Posts from the “Style” Category

Gift Guide : Books on Personal Style

Posted on November 24, 2018

She said : This book helps one find their personal style.

He said : Why ? Was it lost ? How does one loose their preferences ? How does one not have a point of view ? Who is convincing you that you need to find it ? Are they trying to sell you something ? This book perhaps ? Wait, did you buy all these books ?

She said : You could topple ‘find your personal style’ industry. I can give you a list of bloggers to go troll for starters.

25442810_1647531791970522_8759766005349188587_n

It is said that you are the average of the 20 people you spend most of your time with. If that were true of style, I would have become a normcore dresser. I had to find my 20 influencers elsewhere. Books helped me reach them. They connected me with folk who exist in worlds that exist far far away. They helped me understand some of the technical details of the craft. They gave me a window into the artistic side of fashion. They helped me get out of stores and got my head into the pages. These are the books I own in my home library. They are very cuddle-friendly. These are the ones I take to a tea shop and can spend a few hours with. Allow me to recommend a few :

Style Rules for my Unborn Daughter

Posted on November 17, 2018

Who wore it better ? the niece or the aunt ? 

I became an aunt (again). She is tiny, charming, funny, adorable, high pitched, bright eyed, porcupine haired, innocent, smily, bossy, reactive, strong, ….. bundle of a human. Welcome to our world, little one ! You have already made us all happier by a mile. Babies are born wild and we the humans try to civilize them in our own unique ways. The aunt in me has been plotting :

  1. You shall be dressed in navy blue and in tiny versions of adult clothes until you come of an age where you can choose. None of that disney merchandise and acrylic bunny suits for you, if I have any say in it.
  2. Braids, pigtails and man-buns are non negotiable. So are jumpsuits, dungarees and rain boots. I hope you enjoy the outdoors and getting dirty.
  3. You shall be kind to our dog and cat. Being a gentlewoman starts with learning how to treat our animals.
  4. You will have the minimum possible amount of clothes when you are of the growing age. But know that it be alright and the rules will relax when your body stops rapidly changing.
  5. I hope you wear second hand clothes and feel proud about supporting the sustainable fashion movement. I hope you don’t see glitter and polyester as a necessity coz it really hurts the environment.
  6. “Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable.” Thomas Carlyle.
  7. I will buy the highest quality I can afford and take care of my investment purchases. I will save some of them for you when I grow out of them – physically or mentally. You will inherit them and are free to decide if you want to wear them.
  8. Style is a simple way of saying complicated things. I want you to develop a point of view. I want you to have the highest standards for what makes it in your good graces and into your closet. 
  9. I hope you develop a tendency that dislikes shopping. Buying what you need and enjoying clothes is different from aimlessly grazing the shops.
  10. When I give style advice, do listen. But make up your own mind. The feminists have fought a long and hard fight so that you may choose for yourself. I look forward to your help in breaking some of the style rules I created for myself. I look to you to question my dogmas. Help us keep our hearts young. Come shake us up.

Additional Reading : 10 things your father should have taught you about style. 

On Shoes

Posted on November 10, 2018

“What about your shoes ?”

Every conversation of mine about excess consumption/sustainability has a skeleton hiding in the closet. I have lots of shoes. Depending on who you ask, they are classified as an excess or a reasonable vice.  It is usually the men who complain. Women are kinder. We seem to “get” shoes. We can rationalize investing on shoes because our feet seldom change size while our bodies do. We can even tolerate painful shoes because we see it as a trade off. If I go out to an event/wedding/dancing with my girlfriends, we experience pain as a sisterhood. It is never “my shoes hurt”. It’s : “Our shoes hurt. Lets sit down for a bit”. Everyone understands. The wrong shoes can ruin an outfit – we are taught. The right ones can play with proportion and form. It’s all true – in my opinion. Or is it ? My shoe inventory below. [I have a pair in India and some exercise shoes that arent shown in this post.] Items with a * were purchased second hand.

