Some entries have emotions that my words don’t fully convey. This tune is the background score for this post. Presenting a summer looking through rose tinted glasses …
California gave me a golden summer. So much so, that I forgot that I am brown gal and uttered the words “I have a nice tan” for the first time in my life. We have been swimming in the rivers, kayaking, sun bathing, making bulgogi over fire, listening to Gustavo Santaolalla and drinking pale ales from growlers. “Beach”, he says in his husky yet gentle voice and looks at me with his wide questioning eyes. We pack up and go.”I found a spot to sleep under the big trees”, he says. We load our tent and go. This is how we do romance in our home. Harsha has been hunting down camping ground openings from his excel sheet. He reads maps and plans routes for our road trips based on the breweries along the path. #romance …. California preserved its history. Standing in a 20-million-year-old forest containing 3000-year-old sequoia trees is grounding. Summer nights are when we socialize a lot more. We never miss the trips to the farmers market when “the tomatoes are ripe and plump”. We sent out an open invite to our closest friends: “drop by any Sunday afternoon for food and beer”. My cottage has a wall of good books that are being read. Cinco, the cat, is recovering and slowly morphing into a little dragon again. There is a calm in my life that I don’t quite understand, but am happy to have it while it lasts. My closet is in a similar state of mind … a certain kind of slowness and too much beauty ….
Blues that live in my home.
The right shade of navy ? All of them ? A snapshot of my blue dresses.
“You have to go to Italy. They have the most beautiful blue skies I have ever seen”, says Meghana when asked about her honeymoon. The most beautiful blue – I have been hunting for precisely that, for years – in the sea, in the sky, in stone, in fabric stores, in indigo dyes, in my paint box … The greedy woman in me is not content with looking. I need to photograph it. I want to wear it. When the fabric of my blue dresses starts to wear out, I notice the gradient to see if its shade is better than the original. If the answer is yes, I am happy. If it’s a no, I then start to complain about how my clothes are old and about needing more blue clothes to fill my closet.
Love thy Wrinkles
My great-great-grandfather was imprisoned by the British Raj ( who colonized India from 1757 to 1947 ) for printing counterfeit currency. He lived a fugitive life. We didn’t know his whereabouts but he would resurface out of the blue – with presents, trinkets with questionable origins, recipes from far off lands, technical know hows, dried herbs, … My great-grand-mother has the most amazing stories to tell and they were all hidden in her wrinkles. The more you seek, the more beauty you will find. The imperfections on my linen shirt resemble the topography of the hills as seen from the sky. What the eyes see and the neurons interpret depends on the perception of beauty encoded in the brain. The images of travelers, explorers, farmers, hunters, riders, photographers, engineers … are enhanced by the signs of exertion in their clothing and exultation on their faces. I don’t want to see pristine clothes worn by airbrushed faces. I want to hear about the adventures of daily life told by wrinkled faces wearing soiled clothing.
Everlane Chinos ( Quick review : made of poplin. the kind you replace every two years. )
You stare at something long enough and yearn for it, it becomes you. Gretta from Begin Again and Max Poglia made me try out this new silhouette. This outfit falls flat without the belt and toned stomach. Menswear inspired pleated boxy cotton trousers are like shift dresses – minimum contact with the body and maximum comfort. Ironically, these pants seem to tickle Harsha. He laughs every single time. “Are you wearing my clothes again?”. “You look like like a kid in those.” “Where do you find these clothes again ?” “So you write a fashion blog huh”. He has his way to distorting my views with his wicked humor. Last year, I purchased this gorgeous navy blue brocade jacket from Dries Van Noten. It was stunning. I hung it on a nail in my bedroom, like one would hang a painting. He walks in and ….. “I am a disco dancer, I am a disco dancer, ….”, he pranced around the jacket like a primitive man. That did it and I promptly returned it. Not this time. These pants, are being worn.
Weather gods are tastefully eclectic
The cold winters can make me forget what true warmth can be and one fine day – it hits you hard. In the afternoons, I get an urge to peel off the clothes, burn my bras and puncture some holes into my ballet flats for ventilation … The evenings make me want to sun bathe and play volleyball outdoors …. and then the nights are chilly. California is a happy drunkard. Layering helps :
Black cropped pants that can go under the dress making it a tunic.
A neck scarf because I want to dress like Jude Law from The Gentleman’s Wager.
