2024: Expand. Chartreuse.

I finally got a chance to sit down and finish my year review and planning process, which I owe in large part to Helena. I am so grateful for your book recommendation all those years ago, Helena! I've adapted the process and added a few elements — like the fashion review (thanks, Angie!) and the word and colour (thanks, Laura & Angie!). All in all, it takes me quite a while but is always worth it. 

This year, my word is expand -- with its connotations of growth, unfurling, opening, elaboration, and even relaxation. And my colour—surprise! — is chartreuse. 

Chartreuse is not a colour in my wheelhouse! It's pretty close to Angie's sour apple green. It's definitely not a colour I can wear in abundance near my face. In fact, it's probably one of my least flattering colours.

But I've been enjoying it lately, even craving it!

I have a few items that include bits of chartreuse in a pattern and I adore them. It works brilliantly with blues, lilacs/ lavenders, white, silver, and grey. And according to Adobe, "It was especially popular in the 1920s, since it was viewed as bold, vibrant, and rebellious." (Sounds like garçon to me!) And: "It represents life, growth, and vitality.”   Which seems to me to work with my word, "expand." 

Style Goals

What I won't be expanding is the size of my closet. :)  I counted and I have 145 items in my 4-season closet, including coats and footwear, but not including gear, PJ's, basics, bags, or stuff like gloves/ hats, jewellery.

I think I could stand to edit a bit more, but not a lot. Traditionally, I have felt happiest with a wardrobe between 120 and 150 items. Any more and I get overwhelmed and don't wear all my clothes. Whereas if I go a lot smaller than 120, I am missing out on key items I may seldom wear, but nevertheless need for some of my less frequent but still important occasions. 

I have done a major refresh this year, am very happy with my closet,  and have zero need of anything new over the next few months. So, for 2024, I will

1. Continue my substantial edit — re-evaluating every piece in turn. (I think there are still a few items I could stand to let go of.) 

2. Buy second-hand first, except undies and footwear. I will re-evaluate this goal in 6 months. 

3. Look for chartreuse in patterns and accessories. :)  And maybe even buy new, for that. 


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My 3 style adjectives -- and new moniker?

Long and navel-gazey. Feel free to skip to the photos and questions. 

I've been thinking about this question since Sal's post. And maybe even before that, because for a while now I've been feeling that my style has been stagnating. Maybe the pandemic's to blame. I've hardly needed to wear real clothes at all for the past 2.5 years.  Consequently, I haven't bought much new, apart from some replacement essentials. Whatever the reason, my style's feeling stale, even stagnant --  and I could use some inspiration and direction. 

The 3 adjectives I've been using for a few years (modern, classic, playful) just aren't resonating for me. Not because my style is no longer modern, classic, or playful. It is modern, classic, and playful -- and always will be! Maybe that's the problem --- these adjectives are too obvious and possibly too general -- they don't give me any feeling of guidance or direction and they don't help me evolve.

I've always gravitated to a moniker more than adjectives, but my old moniker (urban prince) similarly feels off for my new lifestyle -- suburban/ outside a small city that I rarely spend time in/ mostly work from home. What's "urban" about this? And how can you be a "prince" when you are mostly hiking the trails or digging in the dirt? :) 

Anyway...here's what I'm trying out now, based on favourite outfits over the past few years and some of the aspects of my current and aspirational style that give me enduring joy. 

Laid-back luminous garconne. 

Laid-back: this encapsulates the casual, pragmatic aspect of my style. I live in a suburb, my main modes of transportation are foot, bicycle, and public transit, I love to spend time outdoors hiking, and I mostly work from home, where my cat sheds fur all over me and could put holes in any hose I tried to wear. Meanwhile, and at any random moment in the day I might get up from my desk to tend to something in the garden or on the stove. 

By now it should be clear that my every day outfits can’t be too uptight, too "buttoned up," or too precious. Nor even as polished or structured as (in an ideal world) I might wish. 

No wonder denim plays a starring role in my closet (sometimes slightly  distressed but never ripped). Breathable knits (esp. in winter) or cotton/ linen shirts (in summer) are also key. I mostly choose washable fabrics (the only things I really dry clean are wool coats) and I prefer tailored clothes that have some ease. I also like fluid fits, and some oversized items. But I have to be judicious with the oversized clothing because I'm verging on petite and easily overwhelmed by too much volume and drape. Oversize plus structure is a winning combination. 

