Category: Style

I Miss Style Blogs

“Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” 
― Anna Wintour

Quick question, those of you kittens interested in fashion, beauty and style: which bloggers and channels have you followed for years, and why? I’ve unfollowed a lot of style blogs over the years–not because I don’t like or want to support them as a medium, but because I’ve gradually found so many of them to be less and less interesting or unique. In fact, in retrospect, I think I have tended to unsubscribe in batches when I just get bored of certain sites. I saw too much repetition, too much similarity of content, and too many overlapping aesthetics. Instagram and other social media have compounded the problem, both in the fashion and beauty spaces and (off the back of a chat with Katarina), I’ve been thinking about this lately in the wake of last month’s Week of Outfits project.

Frankly, I miss the “old” style blogs of about a decade ago. The ones where (mostly) women and girls crafted unique and instantly recognizable fashion senses, sometimes with a lot of money but often without. I never begrudged them the odd PR gift or contract because I trusted them to blend the items they received for free into the style they had taken the time to publicly develop, curate and share.

Of COURSE there are still people out there creating beautiful images and good writing around style and beauty, but I’m surprised by how few writers and videographers I follow now than what I used to. There are plenty of stylish (mostly) women out there who do really good and thoughtful writing about style but the rise of monetization and blogger-directed PR has complicated the kind of writing I see. The beauty space is sort of notorious for this. You can tell exactly when the PR machine has kicked in for a new launch because quite suddenly every single blogger and YouTuber will produce content raving about a product or line at exactly the same time, usually using very similar language. NARS just launched a new mascara and every beauty blogger and their photographer boyfriend seems to have ended up in Ibiza for the press party. I don’t necessarily begrudge them their good fortune either…but I’m not going to watch a dozen vlogs of the same event featuring the same people and rave reviews of a product they couldn’t possibly have road tested.

In some ways this new reality isn’t massively different from the magazine model, but I think that blogs and magazines are different platforms in key ways and that has always informed the kind of coverage they did. For a long time, editors were seen as arbiters not just of good taste and style, but also good judgement and trusted recommendations. PR has obviously affected this too and it is increasingly easy to either see or at least make informed guesses about how PR money is influencing coverage.

I get it, it was always sort of inevitable that a full blown business model would emerge around “influencers,” and as I’ve said I don’t really fault the women who are able to make livings off of it. Good for them! I sure as hell don’t think I could do it! But I still miss that era of internet writing and visual display all the same.

A few writers and YouTubers I still follow these days include…

Audrey a la Mode – writes about and films content on “slow fashion” and thoughtful shopping. Because her style is fairly classic, she is able to really demonstrate the value of second hand shopping and building an intentional wardrobe. A lot of her outfits are straight from Town and Country at any point in the last 50 years, but her content has always struck me as very authentic and genuine.

Where Did You Get That – equally enthusiastic about vintage and ready to wear, her enthusiasm for shopping and style is infectious and, because she makes a point to mix old and new pieces and buy what she loves, she has cultivated her own aesthetic. She loves clothes and it shows.

Sea of Shoes – one of the OG style bloggers who is famously eclectic in her tastes, mixing couture and eBay finds.

The Anna Edit – a British beauty blogger who has since branched out into a lot of style and lifestyle content, but one I’ve followed for a long time. She’s another example of a blogger who has maintained what feels like a very authentic and consistent voice, which I like, and she also writes thoughtfully on mindful consumerism and how she makes certain business choices.

The Frugality – Alex is another British blogger who I’ve met and briefly got some work experience overlap with in my freelance days at Red Magazine. These days she a full time freelance stylist and writer, who blogs about style but also the London home she and her husband are renovating together with a newborn in tow.

I clearly have certain “types” when it comes to the women I follow. I am interested in self-aware and authentic women who like what they like without excuses, and are intelligent and intentional about their lives and respective styles. I am interested in women who have something to show or say, and not just sell.

So again, who do you follow in the “style and beauty” world, and why? What about their content speaks to you? Let’s chat in the comments.

