Sunday, 29 May 2016

My Minimalist Pattern Mixing Challenge

pattern mixing over 40

How many patterns does this outfit have?

OK, we all know I'm a bit of minimalist... Or, at least I'm leaning more towards minimalism, preferring understatement and clean lines over in-your-face colour and print. 

So, it's probably no surprise that even when mixing colours and patterns I still want to remain true to my own style (clean lines, simple shapes, mixing brights with neutrals...), and I think I managed to do it quite well here. There were a few challenges, though.

stripes and flowers
pattern mixing summer
summer pattern mixing

The starting point was the skirt as I just fell in love with the print. Yes, I know, it's florals, but hey, even I try something new every now and then... Actually, I fell in love with a dress with this print (unfortunately sold out online) but when I tried it on, it didn't work as the waistline was bit too high for me (I'm quite long-waisted). So, I tried on the skirt, and had a lovely surprise. I was able to go a size smaller than usual! That's solely because I could choose a size fitting my waist; with this style I didn't have to try and squeeze my bum into the skirt...

But the skirt also presented a challenge

It's (mostly) white, not exactly the best colour for someone as pale as me. And forget fake tan (let alone real tan), this pale girl is fine the way she is. But I also knew that adding some colour to the outfit couldn't hurt.

So, I tried the skirt with a number of bright tops, and decided that I needed something that didn't contrast so much with the skirt. Enter the trusty old Breton top. Navy and white stripes, that's practically a neutral, right? Well, as far as I'm concerned, Breton stripes go with anything...

And once I got started with mixing patterns, I just added my old Coach tote bag and my new Marimekko sunglasses...

So, that's four different patterns. Or five, if we count the shoes (Technically, they're perforated, not patterned...). That's quite a pattern mixing challenge for a minimalist, don't you think?

cat eye sunglasses
40+ pattern mixing

Outfit details:
skirt: Seasalt Cornwall / t-shirt: Zara / bag: Coach (old) / shoes: Gabor (old) / 
sunglasses: Marimekko / sun umbrella: James Smith & Sons

location: Suomenlinna, Helsinki
(Yes, I've used the same location before. It's less than fifteen minutes by ferry,
a great place for a day trip and there are some good restaurants...)

How do you mix patterns?


Friday, 27 May 2016

What's Your Style Personality?

how to wear a biker jacket 40+

I'm a bit bi-polar when it comes to style.

Not eclectic, or moody, or anything that would suggest mixing and matching influences. No, the only way I can describe it is 'sartorially bi-polar'...

It's as if I had two style personalities that take turns dominating my wardrobe choices. There's the casual preppy princess with her trench coats and Breton tops and then there's the rocker chick with her black leather and I-can't-be-bothered-to-put-together-a-look attitude. And lately it's the rocker chick who has been in charge...

casual outfit
Lancel bag

It's not a question of dressing up for work versus an off-duty look, as both style personalities can do casual and more formal (or perhaps we should call it 'smart casual' in this case) looks.

It's not a question of wanting to be visible or invisible, either. The preppy princess does not dress to impress other people any more than the rocker chick does. And the rocker chick definitely does not try to hide from the world. Quite the contrary: she flouts her minimal make-up and messy hair as if to say 'This is who I am, take it or leave it'.

So, what determines which style personality is in charge on a  given day?

It's simply a question of mood: some days I like that neat, minimalist look of classic, well-cut clothes and harmonious colour combinations. And I wouldn't dream of going out without first putting on (some) make-up and blow-drying my hair into submission to achieve a (slightly) more polished and sophisticated look.

And then there are days when I think wearing make up and doing my hair is such a drag or total waste of time. But I still choose the bag and the sunglasses and the jewellery that complement the otherwise very casual outfit.

Of course, there is some overlapping every now and ten. The preppy princess might wear silk scarves with skulls, or the rocker chick sports a pearl necklace, for instance... Still, looking at the contents of my wardrobe it would be easy to assume two very different women store their clothes there. Yes, I'm a Gemini, if that's what you were wondering...

40+ styleblogger

Outfit details:
leather jacket: Karen Millen (old) / trousers and t-shirt: Marks and Spencer / 
bag: Lancel (old) / shoes: Clarks (old) / sunglasses: Chanel (old)

What's your style personality?


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Marimekko Fashion Show

Marimekko fashion show

The Marimekko fashion show is sort of a spring tradition In Helsinki. It usually takes place either in late May or early June, and right in the middle of a busy park. There are several shows a day, and it's open to the public (it's the current collection, or what you can find in stores right now). So, I was there last Friday, my camera ready, to bring you a few pictures and my thoughts on what I saw.

