Saturday, 30 August 2014

Dressing in Portugal


We are planning a trip to Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar and so in the last post I suggested several possibilities as far as what to wear and what to buy in Spain. This post centres on Portugal.

As in Spain, Italy, France and generally speaking all European cities, men and women are very well dressed. Some youth copy American fashion but for the most part I am not writing for adolescents. And so the more mature, especially in Portuguese cities, will not be wearing jeans or shorts and sneakers. One more generalization - as you go into the countryside or to the resort beach areas, dress is more casual but still not many jeans, no sweat pants and over-sized t-shirts. If you see oversized t-shirts and baggy sweatpants, the wearer is probably North American. Dark colours are a good choice for travel anyway but in Portugal, it seems only proper, especially if you are over the age of 30. When Canadians, Australians or Americans come back from visiting Portugal, they often say, "We saw black everywhere, even in the summer". You will see black a lot but that is probably more tradition than style. Wearing black is associated with the deaths of those close to you and there are certain time and kinship requirements that many still adhere too; especially those of a particular age. The older you are, the more likely you would be required to wear black for this reason.

Embroidered products and lace are essentially traditional crafts that tourists often buy. But I truly cannot think of any particular contemporary piece of clothing that you would look for in Portugal. One can say, scarves are the thing in France and so there is a lot of variety - buy scarves. One may advise - the Spanish love shoes - so buy shoes in Spain. But truly I cannot think of what to suggest for Portugal. Although, leather handbags and shoes are of decent quality and you might get lucky.

Modesty is revered in Portugal so forget dressing in an ostentatious way. Name brands won't impress anyone - essentially the Portuguese could care less. "Respectful" seems to be the best word to describe how to dress. Men in shirts with collars and pants; women in skirts and modest tops and dresses. The Portuguese seem to be more nonchalant, more relaxed and less enthused by "what to wear ". The translation for "nonchalant" is "not being concerned" and so it is with the Portuguese.

Photo Source: Dutched Pinay Travels
Of course, Oporto's main shopping street, Rua de Santa Caterina, has upscale boutiques and other shops, particularly shoes, that cater to all budgets. Thank you to Dutched Pinay Travels who gave me permission to use this photo and who has a great post about shopping on Rua de Santa Caterina. Basically you can find anything that you are looking for here. No matter what European city you are in, I think it best to seek out the local artisans and designers to pick up something unique.

Here are 3 packing guidelines that will serve you well in Portugal:

1) In Lisbon, the walking can be challenging (there are seven hills and they are steep) and cobblestone streets and walks are the norm. Take your most comfortable walking shoes, no matter what they look like.

2) If travelling in Spain, Portugal or Italy during the summer, you would be better off taking cotton and linen dresses rather than shorts and t-shirts. When in Spain, it doesn't matter how hot it is, you won't be allowed into religious sites in shorts (men included) or sleeveless tank tops (men included). I have read that Portuguese rules regarding sleeveless tops and shorts are not as restrictive as Spain and Italy. I would err on the side of caution though.

3) Spring, even summer, can be windy and bring an Atlantic chill to the air so a windbreaker would be necessary, such as one from North Face's Summit Series.

Just click on the titles below to read some other posts I wrote about travel and packing:
Business and Tourist Travel Wardrobes
Packing for a Two Week Visit to Europe
In a Man's Suitcase: Vacation in Europe
Shoes for Traveling Europe

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Curiosities in your Travels

Closet Content Analysis: Note-Worthy but Not in My Closet 

In my last post I suggested analyzing what people are wearing on the street of any particular city to determine what would be accessible and representative of the clothing style of the place. So that in Spain, you will be sure to find fabulous shoes, classic gold jewellery and status-seeking watches. However, there are also the products made by artisans that are curious and note-worthy - we wonder about the creativity behind the piece and we wonder if we should buy it!

Last summer I was in St. Émilion, France with my friend ShirleyB and found the most curious piece at an exhibition. For the most part the reason one visits St. Émilion is for the wine but in fact, because of the number of tourists "pouring" through, there are great exhibitions of local artists, artisans and craftspeople happening alongside the wine trade.

The most curious items I found at a St. Émilion exhibition were purses made of inner tire tubes marked "Made in Canada" and created by Céline Tonnelier of Friandise Créations of France. At 164 Euros I was not that smitten but it certainly was a curiosity and I had to take a photograph.

Purse made from re-purposed rubber inner tubes by Céline Tonnelier of Friandise Créations, France. Photo by JoyD.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Foreign Travel Closet Finds

Very often when I travel, there is always something I want to buy that is associated with my destination.

