Meet Jo!

There’s a new resident at the Cox Castle. Meet Yorkshire Terrier Jo, which is short for Josephine. We named her after my late Indonesian grandmother, who used to breed toy poodles and was absolutely besotted with dogs. Oma, Mama, Rosie, and Jasmine are looking down from their big fluffy clouds with delight. 

We brought Jo home yesterday at nine weeks old. She weighs two pounds, and we expect her to grow up to be a similar size to 6.5 pound, big brother Sam. We bought the smallest collar we could find (in the kitty section) and it’s too big, but Jo will grow into it soon.

Car

Meet

Greet

Don’t let Jo’s young age and delicate stature fool you. She is independent, clever, strong, adventurous, loud, playful, affectionate, and very social. She got through a barricade and baby gate in two seconds last night. She drags toys and bones around that are bigger than her slight self, and runs after her new big brother with confidence. She learned to use the balcony “porch potty” on her second try.

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Cutie

Toys

Although we had to wait for her, little Jo was officially my 50th birthday present. I am elated and smitten, and so is hubs Greg. Our little guy Sam is trying his best to be a patient, sweet and supportive big brother. He moves between curious, tolerant, and a little annoyed. We’re making sure he understands that he’s still top dog and CEO. Little Jo takes it in her stride. All things considered, Sam is doing a better job of welcoming his little sister into our family than we expected.

It took ten years, but we are once again “tous les quatre.” YLF has a feisty new employee, and the YLF community has a stylish new member. I suspect that Jo will like to sport sour brights, some pastels, and lots of pretty blue.

Working

Angie

Outfit formula: Soft Wide Summer Pants

Here’s an easy breezy Summer pants look to wear in high heat. It’s for those who don’t like to wear skirts and dresses, and feel too exposed in shorts. The most important component of the formula is a pair of soft, roomy, wide and floppy palazzo pants, which can be patterned or solid, and in any colour palette. Keep them in natural fibres or natural fibre blends for maximum breeziness and breathability. Lengths can vary from cropped to full length. Waists can be fully structured, half-elastic, or full-elastic.

Here are four different types of breezy tops to pair with the soft wide Summer pants. They range from casual to smart casual.

1. Tee or Tank

Combine soft wide pants with an easy knitted T-shirt or tank top. Semi-tuck the front if you’d like a little structure. If you can find or have a knitted top with a banded or welted bottom, you’ll create a little waist definition without the need to tuck the top. Finish off the look with sandals, slides or espadrilles, and a lovely straw hat. If you’re wearing the pants full length, wear them at a length that is safe so that you don’t trip over them. These look a little long, especially when wearing sandals. You don’t want the hems to get caught in the sandals either.

Tee or Tank

2. Breezy Button-Through

A classic linen, silk and cotton blouse or shirt in a button-through style can look great semi-tucked into soft wide pants. Classic and polished for Team Shirt. The tucked top elongates the leg line from the hips upwards. Scrunch the sleeves, add Summery footwear and a bag to match, and you’re done. These are at a safe length, so you won’t trip over them.

Breezy Button Through

3. 2-Piece Jumpsuit

This is my favourite combination because it’s a jumpsuit made of two practical pieces — the soft wide pants, and a roomy blouse in the same fabric and pattern. Tie the fronts of the blouse into a square knot to create a little outfit structure. The square knot will create a neat, flat and professional looking knot. Don’t tie it too high or tight if you prefer a fluid silhouette. Scrunch the sleeves to showcase some skin. Add Summery footwear and you’re done.

2-Piece Jumpsuit

4. Tie-Front Top

A knitted or woven top with a build-in tie front is super easy and breezy. It allows you to create a little outfit structure without tucking the top. It will also lengthen the waist of a short waist. Roomy diagonal sleeves are flattering and cooler than a longer sleeve. Here, a solid tie-front top is paired with patterned soft wide pants and finished off with slides in the same colour palette. Add jewellery, watch, headgear and eyewear as desired.

Tie Front Top

Factors Impacting Your Style

This is an update on an important post I wrote six years ago. It gets to the heart of why style is so personal. Our needs are different, so our styles are different. The closer we are to satisfying our needs, the more authentic, manageable, and enjoyable our personal style will be. 

The goal is to build a functional wardrobe that fulfills our needs, which calls for the amount of analysis and planning that works for you. Too much planning can lead to analysis paralysis, which can take the fun out of dressing and evolving your style, and some inaccurate assessments. Too little planning and you’ll shop based purely on emotion and ease, and not what you need or want to wear.