Footwear includes sneakers, boots, simple sandals, low heels. 

It’s easy to have “laid back” style when working from home — what’s much, much more difficult is incorporating the other two elements to create the juxtaposition I’m after. This is where I could use some inspiration or help. :)  It's a perennial problem, really -- but I feel it more acutely since I've moved to a suburb and social life often centres around hikes or walks. 

Luminous: since my hair turned grey in 2016, I’ve tried to make my silver pixie a feature, rather than a bug, of my style. I play up the colour with silver jewellery, silver hardware on bags, etc. silver footwear, and some silver clothing. I love the way silver contrasts with distressed denim and dark navy (key neutrals). (Some of my silver and sparkly items, in this collection.) 

But I need to remember that silver isn’t the only route to luminosity — shine (e.g. patent) can work, and so can white items, or even white incorporated into patterns. And my flattering colours (blue reds and berries) make my skin more luminous. 

Going forward, every outfit should include some element of “luminosity” as I’m defining it. Again, this is easy when I’m dressing up — much less easy when I’m working from home. 

Garconne: the garconne style hearkens back to the 1920s, one of my favourite fashion eras, and for me, it suggests so much of what I enjoy in my favourite outfits, and what I aspire to, both in my “out on the town” and more ordinary, every day style. In a way, garconne style as developed by Coco Chanel is the original "modern classic" style -- so many of the items and combinations that we now consider "classic" and even iconic originate in this era and get tweaked and reinterpreted for each generation. 

Words I associate with this style include androgyny — Suits, button down shirts, trousers, oxfords or loafers. But also dresses with movement, especially but not exclusively dropped waist styles, mostly just below the knee. These styles exude cheekiness and energy. 

Simplicity — but not exactly minimalism. Neutrals and solids or faux solids dominate but colour does appear and “gamine” patterns like stripes and tartans also play a role. Organic patterns (florals, paisley) in moderation, especially in dresses and evening clothes. 

There’s restrained drama in the tailoring, the fit of the structured pieces, the contrasts (either in colour or in texture) and simply in the juxtaposition between a female body and clothing items traditionally deemed "masculine." 

I'm probably forgetting something here. But this gives you the idea. 

What think you of "laid-back luminous garconne" for my adjectives and moniker? 

It’s easy for me to put together outfits that encompass these three adjectives when I’m in an urban environment, or when I’m out and about on the town. (Some examples below).

What’s harder — much, much harder!! — is to figure out how to do this at home. Curling up on the couch with my kitty, I just won’t wear structured pieces (apart from denim). And denim plus shirt or sweater often feels dull dull dull or (at best) preppy and too boyish/ masculine. 

Hiking in my suburban neighbourhood, I need practical clothes — gear, basically! — and while that is definitely a bit boyish, it’s less urban-influenced than I might wish. Sometimes it veers too preppy. (I like a certain amount of prep but it can also feel too juvenile on me at times or too twee.) Meanwhile, if I amp up the ease or femininity (soft cardigans, drape) that feels cozy but completely inauthentic on some level — almost costumed. 

Like Jenn, I’ve long dreamed of a work from home “uniform.” But I have yet to discover what it is. I’m curious to try a jumpsuit (or, more practically) a two piece jumpsuit lookalike. I wonder if that would give me what I want in my at home wear?

Ideas for how I can incorporate more "luminous" and "garconne" into my work from home (or hiking) outfits more than welcome!

The pics below are all "leaving the house" outfits....the question is how to find "at home" outfits that create the same feeling? 

Thanks for reading if you got this far, and thoughts or brand suggestions or suggestions of specific items to seek out most welcome. If your own style is cognate, tell me about your own winners! 


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Grab your fuchsia (and hot pink) crash helmets! (Lots of pics)

Speaking of fuchsia...I've been crushing on this colour long before the (welcome to me) trend! 

Here's a trip down memory lane. The earliest photos date from 2012 which is more or less when I joined YLF!

