Saturday, 3 October 2015

Back from Sunny London

NECESSARY          NICE          NO THANKS  

Disregard the "rainy" in my What to Pack for a Rainy Long Weekend in London. It wasn't! 

NO THANKSLondoners were enthused that the weather was more summer-like than fall and I found that I did not need my North Face jacket and could have easily left my Burberry 3/4 length jacket at home. My husband lamented that he took a heavy jacket (heavier than his North Face jacket).

Travel Advice - forget about what you think you know about a region's climate and login to the weather channel of the city or town, particularly if you are only going for three or four days. My personality type would still take the extra jacket, but perhaps not two.

NICE:  What did I pack? Because of the weather, my cashmere shawl was all I needed in the evening. Instead of two pairs of skinny jeans, I took a pair of black linen classic trousers and a pair of purple skinny jeans and was happy for that. As well, besides my black blazer, I took a jean jacket and in all likelihood could have managed well enough without the blazer. I took two colourful scarves and was glad for that also. 

I wore one scarf with the linen pants and jean jacket one afternoon of eating at Barrafina on Firth Street in Soho and shopping. The two scarves I did take were worn when out for dinner, with my LBD. We enjoyed Barrafina so much we ate at the Drury Lane location in Covent Garden a second time. I suppose the only negative was that there are no reservations at Barrafina and time spent cueing is at the least, a tad annoying. Londoners themselves are becoming a bit peeved at standing in line in what seems to be a trend of no reservations restaurants, whether it be breakfast or burgers. Amy Grier wrote an entertaining piece, End of the Line, on cueing in Stylist magazine and reveals how Londoners really feel.

NECESSARY I definitely needed to take another pair of good walking shoes. After wearing the only pair of loafers I took, the first day and walking 14 km, I needed a change into a different pair of flats the next day. Never anticipate that you will not walk that much because when you are visiting and the tram lines are closed or delayed, other than cabs or Uber, there's not much choice but to walk.

Speaking of (writing of) Uber, it seems that London is looking to tighten its rules with Uber. Search "uber" in the Financial Times. My experiences, after taking both cabs and Uber in London, leads me to support the Uber initiative.

It was a great four days in sunny London.

Monday, 21 September 2015

What to Pack for a Rainy Long Weekend in London

Closet Content Analysis: Items for a 4-Day Trip  

Choices: Absolute Necessities

NECESSARY          NICE          NO THANKS          

I'm leaving rainy France to visit rainy London. I know, there is something inherently wrong with that picture. However it is a weekend that has been a long planned and awaited event. A good friend from Calgary, Canada will turn 50 and her spouse has planned a rendez-vous (with another couple as well) in London (England that is, not Ontario, Canada). They are "épicurienes", in the same way we are and so of course this weekend will be filled with celebrating, eating, drinking some fine wines to accompany the eating and a little shopping on the side. No sightseeing as such - been there, done that.

Now . . . what to pack? All I have is a carry-on and so I shall only take what is . . . 

NECESSARY: I always pack my North Face jacket and my camel cashmere shawl. Heels and my LBD are also necessary for this trip. One pair of flats to be sure, one pair of jeans, four t-shirts/tops/shirts, a blazer, a rainy-wear 3/4 length coat (to wear with either a dress or pants) and underwear of course. My insulin and paraphernalia, my journal, my passport . . . I'm done. I won't forget the umbrella. As well, I will take absolutely the minimum for toiletries and no electronics - seriously. 

NO THANKS: I'm unconcerned about not having a phone or computer, my real concern is . . . will I be able to manage with one pair of  jeans? 

NICE (Rationalization): I feel I need to take a second pair. The best rationalization is that I shall wear one pair and pack the second pair. So officially I am only taking one pair, albeit one extra pair.

I re-visited my post on what I wore during my four day visit to Spain in the spring and need to add some colour with a scarf or two. Two pairs of jeans, one in black and another in a colour - probably purple, is now very probable after review of my Spain trip.

What are your absolute must have items for a weekend away?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Brian's Newest Tory Burch Purchases


Thank goodness Brian keeps me posted about his latest Tory Burch purchases. These are quite special and of all the ballet flats Tory Burch has created with her signature logo, I must say, I've taken a liking to these the most.

