Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Jeans and a Tweed Jacket

denim and tweed over 40

The tweed jacket is back...

And this time it looks relaxed and casual paired with my old pair of Levi's. I actually have two pairs of jeans, but this is the pair I wear. When I wear jeans, that is. Which isn't very often.

Anyway, I like my jeans straight-cut or boot-cut, narrow but not too tight. So, no skinny jeans... Let's just say that skinny jeans were not designed with girls like me in mind (look up the dictionary definition of 'thunder thighs' if you need clarification...)

Still, every now and then I toy with the idea of buying some new jeans, but I usually change my mind after a few sweaty and uncomfortable moments in the fitting room.

You know what I'm talking about: when you're trying to squeeze into something that was obviously not meant to contain your ample curves. And would require you to walk on stilts. I mean, roll-ups are fine, but there's only so much you can roll up... And even if you somehow manage to get the damned garment pushed past your thighs, the waistline is gaping so much you could carry your grocery shopping there...

So, looking at yourself in the mirror, trying to make some sense out of the whole situation, you come to the oddly logical conclusion that somehow you've ended up in a parallel universe: you know, the one inhabited by anorexic giraffes... except for you, of course: the last of the almost extinct, oddly shaped breed of Hobbits...

40+ blogger

Such an experience can be soul-destroying and confidence-sapping, and can potentially lead to negative body image. So, it is understandable that I'm not too keen to put myself through that particular ordeal.

For now, I've decided to reconsider new jeans only if and when skinny jeans finally disappear from the face of the earth and / or designers finally acknowledge that some women have -gasp- hips that are significantly wider than their waists...

You may consider this rant the unavoidable side effect of  fitting room anxiety...

statement necklace

I am wearing:
Jeans: Levi's Bold Curve (old) / top: Sand/ 
tweed jacket: Andiata (seen before HERE , HERE and HERE) / 
 necklace: Fenwick / bag and sunglasses: Chanel

Do you find it difficult to find jeans that flatter your body type?


Saturday, 25 April 2015

How to wear colour: part 1/3

choose your best colours

"This is your colour"

That's what my students said to me when they handed me some fuchsia roses...
My colour? Maybe... I had worn a fuchsia dress, a sweater and a berry / orchid scarf to work. But I had also worn other colours. Well, blue, mostly... My point is, of all the outfits I had worn, on those 7 evenings that they saw me, they remembered the 3 in various shades of dark pink...

How about this: under 'Popular Posts' on the sidebar of this blog, there are 5 posts. I'm wearing something pink, fuchsia or berry /radiant orchid in most of them...

In a way, red has always been my go-to colour, but it never occurred to me that other people would think of a particular colour or shade as 'my colour'. Of course I know that pink, fuchsia, magenta - the cooler shades of red - suit me. But so do the warmer shades of blue and purple.

high contrast colors

How do you determine which colours suit you?

It's all about your natural colouring. There are many methods to examine your natural colouring, all of them a bit confusing. For instance, you can try to determine which 'season' you are: a warm-toned autumn or spring, or a cool-toned winter or summer. It's not so easy, and it may just be that you are not just one season but a mix of two, or more. Or you can try to determine whether your skin has cool or warm undertones, by looking at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Apparently, blue veins mean your skin has cool undertones whereas green veins mean warm undertones... OK, so far so good, but what if your veins are sort of blueish greenish, or some of them are blue and some seem more green...

OK, Let's cut through this bullshit and do my test: take two shades of red, one clearly more orange (= has yellow in it) and the other a bit more pink (= has blue in it). Which one looks better on you?

Aha! So, if the more orange-red looks better, you probably suit warmer colours? And if the more pink-red makes your skin glow, stick to cooler colours?

Not so fast... Because the shade of red that suits you says absolutely nothing about the shade of blue, or green, or purple you should be wearing...

But the method still works: now, do the same with other primary colours (= red, blue, yellow) and secondary colours (= orange, purple, green). Do you look better in warm blue (= has more yellow in it, i.e. greenish shades of blue) or cool blue (= has more red in it, i.e. purple/violet-blue)?

This is how I found that while the cooler shades of red (pink, fuchsia, magenta) suit me well, cooler shades of blue (violet-blue) do not. And this is exactly what you see in the photo below: a cool shade of red (hot pink) on the left (original post) and a warm shade of blue (original post) on the right. And if I continue, I get cool shades of green (=blue-green, teal) and warm shades of purple (=red-purple, i.e. radiant orchid) as some of my best colours. And yellow and orange? Well, I would not wear either (cool or warm shades), they just do me no favours. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't work as accent colours...

your best colours

Wait a minute, aren't these more or less the colours often described as jewel tones? Oh yes they are. Jewel tones are perfect for anyone with medium-contrast skin tone.

