Happy haze

Our flat
Living/dining room of our flat.

We are settling in to our new (temporary) life here in London, and everything—commuting to the office on the Tube, buying groceries at Waitrose, strolling around our neighborhood—feels surreal, as if we were suspended in this magical and yet very domestic dreamworld.

Guion bought himself a guitar yesterday, so he’s certainly feeling more whole.

Walking around the neighborhood on day one

Our flat is a short walk to the magnificent Regents Park. We walked there on Sunday in a jetlagged haze but still enjoyed all that it had to offer.

Regents Park on day oneRegents Park on day oneRegents Park on day one

Other mental notes from the first few days:

  • Working in the financial district makes me feel the most like I’m in New York but otherwise, the cities seem to bear little cultural resemblance to each other. The underground, for one, is incredibly quiet and neat. No one is singing or panhandling or talking on the phone or eating pizza. Everyone is stoic and discreet and perhaps a little on edge.
  • Everything is expensive.
  • A classic trench coat was a good purchase, and women here actually do wear them all the time.
  • The other thing all women seem to be wearing are these slim, black-and-white Nike trainers. I think every fifth woman I pass is wearing a pair. (I brought slim, black-and-white New Balance sneakers, so I am decidedly off trend.)
  • It is all very charming and part of me feels guilty about how emotionally easy the cultural transition has been. I expected it to be harder? More jarring? And maybe it will be, as we’re only a few days in…

View of St. Paul's

Can’t you see us bashing around London

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We shove off for our summer in London at the end of this week. After anticipating this brief journey for almost two years now, it feels hard to believe that it is time to go. And we will miss our life in Charlottesville, especially our dear friends, our pups (who will be having a ball at with Juju and TT in Davidson), and our garden.

I am excited about all of the glories that London offers a former English major (and a Woolf acolyte, especially), but I also looking forward to the mundane, domestic aspects too, such as pretending to be a local for a few months: taking the Tube to and from work, acquainting myself with office life, and getting to know our neighborhood.

I hope to post more regularly here with travel notes and photos. Until then, insert some insufferable British farewell here!

(Oh, Teddy, I’m not fashionable enough for London.)

On eating that which is real (and being relaxed about it)

Haricots with chevre

Americans never adopt fads lightly. When we take up a cause, we commit and we go to the extreme. Moderation is a virtue that we never seem to have much needed in the United States of America. Be it the size of our homes and cars, the depth and breadth of our reality TV, our fervent denial of climate change, or our mass accumulation of guns, we do nothing on a small scale. We take on nothing lightly. Nowhere does this tendency seem more clear to me than our current obsession with food.

We could talk about how enormously fat Americans are, which is true, but I am interested in the other side of the spectrum, where people are fixated on healthy food, where we consider ourselves holy because we have not (yet) slipped into obesity. It’s one pole or the other for me and my fellow patriots: Either we wantonly stuff ourselves full to bursting with tasty processed substances or we piously nibble on quinoa patties and congratulate ourselves on our freezer full of free-range, locally butchered delicacies.

Eating the right things has become a class-conscious mania that notably afflicts the middle- and upper-class, who can afford to eat well (which is in itself a terrible injustice). In lieu of humble-bragging about our legitimate virtues, we preen over our organic, local, free-range, grain-free choices at Whole Foods, and we impute it to ourselves as righteousness.* (*Side note: Concept lifted from this great/ruckus-raising sermon by Dave Zahl.)

I am as guilty of this natural-food worship as the next person. I too got fired up years ago when Food, Inc. came out. I too read all of Michael Pollan’s books and attended my farmers’ markets faithfully. I too became a vegetarian for a solid week after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I too believe that it is certainly better to support small-scale farming and to ingest organic food.

But for me, lately, the sheen of this fad has been dimming.

