Thursday, 30 August 2012

Closet Transitions: Moving from Summer to Fall in 2012

It is now the end of August and most of us, even if we are not returning to school or even work for that matter, have a "back to school" mentality. After all, we have spent a significant amount of time in our lives going back to school.

This is the time when wardrobes need to serve in a transitional way as we transform our preferred summer casual choices into fall wear-ables for work or school.

Here are several items and colours that we can salvage from the summer wardrobe or bring in from our existing winter wardrobes for a fall transition:

1 The sleeveless or short-sleeved tunic dress: Choose a darker contrasting or matching colour in a lightweight long sleeved turtle neck or crew neck top and wear it under a tunic dress. Add tights and shoes to match the tights. Not only are you colour blocking but also transitioning into fall through the simple process of layering.

2 Linen pants: Depending on the autumn warmth, you do not have to pack away the white ones for awhile; but keep any beige, khaki or dark linen pants to wear with a heavier top, light wool 3/4 sleeve length sweater or sweater set. Here is where those lined linen pants serve you well. Depending on the colour, linen can be worn well into the fall. Wear a light-weight wool blazer with the linen pants or light-weight wool pants or a skirt with a linen blazer. Linen jacket and bottoms - pants or skirts - are just too summery so mix and match your linen with light wool.

3 Knee-Length Shorts: Even on cooler days in September, you can still wear your dark coloured knee-length shorts, just as you would a skirt. Depending where you live and on the weather, you may even continue into October with the dark coloured knee-length shorts. 

4 Sleeveless Tops and Short Sleeved T-shirts: Really these are a year round basic that can be covered with a light-wool cardigan or blazer.

5 A Lightweight Dark Coloured Cardigan: I bought a black Armor Lux v-neck cardigan last fall when I was in Romans, France at the Marque Avenue Mall. It has served me very well especially in the spring and fall when the cool mornings or evenings demand a little more warmth than the nice days that allow you to get one more wear out of your summer things.

6 The Pencil Skirt: Pull out the dark coloured pencil skirt and team it with a light t-shirt or sleeveless summer top with a cardigan in the same tone as the skirt. This is a perfect look for anyone who is vertically challenged. 

7 Spring 2012 Colours: As with most colour trends, if you chose a few orange pieces for spring and summer 2012, orange will show up again in the fall. The same goes for any trendy colour introduced in the spring, which you preferred.

8 Shades of Blue: A Lacoste advertisement in the fashion magazine CitizenK, summer edition (purchased in France in August, 2012), featured two fall outfits in a range of blues from royal blue to navy and grey and a page in French Marie Claire, September, 2012, illustrated a Lacoste cotton jersey dress, colour blocked in three shades of blue.  As well, a Miu Miu suit in a dusty navy colour is also featured on a page in the same Marie Claire issue. Find those colours in your closet and mix them with the lighter beiges and taupes of summer and you will ease the transition into blues and greys for winter. In the fall and winter of 2011, Armani focused on shades of blue, in 2012 vestiges of those shades will be lurking around for the winter of 2013. 

9 The Wedge Strappy Sandal: If you bought yourself a pair of wedge heels for the spring and summer, you can take the strappy sandal style well into the fall because of the chunkier wedge.

10 Ballerina and Other Traditional Flats: Stow away the flip flops and opt for flats.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Glasses - Frames

I have worn glasses since I was seven years old. Miss Johnson, my Grade 2 teacher, asked me if I could see the board; I told her I could. She didn't ask me if I could see the writing on the board. She was wise enough to persist and for all of my conscious life I have worn glasses. I tried contact lenses but couldn't be bothered. For me there was something slightly disconcerting about placing a foreign object on my eye. And so I have worn glasses. Presently I am wearing J.F.Rey (made in France) red frames that are about three years old.

Red frames, J.F. Rey, France (circa 2010)
It is now, this time in the fall, when my "back to school" mentality takes over my wardrobe planning and my optical needs. I am no longer required to go "back to school" but still that urge to shop and replenish my wardrobe lingers. Getting a new pair of glasses in the fall was a tradition my mother started with me but not one that I have necessarily continued. Although I still love my J.F. Rey red frames, I feel that I am ready for a new pair.

In July, Deborah, a friend, who is an artist living in Bordeaux, introduced me to Parasite frames. The designer is the son of a local optician, in Ste. Foy La Grande, where I live for six months of the year in France. I met his brother, also an optician, at Optique Martin in Ste. Foy, which has a marvelous representation of designer frames including of course, Parasite.
Parasite red frames, August, 2012.
The first three frames I tried on were all on the conservative side of the the Parasite continuum. Parasite also creates novel exotic designs that do not lend themselves to my lifestyle; but oh to be an artist or musician or simply a tad eccentric . . . I'm obviously partial to the red frames at this moment; although because I presently have red frames I will have to return to see what I can find in another tone. Perhaps red frames will become part of my "mark".

