There exists a stigma if you are a woman of science and take an interest in fashion. I hope the more we ‘come out’, the easier it is for the rest of us embrace the non-geeky side. It’s okay to have an analytical mind and enjoy art, take interest in personal style and like the color pink. Yiran is the first guest on my series on women in STEM with great personal style. She is funny, witty, smart, stylish and has strong opinions on Goop.com. She let me rummage her closet, make flat lays, flip through her store catalogs and we talked style for 8 hours. She is the one who tells me about the brands I never knew but loved at first sight, has a closet full of second-hand finds, clothes with beautiful tiny details, … The words ‘such a blogger thing to do right?’ was used too many times. We talked about fashion victims, internet trolls on our blogs and bloggers, …. I let it all out. I grilled her … If you are looking at pictures, fine. If you are reading our conversation, do get a glass of wine/tea.

I watched her put out outfits that I demanded of her. I got to touch the beautiful fabrics and photograph the ‘secret details that only I know of’ as she put it. Show me your dressiest outfit ?What would you wear to a wedding? What did you wear for your wedding ? Whats your idea of lounge wear ? Whats your dont mess with me outfit ? I watched her enjoy the details of her clothes as she put them on. She would made subtle adjustments to the trousers, cuff the pants in a certain way, tuck her shirt into a proportion that pleases her, … I saw someone enjoying her clothes immensely. I went home envious of her closet and happy about the conversations we had.

Most cherished item in her closet. She has had it since high school.

She introduced me to the idea of Boro. ( You repair a cherished garment over and over again using fabric scraps from other discarded waste. Beyond the surface, there is a manifestation of creativity : the aesthetic transmutation of ordinary rags by human hands and the creation of beauty. Each boro is a hand-sewn assembly of a unique shape, size and history. The laboriously sewn, evenly sized strips of one boro contrast with the practical strategic placement of scraps over holes in another. In traditional Japanese households, some pieces were saved and collected in a household over generations of family members living and dying. The careful and patient act of repairing or reinforcing mundane, well-worn objects served as a form of silent dialogue among family members. ) Yiran, I hope you mend your jacket.

Comme De Garcon Jacket in plaid boiled wool. Her favorite second-hand find. 

Left : Typical wear to work outfit. The stripe shirt is one of her fav shirts and she wears it every monday.

Right : Her dressy wear to a wedding outfit. Notice the MNZ sandals ?

The beauty of linen.

“… the secret details. The button is beautiful and the thin blue line … this heart shaped stitching is on the side over the attached pocket. Only I know of it.”

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Her striped garments. She has a striped pillow too πŸ˜‰

I asked her about her typical lounge clothing. She choose this outfit.

A gentle woman always carries a handkerchief. 

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Her jewelry box

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Her makeup collection

All of the amazing pieces of clothing I saw, for example, the Comme jacket, do you wear them often or are you a collector? Do you wear your fav clothing the most? Or the most comfortable ones the most? or the most familiar ones the most?

I used to be a collector (‘hoarder’ to be exact) when I was younger because I did not have a strong sense of self. The pure act of ‘owning stuff’ provided me comfort and security. I was the girl with 10 different stripe T-shirts, 50 nail polishes and dreamed to have the makeup collection of beauty gurus. Nowadays, as cliche as it sounds, I only buy and keep stuff that ‘sparks joy’. In that sense, the Comme jacket sparks so much joy I wish I could wear it everyday. Same with the navy linen jacket. I’ve become very conscious of my consumption and a lot of contemplation goes into my purchases. I enjoy finding out the backstory of a brand, the designer’s inspirations, the environmental footprint of the fabric, etc. Each purchase is like a research project.
For me, the most familiar clothes tend to coincide with the favorites because I rely heavily on clothing and appearance for self-expression. Shallow me. So these would be the items that I identify with and feel in my own skin the most. For example, I have five button-down shirts for work and I always wear my favorite one on Mondays. It brings out the best in me and helps to kick off the week. I tend to gravitate towards the most comfortable ones when I’m vulnerable or low in energy. An example would be the Acne Raya cardigan. It allows me to curl into a ball on the sofa and watch feel-good movies. I call it my overpriced safety blanket.

How dare she not use a Dipthyque candle ! How rude and un-blogger-ly !

Is it easy for you to let go of things ? Do you let go of things often ? Do things leave your closet before they wear out ? On that note, in the last 3-4 years, has your style changed much that you felt the need to declutter ?

