The FW'14 Capsule and a mini rant on Minimalist Wardrobes


I meant to write a long post about how I find that there are so many different variations of what a "minimalist wardrobe" means that it's rather exhausting trying to suss out how and why you should own a minimalist wardrobe (inspired in part by this thread). I find that a lot of times, bloggers don't really know why they're throwing or donating a bunch of clothing quite suddenly except that it seems trendy. There are questions about how much loungewear or gym clothes or underwear you should own. For the record, I own A LOT of loungewear and gym clothes and underwear because I live in lounge wear and I am terribly lazy when it comes to washing delicates (I stock up the same bra and knickers set from The Gap for every day use). There are also gripes about how difficult it is to include color and patterns into a minimalist wardrobe. Which all leads to the question, what exactly IS a minimalist wardrobe?

There are some minimalist wardrobe projects out there that talk about seasonal capsule wardrobes where you are suppose to only wear about 30-ish items per season (three months), underwear and bags and shoes excluded or something like that. That seems like an awful lot of stuff to me especially if you're only doing it for the season. I find that fall and winter is when I rotate through the least amount of clothing, mostly because if you wear a camisole under your sweater, you can really just wear your sweater through the season without it getting funky. If you actually have a formal office job, a few shirts, a pant suit, an extra pair of pants and a suiting dress should suffice. There's nothing minimalistic about being able to wear at least one different item of clothing a day!

In my mind, a minimalist wardrobe isn't so much about the minimalist aesthetic of boring monochromatic colors but rather an organic decision about consuming less for both social and environmental reasons. It's not so much about buying the most expensive things by excusing them as quality items but rather, seeking out things so that you don't have to replace them quite as frequently. It's about conscious consumption. It really doesn't matter if you're shopping from Zara or from Rick Owens, the key is to understand and learn where your product comes from, define what quality is acceptable to you and to reflect on why you are buying what you are buying and if it fits into your lifestyle, personality, and if it is practical.

The unfortunate thing is that there is no way to know what your personal style is without owning a bunch of clothes and having worn them for a while. There is also no way of knowing if something is practical for your lifestyle when things can change quite suddenly. Kids, a real job, suddenly working from home, manual labor, suddenly having to work at Taco Bell etc., etc., ... who knows. I've realize that the whole contrived way of building a minimalist wardrobe these days just seems slightly superfluous with the endless spreadsheets and Pinterest bookmarks and wishlists. Not everyone wants to look like the inside of an Eileen Fisher store, and not everyone actually has the time to make moodboards to suss out how to mix and match, and truth be told, some people just like really like variety!

It took me a long time to figure out how to streamline my closet, not because I was trying to be a minimalist in anyway, but because reading about the clothing manufacturing industry made me very sad. In addition, I hated doing the laundry and I didn't like having to spend a long time figuring out what to wear when the smart thing was to just throw on what I had worn yesterday that looked semi-decent; having a small closet helped with that. I have wasted a lot of time and money in trying to achieve that 10-item closet and tricking myself into believing the myth that $$$ = quality.

The funny thing though, was eventually I realized I couldn't have too tiny a wardrobe because I needed all these other things that made my hobbies and work more pleasant. I certainly couldn't muck around in the field or garden or hike or bring the dogs on a walk with the 10 or so items I tricked myself into believing would work for everything. Despite what anyone says, No. 6 clog boots are not made for hiking or sleek cobblestones in the rain.  In fact, sometimes I think the minimalist wardrobe is an ignis fatuus (illusions, Michael...) and really isn't applicable in any of these conditions:

(a) You have a full-time office job
(b) Over the age of 25
(c) Do not work in the creative industry
(d) Do not run a blog
(e) Are not a privileged individual 
(f) Like colors other than 000,000,000 on the RGB scale

