grace period (& some shopping reflections)

It has been a strange few months. A sense of despair over my helplessness in the struggles of others. Ripples in the workplace caused by missed deadlines, mismatched expectations and short tempers. Creeping dread that nothing I do is enough. Elation whenever I spend time with loved ones.

When in doubt, I find comfort in the minutiae of style. My dependency on materialism sometimes shames me; other times I could care less.

I've been enjoying soft colours, clean lines. Fitted waists, wide-legged trousers and skirts that billow when I walk. Sandals, and shoes without socks.

Pulling all this together is the humble t-shirt. I'm lucky to be in a workplace where t-shirts are accepted as office wear, and it makes getting dressed and commuting in the heat tolerable. I do cycle them through the week very quickly and I'm always looking out for fresh ones to add to my wardrobe.

No surprise that as I review my shopping this year, t-shirts (and its variants) make up a pretty big part of it. My favourite buys are a couple of nice cotton cropped tank tops from Dorsu, a Cambodian brand that makes quality basics from deadstock fabrics, in a factory with fair employment practices. Quality, ethically-made basics aren't easy to find (especially when you live in Singapore) and I was glad to find an affordable option that didn't cost the earth to ship here (there is a local stockist).

I also bought an organic cotton T-shirt from Muji earlier in the year, but somehow it got left at the bottom of my laundry basket for too long, and mildew (!!) got to it and I haven't been able to remove the stains entirely. So I mostly wear it at home and am still contemplating replacements (probably from Dorsu).

A surprise t-shirt find was a secondhand Suunday scoop-back tee I bought from @mrswongyeo, in a delightful coral pink. Didn't plan it but it has been such a great addition to my wardrobe since - lovely colour, and the scoop-back keeps me cool on hot days.

Actually, secondhand was also a recurrent theme for the year, mainly because I still craved material things but I feel guilty about buying new. My best buy would be trading in my Elizabeth Suzann Clyde dress (which was also secondhand) for a pair of Clyde trousers. Much as I loved the dress, I don't reach for it as often as I do trousers so no regrets about the trade.

Secondhand seems to be the space I allow myself to indulge in less practical things - pretty, occasional-wear things I would never buy new. I'm excited about a Joseph shirtdress in polka-dot silk chiffon, which I had admired over a year ago in the shops, and nearly bought it when it hit the sales. Spotting it on The RealReal was a thrill; and even just looking at it hanging in my wardrobe now makes me smile. I'm saving it to wear to attend a wedding.

Another secondhand find, also polka-dot, is a camisole from Everlane. It's made of cupro, which I don't love but I gotta admit it's pretty and drapes very beautifully, and I wear it quite often - it's one of those things that goes from walking the dog to nice-ish dinner effortlessly.

Still on a pretty note, I found a silk floral print camisole from Dries Van Noten on TRR; I adore Dries and I still stalk his runway shows every season, just to fall in love with how he plays with colour and texture. This camisole has that unique graphic-yet-romantic quality I love about his work. I had an obsessive moment and went hunting in archives for an original photo of this piece - turns out it's from 2006.

I surprised myself this year by buying a pair of Birkenstocks and a pair of trail runners - but then it's not a bad thing to be taking better care of my feet. I also bought a pair of Loeffler Randall flats secondhand, out of stress and restlessness, which was a mistake because my interest in them cooled once I ordered them, and then to add insult to injury, they don't fit. Rather than pay an arm and a leg to return them, I sold them at a loss. Painful lesson in not stress shopping.

All this rambling seems to have little to do with the photo above, but actually that jumpsuit is one of my favourite buys this year, something I constantly look forward to wearing. Wearing something to travel in (in the photo, I am on a holiday in Tokyo) is a great way to test my feelings about something, and that jumpsuit surprising passes, despite being pretty heavy and in a light, creamy, presumably impractical colour. And yet practical it is.

In the end, it always comes back to that: practicality. Flights of fancy involving silk and prints will happen, but it's the sturdy cottons and linens that put the reliable spring in my (grounded) step. My last buy of the year was indeed that - a simple nylon cross-body purse from Uniqlo, acting as the functional pocket women's clothing all too often lack (my colleague called it my kangaroo pouch). It even fits a water bottle.

So, the list for 2019:
  1. Uniqlo U wide-leg jeans - S$59.90
  2. Elizabeth Suzann jumpsuit - S$334 
  3. Muji cotton t-shirt - S$13.90
  4. Everlane polka-dot camisole (secondhand) - S$54
  5. Suunday tee (secondhand) - S$35
  6. Birkenstock sandals - S$85
  7. North Face trail runners - S$69
  8. COS A-line skirt - S$87.50
  9. Joseph polka-dot silk shirtdress (secondhand) - S$200 
  10. Elizabeth Suzann Clyde pants (traded)
  11. Dorsu cropped tanks (x2) - S$70
  12. Dries Van Noten blouse (secondhand) - S$92
  13. Uniqlo crossbody purse - S$14.90
Total: S$1231.20


Pret a Porter P said…
Im wishing you a happy new year. Hard to believe that Ive been reading you for the past 10 years and here we are crossing into a new one.
I hear you on costly shipping fees and selling at losses. You think I'd learn my lesson by now. But one of my best discoveries is paypal reimburses for return shipping fees. Helps with TRR and thred up returns that dont work out.
Oh darn about the Muji tee, I didn't even know it was possible for something like that too happen! (Though when I lived in Hong Kong for a while before law school, I was aware that the much higher humidity level there than in most parts of the US could cause some strange things to happen. Had some odd mold or mildew start growing on the wall once... Though I escaped having anything happen to any of my clothes, shoes, or accessories.)

I also find that travel is the time when items are really put to the test for practicality - I pretty much only reach for things that are practical and comfortable when traveling, and I try to pack as little as possible (and still end up reaching for only a portion of what I packed).
Talia said…
Oh man, the bad buys followed by selling at a loss. Been there!!! I appreciate you sharing what you bought this year. Compared to my expenses, it looks like you are doing much better than me as far as sticking to secondhand and keeping quantities minimal. An inspiration.
Alice said…
I always look forward to your updates in this space. I'm trying to limit my buys to 12 this year and enjoyed reading your list and thoughts!
lin said…
Pret a Porter P: It seems like an age ago but then it also seems like yesterday! Thanks for the tip about PayPal!

Xin: Humidity is a pain...I feel like I'm in constant battle against musty cupboards and damp creating mould spots on my belongings. B

Talia: I hope to end the bad buy streak this year - I think shoes are the worst offender!

Alice: Thank you! It's April and I feel like I'm spending quite a lot already...somehow the pandemic has made me throw budgeting out of the window but I'm hoping to rein it in.

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