Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Incorrigibly plural

If pressed I'd have to say my lucky number is three, although today everything came to me in twos.

I started my day in one fresh-from-the-pack pair of pantyhose, laddered them by 11am and had to access my emergency pair I keep stashed in my desk at work.

I had lunch with a very dear old friend who, since I last saw her, has brought forth two children. On my way back to work after two courses of fine food I took two phone calls that filled my afternoon with predictable dramas.

I turned off my computer at two minutes past six.

When I came home there were two packages waiting for me.

The ivory bag is a vintage Koret, and the chocolately girl is a vintage Rosenfeld. They are both very welcome additions to my bag collection. Both were procured through eBay and come to me from the US, the centre of the handbag universe as I know it.

While my dinner was underway (I had two poached eggs) I noted my reading material for tonight includes two publications -  a magazine that has just been reinvented and an Australian fashion how-to guide which I am truly loving:

These pages are from Wardrobe 101, written by Dijanna Mulhearn and illustrated by Megan Hess.  This very beautiful book is a treasure trove of sage advice, tips, handy hints and contributions from stylists, bloggers & assorted fashion professionals.  The colour illustrations are particularly helpful and work alongside the author's well devised tips for combining colours in your daily outfits. The book also features relevant photographs and brief, interesting chapters about some classic garments and how they might work for you. Wardrobe 101 published in Australia by Thames and Hudson and is on sale at many local booksellers, though I bought it online at The author even signed for me, which I thought was very stylish indeed.  It's a great read and highly recommended. 


The other fashion snack I plan to finish tonight is Company magazine, a British magazine that has just had a makeover. I have to say up front that Company's demographic is roughly half my age and as such the actual content is not entirely engrossing for me. BUT, she says in capital letters, I am borderline obsessed with its layout and production values. The mag was formerly a glossy - now it's small, sleek, glowing on smart matt paper and, most interestingly, set out like a style blog. The content borrows heavily on street style and young female bloggers while the editorials are far less didactic that the usual fashion mag rants, and read almost like a cosy chat.  I spend a vast amount of my waking hours consuming, analysing and contributing to mass media so I find the slow amalgamation of traditional media with new media fascinating. I bought the airmail copy of this in the excellent news agency in Darlinghurst.

Despite my fashioncentric reading list, I'm not sure whether I'll be making any grand statements with my clothes tomorrow. Sydney is sopping at the moment and my main concern is being low key and dry. I'm wondering if it's too early in the year to bring out the boots - they guarantee dry feet but are hellish if it gets too warm. It's a compelling dilemma, and I'm in two minds about it. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Around some of the world in just one coat

Speaking of classics, as we were, here is something that once was classic to me but is no more. I've grown a little weary of it's shapeless bulk and fundamentally unflattering lines. Before it goes to the op shop, I'm taking this opportunity to document its service to me:  readers, I give you my blue coat, which has coddled me through four northern hemisphere winters, driven me mad by rasping my neck when I've omitted to wear a scarf and kept dry countless train tickets and bags of sweeties in its cavernous pockets. My blue coat has been with me when I have...

 ...eaten the best hot chips in the world (Six Nations Rugby match, Murryfield, Edinburgh)

...celebrated some birthdays

 ...considered a career change

...scoured markets 

...stood on the international dateline...

...fed the locals

...sampled indigenous foods

...visited some of my heroes

...crossed some bridges

...felt perfectly safe amongst some of great masterpieces of the nineteenth century

...hung out at the library (this is my favourite building in the world)

...visited historical battle fields

...relished the rain

....and shopped.

Au revoir, blue coat! I hope your next owner has as much fun with you as I have.

Monday, February 27, 2012

At this blessed moment

Today was all about schlepping - schlepping my gym gear, schlepping news papers, stepping out in my break to schlepp some magazines and a minor treasure haul from a local op shop. Observe this excellent silk jersey knit that I could not leave behind, despite the fact it doesn't fit very well:
 Here's the print close up. I love the colours, and I love the effect they have on each other. I'm thinking it may be able to be cut into a very wearable skirt. Well, I'm hoping.

And here is a woman who schleps. She's wearing a fairly standard wardrobe that suits a very humid, heated Sydney Monday - a Veronica Maine pencil skirt from the sales two years ago, a cotton Free People blouse that I stalked on Asos until it was $22 and the thrifted DavidLawrence jacket that is certainly earning its keep this summer.  The shoes are from Aerosole in San Francisco and abysmally comfortable.

