Fashion or function?

I love a stylish pair of sneakers. You’ve seen some of my favourites here before.

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I also love the fact that sneakers are no longer only for wearing to the gym or for running. In fact, a pair like these from Circus by Sam Edelman wouldn’t even be suitable for those pursuits. I have, however, worn them with a dress.

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Then there’s this pair that I bought specifically for walking in Europe last spring.

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Here I’m wearing them overlooking a beautiful stretch of sandy beach in Belgium.

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My husband gave me these metallic blue ones for Christmas just over a year ago. They look especially good with jeans.

But sometimes what a shoe looks like isn’t the most important factor. One of my goals for the new year was to get back into the habit of walking on the treadmill at least three times a week (on the days that I don’t lift weights) and for that I needed a new pair of comfortable, supportive shoes. At the sporting goods store I was confronted with an entire wall of running shoes and trainers and I had no idea where to begin! Of course, my eye was drawn to the cutest and most colourful ones, but I had to remind myself that that wasn’t why I was there. Thankfully, a very knowledgeable sales clerk steered me in the right direction. If I was only going to use the shoes on the treadmill and not for other gym activities, she recommended running shoes as opposed to trainers. That narrowed the search to half the wall! Looking at my feet, she immediately realized that they’re narrow and suggested two brands that I should consider. These are the ones that I settled on.

I’ve only put about 8.5 kilometres (5.3 miles) on them so far, but I think they were a good choice. They’re lightweight but sturdy, and gel technology in the heel and the forefoot provides plenty of cushioning. The fact that I also like what they look like is simply a bonus! I’ve added them to my list of clothing purchases for 2020, but I really think of them as an investment in my health as opposed to a fashion item. Sometimes function takes precedence over fashion!

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And the winner is…

LogoIn the weeks leading up to Christmas, Susan Street, who writes the fashion blog, SusanAfter60.com, offered her readers a number of generous giveaways including a Nordgreen watch bundle. Imagine my delight to learn that I was the winner!

The timing was perfect. Though many depend on their cell phones to tell them what time it is, I’m a bit old school and can’t imagine life without a watch on my wrist. I love the Citizen Eco Drive watch that I received as a retirement gift twelve years ago. It’s powered by light and never needs a new battery, but living in Canada where daylight hours are short at this time of year and the cold weather generally calls for long sleeves, it hasn’t been getting enough light to keep it charged. This didn’t seem to be a problem when it was newer, but this winter I often get up in the morning to find that it stopped overnight and needs to sit under a bright light for awhile to wake up. I had been thinking about putting a new battery into an older watch that I bought shortly before I retired and starting to wear it again, but then I received Susan’s email!

I was able to go online to the Nordgreen website and build my own watch bundle. The first step was choosing which model I wanted. I liked the simplicity of the Native dial.

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Next, I chose the size of the watch case. The choices ranged from 32 to 42 mm. My wrists are not very big, so I chose the smallest. Step three was selecting the case colour; silver, gold, rose gold, or gun metal. My retirement watch is a combination of silver and gold and my older one is gold, so I chose silver. Step four was choosing the colour of the dial; white, black, or navy. I like a dark watch face, my retirement watch is black, and I wear a lot of navy, so I chose navy for my new one. The final step was choosing the straps. Not one, but three! I chose silver mesh, navy leather, and dove grey leather. Vegan leather is also available. A super simple and convenient quick release system makes it easy to change the straps without any tools.

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The package arrived this week all the way from Copenhagen. Nordgreen is a Danish company started by Pascar and Vasilij who are, according to the website, “two lifelong friends, watch enthusiasts, and born-and-bred Danes on a mission to deliver true Scandinavian design and lifestyle to everyone.” The Nordgreen name represents both their Nordic identity and their focus on sustainability. Nordgreen partners with three global NGOs to create tangible change in the fields of health, education, and the environment. As a customer purchasing a watch or a bundle, you would have the opportunity to choose which cause you’d like to support. For me, I think that would be as difficult as choosing from all the watch options! As a retired teacher I’d probably settle on giving one month of education to a child in India. It’s also worthwhile noting that Nordgreen offers free shipping and returns worldwide. 

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I’ll still be wearing my retirement watch some of the time and I might just put a battery in the other one as well, but you’ll definitely see me wearing my new Nordgreen watch on the blog often. Accessories, including watches, add finishing touches to our outfits and this one fits my personal style very well.

Thank you, Susan! 

