WIW: Menswear, tailoring, structure and slouch

Seasons greetings! Hope everyone's enjoying the holidays, and not too stressed out by the procession of parties and endless preparation (well under way here). No idea if there's space on the forum for a post that has nothing to do with celebrating the year's end, but I've been sitting on these looks for a week or so, and I wanted to know what you think about menswear styling.

I’m very attracted to the simplicity, practicality and classicism of menswear, and it features heavily in my style when I’m not wearing skirts and dresses. I think if I were ever to take the minimalist closet/signature stye route, this might be the way I would go. But I’m not a natural minimalist, and I think I’d miss the variety.

Being quite a pronounced inverted triangle, apparently I’m supposed to avoid high necklines and shoulder pads, but the extra definition on my strong shoulder line feels like a very powerful statement. As long as I remember to balance things out with a shaped waist and some fullness in the trouser department this usually works out pretty well.

So here are a few menswear-inspired looks from a couple of weeks ago, albeit with relatively little menswear. I like the combination of structure and slouch that I get with a tailored jacket and loose-fitting pants. And the look makes me feel some serious attitude, although looking through the pictures I want to yell at myself to stand up straight and get my hands out of my pockets. 

1-2: The velvet blazer is another oldie from about 10 years ago. I love the tailoring and the piping details, and it fits just so like great tailoring should. But it’s quite hard to style because it resists dressing down, and it’s definitely not of this fashion cycle. Nonetheless I’m liking it a lot this year with these softly pleated tapered trousers I made myself and my beloved creepers.

3-5: Loose-fitting denim is fashion Marmite. I thrifted these oversized selvedge Levis BNWT with the idea that I’d - erm - deconstruct them into something else, but in the end all I did was put a couple of darts in the waistband and wear a belt. Katie Holmes got a lot of stick for doing something similar a couple of years ago but I like the look, this time with a sports jacket from Jil Sander for Uniqlo, and men’s boots. Sewists might be amused by the skinny jumper made out of socks, which I wrote about on my blog.

6-7: A black blazer by German brand Drykorn. I sized up for the fit on the shoulder and bust, and I’m always wondering if I should try taking it in a bit at the waistline. Paired with a very old pair of wide-legged trousers from Cacherel, which I love in the winter (luscious fabric, lined throughout!) but I fear they're beginning to show their age. I think I like the idea of this look more than the execution. I should probably wear the creepers instead of the boots.

Comments and thoughts are appreciated. Have you been rocking the mannish girl? Are you offended by loose-fitting denim? Have I hung on to the velvet jacket past its sell-by date? Should I ditch the wide pants and go looking for sleeker tailoring?


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WIW: Modern Folk

I’m having a lot of fun this season styling this embellished skirt by Ivko which I bought in Serbia about 10 years ago. For the longest time it languished in the closet waiting for me to decide what to do with it until 2010 when Christopher Kane came up with floral embroidery on black leather. Then the flared midi started to appear on catwalks again and it all came together with Dolce e Gabbana’s adventures in Fairyland this autumn. 

I’ve always loved this skirt even when I’ve been incapable of styling it. I like the silhouette on my body shape, and the bold punch of the florals on the dark grey feels very dramatic. I’ve kept things simple up top with a grey marl sweatshirt from Uniqlo, and set off the embellishment with stripy ski socks and heels from Balenciaga circa 2008. A guest appearance by my coffee tin adds a further folksy touch. 

I now feel fully vindicated for hanging on to something which I really liked and waiting out the fashion cycle. I’m curious as to whether this is a familiar pattern to anyone else. Are you sitting on any wonderful items that you love in spite of their irrelevance? If so, how do you know when something’s worth the storage space?


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WIW: Red and Brown

It took a few days to figure it out, but I finally came up with a red/brown combo. I don't wear much brown, having been traumatised at an early age by a chocolate/cream coloured school uniform, so it tends to be reserved for accents.

I found this little top, another gift from my awesome sister, when I was purging the holding pen over the weekend. I'll be honest, I'm not sure about it. I quite like it, it fits nicely but it doesn't thrill me and I wonder if it's adding pounds to my somewhat top-heavy figure. Also perhaps a bit dated, but that's rarely a deal breaker for me if I like something.

I paired it with navy tights and this skirt, a genius number from local hero BYBROWN, one of my favourite Amsterdam brands. You can't see from the picture but the ruches can be undone and adjusted on tiny hooks in the blue band.

The other things you can't quite see are my lovely Dr Martens Elizabeth brogues, which I had to have since that's my name, and who can resist a gorgeous pair of shoes with her name on?