High contrast or low contrast?

When choosing your best colours, you have to also consider your hair colour and the colour of your eyes. More importantly, the contrast between your skin tone and hair and eyes.

I'm going to use myself as an example here. OK, so, what's the first thing you notice?
I'm pale. Really, really pale. I have skin that burns when it just feels the slightest touch of sun... Yet, I have dark hair. Brown hair, not black. Medium brown, not dark brown. Warmer brown (chestnut, i.e. it has some natural red / yellow tones in it) rather than cool brown... So, the contrast between my hair colour and my skin tone is not as high as, say, Elizabeth Taylor's (a good example of high contrast).

And my eyes? Well, they're sort of blueish / greenish grey, sort of diluted blue...

So, the contrast between my eyes and my skin tone is low. But the contrast between my eyes and my hair colour is high.

But what does all this have to do with discovering my best colours?

Let me tell you a little story. There is a wonderful shop in Chinatown in San Francisco which sells Chinese silk jackets, among other things. Really nice ones, too, not just the traditional type but very modern and trendy styles. Anyway, I was there a few years ago, looking for a silk jacket. They had such lovely colours: hot pink and purple... and I didn't buy anything. Why? Well, I did try on both the hot pink and the purple (or perhaps in this case we should call it violet) one. It was a hell of a lot of hot pink, is all I can say... I wasn't wearing the colour, the colour was wearing me. Hell, the colour was drowning me, then wiping the floor with me... Yet, it would have looked perfect on the black-haired, olive-skinned sales assistant. So unfair, right?

It's not just the colour but the intensity of the colour that matters.


Once you have discovered the colours that suit you best, you have to determine the range of shades in those colours you can wear. Think about for example pink: from the lightest, barely there blush to the darkest, deepest magenta... My guess is you don't suit all of those shades. I certainly don't.

medium contrast colors

Let's look at the high vs low contrast. I have medium contrast skin-tone, so mid-tones suit me best. These are shades that are not too dark nor too light. The middle-of-the-road shades, so to speak. I can wear (some) brights (e.g. tomato red), but usually slightly muted tones work better. Again, this has everything to do with my natural colouring; someone with a more olive skin tone can get away with a lot brighter and / or darker shades than me.

how to choose colour

 What you see in the picture above is a very saturated colour (original post), but it doesn't overwhelm me. And in the picture below you see a much lighter shade (original post), but it still provides enough contrast next to my skin. And this is about as light a shade as I would wear. Anything paler probably blends too much into my skin tone and makes me look a bit... blaah.

best colors

And how do you determine which shades of a particular colour suit you? Well, you have to see what it looks like on you, really. There are no shortcuts, I'm afraid... As you can see, I'm a firm believer in learning-by-doing.

So, it's a process of trial-and-error, pretty much, determining which colours suit you best. And when you do discover your best colours, people will notice, I guarantee that.

However,  no colour exists in a vacuum but is enhanced or subdued by other colours around it. But, are all colours equal or are some colours more equal than others when it comes to combining them?

But that is a topic for another post...

What are your best colours?


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

On Playing Matchy Matchy and Bad Hair Days...

Hobbs trench

Yes, we all know I like blue...

But is this too much blue? Is there such a thing as too much blue?

This coat is the exact same colour as the blue in the skirt, so I just had to put together a smart-casual outfit inspired by that 60's matchy-matchy look. You know: a dress or a skirt in the same colour as the coat, with perfectly colour-coordinated accessories. I've always loved that look. It's so put-together and polished, and usually comes with flawless make up and perfect hair...

trench coat

Ah, perfect hair...

My pet grievance... Yes, I know, we all want to change something about our bodies, and we should stop it because it's not healthy and we really should accept our bodies as they are etc etc...

Let me just say that as someone who has been at war with her hair her entire life, what I really would like to have is perfect hair. The sort of well-behaved, low-maintenance hair that always looks good, and done, like Diane Lockhart's in The Good Wife...Yes, that's my idea of the perfect hair. And I will never have hair like that, never mind what I do. And yes, I know that sort of hair takes some work, too.

clarks shoes

I've had more or less the same hairstyle my entire life, and that's not going to change. But I can get a new haircut, you say, maybe a fringe, or a pixie cut even... Been there, done that. My mother was a hairdresser, there's very little that hasn't been done to my hair. And yet, it always looks the same.

That's the curse of curly hair: you can try to change it, but it will always have the last word. You may want the side part on the right, your hair wants it on the left... you may want to try a short hairstyle... and you end up looking like a cartoon character whose hair stands up, literally... As I said: been there, done that.

