January 1, 2017

2016: A Look Back

In the past, I used to recap the biggest fashion news stories of the year in a series I called A Look Back. Unfortunately, this practice only lasted for two years. This year, to close off 2016, I want to bring back the series - not because it has been a significant year in fashion, but because it has been a significant year in my personal life.

My year started off with heartbreak. But in the process of learning how much the heart can ache, I discovered the love of my closest friends. I experienced spiritual growth and embraced independence. Yet, just when I felt stronger, I got held down again by the difficulty of finding a job in the depressed economy. Having a career has been my driving force for the past 10 years, and I felt distressingly lost in those months I kept struggling to stand out in the job market. I took reprieve from it all when I went on a family trip to celebrate my official graduation from university. Upon my return, things turned around immediately. I was offered a position that suited the education and experience I had. My family and I moved to a new condo downtown. I began volunteering for local fashion and entertainment opportunities. I spent more time with my friends. I reconnected with someone very special to me, and started a relationship with him. I met new people and tried new things. I'm close to paying off all my student loans. I'm learning new things by taking online courses. I feel more confident and satisfied with my personal style than I ever have before. I'm spending my spare time working on an upcoming fashion project.

Life isn't perfect, but it's not meant to be. It's meant to challenge you and break you down so that you can build yourself back up to see the beauty of it all.

Although my year had its ups and downs, I reached many milestones and realized everything has a purpose towards the better. Many people consider 2016 to be a pretty bad year. It was punctuated by violence, division and loss. However, with every shade of darkness comes a glimmer of light. Even in the bleakest depths of the shadows, there is hope - you just have to find it and follow it. Don't forget the happiness of the year. Don't forget the kindness, the successes, and the love. 2017 is a chance for us to pull ourselves, and each other, back up and towards that glimmer of light.

Happy New Year, everyone.

December 27, 2016

Black on Bottom

Looking back at my old Boxing Day posts, I become quite grateful for the records I've kept of my shopping adventures. It's amusing to see all the items I've tried on, and my no holds barred commentary on each of them. Three years ago, I tried on a bunch of things - and bought nothing. Last year, I managed to purchase one item.

This year, Boxing Day was a little different. I went in with a mission: buy jeans. I've been living off the same 2 pairs of H&M jeans for the past couple of years, and although they have served me well, they have lost the rosy colour of their youth and are fading into a lackluster shade. As well, now that I'm older, my tastes have evolved to prefer black or dark wash jeans. Darker bottoms are an easy way to add instant class to an outfit, and pair well with pretty much anything up top. So, it was time to see whether I could snag some good deals on denim.

I ventured out first to H&M and Topshop...and was hugely disappointed. H&M jeans have always been made of thin material, but now they appear to be getting rid of all the front and back pockets. I never realized how much I actually appreciate the extra bulk of seaming and pockets until I saw how cheap pants can look without them. At this rate, I might as well just buy a roll of fabric from Fabricland and wrap it around my legs. Topshop, on the other hand, had meager discounts, leaving me immediately disheartened.

Luckily, my parents urged me on to The Gap. I don't usually shop at The Gap, mainly because the styles don't interest me and the sizes are usually too big. But earlier in the month, my parents did manage to buy a pair of pants from The Gap in a size that fit me really well, so I thought I would give the store a try. After all, denim should be one of the brand's specialties.

And ta-da! I found what I was looking for. My mom and I were just about to leave the store, when both our eyes caught sight of these Stretch 1969 Studded Front True Skinny Jeans:

Discounted from $98 to $25, I had to try these on. A Size 24 was all that was left, and though they were quite tight (jeans stretch, so I would actually advise buying jeans that feel a bit tighter in the changing room), the shape they gave to my legs was exactly what I was looking for. They have black beading down the front of both legs, which give off subtle sparkle with every move, much like stars in the night sky. For the price, this was a no-brainer purchase. However, I am worried about the beads falling off in the wash. Would I be crazy enough to commit to hand-washing these jeans? I might...

Remember those pants I mentioned my parents had bought for me earlier in the month? Well, we had already gotten them for cheap at $40 after a 50% off discount. On Boxing Day, however, these pants were discounted even further to $18. So, I saved a pretty penny after getting a price difference.

