She likes being under water.
She goes places.
She makes 3×3 OOTDs & can write.
It all started with her blog :
I never understood the difference between fashion and style. Lin’s blog made this distinction clear and changed the way I see clothes. Style blogs are different. They have a point of view on why we dress the way we do. It’s well within the scope to be analytical, philosophical and theoretical. The text that accompanies the images on the blog matters. It does not concern itself with telling anyone what to buy this season to look stylish because style is personal. Clothes needn’t be new to be appreciated. They talk about a relationship which a garment in a meaningful way. The outfits clearly show the repeat elements – a color, a cut, a shape, brand loyalty, sentimental items, … A style blog’s aim is pure and simple: to celebrate the pleasure we derive from our clothing. If you read my blog, now is the time for me to admit to plagiarizing some of her ideas and passing them off as my own. Her blog :
You just got home from traveling in South America for 5 months. Can you tell me a little about the kind of clothing worn in the countries you traveled to ?
The 6 countries (Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador) I visited on the continent are very different culturally and also in very different stages of development, both within the country and between countries. So basically, this is going to be a long and winding answer, because it’s hard to give a simple one.
In the big cities, you see mostly western dress on both men and women, the notable exception being La Paz in Bolivia, where majority of the indigenous people (mostly Aymara and Quechua) stick to traditional dress (which was actually enforced by the Spanish conquistadores).
In the more rural areas of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, you’ll see more indigenous people in traditional dress, though in Bolivia I noticed this is becoming a little less common among younger people (who wear skinny jeans and sweats). For the Aymara and Quechua women, indigenous dress generally means a wide skirt (lengths vary between different groups), capes and shawls (for the Aymara) and cardigans (Quechua), and hair worn in long braids. The Quechua women wear knee-length skirts with woollen tights or knee socks, and when they pair that with sandals, it actually looks very Prada, haha. They also don very distinctive bowler hats.
In terms of western dress, I think with the exception of Colombia and big cities like Lima and Santiago, there isn’t this huge awareness (or at least adoption) of the trends being driven by influencers and the likes of Zara. Perhaps one reason is that mass market giants like Zara and H&M haven’t entered most of the countries I visited. Yes one can shop online, but I think when you’re not seeing trendy items in shops everywhere, you’re less likely to adopt it. There are local brands pushing trendy clothing but it’s not as prevalent as in the big European and US cities.
I also wonder if lower incomes have anything to do with it – trendy, disposable fashion may not be a priority when income levels haven’t caught up to fuel that kind of super consumerist lifestyle.
In Colombia (and also Cuba), where the weather is warmer, I felt that women seemed very comfortable with their bodies on display – in the sense that they’re comfortable in very tight or skin-baring clothing, and no one (man or woman) bats an eye. It’s actually quite liberating – it’s very hot travelling in Southeast Asia but because people are conservative about dress in some places, I wouldn’t feel comfortable in spaghetti strap tops. In Colombia, I was just another woman. Colombian women also seemed more particular about grooming – you see more elaborate highlights for hair, and fancy manicures – although of course this differs among various “style tribes”; it felt to me there was more variety in Colombia in terms if how women dress.
I can’t say anything about popular fabrics and that sort of thing, because 1) I didn’t pay much attention to contemporary, to be honest, and 2) there aren’t many clothing stores generally, unless I’m in a big city like Santiago or Lima or Medellin. It’s really striking actually, how few clothing stores there are, compared to cities like say, NYC, or Paris, or Seoul, or Singapore.
That said, the Andean communities have a rich tradition in weaving and embroidery, and you see it in the way they embellish their traditional dress (note that I’m not an expert and I really only paid close attention to this in Peru). Alpaca wool is also one of their key products, alongside vicuna, which is extremely rare and expensive. These things has seeped in some way into modern society, because they’re very heavily marketed to tourists – everyone wants to sell you an alpaca sweater or scarf, while handicraft markets are full of weavings. In some cases, you also find young designers adapting traditional craft or motifs into their work, and I wished I saw more of this because there is a wealth of inspiration to draw upon. I bought a simple sleeveless blouse done in Chincero-style embroidery (by a Peruvian designer) and it wouldn’t look out of place in a modern store.
I did notice that short hair is rare among women. Maybe more conventional notions of femininity still prevail.
Meanwhile, in Cuba, I noticed that men and women dress informally generally – shorts and tank tops, women walk around their neighbourhoods with rollers in their hair and answer the door in nightdresses. Maybe it’s the heat – Singapore is fairly casual as well, and compared to say South Korea or Japan, we’re very informal, although this is changing as people become more fashion-conscious.
Did you pick up any garments during your journey? Any subtle changes to your style in terms of new colors or pairings that you want to try out? Has what you seen percolated into your closet in any way ?
I bought the aforementioned blouse, a bracelet for my sister that I may keep after all because I bought something else for her later on, and a traditional mochila bag from the Sierra Nevada in Colombia.
But those items are things that fit into my aesthetic, rather than me exploring new territory. I think I’m quite set in my ways where style is concerned, and while I admire the rich colours and embroidery I saw in Andean communities, I didn’t feel a strong urge to try it for myself. I think that blouse is a rare example of me buying a garment that directly inspired by what I saw. And it’s because it’s quite subtle, it’s in my favourite blue-and-white combination, and the style of the blouse is more contemporary.
Any garment(s) you missed the most while on the road ? After you got home and settled in, whats the first outfit you reached for ?
I missed jeans! I found myself staring enviously whenever I saw a good pair on someone else. I love my khakis but jeans just mean something different to me.
But aside from missing jeans, I found that I generally missed variety. I’ve amassed a big enough collection of clothing over the years for me to have plenty to choose from and play with. Even though the resulting outfit is very simple and not especially eye catching, I enjoy the process – sometimes clothes trigger memories, and other times it’s just the way a particular item makes you feel when you wear it.
My first outfit was actually just a variation of what I wore on the road, haha. A pair of navy drawstring-waist trousers with white polka dots, and a cropped t-shirt (the trousers sit high on the waist), and white sandals. I bought those white sandals when I went to Australia in early March but haven’t had the chance to wear them since so I was pretty excited about breaking them out. I built my entire outfit around them.
