Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sport Influencing Fashion . . . or Not

With the "Tour de France", Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour to Bergerac (Stage 19) on Friday, July 25th and Stage 20, moving from Bergerac to Périgueux on Saturday, July 26th, (Bergerac is just 18 km away from where I live and the course to Périgueux is 54 km), there are two factions of spectators represented by my neighbours: those who want to be right there for the twenty-second (?) ride-by, or the Bergerac finish or the start-up; and then those who will be watching it on television.

Photo Source: Voler
Those on the highways and biways with their bikes at any other time are acknowledged as serious cyclists by the clothing they are wearing. In France, cycling apparel is professional and brand loyal from the top of your aero-cycling-helmet-clad head to your carbon-pro-race-cycling shoes. Teams and clubs are identifiable by their colours as in any other sport. Sport apparel seldom, if ever, crosses over to street wear in France. If you do see someone wearing sport specific clothing on the street, without actually participating in the sport, then it's probably a tourist.

It may not be what the cyclists are wearing that influences fashion around the Tour de France but rather what the fashionable are wearing when involved with the Tour de France. Kate Middleton chose green to start the wheels rolling on July 5th, 2014 . . . and you can find loads of sites featuring the Duchess of Cambridge wearing her "Allie" coat from Erdem's pre-fall 2013 collection. Erdem Moralioglu is the designer and the name behind the mark established in 2005 (retrieved July 23, 2014). She wore the same Erdem coat in April, 2014 while on tour in New Zealand. There's a reassuring quality in the "wear it once" world of fashion when Kate Middleton chooses to wear the same coat to two separate public events.

Be that as it may . . . back to the Tour de France . . . as with many sporting events, I think I'll choose to watch it on TV, as I have been, no matter how close it comes to me.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

2014 Style Resolution #2 Fulfilled

Planned Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Big vrs. Small


It is July and I decided to check out the style resolutions that I made back in January for 2014. Resolution #2 was a significant change since I have carried an oversized bag for most of my career as well as in my social life. You see, even when I'm not carrying my work with me, I'm diabetic and I always have what I need and more to accommodate any situation. The 2014 resolution read: "Carry a smaller bag. . . . Holts (Holt Renfrew) suggests this orange cross body Rebecca Minkoff bag. I probably won't do a rusty orange but this particular bag comes in a variety of colours in addition to the basics." (from 2014 Style Resolutions) I did in fact buy a Rebecca Minkoff bag.

Photo Source: JoyD
New: I happened to be in Calgary in April and found a Rebecca Minkoff bag, in off-white with a black trim, that would take me through the summer. However, now that I have my smaller sized cross body bag, I find that I seldom carry it. Of course, the problem is - it's too small. I suppose I partially fulfilled Resolution #2. 

Did you make any 2014 style resolutions and did you fulfill them?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Perfect Match

Matching Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Shades and Tones are Important

NECESSARY               NEED                  NOTE-WORTHY               NEW

How do French men and women find the perfect match? 

I have been thinking about this for a good while, with intentions to write about the "matching factor" in French clothing armoires. A variety of incidences occurred around these thoughts; one of which inspired this post. Deborah, a woman I met in France in 1997, came from Bordeaux for a visit. She changed for dinner and then decided not to wear her jacket. When I asked why, she informed me that the turquoise of her jacket was a different tone than the turquoise of her shoes and that it just wouldn't do. I rationalized that she could still wear the jacket since her feet will be under the table for most of the night and the lights will be lower than the pure radiance of daylight. She wasn't convinced - she would know that they didn't match and that would bother her during the meal. Hmmm? She wore the shoes but decided that her little black dress would be better teamed with a black sweater rather than the mismatched tones of turquoises between the blazer and shoes. Obviously the French have a very specific protocol when it comes to matching. And although Deborah is from the United States, she married French and has lived here long enough to be "French clothing conscious".

NECESSARY: There must be a perfect match between jacket and shoes or pants and shoes or shoes and top or whatever items you choose to match. Yet you would never match everything. The choice of what is to be matched is based on balance and understated planning.

