Friday, May 5, 2017

Mom on My Mind

credit: email from Estée Lauder
for Mother's Day 2015
This week's horoscope from Ron Brezsny spoke to me:
In what ways do you most resemble your mother? Now is a good time to take inventory. Once you identify any mom-like qualities that tend to limit your freedom or lead you away from your dreams, devise a plan to transform them. You may never be able to defuse them entirely, but there's a lot you can do to minimize the mischief they cause. Be calm but calculating in setting your intention, Aquarius! P.S.: In the course of your inventory, you may also find there are ways you are like your mother that are of great value to you. Is there anything you could do to more fully develop their potential?
Since this is a style blog, I won't talk about my mom’s most cherished qualities, including her kindness, infinite love, generosity, communication abilities, and compassion — on this page it's things related to fashion.

In terms of style, mom was my idol. I always adored my mom's style when I was a girl, and tried to learn everything I could about being an elegant woman from her — even though she and Aunt Eleanor (her stylish sister) were self taught. As she grew older, though, her choices became identifiably “old ladyish,” as her go-to outfit became one of her many designer jogging suits. That's something I hope to avoid, although I suppose that my Eileen Fisher skirted leggings could come to be viewed as the old lady staple of my generation.
I have four pairs of skirted leggings in my wardrobe,
and take two when I travel.
Mom knew quite a bit about personal style, and many of the practices she taught me, and advice she gave (and lived) hold true today. I'm grateful that she emphasized how important it was for me to cleanse and moisturize my face properly from an early age, although I've expanded the treated area to include my neck and chest area (everything visible above a bikini top). She routinely reinforced the importance of good grooming, dental hygiene and proper posture, while always encouraging me to feel good about myself. My siblings and I detested our semi-annual dentist visits, but we have good teeth as a result. Mom always made a point of complimenting me, no matter how awkward a phase I was in, about my beautiful features. So when my teeth were far too big for my face, she'd emphasize my bone structure and good skin, and tell me I'd “grow into” my teeth. It worked! I'd examine my skin and cheekbones, and forget about how goony I looked (whether or not I wore my cat-eye glasses with their ultra-thick lenses).

Lucky me!

I remember shopping trips to J.L. Hudson Company and B. Siegel in downtown Detroit, and outings on foot (three kids and a baby in the stroller) to our local Winkelman's and Himelhoch stores. Mom was frugal, but insisted on quality. A “value shopper” she knew when items would be marked down and waited for the sales. Often, the purpose of our trips were to make an installment payment on something she had in layaway, but we always browsed the latest fashion displays in the designer rooms. I've learned from her to identify what I want from the high end fashion pieces early each season, then wait for the inevitable 40-60% off sale. If I miss it because of this, I don't care. I don't really need any new clothing; when something actually is a “must have” I will pay for it.

Here are some photos of my elegant mother, at age 27 to 32.

What do you remember about your mother's style?

Monday, March 2, 2015

A New Option in Travel Clothing

I've had multiple travel related chats lately with my friend Sheri, by phone and various electronic messaging apps. She'll embark on a year-long travel adventure in a couple of months, with only the allowable carry-on sized backpack and one personal item that includes her camera gear and MacBook. 

I wish Sheri and I were able to sit and chat in person here in Monteriggioni, in the Chianti district!
We're limited to electronic and telephone communications until September, when I'll join her in Barcelona.

That's a wardrobe planning challenge that I hope to never face. It would be a nightmare for me to limit what I wear for one year to so few pieces! However, I enjoy helping her figure this out, so in the process I've discovered a few new travel pieces to try for myself.

Merino wool clothing from Icebreaker is lauded as itch-free, stink-free, and comfortable in all climates. Despite having no need for any new clothing, I purchased their Villa dress (in a shade of lavender that they call "Abyss") on a 40% discount web sale to take with me to Andalusia in late May. It will be hot during the day, so I'll be able to test (and hope to refute) my assumption that wool is too warm to wear in such conditions. Here's the dress:

Image from website, cropped.
As soon as it arrived, I tried it on alone, and then as a top layer over a turtleneck and leggings. The wool feels like a heavy cotton knit, and it really does not itch.  Next, I scrunched it into a quart size ziploc bag, and left it there for three days.

They're not kidding when they claim that it packs to nothing!
Happily, the dress emerged unwrinkled, unscathed, and ready to wear. I can't wait to wear it!

