Gear update and review: MPG (mostly)

One of my goals for 2019 was to update my gear which was a mishmash of stuff, mostly bought at Winner's, and mostly bought years ago. Gear tends to wear like iron but even so, I had some items that had lost their shape/ elasticity, and a few Old Navy leggings that I was forever having to fuss with or they'd fall down—not a fun experience in the gym. 

Lisa P has mentioned MPG to us a number of times and they were having a big sale so I thought I'd try some items out. The sale prices were Old Navy but the quality for many of these items is near LuLu Lemon, although of course I can't predict how well they will wear yet. For Canadian fabbers, especially, they might be a good gear option. 

I also got the purple funnel neck from Old Navy -- it's soft and lighter weight than the MPG one, so they will complement each other. I now have a little "purple/mauve" workout capsule, and a navy one, with just a few black and grey pieces to mix with either -- which is nice because I like purple and lilac but don't really have any in my regular wardrobe. So it feels a bit "special." 


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The workhorse you weren't expecting...

We've talked endlessly the wardrobe workhorse. In theory, these should be easy to spot, but sometimes an item surprises us. Who doesn't love a Wild Card Workhorse? It's the fun thing that moves our style forward in an unexpected direction. Like a scarf in a new colour or something in a new silhouette. 

Then there's the supposed wardrobe essential that we put a lot of time and thought into purchasing, in the firm conviction that it's going to be a foundational piece for us. It may even be a HEWI. Flash forward, and for all our planning and forethought, we end up hardly wearing the thing. (Tall heeled boots, I'm looking at you.) 

Apart from the Snow Queen consignment coat and a couple of gear items, I've made 4 purchases since arriving in Vancouver. All were spontaneous and unpremeditated.

Yes, I needed a belt, but I wasn't considering a western style belt. True, I wanted a new bag, but in fact I wanted a structured blue or red bag, not a pale grey knapsack.

Meanwhile, I had no intention of buying black waterproof booties! I have tall waterproof black boots (2 pair, one flat and one heeled), a mid-height waterproof black boot -- and no great love of black footwear! I thought I could do very well without a pair of black booties, thank you very much. 

As for the jeans, yes, I'd been considering the purchase of a pair of black jeans for about a year. But had a flash sale not coincided with a gift card burning a hole in my wallet, I never would have tried these particular ones. 

Well, guess what? The western belt that I didn't think I wanted because I didn't care for the western trend is a workhorse. The pale grey unstructured bag that is nothing like the bag I thought I wanted has not been off my shoulder since I bought it -- it works with everything and has turned out to be extremely practical for my needs and easy to use.

The waterproof black booties are fantastic for all day wear and have been my footwear of choice since I bought them. The black jeans are super comfortable and I've worn them twice a week. 

I'm coming to think that it's the intuitively driven purchase that marks a workhorse more than anything for me. The item seems to call you somehow. 

I saw the bag and the booties and examined them in store...did not buy but kept thinking...two days later was back in the store to purchase. 

Have you had experiences like that? Maybe this is Angie's "organized emotional shopping"? 


Challenge Closet edit (Pre-move, Long)

Because of my move at the end of August, I jumped on this challenge ahead of time. I wasn't going to report on this but in the comments I saw that many others are also moving and editing in preparation for that, so I'm putting down my own experience for possible reference. Please don't feel you need to read this long post if it's not your thing! ;) 

Unsolicited advice: If you're preparing to edit for a move, your first questions should concern space (for storage), climate, and lifestyle. Will you have less or more space to store your things? Is it the same climate or a new one? Is your lifestyle about to change significantly, e.g. retirement, new job, new baby?  It's difficult to do, but try to think in terms of future needs vs. what you've been wearing now -- at least if any of these factors are going to differ.

  • In my case, I was going to have more storage space in the new house -- but difficulty transporting everything, since mine may be a temporary relocation and we had to take most everything in suitcases on a plane vs in a moving van/ trunks. 
  • I moved to a more temperate, moderate, but much more rainy climate. 
  • My lifestyle is going to be very similar. Work from home, teaching, presentations, a lot of walking. 

I left some items back in a "holding zone" at my old home -- my big parkas (these can be retrieved if necessary), some heavy winter boots, certain sweaters. I'm not counting those as edited out -- but they're not part of the active wardrobe, either. 