Yes and no.
Most of the decluttering happened in the past two years. It was partly caused by my obsession with Minimalism/KonMari cult, and partly because I graduated from college. All the moving and lifestyle shift prompted me to get rid of a lot of things that no longer suited my life. Looking back, I was also trying really hard to ‘adult’ so subconsciously I wanted to part way with stuff that represented the college version of me.
I rarely let things go because they’re worn out. It’s mostly because I no longer identify with them. For example, in the most recent round of wardrobe decluttering, I cleared out my lingerie draw and donated some barely worn lacy push-up bras that I bought in college to impress guys. I never felt comfortable nor confident in them. Letting go of those was liberating. It’s like shedding a layer of dead skin.
I have a habit of over-romanticizing things. I often assign sentimental meaning to physical belongings. These are more difficult to let go. For example, there’s a Deborah Lippmann nail polish called ‘Happy Birthday’ that I’ve been wearing on my ring fingers every birthday for 6+ years. A friendship earring with someone that I’m no longer friends with. I also still keep a lot of Polaroids, letters and movie tickets. I know the ‘correct’ way according to Minimalist gurus is to scan and save them digitally etc. But I can’t bring myself to.

shoes

What is the oldest item in your closet ?

What is the newest item in your closet ?

Oldest item is a long denim skirt I had when I was 12. It was quite expensive for kids’ clothes and I begged my mother for weeks for it. But I only worn it handful time because students were required to wear school uniform every day. My mother kept it all these years and brought it to the US this January. She heard that I had very good luck selling my clothes online and wanted me to sell it for some cash. In a strange turn of events, 12 years later I’m in the midst of an obsession with Americana style. The denim skirt actually fits in my current wardrobe so I’m keeping it. I’m also collecting fabric for a boro project and might decide to cut it up and use it for patchwork.
Newest item would be the unstructured white linen jacket. I’ve been wanting a light-colored jacket because previously all my outerwear were either black or navy. They can be too heavy for the warmer seasons. I’ve admired this brand for two years but never purchased anything from them. Two weeks ago I saw this jacket on eBay for a really good deal. It helped that the seller was one of those romantics who would tell a long, lovely story about the item – where she bought it, what events she’s worn it to, how she’s cared for it, etc. It makes the clothes immediately more charming and I fall for them too easily.

Now to the question of style muses. Anyone who’s closet you would like to raid? 

This type of question is always difficult because I don’t fit in well with a style label or gender group. I’m very much in-between. So it’s hard for me to completely resonate with someone to consider them a style muse. To give it a try:
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Raid:

  • @chrissstttiiine on Youtube. I get bored of influencers quite quickly but she’s been a constant source of inspiration throughout the years. Christine has a unique sense of style but also incorporates trendy pieces well. Her uniform videos are my favorite. I learned from her to take care of clothes and shoes before I discovered Men’s blogs. There are indie brands that I heard from her and still love today. Would love to take a peek at her closet. While I’m there, might as well raid her vinyl collection too.
  • Chris the owner of the store Modern Appealing Clothing in SF. MAC is one of those magical places that’s been around for decades. It might also be the only place that sellComme and Engineered Garments in the city. I occasionally go there just to touch and gasp at the beautiful clothes, in the hope to strike up a conversation with Chris. She is really down to earth and has extensive knowledge about fashion. I imagine her closet full of vintage avant-garde pieces from Belgian and Japanese designers.

Anyone of similar body proportions that you look up to for guidance? 

It’s interesting but the question. It never crossed my mind till now.
I used to be really insecure about my legs. Skinny legs are a standard of beauty for Chinese women. In high school I was made fun of by other Chinese kids on social media because my legs weren’t skinny. They called them “elephant trunks”. So in teenage years, my priority for dressing was to hide my legs. That might explain why I still don’t like wearing dresses or other items that are figure-showing.
This is a long winded story to say that body proportion doesn’t register in my mind when I look at people. I also no longer care about dressing to flatter the body. If anything, I dress to blur and hide the perception of it. Sometimes when I’m out in a new look, I’d ask my husband “Can you tell that I’m a woman from afar?” Often his answer is “kind of” or “you look like an effeminate man”. Mission accomplished.
Sometimes I look to Japanese men for guidance. I’m similar to them in height and I have broad manly shoulders. They tend to dress oversized and wear baggy pants, which are right up my alley.

Anyone who comes to mind when I say ‘best dressed’ ? Any one whose aesthetic that you really admire?

I simply admire people who have a distinct style uniform. People like Bill Cunningham, Steve Jobs in his Issey Miyake turtlenecks, Grace Coddington in black, and you in navy dresses. Uniform makes the person look immediately strong and intelligent, too busy with life to contemplate on the trivial decision of what to wear, while simultaneously have it all figured out.
For two years my wardrobe have been very Minimalist/Normcore. I thought I had finally found my style. But now it seems like I was merely participating in another fashion trend.

I dream of become a uniform wearer, to have ‘it’ all figured out and not influenced by the vicious trend cycle of the industry.
I don’t know if a uniform is something that will come with age and experience. If it is, I can’t wait.

