Tag: Clothes

To the Closet!

“Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.”
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook

Some of you may still be a bit battered by our last exercise, but grudging health commitments have taught me that the only cure for soreness is the hair of the dog and so back into the fray!  This time we’re tackling your wardrobe, what are the chances we’ll find Narnia?

Moving is always an excellent excuse to go through your closet because there is generally quite a bit of stuff in it that you don’t wear, doesn’t fit, no longer reflects your style or taste, has started to wear out, or that you are ready to let go of.  There is no better excuse for an honest examination (or in the case of some, an archeological expedition) of one’s closet than the knowledge that if you are keeping something you will have to find room for it in two suitcases.  And if you aren’t taking it, that you will have to find a place to store it while you are out of the country or gird your loins and get rid of it.

Now I’m not one of those ogresses that demand you chuck everything dear to you (am I, ducklings?), I know that in every closet their lurks some treasures that it simply wouldn’t be feasible to transport but you can’t get rid of.  All I’m saying is that you should be honest about what constitutes real treasure.  A couple of contrasting examples:

Freshman year some friends of mine had t-shirts made for our group.  I’ve carefully preserved that shirt for the memories but haven’t worn it once in nearly 6 years.  When I pulled it out of my closet, I grinned a bit remembering some of the scrapes we got into, thought of friends I haven’t seen in a while, and generally reminisced about the four years I spent at university.  And then I put it in the donate pile.  Hanging onto a shirt that only takes up room in storage when I already don’t wear it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  And of course I realized that I don’t necessarily need a shirt to remember people and good times anymore.

Alternatively, in my closet also resides my wedding dress.  It too represents memories but the difference between it and a t-shirt (besides price) is not lost on me.  If  I have a daughter she may want to wear it for her own wedding, or perhaps my sister would like to borrow it for her nuptials – giving my parents a sigh of relief and Snickers more coin to drop on the party itself.  Or perhaps someday I’ll donate it to another good cause.  But until then, I’m much less willing to part with it rather than an old, never worn t-shirt.

I WISH. Mine is nothing so organized.

And in between these two extremes is most of what I own.  I have pretty dresses and skirts that I spent good money on, are in excellent shape, and that I quite like, that won’t be necessary to me overseas.  I have tops that I haven’t worn for a long time and won’t miss.  I have any number of shoes, including a few pairs from Italy and Paris that I love but won’t stand up to cobbled streets or inclimate weather.

And so, armed with a ruthless will and clear vision of what I intend to hold precious, I fling open the doors and survey everything I own and start asking the practical and philosophical questions about individual items:

  1. Does it follow the Cardinal Rule of dressing abroad?
  2. Is it in good shape?  Are hems fraying, seams ripping, or is it generally falling apart?  Is the answer is yes, donate or chuck it.
  3. If it isn’t in good shape, can you get it back into working order?  If all that’s wrong with a perfectly good jacket or cardigan is a missing button, it’s beyond foolish to chuck it for a easily repairable flaw.
  4. Have I worn this item in the last six months?  If not, you can probably get rid of it without qualm.
  5. Do I still like it?  In every closet there resides at least one lapse in sartorial judgment, and if you don’t like it now, you won’t like it later.
  6. Does it still fit properly?  There’s no reason to hang on to something that doesn’t.
  7. Will I wear it (which is an entirely different question than “Have I worn it?”  I wear lots of things here in the States during summer that might not be so practical for a Fall/Winter school year in Europe)?
  8. If I leave it behind, will I wear it when I get back or will it be too dated, out of style, or no longer practical for my situation in life?
  9. Do I have multiple items that serve the same functions?  If so, which one would be more practical to take and would give me the most and best wear?

Any clothing that doesn’t pass muster gets tossed into bin liners to be donated, offered to friends, given to Snickers, or is set aside to be stored.  What’s does is what’s coming with you.  The next step is make sure you have the necessary items to make it through a calendar year abroad, and we’ll start exploring that in future posts.

