December 31, 2014

Age of Beauty

I always come across articles in fashion magazines where writers marvel at their mothers' personal style, recounting stories of how, as a child, they would rummage through their mothers' priceless furs and silks. Reading these articles, I always wished I had such stories to tell. But just yesterday, I realized I didn't have such stories not because my mother wasn't fashionable, but simply because she never showed me photos of her younger self.

In a bout of nostalgia, my mom decided to show me photos of herself from her youth. What I saw was a vibrant, beautiful young woman who had a soft spot for dressing up. Carefree maxi dresses, slouchy sweaters with colourful belts, ladylike shoes, or edgy rolled up jeans and scuffed up Keds, all topped off with a sleek bob, feline eyes (even without eye makeup!) and a bold red lip. I saw a woman who, just like me, went through an early awkward phase - big hair, large round glasses, and an insecure smile - but who grew into someone who was confident in both her brains and beauty. I found myself in the strange position of confronting my mother as a woman of my own age, and it dawned on me she too had her own dreams and ambitions, some of which were dashed, some of which came true.

Looking through her old photos, my mother got misty eyed, repeating to herself over and over how beautiful she used to be. My heart shattered because she never says that about herself now. Whenever she looks in the mirror, she is only ever wistful for her old body.

Coincidentally, just a day or two earlier, my friend had sent me a video called Sidewalk by Celia Bullwinkel. The video chronicles a woman who confronts her body as it changes with each chapter of her life. As for me, I'm still in that precarious stage where I'm learning to love who I am, but still hold certain insecurities, Like the woman in the video, there's a weird balance between beginning to have pride in who you are, and still feeling that urge to just hide from it all. But this video, along with seeing my mother's own transformation, helped me realize that our body is just what we operate in. To my mother, I want her to know she still is beautiful - beauty is not something you lose with age, but something you hold within. When I grow old and wrinkly, when my hair thins and my body becomes saggy and pear-shaped, I hope I will not look back with longing and think I was more beautiful when I was younger, but rather look back and know that the life I lived was, above all else, strikingly beautiful.

Image Source: Belelu

December 25, 2014

Ms. Role Model

In a first for Red-Soled Fashionista, this will be a post unrelated to fashion. It has fashion-related beginnings, but the heart of what I want to say today is a comment on our culture. Flipping through FASHION Magazine's May 2014 issue, I came across a feature on Marvel comic book character Kamala Khan (alias Ms. Marvel).

Khan is a fairly new comic book character, who began headlining the Ms. Marvel series in February 2014. To explain more about her, I pass it on to FASHION Magazine writer Mishal Cazmi, who sums everything up wonderfully:

"She's a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim girl, a discernible dork who fangirls over comic books. Her strict parents are a buzzkill (no co-ed parties) and her school in Jersey City is made up of nerds and cool kids (not her). The brainchild of editor Sana Amanat and author G. Willow Wilson, Khan was brought to life by Toronto-based illustrator Adrian Alphona and is an anomaly among comic book babes for being sans brazen sexuality and neither buxom nor bombshell. 'Kamala is an Ellen-Page-in-Juno-type girl covered up with layers of clothing - hoodies and pleated skirts over jeans,' says Alphona. And then there's her Ms. Marvel costume, which is all fabric, no flesh - an electric-blue dress emblazoned with a thunderbolt worn over a red three-quarter-sleeve top, red tights, matching blue boots and a cape that modestly covers her neck...She's every girl who's ever felt left out, could not reconcile her identity at home with who she is outside and does not realize the potential of her own greatness."

I love it.  I love, love, love it.  For years, I have struggled to find women in media I could relate to. In my younger years, I was an avid chick lit reader, hoping to find a character I could connect with. But the more I read, the more I realized everything just always works out for women in chick lit. Even when they were outsiders, they still ended up enchanting the hottest, most popular guy with their striking beauty or personality. Technically, that's a good thing, isn't it? For me though, it wasn't reality. I needed a character who was awkward and unpopular, yet who was perfectly fine not getting everyone to like her, not getting the most covetable guy, and not getting everything society tells us we need to be successful. I needed someone who was confident enough in herself to tell me I didn't need to keep fighting to be accepted by others. Since then, I've stopped reading chick lit. 

Then I turned to entertainment, but that was an even more hopeless endeavor. Every character in entertainment is beautiful, intelligent, strong and accomplished. As just an average girl, I constantly find myself getting annoyed with female characters in media because they are so perfect. Putting glasses on a gorgeous woman does not a nerd make.

This is where a character like Khan comes in. A girl who isn't defined by the fact she is blatantly beautiful. A girl who is modest in her dress.  A girl who struggles with self-identity. A girl who doesn't fit in. Even though I am not a comic book reader, and therefore will never really know what happens to Khan, I am impressed by the premise of her character. I hope she is able to inspire and act as a role model for other girls like me - although considering the incredibly positive reception this new Ms. Marvel character has received, it seems Khan is already well on her way.

