Yoga

Posted on September 15, 2018

[ Known forms of meditation : Trance dancing, drumming, ritual body postures, yoga asanas, yoga breathing, yoga meditation, mantra, yantra, vipassana, zazen, zen in action, Haiku, brush painting, tai chi, quigong, prayer, sufi dancing, candle meditation, prayer beads, needle crafts, journaling, gardening, ….. ]

My chosen method of meditation is yoga. I am a beginner.

My yoga. It is an ever evolving relationship. It’s special. It’s personal. It’s free from capitalism. It’s free from cults that requires you to follow without asking questions. It’s ever evolving. It’s mine. I am no one to talk about the asanas or the philosophy. The masters should do the talking and I will listen. My teachers deserve to be put on a pedestal and worshipped for their way of life. Allow me :

My mother

As children, we would see my mother sleeps on the stone floor next to the bed in the night. No, it’s not some form of patriarchy at play. She meditates in shavasana and falls into deep sleep. She wakes up, does pranayama and a yoga routine that she has been doing for decades. She doesn’t show off. She wont preach. It’s personal. I understood the extent of it’s importance to her when she was battling cancer. It was stage 3. Chemo destroyed her body. Took the life out of her. Made her bed ridden. She would throw up a dozen times and faint from lack of energy by the end of the day. Given what’s been going, she refused to surrender to the disease. She would wake up in the morning and do yoga. 5 minutes on some days. 10 minutes on a good day. 30 minutes after a few months. She wasn’t going to give it up to cancer. Not her yoga. It gave her strength to face life during a rather dark period in her life.

James

I used to practice one-on-one with him in the studio where he taught. One breath, one movement and instrumental music. It was a dance. We would move in sync. You can move from pose a to pose b like a drill. You can dance into it with grace and rhythm. He made yoga a joy to practice. We became great friends. On one fine day, he bought a 1000$ motorbike and travelled around Arizona. The Canyons got to him. He got the travel bug. That next week, he packed his bags and moved to Asia. I never saw him again.

( His Instagram )

Alex Austin

“Dont recoil from the pain. Imagine you are a coma patient. This is the first time in years that you are feeling your legs. When you move them, it’s extremely painful. Do you quit the first opportunity to feel your legs in years and let them be limp ? Or move ? ”

I can be lazy and not go all the way. He showed me that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. “No negative thoughts”, he would yell from across the room at me in his booming voice. I still hear it in the back of my head.

Dave

He designed a routine for me and said ‘do this for the next 6 months. We will add more later’. I was baffled. I was expecting a lot of hand holding. “This is not gymnastics. I am not going to teach you how to jump from pose A to pose B”, he said. He is a Zen practitioner and it reflected in his teaching methods. I am very thankful to him for giving me the freedom to discover my own path. Yoga can be a from of moving meditation.

Krishnamacharya

The father of modern yoga. This book changed my life. (I got interested in minimalism because of him). Sometimes, the tradition can be blindly followed while the underlaying intention/principles lost. He taught yoga like a doctor prescribes medicine – for healing. He personalized it based on the individual body type and the desired result. His way of life and thought process has a lot to teach.

( This fantastic book ! )

Know your body

I experimented on myself in my 20s. I tried every kind of exercise class I could get myself into. What are the weak links in my body ? What do sprints do for me ? What does long distance running do for me? What should I do to become lean ? What should I do to put on muscle tone ? What should I do to increase my upper body strength ? What should I do to build stronger legs ? What should I do to get the roundest backside ? What is the quickest way to disperse stress without the exercise tiring me out ? What can I do to slip into a thinking zone as I exercise ? What can I sneak in, during the day to refresh the mind ? If I had 5 minutes per day to exercise, what should I do? I have kept an exercise journal for the last 7 years. I have experimented with various ratios and proportions of diet. What does raw food do for me ? Whats the least amount of meat I can eat ? How does my body process gluten ? What sort of vegan food is satisfying to eat ? How much caffeine can I handle ? What does alcohol do to me ? What is my detox strategy ? What’s my ideal plant based diet ? Should I be spending the money on macro nutrients and exotic super foods ? How do I know what’s true from what I want to be true ? Because placebo effect is strong in this field. I think I have “some” understanding of what works for me.

 

My Current Routine

I have taken yoga classes for years from various institutes in India, Arizona, Texas, Lousiana and California. I no longer do the style of yoga where a teacher tells you when to move from pose A to pose B. I want to move to my own breath. I don’t want to be rushed into it and out of it. I want it to be moving meditation. I have a routine that works for me. It’s a derivative of Tony Horton’s P90x yoga & Ashtanga primary series. On somedays, I move to it with delicious instrumental music in the background. On somedays, I need the quiet.

An ideal weekly schedule (never happens) :

p90x yoga inspired routine – 2 days

30 surya namaskar – 3 days

HIIT / hike – 1 day

Rest day.

If I get a 5/7, I consider it a success. Usually, HIIT days become rest days because I dread it. I either should plough through or find something more pleasurable to do. On an average, it’s a 4/7 and one day of house cleaning. I do a little gardening everyday.

Exercise, Not an option

I don’t feel good if I dont exercise in the morning. The day is less productive. I have less energy. I have no appetite. It’s a life lived with a veil put on.

The day one of my period is awful. I empty my menstrual cup 3-4 times. It drains me. It makes me want to stay in bed and never get out. When I exercise regularly, menstruation is a non-event and slips into the background. If I don’t exercise enough during the month, it takes a center stage and I become dependent on people around me.

I see the stats on sexual assault and it horrifies me. What can we women do in self defense ? Men are physically stronger by default. I won’t be able to over power and fight back given my lack of upper body strength. Taking a self defense class has been on my list for a long time. ( Being fit is a life skill for us women, in my opinion. )

White noise :

I found every form of exercise I did in the past, meditative after I reached a certain proficiency. But with yoga, I think you can tap into that mind space right away.

I watched the Twilight movie and came out inspired. I somehow saw it as a running movie. I was impressed by the agility of the vampires on screen. ( I downloaded the background score from the film and used it as exercise music. ) I don’t remember much else from the film. When I was running, I found inspiration everywhere. I now find inspiration for yoga when I see someone dance, when I see a child do cartwheels in the park, when my cat cleans his tail, when I see beautiful empty spaces, …. I see it everywhere.

