utility + beauty


i) I wanted to write about my new umbrella, because it has been some time since I took pleasure in anything that was useful in such a simple way, and also so beautiful to me. My umbrellas have always been filmsy, foldable things, usually a freebie with a purchase - I don't remember when I last bought an umbrella. But a few weeks ago, days after I threw away a broken umbrella, I was at Uniqlo and at one corner of the store was a rack of umbrellas. I noticed them because I thought they were very elegant - handle of matte black, stormy blue, almost black, nylon, a sleek dark grey steel ferrule. The canopy, when opened, was charmingly curved - almost generous in its fullness. In short, it was a very handsome umbrella. And despite the fact that there was no rain that day, I bought it. I love it because I need it only to keep me dry, but someone thought to make it beautiful. 

ii) Then I read this article about Arne Jacobsen by Alice Rawthorne, and I thought, "Yes, I think Alice would understand why I've been cooing over an umbrella".

iii) Then I saw this picture by Vanessa Jackman, with the girl wearing what looks like a navy parka, and I thought it was perfect. Navy is the colour of uniforms and authority, a colour that connotes function, and it is also a beautiful colour, reminiscent of the sea.


iv) Because of all this, or maybe just coincidentally, I have been mentally stalking a navy sweatshirt. The only thing stopping me is the sweltering humidity, plus the reluctance to buy any clothing. Still, when I laid eyes on it, I knew why I never got into grey sweatshirts, classic as they are. Because I was waiting for the perfect thing and that might just be a navy sweatshirt.

What are your favourite useful and beautiful things? 

Picture from Vanessa Jackman


Eileen said…
Hi Lin,

The umbrella looks solid. A navy sweatshirt looks almost regal and i can understand why it will be perfect.

I have a navy long cardigan from Muji that is made of linen. I love how versatile it is with tees and dresses. Its not costly but goes with almost anything.
Navy becomes very addictive. One thing that irks me is when things that are meant to be functional are not. It's the deal breaker for that rib cage McQueen luggage (aside from the price).

Aside from handbags, sunglasses, and watches, clothing wise: for me it's my Rick Owens hood. It really has come in handy on those cold rainy days. Plus it's thick enough that made my very heavy duffel bag's strap not bothersome. Deep pockets that in Rick Owens' own words are designed to fit a sandwich and a passport. Used it as a blanket when sleeping in a cold room. And it's cotton and machine washable.
Ammu said…
This is why I love Uniqlo :) Can't wait to browse the store when I am in Singapore late next week. My umbrella is a Monet print picked up at the National Gallery. Useful and so pretty!

I suppose my favourite functional accessory is my iPad, which I use all the time. I also love a grey Vince tee I wear constantly (twice a week sometimes), my sturdy Greek flat sandals, and my Indian wool and cotton scarves.
Camille said…
It's a really handsome umbrella, I agree. For some unknown reason, I don't seem to go through my umbrellas so quickly even though I live in a fairly rainy country.

I just had to throw out one I had had for 12 years. My current one is almost as old, and was bought on a trip since I had forgotten to bring the other one. It's red, foldable, and has a handle made of real wood. It's probably one of the best material souvenirs I ever bought while traveling, and I find it's a nice pop of colour on a rainy day.

My essentials are a second-hand beige mac coat that resembles a lab coat and a pair of short boots that can carry me everywhere (I've written about both on my blog in the past, you might remember). I wear the coat all the time, it fits in luggage and bags, but I am still keeping my eyes open for a navy trench--navy is also a favourite of mine.

The boots sorely need to be replaced since they're at a point where the cobbler I visit can no longer do anything for them, but I still wear them on occasions where I need a bit more comfort or confidence.
lin said…
Eileen: Pity a sweatshirt just seems too hot on most days...I talked my friend (a guy) into buying the same sweatshirt hahaha, and every time I see him in it (it's turned into a staple for him over his shirts in his office) I think, damn, it looks good.

Pret a Porter: You're absolutely right about functional things that are impractically made - like the fashionable kind of army parka that doesn't have good deep pockets.

I love that Rick Owens said that, I think Liz Lemon would appreciate that, as do I, an avowed sandwich fan...

Ammu: I've been meaning to drop you an email to ask about your dates! I'm definitely around on the first week of June, hopefully we can meet up! Will email tomorrow!

