Monday, December 28, 2009

Elegance is refusal

I think there are some things that older women are able to pull off better than young girls.  Things like high heels, makeup, and structured clothes, a woman of a certain age can carry off more gracefully than her younger counterparts.  Anything to do with a heightened artifice, really, looks better once a woman has been in her own skin for awhile.

Lately I have felt the urge to refocus my own personal style, to refine it by stripping away youthful furbelows and paring it down to achieve some kind of womanly elegance.  As Coco Chanel said, "elegance is refusal."

Sofia Coppola captures that sense of elegant, unpretentious, self-aware style that I think an older woman can really own.  She has a kind of gamine style, but without the tweeness.

Her Essentials:
- an array of little black dresses
- striped tops
- black ballet flats
- exquisite handbags and shoes
- a subdued color palette, with occasional small prints
- everything well-fitted but not tight
- unconventional erogenous zones, like the back or collar bone, but not décolleté
- shiny, washed, and simple hair

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Personal style and work

My mind is turning towards building a more complete and easy work wardrobe.  Most days, it takes 1 1/2 outfit attempts before I'm satisfied.  By 1/2, I mean that I undo half my outfit before leaving in the mornings.  But I think the problem is that I've started with my own personal style as a base, and halfway incorporated more polished, work-appropriate looks.  I think I'll find it easier if I start with the corporate standard (blazers, wool pants, button-downs, etc.) and then tweak it to reflect my own style.

I'll start that project later.  For now, I've been purging my closet slowly of things that don't feel like me.  I also made a circuit of returns this weekend at J. Crew and Anthropologie.

I actually haven't been buying too many things lately.  Not been in the shopping mood.  The holiday season makes me dread shopping, actually, with the crowds and the traffic

Monday, November 9, 2009

Granny shoes

I like granny shoes. What can I say. I like the orthopedic wedges, the go-with-everything tan color, the nerdy-cute look. So when I saw these for sale on Etsy, I sprung, even though I hate to buy things that I think I could find myself in the thrift store. The problem is, I never do.

I picture these with my blue corduroys, hems dragging in the interminable Seattle rain.

Yoga pants

I got into yoga about a year ago. My doctor recommended it as a way to control my back pain. I had heard of its amazing effects for years, so that was the push I needed to sign up.

Well, it is amazing. Some Saturday mornings, when I'm flying over the hill on my scooter after a session, I am flooded with a sense of well-being and inner peace.  Even just getting in the quiet space of the yoga studio--with its polished wood floors and potted plants that reach the ceiling--begins to quiet me down in the middle of a hectic work week.

At first, I just wore my climbing clothes to yoga, but that felt a great deal too skimpy.  Street clothes flopped around, especially during downward dog or any semi-inverted pose.  So I went shopping for proper attire and tried on various yoga pants from Patagonia, Target, and a no-name from TJ Maxx.  Although I like the Patagonia Serenity pants, it's a little too hot for the summer. The Target one soon sprouted a run. The no-name from TJ Maxx was fantastic at first, but it eventually began to disintegrate in not-so-attractive ways after a few sessions.  So I finally justified spending the money to get a pair of Lululemon Groove crops, and it has been worth every penny.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The best costume for the day

As I was watching Grey Gardens for the umpteenth time yesterday, my boyfriend asked me what I liked so much about it.  I couldn't answer at the time, and I still find it hard to respond.  It's a film about a mother and daughter with high-society connections who have gradually descended into squalor.  They are related by blood to Jackie O., yet live in a mansion eaten through by raccoons and cats and piled high with tin cans and newspaper.  The movie is fascinating on many levels, not least of which is the mystery of their past and the relationship between Big Edie and Little Edie.

I am also fascinated by the meticulous way that Little Edie puts together her outfits from random things laying about.  She is famous for the way she fashioned headscarves out of skirts and kitchen towels and any other oddity hanging around, and then casually fastened them closed with a priceless heirloom brooch.  Her outfits might be comprised of a skirt worn upside down or a pair of pants worn over a skirt underneath a pair of stockings, but to her they were the absolutely right "costume for the day."

Of course, the clothes are fascinating, but the women beneath them, so much more so.  The rituals of their songs and dances bind them together and give shape to their daily lives.  There is something really touching in the way they carry on their lives, despite the ruin all around them.

[pics from Patrishka's Open Mouth and amazon]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Street style

I was walking by the (locally) famous Jimi Hendrix statue in Seattle today when a woman stopped me to ask if she could take my picture for her street style blog.  I declined, citing "camera shy" issues, but I was flattered, and she was very gracious. She gave me her card so I could check out her blog.  Here's her website: It's My Darlin.  Cute little morsel of local streetstyle, fashion and food.

