Friday, 8 December 2017

Style for Children

NICE

With Christmas preparations on our minds, I have been reminiscing about holidays past. I remember getting a special dress for the festivities when I was somewhere between five and seven. Those were the days of velvet and lace, certainly not the most practical fabrics for children opening gifts and eating cookies. I remember having a dark green velvet dress with a lace collar. It would have been a child's A-line, not as fitted as the adult version. I would classify this dress as the starting point of my passion for sheath dresses.

Carmin Girl Dress
Photo Source: La Coqueta Kids
This dress is similar to the style of the one in my memories except that mine had 3/4 length sleeves. Europeans still dress their children like children. This particular dress could have been around for the past 75 years. The company La Coqueta Kids was developed by an English woman in Spain.

In October of 2017 we visited Logrono, Spain; and more interesting than women's clothing was the way children were dressed. Take a look at LaCoquetaKids for an overview of what I mean. This clothing is designed for children, unlike what I sometimes see in Canada or the United States. It seems that in North America, children are being dressed in miniature versions of provocative teen or adult clothing and that just is wrong. There is a good article in Psychology Today on trashy dressing and why our daughters are choosing to dress this way. It's one thing for teenagers to go through this type of dressing and quite another when mothers are choosing trashy clothing for six year olds.

Indigo Girl Dress
Photo Source: La Coqueta Kids
On a civic holiday in Logrono, I saw a toddler and a six year old dressed in matching skirts and pullover sweaters. They were adorable. I wanted to take a photo but felt that it was too intrusive on the family and did not even want to ask. I did not take the photo. This was the look except the skirts were denim and the pullovers were that amber gold colour with blues woven in to the upper quarter of the sweater. I remember the shoes being a similar colour as the ones in the photo but there was a dark blue edge running along the upper above the lacing. I already wrote that they were adorable but there is no better word to describe their dress and disposition.

When shopping for a Christmas outfit or any outfit for your little ones, forget the tulle and itchy fabrics with satin ribbons and rosebud appliqu├ęs or trashy neon mini-skirts. Instead go for classic styling just like you might for yourself.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Fall to Winter Transition

Cool Choices

October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces. 

A Closet Content Analysis: Fall to Winter Wardrobe

NEED


Here on the Canadian prairies, now that it is the end of November, it seems too late to write a post about fall to winter transition. It is winter and has been for the past month; however my closet still does not have all the elements necessary for a winter wardrobe.

The trans-seasonal Pieces (always in the closet):

Wool Blazers/Cardigans for cool summer nights and cold winter days depends on what you wear underneath. 
Jeans
Cotton shirts


“When Josey woke up and saw the feathery frost on her windowpane, she smiled. Finally, it was cold enough to wear long coats and tights. It was cold enough for scarves and shirts worn in layers, like camouflage. It was cold enough for her lucky red cardigan, which she swore had a power of its own. She loved this time of year. Summer was tedious with the light dresses she pretended to be comfortable in while secretly sure she looked like a loaf of white bread wearing a belt. The cold was such a relief.” 



Winter closet additions:

Wool dress pants
Cashmere, wool and blend sweaters
Heavy knit sweaters
Tights
Scarves and Jewellery to bring colour and sparkle to the black, grey, navy and browns of a winter wardrobe
A party dress or two for the Christmas and New Year's celebrations

New: Red heavy knit snood


Need:

  • lightweight merino wool tops
  • something more fashionable to wear on my head; something that won't plaster my hair to my scalp and then when I take it off won't lift segments of my hair up and out with static electricity
  • a lightweight hooded jacket aka parka that I will be warm in but does not weigh me down like my sheepskin jacket does

Stay happy and be grateful even when the wind is blowing and the temperatures fall.