Nordgreen has generously offered a 15% discount to Following Augustine readers. Use the code ELAINE15 to receive yours.

 

Look what I found!

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That’s right, it’s the little packet of colour swatches that I was searching for back in August! I practically turned the house inside out looking for it back then and ended up cleaning out all twelve drawers in my bedroom, but it was nowhere to be found. Then, this week, I started cleaning out the basement storage room, a job that badly needed to be done. I’d long given up any hope of finding the colour swatches, but there they were in the very first bin I opened! Interestingly, I was already planning to write about colour this week; the difference that colour can make.

First a little background. As I’ve mentioned before, it all begins with skin tone. Knowing whether your skin has cool or warm undertones can help in choosing the colours that are best for you. When I had my colours ‘done’ back in the 1980s, I learned that my skin has warm undertones and I was given the little packet of fabric swatches in the colours that were deemed to be most flattering for me. While sticking to a specific palette might seem too restrictive, knowing which colours make you come alive and which, especially when they’re worn close to your face, make you look tired or washed out can definitely help you look your best.

Let me show you what I mean. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve kept everything the same except the cardigans; same plain background, same lighting, same makeup, same wild and crazy hair, same grey striped Breton top and dark wash jeans. (I’m thinking that my high school science teachers would be proud of me!)

Let’s take a closer look.

IMG_0690Black is not a great choice for someone with my complexion. It drains me of colour making me look pale and haggard. The grey panels on the shoulders  and in the top help, but this is still not a particularly good look for me. I could improve it somewhat by intensifying my makeup or wearing a brighter top under the sweater.

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Oatmeal, or vanilla as my swatches call it, is one of my recommended colours. It looks a little drab against the plain wall, but it’s less harsh than black and looks better on me. Can you see the difference?

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I promise that I didn’t add any makeup before this picture was taken, but look at the difference in my face! Teal is a universal colour that suits everyone. Long before I had my colours ‘done’ I knew that it looked good on me. You probably can’t tell in the photo, but it even makes my grey eyes look blue!

 

 

 

 

 

If you aren’t sure whether your skin has warm or cool undertones, one easy way to figure this out is to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Do they look blue or green? If they appear more blue, you are cool-toned; if they’re more green, you’re warm-toned. The study of colour can be a complex one, but essentially, if you are cool-toned, take your inspiration from the cool end of the spectrum. Bright blues, deep purples, emerald greens, and frosty shades of lavender, ice blue, and pink will look good on you. If you’re warm-toned, look to the warm end of the spectrum for your best colours. Think fiery reds, peach, coral, oranges and rusty tones, creams, camel, and earth tones.

According to the experts, we can all wear virtually any colour – it’s simply a matter of figuring out which shades suit us best. For example, everyone can wear red, but it’s a matter of knowing which shade is most complementary to your complexion. Those, like myself, with warm skin tones should choose orange-tinted reds, while those with cool skin tones look better wearing blue-based reds.

Now that I’ve finally found my swatches, will I stick only to wearing those colours? Probably not, but I am going to go through my closet and take a look at how far I’ve strayed from the colours that are my best. I know that I’ve instinctively made a lot of good choices, but also some, like the black sweater, that are not so good. I’m definitely not planning on doing an entire wardrobe overhaul, but I do intend to do a better job of taking what I know about colour into consideration when I’m making decisions about which items to keep long term and what to buy in the future.

Now I need to get back to cleaning that storage room. Who knows what else I might find!

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2019 fashion shopping review

LogoFor the second year in a row, I kept a list of all the clothing purchases that I made over the past year so that I could analyse my shopping habits and establish goals for the following year. I started doing this at the beginning of 2018 in part because I wanted to be a more ethical shopper. I was also interested in finding out more about my spending habits and I wanted to be more intentional about wardrobe development. 

Based on what I learned in 2018, I came up with the following goals for 2019. Let’s see how I did.

  • I will continue tracking my purchases for the coming year so that I can review and evaluate my shopping habits again a year from now. Done!
  • I would like to buy less and spend less. Partial success. I actually purchased more items, but I spent less. 
  • I intend to buy basics that I need and items I love that work well with what I already have. Mostly successful. I did buy two thrifted items, a tank top and a necklace, that didn’t fit into my wardrobe very well. Both have already been returned to be enjoyed by someone else. 
  • I will resist the pressure of friends to buy pieces that they like, but that aren’t right for me. Complete success! 
  • I will continue to buy quality pieces, not wasting money on fast fashion items that are poorly made and end up in the landfill after only a few wearings. Success!
  • I will continue to write a weekly fashion post! Done!

