To Universe, with Love

A Cozy Home : Books, Corners, Animals

Posted on July 22, 2016

Pinterest has a lot to do with my perception of beauty. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Lifestyle bloggers and magazines have a lot to do with how I perceive home decor. The minimalists have a lot to do with how I currently define clutter. Small home survival tips are often design dramas ! Downsize on repeat, white (Eames) furniture and a house that looks like people tiptoe around to keep it white. Home tours have become synonymous with how prim they look.  When we moved to our current home, I wanted to make it the picture perfect home. Overtime, I may have changed. I want a cozy home. I want a lived in home.




Dream life : We live on a mountain. I should get outside more, be more active.

Reality : Let me sit outside instead. And write blog posts. #guiltyPleasure


What makes a home cozy ? Its the white space for some, it provides tranquility. Its old brown furniture for some, modern can be soul less as Yohji Yamamoto once said. For some, its couches, blankets, pillows and throws. “Some couches look cozy, and some are cozy”, says the husband. Some spaces need time, and they automatically become cozy from the familiarity. For a few ( travellers ), a warm clean bed and the promise of rest, makes a home. For me, if you take the people out of the equation, it’s the books, the plants and a warm bed. But mostly, it’s the books. If they vanished today, I would feel uneasy in the space we lived for a year. We have them in every room, in lots of nooks, under the tables, in the bathroom, in the closet, by the bed, … At any given time, we are surrounded by lots of reading material.



In this picture : Cinco under the dining table ( c/o our landlord ) , me, a whole lot of cookbooks, a whole lot of street style books, books on illustration, shoe trees from his shoes.


Cinco, our landlord’s cat is always cozying up in the nooks and corners of our home. That is when we realized we have piled up our books into towers in the exact same spots. He is constantly knocking down the piles for the thrill of it and seems to escape unharmed. These are also the corners where I spend most of my time reading/working. I want to remember this home in terms of these prosperous corners and the great books that lived with us.



In this picture : A few engineering books, a stash of Nat Geo, Porter magazines, a splash of Yohji,  a bible for Machine Learning, Dr. Spaneas’s textbook, a treasure chest full of maps from our hikes/travels.


A place for your keepsakes and treasures is an essential of ours. This wooden chest is the first piece of furniture we purchased and we try to match everything else in our home to it. We lugged it across apartments, cities and states when we moved. When we think of all of our future homes, we do want to continue lugging it along. Everything else can be sold and bought.




This location is conveniently indoors while being outdoors. Its comfortable enough to get your work done while having beautiful distractions like exotic birds chirping behind or the neighbor’s dog and cat trying to get some attention. Or is it the other way around? 


I will always be thankful for these two. Hombre runs up the stairs every time he sees me. And the cat follows me around all day. They are not our pets. But that doesn’t stop them from going all out with their affection. Cats apparently bring people they like presents. Its a hunting instinct to feed the ones they don’t see hunting.  He got a live lizard this week and dropped it my lap. It was horrifying and sweet at the same time. It is a privilege to live with animals. They do make a home.



A home is not independent of its inhabitants and their messiness. This portable lamp is the most travelled item in the confines of this home. The same can be said of that blanket and the pillow. 


Linen bedding and pajamas are quite the match. We don’t need a dresser but use the books we are currently reading to prop up the height required for the lamp. On my bed side : perfume and lip balm. Our mattress is from Tuft and Needle.  Its so damn awesome. Breakfast in bed. Reading in bed. Watching movies in bed. Painting in bed. Rest after a hike and a shower. A warm bed after a long day …. makes a home.



I think this toilet paper stand from Ikea is genius. It can hold 3 books in the space allotted for extra paper. I adore the Sartorialist’s photo books. I can’t wait to get his new book.


When friends visit us for the first time, books contribute to as much warmth as the people who inhabit the space – in my opinion. They seem to walk up to them straight, flip through them, talk about the unread and settle in with a book. A kindle is trying to replace the tactile presence of books in my home. We move around so much. Its hard to lug the contents. I don’t want to downsize for the sole reason of space. I constantly re-read the books. And I have formed an attachment with some of my books. Reading a forgotten books feels like visiting an old friend. My home will always be a house of books.


I am trying to make a list of what makes a home cozy. I asked my parents and their answer was ‘our daughters’. I asked my grandmother and she said ‘when you guys visit’. I asked my great grand ma and she said ‘my village’. Please do chime in your thoughts. The people aside, what makes your home cozy ? Or what would you want more of, in your ideal home ? 


Further investigation into cozy homes : This youtube series.


Best Friend Vs Personal Style

Posted on July 17, 2016

I met her in a math class when I was 13. We solved a trigonometry problem together and have been inseparable since. She inspires me. And claims I inspire her too. But she is the more reliable one and the stronger one. We both were in a long distance marriage with our husbands while doing a Phd. Fashion was a good distraction during this period of misery. We talked about running away to Paris together and visiting all the fashion houses over a weekend. We talked about setting up a joint bank savings account for this but never did. Maanasa, what say ? There is still time and we are alive, well and kicking ! 



Not a spontaneous picture. I forced her to pose for it. I love her beautiful curls.


When two girls grow up together over a decade’s worth of stories, there tends to be a crossover in ideas and ideals. If either of us pick up a liking, soon, the other will start to like it too. We sort of resonate. We have always been partners in crime. When I discovered the concept of French chic, I ran to her and made her read the book Madame Chic. Over the years, we have had very different wardrobes but similar tastes. Last week, she purchased an A.P.C tunic dress that I purchased last year. She likes print and I dislike it with a passion. Mine was polka dot. Hers is an abstract print. Both in blue.



