The Unintentional Uniform

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When I returned back to work in January this year, my body was unwilling, my mind was pretty much blank, and I struggled to recall the route to my studio.

Yes, my 2016 holiday break was much needed.
No, I was not dRunNnKk.

Anyway, I suppose it’s a little strange to be writing about what had happened in January today—after all, we’re already a week into the second quarter of the year. But I had to because:

Can you believe this—I’m struggling to decide what to wear to work now and this didn’t happen during the start of the year (where I was at my most unwilling to get out of hibernation). Mind you, I haven’t a huge closet or a massive amount of clothes; it’s tiny!

But then it hits me:

I had been repeatedly wearing the same few outfits due to my sheer inability to be bothered to think about what to wear.

In other words: I was lazy :-)

During the start of the year, our weather was slightly jumbled up and I found myself favouring monochromatic silk camisoles, high-waisted blue mom jeans, cashmere pullovers and wool cardigans over everything else that I had in my closet. The sheer child-like joy of wearing only my favourites unknowingly turned into my uniform for the next 2 months!

It was really quite a fantastic moment for me because it meant that I could constantly hit the snooze button before parkour-ing out of my warm bed at the very last minute, and still get to work on time—all while being wonderfully dressed!

Of course, the ease of wearing something without such fuss during my busy mornings wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made the effort to curate a portion of my wardrobe in the first place.

Note:
My mornings’ are busy because I make it a priority to have breakfast, watch a little educational YouTube videos (The School of Life is my favourite!), scroll through Pinterest to start the day, and I have to spend ~20 mins preparing my work-lunch everyday.

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Left to Right: ASOS Farleigh slim mom jeans in blue / Floti clay bead / Grana silk camisole in white / Everlane silk camisole in grey, navy and black / Mango’s ribbed jumper in off-white / Grana cashmere boyfriend crew neck jumper in black / Uniqlo × Ines de la Fressange’s cashmere cardigan in black / Uniqlo men’s merino wool cardigan (this belongs to my dad!) / MUJI aluminium clothes hangers

The above was all I wore in rotation. It’s hard to believe it, isn’t it? And while it’s little, it makes me feel extremely pleased and satisfied just looking at how uncluttered and visually pleasing my wardrobe is.

This organisation all happened some time towards the last quarter of 2016 when I was unconsciously doing an extensive reading about clothing—the style, trends, manufacturing issues, environmental impacts, etc. Through the perspective of these writers, environmentalist and fashion editors, I found myself formulating questions about what I was wearing and attempted to be as specific as possible.

Are these clothing made of natural, breathable fibres?
Eczema is such a pain. Also, fidgeting around in itchy clothing is quite unflattering! Today, I tend to favour cotton, linen, silk, cashmere and wool.

Do these clothing have a funny smell—especially after a long day of wear?
I realised that polyester and acrylic knit don’t go well with my natural deodorant and even when I’m using aluminium-based deodorant, they still emit a funny smell on me!

Do these clothing feel good against my sensitive skin?
Again: Eczema is such a pain. Thankfully, it’s quite contained now and only flares up when I’m stressed or eating things that I shouldn’t (like soya and cocoa)!

Do these clothing flatter my body shape?
Mirrors aren’t the best at showing you the truth—the image you see of yourself is slightly altered due to the lighting and the position/angle that it is placed upon.

I’m not entirely sure if the following makes sense but in any case, here we go: it’s best to either take a photo of what you’re wearing and then evaluate it through that medium, or, look at your reflection (at a distance) through reflective glasses/plastic—the slight blurry effect still allows you to see how your outfit truly look altogether, instead of pinpointing what you look like in them (in other words, you are being critical of the outfit on your body shape first).

Do I feel good wearing these clothing?
This is probably more important than the above body-shape question; even if the item flatters my body shape, as long as it makes me feel uncomfortable (e.g.: too short, too tight, etc.), I won’t buy it!

