Monday, 30 July 2012

Stressed out, with clothes

Monday, Monday. Apart from a wonderful evening filled with good food and playing cards with our friends Lynn and Chris on Saturday, Chris and I spent most of the weekend stressing out about various stuff. We are trying to get our house on the market, knowing that we have already missed the most promising time frame.  I'll be leaving the US soon. Shipping the cats overseas is frightening, not to mention the insane amount of vet visits and paperwork. The thought of our future in Finland is both exciting and terrifying. So much will be different. 

When I am stressed out, I tend to re-direct my thoughts to clothes. (Wow, I had no idea how silly that would sound before I typed it!) If I start to freak out about whatever-it-might-be, I allow myself to think about clothes and fashion in the most superficial manner imaginable. I think about the types of clothes I'd buy and/or wear if I was a millionaire, if I had a different lifestyle, if I was someone else, if I was invited to the Academy Awards. I think about the types of clothing my sister, my mother or my friends would, could or should wear, in this reality or another. I think about fabrics, textures, colours, cuts and shapes. Almost instantly, I feel better. It's almost like meditation.

I used to buy a lot of clothes when I was stressed out, instead of just thinking about them. When I worked in clothing retail, hardly a week went by when I didn't feel the need to buy something new to alleviate the stress. At some point I went from buying clothes to buying fashion magazines by the dozen. Now, for the most part, I consult my fellow bloggers, the internet, and most often, my imagination. 

I don't quite know if I can even try to explain what it is about clothes that makes my mind feel at ease. Maybe it's because I feel like I know clothes. I know the materials, I recognize the cuts, I know why and how people  buy clothes, I know what makes the fashion consumer tick. My own personal style is a constant work-in-progress, but the time I've spent either modeling clothes or selling them has taught me a lot about the world of clothing. The lessons I learned back in the day were professional in nature, and perhaps that's at least in part why my thoughts on my own style have been, and still are, so convoluted. Clothing is, after all, very personal. 

There are times when I feel like I am hopelessly (and purposefully) out of the fashion loop... but that's not really true. I don't think I could train my eye away from the world of clothing and fashion if I tried. It's something that's profoundly safe to me, it's something that's been there for so long. As much as I sometimes feel that there is a profound disconnect between anything "fashion" and anything "style", the two go hand in hand for me, whether I like it or not. It all comes down to clothes. The world of clothing is fascinating, from the moment a designer draws the first draft of an exquisite haute couture dress to the disgusting consumerism of fast fashion, from the cotton picked in the fields of India to the thrift shop, from our closets to the streets where we walk around in our hundreds, our thousands, or our hundreds of thousands, each one of us, wearing clothes. Our clothing choices are a way to fit in, to stand out, to hide, to express, to make a claim, to identify others and ourselves. Clothing can be everything or nothing, or something in between. 

So here I am, day after day, thinking about cats-in-cargo one moment, and the fashion world's current obsession with leather the next. I drift to a complete freak-out about the work that needs to be done at the farmhouse in Finland, only to direct my thoughts toward the strange over-sized coats of the coming season. It's a strange duality, this tug-and-pull of stress and clothes, but for now, I'll take it.

Top, blouse and shorts are second hand, the loafers are by John Fluevog.

P.S. Lynn gave me this adorable cat-and-mouse pin. Isn't it wonderful?

Friday, 27 July 2012

From tornado warnings to wearing a dress as a skirt

I survived my first-ever tornado warning. We had a major storm front wash over Binghamton yesterday. Chris and I rounded up the cats, grabbed blankets, water, food, candles and a book, and hung out in the basement for some time. Crazy winds, crazy rain, falling trees, but luckily the tornado was a no-show. Lots of people in our area are still without power. Thank goodness no one was hurt.

I'm wearing the light-as-air cotton tank dress that I mentioned in my previous post. (I'm wearing it as a skirt.) I bought it some years back, but haven't worn it as much as I should have. It's one of those things that I really like but for whatever reason wear very rarely. I included it in the capsule wardrobe to see if I could incorporate it into daily wear when I have fewer items around. 

I find that it is a good idea to put items of clothing to a test every once in a while, meaning that I force myself to wear something to find out why it's not getting a lot of me-time. I still don't know why this dress doesn't get worn more often. Perhaps that will change now that I've gotten over the hump. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

My capsule wardrobe

I had to come up with a capsule-esque wardrobe for the period of time the stuff we are moving to Finland is in transit. As I was trying to figure out my essentials for the coming six-to-twelve weeks, it hit me that not only was I tackling an uncertain time period (as if six weeks wasn't challenging enough, it could be up to three months), I was also having to take into consideration the change in climate. While I am still in upstate New York, the weather will be hot and humid, but by the time I get to Finland, it will be much, much cooler. And if our stuff takes three months to get to Finland, I'd be looking at the end of October before I'd have access to the rest of my clothes. I started with shoes.