I actually wanted to wear jeans but the pair I reached for are too tight for me now! I think I gained weight when traveling….
That is why I like style blogging. We seem to enjoy our clothes that don’t look like much to an onlooker and celebrate our choices. I get the ‘how are you a fashion blogger? you dress so boring’ comment to which I reply ‘ have you seen how the fabric faded near this collar? Isn’t it beautiful?’. Only to get laughed at or to have them roll their eyes at me. I think my closet evokes such emotions too – I love the process of choosing and dressing up every day. With respect to jeans, what is a ‘good pair’ of denim that gets your attention? Can there a ‘bad pair’ of denim ?
I definitely blog for myself, and I don’t care how narcissistic that sounds, hah. I think the world is big enough for different styles to be celebrated and obsessed over, and while yes, I’m judging everyone else and everyone else is probably judging me, I think there’s a happy space where we don’t have to descend into snark or aggression. It’s just clothes after all, and while it says something about a person it doesn’t say everything.
With regards to jeans, I always look at fabric first, and I tend to be drawn to pre-distressed styles for that reason. I know distressed denim doesn’t always have the best rep, but a really well-done pair doesn’t look cheap or tacky at all, and it’s quite artful. I do hate it when shops get carried away with putting in the rips though – sometimes it just looks totally off, and I would know because I have actually worn jeans till they’ve ripped, and they definitely do not rip in that manner so high up the thigh…
I love a denim that feels sturdy to the touch and has a beautiful texture. Really worn jeans, for example, feel almost like velvet! Sometimes the style feels secondary to me – when I started buying my own clothes, bootcut jeans were all the rage, and I would do a quick and dirty tapering job on my mum’s sewing machine to turn them into straight leg jeans (my mum taught me how). When I started craving a pair of “boyfriend” style jeans, I came across a straight-leg pair from Seven for all Mankind on a steep discount at a warehouse sale, and bought it a size up. I brought it to a tailor and had the hip taken in, as well as part of the leg, and voila, a pair of jeans baggy in all the right places and in a really nice wash too. That was in 2009, and I still wear them.
When skinny jeans became the rage, I had some old straight-leg pairs taken in. Good thing skinny jeans are still my cup of tea!
My idea of bad denim is when brands overdo on incorporating stretch into the fabric. Stretch denim is a godsend where comfort is concerned, but I hate it when the fabric is thin, smooth, and practically shiny – that’s not denim! That’s Tencel or something pretending to be denim, and I get no joy from it. I find that my old stretchy denim from 2007 is so much more substantial and “denim-like” compared to what’s in shops these days.
Here’s a link to some of my favourite pairs: Shopping for Blues.
Your post on denim is how I discovered your blog. It was the first time I was reading any sort of critical analysis about clothes on a blog in terms of quantifiable measures AFTER wearing the clothes for extended period of time.
With respect to style, lately have you been sensing a certain style of dressing being equated with empowerment and intellect? Menswear clothing inspired pieces and an image of French Chic seems to get all the glory while anything that can be classified as girly has been denounced as silly? You need to be dressed like a man would dress if he were a woman to be taken seriously in certain professions. I am tempted to use the word misogynist in this context …. but maybe we are being more practical and picking clean design ? Thoughts ?
I think this sentiment has always been around – I think it’s why women felt they had to wear power suits in the 80s, the female version of that Armani look (just look at all the 80s movies like Working Girl).
I think workplaces have actually loosened up somewhat in terms on what we can wear to the office – you can wear a sleeveless dress or a brightly coloured cardigan and not have people thinking you’re silly. At the same time, you can also do the whole “Gentlewoman” thing and it doesn’t seem to outrage anyone. At an everyday level I think you see more variety in how people dress for professional settings, although of course dress codes (for women AND men) still apply.
That said, you still hear people mutter misogynistic things when they’re judging women for being “frivolous” – I used to cover Parliament sessions for work and I would hear men mock MPs who wore brightly coloured outfits or things with bold prints, or say (in a snide way) things like “I think she went to the salon to get her hair specially done for today”. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I rather applaud the women in Parliament for not dressing like wallflowers because that’s one way to normalise things – loudly remind people of your femininity! (This is rather like the sleeveless outcry in the US Congress no?)
I think in a day-to-day setting women are able to dress in a bigger variety of ways without it becoming a “thing”. It tends to be women who are in the public eye who are judged more harshly and loudly, partly because they’re exposed to a bigger audience hat includes more goons.
In terms of menswear inspired pieces getting all the glory, I don’t equate this style with empowerment or intellect. I think it’s just a trend and some
of us are more sensitive to it because we’re drawn to it and it’s something that we see repeatedly in the blogs we read and the social media outlets we follow. And because it’s a trend and not a particularly easy one to pull off (mannish shapes don’t work on curvy women), there’s maybe a whiff of snobbery about who’s in and who’s not, and who was here first.
I think it’s nice that clean design is getting a bigger audience and also that more women may be feeling more comfortable with not choosing traditional motifs of femininity. But I can think of scores of my own friends who would not care for such looks – they have style and they’re independent minded and confident enough to wear a floral dress to work, and expect to be taken seriously. And I think that’s the way it should be really – empowerment is about being embraced regardless of the fact that you’re superficially different (style, gender, race, tastes).
And to put it another way, just because menswear-inspired dressing is gaining a strong following doesn’t mean women are becoming more empowered or misogyny has gone away. A casual skimming of the news on any given day will show otherwise.
A sad state of things, but we are better off than our previous generations for sure. While work place codes of dressing learn towards menswear, evening wear still adheres to a code of femininity from the yester years. We who don the suit to be taken seriously at day time wear the dress/gown to be considered beautiful. Wedding attire hasn’t changed in decades. While I really enjoy the red carpet attire, the craft that goes into making these clothes and the glamour, I particularly struggle with the notion of owning clothes that get worn so little and cost so much. Sometimes, I think ‘dressing up’ is a state of mind. A ritual of sorts where we decide to dedicate the evening to matters of pleasure and put aside the grind of everyday living. Can it be done wearing ordinary clothes? Not sure. Whats your take on evening wear/dressing up ? Any go-to outfits ?
