Tag: Shopping

This is the Year I Bought Jewelry

“Big girls need big diamonds.” 
― Elizabeth Taylor

Let’s talk about jewelry, because this is something I thought about this past year. I don’t own a lot. My father gave me a set of pearls for my 16th birthday, and my mother gave me a peridot set for a birthday as well. My wedding jewelry is hands down the nicest jewelry I own; Jeff bought my engagement and wedding rings, and I purchased some earrings myself–which hilariously, I forgot to put in for a good portion of the day. That’s because I’ve never actually been a big jewelry wearer!

Some women are good at accessories, I am not. I often feel very unsure or awkward about wearing them, even though I know objectively that individual items are incredibly stylish or cute. It’s when I try to put them on myself that this becomes an issue! However I’ve become convinced that this is mostly a confidence problem and just because I’m not used to seeing a lot of accessories on myself in the mirror doesn’t mean I look bad in them. Ditto jewelry, whether nice or costume.

So, this was the year I decided to try and figure it out. Similar to my closet, I’ve done several rounds of edits and have ended up donating a lot of my cheap costume jewelry over the past year to really reduce the amount of unused, unloved stuff that was taking up space in my jewelry box, and then I got thoughtful and intentional about the gaps that I saw remaining when it came to my professional or day-to-day style. I’ve bought seven items in total this past year, here’s what they were:

Cheap and cheerful

Over the years I’ve either purchased or received some semi-precious items, but most of what I owned was costume jewelry. This is the year that I cleared out some cheap and fairly crappy items, and sold better quality pieces that I never wore and didn’t suit my style. As a result, what I still own I use more regularly and looks nicer, even if it’s super cheap! I bought a couple of rings for about a £1.50 each, and a silver collar style necklace for about £10 at an antiques market. Antiques shops, markets, and vintage shopping are fantastic ways to get unique items at decent prices. I also bought a pair of chunky gold hoops for a couple of pounds which were very on trend for this past year.

 

Mid-range (for me at least)

One of my 101 in 1001 goals was to buy a right hand ring, which always felt to me like an achievement for a grown woman. I treasure and value every single item I’ve been gifted over the years and the love and affection that they symbolize–I fully intend to gift them in turn to children, friends, or relatives someday in return–but the idea of buying a piece for myself that I had picked out and chosen for myself felt like a good goal to work for. I knew I wanted an antique piece (of course) because it would enable to me to find something that felt unique and not mass produced, and also because there are certain styles I know I love, and because savvy antique shopping can get you good value for money. I’ve been looking for the right ring for a long time and knew I wasn’t going to buy anything that didn’t hit the sweet spot of style and price. I found it at the Bermondsey Antiques Fair and I’m thrilled.

I beatiful bought these vintage pearl earrings which I shouted out in my April favorites and adore.

I also bought a delicate gold chain from a Canada based brand that I love and that does very simple jewelry across price points. It’s so slight that it’s easy to miss, but that’s exactly why I wanted it. It’s hand hammered so the links catch and reflect the light very subtly and helps make even the laziest outfit look a bit more intentional. I also got it in a shorter length so it sits higher around my neck that most chains and therefore allows me to layer it with other pieces–when I can be bothered!

None of these items are what I would call “expensive,” but they took thought and planning that I simply didn’t need for something like a £1.50 ring. In these cases, I used my personal cash budget to pay for them.

 

 

Investment

This was the year I bought a piece of jewelry that cost over £100–but as it was a sort of partial birthday, partial Christmas, and partial career celebration gift, I felt I could justify it. Also, like unto my ring, it was an item that I wanted to buy for myself. I’d long wanted a chunky, gold necklace of some kind and wanted it to feel special or unique in some way. A super vague brief! However, when I discovered this second hand and vintage designer costume jewelry seller, I started stalking her social media and shop extensively until I found the necklace I knew I wanted to get. It’s a costume piece by Chanel from the 1980s and I love it. It’s just a bit too much but I’ve wear it almost every day since buying it and whether it’s a formal work outfit or a t-shirt, it seems to work with almost everything. Another benefit of buying second hand is the ability to work with sellers. In the case of my ring, I haggled and bargained and in the case of my necklace, I agreed a payment plan to spread the costs out over a long period of time. This didn’t make the item less expensive, obviously, but it allowed me to build it into my personal monthly budget plan in a sensible way.