On game day for Phoenix Suns, I used to watch basket ball games from the thread mill while wearing my Nash sports jersey. I would stay on the machine for as long as they are playing. It’s my way of showing support to my team. I know how hard it is to go through a game. It’s easier to scream at them and show disappointment from a couch/bar while snacking. Move with your team, is my motto.

I adore people who exercise/dance/climb/hike/move/…. I want an athletic dog. Cinco, my cat, thinks he is an athletic dog. My partner plays soccer, football, volleyball, badminton, racquetball and bikes.

The women in my family exercise. Lot of them are kick ass athletes. When we meet, we always schedule an exercise class that we can attend together. Some relationships are strengthened over sweat and play. Put us all on a couch and we get restless.

“You learn a lot about a person as a teammate in a sport. The camaraderie between players, the healthy competitiveness, the humor when lady luck ignores you, the gentlemanly conduct on the court, sportsmanship in defeat, magnanimity in victory.” I fell in love with my partner on a badminton court.

He is way fitter than I. When we go on hikes, he is like a rabbit running in the front while I play catch up. I exercise harder so that I won’t become the weak link in our team slowing us down. I get to take part in sporting activities because I tag along with him and his friends. He inspires me.

I once cried on a volleyball court. Not because we were loosing. I was the only woman on the court. The men in my team made a silent pact to cover me and didn’t let me play. After the game ended, an opponent came up to me and said “next time, choose a team who has more trust in you”. And the tears came tumbling down. [ Puts Serena’s incident in perspective. ]

My mother’s solution to every ailment is exercise. You can go to her with a problem and she will ask if you have been exercising lately, to begin her diagnosis.

I can’t do a single pull up. It’s been on my list for years. A few years ago, I couldn’t do a singe push up. I checked myself into a bootcamp and could do 7 at the end of 3 months in camp. It’s amazing as to how our bodies obey.

With style, in my opinion  : 1/3rd of it is in the way you think.  1/3rd of it is in the clothing. 1/3rd of it is body language and body confidence. Exercise, diet and sleep should get more coverage on this personal style blog. The way you stand can change the silhouette. Limbs look longer when they are toned. The way you slouch can change the whole demeanor and make the clothes look limp. I don’t wear a section of my closet when I am not feeling my personal best. If I don’t exercise, my calf muscle atrophies and I dislike how stick like my legs look in proportion to rest of my body. ( It’s all in the ratios and proportions. ) The organs that visibly put on weight when I do, is my bust and thighs. Shirts that gape and jeans that are constricting are no fun to wear. Hence the choice of boyfriend shirting and denim with stretch. I did the math and built my closet accordingly.

Zero-waste Exercise :

With yoga, I don’t have to travel some place or own equipment that needs electricity or need special facilities to get my workout. I also don’t think I need certain kind of clothes to do my routine. It’s a low waste activity. Since this is a style blog, I will list what I wear. I do yoga at home in my living room and we have our privacy. It’s him and I + an outdoor cat. I usually practice in a sports bra and running shorts. Unfortunately, they are made of synthetic fabrics that contribute to the micro-fiber pollution of our water bodies. In the future, I plan to look into cotton undergarments. If I go to a yoga studio, I wear running shorts and a tshirt. When I have guests over, I wear tights and a t-shirt. I try not to wear the polyester / technical clothing unless it’s really required. Every time you wash your polyester, you contribute to the micro fiber pollution of our water bodies. Hiking a mile or two, car camping, going for a walk, … etc does not require special clothing in my opinion. I reserve my exercise clothes for the harder/longer workouts.

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Inventory of my active wear closet

Short sleeve tshirt X 2

Long sleeve tshirt X 2

Tank top X 1

Cropped legging X 1

Full length legging X 1

Sports bra X 5

Running shorts with built in underwear X 3

This is the right amount for me. 

This is all of my athletic clothing. I haven’t purchased anything new in the last 5 years except for the yearly replacement of sports bras. Lululemon, during its nascent years was Made in Canada and had exceptional quality. I was gifted some of these clothes by Maanasa & my aunt. At university, i once had my laundry stolen,  lost most of my clothes and was very upset. My sister bought me some exercise clothes to cheer me up. The women in my life exercise and love the clothes like I do. At the height of it’s popularity, Lululemon were selling out their fresh stock in less than an hour on a weekly basis. I saw it as a sign and bought some stock. I sold it when it doubled and bought myself some exercise clothes with the profit. It’s the same clothes I wear today. I don’t think of clothes as investment purchases but this is a zero-loss purchase.

Notice all the color in my active wear closet ? I used to run on the street at 7pm and safety was a concern. I solo hike and I want to be visible. I don’t want neutral exercise clothing. It’s alright to not have it match. It’s alright for it to be too bright. I like my hot pinks and periwinkles when I sweat.

Mat, by Jade Yoga.

“Jade mats are eco-friendly as they are made with a renewable, sustainable resource – natural rubber, tapped from rubber trees. Jade mats contain no PVC or other synthetic rubbers. Perhaps most importantly, Jade yoga mats are made in the United States in compliance with all US environmental and labor laws. Finally, through its partnership with Trees for the Future, JadeYoga plants a tree for every yoga mat you buy.”

My mat was purchased from Yoga to the People, a donation based studio. They take orders on mats and get them in bulk on a monthly basis. Do check out your fav local studios for packaging free mats.

If you own any yoga mat, this article might be useful : how to recycle your mat at the end of it’s life.

Fav books on yoga 

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Left :  A 101 on meditation.

Right : Krishnamacharya, the mothership.

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Left : Kino’s experience in ashtanga yoga and the primary series. 

Right : Krishnamacharya’s son shares his understanding of yoga after a lifetime of practice under his father. 


[ Disclaimer : This post is by no means meant to be a prescriptive on yoga or exercise clothing or meditation or life. ]

 

To end this post, a parody video.

White Noise : August Edition

Posted on August 31, 2018

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This Tribeca Loft won the Gold A design award.  The view of the sky room/patio filled with plants from the living room is charming. Take a closer look.

Ferm Living catalogue has dropped. 

A talk by Fibershed’s founder Rebecca Burgess, hands down the best comprehensive lifecycle 101 for laymen who want to understand sustainable fashion. ( Students of science will love this one. )

I am an anti-lawn evangelist.

