Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Wear Your Basics with Attitude

wearing the basics

Generation X Uniform

The jeans and a t-shirt / sweatshirt combo was practically a uniform when I was a teenager, worn by my peers everywhere, from school to holidays and family gatherings. Of course, back then we didn't call these items 'basics', let alone normcore (the snappy name coined by Millennial hipsters to sell it off as something trendy). But the idea was the same: nondescript clothing that could be worn by anyone, anywhere. Sort of stealth wear that allows you to blend in, chameleon-like. Of course, wearing basics can also make you fade into the background, as if you were wearing an invisibility cloak...

Hmm, given that Generation X is sometimes described as the grumpy, invisible middle child squashed between an over-achieving go-getter older sibling and a needy attention-junkie younger sibling, maybe the invisibility cloak isn't such a bad analogy...


Generation X grew up wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and this 'uniform' became sort of a second skin: so natural you didn't even think about it. Our parents thought it was sloppy, as if we couldn't be bothered to dress up. And they were probably right.

But then again, Generation X probably didn't bother to make much of an effort to meet other people's expectations, about dressing up or life in general. Because, well, what was the point? Our parents were too caught up in the drama of their own lives or just too busy 'finding themselves' to pay much attention to us, never mind what we did or didn't do.

This of course gave us more freedom from parental and societal control than any generation before or after us has ever dreamed of. As a result, we learned that you can get away with a lot if you pretend that you don't give a shit about other people's expectations. Sure, you may get called a 'slacker', or something to that effect, every now and then. But if you shrug it off with that trademark devil-may-care attitude, people simply think that you're just being  blazé or incredibly cool.

Never mind...

Anyway, the Generation X version of normcore / basics was always heavily accessorised with attitude. And, of course,  with the sarcasm that has come to symbolise this generation of obnoxiously self-relient children, so accustomed to doing their own thing without asking for advice or permission, and without explaining or apologising for it.

So, this is what I'm doing here: accessorising my basics with attitude. And with some colour and skulls and leopard print... Yes, I may be wearing just boring basics but I do it with style. Whatever.

All I'm saying is: wear your Generation X uniform with attitude, sarcasm optional...

Breton top over 40
trench coat over 40

Outfit details:
Breton top: Jigsaw / scarf: Alexander McQueen / jeans: Next / bag: Furla / 
shoes: Clarks / sunglasses: Dolce and Gabbana / Trench coat: Hobbs
location: Paddington Basin, London

How do you wear your basics?


Sunday, 24 April 2016

April Showers Bring... Sleet?!?

40+ rain wear

April Showers Bring May Flowers...

Unless you're in Finland. Then April showers may just as well mean snow and sleet... That's what happened when these pictures were taken: it was snowing rather than raining, but at least the snow, or sleet, seemed to melt as soon as it hit the ground. For the most part at least.

Anyway, I was really glad I hadn't packed away this down jacket yet, along with my other winter wear. And now I think I might just keep it around, just in case. If I remember correctly, there were a few really cold days in early June last year...

Marimekko sateenvarjo
Burberry bag

So, this is mixing spring clothes with winter wear, sort of... 

It was 6ºC / 43ºF, and I believe in dressing for the weather.  I was happy with my choice of outerwear, but when it started raining, or snowing, I wished I'd had shoes that were more appropriate for sleet (in case you're lucky enough to live somewhere with a milder climate and are therefore not familiar with various types of snow: sleet is wet snow, or something disgustingly wet that is not quite rain nor quite snow). Oh well, maybe we're lucky and the weather will change soon...

marimekko umbrella

Outfit details:
down jacket: Beaumont / trousers: Marks and Spencer / shoes: Clarks / 
umbrella: Marimekko / bag : Burberry (old) /scarf: Henry Bendel

Any April showers in your part of the world?


PS: There is a new DILETTANTE ARTIST post: a portrait of my husband

Linking up with: 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Fantasy Shopping: Summer Essentials

summer 2016 fashion

What do I need for summer?

A wardrobe full of clothes, and nothing to wear, we all have that problem from time to time. And we've all read those articles / blog posts telling us to sort out the old wardrobe, decide what to keep and what to toss. And then we should analyse what we need to buy in order to achieve that holy grail of practical fashionistas everywhere: the perfect capsule wardrobe.

Yada yada yada, blaah, blaah, blaah...