Are the colours, cutting and fabric suitable for my real lifestyle?
I walk 20 minutes (from my apartment to the train station, and then from the train station to my studio), 5 times a week. It isn’t a lot, compared to other people in the other parts of the world, but it is very hot and humid where I stay! I also work close to 10 hours a day in a studio with 2 naughty cats!

Do I truly like these clothing or am I just following a fast-fashion trend?
I’m so grateful for the return of mom jeans (other names: old school Levi 501s, Levi wedgie fit jeans and high-waisted tapered legs jeans) as they are the most flattering jean silhouette for my frame, so that’s something I hope will continue to be readily available even when I’m 50 years old! Also, as long as there’s a single thing that I do not like on the clothing (e.g.: I hate exposed zippers), hard as it is, I will simply have to do without it!

Will these clothing still hold up well after all the laundering?
I do all of my washing by hand (it’s a great exercise for toning your arms!) but I still machine tumble-dry them in a delicates-bag before sunning them in the open.

Despite the world’s view on fashion as something frivolous, it actually isn’t; what we wear has a huge impact on our overall confidence and it sets us up on how we would be feeling for the rest of the day. If you’re wearing something that you’ve to constantly adjust or if it itches, then you’re not going to feel very much at ease for the whole day. This trickles down and will affect your performance for the day!

It’s interesting to note that because of this uniform dressing, it helped me discover some of the following things that I needed, things that I like and things that I hate to do when preparing an outfit for work.

Need: One unfussy black leather belt

Like: Unfussy clothing / Neutral colours / Red for shoes / Camisoles / Long sleeves / Boat neck

Hate: Ironing shirts / De-pilling wool jumpers / Shirts with collars / Pure white clothes / Tee-shirts

Looking through the list above, I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that I didn’t have a huge list of needs! Granted, it’s only been 4 months so far, but I do believe that this goes to show how we tend to muddle our needs and wants all the time.

Although, 5 years on, I still want that camel-shade Céline box bag. Some day!

Mind you though—all the hard work of curating a wardrobe will go to waste if we aren’t thoughtful about what we are purchasing and bringing back into our home—it really goes both ways!

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Silk and Wool goes hand in hand in erratic weathers!

But… we are probably wondering about the same thing:

If this uniform dressing was such a success for the first 2 months of 2017, why stop?

Unfortunately, I haven’t got a positive answer for this.

I suppose just as I had unconsciously picked the usual suspects to wear for the first 2 months, I must have realised it sometime in March that, while these repeated items were my favourites and I felt super comfortable in these luxurious fabrics, I wanted a bit more variety in my outfits.

As it is, my work life already has a routine and now my dressing too?! I wanted a challenge (aka: I was kinda bored and was being utterly annoying here) but nothing was working out because for the pieces of garments that I still love but do not wear, it’s all because the colour scheme seem out of place in my wardrobe and are quite hard to match with the rest of the items.

I suppose that’s where the “I have nothing to wear!” situation started.

Was the uniform dressing not meant for me?
I don’t think so; I’ve applied uniform dressing for my home wear since 2014. As I wash my clothes every evening, I’ve only got 3 sets of lounge wear on rotation and I’m perfectly fine with them. Yet for reasons unknown, I never thought to do it for my work wear.

Perhaps I just haven’t mastered the art of curating my work clothes just yet.
Perhaps so. Many people say that the easiest place in your life to start decluttering is the wardrobe. But that’s actually the hardest and this is why I could only attempt a partial wardrobe curation.

Growing up, my parents had instilled in our family that we mustn’t waste because it earning money isn’t easy. So whenever we wanted to buy something, we had to justify it—was the item’s price tag worth the money we earned through the number of hours we had to worked for?

If yes: Buy it.
If no: Leave it.

So for most parts of my life, apart from the rare occasional dresses my mother made for me when she had the time and extra cash, I wore mostly hand-me downs because they were still in great conditions (i.e.: sturdy breathable materials, colours were still bright, age appropriate, etc.). Because of such observation and habits, it was drilled in my head that if the item is still in good condition, do not dispose it—use it, until its dying days.

