Saturday, July 22, 2017

And Shoppiness Ensued

Earlier this week, I visited my buddy Liz at Nordstrom for a preview of their Anniversary Sale. And let's just say that "shoppiness ensued." I love that line from Christopher Brookmyre's book When the Devil Drives. 

The fashion blogosphere has been buzzing about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale for the past week or so. So much buzzing that you're probably sick of hearing about it. I was a slow convert to the idea of shopping for fall in July. The first year after Nordstrom opened in Ottawa, I told Liz that I simply wasn't ready to shop for fall. I hadn't done my inventory, perused the new fall trends, or made my list. But the lure of big discounts on the new fall stock was too tempting. And I found a few really great pieces. Last year I was ready, I did all my homework, but sadly found nothing on my list which was on sale. Although I did buy my Veronica Beard suit which has become a staple in my closet. This year, I threw all my fashion caution aside, did no homework, other than looking at my list of what I already own in the way of fall and winter pieces. But, aside from that minimal preparation, I decided to wing it. Shocking, eh? 

woman smiling in white shirt with collar up
I'm tickled with the results of my shoppiness. See the little bit of bling on the neck of this shirt?
And I'm pretty pleased with the fruits of my labour this year. I stuck to basics, and focused on jeans and possible tops to wear with jeans. And maybe a light sweater to wear under the tweed Max Mara coat that I bought in New York last fall. 

pages of book with lists of clothes
My "inventory" from last year.
I bought this lovely white shirt from Lafayette 148. I don't usually shop in the Lafayette section of the store. I guess I've always considered the brand a bit stuffy, a bit too classic, and not fashion forward enough. Ha. That'll teach me. Liz says that their shirts are made of high quality Italian cotton shirting, and are similar in design (no one is using the term "knock-off") to some of the Fabiana Filippi designs. I love Fabiana Filippi, love her ads in Vogue, lust after her designs, but can't afford them. So this was music to my ears. I loved this shirt even before Liz showed me the similar design in FF. I like the small collar which stands up nicely, the sleeves which are of soft stretchy jersey, different in texture than the cuffs and the rest of the shirt. And the teensy bit of bling in the narrow silver chain detail around the neck. You can see this detail in the first shot above. 

If I'm going to don this shirt with jeans, I prefer my collar up slightly and my sleeves rolled. 

    woman in white shirt, jeans, black flats holding collar of shirt     woman in white shirt, jeans, black flats, rolling up shirt sleeves

The jeans I'm wearing I also picked up at the sale. They are Paige Hoxton Ankle, high-rise skinny. These jeans just slide on, and feel wonderful. The high waist smooths out the bumps and jiggly bits. Love that. They're quite light weight, and will be great for fall and for summer. I rolled the bottoms in the store, but prefer them unrolled, here, with my Paul Green flats. The rolled cuff with all those laces looks a bit too fussy to me. So I'm ready for lunch with a friend on a patio downtown. The new me, the retired me. Great shirt, great jeans, teensy bit of bling, some accessorizing, but mostly letting the shoes and bag handle that. Off I go. 

woman in jeans and white shirt

But before I do, here's the other two items I bought at the Anniversary Sale. Another pair of jeans. Paige high rise, full length skinny to replace the ones I bought two years ago and have worn out. And this black sweater/jacket from Lafayette 148. This zippered jacket is mostly knit, except for the quilted front. I love the cut; it falls straight from the shoulders. And will be a great fall jacket. Good for crisp days in Ottawa, or for travel. This is the shot I took in the dressing room at Nordstrom. I didn't have time to style it yesterday for this post. So we'll just have to imagine how it will look with a really casual tee underneath, my black leather trousers, and my black Stuart Weitzman boots as Hubby and I head out for dinner. Or with my boots, and these jeans... on a train, somewhere in England, in October. I'm excited about my fall trip. My friend Elizabeth and I, sans spouses, gadding about for two weeks. Shopping. Drinking tea. Enthusing about all things English. What could be better?

