Monday, 31 August 2015

Slipping Into Fall... and... Back to School. Not.

The first day of September is a portentous date isn't it? Heralding the end of care-free summer days, and the beginning of school. And when I was growing up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the event we kids waited for all summer, and saved our pennies and quarters for... The Fredericton Exhibition. The Ex. always started the week that we went back to school. So the beginning of September was anticipated with longing and dread in equal measures. 

The picture below on the left is of Scout's first day of school in To Kill a Mockingbird. She's all gussied up in a new dress and none too happy about it. She'd much rather be wearing her overalls. 
I remember kids going barefoot all summer when I was little. And like Scout many of them chaffed at having to become "civilized," in their good clothes and shoes, for school in September. The shot below is of my mother's baby brother, Everett, taken one summer in the 1940's. Isn't he sweet in his little shorts and bare feet?

my uncle Everett in the 40's

Like all the other kids, I both longed for and dreaded the coming of September. But while the thought of school made the butterflies dance in my stomach, I couldn't wait to wear my new shoes and my new first-day-of-school outfit. 'Quelle surprise," I know.

I remember vividly the yearly shopping trips "across the lines" for our back-to-school outfits when I was a kid. One of my grandmothers lived near the Canadian-U.S. border, and everyone shopped in the States,"over across" as we called it, where the selection was bigger and the products a lot cheaper. I'm sure the border guard didn't suspect a thing when, at the end of the day, Nana's car rolled up to his wooden hut. "Anything to declare, Mrs. K?" he'd say, while he peered into the backseat where us kids sat, looking innocent in our new duds. "No George. (or Frank, or Sam... she knew all the guards by their first names) Just a few groceries." It's not really smuggling if the guard knows darned well that we were clothed entirely in outfits purchased that afternoon... is it?

I've been back-to-school shopping most of my life. As a child, a high school and then university student, and then as a teacher. But this year was different; I did most of my fall, back-to-school shopping, in July. I wrote about that adventure in this post. And while I was still wearing my summer tank tops and sandals, my new fall purchases hung in my closet, taunting me, for weeks. 

Until the other day. When, even though the weather said it was still summer, I deemed it was time to start transitioning into fall.... slipping into at least some of my lighter weight fall clothes and combining them with my summer staples. 

So, out came my cropped, white, NYDJ  jeans, and my black Helmut Lang jacket. Both have done yeoman duty this spring and summer. I ditched my sandals in favour of my Stuart Weitzman loafers. And added this striped, grey and sage green, long sleeved Vince tee shirt. 

transition outfit: NYDJ jeans, Helmut Lang jacket, Vince tee, Stuart Weitzman loafers.          

The tee shirt is one of the purchases I made at the Nordstrom Anniversay Sale in July. I bought the same shirt in white two years ago, and it's become a staple in my fall and winter wardrobe. It has very long sleeves, which are great for my very long arms. It falls away from the body, good for covering middle age middle. And I love the dropped shoulders, the side slits, and the fact that it's longer in the back. See.

NYDJ white jeans and Vince tee

So I'm off to Nordstrom in this transitional, mostly summer but slipping somewhat into fall, outfit. I'm having a make-up makeover today. Katie, the lovely girl who manages the Laura Mercier counter at Nordstrom is going to show me a new way to do my eye-liner, and at the same time give me a new fresh look. I can't wait.

transition outfit: NYDJ jeans, Helmut Lang jacket, Vince tee, Stuart Weitzman loafers.

And I'm excited that my new look will be featured in the "Midlife Makeover" series on the blog Daily Plate of Crazy. I've been reading D.A. Wolf's blog for over a year now. It covers everything from relationships, to women's issues, to fashion, to musings about life after 40. You should check it out. And be sure to check out her post  Midlife Makeover: Shake Up Your Makeup. Love that title.

I love having a new make-up palette for fall. I'll write my own post about my make-over experience soon. Once I master the skills I've learned, that is. 

I guess I should start calling my fall shopping "back-to-school...not" shopping. After all, this will be my third September without lesson prepping, and department meetings, and classroom decorating, and school dreams (nightmares, really) for two weeks before school actually starts. I had one recurring nightmare for years when I was a young teacher. I'd turn my back on the class to write on the board and, when I turned back around, the students had all tiptoed out of the classroom. And I was SOOO afraid the principal would come by my room and find that I'd lost my whole class. Phew. That was stressful. I'm not missing that tradition.

How about you? Any back-to-school traditions? And how are you transitioning into fall when the weather says it's still summer? 