I couldn't find a photo of the exact pair I have, but they are black Bi-Stretch Skinny Ankle Pants with a gold diamond pattern, similar to the polka-dotted pair below:

Last but not least, H&M redeemed itself. I went to an H&M in a different mall, and managed to uncover gold - literally. A couple months ago, I had bought a pair of black Superstretch Trousers with shiny gold hardware on sale for $25. These trousers fit snug and are made of a thick, stretchy fabric. The gold buttons and zippers have a smooth sheen which outshine all the other dull finishes I've seen on H&M denim. These pants are truly a diamond among stones. I've worn these pants so often and love them so much I have been searching ever since for another pair. It was a roller-coaster of emotions to see these pants go in and out of stock at various H&Ms around the city...but never once in my size.

Until Boxing Day. My mom flagged me over from across the store with a look of urgency - she had found one in Size 2! They weren't on sale this time around, but the extra dollars were worth it. I now have two pairs of these incredible trousers. I don't have identical sets of anything else in my wardrobe...so you know I'm serious about these pants.
Buying pants has always been a struggle for me. My legs are short and slim, which means jeans are usually always too long or too baggy. However, I've come to realize that if a pair of pants does not fit perfectly, I probably won't end up wearing it that often. I could buy a pair for a fantastic price of $10 and choose to overlook slight bagginess while in the changing room, but if I don't end up wearing it, it's $10 wasted. So, I'm particularly picky about how pants fit now (ok, I'm picky about every item of clothing I buy, but just humour me here). I'm happy I've managed to find my groove with The Gap and occasionally H&M, resulting in this year's Boxing Day reading as more a success story than a mere window shopping recap.

PS: I know I've been MIA on this blog lately. I've been busy with some free online courses I've taken up out of pure interest, as well as an exciting new project coming up (and yes, it has to do with fashion!). So please excuse the absence. I hope you'll stick around as I check in every once in a while. :)

Image Source: The GapBrittany Maddux, H&M 

October 25, 2016

How Smart Are You?

When it comes to technology, I am far from trendy. I am not even sub par. I am downright outdated.

I own a Blackberry Curve 8520. With no data. Let's just say that.

I was never concerned with whether I had the latest technology. It was all relatively unimportant to me. Technology didn't excite me like a pair of shoes did, and to this day, technology hardware remains pretty lackluster to me.

However, something new has been brewing and gaining momentum in the past couple of years: the marriage of technology and fashion. The advent of wearable technology. Now that is something I can get into.

Fashion Magazine wrote a great article outlining some of the wearable technology options out there. Designer bracelets which notify you of incoming texts, charge your phone, or provide Yelp recommendations. Um, whaaat? We aren't talking about Google Glass grappling to gain mainstream appeal by partnering with Diane von Furstenberg to make its glasses less...dweeby. We aren't talking about Kate Spade phone cases we slap onto our devices. We aren't even talking about merely attaching LED lights to a dress. We're talking about fashion items inherently designed to be technological devices. I hadn't heard of the majority of items listed in the article - which goes to show the industry is still young - but I was surprised by how it was budding.

Of  course the most popular fashion tech item to have taken shoppers by storm was the Apple Watch. It not only had the software of the technology giant, it also had a sleek, modern look, and a wide selection of wristbands to complement each customer's personal style. To be honest, when I first heard about the watch, I thought it was a pretty pointless product release. I didn't see the advantage of working off such a tiny screen - not to mention a tiny screen placed awkwardly on my wrist. While I understood it was meant to add a factor of convenience, I did not live the kind of lifestyle that benefited from having a smartwatch. As a style statement, though, I do see the attraction. Many times before has a classmate's flash of his/her Apple Watch grabbed my attention.

Just recently, my boyfriend introduced me to Michael Kors Access, a line of smartwatches packaged in the skin of Michael Kors' distinctive (and insanely sought-after) link watches. You really wouldn't be able to tell the difference until you looked at the watch face. These watches intrigued me. They were smartwatches that didn't look like smartwatches. There were no rounded edges to mimic the cool minimalism of a smartphone screen. Instead, these watches were loudly, proudly glamorous.

Funnily enough, what stood out to me about the watches was not the physical design, but the digital interface. One thing I didn't like about the Apple Watch was its bubbly main menu. Michael Kors Access watches, on the other hand, operate through a swiping motion. The design of the interface is also prettier; it's meant to align with the tastes of the quintessential Michael Kors customer. Even my techie boyfriend, who favours functionality over fashion, wants one of these watches for himself. Now that's saying something.

