TO UNIVERSE, WITH LOVE

Maanasa’s Shoe Collection

Posted on February 19, 2017

A mathematician’s shoe closet:

To me, Maanasa is pretty perfect. Can do no wrong. Is the smart one.(She teaches in a business school.) The sensible one. And has great taste. But ofcourse I think that – she is my best friend. I have been begging her to let me photograph her closet and make some style posts. “I wont answer shit like : describe your style in 3 words. Don’t you ask me such inane questions”, she said. I agreed.  Easiest things first – presenting her shoe collection :

“Ten years ago, I lived in three pairs – sports shoes, covered or semi-covered flats, and slippers. Moved to America for my PhD. Lived in New York, which marked the beginning of a huge transformation in how I looked at dressing up, grooming and taking care of myself. Today I own a variety of shoes – loafers, oxfords, sandals. And still want to add a few more styles into my collection. “

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 Brown Sandals : Made to measure by Kikanyc. You send in your foot impressions with measurements as per their specifications. The shoe artelier is run by a protegee of the legendary shoe maker Barbara Shaum

Cognac Sandals : Jerusalem.   ( Between Maanasa and me, we bought 8 pairs from the brand so far. For our husbands, dads, uncles, cousins, … The sturdiest sandals I have laid eyes on. Excellent value for money. Pairs well with Indian clothing. )

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Blue Perforated Loafers : New York City based sustainable brand – Coclico

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Black Sandals : Birkenstock.

Tan Sandals : A.P.C  

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Brown Loafers : Ralph Lauren Collection

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White Cut-out oxfords : Coclico

Tan oxfords : n.d.c

A Chat :

I see a lot of masculine shoes. Tell me a little about what you wear outfit wise on an everyday basis that goes with the shoes.

I don’t think my shoes are masculine. They are just not heels. But neither are they the black oxfords that my husband wears to work. So it is relatively easy to wear them. I think wearing black oxfords are so much harder to wear compared to tan/brown ones. I am a uniform dresser. Its usually a plain shirt half tucked in, wool trousers/denim cuffed up, black belt and my  shoes.   I try and make an effort to add a very feminine element to my dressing. It could be in my make up (eye liner ) or top bun or open curls or wear colored stone jewellry or a scarf with a subtle pattern. This extra touch is to celebrate the woman in me.

Oldest shoe and newest shoe ?

      Oldest: NDC – tan oxfords. I got them 4.5 years ago. Ruined them once since I got drenched in rain. But my cobbler could repair them.

Newest: Jerusalem sandals in cognac. They are only two months old. I started craving slip on sandals after I got pregnant and moved to India. 

How do you care for what you own ? fav cobbler in NYC ?

 

My shoe care starts once I am home. I dust them off and then put them in the shoe bags, and clean, condition, and polish at least once a month using my shoe care kit from Saphir . When I first moved to US, I had two shoes in my collection – Bedstu loafer in a very nice green color and dark brown lace up mid calf boots from vintage shoe company. I didn’t do anything to them. They lasted me for 4 years. But the quality was so good that I could have made them last longer had I taken good care of them. Since then, i started relying on two cobblers- one who was close to my place in Long Island and the other one in NYC (Cowboy Shoe Repair on Broome Street).

 

Lets take a moment to remember your studded loafers that we ruined hiking in Sedona. (She visited me in Arizona. And we went on an impromptu hike during a road trip. I was wearing combat boots. She was wearing studded loafers. It was a rocky slope. We destroyed the loafers ! )

Can you believe that I did not throw them away. I did not have the heart to do so. They carried me for almost 3.5 years and made me feel pretty. They became a part of me.  They were my signature shoes. Plain outfits and studded loafers. Early in 2009, it was not in fashion (or atleast my purchase decisions were not influenced by bloggers, instagram, or pinterest). I used to feel that my outfit is complete the moment I put them on. I walked and biked a lot in them. But was surprised that I could even hike them. Later, the leather became very hard and was ruined from the Sedona Bell Rock hike. If I had to buy a similar pair, I would not think twice. But I won’t buy it if it is the same brand (Antik Batik) though. I will get them if they are made with better leather quality.

 

You told me about the one shoe per color that you follow. Elaborate.

 

I have few constraints while purchasing. Need a tick in each of these categories: 1) very comfortable or guaranteed comfort after few wears, 2) usually buy in store unless its impossible, 3) avoid exact color repetition across different styles. The last one is a very strict rule for me. I don’t see a big difference in wearing a heel/sandal/oxford in the same color with denim. Heels might make me feel more delicate..but that is not what I want from my shoes. They have to keep me comfortable on my feet, should be of high quality, and sometimes be attractive.  Here’s a list of what I have currently. 