All the photos featuring Parasite frames were taken at Optique Martin on Rue République in Ste. Foy La Grande in the Gironde, France in August, 2012. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Keywords that Brought You Here in August, 2012

Those who blog, particularly about clothing and fashion, might find today's post informative since it reviews the key words that brought visitors to my blog during August, 2012.

Linen searches were strong in July but tapered off during the first week in August and declined progressively. 

Short Shorts
The greatest number of visits was initiated through "short shorts" searches. In fact, the phrase, "short shorts" has brought more visitors to my blog, since I began writing in February 2012, than any other search phrase. It seems that "short shorts" has not only a fashion connotation but perhaps a sexual one as well. Therefore, variations on the theme were "short shorts for women" and "fat girls in short shorts" - I won't go there . . . A few visitors even took the time to comment since my post, titled Questionable Attire: Short Shorts, could be viewed as being a tad judgmental. It appeared that a heated debate might have begun in the comments to that post but it dissipated after a couple of exchanges. There was even a comment, which I chose not to publish, linking to a rather questionable website. If you want to visit such sites, you'll find your way; this blog does not need to be an intermediary.

That interest appears to be a specific "fascination" with that particular look. It reminds me of the movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" when Gilbert's (played by a much younger Johnny Depp) obese mother made a rare journey into town to rescue her mentally challenged son, Arnie (played by a much younger Leonardo DiCaprio) and to admonish the police officer who jailed him. The small-town crowd that gathered, snickered, jeered and at best, turned away when they saw her walking back to the car. Their fascination was uncomfortable and also reprehensible for me. I feel that same discomfort when I see the various "fat girls in short shorts" search phrases. To each his own.

Comfortable Casual
Interestingly, the term, "comfortable casual" brought quite a number of visits to the blog. Although it is not a "recognized" term in the standard acknowledgements of clothing and apparel, it might be developing as such.

Your searches are asking,
What is comfortable casual?
What does "comfortable casual" mean?
What is comfy casual attire?
Casual vrs. comfortable casual
Define comfortable casual in clothing
Comfortable casual workclothes

With the number of hits my blog has received over the past three months, it very well could become a recognized classification. When a significant number of people use the term and agree to its definition, it is essentially a category or classification. As far as who originated the term "comfortable casual", I have no idea; it wasn't me. I did provide my definition on my May 7th, 2012 post, but I can't imagine that I would have been the first to do so either.

Knee-Length Shorts  
The knee-length shorts post was also well attended over the summer months although not anywhere near the number "short shorts" brought.

Packing for a Two-Week Visit to Europe
August experienced a higher interest in travel and thus more hits on my travel posts.

For bloggers who visit, and if you have the time to comment, what search words and phrases are bringing visitors to your blogs?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Making a Statement with Jewellery

The acceptability and perpetuation of fashion/costume jewelry has been attributed to Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Those faux pearls have been combined, altered, minimized, maximized, modified, put to many uses, and rearranged in the creative design process over the decades since the 1920s. Chanel was making a statement with those strands of pearls and essentially opened the door for us to do the same.
Photo Source:
When you want to make your statement, choose your medium - do it with turquoise or some other semi-precious stone such as rose quartz, crystals or metal; yes, even with feathers.

Millicent Rogers, the American oil heiress socialite, who fell in love with the American south-west and collected turquoise, coral, mother of pearl, onyx and silver jewellery crafted by the Indigenous people of the area, provides us with a model for creating our own "look". Her admiration developed into philanthropic work and so her adornment had nothing to do with trends. Others have done the same in India, Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Central and South America. Clothing and jewellery was a means of regional and ethnic identity for Indigenous peoples and now for us, their creativity provides a vehicle for our individuality.
Millicent Rogers, American socialite and fashion icon, 1902-1953. Photo Source:
You don't have to be an oil heiress. I know a woman of Native Canadian ancestry, Ojibway specifically, who wears, has worn and will wear feather earrings all her life. It is her statement jewellery choice. Hers is a choice based on ethnic background and not on trends. Whether it is a cause, ethnic background or an obsession, making your statement with jewellery relieves you of the burden of trends. By laying claim to your own ethnic identity and with a little historical research, you too can make your statement with jewellery.

If you are interested in the history of costume jewelry check out The Clothing and Fashion Encyclopedia for a sourced overview.  