I suppose you could say I felt some level of guilt.
Admittedly, it took me a while to dispose some garments that no longer fits me and/or my lifestyle. Initially, I thought it was because I was being a sentimental old bean, but looking at the above, I was just unwilling to part with the clothing—because of the money that was spent on it, because it’s a form of goodwill onto me, because they are still in great wearable conditions, because I shouldn’t waste, because [insert any other reasons here], because…

I didn’t know how to say “No” to hand-me downs.
I didn’t know how to say “No” to clothes that really didn’t work well for me, no matter how pretty or great the fabrics are.

Letting go of still-good clothing was just never in my system, and so the cycle continues. I felt that disposing these still-good items (i.e.: through recycling bins, donations or selling away) was quite painful because it was akin to flushing money down the drain.

But it’s still money lost when I’m not willing to wear it and it just sits in my closet unloved, isn’t it?

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But it’s 2017 now and a change is necessary if I don’t want to go through this whole nonsense of having nothing to wear again in the morning.

So yes: I ought to stop feeling guilty, start letting go and pick up where I had left off and continue to curate my wardrobe. In short, have my fashion-life sorted once and for all—I really do need all the sleep I can squeeze in for all the gruelling work that’s coming my way soon!

Here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. Separate clothing into 2 sections: Studio (work) and Off-duty (play)
    • If the items could work for both section, then put it to the off-duty section first; it’s better to have lesser things to look at at the start of the morning (especially on Mondays)
  2. Further separate the 2 sections into another 2 sections: Love and Unloved
  3. In the Love pile, select only the natural, breathable fabrics to keep (if possible)!
    • For the ones that are synthetic but still serve a purpose, keep them till a good quality replacement can be located!
  4. Quickly dispose the Unloved pile through recycling bins, donation groups, or selling them off

Well, it’s always easier said than done, and it might take me a while, but here goes nothing!

Wish me luck!

If any of you are keen on the silk, cashmere and any other beautiful fabric pieces from Grana (they ship to most countries!), here’s a 10% off for all you new-comers to get started! Hurray!

I will probably do a silk camisole review comparison between Grana and Everlane, so do keep a lookout for that!

Favourites: February 2017

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Ah, February—a relatively short month of 28 days for year 2017 and only 20 working weekdays, with cold night-walks back home (which is strange for a country with no 4 seasons and lies so close to the equator).

Ironically, compared to January, the shorter the month, the more time I had to spend on self reflections and so for this second month of the year, I managed to have slightly more favourite items to share. I’m afraid there aren’t any more than last month, but there’s a bit more variety this time around!

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Bridget Jones’s Baby
Whenever a film has instalments, nothing could ever beat the first movie and I would agree with that—except maybe because I’m such a sucker for happy endings (yay to Darcy and Jones!) and spiffier outfits (seriously, thank our fucking stars there weren’t anymore of those ill-fitting loose blazers and unflattering bobbly outfits), I very much prefer this 3rd movie. Of course good old Jones is still fucking clumsy but this time round, she appeared somewhat charming (I had no idea that that was even possible). But perhaps the most important of all: that mood during that night scene with Darcy after the christening with that accompanying background music was probably all it needed to seal the deal (well, it is Colin Firth after all).

Note:
Unfortunately, British films tends to bring out a portion of the British side of me (i.e.: potty-mouth), and although I know that we are in a day and age where nobody blinks an eye towards expressive vulgarities, still, I am sorry about this.

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MUJI 無印良品 nail polish, Beige
Because of my inability to have steady hands and my busy schedules, I don’t enjoy painting my nails very much. But I also hate looking at unpolished toenails while wearing open-toe heels, so I usually paint my nails in a skin tone shade (rendering my feet like that of a scary mannequin) because I realise this makes mistakes less detectable.

