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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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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More thoughts on (not) shopping

The shopping fast ended in a spectacular splurge. I knew I’d find it hard to keep on the wagon but of all the things that could possibly have crossed my path it had to be Those Shoes. I honestly can’t think of anything more certain to have pushed me over the edge.

The obvious thrill of finally tracking them down was followed by an inevitable rekindling my on-off love affair with the high heel. While I’ve no intention of wearing them every day, this prompted me to think about my wardrobe from a different perspective. I feel motivated to explore the more feminine side of my style again.

I’m now looking forward to a season of shopping the closet. A quick tour of the summer collection shows it to be well-stocked with plenty of dresses, skirts and blouses, many of whom have the novelty value of not having been worn in a while. I’ve already run a couple of items through the wash with a packet of dye (they’ve come out beautifully) and I’m looking at what alterations and/or repairs can be done to freshen up some older pieces.

For the most part, I want to prioritise upcoming requirements, hold myself accountable and focus on editing. I don’t feel my wardrobe particularly lacks anything at this point and I’d love it if I could get through the year adding no more than one new piece a month. With this in mind I’ve set myself some shopping goals. I will of course be keeping my eyes open for any spectacular finds, but if I make any opportunistic purchases, they’ll have to be something really, really good. That bar’s just been set very high indeed.

Priorities

I definitely need:

  • A haircut
  • Prescription sunglasses (existing frames)
  • New everyday handbag (same model as the old one, to be ordered)

I probably need:

  • Breton shirt, red stripe
  • Draped tees, plain white
  • Hiking sandals (Teva or equal)

I could use, but can live without:

  • Ankle length straight leg jeans, dark wash or solid black
  • Low-top Chuck Taylor or similar sneakers, plain black

I might make

  • Oversized reversible parka, black/floral
  • Summer culottes or pants, black

I crave:

  • Vintage ’80s
  • Japanese menswear
  • Vintage ’80s Japanese menswear

I must not buy:

  • Concert shirts

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Thoughts on (not) shopping

I got a bit stuck overthinking the Style Lab so I took a break again. Sometimes I just need to do that. However, it's high time I dropped back in to file my overdue report on (not) shopping.

I can’t put my hand on my heart and say there hasn’t been any shopping at all (hence parentheses) but I’ve been far more restrained than I would have been if we hadn’t made this pledge. I’ve been on a couple of shopping expeditions with friends and have found that walking away from the temptations of frivolous purchasing is easier than I expected (as is gently dissuading pals from buying rubbish).

I have made the following acquisitions in the last month:

A Christmas gift: over the holidays, Mr Edge steered me into the men’s department at All Saints to try on a coat he’d spotted and was pretty sure I needed. He was right, as he often is, but I think he secretly wanted me to stop borrowing his.

A craft project: I’d begun knitting a colourful shawl long before we proposed this undertaking. It’s now complete, but I bought a few extra balls of wool to get there. This will fend off the February blues and liven up the winter look.

Some necessary items: a set of colourful boxer shorts (men’s department again) to use as lounge/sleepwear in combination with the excessive collection of concert shirts which I wasn’t wearing otherwise. 

One opportunistic sales purchase: a very excellent bra from Marlies Dekkers, absolutely gorgeous and a perfect fit. I am not going to apologise for this, because bras this good are hard to come by on discount, but it raises a good point about why a complete fast might not be for me. I’ll come back to this.

At this point, I don’t feel the need for anything else and I’m not particularly in the mood for looking. Instead,

  • I’ve been trying to get a few things off the bench and think constructively about how I want to look.
  • I’ve done a few small customisation/alteration projects and found some new ways with old favourites, as well as taming some of my problem children.
  • I’ve been dressing more and more around a few capsule formulae. I notice that in this respect I seem to be settling on a few definitive styles rather than throwing things together and hoping they match.
  • I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting and had a few epic fails, but I figure it’s good to know what does and doesn’t work.
  • I’ve been wearing an awful lot of black, white and navy blue.

All in all, this is a very worthwhile exercise in which some of the key learnings from the Style Lab are being put through their paces. I have a sharper awareness of what’s actually in the closet. what should stay or go, and what will need to be replaced in future.

On the other hand, the bra purchase shows why a complete fast probably won’t work for me in the long run. Some things are necessarily expensive, my budget is limited and wearing the best quality I can afford sometimes means pouncing on it when it’s on sale. This isn’t FOMO, it’s a long standing strategy and one reason why I have such a well-stocked wardrobe to begin with. I need to stick with it, but very selectively.

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Emotional shopping and wardrobe content

Sorry for the forum hogging. I’m ill and with time on my hands this weekend and I’m enjoying catching up with you all.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between my shopping habits and how it relates to my personal style. This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but in the two years I’ve been a participant on this forum I’ve come to think that the relationship between the two is far more complex than I might have guessed.

In her book “I <3 your style” Amanda Brooks says something to the effect that behind every well-dressed woman there are some seriously smart shopping strategies. This observation rang very true to me, and I’ve been examining my own habits ever since.

