Friday, January 31, 2014

A Neutral Statement

Awsome, yes? I got these a while ago from Ebay. They are in pristine condition, and a perfect example of why Manolos are such a good investment; they really do stand the test of time. This makes my third pair of Manolos (all lucky secondhand treasure finds from various venues), and I have to concede that they are not only some of the best-looking shoes I own, they are also the most well-made. This pair will be going to the shoe repair to get some sole protectors put on the bottoms (it's too wet here in Scotland to wear leather soles without sole protectors), but I have successfully worn them a few times, very selectively on the driest of days (back in the fall, before the Season of Eternal Rain and Darkness was upon us).

Many of you will already know that I am a big fan of a simple look with a statement shoe.  Today's offering is a similar concept, turned on its head. The shoe makes a statement, but is still a neutral colour.  The print, while zany,  definitely reads an animal print at first glance, which we all know can be treated as a neutral. What fun is this?  It's a neutral statement, if that's not too much of an oxymoron.

I've paired these shoes with my beloved mustard blouse (seen before here), and the old standby, a pair of jeans. I like the look of the bright mustard against brown (neither colour is easy to find in the last few seasons of ready to wear). Overall, this pairing makes for an easy to wear look that still reads as fun, and it literally took me about three seconds to put it together. And then an hour and a half and counting to complete the post. Such is the way with these things...

Make a Neutral Statement

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Today on Etsy!

I have been falling a bit behind on my knitting stuff of late, for no real reason other than just sheer inattention. However, that is about to change, as I have found my mojo again, and will be adding pieces to the Etsy shop like mad over the next wee while. It must be the weather...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oh The Humanity


As an expat, I always follow the rolling-out of the Olympic uniforms with great interest. Maybe because I'm a little sensitive about my beloved country's often-overblown caricatures that are so often portrayed as the "average American" in the world media. Whatever the reason,  you can imagine my disappointment when this came across the screen of my laptop.

Historically, I've always liked Ralph Lauren's sporting uniform designs; his preppy aesthetic generally melds quite well with the bright colours and bold patterns that are synonymous with sport. His work with the U.S. Open was has always been a hit, and his 2012 opening ceremony uniforms reminded me of a chic, well-fitting minimalistic version of my old Air Force uniform. In a good way.

I even see what he was going for with this. A sort of Aspen, aprés-ski, casual "around the village" kind of a vibe.  I just wish it didn't look so much like something you might find at Walmart on the Crazy Cat Lady Festive Christmas Sweater rack. Yes, he sourced his materials and had everything made in the USA this time, but the finished product hardly does that effort justice.

Nice pea coats though.  I'll give him that. That's more like the Ralph Lauren that we know and love. I'd totally wear that.


I suppose Olympic uniforms are always a bit on the wild side. They are supposed to be a celebration of one's nationality, and therefore tend to lean rather heavily on references to national dress, with an added element of whimsy, and (often spurious) efforts at utilising modern cuts and materials. But sometimes, they're just downright fugly.

If you're looking to feel better, there is a spot of schadenfreude to be had here. Although ours might have garnered the most negative publicity to date, we Yanks can rest assured that we are not the only ones who will be galavanting around in something tacky in 2014. Have a look.

These snazzy uniforms will distract you just long enough to not question why the hell you're watching curling. Is it wrong to admit that I kind of love this?


And then there are the Canadians, making a nice quiet and polite statement. The lettering on the sweaters looks like it was printed with an old dot matrix printer circa 1987.  It conjures images of the old Pac Man, which I think would make a nice graphic addition to the front of the sweater. Nice touk though, eh?


Germany has decided on the gay pride look this year. Good for you Germany! In your face Vladimir Putin! Last week Putin was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that "gays have nothing to fear at the Winter Olympics as long as they leave children alone". If it hasn't happened already, will someone please explain the difference between a gay person and a pedophile to this poor confused man? I have to work tonight and just don't have the energy right now. 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Inspired by my Orchids

I have recently become a bit obsessed with orchids. Yes, by now we all know that Radiant Orchid is the colour of spring, but I'm talking about the real deal here.  I love how they look both beautiful and menacing, how their epiphytic roots reach out for air and sunshine, and yes, I suppose I even love how dang hard they are to grow. Especially when you live in Scotland, where the cold dampness and lack of light in the winter make things extra challenging.