In this picture : A 2 hour road trip to a different city to take a yoga class(!!), post class cocktail, leather jackets & two old friends.


We purchased our Proenza Schouler bags together. She got a PS11 and I, a PS1. And made sure they arrived at my apartment when she visited. She still has hers. I sold mine long time ago. She believes in using up an item and not selling it away when it does not meet a standard. In the name of frugal living. I have excellent selling skills on eBay and will let go if I can make the money back. I did. I refuse to keep things I am not happy with, for the sake of them. We do have our differences. But they only make our discussions so much more interesting.


photo (2)-2

The beautiful redstone on a trail in Sedona, AZ.


We don’t do sweat pants in public. This was an impromptu hike and she kicked ass !  She hated this chambray shirt of mine. It got sold off next year after I got some wear from it. See, I do listen to her from time to time.

She has a PhD in Mathematics and is a devout yoga practitioner. She introduced me to ashtanga. I have a PhD in Computer Science and am a frivolous yoga practitioner. I dabble in lot of workouts. We both teach.

She discovered raw denim a few years ago and has been raving about them for a long time. I found my pair last year. She helped me get over denim leggings and I can’t believe I walked around in public in them.

She introduced me to Ralph Lauren and APC. And I introduced her to Cuyana. She doesn’t care for the runway. Fashion week is my equivalent of a 15 year old boy’s internet porn.

During my last visit to New York City, we dressed up and went to the Chanel store. High end stores can be intimidating but with her around, it felt tame.



Black Frye Carson Ballet Flats on the day she purchased them. I wore out my pair and she still got hers. 


She introduced me to Lin and other style bloggers. And we discussed detoxing from it all after we started seeing too many rstyle links and words ‘PSA’ splattered all over the posts. Lin’s blog continues to be our favourite. We love her post on denim. That is what helped me realize I was overpaying for stretchy jeans.

She is the one who told me I should stop buying 3 silk blouses at Zara and pick one from APC instead. I bought 3 second hand Equipment shirts at the price of Zara from eBay instead.

I buy everything second hand, online. I pick quality and quantity. She likes the pleasure of an in store experience and likes stores like Steven Alan with a curated clutter free displays. She picks quality over quantity.

We discuss views on elegance, modesty, chic, quality, etc all the time. Some match. Some, we end up quibbling over. We were discussing red lipstick last week.

She thinks Everlane is too much noise for the quality it delivers. I find the quality of their silk good enough for the price. She disagrees.

Its not just the clothes. The skin care and grooming secrets were learnt from sharing. We learnt these late in our life by ourselves. Our mothers did not pass us too much wisdom on this regard. It was only after we started working that we could indulge ourselves with facials or Sk-II serums. Not a day before. Posture and yoga go hand in hand. Confidence comes from achievements and exposure to life. We continue to learn.

I started blogging more about style after she left America. Its hard to have these conversations and I have taken to chatting with fellow bloggers instead to fill the void. I miss her all the time.


She has moved back to India and had a baby. I help her buy clothes during APC sales and ship them to India. I imagine life will change a lot with the distance. My cute nephew is going to teach her a lot about life. We will both change with time. But somewhere deep down, we will be the same little girls sharing our stories. And playing dress up. 


On Personal Style

Posted on July 15, 2016


                                          (1)                                                             (2)                                                                   (3) 


 1. Yes, Valentino rockstuds and you paired them well. Pink is trending. Not a hair out of place. Great picture. Everything is perfectly panned out.

2. Those shoes. You must love them don’t you ? What are your favourite books ? What do you do for a living ?  Can I see your closet ?

3. Yes, another French Chic formula. You must have all the correct basics and would be popular on Tumblr.

– a fashion outsider and an anti-fashion-blogger’s perspective.


This is not a post on ‘how to be stylish’ or ‘build a wardrobe’ or ‘owning the least amount of clothing’ or ‘capsule wardrobe’. This is not a traditional ‘find your personal style’ post either. This is me, vexed with the boxes that you are supposed to fall into, to be stylish.  And all the personal style advice asking you to pick a box and buy certain items henceforth. Or rampantly copy a style muse. I have an alternate take on it all. Some philosophy first and clothes later. I do suggest a cup of tea or a glass of wine if you want to survive this post. 


Wear the shit out of what you like. What you like and wear too often becomes your personal style. Dressing by a formula is medieval. Wear what you truly love. Even if it’s not what people around you wear. Don’t be afraid of color or to experiment a little or be a slave to the basics. Don’t worry about everything looking perfect according to the current standard of elegance or chic. The opposite of good style is not bad style. But the lack of it. —-> Shouldn’t that be all the information a blog post titled ‘finding your personal style’ contain ? Don’t you think the words “finding personal style” have become this packaged and marketed entity ? Mostly by bloggers who have an affiliate link account and will not hesitate to tell you what you should buy to find yours. There is another end of the spectrum where ‘good style’ is defined by ‘minimalist’ bloggers who all dress like a Jane Birkin copy cats – a striped top, loafers and tapered trousers. Preferably from A.P.C.



A.P.C staff from around the world dressed head-to-toe in the brand.