You can’t ask anyone over to dinner anymore without first inquiring about all of their dietary restrictions. Remembering your friends’ food aversions has become as culturally important as remembering their birthdays. Mothers self-flagellate if they don’t feed their children 100% organic, locally grown meals. Whole Foods denizens seem to have abandoned the joy of cooking and eating in exchange for the joy of self-congratulatory nutritional piety.

We eat not to enjoy food but to brag about its origin to our friends or anyone within earshot.

It’s getting out of hand.

I’ve been inspired to think about this loss of “real eating,” while reading the late, great Robert Farrar Capon’s delightfully bizarre book about food and faith, The Supper of the Lamb. As Capon says, considering a man who is obsessed by nutritional fads and rejecting food for the sake of his diet:The Supper of the Lamb

To begin with, real eating will restore his sense of the festivity of being. Food does not exist merely for the sake of its nutritional value. To see it so is only to knuckle under still further to the desubstantialization of man, to regard not what things are, but what they mean to us—to become, in short, solemn idolaters spiritualizing what should be loved as matter. A man’s daily meal ought to be an exultation over the smack of desirability which lies at the roots of creation. To break real bread is to break the loveless hold of hell upon the world, and, by just that much, to set the secular free.

—Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb

A touch dramatic, yes, but I take his point heartily.

(As an aside, I am looking forward to taking a page from the Europeans this summer, especially the French, who seem to have perfected the artful seesaw between moderation and indulgence in eating. Both seem to be necessary for a full, happy life.)

If I may bastardize the Gospel of Matthew:

And when you eat organic kale, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to eat organic kale standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you eat organic kale, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Eat real food and enjoy it. Divorce guilt from eating. Share food, not food judgments, with others, and be thankful.

There is no person without a world

Pink dogwood
View from the living room.

By all accounts, spring has been emotionally tumultuous for us, but I feel like we are now on firmer ground. The sun shines on a regular basis, even if the wind blows cold.

Things that bring me joy these days:

  • Those dogwoods
  • Anne Carson
  • Planning our little excursions from London (I love booking places to stay but I hate booking flights; I make Guion do that)
  • Not thinking about the election
  • Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Taking on the write_on challenge again this year
  • Preparing my packing list for the summer and scheming about how minimalist I can make my wardrobe
  • A silk pillowcase
  • Post-work walks with the pups
  • Guion’s face
  • Throwing or giving possessions away
  • Broad City, always and forever Broad City
  • Chopping my hair off again (see sleepy proof of second-day, less curly hair below)

(c) abby farson pratt

“I like the feeling of words doing as they want to do and as they have to do.” — Gertrude Stein

Easter and family

A good portion of my family came to see us on Easter weekend — to celebrate birthdays, to labor in our yard, and to provide general merriment. I can’t get over how much fun these people are sometimes. I felt like my Gran when they returned to their respective homes. She, normally of the stoic and sarcastic temperament, would always turn her face and cry a little when family left. This is what I did for a moment on Sunday afternoon, but I know we’ll see each other again soon. (And, ideally, in Europe.)

Spring is finally here, and I am grateful.

Easter 2016The big project: Adding pea gravel to our little fenced garden area. We will eventually add two more raised beds, but we wanted to go ahead and finish the gravel before we depart for the summer.

Before:

Easter 2016

And after:

Easter 2016Easter 2016Didn’t the boys do a marvelous job? I’m so happy with how it turned out. To finish it up, I want to find some low-growing, flowering perennials to put around the edges.

Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016

And now for something frivolous

10 things I am currently loving in my face routine.

1. Diorskin Nude Air Serum

I think this is what I have been looking for all my life. This tinted serum provides sufficient coverage and SPF 15, and it goes on like silk (not at all heavy or cake-y). Mom treated me to this at Christmas, and it’s a sincere delight. $53 at Sephora.

