weekend inspiration #3: ikebana

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Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, is a great metaphor for personal style, I think. You take natural ingredients and mold them into the desired configuration with the help of scaffolding, highlighting and obscuring different elements as you go, seeking balance and harmony. The end result is a unique, purposeful silhouette, natural yet unnatural, tailored to the flowers themselves as well as the environment.

Also I find them a compelling use of space, when I like them.

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maybe…this: baseball cap

I like the simple silhouette of this Madewell Biltmore baseball cap. I think the classic, curved bill can be so flattering, especially paired with something ultra feminine (say, pearls), but have had a hard time finding a hat basic and simple enough (no embellishments, clean lines, good quality fabric), yet in a compelling color.

[Yes, I find all shades of cream and white and ‘stone’ compelling. I also like vanilla bean ice cream best. What.]

I also need it to be adjustable so as to have an escape route for my hair.

I keep hinting at guy friends to give me an old one, so it will be all awesomely broken in and frayed at the edge of the bill (in a manner it would take me so long to achieve myself, authentically), but no hat has been forthcoming.

[WHAA??? WHY??! WHY WON’T YOU GIVE ME YOUR HAT?!]

This might be the one…

acquisitions: TOMS chestnut suede desert wedges

TOMS chestnut suede desert wedges

TOMS chestnut suede desert wedges

It came to my attention some months ago that I didn’t own any heels.

I have owned them, or tried to, but have gotten rid of them or returned them or otherwise disowned them on grounds of discomfort. I will tolerate some difficulties in the face of style, but outright pain is not one of them.

I do like the silhouette they can give, though, and want the option, and do not dislike being taller. So: the quest was on.

These wedges from TOMS were the first success. I heard that they were extremely comfortable (from many sources) and: they are.

TOMS chestnut suede desert wedges

TOMS chestnut suede desert wedges

Love this fawn color. The plaid interior was a surprise but I like that, too.

Can already imagine them in a number of looks…with a belted olive T-shirt dress, with baggy pants cinched at the ankle, with denim cutoffs and a white button-down…

Seeing it?

acquisitions: pearls, pearls, pearls

pearls

bonjour mes perles…

About three years ago I thought: pearls. Why don’t I wear those?

I did a lot of research (about two years just browsing and researching) before making any purchases and, after a rather indulgent and permissive winter*, I show definite results.

*with the stunning jewelery in the recent Anna Karenina film perhaps a minor catalyst.

AAA cultured freshwaters, ivory, 7-8mm 18" necklace, 8-9mm studs

AAA cultured freshwaters, ivory, 7-8mm 18″ necklace, 8-9mm studs

Got a few pairs of earrings in different styles (you can see the 8-9mm studs in action here) and a classic 18″ necklace in the holiday sales, an 8-strand bracelet. Investigating longer ropes of 50+ inches (which just 15 years ago were thought suitable only for grandmothers. So old-school they are fresh again), and have determined it makes sense to get a short (acquired!) and a medium length necklace that match (with identical clasps as well) and have the option to wear them linked together.

To get the most for my money, I went with cultured freshwaters. They are almost pure nacre, which means you don’t have to worry about a thin (unless trés $$$) layer of nacre wearing away to expose a dull bead†, and they can come in a lot of funky shapes and colors that I find really modern. Most come from China. Quality and size in any pearl are a matter of the species of bivalve in question, the water quality/temperature/depth of growth/duration of growth, and other stuff that isn’t even fully understood at this point.

† as with nucleated pearls like akoyas and south sea pearls, at which point the pearls become pretty much unwearable. These nucleated pearls have hardcore, loyal followers, however, who believe them to have superior luster and orient (a.k.a. ‘rainbowiness’), in the case of akoyas, and undeniably larger size, in the case of south sea pearls, which are cultivated in a mammoth species of bivalve.

I found that it may be cheaper and more satisfying to buy the pearls wholesale and knot longer necklaces myself. Project! The knots serve to keep the pearls from rubbing against one another, which can chip and dull the delicate nacre (pronounced NAY-ker), and from being irretrievably lost if the string breaks. They are traditionally strung on silk thread suitable for the gauge of the drill holes, though contemporary jewelers often use some more durable synthetic blend. Does everyone know these things? I did not know these things. It is also a useful long-term skill as any strand of pearls requires periodic restringing, which is not so cheap. And then, of course, you can realize your own designs and repurpose old necklaces, etc. Ah. To have proper skills.

I knotted this!

Pearl jargon: little pearls klink, medium sized pearls clank, 10mm+ pearls klonk (and are known as ‘klonkers’).

There is something warm and approachable about pearls (and semi-precious or opaque stones, but especially pearls) that glittering, faceted gems do not have.

[Not that one wants always to be warm and approachable.]

Opulent yet subtle and wearable in contexts high and low. Relatively affordable.

[Especially if they are fake, or of middling quality. Some of the pieces in the first photo are costume jewelery, which have their place. Some are low-quality in the traditional gem-appraisal sense, as in not round or flawless, but in the modern eye this can make them even more appealing.]

I maintain that they go with anything. They are less aloof, yet can meet the rubies and sapphires on their own ground, as proven in the jewelry and gowns of so many medieval and renaissance portraits. [Of course, in great quantity the subtlety goes out the window.]

They warm to the skin, glow with luster and orient, and love to be worn. Properly cared for, they will outlast you.

Also, they make stellar gifts. And, if you talk about them enough, people will give them to you. Inexplicably, some people seem to have pearls they do not want.

pearl resources:

http://www.pearl-guide.com/  extremely helpful forum and lots of useful links. The loudest piece of advice I took away from the forum was, get the best you can afford. I like this approach in general.

http://www.pearlparadise.com/ the vendor I’ve made most of my purchases from, they also sell pearls by the inch and have great customer service (no issues about returning pieces to correct matching or sizing issues, and a 90-day return policy). Great sales sometimes, too.

http://www.stachurawholesalegemstones.com/ this is where I got knotting supplies and the more colorful wholesale pearls. They also sell other precious and semi-precious stones.

Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls interesting book about the pearl industry at every level, from the farm/ocean to the customer. If you are ever mesmerized by pearls –how they are heavier than they look, how they seem to glow from within, how they came straight out of some bivalve just like this (treated pearls aside), a gift of nature– this is for you.

weekend inspiration #2: closetvisit.com

If you are into women’s fashion, this site is so interesting to browse.

Different women† showcasing their favorite clothes and accessories, posing in various outfits and attitudes (usually in their homes).

I am fascinated by tiny details of the lives of others, and so am often curious to see how people arrange their living spaces, how they organize their belongings, how they display their treasures. A combination of images come together to narrate a style, and of course the items you choose to own can be telling. I like the idea of doing this myself. It would be a good exercise, just choosing the items I would want to share, and deciding for myself what some of my favorite options are.

†Mostly the kind of women who have a lot of clothes and quite nice houses, I guess not surprisingly. I like the idea of seeing a more normal subset represented, though (i.e. people who don’t own houses or designer clothes, but nonetheless have a purposeful and personal style), and don’t think I would find that any less interesting at all. I’d like to see the closets of men¥, too.

____¥ _The Closets of Men_ would be a great title, no?

*Unfortunately it is not possible to link to individual posts, they all come up as the same url.