A handbag collection.

From what I see in your closet, everything pretty much matches everything else. You seem to be pretty hard on yourself for not having a uniform or for participating in the contemporary culture. Do you not think of clothing or dressing up as a pleasurable activity? 

Oh it’s absolutely pleasurable. Getting dressed is my main channel for self-expression so I enjoy it very much. I guess my current struggle is that I want to enjoy wonderful brands and garments but buying clothes induce guilt in me. Also I want to be able to follow what the brands are up to without becoming a follower of trends. I want to research my purchases beforehand without over-thinking it to the point that decision-making becomes a burden. I find it hard to balance all these aspects. It’s an almost meditative state that I’m striving to arrive. 
 
Does that even make sense? ……

Let’s talk your fashion victim moments. Or style regrets/mistakes from the past. Or worst outfit ever worn ( if applicable ). 

Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, yay!
Back when they were still hard to get hold of, I stumbled upon one and snagged it immediately. It was primarily triggered by the hype around their limited stock. I realized the bag wasn’t for me as soon as it arrived. It was stiff and bulky, and the bucket was one giant bottomless hole. I did not use it at all, but still held on to it because I wanted to be the owner of an It Bag. It was like my golden ticket to the cool kids’ club. By the time I was ready to part with it, people have moved on to the next thing. Every blogger was selling theirs on Depop. I didn’t get a good resale value. It was all a big fuss for nothing. From that I learned my lesson to not participate in the It Bag craze.
Kenzo crewneck
I used to own this. Seeing how I make fun of the Gucci t-shirt you’d think I knew better. At the time, the Kenzo tiger sweatshirt was very popular among my peers. I thought I was being subtle and different by choosing a less obvious design. To be fair, the embroidery was beautiful. Doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s an overpriced sweatshirt. Buying a white one didn’t help either. I had to be extra careful whenever I worn it, which defeated the purpose of a sweatshirt. Friends would ask me why a “K” and I had to say “because it’s Kenzo”. It made me a moving billboard.
UNIF hellraisers – Around 2012, under the heavy influence of @clothesencounters on Youtube, I went through a ‘NastyGal’ phase. Thrifted band tees, distressed denim, heavy makeup, stud earrings, all that. A friend once said I was wearing makeup like they’d all be gone the next day. These are the epitome of me during that phase – loud and high-maintenance. They weighed a kilo each. I worn them to a Green Day concert and the next day had bruises and cuts on my feet from moshing. Last year, I finally sold them to someone younger and cooler than me.

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Fav fabrics ? 

Linen.
First it was a linen handkerchief when I was getting into zero waste. I was so impressed with the fabric that I later acquired linen towels, then a long jacket, then more jackets and now even pants. Linen is both breathable and durable at the same time. I like how it gets softer the more it’s used and washed. Even the stubborn wrinkles that won’t disappear after ironing have grown on me. They show signs of usage and give the pieces more character. I wish the Bay Area is warmer so I can wear my linen pieces all year round.

Fav Designers ?

45RPM! I read a book yesterday that described 45RPM as a brand ‘with a unique aesthetic blending American vintage, French resort wear, Italian tailoring and traditional Japanese craftsmanship’, so basically a combination of all the good stuff. I mean how can you not love a brand like that?

Most treasured item ?

I can’t pick favorites! But if it’s a ‘desert island’ scenario, I will bring my denim jacket.
It’s my most used item. I’ve worn it to everything, from work to hiking to concerts. Anything with a pocket wins a spot in my heart. This jacket has five. I never need a purse with it. It’s reconstructed from other denim pieces. It had a vintage vibe even when I first bought it, so I don’t have to be careful with it. I can’t wait to wear it out so I can sew patches. I plan to grow old with it. The whole life concept of denim is just so fascinating to me.

A clothes lover without a sewing kit and maintenance gear ? Not a chance !

Do you have a list of “donts” ? Something I will never see you wearing. Or a combination perhaps that you object to? Or an item of clothing / popular detail on a garment/brand that you dislike ?

Won’t see me in stiletto heels. I remember an editor of Women in Clothes wrote that the women who liked wearing heels appeared more confident in their answers to the questionnaire. I thought that was such bullshit and was offended by it. Heels only make me uncomfortable and insecure.

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How do you second-hand shop ? Tips and tricks.

Most of my second-hand clothes came from eBay. It just takes a lot of saved searches and patience. It’s also extremely rewarding when the exact item that you’re looking for shows up in the search. Depop is a good place for trendy pieces and The Real Real for classic ones.
Rakuten global site is a rabbit hole full of gems if you’re into Japanese brands. Some Japanese second-hand shops post their entire stock on Rakuten so it’s like a virtual shopping trip to Japan.
Grailed is a marketplace for premium menswear only. It’s a recent favorite that I discovered from Put This On. Their users have great taste. I’m eyeing a few pieces for my husband (so that later I can steal them from him).