2. Boots Botanics Organic Facial Oil

It took me many years, but I have finally come to understand that my face was producing excess oil because I was not moisturizing properly. Now that I finally have that cycle under control, my skin has never looked better. And I am all about some organic face oil. This stuff is extremely affordable, and that little bottle lasts forever, and it makes your skin feel like velvet at night. $7 at Target.

3. Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon

Apparently, I have greasy eyelids, and eyeliner is always smudged right under my brows, which makes me batty/annoyed. I have been on the hunt for a long-lasting, non-smearing eyeliner, and I found it in two products—this, and no. 4 below—and I’m never going back. This one is particularly easy to apply and worth the price. $25 at Sephora.

4. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner

It has been an adjustment for me to acquire a steadier hand, to apply this eyeliner from a pot with a thin angled brush, but I am loving it as well, and this stuff really does not budge all day long. Also very much worth the price. $26 at Sephora.

5. Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Natural Lipstick (N9 Copper Pink–Satin)

This is a glorious shade of lipstick, so glorious that I cannot describe its color in words (a sumptuous vision of a tawny rose), except that it makes me feel like a pulled-together goddess when I wear it. I got it as a Sephora sample a year ago, used it up entirely, and then had to buy it for myself. I wear it all the time. $20 at Sephora.

6. Yes to Coconuts Lip Balm

Yes To Coconuts Naturally Smooth Lip Balm - 0.15 oz

I’m going to share a bit of personal blasphemy, but I am just not that into Burt’s Bees anymore. I don’t think its widely touted lip balms are that great; they are not long-lasting, and I think their formula actually irritates my lips. Enter this magical little product by the “Yes To” line, which works wonders for me, especially in the winter months. This is a daily staple in my life nowadays. $2.99 at Target.

7. Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer

Aveeno® Positively Radiant® Daily Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 15- 4 Oz

Drugstore staple! No complaints here. This is just a great moisturizer for daily use; it’s not greasy, it soaks into skin swiftly, and it has SPF coverage. What’s not to like? Guion and I share a bottle, and we’re both very happy about it. $13 at Target.

8. Sumbody Body Butter

Body Butter Pot - Tropical Delight

Not sure why it took me so long to try straight shea butter, but this stuff is magic (discovered in a Birchbox sample, actually). So deeply moisturizing! My skin is soft all day long. I now regard shea butter as some kind of delightful witchcraft. Birchbox sells a trio for $23, or you can buy them individually for $7.95 each from Sumbody.

9. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

As an avid reader of Into the Gloss, I have been utterly pleased by their release of their own line of skin care and makeup. (I’m especially excited about Phase 2.) This is a great, very lightweight “tint” for the skin; it’s lighter than even a BB cream, which makes it so easy to apply in a flash, especially if you are having a “good” skin day and don’t need much coverage. It also seems to be naturally somewhat moisturizing, so I don’t feel like I need to pile on some face cream before applying. $26 at Glossier.

10. Tocca Stella perfume

This is the best perfume. Really and truly. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s somehow both spicy and complex and alluring without being too powdery or flowery. $34 to $68 at Sephora.

Previously: Beauty products I was into in 2014

(I am not a famous blogger and therefore no company asked me to say any of these nice things about their products. Yes, I am praising these cosmetic items out of the goodness of my heart.)

Lucy

My beloved grandmother passed away on 28 February. Following is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral on 5 March.

Young LucyAs we remember the bright and beautiful life of Mary Lucy Land Johnson—known by most as Lucy and known to me as Ma-Maw—it is important to note, up front, that her primary love language was baked goods. Pies, specifically. And cakes. Not many years ago, while she was battling cancer, in the course of an afternoon, she made twenty-two cranberry pies to give to friends and to the oncology nurses and staff at the hospital. Twenty-two pies! In a day. Her strawberry cake and her three-layer cream cheese pineapple cake were family staples. As you all probably know, Lucy was a true Southern woman who knew that one of the swiftest ways to love people was through food. And we can all confirm, she certainly made outstanding food. And more than that, she made her family and friends feel deeply loved and cared for throughout her life.