In addition, I discovered two items that I've decided are "must haves" for my future travels. They include what I hope will be the perfect pair of navy pants, and what seems to be the optimal choice for a personal item carry-on bag. I haven't purchased these yet, and will write about them in another post.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Looking Back at my October 2013 Cruise+ Wardrobe

Last September, I wrote about planning my wardrobe for 25 days of varied climates and venues in Europe, including 7 days sailing the Aegean Sea, and linked to my polyvore packing list. In that post, I featured a couple of jersey tunics by Calvin Klein that were long enough to be dresses on me, and looked great with leggings. They seemed perfect for travel. Alas, they disappointed me, and will not be worn again by me, unless for a sedentary occasion. The fabric, a lightweight jersey of 95% polyester and 5% spandex, just did not breathe. My very light sweating (from walking moderately for a couple hours) caused awful odors to develop in both tops. I mean, truly stinky body odor. This is not normal for me, and my body did not smell. My companions will attest that neither I nor my clothing become malodorous after a day's activities. It's also not normal for other similar poly-spandex jersey blend clothing I own. For example, TravelSmith's Voyager Knit garments are also made of 95% polyester and 5% spandex, but the fabric breathes and stays fresh. Quite a sorry surprise to lose two travel tops that are so easy, versatile, and flattering. It's even more unfortunate that Calvin Klein's fabric buyers don't test usability and breathability.

I intended to wear my long navy stretch lace Tommy Bahama dress to our formal dinner on the cruise, but discovered that it was too long while I was getting dressed for that dinner! I had hemmed it, but not measured correctly. Quickly, I changed into a different outfit, wearing my vintage Janice Wainwright jacket with a metallic skirt. Certain that my cashmere split pashmina would prove versatile, I was surprised that it went unused -- no occasion to wear it occurred. Of course, if I didn't take my silk travel blanket, I could have used the pashmina while flying to stay warm.

In February, I finally got around to making a retrospective packing list that only included the items I wore. Note that the two tunics (with arrows pointing to them) were excluded from the rotation after one wearing, but I did wear them once each.

The weather was cool and comfortable in Amsterdam, our first destination. Istanbul, however, suffered a rare spell of bitterly cold temperatures and freezing rain during our visit. That didn't deter us; we braved the elements and toured historical venues, warmed up in hamams, and enjoyed local food, culture and sights in and around Sultanahmet.

On the Hippodrome in Istanbul
Shoes: Naot "Nau Mai" • Black jeans by NYDJ
Black cardigan by August Silk • T-shirt by Splendid
Vintage Bally handbag (coat, scarf, umbrella not shown)
On our fifth day in Istanbul, it warmed up a bit as we boarded the Seabourne Odyssey for a 7 night cruise that ended in Athens. Cesme, our second stop, was cool but comfortable, it was hot in Ephesus, and nearly perfect temperatures spoiled us throughout the Greek Islands. Athens was a bit too warm and humid for my taste. Finally, in London, we stayed at the Marriott in Kensington, which is well located but the rooms are tiny. After our excursions in unpleasantly cold and rainy weather,  we were grateful for the executive lounge, afforded by my Marriott status. It was great to drop in and warm up with a fresh "cuppa," plus their thoughtful selection of foods and other beverages.

On the steps to the Acropolis, in Athens. I purchased the navy pebbled leather handbag in Istanbul.
Dress: Voyager Knit Seamed Jersey Dress in navy (my favorite travel dress!)
Sandals: Orthaheel "Tide" in navy (best flip flops in the world!)
What I packed and wore for three weeks in multiple European urban climates plus an Aegean Cruise:

6 pairs of shoes:
  • black leather ankle boots from Naot
  • burgundy and black leather Naot "Nau Mai" mary jane flats
  • navy blue leather Naot "Architect" ballet flats
  • bronze metallic leather Cole Haan ballet flats
  • Orthaheel's navy blue "Tide" flip flop sandal
  • Teva "Dozer III" all terrain shoe/sandal
Did I mention that Naot is my favorite brand of shoes and boots? Their comfort is unmatched for me; I can walk a dozen miles on cobblestones and rough surfaces in Naot shoes without sore feet or aching body parts. At home in Hawaii, I own eight or nine different colored pairs of Orthaheel's "Tide" sandals, because they provide support not found in ordinary flip flops. Orthaheel's flip flops keep me out of pain that I would otherwise experience wearing flat "slippahs" in Hawaii. Six pairs of shoes is considered "over the top" by many travel experts; indeed, there are a lot of shoes to pack! But, the flip flops and the Cole Haan ballet flats take virtually no space. I wore the boots while flying, since they're the bulkiest. So essentially, from my perspective, I only had to worry about packing three pairs of shoes.