Lipstick Usage: A Junkie’s Confession

“I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Big news, team, I’ve finished another full sized lip product this month. This is my third this year so far and means I’m two for three in my 13 by Halloween panning challenge. Progress!

I’ve said it before, and others have said it with far more eloquence, but we live in an age of conspicuous beauty consumption and it’s fascinating to watch whole media and production industries shift to accelerate our spending habits. But there is much less interrogation of the perish-ability of beauty items and how long it takes to use some of them. It took me months of almost single-product usage to use up these lipsticks…and I own at least two dozen lip products. The sheer time it will take me to use these items is daunting.

So. Damn. Satisfying.

In fact I can hand on heart say that I own years worth of makeup… and I don’t feel great about that. Earlier this year I made an inventory of all the beauty products I own and how much they cost to purchase. I still can’t share the number because even now I’m shocked by it. However, quantifying what I owned was a real wake up call and has helped me set (and mostly keep) spending challenges, and has motivated me to take more pleasure in using items than hoarding or collecting them.

Similar to clothing, I definitely went through a period in my young adulthood of not really knowing who I was (aesthetically speaking) or what face or image I wanted to portray to the world. I tried on a lot of looks, hoping to find myself in the mirror. I bought items that editors and bloggers recommended, shopped for the kind of girl I thought I wanted to be (rather than who I actually was), and frankly indulged in retail therapy. It was an expensive and frankly wasteful process to go through, and I recognize my own privilege in being able to afford it, but I’m grateful to have had the experience of learning a bit more about myself through the mirror of…well, my bathroom mirror. I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned that I don’t care if everyone and their dog loves it, I don’t like NARS’ iconic blush shade, “Orgasm.” It has glitter in it, and that’s not my jam. I’ve learned that blue based red lipstick may make my teeth look whiter, but too bad. I loved orangey reds and if given the choices will always reach for the latter–and should probably therefore stop buying the former. I’ve learned that I don’t know how or care to contour my face; I am not a Kardashian. I’ve learned that I may love the idea of colorful eyeliners and pencils but I will not wear them and they are a waste of money.

I’ve learned that 90% of any successful and cohesive aesthetic as an adult woman seems to be confidence. I’m sure in retrospect that literally no one on earth besides me was paying significant attention to how my face looked on any given day, and that most of the angst and insecurity I felt was emotional energy spent that I’ll never get back. I’ve also learned that because almost know one cares about my face as much as me, I may as well have fun from time to time and actually wear colorful makeup or lipstick and enjoy the hell out of it rather than allow it to languish on a shelf due to timidity.

I’ve learned that no amount of product or pigment will compensate for poor health or self care. Good skin, an exercised body, and healthy food may not be as bold as red lipstick, but I will feel ten times better in them than any amount of the latter. A balanced emotional state and tended to mental health is not notably glamorous but it is infinitely better for my wallet. And I’ve learned that before I am allowed to buy anything, I must do the months worth of work to use what I have first. It’s been a mindset shift that has stretched into almost every area of my life as a capitalist consumer.

Beauty has taught me a lot, and I think that’s why I like to write about it and read about it as much as I do. It’s an interesting glimpse into an inner life with a very shallow surface and very deep through lines.

 

The Faustian Cabinet Has Arrived

“If you love something, it will work. That’s the only real rule.”
– Bunny Williams

A quick moment of apartment appreciation, minions. We’ve lived in our current place for two years and our lease is for a year more, after which we may either need to move or at least try to negotiate on rent a bit more. We struck a bargain when we moved in that we would furnish the place ourselves in exchange for lower rent and we have done so…very, very slowly.

I don’t like living in what feels like a barebones apartment sometimes, I’m ready for a home that feels intentional and grown up, with art on the walls and furniture bought to keep instead of disposable IKEA goods. Simultaneous and paradoxically to that, I enjoy the ease with which we have been able to move, be it to another country or a new apartment on short notice. Owning fewer possessions definitely helps with that!

