Saturday, 20 July 2013

Wearing White

Closet Content Analysis: Whites

Nice: White Clothing in the Summer

I have always liked white in the summer although it is not the best choice when traveling. I have linen drawstring pants and shorts, several t-shirts with crew and v-necks and several different sleeve lengths, loose fitting summer tops and a cotton pullover all in white.

White Blanc du Nil "pull" on JoyD.
White Blanc du Nil Top Photo by JoyD.
This  summer, I have purchased two tops from Blanc du Nil, a shop that is only opened from May to October in most parts of France.

Everything in the store is white and there are selections for men, women and children. I needed a cotton pullover for cooler evenings and a loose cotton top for really hot days to wear when everything else "sticks". What a clever marketing plan for the summer. You will find these stores in most larger centers and I have purchased items in Arcachon and in Sarlat.

Asymmetrical top from Blanc du Nil Photo by JoyD.
Although I liked the asymmetrical top when I tried it on in the shop, it proved to be a bit of a problem when I started trying it on with different bottoms at home. Too much white with the white linen pants, too much contrast with black linen pants. Perhaps it was the proportion and the asymmetry together that I didn't like. I didn't care for it with a skirt at all. By this time, I thought I should just hem it to be the same length all around. I then tried it with a pair of mid-thigh white cotton shorts. The longest point of the asymmetrical top came to the bottom of the shorts. I don't know why this combination worked; perhaps it was this particular proportion on my particular height but I felt most comfortable with this combination.

White sleeveless shirt Photo by JoyD.
Last Saturday, a vendor employed the same marketing plan as Blance du Nil and just had white displayed. Interestingly, the stall was always full of people checking out the merchandise. Other vendors had mixtures of colourful clothing patterns but there is something very attractive in clothing colour block displays in varying tones of one colour. I bought a sleeveless cotton shirt with two horizontal lines of discreet open work. It reminded me of the edging on my antique linen flat sheets. There was no fibre content tag but it felt like cotton, not linen and for €5 it was worth it.

White t-shirts with blue & white shirt layered. Photo by JoyD.

I wrote that a white top and white pants can look like too much white so I very often wear a blue and white striped shirt as a layer in order to break apart the total white look. It works.

White can have many NO THANKS reasons to wear it but I can put up with them since I find more NICE opportunities in the summer.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Summer Footwear at the Market

Closet Content Analysis: Warm Weather Footwear

Choices: Flip flops, sandals, espadrilles . . .

Barefoot along the Dordogne River in France, Summer, 2012.

. . . the shoe - there is a music to it, there is attitude, there is sound, it's a movement . . . 
- Christian Louboutin

The footwear chosen to wear for casual comfort and coolness in the summer varies from plastic flip flops to leather sandals to Birkenstock-styled footwear to canvas espadrilles. While at several markets over June and July, the following photos were candidly taken to demonstrate "footwear at the market" in South-West France.

Where are you and what are you wearing on your feet when you go to the summer farmers' markets?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Kid's Summer Clothes

Closet Content Analysis: Designer, Handmade & Consignment Clothing in Childrens' Closets


It seems that children's clothes in Europe do not follow trends in the same way that North American children's clothing do. In fact, little people clothes are timeless in a way that they are not in North America. The next photo is of a little guy that looked . . .  well, he looked, French. Are those Dolce & Gabana "tennis" shoes? Bien sur! This little guy's mother did not dress him with clothes from the Tati kids' bargain bin. He was definitely dressed for Cap Ferret on the South-West coast.

Photo by Brian B while in Cap Ferret, June, 2013.

Photo by JoyD, May, 2013
Ella was visiting France from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, when our neighbours, Jean-Charles & Nancy, so graciously gifted her with this very cute outfit in primary colours from Du Pareil . . . au meme. The red tunic has a blue border hem with animal motifs and yellow foot-free tights. How cute!

Her mother is eco-friendly and has no trouble shopping consignment for herself or for Ella. When she was in France she picked up a Laura Ashley dress in beautiful condition at a vides grenier (empty attic sale/boot sale/garage sale) in Eymet. 

