Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Great Coat ... Maybe Even A Great Gatsby Coat.

      "Life Starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall"
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I've been thinking about F. Scott Fitzgerald these days, and how much I love his books. Especially The Great Gatsby. Especially his poetic descriptions of opulent rooms, and hot summer nights, and the clothes... the glittering, rippling dresses on the women and, of course, Gatsby's shirts. Sigh. 

And that line about fall, that I love. Where Jordan is speaking to Daisy, for whom life was simply a string of endless, languid summer days that one had to fill, somehow. Poor struggling Jordan, saying that people like her, who were not rich and insulated from real life like Daisy, had to get on with things... when summer ended, as it must. 

And, of course, reading about the end of summer and the beginning of crisp fall days makes me think about finding a great winter coat. 

Of course.

But there are so many from which to choose. Where to begin?

There are gorgeous long, flowing coats. Like this black one from H&M Studio or the white Ralph Lauren. Both in the October issue of Bazaar.


And sharply-tailored, ladylike, knee-length coats. Like this beautiful grey one by Fabiana Filippi.

Or this lovely, red Elie Tahari coat. 

And, of course, those "oh-so-chic" short coats which seem to be everywhere. 


Peacoats, or pea jackets as we used to call them, are back this fall... in a big way. Don't you love this blue one featured in With the flared jeans, and the turtleneck, it's so very 70's, and so very of the moment. The editors at Netaporter always get the look of the season just right, as far as I'm concerned.

I mean, seriously, how does one choose? Should you go for dramatic black or winter white, understated grey or traditional navy? Long, or short, or in between? 

Or maybe a primary colour? Red or yellow? 

I'd love to own this buttery yellow Gucci coat. It's delicious looking. But alas, Gucci is way out of my price range. 


So maybe this red peacoat at Zara's could go home with me instead? More my price range. No, it's probably just a teensy bit on the short side for me. 

But you know what? In all honesty... I don't really need a new winter coat. All that roaring twenties talk must have gone to my head.... rampant materialism and all that. I have several good coats in my closet. Some are even great coats. 

Like this Max Mara knee-length coat that I bought a few years ago. It's charcoal alpaca wool, and the fibres are so long, it feels almost like fur. I wore it as my "good coat" when I was still working, for those days when I had to go to meetings and needed to wear a suit or skirt. I still love it. With my cropped, stretchy pants, loafers and a turtleneck... it looks more casual these days. Still ladylike, though. 


 Or this little gem. That I almost gave away a few years ago. And then forgot about... until I saw all the shots of peacoats in the magazines and on-line and in the stores. 

My camel, wool and cashmere pea jacket (I feel kind of silly calling them peacoats.) I bought it at an end of year sale at Holt Renfrew...oh... ten years ago, it must be. I wore it for a couple of years and then, when coat styles went all slim and fitted, the boxy cut began to feel wrong. So I put it away. But I didn't give it away... mostly because I love camel coats. I could have taken it to a consignment shop, but it was such a steal; it didn't owe me anything. 

Now it has been reborn. Or it will be after I get it dry cleaned. And with my black Vince turtleneck and black leggings and boots... it looks quite spiffy... if I do say so myself. And as for all those primary colours that were so tempting. Well, there are always bright scarves.


I have a couple more winter coats hanging in the closet. A lovely deep brown Max Mara "car coat" with a stand up collar that still looks great. Oh... and my burgundy-brown-ish, down-filled coat that I bought last winter when it seemed as if spring would never arrive and I was soooooo bloody tired of being cold! I'll wait a few months to haul it out. Hopefully.

So, I think that's me sorted. 

I could never have justified buying a new winter coat of any stripe, or colour, this year. Long, short or in between. I have to get fed up with the ones I already own, decide that I will never wear them again, and cull a couple of them first. And it looks as if that isn't going to happen, at least this year.'s so much fun to pull pictures out of magazines and then shop my own closet. 