” Make a pinterest board. Purge. Record what you wear often. Buy classics.” …

… is the summary of popular blogger advice on finding personal style. It immediately equates personal style with what you can buy. I am really vexed with seeing this formula repeated in many many words and blog posts all over the internet. The more perfect they are in accordance to the current formula for chic or elegance or good taste, the better ? Lin made this collage of A.P.C shopgirls and they all look like clones to me. Everyone is styled just like the models on the APC runway.  (Ofcourse, stores use this sort of tactic to help customers buy more.) A whole army dressed similar is hardy ‘personal’ is it ? They all look good and stylish. But can you see the lack of personalization? This is a phenomenon I am observing with capsule wardrobes. There are too many people dressing exactly like their style muse.


Also, is style just about clothes ? If Patti Smith started a fashion blog with collages of her clothes and posted outfits, she wouldn’t have made the cut. She lived a fantastic life doing interesting things and dressed herself the way she liked. Do you develop that from Pinterest and by looking at clothes ? I know plenty of well dressed people with closets consisting of highest quality fabrics that money can buy, who look exactly like their style muse. Somehow, finding style in 2015 became synonymous with dressing like the mythical French woman or Caroline from Unfancy. The striped t-shirt, chambray shirt, black pants, ankle boots, … ( I have them all, am I stylish yet? )


Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 6.24.41 PM

A.P.C capsule collage for the stereotypical ‘granny chic’ style 


“They” ask you to define your style. Usually from a range of stereotypes – classic, French, tomboy, bohemian, trendy, minimal, Gucci, …. And all these words are very loaded. Why should someone’s personal style even fall into a popular category ? When you buy everything from one store, you are copying the aesthetic of that designer. When you dress exactly like a stereotype, you are copying a look defined by the popular culture. That’s hardly personal !

I was once asked why I wear dresses because I was such a tomboy. A definition of tomboy style – dungarees, vintage jeans and droopy shoulder stripe tops exist in the media. I apparently deviated from this formula and I was questioned about it. Its my own style and I cant dress like the mythical tomboy. What is tomboy anyways ? In todays day and age, its not clothing that is stopping the woman from climbing a tree or hiking a mountain or chasing a dog. Women did farm work and dug wells wearing long skirts for centuries. In many countries in Africa, men and women wear very similar outfits. In India, men used to dress in dhotis. A tomboy from India should wear a dhoti ? What is a tomboy in the 21st century ? An opposite of the ‘girly girl’? I am that, in a blue shift dress too.


The happiest closet I have had, is when I distanced myself from all of this advice and wore whatever I loved. I want to write the alternate view on this subject.


Let your travels teach you.  

You will learn a lot about durability of shoes when you walk a 1000 miles in them. When you pack a tiny backpack, you will learn a lot about versatility of clothes. When you make friends from different countries, prejudices die. And boundaries expand. That navajo turquoise bracelet you picked up when you visited their village and danced with them will hold a special meaning. Don’t you find Nat Geo explores in boots and khakis really stylish ? Jane Goodall in her safari suit is my icon !


Let it develop from life. Have a great life, and style will follow.

Read, learn, exercise, eat well, do your work, shop a little, educate yourself constantly, admire art – and you are a way more interesting person whose outfits will be copied.


Let your principles and ethics teach you lessons on how to get through life.

If you are a staunch environmentalist, shop secondhand, hate sweatshops, love craftsmanship, don’t think of anything as disposables, … you just stand out.


Let your goals for yourself teach you how to dress.

Do you know that the samurai used to dress in rich embroidered silks. And eventually gave it all up to live a simpler life and developed a uniform as time progressed. They saw it as strength of mind to be able to resist luxuries. They embraced wabi sabi, discipline, simplicity and the romance of hard work. I want that for myself.


Let your idea of femininity shape your style.

I refuse to be lumped into a stereotype coz I am female. I am not a dainty thing that needs someone to carry my bags because I can’t be bothered to carry or lift. I can’t be in shoes I can’t walk because there are places I need to get to and time is limited. My body is mine. I don’t need to put it on display in bodycon dresses to make a point. I don’t see legs as this sexual thing on display when I wear a dress. Legs are just legs. We all have them. I am far more concerned with making them strong and abled.


Let your ideas of modesty define your style.

When I lived in India, I was constantly asked to cover up. Sleeveless and showing knees were frowned upon. I don’t feel that way about my body really. I don’t see shorts or strappy tops or tailored clothing as a sexual thing. But I do draw a line at yoga pants – just no. Camel toes are still vulgar, to my eyes. 


Let your ideas on color and shape guide you.

Yohji-saan could probably write a book on the color black. You can make black from blue/green/purple/etc and he has his preferences. Kenya Hara (creative director of Muji) wrote a book on white. For me, it’s the color blue. Yohji considers the space between a garment and the body, the most important aspect of design. It reflects in what he wears and makes. If you have strong opinions, they show.


Let the wisdom acquired with age guide you.

Experiences are more important than things. Don’t waste money on disposable items. Buy and use durable things. Don’t save at the expense of someone else (by supporting sweatshops). Dont over shop since this planet is precious. 


Let the people whose work you admire influence you.

If you are a groupie of Hemingway and Maugham, won’t you let it show ? My list has authors, scientists, athletes, designers and engineers.  


If you are an engineer, won’t you let it show ?

Engineers like practical and well designed things. We are trained to optimize. And build. And analyze. It reflects in my closet too.