Since I own dresses I bought for craftsmanship and have yet to wear, I definitely have less of a struggle haha. But I do think the obsession with the red carpet and the idea that a woman can’t be seen twice in the same outfit when they’re promoting a movie isn’t healthy. The celebrities merely borrow outfits so there’s no real waste I suppose, but it creates this ridiculous idea that it’s a bad thing to repeat outfits.
It’s funny you should talk about dressing up because I’ve actually just written a post about packing for a wedding and am refining it. I like both dresses and trousers for dressy occasions but I tend to go with dresses for dressy occasions, simply because the shops offer a greater variety of dresses and it’s easier to find what I want. So in a way I’m being led by “supply”. That said, I do like a good dress anyway, regardless of what society expects. I go for slightly exaggerated versions of what I like to wear, like more volume or longer lengths. and richer fabrics.
My dream evening look would be a beautiful smoking or trouser suit. I know exactly I want it to look too. I also wrote about it previously and even attempted the look with a jacket borrowed from my sister. But a trouser suit is actually impractical for Singapore because it’s warm here. So I don’t feel compelled to chase down this fantasy.
I have a great jacket from Stella McCartney I found 2 years ago on a very deep discount. It’s silk linen and has a beautiful lustre that will work beautifully for dressy occasions. But I haven’t found the right trousers for them. The thing about the Stella jacket is that the quality is so fine than it makes all my trousers look cheap in comparison, and so finding a suitable partner is going to be expensive. And then how often will I wear it?
I agree we can treat dressing up as a state of mind and add a touch of luxury to our day to day – maybe a very fine perfume?. I think of my watch as my everyday dressy item. But to me dressing up is about letting go of practicality to a certain degree and indulging in say, a richer fabric that you can’t wear on a day to day basis.
Wedding dresses make my eyes roll. Yes the dresses can be beautiful and visually a bride in white stands out from the crowd but the whole affair is so hidebound by traditions that don’t resonate with me that I can’t bring myself to enjoy the concept. I saw a very beautiful cream-coloured dress embroidered with red flowers and suggested my friend consider it for her wedding – the amount of objection it promoted from our other friends was ridiculous, as if I had suggested something offensive. I had to point out that as ethnic Chinese, we never married in white traditionally (neither did many Asian cultures) so what’s the big deal? I think it comes back to my point that we should be allowed to dress however we want, be it a white dress or a harlequin clown suit on on our wedding day.
I feel the same way about the need for engagement rings and diamonds – why does everyone seem to want or expect the same things? Weddings have been on my mind lately because so many friends are getting married, and while I’m thrilled for them, I’m pretty sick of the industry – and yes I know this makes me sound like a jealous old sourpuss haha. I’m just surprised by how much individuality disappears when it comes to weddings.
I don’t get weddings either. That is the only time I have anxiety with regards to ‘why’ to the days leading to a celebration. It all vanishes once the dancing starts. My wedding didnt have any dancing. Hence the years of grudge holding for all the things I had to do to please the traditional police who came to my wedding.
I just got in a silk blouse with brass embellishment by Isabel Marant. I am beginning to build my dressy closet. I have a maxi dress on my list, but haven’t found it yet.
Do you wear jewellry at all ? If yes, how much sparkly is the right amount for you ? What other accessories do you wear ?
Jewellery isn’t a big thing for me unless it has some sentimental value. Sometimes I wear rings, and sometimes i wear a simple bracelet, but most days I don’t bother. Most of my jewellery that things I bought on holidays or gifts. I like things to “glimmer” rather than sparkle, like simple gold rings that can be stacked. I wear them on my index finger because I think it looks more casual.
My main accessory is my watch. The design is simple, sober and classical. I have worn it nearly every day since I bought it about 7 years ago, and I’m not tired of it. I think there’s a reason the design dates back to the 1920s but it still looks relevant today.
I suppose my glasses are an accessory too. I wear them every day so I’m quite particular about the design and quality. My most recent pair is from a Japanese brand called Yellows Plus and I think Japanese eyewear suits my face – they’re not too wide or large, and they’re designed for East Asian faces, which are more flat.
I get prescription lenses put into sunnies, so I wear those too.
I probably derive my version of signature style from you. A selection of silhouettes and a selection of colors. ( My blue dress addiction was given a go ahead nod, after I discovered your blog. ) Standing where i stand, I see sack dresses, shift dresses, straight cut denim and relaxed fit shirting. But i want to hear it in your own words : your chosen silhouettes ? and why ?
I’ll generalise my style as clothes that give you room to move, with lots of caveats because my tastes do change. Generally I am drawn to clothes that have a kind of “structural integrity” – they have a form of their own, if that makes sense. I don’t like clingy clothing or clothes that drape. So yes, I like sack dresses, shirt dresses, boxy tops.
I also like dresses with a good midi-length skirt with volume, and this actually a new thing for me. In the past I would dismiss a full skirt as too retro and too ladylike for me but now I find it to be a very practical and comfortable silhouette – your legs have room to move and you’re not in danger of flashing anyone.
I’m quite all over the place with denim — i have my skinny denim days and then I have my slouchy denim days, and some days I bring out the old wide-leg jeans for a spin. But as a rule I like to roll up the hems to show the ankle because I think it looks more proportional when one is wearing flat shoes. It also looks a little more nonchalant, and I think we all want people to think we roll out of the house looking the way we do “effortlessly”.
I grew up in a hot place and I’m pretty active and walk everywhere – over time I think this just evolved into me being drawn to loose and airy shapes, and anything that looks constricting makes me perspire just thinking about it. It’s also through experience – anything that constricts makes me fidgety and I end up never wanting to wear that item again, and over time I became better at avoiding these items.
I’m not immune to vanity though – I feel I look better when trousers are slim or tapered, because I’m a little pear-shaped and certain cuts balance it out. I also feel I look better with slim sleeves and smaller armholes so even if I’m drawn to certain boxy tops I’ll never buy them because I don’t like the way it emphasises my shoulders. Sack dresses sometimes make me feel ungainly because it looks ungainly.