Luckily, I have my own happy ending. I recently found my role model in Ashley Perez, video producer at Buzzfeed.  Her confidence in herself and acceptance of all her quirks is what makes her so beautiful. For anyone else out there who struggles with being an outsider, hopefully this video will speak to you as much as it did to me. Realize you are never alone. Despite what the moniker suggests, the great thing about being an outsider is that there are so many of us out there. Together, we become role models for each other, proving that confidence in ourselves is what makes us all superheros.

Image Source: Photo 1, 2

December 20, 2014

Paying the Price

There's been an article floating around social media by The Guardian titled "Luxury brands: higher standards or just a higher mark-up?"  Check out the article for yourself here.

The first time I came across this article, I did not even think of responding to it on my blog. But when my friend sent me the link, I realized perhaps this was a topic worth discussing. In the article, Tansy Hoskins disproves the assumption that luxury clothing demands higher prices because workers are being paid higher, ethical wages.

First of all, I want to clear things up.  What assumption is this?  I've followed fashion for 8 years, and not once has it ever occurred to me that higher luxury prices are due to ethical wages. Right off the bat, Hoskins' article began with an assumption I have never heard of. To my understanding, luxury clothing comes with higher price tags because it requires higher labour hours and higher material costs. Luxury clothing generally has a more complex production process, meaning it takes longer to make - but just because it takes longer to make does not mean workers are receiving fair wages. Even for someone like me, who loves and appreciates high fashion, I am not so disillusioned to think luxury products are made in cozy cottages with middle-class workers. The idea of luxury has always been in design and high quality materials, and at least to me, not in ethical wages.

Hoskins does, however, end with a statement I agree with.

"With high-end brands, further insult is added to the injury of low wages, as workers sew and sell items that they have no chance of ever affording. Luxury it seems has more respect for their merchandise than for people."

This is entirely true, but not something I find to be all that shocking. Think of any luxury product. Is it ever marketed on the basis of ethical production? Very rarely. It's all about customer experience, not worker experience. I am fully aware luxury, for the most part, is not about respect for its people.

But I say all of this not because I am dismissing Hoskins' article, but because the issue of ethical production is something we all need to address. And not just high-end retailers; low wages and poor working conditions exist across all industries. Nonetheless, in order for there to be any progress, we have to realize we, as the consumer, are the ones driving wages down. Certainly income disparity between those at the top of the corporate ladder and those at the bottom adds a layer of complexity to the issue, but if you were to truly think of all the hands that have a part in the production process, you come to quite a hefty price tag. Yet have you seen the disdain the average shopper has for luxury products?  The way they scoff, furrow their brow, and chastise high-end brands for having such high prices (all while piling their shopping basket with cheap Forever 21 clothes)?  It seems to me the average shopper is not willing to pay the price for ethical labour, and the reality is, if you aren't willing to pay the price, then neither are retailers.

Image Source: Photo 1, 2

December 15, 2014

Smart Moves

A lot has happened in the Canadian retail industry lately. As Jacob prepared to close down all of its 92 stores in Canada over the summer, American retailer Nordstrom made its first foray across the border to its Canadian neighbour. More recently, Reitman's announced it would be shuttering its Smart Set banner, and weeks later, Mexx filed for bankruptcy, a move likely to affect all of its Canadian stores. Yet at the same time, Quebec retailer Simons is set to expand across the country.

What is going on?

Many are blaming it on the rise of fast fashion retailers like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara, shouldering out retailers who can't keep up with the latest, greatest trends that have young hearts beating. It appears only the extremities at either end of the retail spectrum are staying well-afloat - cheap and chic fashion, or high-end luxury. There is no place for those hoping to occupy the precarious middle ground.

And I agree.  All three stores cater to the average woman; they offer basics that occasionally come in trendier guises, but overall, nothing too fashionable nor unique. Let's be clear: there is space in the retail world for the average woman looking for everyday, wearable clothing, but what there isn't space for is a retailer average in all aspects of price, quality and design.  All three stores obviously positioned themselves above the chaotic realm of fast fashion, but ultimately, they didn't offer much more than their (slightly) glossier entrance way.

Being not particularly high quality not fashionable, and not particularly affordable, Jacob, Smart Set and Mexx all occupied that tough space among (better) competitors that left them with a very halfhearted customer base. You cannot lure in loyal customers with average designs, average prices, and average quality. At least one thing must stand out. Cheap and chic fashion offers decent designs at low prices, and for that, consumers are willing to sacrifice quality.  Luxury retailers offer beautiful designs with exceptional quality, and for that, consumers are willing to pay the price. I think our three fallen retailers were fine with the price point they operated in, but if they had upped their quality or put more thought into design, I think they could have struck a chord with paying customers. But that's easier said than done, and perhaps why that murky middle ground remains the Bermuda Triangle of fashion retail.

