My favorite outfit changes fortnightly! When I come up with a combination of my clothes that I like, I wear it multiple times over a few weeks until I tire of it.
Currently, my favorite outfit is a black shift dress with black tights, saddle shoes, and my navy wool coat over the top. This is unusual for me, as in general, I prefer jeans and trousers. There’s something romantic about wearing a big coat over a little dress, it makes me feel so cozy and protected. In practical terms, I like it because it works for so many situations – I wore it for drinks at a hipster small bar last weekend, and this week I’m planning on wearing it to work and then for dinner at a nice place later that night.
Subtle details – on the dress, there are darts at the front which make it feel fancier than an average t-shirt shift dress. On my coat, each sleeve has an odd button with an anchor stitched on, which always puts me in a good mood when I catch a glimpse of one. And, always appreciated, is an inside pocket in the coat where I can safely carry my phone.
That’s a really interesting question, I’ve never thought about it. I wouldn’t wear an outfit I downright dislike, but I guess my least favorite is my chambray button down with black trousers. Mostly because I don’t like the cut of the shirt anymore – it’s too fitted and restrictive. It’s a men’s shirt, so the button placement is awkward. The shade of blue is a bit off to me as well. I guess I keep wearing it because I want to wear a chambray shirt and black trousers combination, and I keep hoping I like it more each time. When is an acceptable time to replace an item of clothing you don’t particularly like anymore but still functions fine? I’m not sure.
I don’t really have a defined closet editing process. For me “editing” my closet is a slow longitudinal kind of thing, it happens as my taste in clothes evolves. There was a turning point in my style in about 2014, which led to two big cleanouts in the last two years when I sold or donated a bunch of items. Apart from that, I don’t tend to find myself doing regular mass closet clean-outs. I think the last item of clothing I let go was an old fake-leather skater skirt which I sold very cheaply on a second-hand clothing app. I absolutely loved that skirt in the first few years of university, but it definitely wasn’t my style anymore.
I actually don’t find my clothes wearing out on me very often, despite not technically being very good quality. Most of the time, I tire of the item before it wears out. (The main exceptions are my shoes, which I take to the cobblers to get re-soled/repaired.) I try not to wash my clothes too often, and we always line-dry our clothes, which helps them last longer. It also depends on how much “wearing out” you can tolerate. If something develops minor wear and tear, I’m happy to mend (with my extremely poor sewing technique) and keep wearing it. Some of my striped shirts are quite faded to the point they might meet a definition of “worn out”, but I don’t mind, so I keep wearing them. I know you’ve talked about appreciating worn clothes and that’s an attitude I’d like to adopt more.
Oldest garment – the item that’s oldest in age is a red silk shirt my mother gave me. According to her, it’s older than I am. The oldest piece of clothing I bought myself that I still wear is probably my navy skater skirt, which is about five or six years old. And then I have several items bought during high school that I have absolutely no intention of wearing for the foreseeable future, but I keep because I’m in one way or another sentimental about them.
Newest garment – a linen sleeveless shirt that I bought in February. I only started work this year so I found myself lacking for work-appropriate clothes for hotter weather (whereas in the past, hot weather meant vacation).
To look at and surround myself with – probably pastels. I love going to cities or neighborhoods where the houses are all painted in pastels!
To wear – navy. Give me several different colored versions of the same clothing item, and I’ll probably pick the navy one as my favorite. I also like the feeling of an all black outfit too. It makes me feel badass.
Do you have a list of fashion items that you would categorize as :
“will never ever wear”
” Not for me, but never say never”
” I said never but I changed my mind “
Will never ever wear – high heels. They are uncomfortable and impractical. They predispose to acute injuries and chronic musculoskeletal problems. All to make us look closer to society’s feminine ideal.
Not for me, but never say never – wide leg pants and sailor pants. Love them on other people, but not sure how they would fit into my closet currently.
I said never but I changed my mind – jeans that aren’t dark wash skinny jeans. I scavenged a pair of light wash men’s jeans from my dad and I love them!
Let’s talk shoes. What is your collection like ?