People don't notice whether it is winter or summer when they are happy.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

My Newest Coat - Thank you Harris Wilson

Fall Choices

My style is about making things last forever. When you're on a budget it can be daunting to spend $300.00 on a pair of boots or a coat. But such basics are the building blocks from which your look is crafted.
 - Nina Garcia 

A Closet Content Analysis: Coats

NEW




Photo Source: Lyst (Retrieved Oct. 31, 2017)
We were visiting the Arcachon Basin on the south-west coast of France at the end of September and stepped into a Harris Wilson store. I stepped out with a new coat that has been on my "list" for a long while. The knee length has always appealed to me because of my height. It's camel, single-breasted with a long collar to button opening that shows off a scarf well. The tailoring is impeccable - a traditional sleeve front and a raglan back, in keeping with men's tailoring. The Harris Wilson website did not illustrate the camel version when I visited. It's not exactly a winter coat by Canadian standards but it will do me well during a French winter and a Canadian fall and spring. 

The Harris Wilson boutique in Arcachon has a clean modern vibe that I enjoy browsing through. So much so that I buy things when I did not have any intent. 

When I returned to Canada at the end of October I left my new coat in France so that when I return in the spring I don't have to carry a heavier coat. I just might try to travel with a carry-on - maybe not.





Sunday, 1 October 2017

"Thrift" or "Recycle" Store Purchases

Previously Used Choices
A Closet Content Analysis: Scarves from the Thrift

NICE             NO THANKS         

There is a "recyclable" storefront in Pessac-sur-Dordogne (south-west France) that I like to visit occasionally. It is an interesting place since it is run by the "commune" and was originally established to help out those who were in economic difficulty. Donations of anything and everything were accepted (although now they are getting pickier) and then priced at sometimes ridiculously low prices. Not only those in economic difficulty come here since there are treasures to be found. Keep in mind, there is also a lot of junk.

Many who are setting up a second or vacation home can buy household items for a pittance. One can live here for a couple of months in the summer having bought what their vacation home does not provide and then simply donate it back. Those who do not have the time or disposition to sell things when moving or leaving the country end up trucking everything to Pessac. Or those who just want to get rid of their old and dilapidated stuff will also donate to the commune storefront. 

Now you may ask, "What does this have to do with scarves?"

Clothing is also available and there is even a "designer" section. The physical space is not a pleasing showcase for clothing. Unlike consignment stores or online consignment that require you to have everything dry-cleaned and in impeccable shape, the stuff here is probably donated without any preparation at all. The best that happens is clothing is hung on wire hangers and if you start thinking about it . . . well, it's best you don't think about it. You probably wouldn't be in a place like this in the first place if the thought of previously worn clothing "makes your skin crawl" as a friend described her feelings. I too tend to ignore the clothing.

One could call some of these clothes "vintage" and that is always a possibility. I like what Isabelle Wolfe wrote in A Vintage Affair . . . 


What I really love about them . . . is the fact that they contain someone's personal history . . . I find myself wondering about their lives. I can never look at a garment . . . without thinking about the woman who owned it. How old was she? Did she work? Was she married? Was she happy? . . . I look at these exquisite shoes, and I imagine the woman who owned them rising out of them or kissing someone . . . I look at a little hat like this, I lift up the veil, and I try to imagine the face beneath it . . . When you buy a piece of vintage clothing you're not just buying the fabric and thread - you're buying a piece of someone's past.” 

You probably will not find anything like "exquisite shoes" or a little hat with a veil in Pessac but then again, one should "never say never". Hems may be undone, buttons missing, along with stains or rips that are not trends; these are all part of the "thrift" possibilities. 

That being said or written, after my most recent visit to Pessac, I question buying another scarf at retail again. (Well there is a Hermes scarf I may indulge in someday.) However, for my regular everyday in France kind of scarves I am not embarrassed to admit that I found three beautiful scarves, two silk and one a cotton and linen blend. Yes, I had to rummage through at least 30 other scarves and check out labels and hems but I ended up buying three scarves at 1 Euro 20 centimes - about $1.80 Canadian each. The silk ones are comparable to the scarves I have purchased in the past at 40 to 60 Euro each.  