Certainly I am saddened that such stores are finding themselves at a struggle, but at the same time, I think this will help push us towards better retailers. The free market mechanism - no matter whether you support it or criticize it - is showing us what the consumer truly wants. And the market must respond. To be frank, malls are filled with stores I (and apparently many others) hold no interest in. They are mere fillers. If competition is filtering out those who offer no value to consumers, then we may finally begin to see malls fill with stores that actually interest us. It's never a smooth and happy ride in business, but I think it can only lead to one thing: a better retail sector.

Image Source: Jacob, Smart Set, Mexx

December 10, 2014

I'll Have a Julep

Four years ago, I sloppily discovered nail polish in a university dorm room.  My friend had offered to help me paint my nails for the first time, and it was there I realized my nails had the potential to become amazing canvases for self-expression. It was like a whole new world opened up to me.  I couldn't stop staring at my nails - when I was typing, when I flipped through a textbook, or when I saw my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth - because nail polish made everything I did with my hands just that much better. And because I don't wear makeup, nail polish is essentially my one and only beauty pleasure.

Throughout my nail polish adventures, there is one brand I've come across and have always wanted to try: Julep. Imagine my surprise then, when I incredulously found an email from Julep asking if I would be interested in sharing my holiday look with them. Let's just say it was a no-brainer.

Skirt: La Dive | Top: Alice + Olivia | Heels: Christian Louboutin | Earrings: Dolce & Gabbana | Clutch: Saint Laurent | Lipstick: Gucci | Nail polish: Julep 'Karissa' & Julep 'Oscar'

I'm a classic girl, as you all know, but I like my fashion drama. Whether it be a ball skirt in shocking holiday red, a simple tee covered in glimmering gold sequins, or a quintessential pump with a raised counter (and red sole, naturally), it's all about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. For my nails, I would do the same by taking classic red and pairing it with girlish glitter.  Whether I indulge in a glossy red manicure with glitter tips, or simply use the golden glitter as an accent nail, I know one thing for sure: I won't be able to stop staring at my freshly decorated hands.

October 21, 2014

R.I.P. Oscar de la Renta

The news was broken to me by a friend: "Oscar died".  At first I was racking my brain for an actor I knew named Oscar, until my friend sent the crushing words, "The fashion designer". That's when my heart dropped.  With suddenly cold hands, I immediately Googled what I knew I wouldn't want to believe.  Last night, Oscar de la Renta passed away.

I have been following this prolific designer ever since I started my blog four years ago.  I was completely amazed by his elegance.  He was a designer for the ladies of high society, and I adored how he always stayed true to old-school ballroom sophistication. There are few designers out there who dare have such an unabashedly uptown aesthetic, but de la Renta made clothing for grown ups, and I always respected him for that.  

Sometimes I wonder how the passing of designers can have such an impact on me, but then I realize it's because they've touched me emotionally. As any creative person will know, putting out a piece of work comes with great vulnerability.  Designers bare their soul to us every season, and every fashion show becomes an intimate exchange. I may not have known de la Renta personally, but his creativity knows no physical boundaries.

After learning that de la Renta had passed the reins of his namesake label earlier this month to Peter Copping, I am comforted to know de la Renta was ready to let go. To the man who left both his design house and the world with utmost grace and dignity, may you R.I.P.

Image Source: MissInfo

September 27, 2014

4th Year!

Hip hip hooray, 4 years of blogging!  I still feel like a newcomer - the one who joined the party late and who still has so much to learn.  I don't think it will be until my 5th year that I start to realize maybe I've been at this for a good amount of time.  And it won't be until the 10th that I finally accept it.

Nonetheless, great things have happened this past year.  Even though I still consider 4 years the tip of the iceberg, I'm honoured to know others recognize more potential in that than I see myself.  Every year, it would be a crime not to thank my friends, readers and supporters (are you sick of it yet?); I feel incredibly privileged to have friends who show me so much support.

And at the end of the day, I am privileged.  Not because I was born with connections or was one to have opportunities come knocking on my door, but because I've had to yank seemingly closed and unreachable doors open myself. I've seen what hard work can do.  I am privileged because I have experienced doubt, adversity and judgement, yet have come out more passionate than ever.  Passion is ceaseless and will always serve you well. Follow your heart because those who tell you to go in other directions will never understand how strongly the fire burns within you.  Prove them wrong.

Happy Birthday, Red-Soled Fashionista.

Image Source: Birthday

September 6, 2014

Blossoming Love

One of my favourite things to do is go to weddings.  You get to dress up, see the bride's dress, eat a lot, and witness the beginning of a wonderful marriage.  I'm a sucker for romance.  I practically burst with joy after receiving an invitation to a wedding this summer, and spent all four months planning an outfit.

The thing about dressing up for me is...I don't have a lot of fancy dresses nor heels.  So to make do with what I had, I came up with a simple look that focused on quality separates.