Here's a list of what I got rid of and why. I also put in brackets the approximate years/ seasons I've had and worn each item. (Finds for some below)

Worn out: 

  • Cobalt shopper   (handbag)     (5)
  • Silver gladiators.                       (3)
  • Munro cranberry suede booties .  (5)
  • Colourblock black/ navy peacoat (sob!!)   (6)
  • Sweatshirt dress (sob!! -- loved this but kitty made a run in it!)  (1)
  • Zara silk/cotton grey batwing sweater . (6)
  • Red/ white BR poly top sleeveless .       (2)
  • Theory cable crew wool sweater, from consignment . (6)
  • Loft black knit peplum top  (6)

Poor fit:

  • Black moto skinnies (gained a bit of weight)  (6)
  • Silver Ecco summer sneakers (not enough support) . (5)
  • black Halogen pencil skirt  (weight gain). (6)
  • Leopard print jeans   (waist just never felt right even at a good size) (1)

Still in good shape & fits but retired due to style shifts:

  • TR Cameron BF jeans  (low rise) .  (5)
  • Black skinnies (low rise) . (5)
  • Halogen kick crops black  (2) 
  • Halogen kick crops red .    (1)
  • Cognac saddle bag (don't like gold hardware)   (3)
  • Blue camo BF shorts (low rise) . (4)
  • Silk abstract pattern top  (3)

Items that just didn't work after putting them through their paces, e.g. they were experiments that in the end didn't feel like "me," they fit okay but never felt right, didn't work in my outfits, etc. 

  • Floral kimono (not me) .   (2)
  • Navy/ white gingham button front J. Crew (fabrication too soft) . (2)
  • Everlane navy silk SS.   (2)
  • Everlane blue shell.     (2)
  • Everlane red shell .   (2)
  • Navy merino t-neck, BR .  (1)
  • Lilac merino t-neck     (1)
  • Grey merino t-neck     (1)

Note: I do large seasonal edits in September and April, and this is my big September edit. But I tend to edit frequently, like Angie, and between that and in my September 2017 and Spring 2018 edits I had already culled about 60 pieces (for the same range of reasons.) 

Overall, I average about 40-60 "retired" items per year. Which is around 1/3 of the wardrobe. 

I guess you can look at this two ways. It's a lot of wardrobe churn...or not. Because most items I retire have 3-5 years of wear at minimum, which means that unless they're special occasion pieces they typically meet that arbitrary 30 wear threshold.

As you can see, I do make mistakes. Interestingly, my mistakes tend to be for "essentials" vs. statement items. Yes, I buy the odd statement that does not work out -- but more often I buy essentials (like turtlenecks) in the expectation I'll get a ton of wear from them, but for some reason they fail to work out as I had imagined or hoped, either due to quality, fit, or something else. 

I have never regretted letting go of something. Oh -- wait -- I had a vintage pair of high waisted raw silk gaucho pants that I wish I could have kept -- but they were worn out anyway. So...

ETA: After examining for wear and fit, my main question is: does this item make me happy? Does it help me make good outfits or do I always feel "off" in it. If I tend to feel "off" in something, I'm pretty ruthless, however much it cost me. It's a sunk cost anyway, just sitting in the closet. Out, out, out with it, I say!! 

Here are pics of my new closet. We have a massive amount of storage space here but it is oddly laid out. No drawers, so I bought some baskets/ boxes and am making do. I find in my new climate I still put a few things away seasonally (the last photo here -- I've boxed very lightweight items and put them in the guest room). But much more of my clothing is potentially usable across seasons. 

1-2. Shirts/ blouses.

3. Shoes/ booties/ sandals (I have some boots and my coats in the hall closet downstairs). 

4. Skirts and trousers.

5. Jackets (and in-use bags -- new item there!)

6. Dresses & long toppers (in another part of closet where Mr. Suz keeps his stuff, but it's the only full length area and I need room for midis. 

7. Undies and socks in baskets. 

8. Scarves, gym stuff, etc. 

9. Sweaters, jeans, etc. 

Phew! That's a long recap. If anyone has questions, let me know!