However, the older I get, the less satisfied I am with living out of suitcases. Our first ever apartment in Utah was starving newlywed accommodation, our first London apartment was a shoebox and not very nice, but this apartment feels like the first proper grown up place. I’ve enjoyed the process of putting it together, even if that process takes a long time and is constrained by the realities of budgeting and strategy. We bought a bed and a wardrobe when we first moved in, for obvious reasons. Over the coming months, our next purchase was a couch, which again is fairly standard. From Etsy we bought a coffee table and stools, from John Lewis a rug. After about a year we splurged on our fabulous vintage chairs and then closed our wallets again for a long while.

Furnishing is a balancing act. I’m a magpie who loves interesting, colorful pieces with personality while Jeff would be a Danish minimalist if he could. Smashing those two styles together into something that involves taste is a tricky, but I think we’re doing okay so far. He has his industrial tables, I get colors and patterns so long as the lines are modern. I get to do the majority of the selection, but he gets veto power so we don’t get overwhelmed with my magpie tendencies. It works. So when I spotted our latest piece online, I knew it would work too.

It’s a vintage piece, but one that’s been upcylced. It’s a muted dark blue, which goes with the blue-gray leather of the sofa, and the blue and white rug. The gold touches keep it feeling chic instead of just a solid block, and it’s deep enough to absorb a lot of items that heretofore didn’t really have a home in the apartment–thus tidying up mess and satisfying Jeffs desire for lack of clutter. I’m absurdly pleased with it and it really has helped me feel as if the front room is “finished” in some way. The only other thing I would want to do in this current apartment would be to frame and hang our art, but if that doesn’t happen until our next lease somewhere, I think could be satisfied.

As promised, this is my last purchase for the year (minus the usual things like socks, underwear, or unsexy items like toothpaste and shoe inserts) and any failures on this point will be publicly documented for shaming purposes. I’m fairly confident that being able to gaze on my growing domestic kingdom will help keep me in financial check. How could you not feel happy in a room that looks like this:

 

 

A Week of Outfits: Friday

Oh God
Could it be the weather
Oh God 
Why am I here
If love Isn’t forever
And it’s not the weather
Hand me my leather
― Tori Amos

I had my Duchess of Sussex knock off look all planned…and then I checked the weather report before I got ready. Thank god because after weeks of heat wave, we’ve taken a turn for the cool and rainy. I don’t mind this personally, as I usually feel much better prepared for cool weather than warm, but it did sort of scupper my final look for the week. White trousers in the rain? I think not, I’m neither an idiot nor a masochist.

And so, to the back up plan! And let’s go to the exact opposite of Duchess territory while we’re at it!

These are vintage leather trousers, they are completely extra, and they are fun. To go back to an earlier post on this series, when I retreat to my single blocks of color in dressing, one element of dressing I like to play with is texture. Texture is why I bought these vintage leather trousers-slash-almost-culottes-kinda, and it’s the same reason I bought my navy velvet trousers. They are totally different sensory experiences, but tactile components can add visual complexity to an outfit. The photo is not my best angle…but who cares!

It’s also fun to mix other components. Leather is a very tough material and is often considered quite masculine or even butch, so you can cut the effect by introducing hyper feminine elements. In this case, I paired it with a loose, pink silk shirt from Everlane and my trusty charity shop heels again. I doubled down with the pearl earrings. All of those pieces are more traditionally feminine and so the trousers become the star of the show. Again. I think I’ve realized I have something of a trousers fetish during this project…

This project has been more fun to do that I thought it would be. I still don’t enjoy having my photo taken, I still feel pretty dumb in front of a camera, and I still have to quell negative comments about how I think I look (yes, even after dropping 20 lbs in a year and a lot of other health victories). But it has helped me think about putting outfits together in advance, which always makes getting out the door that much easier in the morning. It’s made me think about accessories and jewelry, which I clearly need to use more often and in different ways, and it’s definitely made me want to shop my own closet more.