Ballet flats : *Rag & Bone.

Wardrobe Inventory

Posted on November 3, 2018

I do this exercise every year :

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Sit someplace with a pen and paper.

List everything in your closet without looking at your closet.

This exercise is a reality check. If you love everything you own, you should at the least remember it right ? If you wear every thing you own, you should be able to list it. If you cant recall a big percentage of garments, something is not right and it should be acknowledged. Even if nothing is to come of this exercise, I like making lists and here is one. Every garment is a data point, for future analysis.

The purpose of computation is insight, not numbers.

– Richard Hamming.

wardrobeInventory

Calculate your recall and precision rate. Percentages aside, the number of clothes you forget is a pretty honest indicator.

My numbers : The clock ran out on me. I could list 44 out of 52 garments in my closet. The garments I couldn’t recollect off the top of my head, are the ones I wear the least or the ones I don’t really need but have held on to.

Some totally un-substantiated hypothesis :

< 40% recall rate : You are the average first world consumer who has too much and uses too little of her closet. Perhaps a shopping fast will allow you to notice the things you already own ?

50-70% : You could be in the top 20% among the first world consumers. Shop your closet to re-discover the rest of your closet. Rediscover the forgotten gems.

70-90 % : You maybe the 2% among the first world consumers. If you can write it all down, I assume that you edit your closet regularly and know whats inside it. I would think its alright to forget a few ? Are we meant to remember everything we own ?

100% : A women in control of her closet. All the minimalists I know can list everything in their closet. All the curators I know can list what is being shown in their gallery. All the editors I know can list what made it on to the rack. Irrespective of the size of the closet, you are at-least aware of whats inside. This is a good sign.

[ If you do take this test, let me know your results and your interpretation of your result. ]

Other indicators of a tamed closet :

Your partner should be able to list most of what you own. [ It’s a good thing when people see you repeat outfits. It’s a sign of intimacy with the garment and with you. ]

Your friends/coworkers should be able to recognize most of your clothing. An optimal closet is one where everything gets worn often.

You see wear and tear on your clothes on a yearly basis.

You don’t haul clothes. You buy a garment or two occasionally. You don’t get rid of piles of clothes. You let go of a garment or two seasonally.

The tendency is say no more often than saying yes.

When you buy something and bring it home, you are able to stand in the closet and say “I needed this garment in-spite of everything else I own”.

Your closet gives you a sense of calm and not add to the chaos of daily living.

How many years do you think it will take you to wear out your clothes ? How does it compare with your life expectancy ?

If I die today, will anyone want to inherit the clothes ? Or will it all rot some place ? Will it all be unloaded on to a thrift shop ? Will the thrift shop accept the contents ? Will be it a burden on the future generations ? Will it end up in a landfill ?

What is the right closet size ?

I don’t know. I publish a closet inventory every year with an intention of collecting data so that I may answer that question, one day in the future. I have all my needs & wants met by this closet of mine. It’s not the number but the items in it but the utility of the garments in it, that made it right size for me. I am from India. I can never, in my right mind say ‘this is my minimalist closet’. An average Indian owns much less than half of what I own. I have long abandoned the idea of owning the smallest closet possible. What I have, is my idea of abundance. I have shifted the focus to building a closet where I don’t hoard or waste clothing. This is what it took to make me content. Writing down this list made me happy and grateful. The items with a * were purchased second hand.

Long Sleeve Tops:

*Merino wool turtleneck – black

* Merino wool turtleneck – navy

Merino wool tshirt – gray

*navy and white stripes.

*navy and gray pinstripe wool top

*Isabel Marant embellished blouse

Shirting :

*The Row silk – navy 

*Reformation floral – navy 

*Ganni polka dot – navy

Equipment linen shirt – army green

*Equipment sleeveless linen – army green

*Theory pinstripe silk shirtnavy & white

Son De Fleur linen shirt – navy

*Chambray shirt – blue

*Current/Elliot denim – navy.