And as for Jay Gatsby. Well, so much for the lure of money and opulence and glitter. Look how he ended up. Face down in his own pool... and all those beautiful shirts, gone to waste. 

Still it is a seriously beautiful book. Despite the ending. When I started writing this post, I went looking for my copy of The Great Gatsby... and you know, I could not find it anywhere. Maybe I'll take some of the money I saved by not buying a new winter coat and go buy a new copy.

What are you doing this fall about a great winter coat?

Linking up this week with  Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50, Feeling 40, and Passion 4 Fashion Link up at Rachel the Hat and Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Slippage Part Deux ... The Saga Continues

At the beginning of September I wrote a post about what I call "slippage."  I was writing about my own life, the difficulty of keeping fit over time and the changes wrought by retirement. You can read my original post here.

Oddly enough, I thought that "slippage" was a word I had made up.

I guess I should have checked. defines "slippage" as "movement away from an original or secure place due to slipping [resulting in] loss of motion and power." says it's "the act of sliding, a movement downward, into a lower or worse condition or state." 

Some of the definitions I found stem from a reference to things mechanical, the idea of gears and cogs not moving correctly, hence the loss of power. Literally. But all of them see the term as pejorative. Totally. 

And that was not my intention when I used it. Not the "spin" I wanted.
Slippage, for me, is partly the result of my less stressful life now that I'm retired, partly the result of the passage of years and the increasing effects of gravity, and partly because my new less stressful life involves more time to indulge in activities I love which also, unfortunately, happen to involve sitting. 

But although "slippage" means gaining a few extra pounds along the way, not fitting into those skinny jeans quite the way I want, and finding deepening crow's feet when I look into the mirror... I do not see it as "downward movement" or sliding into a "worsening state." At least not totally.

I guess one could look at it that way. But I look at it as nature throwing down the gauntlet. Challenging me. As if she's saying..."You want to sit on your butt more, do you? Get out from under the stress of that stressful job? Read more? Work on that silly blog? Well, little sister...there's a price to pay for that. Either find a way to move that butt know....slippage."

Okay. This would be my challenge. To move more, walk more, and increase my workouts without hurting something (knees, hips, etc etc) in order to be able to enjoy my extra reading time and that glass of wine with dinner. 

For years I have cycled and hiked in summer, and then cross-country skied in the winter with Hubby... when he's not playing golf or hockey.... which he does three days a week. When he's doing those things, I sit on my exercise bike. I needed a new plan that went beyond my sitting on the bike in the basement on those days we weren't doing something together. A plan that increased my overall activity level and added activities that were more fun. And which did not involve exercise classes which I have tried.... they just make me cranky.

So, my new plan includes skating. Last winter, I bought skates for the first time in 30+ years and skated with Hubby a few times before his hockey season started. I needed to be able to do it more regularly. So I contacted a couple of women with whom I taught and who retired around the same time as I did. And we've started skating... every Thursday morning, for an  hour. Just before we go for coffee and catch up on all our gossip. It's been fun.

And I have added power walking into my weekly "moving" plan. Twice a week for at least 60 minutes. This I love. I listen to my books on my i-pod. (I'm currently finishing up the new Deborah Crombie To Dwell in Darkness.)

I walk on one of two trails in and around Manotick. They're lovely. Although neither have the spectacular beauty of some of the walks Hubby and I have done over the years.

                                Like this 

Hiking in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

Or this.

Hiking in Kluane National Park, Yukon.

Neither offers the chance to meet interesting animals, like this little guy.

Hiking near Broome, north Western Australia.
                               And, thank goodness, no chance to encounter signs like this.

Sign on the trail in Kluane National Park, Yukon.

                            And there are no post-hike indulgences like this to be had.

Post hike activity, Costa Rica

      But the trail does wander along the Jock River...

                         And across some stepping stones...

                        And up and down a few hills. 