My friend Cathy, who lives near Lyons, France has some of the best statement pieces I have ever seen. She is particularly fond of bracelets and rings and because of her work and travels to Africa and India, she has some very stunning pieces. She has mixed the ordinary with the precious and it works. These bold ethnic pieces have become her "mark".

I am still searching for my statement, for my "mark"; but it is a learning process. Necklaces have never been my favourite, although I have worn many that I have made (perhaps more for promotion than making a statement). Earrings I like but somehow I prefer a simple classic design and will wear one style for months. Bracelets have perhaps been my favourite statement pieces since I like to wear multiples at one time with or without a watch. I have done this without paying any mind to trends.

It's time to make your "mark".


Friday, 10 August 2012

Clothing Size Differentiation

Closet Content Analysis: What sizes are in your closet? 

Almost 20 years ago now, I was in Hong Kong in a North American size 6 body.  I was shopping in a mall and walked into a store where I noticed a perfect hot weather dress. I smiled, pointed and asked for my size. The woman told me to go away because I was too fat. Granted, she probably had limited English and was trying to tell me that she did not have my size. At least I hope that's what she meant. Another time, still in Hong Kong, I was shopping for shoes with my friend. We found a great store and when my friend asked for her size, the woman looked at her feet and with incredulity said, "O-o-oh, your feet so bi-i-i-g!" But the saleswoman took her to the back and found the shoes my friend wanted. However, the saleswoman was shaking her head the whole time she served my friend.

Those recollections made me analyze the sizes in my closets.

In my Canadian closet, I have a range of sizes from 4 to 12 and in my French closet a range from 38 to 46. Yes, I have lost weight and many of those items are too big for me now but still in Canada I wear a range of 4 to 8 presently and in France I am more consistent at 40 but I can fit some 38s and some 42s are also comfortable. Clothing made in Germany fits me better than clothing made in France. I have been told that I have wide shoulders, for a woman, and my frame, even when slim, can be considered athletic rather than thin.

Many sales servers will tell you not to mind the sizes because some start at 0 and others start at 6; therefore, a three size range is always possible. I have also been told to take care of where the item was made. A sweater set I once bought was labelled as Extra Large and fit my size 6 body perfectly. In this case, where in the world is an Extra Large the standard to fit the frame of a woman, who can wear sizes 4 and 6 in North America?

Since many clothing items are made offshore, strange interpretations of sizes arrive in North America and Europe. Standards appear to be different for items made in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, and Philippines. I imagine each factory has different standards for the country for which they are manufacturing. I have a "small" outfit made in India that is too large for my friend who is a Size 46 in France. I am presently wearing size 4 linen pants made in Cambodia and purchased in North America, that are baggy, and a size 42 pair of Zyga (Paris) pants that fit me just right. Yet, in France a size 42 is equivalent to a "large" whereas a size 4 is equal to small most of the time.

I am perplexed. In what sizes and where are larger women buying their clothing? If my body frame is wearing an XL and that represents the size options for that clothing item, then anyone in an American size 12 would be considered XXXL - that seems ridiculous!

Shoes tend to be more standardized around the world than other clothing items. But even with shoes, I can wear a 6.5 to 8 in Canada and 36 to 38 in France. That being said, I still have more consistency with shoes at sizes 7 and 37.

I suppose the only inconvenience is that one cannot simply purchase when they find something on sale; everything must be tried on. When it is crowded, as in the case of sales, it would be nice to be able to just read the label and buy. In that situation, I often scrutenize the item, try to determine if the size and shape would fit me, and then defer to Medium.

Whether the number is 4, 12, 18 or 24, I'm sure I am not the only one who wishes there were more consistent size standards.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Trash the Dress

Summer is the season peppered with weddings, actually salted heavily. There was one summer when we were at a wedding every weekend during July and August. Over the past about 10 to 15 years, brides (not that many in my experience) have also taken the liberty to enjoy a "trash the dress" photo opportunity.

Wikipedia tells us that, "the idea of destroying a wedding dress has been used in Hollywood symbolically since at least October 1998 when Meg Cummings of the show Sunset Beach ran into the ocean in her wedding dress"(Retrieved August 5, 2012). Since then professional photographers have capitalized on a second round of photographs from the same bride. Through the process, some brides and photographers began calling it an art form, a new expression against a traditional obligation. OK? First you go through the expense of tradition and then you trash. Hmm? It is a dichotomy.

Mind you, what happens to wedding dresses? They hang in either the bride's closet or her parent's closet until, well, until . . . (you can complete this sentence). My wedding dress is still packed in a cedar lined chest, which was my "hope chest" before getting married. I don't have a daughter or any nieces who would be interested in wearing it for their nuptials and so there it lies. 

