Put a bird on it (K/R Armani man bag)

The zipper has broken on the black leather sling bag I have been using for the last couple of seasons. This is a major setback. The thing never made much sense aesthetically, but it was nice to wear and incredibly useful. A poorly made but lovable item that made itself indispensable. I am considering repairing it, which will probably be messy and not worth the effort. Rather like the selfies from my mobile phone.

The frog purse i posted earlier is very wearable. Too wearable, if such a thing were possible. It ticks all the usability boxes, but it is a poor team player, too distinctive for daily use. If I’m not careful, it will become a signature.

I need to find an alternative, a hands free arrangement that I can wear under a jacket. Something small and flexible, almost but not quite a cross body man-bag. Larger slings and chest bags are generally too bulky, and the current fanny pack trend looks terrible on me.

I have said many times, bags are a problem. I think of them as luggage, and am always looking for functionality, which invariably means compromising my stylistic impulses somewhere down the line. Also, I dislike panic purchasing. I would sooner let things turn up rather than shop to fill a niche. Mostly, I do just that. This time, the failure needs to be rectified.

So I looked around and ordered this thing here, on a deep discount with promotional extras, and I doubt I could do better for the price unless I get very lucky. A stylistic wild card that fulfills all my functional requirements:

https://www.yoox.com/nl/455342.....8;sizeId=1

I never imagined I would wear Armani, but there is lots to love about this bag. It is compact and tactile, lush like a little cushion. It wears well from many angles, although it may need tweaking to get it working how I want it. I was drawn to its unique appearance from the get-go, and while I was hoping for black I can happily live with this blue. Almost KLM blue, in fact. Come to think of it, the eagle logo makes it look like a miniature flight bag. Also available in olive drab, which is more versatile but less appealing. Given the choice between Top Gun and Airplane, I choose Airplane every time. Insert ongoing Great Planes gag and a multi-layered fashion joke which nobody gets but me.

So why is this a keep or return?

  1. This is not a replacement for the sling, but an alternative to the frog purse. It is not a neutral option. It makes a bit of a statement. It goes with many things, but not with everything. Mr Edge said he thought it looked a bit boxy, but correctly pointed out that if I liked it, his opinion was irrelevant. I can see myself wearing it all summer, then swapping to something else when the weather cools down and the winter wardrobe kicks in. If I keep it, I will still be shopping for another sling, but less urgently.
  2. Not wild about the strap. An arrangement that doubles as a belt or shoulder bag was a major selling point, and the bag works well both ways, but the strap is way too long. It feels like it may rub in some wearing configurations. The quick release buckle is a mixed blessing, so bulky and awkward I had to convince myself it was fitted correctly. If this is a keeper, at the very least the strap will need shortening so that the buckle sits closer to the bag and does not clash with my collar. This is a simple alteration, not a fix I can do myself but I know a man who can.
  3. For reasons I cannot quite fathom, I feel very odd about wearing the visible branding, and I have no idea why. Maybe it makes me feel like an imposter, or maybe the brand is wearing me. No logo should ever intrude on product design, even though this is nicely done. The question is, if I am going to be anybody’s walking advertisement, why should it be Armani? This is not a club I belong to, and I never will. That bird will have to do an awful lot of work.

My inclination is to keep it and wear it without alterations, and either alter it or pass it on depending on how I feel about it. I may even learn to love the strap as it is, along with the rampaging imposter syndrome.

What do you guys think? 

Yay: it’s cute and a keeper. Pretend you’ve joined the mile high club!

Nay: too much logo and the strap is annoying. Keep looking!

Seen here with a kimono jacket, with which it plays very nicely thank you.

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Buffalo Kawaii

First of all, allow me to apologize for being such a flaky correspondent, but writing is a chore all of its own these days. Furthermore, I am struggling to regain my fashion mojo, not to mention some persistent nameless anxiety about engaging online. The less said about that the better. We shall see how we go.

