Tag: Style

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!

 

Five Things I Loved in October

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Happy Halloween!

Another month has flown by and 2019 is barreling down on us fast, my piglets! The weather has turned cold recently so I’m adding extra layers to (my side of) the bed, pulling the jumpers out of storage, and suddenly gripped with the all-consuming desire to make soup for two meals a day. This is the best time of year.

That being said, it’s been a rough month for a lot of people I know and the world in general so I wasn’t surprised that in tallying up the things that brought me joy in October, items or pop culture that soothed and comforted kept cropping up. As the winter holidays creep closer with all their attendant joys and stresses, take a moment to do something comforting. It’s good for resilience and good for the soul.

Tell me what you’ve been drawn to this month in the comments!

Salt Fat Acid Heat, on Netflix

Another month, another love affair with a smart food show. In a oversaturated market, Netflix still manages to make some really delightful programming and I continue to eat it up with a spoon–pun intended. The host of Salt Fat Acid Heat, writer and cook Samin Nosrat, takes so much JOY in food and it’s wonderful to watch and participate in that joy with her. I now want to run out and buy her cookbook simply to make some of her recipes while rewatching this show…that’s how much I liked it. (Also, shout out to Tom and Lorenzo for this observation which is 100% correct!)

 

Leather jacket, by & Other Stories

A confession, I got my leather moto style jacket from & Other Stories at least three years ago and loved it, but was so intimidated by it as a piece of clothing that I rarely wore it. I honestly didn’t feel “cool” enough to wear it, such is the power of psychology of fashion and clothing. But over the past couple of years, as I’ve learned not only accept but lean into the styles and clothing I like and not act as though I had to meet some sort of achievement (be it thin-ness, grown up-ness, or wealthiness) to wear them, I have become so much happier. And a result, probably more stylish. I have been wearing the heck out of this leather jacket this year and loving it more and more every time I do. I will be a bit sad when I have to set it aside for a proper winter coat, but at the moment, the weather continues to be perfect for jackets and I continue to be a happy bunny about this fact.

 

Botanics Organic Hydrating Eye Cream

In my quest to discover drugstore or cheaper equivalents to higher end products, I’ve picked up a few bits and pieces from trusty Boots this past month including this eye cream. It’s been a joy. The weather turned chilly this past month and during the colder months my skin requires an extra boost of hydration and I’ve already been layering up additional moisturizing products. Eye cream is a product that incites a lot of feelings in the beauty world, some people swear by it and others consider it so much wasted money. Me personally, I feel that an extra layer of moisture in that area is beneficial and this is a delightful, lightweight cream that absorbs quickly without feeling greasy or disrupting other skincare or makeup items. Highly recommended!

 

 

Chillhop, YouTube

This is such a strange one but work this month has been very busy with a lot of curveballs through I’ve had huge stretches of time where I’ve been in a situation where I needed to do a lot of writing in very loud, crowded, and busy spaces. I needed unfussy, mellow, and pleasant background noise. Jeff has teased me about it all month but this channel has been a lifesaver! There are a million and a half channels like this but so far Chillhop is my favorite, which you can also find on Spotify.

 

Luminous Silk Foundation, by Giorgio Armani

A proper update in my 13 by Halloween challenge is coming shortly, but as a preview–yes! I did finish this foundation to the last drop! What a gorgeous product it is too, I do not remember the last foundation that I finished before it went off, caused skin issues, or was otherwise aggravating. This was (yet another spot on) recommendation from X. who has yet to lead me astray in such matters. The only reason I have not repurchased it is because it is 1) expensive as hell and, 2) I have another foundation I intend to use up before pushing the boat out on another. Per my shopping restrictions I am going to try and find a temporary replacement in the drugstore, but if I give myself any outs at all when it comes to my ban it may be for something as foundational as…well… you get it. That day is a long way off, so in the meantime let me salute a bottle that’s done good service in the wars and which I can heartily recommend for a variety of facial textures and tones.

I Miss Style Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lipstick Usage: A Junkie’s Confession

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

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

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

So. Damn. Satisfying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Faustian Cabinet Has Arrived

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

A Week of Outfits: Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Week of Outfits: Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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