Yes, it was a spectacular show. And the clothes had some catwalk appeal, sure. And no, this is not going to be a glowing review.

Don't get me wrong, I love Marimekko . Well, I'm a bit biased, of course, being a Finn... Actually, I think for a Finn to say anything negative about Marimekko is the same as saying anything negative about Ice Hockey or Heavy Metal, i.e. considered a treason of sorts...

But I'm going to risk it by saying that Marimekko is losing its edge, and letting down its customers. And I'm going to tell you why.

Marimekko summer 2016 fashion show
Marimekko summer 2016

What happened to colour?

Marimekko is, after all, known for their quirky patterns and bright colours...

Given that in the past few years Marimekko has had a few very successful collaborations (first with Banana Republic and this year with Target) showcasing some of the iconic prints in vivid colours, you would expect them to dig deeper in their archives and produce something similar. Or at least some colourful accessories (umbrellas, bags etc with some of the retro patterns, maybe? Just a thought...).

But no, black and white dominated the show. So much so that I was beginning to think that Armi Ratia must be turning in her grave...

Of course, there was some colour, too, though not as much as you might expect from this iconic label. Perhaps it's the Nordic women's (and in particular Finnish women's) fear of colour preference for neutral tones and black, who knows.

Marimekko summer 2016
Marimekko summer 2016
Marimekko summer 2016

And the shapes?

I love Marimekko textiles (bed linen, towels) and kitchenware (trays, bowls, plates, glasses), but as far as clothes are concerned, this fashion show had very little to offer. For one, I've always found that while shapeless sack dresses may look pretty on slim, tall models, the average woman would do better with a bit more fitted clothes. Such as for example the eminently more wearable pieces in the Banana Republic and Target collaborations. Or the slightly more fitted, 60's inspired shift dresses Marimekko had a few years back. I know, I should have bought one then...

But judging by what they sent down the catwalk this time, I think Marimekko is letting down its roots (never mind if they call it 'an homage to strong women' such as the company founder Armi Ratia and some of the well-known designers).

Why do I feel this way? Marimekko used to be a brand for every woman. Literally. In my childhood, (late 60's, early 70's) there was hardly a Finnish woman (or a man or a child) who didn't own a piece by Marimekko. The clothes were fun and quirky, but more importantly wearable and accessible. Anyone could wear Marimekko, and there was something for everyone, that was the idea. And now... Well, two friends of mine who also saw the fashion show were quick to say they wouldn't wear any of the outfits we saw. One of them even said some of the outfits reminded her of her mother's nighties from the 60's...

Marimekko summer 2016
Marimekko summer 2016
Marimekko summer 2016
Marimekko summer 2016

I'm sure I will keep buying Marimekko textiles, kitchenware and accessories but as for clothes...
I tend to prefer clothes that flatter the body I have (yes, I'm curvy, and it's highly unlikely I will suddenly get significantly taller), and clearly there was not much there to help me with this. But, I did buy a pair of really cool Marimekko sunglasses a while back, so maybe there is some hope. Now, if we could juts get a really cool line of accessories in some of the retro prints, please. I'm thinking bags, umbrellas, wellies, raincoats...


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Pale Girl Wears Neutrals

summer neutrals over 40

I don't often wear neutrals

Correction: I hardly ever wear neutrals. In fact, this is it: I'm wearing here all the beige clothes I have in my wardrobe.

And the reason why I don't wear neutrals is quite evident here, too. Look at me, the colour of my skin... Yep, I'm pale. That's an understatement, of course, but let's go with that one for now. So, wearing neutrals is going to be quite  a challenge to pull off, and a huge step outside my comfort zone...

My late mother, on the other hand, used to loo stunning in neutrals (see the original post HERE):

70s safari style

Well, in summer she always had that lovely sun-kissed glow, whereas I would just turn pink and burn... So, it's probably no surprise that I tend to avoid the sun, and have made peace with my pale skin.

Now, given that neutrals are never going to be my best colours, how on earth did I come up with this outfit?

40+ blogger
summer neutrals

Well, to be honest, it wasn't exactly planned...

You see, I've been quite busy with work lately and haven't had time or energy to do the laundry for a couple of weeks. And one morning I was just desperate to find something to wear to work (never mind style, I was settling for whatever was reasonably clean...) and I came across these trousers. I usually wear them with something pink, but of course then all I could find was this t-shirt (you've seen it in another post with olive trousers and a blue cardigan). Oh well, it was a bit blah outfit, but at least it was clean...

