A Week of Outfits: Wednesday

“A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”
– Diana Vreeland

After that whole spiel about rarely wearing patterns, I pulled out THE pattern, my ducklings. The quintessential, ride or die, take no prisoners pattern: the leopard print.

As I’ve written, I strive for polish, but I also take effort and I don’t like to be bored. For better or worse, I’m loud and sometimes I like for that to come out in my clothes.

I’ve joked about it before, but I completely aim to be the belle of the nursing home in my old age. I want to wear bright colors and loud prints in my twilight and be tsked for dressing inappropriately for my age. When I conjure this image, leopard print has always loomed large for some reason. Somewhere along the line I decided it was stupid to wait for old age to have this kind of fun, and I think that’s when I decided trying to be “chic” was a fruitless effort for me, at least in the way the word is usually used. The word “chic” usually conjures an impossibly thin woman, often in all black or neutrals, with perfect hair. I like this woman, a lot in fact, but I don’t think I am her and that’s okay.

I love the brashness of leopard print, how gleefully in your face it is, but also how easily it can be tamed and managed. Not an easy task for literal wildlife, but perfectly doable. Jenna Lyons, formerly of J. Crew famously once declared that “Leopard print is a neutral,” and that’s exactly the attitude you need to take in order to make this loud shout of wildness feel like the easiest thing in the world.

It’s not stereotypically chic, but I like to think it’s still a little stylish in spite of my clearly still ever-present awkwardness. No one should have to wait until they are old and out of ***** to give to wear leopard print.

To keep the pattern the focus on the look (like unto color in my previous post), I opted for neutral black elsewhere. A black silk top from Everlane, a thin black belt that serves no purpose except to accessorize, and a desceptively basic mid heel black pump. More on that tomorrow. It feels less aggressive than a pointed shoe…and also I don’t have a pointed toe black pump and won’t until next year thanks to my new shopping restrictions. That feels like a very silly and basic item to be missing from one’s closet, but them’s the rules, kids. I also shunned my big hoop earrings of yesterday for a delicate, practically invisible gold chain and pearls again instead, and once again wielded my trusty Longchamp–which I failed utterly to include in photos.

Also very granny as an aesthetic: my new found love for mid and low heeled shoes. It’s difficult to love heels and be a Londoner. The cobbles are not kind to either your shoes or your poster as you fight to keep your balance and navigate uneven pavement. I love heels and I always will, but it’s astonishing how often I am choosing to forgo them in favor of something much more practical, to say nothing of comfortable. I think I’m getting old, kittens…but that’s okay because I’m clearly already dressing for it.

A Week of Outfits: Tuesday

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.” 
― P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

This was a day that I wanted to look colorful and summery but also well put together. And so guys…we need to talk about the color of these trousers:

We also need to talk about the continuous tragic failure to take a single photo I like of myself. The fact that I had to work late and therefore barely caught the fading light, glasses included, were not working in my favor! Ah well.

I tried to be a Cool Girl for years, one who could wear monochrome or all black, and do you know what? It bored me. I love black, it’s classic and chic in the right doses but I am simply not content to wear it alone or even try. Give me color or give me death. Indeed, give me too much color and keep your unasked for opinions or criticism to yourself.

Over time I’ve developed a sort of personal palette of colors satisfy my need to peacock, while still building a coherent wardrobe where I can mix and match pieces and maximize my items. I’ve learned what shades I like, which pair well together, and how to partner brighter pieces with neutrals so that the color itself is the stand out element of most of my outfits. By dressing in bold but blocked color, I feel like I’ve found a way to make my need to not feel boring meet my need to dress for a certain audience, particularly in my work life. I don’t often wear patterns as a result and prefer to add variety by using textures (tweed, leather, or velvet for example) or accessories.

Maybe I’ll do a separate post on my palette and talk through the colors I’ve chosen to build my wardrobe around, but it will shock no one who’s spent more than five minutes on this site to know that emerald green is one of them. Green is my favorite color and has been for the whole of my life. My engagement ring is an emerald (smart lad, that Jeff). My wallet is a beautiful green leather one with my monogram on it. If I catch site of a perfect emerald shade in anything in a shop, I will immediately gravitate towards it; my perfect hue is something between the richness of an precious stone and the brightness of a kelly green. It can be a hard shade to get right but when I find something in it that works, I will also find a way to incorporate it into my life, so help me god.