It’s difficult to find accurate information on women’s shopping habits and it clearly varies from place to place, but it appears that on average most women purchase approximately 70 items of clothing a year and spend somewhere between $150 and $400  a month or approximately $1800 to $4800 annually. Personally, I can’t imagine buying or spending anywhere near that much! Over the past year, I spent a total of $1071.74 CAD or approximately $89 a month. With that, I purchased 43 items including clothing, accessories, and footwear. The biggest change from the previous year was the number of accessories I bought which included two hats, two purses, one belt, one scarf, and several pieces of jewelry. Accessories take up very little space and don’t have to be expensive, but they are the finishing touches that add interest, individuality, and detail to an outfit.

Another difference from the previous year was the number of thrifted items that I added to my wardrobe. I bought only 5 second-hand pieces in 2018, but 14 in 2019 and some of those are amongst my favourite purchases. I paid full price for only 9 items over the past year. The majority of the brand new garments that I bought were on sale. I also added several cabi pieces to my wardrobe at half price by hosting a party in my home in September. The most expensive item that I bought all year cost $99. I have no idea what the total value of my purchases was because I don’t know the original prices of the thrifted items, but I do know that if I’d paid full price for all the brand new items, those pieces alone would have cost me $1609.80. All in all, I’m very satisfied with my wardrobe spending over the past year.

When it comes to shopping ethically, however, I wouldn’t consider myself particularly successful. Finding accurate information in order to make wise choices is extremely difficult. In late June I wrote this post outlining my concerns about purchasing items made in China. I thought seriously about refusing to buy anything else that was produced in that country and for awhile I tried. I read labels and even walked away from a few items, but I soon found myself caving in. In spite of my increased concern, I did only marginally better than the previous year. Some of my thrifted purchases were missing their labels so I don’t know where they were made, but I knowingly bought 18 made in China items in 2019 compared to 20 the year before. Many of the others were made in third world countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. I have no way of knowing if they were manufactured in factories that are socially and environmentally responsible or sweatshops where workers are exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions, but at least those countries are not the threat to Canada that I believe China to be.

So what are my goals for 2020? Many are the same as last year, but I’ve revised some a bit and added a couple of new ones.

  • I will continue tracking my purchases for at least one more year so that I can review and evaluate my shopping habits again a year from now.
  • I will continue to buy things that I need and items I love that work well with what I already have.
  • I will strive to buy less and experiment with new ways to wear what I already have.
  • I will continue to buy quality pieces and not waste money on fast fashion.
  • When considering a purchase that was made in China, I will attempt to find a suitable alternative made elsewhere.
  • When adding to my closet, I will consider five adjectives that begin with C… classy, confident, comfortable, casual, and creative. These words all describe what I’d like my wardrobe to say about me. Thank you, Pam Lutrell, for inspiring this one!
  • I will continue to write a Fashion Friday post each week.

As I look at my list of purchases from 2019, it’s difficult to choose just a few favourites to share with you here because I truly love so many of them! You’ve seen most of them on the blog before, but here’s a small sample:

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This is what I wore on New Year’s Eve for an evening of fine dining and dancing with my hubby. The little black jacket was my first purchase of 2019 and has been worth it’s weight in gold. It has appeared on the blog several times throughout the past year as it can be worn with so many things in my closet. The Dream Dress from cabi was bought half price at the end of the Spring/Summer season and I picked up the vintage evening purse at our local thrift store for just $3!

 

 

 

The Airwalk Speed Vitesse sneakers that I purchased at a Payless closing out sale were absolutely perfect for walking the streets of Europe in May and have continued to serve me well ever since. They were amongst several items that were bought specifically for traveling in 2019.

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In this photo, taken in beautiful Bruges, Belgium, I’m wearing a favourite thrifted top and carrying the anti-theft crossbody bag that kept my valuables safe while we traveled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I can hardly wait for summer to return so that I can wear my DIY frayed white jeans again! They were also thrifted and cost just $2 plus a few minutes work to let down the hems and fray the edges.

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am on a hiking trail wearing two more favourite purchases from 2019, a lightweight thrifted hoodie and my Uniqlo ultra light down vest. Both have proved to be great travel companions!

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And finally, here’s my zebra print top from cabi.

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A cardigan by any other name

parmesan sweater“Is this my parmesan sweater?” our 5-year-old grandson asked his mom one day this week when he was getting ready to head off to kindergarten. He meant cardigan, of course!