Anyway, a few things happened lately to rekindle my enthusiasm, one of which being the rediscovery of a long lost jacket. This opened up some possibilities which in turn prompted the assemblage of a new spring outfit capsule. Since I have neither the means nor the motivation to take a decent selfie right now, I decided the thing to do was give you an idea of what I am wearing, as well as record some outfit ideas to get me thinking creatively again.

The jacket, unearthed by Mr Edge during an archeological dig into a hitherto unexplored storage area, was thrifted some twenty years ago. At the turn of the millennium, I liked it enough to change up some nasty gold toggles for wooden beads, and to take it on holiday with me to Italy, which I suspect may be its spiritual home. I had forgotten all about it until a couple of weeks ago, when something reminiscent passed me on the street and I wondered what had happened to it. Days later, it reappeared. I put it straight on, and immediately felt like myself.

It lacks identifying markings, but I think it dates back to the early 1990’s, an era commonly known as the Golden Age of the Factory Shop. Judging by the slope on the shoulders, it was designed to be worn oversized, or maybe a size 38 was much bigger back then. I cannot for the life of me recall any precise moment when something as odd as this was fashionable, but it’s an oddness that appealed to me then, and still appeals to me now.

The inspiration for this look came once again from Japanese streetwear, without which I doubt I could get dressed at all. This is where I learned how to pair the jacket with distressed denim and a printed tee. The kawaii kicks in with the Tokyo Bopper platforms and a purse arrangement small enough to wear inside the jacket. A quirky choice, but the best match I can manage right now. Something slightly less daft is on its way to me from Yoox, which may or may not be an improvement. Mid layers include a Henrik Vibskov cardigan, lately a firm favourite, or a stretch denim jacket from Oska, perpetually orphaned but too nice to pass on. Footwear is a good way to sharpen things up, and I am pondering variants with the Church’s brogues or the Santoni winklepickers. Finished with a cute pin purchased from Jane Weaver at last night’s gig.

And there you have it. The name of my new look is Buffalo Kawaii, although the closest this jacket has been to the Great Planes is Schiphol Airport. Still pretty scruffy, but at least I feel somewhat pulled together. A fistful of silver jewelry and a nice watch may go a long way, but this has to be an improvement on my lockdown concept wardrobe, aka Uniqlo Accessorized.

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Silver Salvage

Silver salvage. A colour and a word.

It could have been Polychrome Chaos. Maybe you remember when it would have been, but she’s gone now, leaving behind only a ghost of recall, as elusive as the Internet before social media, when all we had were usenet and chat clients.

I wonder where that woman went. I seem to have forgotten more than she ever knew. Whatever is left of her is kicking over the traces, all pajamas and unruly hair, laughing at jokes I wrote months ago. Was anything real back then? Are we getting better now? Is it safe to leave the house today? How can we be sure?

Does anybody remember what normal means?

Is it a colour or a feeling, this silver I have in mind? I know it when I see it. A metallic, reflective surface. A camouflage between the seen and the unseen, a place where individual and anonymous meet halfway. A suit of shining armor, or a cloak of invisibility. A shimmer.

Silver is currency in the palm of a fortune teller. Salvage my desire to move on, taking what I need with me.

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Outerwear challenge plus: luggage edition

When Katerina declared her outerwear challenge, I knew I was in. Having spent last winter navigating sartorial doldrums in a +J down jacket, this year I’d like to get my cosy coats on again. To make it happen, first I have to crack the luggage code.

The reason for this is that my usual formulaic solutions are breaking down. The entire capsule needs a rethink, particularly for travel purposes.

The idea is to get back to using a single small bag on the regular, otherwise I lose things. Most of the time, what I really need is not so much a bag as an extra pocket, for keys, wallet, phone and face masks. Lightweight, compact, big enough for not much else, paired with a lightweight tote for carrying sundries. If I can keep the essentials in one place, I can leave the house in a timely fashion.