Dress: Charlie Jade | Heels: Prada | Handbag: Unknown | Necklace: Tiffany & Co. | Tights: Unknown

If you'll recall, this dress is one I bought from Holt Renfrew for $9 (thanks to a gift card), and as for the shoes, I have been dying to find an opportunity to bring out these heels.  For once in my life, I didn't feel short - I felt average height, if not even tall.  I had a great time walking around in these booties, even though, no, they were not painless.  They didn't scratch or rub at all, but height like that doesn't come without sacrifice (no pain no gain, ladies).  The dress was understated, but I felt the artful mixing of colours and slippery silk material were details that elevated it slightly.

As a final note, this particular wedding I went to was one I will remember.  The bride and groom were clearly in love, and not because they were overt, but because they were so subtle.  The tender, silent communication they shared through the simple locking of eyes was palpable. A romantic, I am.

August 11, 2014

Not Without Love

So...yes, this is shaping up to be another summer of me not blogging.  That's not to say I've forgotten about Red-Soled Fashionista; on the contrary, I've had a steady flow of inspiration these past few months, yet time is one thing I don't have.  Partially this is due to a full-time summer job I am so grateful to have landed, but also another opportunity that was miraculously offered to me back in May.

I had planned to find another easy pay-per-post fashion blogging job for some extra cash, but there were slim pickings this year in terms of companies who were hiring.  After about a month of searching, I finally found a job posting from an accessories company.  I almost didn't apply because it required a CV, and I was too lazy to create a fashion-targeted resume. Luckily, I had a niggling fear of missing out on an opportunity, and so I applied.

And thank goodness I did!  A week later, I received an email.  After a surreal phone call with the company, I realized it was my blog and my writing style, both of which I have lovingly nurtured all these years, that made me stand out among the applicants.  Now here I am, working from home as Managing Editor of an American accessories company, getting paid to do what I love.  What seemed like a distant, impossible dream a few years ago has now become a very real possibility.  So, please do forgive me if Red-Soled Fashionista becomes a little bare, but always remember that my heart and soul is in this blog and I will never, ever be without love for it.

Image Source: HeartIfb

July 14, 2014

Dressing for the Occasion

I feel good.  Just breathing in the moment, and boy, it smells sweet.  For one thing, I'm wearing a new outfit. In fact, these past three months have been filled with wonderful sartorial adventures, thanks to dressing up for the office.  I was too lazy to take a photo of my outfit today, but use your pretty imaginations: a navy Vince tee with the front tucked loosely into a pair of blue and white floral H&M shorts, a slouchy grey crochet cardigan from Hong Kong, gold snakeskin print Elie Tahari loafers, a maroon snakeskin minibag with gold hardware, and a blue-grey metallic stone necklace.  With an outfit like this, I felt decent enough to hit up Holt Renfrew for an afternoon of shopping.  Here's what I tried on:

Pink Tartan

This dress was in the sales rack, and it was a size 0 - how could I not pick it up.  I adore jacquard detailing, especially when done in sorbet pink, and the fabric had a quality thickness to it.  The bodice fit me wonderfully, but I just didn't have the model-esque figure to pull this off.  The dress landed below my knee (which actually isn't a problem once you have heels on), but the structured A-line slightly overwhelmed my petite frame.  

Needle & Thread

Both my mom and dad ohh-and-ahh-ed over this dress, so I definitely had to give it a whirl. The size 2 bodice fit a bit too snugly around my arms, even though the length was once again past the knee. However, the skirt was less poofy, making the length very chic.  I'm not too fond of the muddy colors, but the floral embroidery was quite pretty.  My parents thought the beading made it wholly worth its $500, and I guess they're right - this is better than any typical $500 prom dress you'd find in BCBG Max Azria.  Obviously I didn't buy it, but I have discovered a new dress label to ohh-and-ahh over.

Miu Miu

I never give up the opportunity to try on a pair of shoes at Holts.  I liked the artful sketch print on the toe of these Miu Miu pumps, although the stark white leather felt somewhat outdated.  The pointed toe added instant glamour to my legs (despite being very painful), but there's something about the shape of these heels that make it "off". I can't pinpoint what it is, but it didn't have the polished contours that a great pair of pumps should have.

P.S.: Managed to catch Germany's winning FIFA goal on a TV in the menswear floor.  It seems like all greatest looking, most stylish guys work on the Holts menswear floor...I should frequent more often.

June 20, 2014

Once Upon a Dream

I can be logical and realistic, but at the very core of my being, I am a dreamer.  That's probably the reason why the fashion world excites me so much.  No matter how my emotions are tested, no matter how my rational mind tells me to expect and accept the mundane, I still dream of the perfect career and of the life I've always wanted.

I won't let myself stop believing that with patience and hard work, things in life will finally click together, and the dreams I've had all these years will prove themselves to have been visions of the future.

Image source: Lucky Mag

May 21, 2014

Rookie No More

I don't know what made me search her up, but girl, it's been years.  Long time no see, Tavi Gevinson.

