Sunday, 18 April 2010

Stealing from Sleeping Beauty's wardrobe

I failed to mention yesterday that this weekend's poke around the charity shops was in Pimlico, not on Goodge Street. I used to live very close to the cluster of charity shops in Pimlico and I'd go there of an afternoon when I didn't have any classes nor anything to do. I hadn't been for a while when I went yesterday, and I'd forgotten how much fun it was to browse these shops! I especially recommend the Fara shops and the Crusaid there. Crusaid stocks things that are often too expensive for me anyway -- yesterday I saw a Banana Republic white shell, perfect for work and pretty enough for other occasions, for £25 (too much for a thrifted top), secondhand Jimmy Choos, and a brand new Moschino dress for £50. But they have bargain bins outside where you can luck out and get something for a decent thrifting price -- I got my Swiss Cross Army bag there, for instance.

While I was walking there yesterday in the sunshine, dodging the tourists around Parliament Square, I saw a girl in a military green jacket and a white skirt through which the sun shone, turning it sheer. Wouldn't it be nice, I thought, if I could find a semi-sheer skirt I could wear in the sun, with my legs just faintly (but not scandalously) outlined against the fabric ...

So when I saw this ridiculous vintage nightgown in a charity shop, I knew what I must do.

It is so peach and sheer and ruffled! Emphasis on the sheer -- it's not as ridiculously see-through here as it is in person, but even here you can see that it doesn't do much in the way of covering up. I put on high-waisted short shorts and a tank top underneath it for the purpose of taking this photograph, 'cos otherwise it just wouldn't have been decent.

I'm not usually very fond of nightgowns as sleepwear but this is so soft and ruffly and long! It swishes in the most pleasing way. I'd be okay with just wearing it to bed and not ever doing anything else with it, but what tipped me over into buying it was putting a blazer over it and wondering if I'd dare wear it outside ...

Putting a belt over it gives it a pleasing empire waist.

T-shirts over it goes some way towards solving the problem of its scandalous sheerness.

Though, er, that doesn't solve the problem of the bottom half. I'm thinking a) leggings/tights underneath, b) skirt over, or c) short shorts and shamelessness.

Or d) stick with longer T-shirts!

Slouchy/sweet boudoir look.

It's certainly not the most practical purchase I've ever made, but it's like white shoes -- their prettiness outweighs considerations of practicality.

And it's fun trying to figure out ways of wearing it without, er, revealing all. In the meantime, while I work up the courage to wear it outside, I shall wear it to loll around in bed -- something I do a lot of. So in a way it is a sensible purchase after all!

- Zen

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A loooong post

The past couple of weekends I've had more time than I usually do to have a wander around the charity shops. This is one of the things I miss when I'm in Malaysia -- you have to be in the mood for it, but there's a peculiar joy in thrifting that you just don't get from your standard stroll along the high street. You never know what you're going to see.

This year I'm living fairly close to Goodge Street, so that's one of the places I like to go of a sunny Saturday afternoon. Of course the highlight of Goodge Street is Bang Bang Clothing Exchange, which is hardly a charity shop but offers the same delights of unpredictability albeit with slightly more shocking price tags.

Would you buy this pair of stripy flip-flops from Chanel for £80?

I mean, I imagine £80 is a bargain for Chanel shoes, even if they are dreadful flip-flops. (I say "I imagine" because once any sort of fashion product goes above £200 my eyes start to glaze over and all the figures look the same. Marc Jacobs bags seem pretty much as expensively unattainable as Proenza Schouler's to me, even though there's hundreds of pounds' difference between the price tags.

Below £200 things still seem expensive, but at least they are differently expensive.)

But bargainous as it may be to get Chanel for £80, would you???

I was more tempted by this silver Oasis dress, but felt £18 was a bit much considering you can get Oasis stuff brand new for about the same price or only slightly more via their sale. It just feels odd to be buying secondhand if it's not that much of a discount and it's not something a little rarer than high street clobber. (Though I do like Oasis's high street clobber ... as long as it's on sale.)

Also a) I didn't need it and b) nor did I feel that zing! that you ought to feel if you are going to pay money for something, when you are shopping for fun. If you are shopping for boring necessities like work clothes then you don't need to feel that zing!, but if you are going to buy something superfluous you do need to feel a certain thrill in it. It's not enough to say to yourself, "This fits quite well" and "Yes, I'll certainly wear it." Zing! is mandatory.

(In fact I do feel I prioritise zing! slightly too much sometimes. These purple oxford wedges, for example. Definitely zing! purchases, with nothing to back up with the zing!. I love them and am glad they exist in my closet, but I basically post with pictures every time I wear them because it is such an uncommon event.)