Some brides trash their original dress and then others buy a dress specifically for trashing.

Trash the Dress Photo taken by Leslie Porter
Marjorie was one such bride who chose to buy a specific "trash" dress. She said, "I really enjoyed the trash the dress shoot and would recommend it with a bargain type dress if the bride wants to keep her original one as a keepsake." In fact, a number of guests at the wedding decided to take turns at trashing Marjorie's "trash" dress.

This got me thinking. What other "trash the dress" symbolic opportunities are there?
  • Retirement: The destruction of a "suit" or "uniform" on your day of retirement. Now that makes enormous sense to me. You have worked at a job for 30 years and on the official day of retirement you trash the dress required by your work. I like that!
  • Divorce: Now's the time to trash the wedding dress!
  • Graduations: The graduation gown or cape is a perfect trash-able item since graduations traditionally suggest that you are leaving a student life and transferring to a working life. And that in itself has a certain amount of irony.
Perhaps, my ideas are more akin to the 1960's "bra burning" symbolism than to the bride's "trash the dress" symbolism.

So what other possible "trash the dress" photo opportunities could there be? 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Packing for a Two-Week Visit to Europe

An email request: I thought you could do a piece on your blog about what to bring as a 30 year old on a trip to Europe  in September- not wanting to bring a lot, but still wanting to be "Europe style conscious". 

"Keep it Simple" Choices

Even though the request specifically says "two weeks in September", I will try to include more generic recommendations. The answer is both simple and complicated; pack classic and light and use your accessories to individualize your wardrobe. Don't buy anything new for the trip since you will want to go shopping in Paris or Barcelona or Milan or wherever you happen to be.

There are several factors to consider before creating a travel wardrobe list: 

How are you traveling - by air to get to Europe, is someone picking you up once you arrive, are you renting a car, using a train pass or flying between cities?
With airline restrictions and extra cost for baggage, light is still the best recommendation. Even if you are traveling first class to get here meaning you can take two check-in bags, if you are transferring onto a regional flight, it's back to the only one bag and one carry-on regulation. Once in Europe (unless a limo is picking you up and taking you directly to your destination and then you stay there), you will be restricted by the size of your rental vehicle, the amount you can carry to get to the train, and other limitations. Even if someone is picking you up when you get to your European destination, vehicles are generally smaller than in North America and depending on how many of you there are, you probably will be holding luggage on your lap. Think light because no matter how you are traveling, you have to carry your bag wherever and however you go.

Light equals one carry-on/daypack and one manageable suitcase with wheels. Backpacks with wheels are sometimes more cumbersome than a suitcase. I find those who use backpacks sometimes rudely unaware that their backpack is a protrusion and obstruction in confined places such as trains. They twist and turn oblivious to the havoc being created behind them. But then again, I understand the backpack's appeal, particularly to the young. Even with a backpack, take the size that you can manage and don't overpack or have it stuffed. You can buy inexpensive clothing you need at markets along the way. 

The request was for September specifically but generally speaking, it's important to identify exactly where you are going and at what time of the year?
Spring, summer and fall in Europe - Sweden is different than Spain. For those coming to see me in France, the temperatures can be the same in Canada and even hotter or cooler. Temperatures in my home province in Canada were hotter than the south-west of France in July in 2012. September can be hot or considerably cooler than the summer months.

Look online at the long range forecasting for the areas you will be visiting. 

Are you visiting cities or is your time going to be in the country?
Keep the clothing you bring classic and plan to go shopping for the statement pieces while you are in the cities. In Paris, when you go shopping, you will be able to find clothing that has an edge, perhaps trendy but it should be individualistic and make a statement. If you are in the country, classics will also do well here but the shopping will be more limited so bring your statement piece with you instead of expecting to buy in small towns. That being said, the markets can hold lovely unique treasures. 

Where are you sleeping? 
If you are staying in a home with friends, you will be able to use their laundry facilities so that will determine the amount of underwear you take as well as other clothing. In Ste. Foy La Grande at the Saturday market, you can buy a bra and pair of matching undies or a packet of three pairs for less than a Coca-Cola costs you on the TGV (fast train). If you are the kind of person who launders all your clothing after each wearing when traveling, you probably have the financial means to have your clothing laundered at the five star hotel you are staying.

Traveling Wardrobe - A Basic List
Here's a potential list for a two week spring/summer/fall (May to September) stay with annotations, given the understanding that you can buy more as you need along the way. There will be events, specific places and particular wardrobe favourites that I cannot anticipate for you. For example: if you love the look of a dark blazer with camel trousers then you will add those items to this basic list. And then a beach holiday will require other items. This is a basic minimalist travel clothing list. 

