Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sensible -- and Somehow Luxurious -- Dressing for the Holidays

 While we've downscaled our Christmas shopping considerably 'round this part -- and I've shopped much less in general this year of our big move and long travel -- the Alessi Nativity set I showed you yesterday isn't my only serendipitous purchase of the season.  As I headed out for the Christmas-shopping-and-lunch with my daughter last week, I advised Pater that if I came across the perfect knee-length leather pencil skirt, he could consider his Christmas shopping for me complete (note: we'd already agreed that we wouldn't be shopping for each other this year! But somehow I knew he'd agree to a leather skirt -- silly man even considers it a gift to himself! (rolls eyes). Such a skirt has long been on my list, but I haven't put much effort into finding it. I suspected that if ever my dream skirt might be on sale, this would be the time.

And I was right. In Nordstorm particularly to check out their Madewell offerings for my daughter's Christmas gift, she suggested we check out possible leather skirts. And there it was: my skirt, ready to dress up or down, in a very wearable style, the length easy and practical and, in my opinion, a bit street-sassy with sneakers although I can also take it to the opera if I wear a lighter hose and a heel... It looks great with a loose sweater but also good with a blouse tucked in. Has the same ease as a denim skirt but considerably more polish.  Simple, clean line, but with a neat design feature in the extension of the front piece beyond the zippered side seam in a just-wide-enough-for-emphasis band -- and the zipper itself opens the skirt completely, several inches above the hem.

In short? Smitten! The price was way high for me at its original sticker, and still a Gulp! at the greatly discounted (nearly 50%) number. But I knew that I'd be wearing this Jason Wu (for his Grey line) for a long time, and often, and that it would earn its keep.

Even a skirt this magical doesn't pair well with snow boots, sadly, so I had to wait to take it outside. Earlier this week, though, I met one of my sisters for our almost-a-tradition-now lunches at our favourite splurge spot. Yes,  there was still some ice, some slush, some puddles to navigate, but I thought my (Vince) sneakers might get me safely around those, and what might look polished enough with those sneakers to wear to lunch in an upscale restaurant?
You guessed it! (I gave you that one, right? ;-)
The silk shirt is the one I bought in Bordeaux at &Other Stories, and the cardigan is Bompard. The whole outfit feels delicious to wear (silk+cashmere+leather? No-brainer!) and much of the luxury, for me, comes from its practicality. I have to chuckle a bit, recognising how closely this resembles the school uniform I wore for years: dark cardigan, neutral skirt (ours was grey, with a box pleat centre front, and Sister Superior would absolutely have approved of the length of my pencil skirt, although eyebrows would certainly have been raised by the leather), sensible black shoes (ours were leather penny loafers -- a concession to the changing tenor of the 60s, in place of the earlier, sternly sensible Oxfords).

So many questions I could ask you to generate some conversation today: For example, Do you find yourself recognising patterns from your earlier sartorial life resurfacing in your wardrobe today? Have you ever worn a uniform? Do you have an informal uniform of your own choice these days? Do you/have you/ would you ever wear a leather skirt? Has that anything to do with your age? And finally, just for fun, if you were heading out to meet a sister or friend for a Solstice lunch or Christmas-week drinks, and you had to navigate some weather-iffy sidewalks on the way, what might you wear to keep it festive and practical at once?



33 comments:

  1. It gives me such joy to read your postings!Keep it up:) Coco

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    1. I'm so pleased to read this, Coco, and yes, I will!

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  2. You'll wear that leather skirt often, methinks. You look comfortable and polished and ready for anything, including the Vancouver weather!

    Although I never wore a uniform as a school girl, I have a black wool just-above-the-knee-length skirt that I frequently wear in much the same fashion as you - blouses, cardigans, or slouchy sweaters atop. It's a comfort to have something in my closet that I can pull out without too much thought when I want to feel particularly pulled together.

    I love the photo with your piano, music, the flowers, and the marvelous view!
    Merry Christmas, Mater, and very best wishes for a wonderful 2017.

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    1. edited to add: By the "view" I meant the general vista beyond your windows, as not much is visible in the photos, but I can envision it!

