Holiday capsule - help!!

So I'm off to Morocco for a couple of weeks as of tomorrow and I haven't been as good about planning my packing as I'd like to be. It's not a major disaster, but I'm taking some risks and I have the feeling I'm carrying too much. Also, the colour palette is all over the map.

The capsule involves a few decisions which take me somewhat out of my comfort zone, but this is my first trip to North Africa and I'd like to be dressed for both the climate and the culture. 

What do you guys think? Am I carrying too much for two weeks? Or have I forgotten something?

Controversial outfit move:
Dresses layered over pants and t-shirts. It's versatile and it fits with the local mores (I like a good pun, me) but it does involve more pieces than I would usually pack. 

5 dresses:

Wax print sack dress, red/navy
White shirt dress, long sleeved
White shirt dress, sleeveless
Draped tunic, blue/grey
T-dress, black w/metallic print

5 pairs pants:
Hiking pants, grey
Skinny chinos, navy
Track pants, navy
Wide leg lounge pants, black
Silk pyjamas, yellow floral

9 T-shirts
2 plain white
2 plain black
4 long sleeved 
1 woollen base layer

3 pairs shoes:
Lightweight (sort-of) desert boots
Sneakers
Sandals
Controversial footwear move:
Sandals are a very old pair of fancy Birkenstocks, which will be worn with statement socks. I think I can get away with it and I can't be doing with blisters. Or I could nix this and sub in an extra pair of sneakers.

Outerwear
Lightweight performance jacket, aqua
Quilted lightweight down jacket, chartreuse
Lightweight bomber, black.
I'm wondering if I need a lightweight fleece or hoodie here as well?

Accessories:
3 shawls
2 headscarves
2 baseball caps
Beanie
Sunglasses
I'll be experimenting with different head coverings during the trip. I'm no stranger to hats, but it's been a while since I tried a head wrap and I doubt if I'll graduate to a hijab. Will have to see how it goes.

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When the stars align… ETA scroll down for pics!

Forgive me if this becomes a rambling shaggy dog story but I think there must be a moral in here somewhere. Something about synchronicity and shopping strategies? I don’t know yet.

For a long time (coming on ten years now) I’ve had this rule about buying shoes: only two pairs a year, but make sure they’re really good ones. I’ve rarely stuck to the letter of the law but it’s served me very well in spirit and by now I’m very happy with my little shoe farm.

The downside is that this has made me a shameless shoe snob, and being so very fussy about footwear means I don’t always know what I want. How could I when I haven’t found it yet? For instance, it took me several years to track down last year’s OTK boots, and when I decided this year that I wanted to wear skirts more and should probably consider another pair, of course I found myself looking at duplicates of boots I already had. What would be the point of that? So I decided: OK. I really don’t need more boots. I can make do with what I have.

Meanwhile, for ages a friend had been goading me to visit our local TK (that’s TJ to you) Maxx. We don’t have many of these here in NL and they tend to be in remote locations. We spent weeks trying to align our respective agendas so as to make this excursion happen.

We finally met on a glorious autumn afternoon. We had lunch on the terrace. I ran through my mental shopping list - more socks, loungewear for Mr Edge - but I wasn’t expecting to find much and I swore blind I wasn’t going to buy anything if I did. We made our way to our destination.

Now, I’ve talked here in the past about the mind tricks I use to keep myself from shopping indiscriminately. As usual, I’d dressed up nicely for the occasion to keep temptation at bay, but I’d made one fatal error and I didn’t realise until it was too late. I was wearing my wide legged jeans.

And I’m not kidding, I spotted them as soon as I walked through the door. I’ve no idea how this works, but sometimes I get this laser focus. They weren’t even in my line of sight, but they were the first thing I saw. This shouldn’t happen, but somehow it keeps happening and I can’t believe my luck.

Margiela MM6, priced right down. White, high shaft, a chunky block heel, too cute to pass over. Of course. Finally. This is how I’m supposed to wear cropped flares. Cuff them just so and I’m in business.

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How NOT to wear etc

From last year. I even got away with it last week. None of you noticed, or perhaps you were too polite to say.

