Tag: Goals

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.

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!

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.

Checking In on the Year of Health

“Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded
― Dorothy Parker

Well, kittens, while we’re recapping, let’s do a brief pit stop on my yearly theme. In late 2017 I picked “health” as my overall focus from the coming year because I was determined to redress a series of issues (internal and external) that I felt had taken over too much of my life. Here’s how I’m doing.

Brain Health
My brain is miles better than it was this time last year, which in turn was miles better than I was the year previously. 2016 was a shit year for a lot of reasons, but high on the list was that it was the year where my anxiety reached its all time high and I/we made a bunch of big decisions to change up a lot of things about my work and life. All of those decisions turned out to be good in the long run but meant that I had to go through a period of significant change and then another period of stabilization that was incredibly stressful. It’s been worth it, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. I wrote previously about having decided to “give up” a number of things that I knew were affecting my mental health in the past year, and having done so and seen the benefits, I feel in a much better place to confront other issues and topics that affect me in different ways. I think I need some professional help for some of them. I haven’t yet connected with a therapist, but I am researching into my options to do so and hope to tick off this goal by the end of the year. Here’s to emotional and cognitive health!

Body Health/Food Health
Major progress to report on this front. In January I switched up my birth control to see if it could help me address some health challenges and the results have stayed entirely positive. My migraine attacks have all but vanished, the weight I lost has stayed off, and the only less than ideal side effect has been more intense menstrual cramps. I’ve also really been trying to eat healthier this year and have basically eliminated added sugar from my diet with only very rare treats–which often times don’t agree with me when I do have them because most sugar feels excessive to me now. I’m in the midst of my six month exercise goal as well, which is helping keep me on the straight and narrow. One of the best decisions we’ve made this past year was to get an automated box of groceries delivered weekly which has not only made shopping easier (we shop on foot or by public transport so having the basics delivered weekly to our front door is a huge help), but it’s also upped our intake of fresher foods. I’m trying to cook more as a result, which was another food goal of mine in the past year. All in all, this is probably the category with the most overall positive progress in my Year of Health.

Financial Health
This is an ongoing project with some positives and some negatives over the past eight months. I set some ambitious goals for this year; I continue to make progress on some, I’ve fallen short on others, but overall I feel like we’re headed in the right direction. I’ve committed to new public goals of accountability in my spending and I’m always looking for ways to subvert consumerist pressures and find ways to consume intelligently. Money stresses me less than it used to because I feel like I’ve reckoned with some realities and habits related to it much better, even as I acknowledge we still have a ways to go before we meet our goals about paying off all our credit cards and investing.

Overall, it’s been really positive to see how my goals have overlapped with one another practically in the past year. I think that means I made the right call to focus on my health, and in the particular areas I have. And more importantly, I think I’m set up to finish the year strong. That feels really, really good.