I have taken to rescuing orchids from the local supermarket and home improvement stores when they get cheap. Being a newbie at orchids, I have read everywhere that you are not supposed to do this, as you are supposed to start with healthy plants so that you can feel successful. Be that as it may, I have found this to be a great way of learning what works for my own environment without investing a packet. Granted, not every plant can be saved.  I lost my first one to root and crown rot, but that was because I hadn't done my research. Lost my second one to extensive root rot. My husband had brought it home, and it was too far gone to be saved. The others? Well, time will tell. Only one of my plants is in spike and blooming at the moment (the one pictured above). I've learned that when you rescue stressed plants, you have to cut the remaining flower spike off so the plant can redirect its energy into making new roots, as painful as it may be to bring those lovely remaining flowers to a more rapid end.

So far things are looking up.  I find myself staring at these plants all the time. Yesterday, when I was doing just that, inspiration struck from the dark recesses of my mind.  I decided to challenge myself to see if I could put together a spring look inspired by each one of my orchids. As if on cue, an email arrived just hours later from Ashley who represents ProFlowers, asking if I would like to participate in a blogger collaboration project in which we would be writing about spring fashion inspired by flowers. The universe appears to have had a hand in today's post.

Incidentally, orchid tips are more than welcome in the comments, by the way. If you are an expert and want to weigh-in, I'm all ears!

Phalaenopsis orchid ("Panda" variety?) / Thrifted Target tank, similar / H&M pants (old), similar / Chinese Laundry shoes / Thrifted Forever 21 jacket, similar

Phalaenopsis ("Moth") orchid, photo / Thrifted Eastex jacket, similar / H&M blouse (old), similar / Calvin Klein jeans (old), similar / Enzo Angiolini shoes (old), similar

Phalaenopsis lilac orchid, photo / J. Crew cardigan (old) / thrifted blouse, similar / Calvin Klein cutoffs (old), similar / Topshop sandals (last season), similar

Phalaenopsis "heiroglyphica"  baby plant from ebay / J. Crew top (old), similar / ASOS belt / Max Studio skirt (old), similar / Naturalizer shoes (old), similar

This post has been proudly shared with Not Dead Yet Style's Visible Monday

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Precious

There is certainly nothing particularly unique about a black jacket in Scotland in January, but there was something about this secondhand jacket that drew me to it instantly. It is a lightly-insulated nylon, styled like a double-breasted pea coat, super-duper lightweight, weather-resistant, and provides just the right amount of insulation against the dampness of the climate here. I used to have a sort of similar nylon jacket back in the 90s when I lived in Seattle (another very wet place), and I quite
literally wore it to death.

But it was more than just the nostalgia of the thing that drew me in. When I saw this jacket in the charity shop, something made me want to go have a closer look. It seemed somehow....I don't know....finished.

Oh, right. That actually explains a lot.

I could not believe my luck. And in my size, no less. I kept looking over my shoulder like a paranoid ex-con, as if someone were going to come running out of the back of the shop and take it off of me. I quickly tried it on, paid (£20!), and got the hell out of there, rat-scurrying my way home like Gollum, clutching my precious to my chest.

This is a forever jacket, and I'm enjoying the masculine-inspired tailoring of it that's on-trend right now. Good timing.

Make it Happen

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mirror Mirror

I'm happy to say that I now have my very own pair of mirrored silver kitten heels, and I love them.  They are the Giggle Shimmer kitten heeled leather pumps by Chinese Laundry, and they were about $35 at the time. Leading up to this purchase, I had been seeing a lot of mirrored silver shoes in the Fall / Winter magazines, and all over the blogosphere. Thinking that this would be something that I would be looking into, I even took a few snaps from various publications with my iPhone and kept them for inspiration.  I believe these are from Vogue USA and Elle UK.

I think that $30 is a pretty good price to pay for something rather trendy, although it could be argued that these are really actually more classic than one might think when considering a bright silver mirrored pump. I love that lower heels are chic again, and the resurgence of pointed toes also makes me happy. I can now dig out my bootcut and trouser jeans and they look relevant again; paired with a pointed toe, the leg is instantly elongated.  It's a win-win. And a shockingly silver shoe is a great way to add interest to an everyday kind of look without looking like you're trying too hard.

