Winter Workhorses

I'm about to head to frigid Ontario for a research trip. (Go ahead. Laugh. Who goes to Kingston in February?! Especially with a rail blockade??) 

Never mind. That's what I am doing. Hopefully, I can go skating while I'm there. It will be some compensation for freezing my buns off. 

Before I go, here are some winter outfits from my more temperate climate, along with Finds for the real workhorse items this year. You've seen some of these photos before. 

Contrary to popular myth, it does sometimes snow and get quite cold in Vancouver. I even had to haul my real parka out for a couple of days. :) It also rained for 59 of 61 days in December and January. Surely that is some kind of record of horribleness. Still. I am not complaining. 

Workhorse items in Finds. 

Some are brand new: the Comrags 2 piece dress; the Sorel boots (a bit loose on the heels, but I've added an insole and am dealing with it); the CoH boyfriend jeans. 

Some are new this year: Cons, BR sweaters, silver and snake booties, wide leg jeans and pants, boot cuts, blanket scarf, windowpane blazer. 

Some are old favourites finding new life: basically everything else. The blue moto in particular is getting new love from me. I only wore it about twice last year and suddenly I am reaching for it a lot. You never know, right? 

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Gleener Review: ETA Update following Marilyn's report

Several people mentioned a gadget called the Gleener on Angie's recent knitwear post. Having tried and failed with a battery operated shaver (made nicks and holes) and brushes (smoothed but failed to de-pill) and pumice stones (wore holes in some stuff) I decided it was worth an attempt. 

Here's my review. 

The good: 

  • Inexpensive (under $20)
  • No batteries or electricity required. 
  • Comes with several heads for different types of garment. 
  • Easy to use.
  • And...most important...seems to work ...

(cough cough) at least sometimes

The bad:

  • Takes patience to use effectively. 
  • Doesn't really work on poor quality knits and that brings us right back to our basic problem -- we can't tell from the name or the reputation of the maker or even sometimes from the feel, what the quality is like. 

I tried it on four of my sweaters. I used the same medium attachment for all. 

First, on a new-this-year BR cardigan, supposedly merino, but more of a "shetland" type knit, to my mind. It has pilled under the arms and where my crossbody bag goes. It's hard to see the pills on the light grey. But the Gleener did take them off, with a bit of pressure. For the most part. ;) 

Second, an older J. Crew Collection cashmere tee. I think I got this in 2012 or 2013. It is quite high quality and does not pill a whole lot -- mostly just under the arms. I was able to remove a lot of the pills on this one quite easily and it looked better after Gleening.

Note -- this sweater has also become softer/ nicer to wear with washing -- a characteristic I note in higher quality cashmere but not necessarily in the cheaper stuff. That's one reason I've kept it so long. 

Third, my most frustrating sweater ever. You wouldn't have believed how lovely and soft and also interesting (because of the knit's texture) it looked at first. Gorgeous. But....it pilled in the first MINUTE of wearing and is basically nothing but pills. And why does this frustrate me so much? Because it happens to be a hugely useful item for me and I can't get rid of it! (Normally it is active/ loungewear for me now, but I wore it on my recent Spain trip, for instance, even though it is a mess, because it is just that versatile, lightweight, and warm.) Anyway. I don't think you can see much difference between the befores and afters here and Gleening, while it collected a lot of fuzz and pills, made no appreciable difference to the look of the thing. Not worth the effort and bother. 

Fourth, my older Pure Amici cardigan. It is well loved and much worn. It's very soft cashmere and has pilled a fair bit over the years. The Gleener worked quite well on this one, too. 

I'm not sure what to deduce from all of this. The J. Crew Collection and the Pure Amici were both higher priced items to begin with, and they do seem easier to maintain in decent shape. But is that always the case? Probably not. 

The first sweater is 80% wool/ 20% nylon. 

The second is 100% cashmere. 

The third is a wool/ cashmere blend. 

The fourth is 100% cashmere. 

Is the Gleener worth it? A resounding maybe. :)   I will keep it and use it...but I won't bother with it on the truly incorrigible knitwear fails. 