Pants :

*R13 black denim

*Black trousers, Hope

Citizens of Humanity – pale blue

Everlane chinos – black.

COS karate pants

*Black jeggings, J.Brand.

Short Sleeve Tops:

Everlane tshirt – white/indigo.

Everlane t-shrit – navy

Wool gray t-shirt

*APC polka dot shirt

*Steven Alan chambray sleeveless

Dresses :

*Steven Alan shirt dress – navy

*Stella McCartney shirt dress – black

*Celine tent dress – navy

*No-label midi shirt dress – navy

Goat sweater dress – navy (Too tight)

*Vintage denim dress – navy

*Current/Elliot ikat maxi – navy.

*Celine tuxedo dress

APC indigo maxi dress

*Tibi maxi dress

*Zara Red wool dress

Sweaters :

Everlane cashmere – gray

Everlane cashmere – navy

Iris & Ink cashmere – red

Gray and white stripes

*navy and pink stripes

*navy and white stripes

Jackets :

Zara leather jacket – black

*Vintage leather jacket – red

Trench :

Zara polyester duster – navy

*Everlane swing – khaki green

Coats :

*Celine double wool black coat

*Stella McCartney mauve coat

In Storage :

AllSaints drapey wool jacket – black.

APC polka dot top – navy ( at the tailor )

Black blazer.

Burberry trench ( need to sell ).

filler
Some notes :

