January 29, 2010

On Valentine's Day and Giving Gifts to Your Someone

Generally speaking, I find reasons to dress up, even if the occasions don't call for it explicitly. I derive pleasure from the process of putting together pieces in new or unexpected ways. I perceive value in keeping an amply stocked closet, even if it pains me to admit the meaning I derive from my most frivolous of material interests. I am fortunate to have a lot of options facilitating smoothly my recent resolution to take very seriously the question of "what will this particular item ADD" before making any moves to purchase. Approaching my shopping habits and crass consumerism with a critical, reflexive approach has been challenging.  Examining critically my patterns of otherwise routine behavior helped me close many browser windows containing full shopping carts during the recent sales. Instituting 24 hour waiting periods before making all online purchases also helped me realize that after the thrill of anticipation wore off, it became that much easier to veto something. And when it came to flash sales, you might as well not even bother after that kind of wait. So I haven't bothered. But I am not without consumer sin on those occasions to purchase gifts for my specific someone, Chris.
(in a Rag and Bone suit and shirt, Theory tie, and Maison Martin Margiela shoes)

We don't do Valentine's Day. Occasionally I make a mix and we listen to it. He cooks a meal (elaborately, as his meals usually are) and we eat it. But that's as observant as we get. This year we have to go to a baptism on his mother's side of the family on February 14th. And that evening our friend is DJ'ing all love songs at the Brillobox so we will have a cheap and probably lovely night out. But even though gifts will not be part of our Valentine times, I have some thoughts on gift giving and loved ones.
Lego Bride and Groom

You see, Chris's 30th birthday approaches. We've scaled back our gift exchanges in recent years because we share a home, we share a life, and we share the knowledge of how difficult it will be financially speaking, to throw a party celebrating our union that can include our large families and group of friends, this October. I have learned that in a relationship you can make memories specific to a holiday and completely removed from the realm of the material. It might seem obvious but in the beginning of our relationship, I felt more steadfast in my desire to prove to Chris my feelings for him in some tangible, measurable way. Gifts seemed obvious in that regard and I came from a family of great gift givers, making it that much more legitimate. So during the first few years of our relationship, we took turns trying to one-up each other with birthday restaurant choices, elaborate plans, expensive gifts, etc. And those make memories, for sure...  but they aren't their only means of production.
Mike and Chris hoodies from Reverse Reverse

These days it makes a lot more sense to our coupling, to our financial circumstances, and to our daily lives to come up with gifts that integrate. Rather than moving mountains with a statement present that might languish in a drawer, we select carefully a piece of casual clothing that is likely to become a staple, a few vinyl records that we currently only have in mp3 format, some obscure deck of trivial pursuit cards to supplement our board game options, or the Criterion version of a beloved film we've saved on our DVR for far too long.
Chris and I recently photographed while chatting with Chancellor Nordenberg at the GPSA Winter Reception at Pitt's University Club.

Even if they are sometimes more modest in price point, gifts of utility to the daily life of the recipient are going to be valued in immeasurable ways. As we grow our combined collections of media the sights and sounds we use to track our shared life also fill our library with colorful memories worthy of both display and regular use. What do you plan to give loved ones for impending gift exchanging occasions?

January 28, 2010

Recent Outfits: Weekend Dinners, Campus Errands, Raok

This last weekend I decided that for Sunday supper at a friend's house I would dress like a mildly deranged grandmother. And I think I carried it off surprisingly well.

I wore a bubble hem dress from Forever 21 (bought years ago) with the purple cashmere cardigan from last week's Kaya dinner, a J Crew silk ruffle top in an ochre mustard color, charcoal Wolford hearts print tights, and Marc by Marc Jacobs captoe flats.

Today I wore a paisley print tie neck tibi dress with a cashmere MBMJ cardigan, Spanx tights, and the same captoe mbmj shoes. And I didn't snap a photo because I've posted both items a bunch here but I did take one of my coat. It was extra cold today and I was going to be running around all over town so I needed to bundle. Over it I wore this many years old MBMJ cape collar faux shearling canvas coat.