Eight pairs looks like a fair bit, but the summer shoes are easy to pack and take up hardly any room. I decided to go with my beloved blue Fluevog loafers, a pair of black, dressy lace-up shoes, Fluevog lace-up boots, one pair of Converse, one pair of sandals, Tod's loafers, and two pairs of summer-y lace-up shoes. Noteworthy: no heels. 

Next, handbags. I decided to hold onto these two messenger bags. They are easy and sort of neutral, and pretty much go with everything.

One pair of dressy shorts, two pairs of linen trousers and one hat. I was going to take only one pair of linen pants, but I found the other pair in the laundry after the movers had already left. (That actually happened a lot. Damn you, laundry!)

Next up, summer tops. There are three more silk tops in the laundry at the moment - those are not pictured here. I figured that the amount of tops like this didn't really matter - they take up so little space in my suitcase that I could easily keep them around. Also pictured here: my blue silk bow. A girl's got to accessorize, right?

Dresses. This was a tough one. I kept the types around that I could maybe convert to fall clothing in Finland: a long-sleeved Vuokko shirt dress, and two casual, easy-going cotton tank dresses. There are four more dresses that are not pictured: one is a black sleeveless silk dress for hot days, one is a light-as-air tank dress that I can transform into a maxi skirt, one is an embroidered army green summer dress that Rosie gave me last week after the movers had left, and one is a dressy flower-print dress that I needed to keep around for a wedding reception last weekend.

Skirts and trousers. I intended to keep these two skirts: one print skirt, the other plain, but two other skirts sneaked up on me from the laundry room: a orang-y red full skirt and blue linen knit skirt. I kept one pair of navy chinos, a pair of black skinny jeans and a pair of dark denim flared jeans.

Long-sleeved tops: pictured here, two linen knit sweaters and one cardigan. I also kept another cardigan, a light cotton knit sweater and a long linen knit tunic.

Long-sleeved tees, all four by Marimekko.

A light wool blazer and a white shirt.

There are a few things that are not pictured, including two more shirts, working-around-the-house clothes and such. In total, my current wardrobe consists of:

2 pairs of jeans (black skinnies, dark denim flares)
2 pairs of linen trousers
2 pairs of shorts (one dressy, one cargo)
1 pair of navy chinos
1 jumpsuit
4 skirts
6 dresses 
2 blazers
3 shirts
7 summer tops
4 long-sleeved t-shirts
2 cardigans
3 sweaters
1 hat
1 hoodie
1 pair of pajama pants
selection of t-shirts and tank tops
underwear and socks

8 pairs of shoes
2 handbags

Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it is a lot more than I intended to have around, but the whole summer-turning-into-fall thing really screwed me over, plus the clothes-hiding-in-the-laundry aspect certainly added to the mess. I wouldn't have kept as many summer clothes around if I had been more vigilant about the laundry before the movers came: I'm looking at you, two extra skirts and too many dresses. Oh well, there's not much I can do about it now.

A handful of thoughts about this smaller-scale wardrobe: overall, a wardrobe like this doesn't actually feel much smaller than the huge selection of clothes I normally have access to. Everything I have at my disposal  feels practical. I feel like I can understand people who are happy to have this type of amount of clothes around at all times. In some ways, I feel more organized about my clothes than usual, but no, I'm still not a minimalist. I'm already actively missing some of my clothes. For now though, I feel like I have a lot to play around with. As to how on earth am I going to pack all of this stuff in one suitcase... well, there is a chance I might have to pay for extra baggage...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

When Marc wears a dress

The best-dressed list in the August issue of Harper's Bazaar included Marc Jacobs, who has lately shown up at red carpet events wearing dresses. For this year's Costume Institute gala event Jacobs wore a black, see-through, lacy shirt-dress with white boxer-shorts underneath. Unusual and bold, yes, but stylish? Bazaar seems to think so. Mr Jacobs, Bazaar says, is re-defining what it means to be a well-dressed man.