Go to the full post to see all of the pictures →


Wet coast style observations

Hi, all. I've been in my new Vancouver residence for 9 days now and so far, so good! We had gorgeous weather the first week but the rains have now arrived in earnest. Luckily, I've lived here before so am up for that particular fashion challenge. 

So far, my wardrobe has not been much on my mind because I'm dealing with house set up. But yesterday I was downtown and made some mental notes about Vancouver style. 

  • Sneakers reign supreme on all ages. Fashion sneakers or regular. The occasional Blundstone or hiking boot offers a hint of variety. 
  • Athleisure retains its hold here. Also, lots of gear and technical fabrics. 
  • Black, black and white, and denim are the dominant colours. 
  • Lots of Kate Spade and MK bags on the younger women. 
  • Those who don't follow this pattern truly stand out. Yesterday a man dressed entirely in pale blush pink walked past in the rain. Pink Converse, pale pink jeans, pink shirt, pink jacket, pink umbrella. Definitely captured the attention! 
Bonus pics: John Fluevog's witty response to the NY Times. And, my cat has adopted an Elizabethan ruff to prevent him from catching the plentiful birds in our garden. 


Go to the full post to see all of the pictures →


2018 Style Goals (Also in blog)

I know Angie wanted comments in the blog but it's also good tp place these here for easier reference and review. Just keeping myself accountable. 

My computer's broken right now so I can't post photos. I'm going to come back to this when I get my machine back and add a few photos of favourite outfits. I'm sad that my photo-taking capacities have been so limited of late and that does affect my perception of past outfits (i.e. makes it harder to judge) but I hope I can remember well enough how I felt in them to do an evaluation. 

Meanwhile...2018 Goals

1. To do a thorough closet review and edit, capsule by capsule. What’s working, what’s not? Why not? (I already do this season by season, but I think I need a slightly more stringent version this year, letting go of some items that I like but just don’t reach for any more and asking myself tough questions about why.) Review essentials and ensure all are in good repair and all bases are covered. Navy/ ink, white (in summer), grey.

2. To wear outfits that are:


Angie  observed that "retro" is a new descriptor for me. I'm still not sure it's right, even though I do enjoy (have always enjoyed) a retro element in my style. I'm not yet sure it is the best word for what I am after here. I like to hearken to 60s mod and some 70s influences and also the occasional vintage inspired piece. But maybe more to inject a bit of "playfulness" which is the word that I had in this place last year. So...still debating. 

3. To look for statement or luxury items (e.g. jewellery or bags or jackets) from local designers, special vintage shops, etc. I know my taste and needs really well now; if I see an amazing vintage or newly designed jacket or dress, I can be pretty darned sure it will work for me long term and have longevity. Most of my clothes come from the big chain stores. I feel I can inject more individuality into my style without going all “docent lady” by following this path.

4. Continue to increase representation of red in the closet!

5. Continue my search for key HEWIs — a white sandal, for example. A bright sandal. 


2017 Style Review

I just loved Angie's summary of her 2017 style today and all the others that have been popping up on the forum. My turn! 

Looking back on my reflections for 2016, I see I set myself a few goals. Did I meet them? Well...yes...and no. :) 

What I did well

1.  In shopping and creating outfits, I kept my style adjectives in mind

  • Modern
  • Precise
  • Playful
  • Bright
  • Bold

These adjectives still feel aspirational and useful. 

2.  I added fire engine/ true red items to my closet. It was a good year for doing so, since red was trending. I am now developing quite a healthy "red" capsule across several seasons. (Not pictured: a cranberry red wool coat and a few other items in cranberry and burgundy tones that can work in a tonal capsule with true red.)

Admission: I still have not removed the tags from those red Halogen crops. Hmmm. I wonder if those are a shamefully late return in the making, or if I should put them on, already? They were not a big expense but somehow feel harder to wear than I expected! How can I style these babies? 

3. I added a bit of drama via colour (ummm, red, anyone?) and also cut and pattern. Drama scaled to my small size, that is. :) I bought a statement ring which I wear almost daily. I purchased an asymmetrical sweater and a pair of leopard cords, both of which inject a bit of oomph.  With my newly grey hair, silver is my metal. Daily I wear a chunky silver watch, a modern silver bracelet, silver earrings, a silver ring, and either a silver belt buckle or a necklace. 