Boy, time goes by quickly.  In my mind Tavi will always be the miniature girl who took the fashion world by storm with her youthful (but knowledgeable) prose and her penchant for granny chic at such an early age. Admittedly, I wasn't one of those who had jumped on the Tavi bandwagon.  I looked through her blog and couldn't distinguish that beguiling voice that had readers riveted and high fashion designers ushering her to front row status.  She sounded like exactly what she was: a young girl exploring fashion.  Certainly much of her appeal came from the fact that most girls her age didn't care about Chanel, much less Karl Lagerfeld, but I wouldn't say she was more than just a girl having fun with the way she dressed.  I couldn't see that maturity or worldly insight she apparently had.

But while I was personally not swayed by her words, I was inspired by her life (and also a teensy bit...ok insanely...jealous).  Here was a girl who, years younger than me, was already doing everything I had only begun to work towards.  It was Style Rookie, along with Sea of Shoes and The Sartorialist, that inspired me to start my own blog.  I saw how they created their own community around their passions, and I realized that the freedom of being able to speak my mind was something I was missing in my fashion-obsessed life.  I needed a conduit for ideas that were, at that point, simply broiling over in the solitude of my head (a recipe for madness).  Sure, I jumped on the bandwagon late, but at least I caught its tail-end.

Sadly, blogging has now quickly been replaced with Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter - condensed, visceral, efficient forms of information exchange.  Traditional bloggers may no longer have the prominence they once had, but I will never forget those who inspired me daily by taking the time to spill their hearts and minds into cyberspace.

But anyway, back to Tavi.  The purpose of this post was to congratulate her on...everything, basically.  She's a magazine editor, she sings, she's dappled in acting, she's applying to college, she has a boyfriend, she's exploring life outside of fashion, she has a new style...she's growing up.  From an adorable girl in her granny knits and gray hair, to a young woman with Scarlett Johansson's sultriness, Michelle Williams' self-assuredness, and the Olsen twins' cool.  She's a rookie no more.

Image Source: Photo1, 234

May 10, 2014

How Fashion Saved My Life

After my alarm clock rings in the early hours of the day, I have a consistent routine: brush my teeth, attempt to wipe the sleep from my complexion, and turn on my phone to see what messages I missed.  One morning, I received a text from a friend that was a remnant of a conversation we had earlier.  It asked:

"How is it you put together your outfits the night before?  What if you're in a different mood by the morning?"

Good question.  Something answered by the idea it's not my mood that shapes what I wear, rather, what I wear shapes my mood.

Fashion to me is not some superficial "oh that's pretty!" relationship.  Fashion affects me on a much deeper emotional level.  My senses become hypersensitive to every detail of a piece, and I can almost physically feel a bond being formed between me and that which I love so much.  So it comes to no surprise that my mood is shaped by what I wear, not the other way around.

I've said before that fashion has the fantastic ability to transform.  But then the niggling thought arises: are these costumes actually masks?  Are we slaves to fashion; does it control who we become?  No, because no matter what you wear, you will still be who you are at the core.  What fashion does is bring out different facets of the patchwork that makes up who you are, enabling you to explore each inflection of your personality.  How can I be so certain?  Because I can speak to the notion personally.

Ever since I was a little kid, I was shy.  Almost chronically so, I would say.  The thought of speaking in front of people would cause my heart to beat so ferociously I could practically hear it, bring on waves of cold sweats, and leave my throat so dry my voice was a thin, wavering squeak.  I read in a magazine that being shy is having an acute awareness of yourself and everything around you.  It couldn't be truer.  Who's looking at me?  Am I standing weird?  I bet everyone's looking at my flat nose, pale lips and jutted chin.  Are my glasses slipping too low on my nose? Oh my god, that means I have to bring my hand up to push it back up and everyone will notice and think I'm even dorkier than I already am.

But when I started getting into fashion, something changed.  Yes, as I mentioned in I am Not Fashionable, I was under a lot of pressure to "be fashionable" and find my personal style, but when I got it right, boy, did I get it right.  That feeling when you close your eyes, turn up your music, and ride that flushing base to its peak...that overwhelming out-of-body experience of freedom and release of inhibition...that was how fashion made me feel.  A good outfit gave me confidence like nothing else.  It made me straighten out my spine, throw back my shoulders, hold my head high, and walk with purpose.  Fashion saved me.

Melodramatic, surely, but no less closer to the truth.  Fashion saved me from being that girl who would never believe in herself.  And it wasn't just clothing.  When I discovered fashion, I discovered a passion, a skill, a purpose, and a drive that I had never felt before.  After years of feeling insecure and unsure about what I would do with my life, I finally had a direction - and incredible ambition.  Some would call my goals unrealistic, but I've learned to ignore the naysayers.

In some ways, you do succumb to fashion to an extent.  You take a leap of faith with it, throwing aside your reservations to let fashion guide you out into that scary, wide open space.  But the reward is a confidence that empowers you to conquer your fears.  You could call fashion my crutch, but I like to see it as a loved one cheering me on, wanting nothing else but for me to know I am better than I perceive myself to be.  I am still dreadfully shy in groups more than one or two people, but fashion played its part in helping me embrace my self-worth.  Every morning, I don't dress for my mood, because I put on my outfit knowing it will bring out that part of me who has lofty goals, but who will triumph over each and every one of them, one by one.