I have to confess: I only sort out my wardrobe(s) when I can't find anything in there anymore... Maybe once a year, maybe less often.

And, even if I say so myself, I am the queen of capsule wardrobes. I seem to be rotating (and mixing and matching) 20 or so seasonally appropriate items for a few weeks at a time. And when the season changes, I gradually move on to another set of 20 or so odd items. I don't plan these 'capsules': I usually create a few outfits around the favourite piece of the moment. And then I just end up always going for the same pieces until I get tired of them and move on to something else. Hmm, perhaps it's because I have been living out of a suitcase most of my life, if not always literally, then in spirit.

The Zen of Wardrobe 

'Living-out-of-a-suitcase' is a mental state, achieved only as a result of sheer laziness and circumstances*.
* Laziness: when life gets hectic, it's just easier to rotate a limited number of pieces so that you can focus your mental energies on something other (e.g. work, or whatever is making you busy) than thinking about clothes.
Circumstances: when you have two homes (and two wardrobes) in two different countries, your clothes/shoes/bags/whatever are always in the wrong country anyway,  and you just learn to make do with whatever you've got available.
In other words, you cannot consciously 'work' towards it, and no amount of meditation or analysis will help you achieve it. At least not the kind of zen I'm talking about: when your life is in constant transit, you need clothes that travel well and weigh nothing. And you need to be able to get dressed or pack a suitcase in 5 minutes flat, and by simply pulling out the first thing in your wardrobe. As a result you realise that you really can manage with whatever fits in that suitcase, for several weeks if need be. It may not be perfect, but life seldom is, so...

However, there are items that my mix-and-match-travelling-capsule-wardrobe still needs: comfortable summer dresses and light cover-ups, and a coat that is perfect for all sorts of weather (well, that probably doesn't exist...).

So, after a feeble, and purely theoretical, attempt at analysing the contents of my yet unsorted wardrobe(s), I've come to the conclusion that what you see (or something similar) in the picture, is what I need (read: 'want') for summer:

  • A couple if easy-peasy summer dresses that keep me comfortable when it gets really hot, and a linen shirt to wear over them to protect me from the burning sun. Of course, I have a few summer dresses, and I have linen shirts... But I want a dress that is fitted yet loose enough to be comfortable when it gets hot (I hate those sack dresses shops are full of: they make me look twice my size. And the super-fitted, belted sun dresses are just sheer torture when it gets hot). And there's always room for another linen shirt, maybe in a bright colour... 
  • A parka for rainy days is a must. Yes, rainy, chilly summer days are inevitable both in Finland and in the U.K. And never mind how many coats I have, a waterproof parka (with proper lining and a hood) is something that I always seem to be missing.

Hmm, it just might be that this queen of capsule wardrobes will have to go shopping, with a list, no less. How boring... My usual shopping strategy is this: have some time to kill, go browsing, see something you like, buy it.

Or maybe I should just sort out that wardrobe first: it seems to be bursting, who knows what sort of gremlins are lurking in there...

What are you going to get for summer?


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Take Two: The Purple Trench

smart casual over 40

This trench, the shoes, the bag and the trousers were all part of  my capsule wardrobe for a 3-day trip to Barcelona (part 1 and part 2) a few weeks ago. However, I never wore the olive trousers and the trench together (although I had planned to do so).

So, I wanted to recreate the look for a Saturday afternoon in London a couple of weeks ago. Let's call this Travel Capsule Wardrobe Bonus Post, shall we?

I also wanted to see what the blue/green scarf would look like with the purple trench. I've worn the scarf with the same trench in blue (yes, bulk buying again,,,) before, and I wanted a bit more contrast here as far as the colours are concerned.

And I'm test-driving the necklace I bought in Barcelona. It was one of those impulse buys: see something, try it on, buy it, all in less than 5 minutes, without a clue of what to wear it with.

purificacion garcia necklace

Outfit details:
trench coat: Hobbs / scarf: Shanghai Tang / trousers: Marks and Spencer / top: Primark / 
bag: Furla / sunglasses: Coach / shoes: Van Dal / necklace: Purification Garcia

How do you wear your trench coat?


PS: There is a new DILETTANTE ARTIST post: a portrait of my husband


Friday, 15 April 2016

Bad Tourist's Barcelona


I wanted to share a few photos from my trip to Barcelona with you. 