4. I wore the heck out of dresses and skirts (and crops) in warm weather

5. I aimed for balance between practicality and the dressiness level I prefer. How? Well....

a). In terms of footwear purchases...I stepped away from the pretty but useless booties this fall and put my money into two expensive but practical and attractive boots. (Aren't you proud of me?) I also added a second pair of fashion sneakers in the spring, in silver, which turned out to be versatile and useful.  

b). I added a HEWI -- a casual, sleeved, winter dress. Yes, it's casual, but it's still a dress, and a dress I can wear without feeling overly "precious" even if I am working from home. (Plus, DH loves it -- I think it looks better on me in person than in the pics. It has a very subtle pattern like stars in a night sky...)

c). I added several slim to skinny trousers that I can wear instead of jeans. They're equally comfortable -- yet they instantly increase the dressiness level of outfits. 

d). I increased my jacket capsule. This year I bought two military style jackets (navy and red), one tartan blazer, and one tweed jacket. While I enjoy and wear my 3 longer cardigans, at heart I will always be a jacket girl. There's nothing that makes me feel more like myself than a great- fitting blazer. The jackets I added are easy for me to wear to school, travelling, etc. They are non restrictive and non-wrinkling. 

What didn't work as well

My goal to purchase less was a massive fail. It turns out that I both bought and retired/ donated/ wore out roughly same number of items as last year: 50. (Not the same items, thankfully!!) This represents a turnover of about 1/3 of my wardrobe. It seems like a lot of churn. But is it? I honestly don't know. 

About 20 of these items were replacements for worn-out essentials. 
That's useful information for me. I'm talking truly worn-out, too -- the kind of worn out that can't be mended, cobbled, etc. What that tells me is that I've named my essentials accurately, and they get a lot of wear! 

A few more were for HEWIs that became instant workhorse items. 

What about the other half? it reasonable to add 25 items per year to evolve one's style? (Assuming the budget to do so, of course).

There are no easy answers.

What I will say in my defence is that I donated/ gifted ethically and the clothes I passed along will get a new and happy life. Most of my retired but still wearable items go to my impecunious step-daughter, who greatly appreciates them. The only ones that don't go to her are the wool/ silk/ leather items (she is a vegan). Last night I gave a leather jacket that I no longer wear due to gold hardware to my hairdresser. :)

Did I shop more ethically? Well, it's debatable. I did buy a few carefully chosen items from local designers and artisans (such as my Icelandic ring and a fab summer dress from Comrags.) But -- as usual --most of my purchases came from Nordstrom, Banana, J. Crew., Club Monaco. Uncharacteristically, I didn't pick up a thing at Zara. 

That's my roundup for the year. Looking forward to formulating some goals for 2018 after a thorough review of the closet! 


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2018 Fashion mantra: Accept Yourself (Long and navel-gazing)

On Lisa's recent year end review, Angie said: "Sometimes, our idea of style and wardrobe perfection isn’t suited to who we are - which makes it an unnatural fit and hard to achieve."

Truer words were never spoken! In fact, sometimes I think the only fashion lesson any of us really needs to learn -- and, alas, the hardest -- is to accept ourselves!

Oh, how we fight that!! In all areas of life. We want to be what we aren't. Or we want our conditions to be what they aren't. Or we want both -- a different self and different conditions. (Here we pause so the author can slink off in blushing embarrassment. Guilty as charged!!)   ;) 

This thought arose in connection with Lisa's comments about a certain pair of navy velvet metallic booties, one of her best purchases of 2017. The minute she wrote about them, I wanted those booties!! 

And, on the face of it, they seem like a reasonable purchase. After all, there's a big wardrobe hole in my closet for a navy bootie. I wore my last navy booties to the ground! Had them re-heeled, and wore them to the ground again. Only passed them along because the insides were starting to fail me. (Editorial note: Those Zara booties put the lie to the idea that Fast Fashion has to be cheap, poorly made or, indeed, "fast." They were one of the hardest wearing pieces in my closet for 4 years.) 

Yet, these booties look more delicate and fragile than the ones they would replace. And after my rash of "fun" and delicate bootie-buying last year (red suede, and silver, and white) -- I'm feeling a bit sheepish. Because despite their comfort, and the fact that they complete my outfits visually like nobody's business, I haven't worn any of those pretty but fragile booties more than a dozen times—apart from YLF selfies! So I am not sure how I could justify this purchase of a similar pair.