Linking up this week with: What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Hello Monday (at More Pieces of Me and Sincerely Jenna Marie), and Fabulous Friday at  A Pocketful of Polkadots , All About You Link Party at Mama and More
and Style Focus at A Well Styled Life


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Consider the Blouse

Considering that it's August, I should be thinking about fall. And fall fashion. 'Tis the season, or soon will be. And after my post last week about the blue shirt vs the white shirt, I've been considering tops. Blouses in particular. Then I saw this e-mail from in my mailbox.
I do love a silk blouse, especially one with ruffles, or a tie neck, or even a "pussy bow." Pussy Bow blouses (or pussy cat bow, as they were originally called) have been around for years, decades... a century, even. And according to, they're back. 

And not just Net-a-porter.  Preston Davis featured these "forever pieces" from the Wall Street Journal article recently on her blog Keep It Chic. WSJ's article "Your Style Guide to Pre-Fall Collections" included a lovely cream tie blouse by Derek Lam. 

And although these models at the Gucci Fall/Winter 2015-2016 Show may look a bit dour, and the outfits a bit too dowdy-chic for my taste... I do get the point. Pussy bow blouses are back... in a big way.


And they haven't actually been gone that long, you know. This outfit on Ines de la Fressange, was labelled one of the "must have looks" in 2011. 

This is a close-up of Ines in her "must-have" blouse. I love this shot. She's chic and polished, as usual. But looks like a beautiful, fifty-something, stylish woman should look. Lines and all.

This is uber-it-girl Alexa Chung, below, in her polka dot pussy bow "must-have" blouse of the moment. As sarcastic as that appelation sounds, "uber-it-girl" I mean, I do love her blouse and she does look cute in that outfit. That suede mini-skirt is very 60's isn't it? I remember my older sister had a suede skirt with snaps like that in the 60's. Or was that me in the 70's? Anyhoo. Even though that memory is a bit hazy, what's perfectly clear is that pussy bow blouses are here again. 
Now this may come as a surprise to some, but I don't actually pay toooo much attention to the "must have" exhortations of editors or fashion bloggers, unless they happen to coincide with my own "must have" list, or if the "must have" item in question happens to have resided in my closet, unworn, for a few years. Then, well, then I listen. Especially if it's the latter. It's soooo much fun to participate in a trend when it costs you nothing at all. Except maybe the cost of dry cleaning said item.  

And it so happens that I own a pussy bow blouse, that still fits, and that I still love. It's a purple Tory Burch blouse from 2008. See.

Purple Tory Burch pussy bow blouse

I hauled it out last Christmas because I thought I might wear it with my leather trousers to a Christmas house party that Hubby and I always attend. But as it happens I wore something else. So poor pussy bow blouse has sat unworn since...oh... 2012, at least.

Tory Burch pussy bow blouse, Vince leather trousers

Well, let fall 2015 be its season of resurrection. I can wear it with my Helmut Lang jacket, my faded Citizens of Humanity jeans and these burgundy Tory Burch flats in the early fall. 

Tory Burch pussy bow blouse, Helmut Lang jacket, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Tory Burch ballet flats     Tory Burch pussy bow blouse, Helmut Lang jacket, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Tory Burch ballet flats   

Or when the temperature drops later in the fall, I can wear it with these Paige high-rise skinny jeans, my black Stuart Weitzman loafers, and my new grey Vince coat sweater. 

Grey Vince coat sweater, purple Tory Burch pussy bow blouse, Paige high-rise skinny jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers        Grey Vince coat sweater, purple Tory Burch pussy bow blouse, Paige high-rise skinny jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers.

And speaking of women who know how to tie on a pussy bow... Margaret Thatcher was famous for her bows. She thought they softened her look. Who knew she thought about such things. Blog and learn, and learn.

And speaking of blogging and learning. Did you know that the concept of the "it girl" is attributed to writer Elinor Glyn? Although Rudyard Kipling used the term before she did. And the very first "it girl" was the actress Clara Bow? There's an interesting article in The about the origin of the term and the fate of famous "it girls" on both sides of the Atlantic.

Now I have to wrap up this post before I do something silly like chucking my i-pad mini out the window, or taking a large hammer to it. I'm at my mum's this week, and trying to write this post on my i-pad is...well... challenging... frustrating... and inefficient. I apologize for any weird anomalies of formatting.  

So, I'm signing off and instead of considering committing violence against technology... I'm going to make a cup of tea and consider all the other ways I can wear my old/new pussy bow blouse this fall.  