Goodbyes are always hard
[ Poplin shirts to be cut into cleaning rags. Silk shirt & red flats to be donated. ]
This is my worn out pile. The Everlane silk shirt aged terribly and has become patchy. The poplin shirts died in service. The red shoes pinch my feet real bad and I seem to need half size up for shoes these days. My loafers do the same and I want to sell them. I also have a ’20 more wears before I let them go’ pile because I don’t want to shop for replacements. I also have an ever growing repair pile. Truth be told, I am alarmed by how many of my clothes I have been wearing out this year.
My simplify journey so far :
Year 1: Own the least amount of clothes possible. ( Emphasis on decluttering. )
Year 2 : Build a closet. Be moderately well dressed with the least amount possible. (Emphasis on buying high-quality garments. )
Year 3: Concentrate on ‘buy less’ instead of ‘own less’. Be well dressed with least amount of wastage. ( Shop second hand, wear clothes till they die and buy for durability.)
This is how my goals shifted over time. If you have an active lifestyle, clothes wear out. Even the good quality ones. Have durability in mind when considering fabrics and construction. (Am reconsidering my silk shirt habit. ) Don’t buy things that might go to the ‘maybe’ pile next year once the love-at-first-sight wears out and will eventually be left behind. Optimize for time and money spent on all of this. Optimize for freeing brain space from the consumption cycle. Stock up on staples when they become affordable on the second-hand market. On that note, I sent a pair of shorts to Realreal for consignment and asked them to return it back to me. I can’t seem to part with my stuff anymore.
Secondhand shopping. I go about bragging about my finds to anyone who cares to listen, partly because I want them to try it out too. With great power comes great responsibility and lot of errands. I have become the designated hunter for fashion finds in my inner circle of humans. ‘She’ asked me to keep an eye out for this sold out APC bag. We found it. When it came to it, she hated the bag. You can not fit a sunglass case in it. Inserting a wallet is like having a quarrel with the bag who doesn’t understand its purpose. This bag doesn’t know that it’s a bag. ” I don’t have time for this shit. Sell it for me?”, she asked. My price for making me do her dirty laundry: to be able to use it for the summer. One month in, I hate that bag too !
Beauty of the tiny
Straw Hat == sun protection
Gold necklace == This is a pendant that I wear on the wrong side. This pink pearl is another treasure of mine and I like how it looks next to blue clothing and tan skin.
Red lip is the equivalent of wearing a tiara. Oh, the glamour and the beauty it brings to the table … !
Vitamin C serum == healthy glowing skin.
A lesson in Chic
[ I refused to backpack without my red dress. ]
Summer of 2014: Harsha and I stayed in a Chateau in a little vineyard in the village of Krems, Austria. Travel all week, vacation on the weekend was how we balanced our finances. We would sleep on trains, platforms and tiny bunk beds all week. I loved the hostel experience – everyone was on a tight budget and would share tips to get around. “There was no ticket collector on the train. So I didn’t get off and ended up in Netherlands”. “We floated on a raft into Germany on the Rhine river.” It was the weekend and we earned our vacation – a big bed in a very picturesque setting! The Chateau had a little garden which could seat 20 people, which was being used to host dinners. Reservation required. Local produce, daily menu and famous chef – Check ! The minute I walked in, all eyes stopped and stared at me.
I saw an avatar of Madame Chic, sitting at every table. Plain silk blouses. Muted colors that were soothing on the eyes. Crisp white shirts and red lip. Skirts and kitten heels. Trousers and black boots. Some showed their naked shoulders with a colorful stole nonchalantly thrown on top. They had glowing skin, no visible makeup, natural looking hair and dainty jewelry that sparkled like the distant stars in the candle light. The wine glasses looked like ornaments in their hands. The men wore linen blazers and loafers. I will never forget how mesmerized I was that night – the smell of the wine, the rustle of the wind tunneling through the grape trees, the full moon, the candle light, being in love, being happy, being young, being in a strange and foreign land, the laughter, belly full of food, the ancient stone walls, beautiful people, the wine …
That night also changed my idea of evening wear. Chic + simple == Elegant ? I haven’t given myself permission to buy clothes that fit the notion of ‘dressed up’. It’s like putting down payment on a vacation home while complaining about not being able to afford the rent in the apartment you live in. I could invest in my winter coat and silk blouses because I didn’t buy my fantasy going out closet yet. I like the idea of me on a beach in a maxi dress. I also like the idea of me in cocktail attire at a speakeasy. But I am not there yet to spend on clothes that get worn less than 10 times a year. Dressing up what I own works. The beauty of silk is not to be underestimated. Washed silk has this natural luster and an element of ‘noble’ that transitions to evening wear with ease. It drapes on my curves making me feel dressed up. Washed silk is not excessively shiny. I can wear it during the day without looking overdressed. After years of trial and terror, I think I get a hang of accessories. My current closet has been serving me rather well.