What's interesting is even though I had really only known of Apple Watches (and now Michael Kors Access), smartwatches as fitness devices have established themselves fairly well in the market. From Garmin, to Fitbit, to Microsoft...smartwatches are actually not few and far between. So why haven't I heard more about them? Probably because they aren't stylish. If the tech world wants to reach new markets, they might want to consider making products that also look mighty fine as fashion accessories - so much so even people like me, who aren't technological fiends, will want to buy them.

Image Source: EngadgetFashion Tag,T3Michael Kors

October 8, 2016

What is Fashion?

I am currently reading a book, titled 'Women in Clothes', filled with short stories, interviews, and blurbs exploring the relationship between women and their clothing. This book aims to fill a perceived gap left by fashion magazines:

"A problem I've always had with fashion magazines is that women are encouraged to copy other women ... The most compelling women are the ones who are distinctive, who are most like themselves and least like other women ... It's almost as if fashion magazines don't understand what a woman wants. I think she wants to be unique among other women, a creature unlike any other."
-- Sheila Heti in 'Women in Clothes'

Instead of instructing women on what to wear, how to wear it, and when to wear it, this book recognizes that style is very personal. Style is not about following the supposed all-knowing commands of the fashion elite, but the unique ways in which one makes a particular combination of clothing their own. Style is more about how one feels and acts than is it about what one wears. As a result, style is very difficult to transfer or copy because its essence is drawn from within.

One of my favourite concepts from the book is that the most stylish women are not always the most well-dressed. Rather, a woman is stylish because she has an acute awareness of the clothing she has on. It might be kooky and strange - wearing a sweater inside out to show the seams, or tying the sleeves of a jacket diagonally across the torso instead of around the waist - but that type of individuality demonstrates a keen consciousness about the clothing's presence on the body. Upon telling my dear friend about this book, he came back with the idea fashion is not bound by anything other than the rules we set for ourselves. Style is an identity. It may be a mixture of cultural influences and personal preference, but its inherent appeal is ultimately idiosyncratic. And that, I think, is exactly what this book is trying to say.

As I spoke more with my friend, he asked a question I couldn't believe I had not answered on this blog yet: What is fashion?

I have never formally articulated this, but fashion is not simply about the glitz and glamour, the runway shows and photoshoots, the gorgeous models and expensive clothes... These are certainly things encompassed within the realm of the industry, but getting to the deeper meaning of fashion requires thinking more intangibly.

To me, fashion is two things: self-expression and fantasy.

Self-expression: Fashion is more than just the clothing we put on our bodies. It is a way of communicating who we are to the world. In aggregate, fashion can instigate movements and embody cultural zeitgeist. As individuals, fashion is a mechanism to express our inner selves. No matter how little someone claims to care about fashion, everyone sends a message with what they choose to wear. Someone who puts minimal thought into an outfit sends just as bountiful a message as someone who invests significant effort. And as much as the industry makes it seem like there is right and wrong in dressing, truly good fashion comes from having the confidence to shatter the rules.

Fantasy: An interesting thing about fashion is, in addition to being a form of self-expression, it's also a way for us to become someone we're not. Fashion gives us the opportunity to explore other identities - to almost play pretend. I might walk with a heavier step and more attitude in an all-black outfit with edgy ankle boots, and glide with poise and grace in an elegant knee-length dress with ballet flats. Fashion provides me with the tools to briefly inhabit different personas and change the way I present myself. As I've mentioned before, fashion is a form of art to me. The industry is rich with creativity because it's a platform to live out our wildest dreams and fantasies - a world where we can wear things which might be impractical or "unwearable", but which are oh so very beautiful and stunning.

With regards to whether there is a distinction between 'style' and 'fashion', it depends on who you ask. "Fashion fades, style is eternal," Yves Saint Laurent once said. But I think if you really get to the heart of things, both are heavily rooted in confidence and self-expression. Fashion feeds into style, and style feeds into fashion. With no beginning nor end, the swirling duo whip up a glimmering cloud of beauty, fantasy and individuality.

Image Source: WorkShopCoop, Indian RootsStreet Peeper, emaze

October 3, 2016

Too Hot. Too Cold. Or Just Right?

Button-ups. Men look great in them, especially with the sleeves rolled up.