I posted a little figure of the 12 items I will be wearing when I actually have to leave the house starting in October all the way through February. They're all kind of the same shade because I look terrible in colors and patterns and I have no skill in matching anything that don't belong on the same side of the color wheel. The Barbour jacket is rainproof and lightweight enough for me to layer over a black cardigan from Organic John Patrick and the grey Rag & Bone one I bought on sale from La Garconne. I find that I can prolong the life of my sweaters by layering underneath with an organic cotton camisole from Araks or if it gets a little chillier, a super warm woolen-silk tank from Hanro. I also basically rotate through two pairs of pants - the 6937 trousers has been my staple since I bought it earlier this month and got it hemmed a good two inches. Other than that, I have the perfunctory Acne jeans in basement , A.P.C. suede boots from 3 years ago, a silk Madewell shirt I bought eons ago and the very sturdy Isabel Marant scarf I bought last year.  Those are what I call my nice, 'put-on-a-front' clothing.  However, It took me a REALLY long time to figure out how to narrow things down to 12 items a season and it was mostly through trial and error and a lot of wasted income. You could probably come to the same conclusions I have or figure out what suits you at a much lower price point (something which I will touch on the next post) - I'll be the first to admit that I'm terribly particular about achieving that right 'look' and am an out and out pretentious label whore (self-worth intrinsically linked to aesthetics, blah blah blah).

The truth is that I'm home most days of the week when I wear a good amount of yoga pants, fleece sweaters, an Arc'teryx rain jacket* that I bought a couple of years ago with a measly student income, and a pair of Isabel Marant clogs. It's easy for me to list 12 items because for the most part, because I don't need to get up most mornings and schlep out of the house. I also simply don't care what people think anymore. It's strangely liberating and it's made me become a more conscientious consumer because I'm buying for me and my lifestyle and not merely because someone else set the rules.

* I live in a very rainy city so buying a good Gore-tex rain jacket seemed like a no brainer. I bought this a couple of years ago, first for field work, then for skiing. This is the one I own which I bought from Backcountry.com on sale. You can find off-season colors for a fraction of the price.

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. 

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:
January
- Celine trio in navy that was in part sponsored by my mom
- Barbour Shore jacket on sale from Nordstrom
February N/A
March
- Dries van Noten sandals from Barneys
April
- 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
May
- Rennes Gretel Tote with a discount
- MHL cotton linen tee on sale from Mill Mercantile
- Ilana Kohn Darryl shirt on sale from Mille
June
- Ancient Greek Thais Sandals (leather instead of pony hair) at a discount from Shopbop
- Band of Outsider Pin-tucked top from La Garconne
July
- Rennes Meeting dress (custom made)
- Reinhard Plank Fanelli hat on sale from Totokaelo
- Lauren Manoogian Wide Jacket from Myth & Symbol
August
- Chanel ballet flats
September
- 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. 

Gratitude Sunday: A Giveaway


First image by assembledhazardly; All other images from Bailey's Home

I am giving away a new copy of  'Simple Home: Calm Spaces for Comfortable Living' by Mark and Sally Bailey as a way of saying thank you to readers who have been following this blog through its 3 odd years of obtuse rambling.

I received this book last Christmas and really enjoyed thumbing through the pages of shabby chic minimalism; the design found in this book is sort of  the British equivalent of 'wabi-sabi'. The main draw of the book for me is that most of the spaces featured are aspirational, the book actually offers a lot of really great ideas and inspiration to turn your home into a refuge where you can rejuvenate, reflect and meditate. The designers stress the importance of reducing clutter and present myriad ways of repurposing and recycling well-worn items . I think it's apt that as we transition into fall to prepare our homes into a nest and retreat of sorts by just reducing the amount of things we have. Coupled with great pictures from photographer Debi Treloar, this also makes for a great coffee table book.

All I ask from you in order to participate in the giveaway is to do something kind -  donate to an animal shelter, buy dinner for a homeless person, volunteer at a youth program or just call someone up whom you haven't talked to in a while. Come back here and leave a comment about your act of kindness and why you chose to do what you do.

The giveaway ends two weeks from today on Sunday, October 5.

** This giveaway has now ended. The chosen commenter was Jocy via a random number generator. Everyone else who participated, please send me your address as well, I'll put something in the mail for you as a thank you. *

Small things: Home pedicures


Let me start off by just saying thank you to everyone who took the time to read through my last obtuse post and leave a comment. I'm still trying to soak in all the opinions and ideas bandied about and thinking of apt responses (even two months on, it remains at the back of my mind). I've had a follow-up post on draft for the last month, and I just need to actually put my jumbled thoughts into coherent words.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about ways to avoid thinking about clothes and to concentrate on the small things that make me happy and that I should use to occupy my time instead of spending more money on frivolous things. Of course, the notion of frivolous is dependent on the individual - I know plenty of people would find nail polish or candles frivolous, but if it makes you happy and distracts you from envy or mindless consumption, I say why not. Over the next few months, I'll be writing on some of the things I've mentioned in this post. I'm trying to embrace organic minimalism as opposed to consciously making lists, doing closet clean outs and talking about buying even more crap in some effort to conform to that black-white-grey stereotypical minimalist fashion blogger mold.

