I’ve always loved clothes.
In fact, one of my dearest memories is an afternoon at the farm in the 1950s with my sister trying on clothes and taking pictures of our wonderful outfits—our first selfies, so to speak. The amazing part is that we each only had about three different ensembles, and we only had a Brownie camera, but we were so happy to be acting out our fashion dream. First one of us would be the model and the other, the photographer. The setting was the front porch of our big farm house, with the photographer on the lawn below shooting the model standing on the porch ledge; sometimes the model would gaze off into the distance with a dreamy look, and sometimes she would lean toward the camera while lightly holding on to a porch pillar. The latter could be quite precarious, but we were young and agile and danger wasn’t on our minds—only glamour and the faraway lights of the grown-up world and the big city.
Our farmyard was really quite lovely, with a maple-tree hedge all around the house yard, separating it from the barnyard. My grandfather had planted the hedge when he acquired the homestead, and some nine sections of land, in the latter half of the 1800s. Grandfather’s dream was to be a gentleman farmer with an estate that had a proper house set in its own yard and distinctly separated from the working yard of the barn, henhouse, pigsty, granaries; even the big kitchen garden was outside the hedge, with only a small patch of a few rows of spring vegetables and beds of flowers inside the hedge. His priorities were slightly askew when survival should have been at the top of the list, but he was the landed gentry, in his school teacher’s mind, and would have other people to break the land for farming. Not surprisingly, he failed and most of the land, except for the homestead section, reverted to the Crown to be sold to more practical immigrants. My dad inherited that and the legacy of a lovely farmyard.
So from the springboard of a summer afternoon taking ‘selfies’, my sister and I began our lifetimes of dressing up, not just protecting our bodies from the elements. I dress up everyday, whether I’m at home or out and about, whether I’m working in my home office or onsite at a client’s office. And everywhere I go, people compliment me on my clothes, my jewellery, my accessories, and ask me where I get this and that. Well, this blog’s my way of telling where I get the this and that of my wardrobe—especially for my senior readers because too many of my contemporaries give up when the reach the age of 60 in our youth-obsessed world.
I’d say my style is tailored with a kick, but others tell me it often borders on the flamboyant. I like jewellery and I like bright colours, so I guess they have a point about flamboyance. I wear lots of reds in every hue and pair my favourite colour—the editor’s red pen of my profession couldn’t be more fitting, eh?—with navy, black, tan and white. And then for something entirely different, I don the palest of colours: ivory, pale tan, taupe and blush. And I have fun with the trends by picking a few of the funkiest items and buying them cheaply because they need to last only a season or two; the bulk of my clothes budget is spent on classic items, which last forever because I take care of them. In fact, I have clothes from 20 years ago that I still wear; I would have clothes from even further back in the mists of my life, but I give them away. This serves two purposes: Charities welcome them and the small closets in our older home don’t bulge with crammed-in clothes. Every spring and fall, I change over my closet in the master bedroom to fit the season, and in the process cull the unworn or unloved garments. My closets, I think, make a compelling case for small, well organized closets rather than large, walk-in closets that allow—nay, encourage—accumulating tons of clothes and still having nothing to wear.
Now, for some daily outfits, starting in the spring of 2015…
My tangerine dream
Yesterday was chilly and grey in Calgary—matching the grey-brown landscape of March and April that won’t see the annual green revolution until May—so I chose to wear a bright, cozy outfit, pictured below: navy skinny pants from Zara paired with a tangerine pullover from Banana Republic (BR) accented by white—Michael Kors (MK) leather sneakers, a necklace of three strands of beads of various sizes from Holts, and a large plastic cuff—with the finishing touches of a navy & white striped scarf edged with tangerine and a tangerine flower in my hair. When I had to run out to do a couple of errands, I wore my denim jacket trimmed with faux fur that I bought in Cinquemille, Italy, lo, these many years ago (at least 12 or 13). And with that went a tangerine bag from Nine West of woven leather (which I almost always get compliments on and it’s one of my cheaper purses) and tangerine leather gloves.
The outfit was colourful, comfortable and attractive, garnering the usual compliments from salesclerks and shoppers alike. The reason for that, I think, is that colour makes people happy and a well-dressed person is a sight for sore eyes, as the hoary old saying goes. And people rarely dress up anymore, adopting a wardrobe of comfort clothes, what I call a childish wardrobe. When one looks back at the 20th century, the pictures of ordinary people in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s show men in suits, overcoats and hats and women in dresses, coats and hats—that is , they dress up and groom themselves before they go out in public. When we enter the 1960s and continue to the end of the century, the dress gradually gets more informal and the grooming sloppier. Now in the 21st century, people do not hesitate to go out in sweats and t- shirts with uncombed hair and unwashed faces, sometimes even appearing in pyjama bottoms because, man, clothes are so confining!
