Custom Clothing from eShakti: First Impressions

In my last post, I mentioned that I had been offered a review sample from the clothing retailer eShakti. Normally, everything I review here is something I’ve bought myself, so I want to be very upfront that they did send me a free dress to try. That said, I was curious enough to take advantage of their promotions and buy myself two others. They arrived this week, much earlier than I thought they might.

First of all, for those who are unaware, eShakti is a customized clothing site where you go, choose a design you mostly like, and then change it into something you totally like. You are limited to the color and fabric of the original design, but you can change length, sleeves, and necklines for most styles, and you have option to remove pockets or change the zipper. I was curious about some of their materials, and I liked that I could take a design I like and make the skirt longer, as below-the-knee skirts are a non-negotiable for professional wear for me. So I dove in.

First, my sample dress is a blue-and-white tweed-y novelty woven material dress with a simple a-line skirt, v-neck, short sleeves, and large, button-embellished pockets. As a woman who values utility, I love pockets in dresses. It helps that I generally wear full-skirted designs and therefore do not worry as much about adding bulk around my hips. Anyway, I put in custom measurements (way beyond the standard bust-waist-hips), and chose to lengthen the skirt a little. I was particularly impressed that they had a measurement for sleeve circumference, as I have large-ish arms (possibly from aerials) that are constricted by sleeves.

Then, I decided to try another experiment. I bought two more dresses using their 2-for-1 promotion because I wanted to try out two other materials they have, but for these dresses, I decided to try their standard sizes. I chose the one that most closely fit my measurements. Thankfully, eShakti always asks your height and adjusts designs to that for no additional charge, so I didn’t have to worry about the length being off for the standard sizes.

For my two purchased dresses, I got a suiting material dress with a boat neck and a cotton knit with a pleated neck. Again, I made sure both dresses fell below the knee, and adjusted sleeves to my liking, but didn’t not customize the size other than entering my height. One thing I forgot to check was the zipper on one of the dresses. As someone with a rather wide rib cage, I sometimes have trouble removing dresses that don’t zip up the back. eShakti often has an option to replace a side zipper with a back zipper. Sadly, I was negligent and did not take advantage of this.

Anyway, I made my purchase, and then sat back and waited. They indicated that it could take a few weeks for the dresses to arrive, so I assumed I had time. Then on Boxing Day, I got a notification that both of my orders had shipped. I received my first order (the sample) the following Monday, while I was home sick from work. The other came the next day, though I didn’t receive it until the following day because DHL requires a signature. While it’s a bit irritating, they had no problem leaving the package once I signed the slip they left.

So now, all three dresses in hand, it was the moment of truth. Well, all three dresses fit beautifully. I would say that my body fits their standard sizing chart well enough it may not be worth the hassle of measuring, but since size customization and design customization is all covered under the same fee, I may go all-custom again just to make sure my sleeves fit.

And fit they do! The sample dress had short sleeves, which are often the bane of my existence. But these fit perfectly without constricting. They don’t make my arms look bigger than they are by being too tight. While I haven’t had time for an official photo shoot, I did take a selfie in the mirror this morning:

Because the early morning lighting is poor, it’s hard to see the color, but it is a nice, rich navy blue interspersed with white neps. It’s fully lined so static is not an issue. I’m wearing the dress at work today and it has held up to my commute and walk in, though I got a bit sweaty under the arms, possibly from the poly lining. But it could also just be that I’m not used to wearing real sleeves.

As for the other two dresses, which I actually purchased? Well, they both fit beautifully. The cotton knit is perhaps a bit too casual fo a fabric for me to want to wear to work, but I wore it to rehearsal last night and felt both comfortable and pretty. And the suiting material feels very thick and high-quality. Even the side-zipper issue was not too terrible as there was enough wiggle room in the fit to allow me to get the dress off over my head without hearing any of the seams strain.

All in all, I had a good experience. I know other bloggers have had negative experiences. I will make one comment: despite the fact that both my packages (one review sample and one paid for) left eShakti on the same day, the review sample arrived a day earlier and seemed to take a more direct route. So perhaps they do try to make sure reviewers get their clothes more quickly than the average person. But given that it was only a day or two difference, that’s not a big deal. And not enough to prevent me from ordering again in the future, perhaps for the spring when I want something a little more brightly colored!

On Holiday Illness, plus Topics to Come

When I was a young child, I always fell ill on Christmas, usually while we were at my father’s family’s Christmas dinner celebration. It was a mixed blessing because I got to escape the clamor of a large Catholic family with many active boys and go have a lie-down in an empty room. But I was always really sick, often with something like strep throat, which had to wait until the doctor’s office opened again to be treated.