Sadly, I no longer have the fabulous 3 piece silk fuchsia suit. Bought at the thrift store for pennies, and wow did I have fun with it for a few years. It got a little snug, though, and I used up most of my occasions for wearing it, so I bid it a sad goodbye and let it go to a new friend. 

Then there was the H&M knit shrunken jacket -- a total workhorse for less than $10. First picture taken in Beijing, fall 2012. Second one back in Kingston. 

I still have this shocking pink rain jacket (5). Shocking pink is a bit warm for me, but I like it anyway for its energy. Banff 2012. 

The suit came out for an awards event in 2013. I also wore it to a fancy work event that spring. 

Later, in the summer, I wore this hot pink silk top in New York City. Catching the subway, I loved the way my platform mate and I BOTH rocked the colour block trend -- in the same colours, just opposite blocking! 

Also in New York, hot pink bag. 

Banff, 2014 -- a knit shirt. And the hot pink jacket. (9/10)

Cooler pink cashmere sweater -- I still have this one. Wearing it (or similar) in Israel in 2014. 

#13 Sometimes you have to look for your fix in nature. 

#14/15 -- a newer silk shell, in a cooler tone. Beijing, summer, 2015. 

Later that summer, with my brother. We look happy in the pics but it was actually a sad trip. Our mother had died and we were visiting family. 

#18 Trying a new sweater...

#19 Even my phone was hot pink...checking out the progress of my grey grow-out. 

#20 -- some orchid or fuchsia in the skirt -- new hair. 

#21 -- my mom's top -- fuchsia flowers. 

#22 -- scarf with hot pink, summer, 2016. 

#23 Fall, 2016 -- taking photo in London of a hot pink shoe in a window -- pop up store. 

#24 In Rodmell, Virginia Woolf's garden. 

#27 J Crew hot pink Rhodes jacket. Coming back into circulation this fall. 

#31 - 34 Winter 2016 -- hot pink coat and lots of pink hats at demonstration. 

#35/#36 -- in Iceland. 

#37 -- a poor NAS experiment. LOVED the colour. Hated the sleeves and material. Oh well. 

#38 Floral interlude. 

#39 Infinity Mirrors exhibit (Yayoi Kusama) at Art Gallery of Ontario

#40 -- running low on fuchsia but trying pink on taupe/pink last fall...

#41 Roses in the UBC garden, June 2019. 


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Guo Pei: Photo heavy

Wow oh wow. If you live anywhere near Vancouver or are visiting in the next few weeks, or if this show is going to your city, you must try to see it! 

I went with two friends today and we were just beside ourselves at the intricate artistry of this high couturier fashion. Most items (and especially the platform shoes!) appeared utterly unwearable, but all were inarguably magnificent. I've never seen anything like this. 

Guo Pei was born to Communist Party members during the Cultural Revolution. Which reminded me of Newton's law: to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. You're going to surround me with drab blue tunic suits and flat cotton shoes for my entire childhood? Well, then, back to the Qing Dynasty  (and 16th century Spain, and the Renaissance church) I will go for my inspiration! 

I was interested to see that she has almost singlehandedly revived the art of hand-embroidery in China. She found a few craftswomen who still practiced it and had them train others and now she employs thousands and continues to advance the craft with instruction and opportunities for practice. The fabrics are almost exclusively silks. Some are heavily beaded with crystals or pearls or copper wire and gold leaf -- it's extraordinary. 

#13 was worn by Rihanna. 

Many photos, I know -- I just couldn't stop! 


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Giving Angie the Gears

Or rather, the Gear Award for 2018. 

What? You're scratching your head about now. But Angie doesn't like gear! She only wears it when necessary! 

Still, she managed to lead me to my best-fitting, most practical, and most comfy gear shoes since -- well, I don't know, maybe forever? 

I got the Goretex version so I can run in the woods nearby in rainy Vancouver, but I also wore them on hikes in the Grand Canyon this fall. They are an excellent shoe, in my opinion -- lightweight, grippy, easy on/ easy off. (Note, the photo seems to indicate wide width -- mine are not, but perhaps they also come in wide? Worth a look for those who need that.) 

No photo of them on my feet, alas. They look like...gear. 