A scientist marvels at the engineering in a Comme des Garcons dress.

( For readers who understand Telugu language. )  When a member of samskari police and an artist with the urban sensibilities of modern India have a dialog. ( Samskari police is an Indian slang used to refer to folks who bully others in the name of culture and tradition. )

A review of ASOS clothing by someone who has knowledge of the craft.

Life skills everyone should know.

Erin’s Q&A about ethical fashion.

Stephen Bayley’s morning routine.

The vibe of this festival. 

This gardener’s personal style. 

Nick McDonald’s home.

Identifying quality of denim.

This insta second-hand store.

This podcast on Fake News from an algorithmic perspective.

Blue garment of the month : This dress has a thin red stripe at the bottom of the skirt. That little detail !

Second hand finds : Army green striped sweater in cashmere, black and pink striped top in cashmere, navy and ivory striped tshirt, gray and ivory striped sweater in cashmere, black wool poncho with brass buttons, navy swing trench in cotton and the most beautiful coat I have ever seen.

( Affiliate income from August & September has been pledged to the Kerala Relief Fund. Thank you for your support. )

Vintage floral print.

This pink marble serving platter.  ( Santa ? )

This home tour.

Hello, I am an influencer and I want free stuff in exchange for exposure.

This grilled fish recipe.

This post on starting a backyard vegetable garden.

This tea house.

This wedding day photo.

Currently Reading : Gardening with a Wild Heart, by Judith Larner Lowry.

Kino Macgregor , the ashtanga yoga teacher gets a lot of flank for the shorts she wears. Here is her reply  :

First of all, people don’t like the clothes I wear.  I’m not going to apologize for my choice in clothes, whether they are too small, skimpy, bright or whatever. At the risk of sounding callous and elitist, I think the discussion about telling women to cover their bodies lest they offend or stimulate someone’s sexual desire belongs to a by-gone era, not the year 2013.

The men’s traditional yoga gear is a loin cloth that barely covers anything.

I wear short shorts, they cover everything that needs to be covered, and I honestly think people should just get over it. I’ve had numerous conversations where I explain my choice of yoga clothing to people, and I am getting exhausted by it. I’m from Miami—where it’s hot and a lot of people wear shorts and show a lot of skin.

I figured out long ago that if I wore pants I would use friction instead of core strength and that no men were wearing tights to hold themselves up in the challenging arm balances. So I made a conscious choice to wear shorts even though I slipped and fell off my arms for years. Here I go…explaining my choice in clothes again and I’m honestly sick of it! My choice is mine alone—I certainly don’t force anyone else to wear shorts.

If you don’t like shorts, don’t wear them. If you don’t like seeing my wear shorts, don’t watch. My freedom of choice is rooted in the history of women who gave their heart and soul to feminism so that I could vote, wear mini-skirts and tiny shorts, burn my bras, go to college, pursue any career that I am qualified to do, lift up into handstand and marry whomever I want freely. I will not betray the heart and soul of feminism to appease anyone’s else’s discomfort with my skin.

Lastly, a shout out to this lady for this reply :

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The metrics I choose to remember the passing of August.

# of sun salutations : 347 ;  # minutes of HIIT : 30 ; # trail miles 3 ; # closet additions 1, # garments worn out 0 ; # plants planted 13 ; # books finished 3  ]

Field Notes : House Plants

Posted on August 17, 2018

[ I am new to this. It’s too early to declare love. It’s way too early to profess knowledge. This is what I have learnt so far. ]

“It’s now trendy to have house plants. Instagram is making people jump on the bandwagon. What a cliche.”

– an acquaintance.

“I don’t see it that way at all. I rejoice in the fact that we have more common ground than differences, in the pursuit of happiness. It can be really simple. Grow some plants. It’s accessible for everyone.”

– me.

“Only the ones who have never grown a plant are capable of saying such stupid words. The ones who garden are usually eager to share the happiness.”

– I wanted to say but that would have been very rude.

There is a certain happiness in nurture. It could be with a fellow human we find companionship in. It could be a child we raise. It could be a pet we grow old with. It could be a robot we train. It could be a tree that we plant. Of all of them, houseplants are the easiest to deal with !! They add that element of living beauty to my home. They clean the air inside for me to breathe. Why did I wait this long to get started ? Maybe it was the tiny home I was living in. I was terrified of every addition becoming clutter and stealing the limited space. Or maybe I hid behind ‘no green thumb here’ excuse. It’s a total myth. Nobody is born with brown or green fingers. Everyone learns it as we go. It is said that when a student is ready, the teacher appears. In my case, I found many teachers :

  • My ex-landlord Fernando is my biggest inspiration. He once asked us for a favor : to look after his garden when he was on vacation. Breathing the air, watching the sun set though the leaves, seeing the growth spurts, plucking the avocados, walking barefoot, touching the soil, ….. It was him doing us a favor. Harsha and I started to fight every day over who gets to water the garden. “Will you stand next to me when I water the plants?”, he once asked me. That sounded like a love letter to my ears. When I was leaving Fernando’s nest, he gave me a cutting of every single succulent he had and pots to house them.
  • I have been doing craigslist rescues all over Bay Area. Every single visit triggers a am-i-walking-into-a-seriel-killers-home-paranoia as a defense mechanism. 9 trips till date. 9 new friends. I have sat on their couches and shared plant memoirs. We text each other updates on the plants. Gardeners are a generous bunch. I usually come home with more than what I paid for : plant cuttings, extra potting soil, compost, manure from chickens, tea leaves, flowers, …  If plants can make humans magnanimous, I want them in my life.
  • Nostalgia is a teacher. When your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, .. are farmers, its a genetic pre-disposition and the memories that propel you forward. As cliche as it sounds, ‘it’s in my blood to care for plants’.
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Buying them