**Loafers – brown and blue
**Oxfords – tan and white

**Sandals – dark brown, cognac, black strap Birkenstock

 

Since moving to India, how has your collection changed ? ( Avg temperatures : 80-90 degree Celsius )

 I added cognac Jerusalem sandals and dark brown KikaNY sandals. The weather here is rather hot for oxfords and loafers. I only wear them during morning or evenings now, and choose my sandals or my blue perforated loafers if I am walking to work mid day.

Anything on your wishlist ? Or missing from your collection ?

I want to add few more to  my collection. 

**Flats – nude/grey ballet flats? I like this one from Salvatore Ferragamo.

**Kitten heel – grey/black ? (No idea where to find something thats a bit sexy and still functional).

 Any shoe wisdom you want to share ? 

I can only tell what helped me in my purchases.

1) Always buy in a store after walking all morning. It makes hell of a difference when you can talk to the sales representative  about any doubts you might have about the shoe.
2) Look for shoes with great quality leather, and take them to your cobbler for installing a vibram sole after few uses.
3) Stick to the brand you love. My husband only owns Santonis shoes and didn’t once hear him complain about them.
4) Notice which shape of the shoe cap suits your feet. (Almond shape works great for me).
5) Look for shoes with the stiffener. They help with making your shoes last and for ankle support. Use shoe trees.
6) Care for your shoes. Buy products specific for the leather type of your shoes.
7) After wearing the shoe, I see to it that I have half an inch gap between the shoe top and my longest finger.
8) Don’t buy suede shoes. They are very hard to maintain.
9) Don’t buy shoes just because they went on sale.
 

Brands that I adore: Santoni (I dont own any from this one. But constantly drool over my husbands shoes), NDC and Bedstu.


There you go. Isnt it a well chosen collection ? Coming up sometime soon : Style mistakes from our 20s, a conversation.  She is holding the voice memo we recorded hostage. 

Outfit : The Black Winter Coat

Posted on February 17, 2017

The mauve statement coat can be a source of ‘don’t spill food’, ‘don’t let the dog jump on me’ and ‘cant sit on the floor’ related anxiety.  My life is more rustic than glamourous. A black coat is what I wear on an everyday basis. My check list :

  1. A blanket wrap coat with some structure

2. Double layered wool.

3. High quality heavy weight fabric.

4. Should keep me warm without making me look sloppy.

5. The length should stop right at my knee ( works for my body proportions ).

6. Should not look like a bath robe but be roomy.

7. Should not be trendy or look expensive.


….  I hit the jackpot on this one. Its kept me warm in peak Seattle winter, San Francisco’s stormy winds, ski trips to the snow mountains,  …

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Black coat : Phoebe Philo for Celine. Consigned. 

Black denim : R13 100% cotton

Black t-shirt : Cuyana

Black loafers : Saint Laurent

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Winter is the one season where I see the need for jewellry. Black and gray clothing makes a great blank canvas. Dainty jewellry stands out and adds the spark & joy. I actively rotate through the contents in my jewellry box to add that one special element. One piece of jewellry per outfit is enough for me. To me, its the perfect balance between not being boring and austere simplicity. I wear earrings or a necklace or a bracelet. Never together. This turquoise cuff belongs to my friend Maanasa. We share/swap/borrow/steal from each other. I intend to wear it too many times before I return it. It peeks through the coat adding some saliency to the noir backdrop.

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Turquoise cuff : Vintage, Zuni Native-American tribal jewellry, borrowed from Maanasa. 

Painting : Street art from Jaipur, India. I like how they embellished the black garments. 

Style Notes :

THE THEORY OF TWO WINTER COATS

The primary coat should be a neutral easy to pair one and the warmest garment that can be owned. The second for the days when you are sick of winter and need some cheering up. It can be less practical, be in a non neutral color, have bold details, …. I gave myself permission to invest in both. Why just two ? Dry cleaning is essentially rinsing your clothes in a toxic soup and I wont do it. I don’t what those chemicals on my body. Hand washing is a pain. Two is enough. One more coat to wash at the end of the season is not worth the pleasure I would get from the third. Law of diminishing returns applies.