At the same time, Melanie has no trouble spending a goodly sum on clothing of natural fabrics made by artisans. She makes it her practice to support local artists in music and crafters and artisans for other needs in her life. While in Spain and France she sought out local independent shops representing local and regional artists. Her take-back-to-Canada-cache included several handmade, natural-dyed scarves; pieces of artwork and wooden toys.

Of course, we do have to please grandma or oma or mami or baba sometimes and little boys do it well when mom finds a clip-on tie for the little guy. Michael, from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada was decked out for his oma at the last family gathering.

No Thanks

Not having children in my life but having been around plenty, I empathize with parents who must find it difficult to keep up with growth spurts and maintain some sense of "style" for children, especially those from ages 7 to 10. I once read an article about how mothers were dressing little girls and boys in inappropriate clothing for their ages. I don't remember the author or the source of that particular reference but I have found another online post that is reminiscent of the the same sentiment. Author Celia Rivenbark writes, 
When you see a size 7 shirt that says SEXY! or a mom and her little girl strolling through the mall in matching shorts with JUICY scrawled acrosse the butt, you have to wonder what the hell is going on. 

It seems that I have stumbled upon a few more future post topics: previously worn/owned clothing, handmade pieces for the closet, appropriate children's clothing, pleasing grandmothers .  . . funny how that is . . . looking forward to the next post . . . 

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Universal Closet Staple: Flip Flops for the Summer

Closet Content Analysis: Flip Flops

Nice     Need     Necessary

Nice: A summer basic that costs less than $2.00 or Euro1.50 and I think, can be found anywhere in the world. 

A pair for inside, a pair for outside and enough for guests. Photo by JoyD.

There's no mistaking the "slip-slap" of flip flops and they make the same sound on either male or female feet. Those bargain bin rubbery flip flops have been in my life since I was little. They were NECESSARY at the pool and NICE for the beach. In the summer, the NEED for "in and out of the house slippers" - a pair to go outside and a pair for inside - was filled by these cheap - what we once called "thongs". With that in mind, I decided to buy several pairs in several sizes, put them in a basket and have them available for my summer time visitors here in France. 

Another possibility for a rainy day, is to buy some supplies, beads and ribbon and such, and borrow Cathy's idea of making your own beaded flip flops.

Last year, 2012, in May, Cathy wrote a great DIY post on making your own beaded flip flops. I haven't tried it yet but what fun! Her instructions are clear and the photos accompanying the directions are helpful and beautiful as well. Cathy's blog is Trinkets in Bloom and the full tutorial is at your fingertips! Read through the comments as well - one person wrote about using turquoise beads, "horsey" and cowboy hat buttons - too cute!

Photo Credit: Cathy from Trinkets in Bloom
If you make a pair, let both of us know. I'd love to see them and I'm sure Cathy would too!

I really wish I had invented the flip-flop. I love flip-flops. It's the one style of shoe I would be so proud of inventing: the Havaiana.
- Christian Louboutin

Friday, 5 July 2013

Summer Office Wear - What is too casual?

The spring of 2013 can best be described as rainy but now after the summer solstice, we are experiencing 30+ weather in France. We still have to manage our work wardrobes in temperatures that can best be described as "bikini" weather. Marjorie S who re-entered the corporate world on the Canadian prairies suggested the title for this post, when she asked, "What is too casual for summer office wear?" 

Often, when writing about work wear, the word "appropriate" is used; however it seems that many different notions of "appropriate" exist. "Short" skirts may have been deemed "inappropriate" by someone, as boss, but it would be necessary to define "short" for employees who may have had other bosses. For men, a collared shirt and pants/trousers also covers a range so that jeans and a polo shirt might be "inappropriate". The category of jeans could be a post in itself about appropriateness and inappropriateness. 

But first, if you are female: a shirt and skirt/dress; or if male: a shirt and pants, pretty much summarizes summer work wear. Just don't look like you are off to the park with your kids on a Saturday afternoon or going to an outdoor patio bar for the evening.