I’ve tried quite a lot of nude-shade nail polishes: Dior, Revlon, OPI, Essie… but there’s always this twinge of purple and grey undertones on them when viewed from certain lightings and angles, and it renders my feet like the undead! However, this particular polish has a hint of pink undertone instead, which is very nice! While it’s not very opaque, one single coat is usually good enough for me—if I able to fully concentrate: that is, sticking to my twice a month (before bed) nails painting schedule; no rush, no mistakes!

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Metal spoon for lunch
I’ve had this since 2009 and it was from my holiday in Thailand with my friends. I had used one during my nightly dinner (a small couple-run street side beef ball noodle stall) and I had loved how it was made of stainless steel and just so adorably small—most of these spoons are usually quite large and are made of ceramic, which meant that it was not travel friendly.

Anyway, I ended up getting one for myself before the trip was over and I’m so glad I did. It can be a little screechy when used against my metal lunch box, but it’s okay because my headphones are often blasting some TV shows and I don’t always join my colleagues for lunch (I prefer home-cooked food).

I Will Go to You like the first Snow—OST Guardian: The Lonely & Great God
I’ve read music for about 20 years and because of that, I’m quite sensitive (aka: picky) when it comes to film/drama soundtracks. But I guess because of this education, my view of music is a little old school (especially when it comes to OST)—I prefer a melody to match its lyrics, which is pretty rare in today’s context—musicians often want the juxtaposition because it’s a representation of unpredictability, rebelliousness and excitement.

So imagine my surprise when this particular soundtrack, in spite of it being sung in a foreign language, managed to summarise the drama succinctly—evoking the bittersweet feeling of longing, loneliness and love—proving just how powerful this music arrangement has been; it broke the lyrical boundaries and made the listener feel the unspoken. Well done!

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Paris to Go: Why I Don’t Wear Vegan Leather
Anyone who’s interested in fashion has probably watched the 2015 documentary film, The True Cost, and while it did great at exploring the impact of fashion on people and the planet, something was not addressed in the film: Vegan-leather fashion products. With vegetarian and vegan-ism growing to become a popular lifestyle choice today, it makes sense that many people feel driven to become one—for the better of the animals and our environment… right?

Nope; Ariana’s provocatively titled article begs to differ: by shedding insightful light on what vegan leather really is, how the manufacturing process happens and the environment impacts it has to our Earth, the conclusion is that vegan-leather is actually far worse than leather products. Of course, it’s crucial to remember that there’s nothing on this earth that we do that will have zero negative environmental and animal impacts. Instead, it’s just a matter of how much of such impact will we create?

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Fifi Lapin charms + necklace = Fifi Lapin charm Necklace!
About 2 years ago, I bought some of these Fifi Lapin charms for myself and a couple of my best friends. I used to wear them individually but 1. it was quite a hassle fix the charms onto the necklace and 2. I never knew which one to wear!

So earlier in the month, I decided to crack out my toolbox and had them attached altogether on a single chain (an idea that came from seeing charm bracelets). Now, on days when I’m wearing simple cashmere jumpers from Grana, Topshop jeans and a bit of Lucas Papaw as my lip balm, I’ll spiff up my outfit with this and I think the overall look is pretty charming (pun intended!).

I’ve come to realise that doing these favourite posts takes a little bit to get used to because I’ve to make it a point not to write too much—else it’ll just become a BA dissertation!

Do you have any favourites for the month of February? I’ll love to know about it so please do share it with me!

Favourites: January 2017

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It’s been a month since I’ve written here! A couple of my weekends in February were burned on an out-of-the-job-scope work (I had a last minute column to write), had lots of Spring cleaning to do, and without knowing, time just zipped passed us all—we are now in the second week of March! Can you believe that we are almost done with the first quarter of the year? Yikes.

As I mentioned in my last post, since January this year, I’ve embarked on a 10-months of no spending journey and so far, I’ve been pretty good at sticking to the plan. Of course, I’ll be lying if I said this wasn’t a difficult challenge—we are living in quite a materialistic-dominated world after all, and there will always be something that we desire to own immediately and I am no different.