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    2. Thanks, Lorrie -- Funny that we both find a knee-length-ish skirt a comfortable, polished staple -- so many women find skirts uncomfortable or impractical, but I think I like them as well as pants, perhaps even more (although, yes, I do live in my jeans).
      And I knew what you meant re the view, thanks! Wishing you and yours a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

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  3. Right now, I feel as though I have established a retired person's uniform. I am in a beautiful cliffside condo in Mexico with Monsieur with a wardrobe of black, white and turquoise capris, skirts and t-shirts. I no longer take too many clothes when I travel. I have a suede skirt from WearElse (at least 10 years old) but I find that none of my friends dress up. As one friend said, "You (me) will always take the opportunity to dress for an occasion, while I (friend) will just want be as casual as possible." I wore my grey cardigan with rhinestone buttons and a pair of rhinestone snowflake earrings with my Columbia trail walking shoes (goretex) last
    week. I fall easily. I do like the idea of silk, cashmere and leather (a lot)!

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    1. Isn't it great when you know what you like well enough to pare down the travel wardrobe?
      I'm still wearing a coat my mom bought from WearElse several years before she died in 2013 -- perhaps the same vintage as your skirt!
      Sounds as you like mixing up the dressy with the practical as well (rhinestone earrings and Goretex walking shoes ;-)
      Feliz Navidad to you!

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  4. I admire how you mix pieces like those Vince sneakers and the fine silk and cashmere. "Needs Must" dictated that you kick things up a notch so that you would be able to walk on the icy sidewalks...safety first!
    I owned and loved wearing a leather skirt in my 20's...it seems so long ago!
    The black leather moto jacket that I purchased after returning from Paris has been a fabulous addition to my conservative wardrobe...and I do own a vintage leather vest which is super soft and so comfy. Your style of dressing has oodles of energy and often an unexpected "twist"...(vince sneakers)
    Best wishes mater and please tell pater that I think his taste is skirts is perfection!

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    1. Our 20s, yes, so long ago. . . I'd love to time travel just to chuckle at my wardrobe of those years...
      That leather jacket of yours was a great buy, and a very good way to punch up a classic wardrobe. Our styles are different, of course, but there's much in common in that kind of combination.
      Best wishes of the season to you as well, L, and I'll chuckle again as I pass your compliment on to Pater ;-)

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  5. Love this post! First up, you look gorgeous in the skirt! I did wear a uniform for 10 years (private school) and I HATED it at the time. Now I miss it :-) I have had a couple of gorgeous leather skirts - when I was a couple of dress sizes smaller - and I loved them. It's impossible not to feel sexy in leather. On the topic of footwear and leather at this time of year, alas, there is no good system. Footwear trips me up (pun intended) constantly, once the snow hits. It's impossible to look chic so, sadly, I don't much bother. Sure, I change my shoes at work, but there's something lacking about fashion from December to April.

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    1. I didn't chafe too much, quite honestly, at the uniform, although I did mind having to unroll the waistband when I failed the kneel-on-the-floor ruler test....
      Completely agree with you re leather and the sexiness -- and that's regardless of how one looks in it; it simply FEELS sexy -- and I suspect that might translate into one's look.
      Even here where we suffer rain more than snow and ice through the winter, I have to agree with you re footwear through winter -- especially now that I'm retired, so that changing footwear and destination is rarely a reasonable option any more. I'm trying to be pretty careful about purchasing footwear while I adjust. . . sigh . . .

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  6. You look a-m-a-z-i-n-g! And your hair is the best ever!
    I love leather skirts and have always wear them . I have two now: one is very similar to yours,the same kind of zipper at the back seam,croatian brand (so,what's here not to like :-)),the other one is simple grey suede.
    We don't wear school uniforms here but I've worked in uniform my whole life: white coat or full uniforme:skirt/trousers plus jacket. I actually liked it
    Eric Bompard is one of my favourite brands,so,if I had one,two or more sisters and bad weather,or IRL dinner with a friend- I would (actually am :-)) wear EB cashmere red or violet dress,tights and ankle boots with thick rubber soles !
    Happy Holidays :-)!
    Dottoressa

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    1. I haven't yet tried on, never mind sprung for, one of the Bompard cashmere dresses, but I do love a sweater dress, and who doesn't love cashmere?!
      And we're practically leather skirt twins? We'll have to wear them (or maybe not! ;-) when we meet up one day soon. . .
      Happy Holidays to you as well, and all the best of the season!

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  7. Just a great find! Hardly anything I can think of is as versatile, and yours is perfect on you... well worth a splurge!

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    1. Thanks, K. I've been pretty careful about my splurging this year, but I do think this one will be worth the credit card dent..

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  8. Fabulous skirt, Frances! I'll bet you get a lot of wear from that! If I could find one like that just a wee bit shorter (I think you're a few inches taller than I)...

    I keep noticing elements of the kind of mid-century style I've always loved creeping back in, as evidenced by today's leopard coat and cigarette pants.