I added the peach scarf to have some colour around my face, and to my surprise it sort of worked. This will probably never be one of my favourite outfits, but I'm going to be annoyingly proud of myself nevertheless, for trying something new.

BTW, I have two dear friends who once told me that if I ever started wearing beige, they would think I'd finally gone bonkers and have me committed... So, Asta and Anu, if you see this, please don't call the men in white coats yet, I promise this is a one-off, the act of a desperate woman ...

Adolfo Dominguez bolso
leopard print sunglasses

Outfit details:
t-shirt and trousers: Marks and Spencer (old) / scarf: Alexander McQueen (old) / 
sunglasses: Dolce and Gabbana (old) / shoes: Van Dal (old) /bag: Adolfo Dominguez (old)

How do you wear neutrals?


PS: Have you seen the latest DILETTANTE ARTIST post yet?

Linking up with: 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

I See Stripes...

how to wear stripes

Is it possible to overdose on stripes?

Well, this post certainly tests your tolerance as far as stripes are concerned. It may also prove that my stripe addiction has gone a tad too far...


But you know how it is: sometimes you just can't help it. Like with chocolate: you keep eating and eating for as long as there's something left in the box because, well, it's there, you know, and... No? You mean that's just me? Oh blimey...

striped umbrella

Anyway, it was a rainy Saturday in Helsinki... The perfect weather for my new red parka. Did I mention the lining has stripes?

Then I remembered I had this navy and white stripy umbrella, which would look just fantastic with red. Of course, I also have quite a collection of navy and white Breton tops, which would also look great with the red parka. And then the whole idea sort of got out of hand...

stripy umbrella

Outfit details:
coat: Seasalt Cornwall / top: Jigsaw / jeans: Next /  bag: Adolfo Dominguez
umbrella: J.Crew / shoes: Clarks / scarf: Marja Kurki
So, mixing stripes, yes or no?


PS: If you didn't overdose on stripes, this is a recap post of
(some) of my stripy outfits: How To Wear Breton Stripes

Linking up with: 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Casual Workwear

work wear over 40

This is what I wear to work

Most of my outfit shoots take place on Saturdays, occasionally on Sundays. This is because my photographer / hubby Professor M is only around at weekends. Yes, I'm a weekend wife... Long story short: we spend the work week apart, in different countries. It's less complicated than it sounds.

Anyway, these pictures were actually taken on a Monday, after work. Well, it isn't really that different from what I wear at weekends...

About 90% of my clothes are 'work appropriate', and the 10% that is not is probably too formal rather than too informal. As you may (or may not) know, I work as a language teacher in adult education, and my students come from all walks of life. I also work in a country with an extremely relaxed and casual dress code. So, wearing a suit would be a no-no (lawyers, politicians and captains of industry can just about get away with that; for anyone else it's too formal) and would scare the living daylights out of my students. A pencil skirt or a wrap dress is OK, in most cases, as long as it's worn in a rather casual way.

I dress for comfort, of course, and I'm often in a hurry in the morning. I admit that I sometimes just grab the first thing I find in my wardrobe and put it on. You see, I'm not a morning person, and my brain can barely manage the complicated processes needed to get me on the train on time. Having a colour-coordinated wardrobe that mixes and matches well helps.

However, dressing for work is not just about me and my comfort. I also want to make my students feel at ease. Thus, I have to look approachable: someone they can relate to. So, casual rather than formal is what's required, and a dose of crazy can work wonders. A dose of crazy? Unusual accessories, bright colours and prints. In small portions: the idea is to make people think I don't take myself too seriously, not scare them away.

trench coat over 40
over 50 blogger

Outfit details:
trench coat: Hobbs / jeans: Next / shirt: KappAhl / scarf: Global / 
bag: Furla / shoes: Nike / sunglasses: Chanel

What do you wear to work?


Friday, 13 May 2016

Casual Wear, over 40... or 50

leather jacket over 40

Casual Wear over 40...

Lately I've seen a lot of blog posts titled something like 'How to wear (this or that) over 40', or 'Can you wear (this or that) over 40?' And as much as I love the outfits and admire the bloggers posting them, I'm somewhat perplexed by this phenomenon. Yes, I said phenomenon: there are dozens of bright, creative and elegant over 40 (or over 50, over 60, over 70...) bloggers out there, defiantly declaring that they wear whatever the hell they want.

Fair enough. I would expect nothing more.

I'm just wondering why we should feel the need to declare our right / intention to wear whatever we want...