So how did I conquer this?

I suppose other than constantly reminding yourself on your purpose of doing this challenge (are you: getting out of a debt, saving for a holiday, saving for the future, et cetera), one of the other things that I did to prevent myself from being tempted to spend was to take a step back at the end of every week and reflect on what I had enjoyed—using and/or doing.

Of course, it was hardly surprising that this action helped me better appreciate the things that I currently own (hence this post’s title). But as someone who is quite a sentimental fool, this self reflection ended up helping me to decide what are the things that I shouldn’t be hoarding any longer and I was pleasantly taken aback at my ability to let them go easily now.

So without further ado, here are some of my favourites in January!

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The Body Shop muslin cloth
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a muslin cloth. It’s quite a handy piece of fabric because of its multiple uses—from making dresses out of it, to becoming cheap green screens in film, and even as a diaper to help toddlers wean of wearing diapers altogether (that’s what my mother did for me). But perhaps the best use of it all: for your face.If your skin is a combination of sensitivity and spottiness, then this might be something you should try! The muslin cloth made cleaning more thorough and I don’t experience as much clogging or breakouts like I once did (damn you puberty!). Every evening, I’ll pair this with my Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleanser* and I do find that it’s very helpful in getting rid of those pesky little surface bumps. Of course, there are also other brands that makes muslin cloths but I find that size from The Body Shop is the most ideal for our face.

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ROOTOTE canvas tote bag of Mount Fuji
Unfortunately, this design was specifically made and sold only in Japan, and I bought this late last year, at the Tokyo Haneda Airport—after running back and forth through the duty free shops, trying to decide if it was worth getting!And yes it was worth my money because, aside from the clever incorporation of  Mount Fuji (can you see it?), it’s huge! I’ve been using it ever since for almost everything possible—from bringing all my travelling outerwear to be washed at one of those coin-operated Laundromats (I don’t own dryers at home), to using it for work because it is large enough for me to put my lunch in. Best of all, it has a hidden exterior pocket that’s large enough to fit in my house keys and transport card—now I don’t have to dig around the main compartment for these small objects like a lunatic!

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Japan Flag Mug*
It’s a bit strange to say this, but this is actually the first mug that I’ve ever purchased on my own and only because (a) I love the wide mouth of it because it’s perfect for dipping in biscuits and I’m actually excited to drink water out of it, and (b) the incorporation of Japan’s flag is actually one of the cleverest designs that I’ve seen, compared to the other countries.

Well, I suppose that’s the end of this post; I wish I had a film, book or music to include but I couldn’t really recall any. I think I might have some for February’s Favourites (which I should be posting next week!) so I’ll see you then!

Meanwhile, I’m curious to know what were some of your favourites in January? Well, if you remember of course—this was a pretty late post after all!

10-months of Not Spending…?

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Chanel’s Little Black Jacket Exhibition (2013)

It’s pretty retarded how I’ve made this experiment sound as though I’ve a great revelation of sorts, but it isn’t. It’s obvious that I’m also not the first person to be writing about ‘not spending for x-amount of time experiment’, yet posts like this still intrigues me to no end.

The truth is that our excessive spending behaviour is a modern-day illness that requires curbing. Discipline it enough and there’ll be lesser financial advisers around to help us manage our money issues (incidentally, the first step you’ll need to do is to pay for consultation…).

When topics regarding ‘cutting back on spendings’ are written on a weblog platform, most people pigeonhole it to just fashionable items (clothes, shoes, bags) that only happens to fashion bloggers, but in actuality, it’s really everybody’s problem, because we all spend: food, books, art, furniture, etcetera.

And suddenly you realise that you, though just another face in the crowd, is not off the hook either.