It can be useful to think about the factors that affect your style in two groups. The internal factors are about YOU. The external factors are about your CONTEXT. Here’s the way I like to break it down.

Internal Factors

Sartorial Preferences

Aesthetic taste for silhouettes, colours, fabrics, patterns, texture, vibe and design details is subjective, and can be wildly different from one person to another. Your style preferences attract you to items before you’ve even tried them on. Sartorial preferences can be varied and wide, or focussed and narrow, and evolve over time. Identify them, and milk your signature style.

Beliefs, Values and Personality

Style-related beliefs, values and personality are unique to each of us and will come through visually in our styles. They will also be reflected in wardrobe decisions like how you shop, where you shop, when you shop, which items you purchase, how you edit and care for wardrobe items, how you pass on wardrobe items, and how often you refresh your style. Sometimes style is very intuitive and reasons for choices are hard to articulate. That’s OK too. If you trust your gut at this point in your style journey, go for it.

Figure Flattering Priorities

Body type dressing guidelines that encourage the creation of traditionally flattering proportions have relaxed over time, which is a very good thing. Instead, creating outfit proportions that are “just flattering enough” is the more modern approach and awfully liberating. By having the freedom to dress in ways that make you feel great instead of being inhibited by what you are not supposed to wear, you establish a set of figure flattering priorities that is completely personal, and created by YOU, not someone else. Decide what figure flattery means to you, and run with it.

Outfit Variety

Over the years, I’ve found that a person’s need for outfit variety — or lack thereof — has a noticeable impact on their style. Those who enjoy outfit variety have a greater assortment of silhouettes, fabrications, textures, patterns and colours in their wardrobe. Sometimes, they react faster to trends because they want to add “newness” to their look right away. Generally, the opposite holds true for “uniform dressers” and those who are less interested in trends. Also, those who live in a four-season climate tend to have the need for a larger variety of items. They need everything from shorts, breezy dresses and sandals, to puffers, snow boots, and woolly accessories.

External Factors

Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is the most important factor to affect your style. Someone who works in a business formal or business casual environment has a different set of wardrobe needs to a stay-at-home person or somebody who works from home. How and where you socialize will also have an impact on your style, as will the extent to which you travel, attend formal events, camp, do outdoorsy stuff, and play sports. A common problem I see is a wardrobe that was created for an imaginary lifestyle.

Climate

Your climate is the second most important factor to consider because for the most part, it’s best to be practical about your wardrobe choices. That way you’re prepared for the elements and comfortable throughout the day. For example, no matter how much you like to wear floor-sweeping flared trousers with pointy-toe heels, they’re unsuited to wet and snowy weather. By the same token, creating an extensive capsule of outerwear for a humid and hot tropical climate is a waste of time and money.

Environment

Sometimes the expectations of people around you – or “your audience” – can have a big effect on your style. I refer to this as your environmental norm. It includes cultural norms, workplace norms, and even the expectations of your social circle. Everyone has to decide the extent to which they want to conform to their environmental norm, or challenge it. Are you comfortable standing out, or do you prefer to blend in with the crowd? Maybe it’s a delicate balance of conforming and challenging. There is no right or wrong here, but it’s useful to acknowledge your environmental norm and factor it into your style decisions.

Budget

Although style is not a price tag, your budget will impact your style choices. Within your budget you can decide the size of your wardrobe, the rate at which you can refresh your style, and the amount you choose to spend per item and over time. Although your income level can definitely put a cap on your budget, I find that income and budget aren’t always directly related. Each of my clients is pretty unique in the way that they approach setting a budget for wardrobe purchases.

Storage Space

The size of your storage space affects the size of your wardrobe, which in turn can affect what you wear in a season, and what you can add to your wardrobe. Small storage spaces might find uniform dressing a practical solution, whereas larger storage spaces can add variety and quantity simply because they can store it.

It’s never too late to start thinking about how these factors impact your style. My clients differ greatly in their appetite for this sort of analysis. For some, it’s informal, more intuitive, and something we touch on briefly while we shop and create outfits. Others love the analysis of thinking about these factors in great detail and then mapping them to their current wardrobe and their shopping strategy.

Over the decades, my biggest challenge has been shopping for the right climate. I love Spring and Summer clothes, and have had the tendency to over-purchase that component of my wardrobe. This was very true when we first moved to Seattle, where the Summers are not overly hot. Even when I lived in hot and humid tropical countries, I would forget about arctic air conditioning and that I couldn’t layer over items with flouncy sleeves to keep warm. It also gets cold at night when you live by the coast, so you absolutely need warm toppers and boots too.

