The End of Style Month

“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.”
– Diana Vreeland

Style Month is at an end and I’ve enjoyed writing about it from the perspective of consumption and choice. The comments have been fantastic and I’ve had a lot of fun. ButI didn’t accomplish everything I wanted with this particular project, largely due to the very happy fact that I got a new and unexpected work contract (hurrah!) but it’s given me a lot of ideas of how I want to do future month long projects or topic assignments. It frustrates me to have a “vision” for a project and not feel like I’ve seen it through, but looking back through my stats and comments, I’m pleasantly surprised to see how much engagement I’ve had with this series. Which means of course, I want to do another one at some point! Do let me know what you’d be interested in reading about and discussing; I’ve got a few ideas following your feedback from my Money Month project as well.

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I ticked off a couple of minor 101/1001 goals and made progress on some long term ones, but the next month will be a bit more relaxed. Apart from my responsibilities with my new contract, we are planning a trip to Paris in June with friends that is where we are going to put our only big spending in May. I’m going to be continuing to build on my Money and Style Month themes by using what I’ve got, and doing a new personal savings/spending goal to knock out a whole credit card by the end of next month.

I have no idea how we are a quarter of the way through the year already, but in spite of some background stresses, and occasional bouts of imposter syndrome and anxiety, I’m really happy with the progress I’m making on so many of my goals!

Weekend Links

“After luncheon the sun, conscious that it was Saturday, would blaze an hour longer in the zenith,…”
― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Hurrah, our government is funded for another week and we haven’t come to blows with North Korea. As of typing this at least. Who honestly knows what might go down this weekend!

This week at work was really enjoyable but very eventful and I plan on doing as little as possible this weekend, with the exception of a dinner party for a friend who is in town from the States. It’s another Bank Holiday weekend so my plans are brunch with Jeff, a bit of work prep for the coming week cleaning the house, and to get in touch with some of my girl gang who have been sadly neglected lately. The weather has gone annoyingly chilly again (#Britain) and we’ve got some rain on the way, but the prospect of some sun on the horizon.

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Thoughts on tele-typing?

Haberman. I’ve followed her writing for years, but found this profile a great and insightful read. She sounds like a dame, in the absolutely best sense of the world.

He…thought it would be…easier?

This quick piece by McKay Coppins at The Atlantic sums it up for me. I stand by my prediction as a viable potential.

This makes my lookbook project seem significantly less impressive!

Speaking of the rise of the machines however, this piece about the rise (and potential fall) of the service economy was interesting to read.

Learning from wise women and fighting imposter syndrome.

Learning wisdom from wise men and slaying.

I am always down to rank Shakespearean couples and I have many thoughts about this list. Let’s argue in the comments!

Slybird is my new spirit animal. I brook no argument. There is tea to be spilled and this bird has it.

Fact checking, a la This American Life.

Album of the week: Double Roses, by Karen Elson

What I Bought This Month

“When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else.”
― Iris Apfel

As we begin to wind down style month here, as promised, is an account of what I’ve bought since my shopping ban lifted. Though I’m not going to make a formal commitment (my next ban won’t be until next year), I’m going to make this the last round of personal purchases for a long time. Jeff is looking to buy a new suit and possibly a sports coat (his vice of choice), while I want to continue to shop my own closet the way I have been for the past few months. Now that I’ve done a few clear outs and a bit a streamlining to both my wardrobe and my bathroom shelf, I’m more happy than ever with what I already have. My trusty, long running list of items I’d like to buy has had a couple of ticks put in it, and even more items eliminated as I reevaluated my needs. Only three items remains, and in the case of all of them I’m happy to wait a few months before buying them.

And so, what needs and indulgences made the cut? Read on!

Bite Prismatic Pearl Creme Lip Gloss
A pure indulgence that I didn’t need, but wanted a great deal. I was as a magpie drawn to shimmer and I don’t regret it in the slightest!

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Phone photos don’t do these beauties justice. The shimmer is strong!