The meetings I had went very well, I accomplished various on campus errands, then I went to a lucrative focus group gig in Station Square. I have to decide how to use it. I could just dump it into savings but I've been pretty good at not shopping recently and might treat myself if I find something that strikes my fancy.

I meant to post this last week but Fashionism's Thegreyfox kindly sent to me (as a random act of kindness) this adorable denim chambray dress from H&M.
I quickly snapped a photo of and am excited to wear it in spring! It was so generous of her. It is a little short so I will probably wear it with tights or leggings as shown.

January 27, 2010

How I'd Spend Windfall Cash If ...

I recently came into a bit of money from some random focus group and research related stuff. So I figured since I am mostly not shopping that it would be fun to play "How I'd Spend This If..." Aka, hypothetical shopping. 

How I'd Spend Windfall Cash If: 

a. I could find this See by Chloe bow dress in my size (it is from a season since passed and keeps selling out on ideeli):

I love the color of this one. I would wear it to mass on Easter with my family. It is likely for the best since I tried it on in pink last summer at Cusp in Georgetown.

And in retrospect, it looked kind of dumpy on me as a non-model. So it is for the best that it is sold out. 

b. It would make a bigger dent in the very high price being asked for this amazing (wedding dress caliber) Chloe dress from many seasons ago.

I don't even want to think about how much it cost when it was new and full price. It is far too expensive even with the windfall money.

c. I could possibly justify yet another bag (when I already have too many).

It would be nice to have a purple bag and I love the balenciaga day style. But that would be totally superfluous and similar to the Chloe dress, too pricey.

Instead I am going to sink it into savings and maybe take Chris out to dinner to repay him for Kaya. 

January 20, 2010

Outfit of the day and my commentary in the Post-Gazette!

I am excited to report that I got to do a little bit of fashion commentary for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. My opinions on Golden Globes Red Carpet fashion were solicited for the article. Although I made many more picks than what ran (one of my favorites was January Jones in Lanvin, for example but they had limited space so it is understandable), I was thrilled to be included and hope to collaborate in the future with my favorite local news outlet!

Thank you to Mackenzie Carpenter who included some of my musings on fashion in the piece and linked my blog!

Today I decided to take inspiration from all the stars that played with volume and ruffles in large doses.

The sweater is Twg, the ruffled collar silk top is J Crew, the pants are Old Navy, the necklace is Banana Republic, and the shoes and bag are MBMJ.

It was supposed to be sunny so I wore my lighter weight wool tweed coat by 3.1 Phillip Lim.

January 19, 2010

Recent outfits: Dinner at Kaya, Bday Party at Kelly's

Last Thursday Chris decided to take me out to celebrate strategic victories and resultant financial windfalls from his participation in two fantasy football leagues.* While dining at Kaya we got to see our friend Tim who must have been promoted to server since we last ran into him working. This is great news because that means he has excelled in a restaurant that boasts some of the most friendly, attentive, casual fine dining service in Pittsburgh!

 That night I wore the above ensemble of purple, oatmeal, and black. The purple cashmere cardigan is from winter 2009 clearance racks of TJ Maxx (I think it was around this time last year that I scored major deals). The Juicy Couture skirt has a cute bow detail at the waist that doesn't translate through my poor quality iphone photos. The long sleeved tshirt is from Old Navy. The tights were a free Bloomingdales.com score from when they distributed mystery money gift cards via email. And the shoes are Me Too (also from TJ Maxx).

The next day I went to Kelly's in East Liberty to celebrate a friend's birthday. I belted the Marc by Marc Jacobs Peacock Paisley dress to change the silhouette and it was a big success in that my outfit was showered with compliments all evening!

I paired it with suede and leather captoe mary jane MBMJ pump, a navy patent Miu Miu bag (scored from the Waterfront Filene's Basement years ago, RIP), and a polyblend fabric sash from a vintage dress, used as a makeshift obi belt.

But my favorite outfit moment of the weekend was on Saturday evening when I stayed in and entertained friends (one of who brought over his very sweet dog).

Although I was covered with various furs by the end of the evening, I was so snuggly and warm thanks to my furry friends, Speck and Laika!