It’s taken me decades to get the climate factor right for my wardrobe. I have also become very aware of the other factors, and pay close attention to them. I’m finally in a good habit of fine-tuning them each season, which keeps my wardrobe and style focussed and fully functional. Practice makes perfect. Acknowledging and learning from my mistakes has been very helpful too.

Roundups

Hints of Spring

Some tried-and-tested winning items to refresh your style for Spring.

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Dressier Items

An assortment of dressier top picks might be just what the doctor ordered.

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Quiet Items

A range of items for Team Quiet Wardrobe Items.

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Items for Cooler Weather

A few top picks for Fall as we head into cooler weather.

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Hints of Fall

A list of top-pick sneakers, knitwear and toppers.

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Summer Sale Items

Here are some top pick sale items for hot days at home, working from home, or socially distancing out and about.

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How to Tie a Square Knot

Fifteen years ago I shared how I tie a square knot (or reef knot.) It bears repeating because it’s a simple and effective styling tool that, to my eye, makes quite the visual difference. It’s the type of knot you can use for tops, dresses, swimwear, and toppers that have ties that require knotting. The square knot is also ideal for neckerchiefs, scarves, and some face masks.

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The square knot is used extensively in fashion and style because it is visually decorative, stays put, looks neat and tidy, adds a professional touch, and the ends of the ties lie flat. I learned to tie it in the ‘70s as a Brownie Girl Scout. I clearly remember the instruction from our Brown Owl: “Right over left, and under. Left over right, and under. Pull, and tighten.”

Here’s a video that’s easy to follow, and there’s a very clear diagram on 101knots.com.

Reef Knot

If you need to make a symmetrical and professional looking bow – try tying a square knot first and then completing the normal steps involved in making a bow. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it makes the bow too bulky. It depends on the fabric and size of the bow.

I am a square knot devotee, and style my clients with square knots. How about you?

Weekly Roundup: Spring and Summer

The weather in Seattle at this time of year is temperamental. It’s stormy cold rain and wind one day, and beautifully mild and sunny the next. It can feel like having three seasons in one day, which makes dressing for the day harder. Layers work well, but sometimes you have to change into something breezier or more insulating. This week’s roundup reflects our variable Spring weather.

Lots of these items have been winners on clients and friends recently, and I’m trying a few items myself. Some items are on sale. Browse the colours and size options. Read the reviews for an alternative opinion to mine.