So here I am, a nobody-famous-on-the-world-wide-web, facing my spending demons because I’m broke, again. Though this time round, it is not for the same reasons as to why I was broke many years ago. I’ll spare you the details because this matter-of-fact statement encapsulates that mindless period of my life fairly well:

“A lot of young people try to impress the world and buy too many things,” the doorman said. —Fight Club (Chapter 5)

But yes, I’m broke again. And the reason is really all because I, obviously still a complete child with no sense of reality, decided that since my parents have never set foot on an aeroplane (despite the first commercial flight starting in 1914) that I would do the honours of sending them on an all-expenses-paid family trip to Japan for 2 weeks at the end of 2016…

While it’s an endearing move from a child to her parents, it’s not quite sensible, is it? Because this bold action meant that I ended up emptying out every single cent from my bank to make the trip happen.

The alarming thing, however, is that I’m not the only one (not that stating this fact makes me feel any better). Because of our impatient nature, our money attitude is such that we would only save up to the exact amount that we would require (for a trip or to make a purchase), stop and then spend it all away, almost immediately, resulting in a very dry bank. For most parts, unless there’s an actual goal, we usually just don’t bother with savings, because it’s just too difficult, and frankly, a “terrible waste” (all that savings for an elusive uh-oh situation and you don’t get to touch it before then?!).

“If you don’t know what you want,” the doorman said, “you end up with a lot you don’t.” —Fight Club (Chapter 5)

Needless to say, I did not look forward to 2017.

Just to be clear: while this money behaviour I had was terrible, I don’t regret my decision of the trip; not many people are so fortunate to have both their parents healthy and still happily married. Sure, my money vaporised within 2 weeks, but it was worth the smiles on my parents’ faces, and the gurgles of the excitements in their voices.

Anyway, 544 words later, I’m still broke and so this experiment stays. The rule is simple and is exactly as stated in the title: ‘10-months of not spending’. Yes, this experiment also stretches towards taxi rides and junk food (guess I’ll have to drink more water during my hormonal cravings days) but excludes experiences (I’ve never joined a night-time marathon before!).

I have to stress that the point of this experiment isn’t to be a scrooge and deprive myself of spending my hard earned money (pretty certain I’ll be using a different currency in my afterlife), but rather, to be wiser with my money; not to spend frivolously, to save as much as I can for 10-months, and allocate these savings carefully into sensible sections: e.g.: rainy day funds, to purchase gifts for loved ones, bill payments, etcetera, so that I’ll never have to face an empty bank account again. I know, I know… Saving, especially if it’s for emergencies and not that new Gucci loafers, is rather uneventful, but I don’t really want to risk another episode of panic attacks because I haven’t saved enough for my upcoming annual insurance payment.

Being an extremist when faced with a challenge, I’m quite stubborn determined to have a successful experiment. Below are 5 additional things that I’ve done:

  1. Assigned a separate email account that functions solely as a receiver of e-mailer subscription and discount codes
  2. Placed a fixed amount of money (food) in my purse that will last me for one whole month and leaving my bank cards at home
  3. Immediate payment of bills once my pay arrives
  4. Immediate transferring of money into specific savings account once my pay arrives
  5. Saving 10% of my pay for the end-of-10-months purchases (necessities)

The nice thing about this experiment is that when it all comes to an end, it’ll be November; that’s when the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales comes in and that’s where I’ll be able to make purchases with a good bit of discounts! Of course, if I do need to replenish necessities within the 10-months, I’ll just have to do it. But for most part, this experiment would see me finishing some long bought products, shopping within my room, clearing out things I’ve been hoarding and re-evaluating my general needs/wants.

I do wonder if I would miss shopping during this experiment and if this no-spending behaviour would carry on naturally once the 10-months are up. And though I’m determined to succeed, will I really or perhaps I might just fail… Who knows?

Meanwhile, here’s to not spending, I guess. Cheers!

In case it wasn’t obvious, Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel, Fight Club*, is one of my favourite books to read—especially when I find myself in a desire to consume materialistic goods. I’ve also always insisted that my friends watch the movie* (for those who are too lazy to read have limited hours in a day) because of the stellar cast.

Now you should, too.