Et voila. That’s how this became the year that I started buying (and wearing!) jewelry properly. I’m absolutely tickled about every single item, none of them were casual purchases (not even the market rings) and all of them feel good. By which I mean, they feel like things that fit my life and style. Some of it’s cheap, some of it’s more expensive. Some of it’s sleek and modern, some of it is a bit over the top. That feels about right.

A lot of what I’ve gotten rid of and pared back over the past two years have been items purchased when I was still figuring out who I was going to be, how that person was going to dress, or even what that person actually liked (as opposed to what she felt like she should like). Similar to my closet, I own fewer pieces overall than I used to, but I actually wear almost every piece of jewelry I do own regularly (some of them every day).

I don’t intend to buy any jewelry for myself in the coming year, I’m happy with what I’ve got…even if I’m not above asking for a nice ten year wedding anniversary present!

Have you ever bought yourself jewelry? How did you select it? What’s the most meaningful piece you own? What about the cheapest? Let’s talk bling in the comments, whether gems or rhinestones!

 

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: 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.

Forgive Me, Readers, for I Have Failed…BUT!

These are my confessions
Just when I thought I said all I could say
My chick on the side said she got one on the way
These are my confessions
Man, I’m throwed and I don’t know what to do
I guess I gotta give part two of my confessions
If I’m gonna tell it, then I gotta tell it all…
– Usher, Confessions II

So, Reader, here’s the bit where I confess that I have failed my shopping self challenge for the year.

Earlier this year I wrote about a goal of only buying 18 personal items throughout the year (with a few sensible caveats like socks, and that sort of thing). Well, I did really well at this for well over half the year but a grab bag of charity shop scarves and a vintage shopping binge have put me over my tally.

One of the culprits in question. It was 20 quid. It’s brilliant.

A few shameless attempts at reducing my guilt! I have only bought one item that is more than what I would have paid on the high street or a mid-range shop for its equivalent. A bunch of these items were a handful of pounds each, but did not fall into one of my protected categories and thus were tallied on my running spreadsheet regardless of cheapness–of course there’s a spreadsheet, don’t you know me at all?

But self-justification aside, I did have a bit of a moment of self-reflection. In fact, to speak truth, I had a nice little bout of emotional self-flagellation when I typed in my purchases and realized I had broke my goal, and decided to wallow in unproductive recrimination for the better part of an evening. Eventually more sensible feelings prevailed. I felt weak willed, but I also didn’t really regret any of the items I’ve spent money on this year. In fact, the sum total was less than 2% of our combined income as a family so maybe I had picked a silly goal to try and accomplish, or maybe my expectations weren’t reasonable? Or hell, maybe I am just weak willed and that’s the end of it.

I decided I could live with the minor guilt, especially if I set up a new self challenge instead. I’ve discovered in the past couple of years that game-ifying things helps me achieve goals and keeps me more accountable that sheer willpower alone. Working towards an established prize or even just being able to tick a box every day is a simple but effective thing for me. It’s a bit juvenile, but it works. X. and I keep one another accountable with our health and fitness goals because we are working towards a girl trip together if we meet them. Katarina I and keep up a regular chat chain of encouragement towards writing goals, whether about meeting a word count or just bouncing ideas off of one another. I have whole pages dedicated to lists and projects (of course I do) in my journal that I get the most ridiculous pleasure from in updating and refining. I’m so type A it’s silly. So, what could I do to reset my self-challenge in a really useful way?

We haven’t purchased anything for the house since these antique chairs, which I still think were a great purchase, for the record.

My one regret in shopping these past few months was that I didn’t feel like I had made any progress towards decorating our house which is still fairly basic in its furnishings. But finding the right trade off between an item that you like, that suits your space, and isn’t stupidly priced in London can be difficult and though we’ve liked the idea of different items over the past eight months, nothing compelled me to loosen our purse strings once.

Until the other day. I think I found it. A piece of furniture that matches our front room area, solves a storage need, has the right dimensions, looks gorgeous, is an upcycled vintage piece, and costs less than £350. Jeff and I discussed it and it seems to check all the boxes. I’ve messaged the seller to enquire about it and thus far the signs seem positive.

