A Cocoon for Autumn

With the weather turning chillier and the nights getting colder, I’m finding myself gleefully returning to my beloved warm clothing, blankets, and shawls. I love being snuggled up under a blanket or shawl, or wearing a cozy sweater. In honor of the cooling weather, I thought I’d share one of my favorite ways to keep warm:

I call this my “house cocoon.” It came from Uniqlo and is ridiculously oversized, but so cozy, especially paired with fleece leggings and thick socks. When I come home on the weekend, I change into this and pretty much keep it as my uniform all weekend while I’m housebound. It’s long enough to come down to my knees, and the sleeves are a mid-length that’s perfect for lounging because I don’t have to worry about pushing them up before doing anything at the sink. I can make a snack, make some tea, or wash my hands without worrying about soggy cuffs. It’s not so heavy a material that I sweat, so I can even wear it to sleep. I may upgrade to something slightly heavier for the very depths of winter.

Of course with cool evenings come cool mornings, and my office is not the warmest space to begin with, I’m happy I was also able to find an “office cocoon:”

This sweater dress offers a nice balance of professionalism and coziness. I can wear it on my chilly autumn walks to work, and then sit in my office without resorting to wrapping up in a shawl. And with a pair of opaque tights and knee-high boots, it looks quite smart indeed. Fiance suggested wearing a belt to give more waist definition, but I like the clean minimalist line of it without the belt, and it avoids anything binding up around my waist on days when I’m feeling a little bloated. And somehow, the whole effect is stunningly simple and stylish, according to the compliments I got at the office.

So there is my homage to my favorite autumn fashion piece: the wearable cocoon. Go forth and be cozy!

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Five Things I’ve Been Enjoying Recently

I still have a backlog of photo-editing and post-writing to deal with since I’ve been busy and stressed, so here’s another quick, unplanned post. Spring has definitely sprung in the city! Trees are fluffy and pink and white and yellow and purple. There are hyacinths and daffodils out on my walk from the train station to my office. And it’s even getting a bit warmer. So I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve been particularly enjoying the last couple of weeks as we move into spring.

  1. Magnolia Oolong tea from Simple Loose Leaf: I’ve talked about this before, but this really is a lovely tea. It’s the same Jade Oolong I reviewed a while ago, but with a very light magnolia floral scent and flavor added. I love it as a daily cup when the weather is warm, but not hot, and the sights and scents of spring are everywhere. It’s very seasonally-appropriate and helps remind me that the rich, warming black teas of winter are no longer needed.
  2. Hada Labo UV Perfect Gel: Sunscreen, guys! Since it is now fully light for both my morning and evening walks to and from work, it’s the perfect time to mention my new favorite sunscreen. It’s Japanese and unfragranced and sinks in beautifully. It does leave a bit of shine initially, but I give it 20-30 minutes before applying makeup and it settles right down. It’s a lovely gel texture and I think the hydrating ingredients offset the alcohol that gives it its lovely texture and ability to absorb weightlessly into skin.
  3. Pink and coral lip products: I love a red lip. But lately, I’ve been reach for spring-y lip colors, which means pinks and corals. Coral has been tricky for me, as I’m not generally a fan of orange, but I’ve found some products to help ease me into the look. I’ve also been loving sheerer lip colors for the spring, as it’s a much fresher look. Plus, my lip color matches the azalea bush that’s already started sprouting buds: Coral Bells.
  4. Pink clothing: I own a lot of black and dark-colored clothing. It’s rather a go-to color for me. But the warm weather has me feeling light and youthful, and to me, this means pink and pastels. I wore a pink chiffon dress from Mod Cloth the other day to work and got so many compliments, I wore it again a couple weeks later!
  5. Veggie noodles: One of our most unexpected holiday gifts was a Veggetti from Boyfriend’s parents. I’d looked at spiralizers before, but never decided to actually buy one. So when we got this, it seemed like a neat way to try spiralized veggies without shelling out for an expensive machine. But who wants to eat a lot of raw veggies in the dead of winter? Plus, a lot of the good veggies for spiralizing aren’t available until spring. Well, the zucchini and cucumbers are here and I’ve started spiralizing. We had a spiralized cucumber salad with sushi on Saturday and spiralized zucchini and carrots as a base for grilled chicken yesterday after a heavy Easter lunch called for a light dinner. It’s a lovely way to eat raw veggies, especially now that the warmer weather has me craving fresher food.

What is everyone else loving for spring?

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!