Science has proven that shopping is addictive. This is not news and it’s a hazard that everyone who enjoys clothing will recognise. I’m no more immune than anyone else, and while I adore shopping as part of my lifelong passion for all things sartorial, I need to stay aware of its pitfalls.

Viva started a great thread about this a while back, and I posted a rundown of how I deal with it. There are two points here in particular that I think have influenced my shopping behaviour more than anything else, and they are a) raising the bar by dressing well every day, and b) stalking high ticket items. I was completely unsurprised that Viva and Lisap immediately picked up on these as useful tips because they work incredibly well.

This is only part of a bigger picture though.

I see my clothes as an extension of myself, a form of non-verbal communication with the outside world if you like. But I also have a strong emotional connection with what I wear and the retail transaction is part of that. Furthermore, and I know this sounds like whimsy, I like it when the things I use have a story of their own, and don’t feel like an anonymous industrial product. This is kind of absurd, because most clothing nowadays is exactly that, and there’s not much wrong with that. I just love it when it isn’t.

A lot of this comes from a lifetime of shopping vintage and making things for myself. But I realised the other day that so much of what I put on or otherwise keep about me are those kinds of things. More or less everything I reach for, those things that put me in that happy space, are exactly that. This is why I love unique pieces from tiny ateliers and why I can’t resist a bench made shoe for example. But it also leads me to hunt down shops where I can buy from people who share my enthusiasm, with some knowledge about the product they are selling. I’m fortunate to live in a city with a number of retailers like this, but they are few and far between.

The funny thing is that with regard to how I look, this is very much a chicken and egg situation. I used to think my shopping habits reflected my personal style, but now I’m starting to think it’s the other way around. Now I’m wondering how I’d look if I eliminated this emotional component and shopped differently.

What about you guys? How do your shopping habits influence your look? Would you do it any other way and how would you look if you did?

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Stalking vintage Kansai Yamamoto...

...at Rotterdam's Temporary Fashion Museum!

Honestly, nowhere is safe anymore. I'm trying to commit to a shopping fast after the holiday and the run-up to Christmas, but it seems that Andy Warhol's prediction that in the future all museums will be like department stores and all department stores will be like museums is coming true. At least the first part is.

The upshot of this development is that I've just rifled through possibly the best collection of vintage fashion I've ever seen on sale anywhere, and this 80's Kansai Yamamoto needlecord blouse positively leapt off the rail at me. 

For those who don't already know, Kansai (not Yohji) Yamamoto designed David Bowie's legendary costumes for the Ziggy Stardust tour and his clothes are as rare as they are iconic. I don't think my pictures do this garment justice, but hopefully I've captured the vivid neon colours and you might be able to tell from the look on my face how awed I am to be wearing Actual Kansai.

I absolutely love it and can see this thing fitting right in. It could work all year round for all kinds of occasions. But there are a few problems: the sleeves are a little short, there's some slight (but not visible or irreparable) damage, and for all its impeccable provenance it's an awful lot of money for a used shirt.

I had them put it aside. I'm going to think it over before I go back to Rotterdam next week, but I'd like to know what you think.

  • Yay! Great holiday wear that suits you down to the ground! 
  • Nay! Your '80's id is getting the better of you. Save your money and walk away!
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My signature shoe in cognac - ETA creepers are keepers!

I can't believe my luck. I just walked into my favourite vintage store and found these. My signature shoe, absolute mint condition, in an extremely rare colour.

These are original George Cox creepers, bench made in England. Regulars may recall the hoops I had to jump through to buy my other pair.

So here's the new addition. In cognac. Not a colour I wear very often, but one I'm in the mood to embrace (thanks in no small part to Angie's influence :P )

Two problems though:

  1. They are a size larger than I normally wear. With an insole and a woolly sock they will fit, but not as comfortably as the others.
  2. The cognac colour way (which I love!) reads as very menswear and makes an already chunky shoe look even larger.

These could be a great thing to put in a web shop. They are a real rarity and I think the right shoe aficionado would pay significantly more than I did. On the other hand, I would love to wear them myself! I can suck up the size problem if I think I can make the look work.

What do you ladies think?

Yay - quirky androgynous cool and JFE! keep and wear!
Nay - great for the shop! sell them on for a fast buck!

PS: they have another pair! Plain brown, not quite so lovely, but still darned cool. Should I go back for them and put them in the shop too?

UPDATE: Creepers are keepers! 

I managed to work a quick pickup into my schedule today and brought the shoes home for a tryout. It took a bit of hacking but I’m pretty sure they’re a good fit now. Possibly even better than the first pair and good enough to come on holiday with me next month. I’ve explained how I did it in the comment below

Thrilled to bits!

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37 comments

The Creeper Report (or how I sourced a Brit classic)

Remember I posted about my travails trying to source a pair of George Cox brothel creepers? Well, I've got them now, and let me tell you they are not easy to buy. 