I think being drawn to a look is one thing; being comfortable with how it looks and feels on your body is equally important. I always want to leave the house feeling I could take over the world and having a good outfit on is part of that equation.
I’m as influenced by what I see as you are! I think mules aren’t my thing at all and have never been inclined to to try a pair but when I got back from
South America, I tried on a pair and was like, hey there’s something interesting here that I like, and bonus, it was super comfortable. Is it because every brand on the street is trying to sell it to you? Is it because every social media star can’t get enough of them? I didn’t buy them but I was intrigued.
Now to the most important question: blue dresses. ( You see why I see you as a style icon? )
Haha is the question why I like blue dresses?
I dont know. Say what ever you want to say about them.
I have always loved the colour blue, which is a good thing because I spent 12 years in school uniforms and they were all blue. It reminds me of the sea and the sky, two elements I find calming.
There was a period of time when grey was a serious contender for space in my wardrobe, but I think I stuck to blue because there’s something uplifting about it too – blue makes me think of open spaces, while grey can be morose. It’s a colour with depth and it translates beautifully onto fabric – for example, silk in a rich and inky blue looks less “flat” than black. And I think there’s a reason why uniforms are often blue – it’s smart without being grim (unlike black). At the same time there’s something humble about it, because of all these uniform connotations – it’s not a precious colour.
Blue is also a very classic colour – it doesn’t shout so you can wear it again and again without tiring of it.
I don’t remember how blue dresses became a “thing”. It just did over the years. One of the oldest blue dresses in my wardrobe is a slip dress in navy jersey, with a silk lining. It has spaghetti straps and is slightly gathered at the neckline, so it has a slightly Grecian vibe. I loved this dress (bought in 2009) and wore it to death and it shows – the jersey has faded unevenly and there’s a really bad run near the hem because I snagged it once on something sharp. It may have been the gateway drug because I think unconsciously the versatility of a little blue dress stuck in my mind.
I say “blue dresses” but specifically I’m really referring to navy, with some concessions to chambray and stripes. It’s kind of made things easier because once I throw on a dress everything else just takes care of itself – everything I own works with the colour. Navy is a great backdrop for many colours – burgundy, pink, mustard yellow – and I like how it makes small doses of colour really count without one having to really to amp it up.
Sounds like my own story : 12 years in navy blue uniform. Once I got out, I vowed to never wear it again. But slipped right in after a few years. I now angrily grunt at other blues I own for not being navy enough. On the topic of color : Your fav color
1) to look at
2) to surround yourself with
3) to wear
4) colors that are banished from your closet
I totally understand the grunting – I hate blues that are too purple.
1) Blue, pale green and pale pink.
2) Erm, blue. Hahaha. And white.
3) Still blue! And white definitely. I like grey very much as well but mainly in the form of knitwear and I don’t wear knits often because of the heat.
4) Purple. Fluorescents. Red and most shades of green also don’t look good on me but I don’t hate them. Brown clothing looks terrible on me but I like tan accessories.
What do these words mean to you :
Classic – Timeless things that seem to resonate with a large number of people.
Staple – Dependable items that you think you can’t do without.
Chic – Someone dressed with confidence and coherence.
French chic – Stumped me with this one because there are so many style tribes within France (or at least in Paris)! You have the rather conservative Christine Lagarde types and then you have the boho Isabel Marant types and then you have the very “femme” types like Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve. And then there’s the rock inspired types like the Paris Vogue women. I suppose what they all have in common is the desire to look well put together without looking like they tried too hard.
Elegance – Someone who knows how to carry him or herself. It’s about carriage and not about what you wear.
Style icons – Such an unoriginal choice but I love how Sofia Coppola dresses herself. Jackie O in the 70s was so unfussy and well put together as well. I also love Caroline Bessette Kennedy, and Steve McQueen. I think what they all have in common (apart from good looks and tastes) is that confidence to wear plain, seemingly simple things and let that be a statement in itself. I also love Tilda Swindon because she wears things with such poise and she’s not afraid to take a risk. You could say I love the former group for their aesthetics and attitude, and Tilda Swinton for her attitude even if not always for the aesthetics.
Capsule Wardrobe – Not something I give a lot of thought about. I wear a bunch of things all the time and then I move on to another bunch of things and in a way I’m rotating through my wardrobe. But I don’t plan it much because I feel like the fun of getting dressed is in going with whatever mood strikes you.
Androgyny – a placeholder word until we figure out how we feel about gender identities
Style – It’s about being committed and sincere about what you’re wearing. It’s about giving a shit.
Fashion victim – Someone who gives too much of a shit. If it’s making you feel anxious, competitive, or even desperate, you’re on dangerous ground.
What will we never see you wear ?
So many things! A satin ball gown for starters. Corsets. Puff sleeves. Mutton-leg sleeves. Empire waists. Body-con dresses. Heavy make-up. Head to toe leather. Metallics. But I might wear these things if I’m dressing up for Halloween.
Things you own multiples of and deem them necessary ?
T-shirts, T-shirt bras, undies, and socks. And I have the same pair of Dieppa Restrepo Cali Oxfords in 2 colours, bought in 2014 when they were on sale. They were my go-to shoes for work and I found two to be the ideal number for rotation.
Beyond the basics, I have a Lemaire for Uniqlo dress seersucker dress in two colours (white and black), and a knit tank from the same collection in two colours as well. The tank tops are staples, but the two dresses were a bit of an extravagance on my part. I bought the black first and then when the white went on sale months later I bought it. I also have two pairs of jeans in identical cuts but different washes, bought ages ago (I think maybe 2004 and 2005). One pair is done in a soft, faded wash, the other was in raw denim. The difference in fabric makes them feel like two different pairs of jeans.
Was there a book that you read that influenced the way you dress ? Perhaps a character in a novel ? Was there a movie that taught you a think or two about how to wear clothing ?