Chinese Laundry Giggle Shimmer pumps / Tahari Delianna peplum top / LL Bean short sleeve blouse (old), similar / New Look jeans / Freshwater pearl bracelet (old), similar

Fancy-schmancy silver shoes. Make it Happen. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gray & Osbourn: Elegance & Ease

Omigod! You guys! This. Dress. Rocks!!  <insert sound of me excitedly jumping up and down here>

I was recently contacted by Chantelle, who represents online retailer Gray & Osbourn. Chantelle inquired as to whether or not I would be interested in reviewing an item from one of the designers they feature on their website. I logged on to have a look, and within about three seconds, I knew the answer was, oh my yes!

Gray & Osbourn pride themselves in delivering timeless fashion right to the doorstep of their customers, and over 100 brands are represented in their carefully-edited collection.  The dress I chose is by designer Gina Bacconi, who specialises in occasion wear. What struck me most about Gina Bacconi's design ethos was the universally-flattering cut of her dresses. The faux-wrap stylings, body-con shifts, and the longer, draped jersey dresses...they all look good on a myriad of body types. Also great is the fact that Bacconi also makes a selection of dresses with sleeves, something which can be hard to find with occasion wear. 

I found this beaded lace jersey dress to be particularly well-constructed. Sometimes, jersey can send off alarm bells in my head, bringing to mind the thin, clingy, undergarment-revealing stuff that is so predominant in mass market retail stores these days. There is none of that going on here. The fabric of this dress has a silken, almost velvety hand to it, and has just enough weight to it to enable it to just barely skim the body. The fabrication also lends itself perfectly to travel, as it does not wrinkle, and would pack (or ball-up for that matter) very easily into a small suitcase. This dress, as with most of Bacconi's dresses, is draped beautifully, providing just that wee bit of ease and drape through the abdomen and hips to cover a multitude of sins. I chose to belt the dress, as I have a rather squareish athletic torso that I feel looks best when given a bit more definition. But that's the beauty of the jersey can belt, knot, and cinch with impunity; no worrying about the fabric getting all wonky. It's an easy, beautiful, sophisticated blank slate. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Le Peau en Hiver

Alors, le peau en hiver (Trans: winter skin).  I'm just back from a week in the French Alps, where we had a lovely time skiing (and eating, nobody does food like the French...nobody). There was new snow on the first day, and the weather was clear the entire time, which is a boon when you live in Scotland; we have been months without seeing the sky for more than just a fleeting moment here in the UK .

But the real reason behind this moon-faced selfie is to talk about le peau en hiver;  that tight, flaky, often-irritated and patchy skin that is as true an indication of a change in the weather as any barometer could be.  Every year, when the temperatures drop and the central heating comes on, I find I have to change my skincare routine drastically.  Out go the light formulations claiming to balance combination skin with their with matte finishes and anti-aging ingredients, and in come the most gentle, pure, and organic products I can muster. I find that when things start to get dried-out and irritated, the thing that works best is to completely scale-back the routine, use only the most gentle of products, keep the moisture coming, and only exfoliate very gently once every few days, when I think my skin can handle it.  This year, a product that I had bought completely on a lark actually saved my face in a big way.

This completely natural moisturiser really saved my face after days of wind, sun, and dry conditions. I've said before that some of us who came of age in the 80's may feel a bit of trepidation smearing pure oil on our faces. Oil used to be something to be banished from the surface of the skin using any means possible, whether it be scrubbed with bits of apricot pit or scoured with an only slightly less abrasive pad than one might find at the kitchen sink.  But trust me, if you are having trouble with winter dryness, this can be your saving grace. I like it best when put on just out of the shower, or just after washing my face at night. You will wake up with a face as smooth as a baby's butt.

I have a few other favourites up my sleeve to help tame winter dryness and irritation. Behold.

This is an extremely gentle SPF 15 sunscreen that is completely natural; formulated with only mineral elements to keep irritated skin from becoming more so. It has a light texture, sinks in, and works well under makeup. It has a bit of a greenish cast (apparently to neutralise red tones for those with rosacea and whatnot), but don't let that freak you out. It disappears once the product is on. I wouldn't be without this for a ski trip, or anywhere else where le peau is exposed to the elements.