Fortunately there is both zing! and practicality to this weekend's purchase -- grey wedges from Kenneth Cole Reaction, bought for £12 from a Trinity Hospice charity shop.

You will guess from their heeled nature that I am hoping to wear them to work. (I don't really bother buying heels if I don't hope to wear them to work, 'cos I know I ain't gonna be wearing them anywhere else. Oh, unless zing! prevails, of course. You can never account for zing!.)

What do you think? I know they are quite informal, being wedges and a light colour, and that vaguely crocodiley strap doesn't help. They're certainly not the irreproachable black stilettos of the ideal businesswoman. But the department I'm currently in isn't excessively formal, so I think it should be OK. The irreproachable black stilettos will have to wait for the day when I don't mind excruciating footache.

I don't know why I think informal heels will be better for work than informal flats, but I somehow do. But then again, if you consider the current range of shoes I have available for wearing to work right now, and the shoes I do wear, perhaps it is not so surprising that I leap on anything that looks vaguely acceptable with desperate enthusiasm.

What I bought to wear to work
- Charles & Keith black patent heels with suede detailing: winged their way to the nearest charity shop after I discovered they were unwearable when I had tights on, because they slipped off at every opportunity, i.e. every time I took a step. They weren't that good when I wasn't wearing tights, either.
- Vincci black patent wedges: I should really just stop buying Vincci shoes and expecting them to be wearable for more than five minutes at a time, but hope springs eternal, I guess. I wore these and walked around and around the shop in 1 Utama for about 20 minutes while salesgirls stared balefully at me, and they felt OK then. But they still turned out to be too painful to walk in for more than five minutes. Damn it! These are sitting in my wardrobe while I decide whether I want to try them when I'm wearing tights. Perhaps they wouldn't bite as hard as they do on bare feet.
- Black suede Mary Janes with gold buckles and rubber soles: I must've worn these for half an hour in the department store while trying them on. I literally jogged around the accessories floor of Metrojaya to make sure they were OK! But they hurt like hell at the end of the day when your feet have expanded; I've stopped wearing them because the blisters mean my feet hurt even when I switch to other, more comfortable shoes.
- Next black and white patent shoes with block heels and bow detail: the height is great on this -- it's not flat-flat, not a kitten heel which I dislike the look of, but not actually a high heel either -- but again, they are too large for me when I wear tights, and the smaller size would be too small for me when I'm not. The patent material also means they are not kind on the feet. (Note to self: stop buying patent heels.)

What a sorry tale! Compare the shoes I actually wear to work:

- Franco Sarto black patent flats with knot detail from New York: despite being patent, these were actually wearable. In fact they were so wearable that they are now dead -- they were getting pretty gross and scuffed, and then one half got a hole in the front where the toenail of my big toe pushed into the shoe. I felt holey shoes were less than professional, so they got dumped, leaving me without any black flats.
- Nose black and white sequin round-toe flats: black and white round-toe flats have a nice classic look which is fine for work. Sequins, on the other hand ...
- Bright red patent Mary Jane flats from Clarks: from Clarks, therefore eminently wearable and comfy. Nicknamed "my Dorothy shoes", so not exactly conducive to looking like a grown-up.
- Increasingly weatherbeaten tan oxfords: I wore these incessantly over the past couple of years -- these are the shoes that are so great that a random stranger on the street actually said to me as he passed, "Those are great shoes." The fact that they are looking increasingly worn (in a cool way) does seem to make them inappropriate for the workplace, though? Plus I don't like wearing them with black tights; I worry that I am breaking a Work Fashion Rule.

So the work shoe situation is not ideal! I should really just give in and go buy a bog-standard, reliable pair from Clarks. But perhaps these Kenneth Cole Reaction shoes will do the job? Only time can tell.

I suppose even if they turn out to be impossible to walk in and/or not professional-looking enough, they are nice for days off. I wore them to a shared birthday dinner with my sister at Yauatcha today with a print dress and my primary schoolteacher polka-dot cardigan.

The necklace is a gift from a dear friend. I'm keen on it, all the more so because it's something I would never have chosen for myself -- upon first consideration I would think the colour unwearable. But it goes -- or clashes pleasingly -- with a surprising number of things, and I'm always pleased to have a chance to wear it.

Sorry for the long post, dear readers, if you managed to read to the end! But after all, what's a fashion blog for if not lots of waffling about shoes?

