Skirts & socks, making a comeback.

Last week a friend told me he likes when I "dress like there's going to be a sock hop". I think he meant he likes when I wear skirts with socks and loafers. Well, he's in good company, because as of late it's one of my favorite looks too!

It's winter-ish here, and I can only wear tights so many days in a row before my legs get claustrophobic. Ankle socks and longer skirts are an ideal compromise. I can still show a little skin without freezing! (It might not be 20 degrees here, but the walk to and from the bus stop can get chilly.) To keep the look from getting too coquettish I usually avoid anything too flouncy or overtly feminine and pair the socks with a simple oxford shoe.

I love the idea of ankle socks and heels, sadly thus far I've lacked the chutzpah to pull it off with confidence. So for now, ankle socks & loafers! Scroll down to see a few of my favorite inspirations.

an ode to Barbour.

Are you familiar with Barbour? Founded in 1894 and still going strong, they are famed for their beautiful and utilitarian 100% waxed cotton coats. Some of the reasons I (and lots of other folks) love Barbour?

1. Durability. They get better with time. An annual waxing keeps them waterproof. Patches and mends over the years add character, the more the better. Dapper dresser Prince Charles exemplified this when he wore a similar waxed cotton coat for a TV interview.

 
 

2. Exceptional customer service. Too lazy to wax it yourself? They can do that for you. Tear a sleeve and need mending? They can do that too. Lose 30 lbs and need it taken in? Want your sleeves shortened? Need to add collar snaps and have a custom hood made? Done, done and done. You name it, and the friendly customer service agents in North Carolina will be happy to help. I recently sent mine back for the aforementioned collar snaps and custom hood, I couldn't be more pleased with results.

3. Unique limited editions. My red Barbour was part of a limited edition William Morris collection, the lining features one of his famed prints. A good friend just bought a piece from the beautiful Wedgewood collection, classic olive exterior and an exclusive Wedgewood print lining.

Barbour's aren't cheap, but with the proper care they'll last a lifetime. Mine has become an all-purpose piece during the wet and cold winter months. I've worn it skiing, hiking, to the office, on top of an evening gown and during rainy walks to the gym. Here in the States the widest assortment can be found at Orvis and Tuckernuck, Nordstrom also carries an assortment. Other retailers sell similar looking knockoffs, accept no imitations! The Barbour is a classic, and while the style can be copied, the quality simply can't.

how to manage your wardrobe during weight loss.

First and foremost, I am well aware this is the very definition of a first-world problem. Nonetheless, it is a problem. A very considerable problem when you need to pull up your pants every 5 minutes at barre class...

So, as someone who has recently lost 15 lbs, along with several inches off her waist, here's my advice:

1. ALTERATIONS. Some things, like yoga pants, can quickly and easily be taken in at the waist by a seamstress. This set me back around $10/pair. Considerably less expensive than replacing all of them.

2. ADD BELT HOLES. If you're feeling industrious, most craft supply stores sell an easy to use leather punch kit. If you're feeling lazy (ME) any decent cobbler can add holes to your belt. This is just a stop gap, not a permanent solution. If you lose a significant amount of weight, you can only cinch your pants so much before they (and you) look silly.

3. DRESSES. A fantastic style that almost always looks better when it's a bit loose.

4. RELISH IT. There may be some pieces you love and won't be able to alter, these are your final days together. RELISH EVERY MOMENT. Wear that jacket every chance you have, get your money's worth out of those ridiculously overpriced gym clothes, let your favorite pieces go out with a bang!

5. PATIENCE. No one's more tempted than I am to celebrate my crazy-fit body with a shopping spree, but I know I'm not done yet. If I splurge on new clothes now, I'm just going to be frustrated when I reach my body goal and still nothing fits and now I'm out of money. Instead, I'm sticking with the above 4 until that grand and glorious day arrives.

Have you had to replace any wardrobe pieces post weight loss?

2017. a wishlist.