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    1. I am a few inches taller than you are, Sue, and even at that, I debated either passing on the skirt or trying to have a few inches taken off. The latter would have changed (destroyed) the proportions of the seaming, and the former would have hurt my spirit. . . And I find that I'm fine with the added length, which makes the skirt a wee bit more street or edgy or funky or something to me.
      Yes, those are such classic and enduring styles in proportions that tend to work, right?

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  9. Sounds like absolutely the best gift, and bringing pleasure to the giver as well knowing how it is exactly what was wished for.

    This is a transition year for me as I'm at home studying following early retirement. My previous working wardrobe has been untouched all autumn, as day to day I have reached for jeans and a rota of 3 or 4 cardigans/jerseys. I am not in a hurry to move on to a new style, just taking my time and waiting to see what emerges. And I find I'm supremely disinterested in clothes at the moment as new mental freedoms and interests emerge. At the start of summer I will move out to charity shops all the items that haven't made it out of the wardrobe all winter - and I expect there to be a lot. It will be something to look forward to!
    I have worn uniform several times - at my state (public) school (navy skirt, white blouse, navy, red and silver tie, and navy blazer with school crest (motto 'itur ad astra') and yes, my uniform has left me with a decided liking for navy; again when I worked as a distillery tour guide during university vacations (kilt, white blouse, green lambswool jersey with stag's head crest, green quilted jacket for chilly days); and in my first post-university job in Edinburgh city tourist office (black and white Edinburgh tartan kilt, white blouse, black jersey). I will probably end up in kilted uniform again in my hoped-for new career, and I don't mind a bit.
    I've never had a leather skirt - in fact apart from my uniform kilts I have had very few skirts in my life. In fact thinking of my wardrobe just now I have 2 summer skirts which haven't been worn for the past 5 years, and that's the sum total. I did once have suede trousers.
    Hmmm, iffy pavements and festive lunch? I'd probably wear black leather knee length boots with a flat rubber sole (categorically can't do heels), and a woollen dress - perhaps my Fat Face fir green one with frost swirls and folkloric motifs. Not having a sister I don't know if I would make a different choice of outfit if I was meeting a sister or a friend - would you?

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    1. It's been a transition year for me as well, Linda, but disrupted or delayed by the move and the travel. I'd say I'm also much less interested clothes than before I retired, although not quite "supremely disinterested" -- and I can feel some interest returning as I figure out some of what I might be doing now. You're wise to take this time just as it is and if the jeans and cardis works for your in-between days, I'd go with that and focus, as you are, on the new mental freedoms and interests. Much more compelling, I agree...
      There's a brand called Fat Face? Off to Google that! I like that outfit, smart but practical/comfortable as well. And I have many sisters, so it might depend for me as much which one as whether sister or friend ;-)

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  10. I love the new skirt, and the outfits you put together, and the new background for your photos! I wore a uniform from 1st grade to 12th, first a navy jumper and navy beanie with the school emblem, and a white blouse; then a navy/green plaid jumper; then in HS a blue blazer and skirt, 6 large box pleats, we used to roll the skirts at the waist, white blouse, saddle shoes. It's funny that you asked the question, because I have worn a "uniform" all my life. I believe that because I wore uniforms during my formative years, I never learned to to dress in an interesting way. In college, jeans and sweatshirts. In grad school, jeans and sweaters. When I started working, I had 3 pairs of grey wool pants, and I wore them with several high-quality wool sweaters with collars that my MIL used to send me from England. These days, for casual wear I am in LLBean canvas pants, which I have in 3 colors, cotton turtlenecks and black cardigans in the winter, cotton boatneck 3/4-sleeve knit tops in the summers. At work, I have several black skirts, several black cardigans (ranging in weight from wool to linen/cotton but all similar styles - no buttons, straight to hips), and the same knit tops or turtlenecks. No imagination.

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    1. Wondering if what you call a jumper is the UK version (a pullover, I believe) or the North American? I wore a jumper as well, or a tunic as we also called it, for my elementary school uniform -- fine navy wool serge, my poor mother!
      As for the question of whether uniforms allow or squelch imagination, that's a big one, isn't it? But from what I've gleaned about you over our correspondence here over the years, it appears you might focus your imagination elsewhere. Which some might see as a plus ;-)

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  11. My first comment disappeared in the depths of the net and I can't write it all over again. So this is just to say that you are very elegant, your skirt is perfect! I sincerely hope that you feel as well as you look. Happy holidays!