Style Tip :

BUYING A WINTER COAT

I advocate buying a coat from high end luxury makers consigned. Its easier to find 100% natural fabrics with mohair, angora, cashgora, virgin wool, alpaca, … content at affordable prices upon some patience.  The aim is to get the best design, construction and quality for the money spent.  Not to buy something brand new for the given amount of money. 

Non negotiable details : Pockets. Full sleeves that don’t let in the cold air. Big lapels/collar that I can lift up to cover the neck when needed.

For black garments, quality of the material is what matters the most. It can look shiny when its not supposed to. Black can looks ashy and age terribly. A color like bright pink can hold out on its own even in cheap polyester. But black is a different story. The simplest garments need to be in exquisite quality.

Silhouette : I like the roomy kind. It should be able to fit me into it after I layer a thick sweater. I like the ones with some structure and an A-line silhouette.

Fit : You cant bike if your coat fits you just right. You should be able to stretch your arms out. You need to bend forward for extended period of time. Clothes wear our faster on you if you bike. You sweat more. They need to be washed often. There is more stress on the seams. I size up to reduce the wear and tear.

I think of buying a coat as a ‘7 year contract with the garment’. Find quality accordingly. Spend accordingly. Invest in a garment brush. Store it properly. Make it last.

Valentine’s day Gift Guide

Posted on February 12, 2017

This one book will do : Soppy, a love story.

“time stands still best in moments that suspiciously look like ordinary life”

Flipping through this book made us smile the entire time. Its a celebration of a life built together. God of small things. All the moments that go by that I would have written off as normal. But seeing it all in print made me realize – we are the people in that book. And we have experienced these moments. Even on the days when we don’t realize it, we are collecting the memories. ” Do you need a book and a day to realize it? “, you can ask. In the everyday hustle, its easy to forget. In chasing the big moments, its easy to forget the simpler ones. Date nights in restaurants filled with trained chefs are awesome. But so is eating a ripe watermelon crouched over the sink. Getting a bouquet of red roses is nice. But so is getting a tiny wild flower on a random Wednesday because he spotted it on the way home and thought of me when he saw it ….. the little things matter.

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Other gift ideas : a potted plant, seeds and an empty pot filled with mud, a couples tango lesson, cooking class, yoga class, rock climbing lesson, an adventure race, a road trip, a hike, woolen socks, a sketch session where you make your partner sit and you sketch her ( and record her reaction when she sees your final product. do this every year and save the sketches ), going together to pick out a nice bottle of wine, disco date on the couch with mandatory DIY costumes and flashing colorful lights, sleeping in a little longer, ordering breakfast in bed, make a reading date with your old fav books, organize a treasure hunt, go for the longest walk ( break your previous record ), go surprise visit your parents, volunteer at a local food bank together, buy the book I recommended-tear out the pages & mail one page each to all the couples you know, ….


Please suggest some more ideas :

Outfit : The Statement Coat

Posted on February 10, 2017

Operative word : THE RIGHT PINK. It needs to be in the correct shade and appropriate dosage. Two years ago, I was looking for a light color coat to add to my winter closet. White/beige is not a color I wear. Powder blue wasn’t exciting enough. I couldn’t find a flattering shade of Camel.  Taupe or beige with pink undertones was what I zeroed in on. And this mauve Stella McCartney piece checked all of the boxes for me. Not a regret since.

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A funnel coat is my transition-into-and-out-of-winter coat. Its warm but not peak-winter-warm. Its has a cape like silhouette but is practical and wearable. Its for the days I tire of black, gray and winter. Its for the nights in the city when I don’t want to dress up and but want to end up looking like I did. Its what I wear to winter gatherings and refuse to take off when indoors. It doesn’t have any contrasting details, brocades, velvet, shiny buttons, bright colors, fun prints, fur collars, … the elements that are needed to qualify as a statement coat. But its special to my eyes. ( MY TAKE on a statement coat : I don’t want all eyes to take notice. But the right eyes. ) The rest of the outfit stays simple and becomes a blank canvas. Works well with my winter capsule wardrobe of gray, black and navy basics. #myPersonalStyle

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Mauve Coat : Stella McCartney ( my fav ). 70% wool and 30% cashmere. Consigned. Available in other colors ( black, slate blue, navy, army green, navy & cotton, cotton )

Black long sleeve cotton t-shirt : Cuyana 

Black Denim : R13 100% cotton jeans

Black Loafers : St Laurent ( Consigned )

Black BagEmerson Fry office bag ( discontinued )

Style mistake : A trench coat should be long enough to cover the winter coat. I bought a trench jacket which does not keeping the rain out of my clothing and looks funny when layered over a coat. Also, this traditional OOTD format doesn’t suit my blog. Makes me feel like a saleswoman trying to sell the coat (presumably off my back since its old-season). 

