Friday, 19 December 2014

Dressing Up During the Holiday Season

Nice for Women and Men

Holiday celebrations have been going on since the end of November in my life and each year it seems that they start earlier and continue longer. I said no to an invitation for a large event this year because it coincided with my return from France. Part of my jet lag condition is lethargy and the first couple of days include going to bed at 8:00 PM and rising at 5:00 AM. This schedule does nothing for holiday reverie! However, if I had had the stamina to attend, I would have chosen my little black dress. Besides the holiday season and New Year's, there will be other opportunities to get dressed up since the season extends into February and March with gala fundraisers, at least here in Canada.

Photo Source: Wendy's LookBook
Of course, you probably can predict what I am about to write - for women, the LBD is the best alternative for holiday dressing. The jewellery or scarves you choose will determine whether it is a casual or more formal look. Formal indicates to me long gowns and a bit more elegance than the LBD can provide but for now . . .

Casual LBDComplement your LBD with a pair of oversize hoop earrings or an asymmetrical choice with an armful of bangles and cuffs.

The Not-Quite-Formal LBDJust add bling. Choose a statement piece - earrings, necklace or bracelets, and then keep anything else you choose to add to the feature piece toned down. Nice is just one of the above. Say No Thanks to an overwhelming combination of blinged-out chandelier earrings, a statement necklace and an armload of bangles and bracelets. 

For men, the suit can be the answer to all your holiday needs in the same way the LBD is for women. You can make it casual or more formal as well.

Casual SuitWear a dark suit with a t-shirt so that you take the jacket off if for some reason you feel overdressed or wear the jacket with a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt to show that you took a little effort to get dressed.

Photo Source: Bonobos
Formal SuitMany men wear dark business suits with a shirt and tie to formal functions; however there is the tuxedo as a truly formal alternative. Not many consider buying a tuxedo but now an American company has made that choice contemporary and real for a new generation. I've written about Bonobos before. Launched as an e-commerce business selling better fitting pants in 2007, it now is selling a full range of suits, including tuxedos, at Nordstrom's and in other select storefronts in the United States. Visit Bonobos here. This is not your father's suit or tuxedo. Even if you cannot order from them because of your location, it's a good site to visit to see contemporary North American styles in suits.

The question of being under- or over-dressed is a question for another post . . .

Monday, 15 December 2014

Buy Nothing Saturday #2

Accomplished without incident!

However what was a restriction in one part of my life became an over-indulgence in another. We were invited out for both lunch and dinner on Saturday, the 13th. The family gathering at lunch had me exerting more control than I have in a good while when it came to food. Then there was dinner where again I had to temper my appetite - I repeated the mantra - Nothing tastes as good as losing 10 pounds feels. You see I gained 8 pounds in 6 months while in France.

Psychologically I am setting myself up for failure. Apparently if one imposes too many restrictions upon oneself, it is easier to lapse into old habits. Buy Nothing Saturday is working for me now but I can see myself changing it to another day when I take on another teaching contract. My Black Friday resolution to have a weekly Buy Nothing Day will be easy to maintain I am sure!

My second resolution was to be more analytical with the contents of my closet and donate clothing whenever I want to buy something new. I can see this as being more difficult. In fact I was looking to buy something and changed my mind because I realized that I had not perused my closet nor did I make a decision of what I would put in the donation bin. As well the articles I was looking at did not comply with my third resolution. 

The third resolution was to not buy anything "Made in China" or other countries with questionable labour practices. This may be the most difficult! I need to look at this with a more analytical eye and take a survey of what percentage of the clothing that I look at is actually made offshore. Almost all I would bet! But that's another post.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Buy Nothing Saturdays During December

For those who might accuse me of being a "Scrooge" during the holiday season because of my Buy Nothing Saturdays proposal, in fact, I think I will be better prepared for the holiday season with Saturdays off from shopping.

December 6, 2014 was my first Buy Nothing Saturday in the month of December. What did I do, what was or was not accomplished and will I be able to maintain this through the month?

What did I do?

1. I had a long and leisurely breakfast. After all I had nowhere that I had to go or anyplace that I had to be.

2. I had gone grocery shopping on Friday and planned to make chicken soup from scratch. After breakfast I prepped the chicken and ingredients for the broth and let time and a slow simmer do its magic. By noon I had a delicious chicken vegetable soup that was not only healthy but also low fat.

3. I read.

4. I watched tv.

5. I read.

What was not accomplished?

I wanted to organize my winter closet. My plan was to take out items that needed mending, cleaning and put them in respective bins. I also wanted to pull out all clothing that might qualify for "holiday" dressing.

