Reign

There is something to be said for aging gracefully.  Nobody wants to be the last one at the party still eating the sushi when everyone else has sensibly gone home.  I think the same is true for fashion.  Everyone from Kate Spade to Alexa Chung will tell you that there is an art to changing your personal style to reflect your time on earth.  Most of the advice involves setting limits but also knowing when to push-back a little.

The two main principles involve length and choice.  Tiny shorts or skirts may no longer be as appropriate when you’re older but perhaps Bermuda shorts or pencil skirts are the way to go?  Also, what you choose in your thirties may not be as appropriate when you’re entering your fifties or sixties only because there is a slight air of desperation associated with it.  But the good news is that legging jeans are for everyone and I hope they never, ever go away.

I once expressed my reticence about taking on certain trends because I’m now a mother, to which my cousin K and bestie K responded, “you don’t look like a mother.”  In a way that made me happy because it meant that I could play around a little longer and not look ridiculous.  I believe that my personal icon when it comes to these things is Gwyneth Paltrow.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been around girls like her since my early teens that I don’t really get my back up like others might.  She was raised in a privileged setting by two parents who probably had certain expectations for her behavior.  They probably also built up her confidence to the extent that she feels that she has something to offer.  In her case, she just does it in the realm of the lifestyle blog.  She’s not the first and will not be the last, so are all the haters planning on taking out the pitchforks for every wealthy girl down the road?  Truth be told, some of her stuff is great and you can find similar items that are more affordable from other sources.  She’s just giving you some inspiration and I like that she has something to say and something to show.

As a mother of two she also knows how to still keep a part of herself when it comes to her sartorial approach.  Gwyneth will rock the black strapless-shift dress, peasant shirt, distressed jeans and leather leggings all as someone in her early forties.  She doesn’t dress the part and her hair is long but more than anything else she just looks like she still takes care of herself.  That is what is attractive.  A woman who has not lost herself in the process of producing life.

Saying all of this though, I fully believe even though we are far from “there” being a woman in this day and age comes with a great deal of choice and freedom.  You can do whatever you want and wear whatever you want and it’s not anyone’s place to judge.  I don’t think those offering lifestyle advice are trying to tell anyone what to do.  They are just expressing how they’re currently negotiating their own identity and it’s on you to incorporate what you want.  With regards to leather leggings though, yeah, I’d probably go there.

tumblr_n5tv5ybbq71taiftro1_500

Baby Beckham

I feel like mothers-to-be are less anxious about shopping for their daughters compared to their sons.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve been dressing ourselves for decades we feel that we have it down pat.  One of the indulgences we have as a parent is a transference of our own style, for at least a little while, on the little man or the little lady.  I’m sure that there are those who don’t really care but for someone who finds this stuff fun, it was an opportunity.

Everyone will tell you not to go crazy on the clothes because they’ll grow out of it soon enough.  That is both true and untrue.  If you are planning on having another child the items you purchase now will be the hand-me-downs.  So, when you commit to the piece ask yourself, will I care about this one, two or three years down the road?  Also, if you’re serious about using it again then you need to invest a bit on quality.  Certain companies wear and tear better, minus the paint and tomato sauce of course.  There is also the matter of quantity.  If you don’t buy enough you will be harder on those outfits and by the time round two comes along they might not be as presentable.  So, with this post I’m going to advise you on how to achieve all three things: design, quality and quantity while being smart about it.

First and foremost, if you are having a son your life is easier already.  There are fewer options available for boys and you won’t be as tempted by those little dresses.  God help my husband if we have a daughter down the road.

Design

It’s a fact that everyone copies everyone when it comes to children’s clothing.  The most beautiful is Boden.  This British company has honestly the best eye when it comes to creating bright, colourful and aesthetically pleasing pieces.  But it comes at a price.  The worst value is JCrew kids.  Do not even go there, even with the deals.  So if you want the style without hurting your budget I would go with the Gap.  I always go with the Gap.  Their designs are minimalist and beautiful without being too precious.

Quality

This is another area in which the Gap excels.  Almost every single weekend there will be a sale that you can take advantage of.  This means that their price tag is often below Carter’s and Joe Fresh who rarely have sales.  The products stand up to multiple washings and even dearly loved items can be extra clothes for daycare or the diaper bag with your next child.