I do have some advice for those who might want to visit thrifts and re-sale businesses of this nature . . . 

1. Check for stains and tears and never buy anything with either.  It is very likely the item was given away because the original owner could not remove the stain. As well you have no idea what the stain might be and the longer it has been there the less likely you will be able to remove it. As well, leave behind whites that are grey or yellowed. 

2. Check labels for fibre content and washing instructions. Very often these do not exist. If you know the feel of fabrics then go ahead and buy however be mindful that there are synthetics that can feel surprisingly similar to the natural fabric. In the case of the scarves, I was only looking for natural fibres such as silk, linen and cotton. As well for scarves, run your fingers along the hem to make sure it is still intact. The fabric and print has to be pretty special if it is necessary to re-hem with pain-staking blind stitches. As with stains and tears, check for pulls and fraying.

3. There is usually nowhere to try things on and you wouldn't want to until you washed the clothing anyway so know the size potential of the piece for you.

4. "When in doubt - don't buy it", no matter how inexpensive; you'll just end up donating it back. Even a couple of Euros/dollars/pounds is a waste if you will never use the item.

5. When you get it home, first let the fabric soak for an hour or so in cool water then wash according to fibre content. Unfortunately "hidden" stains sometimes manifest at this stage. Try to deal with it before you add a detergent. When in doubt, use cool water with a delicate detergent such as "Woolite" or even a shampoo. Shampoos designed for oily hair are good at removing bio-oils and safe to use on wool, angora and cashmere - after all, those are natural "hairs". Remember always cool to cold water for wool and cashmere. Silk can withstand warm water and linen or cotton can be washed in hot water. Careful though, linens often are blended with other fabrics. Be mindful of colours as well. Never mix whites and colours. When you rinse after hand washing, you can add a tablespoon or two of vinegar. It removes the residuals of soap suds and does not "build up" the way fabric softeners do. I use vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser in my washing machine.

There are psychological considerations and you know your personality type so no matter what how good the experiences you hear about thrift buys, follow your heart. If your first thoughts make you cringe, don't bother even going to a place like this. 

NICE: There is a "feel good" factor about re-using and wearing previously worn clothing. Many do it with ecological pride. I had a friend who made a New Year's resolution that she would only buy consignment or thrift clothing for a year. 

NO THANKS : Others cannot bear the thought of wearing something that someone else has worn. I feel that way about shoes and lingerie; yet I have sold shoes at garage sales and given away shoes that I haven't particularly liked. I had no qualms about others wearing my shoes.

There are treasures to be found so good luck to you at your next 
thrift excursion.
The most confident of women are those who believe in every scrap of fabric they wear . . . (Sarah MacLean in Nine Rules to Break When Romancing the Rake).

And may I add to that . . . no matter where it was purchased or for how much.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Dresses for a Fall Transition

Closet Content Analysis: Accessories are the Key for a Fall Transition 


NICE          

Photo by Joy
I don't believe I have enough summer dresses and of the ones I do own, they are the same sheath style or similar to a sheath style. Yet it is that sheath style that is the most efficient to take you from summer to winter. All you need is a blazer and a scarf. With this particular sheathe, one can put a beige or grey blazer or shawl and be business or chic enough for work or dinner.


That little black dress keeps showing up as well and black is a canvas to which you can add colour and texture. Along with it is the little beige dress which can be teamed with navy, black, red, cobalt blue . . . any classic or bright vibrant colour. 


The secret of course is to have a scarf or statement bracelet or necklace that can tie the two together. That is the success of the fall transition.



It is easier to do with scarves than jewellery I find; however, this is a personal style choice. Shoes do the trick as well but then it can start to look too match-matchy. Shoes will serve as the colour pop if you have a blazer and dress that are the same colour, then the shoes and scarf can match. Add a coloured blazer to that and it would just be too much.


Or add blue to the LBeigeD . . . 


Balance is the key no matter what the season.












Friday, 11 August 2017

August to October Trip to France

Clothing is the least of my concerns.