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette
My eye makeup stash had a gap I wanted to rectify: lack of color. While I had a few dashes of pigment in my supplementary bits and pieces, my eye shadow collection was overwhelmingly neutral. Since my eyes are green, I knew I wanted something with red and purple tones in it to play up the color, and I’d wanted this palette for a long time. Add a coupon code to the mix, and I snapped it up. And I solemnly swear not to buy any more eyeshadows until I’ve hit pan on what I’ve got.

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The whole thing was supposedly inspired by the tones found in Renaissance paintings. Which means that from the get go, it had my name written all over it.

A vintage faux fur coat
While Etsy-scanning I stumbled upon a coat designed in the 80s but looked like it was from the 20s and looked like something a flush bootlegger’s girlfriend would swan about in. I required it. Many thanks to Katarina who is coming to visit this summer; I enlisted her aid in conveying it to me when she does and she, darling that she is, agreed. Also, you’ve got a hint as to one of my perpetual style inspirations in the screengrab: Agatha Christie murder mysteries. That Interwar period look gives me life.

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I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to winter now!

Everlane tops and jumper
Everlane had one of their international shipping promotions and so I picked up some replacement t-shirts (all of my current t-shirts were a couple of years old and stretched or sagging in less than flattering ways). There are few joys quite like fresh cotton, whether new shirts or clean sheets! I also picked up a jumper and a summer top. I’d like to get a couple of their silk tops for work, but am biding my time until another international promotion comes around. I didn’t snap photos of these because, let’s face it, I’m not a style blogger and lack some of the basic skills!

Joy skirt
I’d wanted a mid length skirt for a while. I found one with both pockets and with a designed in a repeating pattern of lipstick tubes. I really don’t feel like I need to explain this any further.

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I mean, seriously, come on!

Apart from the personal purchases, the thing I’m really happy we bought this month are two vintage chairs for the house. We bought a very nice couch and bedroom set when we moved to our current apartment and new it would be several months before we could afford to buy anything else in furnishing it. The waiting has been boring and I’m impatient. But at long last we found a beautiful pair in the style we liked and in our price range. It will be another few months before we can buy our next piece, but these beauties will hold me over I think.

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Use What You’ve Got: The Psychology of Shopping Your Closet

“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.”
― Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

Based on an unscientific gathering of stories from my friends, coworkers, and pals, I’m convinced we all have great stuff in our closets that we don’t use. There can be a lot of good reasons not to wear what we’ve got, which is a topic for another day, but today I want to focus on the bad excuses for not using what we already own. Or at least one in particular: the “I bought it special” excuse.

I’m going to push the boat out and just say that if you’re saving unworn items in your closet for “special occasions” (with exceptions of somer event-wear) you’ve wasted your money or let your emotions do your shopping for you. I used to be a particularly bad offender of this and would buy clothing that I wanted to wear…but never got around to wearing because I didn’t think I had the right occasions to do so.

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In some cases, I had indeed purchased irrelevant items, which was due to me not really having a handle on what my actual clothing needs were for my then-lifestyle. But in other cases, I’d purchased clothing that could be considered aspirational. It was a bit nicer than my other items, more dressy, a different style, or just out of my current comfort zone. I loved them, but I bought them thinking that I needed to wait for the “right time” to wear some of them, that they were “too good” for my day-to-day casual life, or that wearing them would require some effort. Hilarious since, in retrospect, what I was purchasing five or even ten years ago was fairly cheap all things considered.

I no longer subscribe to this way of thinking at all. Not only is wasteful as a consumer (many of my purchases of yore ended up sold, donated, or given to friends unworn at some point), but I simply don’t see the point in owning something if you don’t wear or use it. You’re missing out on a good deal of easy pleasure and contentment with your wardrobe, and often adding a lurking sense of disappointment, guilt, or sheepishness about owning things you don’t touch.