Fango coloured TB Lowells. Photo Source: Brian D, 2015

Even better in black . . . 

Black TB Lowells. Photo Source: Brian D, 2015

Thanks Brian . . . the official ballet flats guy of this blog . . . 

Brian in his fango coloured TB Lowells. Photo Source: Brian D, 2015

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Bravo H&M!

The "Close the Loop" commercial that to this date has had over 4 million hits deserves the accolades it is receiving. The message at the end is "There are no rules in fashion but one - recycle your clothes"; an innovative position for a retailer to take, but also one that is astute enough to recognize individual differences, beliefs and waste. Sweden's H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) is not the only one doing this. Marks and Spencer in Great Britain and Calzedonia in Italy also collect clothing for recycling purposes. I understand H&M is conducting ongoing research in the process of recycling fabric fibres but until fabric fibre recycling is more cost effective and refined any financial benefits H&M receives will be going into social programs. The prospect that your donations (fabric - the raw material) may eventually become new H&M products incites the development of a new type of re- "cycle" in terms of benefits for the company. Visit Garment Collecting to find out more. 

Finnish, Swedish and Japanese companies have already produced 100% recycled cotton. Fibres that have been around for centuries, such as hemp, are now being used to make blue jeans. My great-grand mother's everyday work wear was made out of hemp. 

Another thought: why is it that the Canadian prairies produces flax but not linen?

Today, in keeping with the theme, I pulled out my sewing machine. The best I could accomplish was a tea towel, albeit an oversize well washed ancient linen tea towel. Here in France, you can go to recycle, re-sell shops, brocantes or vides greniers and pick up old linen sheets for centimes/pennies and re-work them into whatever you want. I was going for simple this time around and chose to cut up an old linen flat sheet for a 90 cm bed (avoiding the holes and worn out spots) and I ended up with an oversize tea towel. Not quite in a fashionable closet, but certainly in a "green" kitchen.

The feel of old linen, cotton and silk is amazing. This tangent may have strayed slightly from the blog theme but there's a necessity to recycle fibre and what is clothing and fashion but fibres fashioned to cover the body?

I have written about re-cycling before: 
Re-Using or is it Re-Cycling Clothing

Monday, 10 August 2015

Bags at the Market

Closet Content Analysis: Market Bags

My Choice: A bag from Madagascar

Choices: Market Bags For Sale. The prices of market bags being sold at the market, particularly in July and August, tend to be pricier than in the off season. Bien sur. That makes sense. 

Photo taken by JoyD at Ste. Foy La Grande Saturday market, Gironde, July, 2015

More Choices: Everyone carries a bag of one kind or another. Some rely on the vendors to give them plastic bags - in the south-west of France it is "poche", not "sac" but most bring their own to carry their purchases. For the most part, you will see bags similar to the one the man in the purple shirt is carrying.

Photo taken by JoyD at Ste. Foy La Grande Saturday market, Gironde, July, 2015.

Photo taken by JoyD at
Ste. Foy La Grande Saturday
market, Gironde, July, 2015.

Photo taken by JoyD at the Perigieux Market, Dordogne, sometime in the past.

Made in Madagascar Shopping Bag. Photo by JoyD, August, 2015.
Purchased in La Périgourdine, Pineuilh, Gironde, France.
Nice & New: I was pleased to find a bag made in Madagascar at the local La Périgourdine, a regional co-operative. It was just under 10 Euro, about half what you would have to pay at the summer market. Bags of this nature are used in the grocery stores as well as in the open air markets to cart your food purchases.

The blue and yellow bag I found was produced by a small independent group of producers under the title of "Lekelygasy". The distributor in France can be contacted by email at The Madagascar contact information is I couldn't find out much about them online because my search words kept on defaulting to "likely gay". Sometimes the anticipated default is not exactly what one might be actually looking for. Nonetheless, I believe that this type of organization is worth my support.

Friday, 7 August 2015

How do the Rich Shop?