I walked home glancing at my reflection in shop windows, trying to figure out why she stopped me.  Although it's not the first time I've been stopped for a street style picture, it still amazes me.  You have to understand, I was clueless about clothes for most of my life.  It was only in my 20's that I decided that I needed to overhaul my style, which heretofore had comprised of overalls and t-shirts.  When I asked my best friend for advice, she directed me to Lucky magazine, the "magazine about shopping."  One subscription and a Lucky book later, I felt like I had a better idea of how to put myself together.

Since then, I think I've branched out and discovered my own personal style, which, ironically enough, takes me halfway back to my overall days.  So on the day that the photographer stopped me, I was wearing a fuzzy wool hat, plaid jacket, grey skirt with a bowtie, and granny shoes.  It's like how I might have dressed before the whole fashion thing happened, but with a better sense of why.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Just looking through the archives of my old blog, wondering if I should just continue on that site rather than start a new blog. Don't know. A lot of it embarrasses me now. I was so immersed in consumption, like it's easy to do in fashion. But some things I like a lot. Like these posts I wrote during my busiest blogging year. Some of them I like just because they jostle memories that I had forgotten.

Shoe History
Overheard at Loehmann's
Floppy Revisited
Random Shopping Thoughts
Back to School
Rhetorical Effects

There's maybe just one good post from the first year of blogging.

His thermal.

What I find is that I like most the posts that are just little nubbins of thought.  No pictures, just an idea.  I'm pretty bored by the acquisition posts.  I'm chagrined to see how much thought went into getting things, and how fleeting the pleasure was that they gave.

Here's more from 2007.

Likes and dislikes
Style folder
What I like
Summer girls
Better start saving up my pennies

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October rain

Winter has arrived in Seattle. It's not a time of the year, but a feeling.

The darkness is getting longer, the days damper, the skies lower, and the mood greyer. Walking home today, I saw a lot of students unprepared for the rain. Few of us had thought to wear the rain jackets that eventually become de rigueur this time of year. Some students, mostly the ones newly arrived from other countries, struggled with umbrellas in the wind. Most of us just huddled down into ourselves like ducklings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mina Perhonen

I've been thinking about vintage prints lately, maybe because my boyfriend's mother--who deals in secondhand goods--sent me a package a few weeks ago containing a collection of vintage items she had set aside for me. Inside the box were a few lovely blouses and a dress, all made out of faded cotton prints.

They made me think of Mina Perhonen, a fashion line created by a Japanese designer named Akira Minagawa. It might be as well known for its hand-drawn textiles as for its finished products. The brand cites as inspiration the designer's travels in Northern European countries, especially Finland. In fact, in Finnish mina means "I" and perhonen means "butterfly."

My favorite ones have a untutored, naive quality. They seem like they were drawn by a young child, with a child's sense of wonder and love of repetition.

There's more on the website, which has a textile index sorted by name.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Anthropologie styling

I may as well make a confession now, and that's that I adore Anthropologie. Even though it's overpriced and oftentimes over-frilly, I am nevertheless drawn to the feminine, vintage-inspired clothes and the quirky decor that's a mix of French countryside and old-fashioned apothecary. The clothes are comfortable even though they're always a little bit dressy.

So there is a collection of cold-weather looks currently on the website that's given me some ideas about styling my accessories this winter. On the first image, the cloche is pushed forward to cover the forehead and eyes. It's a cute silhouette reminiscent of the Morton salt girl.

In the second look, the stylists threaded the scarf around the collar of the coat instead of tying it around the neck. That seems like an easy way to add a bit of dash to the usual coat and scarf combo.

More ideas at the website.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Akihiro Furuta

When I stumbled across this photographer's family portraits, I was immediately taken with the whimsy and good humor evident in the photos. I couldn't help but laugh when I scrolled down and saw these photos of a man and his wife, child, and dog in these highly orchestrated, somewhat absurd scenes that are, it seems, without a shred of irony. The family rotates through interchangeable props like toggle coats and birthday-candle eyeglasses, and even the dog participates in the dress-up.

I especially like the wife's style in the portrait series. She has this winning blend of quirky, demure, and vintage. Her style is cute without being cutesy.

Some accessories make their appearance again and again, like a straw hat that's a cross between a scarecrow and the Great Depression.

There's more on his website, Life is Beautiful, which is written in Japanese. But that's okay, because it's mostly photos anyway.

[photos: Life is Beautiful]