ETA: Tried a more robust attachment on my "problem" sweater and although you can't really see it here -- it helped a lot! Looks much better!!

With this update, I would say TRY it if you wear a lot of knits and want to keep them looking nice. It's not a perfect tool but if you experiment with the heads you might be happily surprised. 

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Another comfy casual boot...and some winter footwear observations

Nobody would accuse me of having too few shoes...

My first puchase this year was yet another pair. I saw these Sorels on a fitness classmate and fell in love. They were on sale. And wow, what a terrific little boot! Waterproof, lightweight, warm! Good for a medium volume foot or a narrower foot (I suspect) -- won't work on a very wide or super high volume foot. I do have narrow heels -- one boot shifts a bit (this, however, is story of my life!) but I don't think I'll get a blister; the other foot is fine (a near-miracle). 

These are admittedly on the "athleisure side" but I intend them for coming back and forth to fitness class and running errands; maybe also for daily walks, depending where I'm walking. They come in 3 colourways. 

I just threw them on coming home from gym, which is basically how I will wear them, so....excuse the mess! :) 

Some further winter footwear observations.

1. Like Angie, I bought the Converse flatform, and like her, I can tolerate it...but barely. It is a bit too heavy for long wear. And it's also a bit too flat for me, but not roomy enough for my PF inserts. Which means I don't feel fully supported in it. I have two pairs (mustard and red) and I do wear them a lot (it's a perfect option for my climate) but I've also learned that I do not care for this chunky style with my BF or slim jeans. I only like it with wide legs or flares. It just feels too "boyish" on me. I prefer my BF jeans with a pointed toe or almond toe -- something more refined. Interesting info for future reference. 

2. The Paul Greens are total workhorses. I did have an awful few days of break-in with them due to my narrow heel. But once they softened up -- pure bliss. Lightweight and fabulous. Not waterproof, though, so I baby them a bit. Also, the heel is going to wear down really quickly. I know from experience that I can get a lift put on this type of sole...but then the boot will be considerably heavier. I did it with my La Canadiennes last year and while I've worn those for another season, they are not as comfortable any more. I am really hard on footwear. A shoe I wear regularly is likely to wear out in a season. ;( 

3. For a heel, the EF pump is shockingly comfy. I ended up walking a mile and a half the other night in these when the bus didn't come, and wow -- they were great! This makes me think I really should consider EF shoes more often. They are very pricey but the quality is fab! I forgot to mention these in my comment on the "black footwear" post. I'd love these even better in blue, but am very glad to have them at all. I only own a couple of truly dressy shoes. How lovely when they're actually wearable! :) 

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Essentials revisited: a few discoveries

Angie, thank you so much for breaking your essentials down by category. This was really instructive for me. I've always thought I had a pretty good grasp of my essentials (at least for the past four years or so) but breaking it down this way led to further insights and an actual shopping list!

Here's my post from last year and you will see that many of the categories and specific items remain exactly the same. 

But this year, I've made a few changes and updates.  

First, the usual -- navy tops for a variety of seasons.   I feel pretty well set for these. I include versions from the uber-casual to the more refined, because they provide the "glue" for outfits at various levels of dressiness. (ETA -- I took out the denim because on reflection they don't serve exactly the same function. They might need their own category, though -- because if not "essentials" they are certainly "workhorses.) 

Next, white tops for various seasons. You will see there is a patterned top mixed in here -- that is because I wear it as a white top, pattern mixing at will, and wear it a LOT.  This makes me realize that a plain silk shirt in white would be useful to me. Currently, I don't own one. 

Blue outerwear. Surprise, surprise -- I need more of this! It's my goal to own a capsule more similar to Angie's. I really want a navy trenchcoat, a long navy military style coat, and a better pea coat. (The one I own is boiled wool, from consignment and while I love it and find it perfect for my climate, it does show its age a bit.) 

