Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

hopefuls book stack books

We are all drawing a few deep breaths after Commencement, and I’m diving into summer reading – woohoo! Here’s the latest roundup:

The Hopefuls, Jennifer Close
After Obama wins the presidency in 2008, Beth moves with her husband (a campaign staffer) to D.C. As Beth struggles to find her place in a new city, she and Matt meet a charismatic couple, Jimmy and Ash, who quickly become their best friends. But like so many friendships, this one is complicated, and Close expertly explores the shifting loyalties and the fault lines in both marriages. So well done. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 19).

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek, Erin Dionne
Elsie Wyatt is a top-notch French horn player, determined to get into a prestigious summer music program. But this means she has to (gasp!) join marching band. Elsie is a brat at first, but I loved watching her fall in love with band. (I’m a proud band geek from way back.) Super fun.

Girl in the Blue Coat, Monica Hesse
Hanneke spends her days finding and distributing black-market goods in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. But when a customer asks for her help in finding a missing Jewish girl, Hanneke is drawn into a web of Resistance activities. A compelling evocation of bravery, cowardice and betrayal during wartime – tense and well crafted.

Gone Crazy in Alabama, Rita Williams-Garcia
Sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern travel from Brooklyn to Alabama to spend the summer with relatives. Being black in both places carries a particular challenge in 1969, and the girls struggle to adjust while listening to the (warring) family stories from their great-grandmother and her sister. Delphine’s voice is smart and so engaging.

Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield Fisher
I’d never read this classic but picked it up after it featured prominently in Mother-Daughter Book Camp. Elizabeth Ann, sheltered and timid, is sent to Vermont to stay with cousins she’s never met. To everyone’s surprise – including her own – she blossoms there. A sweet, gentle story.

Before We Visit the Goddess, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
This is one of the picks for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s online Summer Reading Club. It’s a bittersweet story of mothers and daughters, spanning three generations and shifting in time, place and point of view: India to California to Texas, mother to daughter to granddaughter. Lovely and melancholy, though I wanted more resolution at the end.

Graveyard of the Hesperides, Lindsey Davis
Davis’ fourth novel featuring Flavia Albia, a private informer in ancient Rome, finds Albia approaching wedded bliss with her beloved, Manlius Faustus. But they get sidetracked when the remains of six bodies turn up in the garden of a bar he’s renovating. The plot meanders, but Albia is a sharp-tongued, engaging narrator. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 12).

Nine Women, One Dress, Jane L. Rosen
Everyone is desperate to get their hands on the little black dress of the season – and it changes the fortunes of nine women, including a runway model, two saleswomen at Bloomingdale’s, an aging Broadway diva and more. Light and frothy and highly entertaining. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 12).

The Seafront Tea Rooms, Vanessa Greene
A journalist researching tea rooms, a young mother at the end of her rope, and a French au pair bond over tea and struggles in Scarborough. Light, refreshing and lovely. Fun for Anglophiles.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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Dressing in the moment

baby its cold outside sign dress shop

I snapped this photo as I was leaving work one day last week. It was clear twilight – not dark – outside, but still piercingly cold. And while the chalkboard sign captured my sentiments exactly, the flimsy sundress (blowing in the bitter wind) made me shake my head in irritation.

Several years ago, Nichole Robertson (now of Obvious State) wrote a blog post called “Dress in the Moment.” In it, she detailed the vexation of being unable to find winter accessories in American stores when it was still frigid outside. Nichole was living and working part-time in Paris then, and she pointed out that French department stores – at least in her experience – tend to stock more seasonally appropriate items.

Maybe because I moved to Boston soon after she wrote that post, I think about Nichole’s words every winter.

When the shop windows are full of sundresses and gauzy scarves, and we’re stepping around frozen piles of gray snow on the sidewalk, a certain cognitive dissonance sets in. Many of us (myself included) don’t love the cold anyway, and the displays of colorful spring outfits that we can buy, but not wear, are a tantalizing frustration.

Separate, but related, is the annoyance of being forced to make do with worn or tattered winter gear. (I’ve spent more time than I care to admit digging through sale bins in midwinter, searching for a proper pair of gloves. And it is nearly impossible to buy snow boots if yours start leaking in, say, February.)

Nichole urged her readers to “channel their inner French girl” – and maybe mitigate the winter blues a bit – by caring for their winter clothing properly. I thought of this last week as I picked up my favorite green coat from the dry cleaners and cleaned the road salt off my leather boots.

We’re only midway through winter and I’m sick of my puffy down coat, but I’ll have to wear it, and my fleece-lined tights, for a while yet. (Though I ran around in ballet flats and a light jacket this weekend, because I could.) So I may as well embrace the corresponding need for sweaters, hats and cozy scarves. I splurged on this soft plaid one right before Christmas, and I love it.

k j hotel mirror selfie

I am already watching for signs of spring, and I relish each day that’s mild enough for lighter clothing (in whatever form). But Nichole’s words remind me to pass by the sundresses – for now – and embrace the season we’re in.