I’ve never been much of a shoe fiend, to be honest. I only like unembellished shoes in their most basic form, so I’ve been able to keep my collection pretty streamlined.
My newest pair are black loafers, bought as a replacement for a previous pair of black loafers. My old pair were a bit pinchy, so when the soles wore out for the second time, I used it as an excuse to get a new pair rather than take them to the cobbler again.
Most of my shoes are menswear inspired in one way or another. My favorite pair are my Chelsea boots, which I suppose are more of a men’s staple shoe than women’s, although I’ve heard they were originally invented for Queen Victoria. Then there are my loafers, and a pair of oxfords in the form of my saddle shoes.
My most impractical pair… I wouldn’t say I regret any of my shoe purchases for their impracticality. The pair of shoes that gets the least love nowadays are my Doc Marten boots, because they are too practical for my lifestyle here in Sydney! But they are the first pair of shoes I consider taking when traveling somewhere with very cold, snowy, wet and muddy weather.
Lowest cost per wear – my Chelsea boots. I absolutely love them to pieces (and I have, I’ve had them resoled twice and their insoles replaced once). I wear them everywhere with everything. Highest cost per wear – not sure… maybe my new loafers, only because I’ve only had them half a year.
Wish list – I’ve been wanting a pair of Dr Martens 1461s in black with yellow stitching, but I’ve not made the move because I already have two pairs of black shoes. I might consider buying them as oxford replacements when my saddle shoes become unwearable. I’m also appreciating the look of Everlane’s day heel, even though I said I don’t like heels – they look comfortable, at least! But I can’t imagine when I’d wear them, and I don’t dare order them online without being able to try them on first.
Coherent and well designed is what comes to mind as I read your answers. I have to ask you: who are your influences? How have you been able to draw the line between all the noise ( Valentino rockstuds, block heels, Gucci loafer madness, slides, mules, what ever else … ) and keeping true to your style ? Do you read fashion blogs?
To be honest, I’ve never really followed proper “fashion” – I don’t keep up with any designers or their shows, and I’ve never read fashion magazines (yes, the Devil Wears Prada blue sweater scene is also going through my head right now too). I don’t read fashion blogs either. I usually stick to more low key personal style blogs, which are probably my main influences. My favorite one is Death by Elocution.
I guess I know what I like and don’t purposefully go looking for reasons to experiment. There’s a slightly rebellious side to me where I automatically dislike things that are popular – not that I’m immune to trends, though, since I’m currently in the market for a t-shirt in blush pink. Also, the most obvious reason – I couldn’t bear to pay for brands like Valentino or Gucci! I grew up with immigrant Asian parents. I can’t even imagine what my mother’s face would be if I told her I spent $1000 on a pair of shoes.
How liberating, to be able to draw the line and stay on the right side ! Who are your influences? Any style icons you look up to ? Does your profession influence the way you dress ? Do your peers dress like you ?
At work, we haven’t really been told of a dress code, but “smart casual” is what’s accepted. My work style is pretty similar to my leisure style – I enjoy getting dressed in the morning. I’m the most junior doctor on the team which means I do a lot of legwork, like writing in patient notes while carrying ten other folders, taking blood and putting in drips, leaning over patients to examine them, etc. So I need to be comfortable and be able to move around in my clothes. There’s always a chance of getting gross stuff on myself, so I usually wear things that can be machine washed and aren’t too precious. That’s probably why I’m so focused on the practicality of my clothes. I wouldn’t say I really stand out from my peers, but I do dress more casually than most people. I haven’t really thought about how that would come off to patients or my seniors… but the stethoscope pretty much legitimises any outfit!
I read these blogs too. They do influence me on how to buy ( not what to buy since our style isn’t similar ). Alexa can dress down Chanel couture dresses and make it all look cool. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. I also wonder about the size of her closet. Is it the size of an apartment? How does she store all of her clothes? Anyways, … Let’s talk about your blog. The first question : Why ? What made you start a style blog ? Do you have a message you want to send out ? Is it purely for your own catalog? Has blogging affected your style somehow?