So, sound off!  What categories of things does an enterprising globe hopper need for a jaunt abroad?

No Item of Clothing is an Island, Kittens

“Clothes are never a frivolity: they always mean something.”
~James Laver

When I arrived in the US for school, I showed up with two suitcases and going back to London won’t be too different.  I’m half ok with this and half perturbed: ok because I’ve done it many times before and am hardly scared of doing it again, and perturbed because I’ve only just learned how to keep J. fed and will now have to put my entire kitchen into storage and have to learn it all over again without pots, pans, slow cookers, blenders, etc., at least until I hit up Tesco for some cheap gear.  (Ah Tesco, home of £10 crock pots and £5 irons…)

But I digress.  The point?  In those two suitcases must be clothes, accessories, makeup, shoes, winter coats, toiletries, and any very small amounts of personal items – most of which must last year me at least one year.  How is this accomplished, you ask?  The answer, my adventurous lovelies, is excruciating precision in suitcase spacial reasoning, a game plan, and strict adherence to my number one rule in packing for travel/living abroad: everything you put in your suitcase must be a “double duty item.”

Travel light, yes, absolutely. But also, travel smart.

This means that every item you bring must serve at least two (at the very, very least, and preferably several more) sartorial purposes.  For example: skirts that can be worn to work, school functions, church services if you choose, and whenever trousers simply won’t cut it.  Shoes that can be worn at all the above and also around town without more than the usual amount of agony.  If you’re athletic, workout clothes that are nice enough to run errands in or to pick up groceries.  Tops that can be casual as well as dressy with good makeup and simple accessories.

This is easy if you believe, as I do, in quality over quantity.  I’d far rather buy a good quality, solid color knit shirt from J. Crew that will last me at least two years of regular wear, than have to replace a cheaper one from Target every season or so (Target is beloved in our household, minions, never fear, but not for long term living abroad dressing).

I will wear that shirt with work trousers on a weekday, jeans on the weekend, or any skirt in my closet.  It will go with pearl earrings and heels, and with a vibrant pashmina and skinny pants.  It will look good with flats or stilettos.  It will make me seem more put together when someone stops by our flat and I’m still in pajama pants than my old, stained alma mater sweatshirt.  It is a “double duty item,” make it your vaulted example.

There, you’ve aced your Travel Dressing Theory 101 class, ducklings, and Aunt C. is proud.

Style Theory and the Modern International

“‘Style’ is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.”
– John Fairchild

Some will tell you that a move is the perfect time to try on a new persona, change your attitude, adopt a new style, etc.  And they are right, theoretically.  As someone who has meandered across four continents, moving once every couple of years, with ample opportunities to try on very different demeanors and looks, I can vouch you can change your style.  But I can also vouch that it can be expensive, tiring, and a lot of times futile, as lots of us inevitably go back to our old ways.  Here is the true secret to changing/staying true to your style: it has next to nothing to do with how you look.

That’s right, dumplings.  As cliche as it is, your style is all about you, not what you wear.

I sense you nodding along sagely, but wondering at the back of you minds, “Why bring this up, and what does this have to do with moving to Merrie Olde Englande?”  The answer is because I can’t count the number of friends, acquaintances, and fellow travelers I’ve known who think that a big trip or continental move is just one excuse to try on a new persona.  More specifically, that it’s an excuse to buy lots of stuff.  It’s not.

Back, you snarling shopaholics!

Whoa!  Down, minions!  Yes, there will be shopping, I promise, but all in due course, alright?  But the truth is, if you are traveling/moving and you want to do it in a savvy manner, there’s a lot to do before you whip out your credit cards with a maniacal look in your eyes.  Trust me.