There are these rules “shoes can make/break an outfit”. “The right handbag can elevate a look”. You don’t come across as someone who subscribes to this school of thought. Do you have any rules of dressing that you follow?

I feel like I spent the teenage years learning all these rules about dressing, and now I trying to unlearn them. I think this process of learning and unlearning rules can be applied to many fields. I went through a similar process with Minimalism and capsule wardrobe planning. So even though now I may look like someone who dresses however she feel like, I probably have just internalized the rules that I liked and they’ve become my natural instinct.

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Favorite ebay stores and rakuten stores please ?

eBay:
tsano2012 is where the Comme and 45R jackets are from. Similar stores are thesecondstore and artwearjapan. They all ship from Japan though. I’m always hesitant about the carbon footprint from shipping oversea. Other stores that I follow but have not purchased from:songbirddu7 for linen pieces, stylenewyorkcity for past-season designer pieces, thelooknyc and greatwear_85 for menswear.
In addition, I follow keywords such as ‘la garconne’, ‘totokaelo’ and ‘mnz’ since I noticed many sellers have these keywords in the listing title. Is this a common practice among savvy eBay users? It’s interesting how the names of online stores have come to represent a distinct style and consumer group on their own.
Lastly, Put This On’s weekly eBay Roundups. I wish there’s a version for women. Can someone please make one? Archana?
Rakuten:
I mostly start by searching brands I like. That’s how I stumbled upon Kanful, Kindal and Ragtag. All three are chains of brick-and-mortar consignment stores in Japan. They have enormous stock and rigorous grading systems. Auc-tresor is one I discovered while searching for 45R stuff. They mainly sell women’s clothes and have a well mix of European and Japanese designers.

In terms of personal style and evolution, do you have a futuristic vision for yourself?

I have no idea. Seeing how many phases I’ve gone through so far, I’m not sure if there ever will be a final stage of stasis. The ideal would be a constant but conscious curation, adding a few well-thought-out pieces and selling a few every year, an equilibrium almost. In the comment section of your recent post, someone brought up the idea of wearing every piece in one’s wardrobe. That’s definitely my main focus too.

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Lets talk wish lists. Anything you are coveting? Or any item that you wish you had to complete an outfit ? Or a silhouette you want to experiment with ?  

I’ve been coveting a pair of Clarks Desert Boots in the classic beeswax style. I used to think they were too chunky for women but now I like having more substantial footwear to complete the rugged, workwear-inspired outfits, makes an outfit more grounded. It’s also inspired by my husband because he owns three pairs of desert boots, all in beeswax. I’m often inclined to imitate the way he dresses. For instance, the Comme tweed jacket was inspired by his tweed jacket. When I’m attracted to someone, my first instinct is to dress just like them, instead of dressing as their type. It’s always been this way, whether it’s with people I crushed on before or with my husband now. I’ve only realized this about myself recently. Is this common? Does anyone else do that? 
 
I want to get them pre-owned but buying used shoes from men makes me a little iffy.

 What are your fav colors in life ? Do you feel the need to wear your fav colors ? What are some ways you include non-neutral colors into your everyday dressing ?
Favorite color is black. It’s easy to wear and inconspicuous. When I was still in school, I often wore all-black because it gave off a ‘please don’t notice me. leave me alone’ kinda vibe. My mom hated that I only wore somber colors. She said they were for old people. It gave me more reason to wear black – to piss her off. I can’t wear it as often nowadays. Adding an all-black outfit on top of my resting bitch face is too much for the work environment. I still slide back to all-black on weekends. It’s like my default setting.
Blue is considered a color to me. Red is probably the only non-neutral color I wear, and even that is in small dosage, like the miki hat you’ve seen me with, or a red scarf. I like pairing blue and red together. That’s all I can offer on colors. I’m the wrong person to ask. I had no desire to wear brighter colors until I discovered 45R’s lookbooks and outfits from its staff. Case in point: 1, 2, 3, 4. They do it so beautifully!

You have seen my closet, read my blog and hung out with me. Any style advice for me? Or if i were to hire to you be my stylist for a day, what would you put me in?

I would put you in some slouchy jeans, chunky boots, and an olive green workwear-inspired jacket. Something you’d see on Emilie Casiez or the girl with Nigel Cabourn that we were talking about. Partly because I know you’re having a moment with workwear-inspired styles, but mainly just out of curiosity. I’ve never seen you in that silhouette. πŸ˜›

Yiran blogs about zero waste living and mindful consumption.

 If you have any questions for her, do ask.

If not, what are some good questions on personal style that need to be answered to get an understanding into someones head/closet ?