  1. The major chuck of inventory is the same as the list from April 2017. Else, using the word ‘sustainability’ on this blog is pointless.
  2. I am not for counting things and competing with the minimalists on who owns the least. This exercise is the equivalent of budgeting. One shouldn’t be afraid of bookkeeping. I see it as an exercise in discipline to keep a tab on the numbers. I have list for EVERYTHING ! I never want to look back and say ‘where did it all go?’
  3. I expect a shelf life of 3-7 years with regular wear from the garments in my closet. I am no longer terrified of aging and death of garments. [ Valar Morghulis. Valar Dohaeris. All men must die. All men must serve. If it applies to men, it definitely applies to clothes.] I wont save them out of the fear of wearing them out and buy more on the side. I don’t intend to take them all to the grave with me. To be honest, I consider it a successful purchase only when a garment is worn out in a reasonable amount of time. Given the size of my closet and the fabrics I choose, I wear out about 2-5 garments a year depending on the condition of the second hand garment when I purchased it. If you bike/use public transit/do physical labour, clothes wear out sooner. Let them wear out. Replace them with more current pieces when they do.
  4. Knee length dresses no longer work for me. I am more comfortable in midi and maxi dresses.
  5. I have added sweaters and t-shirts this year. I call it ‘the Californication’ of my closet.
  6. I wore out quite a few of my silks in the last year. I sold them as a lot on Craigslist. The buyer was a very young woman from our neighborhood and I could see the glee in her eyes when she tried on the Burberry blue shift dress. She saved me the trouble of listing it on eBay and making trips to the post office. This is my lazy approach to decluttering.
  7. This year, I purchased my first floral print shirt. It feels very festive when I put it on. I am also trying out high waisted pants from COS. While I like how they look, I dislike how they feel. I can’t bear to have the fabric pressing on my stomach after I eat a full meal or chug down a mason jar full of water. The fashion pundits talk of ‘pants sucking it all in’ but to me, it screams “corset”.
  8. I put on 6 lbs this year. After months of hoping it will go away, I realized that it’s here to stay. The leather jackets don’t zip up anymore. Is it possible that your shoulders have gotten wider in your 30s ? ( I would like to think that its the yoga, burpees, digging and heavy backpacks. But how can I differentiate what I want to be true from what is true ? ) The Celine tent dress pulls at the shoulder when I swing my arms. Now that Phoebe Philo has quit Celine, I want to keep her pieces as a collector or sell for profit. The Stella McCartney pinstripe dress needs repair and the fused lining has made it impossible for me to do it myself. The Zara trench needs repair or the donation bin. I am in need of some wardrobe housekeeping.
  9. The most worn garments in the last year : Zara trench, Everlane navy cashmere sweater, R13 black denim, Steven Alan shirt dress, Son De Fleur linen shirt and Ganni polka dot shirt. The least worn are the APC indigo maxi and the Tibi maxi dress.
  10. My special occasion wear : maxi dresses. They are easy, effortless and comfortable while threading the line between not-so-ordinary and I-am-a-peacock-look-at-me.  The dresses I own do that well. [ A recent observation : if your entire party is dressed in little black dresses, you stand out for wearing something with visual saliency. But if your entire party is peacock-ing, you stick out for wearing something understated. I seem to be in both these situations because I am an Indian immigrant. ]
  11. The oldest clothes in my closet are from fast fashion brands. Someone suffered to make them for me. I am trying to get every possible wear out of them as an ode to the people who made them.
  12. My mother is in America for 6 months. She has a trench coat and some tunics that I get to borrow. She wears some of my dresses as tunics. I love dressing her up. Its my way of paying it backward. Every year, I get some clothes as presents/hand-me-downs from friends and family. I need to dye them indigo or navy blue to be able to use them. I haven’t processed by batch coz I currently don’t have a place to dispose the used dye. Pouring it down the drain is also not recommended. Inspite of being a natural dye, if I pour it into the soil in my backyard, I can’t grow plants on that lot. Some countries allow the harmful synthetic dyes to be dumped into the local rivers. The gardener in me cringes at that thought.
  13. I don’t enjoy finding organizational hacks and doing closet edits. I do seasonal capsules instead. Not everything hangs at once. The knits + t-shirts get folded and go into a dresser. I have a 1950’s style small closet in our bedroom. My color palette tames the visual clutter. I enjoy the negative space as much as the clothes that hang. Capsules provide it.
  14. I associate personal style with entropy. I may experiment but the chaos needs to reduce over time. With time, I want to be left with a minimalist closet with a uniform. I would like to be left with my old and most fav clothes.
  15. While I love reading wardrobe inventory posts on blogs, I think these lists should stay private. Closets should have a sense of mystery and romance. Somebody in the world should wonder “what will she wear today” and appreciate your outfits. It could be a spouse, a co-worker, a friend, a child, a date, a friend you share sartorial secrets with, a stranger, a blog reader, a cat, …. Inventories give away too much information. I won’t open the door to my closet and show it to you unless you are a confidante in real life. But since I blog about minimalism and sustainability, I need to publish this list every year in the spirit of being transparent and ethical. I can’t chant “Buy less. Buy better. Make it last” otherwise can I ?

 

 

 

 

Right : Fall/Winter closet. Left : Spring/Summer closet.  

On Gardening Style

Posted on October 21, 2018

Source : Unknown.  ( Do reach out for image credit. ) 

Outfit anxiety and chasing perfection is the anti thesis of personal style. I found the most effortless style in an unlikely place – in the gardens and the people who tend them. It’s not that they are wearing cool clothes that I usually don’t see in my everyday life – overalls and worker wear. It’s that they are doing their work in style.

CookJenshel_Merwin-portrait_10833-4-web

Poet M.S. Merwin planted an entire FOREST in 30 years !

Jeannie Phan, Illustrator and gardener. 

Anne Schwalbe, Photographer. She knit her sweater.

Laura Silverman, Founder of The Outside Institute. 