My travel history started with accompanying my husband as a chaperone on high school tours to Europe. Since then we have organized tours from Canada for adults as well. Our roles are very different with each group and traveling with adults is a tad less stressful. In our tour groups with adults we have gone to Turkey and Italy and are planning more European excursions.

Eating is necessary but our Canadian tour leader made eating a pleasure with commentary about the local foods and the wine while we were in Italy.

Dining somewhere in Italy. Photo by JoyD.

Seems that I was always taking photos of us eating; however this one is more of the views we encountered while in Italy.

Afternoon coffee or was it wine somewhere in Italy. Photo by JoyD.
This time we're eating in Turkey. Forgive me for all the food photographs but we do it at least three times a day and it was always as interesting as the sightseeing and shopping.

Eating somewhere in Turkey. Photo by JoyD.
Finally a photo of one of the group taking in the cultural and more intellectual parts of our tours . . . somewhere in Turkey.

A museum somewhere in Turkey. Photo by JoyD.
In the spring of 2015 we are planning a 12-day Portugal, Spain, Morocco & Gibraltar tour, April 13th to April 25th with adults, leaving from Canada. The groups are usually small, including couples and singles, which allows for more freedom in planning, changing or supplementing itineraries. Our deadline date for this spring group tour is the end of August so if by some chance you want to spend some time exploring and shopping in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar, just send an email to and I can get the itinerary and pricing details to you. 

To determine what to buy in a country, it is a good idea to analyze what is important to the locals. As a result, you know there will be a great variety of that particular item and probably a good opportunity to buy. I'll use Spain as my first closet analysis. The "watch" as accessory and status symbol is important to both men and women in Spain. Gold jewellery that is of good quality and discrete is worn by most women and costume jewellery (bright coloured resins) is often only worn by the young. Shoes are impeccable and always in good condition and are used as fashion accessory as much as a necessity. Interestingly, many leather shoes have rubber soles and I would guess that is because of the cobblestone streets which can be tough on leather soles, let alone make walking a bit treacherous. Because shoes are coveted here, Spain manufactures fabulous shoes, leather and even rubber soled. When you analyze the local habits, essentially some of the things the locals have in their closets - in this case, watches, gold jewellery, and shoes - you have a good indication of what will be readily available and easy to buy when you visit that country.

Spanish shoppers. Photo by JoyD.
I will be "analyzing" other local closets and giving suggestions on what to pack for our trip to Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar over the next few posts. Remember there's still time to join us.

Just click on the titles below to read some other posts I wrote about travel and packing:
Business and Tourist Travel Wardrobes
Packing for a Two Week Visit to Europe
In a Man's Suitcase: Vacation in Europe
Shoes for Traveling Europe

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Designer Trademarks . . . We pay for the privilege of wearing their marks . . .

Brian, known to the readers of this blog as the "ballet flats guy", and I have discussed and debated the business of designer products. Our discussion went something like this . . .

Closet Content Analysis: Brand Names 

JoyD: There is something inherently wrong when consumers pay enormous amounts for products that are allegedly quality products but essentially provide free advertising for the designer because of the over the top way that logos are displayed.

Tory Burch espadrilles. Photo by Brian Davis.

Brian Davis: Designers like Valentino, Prada, Ferragamo, Michael Kors and of course Tory Burch have easily identifiable markings on their products to associate them with the brand. So what does it mean? For me, when I hear those names I think of a few things: quality, big $$$s, "must have items" and great designers. Even though designers make all kinds of articles of clothing and accessories, I focus on and notice designer accessories like belts, purses, watches and of course shoes. I'm not sure how much big name designers spend on actual advertising in magazines or other media or if they even need to. Or, like you say, do the identifiable marking on their products do the advertising for them? 

JoyD: The history of identifying marks on products originates with artisans who created products that needed to be distinguished from others. Essentially he or she was saying, if you see this mark, you know it is mine and you know the quality is good - you can be assured by my word, my mark. I recognize and do not object to the original intent of these "marks" as being symbols of quality because for the most part, the marks were functional and often discrete. I guess it is a personal preference - I simply do not like the style of emblazoning products in what I believe are garish ways. 

Brian Davis: In this day and age, I don't believe that the marking says anything about the quality of the product but if you've ever heard of that designer you realize, or assume, their products aren't cheap and are therefore good quality. 

JoyD: Consumers do assume that because something is expensive, it must be good quality. I recall a time when we were in Thailand at a market. There were men's sport/golf shirts - one designer mark on the pocket and another different one on the sleeve - the woman at the kiosk reassured me that the quality was still good. I wish I had bought one but was appalled and slightly annoyed with my naïveté. 