I’ve written before about how I really have gotten to a place where I love my clothes. I can’t think of a single item in my closet that I don’t like–if I don’t like it, I don’t keep it–and even better, a lot of them have whole background and stories behind their purchase. I can explain why I bought an item, what was attractive about it, and how I like to wear it. Everything I own feels intentional. The vast majority of my closet is second hand or vintage items and in almost every case of buying something new, the item has been sourced from a transparent and ethical company. I feel good about what I own.

I’m happy to say that it looks like my furniture deal is going ahead therefore so is my Faustian bargain to not buy any more personal items for the rest of the year. Doing a project like this where I don’t just shop my own closet, but I write about it and try to articulate the way I use clothing better has been a great way to unofficially kick it off. I may do another week like this later in the year, when the cold weather has well and truly descended and I may need a jolt of inspiration again. But for now, I hope it wasn’t too boring to read about and I appreciate the indulgence.

A Week of Outfits: Thursday

“Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy — but mysterious. But above all black says this: I don’t bother you — don’t bother me.”
– Yohji Yamamoto

And again proving myself a liar, today I went for simple all black. I’m a howling hypocrite.

There was a reason for the choice, however, it was because I had a visit to another client site scheduled, one that’s a bit less convenient for me to get to than my Monday trek was. Trousers, rather than a dress, were the way to go and frankly it had been too hot that week to cover both legs and sleeves, so a sleeveless top was a must. I don’t really have too many of those and they are all in black or white so this look was a bit of a foregone conclusion.

Then the meeting went and got cancelled at the last minute so my carefully chosen rationale was all for naught.

Going monochrome can be fun and gives you a chance to focus on other items rather than fabric color. In my case, I pulled out the big gold hoop earrings again and a bright red lip because why the hell not?

Wide leg trousers appeal to me on a visceral level, even though I’m sure there is some rule in some style book somewhere about how petite women shouldn’t wear them, and certainly not at the length I found these at this year in an LK Bennett sale for over 50% off. Sue me. If you go to my style inspiration Pinterest board, you will find it filled with  images of wide legged trousers, from photographs of flappers to Victoria Beckham. The vintage look appeals to me significantly; I love how a century ago women took a men’s piece and completely made it their own, and on their terms. I like the feminized “male” trouser of its day and though I do own skinny trousers and like them just fine, I’ve really gravitated towards voluminous pieces. It’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve felt confident enough to wear them. Maybe they do break some kind of rule for how you’re supposed to look or dress, but I love the way these ones look on me. I feel slightly like Katherine Hepburn, and that was exactly the point of them.

We’ve got to talk about the shoes. Because I was expecting to rotate through cars, buses, and trains all in a couple of hours, heels were also out of the question today. But these almost-flats are one of my favorite consignment store finds: a pair of Jimmy Choos at a fraction of the its sales price and barely ever worn. The metal detail at the front makes a fairly basic shoe feel fancier than it actually is, and the slight heel gives me a tiny bit of height while also feeling dressier than flats.

I love consignment shopping; exactly like thrifting, it’s incredible what you can find if you take the time to look and hold out for what you really want. I’ve found new or lightly used shoes by Jimmy Choo, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen, and Louboutin–all for pennies on the dollar. Ah, the shallowness of labels, right?

I used to work in an industry where the pros could look you head to toe and guess, with alarming accuracy, what your salary and net worth were because it was an industry where people deliberately telegraphed information about themselves with their clothing. I was always, always the most junior and lowest salaried person in the room in that world, but consignment shopping allowed me to blur that fact when I needed to. And now, older, wiser and in fields that fit me better and I like more, I still rely on a lot of the shallow but useful lessons learned from an earlier part of my work life about how much presentation matters. Especially in a city like London.

This outfit appeals to me because it’s simple and easy, but still has personality in spite of the monochrome and allows me to wear items that mean a lot to me and send certain signals effectively. The only thing I’d change about it is possible more or different jewelry, but I’ve barely started buying pieces that aren’t costume and growing that area of my closet is going to be the work of years. Maybe at some future point I’ll do a savings challenge around buying a really incredible piece of bling for myself…that would be motivation!

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.