Once again I ask the question: how is it that the French find the perfect colour match in shoes to the pants they are wearing or the perfect shade of colour in the jacket with the perfect tone of colour in the shoe? It seems to me to be simply a stroke of luck. Apparently different shades in the same tone are allowed but different tones of the same colour are not. And all of this still must appear effortless (sigh).

Photo Source: JoyD, July, 2014, France
NEED:  Something new for me is a red pair of pants. I didn't spend very much on them because they were definitely an "out of character" purchase. Now that I am in France, I need to find a pair of shoes to match the red of the pants. If the colour is off, you just can't wear them together. Recall the rules of shades and tones or was it tones and shades (another deep sigh)? So in order to do this, do I have to take my red pants with me whenever I go shopping just in case? I'll answer my own question . . . it appears so . . . In the meantime I shall wear a black t-shirt and blazer and team up a pair of black shoes or sandals. Black is easy to match.

Photo Source: Zenka, France, July, 2014
NOTE-WORTHY:  Anthony, my optician at Optique Martin in France, told me about one of his clients who has a pair of Zenka frames (the ones I ordered and told you about in my last post), which feature a variety of coloured and decorative clips. Apparently when she buys a new scarf she comes in to buy a new pair of matching clips. I can't remember how many he said she has but I do recall that it's in the 20 or 30 range. Even Zenka marketing is geared toward the "match". 

July, 2014

NOTE-WORTHY 2: The idea begins young . . .

Photo Source: Brian Davis, Calgary.

NEW: For someone like me, who tries intentionally not to match, this is very new!

In the meantime I'll be either carrying around my red pants or wearing them every time I go shopping.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Frames for Glasses 2014

Everyday Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Spending More for Daily Wear

NICE                  NOTE-WORTHY               NEED

Photo by JoyD from a previous post on glasses.
NICE: I am still wearing my J.F.Rey (made in France) red frames that are about five years old; but not for long. I have always been rather conservative about my glasses and since the cost of my lenses are astronomical, around 600 Euro or 900 Canadian, I think I need to be. Since being introduced to the Parasite frames in 2012, I have dreamt of splurging on a pair. 

Photo Source: Zenka, July, 2014.
The day came. I went to the opticien, Optique Martin on Rue République in Ste. Foy La Grande in the Gironde, picked out my frames and then was introduced to another brand. Zenka are also made in France and allow me to add colour "clips" to change the look of the frames so that my glasses become an accessory rather than a functional medical requirement. So now what do I do? The Parasite nags the artistic, almost eccentric, side of me; while the Zenka are basic and practical with the option of being artistic and eccentric. Zenka may win out . . . 24 hours later, I was back to see Anthony at Optique Martin to order the Zenka frames, in a tan base, with two clips, a white "netted" openwork style and a thin black outline. A blue clip will be my next choice; however there are acid green, fuschia, violet, red, grey and a variety of blue and turquoise tones to contend with. Oh . . . la . la . la la . . . 

NOTE-WORTHY:  Interesting tax consideration in France. Whereas in other European countries, the 20% VAT is only on the frames with a lesser tax amount on the lenses, wouldn't you know it, in France it's 20% on both frames and lenses. So what's a Canadian girl to do but ask if she can get a tax back form? Anthony was very accommodating and so my frames and lenses will come to me at 20% less (but not without a customs check and official stamps at the airport when I leave in December). Wah-ooo!

You will have to check back in a week or so for an update to this post, when I have photos taken of my new Zenka frames. In the meantime you can visit the Zenka site to see what they have to offer.

NEED: I still need a pair of Parasite frames; perhaps next year as sunglasses . . . 

Friday, 4 July 2014


Functional Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Spending More for Less

NECESSARY              NICE           NO THANKS          NEED

I have spent a few dollars on hats and I have also spent a great deal more; yet the ones I have spent the most on, I have worn least and the ones I have spent the least on, I have worn most. 

