a retrospective on packing

It’s easy to find post after post dispensing of (and displaying) advice on how to perfectly pack for your vacation. But do these writers ever follow up with how it all actually worked out?

As I repack my suitcase, I’m struck by what I used and used again and washed and used again. And all those items that I didn’t.

The losers:

Jeans. Why did I bring two pairs? Of course, I needed one for when I was in San Francisco. Two was utterly too many. I haven’t thought twice of wearing denim since leaving the mainland.

Shoes. At the last minute, I threw my super cute Kate Spade espadrille wedges into my suitcase. Where they have stayed for the entire trip with their unworn sister, a pair of camel colored Chie Mihara’s that I brought for SF and planned to use here too. With jeans. (I was wrong.)

The one-piece bathing suit. I thought I might want it for surfing or other water sports. But I committed to the bikinis and didn’t look back.

Two long-sleeved Lululemon half-zips. Granted, they came in handy in San Francisco, but the beach does not cool down at night here, and I should have shipped them home with the work clothes I had my dad send back to DC for me.

Make up. Hair dryer. A navy and white striped cotton pique dress. A stack of bangles. A bunch of condoms? What was I thinking?

What would I bring more of if I had to do it over again? Another bikini. A few more skirts that can go to the beach and transition to dinner.

And definitely, a second pair of flip flops.

WTF, J. Crew?

$795.00 for a cashmere camel blazer. $895 for a sequin top that looks vaguely like the one I got on sale last November for $49. $595 for a toggle coat. (As beautiful as it looked on gp, I know toggle-coat devotees can do better.) $350 for a lace dress seems mild by comparison but DVF makes the Zarita every season and it’s both more flattering looking (based on my on-line assessment) and is slightly less expensive. $695 for a yellow sequin skirt seems especially steep and this python getup can make any woman look like a pregnant snake for a mere $475. (I thought it was a dress at first give the way it is styled with a matchy matchy blouse.) And rounding out my favorite J. Crew question marks is the $325 golden paisley pant, which looks suspiciously like pajamas. Hey, I know the floral pant is trending right now, but if you want to venture into this territory (note: I do not) I recommend starting at something in the two-digit price range that you won’t regret after the first wear.

I love J. Crew. But this is ridiculous. These examples just confound me (and they aren’t the only ones). I appreciate the idea of J. Crew Collection. Banana did it with Monogram. But at the end of the day, you are still J. Crew. And I really hope no one is paying full price for these items because I fear that (1) they are getting ripped off and (2) it will just encourage the Crew to offer more of the same.

I rely on J. Crew for staples such as pencil skirts, tee-shirts, and the only pants I wear that aren’t jeans. (Yes, I mean you, Minnie.) I’m a recent convert to their cashmere. I’ve contemplated getting my winter coat there. But at the prices they demand for their Collection, you expect to bring home an investment piece, produced by a brand known for its longevity and quality. You don’t want a $700 yellow sequin skirt that you get limited wear out of. Or maybe you do, but if I see you in public, I’m going to call you yellow sequin skirt babe and I’m going to hope you got it way on sale.

men’s wear wednesday: the ties that bind

It has been some time since I’ve had the occasion to buy a man a tie. However, I do like to walk around the tie section of a high-end department store. I love how ties are organized according to their place on the color wheel. I love feeling the different textures and fabrics. I love imagining the possible suit-plus-shirt combinations a tie has to offer.

(Maybe all this tie buying love stems from the fact that I love helping a man take off his tie.)

A recent trip to Nordstrom in search of a birthday gift led me to my own little tie epiphany. Ties only come in three pattern options: solid, stripes or paisley.  And within those pattern options, ties are either bold, safe (some might say boring) or ugly.

A tie is the man’s way to distinguish his outfit. It’s his shoes, jewelry, scarf and purse all in one. (Melt my heart if he has a corresponding sock.) The right tie gives a man his opportunity to present himself as more sophisticate, less prep school boy. It’s the one element that can pull together the professional man’s outfit. It’s a chance to be unique. Much like I don’t like to walk into an elevator and run into a woman with the exact same outfit on, I assume a man doesn’t like looking around a conference table and realizing he has on a variation of the same tie every other man in the room is wearing.

I personally like a man who can pull off a bold tie, but I recognize it isn’t in everyone’s comfort zone. If you are in the market for a tie and need some direction, my simple rules are: no skinny ties unless you are a dedicated hipster; no ties that require sunglasses to comfortably look at; and, I’m just going to say it, don’t bother with Vineyard Vines ties. They all look alike.

Oh and one more rule. Please, if you get a grease spot on your tie that won’t come out, you must retire it, no matter how much you paid for it or how much you love it.

bad outfit days

Just like every woman has a bad hair day now and then, usually coinciding with an event for which she’s extra focused on needing it to look good, like for a date, we also have bad outfit days.

Bad outfit days usually reveal themselves within minutes of their wearer being far enough away from home that it’s too late to rectify matters. Sometimes bad outfit days don’t make themselves apparent until after the outfit has seen several days of wear (not consecutively, of course). And under the worst case scenario, the bad outfit isn’t uncovered until many years later as the wearer combs through photographic evidence of days past. In the last case, these bad outfits aren’t just a representations of a long-gone trend or victims of the passage of time. You know deep inside they were as horrible then as they are now.

I had such an outfit that plagued too many days of my life two summers ago. I was experimenting with the mixing of patterns. You know, stripes with florals, florals with dots, dots with stripes. (J. Crew used to make it look effortless, though I’d describe their current combinations as erring on the side of the ridiculous.) Anyway, I had this olive green and ivory striped long-sleeved shirt.  And I thought it would be super cute to wear with it a short-sleeved floral cardigan with predominant tones of olive, orange, pink and purple. I threw a multi-strand pearl necklace over the whole thing, paired it with jeans and waited for compliments that did not come.

Me: DC isn’t ready for this coolness.

I seriously thought my ensemble was awesome, so I wore the combination again. And again. And again. Then one day, I looked in the mirror and realized, “this is just awful.” (Or rather, that’s the sanitized version of what I said to myself.)

The point I’m trying to make is that bad outfit days happen to everyone. Maybe they happen to those who experiment and envelop push more than they happen to others. Or maybe because (for me personally) the pressure is high to always have on a great outfit, I’m more sensitive to the bad ones when they occur. Whatever the case, I typically advise to go with what your gut says when you stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself, “does this work?”

You just have to recognize that sometimes your gut is going to be wrong.