I have every intention of repeating this horrifying faux pas as often as possible this season. 

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Style Lab Redux: Colour & Texture

A while ago, I typed myself as a Winter. Amazingly useful as this knowledge has been, it’s obvious to me that there’s more to optimising colour effects than simply knowing whether they suit you in theory. While working through my seasonal refresher, it finally became clear where this was heading. Please join me while I quack-science the hell out of a seemingly straightforward problem. Warning: it’s long.

Colouring: Winter - cool, medium to high contrast.

My colour story so far: http://youlookfab.com/welookfa.....ght-winter

I’ve been wearing a Winter palette for a while and by now I can tell the difference. I definitely look better in these colours, and the down jacket in #1 finally cliched it for the Deep end of the spectrum. Bright but far from luminous, I can’t quite manage a zinging neon but this particular shade of citron is a surprising success. I had no idea.

My ultimate objective in identifying this colour family has been to work out how to hack it. Is it possible to wear colours that don’t suit me, and if so, how?

Outside the Winter palettes, there are indeed a few colours I probably shouldn’t be wearing, and yes, they make me look pretty grim in the wrong light, but it’s not as simple as that. It seems to me that interaction of different colours is every bit as important as the colours themselves. A lot depends on fabric texture, luminosity, and how they combine. For instance, the almost-neon orange of my favourite beanie works very well as an accent on high-contrast black and white looks, in spite of being warmer than perhaps is good for me.

Core Neutrals: Black, white, navy blue.

Secondary neutrals: charcoal, pale grey, purple, cognac

Brights: True red, shocking pink, icy pastels, metallic silver, cobalt, citron. Preferably cool, but anything at just the right level of intensity or saturation can do the trick. There seems to be a sweet spot.

Problem colours: Moss green, dark lime, olive, army green, beige, dark reds, salmon pink, taupe. Shades of grey are a problem - good at the ends of the spectrum, troublesome in the middle.

Styling Priorities: colour contrast and depth.

I’ve found that applying a few Kibbe principles alongside the colour theory can make a world of difference. I know exactly what this means aesthetically but I still can’t quite explain it without using words like yin and yang.

Kibbe type: Soft dramatic/flamboyant natural. Strong vertical lines and bold proportions are key.

Fabric  Surface texture can have a huge impact. Outlines should be bold and well-defined.

  • Reflective: metallics, pleather, sateen
  • Matte: scuba knit, technical fabric, poplin, polyester
  • Plush: velvet, melton, faux fur, cashmere, mohair, shearling

Grooming: Hairstyle, eyewear and lip colour establish the overall aesthetic. The rest of the package had better match up.

Troubleshooting

With the exceptions in the first row, these outfits are all about wearing colours that I don’t believe particularly suit me but I’m committed to wearing anyway. Hence, you might think these are not some of my best looks. Please feel free to tell me so - that’s what this exercise is for.


1-5 High shine, bright accents

This approach feels the most authentic and the easiest to wear. Works very well as a day to day style. I like the combination of timeless classic and urban glam - Acid Sport, all grown up.

Difficulty level: easy

#2-3 The dark red and olive featured here are closer to the Autumn palette but they mix well with black when combined with different textures. Plush fleece and glossy leather add depth and shine.

#4-5 Black and white can easily become boring, so I’ve become more adventurous lately in mixing it up with different colours and textures. I’m particularly pleased with the sequin decals on this old +J jacket. 3D skinny knit from Uniqlo U, vintage white plissé skirt.


6-10 Depth, contrast, graphic details

A good reference point for my boho shadow style, this draws heavily from the Deep Autumn palette. I’m beginning to think I have two divergent wardrobes.

Difficulty level: medium

#6-7 Mr Edge chose this autumn-coloured wrap so I have to wear it. Luckily, there’s enough depth in the red and grey for it to work. Spot the difference: lip colour and high-contrast graphic details elevate the look.

#8 This self-made wax print dress was one of my favourite looks from the summer, but these really aren’t my colours. It works because of the strong vertical silhouette, bold proportions and the graphic precision the print.