But one thing I sometimes struggle with, and I'm sure men do too, is how much to unbutton at the top. For women, sometimes unbuttoning too little looks matronly, and unbuttoning too much looks scandalous. For men, they teeter-totter between looking too plain or too sleazy.

What triggers my discussion of this topic (of clearly paramount importance) is a video I saw pop up on my Facebook News Feed a while back:

Quite a genius idea, actually. Although I don't mind when men have it buttoned all the way up - I think it looks stylish, and for a girl like me, a stylish guy always gains extra points. But johnnie-O is doing good in giving men the option of 'just right'. Just a peek of chest does wonders, like a V-neck does wonders for women.

Perfectly unbuttoned with the sleeves rolled up...now that's a winning combo.

Image Source: The Idle Man

September 25, 2016

The Metropolitan Shopper

Wow. So...it's been over three months since I last blogged. This is probably the longest break I've ever taken from blogging, but life has been a whirlwind lately. In addition to graduating university and taking a week-long trip to celebrate, I started working full-time, moved to a new condo downtown, am getting involved in the local fashion/film industry on the weekends, and am spending more time hanging out with friends. Over the past few months, so many things in my life have fallen into place, and I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. Living downtown has been my dream for many years, and as I wake up everyday to a view of the river and the energy of downtown, I find myself so grateful for all the opportunities I have been given.

But that's enough about my life. I've missed sharing my thoughts about fashion these past couple of months, so let's get right into it. I've been frequenting the malls more often now that I'm less than 15-20 minutes away from all the hot spots in the city. Here's a look at three interesting pieces I tried on at H&M:

Look #1: Giving the Cold Shoulder

The off-shoulder/exposed shoulder craze continues as shoulders strand strong as the latest erogenous zone. I've mentioned before I'm not a huge fan of fully flaunting my shoulders, but can find compromise in the cold shoulder trend. This dress had been on the store mannequin for a couple weeks, and everytime I saw it, I admired those two single straps running over each shoulder. I thought it was a unique variation on the trend. Finally, I gave in and decided to try the dress on. I was afraid I would be overcome with the adrenaline of finding a piece I love (and thus feel the desire to buy it), but thankfully, that didn't happen. The length and shape of the sleeves emphasized the width of my upper arms, and I felt strangely like a robot with stiff shoulders. The awkwardness of the sleeves was so prominent, the straps - the main reason why I liked the dress - dwindled into oblivion.

Look #2: The Little Mermaid

This dress was an amusing one. The tiered layers were reminiscent of the 1920s (and you know how I love Gatsby fashion), yet the way the ruffles were angled also reminded me of a mermaid. I didn't think the dress would actually look that good, though it did turn out better than I thought. The ruffled tiers might be a bit obnoxious for my personal tastes, but it was statement-making and fun. My only issue with the dress was how deep the V-neck was - so deep I had to keep it cinched with one hand. I don't like going bra-less or wearing crazy bra substitutes, so a gown like this wouldn't be too practical for me.

Look #3: Halting Traffic

Lastly, a halter dress. With my aversion to revealing my bare shoulders, I didn't think I would be able to pull off this dress. I kept telling my good friend I wouldn't do justice to a halter dress, but once I put it on, I had to take it all back. Because it looked great. I was surprised by how well it fit, and in retrospect, I believe the square neckline, embellished halter, and torso cutout all worked in beautiful harmony to even out and lengthen the wide-shoulder feeling I often get from exposed shoulders. If you look in the mirror behind me, you can also see the halter straps came with tassels on the end. An added touch of glamour. I wouldn't be able to pinpoint the science behind why this particular style of halter works for me, but it goes to show anyone can wear anything - it's just about the magic of finding the right design and cut for your own body.