2017 has had a couple of blips in my life, more my husband's life and there have also been several blips in our friends' lives. It has been a very unsettling year. However through hope meditation and a focus on being well, we are dealing with it and as part of the dealing with it, we are attempting to resume something of our normal life. That includes spending time in our house in France. This year it will only happen for 3 months, not 6 and those 3 months include summer and fall.

With each trip, I vow that I will only take a carry-on but it hasn't happened yet. This time we are travelling through the United States and I would like to limit what I take and make sure that none of it is questionable. There are some health food supplements, protein powder, chaga mushroom tea and ground hemp hearts that are innocent but could be questioned and although there is definitely not a problem, it seems that airport security is not always consistent. That being said, protein powders have been confiscated. I suppose the worse that could happen is that they take it as they did from a friend who was entering Australia. Aggravating perhaps but not unbearable. I don't think I'll have a problem, after all, I am in transit. The "but" is that the agent will ask me about food and I will have to say yes and . . . well, you get the picture. I think I will just wait and buy what I need in France.

So you can see that clothing is the least of my concerns on this trip. I have a summer wardrobe there already and a couple of pairs of jeans and trousers, along with a blazer or two, should get me through the cooler autumn weather. Or as a friend reminded me, "If money can solve the problem, you have no problem." - Ain't that the truth - just ask me this year.

Of course, I can buy whatever I might need however that conflicts with my downsizing efforts this year and I can just imagine myself thinking that I shouldn't buy something because I have one, albeit halfway round the world.

That was a fairly long-winded preamble to my fall travel list to France but the following list might help you plan a two week vacation to Europe over September and October. The weather is usually pleasant on the continent, even summery by cold weather climate standards.

Travelling to Europe in the Fall
The Basics

Clothing to pack for September and October (I am making an assumption that underclothing is included and your choice, although it is not part of my list - I once received an email admonishing me for not listing underwear.)

  • 2 pairs skinny jeans: blue and black
  • a coloured blazer that can be worn with the jeans or that matches a dress or skirt that you also are taking
  • an LBD (aka little black dress or a little beige dress  - add a scarf or sinature necklace to change it up a bit - although that is only for you, no one else cares)
  • 4 to 5 tops of varying weights - mornings and evenings can be cool, although afternoons can be summer-like. Make sure they are hand-washable.
  • a cashmere shawl (to use as a blanket on the plane and to use for cooler evenings)
  • flat walking shoes
  • a dressy flat or heels
  • walking shorts - style and length will depend whether you are mostly in the country or the city
  • hiking or running shoes but only if hiking and walking is part of your itinerary - I won't bother listing those items specific to any hiking, running or sport activity since you know what you need better than I.
  • a longer gortex jacket or rain gear of some kind
  • a small purse for going out at night
  • a carry all whether purse, backpack or some other bag for long days 

That's a good start but I can guarantee you that you will want to take more. Curb your enthusiasm. 

Oh yes and take photos of your contents particularly if you are a designer kind of gal or guy; you never know, your bag could be the one lost.




Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Summer Clothing in a Cold Climate

There are many jokes about the length of summer on the Canadian prairies. After two days of 30+ degrees, you will hear - so did you enjoy the two days of summer? With that attitude it is difficult to spend a significant amount of money on summer clothing. It seems that what we need in Canada are transition pieces and advisement to stay in air conditioned interiors during the few hot days. Of course we don't want to do that.

This year seems to be different, spring came early and summer feels like it has been here for awhile and is likely to stay for a good while longer. Although it is raining and quite cool out there today. However, it is I who is in transition and in something of a dilemma with my summer closet. All my summer clothing is in France. This year I won't be leaving Canada until August and will only be staying in France for 3 months. I have been caught unprepared yet I have no desire to buy any summer clothing.