Photo: Melaina Graham

A cardigan is a great third piece in a Canadian winter wardrobe; a button-up sweater that’s easy to put on when it’s chilly and take off when it isn’t. Most of mine, like Simon’s, are neutral colours that can be worn with almost everything else in my closet, but I’ve been striving to add more colour to my wardrobe, so I bought this one earlier this winter.

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The rich teal of the Deco Cardigan from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection has always been a favourite colour of mine. In fact, it’s one of those universal colours that look good on everyone. The sweater’s shape and the design of the cable pattern make it very flattering and the cotton/acrylic blend is comfortable and easy care.

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Richard usually takes the photos for my Fashion Friday posts, but since this will be the last one of 2019, let’s bring him out from behind the camera today.

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Next Friday our house will be full to overflowing with all our kids and grandkids here with us! So, from our home to yours, a very Merry Christmas! Fashion Friday will pick up in the new year with a 2019 fashion review and some goals for the year ahead.

Environmentally conscious shopping

LogoIncreasing interest in sustainability, climate concerns, and other environmental issues is having a significant impact on the fashion industry which is said to be responsible for 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! It’s also a huge consumer of water. It takes approximately 1800 gallons to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of blue jeans!

The industry has been increasingly coming under attack for what is known as fast fashion. Fast fashion, or disposable clothing as I like to call it, refers to a phenomenon that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics and quickly end up in the landfill.

Fast fashion’s target market, young, style-conscious shoppers on a budget, are also among those most concerned about the health of the planet. As environmental consciousness increases, their buying habits are changing. Dwindling sales forced fast fashion chain Forever 21 into bankruptcy at the end of September and is resulting in the closure of up to 350 stores internationally including all 44 locations across Canada. Some see this as signalling the end of an era in shopping.

One of the noticeable effects of this shift is a change in attitude toward second-hand clothing. The stigma that was once associated with wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs is rapidly disappearing. Now it’s the environmentally conscious thing to do!

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I’ve been an avid thrift store shopper for years. I much prefer smaller not-for-profit stores to ones like Value Village where the prices are higher and very little of the revenue goes to charity. Most of my second-hand clothing comes from two small volunteer run shops, one in the town where I live and the other just a few kilometres away. Here I’m wearing a couple of recent purchases.

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When I put my tall winter boots away last spring, I knew that they were nearing the end of their life, but I was hoping to get one more season out of them. The first time I wore them this winter, however, my feet got wet! Clearly they needed to be replaced, but the closest shoe store is an hour away. I decided to check out our local thrift store and luck was with me! I snagged this like-new pair for just four dollars! They’re even dark brown, one of this seasons most popular colours. I bought the cardigan for three dollars.

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I’m wearing the two thrifted items with the comfy corduroy pants that have been a workhorse in my wardrobe for several years, a sleeveless V-neck top recently purchased at Cleo, and a black pearl necklace from a previous cabi season. No fast fashion for this frugal fashionista!

For 18 tips on successful thrift store shopping, check out this post.

‘Tis the season

LogoFashion Friday is putting in its appearance much later in the day than usual. In fact, I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen at all this week. We arrived home last night after a whirlwind trip to Vancouver (the second in seven weeks) to assist my 96-year-old father with his move into long term care and to deal with everything in his previous apartment. Though he wasn’t very happy about having to leave the assisted living facility where he lived for the past six years, it was actually exactly what he needed and he seems to be settling in well.

We were thankful to make it home in time to attend the first event of our Christmas season this evening. I was especially glad that I didn’t have to think about what I was going to wear. Last year, I planned my outfits for each Christmas event in advance writing down exactly what I was going to wear including shoes and accessories. It made the season so so much easier that I decided to do the same thing this year. Though I hadn’t quite finished doing this when we got the call to go to Vancouver, I did have this evening’s outfit planned. Here’s what I wore.

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I decided awhile ago that I’d put together outfits for each event this season from what was already in my closet rather than buying anything new. The dark green sequinned top added a festive look to this evening’s simple black outfit. I added an emerald necklace that was my mother’s, sparkly earrings that I bought last year, and a silver bangle.

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One thing to think about when planning an outfit for a special event is what you’ll be doing. Since I would be sitting at a table for tonight’s dinner and the entertainment that followed, what I wore from the waist down was less important than what would be seen above the table. I’ll wear something entirely different when we go dancing tomorrow evening.