This year, I've chosen 5 pieces I'd really love to add to my wardrobe. Some have been on the list for several years and some are new additions. Here they are in no particular order:

 
 

1. Burberry Reymoore trench. A beautiful trench from a storied label. I love that it features a removable hood and lining. I am perpetually cold so the liner is really a deal maker for me.

 
 

2. Danner Mountain Light Cascade hiking boots. Equally functional and attractive, I need a solid pair of hiking boots for more serious endeavors than Mount Hollywood. These boots are handcrafted in Portland, Oregon and will look equally at home on a mountain or with a skirt and socks.  

 
 

3. Vintage Camel Coat a la Ali MacGraw in Love Story. This is by far the most challenging item on the list, mostly because it requires a perfect storm of size, price & style as well as lots of eBay trolling. 

 
 

4.  Herve Leger Bandage Dress. The perfect companion to perfectly toned 2017 self. 

 
 

5.  Tracksmith shorts and singlet. I was gifted the Tracksmith Downeaster for my birthday, and I absolutely love it. Super warm and a nice bright red, better yet, designed and made in the US. I'd like to take running a little more seriously this year, and a new pair of shorts with a singlet will be excellent motivation!

It's highly unlikely these will all make their way to my closet this year, especially the pricier investment pieces, I'll probably need to choose between the Burberry Reymoore and the Herve Leger dress. Nonetheless, it's a useful tool; having a top 5 gives me a yardstick to measure all my other purchases against. What are your top 5 for 2017?

year-end exfoliation.

I love New Year’s Eve. Really, I love any excuse for a pretty dress and a night on the town. But this year I'm even more excited for January 1, 2017. 

I spent a solid chunk of the week going through every piece of clothing and every accessory I own. It culminated in 6 bags of donations to Goodwill, which I actually dropped off in a timely manner! Exfoliating all the things I no longer needed felt good, and as I sat on the floor folding clothes, I couldn't help reflecting on all the other things I exfoliated in 2016. Some good, farewell car payments! Some sad, farewell favorite Japanese spa. Some disappointing, farewell friends that really weren't. But, much like a closet exfoliation, emotional exfoliation is always a good thing. It makes room for all the wonderful things you don’t even know are out there yet. A new set of interview outfits, exotic vacations, genuine friendships.

So here's to a new year, full of new possibilities and plenty of room in my (emotional and physical) closet to accommodate them. I couldn't be more excited. 

my great white whale. aka - best christmas gift ever.

I've lost track of the number of times I've perused a Clare V. store and come out empty handed, unless you count the Alfred's tea I'm probably sipping. The bags are beautifully well-made, legitimate investment pieces that only get better with time (and the proper TLC). Nevertheless, a Clare V. bag has always been a "someday" bag.

 
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So, you can imagine my delighted surprise when "someday' turned out to be December 25! A very kind, very generous and very thoughtful friend basically made this the best Christmas ever. It shouldn't come as a surprise, it's exactly the sort of thing he does all the time, but that doesn't make it any less delightful.

What's your great white whale?

Storing the little things: socks.

How do you store your socks? I used to be a buncher, that trick where you sort of fold the top over the rest of the sock? Then I read Marie Kondo's book and worried that I was ruining the elasticity. Less worrying was how the bunching made my socks feel.

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Now I am a sock folder. It's so much easier to keep them neat and tidy, and when space is at a premium, neat and tidy is critical! Plus, I don't worry I'm ruining their stretchiness. Gym socks are just thrown in a bag hanging from the closet, they are all the same so it's a little silly to try and match them.

So, now that my entirely overwrought sock folding process is on full display, how do you store your socks?

The Give Back Box.

I have a habit of leaving an old grocery store bag in the trunk of my car and slowly filling it with items I no longer need until there's enough to drop it off at my local Goodwill store. This convenient practice keeps useless stuff out of my small studio and (in theory) makes it easy and convenient to stop by for a donation. Except a lot of times it doesn't because I'm too lazy. The currently very full bag in my trunk has been there for almost 3 months.