To solve the problem, here comes a no name harness bag bought from the Fez tannery, chosen in lieu of a bum bag, or fanny pack as I believe you call it across the pond. Those things look terrible on me, (insert joke here about Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple breasted etc etc.) so I opted to try its less bulky cousin, reasoning that where the bum bag led, the harness would surely follow as the chest bag du jour. I was right about that. A fringe trend at the moment, thanks to Virgil Abloh they threaten to come roaring back at any time, in which case I should get my wear in right now. As an unexpected benefit, surprisingly useful for taming any blazer or fitted jacket which no longer fastens.

So far, so good. I want to make it the default carry for the season and see how far the formula can go. To this end, I will be benching some of my other bags for the time being, including those favorites which are proving impractical right now, on account of everything ending up in the wrong place.

But there is a further handicap. The challenge is to put it to work with two oversized lightweight totes, neither of which have seen enough action. Both can be partnered with the harness in interesting ways, and I want to see how they perform in the context of the outerwear capsule.

  • Anello bag, purchased by Mr Edge in Japan. Popular in the Far East, apparently, and by popular, I do not mean the same thing as fashionable. Ubiquitous would be a better word for it. Luckily for me, nobody else round here is carrying one. Handsome, well made, hard to wear. Needs time in circulation in the interests of marital harmony.

  • Promotional piece by my friend at ByBrown. Not exactly a bag. More like half a vest that functions as a giant pouch. Looks incredibly cool, unsuitable for load bearing. Useful for carrying ultralight puffer vests, empty shopping bags, small items from the chemists. Bonus layer of weatherproofing. If I can figure it out, it might just come into its own. At the very least, I shall wear it today to collect my Uniqlo order, and report back.
  • The fallback: Quilted tote by JW Anderson, another from the Qlo. Showing wear, but good enough for groceries. The default for when I can’t make either of the other two work.
Wish me luck!

Update: this unlikely device exceeded expectations. Added a couple of surreptitious shots from today’s outing. Pleasantly shocked and amazed.

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Troubleshooting a Tee (bonus: favorite shirt at the end)

Forum regulars may recall my ongoing engagement with the graphic print. I could say I love them for the layers of meaning and the visual impact, but the plain facts are that bold prints and crew necks suit my body shape. Also, shameless nerdery. And I (used to) go to a lot of gigs.

The right print can be very forgiving on a large bosom, but not always easy to integrate into outfits. The deep vee tunic/t-shirt combination I tried last week is a promising idea. Sadly though, the wall of text on this shirt from London’s Science Museum is not one of those forgiving prints. Human Ingredients should probably include Too Much Pasta, but I doubt this design was ever very flattering. Too busy and not bold enough. Compared to last week's shot featuring Grumpy Pablo, you can see the difference. Still, I like the concept and the aesthetic of this shirt enough to want to make it work, so in defiance of my own vanity, which since menopause is almost non-existent, a shot showing the raw materials, with hair tied back and no headgear. As you can see, this is where long hair comes into its own, detracting from the volume on my upper body, which was not that small to begin with.

I am a novice when it comes to styling long hair au naturel and I don’t have the face to pull off the no-fringe look. (That vast expanse of forehead is where I keep my brains, dude.) If I want to keep my hair long, headgear is going to be essential. I am OK with this, in fact I really like it. Among other things, it allows me to wear it loose while keeping it under some kind of control. In this instance, I want to preserve a minimal appearance and add the right amount of detail. No idea what to call this scarf/headband hybrid, but yesterday I scored another one in navy blue. It does the trick. Stand aside, funky orthodox art teacher. Here comes the female David Foster Wallace.

In my dreams.