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Let's dress up! Update -- the outfit

Don't you just love it when people dress up? I've really been enjoying the festive holiday outfit posts on the forum. Your fabulous outfits (too many to name!) have encouraged me to choose more carefully, even on casual days. After having fallen into a bit of a fashion rut this summer and fall due to some personal issues, I'm enjoying this renewed attention to dressing well! 

And what a joy it is to meet someone who bucks the ultra-casual environmental norm! Yesterday I went to see a new specialist, not an appointment I was much looking forward to. Lo and behold, she was smart, helpful, *and* a delight to look at! A true "princess of darkness" as gryffin would say, she was head to toe in black, but not just any black. Hers incorporated texture (in the form of sheer sleeves on a blouse, with raised fuzzy polka dots), shine in her silver accessories and patent pumps, and even some subtle tone-on-tone pattern in a skirt. She'd obviously taken some care with this outfit and looked extremely elegant. Almost as great-looking as a few of the medical doctors on this forum! :)   

I'm really encouraged when I see people making an effort like this and admire them for it. On the darkest day (or longest night) of the year, I am planning to get dressed up tonight for supper at home with Mr. Suz, for no special reason at all except to welcome the solstice. Anybody with me on this? 

ETA: Lighting is terrible but you get the idea. Dangling earrings and necklace are too much, and I'm not wearing the sweater in the Find but a similar vintage cashmere with portrait neckline. 


"Style is character:" Discuss (Long)

Yes, I've been reading Joan Didion. ;) 

But I've also been thinking about style personae and descriptors, partly for selfish reasons (I was feeling I'd outgrown the "urban prince" moniker) and partly because it's that time of year when we assess other forum members have also been talking about them. 

Angie's current descriptor is "Urban Pretty." At first that might seem like a contradiction. But "urban" does not have to mean gritty and RATE. Here, it encapsulates the sophistication, modernity, and graphic crispness and quickness that is her style; "pretty" describes the softness, femininity, lightness, brightness, and freshness that is an equal part of the overall impression she creates. 

And then there is Staysfit, whose descriptor is "Genuine Composed." "Genuine" speaks to the practical, comfortable, and approachable aspects of her look; "composed" refers to her organization, coherence, and thoughtfulness. 

Here's the thing -- these labels are pretty darned good descriptions of their characters as well as the "surface." I haven't met Staysfit in person but I have enough evidence from her forum participation that she is extremely thoughtful. She is open without being an over-sharer, highly organized, and she labours against sometimes considerable personal odds, yet maintains an enviable serenity, and yes, composure. 

Angie, meanwhile, is vivid, curious, no-nonsense, and exceptionally smart, yet also warm, light, (i.e. not somber), youthfully energetic, and fresh as a spring flower. 

When I asked for suggestions for a new style moniker for myself, I was extremely flattered when Angie offered up "Relaxed Radiance," but at first I wasn't sure it fit. Partly that's because these style descriptors or statements seem more static to me than the style personae, which are characters, who can act, if you see what I am saying...it's the difference between an adjective (e.g. "pretty")  and a noun (e.g. " princess"). I still find that is true. It's easier to ask oneself, in a store, "Is this what an urban prince would wear?"  and then visualize it, than it is to ask "Is this what an urban pretty would wear?" What's "an" urban pretty? It doesn't make sense. 

At the same time, the more I thought about this, the more I thought that the statement or descriptor may get at something even deeper. 

Am I "relaxed" in real life? Um...no. I definitely get stressed out! But Mr. Suz has often told me that the world would never know that --  it's not that I deliberately try to hide it, but it rarely shows on the outside. And I am fortunate that even though I have experienced serious bouts of anxiety in my life, it is not a constant companion for me, as I know it is for many others.

Anyway, as far as style is concerned, "relaxed" could refer to the generally casual nature of my clothes. This arises from real life circumstance. I work from home and live in a small, student-oriented city. But believe it or not, I am usually more "dressed up" than the people around me. The thing is, I'm okay with that. I'm the kind of person who will get down on the floor with the kids even if I'm wearing a dress; I'll wear a silk blouse and tailored jacket, but hop up on and sit on a desktop to give my lecture if I'm teaching just as easily as if I were wearing a hoodie.  This in itself speaks to a certain level of relaxation that goes beyond casual clothing, I think. Maybe it's about being okay with who I am. The grey hair is another indicator. I am who I am. I don't stand on ceremony. I like to dress up, but I'm not stuck up. 