Since then, I’ve had a few Christmas colds, usually happening during years when I’d been rather overworked leading up to the holidays and finally had some time off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This year, I had no such luck, but instead found myself having an unexpected holiday extension when I woke up with a low-grade fever and a raw throat yesterday. My throat had been feeling poorly for a couple of days, but I had thought I was getting better. Evidently I was wrong.

Today, I am back at work and feeling better, if not entirely well. And I will be previewing some posts to come:

  1. Of course I will want to post about my holidays. Our trip back from Boyfriend’s family’s house was almost an ethereal journey as the way was mostly bathed in thick, white fog. We did not indulge in quite so many radio plays this year, but instead largely were entertained by the second season of Serial. And of course, there were some fabulous gifts.
  2. I’ve been in rehearsals for a community theatre production of one of William Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy acting the Bard. This time, I’ve also got one of the standing best roles in most of his plays…
  3. Finally, while working on my vintage-inspired capsule wardrobe, I stumbled upon the site eShakti. Other bloggers have had mixed results with them, so I contacted them about a blogger sample. I honestly wasn’t expecting it before the middle of January, but it arrived yesterday. Once my health and the weather clear up, I’ll have to have a little photo shoot and share my thoughts.

So there are exciting things to come. Stay tuned and keep warm! I hope everyone had lovely holidays and are gliding into another wonderful new year.

Yuletide Celebrations

Now that winter and Christmas are officially upon us, I thought I’d muse a little bit about my winter holiday. While I was raise Christian and celebrate Christmas with my family, I’ve always maintained a slightly more pagan point of view, and to my mind Yule is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. Now, I know the official solstice passed a few days ago, although it was so gloomy I hardly noted the difference between light and dark during the longest night. But I like to wrap my solstice celebration into my Christmas festivities with my family. We don’t attend church, but we indulge in the trappings of the holiday that largely derive from the pagan festivals anyway.

Oh, my interest in the winter solstice predates any official interest in pagan beliefs. As a runner, I celebrated the return of the sun, when in a few weeks it might be light enough in the morning to safely run in the local, un-lit parks. Nowadays, Yule marks the time when I can see the sun on the horizon earlier in the morning. Over the next couple of months I will go from “getting up at night,” as the old poem goes, to finding more and more dawn light coming in my window when I need to rise.

So as I rise on this holiday to celebrate around a tree and consider symbols of the Christmas holiday, my thoughts hearken back to an older practice, the practice of noting this darkest day and longest night not with fear of the dark, but with the hope of the return of the sun. Blessed Yule and happy holiday season to all!

The Freedom of a Bicycle

Since starting my new job, I have discovered the joys of getting around a city, not only by the subway, but also under my own power. Most days, this means walking, about an hour every day. But my city also has a bicycle sharing program, which I have joined. So now, with a minimal cash outlay at the beginning, I can check out a bicycle whenever I want from one of the numerous stands around where I work, and take short trips around the city. It has come in marvelously handy when I miss an early train and get downtown a bit later than expected, or when I feel like stopping for breakfast and have less time to get to work. I can hop on a bicycle and be at work in less than half the time it takes me to walk.

But the most striking thing about bicycling is how it opens up your boundaries. Before, I was limited in my dining options to those places nearby where I worked or on the way to the train. By taking a bicycle, I can easily extend this reach many times over, taking weekday lunches at new local restaurants, or even meeting my mother at a tea room that would be an untenable walk. And when I stop for takeaway for dinner before rehearsal, I can give myself some extra time and distance and not be limited to the one sandwich shop right outside the train station.

It puts me in mind of something I saw when I first saw a film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the late 1990s: There was a statement that the film set the play in the Victorian era, around the time of the advent of the bicycle, when men and women found themselves with a new sense of freedom not afforded by more expensive modes of transportation. There was some truth to this in history, and indeed the bicycle was praised by such women’s rights leaders as Susan B. Anthony.

Personally, I like knowing that I can get around the city more quickly without resorting to bringing my car into downtown traffic. The step-through styling of the bikeshare bicycles are also something new. I can ride in my workday uniform of a below-the-knee dress without discomfort. On the rare occasion that a gust of wind pushes my skirt up a bit, I can simply stop and adjust quickly. The bicycles also have fenders and guards so I don’t arrive splashed with mud. I’m excited to be taking part in bicycle culture and it helps me feel much more urban.