Image Source: Photo1, 2, 3

April 26, 2014

I am Not Fashionable

In Shia LaBeouf style, I confess: I am not fashionable.  Despite being so enamoured with fashion, I've never been able to practice what I preach.  Up until this year, no one would've been able to guess I was even remotely interested in fashion.  That nerdy girl?  Please. But this year, this year is different.  No, I'm not saying I'm fashionable; I'm saying I've finally discovered my personal style.

Sweater: Unknown | Button-up: Kent | Leggings: Gap | Boots: Michael Kors | Handbag: Balenciaga

I am a child of hand-me-downs, even though I have no siblings.  I wore mostly used clothing when I was little, and when I didn't, my mom would often buy clothing a size larger so I could continue wearing them as I grew. To say the least, I was never a fashionable kid. However, ever since I started getting into fashion, I felt the pressure to look the part. This led to several years of trying to be fashionable and unique, while still trying to find my own style.  The result: painful to look back on.

Blouse: Joe Fresh | Pants: Joe Fresh | Fur vest: Ralph Lauren | Heels: Calvin Klein | Handbag: Unknown

During that transition period, I looked quite a mess.  Wanting to look fashionable, but not quite willing to spend money investing in fashion when I didn't know what my personal style was meant cheap Old Navy clothing (the ultimate in suburban style), Garage leftovers from grade 7 (the ultimate in tween style), and higher quality, brand name clothing from an affluent friend, all mixed together into eclectic (but not very cool) outfits.  I would have designer tees worn under colourful Garage zip-up hoodies, paired with ill-fitting flared jeans, and dirty sneakers.

Top: Alexander Wang | Skirt: Express | Flats: Town Shoes | Handbag: Danier | Necklace: Unknown | Ring: Unknown

Again, feeling the pressure to walk the talk, I pretended as if I knew what my style was.  I pretended as if I could walk into a store and instantly identify that which was worthy of my money.  I really couldn't.  I pretended as if my strange style was sooo me.  It really wasn't. I pretended in desperate hopes I could fit in with that seemingly elusive fashion crowd.

Dress: Topshop | Heels: Prada | Tights: Unknown | Necklace: Unknown | Ring: Unknown

Even up until last year, I didn't feel entirely comfortable in my fashion masquerade.  I was still trying to be someone I wasn't.  In some ways I was making progress towards my personal style, but I couldn't yet bring myself to spend too much on a style I didn't entirely call my own.  I still lived in the shadows of a better, more stylish girl, aspiring and trying so hard to one day grow beyond her shadow and become her.

Tank top: Garage | Lace top: Unknown | Shorts: S.M.D. | Flats: Town Shoes

Finally, this year.  I don't know what clicked.  Maybe it was going back to studying with the same group of classmates everyday that revived my interest in putting together outfits. Maybe it was just an unconscious shift of perspective that gave me a "who the heck cares" attitude.  Maybe it was simply the combination of my affluent friend sufficiently stocking my wardrobe with quality pieces (I'm still that child of hand-me-downs) and my recent shopping spree.  Whatever it was, it opened up my eyes to a whole new world of dressing. I've become more daring with how I dress; I've gone from thinking "I can't wear that" to "how can I wear this".  I don't care what other people think.  I dress for the pure enjoyment of it.  I wear what I dare to wear.

Top: Le Ciel | Skirt: Grazie | Shoes: Converse

So what is my personal style?  Actually, it's not a style at all.  It's a state of mind.  I've given up trying to look fashionable in order to prove my ability.  My skill comes from my brain, not what pieces of fabric I have draped across my skin.  Am I fashionable?  No, I'm not, and I may never be.  All I know, and care about, is that I'm happy in what I'm wearing.

April 18, 2014

She's Got Game?

From Sports Illustrated  to Vogue.  As a model in both cases, you learn to seduce through the pages - but in different ways.  Kate Upton is the latest model to be touted as having successfully crossed the border from male fantasy to high fashion, consequently exposing the fashion industry to a new body ideal (see: voluptuous). As much as I would like to agree, I'm still skeptical about whether Upton's swimwear allure translates into high fashion appeal.

The first time I saw Upton in an editorial was in Vogue's June 2013 issue.  She was, I'll admit, average. The styling portrayed her as sexy and sophisticated, but it was an editorial I easily moved on from.  Just recently, I encountered her again in Vogue's February 2014 issue, and this time around, I went from being indifferent to being underwhelmed.  Before I proceed, take a look at the photos, which were photographed by Mario Testino for a spread titled "She's Got Game":

In case you jump to conclusions, my skepticism has nothing to do with her body.  I think she has a fantastic va-va-voom figure that both men and women would love to see photographed more often. What I think she lacks, however, is a seasoned understanding of how to draw a reader in with her face, and a pose that goes beyond the standard hands-on-hips.  Looking at her face in these photos, I see a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes, and an almost forced expression made all the more obvious by her energetic companions. You can't let a leaping Jimmy Fallon overshadow you, especially when you're a blonde bombshell.  I also couldn't sense any frisson of connection between her and those around her, making the reader feel just as awkward and uncomfortable as she looks in the photos.