There isn’t a book that influenced my style directly, but I remember reading Little Woman for the first time and noticing that Louisa May Alcott had described the girls’ clothing in some detail. It helped me visualise the characters better, but it also made me pay attention to details in clothing – what kind of fabric the ribbon was made from and so on. I also remember the description of the school uniforms in the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. I think my interest in clothing made me pay attention to how authors describe clothing in their books, and so these little details stick in my head.
Movies are a big source of style inspiration for me actually. I love Gwyneth Paltrow’s wardrobe in Sliding Doors , Possession and A Perfect Murder – she was definitely having a Carolyn Bessette Kennedy phase. The Possession costumes were actually by Michael Kors during his Celine years – I always thought he never got enough credit for his tenure there because he did amazing, luxuriously simple stuff there. Sliding Doors’ was by Calvin Klein, and my love for Calvin Klein knows no bounds. These three films made me love the calf-length skirt, although we call it “midi” now.
I also loved Gwyneth Paltrow’s wardrobe in The Talented Mr Ripley – that’s the side of me that loves the classic retro Hollywood look. There’s also Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted – the epitome of a tomboy-gamine look. I also liked how Meg Ryan looked in When Harry Met Sally. Come to think it, she always looked good in Nora Ephron movies, like You’ve Got Mail.
There’s of course, Thelma and Louise – seriously influence on my denim preferences.
I think what all these films have in common is that the clothes are very unfussy, often monochromatic, and they really let the wearer shine. The style is also very timeless – I could wear everything Winona Ryder wore in Girl, Interrupted now and not look out of place.
Among the newer movies, I love Tilda Swinton’s looks in I Am Love and A Bigger Splash. The same director did both movies and had a big say in costume design – in the former she wore Jil Sander by Raf Simons, and in the latter she wore Dior by Raf Simons, no coincidence, I reckon. And like you, I like Keira Knightley’s wardrobe on Begin Again, although I could not finish the movie I confess. I only looked up the movie to check out her outfits.
If you need some visual reference, here’s some past posts of mine where I raved about some of the same things:
And posts by other bloggers:
Are you ‘dressed by the internet’ ? ( blogs, internet and street style )
I think so, in the sense that I am inspired by what some bloggers share – and it isn’t necessarily outfit posts. For example, the Feather Factor posts I shared in response to the previous question were about movie style, and those were very inspiring to me! The caveat is that I’m only drawn to a certain kind of aesthetic so a lot of what is out there is just noise.
I’ve never gone to the extent of duplicating an outfit but I’ve tried or bought stuff because I thought it looked great on other people, like the Celine Trio purse, and those Jesse Kamm-style pants. And while blogs and images on the internet give me ideas, I’m quite an old-fashioned bricks and mortar shopper, and I only really feel desire when I see, feel and try something in real life. For example, mules and slides have been flogged everywhere on the Internet by bloggers but I tuned out until I saw a pair recently, and tried it on. I didn’t buy them because I don’t feel like buying new shoes at the moment, but it’s an example of me being confronted by trends online and in physical stores and just ignoring it until something that appeals to my aesthetic show up on the radar.
Street style is also a great source of inspiration, but less so recently. I think it’s because street style is about what people are wearing now, and less about a more classic look, and I am always more inspired by the classics. I used to collect images I like here, but I stopped a couple years ago because I feel like everything I like is already there, I didn’t need to go hunting for new images (http://thepracticaldresser.tumblr.com/archive).
There exists a feminine masculine connotation in reference to clothing. Where do you fall ? Do you make an effort to toughen outfits that tend towards the feminine ? Or soften the outfits that tend towards the masculine side ?
Hmmm I suppose because I prefer jeans and trousers, that would skew masculine? But in this day and age I’m not sure if jeans and trousers are still within the masculine domain. Same for colour palette – the colours I favour are also colours worn by men but I’m not sure if I would call it masculine.
I do avoid certain things that are on the feminine side – like ruffles and similar frills. But I also am drawn to delicate details, like very fine embroidery. And while I like a nice oversized shirt, I also like delicate spaghetti straps for tops and dresses. I like sneakers, which until recently was more popular with men, but some of my favourite pairs are pink or have a dash of pink. So I think overall my tastes are more evenly distributed across the spectrum than it first appears and I don’t make particular effort to “balance” these elements in an outfit. Maybe it happens unconsciously? I don’t know.
I do remember once wearing an outfit that prompted a friend to say I look like a male art director. It was just a shirt, a pair of trousers and sneakers. Maybe because I have short hair and I’m pretty tall, and I have strong features, but it’s easy for people to mistake me for a man when I dress in a “masculine” way. After all these years, I’m not bothered though. I’ll rather let society’s eye adjust and dress however I please than to make a conscious effort to feminise my outfit.
Your thoughts on waiting and searching for the perfect item instead of settling for the second best or the more accessible version of the item. Do you go down the rabbit hole of ‘perfectly curated closet’?
For a long time, I always thought perfection would lead to contentment, in the sense that it shuts off my desire for similar items. And this is true, up to a point. For example, I rarely desire new bags, because I have a small collection of bags that work for all my needs (in a practical sense and in an indulgent sense). I’m content.
But I don’t think there’s a universal standard for perfection – when I say perfect, I mean “perfect for me”. A lot of things people consider “second best” might be perfection to me, and I might not see it as a case of “settling” for something because I couldn’t find or afford the holy grail item. I think it makes more sense to think of it as things you are “content” with, rather than “this is the perfect thing”.
I do think everyone goes through a stage when they are “upgrading” to better quality items, but I’ve been shopping for a while now and those years are behind me – I can’t point to lousy quality in my wardrobe as an excuse to buy things anymore.
While we are on this point on upgrading, I also want to point out that people shouldn’t have a fixed idea of what these “better” items should be – social media can point out a few good brands to look at but those aren’t your only options. For example, I have always loved blue shirts and when I was getting rid of my badly-made Zara ones back in 2009 or 2010, I was so thrilled to find a men’s cotton one from A.P.C. on sale, because not only was it a good quality shirt that looked good on me at a price I could afford, it had that cache of a cool French brand. Yet my favourite blue shirt of all time is actually a Uniqlo linen shirt I bought 2012 – the cuts are similar but I prefer linen to cotton, and quality of the Uniqlo shirt is more than a match for the A.P.C. one.