This stuff has really been like a holy grail. This repairing creme is thick in consistency, and a little goes a long way. I purchased my first tube last year after my winter skin decided to turn into a near-bout of perioral dermatitis. This stuff wiped it out in a day. I have just ordered my second tube, one year later. I use it any time I have a blemish, scale, itchy spot, or any other skin infraction that should not be taking up residence on my skin. Seriously, this stuff is da bomb

I could go on all day, but suffice it to say that less is more with winter skin, and the more gentle and natural the products, the better my skin seems to fare. Here are some more of my favourites to keep things smooth and supple during these central heating months. 

Sauvez le peau!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Perspective on Man Style


As a female style-blogger, I admit to an inadvertent neglect in discussing men's fashion. As we all do, I tend to gravitate to the things that apply to me sartorially, and well...yeah. I'm a woman. But this week I got an email from Valerie, who works for men's retailer Paul Frederick (who is not paying me for this post, in case you were wondering), asking if I would like to share one of their recent blog articles on common male fashion blunders, and to weigh-in with my personal opinion on male style gaffes.

Generally I try not to make this blog into a "what not to wear" type of arrangement; goodness knows that there are plenty of those out there already, and fashion is such a subjective medium of expression, who am I to judge? Yet this particular request caught my attention. Most likely because moments before I clicked-open Valerie's email, I was lovingly chiding my husband for committing what I have always secretly felt is a sartorially unforgivable offence for a man over the age of 16; he was wearing a hoodie. Yes, I realise that this is my baggage, not his, and okay, he was just walking the dog, not actually going out anywhere per se, but it's the principal of the thing. To me, a middle-aged man in a hoodie exudes an ageing hipster vibe that functions as a type of Cryptonite for women. It's not necessarily a fit thing, not a fabric choice thing, or even about whether it is in good or bad taste. Unless it's worn with a suit jacket over the top. You know the look. That is simply unforgivable, and there should be a law.


For me, it is simply the message it sends; the refusal to grow up. The guy in the hoodie & suit jacket combo probably keeps a skateboard in his office, will take you to a dance club full of twentysomethings, one of whom he will likely dump you for because he makes her laugh and can name the cast of Jersey Shore.  Failure to launch ladies...abort mission! Abort! Abort!

See? All this from the simple act of layering a suit jacket over a hoodie, when really, he's probably a nice guy who takes his mother to lunch and rescues stray cats. The hoodie... that's just my thing.  What's yours? Discuss.

Lucky for us, Valerie has some slightly less judgemental tips for the men in your life than I do.


This entry was posted on December 13, 2013 under Dressing Guidelines. Written by: 

Whether you’re dressing for a job interview, a party, a day at the office, a night out, or a lazy Saturday at home, your choice of attire says something about you. Like it or not, your clothing sends a message–and that message isn’t always the one you want.
Like icebergs lurking in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, here are ten common fashion blunders that can sink your attempts at debonair sophistication. But like those icebergs, they’re all easily avoidable. All it takes is a little knowledge, common sense and preparation.

The Ill-Fitting Suit
image (2)First step on the road to sartorial proficiency is to make sure your jacket and pants actually fit, i.e. aren’t too loose or too tight, lest you evoke the look of a high schooler wearing his dad’s suit to the prom.

Unless you’re able to have a suit custom-made, buy off the rack and have your tailor make adjustments. Make sure to purchase a suit with as close to a proper fit as possible. Tailors aren’t wizards.

Pant and Sleeve Length
Sleeves and pant legs that are the wrong length will make you appear either sloppy or like you’ve outgrown your clothes without bothering to replace them, neither of which should be your objective, look-wise.
Trousers should have a slight break in the front without reaching the ground or bunching excessively (your socks should be hidden when you stand up straight). Sleeves should reach approximately to your wrist bone; one-fourth to one-half inch of your shirt cuff should be visible past the end of your coat sleeve.

Too Many Pleats
The benefits of pleats: they look more formal, they can be more comfortable when you sit, and, because they’re worn higher on the waist, they can have a slimming effect. The vertical lines can also make shorter men appear taller. Conversely, when worn incorrectly, they tend to bunch up with excess fabric around the crotch, particularly on skinnier men. If you’re on the thin side, you should stick to flat-fronts.