If you love the grace of the warrior class (samurai, men in uniforms, my karate lessons), won’t you let it influence you ? …

Military fabrics are a favourite of mine. Durability and movement friendliness is my primary indicator of quality. Gabardine, canvas cloth, rugged shoes, trench coats, wool hats, helmets, belts, leather satchels, rucksacks,… I have them all. I have a friend who is a dancer who put rubber soles on her old ballet flats and wears them with panache. The way she moves even when not dancing, is poetry to my eyes. The poise, the gait, the elegance – stays with her. We all have our inspirations. 


How much attention are you trying to ‘catch’?

Love to be noticed where ever you go ? Easy. Dress in yellow from head to toe. Add some sparkle. Or wear a body con dress or yoga pants with lot of spandex in it. Want to blend into the background, there is a way to do that too. Clothes do have an effect. 



quotes1 quote2

If I were to give advice on finding personal style, I would say nobody needs this sort of advice. We don’t need to be told what we need to desire. But I would like to share my journey.

Stage 1: The rules

Everyone needs to find their staples that becomes the basic building blocks. And an understanding of the basic rules of proportion and color. Just for a starting point. I followed them to the dot when I was younger because I liked the austerity of my basics worn like how the experts recommend. Master the basics. Blue dresses. Black and brown shoes. Low waist, slim fit and ankle cropped pants. Blue, green, red, gray and black.

Sofia Coppola wears her basics well.

Stage 2: Learn the combinations

Basics worn like in the online catalog shots do look generic and sterile. Make them your own. Learn some tweaks while looking like yourself. Try some bolder combinations that will shake it up a little. Learn to include some accessories. Red shoes with an all gray outfit. Pink loafers with all black outfit or all navy outfit. Blue jeans with a blue shirt with an interesting brown belt. Polka dot neck tie scarf with gray tank top and black jeans. A beige hat with light blue shirt dress. Oxfords and loafers with dresses. Still in the comfort zone and in adherence to the rules, but expanding the borders.

Clemence Posey does this stage (basics with a twist) well.

Stage 3 : Wear on Repeat

To be comfortable with the clothing, they need to be worn a lot. They become yours after a few dozen wears. Stop shopping and wear the shit out of what you own. Let things patina, wear in and become your own. Personalize your basics and wear them often

Mimi Thorisson does this well.

Stage 4 : Effortlessness

Over time, style becomes the outer skin. Some of the more complex pairings get discarded. Some get adopted into everyday wear. The basics get worn with a nonchalance. It all becomes really easy and effortless. Some rules get broken. You start to venture out with messy hair or refuse to stop wearing your oldest beaten brown boots. They all become a part of you and you are at ease with yourself.

Kate Moss and Johnny Depp do it well.

Stage 5 : Peace

You stop searching for the next ‘thing’ because you are very content. From time to time, you push yourself to get creative and bold with what you own. As life goes on, you change but slowly. It feels organic and no magazine/runway show/blogger dictates the insides of your closet.


 “I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style.” – Yves Saint Laurent


My personal style journey has been a very rewarding. I learnt quite a bit about myself through the process of experimenting, culling and choosing. I used to be a head to toe simple blue clothing wearer from the days I was allowed to pick my own clothes. And I got lost along the way. Skin tone flattering colors, the idea of heels, figure flattering clothes, sequins – all of it was distraction. And I am back to my roots again. I believe you have found your personal style when you no longer have the itch to cull, enjoy what you have immensely and would be happy to bump into your idol dressed the way you are. I am there. I am ready to meet Dr. Andrew Ng.


P.S : But this is my side of the story. It needn’t be yours. We all have different philosophies and ways to get through life.



Husband’s Shopping Rituals

Posted on July 10, 2016



* The only picture of him I am authorized to use for style posts.



Scorn when I get a box in the mail.


“Argh, Shopping.” “What did you get, again ? “ “Another return?” I have been trying to get him hooked on to Everlane for his needs. He dresses in some very neutral basics and is comfortable spending in the price range of the brand. He doesn’t waste anything or let go of an item unless it’s not wearable anymore. He doesn’t like spending time contemplating purchases or looking into backgrounds of brands to research their ethics. Everlane is perfect for him. It checks all the boxes. Basics that are affordable, ethically made and fuss free. Spring offers free shipping and returns and carries Everlane. But he hasn’t warmed up to online shopping.



Get irritated when in contact with promos.


You buy something from a company and they pester you with promos for the rest of time. You unsubscribe from emails. They now know your home address and they start sending catalogs. They wish you for Christmas. Its sweet and cruel at the same time. He doesn’t care for any of it.



Roll eyes at my fashion magazines.

I want to hoard magazines. I like vintage magazines and want to observe timeline of how fashion evolves. He catches me flipping through the pages and immediately appoints himself as an interpreter. He settles down with an evil grin next to me. And then the commentary starts … “Prada is wearing socks with sandals in Japanese Vogue. This is real fashion. I am going to wear socks with rubber flip flops to dinner. This is high fashion. You don’t know anything after reading all this ! ”  … <sigh>



Blank out when I talk about clothes.

He is subscribed to my blog. I don’t think he reads it. And when he does, it is to collect material to make fun of, later on. I will never forgive this comedian for putting out the ‘Nothing Box’ theory. Apparently men have this box in the brain where they go into, and don’t think about anything. Just stay blank. I sit and talk to him about my thoughts on fashion and he goes into a meditation mode. He blanks out and invokes the nothing box theory. I think I do the same when he talks about sports.