Such an item were these trousers by Boden, last seen in my July Favorites post here. I fell in love with them fast and hard, waited for them patiently to go on sale, and took them to a quality tailor to get them hemmed when I finally pulled the purchase trigger. Remind me, kittens, at some point we need to also talk about the importance of tailoring! I regret nothing. They are bold and not an item to pick if you want to be subtle; I love them.

I paired them with a simple black top, the same black and white LK Bennett shoes from yesterday (found brand new at a charity shop for a mere 20% of their purchase price), and my trusty black Longchamp bag again. I wore my vintage gold hoops because they felt equally bold, but otherwise, the focus on this look is the color of the trousers and I kept my makeup neutral to keep it there.

I’m really happy with this outfit and I can even think of of ways to winterize it when the weather gets cold. It may be the height of summer but when you’re talking about Britain, you need to face facts that it will get cold and dark again at some point. And if colorful trousers make the summer heat bearable, you can only imagine how I feel about them in the unrelenting gray of winter.

A Week of Outfits: Monday

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” 
― Coco Chanel

Back to work!

I picked this look because I needed a simple but serious outfit for the day. I had meetings at a client site that involved me getting up early to get ready, traveling, and needing to arrived in a polished state. I had to lug around several devices, project folders, and notebooks without overwhelming me so I didn’t want to bother with an outfit that required a lot of elements. I needed a single item solution and so: a power dress.

This dress is from MM LaFleur–a brand I’ve written about before with a huge amount of love and satisfaction. I own five dresses from them in total, bought over several years, and would like a couple more at some point. This brand is on the pricier side, ranging from about $150-250 per item as a general rule, but I have found them to be solid investment purchases. I’ve spent some additional money having each one tailored and I have never worn one of their pieces without being complimented for looking nice.

Finding simple ways to feel much more put together is something that’s become important to me in recent years, especially as I’ve leveled up in my career. Clothes are an important way of communicating messages about yourself, and I try to be in control of my messaging.

I mentioned before trying to incorporate more dresses into my wardrobe and there is a reason for it: simplicity.

It’s very fashionable to look “effortless,” look being the operative word. The amount of women who look simultaneously great while not giving two ***** is not a vast number in my experience, and the most “effortless” looking women I know actually have to expend an awful lot of energy to achieve the appearance of nonchalance.

Effortless is not my aesthetic, but more importantly, it’s not my reality. I am a person who has to expend effort in order to look the way she wants, especially in a professional setting. I also confess to admiring “effortful” style quite a bit. I like fashion that clearly took some thought, wit, or creativity to put together, in the same way that I admire women who look polished and well groomed. All of these things take time, energy, and whatever amount of money we are willing and able to put towards them. I aspire to polish whenever possible. However, I’m also naturally lazy, not very self confident (physically speaking), and not particularly gifted when it comes to the finishing touches that allow some women to achieve that finished look.

Well-tailored work dresses allow me to put on a single item of clothing and fairly basic accessories (charity shop shoes in this case, a pair of earrings that were a present from my father, and a trusty old Longchamp bag that fits my gear and still allows me to look professional), and feel fully outfitted. I’m then able to spend the rest of my preparation time focusing on the “polishing” bits for when I need to feel serious and be taken seriously.

See? Very serious.

A Week of Outfits: Sunday

“I want everyone to wear what they want and mix it in their own way. That, to me, is what is modern.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

In spite of the blazing weather, this was a low key day as both Jeff and I had some work to catch up on and I wanted to be comfortable as much as feel cute. You can’t get more basic than this:

The shorts are years old and from Old Navy, the tee shirt is from Everlane, and the sneakers are Muji again. For the sake of vanity and to trick you all into thinking I’m more fashionable than I really am, I tied on a vintage silk scarf.

This was tremendous overkill, because we stayed around our neighborhood for the whole day, only leaving the apartment to run errands and go to the gym. But do you know what? It made me feel cute. Another side aspect of this project is trying wear the items in my closet for myself as much as anyone else, so why not throw on some accessories at home, just for kicks?

I love blue and white as a color combination–I can only blame my semi-WASP heritage and a deep and abiding love for my mother’s collection of Blue Willow china growing up, which I absolutely count as aesthetic inspiration! Blue and white combinations feature heavily in my ideas for our Someday House, and were in the back of my head as I was looking to buy a couple of summer appropriate pieces this year.