The reality is, I'm a person who spends long hours indoors in winter. I don't wear outdoor footwear when I am indoors at home; there, warm, comfortable, and supportive slippers rule. When I go out, I go tromping around in the snow. This is not a garage-to-car-to-mall or shop life that I lead; it is a 10,000 steps a day in all weather conditions walking lifestyle. When I do go out, I tend to go to places where there is no option to remove outdoor footwear and put on indoor footwear, i.e. restaurants, classrooms (where I do not have an office or even a coat rack), meetings in small inadequate spaces rented by nonprofits, etc. So when, exactly, can I wear my booties? I wore the red ones to a party recently, where I was the only person so shod (everyone else was in socks and slippers), and nobody saw them because I was seated at a table most of the time. 

I have to admit, the more I listen to who I really am and where and how I really live, the fewer my wardrobe "fails." The ulta-expensive La Canadienne boots that might seem like a crazy indulgence to some are already up past 60 wears in 2.5 months. Even so, it will take some time to bring their CPW down to the cost of my frivolous fun booties (which were, after all, purchased on sale and did not take a huge chunk out of my budget.) But it's clear where my priorities should lie. 

Still, it's never easy. I really, really want to wear those pretty shoes! (Jeepers, you'd think I could just turn myself into a "bag lady" instead, right? But no...footwear is always where I want to splurge!)

How about you? Do you struggle to accept some aspect of your lifestyle   and how does it affect your style? Do you have advice?

P.S. My boxing day splurge? A new parka. After 7 years, I am bored beyond words with my grey puffer, which I wear day in, day out for months on end. At least it's justified by my conditions. ;) 


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Packing...for Iceland!

I travel so much that I am usually quite calm about it all...but I am packing for Iceland and am in a bit of a tizzy. I leave tomorrow and will be gone for 12 days. The problems are threefold: 

  • Need to fit it all in carry on, plus day pack.
  • Varied activities -- from retreat/ hiking in 7C temps in the far north, to conference in fashionable Reykjavik, with temps probably closer to 12C.
  • Followed by...several days in (probably much warmer -- even up to 25C and humid) Toronto.
  • No laundry. 

I know the trick will be layers...but which ones is the question! For footwear, I have hiking boots, silver sneakers, rainproof booties (for city) and maybe Fitflops for hot springs and Toronto if killer hot while there. I don't know if that is right but it will probably have to do. 

I have one pair jeans, one pair leggings (for hiking only, since I don't wear them regularly), one pair dress pants, one pair rain pants, and several pairs of base layers in wool and poly. 

I have a rain shell. Rain pants. Hat, gloves. I'm also bringing my cashmere shawl. (Not that it coordinates with my rain coat, but whatever.) Question is what level of fleece (not sure I have what would be right -- can make a quick shopping trip this afternoon) -- and/ or should I bring my thin Northface puffer. Or a puffer vest. And/or my dressy lightweight raincoat for laying over a blazer or leather jacket in the city. Maybe I don't need a fleece at all if I take the right woollen sweater to layer under my rain jacket. I typically don't wear fleece because I tend to move from puffer coat straight to raincoat where I live -- we don't tend to need that in between stuff. 

Also trying to figure out how many and what weight of knit tops. I have a lighterweight cotton that can be worn as a heavier top under a jacket, a slightly warmer cotton that can be layered over merino layer, a thin merino that can go over and under other items, and am wondering what else I might need. 

Ack! Sorry for incoherence. Off to do some more planning/ adjusting. Here are a few of the items I'm considering or taking for sure. 


Essentials vs. statements -- why bother categorizing?

In Rachy's what is a statement thread, catty asked: 

"At the risk of being provocative, what are people hoping to achieve from this exercise? It seems like there's a lot of confusion and even angst around putting a label on the clothes that are already in our closets. So you decide your khakis are essentials and your scarves are statements, then what?"

It's a great question. One reason I can see for spending some time thinking about this is that (in my case, at least) it helped me conceptualize my closet across varied seasons. Knowing your essentials can help you hone in on a signature style, if that is something that matters to you.

