About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Fashion

Kissed by the Universe

Alber

I suspect the Universe is always smiling on us, and pulling for us–but I’d be the first to admit, it doesn’t always feel that way. This past week, though, I felt like the Universe was not only smiling, but blew me a kiss.

A little over a week ago, I was experiencing a delay, and cast about in my mind for tasks I’d been putting off to a more convenient moment. I remembered that I hadn’t bought any clothes in more than 6 months, not even a pair of socks, and that I’d been noticing I needed some tops.

I surfed over to a discount site, and checked out the work of my favorite designer, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, the oldest fashion house still operating today–founded by a woman, Jeanne Lanvin, and owned by a woman today, Shaw-Lan Wang. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a beautiful teal silk dress I’d pinned on Pinterest last summer, just one left, in my size, at a very deep discount!

Lanvin dress

Reader, I ordered it. It arrived last night, and it fits beautifully. Alber Elbaz has said he thinks about what a woman wants to hide, and what it is she loves about herself–and may I say very few people involved with the clothes I try on seem to do that!–and that thought process shows when I put on this dress. Take just one feature, the sleeves, for example … the bottom of the sleeve is like a bell sleeve, but at the top, the fabric is origami-folded and stitched down to show the shoulders, but still feels like a sleeve, so comfortable. It reveals without feeling revealing. It’s unlike anything I’ve worn or seen, and I think it’s pure genius.

And that is why I feel kissed by the Universe.

The practical among you may be noting that a dress is not a top, and of course, you’re quite right. I was looking for a dressy one as well as a casual one, and this dress will serve some of the same purposes as the dressy top I had in mind. (This dress was also made as a blouse, but one has to be open to receiving a kiss from the Universe in the form of a blouse with a skirt attached!) I’ve also ordered a sweater that I haven’t received yet.

And I think that when you enjoy something, and when you bring a good energy to it, it shows in the product. I mean, I think that we create what we are. Basically, when we are sad, we create sad, when we are happy, we create happy, and when we are miserable, we create miserable. And it shows, and it feels. It feels on the body. –Alber Elbaz

Illustrating this post is the SoulCollage card I made this past weekend at an Open Studio I attended (which is just getting together with others to make SoulCollage cards), in honor of my new dress. This card has several images of Alber at various ages, and the rest is his work at Lanvin–clothes, sketches, costume jewelry.

Alber Elbaz is a man who I believe loves and respects women–something I feel we could use a lot more of in the people who make the clothes that announce who we are to the world.

May the Universe blow you a kiss of your very own this week!

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Wait and see

Wait and see final

“Wait and see” is the tune playing on my inner guidance channel today. Once again, it seems, difficult as it may be to imagine, my interference is not needed! What I need to do is sit back and wait while events play out. Act two is in progress; my time to act is not yet. Yield to overcome.

Today I made this SoulCollage card to represent this guidance, Wait and see. Sometimes less is more. This, it appears, is one of those times.

Of budgets and windfalls

Verbena cottage

I never thought I’d be the one to say this, but there’s something about making and sticking to budgets that really feels great. Perhaps it’s being the creator of discipline, rather than having it imposed upon you by outside forces and circumstances.

I structure my budgets to ensure that I can have some of what I want right now, in accordance with my belief that every plan (budget, diet, or what have you) should include carrot as well as stick. There’s an overall outline for the year, various goals measured in months, and then a very specific budget for each pay period. Each of these allows for bills to be paid, debt to be paid off, and necessities, as well as some entertainment (going out to eat with friends or antiquing) and other “want to” types of spending. (I initially typed “wait to” types of spending–and waiting is certainly a key concept in my theory of budgeting. Suze Orman‘s idea of waiting a day to go grocery shopping can be applied to many types of shopping and spending.)

Not long ago I watched Oprah’s recent interview of Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance who made, and then lost, millions from its royalties. I’ve found it food for sobering thought ever since. It would be very easy to think, I’ve got more common sense than that! It could never happen to me.

But it’s happened to more than one inspirational writer, all of whom have published books that seem to indicate they knew better–this situation is not a one-off. And it happens when people get windfalls at all levels, whether it’s a relatively small storm-relief stipend spent on a Louis Vuitton bag, or millions of dollars earned and spent with very little left to show for it.

It all seems to beg the question, Is it my values or my circumstances that are determining my lifestyle and the choices I make?