  1. Rescuing older plants in my city, is my first preference. It’s easier to take over, from someone who put the effort into it and can pass on the knowledge. They would have prepared the soil and found a big enough planter. Half of the work is done. It’s cheaper too. ( I have gotten healthier plants from folk who grow their gardens. More so than hipsters who buy plants recreationally for home decor. )
  2. Buy from a reputed nursery who have gardeners on site. Home stores get their supply from nurseries and the fresh batches are the healthiest. The longer they seem to sit on the shelf, the less care they get. Each plant has its own requirements and a non-gardener in store is not the best person to provide it.
  3. The smaller plants is my preference. They are less of a financial loss if I cant get them to grow in my environment. They are easier to plant. They are cheaper. With large plants, I become a plant buyer. Some one else did all the work. I want to be a gardener, not a plant owner. I want to watch them grow. I want to celebrate every new leaf and flower.
  4. Do not buy large plants growing in small pots. Without enough soil and space to grow, the root system is undernourished.  The roots could get bound strangling each other.
  5. Avoid buying plants that are in display windows in stores. Avoid plants that show signs of pest or disease. Its hard to gauge the extent of infestation. It might spread to other plants in my home.
  6. Look at the bottom of the store planter for signs of root growing out of the holes.  Its a sign of neglect on the nursery’s part. You may have to cut them before repotting.
  7. Most nurseries have a clearance section for plants they want to get rid of. Unless you are an experienced gardener who can trouble shoot, stay away from it.
  8. Check for the labels on the plant. Do a quick internet search for maintenance requirements. I got carried away with some pretty ferns and am currently struggling to keep the humidity levels to keep them happy. Check for poisonous plants if you have pets and children. Some of the Instagram famous plants are rather high maintenance. Exercise caution.
  9. For a newbie like me, warm weather is a good time to bring new plants to my home. During the winter months, getting them to survive is harder.
  10. Propagating plants is a more economic and organic way to grow plants. It’s wonderful to have friends who garden. The legend has it that Fernando built his garden by collecting seeds and cuttings over the last 30 years.
  11. In a short amount of time, I have learnt that there are plant trends that you got to resist. Some of them get hoisted to exotic status for what ever reason. (Ahem, because they are photogenic.) They are sold for a premium in select stores. Craigslist becomes a bidding ground for the the exotics. But if you wait, they make their way into home stores and become affordable. Ikea now has Fiddle Fig leaf tree and Home Depot has string of pearls. Like fashion, plants seem to go out of trend and something else becomes the hot plant of the year.
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Planters

  1. Plastic pots have some advantages but I am too biased to mention them here.
  2. Clay pots are heavier than plastic pots. They are stabile which matters for bigger plants. Their porous nature absorbs excess water. They allow excess salts from fertilizer to escape. They have temperature regulation properties. They stay cool in summer which keeps the compost from drying up sooner.
  3. Craigslist is a great place to find planters. Its wise to have some on hand, at all times.
  4. Always choose a planter with a drainage hole in the bottom. Root rot is hard to treat.
  5. Planter size is measured as the diameter across rim-to-rim. Plants need to be repotted every year as they grow. They recommend not going up by more than 2 inches / next size up.
  6. Always have a saucer to catch the excess water under the pot. Some plants require deep watering and fear of ruining floor boards might hold you back from doing so.
  7. Never buy planters which are thick in the middle while being narrow on top and bottom. The roots will grow wide in the middle and would be hard to remove when you need to repot next year. ( The plater in the photo below is a bad idea. )
  8. I enjoy ceramics and am keen on finding some artwork in this department.
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Soil

  1. A bad gardener grows weeds. A gardener grows plants. A good gardener cultivates the soil.
  2. Garden soil is not the right medium for indoor plants. I have two plants that are infested because I scooped out soil from outdoors and mixed it with my vegetable compost. (Taking them out of the pot, giving them a bath and fresh soil revived them. ) Use a proper potting soil for your indoor plants. Else, the soil maybe acidic, alkaline, nutritionally deficit or have an imbalance of clay/silt/loam. It might be contaminated by pests and disease.
  3. Loom based composts ( available in most home stores and nurseries ) are the traditional choice. Ingredients include : sterilized loom, sand, peat, fertilizers, limestone, …
  4. Peat based composts dry out quicker than loam based types and some plants like this type of soil. ( They are called soil less compost. )
  5. Potting composts are specially formulated for root growth and are free of pests.
  6. Garden compost is the sort I make from my kitchen waste is not suitable for indoor plants.
  7. Buy from nursery so that you can ask about the type of soil needed, from a gardener on site.
  8. Periodically nourish the soil. For indoor plants, it has to come from some sort of fertilizer. The downside of using fertilizer is the salts that accumulate with age. Giving plants a bath and repotting help. Water soluble fertilizers, slow release granules, compost tea, ….. help.
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Light

  1. Light is a spectrum of colors. To generalize, plants use the red ( to form flowers ) and blue ( to grow foliage ).
  2. Duration and intensity of light can be figured out from the cardinal direction your windows face. Intensity of light decreases with the distance from the window. Duration varies by season. Cleanliness of the window matters too.
  3. Every plant has its own specific requirements. Lots of my plants are ones that grow deep in the canopy of the forest and burn up if placed in direct sun. We try our best to recreate the conditions of its natural habitat.
  4. Curtains matter. I currently have some cheese cloth and muslin on my windows to provide diffused light.
  5. Do not move plants from dull light to strong light. Let them gradually adjust.
  6. The color of the walls matter. Lighter shades reflect light while the darker colors absorb more. Mirrors help with adding light to an otherwise dimly lit corridor/room.
  7. Leaves usually turn towards the light and you will need to rotate the planter often to not have a plant that leans towards the windows.
  8. Wipe your leaves periodically. A dust covered leaf will not absorb enough photons to support photosynthesis.
  9. Electric light is an option for homes without windows. It is possible to grow herbs and vegetables in mini grow houses.
  10. Mirrors reflect light and can contribute to the required amount of photons.
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Location

  1. Some plants react poorly to wind coming from open doors and drafts from ill fitting windows. They react to such stress by dropping leaves and flower buds.
  2. Bathrooms and kitchen are more humid than the rest of the home.
  3. Some plants do not like being touched and need to be put away from foot traffic.
  4. Plants are not art work or furniture. They cant be placed where ever the decor needs an object. Find a spot that meets the light, wind and humidity requirements.
  5. Most plants don’t like the ventilation from your AC blowing directly at them. Pay attention to the placement.
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Water