And as I walk and listen to my i-pod, I can still hear the gush of the Jock River when I pass the dam and the skiff of my feet in the leaves. The crisp air and the fall colours against the blue sky make me glad to be alive in this time and place. Alive and moving. 

My new "moving" plan still involves using my exercise bike, and combining that with a weight work-out, three times a week. Apparently one of the reasons for my hip and knee problems has been too much of the same activity. In summer, I am either cycling outside with Hubby or riding my exercise bike; the skating and walking will add variety, and allow me to do more overall with less injury. The other reason is a strength imbalance. So along with upper body weights, which I have always done, I added in a good lower body workout. I have been pretty lax there, assuming that the cycling took care of the lower body strengthening. Wrong. 

I love doing all this. Really. There's nothing more fun for me than shaking things up with a new plan. So...over the course of the week, I hope to manage, three bike rides (mostly on my exercise bike) combined with weight work-outs, two power walks, and one skate,  I will take one day off altogether. 

At least that's the plan. 

And it's worked pretty well. I hurt my knee riding my bike at Thanksgiving, spent ten days in New Brunswick in September, and five days camping in October... all of  which resulted in some alteration to the plan. But for the most part I'm on track. Moving more and with more variation. And having more fun, overall. 

Because for one to avoid seeing "slippage" as the inexorable downward slide... one has to not only move one's butt more, but also to allow for fun. And for still fitting into those skinny jeans AND enjoying that glass of wine with dinner...oh, and maybe the odd piece of apple pie for afters. 

Don't get me wrong... I'm not an expert on "aging" or even "middle-aging." These are just my experiences and my challenges and what I'm choosing to do about them. 

However, some other bloggers I read... like Frances at Materfamilias Writes  and Lisa at Amid Privilege... have much more profound and insightful things to say about aging, maturing, facing what life throws at us when we're over fifty than I do. You should check them out.

So folks, the plan will unfold as it should. Stay tuned for Slippage Part Trois. This is a saga after all... not just a mini-series. 

Besides... minis are so over, aren't they? Please let them be over.

What are you doing about slippage? 

Linking up this week with Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50, Feeling 40

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Style in Six Words

I'm listening to my favourite radio show this morning while I write this post. "Q," hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, can be heard on CBC radio every morning. Today Jian interviewed Canadian icon Neil Young, much loved by all Canadians, but especially by those of us who remember the 70's. 

A few weeks ago I listened when Jian spoke with Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, the editors of a new book on fashion called Women in Clothes.
A lot of people are talking about this book. Shannon Tien, in the National Post, calls Women in Clothes a 503 page "conversation" about fashion. Tien, says that "self-presentation is an almost universal concern, even for those who don't care to be 'fashionable,' and yet our conversation on the subject has largely failed to move beyond the prescriptive rule box handed to us from on high, one sided at best." 

Women in Clothes editors  Heidi Julavits. Leanne Shapton, and Sheila Heti
Tien, who clearly loves the book, goes on to say that Women in Clothes is something new..."a conversation about style that kicks the ostensible rule box in the pants, using history, memoir, art, design, philosophy, psychology and sociology as tools for discussion. A true conversation, after all, has more than one side." You should read Shannon Tien's review for yourself here.

Before the interview with the creators/editors of the book, Jian (and the staff of "Q") initiated a conversation about fashion with his audience.

Jian is flanked on left by Leanne Shapton and on right by Heidi Julavits and Sheila Heti
 Fabiola Carletti
Listeners were asked to post on Twitter a description of their style, in six words. Okay...sounded like fun. So I fired off a picture and a response to #mystylein6words. See below:

Then I watched as the other tweets rolled in. And to my chagrin... I appeared to be the only one who actually thought they wanted me to describe my style. Everyone else's response seemed to be in jest, ironic or... at best... terribly self deprecating. 