#9 Same thing applies to the vintage Kenzo, which I adore. Timeless tailoring and an excellent fit go a long way to compensate for too-warm colours. Corrected with a layer of citron and a shiny black support act.

#10 This Vibskov grandpa cardigan is more complicated. The bold black trim give the warmer colours and marled texture a boost. The B/W print on the tee emphasises the vertical lines.


11-15 Taming soft colours with brightness and depth

A few particularly good pieces from the Summer palette found their way in and hung around. They seem well balanced by Spring brightness and Winter depth, but this theory needs work.

Difficulty level: advanced

#11 I’ve struggled with this vintage skirt from Dries van Noten in the past and now I understand why. I like it with this cerise blouse from Zara but will probably save this look for next spring, along with 12.

#12 This Pleats Please scarf is another of Mr Edge’s choices. I doubt I’d have picked these colours out for myself, but they’re just bright enough and they play nicely with both black and white. I’m still learning how to tie it.

#13 This striped jersey dress is another problem child. Across YLF eyebrows are being raised and heads shaken but let me tell you there’s some advanced colour theory going on here. I may come back to this look for research purposes.

#14-15 I love this jumper and I will wear it regardless, even crumpled from storage as seen here. Doubt if the necklace helps much but the soft colours fail reasonably gracefully thanks to the long silhouette and the metallic sheen in the skirt.

That’s I’m telling myself anyway, because when all else fails I will suck it up. I’ll probably wear this over Christmas, to overeat and be cozy.

Conclusions

SCA is consistent with my knowledge of other theories of colour and it seems to hold up in practice. However, it’s not an exact science and there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre. I love the brightness, depth and contrast of the Winter palettes and they seem to like me too. I’m not getting any younger and I think optimising the colours will be a great way to keep the look going. If I want to make the most of a range of colours I’ll need to master some of the above principles. Hair, eyewear and lip colour are key to this, the rest can follow along.

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Seasonal refresher WIW

I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. I’ve had some health problems this summer and spent way too much of it in my pyjamas. In my defence, they were very nice pyjamas, but not really worth talking about on a fashion forum.

Hence I’ve been caught somewhat on the back foot by the changing weather. I usually enjoy dressing for the transitional season, but there’s always a week or so when I don’t quite know what to reach for, even more so when I haven’t been getting out much. This is when I have to trust my instincts, falling back on some established formulae as well as testing out some new styles.

The budget had a hammering earlier in the year (prescription sunglasses and a new handbag) so not much room to splurge but I did manage to add a few inexpensive essentials and I’m finding new ways with existing items and a slightly different hairstyle.

So here’s a preview of the new direction, which doesn’t stray terribly far from the old one, but it’s feeling sharper in some areas, softer and more refined in others, but still quite unfinished in places.

Old favourites: mannish looks

Random thought: Suz and skylurker both mentioned elsewhere that dressy menswear felt more “feminine” to them. I feel the opposite - these two looks are a case in point. Interesting how that plays out.

1. An old blazer from Jil Sander +J for Uniqlo, still my high water mark for mass market designer collaborations. It’s a great fit but the mossy green is not my best colour. I’m liking this year’s embellishment trends so I added some sequin appliqué. As for the outfit, I loved it on the day, but looking at it now I’m cringing at such an obvious throwback. This is pure 1980’s Camden Town, and I know this because I was there. I’m regressing, clearly.

2. I love this grandpa cardigan from Henrik Vibskov. I’ve had it ages and it’s impossible to style without looking sloppy but I don’t care. It’s reasonably flop-proof over a black and white printed tee, but I don’t think I’ve ever done better than Edvard Munch.


New acquisitions: lady looks.

Random thought: last year’s Style Lab exercises helped me focus more sharply on what my closet really needs, and how to shop for updates. The skirt in particular is a great addition, because it’s got me reaching for my other skirts too. I fully expect to wear skirts more this winter.

3. I went for a skirt and bag from the JW Anderson + Uniqlo collection. Both are pulling their weight, both are great for the price, (as good as +J? Dunno.) Here with last year’s boots and a leather/wool sweatshirt I made ages ago.