One fine day, its shopping day.

He woke up last Sunday and all he wanted to do in life, was to go shop. He was eager to go – with or without me. He picked out a mall, read reviews on yelp about the parking situation, stocked up on Banh Mi sandwiches from our favourite Vietnamese place for a snack, even wore sunscreen and dragged me along. “I am going to shop so much that you are going to be jealous”, he said. And off we went. He had a budget and a list of things he needed.  Stuck to it and walked out when done. “Barney’s is my new favourite store.” It was perfect haul indeed.



Rapid fire Decluttering.

I write blog posts. Read other blogs. Make lists and edit them. And make a big fuss before I let go of anything. He took 5 minutes. Off went some 5 year old things and the new things took their place on the hanger. I offered to sell them for him but he wanted to donate them and be done. End of story.



Repeat till next year’s serendipitous shopping day.

He was my boyfriend for 3 years. Husband for 6 years and counting. This happens annually and we never talk about shopping for the rest of the year. He becomes this ‘other person’ for one day of the year.


I am torn between being envious of how good he is at turning off the switch when not needed and the happiness I derive from being obsessed with fashion/style. I am constantly looking at fashion magazines, instagram, influencers and editorials. And I really enjoy it all. I would like to shop less while having my head in fashion. Is that even possible ? You see beautiful things all day long and you have to tune your brain to immediately not wonder “how will that look on me.” Just admire and move on. I am trying. Most of us fail and that is the reason why most folk confuse love of fashion with love of shopping. Two months into shopping fast and counting….



Learn from the Men

Posted on July 8, 2016

It should be noted, by the way, that women should never be permitted to counsel men about clothes. “No woman,” says author Finis Farr, “really knows anything about men’s clothes. How could she? After all, she’s conditioned to obsolescence, to the principle that things go out of fashion. Well-dressed men know that nothing worth-while is ever outmoded, that a superb tailor’s work is ageless.”

Source ( Brilliant read! )




When it comes to shopping for fashion, women usually dominate, buying clothing for their men as well as themselves. But ladies, I have a gauntlet to throw down: Women have a lot to learn from the way men shop. I first sensed this when menswear designer Thom Browne told me that he couldn’t use a fabric unless it felt good “to the hand,” because men won’t buy uncomfortable clothing. Come again? If comfort were the top criterion for selling womenswear, Jimmy Choo would be out of business. Unlike men, women frequently settle for garments that don’t fit well and don’t feel good.
Sometimes, women have little choice. It has long been an irritating truth that men are offered better-quality clothes for lower prices. Many fashionable women’s clothes—including plenty sold at luxury prices—are made relatively cheaply. “Women do get shortchanged in the market,” says Patrick Gigliotti, a menswear salesman at the venerable Boyd’s Philadelphia department store. Some women who value well-made clothing have even resorted to shopping in menswear departments.
One reason for the quality difference is trendiness: Because womenswear is more faddish, there’s a perception in the fashion industry that the clothes will be thrown away more quickly. Indeed, fast fashion has trained a generation to seek out throwaway styles.
Yet tailoring should matter. Women are always looking for clothes that will lift their bottoms and smooth their bulges. That’s exactly the kind of magic that tailoring works. Luckily, with a little education about the way sophisticated men shop, it is possible to buy good-quality womenswear.
What does it mean to think like a man? Consider the way Jay Kos bought himself a pair of pants in New York last Sunday. Mr. Kos, himself a clothier and the owner of the Jay Kos store on Park Avenue, found a pair of olive wool pants at Soho’s Blue in Green shop. But the pants had to pass a few tests before he took them to the dressing room. First, he felt the wool with his hand to ascertain its weight and softness. He checked the seams for clean stitching—no loose threads. In the dressing room, he squatted to be sure they fit comfortably. Only then did he step out to take a careful look in the store’s biggest mirror and ask the salesman if the pants fit well.
This isn’t the way most women shop. But it can be.
A first step is to put less focus on the brand. Logos don’t guarantee fine craftsmanship. Dozens of luxury womenswear brands make high-quality fashions—Dolce & Gabbana and Akris among them. But I’ve found excellently sewn clothes at Zara (though not universally so). Some brands, like Ralph Lauren, have varying quality levels among a dizzying array of sub-brands. Akris offers well-made but lower-quality clothes under the “Akris punto” label. Rather than being blinded by branding, use it only as a starting point.
When you like a garment, grab the fabric and crunch it up—ignoring any gasps you hear from the womenswear sales staff, who are not accustomed to these maneuvers. If the cloth stays wrinkled or feels scratchy, consider moving on. “You should start from the inside out,” says Debi Greenberg, owner of Louis, a high-end store in Boston that caters to both men and women. Loose threads and ragged seams are signs of poor construction. Look for seams that have been carefully rolled and folded before being stitched down or have been “taped,” or sewn over with a narrow strip of fabric.
In pants, the waistband is particularly important, as it provides structure and must hold up to sweat, pressure and twisting. In well-tailored pants, the waistband will have two layers of lining, with some structural seams in between. When it comes to pants, Ms. Greenberg recommends Proenza Schouler and Marni at the high end of the price range and Jil Sander for Uniqlo at the more affordable end.
A good jacket starts with a shoulder that permits comfortable movement and isn’t so stuffed with foam padding that it looks awkward with the arm raised. While you’re peering inside the garment, check out the width of the fabric in the seams. Is there enough to allow the garment to be let out, if necessary? While good men’s clothing is manufactured to be altered, women often have to buy a size larger and then cut the garment down—which can be more costly and difficult.
It’s a good idea to ask where the garment—and sometimes the fabric—were manufactured. “Men love the story,” says Mr. Kos. “If you’re going to spend the money, then it should come come from a place with a respect for quality.” The country of origin can be an indicator of quality, and it’s certainly a fair indicator of price. Italy, France and Japan are famous for their high manufacturing standards, but their prices are higher than those of lower-labor-cost nations. Still, “made in Italy” is no guarantee, and it’s possible to buy well-made clothes from many parts of the world. The 3.1 Phillip Lim brand makes some high-quality clothing in China with taped inner seams and alterable waistbands. J. Crew buys many quality shirting fabrics and cashmere yarns from Italian factories and then cuts and sews the clothes in less expensive countries. 
Mr. Kos believes that garments and accessories that use a logo as the dominant design feature are more likely to take short cuts with materials or manufacturing. Only after a garment has passed all these tests is it time to try it on. Be sure you can raise your arm in a shirt or jacket and that you can squat (without making the knees baggy) in pants. See if you can breathe easily. There should be no stretch marks across the torso and no gaping buttons. When in doubt, remember what Mr. Gigliotti of Boyd’s says about men’s priorities: “Comfort is paramount.”

