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Posts Tagged ‘accessories’

Dressing like a French woman — and shopping less

In beauty, behavior, culture, design, domestic life, Fashion, life, Style, US on October 3, 2013 at 12:31 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Clothing in history

Clothing in history (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the air gets chilly here in New York — and much of the Northern Hemisphere — we’re pulling out our sweaters and scarves, putting on wool and leather (or not, if you’re vegan.)

For some of us, that also means pulling out the same garments, shoes and accessories we’ve been wearing for years, maybe even a decade or more.

I loved this recent piece in The Guardian, by British designer Margaret Howell:

I think for someone to make something that’s going to last, there is undoubtedly an amount of love as well as skill that goes into that. And things that last are important. I’m happy to pay more for something if I see it as an investment. I would rather spend £80 on a saucepan if it means that I’ll be buying one that lasts. I’ve always felt that about things, rather than thinking something is too expensive. I’ve noticed that the French think like that about clothes – they’ll have fewer but better quality.

I agree with her.

I’m grateful for having grown up in Canada, a country whose consumer market was small enough that going shopping meant limited choice, (no Internet then). Canadians generally earn lower salaries and pay higher taxes than in the U.S., (where I now live,) so the whole notion of shopping-as-recreation never made much sense to me.

I also spent a year living in Paris when I was 25. That, and many visits back since then, also shaped how I view the buying/keeping/mending of my wardrobe.

I love beautiful things, (and have expensive taste), which de facto limits how much I can acquire. Keeping good things longer also lowers the CPW, (cost-per-wearing), a wiser use of limited funds. The CPW calculation essentially amortizes the cost of acquisition as the more you wear/use something, the less it costs you in the long run — if you buy a $30 pair of shoes that last six months, and have to go buy another pair — you’ve spent $60.

I’d rather find a $200 pair on sale for $120 and get many more seasons from them instead. I have limited time, energy and patience for shopping as well.

(Which is also why blowing $$$$$$$$$ on a white satin wedding gown you’ll wear only once is a crazy use of hard-earned coin.)

Like Howell, I’d much rather have one or two thick cashmere sweaters, (found in thrift or consignment shops for a fraction of their original prices), than a dozen cheaper ones that will probably shrink, pill or date.

Here’s one of my go-to high-end finds, found in a consignment shop, still cosy and warm after…five? years.

20130923105946

Like Howell, like French women, I prefer to buy fewer things and keep them in good shape for years.

– It saves money

– It saves time

– It helps the environment

– It’s a good practice to consistently care for your things — polishing your shoes and boots; using shoe trees to keep their shape; making sure your footwear has new heels and lifts so you don’t wear them out; mending your clothes; tailoring things to fit you properly. The idea of simply throwing something away because it needs a little work? Bizarre and wasteful.

– If you can make/mend your own items, even better!

– Doing so also employs skilled experts, like tailors and shoe repair shops

– It re-focuses our attention away from the hamster wheel of get-spend-get-spend-getmorenow!

– It reminds us to focus on what we have, and to savor it, not simply to greedily rush to the next acquisition

– Wearing vintage, thrift or consignment shop clothing is a smart and frugal way to recycle

– Vintage clothes are often better-made of finer materials like silk, cashmere or wool

– We tend to care more for things we plan to keep for many years, so shoe trees/polish/suede brush and a good sewing kit, lint roller and steamer, good-quality hangers and storage options all matter

I admit, I’m also enjoying a few new purchases as well: a thick new Patagonia fleece (half-price), a long black four-season dress and two cotton midi-skirts.

Of course, the stylish Cadence, author of Small Dog Syndrome blog — recently relocated to London — just posted about an amazing vintage shop she discovered there:

One of best aspects of quality vintage clothing is how well some of it holds up. I peered through riding boots that are decades old but look and feel more solid and better than half of what I could find new at a store for the same price.

If you haven’t read this book, it’s worth considering what an addiction to trendy/cheap/fast fashion really costs.

Here are her 10 simple tips to shop more frugally and mindfully.

And here’s a fun book I own on Paris street style.

