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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Personal vintage: yay or nay?

I’ve been cautiously welcoming the return of the flare these last few seasons, but I’d like to exhaust my closet before buying anything new. I’m now thinking of resurrecting this pair, which have been languishing in a box for years. They date back to around about the turn of the millennium, when I bought them from a local atelier who were making them to order. I wore them a few times before they became a roaring success for the woman who made them and suddenly there were duplicates in different colour ways walking around my neighbourhood. I hated that but I still liked the pants, so I put them away.

Now, I have no problem wearing vintage in general, but the problem with digging out something form my past like this is that it comes with all kinds of baggage, and it can be hard to dissociate it from previous reference points. I don’t think I’ve ever kept hold of something for this long without returning to it and I’m not even sure why I still have them when just about everything else from that era is long gone. I’m also struggling to uncouple them in my head from the late ‘90s fashion culture that produced them.

But I like them dammit! Yes, I like these pants and I’m willing to give them another go. I’m looking to London's Goodhood for urban baggy inspiration, as well as the colourful, dressy palazzo styles that are around right now. 

Obviously, I need to know, what do you guys think. Are they fun and a bit Fenty, or obviously dated? More to the point though, is there any personal vintage lurking somewhere in your storage? I’m not sure if I should be delighted or ashamed that I want to wear these again…

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Dressing for my fantasy life

Ladies, Boho Trinity has brought along some friends and she’d like to introduce them…

Yukiko Kato spends her days running around pixellated Neo Tokyo collecting materiel, slaughtering mutants and eating first aid kits. Sometimes she thinks there must be more to life than this, but then she doesn’t know she’s a character in a computer game, poor thing.

Antoinette Wolfsbane runs the youth LGBTQ drop-in centre on Diagon Alley. A former Slytherin head of house, some doubt her suitability as mentor for vulnerable wizarding teens. Few, however, deny her bravery as a sleeper agent in the battle against He Who Shall Not Be Named. (She has no trouble naming him, but mention Bellatrix Lestrange and she’ll most likely hex you.)

Tatiana SmithKline Beecham owns the last independent record shop in Soho, through which she launders cash for the Russian mafiya. Refuses to believe the neighbourhood has shot its bolt and that Shoreditch is now the place to be. Once played Hugh Grant’s quirky flatmate in a Richard Curtis rom com nobody can remember. Voted Leave.

Ellen Roberta Doolittle is one of an unknown number of women to have held the title of Dread Pirate Roberts, a position she inherited from Inigo Montoya when he left to join the CIA. Her favourite pillaging destination is the Cornish coast, where she enjoys drinking scrumpy, looting tin mines and stalking Ross Poldark.

I think I just bought a magic coat. This is far too easy. kkards, what was that about workhorses?

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Styling the new acquisition

Since I began the year with the goal of being somewhat more mindful of my shopping, it’s probably fitting that I should end it vindicated with an outstanding example of my failure to follow through. Some things find an immediate place in the wardrobe, but the best ones can take you to the next level. The moment I put this on, it was all over bar the haggling. This is me at my very best and my very worst - as Agent Smith would say, that’s the sound of inevitability.

I am very much in love with this number. It is classic, distinctive and slightly exotic. It is gorgeous leather, beautifully made and a fabulous fit. It packs some serious attitude and has the potential to be a real heavy hitter. It’s by no means a departure for me and in some respects it’s a consolidation: I think the reason I fell for it so hard is that a clean A-line with a round neck and a bit of structure is just about the most flattering thing I could possibly wear.

However, fashion being what it is, these things don’t often turn up, so there’s not much like this in my wardrobe, and it’s far harder to style than I was expecting. There’s something about it that falls so far outside the contemporary fashion vernacular that it’s almost an anachronism. Where exactly does this style come from, or more to the point, when? To put it another way, this piece is not fashion-forward in any way shape or form. If anything, it’s fashion-sideways.

The trick, then, is to integrate it into my style in a way that feels contemporary while honouring its syncretic provenance. Taking a leaf out of Old Chic’s book, I decided it was best to be true to myself rather than trying make it look Fashionable, while avoiding a slippery slope into SF/Gothic pastiche.

It turns out this is harder than it looks, in which case Boho Trinity could be a massive false positive. A better descriptor is probably Fetish Anna Wintour, and if you’ve been paying attention you might just remember why this is painfully close to home. Zipped up, it has a formal severity which I like very much, and it really comes into its own layered over voluminous midi skirts. Luckily, I have quite a few of these and not enough ways to wear them, so this seems like a winning formula.

What do you guys think? Am I missing a trick here, or is this a good enough jumping off point? Shown here with this year’s default hat - I’m due a trip to the salon and my hair is a fright.

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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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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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