Unexpected Vintage Inspiration: Love for a Thousand More

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about vintage fashion, and I realize it’s been some time since I’ve talked about what I’ve been watching when I have the spare time. Part of the reason for this is that 1.) I’ve been less focused on vintage fashion right now and more focused on using what I have so I can spend my money on wedding stuff and 2.) I’ve been reading a lot and spending most of my screen time sharing shows with Fiancé, whose tastes are decidedly different. But the other day, I happened upon a Korean drama online that I’ve never encountered before and it reminded me of something important: Vintage style is not just about the West.

Most of the vintage bloggers I follow take their inspiration from Americana or the vintage styles of European countries, and a large part of that is because they themselves are American or of European decent. The problem of diversity in vintage blogging has been talked about by better bloggers than I, so I won’t get into that too much. But what I do want to talk about is the main character of the Korean drama Love for a Thousand More.

The premise of the show is that Mijo is an woman who was made immortal sometime during the Koryo Dynasty and is currently 999 years old. In that time, she has had many lovers, and all relationships have ended sadly for her. So she has decided to give up on love. But of course, she’s a love counselor by profession (who could have more experience?). From there, in typical Korean drama fashion, the demands of love cannot be denied and our heroine finds herself with a choice between two men who represent different worlds or philosophies.

But the costumes she wears! Mijo is a woman who, from the outside, looks like a young woman who is very into vintage fashion. While Westerners often think of “Asian fashion” as being the traditional styles that are not widely worn anymore, especially by the younger generation, this drama puts Mijo’s dated attire in start contrast with the other character’s more modern sense of fashion. Indeed, not only does Mijo dress like a granny and wear old-fashioned, sensible pumps, she also knits, drinks tea traditionally, and does old-fashioned exercises with the older people in the park.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

And her specific flavor of vintage fashion is drawn from the traditional hanbok clothing of Korea. Her skirts are shorter and she doesn’t wear sandals, but the styling is unmistakably hanbok. Her uniform of a crisp, wrap blouse with a full skirt, her hair tied into a demure bun at the nape of her neck is utterly relatable to someone who has found their own Western-style vintage uniform.

Meanwhile, her makeup would not be out of place on Empress Ki. She wears minimal eye makeup and occasionally has her lips stained a slightly brighter shade of pink, but always within the bounds of tradition. And all of this happens in contrast to the other characters, who present a modern, trendy picture of Korean fashion.

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’ve found myself drawn to Korean-style beauty routines over the last year, and anyone who reads this blog knows that my tea appreciation spans the globe, but this drama has now reopened my eyes to the beauty of Korean-inspired vintage fashion. Watching true period dramas is fun and beautiful, but not terribly practical. Love for a Thousand More takes the beauty of period Korean clothing and fits it nicely into a more modern world. Perhaps I shall consider adding some of that inspiration to my own wardrobe in the future.

[Image Source]

On Acting One’s Age

I posted on Friday about looking one’s age and about how I don’t, apparently, though I think I do and I think I’d really rather look my age than not have it show how much life I’ve lived. I thought I’d do a companion piece in a similar vein about acting one’s age.

First of all, what does that even mean, acting your age? When I was a kid, my dad would say “Act your age, not your shoe size,” which I suppose meant that I was being particularly immature. And I suppose that’s a bit of it. I mean, we all have a pretty clear idea of what a child should act like as opposed to an adult. But it’s all rather vague and imprecise.

I mean, when you’re a teenager, where does that leave you? I suppose if one really wanted to act like a teenager, one would affect a rebellious and surly attitude (I don’t mock; I was a moderately surly teenager myself).

But what does “acting your age” mean when you’re an adult? What does it mean to act like a 20-year-old vs. a 30-year-old? Or a 40-year-old? Does it keep going? Is there a standard of comportment throughout the decades?

I really think not. And this is what I consider when I think about acting my age. The single biggest thing that has happened with how I act as I’ve gotten older is my increase in confidence. I’ve heard older women talk about it all the time, how they wish they had the confidence that they have now when they were as young as they wish they looked. But really, part of it for me is accepting my looks, accepting compliments, and accepting that people who decide to react negatively to my appearance are probably not worth my time.

For me, acting my age is about asserting myself for myself and for others who aren’t as assertive. It’s being able to get noticed to be served at a bar, but to point out others near me who haven’t been noticed despite being their longer.

Most of all, acting my age has involved a certain development of personal style. I call this “acting my age” and not “looking my age” because the confidence that comes with getting older is how I’ve found the self-awareness to know what is really my preference, versus someone else telling me what’s chic, as well as the necessary stylish elan to carry it off and look creative and personal rather than just odd. Although a certain amount of odd does belong in my personal style.

So I suppose, in short, acting my age has meant coming into my own and as I get older, acting like myself.

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!

On Modesty and Personal Style

A blogger I occasionally read posted recently about how she dislikes having the “modest” label applied to her personal style. This comes pretty soon after I received a couple of comments from people in my life about the modesty of my own personal style. One came from Boyfriend, who joked that he never sees my knees when I wore a dress that bared them to work the other day, and the other came from my boss, who was commenting about how he didn’t worry about my adherence to a dress code because they generally just needed to find something to “cover up” some of the employees who showed too much skin at a meeting we host every year.

I’ve written before about how I like dresses that go below my knees and tend not to show much of my body. I joke that my personal style is somewhere akin to “severe English governess,” with my pulled-back hair, below-the-knee dresses, and relatively high necklines. But the reality is that I, too, don’t consider myself a “modest” dresser. I don’t dress this way out of some misplaced dislike for the display of the female body. In fact, I feel nothing but mild envy for those women I see in tiny, fluttery skirts, midriff-baring tops, and backless outfits on a regular basis. In Enchanted April, I’ve had to play a character who is considerably more comfortable baring her body than I am.

The reason I don’t like to wear clothing that shows my body is because I don’t like my body. I don’t consider that a positive thing about myself. I try to find flattering styles that make me feel pretty within the limitations of my own hang-ups, but the fact remains that I often feel frumpy in what I choose to wear, and yet I feel uncomfortable in anything more revealing.

I will take a sidebar to mention how I interact with the men in my environment. When I was younger, I had a problem being harrassed by random men on the subway and on the street downtown. Misguided female relatives would tell me “One day, they’ll stop commenting and then you’ll miss it.” Well, in the six months since I’ve had a job downtown, I’ve gotten exactly one catcall (that may not have been directed towards me, honestly), and I would like to say it is amazing not to have to deal with that on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s because I’m over 30 and perhaps it’s because I dress like Frau Blucher. But I can honestly say that the only sadness I feel is that I don’t immediately assume it is because men in this city have become more respectful. I have gotten a few compliments from women on some of my cuter dresses, which was lovely.

Anyway. I suppose there’s no real conclusion to this other than this: I am not modest; I’m hung-up on my body. I don’t consider it freeing to work within the limitations of my own hang-ups. I don’t consider it freeing to think back to my body when I danced 5 hours a week or ran marathons or woke up at the crack of dawn every morning to do an hour of yoga whenever I try to wear something more revealing and see the softness that has set in (despite the fact that I am not actually fat). So I dress as best I can within my personal limitations. Vintage style has certainly gone a long way towards providing me with positive examples of styles that make me feel pretty and covered. But I imagine the real victory for me would be to go ahead and wear that crop top without wishing I looked like I did a bit more exercise and ate a bit less chocolate on a daily basis.

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!

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.

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.

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.