Hence the philanthropic genius of the Give Back Box. You go to their website, print a FREE label for USPS or UPS and drop it off at any post office or UPS pick-up location. Even better, USPS will pick-up the items from your home!

I haven't tried it yet, but I'll be finding a box this morning and shipping my first order this afternoon. Visit GiveBackBox.com for more details on the program!

Black Friday. Or why I'm going to #OptOutside.

Midnight madness at the outlets followed by an early morning at the mall has been a longstanding tradition throughout my adult life. I thoroughly enjoy shopping on Black Friday. The crowds and lines don't bother me and I can enjoy great prices on things I already needed. Having spent many years in an industry where working on holidays is the norm, I didn't and don't find it morally reprehensible that people in retail are now expected to work on Thanksgiving.

That said, this year, I just don't want to participate. Not because of any altruistic desires, simply because I don't need more. Instead, this year I'm going to #OptOutside and hike Mount Wilson with friends. Instead of acquiring new favorites, I'm going to spend some quality time with old favorites:  my Patagonia pants, a fleece sweater and a well worn pair of hiking shoes.

While I'll miss the fun of staying up all night and eating God-knows-what at 3AM, I'm looking forward to starting a new tradition. Especially one that doesn't involve swiping an AmEx or returning half the things I purchased a week later.  

PS - If you do need to shop, the one sale I would absolutely recommend is at Uniqlo and Uniqlo.com, the quality is top notch and the prices really can't be beat.

Pretty darn great.

Today, I bought nothing. I returned a few things (unused camping supplies) and looked at other things (fancy socks, a wool sweater, boots), but I bought nothing. I came close, I meandered for a bit with the socks in my hand, but eventually put them back and walked away.

The reality is I needed nothing, or rather, I need nothing. I have all the things I want and need in my life, and if I don't do anymore shopping between now and spring I'll be just fine.

Truth be told, I'm better than fine. I'm pretty darn great. 

On comfort and power.

Last week, was a week. It was a week where every morning I woke up and debated if I could throw on a blazer and just wear my pajamas to the office. Realistically, there's a fair chance no one would've noticed. But I didn't. Instead, I forced myself to find motivation and inspiration in some of my favorite pieces. A vintage wool Ralph Lauren tie, a blue and cream striped Muji top, a cashmere sweater. None of it was particularly groundbreaking, but it felt like comfort food for my soul; a warm bowl of arroz con leche.

There is power in what we wear. We don't have to participate in a slut walk or don a pantsuit to feel that. There is power in asserting who we are, even it's in something as small and insignificant as a favorite pair of shoes. This week that power was enough to get me out the door and to the bus stop every morning.

There's power in embracing the things that bring us comfort, especially when everything around us is so very uncomfortable.  

Costumes.

Next week I am going on vacation in the great outdoors. It will be roughly 30-40 degrees colder, rain and snow are certain. While I love the outdoors, I'm no Cheryl Strand. This means that over the weekend I started to panic about the almighty question, what will I wear? I frantically started combing the internet for a traditional winter coat. I also considered adding flannel button downs and a beautiful pair of leather hiking boots before finalizing my cart. But I didn't, mostly because I was already spending a considerable chunk of change on the coat, even at 50% off. 

Last night, I finally scoured my closet to see what I already had and the answer was a pleasant surprise, quite a lot. Within 20 minutes, I had laid out enough clothes to keep me warm in the arctic. While they might not be traditional (there's no ski coat, just a heavy weight Barbour) or technically savvy (sans a couple of free Heat Tech pieces won at a Uniqlo opening) they are good solid pieces I am confident will keep me warm. Patagonia fleece, wool fisherman sweaters, Japanese denim layered with long johns. 

Sometimes it's easy (and a little bit fun) to fall into the trap of thinking you need a very specific costume for a particular activity. Odds are, you don't. More often than not if you shop your closet you're going to find more than enough of what you need. And so begins a new series, Costumes. From time to time I'll talk about different activities and what I repurpose from my closet or occasionally acquire to meet that particular need. 

a list of reasons I don't wear black.