We're grown woman, after all, and we don't need to explain or justify the choices we make, about our wardrobes or life in general. So, let me be clear here: I see no reason to get on a soapbox declaring that I will defy some absurd expectations or 'rules' and wear whatever I want. Grown women don't ask for permission, explain or apologise for the choices they make.

rocker style over 40
50+ blogger

Yes, I've seen those articles / posts by (usually clueless) 20 or 30-something writers about clothing you should give up after an arbitrarily chosen age. So what?

I don't read them, so why should it bother me what the writers of these articles think?

I mean, if the writers of the said articles at least bothered to explain what they themselves plan to do the day after the dreaded 30th, 40th, 50th, whatever birthday (toss everything in their wardrobes? pull a sack over their heads? jump off a cliff, maybe?), then they might be at least marginally entertaining. But no, they usually just list items that are suddenly off-limits (to people older than the writer, that is).

Or perhaps the writers of these articles think they will never reach the magical cut-off point themselves and therefore they don't need such a plan...

Yeah, well, that sparks a lot more interesting discussion on the future (or rather lack of future) these writers seem to be planning, and in that case maybe they should talk to someone... I'm just not sure I'm the right person for that particular discussion as sympathy is not exactly my strong suit...

Anyway, as I've been able to dress myself for quite a long time already, I think I can manage to dress myself without advice for whatever time I have left on this earth. And given that I don't like taking (or giving) unsolicited advice on anything, I'm certainly not going to take fashion advice from someone half my age, thank you very much. My motto is, and always has been, 'if I want your advice, I'll ask for it'. I see no reason to change this policy.

However, just to jump on the bandwagon (to use an American idiom), let me answer the question 'how to wear a casual outfit over 40', just for fun: it's just clothes, for heaven's sake, and you're a smart woman. If someone is offended by your clothing choices, maybe they need to get a life. And you need to stop shouting that you can do whatever you want and just do it.

over 40 blogger

Outfit details:
top: Next / trousers: Marks and Spencer / leather jacket: Karen Millen (old) / 
shoes: Clarks / sunglasses: Chanel (old) / bag: Chanel / pendant: Tiffany & Co

What about you, where do you stand on unsolicited fashion advice?


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

New Twists on Old Staples

40+ trench coat

A Breton top, a trench coat, a scarf...

How many outfits like this have I already posted? Well, there's nothing new under the sun, really, and I don't believe in trying to come up with something new just because...

I suppose we could say I'm stuck in a rut. Except that I don't think that. I would rather describe it as having found my signature style. It works for me: it suits my personality and my lifestyle. And you know what they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Boden top

I was a fashion student in the late 80's 

What I mostly remember about that time was how my classmates were always trying to outdo each other by coming up with the weirdest outfits. Not stylish or elegant, just 'new', for the sake of doing something nobody else had done. As in, wear your shirt backwards. Or inside out. Or staple the sleeves together. Never mind you can't move your arms anymore, you'll look so 'creative'...

The point is, instead of reworking the shirt to make it more fitted, more flattering or more practical in some way, we spent countless hours doing stupid things to distinguish ourselves from other people doing equally stupid things. And it was exhausting, and very frustrating, and had nothing to do with having personal style.

So, now that I work in a completely different industry and live the life of a busy middle-aged woman, I don't have to reinvent the wheel by turning it into a square. The wheel works just fine as it is, and I can wear whatever makes me feel good and makes sense in my universe. That's how you find personal style.

Shanghai Tang scarf
40+ spring style

I believe in doing whatever comes naturally: living your own truth, whatever that is. But I admit that I often find it challenging to live my own truth: it's not as if I spend my days doing only what I love. I guess we all have some financial and social constraints, and demands on our time that prevent us from fully exploring our potential. Life is a set of compromises, and we try to make the most of it.

But style, that's the one area in life where we can do whatever makes us feel good. We can be minimalists, or maximalists, or alternate between the two. Or we can wear wild colours. or only grey, or even last season's colour. Never mind the trends, we can wear whatever suits our lifestyles and personalities or just tickles our fancy at the moment.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel. But we can tweak it, just a little bit. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, just paint it a different colour...

50+ spring style

Outfit details:
trench coat: Hobbs (s/s 2015, seen before e.g. HERE) / top: Boden /  bag: Furla
trousers: marks and Spencer / scarf: Shanghai Tang / shoes: Clarks / sunglasses: Coach
location: Tehtaankatu, Helsinki

What's your signature style?


Sunday, 8 May 2016

The May Day Lunch Outfit

over 40 blogger

On 1 May the weather was quite nice: the sun was shining and it was a pleasant 14ºC / 57ºF. In  other words, the perfect spring day.  And hubby and I had booked a table at a summer restaurant. 