What you usually see in my photos is my hair after it has been blow-dried into submission, i.e. the curly mess tamed into looser waves. On a good day it looks decent. Not polished, or done, but OK. But there is no such thing as a good hair day: as soon as I step outdoors, my hair reacts to the elements. There is 'windy day hair' (= a mess), 'rainy day hair (= a very curly mess), and the' hot and humid day hair´ (remember that episode of Friends when Monica's hair got huge because of humidity?)...

Jigsaw skirt

I'm wearing:
trench: Hobbs / skirt: Jigsaw (old) / shoes: Clarks / bag: Chanel / sunglasses: Prada (old)

How do you feel about being matchy-matchy?
And, more importantly, what do you do when you're having a bad hair day? 
Please tell me you have bad hair days, too...


Saturday, 18 April 2015

A Very Sophisticated Pencil Skirt...

L.K.Bennett skirt

A pencil skirt and a tucked-in blouse...

I'm having a bit of a Mad Men moment here, combining this lace overlay skirt (which you saw with a trench coat in my last post) with a sleeveless blouse (instead of my usual choice of a t-shirt).

I sort of like this little top (and I've worn it on the blog before, with trousers), especially with the skirt. It makes the outfit look a bit more polished and sophisticated, and that's exactly what I'd like to see my style evolve into. Hmm, maybe I should wear shirts and blouses more often...

how to wear lace over 40

It's just that I have this aversion to ironing... 

To be honest, I can't quite remember were we keep the iron, and it seems such a waste of time, really. Think about it, all those interesting activities you could be engaged in instead of ironing... 

Such as what, you ask? 

Well, that's not really important, is it? The point is, ironing is so boring, and I'd rather watch paint dry...

But let's move on to something more interesting: shoes.

Michael Kors bag

Yes, this is what passes for heels in my world...

Michael Kors bag

I'm serious, I won't wear anything higher. I need to feel comfortable, and I walk a lot.

Still,  doesn't every woman have a few pairs of fun shoes, or 'sitting down' shoes, limousine shoes, whatever you want to call them? For those times when we just need to walk from the door to the car?

Well, I don't have a car (as I'm such a terrible driver, it's probably safer for everybody), neither does my husband (I promised not to say a word about his driving skills...) and there are no limousines picking me up either. So, yes, I walk, or take the bus / train, and I need shoes that are meant for walking.

Besides, I'm a fundamentally practical person, and as such I see no point in having shoes that are for decoration only.

pencil skirt

I am wearing: 
skirt: L.K Bennett /  top: Kappahl / poncho: Marja Kurki (similar) / bag: Michael Kors (old) / 
sunglasses: Prada (old) / shoes: Hotter Comfort Concept

What about you, do you iron your clothes? 
And where do you stand on comfortable shoes?


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A trench, a skirt, a t-shirt...

L.K.Bennett skirt

A mix of old and new...

It's spring, and I can finally wear my trusty old Burberry trench (featured before HERE and HERE) again. This coat is perfect: it goes with just about anything. And to prove that I'm going to mix it with a few brand new items today: a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pencil skirt.

mixed prints over 40

Hang on... it's  a blue and white Breton-stripe t-shirt... We've seen this before. Many times.

I know. That's what my husband / photographer said, too, when I showed him what I'd found, after several hours' of shopping in London...

I guess we can conclude that I suck at shopping...

Or, we can take a more positive view and say that I prefer to stick to classics...

trench coat

Old habits die hard etc...

Still, I'm being a bit reckless here, breaking some of my own rules. You know how much I hate clothes that need to be dry-cleaned, and yet, I bought the skirt I had deemed totally impractical...

What can I say? Every now and then you need to get a showstopper piece...

Of course, only time will tell whether it will become a favourite, but now I'm trying to come up with a few more outfits to justify such an extravagant purchase...

I'm wearing:
trench coat: Burberry (old) / Breton stripe t-shirt: Jigsaw / lace pencil skirt: L.K.Bennett / bag and sunglasses: Chanel / shoes: Clarks (old)

How about you, are you good at shopping?


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Breton Stripes and an A-Line Denim Skirt


I'm trying something new here

Yes, I know, it's the same old Breton top, and I understand if you're tired of seeing it... but this look needs a blue and white Breton top, and it's way too cold for short sleeves... So, bear with me...

OK, so this is the look inspired by my mother's 1970's smart casual looks, but with a contemporary twist, and adapted to my style sensibilities.

70's inspired style

First we have the A-line denim skirt... 

That's a first for me. Actually, two firsts: a denim skirt, and an A-line skirt. Apart from this one, I only have pencil skirts. And I own two pairs of jeans, and a denim jacket that I hardly ever wear.