My learned friend insists this shot - which he took with his extremely posh Leica M9 - is out of focus but he's wrong: it's me.

Apparently it will be hotter and muggier tomorrow. I am planning to schlep less.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

All colours combined in a laneway

It has been the weekend of the million calories. It started with the grocery shopping on Friday night and kept expanding, with my waistline, right up until Sunday night.  Everything I did this weekend was about food.

The weekend kicked off  with me fretting over the safety of my vegetables while privately admiring Mr Baxter's skill in matching his car to my work wardrobe. I hate buying groceries after work - I'm hungry and want to buy things like roast chickens and kilogram bags of mixed sweeties. I showed restraint while wearing a Von Troska jacket, a deceptively simple silk blouse from Monoprix, an Agnes B skirt and Ferragamo shoes that I scored for a few bucks on eBay. And the not-a-Kelly-bag Bayswater.

On Saturday evening, after three food related chores I undertook during the day, we went dinner at some friends' home. This caused me great delight because they are Fijian Indians and both amazing cooks.  I wore my hungry/delighted face...

...a cream dress from Asos, a black belt from a favourite op shop in Newtown...

  ...a pink Fendi bag (eBay again)...

 ...and the most ridiculously comfortable ballet flats from Gap that I bought three years ago in Paris.  I wear them sparingly because I can't bear the idea of having to throw them out when they are reduced to shreds of leather.

Do you like Asos? It runs hot and cold for me. I estimate that I've returned about half of the things I've bought there - their sizing is inconsistent and sometimes the fabrics and/or workmanship are very cheap. Yet other times the items are fantastic value for money and a joy to wear. I wonder how the millions of Asos shoppers around the world are faring.

I'll leave you with some extremely pretty candy-striped orchids that I didn't buy at the market in Reunion. I hope your weekend is every bit as cheerful and exciting as these lovely blooms.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Make a real confession

Everything I read, and indeed many people I encounter on a daily basis, suggest I should wear more colours. You wear a lot of black, they say. You should be more adventurous, the books say.

But the thing is this: I really love black. I love rose pinks and creams and red and green and teal and orange too, but I love black with a passion.

I love that it covers you like a shadow and allows you to blend in seamlessly where ever you go. I love that hides a multitude of sins, including gluttony and sloth. I love that it it signifies an absence of colour yet is so welcoming to other colours, allowing a void that can only be enhanced by ivory or ginger or even navy.

I love that it makes crystals sparkle and pearls glow. I love that no other colour makes a simple shift so utterly adaptable to any occasion.  I love that it can be deep and glossy in a satin or silk, or frail and cloudy in a thin cotton. I love that it makes wool coats a little warmer.

I love that I can get out bed, slurp hot coffee while peering in my wardrobe, slip a black dress over my head and everything else will fall into place in seconds: shoes, scarf, blazer, earrings.

You can't categorise black. It can be painfully hip, deadly serious, low key, formal, casual or regal. It goes everywhere but makes no unreasonable demands for attention the way yellow or red do. It's not soft like pink and it's not high maintenance like white.

I applaud every colourful outfit I see and really enjoy watching how people of the blog universe mix their hues ... but I think we need to be a little more forgiving of black. It does us all a lot of favours.

The jacket is a recent thrift find - David Lawrence, 6.00 from Vinnies in Chatswood. There's those Vara pumps again - working overtime because they are so comfortable.

 The dress is from Jaeger in London. Jaeger is the one thing I have in common with Sylvia Plath - she loved it too.

The pin is a stonking big blister pearl in a weird oyster colour. I love it.

Meanwhile Ellie, who rather rocks black accents herself, found me and my black manifesto entirely unintersting.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Those were the happiest days of my life

In an ideal world, a person who has enjoyed two months' (hard earned) break would turn their mind to serious things, including the front pages of the daily newspapers, budgets and section 137bb. (Yes, it has two bs. No, I'm not knowing.)

I spend today wondering about the non-classics items of clothing. I know all about the classics all the books say we must have in our wardrobe. I want to know what the non-classics are. What things are destined to be donated to charity or selling on eBay for a few dollars by the end of this year? Bird prints? Jumpsuits? Ballet flats? (No! Not ballet flats!)