For the rest, Lemaire denim chinos, which used to be far too big and now fit very nicely thank you, with MM6 boots, inspired by nuancedream’s cuffed jeans/fancy boots combo. I particularly like what happens to the shoulders when I put on the puffy Uniqlo vest, presently the hardest working item in my much depleted wardrobe. The whole ensemble put a spring in my step on Friday’s excursion to the deli and the greengrocers.

What about you guys? Curious to know about your body shape hacks, assuming you have any. Patterns, scarves, proportions, whatever. Do tell! Also seeking a recommendation for a tangle free hairbrush, if anyone has such a thing.

PS: The wider topic of headgear merits a whole other discussion, so by all means tell me what you think of this solution but please and thank you, save the more general comments for another time, because I promise you it will be back again soon!

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Dressing up indoors (for going outdoors)

Oh, alright then. If you insist. But you’ll have to excuse the mess. My dressing area is a war zone, my selfie game not what it used to be. I led with a dummy because I wanted to keep my fat self from appearing on the YLF wall of fame, with no makeup and a grumpy face on. And long hair, which is coming up.

But first of all, colour me astonished at the things that always seem to work. Sonia Rykiel’s H&M tube dress is (almost) as flattering on a fuller figure as it ever was, so file it in the box marked things that should not work but do. Flop proof over black base layers of which I have several, teamed with velour trousers which I promise you are definitely not my pyjamas. Finish it off with Scarpa Mojito sneakers with decorative lacing, and we are good to go.

Bear with me. While I have every intention of getting back to fighting weight if I possibly can, I am not going to sacrifice style until I get there, so I have no choice but to dress the body I have. Not planning on panic buying either, because I have plenty to be going on with, and winter is traditionally the season to be jolly, which I always assumed was a byword for being gluttonous. Stretch fabrics and elasticated waistbands are my friends, far too useful to stay indoors.

The goal is to elevate pyjamas to the level where they can feasibly leave the house. Objectively, this is nothing that can’t be fixed with the right shoes, accessories and outerwear, and I am far from the only woman in this town to be wearing these kinds of pants on the street. Pyjamas are like beauty, in the eye of the beholder, if only I can stop thinking of them as pyjamas. Hang them in the closet instead of folding them with tees, and pretend they are a real pair of trousers. Of course they are. Pyjama trousers are trousers.

The same trick with a draped knit, this time with Fluevog creepers and a necklace Angie might recognize. I quite like the way I fill this homemade dress these days, but you can see where all that homemade pasta went. This ensemble left the house under the MMM-H&M oversized blazer, and got as far as the supermarket. Sigh.

Lastly, I’m experimenting with this black cotton/viscose mix tunic with a deep vee. In the past, I’ve worn this mostly over button downs but rarely felt moved to wear it with a tee. Right now it seems obvious, necessity being the mother of invention and all that. I like this formula for getting more out of the omnipresent screen prints in the transitional season. Seen here with boots, pleather skirt, long hair and Pablo’s grumpy face on. I am pretty sure he looks marginally better in the mirror than on camera and I’m struggling to see past the need for a better bra, but I’m thinking the proportions should work with the right underpinnings. Just flattering enough? I might wear it to go out at the weekend.

What say you good people? No need to comment on the looks if it’s embarrassing. Tell me what you think about outdoor pyjamas. Also considering a black plissé midi skirt to wear under all three of these knits. Next month's +J collection has the very thing.

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Life under Lockdown

Long story short. I’ve been away, I’ve put on weight, and I’m having a major overhaul. I’ve dropped a few lines about what I’ve been up to below the line in the Off Topic section. Please forgive the stream of consciousness, but there’s a lot to unpack.

I dare say a lot of what else has changed will become clearer in conversation. Throughout this whole period, my inclination has been to leave the wardrobe alone. Let it work like a muscle. See what happens, when it all revolves around a few key pieces, barely planned.