Brands recommended by people are a starting point but everyone eventually develops their own preferences, and I would hesitate to make my first purchase of a item an pricey investment – it might not work out. So even as you wait and search for a dream item, you might be better off with a “consolation” prize in between to help you refine you tastes through experience.
I think curating to me sounds like a lifetime of selecting and organising, and in that sense there isn’t really an end point. If something is perfect, does it need curation? I think I’ve never come around to the idea of a perfectly curated closet because I can’t make sense of it.
I have to ask : sustainability, ethical consumption, desire, greed . How do these concepts haggle in your closet ?
I think my biggest demons are desire and greed, because I’ve let them get the better of me where ethical and sustainability issues are concerned, when it comes to shopping. What works for me is tackling one issue at a time, because I’m better at small improvements than radical changes. For example, I started by trying to make all my skincare and household cleaning products cruelty-free, because I don’t believe in animal testing for the sake of beauty. So 99.9% of what I use now is cruelty-free (except a new face cream from a company that hasn’t responded to my query). The next step is cutting out products that use dodgy palm oil sources.
In terms of clothing, I started by cutting one brand at a time, in terms of fair manufacturing practices. So it started with H&M and Mango, and late last year, Zara. But these are trendy brands where the lack of quality is evident. It’s harder when it comes to brands like COS and Uniqlo because I like the aesthetic and they do better quality items. And Uniqlo in particular is extremely affordable.
I think Uniqlo’s reporting of their sustainability efforts on their website is actually better than most brands (including Everlane or Grana). There’s a strong whiff of greenwashing of course but they provide actual statistics of workplace standards violations in the factories they work with. I can’t think of another massive global brand that does that. It’s one reason why I don’t feel bad about continuing to shop there. I also appreciate H&M’s efforts at recycling but they’re still pushing trendy disposable clothing in a way that encourages a “buy buy buy” mentality and I don’t like that.
I’m also open to buying secondhand but generally online shopping is costly for me because they mostly ship from Europe and the US and that’s pretty expensive. So I haven’t gotten far in trying this out.
I gave in a lot to greed and desire in the last couple of years because I was just shopping as a distraction from work stress. I’m hoping this improves, and certainly this year I lucked out because I didn’t shop for clothes at all in South America so I’m doing good on this front. I did buy a dress recently but in the 3 weeks since I got home I haven’t felt the urge to put my money down for something even though I’ve been window shopping. Maybe I’m still feeling contented from having been about to travel for 5 months.
I think it’s great that there are now all these options out there for people who want to buy from brands with good ethics, but I think the most sustainable option is curb greed and cut down on unnecessary and impulsive buys, no matter the brand. That’s the option I’m striving for even as I become more selective about where I shop. Even if it wasn’t an issue of environmental sustainability and waste, personally I find a massive wardrobe unwieldy and harder to enjoy because there’s just too much stuff.
To confess, I care more about the environmental impact than about ethics of production. As long as they treat their dyes before they release them into local water sources, source eco-friendly materials and make quality clothes, I am happy. 7 billion people and one planet in the current state: the value of humans has diluted in my eyes.
I am going through a major greed bubble. I am bored with what I own. I want maxi dresses and not so basic clothes to add to the mix. I have a big wish list and wish I never learnt about fast fashion. Ignorance was bliss. Its too late for me now. I can’t declutter or buy without enormous guilt / excessive contemplation.
I quite admire that you don’t declutter for an arbitrary temporary high you get from a sparse looking closet. I quite like seeing you bring out something from years ago and wear it with love. Whats your editing process like ?
I think human and environmental impact go hand in hand, and while negative human impact on the environment really pisses me off, it’s rather extreme to say it’s making human suffering count for less, no?
I’ve tried a shopping fast years ago, and it wasn’t a bad experience. I felt like I managed my desire for new things better after the fast. But I fell apart in the last two years. This year I ended up on a shopping fast unintentionally because I went backpacking for five months and I had plenty of distractions, and I didn’t have easy access to my favourite shops. I missed having clothing options, but I was missing what I already owned, back home.
When I got to Amsterdam for a long transit at the end of my trip, I actually made a list of shops I wanted to visit because these were shops that sold things I can’t easily find back home – so these included gouda shops (hah), specialty denim shops and Filippa K, which is a Swedish brand. I bought a new dress at Filippa K, but I felt good about it because I see it as a “planned” thing, rather than a weak moment. Or maybe I am delusional.
Since coming home, I haven’t felt a strong urge to buy new clothing, although I was tempted by a new pair of pants at Uniqlo, which I put down to me finding all my jeans too tight at the moment. I think when I become aware that a shopping compulsion is spiralling out of control, a moratorium helps me regain some control. I’ve already built up a nice collection of clothing over the years, and I have found that I can easily shop my own closet.
Actually I would much rather feel enormous guilt at the point of purchase, because then it becomes easy – I put it down and walk away. I would never buy something if I feel bad even before I leave the store. The problem for me is when I feel nothing because it means I might have chosen not to think about it at all – and I’m giving into an urge without questioning it. That’s the dangerous bit.
My editing process: The first to go is always things that are borderline unsightly – worn too thin, holes, stains etc. These are mostly T-shirts, and I just knock them down to the level of home wear, and then maybe cleaning clothes if suitable, before I throw it out (for recycling if possible).
Then there are dud buys, and almost all of these are Internet buys, and some I end up keeping because it’s too expensive to return. Fit issues can be resolved with a trip to the tailor, but my problem is usually with the fabric – maybe I don’t like how it feels, or it’s too warm to be worn in Singapore. I usually try to give these items away, or sell them. Because I don’t often shop on the Internet, this doesn’t happen often, so I don’t feel any guilt or hesitation in dropping them.
The last category is stuff that I feel like I’ve outgrown, aesthetically. These are usually trendy things, and these make me feel the most regret because I wish I didn’t cave into the novelty in the first place. When certain trending styles appeal to me, and I do enjoy trying them out, and I guess inevitably, some of these experiments turn out to be more short-lived than others. Throwing this stuff out is a great way to remind myself to be more discerning when I shop and to resist the call of the new.