So, why discuss style when we’re talking about living out of two suitcases for a year?  Because you will eventually have to shop and the first stop is your own closet.  The best place to start when figuring out what you will need in those suitcases it to sort out what you already have.  Clothes aren’t just a frivolity, they are important and especially so when traveling.  You are going to have to balance cost, care, wear, personal taste, needs, and functionality.  It’s as delicate an act as chemistry equations, and it all starts with your own personal style.

Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

Which is why I reiterate, style is about you and what you’ve already got.  When you are packing for a trip/move, or even if you just want to mix things up in your closet for a change, be honest with and about yourself.  Stock up on and pack what you know you like and will wear, and allow yourself only one or two flirtations with something new and exciting.  If you’re not a femme fatale, all those cocktail dresses might languish in your closet and you will shake your fist at the sky for having failed to pack jeans.  If you long to be a dapper Brit but are hopelessly, helplessly a true blue American lad, that straw boater hat and striped blazer will become a source of shame instead of pride.  It doesn’t matter what you pack, if the looks aren’t to your taste, aren’t comfortable, and don’t make you feel good (which you should on a trip or move to a fabulous new place!), you’re going to have spent a lot of money on a new personality that you will never wear, just like those new duds.

“To thine own self be true,” and all that.  I am a pretty conservative dresser.  Not a lot of sequins (except at New Year), not a lot of skin, and not a lot of bling.  My closet is full of skinny twill pants, solid color knit shirts, stud earrings, and low heeled riding boots.  I have a no bangles, no floppy hats, no bohemian dresses, and very little that is “of the moment,” sartorially speaking.  So, when I’m putting together my two suitcases to get me through a year, I’m going to be taking my tried and true looks that suit me and make me feel comfortable and classy.

Because, and this is key, darlings, style is in your head, not what’s on your carcass.  No one has ever – in spite of my boring and conservative wardrobe – accused me of being a boring or conservative person!

Lest you think this post was needlessly sappy, let me just say that I’m being especially supportive and nice because the next step might be painful.  Excruciating.  Weeping, gnashing of teeth, and sackcloth horrid.  Because once you’ve mastered Style Theory, and the Cardinal Rule of Packing, we’re purging your closet.  And.  I.  Am.  Ruthless.

Dream. Vacation.

“When abroad in hot climates she wore a great many white dresses, said very little, and all the men in the hotel fell in love with her.”
– Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm

Naturally, just after I wrote a post yesterday praising Spring, we were graced with a snow flurry/rainstorm.  And even more naturally it had all cleared off by 5pm and I walked to my car beneath blue skies and a crisp breeze.  Living in the West subjects one to the most schizophrenic weather…

But snow flurry or no, I’m  still doing my best to force the issue of Spring.  Yesterday I wore a tangerine cardigan in defiance, and I came very close to actually working out for the first time in weeks – didn’t quite make it, but I will!  No, honestly!  Stop rolling your eyes.

In the meantime, I’m indulging my shopping bug by sticking to internet browsing and wishlisting – my birthday’s in two and a half months after all.  Especially Shabby Apple’s new line “Roamin’ Holiday.”  Shall we look at some pretty?

I wish I had (respectively) the figure and the aplomb/height to pull these beauties off!  For some reason vivid greens like the top of the Gondola dress are calling to me these days (and paired with stripes!), and everyone needs the opportunity to wear a red Gypsy-esque dress like the Rosso at least once in their lives.

I am actually longing for someone to get married, pick me to be a bridesmaid and obligingly order me to wear this cream and coco appliqued Spanish Steps dress.  And I’m belying my winter-imposed hatred of neutrals by admitting to being very fond of this cream jersey SPQR frock.

Isn’t this white Palatine Hill dress perfect for summer in the office?  Growing up I remember getting a new Easter dress and hat to wear to church every Easter Sunday, and I’m thinking about resurrecting (pun?  Or too sacrilegious?) the tradition in my old age, and this purples La Vita E’ Bella pretty might just suit the bill!