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    1. I hate that your comment disappeared! They're always so welcome. Thanks for persevering and for the compliment. Hope you're revelling in your time off!

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  12. I keep trying to change my work uniform and I keep ending up in a pencil skirt, black t-shirt, and blazer. Color sometimes in the skirt or shoes or bracelets but not on top. So it's an unintended uniform. You look so chic - with all the ease that word implies- in that skirt!

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    1. Well, if you have to have a uniform, that's a pretty awesome one, no?
      Every time a commenter says I look "chic" or "elegant," I admit to looking around for the real recipient. . . and then beaming to myself when I get the compliment. Thank you!

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  13. There was always a school uniform but I usually found small ways to express myself . I remember a yellow Mack when I was supposed to wear a navy gabardine & I rarely wore the regulation shoes . It isn't that I have a rebellious nature - I just hated to look the same as everyone else . So I don't wear 'wacky' clothes now but there's usually something a little different in the mix . Not sure it always comes off . Thankyou for all the work you put into your blog Frances & I hope you have a lovely Christmas .
    Wendy in York

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    1. You and Marie, above, need to have a discussion ;-)
      It's so kind of you to remark on the work I put in the blog. It does take energy and time, but readers like yourself are the reward. Thank you!

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  14. I had a navy box pleated pinafore over a long sleeved white blouse with a navy and red tie. I hated it. When I think how slender I was then I can't quite understand how it made me look like the side of a house but I honestly thought it did. I had and I think still have good legs, so I compensated by wearing the hated pinafore scandalously short. I returned to a professional uniform for twenty years or so of formal suits, both skirt suits and with trousers, white shirts and high heeled boots. I quite liked it at the time. As long as the suits were well cut and the boots elegant they seemed to hit the spot of being sufficiently like a mans suit uniform to need no thought in the wearing (just the buying) and sufficiently elegant to feel great. I'm not sure I ever achieved her level of elegance but think Christine lagarde. Now I spend most of my time in jeans and practical clothes but my uniform for being smarter and sharper is a knee length skirt, either dark blue denim or a black, brown and grey panel skirt, with a drapey top, a fall cardigan and, still, ankle boots with heels or knee high flats. I've just had a beautiful pair of purple knee high boots for Christmas! I have had both suede and leather skirts and trousers in the past. Don't have anything that I wear right now. I think I might if I lived in the city but there is a kind of sharpness I associate with leather (which I love) which would just be too much here. Maybe I should have something for the city trips that are now our favoured weekends away!

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    1. Yes! That's the uniform I had for a year as well, although our tie was just red (and learning to tie it daily means I could help my son with his as well as Pater ould) Before that, 7 years of the same but with a (clip-on, thank goodness) navy bow tie.
      Much else in your comment I enjoyed reading (and related to -- why we thought we were bigger than we were, similarly convinced my decent legs might compensate). . . .but Purple knee high boots! What a brilliant gift -- some giver is feeling very pleased with (Him?)self.
      And I agree about leather being more urban -- I did occasionally wear leather skirt, even pants, in my former life (much smaller city -- properly a town to my mind, and a large portion very suburban) -- and always felt a bit too remarkable in it

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  15. I'm on the hunt for a black leather pencil skirt! I had a faux leather one (clothes swapped with work friends) which became completely indispensable but stretched out and stopped looking good. Yours looks just perfect!

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    1. Good luck with your hunt. This one took me a while, but I'm very pleased with it -- and as with you, it was the compromise faux leather one (Zara) that showed me how very practical it could be (but similarly stopped being at its prime with wear)

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  16. Tres chic! I wore a uniform in boarding school for three years and loved it. Today if I wear a navy sweater and white shirt I always feel pulled together :-). And I did own a leather skirt during my first year of uni. I had just seen Catherine Deneuve in "The Hunger" and her wardrobe made an impact. So I bought a sleek black pencil skirt, a white Laura Ashley blouse(!) and a pair of granny boots from Le Chateau. I felt grown up for the first time.

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    1. I was always too short-waisted to ever feel great about the white shirt, although I hadn't that level of analysis during those years, just a gentle and constant discontent at the mirror. But for those whose proportions are right, I think that combo of navy sweater/white shirt is very polished.. Of course, your pencil skirt, white blouse, and granny boots give that polish a very adult edge, well done! (chuckling at the notion of Laura Ashley and leather -- wouldn't she be rolling over in some Welsh grave!). I might wear my leather skirt with granny boots too; sadly, they won't be from Le Chateau. . . .;-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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