For example, a couple of years ago I’d saved up to purchase a nice work handbag which I’d researched, considered for a long time, and found an amazing deal on.  I’d bought it specifically to upgrade my professional wardrobe and knew how I wanted to use it with my existing clothes, but for a long time was afraid to take it out of its dustbag. What if it got scratched or smudged? What if I dinged the hardware? What if I scuffed it? I was so nervous about putting any wear and tear on it, that I failed utterly to use it. It sat, reproachfully, in my closet for months before I confronted myself about it.

Of course I would need to care for it more carefully than I would a cheaper item, but eventually I had to acknowledge that any bag, no matter how coddled, was going to show signs of use. That’s what happens with any item, even a well tended one. In the end, I decided I either needed to resell the bag, or actually use it the way I had purchased it to be used. I chose the latter. And then I went through my closet and ruthlessly applied the same rationale to another of other items. That Liberty scarf in the image above was another similar victim of overcaution. Originally bought to celebrate a raise, I had almost never worn it out of worry that I’d damage it in some way. There were at least five other pieces of clothing or accessories that had similar excuses attached to their lack of use.

Far from having nothing to wear–a common complaint uttered when staring mournfully into a wardrobe–I just hadn’t been giving myself permission to wear what I wanted…and already had.

I own fewer items of clothing than I did while at university and my early 20s, but what I own now is of much better quality. More importantly, everything is worn regularly, including my more expensive pieces. I’m willing to occasionally fork out for beautiful vintage or consignment designer pieces, but only if I commit to myself to actually use them. I’m no longer worried about wearing them out–I’ve learned to take better care of my clothing over all, and I’ve come to the healthier mental place of acknowledging that ultimately, as beautiful as they are, they are just things. I get more satisfaction from my treasured pieces by letting them see the light of day than I do from looking at them on a hanger.

Don’t get me wrong, aspirational clothing still has its place (I’ve found the adage of “dressing for the job you want” to be a useful one), but I maintain it is no good to you hanging in a closet. Use it. Your wallet will be grateful and your mirror will be flattering, I promise.

Your turn. Have you every had items languish in your closet? What were your reasons for buying but not wearing? Are there any items which could do with a bit more love? 

Beauty Empties

“I adore artifice. I always have.”
– Diana Vreelance

When I first thought about doing these month-long blog projects, I had an idea I’d try to do something about beauty or makeup at some point and so I started collecting the bottles and packets of items I was using up. I debated trying to do some video content myself this month…but then my computer crashed and needed a new hard drive (a few other tech shenanigans behind the scenes also ensued) and I decided to put that goal off until another month. But I still wanted to do some kind of “empties” post, et alors, we’ve arrived!

I’m oddly obsessed with “empties” videos on YouTube. There are a lot of writers and content makers who are legitimate voices of authority in the industry (Caroline Hirons in particular springs to mind) and I have a number I trust to give good advice when it comes to skincare and makeup, so when they they tell me they’ve used certain products up, I pay attention. I’m also fascinated because from some of the anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered from some friends and internet pals of late leads me to conclude that we throw a lot of beauty products out because they goes bad before we finish them, we get bored before something is used up, or we just clear out our stashes periodically and anything that’s done its time is binned. Simply put, a lot of us can be fairly sloppy or casual consumers of our beauty goods!

Candidly, one of my projects this month was to throw away any makeup that had expired (as some of those products can be serious hubs for bacteria) and to give things that I simply wasn’t using to better homes. My little sister is awaiting a package of goodies from me as we speak! Also in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve picked up a few things this month which I’ll be documenting in a later post. But having done a clear out, and a couple of thoughtful shopping trips to replace what needs replacing, my goal now is to buy fairly little if any new makeup until I’ve used up some of what I’ve already got.

Also, since I stuck to my shopping ban faithfully (minus my one tiny little cheat courtesy of Estee Lauder and Victoria Beckham…) I didn’t buy any new skin care for several months and so was able to finish a lot of products that were already in my stash. My bathroom shelf is much leaner than its been in a long time, but that means I’ve got a nice little hoard to share of some of the things I’ve used up entirely in the last six months.