I've written in detail about the history and significance of this shoe on my other blog. Here's the TL;DR version: 

  • The design is an icon of British urban fashion dating back to the 1950's.
  • It was made fashionable in the 70's and 80s by McLaren and Westwood.
  • Copies of the shoe are available everywhere. And I mean, everywhere. 
  • A large brand selling mass-produced replicas is very trendy indeed.
  • The latest designer to pick the style up was Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent (see find below).
  • The original shoe is still made at the same factory by the same independent family business as it has been since 1949. 

Here's the clincher though. In terms of fashion marketing, George Cox are virtually silent. Most of their output exports to the Far East, where they're very popular among stylish ladies and gents. The only place you can buy them in the UK is a hole in the wall in Camden Town, which is where I bought mine. See below for pictures.

Honestly, I've never come across anything so far under the radar. I guess the American equivalent would be discovering that everyone in the US had forgotten about the Schott Perfecto motorcycle jacket and the only way you could buy one was from one tiny store in the East Village because they were all being exported to Berlin and Tokyo. It's hard to imagine. 

I wonder if this is a strategy to keep their independence by sticking to a sustainable business model that works for them and refusing to play the fashion game. Selling to mavens and enthusiasts has kept them in business for sixty years and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Still, I can't help thinking they could be bigger than they are.

The other thing I'm pondering are my own feelings about branding and authenticity in fashion. A major selling point for me is the story of an English bench-made shoe that resonates strongly with my London style heritage. But then there's the the nature of the brand identity. I can see why a replica from Underground or Saint Laurent would be so much more appealing to the fashion crowd than the original. 

The shoes, though, are amazing. Beautifully made. I'm delighted.

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3 days queuing for Kanye's Yeezy

I've just been chatting with a small cadre of young men who have gathered outside a tiny sneaker shop in Amsterdam's Chinatown, a few blocks from my home. They've been camped out in lawn chairs since yesterday, queuing for the very limited edition Yeezy Boost sneakers designed by Kanye West for Adidas.

Apparently, 12 pairs of this highly covetable shoe have made their way to Benelux and will be for sale exclusively in Zeedijk's tiny Patta franchise. These sneaker aficionados are camped out and waiting in line to part with €350 to add these rarities to their shoe farms when they go on sale tomorrow morning. Two of them had travelled all the way from Antwerp to wait in line. They assured me the eBay resale value was at least ten times the retail.

They declined to be photographed, but I did get a picture of their little campsite with me in one of their chairs. They were clearly having a good time. 

If you thought I was extreme for going to London for a pair of George Cox creepers (which I still haven't managed) you have no idea of the lengths some people will go to get their feet into the right pair of shoes. 

I think they are committed. Mr Edge says they should be.

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Reporting on the Raindress for fab cycle commuters (plus pics)

I've been absent for a while but I'm back now after a short holiday and a slightly longer flu. I'm also sitting on a backlog of pictures, so I'll probably do a couple of WIW's in the near future. 

But first, here are some pictures of the Raindress, mentioned in a previous thread, for rachylou and anybody else who rides a bicycle and doesn't want to compromise on style in wet weather. By way of full disclosure, I know the designer and was informally involved in the design process in that I assisted with a little R&D and gave suggestions and feedback on prototypes. I've no specific interest in the product beyond that, but I am maybe a little biased.

As Mr Edge pointed out when I first described it to him, the Raindress is essentially "a trendy rain poncho", but there's more to it than that. This thing is so ridiculously elegant that it goes way beyond gear. When I put it on for the first time I actually wanted it to start raining so that I could go out and bike around showing it off. To paraphrase the designer, it's all about dressing up and feeling good about heading out on your bicycle in the rain, and if that's not an argument for the transformative power of fashion then I don't know what is.

The dress pulls over the head, ties with a sash at the back and fastens under the arms, so it's loose enough to fit over a light jacket or coat. The skirt is long enough to give good coverage and the elastic loops around the legs keep it in place when you're cycling. The loose design gives sufficient freedom of movement and adequate ventilation without too much air resistance. A nice touch are the weighted hems on the skirt and cape, which keep everything from flapping about in high wind. 

The hood fastens snugly under the chin and the tucked design means that it stays put and doesn't impede visibility when you turn your head. It fits easily over a helmet (I checked!) which is an obvious requirement in environments with no bike-friendly infrastructure, which would be anywhere other than the Netherlands.

In general it performs very well in the rain. The material is impregnated poly satin with a breathable backing, all seams are taped and the edges are laser cut for a very clean finish. The whole thing folds into a built-in pocket so you can carry it around when it isn't raining.

It keeps me very dry and my only complaint I have so far is that the short hem on the cape at the back means a wet backside if I hop on the bike without first wiping water off the saddle. This is a minor quibble, as my guess is that more coverage in this area would probably compromise freedom of movement in the skirt. 

So yes. I can definitely recommend the Raindress. If you're an urban cycle commuter and you're fed up with anoraks and nylon over-trousers in bad weather then this is the product for you. 

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