Beach : APC tunic and flip flops.
Walking date with him : Vintage denim dress. Men’s sandals from India.
Hostess uniform: a blue dress and nice earrings.
Upscale dining/Attend weddings/Go dancing to the clubs: red dress + black lace up flats
[ Yes, I have the same silk dress in two colors. And I found them both on the second-hand market 3 years apart. ]
Date night, brunch, work, play, concert, …. : blue dress + ballet flats. I can’t sing enough praise for this Steven Alan shirt dress. I think it hit 100 wears in the 3 years I owned it and is going strong – talk of quality! It was a second-hand find. One woman’s part-able item is another woman’s treasure.
Sensei, teach me
Dressing inspiration can be broken down into two components: The right basics and the right personalization.
Inspiration for the right basics: Margaret Howell. The colors I want to see, the cuts I want to wear, the shoes that inspire movement, the classics I want to own, …. the styling on her runway is an education. The blogs I read, pinterest, etc help me out in this aspect too.
[ I won’t see this image on a fashion blog that shows perfect outfits. I like how she wears her bag and how the brown has patinaed. ]
[ He wears yellow, brown and red paired with navy/black. I would have branded it too much color but it somehow works ! If I were more experimental, my red bag would get worn more. I miss it. ]
Personalization : A certain boldness is required to mix, match and make the outfit your own. I went back to street style for inspiration. The Sartorialist has a good sample size of subjects who seem to dress as they please. Every page has a combination that I would not have thought of by myself. The basics I own can be worn like basics or with some creativity. I am using the good taste of Scott Schuman, Giuseppe Santamaria and James Bent for an education.
Beware of the cliches
One late night, I caught myself browsing for straw bags and wrap dresses – neither of which I particularly find practical. It’s an aftermath of all the influencers I scroll, looking alike – exactly like Jeanne Damas. How did this happen ?
Fashion says “me too”. Style says “Only Me”.
It was fun while it lasted, to mock the fashion trends and to do the anti-haul talk. Nobody forced me to follow fashion blogs and read the magazines. I did so, out of my own volition …. only to become a fashion victim. I don’t want any part of it.
Over the years, I have been scrolling through a lot of pretty images put out by Kinfolk-y content creators with the Celine aesthetic ( which I really enjoy ). This exposure re-wired my idea of a good outfit. I was so stuck up on my one color per outfit rule because it looked picture perfect and visually clutter free. While this can be written off as refining the aesthetic, I was narrowing down the subset of combinations possible with the contents of my closet. I was wearing out my neutral clothing rather fast while growing bored of the teals and pinks that don’t get worn often enough. Once I put some distance between myself and the media perfect outfits, I am more relaxed. I mix navy with red. Or wear pink shoes while wearing a red jacket. Brown bag with an army green shirt. Wear more than one accessory at a time if I feel like it. The accent pieces are being used more often. Closet utility and efficiency went up.
Then, there is this itch to buy white clothes and dye them indigo. I spilled coffee on my husband’s white shirt there by staining it. “Oh, oh, we should dye it blue. It will look amazing on you.” He nodded and forgot to get angry at me for ruining his shirt.
At some point in my life time, I want a red Alaia skirt and a black trousers designed by Yohji Yamamoto. I will wait.
Since I shop second hand, I no longer know what’s in stores or when the sales happen. Feels liberating. Anything I might want, it’s cheaper to find used.
I have been visiting the local thrift shops whenever I visit a new place to hike. You guys have commented about finding your wool coat for 10$ and Ferragamo pumps for 13$. I see them too. Thank you for sharing your second-hand finds and for encouraging me to look off-line.
I would like to bring the slowness element to my blog too. Fewer posts, essay style? I don’t want to become scrollable. I want to be read and conversed with.
Cheers to the beautiful summer! I have missed chatting with you guys. We are like the women who brunch on the Sundays, talking about beauty, style and perspectives. Was your summer filled with must-have’s too? What are they? Whats your summer closet like ? Feeling the wave of straw bags ?