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I was surprised to see so many hair prodcuts in this stash as it typically takes me months to get through them…because I hate doing my hair. Every minute of the process. I hate washing it, I hate the time it takes to blow dry and style it, I hate the fact that the whole process is (for me) largely null and void the moment I step outside–all of it. This is unfortunate as I 1) really do want to look nice and hair is a big part of that and, 2) have eczema on my scalp which means I have continuous skin problems in that vicinity which requires constant care. Frankly, my hatred of hair care is probably related to this fact.

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There’s a lot of Glossier in here as I put in an order last summer when we were in the States and finally came to the end of it around Christmas. The serums I picked up at Christmas, however, and I’ve gone through both the Super Bounce and Super Glow formulas in record time. Bounce is a hyaluronic acid serum and though it seems to be a bit of an internet favorite, I won’t be repurchasing. I’m roadtesting the Deciem line at the moment, which includes an HA serum, but at the moment I think I’ll be picking up another bottle of the Pestle & Mortar HA serum when that runs out. I got through my first bottle of it in January and have not found anything I love quite as much as it yet! The Glossier Super Glow serum is a Vitamin C formula and I will be buying it in bulk as soon as I can get my grubby hands on a way to get it to the UK–it’s that good!

Speaking of buying in bulk, I’ve actually gotten through multiple packets of facial wipes (which most beauty editors and gurus worth their salt will tell you to stay far away from. Listen to their wisdom, kittens, but know that your beloved Aunt C. sometimes is just a lazy slob) and bottles of micellar cleansing water in the last six months. This is just indicative.

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The products above I’ve already repurchased since using them up (in December when shopping was permitted, of course!) and have every intention of picking up again when my current stash runs out. It’s taken me a long time to build an arsenal of products that I know work for me and when I find things I love, I tend to be loyal. I may still be fighting a losing battle with hair care, and may still fall victim to the slings and arrows of hormonal breakouts, but day to day, I feel like I’ve got my skincare game together.

Your turn! Are there any products you swear by? Do you repurchase old favorites or actively go out hunting for new ones? How long does it typically take you to get through your favorite items? 

Weekend Links

“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Another weekend is upon us, ducklings! We’re chasing sunlight where we can find it this weekend, and our big project is to buy a pair of vintage chairs for the flat. How exciting are we!

Meanwhile, in this week’s news, the administration misplaced an aircraft carrier, Venezuela is engulfed in protests, and there’s a nail-biter of an election coming up in France.  On the otherhand, Bill O’Reilly is out of a job, proving that justice does eventually come to you if you attempt to assault or sexually exploit women from a position of power. That, or you get elected president.

Whatever! I’m in too good a mood, and so this weekend’s links batch is brought to you by lady news and feminist glee/outrage as the case may be. Enjoy!

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There, Elle fixed it for you, dude.

Man-terupting at the Supreme Court level, and interesting trends related thereto.

Gah, I am ridiculously excited about The Handmaid’s Tale, and this write up from Buzzfeed about the visuals and the the idea of the “female gaze” just fanned the flames!

Thoughts on the new Star Wars trailer, kittens? I have some some quibbles, but mostly am bursting with hopeful glee to see some lady Jedi training.

A badass woman, an iconic set of images, and an anniversary.

Boy, bye!

And speaking of boy byes (which really should be both a noun and a verb), my own congressman and resident spineless jerk Congressman Chaffetz is not running for reelection. Hurrah! Though if he is lining himself up for a gubernatorial run, Jeff may convince me to spend more time in Utah for the sheer dogged determination I will feel to volunteer for whomever his opponents turn out to be. Truly, I have never longed for a Romney, but the sudden sharp pang is intense!

UNBREAKABLE, THEY ALIVE, DAMN IT!

Why yes, women do slay while pregnant.

How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.” How The Handmaid’s Tale explores the issue of women backing up patriarchy, and what warnings it might have for more current talking points.

Aztec midwifery sounds like a pretty darn thorough profession!