Lucy’s loving nature is what we will all remember her for. I think most of us would be hard-pressed to name another person who was as constantly brimming with hospitality and generosity as she was. Her sweet and incandescent smile, spreading over her high cheekbones and fabulously, miraculously youthful skin, will not soon fade from our collective memories.

Mary Lucy Land was born on April 26, 1931, to Clarice Fulcher Land and Harry Lynwood Land. She was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and though she lived most of her adult life in North Carolina, Virginia always held a very special place in her heart. When my husband and I were considering moving to Charlottesville, Virginia, she told me, “I prayed about it, and God told me that you should move to Virginia. It is, after all, God’s country.” She said in the secretive but confident voice of one who most likely had a direct line to God, which I believe she did.

She was raised on her grandparents’ farm in Amherst, Virginia, after her father died when she was 3. Her Aunt Mabel and Uncle Teap took care of her and one of her siblings while their mother supported the family—including Lucy and her older sister, Dot, and their two brothers, Elburn and Allan—by teaching in a one-room schoolhouse.

Lucy was a fun-loving and independent girl, and she used to delight my sisters and I with tales of her (admittedly minor) teenage rebellions. Her mother, a devout Baptist, forbade Lucy and her sister, Dot, from wearing any makeup, so Lucy would sneak a tube of red lipstick in the pocket of her dress and put it on while she walked to school and then be sure to remember to wipe it off on her walk home. Lucy was also tough and energetic, and she served as captain of her high school basketball team—a fact that always impressed us grandkids mightily.

After high school, she followed her sister Dot to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she took business classes and worked for an insurance company. In Charlotte, she and Dot lived with a fun-loving group of single women who called themselves “Girls’ Town.”

It was there in Charlotte that she met a tall, handsome young gentleman by the name of Edwin Rushing Johnson, or Pete, at St. John’s Baptist Church. Another suitor had asked Lucy on a date, but she turned him down, saying, “No way; you are too short.” But then she pointed to Pete across the room and said, “But he is tall enough!” Soon, Pete and Lucy started sitting together in the balcony during Sunday services. Pete was so nervous to be next to the lovely Lucy Land during church that he would gallantly hold the hymnal for her—but upside down. And then they could be found chatting at ice cream socials and so on. Pete and Lucy started dating, and he would take her out every weekend he was home from Wofford College.

On September 5, 1953, Pete and Lucy were married at St. John’s by their beloved Dr. Claude Broach. Pete and Lucy were members of St. John’s for 30 years and then were faithful members for another 30 years at First Baptist Church of Albemarle.

covermaybeI won’t be able to make it to the end of this speech if I have to tell you about all of the ways that Pete and Lucy have demonstrated true love. So, suffice it to say, this was a marriage that we could all strive to emulate. The most significant lesson about love that I have learned from my grandparents is that there can be joy in sacrifice. They loved each other tirelessly, but they were always full of light and humor when they were together. Pete and Lucy were extremely generous with one another, but they also had a lot of FUN too. Watching them interact with and care for each other in these difficult past few years has been enough to break your heart but then heal it again—to realize that such a transcendental and holy love is actually possible on earth.  All of their lives, Pete and Lucy were tender and kind to one another. Yes, I am sure they squabbled from time to time—they were not perfect, but I think they came pretty close to it.

Pete and Lucy had three children: Mary Elizabeth, now Betsy Almond; Teresa Lynn, now Teresa Farson, who is also my mother; and Edwin Rushing Jr., also known as Rush. They delighted in Betsy, Teresa, and Rush, and I have to say, from my vantage point, Pete and Lucy did a pretty commendable job raising their children. Each one of them reflects their mother in a variety of ways. Betsy has Lucy’s fun, playful spirit and unflinching devotion to her family members; Teresa has Lucy’s deeply sacrificial nature and her tremendous gift of hospitality; and Rush has her gentleness and love of tradition and family values.