Marc Jacobs with Milla Jovovich, at the 2012 Costume Institute Gala, via

First things first: I have a problem with the supposed rules regarding what one should wear as a representative of one's gender. I don't believe that any form of clothing needs to be gender-specific. It can be, but it doesn't need to be. Every person has the right to wear whatever they want, and the person wearing the clothes should be able to define (or to choose not to define) whatever it is that those clothing choices mean to that person. That's what I, and many others, think. But societies are filled with all sorts of unwritten rules and norms regarding how we should look and what we should wear. Some of those rules are age-specific, some gender-specific. We've come a long way from the days when it was shocking to see a woman in trousers, but for whatever reason, men in dresses is not something that we see all too often. From that standpoint, I applaud Marc Jacobs for choosing to wear a dress if he so pleases. Jacobs might be paving the way to other men who might now have the courage to wear dresses if they choose to, and that, of course, is a wonderful thing.

Jacobs at a Fashion Week afterparty for Louis Vuitton, via

Whatever the personal narrative is behind Jacobs' decision to wear the dresses, I can't help but think that Bazaar's reaction to it is some form of "the Emperor's new clothes"-saga. We are seeing something we don't see often, something that breaks the mold... but at closer inspection, there really isn't much there. I don't think Jacobs looks particularly stylish in his attire. I don't think pink is his colour. Nor do I think that the white boxer-shorts go with that lace dress. In fact, I think they look really frumpy and the dress looks cheap. And I don't think much of his shoe choices either, not to mention the ankle socks. The clothes themselves aren't really all that ground-breaking or even interesting. And something in my gut says that it's not just about a man wearing a dress either. We've seen that before. So what is it?

My feeling is that the answer lies somewhere in the murky waters of the rather boring garments Jacobs wore on the one hand, and the gender-and-celebrity aspect of all of this on the other.  If a random guy at the mall chose to wear a pink polo dress, I honestly doubt that Bazaar would be giving him the thumbs-up. If a famous woman had worn what Jacobs wore, she wouldn't be on the best-dressed list simply because the clothing itself wasn't anything special. Can you imagine, say, Rooney Mara or even Lady Gaga wearing that lace dress with white shorts underneath and landing a spot on the best-dressed list? I can't. The clothes just aren't interesting enough.

It's pretty obvious that the best-dressed aspect of Marc Jacobs wearing a dress has very little to do with the clothes he is wearing. But it's not even really about him being a man wearing a dress either. Our interpretation of Jacobs' identity as a famous, celebrated male fashion designer is what goes with the dress-wearing, not his gender per se. From this viewpoint, I don't think there is anything that Jacobs is really re-defining about what it means to be a stylish man. His gender is not really the point. His persona is. Marc Jacobs is the point, and maybe, just maybe, that is a good thing. Perhaps we are getting closer to a moment in time when our style choices radiate our inner, individual choices rather than our gender. That is no to say that gender doesn't matter. It doesn't have to matter, but it can. Perhaps time will tell if Jacobs encourages other men to wear dresses, too, or whether his influence will give men more room to experiment with their clothing choices. Or maybe women will pick up calf-length polo dresses. In some cases, it might be about gender, and in other cases, gender might have nothing to do with it. And when it comes to the question of whether Marc Jacobs deserves a spot on the best-dressed list... well, my opinion is no, he doesn't, not for wearing those dresses.  (But for this outfit below - hell yes. The guy rocks a kilt and a pair of combat boots.) I'll keep an eye on the dresses Jacobs might wear in the future though. Maybe he'll choose one that I like.

Jacobs with Lorenzo Martone, via

Sunday, 15 July 2012

My lucky stars, or Sunday with Chet Baker

I fell in the bathtub yesterday. I slipped and went flying, back first, through the shower curtain. I landed on the bathroom floor, hitting the back of my neck at the edge of the toilet seat, my legs still inside the bathtub. Miraculously, I got away with some bruises and a sore neck. Yesterday and today I've kept going back to those couple of seconds: slip - fall - landing. I can't help thinking how bad it could have been. I could have broken my neck. I could have broken my hip. Had I landed half-a-foot to my right, I would have smashed into the sharp corner of the bathroom vanity. Had I slipped with a twist, I would have landed chin first onto the toilet seat. I could have broken my skull and died. I can't get over how lucky I was. 

It's incredibly humid today, and sounds of thunder have been echoing in from a distance for the past hour. Our house (no A/C) feels like a jungle. I'm bringing in some cool with the help of Chet Baker. I bought a couple of Chet records at a used-cds-LPs-and-dvds-store yesterday after my tumble-in-the-tub, and was snickered at by the store clerks.

"Chet?", said one to the other.
"Chet", said the other with an eye roll.
"Is she selling or buying?", asked the first clerk.
"She's buying Chet Baker", answered the other, condescendingly.
"What's wrong with Chet?", I asked.
"Oh, nothing", they answered, looking at each other, murmuring something inaudible.