I have been to Barcelona at last once or twice a year for the past 10 years, and I've also blogged about it on more than one occasion (see my previous blog posts on food, shopping, sightseeing, street art etc. HERE). But I still find something new and interesting to see every time I visit this wonderful city.

Why do I keep going back to Barcelona, then, instead of finding new places to explore? I always love going back to places that I already know well. There are favourite shops and restaurants, familiar streets and buildings. It gives me a sense of belonging, and I value that much more than exploring a completely new place.

I know, it may sound odd, but life is often quite hectic, and on top of that either my husband or I commute between Finland and the U.K. every week. That's a lot of travelling, way too much time spent in crowded airports and rushing to catch the train etc. So, it's probably no surprise that navigating an unfamiliar place with lots of new information to process is the last thing we want to do on holiday. No, the best way for us to relax is to go somewhere where we can just sort of pick up where we left off on our last visit. This may partly explain our 'annual migrating pattern' of visiting our favourite destinations.

But today the focus is on Barcelona. More specifically, Barcelona at Easter (yes, it was a very short trip: just 3 days...). Obviously, Easter Sunday and Monday were public holidays, so Saturday was the only shopping day. And many museums, galleries and attractions were either closed or very crowded. So, what can you do in Barcelona, then?

modernist architecture

Architecture and Design

Art Nouveau, or modernisme as they call it in Catalan, is everywhere in Barcelona. And I'm not talking about the famous buildings designed by Gaudi; there are plenty of beautiful buildings by less well-known architects to see. These buildings may not be featured in books and travel guides, but that doesn't make them any less impressive. Quite the contrary: instead of museums frozen in time, these are buildings that people still live in. If that isn't evidence of the longevity of art and the enduring appeal of design, I don't know what is.

art nouveau architecture

Street Art

Barcelona is like a living, breathing outdoor art exhibition: modernist art, pop art and street art happily co-exist, making Barcelona an inspiring place to visit for anyone interested in art and design.

I love the huge Roy Lichtenstein sculpture on the seafront:

Barcelona street art

And then there is street art: from graffiti and wall art to shop shutters:
(see my post on shop shutters from last year HERE)

street art
shop shutters
Barcelona shop shutters

I can't wait for my next visit, in June. I'm sure there's still a lot to see in Barcelona.


I hope you enjoyed the tour.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Take Two: The Graphic T-Shirt Goes Casual

casual puffa over 40

I like my new Custo Barcelona top (which you saw in my previous post, too), and the denim skirt I first showed you a few weeks ago. So, of course I had to see what they would look like together. I think it's a good match, isn't it?

You're wondering about my choice of outerwear here?

These pictures were taken in Helsinki, Finland last weekend. It was +8ºC / 46ºF, which is normal for this time of year but not exactly warm. 

So, when can we expect spring? Well, this is spring: all the snow is gone, the migrating birds are back, and the days are getting longer. It's just a matter of time before everything is green again and the weather gets warmer. Or not. 

Yes, weather can be quite unpredictable here... And it may take a while before we can enjoy summer temperatures. In fact, I can remember quite a few very cold summer days, in early June... To be fair, I can also remember a few early June heatwaves. 

So, how can we tell when it's finally summer if the weather is so unreliable? It's very simple: the Finnish word for June (kesäkuu) has the word summer (= kesä) in it. So, come June, it must be summer, never mind the weather...

Outfit details:
down jacket: Beaumont / top: Custo Barcelona / skirt: KappAhl / 
bag: Chanel / shoes: Clarks (old) / sunglasses: Dolce and Gabbana

When does spring start in your neck of the woods?


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Can a Graphic T-Shirt Do Smart Casual?

graphic tee over 40

There's one thing I almost always do when I visit Barcelona: buy a new Custo Barcelona t-shirt. Of course, they are available in many shops around the world or online, but I find it nice to stop by a shop, or two, to see the styles not available online. And it's a bonus if there's a sale, like this time.

So, now the question is, how to style this top. The obvious answer would be wearing it with jeans, but I wanted to do something different.

Now, super casual style doesn't appeal to me any more than formal style does, so I'm trying to find a sort of a happy compromise. That elusive blending of casual and smart elements that makes you look well put-together but down-to-earth at the same time, that's the goal.

Rebecca Minkoff minibag

I decided to wear wide-leg trousers and patent leather shoes to put more 'smart' in smart casual. And then I added my new Rebecca Minkoff minibag and an old pair of Prada sunglasses to give the outfit a bit of a luxury edge.