What were the consequences?

I revelled in the luxury of not having to be anywhere at any particular time. Surprisingly, I did not feel any pressure or sense of remorse that I did not get to "save" any money on the "only today" sales. With a more relaxed day, I now feel more organized for any holiday buying I need to do during the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 5 December 2014

A Weekly Buy Nothing Day

To commemorate my November 2014 "Black Friday" alternative to shopping, I decided to make non-buying resolutions. I need to add some detail to my promises. The first resolution I made was to . . . have a weekly Buy Nothing Day. But what day should that day be? When a person works, Friday, Saturday and Sunday tend to be the "shopping" days and therefore the most difficult days to assign as Buy Nothing Days. Insofar as Monday to Thursday, if you assign a Buy Nothing Day to a day that you usually buy nothing anyway, what's the point? 

Now the question arises, does food count? After all it is a necessity. But then if you say food is exempt, then it may be easier to rationalize restaurant meals. OK food is exempt from Buy Nothing Days but then how would restaurant meals be defined? As a luxury or as a necessity . . . you see, it does get difficult to determine what is necessity and what is not. If we define Buy Nothing, it means "buy nothing". So what part of "buy nothing" is there not to understand?

I guess Friday can't be my assigned day since we arrived back in Canada last night and have to replenish the fridge and food cupboards today and today happens to be Friday.

I am thinking that I should make Saturday my Buy Nothing Day. It would be difficult but it would also force me to do other things, like downsize my closets. OK, Saturday it is - at least for this week.

As soon as I finished writing that last paragraph, an email came in from a vendor telling me about a further 20% off all purchases (sales items included) tomorrow only. Sigh. I have a feeling this is going to be more difficult than I thought . . . I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

"Sale" Induced Over-Buying

There's something about hotel rooms that make me want to write. And so as I waited for a reasonable hour to go to sleep while at the Merignac/Bordeaux airport enroute to Canada, I began thinking about spending money on things I don't need - in this case clothing in particular.

With my "Buy Nothing Day" resolutions, my own unfortunate "sale" experiences, and while contemplating the "Black Friday" mentality, I came up with the notion of "sale induced over-buying". With discount retailers inundating the market, you would think that this would not be a problem. After all, on any day of the year, you are likely to find a "deal" albeit requiring some "shopping around". Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that on "Black Friday" the consumer believes that the best possible price is given no matter where one ends up shopping. Or is it the idea of "lost leaders", those items possibly marked below cost of production minimums that bring you to the store or website but once you are in, you end up buying many other items besides the lost leader? After all, the shopper can rationalize that since the lost leader cost almost nothing, he or she can afford to buy more. And that is how my thinking progressed and my idea of "sale-induced over-buying" began.

I then researched a smattering of both economic and psychological literature, where the following topics recurred: "buyers' remorse", the "paradox of choice", "addictive/compulsive buying behaviour" aka shopaholic along with some Marketing 101 terminology. I think there's a post in each of these.

My belief is that at the "over 50%" discount, consumers begin thinking, "at this price I should buy two or three or twenty", whether it be toilet paper or cashmere sweaters. A University of Southern California paper tells us that for regular mark-downs, "a large segment of the population . . . respond(s) to negligible discounts (as little as half of 1%)" and that the words "everyday low price" increases sales of the product exhibiting that sign. It may be the standard price for that particular store and it doesn't mean it has been marked down. So if consumers respond that significantly to insignificant reductions or no reduction at all, at what percentage will they overbuy? 

The way we think about retail pricing determines what we might overbuy at sale prices. If I am introduced to a product at a low price, it will be difficult for me to pay a higher price whereas if I only know a product at a high price, I won't mind paying it and anything lower will lead me to believe that I am getting a deal. This is what Introductory Marketing calls "internal reference prices" or the prices a consumer is willing to pay based on experience. Then comes the discount, which I suspect would have to be significant and range between 60% and 80% off before a rational person becomes irrational about the number of items he or she buys. As I write those numbers I have to remember that consumers also respond to negligible discounts of less than 1%. So the question still remains, what discount percentages provoke overbuying?

What should you do so that you do not become a victim of sale-induced over-buying?

Buy what you can use and not more . . .

1. Lost Leaders. Only buy the lost leader and only buy as many as you can use. If you want to give them as gifts, this is of course a good time to buy.

2. Never say, "this is such a good deal, I'm going to buy three (or however many) more". Buy what you can use. If you buy with storage in mind, consider the hoarding mentality, and ask yourself if it is really necessary.