Comments like "Grandma dressed by colour-blind toddler" (Erin Bassler) or "Chronically overdressed because pants don't fit" (Laura Simmons) or "Most days, I'd rather sleep in" (Fabiola Carletti) made me realize that I was the only one who didn't think this was supposed to be a joke. And I felt like an idiot! 

I mean, I could be funny too. I began to wish I had said "All skinny legs, and big head" or "Overly obsessed with clothes and hair." 

And then I began to get pissed off with myself. So what if I was the only one who responded seriously. So what if I put that picture and those six words out here. Live by the Tweet; die by the Tweet. That's what I look like... some wrinkles around the eyes, more on my neck, not a fashion model (who is...except for fashion models) but still trying to look my best. And those six words actually describe what I wear ... most of the time. "Skinny jeans, good jacket, vintage jewellry." Yep, that's me.

 For instance.... 

Outfit #1:  J-brand skinny cords, Smythe jacket,  vintage brooch. 

Outfit #2: J-brand skinny jeans, Max Mara jacket, same vintage brooch.

I just have to say that I love everything about this Max Mara jacket. I love the length, the dark green tweed, and the 4-button style. I bought it way, way back in the 90's. Then I put it away, maybe, 10 years ago but thankfully did not get rid of it. I pulled it out last fall when I saw that long jackets were becoming popular again. Yeah me. 

I also like it with my red Gap tee shirt, a green/pink scarf I've had since university, and my vintage Bakelite maple leaf brooch. 

Outfit #3: Skinny brown "Not Your Daughter's Jeans", Max Mara jacket, vintage brooch. Same red Gap tee shirt as above. 

I have a number of Max Mara jackets and two MM coats. They are really well made and last forever. I bought this houndstooth plaid jacket in 2004, as a work outfit with matching dress pants and a sweater. The pants and sweater went off to consignment a few years ago. I can't bear to part with the jacket. I love it with jeans. And with this gold plume brooch of my mum's. I remember Mum wearing this when I was a kid in the 60's. I know she'll read this post and think...."so that's where that brooch went!"

So that's my style in six words... and three jackets, three pairs of skinny jeans, and three vintage brooches. 

Thanks Jian (and the staff of "Q") for helping me define my style in six words. Even if I did have a few hours of face-flushing, stomach-churning embarrassment. 

And speaking of that book Women in Clothes. After reading Shannon Tien's review I was planning to run right out after I finish this post and buy it. 

Then I saw Rebecca Carroll's review in the Guardian UK. It's not hard to figure out that Carroll is not a fan of the book which she calls "banal and stunningly self important" saying that it "could have been a thoughtful exploration of elegance and artistry, self-awareness and self-design, but is nothing more than an exercise in narcissism...." 

Phew....harsh words. And I thought we were tough on Eleanor Catton last week at book club. You should really read the entirety of Carroll's review here. And when you do, be sure to read the irate response from editors Heti/Shapton/Julavits in the comment section. 

Still... I may run out to the book store after this... grab a coffee and sit down with the book for a half hour. To make up my own mind before I decide to buy... or not. 

I'll report back later on my findings. And we can have another conversation about style.

Meanwhile....can you describe your style in six words? Please.

Linking up with Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Illuminating The Luminaries...

 In which a lowly blogger and former English teacher explains why she trashes this award winning book.

I love to read. Most of the time. But not all of the time. And this week is one of those 'not all of the time' times. 

Let me explain.

I'm currently trying to read an apparently wonderful novel, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. 


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

In Praise of the Humble White Tee Shirt

My friend E. collects white shirts. She used to have a closet full. And I used to tease her because we'd go shopping and she'd try on beautiful sweaters or blouses in lovely colours, and then go home with a white shirt. Nothing wrong with a white shirt. They are iconic, after all. A fashion staple. I even own a couple.

But I think amidst all this white shirt worship we often overlook the humble white tee shirt. I'm extremely partial to a white tee shirt. And don't tell E. but... I will confess that I own...well....several.