Quantity

Now this is when you have to watch for sales.  Maybe it’s just me but I always find that I buy pajamas and pants in bulk while I practice more careful consideration when purchasing the tops.  With a couple of jeans, cords and khakis you are set to go.  Old Navy makes excellent pants and Carter’s is the king of fleece pajamas.

Timing

I find with boys clothing that they get less cutesy with time.  It’s like they have child psychologists and mothers on their design team because your little man will transition from lambs to dump trucks seamlessly.  But no one really discusses what to exactly look for at each stage in development.  So here we go:

0-6 months

Much of their days in this phase will be spent in pajamas so don’t worry about quality here.  For quantity Carter’s offers the best options and their prints are fantastic.  They may be cute but don’t get too drawn into the jeans, khakis or flannels.  Have a few in hand for outings or dinners but if they hurt your pocketbook don’t worry about it.  There will be lots of time to dress like a Beckham.  This is also when you should go gender neutral.  Beige and white will be your best friends!

6-18 months

Now, this is when you can start introducing the onesies, sweatpants and cotton shorts.  Since they are more active they will be most comfortable in these sets and you don’t have to worry about exposed bellies.  I also start to incorporate sweaters for special occasions.  Brand-wise I would advise Gap or Osh-Kosh.

18 months +

This is the most fun phase and sets the tone for the principles that you’ll follow going onwards.  I have two categories: house clothes and regular clothes.  When he is at preschool or out in society I dress my son in chinos, jeans or cords.  Many of these have cotton lining in them to keep them warm and is soft against their skin.  Also, elastic waists work well with their growing bodies.  For the tops I purchase graphic tees and sweatshirts.  I favor the crew neck because who actually like napping in a hoodie?  The long-sleeved cotton shirts are great for layering and for when the weather is transitioning in the spring and fall.  In the summer I follow the same guidelines with t-shirts and shorts.  When you’re at home the comfy pants come out in full-swing.

Personal style

Ever since he could speak I have allowed my son to choose between two choices when it comes to his pants, shirts and warmer layering material.  This serves two purposes: one, it gives him agency when so much of his life is guided by his parents and two, it trains his eye on color and material.  It is never too early to raise a man who knows how to care for himself.  This is why I would suggest that you buy graphic shirts because he can identify and name the objects too.  Obviously the truck shirt may be more popular than the French stripes but I sneak in the navy and white whenever I can.  Of course this is all within the realm of your style too.  Lets not go crazy here.

Limits

My last piece advice is to know how much you’re willing to spend.  Once you’ve participated in a cycle or two of discounts you’ll be able to define this for yourself.  For example, I mostly buy shirts within the $6-12 range, pants that are $10-$15, sweatshirts that are not more than $15 and sweaters that are mostly $20.  Once you know your parameters it becomes a breeze and it’s fun.  Easy peasy.

f00bfea80ecbc89e6c6a6088810e2fb0

Fabulous

A part of me feels that fashion articles are redundant because the concept of personal style is, well, personal.  But I am the first to clamber over advice on how to dress, especially if it is being peddled by French women.  Guiding principles never hurt anybody.  Do I believe that everyone has their own fashion sense?  Yes.  Do I think they always look good?  No.  But it’s not my opinion that matters, it’s your own.

With my interest in sartorial culture I have learnt a thing or two.  So here are a couple of my strategies on defining what works for you:

1. Look

I’m always looking at fashion blogs, images and items to be purchased online.  I do this for two reasons: I love beautiful things and I want to train my eye.  I want to decisively pick items that could work in several different combinations and builds on what I currently own.  Know what’s in your closet and maximize their value by changing things up and using them again.

2. Listen…

to your gut.  Pulling off that outfit is all about how you carry yourself so if you feel like a million bucks chances are that someone will think so too.  But wear those clothes mostly for yourself and keep it real.  When I gained my freshmen 15+ during undergrad I was in denial and kept on buying the smaller sizes.  Trust, it does not help the muffin top to have your jeans be a corset.  Accept the larger number and do what feels right for you.  Do you want to be smaller?  Great.  Do you love the curves?  Perfect.  Just own it.