  1. It is recommended that you water as slowly and deeply as possible. Give the roots the time to absorb the water instead of letting it run through the soil into the saucer.
  2. Some plants do not like water touching the stems / leaves. Some plants like mist on their stems / leaves. Know what your plants like.
  3. Some plants like humidity. Some plants need humidity to thrive. If its natural habitat is a tropical rainforest, placing it in your dry living room is cruel. Spraying water is not the same since it only increases the humidity in the surroundings for a minute or two. A pebble tray or a room humidifier are good options.
  4. Do not water on one side of the pot. Some roots getting too much water leads to root rot which is hard to treat. Try to uniformly wet the soil.
  5. When to water a plant and how much, is not a generic solution. It’s something a gardener learns.
  6. If you see mushrooms and moss grow in your pot, it’s a sign of over watering. Cut back but rejoice about the fact that your soil is healthy enough to support these organisms.
  7. Type of water : some plants react poorly to the fluoride/chloride content in tap water. I have seen gardeners harvest rain water and use it to water the plants. I used filtered water.
  8. Temperature of water (?)
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Hidden Costs

  1. Time commitment. I take 10 minutes every morning to water the plants. I have two plants that need water twice a day. Will they all die if I go away for a weekend ? Once a week, I wipe down the leaves when I clean my house.
  2. Water consumption. The nicer looking plants like monstera, ferns, etc are transplants from african tropical forests. They like humid air and wet soil. Succulents are easiest to take care of and need very infrequent watering from the humans to thrive.
  3. A special kind of anxiety that worries about the health of the plants. Are they getting enough sun ? Should I fertilize it ? Oh no, a brown spot. The leaves are drooping. Google, what wrong with my plant ? Tell me ! Tell me now.
  4. Do not get carried away and bring home a lot of plants. They will need to be re-potted next year into bigger pots. It’s wiser to add new ones as old pots empty out.
  5. Greed. Its tempting to fill the house with plants. The line between passion and greed is crossed when you know that you cant provide the care they need. I have about 20 indoor plants and this is as much as I can handle for this year.
  6. Stress. When I see leaves of a certain plant browning or if I see the windows open, I start to worry for my plants. I really wish I gradually added plants over the months instead of over weeks. My heart is not set up to see them die or suffer or gather diseases.
  7. Pests. ( I don’t know enough about it. )
  8. Pruning for optimal health. ( This has to be learnt on by-plant basis. )
  9. Death of a plant is very painful. It’s a possibility.
  10. Keep track of the plant schedule. I have a private Pinterest board with a pin each for every plant I bring in. I have a watering schedule on my fridge. It’s quick reference for when in doubt.
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Decor design

  1. This is subjective. Some folks like a lot of color and texture. I like the minimal aesthetic and negative space. Showing restrain in number of plants definitely makes the space more airy. But I think I like urban jungles.
  2. I have seen some stunning homes use white walls for a background, earthy tones for accessories and use plants to bring in the color.
  3. Tiny home living has shut me off to any sort of decor ideas. I am starting to learn from scratch. I know that something is “off” in my space but I don’t know how to fix it. Everything I do looks amateurish. I currently am years away from getting my space to look good. I starting following decor blogs for ideas and inspiration.
  4. Too much variety and too many exotics aren’t harmonious. They can quickly become visual clutter. (Especially since I view home as a place of sanctuary and want some calm from the outside world. )
  5. In landscape design, they talk about 3 variables : color, form & texture. Color refers to foliage. It can range from light chartreuse to deep olive green. Form refers to erect, columnar, triangular, creeping or sprawling. Texture refers to fine, medium or coarse. As a rule of thumb, you are asked to vary no more than one of these three aspects to achieve harmony. ( This is easier said than done. I initially bought plants because I liked the shape of the leaves and patterns on them. Much like a closet full of prints, they don’t pair well. I am not happy with how my plants look next to each other. But I am happy to have them at home. With time, I will alter my space to reduce the entropy. )
  6. Having some uniformity among the planters helps with the harmony.  All terracota or smooth finish or unglazed or white or black – work well together. But play with color if its one plant per room and the room is rather neutral in tone.
  7. Pay attention to larger plants like you would to furniture. They take up the space and make a statement.
  8. Bicycles, books, mirrors, weathered wood, stone, clay, … make great plant companions.
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Hidden Joys

  1. Cheaper than therapy. Coming home to them after a long day is bliss.
  2. Our space was practically empty when we transported our belongings from our tiny home to this cottage. I do not want to fill it up with stuff. He likes colorful lived in full spaces. I call it clutter. Plants are a great midway point for us.
  3. You connect with fellow plant people. I have visited acquaintances who have given a plant tour of their house.
  4. I have learnt a little about plants in the last 2 months. Imagine what I will learn a year from now ! A decade from now ! How many plants would I have nurtured ? How many tress can I plant ? How many books would I have read on this subject ? Will I acquire some wisdom from the trees ?
  5. “To plant a garden is to be hopeful for the future”, said Audrey Hepburn. I am a very cynical person and my plants are teaching me optimism & resilience.
  6. The view. I see sunsets through the leaves of my houseplants and it reminds me of the reason I climb mountains. I see the shadows made by the leaves as I make my morning coffee. I see Cinco hide under the plants after he does something naughty and is about to get yelled at. We have blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor life – just by a little.
  7. Gardening/farming teaches you another way of life. It forces you to slow down and observe nature. You start to notice the changes in leaves and they talk to you.
  8. Cinco, the cat, seems to love the plants. He lounges around them. Smells them. Sleeps under them.

Must-have Tools  : Watering can, humidifier, pruning sheers

Chores can go two ways. A dull job that needs to be done repetitively. A simple effortless ritual that is joyful for no apparent reason.  The difference is a matter of sensory inputs during the process. Touching this beautiful piece of metal while watering the plants can be rather up-lifting. Plants need to be pruned from time to time. It is one extra task to an already full day. The beautiful shears make the process a joy. My plants and my skin dislike dry air. This personal humidifier is easy to move around – between rooms, between desks, between plant pockets in the house, … Invest in beautiful instruments that last.

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Link love :

This post by Ethel Grace in memory of her mother.

Jeannie Phan’s StudioPlants blog and instagram account.

Farm Coast House plants and Urban Jungle Blog.

Hilton Carter’s home.

Victoria’s blog Mango & Salt.

A beginners guide to house plants, by someone very knowledgable.

Waste issues when gardening.