Closet Content Analysis: In Response to a Television Documentary

I suppose when your income is 50 billion per year, spending 15 million on a shopping trip to Paris is considered a tad overboard but nothing that couldn't be handled. But maybe not, because King Abdullah (deceased since this occurrence) would not pay Maha Al-Sudairi's bills, and so she has developed quite a reputation for "flamber sans payer" - "a blaze without paying", particularly in Paris. Considering that King Abdullah had 30 children from approximately a dozen wives, I imagine his daily budget would be more than what I make or have made in an entire year - probably in an entire career. But that's strictly speculation. Keeping track of all those children, in-laws and wives could have been a tad annoying especially if they were partial to shopping trips.

So how do the rich shop? Apparently Maha Al-Sudairi walks into her favourite designer boutique, orders one in each colour (another speculation) and then hands the sales associate a lovely engraved card reading, "payment to follow" with her benefactor's contact information. Nice. But then she has to arrange for (or rather a staff member arranges for) a storage unit to keep everything organized until she has the inclination to use it. Hmmm?

I can't even wrap my head around daydreaming about such a predicament.

As it is I am thinking I have too much and I am being wasteful. Everything is relative I suppose. So after watching the documentary and reflecting on how the rich shop, here are some of those ideas: 

One woman, who is both rich and famous, doesn't like to spend her own money and expects designers to give her freebies. After all, if she is seen wearing something, others will want to buy the exact same thing and so this is considered helpful to the designer and her commission is haute couture. The rich get richer.

Others, like the Saudi princess, go on elaborate shopping trips to exotic places, dodging in and out of luxury brand store fronts taking great pleasure in the hunt and buying everything that appeals. Some hide the sums from their benefactors or set a budget, although budget may not be the most appropriate word, if shopping on their own dime.

Others, buy one in every colour or 30 of the same thing because the fit is perfect or they only wear a t-shirt once and then it is done. OK, next.

Some never look at the price tag but then will take their clothing to consignment shops after two or three wears. Even the rich recognize re-sale value. If something goes on sale, and they have that item, it's time to send it off to the consignment store or give it away. Heaven forbid someone might think they bought something on sale. 

And then there are those who, like the two cowboy brother ranchers in Alberta, Canada, were worth more dead than alive. They came into town once a year to buy a new shirt and a new pair of jeans.

So what constitutes rich? And how do the rich shop? How do the very rich shop? Relatively speaking . . . as many different ways as everyone else, except that there are more digits behind the dollar sign.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

End of Sale Month in France

Closet Content Analysis: Sale Shopping

NEW Choices: A bag, blazer, iron and linens

NICE          NOTE-WORTHY           NO THANKS

The two months the French anticipate for sales - soldes - are July and January and I fortunately have been and will be here for both this year. Presently,with July done, storefronts entice us with further and final reductions. Last week, Marques Avenue in Romans-sur-Isere was a sale destination for me and "up to 70% off" in the name brand shops inspired me to replace basics at "grocery store" prices. 

Red linen Caroll blazer. Photo by JoyD.
Note-Worthy: One still has to be diligent even when it comes to sale prices. I bought a red linen blazer in the Caroll store at Marques Avenue while in Roman-sur-Isere. It was 70% off the last markdown, which happened to be 110.00 Euro. I paid 30.30 Euro. Great - I was happy. Then, while shopping in Valence, I went into the Caroll store. The advertisements announced further reductions based on the colour coded percentages. I found the blazer I had purchased in Romans. The final markdown was to be 40% off the last markdown which was 150.00 Euro (note: 40 Euro more than the marked down price in Romans). 70% off 110. or 40% off 150.? OMG, my previous purchase was my deal of the decade. Roman is only 17 km. away from Valence. Of course I understand local loyalty but Marques Avenue must be very tempting for consumers in Valence. There must be a difference you say . . . well . . . yes . . . selection is limited in outlet stores but in my case the colour choice was the only difference. The linen blazer at the Marques Avenue location was red and the blazer in the regular retail outlet in Valence was a hot pink. I guess red was not the "tendance" this year. However red is a basic colour that I needed in my blazer collection and it was a better choice than the hot pink for me.

Purple Wrap Dress. Photo by JoyD.
No Thanks: I also broke one of my No Thanks rules while in Bourg de Péage. The price was that good! 19 Euros could buy me a three course lunch but instead I bought a dress that was marked down several times; albeit a dress that was 2 kg too tight on me. I did go for lunch anyway. The way I figure it, I will hang it on my fridge, inspiring me to lose weight and remind me about the choices I need to make when opening the fridge. It might be a tad big as a fridge magnet but I believe it will serve a functional purpose as well as a conversation piece.