Pete and Lucy with baby Mary Elizabeth (Betsy)After the kids were grown, Pete and Lucy moved to Norwood, to a beautiful Victorian house with gingerbread trim and a wraparound porch, right on Lake Tillery. They began attending First Baptist Church, where she volunteered with the church youth group and started the Fifth Sunday Luncheon. She also started working at the Cheer Shop at Stanly County Hospital, where she worked and volunteered for 25 years. Lucy also created and organized the hospital’s fundraising winter ball for years.

Pete and Lucy traveled all over the world together, often with Pete’s brother Joe and his wife, Suzanne. They especially loved Europe and visited France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, just to name a few. They even went to Morocco together, which I, for one, find very impressive. They took a cruise to Alaska and drove cross-country across Canada and the United States. During their cross-country treks, they would bring their famous giant white styrofoam coolers, and Lucy would carefully pack the coolers full of food and sandwiches to minimize the amount of time that they would have to stop.

On one of their favorite trips, they took the Orient Express across Europe with Joe and Suzanne and Pete’s eldest sister, Lib. It was Lucy’s birthday, and Pete had told the chef that she loved chocolate and raspberries. The chef brought out a giant silver platter with this enormous chocolate mousse and raspberry confection, and they all ate it so quickly that everyone felt queasy afterward. But Lucy maintained it was all worth it.

Lucy was an excellent seamstress throughout her life. She’d create Easter dresses for the girls, without patterns sometimes, and if you ever had a need for homemade drapes or quilts or fancy bedskirts, Lucy was your girl. She loved arts and crafts; whatever was in vogue, Lucy was crafting it.

She also had a powerful obsession with rabbits. She started collecting rabbit figurines and bunny paraphernalia in adulthood, and over the decades, she amassed a remarkable collection. When I was a little girl, I was looking for something to do while at Ma-Maw and Da-Dan’s house, and so I decided to catalog all of the rabbits. I went from room to room with a pad of paper and counted all of the rabbits, and after about an hour, I had my grand total: 425 rabbits. Yes. In one house.

She loved shoes and frequently lamented her extremely narrow feet. She also loved putting together the perfect outfit. An “outfit” was an important sartorial construct for Lucy, and I loved that about her. Clothes were a carefully selected uniform, which communicated how much she cared about being with people and social events; she picked out the perfect lavender blouse to go with the white slacks and topped it off with her favorite bird’s nest brooch, and then she was ready for society. I don’t have to tell you that she always looked fabulous.

Lucy also probably singlehandedly kept her local Hallmark store in business. I think this may have been one of the only things that she and Da-Dan ever quarrelled about: how much money she spent on greeting cards. She loved the art of the emotionally perfect greeting card. Every year, at every birthday and holiday, we’d all get carefully chosen cards, each one with a sweet and personalized message from Ma-Maw and pertinent phrases meticulously underlined.

MM and Sam, boatingI would like to say that you have not known truly unconditional love on this earth unless you either (a) own a dog or (b) are one of Lucy Johnson’s grandchildren. Fellow grandkids, isn’t it remarkable to note that, in Ma-Maw’s eyes, we have never, ever done anything wrong? According to her, we are sinless! We used to joke that Ma-Maw could have ended the Iraq war if we had told her that Saddam Hussein had insulted one of her grandkids; she would have taken care of him swiftly.

She adored her children and doted on her 10 grandchildren: From Betsy, Matt came first, and then from Betsy and Jeff, Emily; from my parents, Teresa and Jak, there’s me, Kelsey, Grace, and Sam; and then from Rush and Cindi, Hunter, Pete, Parker, and Mary Elizabeth. If you ever visited Pete and Lucy in Norwood, you may have seen what we called “the Grandkids’ Shrine.” It was a big round table in the formal living room that had dozens of photos of the 10 grandkids at every stage of life. Although I can attest that we grandkids are all far from flawless, in Ma-Maw’s eyes, we were never anything but perfect.