[ Some second hand finds : rain boots, denim overalls, utility overalls ]

 

My Yard Clothes

A gentle plea for chaos, worn proudly

My rules :

  1. Practicality is the key. Dress for comfort. Buy for durability. Choose details that add to the utility factor of the garment.
  2. Do not run out and buy new worker wear to do some amateur gardening. Use your old worn out clothes. ( I declutter regularly and didn’t have any. )
  3. Find your over-alls second hand. They should be oversized. You should be able to bend, squat, do splits and crouch in them. Let them be in a crazy color for therapy. You could look like to your fruits and vegetables. They should have enough pockets to carry pruning sheers and some produce.
  4. My garden is in a very initial stage of it’s life. (It is a neglected land with two old trees.)  I weed, prune, lug and dig every week. Have dedicated clothes that you wear when you work outdoors. Remove them before you come inside. Hang them in the sun and wear them again tomorrow. Wash when needed.
  5. Do not ruin your day clothes by wearing them out in the soil. I water my plants every morning at 6 am. Wear an apron on top ( at-least ) .
  6. A short cotton trench coat or a denim shirt make good layering pieces for when the days are chilly.
  7. A garden is a relationship one has with the land. There is a start. But there is no end. The work load never seems to lessen. Make sure you take care of your gardening clothes too so that they may last. One set of overalls per decade is allowed.
  8. Rain boots and sweaters pair well with the overalls during the cold seasons. Warm your body up by working harder.
  9. @TheInternet : If you plan to guilt trip me by saying ‘you don’t need a style to work in the garden’, stay away from my style blog. There is no OFF and ON button on my body.
IMG_4447

Overalls

Never in my life did I think I will wear corduroy. I “eeewwww”-ed at the thought of it in the past. But these are what I found in my local thrift store. They are men’s size small – gives me enough room to bend and crouch. The fabric is sturdy. This was a pragmatic choice.

T-shirt

Found it at the same thrift shop. I don’t wear pink. But why not try it out ? I wanted something that will show dirt stains as the work cumulates. When it has holes, I will start to call myself a gardener. I will eventually use this tshrit to dress the scare crow that I am making.

Shoes

Men’s sandals from an Indian regional store. The farmers in my village wear the same.

Hat

I found it on a hiking trail and picked it up.

Zero Waste Gardening

What I have learnt so far

Plant as many trees as your yard will allow. Plant deciduous trees on the North side, so that they let the sunlight though and warm your house in the winter. In the summer, they do the opposite.

What is the point of  living in a house with a yard ? Urban density and zoning regulations are a big problem where I live. Emissions from commute are a big chunk of our air pollution. If I have a yard, it has to do more than allowing me to lounge around. I want to convert the soil I have into a carbon sink. I want to plant something on every inch of it. The plants grab CO2 from the air, break it down during photosynthesis and transfer some of the carbon to the soil. Do not let your soil sit bare.

Save on some food miles and packaging waste by growing some edibles. I may not be as efficient as the farmers who do this for a living and know the techniques, but even if I get 50% of the desired yield from a certain plant and eat it all up, I still am better off than the efficiency of the conventional grocery store pipeline out there.

I do gray water irrigation. The water from my washing machine goes to the plants. I do my dishes in a rubber tub and use an olive oil soap. Every day, one tree gets watered from the water collected in this tub.

Kill the lawn. Grow some food instead. It is not worth the water a lawn uses considering the returns the alternatives can give. I am slowly killing mine in incremental patches.

Plant drought tolerant species. Learn to properly water your plants so that they will develop strong root system. They will need much less water when they mature. Collect your rain water.

Plant some natives. They would have evolved over millions of years and do well in the local climate/soil conditions. They are good for the local animals and birds.

Plant for the bees. Have a shallow dish with water for the bees and the birds.

Use companion planting, crop rotation, row covers, … to deter the pests if possible. I use a neem oil spray when I need some help.

Start from seed to avoid buying plants in plastic pots. Propagate them if you have a friend who is willing to share some cuttings.  If you do buy plants from a nursery, look into your city’s recycling policy to check if they take back the pots. Some nurseries welcome them back for reuse.

The plastic bags in which they sell soil should be recycled at a grocery store that takes back plastic bags.

Stop buying plants on an impulse. Only buy what you can take care. The right plant, right location and the right nutrients – recipe for success.

You will eventually need fertilizer that comes in plastic bottles. Look for an outlet that takes back these empty bottles.