I wouldn’t classify my blog as a style blog, to be honest – I don’t think those posts make up the majority. I didn’t really have a mission statement for my blog at the start. I just enjoy the process – taking the photos, editing them, formatting them into posts. I pretty much post about what I personally like to read on other blogs, and one of those topics is clothes and style. More recently, I’ve been intentionally incorporating a feminist perspective into some of my posts. In terms of clothes and style, that means things like not having to feel like your clothes need to “flatter” in a societal beauty standards sense, not needing to dress for the male gaze, and prioritising practical aspects about clothes which shops/brands definitely don’t do for women in the same way as they do for men (one word: functional pockets).
I can’t say what my style would be like right now if I didn’t blog. It might still be the same. But because I put it out there on the internet, I feel a little more held accountable, e.g. buying something new when I’d said I didn’t need any more, buying clothes from stores known to have unethical policies. So I think having a blog has streamlined my closet, since I’m always writing about the reasoning and justification behind things I buy and wear.
I have to ask. What is your take on fast fashion and ethical consumption?
Obviously, in the most simplistic and idealized terms, fast fashion = bad and ethical consumption = good. But consumption habits depend a lot on personal factors (e.g. time, disposable income, availability), and it would be unfair to dismiss them. As with most social causes, it’s difficult to be perfect – but it’s important to recognize where you can personally improve and do your best within your own circumstances. For me, that means making my current clothes (mostly fast fashion) last long, carefully considering what I buy new, buying as little as possible and trying to avoid stores known to have terrible ethics. Sticking to this means I’ve only bought two items this year – I haven’t added anything to my wardrobe since February.
I am so glad I get to interview you. I really needed to hear that. In terms of quality, what are your go to places? ( Best tshirts, best chinos, best jeans, handbag, shoes … ? ) Is there a store that never disappoints, carries clothing that is your style and cuts the search time ?
My current go to store for clothing, admittedly a fast fashion one, is Uniqlo. The clothes (t shirts, shirts and jeans) I have from there have held up really well. I like that I can generally count on them to have items I want without weird trendy details. Their clothes usually fit me better in terms of sleeve and body length – possibly because they’re a Japanese store. I also appreciate that they organise their shops so that you can just go straight to the section you’re looking for (shirts/jeans/dresses etc) – I rarely have the patience for the mess that is H&M or Zara.
Similarly, I also quite like Muji. When I start replacing items that have worn out, I’ll probably also look to luxury-fashion-at-affordable-prices type brands, like Everlane or Grana, both of which carry things I would wear. In terms of shoes and handbags – I haven’t really bought enough to know, to be honest. Although I will say that the Fjallraven Kanken is the best quality backpack I have ever owned.
I also wanted to ask about your idea of flatter. If we take the whole look skinniest and as proportional as possible that the beauty industry advocates off the table, where do you draw the line ? Do you think dressing purely for (extreme) comfort (sweatpants) is self-defeating in some sense?
When I talk about flatter, I don’t really mean presentation vs. comfort. I’m referring to the idea that you can’t wear certain pieces or cuts of clothing because it makes you look [insert adjective here], or that if you have X body type you should always wear Y items because they make you look thinner, your waist smaller, legs longer, etc etc. So basically, I don’t believe in avoiding things you want to wear because they make your body look a certain way (or vice versa – wearing things you don’t like because they “flatter”). I know some would say that dressing to flatter makes them feel more confident – but I would argue that deriving confidence from conforming to societal beauty standards is not really a win. Of course (like with me trying to be an ethical consumer), there are elements of hypocrisy in this – after all, I cover up my spots with concealer and wax my legs, is that not also conforming to beauty standards? But I’m trying to undo this bit by bit.
Can you give me one instance of an outfit where you think you have broken the rules of the body type wisdom but do so because that is what you are comfortable in ?