Instead of sighing over what I can’t wear yet, I’ll be doing my best to snuggle into my soft handknits and cozy sweaterdresses. (And thanking whatever genius came up with the idea for fleece-lined tights.)

How do you dress in the moment – especially in wintertime?

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darwins portrait red lipstick

About a year ago, I became fascinated by the concept of a personal uniform. (It was all over the Internet for a while: President Obama’s blue or grey suits, the Australian newscaster who wore the same suit every day for a year, numerous bloggers writing about their wardrobes.)

I’m not a big clothes shopper and I hate making decisions in the morning, so you’d think a personal uniform would be tailor-made (ha) for me. So far, though, I’ve lacked the discipline – or the commitment – to really take the plunge. I haven’t edited my wardrobe down to 10 items or consciously worn the same 33 items for a month. (I have also resisted the Marie Kondo madness because, frankly, everyone else seems to be doing it.)

But as we continue to slog through winter, I realized I’ve developed a personal uniform almost by accident.

Winter in the Northeast is (I need hardly say it) cold – often bitterly so – and snowy. I work in a business-casual office environment and I commute on public transportation, every weekday. So I need warm, sturdy winter gear: snow boots, fleece-lined tights, a knee-length down coat for frigid days and a couple of wool coats for milder ones. But I also need outfits to wear under those coats, and I find myself reaching for a variation on the same ensemble most days.

katie selfie red dress plaid scarf

Right now, that usually looks like a dress, either solid or striped (because I own an embarrassing number of striped dresses). I pair the day’s dress with black leggings and boots (of the snow or non-snow variety, depending on the weather). And I choose a scarf or knitted cowl to go with it. (That, and choosing my tea blend, is the kind of decision-making I can handle in the morning.)

I do own other pieces of clothing – sweaters, tees, skirts – and sometimes I feel like I should be making more of an effort to wear them. But right now, when I’m rushing around between showering and eating breakfast every morning, this winter uniform is what’s working for me.

Do you have a personal uniform – accidental or purposeful? (And if so, what is it?)

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katie shaw hill cowl purple

“I haven’t felt like knitting for months,” a friend lamented last week. She has an excuse – after all, she had a baby this spring – but I agreed with her. After an absurdly long, cold winter, I couldn’t wait to exchange my heavy knitted cowls and hats for lighter scarves. I put down the needles in May and never looked back.

Recently, though, I’ve pulled out a few handknits as the chill in the air has grown more pronounced. I’m not ready for heavy-duty winter wear yet, but I’m enjoying the chance to wear fingerless mitts, or snuggle into a scarf or cowl with my favorite green coat. (I knitted the purple wrap above this winter, but had forgotten how soft and cozy it is.)

Also, as ever, the good folks at Innocent Drinks are sponsoring the Big Knit, encouraging people to knit wee hats for their smoothie bottles to raise money for Age UK. I’m easing back into knitting with these tiny hats – a few at a time while J and I watch football or catch up on Modern Family of an evening. (Bonus: they are so quick and satisfying!)

All this talk of knitting also has me browsing Ravelry for new patterns, and dreaming of bigger projects to knit for others or myself. My favorite yarn shop in Boston closed a couple of years ago, sadly, but I’m thinking I may have to order some yarn online soon.

Are you a seasonal crafter, like me? Any patterns you’re dying to knit (or crochet) this fall?

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september books hydrangeas

The Knockoff, Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza
When Glossy magazine editor-in-chief Imogen Tate returns after a six-month leave, she’s horrified to find that her former assistant Eve has taken over and is planning to turn the magazine into an app. A whip-smart, wickedly funny satire of the fashion publishing world and our cultural obsession with digital media. I loved it, and I was rooting for Imogen all the way. Recommended by both Anne and Ann.

Named of the Dragon, Susanna Kearsley
Literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw gladly accepts her favorite client’s invitation to spend Christmas in Wales. Once she arrives, Lyn has a series of strange dreams about a woman imploring her to take care of a young boy being pursued by dragons. An atmospheric novel that weaves together themes of love, grief and Arthurian legend. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 6).

Death Wears a Mask, Ashley Weaver
London socialite Amory Ames and her husband Milo attend a masked ball. They’re on the lookout for a jewel thief, but no one expects murder. Amory assists the police in their investigation, while confronting rumors about Milo and a French film star. Witty prose, a well-plotted mystery and a sensitive portrait of a difficult marriage. (I also loved Weaver’s debut, Murder at the Brightwell.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 13).

Kissing in America, Margo Rabb
Since her dad died, Eva Roth has found solace in romance novels, much to the disgust of her feminist mother. When her crush finally notices her, Eva dares to hope for her own romance – but then he moves to California. Eva and her best friend take off on a cross-country road trip filled with wacky experiences and surprising epiphanies about love and grief. This is not a typical YA love story – it’s so much better. Complex, funny and poignant. Recommended by Rebecca on All the Books.