It so happens that much of what I found in my closets is either too big or too small, stained or ripped. Remember, I am the one who expounds the perfect fit as being the most important attribute of clothing and keeping clothing in an impeccable state. I dug through my possibilities and found the following:

NICE, NO THANKS, NOTE-WORTHY and NEED

NICE
  • 1 pair of blue & white striped capris that fit perfectly
  • 1 pair of creamy coloured capris that also fit perfectly
  • 1 pair of white linen pants that are big but have a drawstring waistband. They feel like wearing pyjama bottoms but because they are linen, they have a "look" - that summer resort kind of "look". I have never been on a yacht but they remind me of the kind of loose linen pants you would wear as you look out at the sea. Sigh.
NO THANKS
  • 3 black short sleeved t-shirts that are too tight - probably 10 pounds too tight
  • 3 white short sleeved t-shirts that fit but are all stained (no other choice but to wear while gardening)
  • 1 pair of beige cargo shorts, stained and too tight - probably 5 pounds too tight (reserved for gardening)
  • 1 pair cargo capris in good shape and they fit but too dated (reserved for gardening)
  • 1 "golf t-shirt" style black dress, too tight to wear outside of the house
I appear to be well outfitted for gardening.

NOTE-WORTHY:
Transition clothing I brought with me from France:
  • 1white linen shirt that can be worn over a tank top or t-shirt or on its own
  • 1 black and white striped Armor Luxe pullover, 3/4 length sleeve
  • 1 turquoise and white striped Armor Luxe pullover, long sleeve

NEED: There are too many items to list. I may have to go shopping.


Update - June 21 - 
NOTE-WORTHY: Surprising what you find when you start looking. I may not go shopping after all.


Saturday, 3 June 2017

To Consign or Not to Consign

I am downsizing. I know, you are going to ask me, "Again or still?"

My dilemma is the higher end objects and clothing that I have are the most difficult with which to part. Although last week I did sell a Coach wallet and was satisfied with what I got. Here's the thing, dealing with a consignment store obligates you to a 50/50 split and if the clothing, bags, or shoes are not sold, they are then donated to a charity. I've done that and I always seem to feel "ripped off". At the same time, what good are those items taking up closet space for months, actually years? I have tried to sell on my own and in a way I am no farther ahead than dealing with the consignment store. Those perusing Kijiji are not looking to spend more than they would at a consignment store therefore the seller must compromise. Selling at a garage sale is worse. People want to pay pennies and even if things are priced low, they still haggle. Been there, done that. That was my experience with the Coach wallet and although I was satisfied with what I got, I have thought that I should have asked for more. I guess I'm not much of a sales person. 

I need to be convinced. I would love to read  any consignment store or reselling stories. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Office Wear for the Summer: Informal but Pulled Together

Summer Work Style: Casual Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Casual Separates for Easy-Going Office Wear

NICE, NO THANKS, NOTE-WORTHY, NEED & NECESSARY

NICE: "Informal but pulled together" or "casual elegant" are probably the best style profiles one can choose for the summer. A t-shirt under a jacket or blazer with a skirt, pants or knee-length shorts can be the outfit of choice for any office job.

NO THANKS: Especially in the summer, many will dress too informally and then be caught embarrassingly underdressed when an unplanned meeting with an important client arises. I do know of some young execs who wear jeans and a tank top to the office during the summer and dress up if they have a meeting. In fact one young corporate type claims to keep a "suit" at the office specifically for such occasions. Comme vous voulez (as you want).

NOTE-WORTHYIf you work in a professional office you need to be well-groomed and well put together. Designer head to toe is not recommended unless you are in the fashion industry. Bank employees, depending on who their clients are, need to be particularly mindful. If you are serving a couple worried about mortgage payments, you will dress differently than if your clients are corporate entities with nose-bleed high assets.

Anne Fontaine Levana shirt
Photo Source: Anne Fontaine
NEED: Everyone needs a relatively simple blouse/shirt. In the summer, the tailored shirt can be replaced with a good quality dense cotton t-shirt. The fabric weight is important since you do not want a see-through gauzy fabric unless of course, you wear a simple camisole under it. But that just adds to the bulk, so go for an opaque finish and you will feel cooler. You can finish dressing in record time and you look more professional in a tailored shirt or blouse and pants, skirts or knee-length walking shorts. Even if it is casual Fridays, you need to look professional and a pencil skirt instead of pants or walking shorts accomplishes that.