Since 2005, I’ve been participating in an online discussion about building a wardrobe via a handful of high-quality acquisitions each season. This discussion has turned into a virtual support, accountability, and advice network that stretches over continents. It’s a way of life now, an ingrained habit for me to carefully consider every clothing purchase I make. My intention is always for every item to be beautiful, useful, and make a lasting contribution to my wardrobe. I take a similar approach to buying the other things I need.

This approach is important to me, not just because I want to use my own resources–such as time, money, storage space, and head space–wisely, but also because I don’t want to grab an inordinate amount of the planet’s resources. I want to take only what I’ll really use and enjoy, and leave the rest for others.

So what (I ask myself) would happen if there were no practical limits other than the ones I myself set? Magazines are chock-full of documentation of the obscene results that can occur when people have huge amounts of money to spend. I have yet to understand, for example, what people can possibly be doing in a 25,000 square foot house.

I’ve always preferred cozy little cottage-like houses … they speak of home to me. I truly don’t understand the appeal of a house you could truly get lost in–unless perhaps it’s an historic treasure. Still, it’s hard to imagine actually living in a castle. I’d really prefer to live in the gamekeeper’s cottage. (Of course, Sarah Ban Breathnach also lived in a cottage–Newton’s Chapel.)

My house is 1400 square feet, and I found when looking at 25+ houses that there was a very specific size that felt right to me. I’m a fairly abstract person, I’d always thought not that spacially-oriented, so I was interested to find that even 100 additional square feet registered as too much.

So 25,000 is a bit mind-blowing for me. Do people really find that comfortable, or is it just about impressing others? Or oneself? These are the kinds of questions I wish interiors magazines would ask (perhaps a bit more obliquely), instead of about the difficulties of bringing a hugely bloated space back down to human scale.

I’d like to believe that should I experience my own windfall, I would continue to take a measured approach to spending and acquisition. That I’d still value a few exquisitely beautiful, high-quality things. That I’d still want a house that feels cozy and home-like to me and others. That I’d still believe that all the best furs are attached to furiously-wagging tails, and greet you at the door of your cozy cottage.

Now that it’s fall

To be interested in the changing seasons is … a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. –George Santayana

All at once the leaves are finally changing color, and just beginning to fall and crunch underfoot.

Today at lunchtime, when I took Gracie out into the front yard, I noticed how beautiful the trees have become. My Chinese pistachio, redbud, and ash are all shades of gold and red. My neighbors’ trees are also turning beautiful colors. A gorgeous one across the street that I’d never noticed before caught my eye, now that it’s wearing its fall coat.

Now come the gifts of the latter seasons. Woodsmoke hangs in the air, lingers in the dogs’ fur. Friends walking in the arched front door of my English cottage-style bungalow say how cozy it is (no one appreciates cozy in the sweltering heat of summer). Hot chocolate, Dublin Dr Pepper short ribs, brisket braised with carrots, cobbler warm from the oven–these all belong to the fall and winter seasons.

Opaque tights, booties, warm woolen skirts, layered sweaters, cashmere-lined leather gloves, a plaid wool lining zipped snugly into a trench coat–getting dressed really is more fun in cooler weather.

All these gifts are ours, now that it’s fall.

Every life needs a little leopard

When you wear leopard, you become the cat. –Gillian Schwartz

As I write this, coincidentally (or perhaps not) I’m wearing leopard-print flannel PJs. Last night I wore my new leopard pumps with black grosgrain trim, which are admittedly a bit more sophisticated.

Last spring, as part of a SoulCollage workshop, I listened to a guided meditation to identify companion animals for each of my chakras–a fascinating exercise. (In SoulCollage, you create your own card deck, and one of the card suites comprises these companion animals.)

Mine were an elephant, leopard, monkey, bird, fawn, raptor, British barn owl, and … toad. (Yes, that’s a total of eight–one chakra had two.) Seena Frost, the founder of SoulCollage, emphasized in the meditation that one should accept whatever companion animal appears. In the last case, an eagle (dare I say a rather more elegant animal) flitted by, but I felt honor bound to accept the toad.

I am powerful, a force to be reckoned with. Don’t be timid–walk up to life’s feast. Can a leopard change its spots? Be who you are.

Of these totem animals, I think it’s fair to say that only the leopard is truly sartorially useful. I already had a number of leopard print items in my wardrobe–a bag, a skirt, pajamas–and since have acquired more–pumps (below), a sweater. And there’s always room for more …

Nordstrom leopard pump

Animal prints are fashion news this year, but I like the thought that something as seemingly frivolous as fashion can reinforce a deeper message and meaning. Wearing leopard print can help me remember to tap the raw power within, to come into my own.

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