Summer restaurants are only open in the summer months, and often located on the small islands surrounding Helsinki. The food is typical Scandinavian cuisine, ranging from buffet to fine dining depending on the restaurant, but both the atmosphere and dress code are always very relaxed. 

Marimekko sunglasses

So, as the restaurant is on an island, the only way to get there is by boat. No problem: the restaurant has a boat shuttling between the mainland and the island every ten minutes or so ( the actual crossing literally takes just a  few minutes).

leather jacket

This particular restaurant is in an old fortress, which is part of the old sea fortress dispersed around several islandsaround  Helsinki.

50+ blogger

Outfit details:
leather jacket: Karen Millen (old) / trousers: Marks and Spencer / shoes: Clarks (old) /
silk sweater: Jigsaw (old) / scarf: Marja Kurki /  bag: Chanel /
sunglasses: Marimekko / pearl necklace; Notting Hill market
location: Kaivopuisto / Särkänlinna (Helsinki)


Friday, 6 May 2016

On mothers, grandmothers, and role models...

mothers and grandmothers

In Finland the second Sunday of May is Mother's Day

And that's why I wanted to pay tribute to the two women who were my biggest role models when I was growing up : my (paternal) grandmother and my mother.

Neither of them are with us anymore:  next Christmas will mark the 20th anniversary of my mother's passing, and my grandmother died 8 years ago in her early 90's.

But I don't want to dwell on the loss and sadness today. Instead, I want to celebrate what they gave me, and what I learned from them. 

mother and grandmother

Do I look like them?

Looking at these pictures I can see myself in both their faces. I have my mother's cheekbones and lips. and I have my grandmother's watercolour eyes (hers were blue; mine are more green-grey) and curly hair. Yes, I can blame her genes for that obstinate curl on my forehead...

mother-daughter style

I got my sense of style from my mother

I may be more extravagant, but I still adhere to her casual chic, minimalist aesthetics as the basis of my own style. And even though I like bolder colours and patterns, I wear them in that understated, classic style that was her trademark. Oh, and like me, she also loved navy and white stripes...

But style is just about the only thing we had in common; as far as everything else was concerned, we could have been from different planets...

Seriously, we had very little to talk about. She was into all sorts of esoteric, New Age BS, and I tried my best biting my tongue whenever this came up. And I would crack a joke, and she would either take it seriously or not get it at all. Yes, communication was challenging, to say the least.

Yet, I never doubted her love for me. She may not have tried hard to understand my thoughts, dreams or plans, but she didn't try to talk me out of them, either. In fact, she used to say that it doesn't matter what anyone says to me because in the end I would do exactly what I wanted no matter what...

Elegance Revisited

And my grandmother, then?

She was a woman who was always right. Even when she wasn't. And she wasn't afraid to express her opinions, never mind how politically incorrect they might be. No, let's revise that: if she had been aware of the concept of political correctness, she would have rolled her eyes and labeled it stupid nonsense by crazy people and then proceeded to ignore it. I have to admit that there are moments when I'm tempted to do the same...

Actually, I wish I had her self confidence. For her, there was always just one way of doing things and looking at the world: hers. I can always see at least a dozen different, equally valid points-of-view in any situation or argument, and it makes life much more difficult (or that's what I believe, anyway).

Yes, my grandmother was certainly not very diplomatic or accommodating, but she could command attention like no one else. This tiny (150 cm / 4 feet 9 inches) woman was in charge of the room the moment she stepped in. Maybe this is something she had learned over the years, working with men. You see, she used to run a car dismantler and had half a dozen men working for her. This was in the 60's, and back then it was certainly an unusual occupation for a woman. Yet, unlike most working women at the time, she was respected by most men she came into contact with. Except the local police officer; their arguments were legendary...

What I learned from her is that you can't show fear or lack of self-confidence at work. You go there and own the room, and let everyone know you're the boss. Yes, I can do that, too, in my professional role...

And  there is something else I share with my late grandmother: like her, I hate speaking on the phone. A phone call with her would last about 15 seconds max, and invariably consist of phrases such as 'what time will you be coming over?'  or 'I got you X, come and get it'.  Hmm... Whenever my husband calls, I tend to answer the phone with 'what do you want?' or 'I'm in the middle of something...'

No wonder my husband thinks I'm getting more and more like my grandmother the older I get. He fears that when I get old and start losing my marbles (like she did), I will simply walk him to the closet and lock him in when I get tired of listening to him (yes, she did this...).


In loving memory of Helle (1917-2008) and Ritva (1942-1996)

What are / were your mother and grandmothers like?


PS: I've been playing with Photoshop again:
there's a brand new Dilettante Artist post, all soft watercolour effects...

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