What about you? Are you a fan of the pussy bow blouse? 

Linking up this week with: What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Hello Monday (at More Pieces of Me and Sincerely Jenna Marie), and Fabulous Friday at  A Pocketful of Polkadots

Friday, 14 August 2015

Summer in the City II ... Brought To You By the Letter "B"

Yep, summer is almost over... only a couple of weeks left. Akkk. And we waited so long for it to get here! But I know that, come the third week of August, we' ll feel fall in the air. 

Hubby and I have been spending this summer at home. Except for a camping trip or two. Summer in the city... almost. Almost in the city, I mean. And we have been busy, with a capital "B."

"B" is for biking. The Tour de France is over, but we're still biking. Two or three times a week. We're spoiled for choice as far as great biking routes go. Lots of biking trails in the city. And further out, south of us, lots of country roads that have more scope for scenic views. I love a beautiful field and a barn.

fields near North Gower

Monday, 10 August 2015

One Shirt, Two Shirt, White Shirt, Blue...

Is there any fashion item that's more lauded than the simple white shirt? Probably not. It's on every "must-have list" of "wardrobe staples" I've ever read. You know, those fashion items we're told every girl or woman needs in their closet. Right up there with a great pair of jeans. The white shirt has been on the cover of fashion magazines like Vogue countless times. Even on their famous 100th Anniversary issue in April 1992. By the way if you want to get your hands on a copy of this so-called "iconic" issue.... there's one for sale on Kijiji for only $50.00. Seriously.


I'm not disputing the value of a great white shirt. Or blouse. I always have a couple in my closet. Right now I own a classic, white, button down shirt. As well as a tuxedo-style one with ruffles down the front. It looks great under a mannish tweed jacket for fall.    

Some women just have the knack of looking fabulous in a white shirt. Lauren Bacall. Audrey Hepburn. Ines de la Fressange. And Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. She had great style, didn't she?

The white shirt look, below, has attracted a fair bit of on-line attention lately, and been hailed as the "look du jour." That's Danish stylist and fashion blogger Pernille Teisbaek. She features lots of really interesting outfits and other fashion tidbits on her blog Look de Pernille. I must say, though, that this is not one of my favourites. I think I'm too old ...or maybe just too prissy... for the rumpled shirt, ragged hem thing. 

But even though the white shirt, however you wear it, rumpled or pressed, is still the reigning queen, fashion does seem to be having a blue shirt moment. I loved this blue shirt when I saw it in a post by Alyson Walsh on her blog That's Not My Age. She talks about how this cover for the July issue of British Vogue garnered all kinds of on-line yammering... mostly negative. You can read Alyson's post here. But despite the slings and arrows hurled at Vogue about this cover, I agree with Alyson... Stella Tennant looks wonderful. The very epitome of "ageless style" at only forty-four. I might be biased, though. After all her grandmother was a Mitford.

Jenna Lyons, creative director and president of J. Crew, also sports a blue shirt with pizzazz. 

So is the blue shirt becoming the new white shirt? Ines de la Fressange says it is. She thinks it's a "wardrobe staple," clean and crisp and not as boring as a white shirt. You can read the rest of her "must-have" list here.

I'm not comfortable tucking in my shirt these days, so this look below appealed to me; definitely more my style. Portuguese blogger Tatiana show us a whole array of blue shirt looks in this post. It seems that that other French fashion icon, Emanuelle Alt, is a fan of the blue shirt. 

As am I. I bought this blue, checked sleeveless shirt in the spring. And on a sunny, breezy, not-too-hot summer day, I love it with my NYDJ cropped, white jeans and my Helmut Lang jacket. I wore this to lunch last week with my friend Barbara. As usual, we discussed fashion, our recent travels, and books, book, books. It was Barb who put me on to the Mitford sisters years ago. 

Black Helmut Lang jacket, Equipment sleeveless shirt, white Paige cropped jeans

And this is my new, blue, going-into-fall shirt. I bought this blue Equipment shirt at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. I like the shirt-tail hem, and the generous cut. And I love it with these Paige high-rise, skinny jeans. And my Stuart Weitzman loafers. I'll probably add my blue Smythe blazer in the fall. Or I have a longer (mid-thigh length) black, Elie Tahari jacket that might be even better. Fall outfit planning is so satisfying. 

Blue cotton Equipment shirt, Paige high-rise skinny jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers

But for now, I swapped the loafers for my Stan Smith Adidas for a day of shopping with my sister. We were picking up a gorgeous Escada dress that she bought last week at the Anniversary Sale, and had altered. And we had appointments at Nordstrom for a bra fitting. Shopping for a bra can be sooo frustrating. The overwhelming number of brands, and styles and colours.... and sizes. It is not an activity for the faint of heart.