A Very Bold Update

A few weeks ago I posted about how I’ve stopped wearing makeup and washing my face. I thought I’d post a little update to let you all know some of the conclusions I’ve come to.

While I was surprised by how little I broke out while I was only rinsing with water, I did feel I lacked something in this routine, and missed the ritual of cleansing, as well as the feeling of clean skin. To that end, I have taken what I learned from my skin “cleanse” of sorts and redesigned my skin care routine to be as simple as possible, while addressing specific concerns.

I’ve realized that cream cleansers both don’t clean my skin well enough and leave a residue of emollients that lead to clogged pores. So I returned to an old favorite: Earth Science fragrance free clarifying wash. It’s a pH-balanced gel cleanser that removes surface dirt and oil without feeling like it’s stripping my skin. I’ve continued to not wear face or eye makeup, but if I do, I use a bit of grape seed oil to remove that before washing with the gel cleanser. Because it is pH balanced, I don’t need a toner. I merely splash my face with cold water after rinsing and pat dry.

I’ve decided to keep rose hip seed oil as my nighttime moisturizer. I apply 6-7 drops to cleansed skin and massage it in. This simple, two-step routine is almost as simple as my previous, no-cleanse routine. And I always wake up glowing with the rose hip oil. The oil also balances my skin so I don’t wake up feeling greasy.

Because of this, I still simply rinse with water in the mornings. Then, I apply a light moisturizer. I’ve found that Aubrey Organics Clarifying Therapy moisturizer has a little salicylic acid to help with breakouts, and linoleic acid to keep my skin happy. Because I only see daytime sun when I go out in the midday, I’ve started carrying my sunscreen with me to apply as needed instead of just once in the morning. I’ve also recently gotten a new sunscreen, 100% Pure Argan Oil facial moisturizer with SPF 30, to try because it is less scented than the Badger Balm rose sunscreen.

So far my skin has never looked better in the last few years than it has the last couple of weeks. I got one or two small spots during my period, but they went away quickly. I’ve felt confident enough to go without makeup still. By simplifying my skin care routine and forgoing makeup, I can now be ready to go in much less time as well, which makes my mornings more relaxed. All I need is a swipe of lipstick!

A Vintage-Inspired Work Uniform

Vintage-Inspired Work Uniform

 

With my new jobs comes both a long commute and a new office environment. Gone are the days when I’m dressed up if I wear a blazer with my jeans. Now I have to wear business casual every day. In order to make mornings run as smoothly as possible, I’ve opted for a version of the work uniform, made popular by minimalist bloggers. But, being that I love vintage style, I couldn’t be satisfied with a neutral skirt/slacks, blouse, sweater/blazer combo.
No, my work uniform keeps my personal style in it, while being very, very simple. I’ve based it around a dress because with a dress, you don’t need to match a top and a bottom. Despite the fact that they look put together and stylish, a dress requires minimal input when I choose it in the morning. I found the a-line flounce dress at Land’s End and rejoiced, as it is long enough to cover my knees, but fits well enough to look attractive and not dowdy. The sleeves are capped enough that if I get warm in the office, I can wear it without a cardigan, and I don’t feel uncomfortable going outside on a warm day without a cover. It also comes in a variety of colors and prints. I have it in four colors right now: blue, purple, berry, and black.
But, being that offices are cold year-round where I live, I’ve decided to add a neutral cardigan. Most of my dressed are jewel-toned and look perfectly lovely with a plain black cardigan. But the black dresses I pair with a white cardigan for something different, and to avoid the all-black look. I may also buy some grey and tan cardigans to add to my rotation.
For autumn and winter, I pair my dress and cardigan with black opaque tights and a pair of black Oxford shoes with a bit of a heel. The heels feels a bit more feminine than Oxfords alone, but Born shoes are fantastically well-made and comfortable. I will probably look for a pair of their ballet flats for spring and summer. And, of course, no winter look would be complete without a tweed coat and a crocheted scarf to keep the chill at bay. When it is bitterly cold, I add a hat and gloves.
So here is my work uniform. Yes, I wear approximately the same thing every day to work. It is not stylish or current, but it looks good on me and it marries my vintage aesthetic with my minimalist needs. And of course, I always pair it with a swipe of bright red lipstick.

A Cooler Lipstick for Autumn and Winter

As we move into the cooler days of autumn and winter (albeit slowly, as we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather here lately), I find myself reaching for cooler tones of lipstick. Part of it has to do with losing that tiny bit of incidental sunshine I might get despite my adherence to sun protection. Part of it is the cooling of the colors of the landscape around us. As the leaves fall, their reds and oranges no longer cast a warm tone on the surrounding world, and the cool greys of snowy skies instead chill the color palette as well as the air temperature.

