notes for january


These sandals hurt so much when I first started wearing them last year (I felt no pain when I tried them in the store), but I persevered with 4-5 more wearings and then, weirdly, suddenly, they became super comfortable. I don't buy a lot of sandals - is this normal?

In any case, I would wear them all the time if not for the fact that: 1) it's better to let shoes rest between a few wearings; 2) it's been raining a lot.

What I really love about them is that they punch up my wardrobe considerably - they make old outfit combinations seem new again. I consider my tastes classic, but classic doesn't always look "current" (so wisely said in this blog post). The best buys are things that transform 2,176* other things while doing very little.

Other style-related thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for ages, but I never got around to writing proper posts:

1) Cathy Horyn (always on point) on Phoebe Philo leaving Celine on The Cut:

"Because Philo’s clothes were not just simply for women; they were also about women — their distractions, their routines, the way they stuff a bag under an arm or concoct an outfit out of a dress and trousers, their sideways longing for red-lipped glamour, their disdain for basics, their love of uniforms, their wisdom and maturity. It was all there, every season, expressed in the clothes."

Phoebe Philo leaving Celine is old news, but I thought of it again when Hedi Slimane was recently appointed to take her place. I can't muster any excitement for Hedi Slimane, and his appointment feels like such an anti-climax, from a design point of view.

You can point to Phoebe Philo for kicking off a bunch of fads ("ugly" shoes, the rise of "Gentlewoman" style), but she always felt more interesting, more autonomous, than any single trend. There's a looseness about her design sensibilities that seemed shaped by something bigger than than the desire to set trends, or create a "personal brand". It felt like a desire to express how she felt about womanhood, a suggestion she was throwing out there for other women to consider.

Cathy Horyn says it better than I ever could in this piece: "But Philo works off a ragged bunch of feelings that are connected to women’s daily lives, which of course include how they feel about their attractiveness. As a result, a CĂ©line show is likely to have styles that are pretty, eccentrically elegant, and even downright naff."

2) "Modest Dressing, as a Virtue" by Naomi Fry for NYT annoyed me, mainly because of lines like this:

"By embracing the covered-up look, you declare yourself part of a particular psychographic tribe, one whose members don’t just dress for other women, but for a particular subset of other women — those who get it, who are sophisticated enough to understand that opting out of conventional beauty standards makes for its own kind of conceptual, better-than-thou fashion."

I love a style connection with other women - that sense of being understood, of knowing there are others out there with whom I can gush over the same things together. This is the fun kind of tribalism.

The divisive kind I can do without. Especially the kind that asserts that you had to be "pretty stylish and pretty good-looking" to own a "dowdy" look. Who is deciding these things? And are women who don't cover their bodies then "immodest"? Fry might have only been describing the generalisations surrounding this look, but she certainly didn't try very hard to question them.

I get that dressing is messaging, and that we're all dealing with others' expectations of how women and men should look, every day. But you can delve into an appeal of a certain look without reducing other people's sartorial choices.

Stephanie of Even Cleveland said it best on her blog:

"We should firmly fold and put away the shabby thinking that ties any notion of female empowerment to a specific set of choices. the power lies in having the choice, not in choosing a particular outcome. The work lies in expanding and accepting the choices, not in dictating them, even when they involve a simple dress."

P.S -  This Reddit thread on the piece throws up lots of great, varied views on the topic.

3) Another oldie: Vanessa Friedman's tribute to the late Azzedine Alaia in NYT is incredibly moving, and a gorgeous mediation on fighting time. It touched something in me, because lately I've been struck by how incredibly impatient society has become, how I often feel harried into making decisions and judgement calls.

Not style-related, but I read some great books over Christmas and this year so far, and managed to stay off Netflix for a change. My favourites in no particular order: The Lost City of Z by David Grann, The Price of Illusion by Joan Juliet Buck, the Southern Reach books (Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance) by Jeff Vandermeer, and Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.

* - arbitrary figure plucked from the air. My actual wardrobe inventory stands around 180 pieces, including workout wear.


MC Bontemps said…
I drew a different conclusion from the pictures of PPerles post, that people do best by figuring out what works for them and sticking with it, regardless of fashion cycles. All of the 'good' pictures look creative and stylish, but not particularly date-able. The lady politicians of the 'bad' pictures are wearing the uniform of lady politicians since Maggie Thatcher and presumably media-tested to death and approved as the correct combination of camera-friendly, not susceptible to malfunction, competent but approachable. Hilary's grey ensemble may be infinitely more sophisticated and with correspondingly diminished relate-ability for an audience of potential voters.

But classic ≠ current is a fair point. To my mind, jeans are a perfect illustration of the effect of fashion cycles on a classic garment. Now that my eye is getting used to ankle-lengths and winder cuts, it's jarred by the sight of a 00s jegging. And when I was used to seeing jeggings, 90s bootcuts were jarring.

Fwiw though I'm also seeing in the wild some unsuccesful examples of the fashionable combination of cropped jeans with ankle boots so chunky that they resemble clown shoes, especially on petite women, so there's clearly a delicate tension between looking current and doing what's best by your own size and shape (not to mention your own budget, the occasion and so on).

ps. Do you have a secret for keeping your white sandals so clean after a year of use ??
Thank you for linking that modest dressing discussion - I followed along with it for a little while when it first popped up on the femalefashionadvice subreddit, though I didn't have any strong feelings on it myself,
as I found the New York Times article a bit of a slog. (I am always annoyed by the sexism inherent in judging women negatively for their choices or making overly broad generalizations about what all or most women apparently want, so I wasn't primed to view it that positively, probably.)
lin said…
MC Bontemps: Agree that people do best when they figure out what works for them - I feel that whenever I meet someone whose sense of style stems from self-assurance and awareness, rather than what they're actually wearing. Currency isn't everyone's goal. Even determining what "works" for one's size and shape can be debatable to a point - technically some shoes give me clown feet but I wear them anyway because I don't necessarily think I want to walk around looking like I have dainty feet.

No cleaning secrets where my white sandals are concerned. The bright light may have disguised the faint grey water marks (from rain) somewhat. I do wipe them down with a damp cloth if I got caught in the rain in them, but I've not conditioned them so far, and I didn't bother with waterproof sprays and all. I find leather pretty low maintenance actually, because a quick wipe cleans off most stains, and if I get caught in the rain (which is often in Singapore), I just soak up what I can with a cloth when I get home and give it a few days to air dry (not in direct sun) until it revives itself. The better the leather quality, the less I need to do, it seems.

Whereas with canvas I would sometimes need a light scrub with a toothbrush, and with suede I'm just resigned to whatever happens.

Xin: I get what to mean by being predisposed to not like such articles - which makes it all the more admirable on the rare occasions I come across a good piece. I think the views shared in that Reddit thread were far more insightful than whatever the writer was yammering on about in the NYT piece.

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