Honestly, the whole line is making me want to go on vacation.  I’m getting stir crazy in this office!  If I could, I’d snatch up that daring red Rosso frock, grab J. and gallop off to the Cinque Terre region of Italy to lay in the sun, eat good food, and go sailing to all the terra cotta colored villages tucked into the coast.

How about you, ducklings?  You suddenly inherit a small fortune with the proviso that you go on holiday at once, where do you go?

March. Hare.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”
~Robin Williams

After months of self-imposed austerity, the fashion gods decided to toss temptation my way…and I threw up my hands in defeat.

In my defense, it wasn’t a fair fight!  J. Crew sent me one of their promo cards for 20% off and Gap Inc. did their 30%-off-and-5%-goes-to-charity sale, so what was I to do?  J. needed new jeans and khaki trousers, and I needed a couple of summer work shirts.  So Saturday I headed into the City and indulged before returning home and atoning by doing massive piles of laundry and watching the NCAA tournament.

Of course, this faint whiff has revved my appetite and I can’t help noticing that cute new clothes are popping up like daisies.  And to make it worse, the weather has started feeling like Spring too – prompting the desire for vivid skirts, glaring cardigans, and cute sandals.

Calm down, C.! You know your winter-fogged brain can't handle this overload!

Spring always makes me go a little crazy, and not just with clothes.  I want to rip anything I own in black, navy, or gray to shreds because I’m sick of neutral and sensible.  I want to eat tons of vegetables and fruit in chilled pastas and smoothies and never see a pot roast again.  Hearing birds after months of silence makes me giddy (starlings and sparrows roost in our building’s roof, J. hates waking up to them, but I love it).  Seeing the grass slowly, teasingly turn green thrills me.  And, freak that I am, Daylight Savings Time makes me happy.  I’m no longer driving home in the dark – which makes me want to curl up on the couch under a blanket, snack on junk food, and refuse to make dinner.  Instead I get home with at least an hour of light, which makes laundry feel doable as opposed to a drudgery.

Autumn is still my favorite season, but Spring always wakes me up and I love it when it comes.

Who Are You Wearing?

“Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”
– Coco Chanel

Alright, darlings, did anyone else get a slight feeling of “meh” watching the Academy Awards’ red carpet?  Just me?  Don’t get me wrong, there were some good and some bad and we shall judge them momentarily, but I thought many of them just sort of fell somewhere in the middle.  In recognition of the so-so gowns, we’ve added a new category this year, for your reading pleasure.

The trends this year seemed to be cap sleeves, red, purple, and nude-ish colors, and there were a lot of successes – I’m feeling the cap sleeves particularly for some reason, I like the lady-like vibe of it all.  Also!  Did anyone notice the emeralds everywhere.  Loving the green!  Thoughts?  Raging disagreement?  Let me know.

The Good

– Bow down, mortals!  Cate Blanchett is here and she’s wearing a Givenchy dress that no other woman on earth could possibly pull off.  Seriously, name one other woman alive who could wear that dress and make it look half as stunning, I dare you.
– Mila Kunis in Elie Saab.  She gets points for being on-trend and bringing some much-needed oomph.

– Amy Adams in L’Wren Scott, we’re judging this ensemble separately.  The jewels (emeralds!) are fabulous and the dress is as well, but let’s face it, that necklace and that neckline should not have been paired.  Still, I love the silhouette and the navy.  Also, I want that bracelet!
– Annette Bening in Naeem Khan.  Still showing the love for the cap sleeves and emeralds, so I’ve got to show her some love right on back.  Plus I think grays are undervalued hues and she’s rocking this one.

– Dame Helen Mirren in Vivienne Westwood.  Bow down again, mortals, you will never be this fabulous at any age.
– Jennifer Hudson brought color in Versace.  Best.  Weightwatchers Ad.  Ever.