Wish List : A magic portion that I can feed my husband that will make him photograph my outfits.  

Staring at a shopping cart …

Posted on February 5, 2017

I vowed to never do this sort of post. Never to show products that I haven’t tested out. If anyone else buys them after I featured them on the blog + if its of shoddy quality for the money … I would feel responsible. I stand by my quality assessment and take it very seriously.  But I am a list maker and wanted to share. Since coming back from India, I am in a weird state of mind. I missed my clothes terribly. I missed the fashion that I usually surround myself with. Been admiring the exquisite simplicity of APC, Row, Lemaire, Jil Sanders … Perhaps its the antidote to what I wore in India … I was meeting my family after long and everyone wanted to to buy me something as a token of affection. Perhaps its a reaction to going to all these beautiful stores/handloom villages and resisting hard … Or perhaps its from writing blog posts about clothing every week. My shopping cart is full and looks like this :

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My selection from A.P.C.  

Blue Dress ( Trigger word : indigo dyed, linen )

Turtle Neck dress ( Triggers : wool felt, winter )

Black pumps ( Am getting over it as I type this post )

Everlane Loafers : I want to review them. See if Everlane is worth the hype.

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The only thing that is stopping me is this blog. Its grounded me and made me accountable to myself. I get emails saying I have inspired people to shop less. I also get emails that I shop too much and am not simple enough when compared to the minimalist Joneses. I ignore the latter for the most part and am old enough to hold out on my own. Weighing everything in, I am sleeping on them and waiting for it to pass. If not, the shoes look good.

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Questions :

Do you have the occasional late night/weekend whirlwind browsing sessions ? 

Do you add items to the cart and stare at them till you loose interest ?

Is your current wish list empty ? If not, please share ?

Favourite Illustrators

Posted on February 3, 2017

Art of art’s sake. Art for a purpose.

These two categories sum up how I perceive various creatives. Being an artist is way more than ability to sketch. Creating something original takes imagination, intelligence and a vision. And making art for a cause – takes a strong heart. These illustrators have been my cheerleaders for the last 10 days. Here is my tribute and thanks. My Valentines day card.

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Her Instagram

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Her Insta

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Her Instagram

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Her Instagram

5. Carrie L

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Her Insta

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Her instagram

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Her Insta

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Her Insta

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His Insta

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When the music changes, so does the dance. A shout out to lifestyle bloggers Reading my Tea Leaves, Man Repeller, Ecocult, Fashion Law, A cup of JoGarance Dore, … who are speaking up. They could have kept with their usual schedules like nothing is happening. But they are using their platforms to stir the pot. I didn’t participate in the women’s march. I am back in America and here is my protest in solidarity.


Questions :

“We still have to protesting this shit” ?

Am I time traveling backwards ?

… why ?

Do you think internet activism works ? Or do you think we are better off yelling on the streets ?

Will protest be the new brunch ? 

Outfits : Mothers and Daughters Edition

Posted on January 28, 2017

 

This post is my answer to the previous post ‘Do you dress like your tribe?’. My tribe is my friends and family. Here is a part of mine – my mother and grandma. We have our own idiosyncrasies and grew into our selves with time. We don’t dress alike but really enjoy each other’s style. My grandma takes her sartorial pleasures seriously. She accentuates her favorite features and takes immense pleasure in dressing up. To me, my mother is drop dead gorgeous and everything looks great on her. I really like it when she wears red, blue and green. But she prefers beige and brown. My mom loves dressing me up. She has spend the time stitching and embroidering my clothing in the past. Whenever we meet, we go into each others closets and investigate. She once sulked for an entire hour when I wouldn’t let her re-oraganize my closet, when she visited me in Arizona a few years ago. I don’t think my grandma likes the way I dress but she keeps it to herself. Here are a few of our outfits :

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Green Saree: She bought it 30 years ago for her daughter’s wedding. It has real silver threads woven in. She claims that they don’t make such (quality) clothes anymore.

Peach Saree : Mangalagiri cotton.

Scarf : Borrowed from me. A men’s Brunello Cucinelli scarf thrifted by me. I may have given her first taste of cashmere. Infact, she liked it so much that she said “so what if its second-hand ! Its nice “. Before-scarf, she was disgusted that I buy second hand.