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( More gardening posts are on their way. ) 

indigo shirt on TUWL

OOTD  :

t-shirt : Everlane. Dyed a white one with indigo pigment.

Pants : COS karate pants. ( Similar )

Sunscreen : Jose Maran Argan daily Moisturizer SPF 47

Accessories : Cinco, my puppy cat.

The Bill Jacket

Posted on August 12, 2018

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Illustrations by Joana Avillez

This is how my kind of style icons dress – in old clothes and in blue.

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Bill is the original street style photographer who sincerely believed that fashion doesn’t exist only on the runway, but as personally style in the streets. His simplicity while working in the glamorous industry is inspiring. I often hear “I love fashion. Hence I shop”. This man loved fashion too but he didn’t associate it with consumption. His apartment was lacking in furniture, a private bath and a closet ! He was known to not accept gifts from the PR. If anything did arrive, he would send it back. He did not eat or drink at the parties he attended. ( This is how you prevent bias, if you are a reviewer. ) His passion consumed him so much that he didn’t bow to the trappings of everyday life that domesticates most of us. In a documentary on his work, you see him put duct tape on a hole that develops in his jacket. “If you don’t need the money, you don’t let them own you”, he says with a smirk. He loved fashion enough to resign from a publication when they were using his photographs to make a column on who-wrote-it-right and who-got-it-wrong. He didn’t think there was a wrong way to wear a garment and it’s a matter of personal preference. Some quotes to remember him by :

“When I’m photographing, I look for the personal style with which something is worn — sometimes even how an umbrella is carried or how a coat is held closed. At parties, it’s important to be almost invisible, to catch people when they’re oblivious to the camera — to get the intensity of their speech, the gestures of their hands. I’m interested in capturing a moment with animation and spirit.”

“The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.”

“If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.”

“Money is the cheapest thing. Liberty is the most expensive”

“It’s not work, it’s pleasure. That’s why I feel so guilty. Everybody else does work — I have too much fun.”

“I’m not interested in celebrities with their free dresses. Look at the clothes, the cut, the silhouette, the color. It’s the clothes. Not the celebrity and not the spectacle.”

“The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.”

“I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.” The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been. Always will be.

“Fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they’re horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It’s mirroring exactly our times.”

[ A documentary on him. His soon to be published memoir. ] 

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A similar one on the second hand market : 1, 2, 3.

This duster is the oldest garment in my closet. I tried to keep it off the blog because I do not want to sing praises of the fast fashion brand that makes it. But I adore it. In the last 6 years, I moved 10 times and decluttered a lot. It remained. Not as a garment that exists in the back of an overstuffed closet to make a guest appearance twice a year. But as a garment in heavy rotation during spring/fall season. It stopped me from buying more because I do not want to wear this one less often. I have gotten it mended twice. I will continue to wear it – in the spirit of Bill Cunningham. The photographers at Fashion Week wore a blue jacket to pay their tribute to the man. This blue jacket is my tribute.


 

Do you have a garment that honors the spirit of how he wore his blue jacket ? 

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Illustration by Wendy Macnaughton

5 Piece French Wardrobe Challenge

Posted on August 10, 2018

A minimalism journey

Polka Dots : Ganni, purchased last year. ( Similar : white, black, brown, blue )

Kaizen, also known as continuous improvement, is a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality. Kai means change. Zen means virtuous. Do not change your life spontaneously, but slowly and wisely. The new habit should occur as a result of your reflection and life experience.

A few years ago, I wanted to simplify my life. Contrary to popular culture, decluttering didn’t get me far. One can fill it all up with stuff just as quickly as throwing it all out. There are no quick fixes to attain a minimalist mindset. I did not want to jump on the bandwagon, rapidly declutter, start a capsule wardrobe, quit after 2 years and start adding again. I wanted a capsule wardrobe to be a side effect of the mindset. It had to be a slow and steady process  :

Year 1

Read. Understand. Think.

I was new to the concept. The idea of folks wanting to own less was almost abnormal. People were giving up their mansions and moving into tiny homes ? Folks want to wear simple neutral clothing while giving up on the visual therapy that clothing can offer ? Why would anyone want less choice in the closet ? They want to wear the same thing over and over again while most people aspire to not repeat outfits ? They gave up plastic and made their life harder ? They are giving up meat ? Why ? They haven’t bought anything new for an entire year ? Are they human ? I spent a lot of time reading about the experiences from people who found joy in this way of life. It helped me identify the areas of excess in my life. It helped me re-wire my notion of “excess”, “less” and “enough”. Is it viable for my life ? Is it for me ? I spend some time thinking about how I am going to do this.

( Good reading on minimalism )

Year 2

Declutter

Decluttering & minimalism are not interchangeable words. Decluttering is the act of subtracting possessions. Minimalism is a state of being where your need less and want less. I needed to declutter to get the process started. I desperately wanted to hit the refresh button because I was overwhelmed with everything going on in my life.

Home : I had random artifacts from thrift stores that I would buy because they were cheap. I was moving out of my apartment and it was the right time to re-evalaute.

Closet : I had a disproportionate amount of “out of ordinary” clothing that I couldn’t wear and had shabby low quality everyday clothing.

Kitchen : I had to get rid of the non-stick cookware and hand me downs that I never used.

Bathroom : I had to get rid of all the excess products I was convinced I needed, to keep my skin and hair healthy.

Year 3 & 4

All that remains

Simplicity is a result of good design and discipline. I was tired of making bad choices and decluttering them away. I was turned off of owning excess and under utilizing/hoarding things. I would buy less than perfect items and be back on the market after a year or two. Never would I have invested in raw denim or a double wool coat or GOT certified cotton back in the day. Viewing every purchase as an investment made me save and buy better. To go zero waste, I had to invest in some supplies and re-usables. I raised the bar on quality and quantity automatically came down. I have learnt that in-order to own less, you need to want less. I have learnt that simplicity is something I have to constantly work at. I have learnt that minimalism is not about what I don’t own, but the righteousness of what is. I went from saying “I only have two pairs of jeans” to “I have two awesome pairs of jeans”. The first phrase has a tone of a sob story & is looking for approval for looking minimalistic. The second phrase comes from a place of contentment and happiness.