As for "radiance" -- that is of course an extremely flattering descriptor and I'm less able to judge it in relation to myself. I know I'm blessed with a big smile, though, and I also have metallic hair (and often, metallic shod feet) so there's always an element of shine. I am not sure I can parse out the deeper implications of this. 

Moving on from me, me, me  ;)  all of  these style statements or descriptors involve an inherent tension or hint of juxtaposition. "Urban" and "Pretty" don't immediately seem like comfortable companions -- but it's in the disjunct that the style emerges. Ditto for "Genuine" and "Composed," which if you think of it is almost an oxymoron. (Genuine being "natural" and composed being a quality of art.) "Relaxed" and "Radiant" are perhaps less obviously in tension but I think it's still there...relaxed seems to imply a softness? or calm? and radiance is vivid and energetic. 

Anyway. This has become long. If you read this far, thank you for indulging me! And I would love to know your own renewed style descriptors or your style personae, if you have them! And I'd love to know if you think these give you insight into who you are as a person as well as how you dress. 


Style icon challenge Annie Lennox Part 3: Diva

"Annie Lennox" may be a catchphrase for androgynous style, but on stage and in other kinds of performance, Annie can be chameleon, adopting whatever persona fits the song (or the occasion). Unlike many celebrities, she's always been in charge of her own costumes, both in videos and on stage. Deciding what to wear, what role to play, is a fundamental part of her artistic process. It's the difference between real singing and lip-synching. Annie has genuine style as well as an amazing voice. No wonder she’s an icon! 

You can see her awareness at work in the video for the song "Why" where she starts bare-faced and then step by careful step applies the makeup and costume of the Diva. Born to the working class and still practical to the core, in real life she has never been a “diva” as we typically use the term (i.e. a temperamental woman who's hard to please). But what is a diva, she seems to ask...and who gets to throw that label around at whom, and after all, don't we all feel operatic emotions at times and need to express them? These are all the years we've spent/ this is what they represent....do you know what I feel?

She is, after all, a rock star. :)   But a lot less hard edged than that term seems to imply, at least most of the time. Photo 1 is the most RATE she ever really gets. In #2, I tried to recreate it, and felt….uh…ridiculous! 

 And yet...with just a few tiny tweaks (no midriff exposure; maybe a different tank) this outfit would feel downright great, even at my advanced age. Put me (or Annie) in the right pair of jeans and we come home to ourselves. It's as simple as that. 

Annie may like to dress with a boyish flair, but she’s always a consummate lady. Consider her choice for receiving the OBE. (Photo 3) A reporter asked her why she didn’t wear her HIV Positive t-shirt to the event. After all, the whole reason she was getting this award was for her charitable work on behalf of AIDs.

 But as Annie pointed out, wearing a short sleeved casual tee would not have been respectful to the Queen. Instead, she purposely chose an outfit that she hoped would please Her Majesty. Right down to the paste pearls! (Talk about adjusting your outfit to suit your audience!)

In the end, I think she looks a bit like a bridesmaid. But not just any bridesmaid. One who got to choose a flattering colour. ;) 

 In trying to recreate the look I discovered that I am sorely lacking in the right components. For example, I’m quite sure that black is utterly unacceptable for an afternoon reception with Her Majesty, and I doubt if it's ok to go sleeveless either. Also, I don’t own a fascinator. Fortunately, like Annie, I do have some thrift store bling. And at least I know how to curtsey.  (Pics 4/5) 

Speaking frankly, I’d feel very awkward in this outfit in real life so I’m glad I don’t have to wear it. I prefer a more streamlined look, both on myself and on Annie.

 As a consummate performer, Annie always has plenty in her closet for those last minute awards presentations. :) Take, for instance. her classic black gown in Pic 6.  Doesn’t she look amazing? Impossible for me to recreate since I don’t have a full length evening gown. But my blue linen cocktail sheath in Pic 7 (and a copy of Angie's turquoise dress) captures something of the same simple drama, I hope, and did me very well for receiving a National Magazine Award. 