  • Nine West Printed Knot-Front Midi Dress: This type of twist-front-knot detailing works very well on a range of body types because it nips you in at a narrow part of the torso, and glides over the rest. Great on those who wear V-necks well. Easy, comfy, classic, and elegant.
  • Jeffrey Campbell Sorbonne Penny Loafer: Trendy '90s loafers that come in black and cream. For those who don't have fussy feet and enjoy square toes.
  • Tommy Hilfiger Military Band Jacket: A fab KNITTED military jacket that comes in several colours. Great on a curvier body type because it nips you in at the waist and moulds to the contour of the body. The grey comes in plus sizes.
  • AllSaints Fiona Strappy Sandal: These look better on your feet than in the stock photo. Dainty, elegant, soft and comfortable. Not good for wider feet or pinky toes that fall out of sandals. No back zipper either.
  • Cole Haan Modern Classics Loafer: I love a dressy, classic, and beautifully made loafer and have become a Cole Haan fan. Apart from pants and jeans, I wear them with dresses and skirts as a dressier option to fashion sneakers. These come in several colours and in even more on Zappos. The suede options are softer than the regular leather. I committed to a pink pair. They run wide for my narrow feet, but insoles help take up the extra space. The horsey bit hardware is in line with my horse-loving self.
  • Vionic Jacey Wedge: Sporty Ballet Flat Fabness. Excellent arch support and comfort, and is good on a higher volume foot. The wedge offers a nice little lift for those who prefer to wear heels.
  • Esprit Trui met ronde hals van 100% biologisch katoen: (Find this style on an Esprit site in a language that you understand). A lovely organic cotton sweater that works well on a larger bust. Pretty lantern sleeves. Comes in a rich blue red. Can work well for skirts.
  • Cole Haan Caddie Bow Loafer: These salmon darlings are very clean and pretty on the foot and come in several neutrals and an air force blue. Very comfy, soft, well-made, and run wide for low-volume feet. I sized down half a size to temper their wideness and it worked. Enough room for my toes. Mine are white to replace a battered wardrobe essential.
  • STITCHDROP Draped Tie-Dye Maxi Tank Dress: Architectural Tie-Dye Fabness. Beyond body type and very breezy. Might need to size down. Good as a beach and pool cover-up too.
  • Ecco Soft 7 Sneaker: If you're a Soft 7 ECCO sneaker fan like me, and enjoy wearing muddy calming shades like mauve - try this. I have made the style work well for my low-volume feet in other colours by adding two cushioning insoles that take up excess width.
  • Ecco Soft 7 Wedge Sneaker: A comfy and trendy sneaker for wider feet. Wedge heel adds a bit of height. Comes in black. Pretty and crisp white sole.
  • Ecco Soft 7 Street Sneaker: A comfy and classic sneaker for wider feet. The olive is particularly unique but comes in black and white.
  • 1822 Denim Paperbag Waist Twill Ankle Pants: A paperbag waist style with a shorter rise. It's mid instead of high rise, which is a tall order at the moment. Comes in black. Good price.
  • Esprit Enkellange, modieuze jeans met biologisch katoen: (Find this style on an Esprit site in a language that you understand). Inge has these relaxed straights that border on balloon jeans and they look KILLER on her. Roomy yet structured in all the right places. High in the rise. Great on Team Tall.
  • Anne Klein Stripe Boat Neck Top: A classic breton in a luxe viscose blend that feels lovely against the skin. The envelope boat neck is very neat and clean. Runs big.
  • Zadig & Voltaire Bella Cotton Tee: The slogan speaks for itself!
  • KOBI HALPERIN Anya Silk Blouse - 100% Exclusive: A pretty silk blouse that works well on a larger bust, shorter neck, and apple-shaped body type. The volume is tempered by the soft drape of the silk that collapses back onto the body. Great with black bottoms or accents.
  • Qi New York Recycled Geometric Print High Low Long Blouse: For those who like to wear tunics over black leggings or skinnies, try this arty and graphic natural fibre beauty. It's made with recycled viscose derived from certified renewable wood sources using an eco-responsible production process. Check out the other light neutral option.
  • Madewell Paperclip Chain Necklace: A fun paperclip necklace that comes in silver, and can be doubled up around the neck.
  • Vince Camuto Flecks Drape Tank: A tank tunic for Team Curvy V-Neck that might run a little big. The asymmetrical hem is flattering and interesting. Great layered under jackets and cardigans too.
  • Nic + Zoe Riviera Botanic Floral Button-Up Shirt: A festive shirt with some waist definition to make it look polished yet feel breezy. Great on Team Tall and size down.
  • M&S Collection Pure Linen Floral Shirt: A linen shirt in a very fresh and crisp floral for Team Classic Blue and White.
  • London Fog Hooded Raincoat: A mint trench coat without a belt is a rare find, and this one has a lovely back pleat. Runs big.
  • Theory SL SHIRTDRESS.SPRING: A very breezy linen dress for hot and humid weather if ever there was one. Sack-like, unstructured, and you have to be at peace with the crease. It has a '90s integrity that brings back fond memories. It’s the most perfect dress for high heat sans a/c. Very pretty and elegant despite the lack of structure, although it has a back tie for a little shaping. I LOVE IT!
  • Cole Haan 4.ZeroGrand Penny Loafer: Sporty loafers that make you feel like you're walking on clouds. Works for wider feet, and might run a little long. Too wide for low volume feet. Click the link to check the other fun colours.
  • Trotters Avrille Sneaker: This easy and comfy pull-on sneaker comes in widths, black and animal print.
  • Cole Haan Women's Portia Loafer Flat: I unexpectedly got these, which work perfectly with an old Furla handbag in the same shade of light blue. They are NOT for higher volume feet. They fit my low-volume feet perfectly with an extra insole to take up width. Very neat, pretty and comfy on the foot.
  • Cole Haan ZeroGrand Stitchlite Oxford: Cole Haan has been making this hybrid oxford sneaker for years, and it's an ongoing hit with my clients across a range of foot shapes. Comfy, polished, lots of colours, and more robust than it looks. Fits an orthotic.
  • CeCe V-Neck Knit Midi Dress: Ruffled Black Knitted Dress Fabness. Breezy yet structured, and flattering.
  • Munro Souki Sandal: Clean, crisp, classic, comfortable, and comes in three neutrals and across three widths. Euro Chic.
  • Karen Kane Boat Neck Tie Front Top: This rayon top is fab on a larger bust. The roomy diagonal sleeves are breezy and flattering. Good on Team Short Waisted. Great to wear with casual skirts and shorts. Comes in red and white, and is sustainably produced in the US.

You can see the items alongside my descriptions on the collection page.

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