3. Go to the storefront, auctions or online with a plan and stick to it. I have heard of those who go to auctions and get so caught up in the excitement of the moment that they come home with way more than what they originally set out to buy.

Or is it personality type that factors into overbuying? . . . a discounted price, a perceived need, a spendthrift mentality and there arises the circumstance to buy more than one really needs. I have never seen this idea clinically analyzed but maybe someone somewhere has already done this. Let me know if you have seen this literature or have done research of this kind. 

In the meantime, be careful about how many cashmere sweaters you buy!


Scherhorn, Gerhard. The addictive trait in buying behaviour. Journal of Consumer Policy, 1990. Retrieved November, 30, 2014 from

Bigne, Enrique, Ruiz, Carla, and Sanz, Silvia. The impact of internet user shopping patterns and demographics on consumer mobile buying behaviour. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 2005. Retrieved on November 30, 2014 from

Lars Perner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing. Department of Marketing, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. Introduction to Marketing: Pricing. Retrieved on November 30, 2014 from

Sunday, 30 November 2014

It's Frigid on the Prairies - the 2014 Version

Four more days in France with plus mid-teen Celcius temperatures and sunny skies with a smattering of rain and then it's back to the congĂ©lateur - the freezer, as my Port Ste. Foy neighbour has nicknamed what I call "home". November, 2014 has been frigid on the Canadian prairies with below normal temperatures, and an early snowfall that has been supplemented with yet more snow. Both the northern US and Canada are receiving record snowfalls and city administrators are claiming that snow removal budgets are already becoming depleted. Sigh. But I see the long range forecast promises me a mild minus 8 on our return. 

For the moment, what type of coat or jacket to wear when it is . . . 

-20 or more Degrees Celcius

Nice: Something that . . . holds in and maintains body heat, wicks away perspiration and is naturally water resistant, can be fashionably designed, and lasts for decades.

Reversible Shearling for Frigid Temperatures. Photo by JoyD.
In my mind, if it is minus 20, shearling is a natural choice that can keep you comfortably warm. See my post from December, 2013. My shearling has to be at least 20 years old now and I still love it in frigid temperatures. I am fond of the boxiness, the choice given by its reversibility and the length; yet there are those who would criticize it saying it has no style. To me, its functionality overrides the "style" factor and in fact, its plain lines are what has made it stylish every winter for the past twenty. It is heavy but there is a comfort in that heaviness. Now it is showing signs of wear and therefore . . .

Helmut Lang Shearling Jacket. Photo Source: Stylebop

Need: I will have to break down and buy another but I have been looking, online and otherwise, for the past two winters. This Helmut Lang shearling has possibility, although the designer price is a tad much for me at the moment. It might be spring before I save enough sheckles to buy it and by then, I will rationalize my procrastination for another year.

Necessary A functional, safe and warm pair of winter boots . . . but that's another post. I'll wait until I am back in Canada for that one.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Buy Nothing Day - November 28, 2014


Buy Nothing Day is a Canadian-born day of protest and occurs the Friday following the US Thanksgiving holiday. Internationally it is acknowledged either on that day or on the Saturday following. It has been promoted by Adbusters magazine and I am happy to be observing the sentiment while in France. 

My tradition is to make economic resolutions in my spending life. My "Buy Nothing Day" resolutions for this year are:

1. To have a weekly "Buy Nothing Day".
2. To be more analytical with the contents of my closet and donate clothing whenever I want to buy something new.
3. To not buy anything "Made in China" or other countries with questionable labour practices.

I'll let you know how I've managed . . .

Thursday, 27 November 2014

What to Wear While Drinking Gluehwein

. . . that which keeps you warm at +5 Degrees Celcius

I was in Austria and Germany last week, visiting the Christmas markets. Traditional Christmas wares are for sale but more important is the food and beverages that people relish while standing near the food kiosks in the market. After experiencing the Salzburg market in Austria and the Augsburg market in Germany, the German rendition appears to be the more festive, insofar as food and drink is concerned! In Salzburg on a Sunday afternoon, I had a "bosna", two skinny sausages on a bun with onions and hot spices. Mulled wine is not a favourite of mine so I didn't have any "gluehwein" - pronounced "glue-vine". In Augsburg, I decided to do a comparative taste test of the bosna - for my taste, the German rendition won. But I'm supposed to be writing about what was being worn while browsing and carousing at the KristKindlMarkt.

Relative to a Canadian point of view the temperatures were mild, around the plus 5 Celcius (about 41 Fahrenheit) range during the day. Whenever in a situation where there is a mix of tourists and locals, the clothing choices will range from chic to ordinary. 

So what were people wearing at the Christmas market in Salzburg? 