- Zen

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Okay so I haven't been in much of a shopping mood lately. It has been extremely hot back here ever since I got back. You know how your camera or mp3 player jams when it's in the extreme cold? Well my body jams in extreme heat. I can literally sit under the 'cool' fan yet melt away, getting up to do anything became a chore. Hopefully I am melting stubborn fats, like in a sauna. :)

So when the temperature dropped by I suppose 1 or 2 degrees, I got off my ass and finally got around to baking a Matcha (Green Tea) Chiffon Cake. I got the recipe off a blogger who adapted it from a Japanese chef. It requires olive oil instead of butter! Okay it looks like a punctured tyre because it started sinking but tastes really good. I did take pictures but ... if only the cake in the picture didn't look uglier than the real deal, I'd probably post it up. I guarantee you it tastes good!

Second update. Imma have to take up a job before returning to London. Seeing that my schedule is packed; Alvin visiting late April and South Korea trip late June (Hotel and flights are booked! I'm excited!); I'd have to manouver between high turnover rate jobs. Since I have absolutely no work clothes here, I have to get some soon to last me temporarily, which means boring stuff and painful shoes first. :( Sigh good quality bargains are hard to find when you are in a rush. No fear, I should have plenty of time in between to go hunt for pretty work clothes and comfy shoes.

Now because of the heat, dressing up is such a pain. You can't really layer and you are limited to certain materials. The only thing I can do is admire from afar on the WWW.
Hats galore! I wish for one like this to go into the sun now.
She's cool. Her shoes and blazer are really nice. I may think twice about going out with those pants over tights but she definitely has the look to pull it off.
And she's got a really cute giraffe ring! Giraffes are rare okay. I'm just sayin' from experience.
Yellow blazer that reminds me of the Karen Millen Striped Blazer we just sold off! Also I'm pining for her hair. Oh yah I forgot to mention, I went off to get a hair perm by myself without my mum's blessing hence only able to settle for the cheapest option. Not only is my hair NOT wayyyyvey it is completely wrecked in terms of silkiness, softness and smoothness. Never ever settle for less. But in this case I was that desperate, 5 years of begging and pleading but my mum never budged, not even a milimetre. Now, I have to do a Zen haircut to get rid of the horrible-ness. For now, I can still bun it up and no one will have a clue but I'd have to do it sooner or later. Oh well, new job, new life, new hair. At least there's a ring to it.

- sue

Friday, 9 April 2010

Play clothes

Since Sue did a post about work clothes, I thought I'd respond with one about play clothes.

Somewhat contradictorily starting work has engendered in me the most terrible hunger for comfy clothes to go on holiday and slouch around at home in. Fortunately, Uniqlo provides. Their gloriously comfortable boyfriend shorts are just as good for tramping around foreign cities as for lying in bed at home looking at ASOS.

Black cardigan - Topshop; paint-splattered Charlie Chaplin T-shirt - market stall at the Curve; denim shorts - Uniqlo; grey tights - H&M; Dorothy shoes - Clarks; audioguide - courtesy of Caixa Catalunya, proprietor of the magnificent La Pedrera

Since despite the fact that we can only wear shorts over tights here in Britain (it's a different story for Sue! Damn yoooouuu, Sue) I am an incurable optimist, I bought another pair of these, this time in light green. They are almost exactly the colour of green tea chocolate.

Peachy T-shirt and graphic print scarf - H&M; green boyfriend shorts - Uniqlo; green Birkenstocks - TK Maxx

I also picked up this scarf for £3 in H&M -- it is thin and super soft, but surprisingly warm when wrapped closely around the neck.

So far, so dull (though undeniably comfortable). I did look at a pair of synthetic leather shorts at Uniqlo, but decided against it. Here are some rather more exciting pairs of shorts, if you prefer ...

Louise Gray for ASOS bloomers, £27.00

I love everything about this outfit. If I had this girl's legs I would wear it everywhere. (Well, maybe not to work.)

ASOS Africa printed tie-waist shorts, £40.00

The ASOS Africa line is so gorgeous. I like the print T-shirt dress best.

Oasis leather shorts, £60.00

I like that these shorts aren't too short. I like tiny shorts but I do think you can go too far when it comes to leather shorts.

Darling floral shorts, £40.00

This should be worn with a floral top and floral oxfords, just because.

- Zen

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Hunt for Work Clothes Part 1

Job search accomplished! I officially join the workforce as a business analyst in a management consultancy. I know, the title is a mouth full but honestly, as always, the title is the only glamorous thing, not the job itself.