Year 5

Set a tone for the future

I did a social media fast and found it very beneficial ! I recently started intermittent fasting and am loving it. ( Learn about it from a doctor. ) My biggest lessons : Any fast is sustainable if you can ease into it slowly. Fasting is not starving. I want to apply the concept of fasting to my closet. My rules :

  1. Do the 5 piece French Wardrobe challenge. ( You are allowed to buy 5 or less items per season. Inner wear doesn’t count. T-shirts, shoes, accessories, freebies, hand-me-downs, special occasion wear, traditional wear, replacements, basics, sleep wear, lounge wear, blue dresses, denim, … count.)
  2. Shop once per season and then stay out of the stores till the season ends.
  3. I have developed an original sin sort of mindset about consumption where I wallow in shame after every purchase. Fashion is the only area in my life where I buy more than what I need. I now set a limit. I will enjoy what I purchase and not feel guilty about it as long as it’s within the bounds.
  4. How much you already own factors into this challenge. I have enough. 5 new garments per season is my idea of moderation.
  5. There are garments I want to own and wear : a shearling jacket, Acne-esque oversized sweater, cape jacket, a poncho, a kimono cardigan, boots with low heel, news boy cap, a red felt hat, mockneck cashmere tunic, …. I remind myself : I have time. Over the years, I will try them all. It needn’t all come home this year or the next.
  6. Timeline ? This should be an exercise in discipline for life.

Why ?

Art of Fasting

Cherish and repair

I have a pair of shoes that I am tired of. A part of me is waiting for them to gather enough scuffs so that I may get rid of them. The root cause analysis for this disposable mind set ? A constant influx of new goods ! They lessen the reverence I have for the older garments. Why would anyone mend when you can replace it with a pick from a tempting array of choices ? Why would anyone take care of a garment when there is no real penalty when it wears out ? When the closet is large enough, will a garment be missed at all ? When a closet constantly grows,  garments get shoved to the back of the closet making way for the newer shinier goods. I want to break this cycle. Remove the abundance and the frugal mode will automatically kick in.

Time, Money, Effort

I will start with saying : style is important. This is by no means a reason to dress sloppy or to not care about what I wear. But at this point in time, my closet is built. I figured out a way to dress that makes me happy and is appropriate in my environment. I don’t need to invest as many resources anymore. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the returns from my investments.

Decluttering as escapism from bad decisions

I am a second hand shopper. I sometimes buy things on an impulse. I recently sent back a blue dress (put on weight) and a pair of heels (couldn’t walk) to RealReal for consignment. This was a waste of money, time, packaging materials and the carbon footprint. I let them go and feel the loss. In time, I will forget about them. Being stuck in a cycle of ‘buy and cull’ – is a big pet peeve of mine. Having constrains will make me think harder about a purchase. I wouldn’t want to give away my limited slots to less than ideal choices.

Ways to fast

Duration : I have tried to fast for short bursts of time in the past. The longest I went was 6 months. I fasted during every alternate month of the year, for an year. I would have wanted to do a year long fast but never gathered the courage for something as challenging. Am not ready for it.

Money : One could set a budget and stop shopping when its exhausted. I sort of do this already.

Ethics : I haven’t bought anything from a fast fashion store in the last 3 years.

Quantity : I never set a limit in the past. In my opinion, anything above a dozen garments per year doesn’t count as mindful consumption. I have always gone above this number hovering at 15-18. This area needs to be fixed.

Fasting is not starvation.

Buying on a absolute need basis is very noble. As I improve my mindset, I may someday be able to do so. For now, I want to do the French 5 Challenge. I want to do it for a few years to prepare myself for a year long shopping fast. It has always been the goal from the start. With kaizen, I will get there.

Why now ?

Firstly, I am ready for the next step. Secondly, one can’t talk about sustainability while consuming more than needed. Not consuming is more impactful than buying from certain stores. We, a category of bloggers use the word ‘mindful consumption’ to justify our excess purchases just because the garments don’t come from a fast fashion store. In my opinion, there is no way to mindfully consume excess. After a closet is built, anything more than a dozen incoming items per year is excess for me. I, for one, am particularly affected by being asked “If I buy 20 items a year from H&M, I am a mindless fast fashion consumer. If you buy the same number of items from APC and Isabel Marant, you are a mindful consumer who gets to preach about sustainability and minimalism?” A reader emailed me this question. Guilty as charged. Consumption is the root of the problem. It needs to be addressed. I do not want to give up writing on sustainability and minimalism. I understand that one has to earn her keep by practicing what she preaches. I care about sustainability. And actions must support the words. Intent is not enough.

What now ?

This weekend, I am sowing the seeds in the vegetable bed for my fall produce. I will count today as the start date for Fall/Winter period of the challenge. This is exciting ! Jessica, from Daarboven, has been doing this challenge for a few years now. I am tapping into her wisdom and results for inspiration.

White Noise : July Edition

Posted on July 28, 2018

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Dress : Steven Alan, second-hand and worn in ( as seen here ).

We moved out of our tiny apartment and into a cottage with a backyard. 15 days after we left, Fernando, my ex-landlord gave me Cinco.  I gave up on zero waste for the initial move in period and am slowly getting back into the routine again. I am learning about the challenges of living more sustainably in a bigger space. ( Is that oxymoronic? ) Growing vegetables, planting native shrubs, bee-friendly gardening, repairing the soil, reducing water waste, … have replaced the mind space I once reserved for fashion and clothes. I used to churn out blog posts every week after working on them for a few hours. Lately, I am struggling to get myself to even think about clothes/style/fashion. You must have noticed it in the lazy half baked posts published this month. I sincerely hope that it’s a phase and I don’t give up all of my interests in favor of a more domestic life. Style is important. Meanwhile, some reading material collected over the past few months made it into this post.

Actress Dia Mirza on living sustainably in the urban jungle.

This is solely an opinion and open for debate. That opinion can be altered, changed, and become more nuanced but it can only do so by having a discussion. You can disagree, but closing the door to that conversation with vitriolic comments does no one any good. It also says something about you if you result to that. It means you can’t handle the challenge of being persuasive. Of making conversation and would rather retreat to your bubble pretending that everyone should agree with your opinion. Those at the The Casual, myself included, believe that in order to come to a better understanding of any issue a conversation must be had. We only want to promote discussion on this channel in the realm of street fashion. We understood the reaction before we received it but this video was made so we can have a discussion. Not so we can engage in the tribalism that has plagued street culture and even humanity since the beginning. Open up, lay your thoughts out, change minds. Engage and maybe we can come to consensus. The only regret we have is that social media allows us to simply down vote without explaining why. We don’t want to promote that, all we want is discussion.
Reggie, The Casual.

