a long excursion of the British Isles and a two-week vacation in Sardinia. It all sounds so magical, except that it may take us as long as ten years to see this all come through.
2.  Seriously scout for a house.
3. Learn Brazilian Portuguese so that I can actually start working on projects in that area on my own.
4. Finish reading the 8 books I've been putting off since three years ago (I don't even remember which ones anymore)
5. Kid(s)? Now that is a ghastly thought which would probably make #1 - 4 redundant.

How is your year coming along and do you have any plans for the rest of 2014 and beyond? I'd love to hear what you've been up to and maybe plagiarize some good ideas.

P.S.: There's still time for that giveaway from my last post! I'm sure there are still very many kind acts waiting to happen.

Note: Some of the product links will provide me with a commission if you make a click or make a purchase. See here why I decided to do affiliate linking. As always, I encourage you to shop around for sale items and to shop responsibly. 


  1. I always find your posts interesting. I was wondering if you are focusing on Brazilian Portuguese or European Portuguese. If you find any good sources do post them. I want to learn Portuguese as well. I hope I'll make it to Portugal in the future.

    1. I edited my post thanks to your comment. I'm going to learn Brazilian Portuguese because I am looking to work in that region later but either if you're going to Portugal, definitely the original Portuguese would be best, they really do sound quite different though to my untrained ears, Brazilian Portuguese is so much more genteel.

    2. I work with a few colleagues from Brazil and yes (!) what a gorgeous-sounding language. I don't understand it but it is such a pleasure to hear them speak.

  2. Loved running through this summary - oddly fascinating or maybe I am just plain nosey? And I had to laugh at how you summarised the whole French look and how it doesn't wholly work. I wouldn't go so far as to say it all doesn't work but there are elements which are harder to pull off such as the lack of long leggedness which I can wholly empathise with. And age isn't kind - it gets harder and harder to ward off those extra pounds which like to hug my waistline but I have found that woven shirts are my new best friend.

    And did you actually mention .... kids? Well I never .....

    1. It seems to me that the people who are really invested in the whole French aesthetics are the tall, wan creative types - I could never have the miles of legs it would take to look like Emmanuelle Alt or the right built to carry an Isabel Marant jacket without looking like a panhandler. It's okay, I've come to terms with that, I'm contented with clothes that skim my rotund bottom and my bloppish love handles. I also want to be able to enjoy some pie without feeling upset that I can't squeeze into a pair of overpriced skinny jeans.

      Kid...s? It's a possibility, albeit a rather minute one. :-) Your boys do make my biological tick louder though.

  3. Your comment on the French wardrobe is interesting, I've felt the same way this past year and a half or so. When I first simplified my closet and reworked my style from scratch, there were few "minimalist" style blogs, and all had this same style of breton shirts, cigarette pants and all, so my first trials and errors included these types of outfits. More errors than trials though, as, like you, despite being French, this style doesn't exactly suit my body shape (probably similar to yours).

    It's nice that recently more general simplicity blogs of sorts have popped up, I feel it's no longer linked to a specific style. With time one tends to know oneself better and introduce personal details and move away from the "general" uniform. At least that's what happened to me and it sounds like this is what happened to you too. I'd love to hear more about the brands that worked for you best - since we have a similar body shape I might find the few remaining elusive pieces there.

    1. Kali, I think I'm leaning more to the Japanese aesthetic these days of very calm and comfortable work wear. I find that it fits more with my body type and my line of work. I can't imagine anyone being too pleased with me clomping into the field with a pair of Dickers. I'm actually shopping a lot more for very good basics and avoiding the pitfall of trendier items - even the *expensive* trendy items. I tend to just wear wool jackets and t-shirts with jeans these days. I'll write a post about stores/brands I shop from in the next few weeks.

  4. Like Sue, I really enjoyed reading through your summary of the past few months. It's fascinating to see how other people approach things and then to allow my own practices to be shaped. (Not to mention that I'm nosy, too.)
    Alas, I think it was a mistake to click through essentially all of the links--my list of clothing wants has just gotten a good bit longer! Well, I've managed to survive all my life without those things so I think I can continue on despite not possessing a Celine bag or a pair of Chanel flats. Since you did mention rain jackets with hoods, I'm curious as to whether you have any suggestions. I have never owned any sort of waterproof outwear, but I think now would be a good time to change that since I'm anticipating exponentially more rain after moving.