Brian Davis: So if originally, a product sold itself because the mark associated it with quality, does the product sell itself now for the same reason? Since the designer I'm most familiar with is Tory Burch I'll share a quick story. I still remember the first time I saw a woman wearing a pair of Tory Burch Reva flats. I couldn't take my eye off these amazing shoes. Right then, I wanted a pair for myself. Tory Burch got some free advertising that day. Even though it was several years later before I bought my first pair of her flats, I still remember when I saw that lady "advertising them". Of course, no one gets paid for advertising designer shoes when they wear them; instead she likely paid about $200. for the pleasure of wearing them. And of course, she didn't buy them to do free advertising for Tory Burch. 

JoyD: Without the TB mark, it would have been simply another pair of ballet flats. In that first experience with the Tory Burch flats, it appears as if it was the design of the shoe and maybe even the mark and not who or what the mark represented that you liked.

Brian Davis: I probably bought my first pair of TB ballet flats because I liked the look - generally speaking. Now I probably buy them because of the quality. Maybe the woman who I first saw wearing the Tory Burch flats bought them because she wanted to be one of the first on her block to have a pair. Or maybe she thought they were cute. Or maybe she simply likes the designer. Or maybe they were a fake pair or knock-offs that she only paid a small price for. Really what does it matter?

JoyD: So you're claiming that quality, in most cases, probably doesn't matter.

Brian Davis: A bit on quality. Go to any on-line boutique or department store website that sells designer goods and read the reviews. Some are great and some are bad. Is it really bad quality or is the quality not what you expected for the price? Is the product really falling apart or is it the way you've been wearing or treating the product? Nothing lasts forever with normal wear and tear so should this be seen as bad quality?

JoyD: If designers put their names on their products, you would hope that they are concerned with the quality. As for the "wearability", I think the consumer deserves something that will not fall apart. Another interesting story, apparently there are retail associates for certain designer shoes who will advise you to re-sole your new shoes because the original sole will not wear well. Really? I have to re-sole a pair of shoes that I am paying $600.00 for? "Normal wear and tear" needs to be defined.

Brian Davis: In defence of designers . . . why are most designers wealthy and good at business?  Hard work, "must-have" products, quality products and creative ideas for new products for their consumers.

JoyD: As far as "must-have" products go, that is a shared responsibility between consumer and designer marketing plans. But if you emblazon your name on a product, I think ego plays a big part as well. I must admit I once coveted having a Louis Vuitton purse and about 10 years ago, I bought one. In fact now I feel a tad self conscious wearing this bag that has LV stamped all over it. I normally carry a Lancel bag because of the discrete way in which the mark is placed. The price is comparable for both - and I have carried my Lancel bags way more than I have my LV bag. One of the reasons I like Lancel so much is that I know the quality is exceptional and there is no flamboyant brand markings.

Brian Davis: Speaking of the price to consumers . . . If you work for your money then you know the value of a dollar. If you can justify spending lots of those dollars for some designer item you like or makes you feel good, then it's worth it. Up front you know you won't be getting paid to wear the designers markings on the item and you could possibly be doing some "free advertising" for that designer. It's all part of the designer fashion industry.

JoyD: And so it is . . . all part of the fashion industry . . .

What brands are in your closet and why are they there?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Re-Purposing for Storage

NICE: Another Place to Hang a Few Things

I am much more the "re-use, re-purpose, re-do kind of gal" in France than I am in Canada. The base products (chairs, bookcases, armoires, wooden oxen harnesses, tables of all sizes and purposes, church furnishings) are more interesting; there are more opportunities to buy old stuff; and the re-furbishing products, if needed, are more accessible. 

I am amazed at the number of products available in the "brico" (hardware store) for restoring and recreating. I digress for a moment . . . but I believe that you can buy every type of light bulb created, since Edison and his cohorts at Menlo Park. We live in an old house and one particular light fixture needed a new bulb. Never did I think that we would find it. We didn't go anywhere special - just to our neighbourhood bricolage and there it was. And so it is with restoration products - there is paint for every imaginable surface, cleaning products for the most difficult unimaginable, and hinges and hardware reproduced from one or the other Louis to modern space-age materials in fuschia, orange or lime green.

Simple "prie dieu" used for storage.
Photo by JoyD.
Insofar as re-purposing goes, I acquired (with the purchase of this house) a "chair" that is not a chair but a "prayer stool" from a church - a simple "prie dieu" (without a ledge for a bible). I have it in my bedroom - chambre - and have "hung" a variety of things on this piece. The result has been repurposed from prayer to storage and decorative storage at that without having to sand, paint or supplement.

I haven't seen many around at the vides greniers (community "boot" or "garage" sales) or brocantes (second hand stores or community sales) in our area here in Dordogne. However I will be looking because I believe they are the right height for setting an overnight bag and more purposeful for hanging a variety of things, from towels to clothing to accessories.