It's tough being a model, and I don't want to give up on Upton quite yet.  But in order for me to be convinced she deserves a spot in fashion editorials, she needs to mesmerize me with her eyes, radiate her energy through the pages, and draw me into her snapshot in time of a heightened reality.  I need to desire the clothing she wears.  I need to feel like I want to be her.  I need to feel like she's owning it. 

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April 14, 2014

This Is the End

What a year.  This was the year I started my business program, and I can confidently say I have not felt such a sense of academic community and camaraderie since my time pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma.  The experience I've gained in my business program is one-of-a-kind, and I couldn't have been more grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded, ambitious students who challenge me each and every day to think outside the box.

To celebrate the end of a rigorous - and oftentimes stressful - year, our school hosted a banquet.  I was excited for another opportunity to get fancied up so shortly after a fashion show I attended two weeks ago, but was faced with a big problem: I didn't have a dress.  I don't party very often, so eveningwear has never seemed like a worthy investment (as some of you know, I even borrowed my grad dress). However, my fellow fashion friend was generous enough to let me go through her wardrobe and pick out this number:

Dress: eBay (borrowed) | Heels: Calvin Klein
My other friend had actually worn this dress to the fashion show we attended, but I had no problem with that as I intended to wear it differently.  When I tried on the dress, it just felt so right.  It had fashionable elements that made it more than just a typical party outfit.  I absolutely loved the lace sleeves (so me!), and you can't see, but the back had only one layer of lace, subtly countering the conservatism of the long sleeves.  The skirt was a comfortable mid-thigh, and the soft peplum helped elevate the dress from clubwear to eveningwear. My friends and I agreed the look was busy enough without accessories, and so I simply threw on a pair of low-heeled, black pumps to keep it classy.  It was an overall sultry look, but one that was grounded by elements of sophistication.

I received a couple compliments that night, but in the end, I felt confident in what I was wearing and that was all I needed.  Our year-end banquet was, of course, bittersweet.  It wasn't until my cab ride home that it hit me the banquet was the last time I would see all of my classmates together.  As hectic as these past 8 months have been, I know I will look back and realize how this was one of the best years of my academic life.  Time flies when you're having fun.  And so, a toast to an end that signals the beginning of new friendships, new opportunities, and new milestones.

April 9, 2014

Michael Kors Fall 2014 Menswear

"Find your style and invest in a good pair of shoes."  

That was the parting advice one of my professors had for the men in our class, and I couldn't help but smile when he said it. A man with style earns major points for me. It's not the idea of caring about looks, but the idea that a guy cares enough about himself to at least attempt to be presentable.

What's funny, however, is how little I actually know about menswear.  I had a taste of it when I read Elle Canada's first issue of Elle Man.  Reading Elle Man was like discovering a whole new world.  It was riveting.  It was exciting.  It was like falling in love with fashion all over again.  But otherwise, I'm a newbie. And so in my attempt to become more accustomed with this other side of fashion, I present to you my first time posting about menswear.

I've chosen to shine the spotlight on Michael Kors.  I found so much cheeky humour in this collection - but also some fantastic pieces - that I had to put my two cents in.  Overall, this collection was the definition of luxe loungewear.  There were drawstring sweatpants...but wait, they were double-faced cashmere sweatpants.  The slouchy sweaters were mohair, and those trackpants?  Suiting flannel.

Contrast that against structured coats and blazers, and you get a collection that mocks the uppity world of Wall Street, but closer to home, I saw it as the wardrobe of a stylish college boy.  I just adore the furry mitts above (how fun!), and the socks and sandals combo throughout the collection gave me a good laugh (shoutout to a classmate of mine who proudly worked the socks and sandals look during a group project, and my quick-witted friend who just wouldn't forgive him for it).

I don't really have a verdict for this collection considering the scant knowledge I have of menswear, but it's a collection that made me genuinely smile, and hey, a collection that can do that is worth something, isn't it?

See the entire collection here.

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April 1, 2014

Live. Laugh. Love.