I already purchased a pair of white trousers (risky for a klutz like me, believe me) and a blue and white striped shirt independent of one another earlier this year, and then patted myself on the back heartily when the Duchess of Sussex wore a whole look to Wimbledon on this theme. In fact…*runs to lay out that knock off look for later in the week.* Glad we had this chat, kittens, you helped me cross off one more day’s look.

Still taking this super seriously, as you can see.

 

A Week of Outfits: Saturday

“Black is the hardest color in the world to get right—except for gray…”
– Diana Vreeland

You have Katarina to blame for this project, ducklings, as this was an idea for a 101/1001 goal she suggested and I foolishly added it to the list. I then thought it would be a great way to write about some of my new goals around shopping my closet, avoiding new purchases for the rest of the year, and generally writing more honestly about my consumer habits.

Then, the stupid paranoia hit. I am terrible about having my picture taken (a side effect of that body negativity I wrote about the other day), and go out of my way to avoid being photographed because I always hate how I look in images. I think I’m hoping this project will help me get over that personal hurdle a bit. So I bit the bullet and dressed for the day one Saturday with the intention of kicking off this week-long project. Then, I took a look at my shots from day one and there we were, kicking off with an annoyingly unflattering image, given that I’m feeling pretty good about my my recent health and wellbeing progress of late. Anyway I present you a British day, blazing and gorgeous high summer, and myself, a column of gray and black.

Welcome to a week of outfits from me, your friendly neighborhood Emphatically-Not-A-Style Blogger.

The recent heatwaves have presented a challenge for many Londoners. Speaking for myself and based on the rigorous anecdotal research of my friends and coworkers, I can tell you that it turns out few of us have the wardrobe for this kind of heat. Most of the time, when you want this much sun and high temperatures for a sustained period, we leave the country for them! There is a reason Europe is effectively out to lunch for the month of August, this continent wasn’t built to deal with the heat and many of us flee for cities and countries with the infrastructure to cope or the topography to make the most of Vitamin D.

Dressing for work has been a chore. Almost everything I have that’s appropriate for the office feels too hot or too covered up for the thermostat, while the few summer items I own are almost strictly casual or weekend clothes. Juggling necklines and hemlines while also trying to not sweat through your clothes on an overpacked Tube on your commute is a puzzle. I’ve started taking a bus into central London just to avoid the worst of the crowding on hot days, with its accompanying irritation and smells.

I love cold weather clothing and it’s easily where I’ve invested the most money over the years. But this year I had to dip into my original goal of only purchasing 18 items (since exploded) to pick up some summer appropriate shirts and trousers…because I truly didn’t have enough hot weather options to put together presentable work outfits. I felt a bit silly but there it is.

Weekends I’m better equipped for, as I said.

I’m trying to wear dresses more often in general, so last Saturday I pulled out an old J. Crew jersey dress that I picked up years and years ago. It’s short enough to keep cool but has a crew neck which keeps me more comfortably covered and feels modern and sporty.

I own only two pairs of sunglasses, both of which I bought years ago and spent a bit more money on, on the theory that I’d take better care of nice ones than cheap crap. So far that’s proven a wise move and I’ve had these for nearly five years with nary an accident to report. In the summer I wear these aviators by Tory Burch and in the winter, I have a pair of Jackie O style frames from Ralph Lauren

Accessories are a hodgepodge. The trainers are from Muji, the necklace and bag are both vintage. I’m thinking of doing a whole post just on my collection of vintage and second hand pieces, and some recommendations for finding good deals and steals throughout London, let me know if that would be of any interest or just frivolous and boring.

The hair is straight up laziness personified. On hot weekends I often let my hair air dry rather than putting my head under an unwelcome blast of additional heat from a hair dryer, and the results are either charming and almost-French-girl looking…or scruffy. Today felt scruffy, alas. I slapped on some concealer, mascara and a bit of loose powder, all by Glossier, and a Bite lipstick and called it A Look.

Jeff and I spent the afternoon in Southwark. We wandered around Bermondsey Street and Borough Market before picking up groceries and heading home. And that’s Day One of Outfit week.

Lest any of you think I’m taking this or myself to seriously…

I still have no idea how to take a nice photo. Prepare for a week of ham and cheese, friends!