One of Lucy’s many gifts was making people in her life feel special and cherished, especially on their birthdays and on holidays.

Grandparents through Grace's lensShe loved celebrating holidays and had an impressive store of decorations for her house at every major event. At Valentine’s Day, there were chocolates and hearts; at Easter, there were elegant baskets for everyone filled with candy and gifts, and a dainty “Easter tree” that we’d help her decorate with tiny, fragile egg and bunny ornaments; they hosted their famous annual Fourth of July gathering at the lake, and we kids would spend hours in the water and then everyone would gather to eat at tables on their wraparound porch. And then Christmas—Christmas was her magnum opus. She pulled out all the stops for Christmas. There was an immaculately decorated tree, seasonal food (a birthday cake for Jesus; Ruby Red grapefruit juice, sausage & egg casserole, and English muffins for breakfast; beef tenderloin for dinner), and piles and piles of presents. My brother Sam always liked to say that Christmas lived at Ma-Maw and Da-Dan’s house, and that was in large part due to Ma-Maw working her holiday magic.

For many years, when we grandkids were young, Ma-Maw and Da-Dan would have us stay with them for a weekend on our birthdays. We looked forward to those visits so much; we were treated like little kings and queens. We got to go shopping with Ma-Maw; she’d dress us girls up and curl our hair; and then we’d play by the lake or go fishing with Da-Dan. We were served unlimited cake and cartoons, and we never wanted to go home at the end of the weekend. She loved playing with us and talking to us about our interests. I think she saved every little scribble and drawing that we ever made at her house. She was perpetually involved in our lives—sending us cards and letters and care packages when we were away at school—and coming to see us whenever we came back into town.

Grandparents through Grace's lensAnd she was never one to pass up a good time with her family; on a memorable day many years ago, we even convinced her to play street hockey with the grandkids. She ended up getting checked by a feisty granddaughter (I won’t name names) but popped right up and was very brave and cheerful about the whole incident, despite the fact that she chipped a tooth and had a black eye. In typical Ma-Maw fashion, while she was being nursed on the sofa, she suddenly sprang up and said, “Oh, but I have to go make the coleslaw!”

We who have been fortunate enough to know Lucy Johnson will continue to reflect her in our lives. A person cannot help but be radically changed by receiving that kind of unconditional love. She will not soon fade from our memories, and I pray that we can honor her by showing each other even just a fraction of the kind of love and hospitality that she lavished on us. We all remember her with grateful and humble hearts.

Style icon: Amirah

Style icon: Amirah

One of the first things I noticed about Amirah, aside from her bright eyes, was her persistently perfectly selected lip colors. That, and she always looked dressed to either host a gallery opening or dance at a discothèque. Regardless, I’m delighted to feature her in the Style Icon series!

Amirah lives in London, where she works at Good Business, a boutique consulting firm. I’m grateful to Grace for introducing us, and I’m looking forward to sharing lots of gelato with Amirah this summer when we’re living in London. So, take it away!

How would you describe your personal style?

Slouchy structured. I think a lot about my silhouette and tend toward loose and boxy tops and dresses that don’t (I hope!) look shapeless. Same with trousers and skirts. I prefer structured over flowy or billowy, and though I often wear slim or skinny trousers, I very rarely wear an outfit that is totally fitted — I find it too restricting.

I’m also a huge fan of prints and pops of colour. Grace has said the things I wear look like they belong in a museum, and another friend has compared my style to “going to a different exhibition every day.” I think this is because I’m often drawn to things that other people would never try on because the shape is a little unconventional or the print “too loud.”

I also like to think my style is pretty consistent. Pretty much everything I wear is smart casual, and (much to my mother’s chagrin) I will wear the same clothes and makeup (often just a bright lipstick) whether I’m going to the office, to lunch with friends or “out” in the evening. I don’t really know how to dress “up” or “down.”