And so, kittens. I’m making a new bargain and documenting it here for you, the coterie, to hold me accountable. If this deal goes through, we are counting this piece of furniture as our mutual Christmas present to ourselves and the following Faustian pact will kick in:

  • I am locking up my wallet for the rest of the year. Nada, zilch. Not a single personal item shall I buy for the next five months. This will also count as my final spending freeze for my 101/1001 goal list.
  • I will finish paying off one of our credit cards in full, by the end of the year. Another partial 101/1001 goal!
  • I will prepare and pack lunches every day for the rest of the year, or lean on my cash allowance. Or starve, I guess…
  • I will extend my makeup no-buy challenge (which I have confessed to breaking) until June of 2019. Any replacement items I buy will be drugstore, without exception.
  • I will write about this project: regularly, fully, and honestly. No matter how embarrassing or confessional. Hell, I even promise to try and be funny about it!

So, there, that’s how I’ll leverage my weak will for your benefit, ducklings. Let me know what kinds of posts you’d like to see now through the end of the year as I try to earn myself some furniture and engage in some new financial asceticism. I think I may like to open the (vintage!) kimono and write a bit more specifically about the things I’ve collected over the years and why. I may finally do a “shop my closet” series and get around to doing those Out of the Day posts I’ve committed to in my 101/1001 but have felt too self conscious to do. Perhaps you’d be interested in a tour of my favorite shops and markets around London, or you yourself may want to engage in some competitive goal tracking. Do let me know in the comments, I’m interested!

 

 

 

The Joy of Dupes

“Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.” 
― Coco Chanel

I admit it, I can be a sucker for luxury. I work in marketing, I should know better! But because I do work in marketing, I also know the power that branding has and how a well maintained and reputation-earning brand can add zeros on to its asking prices and still be considered worth every penny. In other cases, however, no matter how attractive the brand, the underlying product can be lackluster enough that zeros should probably be knocked off.

Last year I did a month long money project in January where I tracked my spending publicly, and once a year for the past couple of years I’ve gone on a “no buy” where I complete restrict all personal shopping for several months. I’m in the midst of another one now. There are several posts on this site going back years where I catalog and document my attempts to be a smarter, more ethical, and less reactive consumer and it’s an ongoing process. Lately I’ve been on something of a mission to find cheaper versions of items I love over because while some things may absolutely be worth the pricetag, a lot (if not most of the time) you can find the same ingredients, experience, or emotional charge from something at a much better price point.

It’s not wrong to want and use nice things, or even to save up for a luxurious purchase if you can honestly afford it, but I do think it’s silly to do so when you can get an almost identical version of the product for a fraction of the cost. At what point does the idea of a certain product stop being worth the price tag?

Here’s a by-no-means-comprehensive list of some “luxuries” I’ve replaced with cheaper options recently.

Dyptique Feu de Bois (£45) / Muji Log Fire (£4.95)
The numbers here speak for themselves. Let’s step into the confessional booth for a moment: as a young adult I was an easy sucker for Dyptique candles, they are such wonderful smelling things that look and feel like something a grown up would burn in their home. When we were living in a shoebox with peeling linoleum floors, I bought these because they made me feel better about the cramped and ugly space we lived in. They are textbook aspirational homegoods and I fell for the emotional bait hook, line, and sinker. I repent. I have also found a practically identical scent for literally a tenth of the price and have repurposed the fancy glass remains of past candles as makeup brush holders.

Bite Beauty Pepper ($26) / Maybelline Color Sensational Velvet Beige (£6.99)
Last month I achieved that rare thing, finishing a whole bullet of lipstick. Thanks to discovering the Makeup Rehab Subreddit and several self challenges to finish products I have on my shelves instead of falling prey to the siren song of the latest launch, I have found ways to game-ify using products instead of acquiring them. A useful inversion of capitalism and marketing! But staying on point, when it came time to consider replacing it (and I did want to, as it was my only nude colored lipstick, if you can believe that) I considered repurchasing the same lipstick, before deciding to see if I could replicate it at the drugstore. No surprises, I found a near perfect match at that great British institution Boots. Even better, though, because I am a careful hoarder of membership points, I had accumulated more than enough to cover the cost of a drugstore lipstick. So not only did I find an equivalent item that costs a quarter of the price, in this case I got it for free.

Pestle & Mortar Hyaluronic Acid (£36) / The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid (£6)
Honestly The Ordinary probably has a cheaper version of any skincare ingredient you’d like to try. When hype about the Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum reached frenzy, it was wonderfully easy to avoid it seeing as I had a Vitamin C product sitting pretty on my shelves that cost less than £6–though full disclosure, the Drunk Elephant still temps me. I plan on trying a £5.50 Lactic Acid solution of theirs next to see if it can replace my Sunday Riley Good Genes serum (which costs a whopping £85 and which I have not repurchased in months for obvious reasons, much as I love the formula).