For your regular clothing, choose a base dark colour and complement with two other colours to facilitate mixing and matching in a three-pack of coordinating colours.
  • 3 to 5 t-shirts or tops, keep it simple and basic with the ability to wear any one of the tops with any one of the shorts, pants or skirts. Since the evenings can be cooler, at least one of the tops should be 3/4 or long sleeved.
  • 1 pair of dark wash jeans or a pair of dark trousers, lined linen pants are a good choice for cooler days and nights
  • 1 pair of dark (black, navy) knee length shorts - depending on the forecasts (or another pair of pants)
  • 1 pair of leggings - in case it is cool you can wear these under a skirt or when you are relaxing 
  • 1 or 2 skirts: for example - a denim pencil skirt and a light wool or lined linen one
  • 1 simple sheath dress (optional if you have two skirts) This may be the least worn item but because of its chameleon qualities, you can dress it up or down for day or evening wear.
  • 1 simple-design, v- or crew-neck, lightweight wool or cashmere cardigan in a dark colour (May or September can be summer hot or autumn cool and this item is insurance since it can be layered).
  • 1 lightweight jacket or 3/4 length "coat" (waterproof if possible)
  • 1 pair light weight walking shoes like Keds (leave the heavy weight trainers, joggers and hiking boots at home unless you are walking 20 kilometres a day or you can't live without your daily run) or walking sandals or 1 pair of other comfortable-to-walk-in shoes such as traditional flats - loafers or ballerina flat
  • 1 pair of strappy sandals or heels (or the ballerina flats) just in case you need to "dress-up" - a t-shirt with your denim skirt or jeans, your shawl draped or tied as a scarf and a light pair of shoes will do for most restaurants and evenings out, short of the Michelin starred - there  you can wear your sheath dress. You will never see walking sandals such as Burkenstock's with a skirt, unless it's a tourist.
  • Take no more than two or three pairs of shoes and in fact, take the ballerina flats, heels or strappy sandals that you least like or are starting to look worn out. That way, when you find a great pair of fashionable shoes in France, you can buy them and throw away the others.
Underwear and Sleepwear:
  • 2 bras and 3 to 5 pairs of underpants. If you are staying with friends, you won't have to worry about laundry facilities. (However, don't expect to run the washing machine for just a few of your items, water and electricity utility prices are more expensive than in North America.) For the most part a laundromat is easy to find unless you are in the tiniest of villages. Rinsing out at night is easy if you bring light cotton or synthetics. Leave those heavier Jockey cottons in Canada. However, there is one other possibility - one person I know takes all her "worn out but not yet replaced" underwear on trips and throws them out after wearing. She then buys what she needed as replacement. 
Underwear Vendor at the Saturday Market in Ste. Foy La Grande, France
  • If you need socks with your flats or Keds, take lightweight cotton ones - the heavier athletic ones take too long to dry. 
  • Take along modest pyjamas if you don't know exactly what your sleeping arrangements will be. If you sleep in the buff, you might want to take along an oversized t-shirt just in case you have to go down the hall to the toilet in the middle of the night. 
  • You might not need a robe/dressing gown/housecoat but if you have a short lightweight cotton one, it might be prudent to take it along, although a shawl will work as well.
When sleeping in new surroundings, it can be rather disconcerting if you end up in your host's bedroom stark naked instead of the toilet where you were intending to go.

Hand-washing laundry tips: If you have collected several "hotel shampoo packets", take those with you and use for laundering. Soap is soap and usually shampoos are formulated to attack body oils that redistribute on your hair. Makes sense to me to use shampoo to wash your underwear.

Do a trial run and hand-wash your underwear and tops and then hang to dry in your bathroom overnight. If they're not dry in the morning, you will know not to do it when you are traveling.

  • 1 favourite signature necklace, 1 pair of simple design or hoop earrings and maybe one bangle in gold or silver. Or leave the jewellery behind. If you are traveling alone you don't need to be marked as someone who has items of value. I had a friend who took day travel clothing that was well worn in order to look ordinary, so ordinary that a thief would not give her a second look. This is also good advice when returning to your home country. Look so ordinary that the customs officials won't give you a second thought.
  • 1 shawl or large rectangular fringed scarf (this is a multi-purpose item - a blanket on the plane or train, for modesty instead of a bathrobe, for cool temperatures).
  • Retractable umbrella
  • Swimsuit - don't bother unless you know you are staying in hotels with a pool
Before you leave this blog you might want to also check two previous posts I wrote about business and tourist travel to Asia and  packing. When it comes to wardrobe basics and packing, some things are universal and you can always adapt the advice given to your situation.