Style icon: Amirah

Has your personal style changed over the years? If so, why do you think it changed?

It definitely has! I’ve always been drawn to prints and the silhouettes, but I think I’ve gotten better at putting things together, and over time, my style has evolved into something more consistent.

The change has mostly come from being forced to purge my wardrobe regularly as I’ve moved around a lot over the past four years. Keeping a wardrobe of only things I love and wear relatively often has also made me a better shopper. Before, I would enter a shop and walk out with lots of impulse buys that seemed like good value, whereas now, I decide what I’m looking for (down to specifics like colour and cut) and try not to settle for less than what I’m imagining in my head. I will now also only buy something I can see easily working with things I already own.

Style icon: Amirah
What do you hope you communicate by what you choose to wear?

Perhaps something similar to what I hope to communicate when I talk to someone: that I’m open-minded but have a point of view, that I notice the details, that I’m able to blend in but not afraid to stand out.

What are some crucial pieces of your current wardrobe? Items you wouldn’t feel complete without?
  1. My black ankle boots. I’ve worn them every day since I got them (on sale!) a few months ago. They’re from Geox’s Ambhiox range, which means they’re totally waterproof (not just water repellent), and they’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned even though they have three-inch heels.
  2. Besame Lipstick in Red Hot Red. My new favorite red lipstick; it’s matte and pigmented and super moisturizing.
  3. My collection of printed trousers.
Style icon: Amirah

What is your most recent purchase?

Ladder resist tights from M&S. They are amazing! I’ve worn them four times at this point, and they still haven’t yet laddered which is a record for me.

Is there anything you’re on the hunt for right now?

A warm scarf that isn’t too long or too heavy and doesn’t make my hair staticky. Also slim (not skinny!), well-fit high-waisted black jeans.

Style icon: Amirah
Who are some of your style icons?

Iris Apfel. Keira Knightly’s character in Begin Again. My friend Noam for her consistency. My friend Lina for her elegance. Grace for her ability to wear anything well.

Style icon: Amirah
What do you most notice or admire in a well-dressed person?

My mama has always said, “It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it,” and I have come to agree.

I think being well-dressed is less about having the best good individual pieces (though of course having great pieces helps!) and more about combining them into an outfit that makes you look and feel comfortable and confident.

Thanks so much, Amirah! Delighted to feature you, and I’m excited to see you this summer.

Previously in the series: Grace.

Style icon: Grace

Style icon: Grace

I can’t think of a better person to inaugurate my Style Icon series than my perpetually stylish baby sister Grace.

After living in a variety of places around the world (most recently in Kathmandu) for the past few years, Grace now makes her home in Berlin. She is an accomplished videographer and photographer and a licensed yoga instructor.

She was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions and sending me some photos of herself and her wardrobe. So, take it away, Poodle!

Style icon: Grace

How would you describe your personal style?

Someone once said my style was sorta sporty/structured, and I think that is pretty accurate. I wear yoga pants most days and love jackets and drapey stuff too.

Style icon: Grace

Has your personal style changed over the years? If so, why do you think it changed?

I’ve always worn a good deal of black, even when I was younger and now (apart from maybe four colored things in my whole wardrobe, it is all I wear). Shopping is easy now, and when I see a rack of clothes, I just go to the black ones, and if I don’t see anything I like, then I leave. Texture is really important and always has been to me. When I was little, my mom couldn’t take me to fabric stores because I would have to touch every fabric sample… few things change. These days, I love leather, velvet, and lace.

What do you hope you communicate by what you choose to wear?

I find pleasure in getting dressed, and I hope that comes across. How I feel in my clothes is more important than what people think.

Style icon: Grace

What are some crucial pieces of your current wardrobe? Items you wouldn’t feel complete without?