3.  Don’t be a fashion plate.

I buy quality items and they are classic, clean and minimal.  They are often in neutral shades because I have a high aversion to looking like a table cloth.  Simplicity never gets old.  The very worst street style images consist of individuals who have adopted every current trend in one outfit.  They’ll have the high bun, running shoes, leather tote, larger watch and fedora.  All at once.  It’s too much.  Stagger out the fabulousness.

4.  But be yourself.

This past summer I asked my husband for his opinion about an outfit and he said “well at least it doesn’t have holes in them.”  I’m lucky in that I rarely have intervene when it comes to his appearance.  He’s fashionable and having his tall, lean, strong build does not hurt either.  So I love that I have a partner in crime when it comes to these things.  Do I agree with his opinion about distressed jeans?  No, because I like them.

5. Be reflexive.

Even when it comes to personal style I ask the social motivation behind it.  Hmm, how do I say this with political correctness in mind?  Fashion often involves co-opting articles of clothing that are worn by members of a specific socio-economic status.  The fashionable part is in the contrast.  The distressed jeans paired with the crisp white dress-shirt and Louboutins.  The Madewell plaid that did not come from the thrift shop combined with the J Brand jeans.  So how is this problematic?  Is it respectful?  I don’t know.

Fashion is so easy to discredit.  Those who take themselves so seriously will probably conclude that it’s superficial and there are more important matters to concern themselves with.  Well of course there are.  But being informed about world affairs and looking presentable are not mutually exclusive.  To each his own but being kind of clueless about your physical appearance does not necessarily make you more highbrow.  Sorry.

10686620_870350279662520_1077158389450645659_n

Shop girl

“It’s fine to shop at outlets as long as you have standards” says my husband.  Girls, I have one of the good ones.  Now that I live in the States I have landed in the motherland of outlet shopping.  They even seem to have restaurants so that you can get some sustenance amidst all of that bargain hunting.  There is nothing better than a mall where everything is on sale, I just personally don’t have the patience to wade through piles of unfolded clothes and throngs of people.  It would feel like Christmas eve at Yorkdale mall every day.  No thank you.  The only exception would be for Le Creuset.  I would enter those gates for a dutch oven that I can barely carry by myself back to the car.

I don’t really see the need for it either since online stores have sales every weekend.  When things are 40-50% off and the products are from this season and not four months ago, it seems a bit more practical since you can wear that sweater or blazer as soon as the post arrives.  Plus, you don’t really have to consider how some companies use different quality of materials for their factory stores.

I love the bargain as much as the next person.  There is such a thrill when you see a discount next to a pair of pants that you’ve been chasing after.  I literally checked the price of a dress from Club Monaco every other day for months.  In the end I bought it for full price because I needed it for an event.  But see, there is a bit of care and thought put into that right?  A sort of devotion?  So when I actually committed to purchasing it, I know that I will love wearing it that night and for many events to come.  You don’t necessarily need to practice this form of restraint when you’re in feverish mode at the sales bin.  You probably make more mistakes and have lots of clothes that you wear once or twice.  Trust, I get as frenzied as the next person, I guess I just like to hunt from the comfort of home with a coffee in hand.

69aa0c377b3df25258dbffff1684336e

Sartorial

At the age of 15 my cousin K asked pointblank if I wanted to look dirty or good.  This was during the grunge-phase of the mid nineties when everyone bought from thrift shops and actually compromised aspects of their personal hygiene for the sake of style.  I thought about it and decided on the latter.

My relationship with fashion has always been touch and go.  There were definite points in my past when I wondered if it was a phase and actually not worth spending that much time or money on.  You know how many girls goes through a horse or ballet phase when their bedroom walls and dear diaries are plastered with these images?  Well, I’ve come to the realization that working on one’s style is not like admiring a ballerina or a thoroughbred.  It’s a life-long project that can be one of the most meaningful ones that you take on.