At Nordstrom wearing jeans and a black sweater
Looking like I have a crick in my neck in the dressing room at Nordstrom.
I did some research on Lafayette 148 this afternoon. I had a really good poke around their website, and listened to a few of the short videos about the company. I'm impressed. I like that the co-founder and CEO  Deirdre Quinn says that they "want to dress every woman." She says they make clothing in 58 sizes. Huh. I still think that some of their lines are a bit too "worky," too "drapey," or too conservative for me. But I may take a closer look next time I'm in Nordstrom. And not write off Lafayette 148 as I have in the past. 

But back to Wednesday. After the shoppiness subsided, and I had chosen the pieces I wanted, I decamped to the restaurant where I was meeting my friend Krista for lunch. The restaurant was crowded, but Krista had a table, next to three very distinguished looking older ladies.

I sat down, and we launched into a rather breathless conversation: 
Me- I love that sleeveless, black dress with that scarf, Krista. You do scarves so well.
Krista- Really, do you think? I always feel with my hair this long it's too much. You know?
Me- It's perfect. The black linen dress, black and cream patterned scarf, and those white Birkenstocks... perfect.
Krista- I'm a bit disappointed with these sandals, though. See where the patent leather is peeling a bit? Holding up her foot a little under the table. 

And as we continued to discuss sandals and scarves, what I had just bought, what she bought at MAC cosmetics that morning, what she will be looking for when she meets with Liz next week, I noticed looks of bemusement on the faces of our neighbours. And I wondered what they were thinking. Maybe that we were a bit too mature to be gushing over clothes? That the girly chit chat was something we should have out grown long ago? Especially me, seeing as Krista is only in her forties. And I felt a bit defensive. After all, Krista and I are not flibbertigibbets; we're smart, accomplished women. I wanted to throw out a few Shakespeare quotes to tip the balance of the impression we seemed to be making on these women. You know, some erudite reference to the use of clothing imagery in King Lear. Or maybe a quip that, like Feste in Twelfth Night, I look in the mirror at myself in skinny jeans and notice the "whirligigs of time." Something relevant, and deep, that I could slip seamlessly into the conversation. 

And then I wondered if their looks might be ones of complicity, and not of criticism. Of recognition. Looks that said: Oh yes, we too know those lovely, easy conversations we women have with our girlfriends. Even our very smart and accomplished girlfriends. The girly chit chats we have despite the fact that we left girlhood behind years ago. Utterly unselfconscious, nonjudgmental conversations which sustain us, and give us so much pleasure.

And then the waitress delivered a gigantic piece of chocolate cake to their table, with three forks. One of them chuckled. And, Krista and I looked over and smiled back. 

Ah yes. Definitely complicity... not criticism. 

Because who doesn't love a long, chatty lunch with a like-minded friend, especially after a period of very fruitful shoppiness?

So what about you, my friends? Been shopping lately? Lunching with like-minded girlfriends? The ones who never ever assume that you're an airhead just because you gush over clothes.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Elephant in the Room: On Working Hard

I listened to an interesting podcast on CBC radio the other day. One that started me thinking about hard work, and about blogging, among other things. 

"Seat at the Table" is a new series hosted by Isabelle Racicot, a well known television and radio host in Quebec, and Martine St-Victor, a communications expert, specializing in pop culture and politics, who runs her own PR firm in Montreal. In the segment of their show called Elephant in the Room, Racicot and St-Victor explore the idea that very successful women can make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves. About our choice to work hard. That the exhortations of uber-successful women on how we should be successful, happy, and healthy, and at the same time live more balanced lives, sometimes make other women feel guilty, unworthy, or unhappy with their own choices. And that this is particularly frustrating when these "helpful" exhortations are patently unrealistic. Or sometimes even hypocritical. 