Nice & Note-Worthy: For my linen closet, I decided to buy some Anne de Solene linens. I have been a Yves Delorme advocate for years but this year the outlet store in Marques Avenue was rather . . . unwelcoming . . . it was hot and there were no lights or air conditioning on in the store - there was a fan and lights on in the back room . . . there were several things that were "not done" by the sales associate that I took slight offence to and so I never bought. I may regret it in the big picture but at the time, I was miffed enough that I chose not to buy. The woman at the Anne de Solene store was amiable, knowledgeable and accommodating. In this case, service was as important as the quality of the item; although I am starting to regret my choice of not buying a particular flat sheet at Yves Delorme. My weakness is that the name, the brand, is what keeps me loyal to Yves Delorme.

Note-Worthy: To keep my clothes in perfect form, I found a Rowenta iron, made in France, that was a bargain. The regular outlet price was around 180. Euro and was on sale for 114. A friend informed me that he had purchased a Rowenta iron of the same calibre for 150. Euro almost 10 years ago now. This purchase was a "no-brainer".

The Best NiceI bought a Lancel bag to add to my collection - at 40% off the outlet price. If I factor in the tax rebate for foreigners, I bought a great bag for 250. Euros that will carry me into the winter. I'm happy! There's a post here so I'll take some photos and let you analyze the purse later.

I've written about sale shopping before:
July and August Summer Sales
Summer Sales Welcome Return to France
End of July/August Summer Sales
Clothing & Accessories to Buy on Sale
Sale Shopping for Clothing
Shopping in Factory Outlet Stores

Monday, 13 July 2015

Sub-Categories of Comfortable Casual

Closet Content Analysis: What kind of comfortable casual?

Choices: Fitness to Business

This business of categorization is a work in progress. Over the next while, I'll be refining, adapting, substituting, combining and rearranging the organization of these categories, but here's the beginning of my attempt at creating the Comfortable Casual sub-categories. 

If you are a Comfortable Casual dresser, which one of the labels suits your closet?  

Photo Source: Aliexpress
Finess Casual: It started innocently enough, you didn't change after going to the gym one day and now you don't bother dressing differently for most of your social or even work activities. You probably don't have any pants other than the yoga variety except for a couple of pairs of blue jeans. Your mother or mother-in-law wants to say to you, "Cropped leggings are not pants". All the tops you own have been purchased in a sports running store or for your more formal outfits at Lululemon. If you do buy any clothing in a regular clothing store, you mix and match within the category of "Athleisure", a term used in Europe, to describe a mix of fitness and regular clothes. Even when you have to buy a dress or skirt you opt for various weights of "sweatshirt" fabric or something synthetic that washes up and doesn't need ironing.

For the guys: Muscle shirts and baggy sports shorts, those that belong primarily in the gym, have become your summer choices. "Sweats" make up your winter wardrobe. You have a couple of pairs of Dockers, for dress-up, and of course, jeans.

Photo Source: MailOnline
Sport (Team) Casual: If Rihanna is doing it . . . Your look includes hooded sweatshirts, brand-insignia t-shirts, and university gift shop sweatpants but when you want to get dressed up, you wear blue jeans. For the most part everything is oversized in the "tops" category of clothing. The shoulder seams hang halfway down your arm. You've stopped buying t-shirts in the women's department and are buying men's large even though you're probably a women's medium. You probably have also collected oversize workout wear, sports gear and jerseys from ex-boyfriends or male family members who were all tall and broad and you are trim and under 5' 3". Colour choices range in those of your favourite sports team or university town. Green and orange are not always the most becoming colours. And you truly believe those little football or baseball bat earrings are adorable.

For the guys: The only t-shirts you own, other than your favourite sports team jerseys, are promotional t-shirts primarily from beer companies.