Over summer, I zeroed in on a black asymmetric knit dress from MM6. Oversized tees, with prints and without. A pair of men’s jeans from Dame Viv’s Anglomania, acquired on a pilgrimage to the World’s End homestead in Chelsea, to see where it all began. These are jeans only in the loosest “indigo twill and rivets” sense of the word. Any resemblance to classic denim ends with the deconstructed jacquard weave, alive with unraveling threads, which my state of mind demands I tug at like a fretful toddler. They look good with Scarpa Mojitos, the one sneaker to rule them all.

Over winter, culottes comme des garçons, worn with knee boots or Fluevog platforms. At peak lockdown, when +J landed at Uniqlo, I perused by appointment in an almost empty shop, and came home with the Jil Sander quilted jacket I’ve always wanted, and two pairs of chinos, one navy, one taupe.

Also, new eyewear, much like the old, but softer round the edges. A lovely waxed cotton jacket from a closing down sale.

My hair is longer than it’s ever been, and now I see my natural colour for the first time in years. Sometimes I wear a headscarf. But still, I am only putting on my clothes. It is not the same thing as getting dressed.

I learned to make my own pasta. Then I put on weight and become an unapologetic mess. Nothing fits the way it used to. Some of it no longer fits at all. Remarkably, other things seem to fit better with the extra curvature.

The purge is like catharsis. There are a number of casualties, the less said the better. A great many changes to how I see the world. A different lens, with different contexts.

Suddenly, a whole lot of things are making sense. I begin to see a leaner, meaner closet, the closet I’ve been working towards all these years. Old lady avant garde, for the woman with no more of those precious f***s to give.

So nice to see you all again!

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Nerd shirts for my fashion friends, fashion shirts for my nerd friends

It’s been a while since I posted - mostly because I haven’t been online much lately and my camera wasn’t working. But I haven’t forgotten this wonderful space, so I’m popping in to say hello and share my latest wardrobe preoccupations. It’s lovely to see you all again. I hope you’re doing well!

This season, I’m raking over some familiar territory. My efforts to rethink my relationship with the screen print are ongoing. After a year or so of buying what felt like very few, clearing the decks of the ones I wasn’t wearing and enjoying the ones I was, I came to the conclusion that these urban staples qualify as a summer essential. I should add that most updates in the last couple of years have been to the winter wardrobe, and when the weather warmed up I found myself on the back foot and in need of a refresher.

With this in mind, I've been trying out a new silhouette. I’m liking the extra coverage, longer length and looser fit of a unisex tee, and I’ve found some interesting designs on my travels. I’ve swapped the merch stands for museum shops (fewer concert shirts, more art prints) and I’ve found some of the best ones on various trips to Spain. No idea why this should be the case.

I’m not entirely sure whether this is backsliding or consolidation, but it occurred to me while making this post that I tend to use a printed tee as a kind of “third piece” in summer. Then again, in this capsule the third piece is probably the hat (a sort of beanie/cloche/turban in lightweight leather) which I like to think adds a bit of polish to the look.

1-2 A little gem from Spanish brand Typographia. There are so many layers to this obscure visual gag that I can’t even begin to explain it, but if you’re one of the tiny number of people who’d get it, then you’ll know the joke’s inevitably on you. Or me in this case. Of course I had to buy it, it’s perfect with oversized pants and ridiculous footwear. Pretentious, moi? Why thank you!

3 Props if you remember the name of this 1950’s robot, with a skirt from my mother’s collection (I shortened the lining to bring it up to date.) If you’ve ever wondered what happens to urban Goth style when the European sun comes out, then wonder no more. Everyone has to leave the house sometime and Barcelona’s Annexia have pop-culture references and bad taste designs for every occasion. At three for €50, I felt it was important to save Mr Edge from himself so I took up the slack. As they say on their very NSFW Instagram feed, be afraid. Be very afraid.

4 I was browsing Uniqlo looking for something sensible and plain when Mr Edge thrust this Andy Warhol design into my hand and said it had my name on it. Enough said. Menswear styling with linen mix silver pants and wild-card Sketchers, but in the end I wore white Birkenstock sliders. Best viewed IRL than in the photo, for full metallic goodness.