A New Addition to the Boudoir

As someone who loves vintage style, particularly the Victorian aesthetic, I’ve started wearing nightgowns to sleep instead of t-shirt and shorts. I had my favorite Etsy seller, Sue Bradbury at Ellaina Boutique make me a three-quarter-sleeved nightgown in a lightweight purple material with cream lace trim. It has served me well, but as the days grow longer and warmer and the nights no longer chill me, I found I was in need of something lighter still.
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So I contacted Sue and we discussed using some new lightweight printed material she had gotten in. She had three floral prints that just shouted my name. So I chose one and had her make me a summer nightgown. It arrived earlier this week, and I’ve been wearing it to sleep ever since. I may have to order a couple more soon.

The material is so soft and light and doesn’t hang awkwardly, but also doesn’t cling. While it is a loose design, and somewhat old-fashioned, I find the delicious fabric drapes around me in a way that is not entirely unenticing. And it feels lovely against my skin. I find myself sweating less. The cream lace around the neckline and the hemline give it the perfect touch of something extra, but Sue is careful to sew the lace in where it won’t get ragged from wear.

Anyone looking for new, comfy clothing for the summer should definitely give Sue’s shop a look! I don’t receive anything for free from Sue, but I’ve bought much of my wardrobe from her.

My Very Favorite Dress(es)

Yesterday, I mentioned that I wore one of my favorite dresses for a head shot session. And last week I teased that I would share my favorite Etsy shop. Well, the favorite dress is from the favorite Etsy shop. I cannot remember how I first found Ellaina Boutique on Etsy, but I do remember getting my first crossover-front dress from her. This dress is the most amazing thing ever on my body.

All my life, I’ve been blessed and cursed with a small bust. In fact, it got me one of my first local stage roles! But I yearn to look feminine and curvy. This dress’ unique styling accentuates what little I have up top, while narrowing to a small waist, and then flaring out again to give me the hourglass figure that I wish I had in earnest. But the crossover top is also quite modest. I love the way the top is constructed. It’s a very vintage-inspired look, but in a modern dress. I actually wore this style of dress to the auditions for the 1940s-era play I’m currently in.

I loved this dress so much that since that first purchase, I’ve bought three more in different colors and prints. Sue has an amazing array of fabrics, and she’ll send you a link to her fabric store so you can pick something out that isn’t on her site. Plus, she’s a joy to work with. She’s always willing to bat ideas around and help you come up with something fun. And I love that she’ll always make a dress a bit longer, as I’m taller than the average woman, and I like my dresses to graze my knees or else I feel I’m showing too much leg.

Besides the dresses, I’ve also purchased a retro-print shirt and a custom-made nightgown. I converted one of her dresses into a nightgown by removing the belt and adding lace to the neckline and sleeves. It served me so well during the cold winter months that I’m thinking I’ll need to get a sleeveless summer version soon!

I hope you’ll check out this lovely shop so that she stays in business for years to come!

{the photo above is from Ellaina Boutique and shows one of the prints that I don’t have personally but find lovely!}

The Necessary Elan for Wearing Men’s Clothing

First of all, I am writing this post from the perspective of a cisgendered woman, so I am referring to wearing clothing that either does not belong to me, or was purchased contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions. Off-label usage, if it were. Ignoring the most very basic rules of traditional fashion with wild abandon.

Mostly, I am talking about stealing Boyfriend’s clothing. He doesn’t mind a pair of socks here and there, or the odd t-shirt for sleeping. But this is about the peculiar style that comes about from wearing his clothing out and about.

The other weekend, for our closing show, I had not had time to do laundry and all my warm clothing was dirty. I had a t-shirt, some jeans, my boots, but no sweater. So I grabbed a sweater from the pile of oversized sweaters that even Boyfriend finds a bit too “relaxed” a fit for him. Needless to say, I was comfortable and warm, which was the main point. I was going to be running around, inside and out, gathering props and costumes after the show. I threw it on with a pair of jeans tucked into my riding boots, and didn’t give it a second thought.

Then, after the show, a friend of mine commented how stylish I looked and how much she liked my outfit. “Oh, this old thing?” I got to ask, cooly, although I did not cop to wearing a stolen sweater. And it got me thinking.

I had just come off the final performance of a fantastic run, where I played the star, and generally got to have my way around the stage for two weekends. I was at the top of my game, and plump with confidence. I think that is what made my baggy sweater and jeans look like something worn with style and flair, rather than just another sad girl wearing an oversized sweater because she can’t be bothered to keep all her stylish clothes clean.