Angie's blog post itself offers another excellent reason: 

  • They are fabulous items to duplicate in the same or different colours.
This is important for those people who tend to duplicate a lot and find themselves confused about why sometimes this strategy has worked for them and sometimes the second item has languished in the closet. Ink and navy merino and cashmere crew neck and boat neck tops (in winter) and linen tees (in summer) are essentials for me. It makes a lot of sense for me to duplicate ink and navy tops in my closet and to get them in fabric weights, because I will wear a navy top as an essential in all seasons. Note -- not just any navy/ ink tops. Only those with certain necklines make the grade. This is important. 

In other words, to be effective defining your essentials requires a broad overview of the closet as well as a kind of granular analysis. If I ignored the neckline issue I might find myself with a lot of barely worn U-neck navy tops, and a feeling of frustration about my lack of ability to create satisfying outfits.  

Still another reason? People's closets tend to be off kilter in one of two ways. Either they tend to over-purchase essentials so that everything is a bit dull...or they tend to over-purchase statements and nothing works together and they wonder why the heck that is. If the first crowd could identify their statement items and within that class, which ones they truly wear and love, they might make smarter purchases of new statements (with less guilt about it). If the second group could identify their essentials, they might buy a few and bring their wardrobes into working order. 

Also, for some people, the analysis is just plain fun. Not an occasion for angst but an absorbing puzzle. 

I'm sure there are other reasons I haven't thought of -- can anyone offer some? 


Cross-seasonal essentials in 4 season climate

I really loved Angie's blog post on essentials yesterday. For years I have been thinking about this on a season by season basis -- because I have four (or maybe 6) distinct seasons and honestly, what's absolutely crucial in the sense of keeping me alive in one season (the puffer coat) is blessedly forgotten in another!! So I had struggled a bit with the concept. 

Angie's post yesterday was a lightbulb for me because her list struck me as quite different from most I've seen, which are either too granular or irrelevant to my lifestyle or climate. I liked that she included categories of item (this makes sense to me) but also specified a bit within categories. So -- trendy jeans, but not all trendy jeans, some being more statement-like.

And I liked that she identified her essential footwear by colour vs. style. This was a lightbulb moment for me. It's impossible for me to go by style because, well, in my climate I need so many different styles! But I can identify the colour of footwear that is a necessity in my closet. Bingo! 

The idea of categories helped me to see what it is I wear and need to make outfits work across all seasons. I still have a few questions, though, which I'll append at the bottom. 

My list looks similar i some ways to Angie's, no surprise there. It includes:


  • Silver watch
  • Wedding ring/ chunky ring
  • Silver stud earrings 
  • Belt (for wearing with denim)

(Sorry, don't have Finds for all of these, but you get the idea.) 

Pewter/ silver/ grey footwear with about a 2 inch heel (or lower).

Whether sandal or bootie or shoe, a must-have in any season as it bookends hair and blends well with blue denim.  

Ink/ navy blazer

I don’t wear it every day or even every week, but it's absolutely crucial in my closet. 

Trendy jeans

My jeans capsule is really important. I like to incorporate trendy styles. My statement versions right now are flares, culottes, and plaid ones. 

My essentials at the moment are slim straight crops and slim BF crops. 

Ink/ navy turtleneck/ slashneck/ crew tops, in all seasons.

White or light crewneck or slashneck tops, in all seasons.

These come into their own more in summer for me. I don't wear white as often in winter. 

So, a few questions: 

Here are items I considered but did not put into my list of essentials, even though they are backbone items. 

Striped Mariner sweater/ top. I wear one of these several times a week in spring/ summer/ early fall. But never in winter. Then, I tend to revert to a brightly coloured cashmere tee, which serves a similar purpose. Not "statement" exactly -- but "interest" in an outfit. So is it essential, or not? 

Denim jacket -- falls into same category as above. Essential in spring/ summer but not other times. 

White footwear: This is becoming an absolute need in warmer weather. LOVE my white sneakers. But I haven't worn my gorgeous white booties. Weather forbids it, honestly. So...Not an essential, right? 

Silk blouse/ shirt: I don't wear one every week, but without a silk top I am utterly at a loss at certain times -- it is a fallback feel great item that makes me feel more dressed up in denim and that I use in every season. Essential, or not? 

Sheath dress: this is a "special occasion" essential.