*Note that I also participated in one of the above-mentioned leagues, only to find myself in last place by the end of it. But someone has to take last place! My hypercompetitive inner jerk argues that I'd rather be the best at losing than be numbers 2-9. But rational me knows my performance was quite embarrassing.

January 18, 2010

Sale Roundup: Opening Ceremony, Orla Kiely, Built By Wendy

There are plenty of sales happening currently as retailers and designers try to clear out their stock from fall 2009 to make room for Spring 2010. And although I am currently following through with my 2010 shopping resolution to "Want less, so that I buy less," that doesn't mean you shouldn't take advantage of deals!

If I was in the market for outerwear, now would be the perfect time to grab this incredible Tulip Coat from Opening Ceremony.
This uniqueness of this piece would cause strangers to stop you in the street! I love the draping of the layered petal hemline. And the fall colors of the wool.

On Orla Kiely's website all fall 2009 clothing, housewares, bags, and accessories are on sale.
I've always wanted one of the signature car print wheelie bags for travel! This one is still pricey but marked down from retail by about 40%.

On Built By Wendy the fall 2009 stuff is also marked down by about 50% on average.
This dress might be a bit twee for some, but I could easily imagine wearing it while channeling Zooey Deschanel.
I love the nautical whimsy of this knit dress though it is still out of my personal price range even at 50% off. 

Are there any sales you've been unable to skip because of the great selection or prices? I've heard Old Navy took an additional half off their clearance prices. And my local J Crew took an additional 30% off their sale section. My friend and fellow Pittsburgh blogger, Erin keeps tabs on the local shopping scene and alerted me that Pittsburgh Jeans Company's had a sale that began on Saturday.  It could be worth visiting! Happy sale hunting!

January 12, 2010

Rodarte for Target, Rodarte for the New Yorker

Sadly, holiday hustle and bustle kept me from viewing the Rodarte for Target collection in person. Locally, the items were supposedly available at the Homestead Waterfront store. By now it's been picked over and the cream of the crop ended up in the hands of ebay price-gougers. Although I haven't been able to see the items in person, reviews abounded in the blogosphere where the consensus on itchy fabrics of questionable quality kept me away. Still, this mustard colored tulle looked pretty fetching on Natalie Portman.

Though I am always suspicious of valuing too significantly how an outfit looks on a celebrity (with their expert stylists, tailors, trainers, personal chefs, make up artists, etc.).  I recommend checking out the lovely and stylish Golden Means' and Wardrobereview's in store reviews:

This month, The New Yorker magazine features an extended profile on Kate and Laura Mulleavy (the sister designers behind Rodarte). You can read and abstract of that profile here.

Sadly, if you want more you will have to be a subscriber or buy the magazine in store. I was fortunate to receive a tiff version of the article from my stylish fashion blogger friend over at Standing Cinema. Thank you, Cc!

January 05, 2010

Another Year of Happy Part 2:

A frilly slip from Anthropologie became a staple layering piece this year as I explored the hint of femininity offered in the exposed hem of a traditional foundation garment.

A ruffle bib and pleated trumpet sleeves of the Manoush dress layered on top of the slip made this outfit the kind of silly, fussy one I would wear to run on campus errands on my off days from teaching. Specifically I recall wearing this to Piper's Pub in the South Side for someone's birthday dinner. The necklace and painted wooden bracelet were my mother's from the 70s. The shoes are Chloé. The bag is Balenciaga.

This See by Chloé dress made me feel like a mod clown.

I wore it to dinner at a bar restaurant in Wexford with friends. The cardigan is Design History and the shoes are Me Too (both from TJ Maxx). The bag is Balenciaga.

My inclusion of this dress was likely influenced by having just rewatched Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Tibi's Floating Feathers dress in brown and ivory.

It was one of my favorite buys of 2008 and I continued to wear it for teaching when I paired it with my Marc by Marc Jacobs Faridah in Fools Gold and Marc Jacobs purple suede pumps. I also wore this dress underneath my Alice + Olivia skirted windowpane coat to the League of Women Voters Good Government Awards Dinner.