4. This black scuba knit tee with pastel shoulder insets from &OtherStories is one of the most useful things I’ve bought this year. Great for my body shape, goes with everything. I wish I’d bought two of them. The skirt, boots and fleece (Uniqlo again, haha! Are you seeing a pattern here?) have been around a while.


Vintage treasures: my boho shadow

Random thought: this is my personal danger zone. The risk of keeping a large wardrobe as a working resource is that it can very easily turn into a museum. I have some outstanding pieces here which I love dearly but are irrelevant as fashion items in any given year. My instinct is always to hold onto them until the moment they’re wearable again, but I can’t always wait for that to arrive.

5. I love this ’80’s vintage Kenzo jacket and I’ve worn it quite a lot. This is a prototype look for the coming season, layered over a lightweight down jacket. I’d like to wear it again this year but probably not like this. I think I can make it work one way or another. Maybe with a full midi skirt?

6. Granny takes a trip indeed, I had a major Westwood moment in my pyjama bottoms (see if you can guess where I bought them) with the pirate boots and Anglomania blouse. Two more pieces I love and enjoyed in the moment but should probably bench for now.

What are your thoughts? Your honest feedback is most appreciated.

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Returning to a favourite formula

I'm really liking the return of dresses over pants. Like Angie, I was a big fan of the A-line over skinnies look (somewhere in the last decade) and I'm fully on board with the current incarnation of sack/shirt dresses. It's a fantastic way to get the most out of a summer tunic, particularly in the cooler Northern European climate. 

I made this wax print dress a couple of years ago. I'm very fond of the pattern but it's a bit too casual on its own so I'd been thinking of shortening it. I'll probably leave it as it is for now, because this longer length feels very contemporary over jeans this summer. I'm not sure I would have thought of this combination without a bit of extra YLF inspiration, but I love it and I'm definitely wearing it again. Thanks Angie!

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K/R: comfort object/conceptual art/luggage

I mentioned a while ago that I'd probably be buying a new handbag this year. This is not it. This is something that got bookmarked last summer and since then admired, pondered and coveted but never seriously considered until last week when it came up on discount. 

So I've finally got one of these amazing bags by Christopher Raeburn. I've been stalking his collections for a few years now, and he seldom disappoints. He's well known and much admired for his innovative techniques with reused/recycled materials, but I'm every bit as impressed by his refined interpretations of urban sportswear. 

I'm quite smitten with this little dude. I think he'll be a fun companion for summer festivals and afternoons in the park and I see him working well as a focal point with minimal black and white looks. When it comes to bags though, I'm quite ruthlessly practical if not downright minimalist. I'll save the bigger picture for another post about my carrying strategy but for now, let's just say this is a major departure for me.

Now I need your honest opinion. I have never, ever owned or carried anything remotely like this. Well, not since I was ten. I'm not sure I'm cool enough to throw him over my shoulder like any other bag. What if I accidentally cuddle him in public? I have no idea if I can pull this off.

The return window is generous, but I need to decide before he tries to make friends with me. If that happens there's no way I'll be able to put him back in that box.

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Fashion with a capital F.

Much as I love clothes, there are times when I really, really hate Fashion. I hate it for failing to amaze me. I hate it for making me grind my teeth while I click through acres of editorial looking for something I haven’t seen before. I hate it for wearing its lineage on its unnecessarily complicated sleeve and for being so thoroughly predictable. Most of all, I hate it for turning itself into a caricature.

Bear with me. My original plan was to work through Angie’s handy spring style cheat sheet (I scored 9 out of 10) but as usual I’ve got something else to say about what’s happening in Fashion right now. I see it on the cool kids in my town, at the art school where I work, and on the catwalks of New York, Paris and London. It’s not pretty.

Ground Zero for these disturbing developments is Paris based streetwear brand Vetements. Here, helmsman Demna Gvasalia is busy grinding out velour tracksuits and windbreakers so the 1% can spend a fortune on goods they could have bought at Walmart. That’s Fashion’s democratisation apparently, but the press remains politely silent about a certain historical precedent.