Fitness Chic/Active Chic/Sporty Chic: You don't work out, for the most part, but you buy high end Stella McCartney for Adidas articles that will never see the gym. You wear these clothes to the office as well since most things you own are more upscale than fitness casual. This category reminds me of a poster I saw that read, "none of my yoga pants have ever been to yoga". When the trend dictates, spangles, sequins and embroidery embellishes what would be ordinary workout wear. You have a variety of "gym-style" shoes that never get worn out because you don't actually run or workout in them. You wear North Face proudly and well you should even though the only side of a mountain you have ever seen is from your hotel window.

For the guys: You don't golf, but you can compete with the pros when it comes to your perfectly poised golf attire. In the summer it's shorts and golf shirts, in the winter its long pants and golf shirts.

Photo Source: WhoWhatWear
Business Casual: You don't dress much differently for work or play but everything fits perfectly. Cotton, silk and linen are your choices. You cringe at anything polyester. Put a blazer on with your jeans and t-shirt and you are "dressed up" for the evening. Put a blazer on with a pair of pants and a t-shirt and you can go to work without feeling underdressed. The blazer, unstructured or fitted, is your go-to item of clothing and keeps you within bounds when the occasion is a tad more upscale or lets you remove it when everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts. The choice of footwear is what takes your outfits to the next level.

For the guys: A t-shirt with a suit or blue jeans, a t-shirt and a blazer is the basic formula for business casual. It's always a crew neck or v-neck t-shirt. Everything fits impeccably.

Casual Chic: Even though there isn't a blazer in your closet, you always look good in the well fitted casual clothing you have collected. Everything fits well in the shoulders and on the hips but most of your clothes are built to hang loosely over the body. Ellen Tracy represents most of what you choose to wear. 

Here's the problem with the all inclusive category of Comfortable Casual generally - it allows us to get sloppy and that's when it just isn't comfortable. It's all about the fit, no matter what kind of casual you are. 

Check out what I have written before on this topic:
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, 7 July 2015

London Bombing Miss

On the morning of Thursday, 7 July 2005, four male Islamists separately detonated three bombs in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and later, a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty-two civilians were killed and over 700 more were injured . . . wikipedia

What a difference two hours made ten years ago. My husband and I arrived at Heathrow, on the overnight flight from Canada, and proceeded through London on our way to Wales on the morning of July 7th, 2005. We were in the underground on the Piccadilly line between Kings Cross and Russel Square, one of the three bombing locations, prior to the 8:50 A.M. detonations. 

I had wanted to stay at the airport and shower, have breakfast and take my time getting to Wales. My husband, on the other hand, wanted to get to Bridgend before lunch and he insisted we go directly to the trains and make our way through London. We did. Two hours later we were in Wales and heard about the bombings. The details about the one at Russel Square were particularly poignant for us.

The images we saw on television that evening while we sat with our friend Pat in her home in Bridgend were surreal. "We were there," we kept repeating to ourselves as if somehow we needed to affirm that we were safe and alive.

I can only shrug and affirm that "my number" was not yet up. 

Read more on History.

Sandals - the Gladiator Style - Masculine or Feminine?

Closet Content Analysis: Sandals

Choices: Gladiator Battles

Isabeli Fontana. Photo Source: Patrick Demarchelier, Vogue, September, 2008.
What varieties of footwear are referred to as "gladiator"? For me, it is a simple sandal that essentially laces or buckles up the leg to the knee. That describes the ones that gods, goddesses and gladiators wear in the movies or the likes of Isabeli Fontana wear for fashion shoots.

Vogue writer Laird Borrelli-Persson outlined a short history of the gladiator sandal in her 2015 spring trend piece

My question is: Is the "caged" sandal that reaches the ankle and stops there, also referred to as gladiator? "Google images" confirms that all sandals, whether ending at the ankle or knee are known as "gladiator" sandals.

BrianD relates what happened in 2007 when he saw a post online about gladiator sandals. 