Men Shopping for Clothing Accessories

Men Shopping for Clothing Accessories (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Are you a big shopper?

What’s the oldest item you’re still wearing and enjoying?

Making a lovely home: adding grace notes

In antiques, art, beauty, culture, design, domestic life, life, Style on March 24, 2013 at 12:03 am

Every home — even if it’s only one room — needs grace notes,  a few items that simply lift your spirits and make you happy because they’re part of your daily life.

They’re not necessities, and you can always save money by not having them.

But here are some things I love having in our home:

Candles

Candles (Photo credit: magnuscanis)

Candles

Every night, as we sit down to dinner, we light candles around our small, (11 by 10.5 foot), dining room, a mixture of votives and tapers. We dim the chandelier and enjoy our shared meal in soft light. No TV. (We don’t have kids, so this is our choice entirely and probably unthinkable if you do have kids, especially small ones.) But even if you’re eating alone and it’s just mac and cheese, light some candles! A meal is an occasion. It’s an important time to nourish your body and your spirit.

Candlesticks

I have a variety: wood, silver plate, pewter, brass and glass. Check consignment, thrift and antique shops. Buy singles in one material and mix up the shapes and sizes.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

Fresh flowers

Every week. Yes, they die. (So do we.) But oh, the beauty! Even one small bud — a freesia or a rose or a peony — in a vase beside the bed gives you something charming to wake up to. Nothing makes me feel richer than when our small apartment has fresh flowers in every room, do-able on a budget of $20-25. This time of year, some pussy willow or flowering branches are nice, and the sharp scent of some eucalyptus stems is always a great-looking option. Stock up on Oasis, (the green foam blocks that florists use, and sell) and a few frogs (the metal or glass stem holders you drop into a pot or vase) and you’ll be able to make interesting arrangements, in a wide range of containers, (a vintage teacup?), with ease.

Plants

Something fresh, green and growing reminds us, especially during an interminable winter, that life is all around us. I put my plants in funky containers I find in flea markets or antique stores, like a round turquoise metal tin that once held honey. A plant can cost as little as $5 and last for months, well cared for.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

Objects

Whatever your heart desires! Some of the objects currently on display in our place are these carved wooden horses. I found them both in Ontario — the larger one in an antique shop, the small one at auction. The larger one, whom we’ve named St. Andrew for the church we were married in, is a piece of folk art; the smaller one has no markings of any sort. He might be brand new, or not. But I love how they ended up, by accident, going so nicely together.

This early heavy glass bowl is now (sigh) badly cracked, (I placed a candle too close to it), but still works, holding a collection of Christmas ornaments I bought at Pottery Barn a few years ago. In candlelight they glow.

Here’s a perfect example of what I mean; a small collection of small vintage clocks, from a house tour on Apartment Therapy.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

Picture frames

So many choices! The simplest sketch, or magazine photo, or your wedding invitation or a ticket to a show you loved gains prominence in a handsome frame. A small collection of similar color/shaped frames makes a great little tablescape.

Textiles

I collect textiles of all sorts, from antique paisley woolen and cashmere shawls to bits of new stuff I make into pillow covers or tablecloths. Vintage linens have fantastic details, like faggoting, crochet, cross-stitch — all the sorts of handiwork almost no one does anymore.

Photos

Don’t just store them on your phone or computer. Spend an afternoon going through your favorites, from a holiday or a family gathering, print them out and assemble them on a memory wall or family wall.

Trays

Nothing is nicer than breakfast in bed! And the only way to have breakfast in bed, comfortably, is with a small tray with deep sides, (so things don’t slide off and crash to the floor.) Also useful for holding teapot, milk, cup and saucer, spoon and a little dish of something, say about 4:30 p.m on a cold, gray Sunday afternoon.

Aprons

Easily forgotten, a large apron, preferably with pockets, makes food prep and cooking a lot more fun when you’re not worried about getting grease or sauce on your clothes. Look for a butcher-style, so long and wide it wraps around you.