Source : The Wall Street Journal


I will never understand how different the standards for men and women are, when it comes to fashion. The men have timeless classics, emphasis on silhouette, fabric and actually wear their clothes all year round. We have moronic trends, the clash of colors, impractical clothing borderlining painful, disposable culture and chunky accessories. Arent we are fundamentally the same in spirit ? When did we get classified into a category which picks out outfits and silly sparkles in pink. And the men get lessons on being gentlemanly. We have the fashion bloggers and the men have style bloggers. I believe we have a lot of learn. Here are my favourite male style bloggers :

1. Dapper Kid



Critical analysis and fashion critique is extremely rare in today’s fashion world. Syed does a fantastic job dissecting his closet, conveys the his thoughts on fashion design without talking about shopping, admires a list of designers that I admire, understands the power of a beautiful garment and writes it all beautifully. As I write this, I wish I could write better so that I may do justice introducing him. My favourite posts : his thoughts on perfume and his closet inventory post.

2. PUT this ON



A classic style blog. He is independant of the runway cycle and delves into building a wardrobe of classics from the heritage brands and some contemporary brands like Ralph Lauren. I find the most inspiring interviews, quotes on style from recent articles, compilation of Bruce Boyers essays, …etc through his posts. I quite like his weekly eBay finds and his brutally honest reviews. My favourite posts : Tribute to Bill Cunningham and Bike Commuting Style.

3. A Continuous Lean



A well rounded style blog – cars, watches, travel, luggage, heritage clothing, hats, shoes, bikes,  pens, James Bond, … the art of being a gentleman. All in editorial quality of a magazine from excellent contributors. My favourite articles : Reason for Being and Unsolicited Thoughts for Young Men.

4. Die Work Wear



A passion for style and for the love of high quality clothes. This is one of the most diverse blogs I have come across in terms of well researched essays and is an inspiration for my blog. A discourse on fabrics, seasonal dressing, Alden shoes, tailoring, sale finds, outfit flat lays, knitwear, outerwear, backpacks, … everything ! I sort of wish I was authorized to shop for my husband, whenever I read his blog. He has great advice. My favourite articles : Who had style in 1985 and The Early Days of Armani.



I seem to find more inspiration on investing in the classics, chasing craftsmanship, pairing colors, fabrics and tailoring from the menswear side of fashion. The longevity and expectation from a ‘classic’ is higher for men. I would like such standards for myself. I never want my blog to become a blog centered around outfits. I want mine to be a style blog and my journal. These men inspire me and set the bar high. Do give them some of your reading time and you won’t be disappointed. 

Closet talk : Summer Edition

Posted on July 3, 2016

This summer, I got my Phd, moved out of Arizona for good and became a Californian. I get to live with my husband full time and I have never been happier. After 120 degree summers for Arizona, 80 degree California feels un-summery. Nights are chilly. Linens feels too breezy. The mountain we live on, is rather cold. There is a little bit of acclimatization needed on my part. I never needed to ‘wardrobe plan’ by season because I had it down for a while and don’t follow trends. DeadFleurette had to do so because she had so little and it was an opportunity to add a new piece. I have so much that the only wardrobe planning I need to do is exercise restraint. My closet is a summer closet and we the people of Arizona do it well. Being cold in summer, like I currently do, feels all wrong. Some thoughts :



fabricsCotton, silk and linen.


Linen and cotton are my favourite summer textiles. I have a mild repellant property to polyester clothing. Silk is my choice for evening wear. Since I am spoilt by choice, I wear my silk shirts with careless abandon whenever I feel like it. Cotton dresses. Linen and silk shirts.



Boxy shirts and skinny jeans


Shirts that are fitted are a pet peeve of mine. That 90’s secretary look – no thank you. The ones with darts at the bust are the worst and sausage boob – no thank you. I used to size up or steal my husbands shirts but the droopy shoulder was not a good look on me. I will eternally be grateful for boyfriend shirts.

shiftDressShift dress


My favorite shape. Minimal contact of the garment with the body while being modestly dressed. Since its not fitted, the garment is immune to body weight fluctuations and I invest in my dresses. I want my clothing to last a decade in my closet.