My fuzzy black sweater, my Doc Marten Chelsea boots, my grandma’s necklaces, my silver earrings from Nepal, and my numerous pairs of black leggings and jeans.

Style icon: Grace

What is your most recent purchase?

A pair of black wool socks…it’s cold in Berlin!

Style icon: Grace

Is there anything you’re on the hunt for right now?

A practical leather wallet. I’ve always carried my small, black magic wallet with me everywhere I go, but here I use cash and coins frequently.

Style icon: Grace

Who are some of your style icons?

For me, my style icons are seriously scattered, and they often include places and how I feel in those places: Rishikesh, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Florence… But there are also some people too: Erin Wasson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Tilda Swinton, Amirah Jiwa, Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Style icon: Grace

What do you most notice or admire in a well-dressed person?

Cool, casual confidence. I truly admire people who dress with great confidence and who also don’t take themselves too terribly seriously. Getting dressed should be fun, and my definition of someone who is well-dressed is someone who is simultaneously creative and laid-back. I also admire people who can apply and wear makeup well (I know nothing about makeup and envy those who do).

Gran's Memorial in Ohio

Merci, Gracie! Such fun to read about your sense of style, which has always been distinct, even when you were tiny. More in the series to come (I hope!).

On wearing a uniform

Coco Chanel:
Coco Chanel and a Great Dane.

I’ve realized that the well-dressed people I most admire wear uniforms. Emmanuelle Alt has her black stilettos, jeans, and white shirts. Jeanne Damas is always tucking shirts and sweaters into high-waisted pants. Giorgia Tordini can WORK some menswear, and hence usually does (I’m more than a bit in love with her). Grace only wears black now. Jonathan wears black and white.

Such people have a very specific, recognizable, and definable personal style. This interests me deeply. I think this is what people mean when they say that someone has “great style” — it’s concrete and identifiable; it does not bend to the seasonal whim of sartorial trends.

A uniform is certainly an appealing concept. It is not surprising that the article Matilda Kahl wrote for Harper’s, “Why I Wear the Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day,” sparked such a frenzy of internet interest. We take people who wear uniforms seriously. It appeals to our deep need to feel orderly and distilled in our daily life.

But what does this mean for someone like me, who is neither (a) courageous enough to wear the same thing to work every day nor (b) inherently gifted in the art of choosing and wearing clothes?

Some thoughts about this dilemma and my desire to be uniform:

  1. Name what I like and why. Continue to fall into that visual rabbit hole that is Pinterest (with which I am unabashedly in love). Study well-dressed people. Take note of why I keep pinning the same images and over and over again. It turns out that I am a perennial sucker for a woman in (a) button-down shirt and (b) a classic men’s shoe. Be exceptionally clear about what I like and dislike.
  2. Continue to edit out pieces that do not fit my concept of my uniform. I think I have now successfully accomplished this, as I no longer own any bright colors, flashy prints,
  3. Wear and use what I have. I do not need more things. I have checked off some of the more expensive staples from my wish list this year (silk shirts, cashmere sweaters), and they should ideally last a long time. I am set. Say this to myself and believe it.
  4. Talk to stylish people and glean their wisdom. I like doing this anyway, but I want to do it in a more structured, disciplined way. I am hoping to feature a few of these people here in the weeks and months to come, so stay tuned.

If I had to shape a daily work uniform from what I already own, I think it would be this:

  • Three-quarter-sleeve gray crewneck sweater from J.Crew (similar)
  • Black trousers from Gap, which I had tailored many years ago and now wear once a week (similar)
  • Black blazer from Forever21, which I am super-ashamed to admit, but it’s actually great and I wear it all the time and it was $15 please don’t hate me I haven’t shopped there in years and never will again (similar)
  • Black Everlane loafers, my dream shoe

Here it is! I am proud of how bad this collage is and how decidedly un-cool-lady-blogger it is.

Little Stories bad collage

How about you? Do you ever think about this? What garments would compose your daily uniform?