Then there is the fabulous 30s inspired cold shoulder dress she wore to receive her Oscar.  (Pics 8/9). I have nothing remotely like this in my closet. But I do have a 20s inspired silk that makes me feel super feminine. 

(Note to self: Must purchase a fabulous white silky satin gown for the Giller presentations...)

As beautiful as Annie looked at those two events, who will ever forget her amazing performance at the 2015 Grammies? Listen if you haven’t yet — she’ll put a spell on you. She mesmerized the audience and critics alike. Age, she showed us all, brings power, depth, resonance, and fire. 

I had the most fun yet recreating my version of that outfit. BR sequin culottes, Trouve jacket, BR necklace. I actually wore a slightly more casual version (with denim jacket instead of tux jacket) just last week and I know I will wear this version at some point, too. Sequins and star power. What could be better?

Stay tuned for the final instalment of this series: Shining Light. 


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Style Icon Challenge: Annie Lennox Part 2, The Pattern of My Life

Annie Lennox wore a suit on stage in the 80s to take possession of her power and to make a statement about equality. She generally wears pants in real life, too, because, she says, she's "just not a skirt and dress kind of girl." 

Hers is the kind of angular beauty that makes menswear downright feminine and alluring. Borrowing from the boys doesn't make her look like a man; it makes her look like a strong and independent woman who's comfortable in her own skin. 

Like Annie, I've always felt most at home and most "myself" in jeans, a jacket, and boots. So replicating her street style turned out to be a breeze for me. Besides jeans and trousers, she favours neutrals (ink, navy, black, white, grey and sometimes brown), jackets, booties, scarves, and in cooler weather, layers. (Check, check, check, check, and check.) She tends to go for geometric patterns -- stripe, gingham, plaid. (Check again). 

One difference -- in summer she has a kind of more feminine boho streak to her style, with puffy sleeves, embroidery, etc. Speaking frankly, I don't think the puffed sleeves etc. flatter her all that much, but I do think for her it's authentic, whereas for me it wouldn't be. So that's one place where we differ. 

Here are a few of my recreations. 

1 - 3). This was one of my favourite Annie outfits. I like the textural mix and the fun 70s vibe of the leather coat and the way the tin-can top bag adds texture and shine (and supports a worthy cause). It's a kind of softened hard-edge. I don't really have the pieces for this look, but I adapted it. My sweater fills in for the bag, and my mixed-media pea coat fills in for the other elements. 

4-5). A little gingham fun.

6-7) Peacoat and textural black and white scarf. 

8-9). Layers and scarf. 

10-11) Geometric blues.

12- 15) Annie's well-known for her support of HIV-AIDS and she often wears a graphic tee in solidarity. She also sometimes dresses it up with a jacket. Here I'm wearing a few tees advertising various communities I support: First, arts organizations (I volunteer for our writers' festival and often participate in others); next Ten Oaks Camp, the camp for LGBTQ youth that my daughter attended this year; and of course, the good old public library.  

Stay tuned for the final instalment: DIVA! 


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Style Icon Challenge: Annie Lennox Part 1: Who's That Girl?

When I came home in May with my new grey crop, my daughter exclaimed: You look like Annie Lennox

She wasn't the first in my life to make that comparison. 

And there's justice in it. I'm younger than Annie and (alas!) less tall and lanky -- but I think I could pass as her little sister. 

My ancestors all come from Scotland and the north of England. Who knows? Maybe we're even distant relatives. 

Either way, I've grown up with Annie. The Eurythmics were big when I was a teen and early 20-something and I loved Annie's edgy androgynous style from the start. I haunted Toronto's thrift stores for oversized black jackets, bought myself some crisp white shirts, tried on a tie, cropped and sometimes dyed my hair. Sadly, I can't find any photos from that period. But I did find one of my young self and one of Annie's teen self to compare. Who's that girl?  

(Hint -- I'm photo 2; Annie's photo 3). 

Annie and I have both matured since then. Annie still embraces androgynous style, but these days she's more elegant than tough. Here, a few initial recreations and interpretations. I had a little trouble getting the head in hand pose to work with no available surface. :) 

Stay tuned for the next instalment where I try on Annie's street style for size. 


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