Shirt dresses


I have a thing for collars, unbuttoned shirts and sleeves that can be rolled up. Its the most flattering neckline on me. If a shirt married a shift dress and had babies … it’s a shirt dress.



colorPalette IMG_0070

Blue, mauve, green, red, gray and black


I love color as long as it’s blue. These are all the shades of blue that make up my closet. I have an odd purple, army green and deep red which can be classified as accent colors that I own a piece each of. I don’t like white, beige or brown. In India, I wore more color. It was easy to go into a fabric store and find a flattering shade in any color. I used to buy white fabric, ask for a certain color dye and they would do it for me. I do not do such activities in America. Its too expensive to even try.


I refuse to count my things and the internet doesn’t need another boring collage of clothes. My warm weather closet can be summed up as : 3 silhouettes and a whole lot of blue. Or as 3 pairs of jeans, a dozen shirts and 6 blue dresses. I don’t feel the need to make creative outfits. I stick to my formula. Every time I deviate from it, I end up wasting it and I have since stopped trying. I can not pull off a tshirt without looking sloppy and hence dont own any. You need a lot of natural beauty to pull off the off-duty model like looks in a tshirt. I own one gray tshirt that is used for layering.



Swing trench by Everlane


Californian nights after living in the desert are chilly. Not cold enough for leather or wool. A cotton trench is the perfect layering piece. Mine is from Everlane. Its 100% cotton which is a steal considering how many polyester blends exist in the market. Its a relaxed fit which is great for movement when on a bike. Brown/beige is on my no-wear list and this has just enough green in it. It makes me feel old school glamorous and I highly recommend it to anyone considering getting one.



Porselli, Frye, Jil Sanders


I don’t wear sandals or open toed shoes. I find most toes incredibly ugly. Even the painted ones. Ballet flats are ventilating enough and I am in love with my Porselli flats. They feel close to being barefeet. Mine are scuffed and I love them anyways.



Marble kitchen prop turned into a jewellry box + Dogeared necklace 


Its hot out. Nothing should touch the skin if it is not necessary. shift dresses and boyfriend shirts help. Why pile up jewellry ? An exception is this tiny golden dot. It catches light in a flattering way without being shiny. 14 carat gold is the most yellow I can handle. Silver is not a good color for my skin tone.




Vintage YSL and no-name thrifted neck tie scarves 


Sometimes, basics are too basic and sterile. And I get the itch to dress up from time to time. The color red is a great mood changer for me. This vintage YSL red silk scarf was an Etsy find from a few years ago. The seller also had a listing for a vintage gray wool coat designed by Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent himself, that I couldn’t afford. He was selling his grandmother’s closet. It was a fan girl moment when I got the scarf. The blue polka dot cotton scarf is a label less Goodwill find. I would like to add a dusty pink scarf to this collection but can’t seem to find one. Tie the scarf around your wrist or neck to add a tiny object of interest.



A whole lot of lululemon, Jade Yoga mat, tea tree oil cleaner


I am alternating between P90x yoga and ashtanga yoga. When I fix the flat tyre on my bike, I can add some riding to my exercise routine. I own a lot of lululemon. They are 5+ years old and are really made to last. The shorts are some synthetic material that looks indestructible. Their sports bras do not chafe. The fabric is softer than everything else I tried. You can wear them on day hikes/camping and they are not uncomfortable. I own a Jade yoga mat which is sticky. Its the best mat I have tried and is made from recycled materials. The cat loves lounging on it for some reason. I spray it with tea tree oil after use. The book on food history is used as a yoga block. I didn’t see a need to buy one which I have so many fat books in the house.



Cuyana did it again !


Pink was popular last season and I got the bug now. I am caught up with the idea of old fashioned lady like elegance and been carrying a clutch everywhere. I use it as a wallet and shove it into my backpack when I go to work. This was a 2016 purchase from my wishlist from Cuyana. I was debating between taupe and white. But choose pink in the end. This staged picture was shot for another photography project. I do not recommend those rollerball products for purchase.

10. Make fun of the TRENDS

I am sorry but I couldn’t resist writing this bit. The fashion bloggers will continue to wear mules that are fur lined. Or anything Gucci makes. I seem to be the only one who finds the Dionysus bag with flowers on top of a busy pattern – something that a child would make after a trip to a craft store. Floral stickers + 60’s wallpaper like pattern + big hardware. Big crotch mom jeans are trending and I am seeing them on every fashion blogger. They will pair the mom jeans with off shoulder tops.They would have gotten over the Chloe Drew and Faye bags by now. There are so many Mansur Gavriel bags on the second hand market, that is shocking. For years, you couldn’t get one without being on a wait list. #cliche



This post feels super indulgent. All of my sentences seem to start with the word ‘I’. Well, I like writing about clothes and style. What can I do ! Couldnt resist it ! I want to take more pictures and blog more frequently, now that I have some time on my hands. I am sorry if you subscribed to this blog hoping for food stories or travel pictures. This is turning into a personal style blog for some reason and I am going with the flow. 