    I feel like I've read the answer to this before, but my memory is failing me at the moment so I'll still ask my question. What field are you pursuing your PhD in? Congratulations on nearly being finished!

    1. I'm nosy too! I wish more people would post about what/where they shop, I love reading things like this because it saves me the effort of going out and looking for things myself (which will inevitably lead to me buying more than I should, hah!).

      I apologize, it was not my intention to taunt you, and if it makes you feel any better, the Chanel flats and Celine bag were not worth the price at all... I like them, but they really are just worth half the amount I paid for. I'm a superficial idiot, don't be like me.

      Environmental science! I don't know if I've mentioned it either.

    2. Yes, I definitely also love when other people save me the trouble of going out and shopping for myself! In a weird way, I think that's one way reading blogs have benefited me. I can read (somewhat) unbiased reviews of things and then go from there as opposed to wandering around in malls and blindly grabbing at things to try.

      No need to apologize whatsoever! I'm superficial as well--how else do I rationalize wanting the Chanel flats and Celine bag? That being said, I'm still young and I have plenty of time ahead of me to work towards buying myself those luxurious but not necessarily essential things. Only time will tell whether I'll really want either of those things in ten or twenty years, or whether I would have moved on to lusting after other even more expensive things.

      Environmental science? That's really interesting! I have a few friends studying in that field (though not at the PhD level) and it's fascinating to hear about some of the things they do. What made you decide to pursue that path? How much do you feel that your study of the environment shapes your purchasing patterns? Or the other way around?

  5. PhD - super mega cool. Martial arts - super ultra cool! I have always felt that martial arts would do me good. I did boxing classes at my gym for a while and it felt good to get to punch and kick things for an hour. I probably wouldn't care much about improving my skills though. Getting to punch and kick was enough for me. Maybe I should just join a fight club á la Tyler Durden.

    I have actually noticed how breton shirts have been getting less and less exposure in the blogosphere lately, like we all collectively fell out of love with them. I still wear them, but the ones I owned weren't of the best quality and I have yet to repurchase them in better fabrics. They did serve as a nice break between all my gray and black though, so I'm sure they will re-emerge one day.

    The rest of my 2014 will be an endless cycle of work, workouts, blogging and TV-shows it seems. The Boyfriend goes to school four nights a week so I have to stay at home and watch our little curly companion. We have little getaways planned in October and November thank goodness, or else I would surely go nuts!

    I still get anxiety whenever anyone mentions kids. So not there yet.

    1. Awww, nothing is better than curling up with Kanutten especially when the weather is cold! My whole year has been pretty much the same rut as well, so it's great to have goals and things to look forward to. What shows are you watching?

      I think the whole working on the computer and sitting around for 8 hours straight makes me antsy, so being able to get out of the house and actually put on clothes that show me all my flaws is actually good for me. I get so upset looking at myself in the mirror that I take it out on the poor punching bag.

    2. Downton Abbey, Big Bang Theory, Project Runway, Graham Norton, Bob's Burgers + I'm rewatching Gilmore Girls and secretly keeping up with the Kardashians. And that's just from the top of my head.

  6. I've made a few spendy purchases lately and have been re-evaluating the rest of my closet to see how it fits in with said purchases. For example, I picked up one of Julia's sample Rennes duffle bags in "redwood" and want to wear it with everything, but the color doesn't really work with jewel tones or reds/burgundys. I don't have very many items of clothing in those colors, so maybe it's not essential to get rid of them, but I can also see myself wearing them even more infrequently now. I've also been more drawn to clothing with clean lines and leave the details/flourishes to shoes and bags.

    As for workout clothing--I recently ran a half marathon and part of motivating myself was refreshing my running clothes that haven't been updated since high school. The majority of the items, except for socks and sports bras, came from a brand called Janji. A friend of mine from high school started it while at WashU with the idea that the generosity of runners should extend beyond race day fundraisers. Every item of clothing supports clean water in a different country and uses that country's flag colors--I'm not usually one for bright colors but I make an exception for running clothes. Also, these tights are the best and make me feel like catwoman! http://runjanji.com/collections/womens/products/women-s-tights

    1. Ming, I will need to browse through that website in more detail later, but it looks promising! I've been shopping mostly at Athleta, so this will be a good alternative.

      I've become so bad at matching/mixing colors that I've default into the minimalist blogger color scheme - I only have one olive color jacket, and the rest are either grayscale or navy. Sometimes I get taken in by lovely shades of burgundy or teal, but they never seem to work. Even beige hardly works for me.