June 23, 2016

5 Lessons From a University Graduate

Five years. Five years of hard work and fun times have led up to this moment. Earlier this week, I officially graduated from university with two undergraduate degrees. As I reflect back upon these years, I have a number of reminders I would like to pass on to those who are still in education:

1. Don't be afraid to leave home

If you have the capacity to attend university in another city - do it. I could not be more grateful for my parents' support in allowing me to move across the country for education. If I hadn't moved away, I would not have had the pleasure of attending arguably one of Canada's biggest and most beautiful university campuses. While I did break down in tears from panic and fear after saying goodbye to my parents, a mere one week later, I was thoroughly enjoying my independence. I learned what it's like to take control of my life, and experienced the consequences (both good and bad) of my actions and decisions. I ultimately came to appreciate all that my parents had done for me, and by the time I returned home after graduation, I had a new sense of maturity. There is also something special about living on campus. I was never forced to leave the campus environment at the end of my day. For years, I was surrounded by friends and fellow students 24/7 - and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

2. Meet people

Get out. Meet people. Talk to people. Despite being a horribly shy and awkward girl, I highly recommend meeting people during university. I met one of my friends after she spontaneously decided to sit beside me in the cafeteria. I have another friend I met after sharing a cab from the airport. I have friends from clubs, residences, and my two programs. Not everyone you meet will become your BFF, but even that brief chat with a stranger in the elevator will stay with you as a memory of how great the campus environment is. You don't need to have a lot of friends - just good ones. There won't be many other opportunities in life where thousands upon thousands of people pack themselves onto one campus. It's astounding how everyone is on their own individual paths, and yet here we all are, coming together for education. The diversity on campus is incredible. Take the time and muster up the courage to learn about other people's life stories.

3. Follow your dreams

University is not the place to be doing something you don't want to do. Do something you're passionate about, because that is the only thing that will ever truly motivate you. Never stop listening to what your heart tells you to do. Whether you find the answer in your existing program, in another program, or outside of university altogether, pursue it. If you have absolutely no idea what your dreams even are - relax. There are many in the same boat as you. Make the effort to explore and find yourself. I was lucky enough to be able to fulfill my goals at university, and I want to see you walk away from university feeling as if you're on your way to achieving your own dreams.

4. Do your own thing

In high school, I graduated with an International Baccalaureate diploma. In university, I graduated with a degree from a business school with limited enrollment. For years, I have spent my time surrounded by incredibly intelligent high-achievers - people I know I will be seeing headlines about in the future. While I adore such an environment, it comes with its own difficulties. There were many times I felt like the "admission mistake". A girl walking through hallways she didn't belong in. But I realized that no matter what everyone else is doing, Have no shame if your goals are different from those around you. Don't be intimidated by those you consider more successful than you. Everyone has their own definition of success, so never let other people's goals define your own. This goes beyond education. If you don't like partying every weekend, then don't. Never feel pressured to. Stay in and huddle under your blankets for a night of Netflix. You'll be happiest when you do what you want to do. The university experience should not be wasted chasing after other people's definition of happiness instead of your own.

5. Seize the moment

One of my wise, beautiful, amazing BFFs (who is currently backpacking across South America for 4.5 months - love ya girl, safe travels!) sent me a letter in the mail this year. While the entire letter had me tearing up, one passage in particular stood out to me. I will let her words do the talking:

"Never delay happiness. It isn't compounded. It doesn't multiply with time. It simply slips through your fingers if it isn't accessed in the moment. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; they are the best way to learn and they serve to be marvellous stories afterwards. Live the life you would be proud of on your deathbed. Don't waste time being sorry. Life is so short - if it isn't lived, it will be a wasted life."

I've had five years to live out my university experience, but the approaching end didn't hit me until my final month. In that month, I made sure I appreciated and enjoyed every last second. For many, undergraduate education is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My dad tells me his college years were among the best years of his life, and I know he is right. The last thing you want to do on your final day is look back and realize you regret not having enjoyed university to its fullest. I understand that marks are stressful - there were days when my head felt like it was going to explode from all the pressure. Recognize that stress is a natural part of education, but never forget university provides much more than that. Absorb everything university has to offer: clubs, friendships, events, a community... For me, I made sure to admire how beautiful my campus was every single time I stepped foot in it. I may never get another chance to walk among the gorgeous ivy-covered stone buildings with the same comforting sense of belonging as I did as a student - and so I seized the moment. I hope during your university journey, you will find ways to do the same.

Dress: Topshop | Shoes: Calvin Klein | Necklace: Unknown

This moment is certainly bittersweet. Five years ago this milestone seemed so far in the horizon, and yet here I stand, already on the other side. Goodbyes are difficult, but as Winnie-the-Pooh once said, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." As I close the book on this chapter in my life with a tender smile, I look forward to what lays ahead of me. There are more moments to experience, more friends to make, and more happiness to be gained. The future? I say, bring it on.

Image Source: PublicDomainArchive, Favim, Pexels