Perhaps that’s true of all clothing; that what is required to look stylish is to simply look like you belong in whatever clothing you happened to put on. But I think there may be something deeper. There’s something particularly stylish about a woman who can particularly choose something that may not have been designed to be flattering to her body, but she chooses to wear anyway for comfort, not as a statement. It’s almost the opposite of the “normcore” trend, where you try to look intentionally awkward. Instead, I wear clothing without consciousness, and that’s when I tend to look at my best.

Coming Into My Style

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica at Chronically Vintage,┬áposted about her 2015 style inspirations. In her post, she wrote, “I firmly believe that one’s personal style should be a continually evolving entity of sorts.” I couldn’t agree more. Over my life, particularly in the last several years, I’ve gone through phases, but always come back to certain elements that are uniquely me.

I love my long skirts. I used to live in long skirts in the summer when I was in high school because I categorically refused to show my legs, either in shorts or shorter skirts or dresses. Part of this was a whopping dose of body insecurity, and part of it was just an unwillingness to either shave my legs regularly or try to carry off being unshaven. Oddly enough, a style born of laziness and insecurity earned me plenty of compliments, despite the fact that I was an awkward weirdling for most of my young adult life (30s are still young, right?). But I consider long skirts my version of sweatpants, which makes it pretty cool that others find them stylish.

Scarves have always been a large part of my personal style, and lately I’ve been adding shawls to that. Although the crochet habit is part of that, and I have one handmade shawl that I use regularly, I also love my purchased scarves and shawls. In fact, I might do a post soon detailing my favorite cozy shawls for winter. But scarves have been one of my signatures for as long as I can remember. It may have started somewhat when I traveled in Italy in college. Whatever the origin, I wear scarves as an accessory more often than I wear necklaces.

My boots are another one of my winter style signatures. In fact, I’ve had the same pair of black leather riding boots for over three years and yesterday realized they were actually falling apart. So it’s time to find a new signature piece. I’m thinking of trying a brown or cognac pair.

And that’s just the thing: I don’t always keep my signature pieces constant. I’ve gone from hippie gauze long skirts to solid-colored jersey skirts with a slimmer silhouette. My scarves have branched out from the standard Pashminas I found on street vendors in Europe. And now I’m going to get a new pair of boots.

I’ve gone through phases with my style. I tried going ultra-minimalist right after I separated from my ex. And it worked for a while, but I started to gravitate towards a more romantic, vintage feel. So now I’ve come to blend my modern minimalist phase into my classic, romantic signature style. But who knows? That can change.

Cozy Winter Style

As you can tell by the title of my blog, I love to wrap up in warm fabrics and drink hot tea. I really do like tweed, in all its scratchy woolen glory. And this time of year, my collection of tweeds and knits and scarves really gets to shine.

Monday, I was thrilled to receive my new winter coat, a brown herringbone tweed overcoat from a vintage seller on Etsy. It has nubs of blue and orange in it, and a subtle tartan pattern. Not only did the photographs on Etsy not do it justice at all, it fit perfectly, with just enough room that I might layer it over sweaters. It makes me glad the weather has started to taken on more of a chill.

Holiday Weekend Shopping

Underneath my coat, my cold-weather staples are long trousers and blue jeans, cabled sweaters, scarves, and my wonderful knee-length black riding boots. A pair of leather boots zipped up over a pair of slim-fitting straight-leg jeans, with a cabled sweater and a squishy scarf is the quintessential winter style to me. On the rare occasion I venture out into the cold air in a skirt, I wear a pair of thick tights or leggings, with socks over top, all tucked into my riding boots.

Cozy Workday Outfit

My favorite sweater is a fisherman-cabled sweater in a mottled oatmeal color that I wear most weekends, but it lacks the necessary elan for the office. To that end, I have a cream-colored cabled sweater in a butter-soft wool blend, a collection of cardigans, and two cowl-necked merino wool sweaters. Paired with a pair of jeans on the weekend, or a pair of vintage tweed trousers for work, my sweaters are vital for keeping warm while I walk from place to place. Whether I’m taking a stroll around the lake, or a hurried walk from my car, parked ages away from my building, I need to keep from suffering the bite of winter air.

I’ve put together some sets in Polyvore to show what I mean. Of course, I chose items mostly based on looks, so some are quite expensive, but it is the look of the thing I mean to convey. Hopefully, they will help inspire your cozy winter wardrobe!