I never would have thought of putting these two items together but the colours and the ruches are playing so nicely that I think I might give the top a reprieve and see if I can find some other ways to style it. What do you ladies think?

Thanks for the inspiration Angie!


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WIW: Repeating myself

By way of a coda to my last post, I gave a lot of thought to all your comments and decided to give #2 another outing. As a result, this is what I wore to my teaching job today. (Yeah, a bunch of stuff you've seen before. Sorry about that.) I'm really feeling the black/grey pattern matching. And I think I've found the right camera angle. 

I really love my teaching job. It's such a privilege to stand in front of students, share my knowledge and enthusiasm for things I feel passionate about and see that enthusiasm reflected back as it was in today's class. In much the same way, it's a pleasure to finally engage here and get a taste of so many different styles and approaches to a fundamental art form that's so often devalued and underrated because it's the preserve of women, and older women at that.

To tell the truth, it still feels a bit odd to be sharing something so personal with a bunch of strangers on the Internet, but it's so nice to be here at last that I'm wondering why I didn't do it before. 

So I wanted to thank you all for pitching in and giving me feedback on what works best. And I don't want anyone to think they can't give me advice, because that last thread gave me plenty to think about and led to some new ideas on how I should put things together. Sometimes I need to know how to dial it down some, and any commentary is food for thought. 


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5 Silhouettes. No Direction.

Beth-Ann kindly suggested I post a few more looks and tried to explain my style objectives clearly. I'm not at all sure of my objectives, so perhaps it helps to explain my current practices and how they've resulted in my closet being a grab bag of avant garde retro classics that I love to wear but struggle to style.

Disclaimer: this is long and involves advanced wardrobe diagnostics. If you can't be bothered to read, scroll down to the eye-candy and shoot on my outfits.


Here's how I roll:

- I try to practise slow fashion. I don't like rapid turnover and I prefer to keep things for as long as I can. 

- My budget is not unlimited and I like to buy the best quality I can afford, which means lots of thrifting, vintage and designer outlet bargains.

- I tend not to have a "shopping list" and my strategy is quite reactive. I'm more likely to spot something and know that it will work than go looking for something in particular (because when I do, I almost never find it).

- I buy things based on quality, fit, colour palette and wearability rather than any notion of a particuar "look" or persona. 

- I don't work in a formal office with a well-defined role that I have to dress for.

- I love experimenting with new styles and I'm really attracted to the unusual and original. 

- I try to future-proof my wardrobe because I don't want to look dated, so I try to steer clear of obvious trends.

- I sew a lot, which means I often make the things I want to make rather than to fill a particular need.

So I've ended up with lots of things I like, mostly nice quality and a few real trophy pieces. This becomes a problem when garments become part of an expressive collection rather than a working wardrobe, but I'm working on that.

Here are five looks from late October/early November when I was on an arty/eclectic kick. These are essentially smart-casual weekday looks I'd wear to work with close colleagues, meet with friends and maybe go out in the evening. I'd wear some of these in the classroom but not to meet business clients. I do have a load more business approriate looks, which tend to favour classically masculine tailoring: blazers, pant suits, brogues etc. There's also the more sporty/hipster/urban strand, which overlaps with what you see here.

1. Vintage silk shibori haori with Uniqlo HeatTech shirt, skinny pants from Marks & Spencer, Underground creepers. 

The haori was a HEWI which I hunted high and low through many, many kimono dealers before finding it. It's not hard to wear but it's more of a summer piece than winter. Worn over a couple of essentials: black turtle neck and slim black pants.

2. Striped Pirate cardigan by All Saints, waxed cotton dropped crotch pants BYBROWN, boots by Maison Martin Margiela. 

A FFB. These pants are the best. I have another pair in gold. The All Saints cardigan is ancient but still going strong. The boots look a bit beat up in the picture, but they've just come back from the cobblers Looking Like New.

3. Self-made skirt with short sleeved jumper from COS, layered over grey marl t-shirt.

I am loving this skirt, which I made very recently. A surprisingly fun layering piece under an oversized winter coat. Definitely a weekender.

4. Vintage '80's Kenzo jacket, jeans by Isabel Marant Homme pour H&M, hat by Uniqlo, creepers as in 1.

This is probably the most controversial of these looks, but also the one I like wearing the most at the moment. The silhouette of the fitted cropped jacket and men's jeans feels just so, and both pieces fit like they were made for me. But it's definitely advanced pattern matching and not exactly trendy. That's my default hat.

5. Self made top and skirt, boots by Maison Martin Margiela again.

This is becoming a go-to day-to-evening choice in the colder weather. I love the complimentary colours. The top is an absolute winter workhorse. 

So, where's the problem?