But ah, this leads me to a completely new wardrobe change. =D Anything new for the wardrobe is a good thing. Granted I have been living in baggy shirts over leggings with Converse while hunting for a job with my weapon of choice, the laptop and internet, I can now shake off the laziness and go look at pretty things!

One problem. Work clothes are tough. 1) They can easily become uniform-y 2) There just ain't enough creativity in the field of professionals that allow colours, trend and style to go pass that business meeting. All of which I predict will come true after slogging six months in the office with no desire to do anything but sleep/watch tv once you get home.

There is however a preventive measure. Buy items that fall into the smart category but also enable you to look different from the sea of black suits. Unconventionally smart. And I believe the answers lie in blouses, accesories and blazers.

I've found a few examples to show you.

Note: Some of the following outfit photos are not suitable for the workplace. I am only interested in the single piece items when paired with the usual pants and pencil skirt. haha just in case.

Plain white shirt with a twist. Mandarin collar-esque shirt with a slightly poofy 3/4 sleeve.
It actually looks boring alone but look what you can do with it! I love how it has been styled with a scarf and the belt definitely accentuates the waist.
I'd probably wouldn't pair it with a red cardigan though. I would prefer it if it was in navy blue. And ooo, I like the bag! But I digress. I think the amazing thing about this top is that I can see myself wearing it out of work. It can be easily turned into a shirt dess with a skinny brown belt paired with leggings and heels. Awesome right? I love it when you can get your money's worth!

Second example. Probably a dress I would never buy if I saw hung on the rack. Looks rather dull and a bit too 40 year old-ish. Plus the buttons down the side make me go 'Huh?'
But look what happens!
It's amazing what scarves can do to clothes. It immediately glams up the whole outfit and makes it more presentable. I am telling myself now to overlook first impressions and just think of what you can do to the outfit, especially if you find a dress like that on the sales rack. I would definitely have not even give it another glance before realising this.

Next is just a shirt. It looks like a normal work shirt but look at the details on the puffy sleeve! Subtle details like the folds on dresses/sleeves does give the outfit an extra edge. Not to forget pussy bows and ruffles.
And if the details are too subtle for you, throw on a cute little blazer and voila you're ready for that Monday morning power meeting. I would obviously highly recommend that you go in long pants instead of shorts.
Last but not least, blouses! They are one of they ways to add colour your dull work life. Versatile and pleasing to the eye, what more can one want? Although I may think of toning it down a bit by not pairing it with pencil skirts as it may appear less professional., depending on how the blouse looks like. That 's what I currently think anyway. Again, it can be easily styled out of the workplace.
Another shoutout to blazers! Instantly ups your professional look points.

Another lovely find is this interesting sailor top. It's too cute!
So yes, I am now on the hunt for clothes as versatile as the alphabet. Obviously for work clothes, go for quality and this time I'm going to probably splash out a bit. You need to look polished at work and a little extra quality in the materials you choose will definitely make you look more professional. And remember to also take cues from observing what your colleagues wear. The individual pieces above may be slighly too informal for a strict workplace but the idea is there.

This hunt is going to be mighty hard though so stay tuned to see what I manage to find!

- Sue

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Zen's Oxfam picks

I enjoy my Oxfam online browse of an evening -- there's always the chance that you might find something exciting, like gold Repetto flats (too small for me, alas) or a glorious sequined skirt (too big). The clothes are cheaper than Asos, giving the illusion of attainability, and they don't even charge for postage anymore!

I think Sam would look good in these button-rich 3/4-length trousers. The slightly poofy legs add just the right amount of whimsy. I for one would enjoy wearing something by a brand called Olga de Polga.

I'm a little dubious about the fit of this dress -- I don't like the way it hangs on the mannequin -- but the sari fabric is gorgeous. Why don't people use this type of fabric more in Western-style fashion?

Oxfam online tends to have a decent number of French Connection pieces, but they're all really boring jeans and T-shirts that look like they've got faded in the wash. I always look because I dream of the day I will find one of their gorgeous embellished dresses for a steal.

Until that glorious day, this decidedly unembellished white linen dress would provide some consolation ...

A small-built person with interesting dresses trudged down to her local Oxfam recently. If I were Sue-sized I would be tempted by one of these.

I like how they've put ruffles on the hem of this green dress. It somehow makes it more interesting than if it was only ruffled at the bodice.

Though either the lighting in these photos is whack, or the person who did the descriptions didn't have a colour wheel at hand, 'cos those shades don't look anything like apple green or magenta to me.

The purple one is clearly more absurd, but it is also a little more special. I like them both, though. I would wear them with little shoes with low block heels and maybe a happy hat.