I guess they just didn't think much of Chet, which is fine, if he's not your cup of tea. I didn't appreciate the tone though, and a part of me wanted to yell at them that I could have splattered my brains on the bathroom floor a few hours earlier, so EXCUSE ME if my taste in music isn't as COOL as YOURS. I took a breath, smiled and paid for the records, one of them an unopened Chet Baker Sings - It Could Happen to You LP from 1958. Whatever those clerks had against Chet Baker - I guess it really doesn't matter. Bad customer service doesn't really matter either. I got to live another day. 

The Tokyo performance above was recorded a year before Chet Baker's death.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

More summer movies

I wore this to the movies yesterday. Chris and I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man. I liked Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man better than Tobey Maguire in the previous Spider-Man movies, but sadly I didn't think much of the film. I feel that Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movies have been so wonderful that most superhero flicks now seem... a little lame and predictable in comparison. Well, at least The Amazing Spider-Man could have been much worse. It just wasn't very good.

We also saw Woody Allen's To Rome with Love last week. I loved Midnight in Paris last year so I was hopeful about Rome. But boy was I in for a disappointment. The film was just all over the place. Even the actors seemed to be completely lost in the random, disengaging story lines. I guess it should be expected that with Allen doing one movie a year, there will be hits and there will be misses! 

I'm wearing a second hand top (flea market) and a second hand Marimekko linen knit skirt, with Steve Madden flats.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

EBEW: Color blocking

I haven't taken part in Everybody, Everywear challenges in ages, but I happened to notice the colour blocking one just in time. I was going to add one more colour (big green necklace) but then decided against it. I'm wearing all second hand: the blue silk top is an old thrift store treasure, the cotton/linen blend skirt is from a vintage shop in Helsinki, and the Tod's loafers are from Etsy.

There are times when I feel like I should iron my clothes more often - today, however, is not one of those days. For the most part wrinkles don't really bother me. Sometimes I even feel that lived-in-looking clothes are just more "me". (I also hate ironing, so I might just be making excuses.)

Chris and I are getting ready for the movers to come pack our things next week. It's a little crazy at our house - piles of stuff everywhere, and everything has to be cataloged, which is rather challenging. The clothing inventory, of course, is of particular interest to me. Despite my tremendous culling efforts, I still have a lot of clothes to ship to Finland. I am trying to be sensible about culling at this point, though. A part of me wants to get rid of everything, but I also realize that a couple of extra dresses or sweaters are not really going to make a difference in how much we pay for the shipment, and that there is no point in getting rid of clothes I wear a lot. The last thing I want to do is to start shopping for new clothes as soon as we have moved! 

I am currently trying to figure out what to leave here for the weeks before Chris and I actually move, and for the time period before our stuff arrives in Finland. (The moving company says it might take anywhere from six weeks to three months.) I'll be living with a relatively small selection of clothes for the next coming weeks (or months) - one big suitcase of clothes, including shoes and accessories. I might write a post about that once I figure out what to cull, what to ship and what to hold onto.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Instant relatives: 1920s

The hair! The clothes!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Moonrise Kingdom-ing

I'm Moonrise Kingdom-ing: listening to Francoise Hardy, and looking up pictures of Kara Hayward's make-up. I don't often feel like I'm too old for this-and-that style, and I'd like to think that I don't really believe in age-appropriate-ness anyway. Sadly, however, I feel like I could no longer pull off glimmer-y turquoise eye make-up and 1960s minidresses. Oh well. Sometimes it is okay to just be inspired by something and leave it at that.

Pictures are from here and there, Google images / Moonrise Kingdom.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Summer movies

This is what I wore on Tuesday, when Chris and I escaped the smothering heat to the movies.

First, we decided to see Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Seeking a Friend has tanked at the box office, which is sort of a shame. I'll admit that it's not a great movie: despite a couple of not-so-funny jokes at the beginning of the movie, it is definitely not a comedy, but it's not a full-flesh drama either. Somehow the film is just... a little off. It lacks focus, perhaps. However, there is something truly endearing about Seeking a Friend. Steve Carell is great. And even though the movie has all sorts of problems (continuity issues, nonsensical scenes with unimportant characters), I became emotionally attached to the main characters, and I cared about the story. That's more than I can say about a lot of other movies I've seen this year.

After Seeking a Friend, we went to see Wes Anderson's new movie, Moonrise Kingdom. It has gotten mixed reviews, but if you tend to like Anderson's movies (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Fantastic Mr. Fox), you'll enjoy this one, too. Moonrise Kingdom is a really cute film: visually beautiful, a little goofy, entertaining and sweet, with an excellent cast (Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and two lovely young actors, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). It's certainly worth seeing if you're into quirky, pretty little films.