A minimalist (in the numbers sense) wardrobe has no appeal for me – I like choices, even if it’s like, me choosing a navy dress out of 10 navy dresses. What I like is a well-loved and well-used wardrobe with things I can see myself wearing or wanting to wear. If that desire to wear that item is still there, then it has a place in my closet.
Jane Goodall says the same. You can’t go to an impoverished tribe in Africa and ask them to conserve the forests for the sake of chimpanzees while they are starving. You got to empower the people first and they will take care of their environment. I dont know Lin. I have sort of given up and lost my optimism. This year, I re-routed my yearly charitable donations from Syrian refugees and girl child education to grass root environmental ones. According to the climate scientists I talk to at university, we are already past the tipping point and have reached a point of no return. We human have continued to do exactly what we are doing – breed, eat, fight, fly, landfill, consume, … inspite of this knowledge. I have given up. The more I learn, the more depressed I get. Ignorance was bliss.
About UNIQLO, I looked into their ethics. Most of the violations seems to be about insanely long working hours and very hard labor. The pros being reasonable quality clothes that last made from natural fabrics. To me, they aren’t as terrible in comparison to likes of H&M. Ofcourse I want safe working conditions and a good life for everyone, but I want to prioritize: planet, people, profit in that order.
The minimalist wardrobe is like a fantasy la-la land. There are so many happily ever after stories out there on the internet. It’s an aspiration that I never seem to measure up to. This year, I have stopped obsessing about the numbers and seem to be doing okay.
If you could use your platform to make a positive impact in the world, which causes would you choose ?
I think taking myself out of my usual routine to travel helped me feel a little more optimistic about my personal capacity to make a number of small changes to my lifestyle. Coming back made me feel depressed all over again though. It’s very hard to leave a small footprint in Singapore when much of the produce you buy is imported and packaged to the hilt. But what else is there to do but try?
My top cause would definitely be waste reduction and management – we are so dependent on disposables and single-use plastics and it drives me crazy. I’ve never dived in an sea where I didn’t see trash and I can sail for days away from land, only come across what looks like a mini island of plastic bags and tyres. I’ve seen autopsies of dead marine animals with trash in their stomachs. I’ve seen families living next to open landfills filled with trash, creating a toxic environment that’s bad for their health. When I go trekking I almost always manage to fill at least one small bag with the crap left behind by other people – seriously does anyone need to use that many wet wipes??
So much of the trash left behind by developed societies is unnecessary. I saw a girl using sunscreen that’s applied with wet wipes – what kind of nonsense product is that? There’s convenience that’s changed lives and then there’s convenience that’s just indulgent.
I think the least people could do when they generate so much trash is to recycle it but that also seems to be too much work for most.
I think my biggest footprint culprits are my air travel and my meat consumption. Silicon Valley is in a race to make meat in the lab, which I think they will eventually succeed. Air travel – I can’t wait for cleaner fuels to power our flights. I want to go see my family and friends. I want to go meet people from other cultures and dont want to only live in my little bubble. This problem won’t be solved by abstinence but from innovation. The larger culprits in terms of numbers are the corporations and industries I support. I am looking into making better purchases but its time consuming to investigate. This is one of the reason I am grateful for the conscious consumerism movement. At least someone is digging out the information and shaming the organizations into cleaning their supply chains.
The convenience that I see in the first world countries boggles my mind. These products/tendencies have reached the upper classes in India and are likely to trickle down – what a depressing thought! Zero waste should be taught as a concept at school and be mandated like those ethics courses they put us through at work every year. We cant give up. The next generation of innovators are already busy at work. I see kids who are creating solutions to harvest rain water, clean up ocean plastics, compost in classroom with process acceleration coming from temperature controlling micro chip, apps that tell you how to recycle, … I was a judge at a science fair last year and a good chunk of projects were about climate change. They have taken it in their hands to clean up the mess. Solutions are born out of pain and angst.
Any clean beauty products that help you out in the house or for personal care?
Yes I don’t like to think about my air travel footprint 😦 I suppose one of the greatest benefits of slow travel was being able to get around by bus. Still polluting of course but nothing like a jet plane.
I would love a scientific solution to our answers but I think the biggest hurdle is human behaviour. For example, I’ve cut down on eating meat but I haven’t been able to give it up completely.
How do you pull yourself together when you feel discouraged by these issues and find yourself “lapsing”?
Household cleaners – I use vinegar and baking soda a lot and save industrial cleaning solutions for really stubborn problems (maybe once a year). When I mop I just use water. Baking soda is good for stubborn bathroom stains and anything that needs scrubbing. Vinegar is good as a fabric softener if you need it. It’s also not bad for cleaning stains and my cooking good but it’s not for everything.
I’m still using a chemical detergent in the washing machine but I switched to more environmentally friendly one that is made from a company that doesn’t use palm oil.
Beauty products – it’s pretty much a fail where going all-natural is concerned. Oils are just plain uncomfortable in hot weather and I’m frighteningly shiny when I use it for day. I can’t give up shampoo because I exercise almost every other day and am a steaming mess and so far giving shampoo has been super gross. I’ll try again some day…
All my products are cruelty-free and where possible I’ve avoided companies associated with dodgy palm oil sources. I use a lot of Sukin products, an Aussie brand that aims to use as many clean ingredients as possible. My favourite sunscreen for face is from Coola. For body, I bought a tonne of Trader Joe sunscreen when i was in the US last year – cheap, good, and cruelty-free! I also like Trader Joe’s tea tree shampoo but currently I’m using the one from Sukin.
I doubt if we will change our behavior for the sake of the planet. A few people might, but that is rare. My husband hates government regulation in the industry, for slowing the release of products we work towards. I, on the other think we should NOT be left to our own devices to do the right thing. I don’t see this problem being addressed unless someone with the authority mandates it and provides a few subsidies to kickstart the process. Why would anyone spend 13$ on an ethically made tshirt when a 7$ fast fashion one is available? Packaged products cost less than bulk produce – it’s just the way it is. If I give up eating out or buying the one garment/month, I can afford to go zero waste to the dot. If I give up travel, I can make significant contributions to the change makers. If I aspire to save up for an apartment instead of a house, I can practically be a saint. But I haven’t given up anything but hope.