Suit and Backpack
You’re a put-together professional man. You’ve got your suit, you’ve got a great tie collection. Everything matches. Everything fits perfectly. But wait–what do you use to carry things to work? Of course, you think–you used a backpack every day at school until you graduated from college, why not stick with what works?

Here’s why: nothing undermines a great suit like making yourself look like a schoolboy. Invest in a quality briefcase or messenger bag to keep your appearance professional.

The Wrong Socks
imageSocks provide a great opportunity to make a fashion statement that’s simultaneously bold and subtle, but, particularly when you aren’t swinging for the fences, there are some rules. Match socks to your pants, not your shoes; if your pants are lighter than your shoes, your socks should be darker than your pants.

Also, we shouldn’t have to say this, but in the name of everything holy, don’t wear white athletic socks with dress clothes of any kind.

Socks and Sandals
Speaking of socks, this is a distressingly common mistake in more casual settings. Unless you’re from ancient Rome (in which case, welcome, time traveler!) or employed as a fashion model, you have no business attempting to pull this look off. Generally associated with clueless tourists and beachgoers; a faux pas so reviled, it has its own Wikipedia page. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

The Sometimes-Always-Never Rule
Once upon a time, men fastened whatever buttons on their coat they liked. Those days of unbridled anarchy are long gone, however. In the late 19th century, the very fashionable and very portly King Edward VII of England (then the Prince of Wales) started leaving the lower button of his waistcoat undone to more comfortably accommodate his girth. (King Edward was responsible for a number of other sartorial trends, including the modern black-tie tuxedo. He also supposedly rebuked his Prime Minister during an international crisis for wearing an improperly matched coat and trousers–here was a man with his priorities in order.)

You wouldn’t want to disappoint the King of England, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. Always leave your bottom button undone. On a two-button coat, button only the top button. When wearing a three-button coat, fasten the middle button; depending on the cut, you might button the top one as well. Thus: the “sometimes-always-never” edict.

The Wrong Necktie Length
image (1)The knot you use is a matter of personal style. The length of your necktie, generally speaking, is not.  A tie that reaches to somewhere on a man’s belt buckle radiates an aura of fashionable confidence; a tie that’s longer or shorter suggests carelessness and inattention to detail.

Mismatched Belt
This one’s simple, but when you do it wrong, it stands out. Match your belt to your shoes to avoid drawing disapproving stares.

Dirty Shoes
You don’t just need the right shoes, you need them to look good, too. Just like a wrinkled suit, scuffed, smudged, dirty or otherwise imperfect footwear can undermine your entire appearance. The good news: a little forethought and elbow grease (or shoe polish) can easily fix the problem.

It might seem like there are a million rules to follow. But the truth is, they aren’t difficult rules. It comes down to attention to detail. Buy dress shirts, suits, and pants that fit you. Maintain them properly. Beyond that? Once you know what to do and have laid the groundwork, it’s easy to keep yourself looking sharp in every situation.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cheap Bootie Fashion Mullet

That may be my favourite title ever, although I'm probably going to get porn spam now. Meh...but first, let me explain.

A month or so ago, I found these short, western-inspired booties in a sale on ASOS for £17. They have all-leather uppers with a classic wood stacked cowboy boot heel. Having only ever owned one other pair of cowboy boots when I was much younger and riding horses, I decided that £17 seemed like a good enough price to warrant some experimentation.

So far, I find that these booties look best when worn with an above the knee to midi length full skirt, although I also like them with skinny pants. They also look surprisingly good with a cropped pant, something I would not have thought of initially. These booties really work well at taking some of the sweetness out of a look to give it some edge. Today I paired them with the feminine detailing and prim silhouettes of a beaded cardigan and peplum top with a peter pan collar, worn with a skinny ankle pant. Like a sort of fashion mullet; all business on top, and a foot-stompin' hoedown on the bottom!

J. Crew sweater (old), similar / J. Crew peplum top (old), similar / Seven for all Mankind Jeans /  ASOS booties (old), similar, Judith Ripka watch (old), similar

Make it Happen.