Album of the week: The Chief, by Jidenna

Serial Monogamy: A Perfume Story

“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. ”
― Christian Dior

I have long been in love with the idea of a signature scent. I say “idea” because while I was faithful to Coco Mademoiselle for several years in my early 20s, we broke up at some point and I’ve been a hussy, jumping around ever since trying to find something I could wear every day without getting bored or smelling it on every other girl (or guy!) who walks down the street. I’ve fallen love with another scent more than once, but not one worth forgoing all other scents for.

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At the moment I’m finishing up a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur la Nil, and am in a torrid, wild affair with Passion Boisee from Frapin, which is a perfume house that grew out of a French family cognac business that’s been going since the 13th century. This scent is the nearest I’ve yet come to fidelity! I also have a bottle of Commes des Garcon in Amazingreen which I bought against the day that my Hermes runs out, and a small spritzer of Replica by Maison Margiela in Jazz Club. As you may have gathered from the scattering of testers, I’m already on the hunt for the next fragrance up to bat when either of these go.

There are themes to my perfumes. I hate most florals and strongly prefer scents that are at least slightly masculine. Woods and spices are my go tos, with a healthy heaping of bergamot–since my Chanel days, I’ve never fallen in love with a fragrance that didn’t have bergamot listed in its ingredients. Know thyself, C.. I also sometimes steal a spray of Jeff’s cologne: an expensive bottle of Tom Ford that I don’t begrudge the cost of in the slightest because I adore it on him and it lasts forever. He mock complains whenever I bury my nose in his shirt or neck to catch a whiff, but you can tell he’s pretty chuffed to have such an easy way of seducing me with pheromones.

I’m still open to the idea that I will find The One, but these days I’m more okay with the notion that I may continue to play the field. I’m mostly faithful to whatever bottle currently lives on my nightstand–or two to be honest, one for warmer seasons and one for cold–but my eye, it roves. Always looking for the next best thing.

Because, kittens…at a deep and fundamental level, I’m a snob.

That bark of laughter you just heard was Jeff in the other room. “No kidding,” I believe was his precise response.

Well, there’s no helping it, I am a snob and I don’t like smelling like everybody else. First of all, there are a lot of glorious scents in the world–an almost infinite variety of combinations and notes that can be combined and recombined in ways that make even your favorite individual scents feel new and exciting while still invoking nostalgia. Secondly no perfume will smell exactly the same on you as it does on anyone else. Skin chemistry is neat like that! But that’s still no excuse for every girl in the lift to be wearing the same fragrance.

I think that the plethora of luxury brand perfumes (usually by major fashion houses) is completely understandable. Most of us may not be able to afford a Chanel jacket or bag, but we can afford a splurge on Chanel cosmetics here or there, and what has as much staying power as perfume? Well crafted and distilled, you shouldn’t need more than one spritz a day (possibly two in a pinch) and so a single bottle can get you through months if not years of wear. And so these scents organically and naturally permeate through pop culture and Instagram feeds. There’s no shame in it and if you have a beloved fragrance that you genuinely love that just happens to be popular, I will be the last woman in the world to comment on it. Heck, I’m just about to polish off a fragrance by Hermes that I picked up four years ago! I won’t be repurchasing it, but I’ve enjoyed wearing it for four summers in a row immensely.

But the truth is that I enjoy feeling that I’m wearing something just a bit different. In reality I know that tens of thousands of guys and gals are wearing the same scent as me, but the illusion is powerful. I enjoy stumbling into niche perfume sellers in corners of London or cities I visit on holiday and finding something quite unlike anything I could pick up at the Nordstrom’s counter. I like the (admittedly false) exclusivity of smaller, less well known houses who are making perfume the way that connoisseurs make cheese or wine–in small batches and to their own preferences or taste. I like feeling like I’m wearing something secretive and interesting. Like unto red lipstick, the effect may be purely psychological, but it’s real.

 

Your turn. Are you a one-perfume man or woman, or are you playing the field like me? Do you have a particular memory associated with a scent? Do you have or want a signature scent, or do you find the idea silly (or just plain boring)? Talk to me!