I am discouraged but what can we do ? There is no quitting right? When I find myself slipping into my bad habits, I blog. My biggest fear is ‘becoming a regular fashion blog’ – the one that shows new outfits, wish lists, what I bought last week and what I plan to buy in the future. I don’t want to be a bad influence. I dont want to drown in stuff.
Baking soda and vinegar is quite the genius, right ? It really works. I use the Laundress detergent or olive oil soap because I am a bit of a princess with my clothes and love them dearly. No-shampoo-method didn’t work for me either. My scalp broke out and it got painful. I struggle with hair loss and I don’t need to make it worse for myself. I will find bulk natural shampoo in the future.
Any acts of generosity or simplicity that astonished you during your travels? Fav places that you have visited?
Oh yes I think governments should do so much more but that’s a whole other shit show I can’t bring myself to discuss right now.
Do you feel your blog encourages consumerism? Based on the comments left I feel like your readers already understand and care about style and clothes and they make their own shopping decisions with care. And sometimes having a space to discuss clothes and style is a “release” valve of sorts. After blogging I’m always reminded that buying stuff isn’t the only way to enjoy style and clothes. Writing and reading about it and looking at how other people do it is an experience too.
The five months I spent travelling were filled with small acts of kindness – just people stepping up to show me around, to start a conversation, to offer to translate. Travelling makes me sad because you’re a witness to all kinds of injustices big and small as you move from place to place, but it also constantly amazes me how people don’t use that as an excuse to forget how to be decent human beings. I hate to sound sentimental or cheesy but that was really how it was for me. Maybe it’s because I’m an optimist.
It’s always hard for me to pick favourite places because I love just about every place I visit – in the sense that I was deeply fascinated and in small ways changed by the experience. But if it was a question of where I would return to, then yes, there are some places that have a special place in my heart. Colombia is special to me, as was Chile – there’s something about these countries and the people that captivated me. Makes perfect sense because one of my ex-boyfriends was Colombian, haha. Both countries have expressive, confident and passionate cultures, and it just felt inspiring to be there.
Other places I’ve visited that I want to return to again and again are Indonesia, Mongolia, New Zealand and France. Indonesia because the combination of its diverse geographical and natural wonders, food, culture and people. Mongolia because you’ll be hard pressed to not fall in love with their nomadic culture. New Zealand because it’s stunning and the quality of life makes it easy for you imagine settling there. France because it taught me how to appreciate the good life. Also, how charming is French accented-English?
I am aware of my privilege. I know I own more than most people on this planet do. … While folks who visit me at home claim that I live a simple life, I am hyper aware that this is all relative. Someone who doesnt own as much or as many well made things as me, could feel that deficit. My great-grandmother would chide her grandchildren for buying the cars they bought or for building McMansions to live in, because “we shouldnt live in a manner that exaggerates social inequalities”. She is my idol and I think of her a lot when I make the decisions. In that sense, me showing my clothes made in the Parisian artelier of Celine and counting the ways it’s better than a garment made in a sweatshop – is distasteful. I am working on finding my voice and balance.
Is the myth of Parisian chic true? What have you seen style wise, in France ?
Paris, like many comparable cities, has style tribes. I elaborated on this in an earlier reply. Certainly I think the people there are better dressed than in many cities but it’s not the only city where people care about style. I think the Spanish in Madrid and Barcelona are very well-dressed, and you also see beautifully dressed Italians in Florence and Rome. The same can be said of people in Berlin and London and NYC, as well as Tokyo. These cities stand out in my memory in terms of well-dresses people.
Within these cities there are style tribes too, and you can see a difference in style in different neighbourhoods. I don’t think I spent enough time in each of these cities to fully articulate the characteristics though.
So is Parisian chic a myth? When I was a teenager, Parisians seemed very chic to me, certainly more so than people back home in Singapore – I was in love with APC and Agnes B because it seemed so understated and elegant. It’s interesting that even with cities becoming more affluent and globalised, we still recognise all the codes for French chic – the kind being sold by Sezane and APC and at a mass level, IDLF for Uniqlo. I think no matter how Parisians choose to dress now, French chic has taken on a life of its own, and whether it has legs beyond the current fad is anyone’s guess.
The French chic has become formulae that you can buy and imitate. You can live in Paris for a year and write a blog/book. It has been well commercialized. But I think some good came out of it – quality and closet building seems to be talked about in conjunction with French style. Even if we don’t dress that way, we can think that way. Small closet, high quality, easy to pair clothing, great fabrics, personal style over fashion, simpler garments …. Its helped me re-think my wardrobe strategy.
Last question and a bit of a cliche : 10 style commandments.
– If it makes me fiddle and fidget, I take it off.
– If I feel even the tiniest bit of guilt while walking to the cashier, I leave it behind (or close the window if I’m shopping online).
– If it makes me smile, I keep it.
– Tailoring (whether DIY or professionally done) can turn something that’s “okay” into something “wow”
– Perfection is overrated
– Consistency is also overrated
– Just because it looks great on everyone else doesn’t mean I need it
– Spend more on what you’d wear on a weekday afternoon, rather than what you’d wear on a Saturday night
– Look and learn – go into shops selling high-quality items to feel or try them; read books and blogs; watch movies. All these things help inform your style and shopping instincts.
– Give navy a chance. Always.
This conversation could have gone on for days. Lin, I dont see you just for the clothes you wear. I would have liked to delve deeper into each of these questions (over beer and good food). While I limited this conversation to a style chat, I want a prequel with a wider compass. I will save it for the day when we can do it in person. ( Also harbor secret ambition of starting a quarterly magazine with you. We will cover personal style, sustainability, zero waste, mountains and forests. ) Meanwhile, for selfish reasons of my own, I hope you blog more often. Thank you for talking to me.