5 The tee that convinced me not to give up on tees, a concert shirt from the ridiculously talented tune-yards. I love the cut and the print and I’ve worn it a lot. The guipure skirt is very old and was doing nothing, so I cut a chunk out of the lining and it’s looking like a player again.

I’m pretty sure Angie’s going to tell me this is sloppy and the proportion is off, and I cannot disagree. Nevertheless, when it comes to channelling some old-lady-punk attitude when running the tourist gauntlet on my way to the supermarket, it can’t be beat. I know you know what I’m talking about.

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How I got into Vogue Italia

What time is it? It's time I looked in to say Hi! and share another of my shaggy dog stories! Also, I want you all to share in a tiny moment of glory but I have no idea how much longer the links will work.

As you might recall, I didn’t get very far with my own business, but in the process of trying I did get quite a lot better at pattern cutting. So, after a season of health issues and career uncertainty, and needing to get into a more positive routine, I persuaded my friend over at ByBrown to take me on part time. I started there at the beginning of the year and so far it’s all been good.

Surprisingly for a small brand, (but less so for the quality of the product - I am a long time fan) ByBrown was scouted by Vogue Italia to feature as one of their Next Green Talents. I always appreciated Melanie's approach to quality and sustainability, which you can read about in her own words if you can scroll past the eye candy. 

Anyway. This last month I’ve been helping out with the featured collection, which was built around a series of hand-printed fabrics developed by Marnix Postma (that’s him with the tattoos). I’ve been working mainly on pattern development and other technical details, but I also had some input on the final styling, which went something like this.

Among the collection were some digital prints derived from an original artwork, in stretch knit and cotton velvet. The lightweight knit was made up into some gorgeous body wear and it came out beautifully. On the other hand, the velvet proved harder to tame. With time was running out and no wearable garments it looked like it was heading for the reject pile. I saw its potential and was pretty sure it could be rescued.

And so, on Friday afternoon, less than 48 hours before the shoot, I draped a pair of culottes. If you make clothes yourself and you’ve worked with large scale prints, you can probably see what I was up against. Everything depends on placement and proportion - a wrong tuck and the whole design collapses. Too long and you’re wearing curtain material. But with a bit of luck you might find a sweet spot where it all falls into place.

See, this is the kind of “fast fashion” I can get behind. It’s nothing like the brand’s technical sportswear, where products can be months in development, it’s just a very simple design to showcase a striking fabric. But I wasn’t expecting these culottes, made more or less for the fun of it, to make it past the house stylist, let alone onto the Vogue Italia website.

And yes, those are my YLF-endorsed Ann D’s. I loaned them for the shoot.

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Fashionably late to the YLF ball?

I’m in a bind. I’ve been faffing about trying to decide what to wear for far too long and I’m late. Now my fairy godmother’s arrived and she’s the kind of bad witch they burned at the stake back in the day. She dresses Grace Jones, Bjork and Roisin Murphy. She thinks Tilda Swinton is a bit tame and Solange should get out of her comfort zone. She doesn’t exactly do Red Carpet.

I really wanted some Comme de Garçons but she nixed that, said it was daywear and gave me this Alexander McQueen corset instead. I put it on and no kidding, it was like being trussed up like a turkey. I couldn’t sit down. 

Then she pulled out this vintage Margiela cape made from human hair. No, it’ll freak people out I told her, this is YLF not some Japanese horror movie, and anyway what if it catches on the furniture?

Next she showed me something by an up and coming Korean designer but it wasn’t even a dress. I said it wasn’t that kind of party and if I wore that everyone would be too embarrassed to speak to me. 

Then she found this one dress from Iris van Herpen. It might work, but I think it looks like a poofy snowflake and I told her so. Fine, she said, then it’s perfect. That’s exactly what you are.

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