Compost to make your own fertile soil. But there is no assurance that your soil will be balanced on Carbon/Notrogen/trace minerals. You might have to make amendments later. But not composting while having a garden, is wasteful. Compost is super food for your plants !

Mulch your soil. You can recycle dried leaves from the garden. Mulching prevents the loss of moisture from the soil. It helps with preventing weeds. Worms leave the land as soon as the soil stops providing them with food to eat. They stay if you can mulch with organic vegetation.

Use human physical labour intense devices like leaf rakes and brooms to do the upkeep instead of buying appliances. ( Count it as exercise and subtract a few minutes from your gym session. ) Rent tools from a library / neighbors / friends instead of buying everything. The ones you need on an everyday basis, can be found second hand on Craigslist.

Do not design a garden to please the eye. Plant a garden to provide for the animals and the humans. Understand that you are a part of the local eco system. Conserve it.

A gardener whose channel I am watching currently : Siloé Oliveira. So good !

Closet Talk : Fall Edition

Posted on October 13, 2018

closetTour

[ Background score for this post. ]

I know it’s a new season when Chloe drops a new “IT bag” on to the fashion circuit … The Drew is now a nostalgia of the year gone by. The Faye only exists in second hand market. How does it work like that ? Have they programmed a spell into their bags ? Does this alleged spell loose it’s potency as soon as the next one drops ? Or is it me ? Is my lust so fickle ? I have liked them all and conveniently forgotten them all. The Tess is the new pretty one. Bags aside, this year’s seasons are special. I started growing food. Frost dates, temperature of the soil and humidity in the air matters. I pray for the rains alongside millions of farmers who do this for real. I have seed catalogs. I have a time table for sowing. I have a weekend blocked off for making compost tea. I am currently shopping for red worms on Craigslist. Frost date is a more immediate apocalypse on my mind. “Life starts all over again when it gets crips in the fall”. But F. Scott Fitzgerald, really ? Is that an honest journal from your lifestyle or are you trying to fill pages of your book by talking about the weather. In contrast, Thoreau doesn’t sugar coat. “It’s vain to talk about seasons when you don’t have seasons in you”. One doesn’t need a wardrobe to walk from a door to the car to a door. This year, I feel like less of a fraud for talking about Fall and the clothes I will be wearing.

Grow

Eat, Pray, Love.

On September 15th, a meeting was called upon.

Venue : Our dining table.

Attendees : him and I. Cinco, the FOMO cat, sat in my lap anxiously waiting for something to happen.

The materials spread across : The vegetable bible. Seed catalogs. A sketch of the outline of our vegetable bed. A beloved mechanical pencil. A browser with google search as its homepage. Wine glasses filled with coffee.

Agenda : Grow a food forest. Water Your New Plants

Minutes of meeting : We made a list of all the fall veggies we could name. We circled the ones we want to eat. Each of us quickly typed into search boxes. The companion planting charts were pulled up. The crop rotation charts were pulled up. In a sudoku-esque game of placement and elimination, we zeroed in on the locations for the plants.

garden

Plan of action : Grow some plants from seeds. Buy some from the nursery. Plant. Transplant. Weed. Water. Compost. Prune. Mulch. Enjoy the process with all 5 senses. Learn from the internet. Learn from the plants. Fill the house with loved ones. Make good food. Eat in moderation. Grow more herbs that I can possibly use. Make tea. Serve it when people have eaten too much. Lie and tell them that your special tea can make them feel less full. ( They always fall for that line and stay a little longer. )

Yoga

Posted on September 15, 2018

[ Known forms of meditation : Trance dancing, drumming, ritual body postures, yoga asanas, yoga breathing, yoga meditation, mantra, yantra, vipassana, zazen, zen in action, Haiku, brush painting, tai chi, quigong, prayer, sufi dancing, candle meditation, prayer beads, needle crafts, journaling, gardening, ….. ]

My chosen method of meditation is yoga. I am a beginner.