Racicot and St-Victor call out successful women like Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg who have both written and spoken on how to be successful and, at the same time, have more "balance" in our lives. Whether that means getting enough sleep like Huffington, or leaving the office every day at 5:30 like Sandberg. I chuckled as I listened to the clip from Arianna Huffington's Ted Talk on the importance of sleep because I used that same Ted Talk in a post I wrote about sleep a while ago. And, like Racicot and St-Victor, I noticed that, oddly enough, Huffington pitches sleep as a "feminist issue." As I said in my post, Huffington's Ted Talk was presented at a women's conference, so I guess she felt she had to spin the issue that way. Still, it seemed a bit like pandering to me. But never mind. 

Beaver dam in Algonquin Park
The beavers in Algonquin Park have been working hard.
Racicot and St-Victor question whether these very wealthy, very successful women would have taken their own advice back before they were successful. And if they had had more work-life balance back then, would they have achieved as much as they have. Huffington's Ted Talk answers at least one of those questions; she says that it was only when she was severely sleep deprived, and fell asleep at work a few years ago, injuring herself, that she began to question her work ethic. In an article I read about Sandberg, she says she's been leaving the office at 5:30 since she first had children, so I'm not sure that their criticism of her is fair. But I guess where Racicot and St-Victor are going with all this is that the well-meaning advice of successful women can make us feel guilty... for working hard. I should say that they both express admiration for Huffington and Sandberg. But they also express frustration with being told to "do as I say, and not as I did then." 

Finally, Racicot and St-Victor talk about Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. In an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2014, Nooyi is refreshingly honest and witty in her discussion of how hard it is to work and raise a family. You can hear the whole interview with Indra Nooyi here if you're interested. After jokingly making reference to an interview in which self-help guru, actress, and super-mom Gwyneth Paltrow tells Conan O'Brien that she would "rather die than let [her] kid eat Cup-a-Soup," St-Victor and Racicot exhort their listeners: "don't be a Gwyneth, be an Indra." They stress that most working women do not have the luxury of being able to make the kinds of choices suggested by wealthy and privileged women like Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, and even Gwyneth Paltrow. But that's a whole issue in itself, isn't it? Still, despite all the celebrity advice out there Racicot and St-Vistor say they refuse to feel bad about loving their work, and working hard at their jobs. 

So what the heck is my point in all this? Well. Kind of the same as Racicot and St-Victor's... at least partly. And it constitutes only a small part of the whole issue of work. That maybe working hard is getting a bad rap these days. We're all busy telling each other not to be so busy, not to make work our whole lives, not to work so hard that we have nothing but work in our lives... all of which I agree with. I think that work-life balance is very important. But it also seems we've lost the idea that hard work has its own benefits. Beyond climbing the corporate ladder. Beyond getting a pay raise to allow for the bigger house, the new car each year, the fancier vacation, whatever. We seem to have lost the idea that there is inherent value in doing a job as well as you can. No matter what that job may be. 

a derelict mill, saw blade and old wood.
My step-father's old lumber mill, falling down now.
After all, hard work can have its own rewards, can't it? I think of how hard my step-father worked on the farm. The logs he cut, milled, sawed, and made into barns, or animal pens, or hay wagons, or even cupboards for our kitchen. The land he cleared for pasture, or the soil he tilled for the vegetable gardens, the acres and acres of potatoes, and strawberries, and vegetables he planted. So much food we ended up giving much of it away. He didn't make his living from farming; he always had another job. So what did he gain from all that extra work? Besides feeding his family or selling a few cattle or a couple of loads of pulp wood? Peace of mind, maybe. The satisfaction of carrying on a life he loved. Seriously, he didn't need to keep two old Clydesdales, hitch them to his sled each winter, and go to the woods to cut logs. But he was never as happy as when he was doing that. And nobody said he should worry about his work-life balance. Because it was work he loved and which sustained him.

And this week I started thinking about all of this with respect to blogging. Because now that I'm retired, and I'm no longer 'gainfully' employed, blogging has become my job. I mean, I don't make money from my blog. But it's more than just a "hobby" to me. And doing it as well as I can is important to me. How hypocritical would it be of me to spend all those years pushing kids to do their best, asking them to read, research, write, rewrite, and rewrite again, if I simply turned around and did the opposite? And what I gain from all my hard work is satisfaction. The opportunity to have a voice, have my say, so to speak. Plus, the chance to use my time and my abilities to do something I love. And if what I want to say is important to me, why would I not work hard to do it justice? 