Alexa Chung’s Met gala dress was inspired by Anne Boleyn.

How to read more, from a mom of 2 who works full time.

I don’t do brunch because ….

A treat for Serge fans. 

Sada Nanda, a song from the telugu movie Mahanti.

Bar soap vs body wash in a plastic bottle.

AMA, an underwater ode to the women of the sea.

T Magazine, my favorite way to marination on style. Beauty is shallow and intellect is cruel. But when they meet, I want to be there listening.

When Los Angeles school teacher Helen Hulick wore them to court to testify as witness to a burglary, the judge ordered her to return in a dress. “I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism,” she said.

Luxury is something old, worn and beautiful.

A perspective on personal uniform.

Style is a privilege of age.

How to judge quality in clothing. 

Can you live in a mansion and be sustainable ?

How not to punch people who imply : minimalist aesthetic == your lack of personality. 

Reducing emissions from global shipping – the wheel is turning.

Enzymes that eat plastic waste.

I am not happy with you California. They killed a bill on affordable housing that addresses the zoning issue.

A review of Everlane jeans by someone who has knowledge on denim. 

The women’s clothing industry is scamming me ?

Reasons to avoid the straw/wicker summer basket trend.

Implied Masculinity/Femininity.

My idea of ideal body for my bone structure.

Meanwhile, I found my perfect t-shirt.


Question of the month :

This article on Wired about scientists being encouraged to avoid air travel. “The climate scientist needs to tell the coal miner that things cannot go on the way they have. That is such an emotionally laden conversation,” says Wilde. “How can we tell people who have less that they need to change their economic circumstances, when we who have more don’t?”  When Delhi, the Indian capital city tried to ban the fireworks during the festival of Diwali to reduce pollution, my family was angry. “You elite liberals will fly to Europe on vacations but us poor folk releasing some emissions to celebrate our festival is bad?” “If I buy 30 garments per year from H&M, I am a mindless fast fashion consumer. But if you buy the same number of garments from Everlane, Reformation, Elizebeth Suzanne, Eileen Fisher, vintage and second hand shops, you can use the S word all you want.”  Thoughts ?

 

New In : Indigo wrap dress

Posted on July 27, 2018

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Ingrid Dress : A.P.C

Lately, I have started to feel my 30s. That uncomfortable question ‘is the dress too short on me’ lingers on the back of my mind. If and when I hear ‘you look young for your age’ : instead of accepting it at face value, I wonder if I am not dressed like a 30 something woman. Midi dresses are a good option but they are not a flattering length on me. Dresses that fall just below the knee are an option but they don’t have that certain quality that makes dresses special for me. Slowly, maxi dresses emerged as the next best choice. A Pinterest board was populated – for research. I waited for half a year before I purchased one – for immunity from impulse purchases. I saw how my friend Marian wore her maxi dress with a leather jacket & boots to a Isabel Marant launch party she let me tag along.  I was sold. (I saw her wear a vintage kimono as a cardigan and want one too.) This spring, I got my first maxi dress. The second one arrived yesterday from NeedSupply‘s summer clearance. It was under a 100$. This maybe as good as it gets given the make of the garment.

Pros :

  • It works for American-Indian gatherings.
  • It has pockets.
  • Works well for date nights, dressy ocassions, house parties or whenever I am feeling up for it.
  • Bay Area is chilly. The length keeps my legs warm.
  • Indigo. It’s a shade of blue that I am exploring.
  • I tried to assess the quality of the garment but I have no idea as to how a wrap dress should be constructed. I trust A.P.C. The dress was originally priced it at 400+$ and I assume they didn’t take the short cuts. ( But as life has taught me, price is not an indicator of quality. I remain skeptical. )
  • Cotton-linen blend. I mistook the weave for denim. It’s chambray.
  • I have tried a lot of wrap dresses in the past and none worked. I had too much cleavage showing, boob fat spilling out, fabric clinging in a very obvious manner or clothes coming undone as the day progressed. This dress works because the drape does not go all the way across the dress. This one has hidden buttons on the inside to hold the drape in place. I can replace the buttons with ties in the future if needed.
  • The neckline has ruffles which are a bit over the top for my taste. I tuck them in and the dress looks great. I will get them removed by my tailor.
  • Another blue dress ! Always a joy. I want to frame it on my walls and stare at it all day. It’s that pretty.
  • This dress makes me want to go places and throw dinner parties – just so that I may wear it more often. Can clothing make you more social or anti-social ?
  • I can wear it with a gray sweater and boots in Fall/Spring.
  • The price. I will not be buying 3 things from a fast fashion store. It’s preventing me from buying more.

Cons :

  • The price. I will not be buying 3 things from a fast fashion store. I should be content with this one garment.
  • It’s not navy blue.
  • That little voice in my head says “do you really really need it?” I can use words like ‘mindful consumption’ and ‘well made garment’ to pad up my purchase, but I don’t need it. I want it. More I indulge in this, the sooner I will loose my right to talk about sustainability. I dread the day when my blog becomes a proof of my own hypocrisy.
  • It fits me just about right. It’s not immune to my weight fluctuations. ( But I am confident that I can sell it and recover the money. )
  • Will it stay put if I go dancing ? New silhouette, new territory.
  • I chopped off my long hair. This dress makes me miss it. I can use the ‘extra-feminine bits’.
  • I want to wear pants more often and phase out the dresses. Pants are more practical but dresses are what I am happiest wearing. I am having a “life is too short, buy that dress” moment.
  • I have a closet rule : 90% of my closet should be everyday wear. The 10% can be impractical and over the top. This garment belongs to the later category. Not something I can wear everyday. It’s hard to dress down given it’s length and how feminine it is. Alexa Chung can style everything effortlessly. She will effortlessly pair Chanel couture with converse sneakers and stroll on the streets. Unfortunately, I have no such talent.

Dear readers, I am open to suggestions. Please give me ideas on how you think this dress could be styled. Do you think it can be dressed down ?