Camille: I usually forget them and leave them behind. The freebies also tend to fray or flip inside out in the rain. Hopefully this one, being one I actually purchased, will last! I like the idea that an umbrella is also an accessory, a pop of colour, on a rainy day.

Do you mean those ankle boots that you modified from a pair of cowboy boots? Those are really cool.
Ammu said…
Oh excellent! I am coming for an alumnae event over the 1st and 2nd but am free on the 3rd. Looking forward to seeing you. You have the same number as before? xx
petrichore said…
#1: Umbrellas. Soooo useful. Sooooo low-tech, yet important in those rainy places. Owning one allows you to avoid Columbia Sportswear rain jackets and the like (an attractive thing to Oregonians, who wear it too much as it is).

#2: Navy blue. I have recently embraced it as an alternative dark neutral, and now I can't stop wearing it.
Anonymous said…
I want to see the umbrella unfurled.

My single sweatshirt is navy...
lin said…
Ammu: Yep same number. Have emailed you!

Petrichore: I suppose when it's cold AND rainy, a rain jacket is still necessary.

It's my only dark neutral really, since I'm not into black.

Terri: I couldn't figure out how to take a (nice) picture with it open, perhaps one day when I have more time to play around...

I don't know why a navy sweatshirt has eluded me all this time. It's such a great mix of casual and sophistication.
A tip I have been using successfully a few times :
take a garment in one colour, and dye it in navy. If you dye a grey sweatshirt, the V shaped stiching will remain grey (because they are not usually made of cotton, except for some jeans etc.) and I personnaly quite like the look. (Will send you a picture of this, because I feel I'm not being clear)
Anonymous said…
Oh goodness, where to begin?
My silverware, for sure - a daily pleasure.
My water pitcher, my wallet, most of my shoes, most of my clothes (truly), I kind of love my hangers, a vintage mirror I just purchased...
Now the question is...should I keep anything that doesn't make this list?!
Maja H said…
Living in the rainiest place in northern Europe, I go through umbrellas like I go through socks. Your umbrella looks absolutely perfect, and I would love to find one that was both sturdy and pleasing to the eye :)

I hear you on the navy. I bought a navy coat and a navy oversized wool sweater, and I adore them both. Navy can look so much more sharp and put-together than black, sometimes.
lapindelune said…
Ah, a handsome, quality umbrella: a must in my world. If only our rainy days weren't so often accompanied by tough gales, I would definitely shop around for the very best. Such fragile little things though, and only those longer length (therefore impractical in terms of transporting) bell domed umbrellas really cut the mustard for me - preferably clear, for the patterned styles tend to flake off later, sadly.

I hadn't really thought about navy in such a way, although it has become my personal alternative to black, which tends not to suit my colouring. It does seem to lend a touch of luxury to any outfit.
lin said…
Alexia: I'm really lazy with DIY, so I guess I would have never discovered on my own that the threads stay grey - it sounds nice!

editor: I hear you on the silverware - I bought a small set for my friend's wedding because I felt that a quality, beautifully-designed set was so important.

I think most of my clothes are pretty useful and beautiful, but my problem is that I think I have too many of them, hah.

Maja H: I think navy is so lovely for winter wear, too bad I can't indulge.

lapindelune: I know, those golf umbrellas people store in cars are the best. Much too heavy though.

I love navy, and I suppose the rarity of perfect navy items makes it exciting for me when I see it.
miss sophie said…
uniqlo is so good, and a total godsend since i got to SH. you might try out their linen items? there's a gorgeous linen navy blazer...

i just did a post on linen and uniqlo incidentally. and my favorite umbrella is from jcrew - they make the best ones, with fun prints to boot :)
lin said…
miss sophie: The navy linen blazer was the very one I tried one! But I just can't seem to make the oversized blazer look work for me, so back on the rack it went. Otherwise it was really the perfect hot weather option - partially-lined but well constructed, and the perfect shade of navy...
My green coat. I get so excited over the simplest of things because once I've found something perfect in both an aesthetic and utilitarian sense I can't help but be enthusiastic about those items.

Also, yes I feel the same way about navy. After discovering its quiet and understated authority it's hard no to become addicted like PPP said.
Camille said…
Thank you, Lin!
I've been getting an enormous amount of wear out of those as well, but these are the ones I was referencing: http://unpretentiousbouquetofparentheses.blogspot.ca/2010/09/trusted-and-cherished.html
lin said…
ACrispWhiteShirt: I feel the same way about my favourite things.

Camille: Looks like your boot collection is quite something!

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