Nothing special - just what would keep you warm anywhere in the world where the temperature was 5 degrees Celcius.

Salzburg Christmas Market, Sunday, November 23, 2014. Photo by JoyD.

Salzburg Christmas Market, Sunday, November 23, 2014. Photo by JoyD.

Salzburg Christmas Market, Sunday, November 23, 2014. Photo by JoyD.

We went to the market in Augsburg the evening of Monday, November 24th for the opening ceremonies and it seemed that all of Augsburg turned out for it. In fact there was even a Japanese film crew recording the event. I have no photos from the this market, which confirms that I was having too good a time and forgot about taking photographs.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Team Sport Apparel - "Naive" Perhaps, but still Inappropriate

No Thanks

While in France, I try to keep current with what is happening in Canada and I am surprised and slightly shocked that a Junior hockey team has resurrected a former mascot for nostalgia sake it seems. See the story in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

What we wear is open for interpretation by whoever meets us, without knowing who we are and without knowing what our philosophies are. Mascots, since they are emblazoned on sports team clothing, represent the wearers in some way, even though it may be frivolous.

In this case, the team decision makers have associated a questionable mascot with success and popularity from their past. This character suggests a male of Middle Eastern heritage wielding a hockey stick associated with the Raiders team name. In the 90s, the team had replaced him with a pirate, but now the former mascot has been returned. In recent times, North American sport team mascots have become more neutral with those having names associated with aboriginal peoples changed so that no offence is taken by any particular person of native ancestry.

How important is a mascot to the community and to the players? Presently any one of the players on the Raiders team is only old enough to know the pirate logo from direct experience. The community has a significant percentage of First Nations and a new, albeit small percentage of Middle Eastern descent. Who were the decision makers? . . . my speculation suggests it was those who are 50+ and not members with an association to an ethnic minority.

I imagine that the number of fans who will choose to wear this logo on their chests have not analyzed it completely. They may rationalize by saying, "Get a life, it's just a mascot, it's just a sport." That may be, but you can't discount the perceptions of others. The numbers in the stands will represent to the world whether naive nostalgia is more important than presenting a positive image. 

Rightly or wrongly so . . . here are a few quotes that reflect clothing, personality and philosophy . . . in this case, it is more the mascot than the clothes . . .
A man cannot dress, but his ideas get cloath'd at the same time. (Laurence Sterne) 
What a strange power there is in clothing. (Isaac Bashevis Singer) 
Every uniform corrupts one's character. (Max Frisch) 
Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly. (Epictetus) 
Carelessness in dressing is moral suicide. (HonorĂ© de Balzac) 
Clothes can suggest, persuade, connote, insinuate, or indeed lie, and apply subtle pressure while their wearer is speaking frankly and straightforwardly of other matters. (Anne Hollander)
Clothes are never a frivolity:  they always mean something. (James Laver)
But then again, perhaps it is not the wearer but the viewer who perceives. . . 
Any affectation whatsoever in dress implies, in my mind, a flaw in the understanding. (Philip Dormer Stanhope)
Choice, a difficult attribute, . . .
Be careless in your dress if you will, but keep a tidy soul. (Mark Twain)
(Quotes retrieved November 19, 2014 from Quote Garden.)

. . . and then maybe it's just a marketing ploy . . . even negative reaction plays into marketing statistics . . .

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Fashion Design Copies

I have often wondered how it is that designers can survive financially, considering all the copying that happens in their industry. In fact, it is because of the ability to copy that the fashion industry is as successful as it actually is. I only realized this after listening to Johanna Blakely's Ted Talk, Lessons from Fashion's Free Culture. It also gave me a new appreciation for designers who emblazon designer logos on their products. I have criticized logo-laden products in a previous post without knowing the point of view of the designer label. In a nutshell, designers have copyright protection for their logo but not for their designs. The basic reason for no design protection is that clothing is considered a necessary utilitarian commodity and therefore needs to be exempt from limitations so that manufacturers can produce clothing for the masses. After all, a shirt is a shirt and a pullover sweater is simply that.

Brian D in black patent Tory Burch Revas.
Johanna Blakely made me appreciate two things. First, I now understand why it is that designers strategically place their logos on their products. I have a new appreciation for Tory Burch's Reva flats and I take back any criticism I have ever made about overtly placed designer logos. The second is that it is the freedom to copy which drives those who create and ultimately make money.

Toward the end of the TedTalk, she illustrates the monetary statistics of those industries who are bound by copyright and those who are not.

Yet I appreciate the concept of copyright, particularly in the business of writing and particularly when my authorship is acknowledged.