One of the things that makes me happy is being able to do things at home on the cheap and getting better results than having to spend money out. I go for bi-monthly pedicures because I can't seem to justify the cost and after hearing plenty of horror stories, I've decided to keep my visits to a minimum. I find that I can pretty much maintain decent looking tootsies at home with the right products. The fun thing about doing pedicures/foot soaks at home is that you can basically just do it anytime you want for pretty cheap. Sometimes I even use it as a form of procrastination but I think on average, I do my home pedicures every ten days or so.

The three main items that I really cannot live without are a Japanese soaking bucket, the Tweezerman callus stone and the Fig + Yarrow Foot Treatment Alpine Pumice Scrub; everything else is just complimentary.  I've tried one of those drugstore home pedicure jet tubs and they just slosh water around your ankles and hardly gets hot enough. It's much cheaper and better to get the soaking bucket because it's deep and wide enough so that the water comes up to mid-calf. A little trick I learned is to use two little massaging balls at the bottom of the bucket and roll your feet around when you're soaking. The  bucket is also great for carrying around the house and you can even set it out on the balcony while sipping tea. I usually add some Seaweed Bath Salt with a few drops of tea tree oil for detoxification and disinfection (I mean, take this with a grain of salt, no pun intended - who knows what detoxification even means). The bath salt smells a little like the ocean so it's pretty relaxing.

Sort of a frivolous thing, but I've been really enjoying Lotus Wei mists as part of my home spa experience. You can achieve the same thing by just using essential oils and distilled water, but I'm prone to spending money on silly things anyway. I find the Lotus Wei aromatherapy combinations really lovely, and my favorite is Quiet Mind, which is suppose to help with physical tension. 

The Tweezerman callus stone may be one of the best inventions ever, I like it better than a foot rasp and if you use it daily in the shower for a week, it sloughs off the ugliest and grossest patches from your feet. It's made from recycled ceramic and works extremely well for heels as well without the danger of scraping off too much skin. It's my secret weapon for summer feet all year round without actually needing to go to the nail salon. Actually, the only reason I even get pedicures at all is because I'm terrible at applying nail polish and shaping my nails.

I used the Fig + Yarrow scrub after a 20 minute soak and after rubbing my feet like a crazy person with the callus stone. On the Fig + Yarrow label, it says, "... this tingling treatment deliciously transforms callused peds into kitten paws." Let me tell you that this is no exaggeration. It's literally one of the best scrubs ever made for feet. If you're the kind of person that wants sexy feet, this is the magic potion. The ingredients are pretty simple but extremely effective. You can even make this at home by mixing pumice powder with olive oil and shea butter. However, I find that the Fig + Yarrow scrub actually lasts a long time and because they seem like such a decent company, it's worth the $28 spent.

My favorite spa-like towels are the Scents and Feel Fouta Towel which have a surprising range of functions. I've been using them as beach blankets, as summer throws and more recently, to line my dog's bed because it's super absorbent and soft. Just in case you didn't already know, you have to make sure your feet is toweled dry especially between the toes before applying cream and nail polish to prevent fungal infections. I use the Alpha Hydrox Foot Cream generously, apply some Eve Lom cuticle cream and slip my feet into one of those free slippers you get from hotels. If I'm feeling saucy sometimes, I'll put on some Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover, push my cuticles back with an orange stick and slop on some nail polish. My favorite nail lacquer lately is a nude polish (Lingerie) by Guerlain.

So there you have it, I love being able to use what I already have on hand, add a few additional items that will last a long time and create a pleasurable experience for myself at minimum cost.

Note: Some of the product links will provide me with a commission if you make a purchase. For the Scents & Feel towels, you can sometimes scoop up really good deals through Amazon. For the Lotus Wei mists, Spirit Beauty Lounge periodically has coupons/sales so I usually wait till then to stock up. You can probably find most of the other products at your local drugstore.