Equipment blue shirt, Paige high-rise skinny jeans, Stan Smith Adidas

So I'm off. Hopefully looking casual and cool in my new blue shirt. Even if I'm not rumpled and frayed like the really cool girls. I can't bring myself to do rumpled. Or wrinkled. Well, except for the other non-trendy wrinkled-ness... definitely got that going on. 

Equipment blue shirt, Paige high-rise skinny jeans, Stan Smith Adidas, Michael Kors tote

Ah well, you work with what ya got, people. Three hours after I took this shot, and two new perfectly fitting bras each to the good, my sister and I were scarfing down thin crust pizza at the restaurant in Nordstrom and giggling like teenagers. Wrinkles and all.

We do love our sisterly shopping days. 

By the way. The title for this blog post is from that kids book: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Ever since I decided to write about white shirts vs blue shirts, I haven't been able to get it out of my head. 

What about you? White shirt or blue shirt? Rumpled or pressed?

Linking up this week with:  What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Hello Monday at More Pieces of Me 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Reading Round the Subject... Or... Down the Reading Rabbit Hole

One of the great things about retirement is having time to read. And time to explore those "rabbit holes" that crop up when you're reading a great book. Like when a book mentions a specific place or historical character and, instead of just carrying on, you stop and do a bit of exploring. Or finish the book and then read another that explores a specific subject or setting prompted by the first book. You might disappear down that rabbit hole for two or even three books. I remember when I first read The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, it awakened in me an interest in all things Mitford. And so I went haring off (pun intended) in all directions reading whatever I could by, and about, those famous sisters. Last year I wrote a blog post about my "Mitford Madness," which you can read here if you're interested.

I guess this is what Ms. MacDonald in Kate Atkinson's book When Will There Be Good News? might call "reading round the subject."

If you haven't read Kate Atkinson's series featuring detective Jackson Brodie, you must. Atkinson is a wonderful writer; I think she's absolutely one of the most talented writers I've read. She's written four Jackson Brodie novels; When Will There Be Good News? is the third in the series. You can check them out for yourself here

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Turning Purple... And Grey. Fall Shopping Adventures in July.

Okay, so I'm not really turning purple. But I am turning to purple. Or burgundy, to be more precise, and to grey. After finding myself some sweet deals at Nordstrom's July "Anniversary Sale," burgundy and grey, it seems, will be my go to look for fall this year.

Nordstrom is new here in Ottawa, so I had never heard of the "Anniversary Sale." Until now. I love the concept of putting the new fall merchandise on sale before the season even begins. But the fly in the ointment was that it was in mid-July, way too early for me to be ready to shop for fall. I normally do my "back to school" shopping in August, just before I go, well, back to school... hence the name. "Back to school shopping" has been a tradition since I was six years old. Naturally, it morphed somewhat over the years, from the days when Mum took me shopping for back to school clothes, as well as binders, scribblers, 'campfire notebooks', crayons, a new pencil case. And for the last twenty-odd years, when Hubby and I would arrive home from our August trip down east, he'd pack for his last canoe trip of the summer, while, in between preparing lessons, attending meetings, and ordering textbooks, I'd plan my fall shopping. Everyone in my department knew that I would be at school and available the last two weeks of the summer... for meetings, consultations, whatever... except for the Thursday (sometimes the Friday) before the long weekend. That day I shopped. Homework done, list in hand, I descended upon my favourite store, for.... sigh... my absolute favourite shopping day of the year.

Paugh Lake, Ontario. October 2014
Our fall 2014 camping trip
Retirement wrought some changes to the fall, "back to school" shopping tradition, I will admit. I was not actually going back to school, anymore. I needed fewer clothes, and different clothes, for my new non-teaching life. But I still did my research, consulted the fall fashion magazines, sorted my wardrobe, and made my list. A much shorter list, to be sure. And I waited until a few days after school started to shop. Much less crowded then. But overall the concept was unchanged. The anticipation was unchanged. I dreamed of crisp fall breezes. And of the boots, jeans, sweaters, and tweed blazers, in beautiful fall colours (forest green, caramel brown, burgundy) that I would soon wear. 'Soon' being the operative word, here.

But, this year, long before I normally even start thinking about fall, when I was still excited about summer fashion, I had to work hard to psyche myself up for fall shopping... in July.  And, as I wrote in this post, I was not entirely successful. My homework had failed to inspire me. And I had no list. Unthinkable for a list-making, organizing obsessive such as myself.