Breaking the rules of body type wisdom – the smock dress. I’m not sure if anyone who isn’t a model or pregnant is technically allowed to wear a smock dress, but I absolutely love mine for the summer. Apart from at the shoulder, it barely touches my body, so there is maximum air circulation. For ages I also thought it was unflattering to wear ankle boots with dresses – as they apparently make legs look shorter – but those are my most comfortable shoes and the only pair I brought along on that trip.
Can you give me one instance of an outfit where you think you wouldnt wear it that way if not for an idea of ‘flatter’ …. going into the future, you would perhaps like to edit it in some sense?
In terms of an outfit I wouldn’t wear if not for an idea of flatter – hmm, I can’t really think of one. I do like it worn this way, flatter or not, but I would like to try this dress in bare legs with saddle shoes. For some reason I’m self-conscious of my bare legs when I wear shoes like oxfords or loafers, and feel the need to wear tights.
Whats your take on the mapping of words feminine and masculine, in association with clothes. ( Do you feel the need to add certain elements to make a menswear inspired outfit feminine? Or if you are wearing a dress, do you feel the need to toughen it up ? )
I guess feminine and masculine divisions of clothing are social constructs – but they do exist and inform pretty much everyone on what the acceptable way of dressing is. I suppose the way I dress would lean to more masculine than what is considered feminine. I don’t really find myself needing to add things to make outfits more feminine. That being said, my menswear inspired outfits are basically made up of women’s versions of each item, so the overall effect isn’t too manly/doesn’t look like I’m literally wearing men’s clothes. I also enjoy wearing menswear inspired items in ways that men can’t get away with, e.g. untucked button downs when at work. When it comes to things like dresses and skirts, the shoes/accessories/separates I wear them with are menswear inspired – not because of the conscious decision to make the outfit less feminine, but because the rest of my wardrobe just happens to have those items.
Whats your take on style classifications – tomboy, classic, French, feminine, … Do you identify with any of these ?
Style classifications – I think they’re useful as a guide, e.g. if you’re searching for style inspiration or trying to decide if something fits in with your wardrobe. I wouldn’t use them as rigid boxes to force myself into though. You could probably classify my style as tomboy. Not going to lie, I click those “how to dress like a French girl” posts all the time. At this point I’m not even sure what “French” style is anymore, but it seems that the general consensus is that French style is about looking good with the most basic of pieces, which I can appreciate.
Do you think your personality reflects in the way you dress ? Is it fair to make generalizations about who you might be based on how I see you dressed?
I wouldn’t say that the way I dress really reflects my personality. My style is pretty laid-back and casual and I am neither of those things, ha ha. I think it’s probably more a reflection on how I want to be perceived – cool, but without going to too much effort (which is obviously a lie – I’m a total dork, and looking at this interview I apparently put a lot of thought into my clothes…). So I guess any generalizations others might make are fair game, since that’s the image I’ve chosen to present. I think that would apply to most people who choose their own clothes.
Sorry, couldn’t resist the cliché : 10 Style Commandments.
1. Dress for the weather.
2. If you can’t convince yourself that an outfit works- take it off and wear something you know you like, or you’ll be thinking about it for the rest of the day.
3. Forget about societal standards of beauty, forget about the male gaze.
4. Dress as casually for a situation as you can get away with.
5. Don’t buy a new item of clothing if you’re going to have to buy something else to wear with it or “make it work”.
6. Ignore trends you dislike, wait a season or two before buying into one you do like.
7. Don’t buy anything you’re only going to wear once.
8. Whatever the occasion – only wear shoes you can walk fast in.
9. If you like an outfit – repeat it as much as you want.
10. Clothes are fun, but your self-confidence should come from belief in your own abilities, not from your outward appearance.
Jane, there so many questions I still want to ask you. Your take on minimalism. Your take on sustainability. Your views on color. Your fav music. Favourite equation. Fav scientists. Fav textbook. Fav invention. Fav organ in the body. Miracles you have witnessed in your profession. Human stories. Immigrant stories … While this is a style interview and all about clothes, I really would like to know more about you. I hope you let me ask you lots of questions again in a few years, for a follow-up. Thank you for talking to me and for all the positive influence.
Jane’s blog : http://deluminators.blogspot.com/