The Meh – (a new category, born of desperation)

– Did anyone else think that this Valentino wasn’t all that great on Anne Hathaway?  I liked it from the waist up, but the bunches seemed dated…I just didn’t like it.  I thought some of her actual ceremony gowns much better.  Cue the rage-fest, I’ve already ducked.
– I can hear you from here.  “Why, C.,” you say, “if you liked the cap sleeves so much, why is Michele Williams – in Chanel no less – ranked here?”  For a number of reasons.  First she always looks identical on the red carpet: blonde pixie cut, really pale color dress, a bit of a tween look, and for some reason this gown does nothing for her figure.

– Reese Witherspoon, currently campaigning for Miss America (darling, what exactly was the though process behind your pageant hair?) in Armani Prive.  Nice dress, nothing truly spectacular, but she does get some Small Dog emerald love.
– An increasingly pregnant Natalie Portman in Rodarte – naturally.  Her earrings looked like something she picked up at a street vendor’s kiosk, somewhere where tourists converge in startling numbers to do crass things in loud voices and take pictures of themselves.

The Bad

– Scarlett Johansson in Dolce and Gabanna.  Good.  Bleeding.  Grief.  Someone’s grandmother’s doily sprouted a head and decided to go the Kodak Theatre.  More remarkably, somebody let it inside and took pictures of it.
– Nicole Kidman.  Oh, Nicky.  Like unto Charlize Theron last year, you picked a predatory Dior gown, and it accosted you in public.  However, we loved the red shoes.

– Penelope Cruz in L’Wren Scott.  Last year she was wearing a dress that I wanted to rip from her back, run away with, and play Miss Havisham with for the rest of my life.  This year my disappointment knows no bounds.  On the upside, she acquired a sexy husband so here’s a tip o’ my hat to you, madame.
– I don’t even know who Sharon Stone is wearing, and I can’t care.  Because any second now she’s going to morph into something mythical and ravenous, and she’s going to come after you.  And you will die.  Run.

The Ugly

– Melissa Leo in Marc Bouwer.  See Scarlett Johansson.
– Florence Welch in Valentino.  Words fail me.

Best Dressed

– Hailee Steinfeld in a lovely, age-appropriate, and uniformly pretty Marchesa.  The shoes, the headband, the hair, all of it, I was very impressed.  This girl is here to stay, fashionably and theatrically.  Also, J. would like it recognized that he thinks she deserved the Oscar and is extremely bitter that she didn’t get it.

Some notes on the evening’s entertainment:
– Melissa Leo drops more F-bombs than the King’s Speech.  Luckily the censors weren’t napping, well done.
– Anne Hathaway can sing.  Who knew?
– James Franco as Marilyn Monroe.  Try sleeping tonight.
– Christian Bale forgets his stunning and talented wife’s name.  Oops.
– J. blames John Williams’ musical genius for the horrendous Star Wars prequels.
– Cate Blanchett.  So fabulous it hurts.
– What the heck?!  President Obama?
– What the heck?!  Oprah Winfrey?!
– Oh Robert Downey Jr., you’re so witty.  And charming.
– I don’t care that she sings country, I still find Gwyneth Paltrow unbearable.
– Also, apparently she can’t sing very well.
– Too many P-words in a row for Hale Berry.  Better than Melissa Leo’s faux pas.
– Annual Hilary Swank debate: Hot or Not?  (J. says no.)
– “The Triangle of Man Love” is a phrase that probably should not be uttered on basic cable
– Anyone surprised Natalie Portman won?
– I was fully prepare to riot if Colin Firth didn’t win Best Actor, but it’s all right.  Stand down, minions!
– The King’s Speech won!

Ready To Run

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
— Marilyn Monroe

It’s official, poodles, winter turns your friendly household C. into a blithering idiot.  I suspect I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder – come the cold and dark I get moodier, need to sleep longer, and can stay on the sofa for hours doing nothing and seemingly only half awake.  And my brain turns to mush.  I am sure of it.