Cloth napkins

Linen or cotton, they add color and style to every table. I’ve never used paper. Flea markets are a great place to pick up old soft linen napkins in bundles of six or eight, sometimes with fantastic embroidery or colors.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

Interesting containers

My desk holds a Victorian silver-plate child’s cup (pencils) and a green glazed ginger jar (pens.) Our television remotes sit in an antique wooden cutlery box, both organized and unseen in a handsome container that’s nice to look at. I recently bought a small ceramic dish for one of my favorite editors, (a man of impeccable style), useful for pens and pencils on a desk or as a vide-poche — a place to dump out change from your pockets at day’s end; literally, a pocket-emptier. We use covered baskets, including this one, to stash magazines, extension cords and our insane collection of ugly electronics chargers.

Dimmers

We have a dimmer on both bathroom lights and in the dining room. Few things are as depressing and unflattering as light glaring into your eyes 24/7, which is the lot of anyone working in an office under fluorescent lighting. The only thing nicer than a long bubble bath is one enjoyed under soft lighting.

What grace notes make your home happier?

Choos? Chuck Taylors? Doc Martens? What’s Your Style Tribe?

In behavior, business, culture, design, Fashion, Style, women, work on December 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm
Distinctive yellow stitching on Doc Martens shoes.

Docs! Image via Wikipedia

As we head into 2011 — and the publication of my second book, “Malled; My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, April 2011) — I’m seriously re-thinking how I dress, knowing media interviews and speaking events are soon to fill my calendar. As I wrote in the book, a memoir of selling clothing in a suburban mall, working with men and women 20 to 30 years younger whose looks were so different from my own reminded me weekly how differently we each choose to present ourselves to the wider world.

I typically go for classic, European-inflected choices: a few Hermes silk carres, brown suede Ferragamo loafers, triple-ply cashmere cardigans, gold or silver jewelry, leavened and quirked with bits of vintage, like sky blue suede gloves or a fab ’40s black mohair hat. (Thank heaven for my secret source consignment shops!)

I prefer navy, camel, gray and cream to black, New York’s official uniform. Prints? Not so much.

adore accessories. Especially when you’re on a tight budget, as I’ve been in recent years, mixing it up with fab, affordable accessories can keep you looking and feeling au courant.

My most consistent style signifier is a scarf or muffler, whether silver-shot ash gray ($38, Ann Taylor) or the four crinkled silk ones I bought years ago at Banana Republic (cream, brilliant pink, chocolate brown, ashes of roses.) I buy them long and wide enough that they also work as sashes or shawls. I have scarves of vintage Victorian paisley wool and embroidered silk and modern pieces like the looped circles of burgundy wool I bought from a Paris street vendor.

Once, desperate to finish off a black-tie outfit (Carolina Herrera-esque white cotton shirt and teal silk taffeta wide skirt), I fished out a silk net scarf, in bottle green, I’d bought decades earlier in the Paris flea market. Parfait!

I still have, somewhere, the black suede Doc Marten lace-ups I bought in a London flea market. They are super-comfortable, classic, indestructible. But I haven’t worn them in years. I was feeling snoozy and boring, so I recently took, for me, a huge style risk and snapped up a pair of taupe suede lace-up boots made by Seychelles, edgier than anything I’ve bought in years.

I love them! (And was amused indeed to see a recent photo of Lee Ann Rimes wearing the same boots. ) What a hoot! Especially since she’s young enough to be my daughter.

I liked the editor’s letter in the December issue of Elle:

If there’s anything that expresses individual style, it’s a woman’s accessories — shoes, bags, jewelry. Lots of it? Pared down? Heels with miniskirts? Or maybe the soon to be ubiquitous long flowy dresses — with Doc Martens?…How a woman puts together her accessories is a delicate and surprisingly communicative blend of taste, class (belonging or aspiration to), politics (nose ring, anyone?), career and mind-set. Most women don’ consider what they’re signifying when they jump into their 14-centimeter black YSL Tribute Sandals or sturdy low-heeled pumps as they’re running out the door in the morning, because all of those notion of class, etc. are baked into their choices in the first place.

When you present yourself to public view, what messages are you sending?

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