Outfit details:
top: Custo Barcelona / trousers: Marks and Spencer / bag: Rebecca Minkoff / 
sunglasses: Prada / shoes: Clarks

How do you wear graphic t-shirts?


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Travel in Style: part 2

40+ casual

Mixing and Matching

This outfit is another example of my '3-day mix and match travel capsule wardrobe' for Barcelona. You've seen the shoes, the bag and the scarf worn together with jeans and the purple trench. And I could just wear the purple trench instead of the cardigan with this outfit. Or I could wear the cardigan with the jeans and a Breton top.

That's the point of a capsule wardrobe: you can mix and match everything, so you're always dressed to suit both the weather and your mood. And the best part is that putting together a capsule wardrobe is really simple: just start with the outerwear (coat / jacket / cardigan), shoes and a bag in your chosen colours and then add a few tops and trousers to match.

pattern mixing

We took these photos on the little patio of the hotel we were staying at in Barcelona at Easter. The patio was adjacent to the hotel restaurant, so guests could enjoy breakfast or dinner al fresco. There was also a pool and some lounge chairs for sunbathing, but it was still a bit too cold for that in March.


Orange and Olive

These two colours are quite rare in my wardrobe, so I'm getting a bit out of my comfort zone here. Yes, I know: I tend to hang on to my comfort zone for dear life, so it's about time to experiment a bit. So, orange (or rather its softer cousins peach and coral) and olive, in small doses, are the new additions to my wardrobe this spring.

50+ fashion

Outfit details:
trousers and t-shirt: Marks and Spencer / cardigan: Banana Republic / bag: Furla /
shoes: Van Dal / sunglasses: Dolce and Gabbana / scarf: Global Accessories

Are you trying out any 'new' colours this spring?


PS: There's a fabulous new DILETTANTE ARTIST post out, too...

Dilettante Artist

Linking up with: 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Travel in Style: part 1

travel capsule wardrobe

The weather and the colour scheme, 

These are the two things I think about when packing for a short trip, such as my recent 3-day trip to Barcelona over Easter. This time I decided to travel light: only cabin luggage. A challenge? Not really. I'm a frequent traveller as I have homes in two countries, but above all I'm both busy and lazy and can't be bothered to think about packing too much.

Of course, I always check the temperature at my destination, but I plan for some surprises, too. For instance, if the temperature is supposed to be around 15 ºC (59 ºF), I pack clothes suitable for weather around 12-20 ºC (53-68 ºF).  And before you can say 'layering', let me remind you that I refuse to wear more than two layers (= a top and a coat), never mind the temperature.

As far as the colour scheme goes, I decide which bag and coat I want to wear first, and the rest of the colour scheme sort follows from that. On this trip I wanted to wear the purple trench I bought at the sales a few months ago and my new coral bag.

So, what works with purple and coral? Other than neutrals, that is. I don't do beige. Or brown. Or any of the other 'muddy' colours, for that matter. OK, I actually packed a pair of olive trousers for this trip, but that's as far as I go with neutrals. They just don't do it for me. In fact, they either make me look sick or fade into the wall, neither of which is very appealing. 

But, Breton stripes work with anything, and navy and blue combo is practically a neutral, at least for someone with my natural colouring. So, I packed two long-sleeved stripy t-shirts. 

And the short-sleeved Breton top you see here? I bought it in Barcelona... I swear I didn't go looking for it, honest. It found me, and it was love at first sight. Did I mention the t-shirt is very light, and made of linen? Oh, I also bought this beautiful silk / wool pashmina in Barcelona...

pattern mixing
pattern mixing

But, back to packing... I always start with the bulkiest pieces:

the coat, the shoes and the bag that I would be wearing both on the plane and once in my destination. These items just take up too much luggage space, so there are no back-up options. Besides,  I want to leave some space in my luggage for the inevitable shopping I will be doing in my destination.

A short trench goes with anything

I choose a (seasonally appropriate) coat that goes with every piece of clothing I plan to pack and works in every situation. In spring the trench coat is the obvious choice, but in summer it could be a light jacket. I prefer a shorter trench coat when travelling as it is easier to fit into the aircraft overhead locker or fold over a chair in a restaurant. Or carry folded over your arm when the weather suddenly gets warmer.