I never understood why people need an entourage to shop.  I’ve always preferred to shop alone.  It stems from the fact that after decades of trial and error I know which stores work best with the strengths of my body.  I’m also particular about the quality of the products because I mostly choose classic pieces that I hope will last me several years.  Therefore, I am often able to spend 30 minutes on a trip because I enter a total of 3 stores and do not even look at others.  I guess you could classify this as being rigid and it’s true, I won’t discover new looks as easily.  I rather frame it as not wasting my time when something works so well already.  Now, this comes back to why I do not bring companions.  Most people do not shop with a time clock.  I also believe that fashion is all about how you carry yourself.  That’s why when you’re more self-conscious about your body, looking in the mirror can be a trying experience.  But, if you feel that you’ve chosen a piece that reflects who you are then you will feel beautiful, be beautiful.  No one needs to support that type of feeling because it comes from within.

Now, this is what makes sartorial approaches so enjoyable.  Other parts of caring for our appearance aren’t always the most pleasant.  No one likes to visit their waxist but many of us still take that long walk.  But with fashion, it’s an ongoing project where you get to choose and strategize.  It’s beautiful.

We never work alone on these endeavours but instead constantly draw from the social world.  Since my cousin’s pertinent enquiry I’ve been inspired by the New England aesthetic of clean lines and preppy conventions.  I still believe in the simplicity of this approach but currently am inspired more by the French style.  It’s less puritanical.  If you’ve read any of my other posts I’m sure you don’t find this particularly surprising.  The lines are still there but they are cut more precisely and offer a bit more bold playfulness.  An example of a store that provides this look is “Club Monaco.”  I’m pretty sure that every article of clothing this company produces is sewn by little fairies or magic mice.  They are out of this world.  So slip into something that allows you to take on the often heavy notes in this life, something that will give you the confidence to face it all with grace.

tumblr_n956tfnnAC1taiftro1_1280

A jacket and a purse

I realized that I haven’t written about any actual material things yet, even though my blog is called “Things I like”.  So, I’m going to give my first product reviews a go.

Lululemon rain jacket

I’m pretty sure that they don’t call it a rain jacket (warm up jacket?) and it is currently not available because their outer-wear is for the summer season.  So lets hope that they add it to their fall/winter collection because this might be one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.  It’s on the pricier side ($200) and you might ask yourself, “Why would I ever pay this much money for a lighter jacket?”  We Canadians who live with snow, sleet and freezing temperatures for most of the year will generally consider spending a bit more on the winter jacket because really, that’s all people see of your outfit much of the time from November to sometimes April.  Same goes for the boots.  Well, this jacket, due to its rain resistant material and thicker lining, is so versatile that I have worn it in early spring and late fall.  It is a great transition jacket when you are sick of wearing your winter pea coat and are hopeful that the skies will clear and the country gets some much needed warmth.  It’s also longer so it protects you from the wind and the hood will keep your hair dry and your ears warm.  The cut of the jacket is also form-fitting and sleek so a pair of skinny jeans really looks great with it.  I’ve even worn it in Thailand during the monsoon season on the back of a motorbike!  If Lulu does offer it in the fall I would recommend considering this purchase.

Roots satchel bag

I have never been an over-the-shoulder purse girl because I’ve always felt that it you are going to wear a purse, it looks much better slung under your arm.  I have since changed my mind for several reasons.  When I showed up to a party in Thailand with a wristlet, my friend said that if I didn’t want to get robbed it’s important to have big straps that you can put over your shoulder.  Thailand is generally very safe but it’s always important to be aware.  Anyways, I didn’t actually follow her advice till I came back to Canada and purchased the Roots “Small Venetian Prince” bag in brown natural leather.  It is so liberating not having to worry about where you left your purse and just stroll down the street to run your errands.  The purse also fits a surprising amount of things like my clutch wallet, iPod, sunglass case, iPhone, keys etc.  I even fit a Moleskine notebook in there once.  I chose a worn leather finish because I feel that companies don’t show off the natural beauty of their leather goods enough and I knew that I would mostly use it for casual occasions and to generally get stuff done around the city.  Roots also has great quality leather and friends have said that their bags last a few years no problem.

http://canada.roots.com/NewSmallVenetianInTribeLeatherWithBrassHardware/WomensFlatbags//18019422,default,pd.html?cgid=leatherViewAllWomensBags&selectedColor=2400