Highly current jeans: Like Angie, I feel best in slightly "trendy" denim (assuming I like the trend). Here, again, I can see holes. I need a pair of higher rise white wide legs for this spring/ summer, and maybe another pair of white. I still have a couple of older pair of mid-rise white jeans hanging around for use in a pinch, but it's time to start shopping seriously for white jeans that will work. I will also be on the lookout for another pair of higher rise looser straight blue jeans. These are a bit of a HEWI for me due to my leg shape (straights often fit me more snugly than ideal) but I will look. A higher rise BF style might be a better bet for me -- I just bought the Emerson's to see if they will work. 

Blue striped tops: no surprises here. I could use a lighter weight version for summer wear. 

Silver, grey, and white footwear: I don't own as much of this as a person might expect. It turns out that I often let my footwear make the statement, and prefer things that way. Some would even consider silver a de facto statement, but because it bookends my hair, for me it is less "flashy" -- or so I tell myself. :)  Anyway -- the blue striped sandals feel more "statement-like" even though they are blue. My EF sandals will be on their third season and are looking the worse for wear and quite worn down at the heel, so I am on the lookout for a suitable replacement. I will also keep eyes open for navy sneakers or sandals and white sandals. As well as for silver sneakers. 

Here is a surprise category, for me: SHORT seasonally appropriate toppers, blue or white predominating.  In the past, I'd have said "blue blazer" and left it at that. But my beloved blue blazer happens to be a longer jacket, and with the higher waists now current, I reach more often for a shorter jacket. My blazers are actually patterned, not plain -- but I wear them as faux plains. The denim jackets are great for about 6 months a year in my temperate climate and I still prefer the cropped versions (even though Angie tried to get me to go for an oversized one in Seattle -- I wasn't ready.) 

Silver watch and jewellery are another essential and signature category, but I don't have most of those items in Finds. 

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Question for SYC participants

Hi, everyone! I have a question for those of you who joined the SYC challenge. 

How is it different from usual for you? 

Do you typically buy an item or two every month? Or does "looking"(i.e. online or in-store browsing without purchasing) also count as shopping, and you want to reduce that behaviour, as well? (And if so, why?)  

I'm curious because as a seasonal shopper, I regularly go months at a time without purchasing, just as a matter of course. I do continue to look at things online (mainly in the Finds here) but generally I do so in a mood of pleasant abstraction, without any strong desire to buy the things... even if I like them a lot. I sometimes file away ideas to my list of items I might want later in the year. 

My main shopping months, it seems, are May-June (for spring/ summer). This is late in the season -- I know Angie shops in February/ March -- but so far, I have found I don't really know my needs for spring/ summer things until closer to the time when temps really rise.  I shop again in July (NAS, which for me includes Basics) and September-October for fall/winter. I sometimes refresh knits or gear in January at the post-holiday sales. And that's pretty much it, except if I have a gift card or I need to travel to a place where my existing clothing won't really work. 

I might go into a store and try things on...and if I find a HEWI I might make a purchase between seasons. But it's relatively rare. Even if I do find something I've been longing for, I tend to wait on it if I find it outside my usual shopping window. For example, although I really want a long military style navy coat and loved the Mackage I tried on in November or December (not sure the timing any more) -- I didn't buy it. I might still buy it next year. Wait and see. 

Please know, this is not meant in any way to judge any one or to suggest that seasonal shopping is the only way to go. For one thing, if you're primarily a thrifter, it's important to hit the stores frequently, and in most cases, if you find something great at thrift, you're not going to want to hit "pause."  (My pattern of seasonal shopping might explain why I only have limited success at thrift and consignment, in fact!)

Also, my typical pattern means I tend to buy a lot in a short period of time. (Because, ahem, as you know, I don't exactly have a minimalist wardrobe!) For some, that might feel overwhelming or be impossible to manage financially.

And then there are the people who experience a lifestyle change or significant weight change between seasons and need to get clothing to work in their new environment or for the body they have. 

I've enjoyed reading the posts of all who participated and I see some interesting benefits (depending on reasons for joining in.) Some people took a really good stock of what they had, some figured out new ways to use what they had, some felt good about the financial savings or reduced environmental impact, etc. All of that seems great. 

Anyway, would love to hear from you about your usual shopping habits and how it is different to SYC. 

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