  7. September is the start of the Jewish New Year and the new school year, so I've always felt more inclined toward taking stock of things and planning now than in January. So it makes sense to me.

    Letting go of what I "think" I should wear and what I actually like to wear has also been liberating. I only go into an office a couple of days a week, and it's at a tech company in Silicon Valley at that, so no need to pretend that I work in a fancy office in NYC. I have some desire to look presentable, but if my favorite outfit really is jeans, t-shirt, blazer, and loafers, why not wear that?

    1. I learn something new every day! I didn't know the Jewish New Year was in September.

      I'm really glad that we have such a laid-back dress code on the West Coast, I can't imagine having to live in clothing that you have to starch and tuck-in. I can't even pull off a blazer without looking dumpy/dorky!

  8. Oh no, cutting back on flowers :( fresh flowers make such a lovely home though.
    I really enjoy this seasonal tally. It does put things into perspective. Should start doing this myself.

    1. I started buying plants instead! They seem to last longer for a fraction of the price, though the lighting situation in my house is getting a little dire... I limit myself to $10 flowers from Whole Foods once a month. I think my husband is happier the house doesn't look so girly :-)

  9. Amanda, have you looked at Prana for workout wear? It's worn more by yoga and climber folks and I have a few climber friends that swear by the indestructibility/fit of the fabric. If I could live in spandex I would, but my job is too traditional to be able to get away with yoga pants all the time.

    (I sort of work in environmental science so your PhD interests me. I am in administration for a bunch of technical staff but I'll go to project presentations and I'll hear consultants and contractors come in to talk about remediation techniques and new technologies, and it all sounds very neat. Also yay and thank you for learning about our earth because keeping it healthy is important.)

    And am I the only one here who thinks you don't look rotund at all? You're short like Kali and myself, but you didn't strike me as round. Though I will have to agree that traditional Breton shirts (especially the boxy cut with the thick cotton fabric) aren't particularly flattering on short torsos. I feel really puffy when I'm in my Muji shirts!

    1. Kristina, I hate hate hate going into stores and looking for workout wear so I just order a bunch online. I get so tired of having to try on multiple types of tops and tights that I usually stick to the ones I already own. That said, I should probably branch out so I'm going to give Prana a try along with Ming's recommendation.

      I love my work (now) which involves a lot of having to actually go out and talk to policy makers and actually listen to what people "really" want instead of being all science-y and bookish and snooty about it.

      I think my girth:length ratio is like 5:1 so maybe I'm not round, but like a horizontal ellipsoid? :D:D

  10. I've seen some really beautiful weavings online and it sounds super cool that you're learning how to do them!

    I did so much more shopping this year because I was extremely stressed out by work - I agree the Celine Trio is not worth the price. Mine is much flimsier than the one my sister bought years ago -- if I had been able to compare before I bought it I wouldn't have bought mine. But I still love the way it looks so I've been using it lots. I think everyone should allow themselves the odd "i know it's not worth it but i love it" buy if they can afford to indulge - sometimes you just want something without a higher purpose and there's no need to feel too bad about it.

    That said, after a period of indulgence, I am planning to knuckle and save a bit more, hopefully so that I can buy my own apartment, and travel too. Sadly it always seems to be house vs travel -- very difficult to financially aim for both, hah.

    Breton tops: Stripes of any kind still going strong with me so if people are going off it, hurrah because sometimes it was sad to realise I am dressed exactly like a "French wardrobe" cliche.

  11. Aww I just posted a comment but I don't think it worked... :(

    1. [I retrieved it. Thank goodness for backspace.]

      It sounds like 2014 has been going well for you, shopping-wise for sure! I love what you've bought :-) I think finally feeling happy and comfortable in your 'signature style' is a wonderful thing. That French wardrobe fails for me, too. Unfortunately, my legs are too stocky and my boobs are too big!

      I've had a terrible year in terms of shopping - it started well but then descended into old shopaholic habits and cycles of regret... I'm blaming it all on a very stressful couple of months. I'm now selling/donating most of the things I stupidly bought. I just can't seem to break that link between feeling bad and buying crap -- it's definitely not as bad as it used to be, but still! argh.

      Congratulations on coming to the end of your PhD - my partner finished his a few years ago and it was a huge relief (for both of us, hah)! I can't wait to see your weaving xx

  12. congrats on the closing of your phd and also you being cool with you. french style: pshawww! lovely, but not my thing. kids: omg, terrifying, but i am also considering them.


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