Spring can a bit tricky because it may be cold enough for a coat in the evening but much warmer during the day. So, I often take a cardigan, too. I suppose  a jacket would do the trick just as well, but a cardigan packs and travels better. So, if I travel with cabin luggage only, a cardigan it is. I'll show you an outfit with the cardigan I packed later in another post.


Two pairs of shoes 

Two pairs of shoes is the maximum if I travel with cabin luggage only. And it goes without saying that the shoes I plan to wear on the plane must be easy to take off at the security control... I suppose I could manage a 3-day trip with just one pair of shoes, but I think it's better for the feet to change the shoes, especially if you walk a lot.

It sounds simple, just 2 pairs of shoes, but this time of the year I also have to think about how I'm going to get to the airport from home. This time my journey started in Finland, where the temperature is still quite a bit colder than in Barcelona. Most people would suggest taking a taxi, and a year ago that's exactly what I would have done. But now there's a direct train connection almost literally from my front door to the airport, it takes all of ten minutes...

So, if I can just manage to get to the platform without getting knee-deep in snow, I'll be fine (as I've already had the flu twice this year, I'm not going to risk getting a cold by getting my feet wet). Fortunately, the weather seems to finally get a bit warmer, so most of the snow was gone the day I left, and a pair of shoes with thick soles was all I needed.

Thick soles also come in handy in my destination as I expect to do a lot of walking. Yes, Barcelona has excellent public transportation, but walking around more or less aimlessly is what Professor M and I call 'sightseeing'. So, good walking shoes are a must. And no, I don't need shoes for 'going out'. All our lunches and dinners tend to be in places with a rather relaxed dress code, or we might even resort to the hotel room service. After a day of shopping and sightseeing both of us are often quite happy to rest in the hotel. Does that mean we're getting old? Who cares: what's the point of booking a nice hotel if you're not going to enjoy what it has to offer?

A crossbody bag is a must

I often take two bags with me when I travel: a small(ish) shoulder bag and a tote. But I would advise anyone going to Barcelona to just leave the tote at home. And I think a crossbody bag is the most sensible choice for many reasons. Yes, it gives you the freedom of movement etc. But that's not the reason why it's the best, or maybe even the only bag suitable for Barcelona,

Now, I don't often give advice (because I think everybody knows what's best for them, and my ideas, as brilliant as they may be, might not work for somebody else). But now I want you to take this to heart and just believe me: Barcelona is the pickpockets' paradise. And it's not just pickpockets you have to worry about but bag snatchers, too. So, to make sure your valuables are safe, you'd  better attach them to your body one way or another.

crossbody bag

And the rest is just filling in the gaps

What do you really need for a 3-day trip? There's some sightseeing, shopping, restaurant hopping... That's 4 t-shirts (2 with short sleeves and  2 with long-sleeves to allow for some changeable weather) and two pairs of trousers. A scarf or two (or three, who cares: they take practically no space in your luggage) and two pairs of sunglasses, maybe a necklace or two. Of course, all of the above can be mixed and matched and should work with the coat, bag and shoes. Well, that's the plan anyway...

What did I actually pack? And what did I wear?

My travel outfit was a pashmina over a long-sleeved t-shirt, and the jeans, trench coat, crossbody bag and burgundy shoes you see in this post.

And this is what I was wearing over the 3 days: a trench coat, a cardigan, jeans, a pair of light-weight olive trousers, a long-sleeved Breton top, 2 short-sleeved t-shirts, two pairs of sunglasses, 3 scarves, 2 pairs of shoes, a necklace, a crossbody bag.

What I had packed but didn't wear: a pair of navy trousers, a skirt, 2 short-sleeved t-shirts.
And what I bought while there: a short-sleeved linen t-shirt, a pashmina, a necklace, a long-sleeved t-shirt.

So, did I overpack? Of course I did! I like to have some options. Besides, t-shirts and scarves take up hardly any space, and it is easy to fit several pairs of trousers or  skirts in cabin luggage. And I had some space left for my shopping, too.

capsule wardrobe

Outfit details:
trench coat: Hobbs / bag: Furla / necklace : vintage via Hirst Antiques
metal-frame sunglasses: Cutler and Gross / leopard print sunglasses: Dolce and Gabbana / 
floral pashmina: Carolina Herrera / linen scarf: Global Accessories / 
short-sleeved linen Breton top: Caroll / long-sleeved Breton top: Jigsaw 
burgundy shoes: Clarks / gold shoes: Van Dal / 

What are your must-haves when packing for a short break?

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