Black is lazy.  

Black is basic and not in a good way.  

Contrary to popular belief, black is not universally flattering.  

Black with a "pop of color" is still black.  

Yes, I agree, Audrey Hepburn looks stunning in her iconic little black dress and is charming in her black cigarette pants. It's AUDREY HEPBURN. She looks equally stunning in a nun's habit.  

Think outside the (little black) box! 

an inspiration board

As much as I love my wardrobe, there are still days when I have "nothing to wear".

This is when my inspiration board comes in handy. Taped inside a closet cupboard are pictures of outfits I've admired; most of them are magazine cutouts, a few are internet printouts.  Even if I can't replicate the exact look, it usually ignites a spark when nothing else will.

Occasionally I refresh the board. Taking down pictures that no longer inspire and adding new ones in their place. An inspiration board doesn't have to be a physical place in your closet, it can just as easily be a photo album on your phone or a Pinterest board. 

What's your plan B when there's "nothing to wear"?

the beauty of quality leather

A well made leather accessory can easily last you a lifetime. While it can be a bit of an investment upfront, it will age beautifully, only getting better with time.

Much like we previously discussed with shoes, leather accessories require a bit of TLC. Handbags should be gently wiped down with a soft rag and mild soap. They should also periodically be rubbed down with a leather conditioner to avoid drying out and becoming brittle.

Leather conditioner is usually available in the same section as shoe polish at your local drugstore, you can also easily buy it from online retailers like Amazon. If you're feeling adventurous you can try my personal favorite, homemade beeswax conditioner, but that's a diy for another day.

If you find the whole process overwhelming or simply don't have the time, check with your trusty cobbler. Most care for a variety of goods, not just shoes!

PS - If you do decide to make the beeswax, try not to knock over the container it's in, spilling warm beeswax all over you kitchen counter and the wall. Because then you'll find it very quickly hardens and instead of conditioning your leather belt, you'll spend a half hour scrapping wax off every surface in your kitchen. Suffice it to say, the wall has been thoroughly conditioned...

fresh ideas

This morning I took a peek at some of my favorite Fashion Week shows. There's so much I love, and so much of it is out of my price range! Nonetheless, it's fun to browse and get new ideas; what can I do with less money, what can I do with pieces are already own?

So before I start spending money i don't have on clothes I know I don't need, I'm going to review what I already have, and try to re-imagine my wardrobe a whole new way. What pieces have never been combined? What skirt or dress could be completely different with a lengthened or shortened hem? Is there someplace I can add a pocket or custom embroidery? When that's done, THEN I'll start to think about investing in something new, guilt-free!

rotate your wardrobe

Even the best wardrobe can start to feel boring after a while. My solution is a rotating wardrobe. For many folks, mother nature already has this covered. Winter means puffy jackets and wool sweaters, while summer brings crop tops and sandals. But, if you're like me and live in a region where winter is only a 15 - 20 degree difference in temperature, it's time to take matters into your own hands.

Half my wardrobe (including shoes, but not handbags) is always packed away in storage. I have significant space constraints in my small studio so I use two rattan storage cubes rather than the more traditional plastic bins. One doubles as a coffee table and the other makes an excellent nightstand.

How to decide what gets stored and what stays?

If you enjoy dressing for the seasons (even though the change is insignificant) it's simple to pack away pieces that are out of season.

If your climate is consistent year-round, the choice is entirely yours! Start by packing away the pieces that you still love, but are bored with. You can either rotate them back in as you start to miss them, or you can set a mark (such as every 6 months) to swap out. I do a bit of a hybrid. I swap in spring and fall, and occasionally rotate items on a whim.

Stash away a couple of weather appropriate pieces for the inevitable late season doldrums. As summer drags on I inevitably find myself craving a cooler weather wardrobe. Having a couple of unworn summer pieces is an easy (and free!) way to reinvigorate your tired wardrobe.