Man on a bike on a country road.
Besides blogging I also work hard to keep up with Hubby.
The other day I read a post on one of those "big blogs," one with all kinds of advertising and tons of subscribers. And the post really missed an opportunity, I thought, to do something of value. Instead of being flippant, and not a little insulting to a whole segment of the female population, they could have chosen to show some empathy, to do some groundwork, and use their platform to inform or educate as well as to sell underwear, or jeans, or whatever. I thought that with a little more hard work, and a few more hours of effort they could have written something really interesting. And worthwhile. And still probably sold lots of underwear, or jeans. 

Don't get me wrong. I don't think that it's a bad thing for bloggers, or anybody doing any job, to be fairly remunerated for their hard work. That would be silly. I think people should be paid a living wage so young parents don't have to work three part-time jobs to make ends meet. And I regularly read and enjoy many excellent blogs which make money for the blogger. I look at a couple of these women bloggers as role models, and aspire to be as good as they are some day. 

I know that being paid for our work is society's preferred way of saying that our work has value. But I'm saying that money is not the only compensation that makes our work worthwhile. That's the "elephant in the room" for me. When I was still teaching, I didn't make more salary if I worked harder, designed more creative lessons, or stayed up later researching a new idea. But I sure felt more satisfaction if I knew that I had done my very best for the kids. 

So... should the blogger on the "big blog" I mentioned above have spent a few more hours, working harder to write a more worthwhile post which would probably not have garnered any more sales than the flippant one? I think so. Because if something is worth doing, isn't it worth doing well? 

Gad. What a Pollanna I am. 

Enough with all this serious stuff. I'm off to visit my buddy Liz at Nordstrom in a couple of days. Who wants to talk shopping? 

P.S. I'm adding these few thoughts after I read Ramona's comment below. I tossed and turned last night after I hit publish on this post. Knowing that some readers would think I was missing the point. But that's because there are so many points in this issue to explore. I really believe in a fair wage for quality work. I also understand that so many of us do not have the luxury of angsting about whether our work is satisfying enough. As a single parent of four kids my mum worked two jobs when we were kids, before she married my stepfather and we moved to the farm. She couldn't quibble about work-life balance. She didn't have time.

Linking up with:  Saturday Share over at Not Dressed as Lamb and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Clothes Are Not the Boss of Me

Last fall I wrote a post about some crazy trends happening in fashion, about how unrealistic, unwearable, and downright silly some of them are. To me at least. Remember the "duvet coat?" Ha. 

And I loved the comment on that post from "Catbird Farm" that she didn't "want to wear clothes that [bossed her] around." Yep. Me neither. I hate bossy outfits. Demanding my attention all day or evening. Whiny outfits that need to be fussed over constantly. I mean, let's just all agree that our clothes are not the boss of us, okay? Or they shouldn't be, anyway. 

Which brings me to my point today. The half-tuck. You know, the trend that's been around for a few seasons, of tucking part of one's shirt or tee or sweater into one's pants or skirt. I like the look on others, mostly. Some of my favourite bloggers have worn it very successfully. But I have to say that I've struggled with this trend.

I tried it here with my white linen, 3/4 sleeve tee from Nordstrom Collection which I bought last spring when I was looking for tops to go with my striped Rag and Bone skirt. This is how Liz and I styled the top in the dressing room when I bought it. And this is how I wore it out to tea with a friend a few weeks ago. Except I wore my Paul Green black suede, lace-up flats instead of my sneakers. I like this outfit. In the picture, at least. Standing still, posing for my camera. 