Two Hats. Photo taken by JoyD, Port Ste. Foy, France, 2014
NECESSARY: I have two hats in France. Neither cost more than 10 Euros and both are functional for sunny days when I forget to wear sunscreen. 

I purchased the white hat in 2010 in Bergerac and the wide-brimmed hat at the market in 2013 in Duras, Gironde, France. The wide brimmed hat was purchased on a very hot Monday in July out of necessity since we were going to be out for the whole day. One "hat" vendor had some beautiful Italian made hats starting at 40 Euro. I was not in the frame of mind to spend that amount on a hat that was to function as sunscreen and that I may never wear again. I'm glad I didn't. As I walked away, my husband lingered and the price for the next woman was 25 Euro. Needless to say, I was a tad annoyed and so there was no way I was going to buy from that particular vendor. I can't say that the shopper after me was younger or beautiful; but I can say that she was French and I'm a foreigner. My French language skills are not good enough to start a discussion about the vendor's tactics and then to try to continue to the barter stage. I found another vendor selling hats - very obviously the quality was poorer but at 10 Euros I was willing to give her the full asking price even though the hat was made in China and made of 100% paper. I know these hats and they can be purchased for anywhere from 75 cents to $1.50 (American dollars) but you have to do a wholesale order for at least 100. So no matter what this vendor paid for them, selling them for 10 Euros probably results in a better profit margin than the first vendor who was selling Italian made hats. Although that too is debatable. I read an article about a Chinese company named, you guessed it . . . "Made in Italy". Needless to say the Italians are livid and are attempting to stop this type of fraudulent marketing from happening. But I digress . . .

For the most part, I am spontaneous when it comes to buying hats, especially those summery "straw" hats. However, I have planned hat purchases, particularly for special occasions. 

NO THANKS: The last time I bought a hat for a special occasion was when I was invited to a winter wedding in France and that was in 2007. That hat is in a hatbox in Canada and has not seen the light of day since the wedding.

Photograph provided by Melanie, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 2013.
NICE: I don't know if this was a planned hat purchase but it certainly will serve the wearer well. I am pleased to post this photo of my niece who purchased this lovely summer hat made by a Canadian designer out of Montreal at the Haberdashery in Winnipeg. 

NEED: I could use a hat like that . . .

Monday, 30 June 2014

Keds, the Classic Tennis . . .

Classic Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Classic Tennis

NICE             NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY           NEED             NEW

Photo by Brian Davis - the Keds Era.
While in France, the shoe that is often referred to as runners, sneakers or joggers are known as "tennis" (TE-neece).

NEED: I want, I need the classic "Ked-style" tennis shoe because the ones I love have "bit the big one"! Mine are an old style that I loved - the third from the left on Brian's photograph. Later varieties had wider toe boxes and rounder toe caps. I have another pair bought two or three years later that looked more like the second from the right. I didn't like the look on my foot near as much as my first pair. I think I bought both pairs at The Bay in Canada. I attempted to wear them this year but soon found that neither would be fit outside of the garden. In fact I threw away the first purchased ones in disgust. 

Brian (of ballet flats fame renown on this blog) and I have recently discovered a kindred love of Keds; albeit he has now outgrown that part of his shoe life.

Photo by Brian Davis - the Keds Era, circa 2008.
NOTE-WORTHY: When you find a classic "something" you love, buy it in multiples. Brian has embraced that bit of advice. I haven't and although I recommend it, somehow it eludes me.

Brian's first time buying Keds story is similar to his first time buying ballet flats. story. The canvas Keds' knockoffs were everywhere as he recalls. . . 

I still remember when I was 7 years old, I needed a pair of white shoes for badminton. There were two choices at the local KMart. Keds knockoffs or another one which was a bit more rugged looking. My mom let me pick the one I wanted - Keds knockoffs of course! Many more years went by and girls continued to wear these canvas shoes, which now had a blue label on the heel. Then came the leather Keds - they sparked my interest. . . . One day while at the mall I noticed the most amazing display of women's white leather Keds at the Lady Footlocker. I stood and stared and my heart began to race. After several minutes I entered the store, grabbed a display shoe and asked the sales girl if she had them in a size 10. A moment later she came from the back and asked if I needed to see them or did I just want to pay for them. With a lump in my throat, I said, "I'd like to try them on". She immediately informed me that these were girls' shoes. She handed me the box and walked away. I tried them on (without her help) and then bought them. It was a pretty quiet sales transaction.