There’s more. The Georgian superstar has a second gig at Balenciaga which, classic boots notwithstanding, is all but unrecognisable as the brand that Nicolas Ghesquière reinvigorated to such great effect in the late 1990’s. Their inflatable vest is not suitable for life preservation, as Net-a-Porter helpfully remind us, should you be tempted to wear one on your yacht this summer. To my shame, I find myself actually wanting it, but my budget has its limits so I’m settling for a quilted jacket in YLF citron from Marks & Spencer. Call it this year’s wild card.

Down the road at Gucci, Alessandro Michele presents a meticulously crafted retro chic confection which, minus the sumptuous embellishment, could be replicated at any medium-sized flea market. Utterly gorgeous, entirely derivative. I remember a pair of no logo Italian-made jeans I packed away in 2005 because I couldn’t bear to part with them. It’s always sobering when something you bought as a grown woman finally achieves vintage provenance, but it’s not the first time and they’re a nice pair of pants that fit as well as they ever did. Those are Swarovski crystals, I’ll have you know. But don’t worry, if dressing like a thrift-store urchin makes you queasy, there’s always the branded tees that look like they came from a street stall in Marseilles.

Can you see where this is going? The Emperor has no clothes, or no new ones at least. The snake devours its own tail. These designers, two of the most influential players in the business, are plundering a backlog of urban style so unoriginal it can make a white tube sock look inexplicably desirable to the global elite. This is what had to happen for Fashion to Keep It Real and I’m sorry to say I saw it coming a mile off. Granted, that article is a year old almost to the day, but so little has changed that I can do nothing but shrug my shoulders, climb on board and say I told myself so.

Sigh.

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The power of lipstick

I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of enclothed cognition, which Angie has mentioned in the past. In case you missed it, this is the scientifically proven theory that what you’re wearing can change the way you think.

This makes a lot of sense to me, because I’m a firm believer in the power of a great outfit. I’m well aware of how my clothes can affect my performance in the classroom, on the sales trail or out with friends. At this point in my life (existential crisis, career uncertainty, years of therapy) I’d like to explore the idea further and consider how I can use my wardrobe to pull myself out of this funk.

In the meantime, I owe you all a picture of my new haircut and the Ann D’s. Not to mention my thoughts on cropped flares (I’m still struggling) and a true red lip (I’m a fan). I could talk at length about all these things, as well as this look I cribbed from Angie, or how these surprisingly comfortable shoes can elevate the simplest of outfits, but what I really need to tell you is this.

It pains me to say it, but lipstick, heels, the right bra and a good haircut really do change the way I feel about myself, however temporarily. For a few moments in front of a cheap camera in poor lighting I can loose all that baggage and somehow come up with a handful of pictures that remind me who I am and who I can be. During a bout of seasonal depression, what could have felt like a mindless extravagance turned out to be an amazing boost.

Yes, I’m worth it. A new Facebook avatar earns a like from a man who broke my heart thirty years ago. That’s the power of a strong lip and a bold shoe.

I found more confirmation today when I put on a well cut blazer, Japanese-style harem pants, a Breton shirt and vintage oxfords. The effect was calming and meditative: I felt serene, balanced, grounded and receptive, so I went to look at some art with Mr Edge. It’s entirely possible dressing like a Euro intellectual boosted my IQ, because later in the day I managed to find a lot of Dutch words I didn’t know I knew. I also felt somewhat aloof and slightly smug.

Further tests are needed.

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Style descriptors: a thought experiment

Of many useful things I've learned on here on this forum, one of the most valuable has to be the five words I use to describe my style.

I originally came up with these by looking at my shopping strategy, and since then I've come to realise how well they describe different aspects of my look. But there's more. I realised quite recently that each one is a response to fundamental aspects of my lived experience:

  • Timeless: approaching change
  • Urban: dressing for my environment
  • Eclectic: acknowledging diverse influences
  • Androgynous: a statement on body image
  • Individual: an assertion of selfhood
This made me wonder if this is something anyone else has noticed. When you talk about your style, or set style goals for yourself, what aspect of your life are you serving? Could it be one of these, or is it something else? 

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