2+ purses:
  • vintage gold metallic quilted leather Bally bag with chain and leather strap
  • vintage black and brown leather Balley shoulder bag
  • red wristlet wallet with iPhone pocket
  • zippered travel wallet by Eagle Creek (not shown) that holds all travel documents
Coat, jackets, overshirts and cardigan sweaters:
  • my trusty classic black wool wrap coat by Ralph Lauren
  • black silk shawl / wrap
  • black silk knit open front cardigan sweater
  • navy, green and camel paisley "Jamevar Jacket" from TravelSmith
  • navy and white zip blazer by Jones New York
  • open cardigan sweater in neutral textured knit
  • lightweight navy blue long open cardigan sweater
  • vintage wool jacket with embroidered faux scarf by Janice Wainwright
  • sheer printed long silk overshirt from Shanghai Tang
  • sheer black long silk overshirt by DKNY with tabs to roll up the long sleeves
Tops, tunics and dresses:
  • 3/4 sleeve black cotton knit tunic by Ralph Lauren
  • black tab sleeve top by Splendid
  • black cotton scoop neck "Hannah" t-shirt by Pickwick & Weller
  • black cotton and modal v-neck t-shirt by Splendid
  • white cotton scoop neck "Hannah" t-shirt by Pickwick & Weller
  • eggplant/plum cashmere turtleneck sweater
  • navy cotton knit long sleeve v-neck shirt
  • navy & cream stripe 3/4 sleeve cotton knit shirt
  • orange linen sleeveless tunic
  • apricot/orange textured silk tank from Citron
  • 2 jersey tunics by Calvin Klein
  • 2 Voyager Knit seamed jersey sleeveless dresses, in eggplant and navy
Pants, shorts and skirts:
  • slim black ponte pants from Eileen Fisher
  • black straight leg jeans from NYDJ
  • navy cotton trousers
  • navy cotton bermudas
  • khaki bermudas
  • flowing skirt of bronze metallic fabric
  • reversible ankle length silk chiffon skirt (black/brown print or white dots on black)
  • my everyday 18" chain necklace with celtic pendant
  • 47-inch (120 cm) Misaki long faux pearl necklace
  • Antica Murrina 18" multicolor glass bead necklace
  • Swarovski ruby crystal heart necklace
  • blue beads and freshwater pearls multi-strand necklace
  • Alexander McQueen pink petal skull scarf in silk chiffon
  • Alexander McQueen red floral skill scarf
  • bathing suit and sarong
  • 7 pairs of underpants, 2 bras and 2 sports bras (black and nude)
  • nightgown
  • yoga/sleepwear
It certainly isn't a minimalist packing list, but I managed well with a 25" checked bag and my 22" roll-aboard, along with the matching tote bag filled to the brim with my electronics and in-flight essentials. My luggage from Eagle Creek is described in this post; after more than three dozen challenging trips over the past ten years, these bags are holding up beautifully.

The separates I packed "interoperated" well, giving me a variety of options, so I am pleased with my choices overall. There are a few pieces that didn't travel well, or that I didn't feel great in, notably the navy stretch cotton trousers by Ralph Lauren. I'll keep my eyes out for navy travel pants that I love as much as my Eileen Fisher black slim ponte pants. Any suggestions are welcome.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Soon we'll be on our way to Hong Kong, where we'll stay for a couple of nights before we take the train into the People's Republic of China (PRC).

In Hong Kong, we can visit one of our favorite shops, the flagship store of the elegant retailer Shanghai Tang. Last year at this location, Peter bought me a beautiful long shirt of sheer silk with an abstract pattern in shades of blue, plum, and grey. In the photo below, I'm on the right, wearing the shirt over my staple travel dress (I own this flattering dress in three colors, and wear it at home as well as when traveling).