This outfit is pretty simple but once I moved back to DC I was working with a limited closet. I wore some variation of this outfit with frequency once I bought the A.P.C. skirt from Barney's Coop in Friendship Heights.

On the particular date of this photo, I was on my way home from researching at the National Museum of American History. I decided to stop into Cusp in Georgetown, enticed by the large sale sign in the window. I tried on many sale items but walked out empty handed. That day I paired the skirt with an American Apparel deep v printed with hot air balloons by Etsy's Timberps.  I wore it with Tory Burch Lee Lee Reva patent flats and my Balenciaga gris fonce City from 2006.

January 04, 2010

Another Year of Happy Part 1:

Chris casually said this to me as he flipped the self titled Velvet Underground record and I thought it encapsulated so perfectly my pangs of nostalgia for so many moments in 2009 and my optimism for more moment-making as we enter 2010.  Some of my favorite photographed outfits of the year will follow in subsequent posts:

I wore a variation of this outfit many times over winter and fall of 2009. The Alice + Olivia coat was among my favorite super sale purchases. The League of Women Voters "Good Government Awards" Dinner, my friends' intimate Pittsburgh wedding gathering at Lidia's Italy, to Max's Allegheny Tavern to watch Pitt basketball and to eat German food. I could go on...

I got this Tibi dress for a song on ebay in early February and brought it to New York over Valentine's Day.  I continued to wear it throughout the year but it reminds me of February. And I just wore it on Saturday, January 2nd to a family gathering.

This See by Chloé dress was another ebay find. I affectionately named it after Cormac McCarthy's book, The Road, which ignores some of the more whimsical elements of the print. But it mostly evokes an industrial landscape reminiscent (in my imagination, at least) of barren dystopia. I wore it to the Bloomfield Halloween parade and to see the filmic version of the book in the theater. It is far too large so I have to pair it with a cardigan or jacket to have a shape. But I love it regardless.

When I was reviewing my outfit photos of 2009, I noticed how swiftly my See by Chloe dress collection managed to grow. This white linen number was a summer favorite and I wore it with a variety of accessories to dress up or down. I wore it to see Magnolia Electric Company play outdoors at the Andy Warhol Museum. I wore it to see the Pittsburgh production of Sondheim's beautiful metanarrative play, Into The Woods at the Benedum. I wore it to dinner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Labor Day Weekend, which was officially the last weekend of the year where I would wear linen with confidence. And as much as I love tights, sweaters, coats, and layers, it will be a treat to pull it out once 2010 warms up! As a consummate klutz I was a little terrified to care for a white linen dress but between Fels-Naptha (old fashioned laundry soap) and Oxyclean I think I will be able to keep this dress in good condition.

January 03, 2010

Resolved: On Wanting Less and NYE OOTD

Dinner with family and a very fun party with many local and far away friends. Dinner was casual and the party could have been, but why be casual on NYE?

Twinkle by Wenlan dress 

I wore the Marc by Marc Jacobs Kaleigh dress seen above but with tights and different shoes but managed to forget my camera and take no photos with my phone. I had the most fun I've had on any NYE of this decade. And I paid for it with a terrible headache the following day. But my memories of the evening are fond and I am thankful to have them.

My shopping and style resolutions are simple: Want less.

I intend to 'shop my closet' and enjoy the wonderful things I already have. And I am fortunate to be able to make such a resolution with confidence. Knowing that I have no immediate lack for basics, occasion pieces, and interesting options that yield versatility make this decision obvious and easy on the surface. But patterns of consumption are often far more complex and irrational than the practical acknowledgment of needs and veto of wants. Above all else, I aim to curb my compulsory desires for all things new. New for the sake of newness is just not compelling. I am baffled by how persuasive it seemed for so long.

That said, I am far from perfect and know myself better than to institute an indefinite ban. But I've been practicing wanting less for almost the entire fall season. Although I may have bought plenty of superfluous dresses in the last few months as sales cycled through, I only focused on two pieces from the season. And those are the last two I bought. 

I hope that savoring what I have already, rather than obsessing over the chase and hunt for more will assist me in acknowledging appropriately the privileges and good fortune I am grateful to experience in so many arenas of life. Happy 2010!


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