Meanwhile I was wearing my classics, which I guess subscribe to every list of classics every compiled:

 A plain black sheath from Jigsaw

 A plain silk-cotton blouse from Banana Republic

Ferragamo Vara pumps, thrifted from St Vincent De Paul in Rozelle, a nice plain black leather belt from the Turnaround second hand clothing store in Newtown,  Wolford tights and the Mulberry Bayswater that is obviously not a Kelly bag.

The train was empty. It always is when it gets to my stop.

At lunch time I took my interesting train of thoughts to a local charity shop and flicked through the racks to see what wasn't classic, what may had been discarded because they were dated or out of sync with current fashion. It's a subjective conclusion. I found lots of dresses cut on the bias, lots of loud blousy floral prints, lots of button-down frocks from the mid nineties and a ridiculous shallow baking pan for cooking heart-shaped muffins, all of which I believed to be superseded and irrelevant in fashion terms.

I also found countless classics - well, items the style books would brand classic - but that apparently weren't for their owners, not any more. Oh, and a lace tablecloth, which obviously I bought straight away.

It's got me thinking.  Are classics a myth?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The great French equation

There are many trillions of things I love about France - food, architecture, people. language, parks, crepes, grafitti, food markets, the smell of the chicken and potatoes on the rotisserie in the food markets - but what I love most is the way French women dress.

 I don't usually buy into the stereotypes attributed to countries, especially not as far as style is concerned, but it is undeniable in this instance: French women really are fabulously well dressed.

I watch them closely whenever I'm there and until recently thought that there was no obvious formula or discernible method to their style, that it was some secret alchemy that could not be imitated outside of France or by a non-French citizen.

But that was until I finally came up with the equation as I watched a young woman in Paris waiting at some traffic lights with a companion. They appeared to be on their way to or from a work meeting. It was a Wednesday and they sounded like they were discussing business. Madame was dressed in all black....

...except for her tights, which were brown and her bag, which was perfectly red. It sounds a bit odd but she looked fantastic. The varied textures of the black garments was highlighted by the brown tights. The red bag was plain but beautiful quality. The effect was flattering, a little quirky, refined, work-appropriate, feminine - her outfit ticked so many boxes it seemed impossible. How can one person look so right with such a simple style deviation?

Later that same day I was trying to sneak a photo of some older men playing checkers in a little park, and another example of real style whizzed passed me.

This woman wore a fitted red leather jacket, a fishtail skirt in lilac and black, tight fitting black jeggings, a red coloured scarf and her heavy dark hair was soft and unstyled. It was a wonderful combination and suited her so well. I wouldn't choose any of the items this woman is wearing; if confronted with them piece by piece, I wouldn't dream that they would work together. But they did, and she too looked fantastic: colourful, breezy and comfortable. I found myself wanting every single garment she wore and wanting her confidence even more. How does she do it, I wondered? Why does she look so great?

And then it hit me:

What I like + Comfort x (flattering version for me) - brash
______________________________________________     = French style
      Best quality I can afford + trends I find appealing

After my eureka moment, I sought to expand my theory by closer observation as  I shopped. Let me share my findings.

French women like quality, dependability and they are loyal to the outlets that provide that. I saw women in Monoprix (a French chainstore that can be most closely compared to Target), in Gap, in Zara, in Dries Van Noten, in Galleries Layfayette - shopping right across the board and making their selections very carefully. Young and older women shop in similar places and the seek the same things. For example, Monoprix released a range of very flattering trench coats while I was there. They did them in two colours - black and khaki. I saw all kinds of women - younger, older, full figured, slender  - head for those coats like they were called by a siren. The black sold out everywhere over about three days. Other things that grabbed their immediate attention include: plain blouses, florals (especially skirts) tights, medium height or flat shoes, blazers of any kind, sparkly jewellery and large softly structured functional bags.

Oh, and underwear. I believe it is impossible to buy dreary underwear in France.

They shop carefully. Shops in France have to by law display prices with their goods in any window display, so devising a wardrobe to your budget before you actually splurge is eminently possible with some window shopping in Paris. And there are few malls. All the great shopping districts are a mixture of independent boutiques interspersed with chainstores (Zara et al) so there is endless variety.

They wear their accessories sparingly and use colour as a punctuation mark rather than a clause. They are always well groomed - clean, clothes ironed, shoes in good repair - and they will err on the side of conservative rather than garish. Oh, and the gaelic complexion - dark hair and eyes, smooth olive skin - is the perfect canvas for a swipe of dramatic red lipstick.

So there you have it, the missing equation in true style according to a wandering blogger.

That's all I have, except for the picture of the guys playing checkers.