How to Write a Novel, Melanie Sumner
Aristotle Thibodeau, age 12.5, plans to write the Great American Novel (in 30 days!) and thereby solve her family’s financial problems. Her novel is autobiographical, but the characters (single mom, zany little brother, handsome handyman) just won’t behave as Aris  wants them to. Entertaining (though too cutesy at times); full of wry quips (and footnotes) on the writing life. Found at Island Books in Newport, RI.

A Demon Summer, G.M. Malliet
Father Max Tudor is called to a nearby abbey to investigate a suspected poisoning via fruitcake. Soon after he arrives, another abbey guest is found dead in the cloister. This was one of those mystery solutions where two-thirds of the relevant information comes out at the very end, which I always find unsatisfying. (Besides, I like Max’s village and wish he’d get back to solving mysteries there.)

Middlemarch, George Eliot
I read this for my occasional book club‘s August meeting. (Obviously, I did not finish it in time.) I found it quite tedious at times, but witty and full of truth at other times. A mixed bag, but a classic I’m glad I finally read.

Since You’ve Been Gone, Morgan Matson
Emily’s best friend Sloane disappears – with no explanation – right before the summer they’ve been planning. She leaves Emily a list of 13 unusual tasks. With the help of a few new friends, Emily completes the list and discovers a new side of herself. I love Matson’s YA novels (complete with plenty of playlists) and this one was no exception.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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stripes silver flats

Summer, as I keep saying, is in full swing around here. And while I am loving the chance to wear skirts and sandals as I hang out in Harvard Yard or walk to the farmers’ market, I’ve also had a few Big Meetings lately. Between the heat, the humidity and the importance of said Big Meetings, I’ve found myself facing an all-too-familiar dilemma: what to wear?

I am not what you would call a fashionista. I grew up taking fashion advice (sometimes gracefully, sometimes grudgingly) from my trendy mom and sister (and borrowing their clothes). I still inherit hand-me-downs from either Mom or Betsy on my occasional trips home. (Those pieces often end up becoming my favorites.)

One of the things I love about working in higher education is its mostly-business-casual dress code. I do not own a suit, and I wear heels about three times a year. In the winter, my style uniform is a snap: a dress or a sweater-and-pencil-skirt combo with tights, my knee-high black boots or booties, and one of my many scarves. But summer is too hot for leggings and boots – and I struggle to feel like myself in pantyhose and blazers. So I’ve spent a little time lately figuring out my version of summer power dressing.

I suppose it’s no surprise that some of the elements I love year-round – stripes, cardigans, my favorite “brave” necklace, the silver hoop earrings I wear every day – figure into my summer power outfits. I’ve splurged on a couple of “dressier” dresses and dusted off my one pair of not-too-high black heels (though I carry my silver flats in my bag). I’ve spent more time ironing lately than I have in a long while. And I’ve remembered – again – that the most important element is confidence. I don’t need to buy designer clothes or rush out and buy a suit. I simply need to look – and feel – like the most polished version of myself.

What are your tips for summer power dressing?

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brookline booksmith interior twinkle lights

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Alan Bradley
I love Flavia de Luce, that snarky sleuth with a passion for poison. In her seventh adventure, Flavia is shipped off to boarding school in Canada, where (of course) she finds a mystery to solve. It was interesting to see Flavia in a new setting, but I missed her family and the usual supporting characters.

Wearing God: An Exercise in Enriching Our Spiritual Imagination, Lauren F. Winner
Winner explores some overlooked metaphors for God: clothing, laughter, flame, fragrance – with anecdotes from her own life and from the class she teaches at a local women’s prison. Thoughtful and thought-provoking. The introduction blew me away. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 31).

The Mislaid Magician: Or Ten Years After, Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Cousins Cecy and Kate (and their husbands) are at it again – trying to solve another magical mystery. A missing German magician, a highly unusual sheepdog, and the budding magical abilities of Cecy’s children all play a part in this epistolary novel. Witty and fun, like the previous two books.

Mademoiselle Chanel, C.W. Gortner
Coco Chanel was provocative, acerbic and bewitching – as is this novel about her life. Absorbing, heartbreaking and salacious. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 17).

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, John O’Donohue
O’Donohue is a poet and mystic, and his exploration of beauty in all its forms is best digested in small doses. Sometimes a bit abstract, but full of lovely words. Given to me by a beloved teacher who remains a friend (a mystic himself).

Mrs. Tim Christie, D.E. Stevenson
I loved this witty, gentle, entertaining novel – the diary of an English officer’s wife between the wars (based on the author’s own diary). Mrs. Tim and her adventures are utterly delightful. First in a series.

A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory, Sara Midda
My mother-in-law gave me this little illustrated book for Christmas. Whimsical and evocative, full of watercolors, food memories and a few recipes.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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