Consider the following factors when deciding what to wear at the office in the summer:

1. Discretion in tops: Summer lightweight fabrics and skimpier tops are both questionable in the office. Absolutely no cleavage is the best personal policy. Even a tank top revealing bare arms might not be "appropriate" for some offices. Therefore, an unlined blazer or unstructured jacket is necessary. Even a linen shirt can act as a "jacket" over a tank top in the summer. I have seen unlined unstructured boxy jackets, unlined blazers - short and long, even vests that make skirts, dresses and even shorts office appropriate. Most offices are air-conditioned so it is almost necessary to include a jacket in your work wear choices. When alone in the office you can take the jacket off and be cool and comfortable enough. However, the lightweight "jacket" is good advice no matter if you are management such as Marjorie S is or if you are the receptionist. The receptionist needs to be as well dressed as administration since the receptionist is the first one to represent the entire company when clients enter the corporate doors. 

2. Discretion in hemlines. Skirts and shorts should not be too short. The bend-over and reach-up tests can determine your level of discomfort and therefore an appropriate length. If you are pulling the hemline down or if you feel even slightly self-conscious, it's probably too short. Knee-length or just above, of course, is always safe, whether skirts or shorts. Shorts, for men and women, are available in linen, cotton or lightweight wool, and can be  professional looking if worn longer and matched with a proper collared shirt. Ladies, you can take a look at a former post on knee length shorts.

3. Sandals or any open-toed shoes can be fine for the office but the pedicure is the important factor here. This advice is for men as well. The more "open" the shoe, the more perfect the pedicure - toes and heels in immaculate condition. However, never ever wear plastic or rubber "beach" flip flops to the office. If your sandals make that "slapping" sound walking down the hallway, they're not right for the office.

4. Make sure your clothing fits you well. It can be casual, but not sloppy or tight. A plain coloured (no witty sayings) well fitting t-shirt would be acceptable even though t-shirts are very casual. A beige linen jacket can be worn with whites or darks and is both male and female appropriate.

NO THANKS . . . 

More specifically, here are some other thoughts, from others in the corporate work force, on what would be too casual for office wear:

1. Spaghetti strap tops. However, you can wear a linen shirt as a "jacket" over the tank top or the spaghetti straps and it will offer you the coverage when you need it without being scorchingly hot.

2. Revealing deep scooped necklines.

3. T-shirts with logos and "sayings". (Plain t-shirts are just fine!)

4. Short shorts, mid thigh shorts, really short skirts. Knee-length or just above is the "appropriate" measure.

5. Anything too gauzy, filmy and see-through including tops, dresses and skirts.

6. Beach flip flops.

7Unless it's game day and the home team is in the finals and the entire office staff, including the boss is wearing his or hers, sport shirts are a "no go" as well.

8Then there's denim, which fits the "yes, but . . . " or "yes, if . . . ": a denim skirt, dress, jeans or jacket are all good, but all denim is really not appropriate everywhere or at anytime. Black or coloured denim takes you further and to more place than blue denim; while dark wash denim is preferable to anything faded. Manufacturer induced fading in jeans, faded jeans in general and anything with tears or worn spots should be left for weekend wear, if that's what you like. A dark wash denim jacket, again depending on fit and condition, might work on a casual Friday.

A Note about Casual Fridays: There are a few businesses and professions that should not have casual Fridays in my opinion and that is the banking and insurance businesses, government agencies, and the medical and legal professions. Business casual is ok but I once went to a bank where the loans officer came out in a baggy striped polo shirt that looked a couple of sizes too big on him and a pair of baggy cargo-esque shorts. I stopped doing business with that bank. I don't believe it was because of what he was wearing; however it may have been a contributing factor in my decision making whether I was fully aware of it or not.

For the ladies, here is an interesting retail site that claims to be "your destination for work chic fashion". As well, I found a blog that has all the shirt and pencil skirt alternatives (lots of great combinations) you need and I'll just let you link to it rather than doing all the work. Thanks Jessica!

For the gentlemen, Joseph A. Bank offers a category of "business casual solutions" with reminders about the importance of fit and tailoring. I got the Joseph A. Bank information from an interesting article recommending online retailers for mens' business attire.

Other posts on this blog regarding professional, work and casual clothing:

Knee-Length Shorts at Work and Play
Working Uniformly
Appropriate Clothing Choices for Work
Defining Casual Clothing
What is Comfortable Casual?