Sun Screen Wisdom

Posted on July 1, 2016

I moved out of Arizona for good. And as a parting gift, I have some sunburns and premature wrinkles to show for my years in the desert sun. I have done some foolish things with regards to sun protection and observed the consequences of it. I was caught up in finding the best sunscreen to use. But sun protection is much more than buying one. Some observations :




1. Buy one that you can really afford.

One that you can afford to throw in the purse, to slather without cringing, to share with people around you. The ones I have been trying over the years are expensive luxury products from established fashion houses costing 30-60$ a pot. It was a lot of money and I was using it sparingly. Also, I was saving the good stuff for the face and had a drugstore product for the body. When time got scarce in the morning, I always would smear some on the face and run out of the door. Best thing I did for myself in the last year was to walk into Whole Foods and buy the biggest bottle of chemical sunscreen that I could afford.


2. Have one in your handbag at all times.

Like you carry your wallet, phone and sunglasses. Have one that isn’t super expensive and one that you can share. Because every time I re-apply, I have folk around me who immediately want some too.


3. Avoid spray sunscreens

Rated the worst form of delivery. Very easy to miss coverage on eyes, nose, ears, neck, decolletage, etc.


4. Give it enough time to react.

The instructions on the back are not to be ignored. The reaction between skin and the chemicals need to occur to form the protective barrier. Wait the 10 minutes before you step out. If you are always head out of the door in a hurry, switch to physical sunscreen.


5. Apply an SPF 15  when at home at daytime.

If sunlight streams into your home, so do the UV rays. They penetrate through glass and bounce off the surfaces. If it’s day time, use a sunscreen.


6. Shake that physical sunscreen

Jessica Alba’s company was sued last year after a kid got barbecued ( literally ) after using her sunscreen. And company’s response was to blame the parent for not shaking the bottle before use. Most of us don’t realize how important this is. The Zinc particles tend to settle at the bottom. When they say shake, they mean ‘vigorously shake’ it.


7. Use enough

My husband has this habit of putting some sunscreen on his palm, rubbing the palms together and applying what ever is remaining to his face. I don’t think he gets the needed amount. Most of it disappears into his palms. Be very liberal. Smear as much as you can handle without looking smeared up.


8. Misc

Hats are a wonderful addition to the summer wardrobe. They also protect your scalp and hair from the UV rays. Sunglasses, lightweight fabrics that cover the hands, …. help too. Avoid outdoors during noon. Sandals can aide sunburn and your feet are not immune to skin cancer. Espadrilles, ballet flats, canvas loafers, wide legged pants that cover your feet. Layoff strong exfoliants that made your skin sensitive. Add berries to your breakfast and consume it an hour before exposure for internal protection. Eat carrots, tomatoes, citrus, yoghurt, mushroom,…. Make sure your lip balm has at least SPF – 15 in it.


9. Sunscreen under the moisturizer

If you ask beauty industry professionals who are not from a science background, they say moisturizer first and sunscreen next. DO NOT LISTEN to them. The folks who actually formulate and test sunscreens are chemists and pharmacists. And they understand molecular chemistry. Chem sunscreen needs to react with the bare skin. Imagine creating a barrier between the skin and sunscreen and then hoping for the reaction. That is what you do if you put a moisturizer under sunscreen. You can argue that every molecule of your moisturizer is absorbed by the skin but they disagree that is even possible.


10. Vitamin C serum

You will hear folks argue that Vit C is not stable and will break down with sunlight etc. That is the natural property but they have figured out a way to stabilize it. My father attended a conference about it when it was first achieved. Skinceuticals C serum is my holy grail product.


11. Let your pets be  ( dirty & hairy )

Animals need UV protection too. They get it by smearing themselves in dirt and from natural oils that their skin generates. Elephants, rhinos and buffalos get it from their mud bathing tendencies. Dogs and cats use their mane for protection. Pet owners who trim the coats during summer should be considerate of the amount of sun exposure they get. Also, Zinc Oxide is poisonous to the dogs. If your sunscreen contains it, please don’t let him lick your face after you wear it.


12. After sunburn

Aloe vera. Honey. Oil. I was foolish enough to think I wasn’t getting enough vitamin D. For the past few years, I stopped applying sunscreen to my body to collect some sun. My neck now has wrinkles and sun spots. My hands have a few sunburns which are almost healed. When you bike, certain areas of your hands get over exposed. I had one that got out of hand and kept getting worse.  The infected area was itchy, the skin cracked and started bleeding. I used the natural remedies from the kitchen but it didn’t help. It got worse with every day exposure and I suffered for a year. Finally, my father showed up with some steroid cream and it healed in two weeks. If it’s bad, get the help.


13. Men

The attitude towards sunscreen should shift from vanity to health. None of the men I know wear it. My dermatologist dad included. My husband has a million funny things to say when I ask him to wear some. He makes me feel like a mother asking her child to eat raw broccoli. The men who take pride in their zero maintenance grooming also need sun protection.


14. Great-grand-ma

When she used to work on the farm, she worked from 7 am to 11 am. And from 3 pm to 5 pm. Those are the hours my grand father currently works. Men would wear a make shift turban on their head. And women would drape their sarees around their head for sun protection. She says oil on the hair protects the hair.


Do you know they made sun pills ? There is evidence to support the claim that a good diet can provide a fair amount of protection. That is how the generations prior to invention on sun creams did it. Drink enough water and eat a well nourished diet. Is there anything I left out ? Anything I should add to this list ? Do let me know if you disagree on anything. Disagreements are far more interesting ! 



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 145 other followers