Final evening aboard the Seabourne Odyssey.
Sheer overshirt by Shanghai Tang • Voyager Knit Seamed Jersey Dress in eggplant
Cole Haan ballerina flats • Antica Murrina glass bead necklace
Back to the December 2013 trip:

Our first destination in the PRC is Guangzhou, known as Canton in earlier times. Located on the Pearl River, just above the Pearl Delta, Guangzhou is China's third largest city. Here, we'll stay in an American hotel with familiar amenities. The rest of the time, we stay in "party hotels," (as in communist party), which are basic to subpar. Based on previous experience trying to sleep on hard, uneven beds (and because I can check three bags free with my airline status), I will take along my own lightweight memory foam mattress topper and cotton "cocoon" sheet in a small duffel bag this trip.

Taking photos at Prawn Farm 1, near Enping in Guangdong Province.
My trusted classic Ralph Lauren black wool overcoat • Naot "Matai" shoes
Voyager Knit Seamed Jersey Dress in eggplant • Wolford Glam tights in eggplant
Similar to last year, we'll be reviewing operations of a Chinese agricultural company with which we're affiliated. Our trip, once again, will not involve any tourist destinations. I hope that we can see more of China on a subsequent visit, as I'm certain there will be more. This time, we'll spend two days on the Tibetan plateau, at 9000 feet above sea level, in Qinghai province. For that, I've packed heavy wool socks and thermal underlayers.

With my Donna Karan cashmere vest as an under layer, I was dressed for the -4°C (nearly 25°F) weather, but others were uncomfortably cold, so our hosts sent out for socks for everyone. My fleece tights and hand knitted socks kept me from freezing, plus I scored a new pair of wool socks from Xining.
The warmer clothing (sweaters and black jeans) will also be needed on our one day trip to Hunan, but back in Guangzhou I'll be able to wear dresses again and carry my coat during some of the day, I hope. I look forward to spending time with the international group of friends that are also involved with the company, and eating Chinese food!

Monday, November 25, 2013


I love this cropped image so very much! I do not need either of these pieces. But, how I would love to add this fabulous jacket and shirt to my closet!

My dream look: this wool-cotton blend knit blazer and coordinated silk shirt from Burberry Brit

For what it's worth, I read in reviews that the jacket is scratchy, and requires long sleeves underneath. Also, that Burberry Brit runs quite small. I need to remember these things. :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

One That Got Away

I mentioned in my previous post that two Janice Wainwright items auctioned in July had escaped my attention until recently. I would have purchased both lots, had I known they were on offer. I've now signed up to receive notices of Christie's future fashion auctions, and hope to score something wonderful from one of them. Are there other fashion auction lists I need to join?

One of the items, an evening caftan, resembles the one that's currently for sale on The caftan is priced well outside of my budget; actually, Christie's estimates were stretching it, but I would have bid in the range of their estimated prices.

Did this dealer buy the caftan that belonged to Suzy Menkes? It isn't mentioned; neither is a size. I wouldn't mention it either, if I were marking it up to this extent, although that provenance may prove to be of value some day.

The other item, an evening ensemble by Janice Wainwright, is one that I would love to wear! I do hope that a woman bought the ensemble and actually wears it, as I would. I already own two embroidered jackets by Janice Wainwright, but both are from a later period. Here's a grainy photo of me wearing one of them recently. The photo doesn't reflect details of the embroidery as well as I'd like.

A couple new acquisitions are in my closet, and I'm thinking about how to wear them for the holidays, or during our upcoming trip to China. One of them is a versatile tank dress from Tommy Bahama that I bought using a "Happy HulaDays" $50 gift card that the company just sent me. I bought the dress in the color pepper, which is a dark green slate shade, nearly grey. It fits well, and is a welcome addition as it will travel well, and coordinate with nearly everything I own that works with black.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Evolution of a Work Wardrobe

Yesterday I learned of an auction that was held in July at Christie's in London: In My Fashion, the Suzy Menkes Collection. Further searching led me to an excellent video of the panel discussion that preceded said auction. Featuring six fashion luminaries (plus another off camera), it touched on the emotions associated with clothing, after Suzy spoke about her memories of some of the pieces offered at auction. That panel discussion and auction inspired two threads. More about the second thread is at the end.

In this post (the first thread), I'll talk about the evolution of my work wardrobe. The older women on the panel mentioned how their work wardrobes needed to change when they became mothers. It reminded me of incidents wearing beautiful clothing when I needed to carry my sick or muddy kid ... or worse. That's just part of being a mom, so wardrobes evolve as those experiences occur. I worked for more than ten years before I added the responsibility of motherhood to my life.