We got another coat of snow last night so when I finally managed to pull myself out of bed (which is not exactly an easy feat when your SAD-affected mind and body are yelling at you, “If you’d just give in you could have a nice little bout of depression and not have to go into work today.  Come on, just because it takes you months to pull yourself out of it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.  Give in just a little…”), I reached for my trusty Hunter boots.

Stuffing legs and trousers into them haphazardly, I clumped about the flat grabbing fruit and granola bars (and maybe a couple of chocolate chip cookies) before J. and I dashed out into the cold to scrape off the car and gun it for work.

Pictured: said evil Being.

But midway to the office, I was hit with the nagging, suspicious feeling that somewhere in the vastness of the universe there was a Being chuckling at my expense.

I cataloged myself.  Something was missing.  Bag, phone, wallet, all present.  Gym bag complete with gym clothes, check.  Water bottle, snacks, diary, all in their proper places.  My hair was done, I had no bra straps on display, I was even sporting a pretty new cardigan and fabulous bright red lipstick.  What was it?

Bending down to rummage in my bag again, I glanced at my boots.  The nagging, chuckling feeling got stronger.  It became downright malicious in fact.  Boots, I thought, why would that…drat! Because, naturally, I had not grabbed actual shoes to change into.

Thus, here I sit in sharp black trousers, red lipstick, freshly painted nails, lovely cardigan…and my old running trainers – which squeak badly when I walk.  Much to the amusement of my co-workers.

Riddle Me This

“I was so cold the other day, I almost got married.”
– Shelley Winters

There is a strange American phenomenon that has yet to be satisfactorily explained to me: the wearing of coats, or rather lack thereof.

Even when it’s freezing there will be hordes of people in shorts, opened toed shoes, and mere t-shirts, shivering in the biting wind.  When the rain pours down, I seldom see umbrellas, just lots of people with their collars turned up against the torrent or huddled in on themselves in misery.

It’s far below freezing throughout most of the country, certainly in our University town – why on earth are these children wandering about half naked?

Mere hours ago, they walked and lived with us. A tragic end.

A Break From Our Regularly Scheduled Christmas Programing:

“Dresses, I find, are impractical in social situations, but I enjoy wearing them a great deal on stage. “
– Brian Molko

My darling ladies dancing/lords a-leaping: please someone explain how my clothes are defying physics and gravity today!

I’m wearing a pretty knit dress with tights and boots, an outfit I’ve worn dozens and dozens of times.  And as things often do in such ensembles, various items of clothing are doing a bit of shifting.  Normally this is manageable, but please.  Please explain why suddenly my tights are struggling to stay up while my slip has maneuvered its way up to my rib cage.  Twice.  It’s a miracle I haven’t endangered my job or offended some little old lady beyond repair with a major wardrobe malfunction!

Really, C.! You're just embarassing yourself.

And Something For the Rest of You:

“Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
– Edith Head

If the giveaway isn’t your cup of tea, here’s something else for you to shop with:  Shabby Apple is offering a special deal to readers of their affiliates…and that means you!

They’ve added a couple of new frocks to their Yosemite line, I particularly love the Gray Fox and Red Fox dresses.  And just a couple of weeks ago they debuted their newest line of Eastern inspired silk dresses, the Silk Road line, all of which just scream to be worn to those lurking holiday parties. The Ming dress especially would be stunning.

Desperately holding on to Summer?  I love the Scarlett Dragon dress, or the fab jersey Giverny.  Embracing the Fall?  I’ve been coveting the sweet wool Yorkshire dress.

So…how’s does 10% off storewide and free shipping sound?  Pretty fabulous, I expect!  Just use the code fall10off and enjoy the best the season has to offer.

Don’t for get to enter the giveaway, winner announced tomorrow.  Also tomorrow the office is dressing up in our Halloween costumes so we’ll be giving you the red carpet breakdown of those too.  And I’ll be dyeing my hair red tonight so with my track record, I’ll probably get a good story out of that adventure too…you may prepare to laugh at my expense.

Chins up, pumpkins, it’s nearly Friday!