NICE but not NEED: I will be looking but not too hard for the Keds style "tennis" while in France. 

Another NOTE-WORTHY: It seems that whatever colour jeans French women are wearing, their "tennis" match exactly - ah, but that's another post . . .  

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Summer Sales Welcome Return to France

Basic Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Replacing the Worn Out during Sale Season
NICE             NOTE-WORTHY           NEED             NEW

I have returned to France just in time for the summer sales. However my timing is all wrong for the sales at Marques Avenue in Romans-sur-Isere. They start on Wednesday and I am on the road back to the south-west on Monday.

NICE & NEW: Officially it is the beginning of July that the sales start but I was at the Amor-Lux store in Romans-sur-Isere on June 18th where I picked up a light summer sleeveless top for only 16.00Euro. Amazing. It has a v-neck and is that pink tone in beige that is more becoming on my skin than the yellow beige tones. The armholes and neckline are edged in a satiny bias trim that is in the same tone as the body of the top. Nice!

NOTE-WORTHY: I had to buy a bigger size than my other classic Armor-Lux striped shirts. My other classic "marinieres" are a Size 2 whereas this one needed to be a 4. Yes I still fit the 2 "mariniers". When I buy at outlet malls, I often wonder about things like sizes. Could it be that this top at the outlet store was mis-sized since it was sold at a price one-quarter of what it would be in the regular Armor-Lux stores? It's a thought.

Bronze sandals purchased at Salamander. Photo by JoyD.
NEED & NEW: Availability too is often an issue at outlet malls. Since I am a popular size 7 (Canadian) / 37 (European) in shoes, I often cannot find my size. I had a beige pair of flat strappy sandals that went with everything. A strap broke and so I need to replace them. Although I did not find exactly what I was looking for, I did find a pair of metallic bronze flat sandals at Salamander for 49.00Euro in size 37, the last pair in that model.

NEED: I definitely need a pair of "sneakers" - not the thick soled walking or jogging shoes but lightweight canvas sneaker-style shoes that are casual chic and comfortable at the same time. I had a pair of white leather Keds that I loved but they are beyond repair. I just may drop into Marque Avenue before I begin my six hour journey back to the south-west tomorrow morning. Come to think of it, my beige suede flats are looking a little rundown . . . .

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Searching for Appropriateness in Dress

Appropriate Choices

Closet Content Analysis: 
Blending Personal Style into Corporate Culture 
NICE             NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY           NEED             NEW

When I study the popularity of particular posts, the notion of appropriate dress is one of the top five categories. Employees are mandated to wear uniforms, students are sent home for wearing skirts too short or t-shirts expounding counterculture perspectives, and many decisions are made to wear or not wear something based on previous societal reactions. We recognize that there are standards, but we also recognize that they are arbitrary and we appear to want advice on appropriateness.

Very often there is a defensive response to any allegation that one's dress is inappropriate. "Who is she or he to tell me what to wear? or Nobody's going to tell me what to wear; I'll wear what I want!", are the typical knee-jerk responses. Culturally, there exists a collection of beliefs around what is appropriate or inappropriate dress in every social/cultural group. Arbitrary or not, it exists and as long as there are key decision makers (your supervisor, boss, owner of the company, mother, grandfather, teacher, principal, judge), who observe these cultural points of view, you will always be under scrutiny insofar as dress goes.Valid, fair or arbitrary, those who hold economic or political power over you are able to impose their "dress code" values on you.