Bu-ut. You could say that fate and the fashion gods (and my friend Liz) were on my side the day I strolled into Nordstrom for the "Anniversary Sale"... list-less, and totally un-psyched for fall shopping. You could say that, although my homework had failed to inspire me, faced with the actual, real-life array of sweaters and jeans, tweed jackets, and blouses, in deep greens, burgundies, and luscious browns, I was soon in the mood for fall shopping. You could say that. Yep. 

With the help of my buddy Liz...who, I'm sure you remember, is the personal shopper at Nordstrom... I had a very successful day of fall shopping in July. This is what I bought. In list format. 

1. A gorgeous, charcoal, heathered coat sweater from Vince. I love the length, the cut, the shawl collar and the leather trim. 

grey Vince coat sweater, burgundy NYDJ jeans

So cosy. I can belt it, or leave it open. I love the drapey folds. See the leather trim detail in the back? I will get a ton of wear out of this sweater.

grey Vince coat sweater, burgundy NYDJ jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers          grey Vince coat sweater, burgundy NYDJ jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers

2. Burgundy slim cut (but not skinny) jeans from NYDJ. They are high waisted, and narrow through the leg... just the way I like them. Great with loafers in the fall or with low boots in the winter. I love, love burgundy; it's one of my favourite fall colours. And it looks great with my new charcoal coat sweater. I've used one of my vintage brooches here to pin the sweater closed.

grey Vince coat sweater, burgundy NYDJ jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers, burgundy Marc Jacobs tote

3. Burgundy leather tote bag from Marc Jacobs. More burgundy. I had intended to get a new handbag for fall this year. And this one fit the bill. Roomy, soft. The handles are long enough to be able to wear it over my shoulder even with a heavy coat on, and the strap is long enough to wear cross-body. Love, love the colour.

grey Vince coat sweater, burgundy NYDJ jeans, black Stuart Weitzman loafers, burgundy Marc Jacobs tote

I can't wait to start wearing my burgundy and grey for fall. But of course, I will have to wait. Seeing as how it's only the beginning of August and we have several weeks of summer left... hopefully. 

But in the meantime. I might be able to spin my burgundy jeans into a transition outfit. 

I love these silver and burgundy earrings and necklace from Montreal jewellry designer Anne-Marie Chagnon. I bought them at a little boutique in the village of L'Anse-Sainte-Jean, Quebec, where we visit every other summer. Chagnon uses odd bits of metal, beads and stones so creatively. I love all of her pieces because they're unique, and a bit edgy. I don't usually wear very feminine jewellry. I feel silly in pearls, for instance.

Anne-Marie Chagnon earrings and necklace

These pieces from Anne-Marie Chagnon will tie my burgundy pants in with just about any top I want to wear. Like my black Helmut Lang blazer, that I bought to take to Paris, with a white, Theory cami underneath. The pants are pure fall. But the jacket, even though it's black, is light. And with the white cami and the black and white Kate Spade bag, this will be a good transition outfit for late August, or even early September.

black Helmut Lang jacket, burgundy NYDJ jeans, Kate Spade bag, black Stuart Weitzman loafers.          black Helmut Lang jacket, burgundy NYDJ jeans, Kate Spade bag, black Stuart Weitzman loafers.

So. What have I gained from this experience? 

Well, three really great pieces for fall, of course. All on sale, a fact that should not be easily dismissed. I mean, I did save 40% on each of these items, people. That's pretty awesome. 

And I've learned that, while tradition is good, it isn't good to become too stuck in one's ways, too hidebound. I might have missed out on these great deals, if I'd stuck to my usual plan. Yes sirree. I think I could get used to this fall shopping in July thing. 

Now. I've got to go and start sorting my fall clothes. Editing, they call it. Not because I need to make my fall shopping list. Nope. But because a friend of mine has just opened a clothing consignment shop. And it's high time I made a few tough decisions and got rid of some stuff I know I won't ever wear again. 

P.S. About my childhood back to school shopping. "Scribblers" are what we Maritimers called Hilroy notebooks when I was a kid. And "campfire notebooks," well, they were legendary. We used to use them to write down our homework. Here's a picture of one I found on You can find a picture of just about anything on the internet, can't you?

What about you? Do you have any 'back to school' fall shopping traditions? 

Linking up this week with: Style Focus at A Well Styled Life, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Manic Monday (at More Pieces of Me and On the Daily Express)