Repurposing seems to be the theme of the week . . . take a look at my August 10th post.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

My Guest Bedroom "Closets" in France

Necessary: A Place to Hang a Few Things

As I shared with you in my post on Too Few Closets here in France, our three guest bedrooms had nothing for closet space. The armoires I wanted were a tad over my budget and I didn't want to settle for the cheaper ones I found.

In a house with four bedrooms, only one has any kind of built in storage and it is that bedroom we chose as the master bedroom. I have had to build some "hanger space" in the other three bedrooms for guest use. Each is adequate but I couldn't imagine a family being accommodated by my interpretation of closet space.

Closet alternative in the blue guest room. Photo by JoyD.
The former owners' son took the armoire and the room was left devoid of closet space. With help from Shirley B who was visiting us from Saskatoon, SK, Canada, we decided to construct a "temporary" closet space until we find the perfect armoire. We bought the brackets and rod at Bricorama in Port Ste. Foy et Ponchapt and had the shelving cut to size at Mr. Bricolage in Pineuilh. It was relatively simple to create and it turned out functional and relatively attractive.

Closet doors nailed shut. Photo by JoyD.
The next chambre was the the one that formerly had a built-in closet but was renovated to accommodate a toilette on the second floor (premier étage in France). The doors were nailed shut by the previous owners and we inherited yet another room with no closet space. 

Drapery rod & plant hangers create an alternate closet space.
Photo by JoyD.
I was pressed for time since we were getting more visitors and so I basically did the same in this room as I did in the blue room. This time, I bought four outdoor plant hangers and a drapery rod and voila, a place to hang clothes, if not a closet. I didn't bother with any shelving. Instead, at the "recycleterie" in Pessac I bought a heavy "coffee table" or at least I believe it was a coffee table and positioned it under the hangers. It's a good height for a suitcase and all of the visitor's possessions can be in one area. 

In the pink room, there was a bookcase in the corner that became piled higher and deeper. Two of the lower shelves collapsed and we were forced to relocate all the books to the attic. We still needed some sort of "hanger space" and so we re-purposed the splayed bookcase into an open closet. 

Bookshelf repurposed into closet space. Photo by JoyD.

As a result, here is what we constructed in true re-purposing style. We found some old baseboard in the attic, bought yet another drapery rod, removed the shelving, and stabilized the unit at the bottom so that the board serving as the baseboard is also serving to keep the splayed sides in 90 degree angle form.

A little motivation, some screws and paint, several opportunities to put to other uses and re-purposing has now given 
my guests somewhere to hang a few things.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Black is a Canvas

One Choice: Black

Closet Content Analysis: An Eternal LBD


Jessica Quirk wrote in a post on her blog, What I Wore, "I am a firm believer that nothing is the new black. Black is the only black . . . " I agree with her 100%. To call any colour the "new black" is wishful thinking at most, particularly when colours like orange or lime green are professed to be this "new black". Black is the perpetual "basic". So to say that orange is the "new black" is ludicrous. Everyone can wear black; not everyone can wear orange or lime green or would want to.

Black is a canvas, a base - with a solid base, you can put anything on it.
- JoyD Gulas

Insofar as basics go, I have tried to move toward navy and camel in the summer or pastels and grey or khaki and brown but I always return to a combination of black, white and beige accessorized with the colour of the day. This comfortable, easy combination got me through traveling between continents at any time of the year, summer weddings in Canada and abroad, and just day to day living in Canada and in France.

Photo by JoyD.

Black is a canvas, a base - with a solid base, 
you can put anything on it.
- JoyD Gulas
Note-Worthy: I can only guessimate how old this LBD is. It was the one item I kept when I was too big to wear anything in my closet. I have been wearing it again for three years now, add that to the three years it sat in my closet and the two or more I had it before then, the dress has to be at least 8 to 10 years old. I still feel good in it and sheath styles similar are still being sold. It also acts as a measure when it is becoming a tad tight . . . of course, you know what has to be done then.

I have had other LBDs but this one has been eternal and I don't have any intentions of buying a new one.

Here are the ways I have worn this LBD:

1. For work - with a blazer style jacket, from floral to plaids including melanges of colour and solids.

2. For evening and more formal events - with a statement necklace or stacked bracelets and cuffs and the highest heels I can manage.

3. For casual lunches, brunches or other events - with a cardigan, scarf, black tights and flats, ballet or oxford style.

As you see, my LBD is a canvas and I create as need arises . . . 

I have written about my LBD in previous posts . . . here they are:

How does black function in your closet, or rather on your body?

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.