What we choose to wear does not "hurt" anyone. It may be offensive or distasteful but it will not cause physical harm and I imagine, we don't want to impose physical discomfort upon anyone. There must be an underlying understanding of what will cause another discomfort since so many are looking to define appropriateness. The question is asked but if you have lived in a particular social/cultural milieu, you know the answer and perhaps are probably just looking for rationalization and confirmation. All the hits asking what is comfortable casual and is it appropriate, particularly for work in a North American context, are simply searches to rationalize what he or she already inherently believes. I attempted to define casual clothing in a previous post and so, if my definition fits the questioner, he or she will follow the "advice" given but if not, then the quest will continue until the person is satisfied with a newfound answer. Online, that will not be hard to do.

The best advice is: be observant. Determine what looks "professional" in your mind's eye and then choose dress that blends your sense of style within the corporate context. If you consider the culture of the workplace, since it establishes the criteria, all will be well.

What a strange power there is in clothing.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Religious Obligations of Dress

Our belief systems can be represented in our dress and are most evident in those who choose their clothing relative to religious obligation. A colleague inspired this post. She is fashionable within the requirements of Islam from her hijab down to her Tory Burch ballet flats. 

Photo retrieved from Scan Free, May, 2014
She wears the head covering we know as hijab but I don't think I have ever seen her wear the same scarf twice. And what a scarf it must be! The length required to wrap and pin and tuck is daunting to the non-hijab wearer. Hijab is in fact more than just the head covering. I understand it to mean "all that is required for the modesty necessary in religious obligation to Islam". It appears that "what is necessary" is not only dictated religiously but also open to cultural interpretation. 

Photo Retrieved
from Catholic Brainwork, May, 2014
Christianity also has its examples of religious obligation of dress. However those obligations may be restricted to formal religious orders such as Catholic nuns or to religious communities such as the Hutterites. Whether a woman is wearing hijab or has her hair tied back under a net covering in the same way some Mennonite sects do, we immediately recognize their religious devotion. And that is exactly what the wearers want.

Photo Retrieved from Plainly Dressed
May, 2014
It is obvious that religious obligation to dress facilitates recognition, and that can have both positive and negative reactions. The negative responses come from those who have been limited in their intercultural experiences and thus lack understanding. The positive responses, specifically from others who share the same religion, strengthen the sense of community and belonging. Those who wear hijab in work situations confirm empowerment owing to the respect shown for the work at hand with no perceived notions of flirtation and possible sexual harassment. What these women wear protects them from the negative on one hand but may also provoke the negative on the other.  

Recently Pope Francis was photographed wearing the headdress of a South American indigenous tribe . . . respect for others requires us to acknowledge and accept. Acknowledgement and acceptance, that is the essence of living together.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cool Spring

The cool spring is leaving its effects on the Victoria Day weekend and also on the design process for my jewellery-making. Those who go to "the lake" are happy to be opening their summer homes but are slightly disappointed as they gaze upon the ice that still is lingering on the banks. And so it has been with me this spring.

I entered the season without a clear idea of where I was going in my jewellery-making. I searched online for the definitive collection that would represent Spring 2014 and inspire me but couldn't find what I was looking for. After six years of making jewellery, I have developed my own style and have found clients for whom this style resonates. When I try to be more "commercial", I am not always happy with the results, even if the cash register rings more often. But then again, I don't rely on sales to make a living. Presently the few shows in which I have chosen to participate, allow me to buy more unique and expensive component parts. The consequence is that I am then able to maintain this jewellery-making habit and in doing that, I am a happy jewellery maker - much like the happy camper on a cool spring weekend.

Off centre open neck choker (Spring, 2014) made by JoyD.
This off centre open-neck piece was one of the first to sell at a fundraiser where I set up shop last week. The large wooden beads strung on memory wire, offset the weight that semi-precious stones would add. I like this design and it just may become a signature piece for me.

The fundraiser was a success for all concerned and I am always grateful to those who give me an opportunity to display my wares and to those who buy my pieces. For the privilege to show my jewellery, I donated a piece made with Chinese dyed coral for the silent auction.

Big, bold and red is always a great combination for sales and so next season, instead of looking for online inspiration, I'll stick to my own creative inclinations.