I'm trying to strike a balance between a lot of contradictory patterns. I like to keep things I love for as long as possible but I also like the challenge of unusual statement pieces. I want to future-proof things but I keep getting distracted by new trends. I want to make sensible purchases but my shopping strategy requires me to know what's right when I see it and make quick decisions. I want to look authentic, not eccentric. I want to distinguish myself but not stick out like a sore thumb. I want to wear my clothes and not the other way around. 

The biggest problem right now is styling. I need a better feel for what works together, and how I can work the things I love into looks that feel contemporary. I'm trying to find a way through this that will lead me to silhouettes and colour palettes that really work for me, figure out which are the key pieces that are pulling their weight, and build more sensible strategies from there. I'd like to develop something that resembles a philosophy or signature look, but I don't know if that's at all realistic given the diversity of content.

If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I'd love to read comments from people who recognise the problem of accumulating things that really work over a number of years but still keeping it fresh. I'm feeling very uninspired by what I see in high fashion right now, so I'd prefer to develop my own personae using the materials to hand. Angie's wisdom has helped me a lot in the past, but right now I need to take stock of what I have and try and make sense of it. I think this may take a couple of years. 


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WIW: Auntie Hipster goes to Paradiso

Apologies for yet another WIW barely a week after I crawled out of the woodwork. In my defense, I'm testing the YLF mobile capabilities.

Mr Edge and I were enjoying a drink at the beer temple after a gig at Amsterdam's premier nightspot and I couldn't resist snapping a selfie in the bathroom just because it matched my outfit. Yes, I am shamelessly matchy matchy. Especially when it comes to interior decor.

Thanks for looking. As you were. :)


Walking in another man's shoes...

I just popped into Wini's, one of my favourite vintage shops, which was a good move and a bad move, depending on your point of view. I came out €75 lighter, the proud owner of an adorable cashmere sweater and a pair of boots of the kind I have been on the lookout for since Forever.

What can I say? They were just there. I've been wanting something along these lines for a while, but hadn't really seen the thing I was looking for, something black, chunky and mannish, a bit casual and a bit dressy at the same time. Laces, no zippers, no distressed leather, and hooks for the laces at the top. 

And here they are. Italian made men's boots, leather throughout, fresh Vibram soles and heels and enough space inside for woolly socks. 

This is the first time in a long while that I've bought a pair of second hand shoes. There's not too much wear on these but I have to admit it still feels a bit odd. I've always quite liked the idea of previous owners in my thrifted purchases, particularly when the quality is good, but for some reason walking in someone else's shoes is spooky. Particularly when that someone was a man.

But I do notice that I am much more prone to impulse purchases when buying second hand. I am *incredibly* picky about buying new in the high street, but put me in front of a really good pre-owned or vintage find and I will fist over the cash in seconds. I'm not sure if this instance qualifies as impulsive as this style has been on the shopping list for a while, but it certainly wasn't premeditated either.

I can think of all kinds of reasons for this, but I was wondering about your thoughts on pre-owned pieces and impulse shopping in general. Does a fabulous thrifted find thrill you onto a snap decision? Or do you take a deep breath, ask them to put it aside, and go walk around the block?


WIW: The Sherlock!

So as you might have already guessed, I'm no stranger to the left-field fashion choice. What might not yet be obvious is that I'm a bit of a hat girl, particularly on the bike in cold weather.

To paraphrase something Jess Cartner-Morely said once, high fashion is often about walking the fine line between the scary and the ridiculous. I think this little number ticks both boxes. 

I don't think it's an accident that no contemporary Sherlock actually wears one of these, but although I would happily kill for Benedict Cumberbatch's Belstaff coat, or just about anything Lucy Liu wears as Joan Watson, I still enjoy this crazy little number when I want to feel like a crime-solving genius. Elementary!

What do you think? Genius? Or just Scary/Ridiculous?


WIW: Two winter layers from my Mum

It's getting chilly here in Amsterdam so time to layer up!

I wanted to show you a couple of pieces made by my amazing mother, who's been a major influence on my style and is still fabulous well into her seventies. This oversized sleeveless topper and cropped mohair jumper are both things she made for herself and for some reason decided she didn't want to wear, so she passed them on to me. 

Both are favourite items at this time of year and both get lots of compliments. I'm always sure to mention their provenance, at which point people are often somewhat amazed that Grandma has such style.

I really enjoyed Angie's Thanksgiving piece on her parents, because I can't begin to describe what a role model my own mother has been, instilling me with a love of clothes and fashion at an early age. 

All that said, I'm not sure she'd wear these with a shiny silver bomber jacket and stripy socks, because I know she thinks I'm far too old to be dressing like Tavi Gevinson. I fear for once that she's probably right. 


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