And I think that I'm not the only one. 

Whether it's James Dean... Who can imagine him in Rebel Without a Cause without that white tee shirt? Not me. Next to Brando's in A Streetcar Named Desire, it's perhaps the most famous white tee shirt ever.

Or the long reigning queen of understated chic, Lauren Hutton... Here she is in her white tee.

And now.
Or much lauded style icons Charlotte Gainsbourg and Gwyneth Paltrow...


...everyone loves a white tee shirt. It's the true neutral. And pardon my double negative but...nothing doesn't go with a white tee. 

Even the revered style guru Ines de la Fressange, much better known for her white shirts, can be seen sporting the occasional white tee. I love how she's layering it, here, under her black sweater.

I was sitting on my exercise bike the other day, listening to my i-pod and leafing through the October issue of Vogue, and I spied several white tee shirts. 

Like this one, on Ines de la Fressange again, in an ad for her collaboration collection with Uniqlo, the Japanese "fast fashion" retailer. You can see her whole fall 2014 collection here on the Vogue UK website.

Or these two in ads for the fall collection by Brunello Cucinelli.


Then I looked at my fall inspiration board, and I noticed that a couple of the outfits featured white tee shirts. And I hadn't even been conscious of them before, just clipped the shots because I liked the overall look. 

So, it seems if you want to do understated chic. Casual elegance. You need a white tee. 

Well, I'm all over that, my dears. Or it's all over me, as the case may be.

I love my white Theory tee with my leather pants. This tee shirt is my favourite; it's long-sleeved, a bit stretchy, longer in the back, with side slits. It falls away from the body, perfect for middle age middle. I think it looks good with my Smythe blazer, or even with my Theory anorak. Maybe for dinner (or a drink) with the girls.


For shopping, I'd wear the same tee with this wool Elie Tahari coat and black Theory leggings...and my new Stuart Weitzman loafers.

I also love my white, long-sleeved Gap tee shirt. In fact, I love long-sleeved Gap tee shirts period. For a run-around look, on a rainy day, I'd wear my Gap tee with my J-brand jeans, loafers, and a rain coat.


There's a great collection of simple white tee shirts on I'd wear either of these outfits.... in fact I have worn these outfits...well kinda.


Except this look. Nooooooo. No. No. No. Grunge is back...but not in my closet. I was too old for it the first time around. I confess to owning a plaid shirt... but I wear it with a cami underneath and my jeans. NOT tied around my waist.

I remember picking my niece R. up at the airport one day in the 1990's when she came to Ottawa for a visit. She was sixteen and I swear she was wearing her shirt... just like this. Well, not exactly HER shirt; I think it was her grandfather's old work shirt. Oh, the sighs from my mother who had tried to convince R. that she did not want to wear her grandfather's shirt on the plane. But R. just smiled and tied it a little tighter. I must remember to ask her if she's embracing grunge this time round.

Yep. I'd be lost without my white tee shirt collection. As I said before... I own several. These are the long-sleeved ones. I also have a few short-sleeved versions packed away with the rest of my summer wardrobe. I definitely should NOT have been teasing my friend E. about her white shirts.

Unlike the iconic white button-front shirt, which appears on every list of wardrobe "must-haves" that I've ever read, the white tee shirt seems to fly under the radar. But that doesn't make it any less iconic... one might even say historically iconic. A wardrobe staple that transcends the decades. Great for the 20-somethings or for the 50-somethings. 

Everyone needs one... or four.

As Stanley Kowalski, aka Marlon Brando, famously did NOT say in the movie A Streetcar Named Desire..... "Stellaaaaaa. Love the white tee shirt! I've got one very like it."


Oh dear. Very bad English teacher joke. My apologies to Tennessee Williams. 

Do you have any white tee shirts in your closet?

Linking up this week with Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50, Feeling 40, and Favourite Fashion Friday at Penniless Socialite