I am pumped this week, my friends, and ready to get out and about. Most of my friends have been double vaccinated, and Ontario (at least where I live) has moved into stage two of reopening. I am getting patio ready. I’m planning a rash of patio lunches and dinners and coffee meet-ups. And I am excited.
Honestly, I feel like I did when I was still teaching. School was done. Exams were all marked, marks calculated, report cards finished, planning meetings for the next year over, all the timetabling and room allocations done, budgets approved, books ordered for next year, classrooms emptied, desk cleared. Phew. Then exhausted I would head out with Hubby for a week of camping. This time away was necessary for me. A time to collapse, cry, mope around, worry about getting fat, and otherwise be a pain in the neck. Then I’d read my book, cycle, fish, and gradually come back to normal. Once we were home I could look forward to the rest of my summer.
That’s what I am doing this week, looking forward to the rest of the summer. So after sending a flurry of emails and texts the other day, to arrange meet-ups, I decided to see if I could conjure some new patio ready outfit ideas. Combining the old with the new, my favourite outfit planning strategy. Actually I’m combining the new and the not quite new, with the old, and really old. I do not age discriminate in my wardrobe.
One of the reasons I bought three new tank tops (black, white, and striped) from Everlane a few weeks ago was to be able to wear them with clothes I already own. Like tee shirts, tank tops are basics for summer wear, for me. And it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to find the cut-away style that I like. The black tank top is so I don’t ruin my lovely black silk top that I’ve had since 2015. I tried it with my black shorts in a post last week. I also bought a white tank, and this navy and white striped one below.
The new striped tank looks good with my old Max Mara wide-leg pants, part of my navy summer suit from 2002. The cream Michael Kors sandals were an end-of-season sale purchase from 2019, the Michael Kors cream cross-body bag was purchased back when I was still working, definitely pre-2012, and the V-neck Vince cashmere sweater is from spring 2020. The cream and silver cuff is vintage, and the navy and silver earrings were purchased in Peru in 2017. So… new, almost new, older, and really old.
One of the main tenants of Elizabeth Cline’s fashion philosophy, as I’m learning from her book The Conscious Closet, is that we can have fun with fashion, indulge our love of clothes, and still be kind to the planet. Or at least learn to be kinder to the planet. Part of Cline’s book deals with what she calls “The Art of Less.” To quote Vivienne Westwood, we need to learn to “Buy less. Choose well.” And “Make it last.” Those ladies are singing my song.
Part of choosing well when you’re shopping, in my opinion, is knowing what is in your closet and what still fits you. It’s also identifying, before you go shopping, those pieces that you still love and will wear again this season. And part of having pieces that you hang onto, and wear year after year, is buying quality pieces to start with. Or at least the best quality you can afford. And then finding ways to keep wearing these pieces year after year.
My navy Max Mara summer suit was a quality purchase. One that I am happy I made. But a quality purchase that has been problematic for me is the Theory crochet sweater below. I love a cream or white cotton sweater for summer. But I’ve had trouble styling the square, cropped style of this sweater.
However, since I decided to wear it as an accessory, I’ve had much better luck. I’ve worn it tied around my waist with my white linen muscle shirt from Vince, my navy Burberry denim skirt, and my sneakers. I’ve worn it draped around my shoulders with the same linen tee, sneakers, and my black and white striped midi-skirt from A.L.C. or with my Frame straight-leg jeans, cream Michael Kors sandals and light blue short-sleeve tee from Everlane. (I wrote about those outfits here and here.) Now that I’ve changed my mind-set about that sweater, I don’t angst about it anymore. And it’s become a valuable part of my summer wardrobe. Funny, eh?
I like the Max Mara pants and navy and white striped tank just as much with the cream crochet sweater as I did with the navy Vince sweater. Although this might be a better lunch outfit than dinner. If it gets cool in the evening, I’ll be able to pull on the loose-fitting V-neck Vince sweater over the tank. Not so with the cream one. I tried and it looks silly.
Of course, I can wear my new white Everlane tank with my old Max Mara suit and my sneakers. This combination is a no-brainer. This is how I’ve been styling my old suit since I had the pants altered to fit my expanding waistline a couple of years ago. You know, I love this outfit even more now that my hair is white. I’d wear this to tea at the Chateau Laurier.
In her book Elizabeth Cline dedicates a whole chapter to the idea of shopping for quality clothing. She calls it “upping your quality game.” That means developing the ability to recognize quality garments when we see them. Cline makes all kinds of suggestions on how to develop an eye, and a feel, for quality. She says to look at our own clothes. Identify which pieces have stood the test of time and wear, and find quality vintage pieces, if we can. Then “study the fabric and the way these garments are put together to understand why” they have lasted.
Then Cline suggests shopping field trips. Expeditions where we go out into the stores, lots of stores, and look at clothes. This is the part that really appealed to me. Cline says: “Go on a try-on trip and try on the best and the worst clothing, from the softest merino wool to the coarsest polyester in shops as wide-ranging as luxury chains to dollar stores. It’s through comparison that differences in quality become clear.” We may not all become experts on fabric and design, but once we’ve seen and tried on quality pieces, Cline believes that we’ll begin to recognize the difference.
Of course not all expensive pieces are well made. Quality in many brands, even expensive ones, is slipping. And not everything made by fast fashion brands is inferior. But I think you’ll find that most really cheap pieces will be poor quality. Maybe if we all try Cline’s strategy, we will find ourselves opting for a better quality garment instead of necessarily gravitating to fast, disposable fashion.
I know in many ways, I’m preaching to the converted with you guys. But I just love to read and talk about fashion philosophy. And wardrobe planning. It makes my shallow little heart sing.
And speaking of making my heart sing, I love the earrings I’m wearing below. I bought them at an artisan shop outside of Cusco in Peru in 2017. They’re silver and lapis lazuli. The spiral design represents Pachamama or mother earth. I bought them to remind me of the wonderful trip we had that year. Sigh. I usually buy a piece of jewellry when we travel. I have a lovely pearl from Broome in Australia, jade earrings from New Zealand the shape of which symbolizes friendship or love in the Maori culture, and a glass mosaic pendant from the island of Murano in Venice. Wearing these pieces over the years reminds me of the joy of travel. And wearing them this past year reminds me of our incredible good fortune in being able to travel at all.
I’ll tell you what also makes my heart sing… being able to wear favourite pieces from my wardrobe year after year. Or stashing a piece for a couple of years, only to bring it out again and be right on trend. That always makes me feel as if I’m outsmarting the fashion system.
So I have lots of outfits planned now. I think I’m ready for the onslaught of lunch and dinner and coffee dates I will have in the next while. Or hope I will have in the next while. I’ll have to pace myself, people. I don’t want to burn out from too much socializing. Ha.
Over to you, my fashionable friends. Are you patio ready? What quality pieces from your closet will you be wearing again this summer? Pieces that you love and which have stood the test of time. Maybe you’ve purchased a couple of new pieces to make your older classic pieces more current? Or maybe you’ve bought that one perfect summer dress just to liven things up. Do tell us. We love to hear what closet alterations or additions you’ve made.
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