Photo Source: Brian Davis
"Oddly enough it was from a guy and he was sharing pictures of his Nine West Jobilyn gladiator sandals . . . I'm sure it's no surprise to you that I started seeking a pair for myself. The funny thing is I went to the same Nine West store where I bought my first pair of Nine West flats and it was the same sales girl that sold me this pair of gladiator sandals. Unlike regular sandals, gladiator sandals have that "caged" feeling because they are buckled up around your ankles . . . I was soooo excited when I bought those Nine West Jobilyn gladiator sandals.  They were really "in fashion" for women. Although they were pretty feminine they still had a unisex feel to them. I guess you could say I was happy how they looked on me.  The double buckle strap ensured they didn't slip off my feet (and) . . . gave them a nice look but was somewhat difficult to buckle and unbuckle . . . A lot of years had passed between getting my first pair of Glads and my first pair of Tory sandals . . . I didn't buy another pair of women's sandals till April last year. YUP, you guessed it, my Tory Burch Millers . . . Now that I am a complete Tory diehard customer I'd have to say I like my Tory sandals better than my Nine West gladiators. First, the soles are rubber or rubber like material and they have great traction and they are very thin and therefore don't look so "clunky" like most men's sandals. They are easy to slip on and off. I have the TB Millers in lots of fun colours. And lastly they have the iconic Tory logo over the top of your foot. So while the gladiators look more masculine or unisex, it is the TB Miller (or any TB sandals) that I now prefer.

Photo by Brian Davis
 When Brian wrote, "I didn't buy another pair of women's sandals till April last year", I have always thought the gladiator sandals were gender-less. I tended to avoid them because they look too bulky to be worn on my feet. As Brian has shared, he likes the thinner sole on women's shoes. Men's sandals do not need to have a heavy sole for most purposes either so the Nine West Jobilyn gladiator sandals look as "uni-sex" as any shoe I have ever studied and as far as gladiators go, these are a winner. Similar to Brian, I do prefer the TB Miller's insofar as sandals go.

Over the past year or two I have taken photos of sandals and shoes at the markets I have visited here in the south-west. This collage demonstrates a smattering of gladiators and you can decide who wins or loses the battle. They are definitely unisex since we cannot discern which are female or male feet and that is the biggest plus for the gladiator sandal.

Photos by JoyD. This collage was made using

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Dressing for the Weather

Closet Content Analysis: Weather Appropriate

Choices: Hot Weather Nice

My French friends and neighbours always ask me what I wear when it is minus 40 on the Canadian prairies. My husband and I have gotten into this odd routine of returning to Canada in the winter. I first attempt to deflate the amount of time it is actually minus 40 and then describe our outerwear and the concept of layering. First, they just don't have the minus-double-digit type of outerwear that we do in Canada. However, the tables have turned as we move into a week of plus 38 here in the South-West of France. What do you wear when it's plus 40?

Our neighbours, Danielle and Abel came over to gift us with some wine from a "fete" we were unable to attend. Of course, we invited them in for "apero". I then told her that we would be staying inside because of the heat. I attempted, in my limited French to explain that when it is minus 40 in Canada we stay warm as we hide in our house and when it is plus 40 in the south-west of France we stay cool as we hide in our house. Some things truly are universal.

We can layer and dress appropriately for the weather in a cold climate but what in fact do you wear when it is this hot? The first thing to do is analyze what is worn in climates that experience this type of heat on a consistent basis . . .

Fibre Content: linen, cotton, silk - never ever polyesters. Think of wrapping yourself in plastic - this does not need explanation.

Design and Structure: Loose fitting, draping rather than clinging to the body, draw-string (no elastic waist bands or heavy zippers), protection from the sun's rays - meaning long pants and long sleeves; believe it or not.

Colour: white, beige, pale blues or other pale colours

Accessories: Hats, sandal style footwear.

The tendency in western countries is to put on a polyester bathing suit and sit in the sun or water whereupon sunburn and heat stroke take their toll. Yes, I understand the breeze across the water might add a bit of coolness but if you are dashing in and out of the water and sitting in the hot sun to dry off, the only thing you accomplish is burning your skin because of the reflection off the water.

Nice: This is my absolute favourite hot weather outfit.

Linen Pants and Top Purchased in Sorrento.
Photo by JoyD.
I bought this linen top and pants in Sorrento, Italy. It's a loose-weave fabric with shell buttons and the pants have a draw-string. I have had it for years and it has weathered many trips to Europe. When it finally wears out, I will have another made exactly like it. Of all the clothes I own, this outfit has served me well in plus 30 heat.

Hot Weather Favourites. This collage created by JoyD with