Striped Smythe Blazer. Photo Source: Lyst

NECESSARY: A blazer is necessary. Everyone has a simple blouse/shirt and skirt, pants or walking shorts. You can finish the look and crossover to professional with the simple addition of a blazer. This Smythe blue-striped Duchess blazer would be perfect for the summer. It's on my wish list.












Check out what I have written before on the topic of "casual clothing":
Comfortable Casual or Business Attire
Summer Office Wear - What is Too Casual?
What is "Comfortable Casual"?
Knee-Length Shorts at Work and Play
Defining Casual Clothing
What Kind of Comfortable?












Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Bridesmaids' Dresses from the Past: Thoughts to Consider

It may be spring but brides who are getting married in the fall and winter are choosing the dresses for their attendants. Although styles are certainly different, each of these stories may give the 2017 bride something to think about when considering bridesmaids' dresses. One needs to consider  many factors including body type, even personality, when choosing a dress for someone else.

Bridesmaids Dresses: Flattering or Fattening Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Post-Wedding Possibilities

NICE & NO THANKS


NICE: It was the late 80s and the wedding was held over the Christmas holiday season. The bride chose a Victorian theme for the maids' attire. She bought dark green velvet for the skirts, told us to have a skirt sewn in whatever style was becoming to our figures (the length had to be mid-calf) and then she took us to a shop that sold Victorian style blouses. We bought what we wanted, each blouse being different but still in that Victorian style. Thematically we were the same but we all had different skirt styles and blouse details. We carried holly and white magnolias (albeit artificial). Insofar as dress goes, it was the most beautiful bridal party I ever was part of. I wore that blouse many times after (with jeans and to work under a blazer) and although velvet is not my favourite fabric, I did wear the skirt to my mother's house during the holiday season a few times and once out for a New Year's party.

I still think that dresses or an outfit in the same fabrics and colours, with a theme that ties them together, but in styles that complement each maids' figures is more beautiful than choosing one dress style that everyone has issues with.

I'm your friend. Why are you doing this to me?

NO THANKS 1: to Little Bo Beep bridesmaids' dresses. A friend relayed this 1970s' bridesmaid's story. She was asked to be a "maid of honour" for a friend in southern Ontario. The bride came from old money and so my friend, the maid of honour, believed the dresses would be more elegant than the Bo Peep bridal suggestions that were popular at the time. She told the bride that she would be "honoured" but "mind the Bo Peep style". You know how the story ends. The maids' dresses honoured no one but Little Bo Peep.

NO THANKS 2: On the other end of the continuum is the over the top sexy dress. It was the 90s and the bridesmaids were asked to wear slits up to there showing cleavage down to there. What was the bride thinking? Two of us said no because of the dress. I guess you could accuse us of not being true friends. But at the same time, what kind of friend would expect you to wear something that was not only uncomfortable but also embarrassing?

NO THANKS 3: Another bridesmaids' story from three decades ago concludes in the same way as NO THANKS 1. I was asked to be a "maid of honour" for an "older" bride and I too believed that because she was "older" the dresses would be more elegant, not so cutesy. I too said I would be honoured but I didn't want a bow on my butt. This story ends the same way. My size 4 backend was magnified with a gathered drop waist  and a huge bow on the behind. The shiny stiff satin fabric in teal didn't help either. Each of us wore a different colour - a turquoise-y teal, fuchsia and a deep green. "Garish" is a good word. I'll let you imagine what the young woman who was a size 12 said about the dress.

None of the NO THANKS dresses ever saw the light of day again. What a waste! 

Hit the ___Comments to tell us about the NICE and NO THANKS bridesmaids' dresses from your past - whether you were wearing them or just an innocent bystander.