Wearing a striped long skirt with a white linen tee, and white sneakers, the tee half tucked in
I like this outfit. It's just too darned bossy.
But in real life. Not so much. You know... real life... where I have to move around and stuff? Like driving in my car, twisting to fasten my seatbelt, or to see behind me when I'm parallel parking, even getting out of the car. Then sitting down in the restaurant, stretching my arms up to pull my cross-body bag over my head, reaching to put my bag on a nearby chair, or simply getting up from the table. All movements that result in the half-tuck moving around, becoming untucked. And requiring fussing. Because it's not a matter of just tucking in the front. No... it has to be positioned just so. Slightly off centre, the tee slightly bloused over the waist of my skirt. So it looks nonchalant, like I just tucked it in any old way, when of course I didn't. Akkkk. That half-tuck drove me crazy. 

And since I'm a slow learner, in many ways. I tried the half-tuck again the other day. With my new Frame navy and white striped tee and my old Burberry denim skirt. I even added a funky green belt. Sigh. It looked silly. Too contrived, I thought. And destroyed the shape of the Frame tee shirt. Plus the fact that I knew the tee would not stay tucked. Not once I sat in the car, and twisted to fasten my seatbelt and.... well... you get the point. So I untucked it again and felt much better. More like myself. 

trying to tuck my white tee into my striped skirt     trying to tuck my striped tee into my denim skirt
Fussing and fighting with my half-tuck.

And then, before I left the house, I tried my white linen tee untucked with my denim skirt, below. Now isn't that much better? Tucking this shirt spoils the lovely, schlubby, linen-knit shape. And when it's tucked you can't see how it hangs loose, but is still narrow. How the back is longer than the front, and the wide hem at the bottom is slit at the sides, so it floats freely and doesn't cling. Okay, so maybe this outfit isn't the latest of the latest in 2017 trends. And white and navy may be a bit boring. But I love it and feel perfectly comfortable. Not fussy.  And not bossed around by my clothes. Add a pair of colourful, funky earrings and a cute cross-body bag or a tote and this would be a great run-around outfit. 
woman in white tee, denim skirt and white sneakers
That's much better.
And now that I think of it. All my favourite looks this season are untucked. A narrow untucked sweater or tee is the most flattering on my apple shape... since I carry most of my weight above the hips. And a top worn out over my pants or skirt balances off my short upper body with my much longer lower half. Not to mention smoothing out bumps and protrusions that have developed over the years. And... and... this part is important... an untucked top is soooo easy. Unfussy. Doesn't demand adjustment every five minutes. And doesn't boss me around. 

Woman in pink sweater, striped skirt with hands in pockets.     Woman in striped tee, black pants and holding a straw tote
My two favourite outfits this season. Both untucked.

And, you see, here's my point. I expend a lot of time and effort choosing the pieces I will purchase to add to my wardrobe. As you know if you visit here regularly, I do my "research" every season. I edit out of my closet pieces that no longer work on my body, or that no longer suit my lifestyle. I make my lists and shop carefully. I make the occasional mistake; can you say Eileen Fisher tunic? But mostly I end up with pieces that I will wear for years, and which I am confident look good on me. 

Fashion has always been important to me. But it's not my whole life. And once I've invested my time and my money into a piece, I expect it to do the rest of the work, so to speak. I'll spend a bit more time putting together outfits, but afterward I want to be able to trust that my work is done. I don't want to fuss or fiddle with my clothes. I want them to look good on me. And do what they're told. 

Because, in the end, I am the only boss of me. Not my husband. Not my mum... at least not anymore. Not my former boss... now that I'm retired. And certainly not my clothes.

woman in striped tee, and denim skirt with hands held out to the sides, shrugging and smiling
I am the boss of me.
And really, why should I care that I'm not wearing every trend that rears its head every season? That doesn't reflect my fashion ethic at all. 

Okay, I'm done ranting. I guess that the half-tuck is one of those trends that I'll take a pass on. Now, don't get me started on the off the shoulder thing. 

How about you, my fashionable friends... are you a half-tuck person? Let's hear what trends you have taken a pass on. Or outfits that you abandoned because they became too darned bossy.

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlike, Style Me WednesdayThursday Favourite ThingsPassion 4 FashionFun Fashion FridayFabulous FridaySaturday Share Link-Up