By 1976, I began to develop a cohesive professional wardrobe of skirt suits, jackets, dresses and tops (blouses, mostly). Occasionally, I wore dress pants with a jacket and sweater or shirt. Fashion savvy as I may have been, I was naive about colleagues and work politics. Women in responsible corporate positions were rare, and I often blazed my own trail, learning hard lessons as I amused my male colleagues. As I became more and more exposed to corporate culture, I learned that I couldn't assume that people would act with honor. By 1977, I'd read a number of books, such as Power by Michael Korda and The Woman's Dress for Success Book by John T. Molloy, and gained perspective about corporate politics and personal success factors.

typical Evan Picone skirt suits
from the 1980s
My staple outfit during the late 1970s and into the 1980s was a skirt suit by Evan Picone. I bought several new ones each year to add to my rotation. These well made and stylish off the rack suits and separates formed the backbone of my work uniform. With dress pants in seasonal weights and business colors and basic solid skirts and dresses, I was able to use suit jackets as separates. I typically wore a beautiful silk or cotton blouse, pearls or a a gold necklace comprised of 3 tiered chains, my diamond stud earrings, and wing-tip style pumps. I often accessorized with a striking silk scarf from my budding collection.

During my tenure in corporate headquarters in a high profile national sales and support position, I began to wear more expensive, custom made skirt suits, with a collection of silk ties. After exercising one batch of stock options, I bought myself an amazing fur coat which I wore daily in the Massachusetts winters. As a joke, my product development team gave me a mink necktie (shown in the photo) after we completed an important project.

A collection of small ties for women, especially made in the 1980s to be worn with business suits. Many of mine came from Jos. A. Bank, which sold women's business clothing at that time (I owned several suits and many shirts and ties from them). Also, typical shoes I wore to work: the oxblood wingtip pumps with suits and ties, the red pumps on "power" days, the low heeled shoes after I moved to the west coast.
When I moved "inside" again, into corporate software development, I continued with my business suits except on casual Fridays, and transitioned into more striking "power dresses" that allowed me to express my personal style a bit more. This was possible only after I mastered dealing with and rebuffing the sexual harassment that was part of the experience of most professional women, and certainly a routine hassle in my work environments.

circa 1983-1984 in bespoke suit and awful perm • power dressing circa 1986-1987 • casually elegant silk dress with pearls and lower heeled pumps in 1988-1989.
By 1988, I was a working mother, and my life changed drastically. A great need for quick and easy, yet professional, clothing developed. Fortunately, it coincided with my move from the Boston area to San Francisco, where the dress code was relaxed.

By late 1989, I was working for myself, and had transitioned to a working wardrobe of oversized tops with leggings, or jeans and t-shirts, except for important meetings when my professional wardrobe continued to serve me well. My life, including demanding professional commitments, was organized around my daughter's needs, so I jettisoned my fashionable ways and began to dress nicely in comfortable, flexible clothing that was tasteful, but more appropriate to a classroom or the Pacific Athletic Club (where we spent many hours a week) than to a boardroom. My work was done using computers and networks (28.8K modems were to die for!), so I only needed to dress up for occasional meetings or travel.

I hope to add to this post with photos from my years in the 1990s wearing coordinated leggings with oversized tops that I bought at the City Lights outlet store, south of Market in San Francisco, when I find such photos. I loved that stuff; it looked good, used quality fabrics, and was modest and stylish for the time.

In recent years, leggings have made a comeback and are worn with more flattering and stylish tunics than were available in the 1990s. My favorite recent acquisitions are the excellent leggings by matty m. that are carried by Costco (and cost less than online, plus offer more colors, in the stores).

Far more expensive, but versatile and much more comfortable at home on the coast in Hawaii, plus for traveling, are these skirted leggings from Eileen Fisher. It's a great update to the 1990s leggings look! Shown here with a light jersey scoop neck T-shirt by Splendid and a graduated jade bead necklace from Macy's, it's easy to add a variety of jackets, cardigans, tunics, shoes, scarves, shawls, and jewelry to change this basic set of sublayers on a daily basis.

Back to the Auction:

Had I known about and attended the auction online, I would have paid more for both Janice Wainwright lots from Suzy Menke's collection than they actually commanded.

In another future post (thread number two), I'll feature those two Janice Wainwright pieces that were auctioned, and speculate about those two that didn't make it into my wardrobe.