For the past three years, I've had the pleasure of attending an annual fashion show organized by a student club at my university.  I decided to write about it this year because it was such a memorable experience. Not only was the show done differently this time around in a more intimate setting, I had a great time dressing up before the show and attending with six of my good friends.  I'm not actually going to talk about the show - even though it was amazing - because instead, like every typical fashion blogger, I feel the need to blog about what I wore!  Here I am in the centre with two great friends I met this year:

Sweater: From Hong Kong (gift) | Skirt: Handmade by friend (borrowed) | Flats: Town Shoes | Belt: Laura Petites | Necklace: Charlotte Russe (borrowed) 

When deciding what to wear, I knew I wanted a long skirt.  University girls often opt for short dresses, and while many still look wonderfully fashionable, a long, ethereal skirt is more my style.  Luckily, my talented roommate had a handmade midi skirt in a pretty muted pink which she lent to me.  I love that the underskirt is cut shorter, allowing you to show some leg without, well, actually showing leg.  Walking in such a skirt is heavenly; it swishes around gracefully with each step.  Initially, the plan was to wear a lace top to really work the feminine look, but I didn't have one that paired well with the skirt.  And so I went with a black sweater with gold threads my friend gave me, and my new pair of black flats (as I said, future post on those coming up!) to finish off the balletic look.  I would have worn heels but I didn't have a good pair here and comfort was important as I needed to arrive earlier to help with set-up.  My neck felt bare, so I added my friend's statement necklace that I saw her wearing months ago and really liked.  Lastly, this was my second time curling my hair (my first was for grad), and it turned out alright considering I used absolutely no hair product.

Shoes: Town Shoes
Earrings: Betsey Johnson (gift)

And something I rarely do on this blog: beauty!  I wasn't going to talk about these products until I realized they all fit with the colour scheme of my outfit: pink, gold and black.

Nailpolish: Dr.'s Remedy | Perfume: BVLGARI Omnia Crystalline | Lipstick: Elizabeth Arden

I actually received the nailpolish from a giveaway I won, and the lipstick I blogged about in First a Rose, Then a Kiss.  The Bulgari perfume was a free sample I ordered online, and it had been mailed all the way from Italy.  The best part was the bottle in which it arrived:

A gold star to anyone who knows the secret to opening these bottles!  The scent was surprisingly good - very light, feminine and illuminating.  

Overall, I had an awesome evening.  The fashion show was classy, the company I had was priceless, and our "after-party" of McDonalds (complete with coupons) made it a hilarious, ironic night.  When I got home, I sat down, opened my laptop, and did what I do best: write. I was so honoured to have been asked to write an article recapping the show for the club's magazine, but of course, I spent my time writing for another group of people dear to my heart: you.

P.S.: A huge thank you to my friend who unexpectedly gave me a handmade headband as a gift that night.  So sweet of you!

March 18, 2014

Rags to (Relative) Riches

I'm all about experimenting when it comes to putting together outfits. Sometimes I pull together a winner and feel on top of the world, other times I miscalculate and feel like burying myself into a hole for the rest of the day.  Despite the hit-and-miss nature of outfit risk-taking, it's the thrill of finding that unique look no one else has that I live for.  Part of that process involves looking for pieces in places other people don't think of going to. I've already recounted the time I raided my dad's closet to find an oversized denim button-up (that has surprisingly garnered me multiple compliments throughout the here to see the post), and today, I present to you a new spin on my pajamas.

T-shirt: Random Chinese brand | Shorts: H&M | Bag: Mom's vintage bag | Sunglasses: Coach

Yes, my pajamas.  I've had the above t-shirt for more years than I can remember, mostly wearing it around the house and in bed.  I did consider it among my nicer tops to wear at home; putting on a pair of jeans underneath made it supermarket-ready.  But two years ago, when my friend commented and said it was actually a very "hipster" top, it made me rethink the possibilities this faded rag (or so I thought) could bring me.

To combat the bagginess, I knew I had to roll up the sleeves and partially tuck the ends in. I had considered pairing it with a chiffon skirt, but knew the faded top just wouldn't match the femininity of a skirt. So with my friend's "hipster" adjective in mind, I went hip. Crossbody bag, printed bottoms, and a pair of sunglasses to add a slight V to the neckline.  If I had my complete wardrobe here, I would've thrown in a couple of my punk rings. You can't see here, but either my black pointed toe flats (yes, if you read my Missing the Point post, you'll realize I finally found a worthy pair of black flats...expect a future post on that) or cognac studded ankle boots would've completed the look (although I wish I had a pair of oxfords).

Lesson of the day: take a second look at your so-called "ugly" clothing.  Retain a casual air, but pairing your rejects up with higher quality pieces just might leave you feeling like you're on top of the world.

March 17, 2014

R.I.P. L'Wren Scott

I became aware of the shocking and tragic news through Facebook. "Designer L'Wren Scott Found Dead".

Silence.  Just silence.

Time froze as I recalled what I knew of Scott.  I wasn't a follower of her work, but I knew who she was. I first encountered her in Vogue when she gave a tour of her home, as seen in the above photo. Even through the pages, I could tell she had a presence - that raven hair, those mile-long legs, and that smile. It made you think she knew something you didn't. She exuded confidence.

Throughout the years, I've chanced upon her name several more times in magazines, learning she was a former model, a respected celebrity stylist, an avid vintage jewellery collector, and a designer of glamorous, sensual, and always radiant pieces.

To a talented designer, stunning model, and beautiful woman, may you R.I.P.

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