Weekend Links

“In the land of the ostriches, the blind are king. When politicians bury their head in the sand, ignorance rules the country.
― Erik Pevernagie

Darlings, another Friday is upon us! As usual I’ve put together a melting pot of news and pop culture for your weekend reading and am dropping it before anything else upends the news cycle. This has been an unexpectedly busy week for me and I am looking forward to the weekend. I have a weeklong series coming to you starting tomorrow which I hope you enjoy. It’s a bit of a new thing for me, so while I’m sure it will be flawed, I hope it will still be fun.

Share your favorite pop culture finds and weekend links with me in the comments!

Mr. Manafort’s trial kicked off this week, filled with ostrich leather jackets and sleazily moving money all over the world and all principles stealing from one another in the process. There are no heroes here.

As of Monday, this is the story and the timeline. Let’s see what happens this week as to whether it shifts…or falls out of the collective public consciousness. Whatever happens, it’s yet another narrative shift on this point and what’s already in the public domain is damning. Or would be if it weren’t 2018 and all of us in the upside down.

Shut up to me about draining the swamp. Just stop. Not another word.

Ah good old Nunes, always saying the stuff that’s supposed to be secret out loud. I predict zero consequences.

Interesting. I’m not sure how seriously to take the claims in the lawsuit, and here is some more reporting for additional information, but it is interesting. Let’s send them some thoughts and prayers. (ETA: yeah, this is why I doubt this claim)

Would you eat lab-grown meat? If you don’t eat meat for ethical reasons of any kind, would lab grown meat feel different to you? I’m genuinely curious.

I’m an Air Force brat and a geek and even I think a Space Force is stupid. So do the Russians apparently (and we may suddenly be beefing with them over sanctions again?).

Asking the smart questions: why does the media keep giving this man a platform?

Speak of men and their platforms, Alex Jones lost a chunk of his this week. This was a rolling story, but the most intellectually interesting piece I read on it came on the first day of the fallout. As one tech writer for the New York Times put it, “Facebook follows Apple in banning Infowars, giving up the game after weeks of sanctimonious lectures about free speech. This was always about being too scared to go first.”

I was utterly entertained and charmed by this story.

This op ed by a farmer was particularly interesting to me because of the line, “The world markets, which the president is now tearing down in the name of fairness, were built and paid for by farmers to ensure agriculture had outlets for our production so we didn’t have to come to the American taxpayer for support.” The word “fairness” stuck out to me because the same day I read this piece by a NPR political reporter on the notions that Mr. Trump seems to have around the idea of “fairness,” and how it (and its counterpart, grievance) have informed his decisions in office.

Another op ed that feels relevant. If you want people to stop flirting with socialism, you need to make capitalism more attractive as an option. We can argue theory until the cows come home, but people don’t turn on systems unless they feel that system has let them down in some way.

A lovely and thought provoking read.

Climate change is here, people. It’s not a single cataclysmic event, it is a permanent change in probability and statistical likelihood of certain weather patterns.

An important element of today’s American political landscape is the almost systematic loss of experience in our Congress. This is not a Trump era problem alone and it probably has its nascence in the 1990s and the rise of hyper-partisanship, but this Politico piece delves into what this loss of institutional knowledge and procedure is turning out to mean for the country, practically. I think there is a good case to be made about our congresspeople increasingly not knowing how to govern.

The September issues are starting to drop and the covers are gorgeous. Beyonce, Rhianna, Lupita, Christy Turlington Burns, pregnant women, power couples…my god, I’m buying all of them!

MAKE IT SO, INDEED.

It’s Not About the Numbers. But…

“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.” 
― Simone de Beauvoir

The saying is true and bears repeating at the outset: health is not always about numbers on a scale. It is possible to be overweight and still fit and active, it is possible to be thin and still desperately unhealthy. The numbers on a scale are just one way to measure certain information about yourself.

But that being said…I’m really proud of this number:

This has been a year of a lot of dedicated health changes for me, in fact I just did a recap  so I don’t have to go into too much detail here about the specifics. But I did want to write about my weight because it’s something that I’m shallow enough to say has bothered me.

I have never been a naturally thin person. In fact, I’d classify my body as pretty normal overall. I’m shortwaisted, but I do have a normal-ish hourglass figure and not too far off the standard deviation besides that. I had a sweet tooth growing up which has morphed into a salt tooth and carb…face…in adulthood. My metabolism slowed down in my late 20s, once again a totally normal thing. Slowly over time a pound added itself on my frame, a bit here and a bit there, until at the end of last year I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. It’s strange to be “technically” overweight while petite because the numbers on a scale aren’t large generally, but they are large for you personally.