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On days such as these, I find I want a nice cherry red without the orange tones that make my warmer-weather lipsticks so cheery. Continuing my love of the brand Bite Beauty, I pull Pomegranate from my bag.

Even the name recalls winter, with the myth of Persephone eating four of the kernels of the pomegranate, corresponding to the four months of winter when she must stay in the underworld. And, indeed, pomegranates are a winter fruit, showing up in the markets just in time to make an appearance in holiday fruit displays and decorations.

Yes, Pomegranate is an appropriate shade for cooler weather. I love its creamy consistency and its chameleon nature. With a bit of blotting, it becomes a very rosy pink, and with a couple of coats, it’s a full-impact bright red. It does not stay on as well as some of my lipsticks, but the texture is such that I adore reapplying. Now if only Bite Beauty would consider releasing an attractive, vintage-style bullet.

A Home Remedy for an Awkward Ailment

As the weather has started cooling down, little by little, Boyfriend and I have noticed a peculiar problem: our house seems to be mildly infested with bees. It’s not great clouds of the little fellows, but rather one or two every so often. It’s gotten to where we are finding live or dead bees around the house almost every day. Sadly, this led to a rather awkward situation yesterday when I discovered a bee in my yoga room… by sitting on it during my practice.

I felt a little pinch, and immediately knew what it must be. I stopped my practice and went up to the bathroom to see the sting. It was already starting to turn red and swell, so I tried to locate the stinger and washed it with my homemade lavender soap and cold water. I patted it dry with some clean tissue and applied hydrocortisone ointment. A half an hour later, the pain was worsening, so I thought to try something more aggressive.

Remembering the drawing power of bentonite clay, I went to my beauty cabinet and mixed up a bit of the clay with enough rosewater and glycerin to make a thick paste, which I glopped on my posterior. Being that the location of the problem area was where it was, this was not something to be done downstairs, where decent neighbors might spy me through the window accidentally. So I lay out on my stomach with my pouticed rear unencumbered.

To suffer the indignity, I decided that part of the remedy would be a nice cup of tea and some chocolate. I believe it be a necessary part of treatment, if just to soothe my nerves. I also took the opportunity to contact our landlady and ask if something might be done about the apian threat.

A Tea Update: Further Thoughts on Simple Loose Leaf

Well, I’ve been a member of the Simple Loose Leaf monthly tea subscription for about nine months now. It doesn’t seem like that long, but I suppose that is because most of the tea rarely sits around for long in my cupboard. I’ve also ordered from them many times to have tea for the month at work.

I’ve found that pretty much every month, there is one tea in which I have no interest. But just one. Generally, I get 4-5 sample packs per month and at least three of them spark my interest. This month, they sent my two favorites, magnolia oolong and Earl Grey, along with a green tea I’m looking forward to trying.

I’ve also discovered that I sometimes enjoy a simply flavored, decaffeinated black tea in the evenings. One month, they sent a decaffeinated vanilla-flavored black tea. This month, it was blackberry-flavored. With a touch of sugar (and milk in the vanilla tea), they’re a lovely warming evening cuppa. I’ve even had that instead of a dessert some evenings. I may actually add a pack of the vanilla-flavored one to my order this month.

My system of using my monthly discount code to buy three types of tea has been working wonderfully. I’m spending much less on tea than I used to, and I always have a lovely variety at my desk. I get one green tea, one black tea, and one oolong tea to keep at work and then drink from the sample packs on the weekends.

Of course, like all relationships, not all days can be good. I’ve had one or two hiccups with Simple Loose Leaf. One possible complaint is that it can sometimes take a while for the tea to ship, but I attribute that to it being a small company and I would rather patronize a small company than always get my tea in two days. As far as specific incidents, once I had a monthly box fail to ship. After inquiring where my box was, they immediately realized their mistake and shipped it out post-haste. The other time, I received my order and realized it was the wrong one. After again apologizing, they immediately shipped out my proper order and I kept both orders. I actually got to try a couple of teas I would not have otherwise ordered, and I had a full-sized pack of tea to gift to a friend of mine on a whim. Even the problems have been overwhelmingly positive experiences, so I will forgive them their quirks.

All in all, I’m enjoying my Simple Loose Leaf subscription. I know I have been remiss at showing off the boxes as they come, so if any readers are interested in seeing each month’s box, I’d be happy to share. I plan on tasting the green tea I received this month with my guywan this weekend, so I will share that. Otherwise, know that I do recommend this service.