The catalyst for casual dressing was the rise of technology and with it the option of working anywhere, anytime. And I love that, but I also love the discipline of dressing up to show one’s best face to the public—for your own sake and for the sake of everyone who sees you.
Funky gone a little wild
I often schedule my hair appointment (2 hours) and a manicure & pedicure (2½ hours) on the same day, so I need something on the top half that can be easily removed and something on the bottom half that can easily be rolled or pulled up to bare the lower half of my legs. On this particular day of vanity, I went a little wild with stripes on the top and patterned, wide-leg pants from Anthropologie on the bottom. But the pièce de resistance is the buttery-soft down shell I bought in Rome—for a shocking sum when it appeared on my Visa—in a bright orange that reverses to a soft taupe; it is light as a feather and keeps one oh, so cozy. The Cole Haan (CH) tan suede shoes with orange trim complete the outfit in comfort and style.
Other outfits with a funky twist revolve around a gold pleather jacket (by Inc.)—another cheap find that is oh, so stylish!—paired with black pants, gold metallic jeans or blue jeans. With black pants, I usually wear black patent loafers or booties, a black & gold necklace and cuff, and a black top; with the gold metallic jeans, it’s gold metallic sneakers (by Nine West [NW]), a black & gold belt and a black turtle-neck; and with blue jeans, it’s navy & white saddle oxfords, a navy & gold necklace and a crisp white shirt.
The variations to the basic elements of the outfit—the jewellery or scarf around my neck, the flower or comb in my hair, the shoes or booties on my feet—are changed to fit the weather and my mood on that particular day. Dressing for going out and about doing errands is so much fun because it can be a little wild! (Remember, I’m really old.)
Iterations of ivory
The first sees me in a romantic, soft mood. I was off to the theatre with my culture buddy and I wanted to be sophisticated, but comfortable for sitting through dinner followed by the 2-hour CPO concert. So I wore white, winter white or ivory, that is, with ankle-length pants by Club Monaco (CM), a lacy cami and overblouse from Anthropologie, with beige booties and lacy ivory socks on my feet and fat pearls around my neck. The chilly January evening was kept at bay with an ivory long coat by Anne Klein (AK), and my valuables were carried in a light tan Kenneth Cole (KC) purse.
The second sees me continuing in this theme the next day on my trip to the dentist. The ivory CM pants were paired with an MK camouflage accented by a black & gold necklace and cuff; black patent loafers, a black leather jacket, black leather gloves and the light tan KC purse completed the outfit—adding a touch of military to the romance of ivory and in stark contrast to yesterday’s outfit.
And then I did it a third time with a pairing of ivory and gold: the ivory CM pants with a matching t-neck set off with gold—pleather jacket, sneakers, gloves and a rhinestone necklace—and completed by my light tan KC purse.
The world of work in my home office
Working in my home office sees me dressed for meeting clients at a moment’s notice, with perhaps a little more relaxed ensemble. In the first photo below, this day it was black with a touch of animal: my black RL ‘leather pants and vest paired with animal-print top, socks, necklace & bracelet and rhinestone comb in my hair.
Another day in my office saw me in tan and violet-blue. I love Zara’s skinny pants and the day’s outfit was tan suede pants and lacy booties topped with a violet-blue top, and the outfit completed by a blue necklace and small rose in my hair.
Then I kept the pants and changed the colour scheme to tan and burgundy: tan suede pants, burgundy turtle-neck and oxfords, and a burgundy & tan coat adorned with a big burgundy rose. The burgundy rose is one of my favourite things; I bought it at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK, at the Vivian Westwood exhibit many years ago, and it gathers compliments everywhere I go from old and young alike. And its slightly frayed edges just adds to its charm, I think.
The fourth in this series is the most casual of the lot, perhaps a Friday with a weekend or R&R in plain sight. My mood is caught in the subdued palette of white and pale tan in a quilted white top, cotton tan RL pants and white & tan saddle oxfords. Then I add a long necklace of fat pearls to add a touch of dress-up. I just can’t resist dress-up.
to be continued…