November 17, 2011

How to Wear a Sweater Vest

Step 1: Buy a knit piece that is so singularly awesome, so not what you think of when you think of "sweater vest," that you own it for half a year without realizing that is meant to be worn as such.

Yesterday, I found myself wearing the tried and true American classic combination of: 1) sweater vest 2) white oxford button up 3) navy trousers, and to top it off 4) Tod's driving loafers, all without looking like a complete asshole. IMO.

Here's how it came together.

I have owned this top that I did not realize was a sweater vest for a while. I was pretty sure it was just a side boob revealing cashmere knit tank top. I always thought it was funny that a tank top, which I actually wore during the summer, would be made of cashmere. I haven't been wearing it lately because I believed it was too cold for this tank top. The sweater vest was probably confused as well, wondering why it was out in 70+ degree weather pressed right up against a human body with no layers in between.

Then it struck me. This piece of knitwear could work out quite nicely in a more fall/winter look. 

Then I was like, well, trousers, duh.

I figured the only way to complete this would be with my preppiest shoe, these Tod's loafers.

So there you have it. I'm pretty into it! It's grown up and childish at the same time. Also, cozy. Also, layering.

This was my look for the outside world. I am so happy to be back in bright ass California where I need to wear sunglasses every single day even when it's about to rain. I had missed that.

November 9, 2011


I know it's been autumn for a while now this side of the equator. But as a new San Francisco resident, I'm just getting the hang of this whole freezing summer/summery fall situation. So allow me the indulgence of summarizing my summer this far into the fall season. I feel like taking a look back.

Here goes.

Summer adventures began in the middle of America. A trip to Duluth, MN.

I gained a new status, ABD. It's not a disease. I went out into the world at the beginning of this summer untethered, again, from the role "student." What would it mean to persist toward a weighty new title? What would life be like after another uprooting from place?

It was cold in Duluth.

I saw these strange passenger ship cabin displays in a maritime museum on Lake Superior.

It grew warm quickly after. Every chance possible, I convened with the best people I had come to know on a truly memorable balcony. There are some pictures, but those are for me. I miss those times. They were gone far too soon.

Before I knew it, the warmth and weekly porch BBQ sessions were over. I got a sunburn at a yard sale, where I rid myself of the things I treasured for my brief stay in Minnesota. It was really summer then. Hot and sticky, and full with the love of real friends.

Before I knew it I was in a strange, beautiful new place.

It was cold again, very cold. And I was lonely.

But the beauty to behold at every turn overwhelmed my wary heart.

I went to Los Angeles, seeking the love of old friends. It awaited me unchanged, and I was happy.

We went to a baseball game.

Mostly we talked, and I soaked up the sun I so desperately craved. I remebered a truth it took moving far away to understand: I love southern California.

I bought a dress by Won Hundred at Mohawk General Store. (Of course I did.) I wore it to see the ocean again.

I ate delicious seafood.

I went back to San Francisco, and before I knew it summer was peaking. It was still cold in this city. But on my husband's 30th birthday, conditions were perfect.

We rode the ferry. I love a boat ride. My hair has grown so long.

We went to Muir Woods and saw the most incredible things.

The redwoods

Glistening spiderwebs

This fern that really looks just like this, like a hovering neon green fog

This wonderful plant whose name I do not know, and a bee. Spot the bee.

What is technically "fall" arrived and it got quite warm here. I explored more. I put in something of an effort.

This happened.

Now it has turned cold, again. This summer I learned to adapt, again. I focused on maintaining balance, health, and well-being. I bought some amazing things, but I didn't show you them all just yet. I don't know what to say about that. Sometimes you just act out of habit, to feel yourself remain while the world delivers you change.

I just think it's really beautiful here.

But this place is not yet my own.

November 5, 2011

Approaching Unfinished

I won't pretend to know much about ikebana beyond the basics. The Japanese art of flower arranging speaks to me in form and style, even though I have never practiced it, nor studied its history in any depth.


But from my first encounter with this artistic practice, it captured my attention. I instantly found it favorable to its Western counterpart. When I think of flower arranging in a culturally generalized way, the US style seems to historically favor overstuffing a vase with flowers of either uniform or perfectly staggered height, striving for a sort of perfection in terms of color coordination and matchiness, sometimes with a gaudy ribbon and extra fluff thrown in the mix to "fill it out."

This parallels a generalized Western attitude toward style and trends. Coordination, accessorizing, and neatness are the rule. "Finish the look!" Lack of jewelry, makeup, or other "finishing touches" and one risks an unfinished look, something we are constantly told is an actual, material risk in most aspects of social life.

Ikebana is about the value of the empty space, the place of the void. It is about a studied intimacy with and respect for the non-human world. It is about meditating on nature in its imperfections. It seems to me that the traditional Western style arrangement reflects a desire to master and perfect nature, and then to domesticate only its most beautiful elements in a voluptuous display.


Ikebana came to mind instantly when I read the following quotes, from The Talks interview with Yohji Yamamoto:

(Note how he immediately moves to correct the loadedness of this question about cultural determinations and differences.)
How are your designs connected to your Japanese heritage?
Think of the association with Japan as an exotic exchange. It is fun. Japanese people, or Asian people, like European aesthetics and European people love Asian sensibilities. So as an exchange of senses it is all right. In that way I agree 100 percent. But when a paper writes about me, they start with “the Japanese designer…” We have to find a new vocabulary. I understand why European people take my creations as very Japanese. It is probably because if you see a creation as a whole, as 100 percent, I will always try to finish before arriving at 100. This five, seven, or ten percent we call empty or in between or uncompleted in Japanese.
Can you give me an example?
It’s when you go to shut a window or door and leave a space. We need this space, so I design space. Space has always been very important in Japanese traditional art of every genre – like painting, sculpting, or theatrical expression. The space of expression is even more important than the visual or written.

The empty space and the unfinished are extremely attractive concepts to me. Never the perfectionist, I want to move toward my own idea of mastering a meditative, reflective, aware, and comfortably balanced "style" in my life.

To be unfinished, contrary to the "advice" of the beauty magazines I should really stop reading, does not necessarily mean to be sloppy, lazy, or unaware. I am consciously embracing my lack of polish. I do not complete my style 100 percent. And yet I take time in every step of the process, from choosing the garments, to arranging them on my body, to taking away when there is one element too many, to piling on misshapen volumes on days when I need the protection. I like to untuck, or roll up, layer or leave undone in ways someone, somewhere, once told me I shouldn't.

The empty spaces where there could be an earring, curled lashes, stacked bracelets, or the right bag are voids of my conscious determination. I am more interested in the line, the space between folds, and especially the intimate space of contact in between the inner lining of the garment and my own skin.

 I plan in all aspects of my life to always be approaching something, never fully arriving. This is more satisfying, more true, than brief moments of false perfection.

I see it like this: you can stuff all your flowers into the nicest crystal vase, choosing only the most perfect and expensive specimens, and you can marvel at the perfection that you created based on a mandate of beauty that excludes the humble and imperfect in nature. And you can celebrate this creation, taking credit for its loveliness. But it will still betray you. It will decay. Or, you can accept the humble and the strange, and cultivate a closeness with the real, knowing that it might not always be considered beautiful. Its value will come from the knowledge you gained in the process of its shaping.