That being said, my overall appearance still felt broadly in the “normal” category. My weight was pretty evenly distributed throughout my body with only the typical fluctuation that I think most adult women experience as a matter of life. At certainly points in my life, my existing clothes would mostly fit, but not sometimes better than others. I have had to size up a couple of times since I was 20, which again I don’t think is too atypical. This isn’t some tale of a heroic journey to health after injury, pain, struggle, or neglect.

But I will say that I didn’t like my body. I’ve had a lot of feelings about my body over the years and it’s surprising how many of them have been very negative. I don’t think self-loathing is unique to women, but I do think we experience a particularly rough cocktail of societal pressure, unreasonable expectation, not enough range of representation, and strange notions about our sexuality that all combine to make our relationships with our bodies harder than they need to be. I am lucky that I have never hated my body. I have never felt the need to tame it in ways that made me badly unhealthy, I have never loathed and resented it, I have never felt like I was in the wrong one. Thank god. I just…didn’t really like mine.

In the past ten years, as my weight has jumped around, I’ve painfully taken down a religious faith that has a lot of conflicting notions about the body. In some ways, Mormonism is radically body positive! The faith posits an embodied deity. The “weird” dietary habits and restrictions for which Mormons are known grow from a belief that the human body is a gift that is to be cared for and stewarded well, and not put in harm’s way. It chucks concepts like original sin and downgrades the centuries old curse of Eve into something more gentle and understandable–some interpretations frame Eve eating the apple as a deliberate and brave choice because it was the only way she could have a family and so kick off the human race. It’s a kinder version of the myth in many ways.

Women-as-mothers are sacred in Mormonism, and this is where things take a turn for the problematic and patriarchal in a big way. Girls’ bodies are policed in a way that boys’ aren’t and from irritatingly young ages. There are cultural dress codes that enforce modesty, most of them badly gender slanted. Female sexuality is desirable and devilish at the same time–a prominent leader caused something of a kerfuffle a few years ago by giving a sermon cautioning girls to not become “walking pornography” to young men by the way they dress and act. Ugh. Devout Mormons are celibate until marriage and let me tell you, the underlying expectation of many sweet naive souls that you will be able to go from modestly draped maiden to sexual afficionada–zero to sixty–doesn’t do a lot of us many favors.

I felt taught to simultaneously revere my body, hide it, respect it, be frightened of it, that it was powerful, and that it was sort of shameful. But I don’t feel that I was taught that it was mine. It was a divine gift that I had on loan and would have to check back in some day like a library book. It was a vehicle for other human life that, maybe, was more important than my own in some way. It was meant to be enjoyed and shared with a partner, but in very strict and limited ways–and believe me, I could write a book on the issues with how male slanted some of the lessons about virtue I was taught were in retrospect. I had this body, but I didn’t really feel in some ways as if I owned it.

Sports or atheletics may have helped me more, but this was something I only really did a low level extracurricular. I took dance classes, horseback riding lessons, and gymnastics as a kid. I took advantage of the fact that I was in a hilariously small Department of Defense high school to join the soccer team for a couple of seasons–something I would never have been able to manage in most typical American high schools where you need something akin to talent to participate! But all in all, I’m not sure I really knew or learned how to use my body.

For about a year now, I’ve been working on my health. I’ve written a lot about how much work I’ve had to do on healing my brain, my emotions, some parts of my psyche…but I don’t like talking about my work on my body because I don’t really like thinking about my body.

So I’ve been trying to change that.

I’ve been listening to it, taking it to the doctor to check on things that have bothered me for years or just didn’t feel right. As a result, I’ve made a lot of positive changes and have helped a few issues that I thought were chronic.

I have acknowledged that I’ve not really been kind to or about my body so I’ve been trying to not actively disliking it. I’ve stopped slagging it off or criticizing it and just letting it be.

I’ve been feeding it better.

I’ve been nice to and about it in my own mind.

And yes, I’ve been working out, though that that feels like least important part of it all. I’ve had to work to build routines and try to stick to them, and I truthfully don’t enjoy exercise anymore than I used to. But I do know that I feel better overall when I do it, so I keep doing it.

The numbers on the scale are not the most important thing, not by a long shot, but the number on that scale represents 20 lbs lost this year alone in 2018. I am proud of that.

Because in my case, I feel like I’ve lost a whole lot more than weight.