But when I saw this skirt in a shop window, I just had to try it on. And 10 minutes later it was on its way home with me.

Yes, that's how I do my clothes shopping: I see something I like, try it on quickly, pay and go. I hate looking for something ( I never find what I want). I still do it, but not very often. Lucky for me I have a lot of time to just browse in shops, and whenever I find something that I really like, I get it then and there because when I come back for it later, it probably won't be there anymore. Just to be clear: I don't buy new clothes every week, maybe not even every month...

So, here's my message to any fashion designers out there: look, over here, a woman more than willing to spend her hard-earned cash on beautiful outfits, why don't you have anything to offer her???

calf hair bag

Sorry, digressing here a bit...

So, the bag... well, it's old. I found it in my own closet when I was doing a half-hearted wardrobe detox. Which makes me think that maybe I should put a bit more effort into my spring cleaning; who knows what's lurking at the back of the closet?

And the pencil pendant? I found it in an second hand shop..., oops, a vintage shop in Alexandria (the one near Washington D.C.) a couple of years ago.

denim over 40

I'm wearing:
Breton stripe top: Banana Republic (old) / denim skirt: Cubus / bag: Adax (old) /
 shoes: Clarks (old) / sunglasses : Chanel (old) / silver pencil necklace: vintage

Do you plan your spring wardrobe shopping?
Or do you just see what's out there and see if it works?


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

My Mother, The Queen of Smart Casual

vintage smart casual

It's time for another Style Icon post...

looking for the roots of my sense of style, and my attitude towards clothes in general. This time I want to discuss smart casual, that elusive concept of dressing well while skillfully avoiding looking too formal or too casual. It's often quite a challenge, except for my always very stylish mother.

She could have invented smart casual: she always managed to look effortlessly elegant. You know, like the woman who looks like she just got up and put on the first thing she found, and just somehow manages to be the most elegant woman in the room... I'm sure you've met someone like that, we all have.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Leather Trench Coat

leather coat over 40

I love trench coats...

And this Belstaff leather coat must be at least 7-8 years old, but I still wear it, especially in spring. It's a bit warmer than your regular trench coat because it keeps the wind at bay. And that makes it a good transitional piece when a winter coat is getting a bit too warm but it's not quite trench coat weather yet.

black leather trench coat

In a way this coat reflects how I feel about shopping: when you buy a big ticket item (such as a coat, a bag, or a cashmere sweater) make sure to get something that will last forever and goes with anything. Thus, I would rather buy one very nice coat every few years than several trendy one-season wonders. And, as I need coats for 4 seasons, it is necessary to plan and budget anyway.
And when it comes to budgeting, I always tend to prioritise a warm winter coat. It's a simple game of numbers: the months of winter versus a few weeks of spring mean that I need a few more options for the colder months, if only to avoid going crazy wearing the same clothes all the time...

40+ blogger

I am wearing:
laether coat: Belstaff (old) / trousers: Marks and Spencer (old) / cardigan: Esprit / bag and sunglasses: Chanel / necklaces: L.K.Bennett and Andiata (old)

What's your spring outerwear choice?


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Accessory Love: Umbrella


Sod the rain...

I have a long, busy day ahead, and I need some colour to cheer me up. Whoever decided that all rain wear should be grey or black or any other dark, dull colour should be punished. I mean, isn't it bad enough that everything around is grey and soggy, do we also have to look as if we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders?


Actually, I started collecting colourful umbrellas for purely practical reasons. I thought if I had a nice umbrella, I would take better care of it.  As in, not lose it. Or forget to take it with me.

rain wear

I used to carry those basic, black umbrellas in each of my bags, but I had to keep replacing them all the time. Why? I kept losing them. For example, there was this one time when I just popped into a shopping centre... It was pouring with rain, so obviously I didn't put the wet umbrella into my bag. All I know is I didn't have it with me anymore when I left the shopping centre 10 minutes later. Yes, that's me, a scatterbrain...


More recently, I've started seeing umbrellas as accessories. Since I have quite a few, it's rather easy to pick one to either match my outfit or provide some contrast, depending on my mood. In a way an umbrella is the rainy day equivalent to sunglasses: it completes the outfit and gives it a little personal touch.

leopard print

turquoise umbrella: Marimekko / New York skyline umbrella: Liberty London (original post) / red and pink poppies umbrella: Marimekko (original post) / leopard print umbrella: Fenwick of Bond Street (original post)

Oh, don't forget to check out my cartoon self portrait (with a pink umbrella!) at the Dilettante Artist's Gallery...

And you, an umbrella or a raincoat, which one do you prefer?

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