Monday, September 29th, 2014

the stylish traveler

Yes you can travel comfortably and stylishly. Click on images below for links to items shown.

Yes you can travel comfortably and stylishly. Click on images below for links to items shown.

When we began traveling to Europe several years ago, I spent a lot of time worrying about “not looking like a tourist,” and consequently over-packed and brought along a lot of bulky clothes that weren’t travel-friendly. I quickly realized that most of the “locals” wherever we went have different demands on their wardrobe than someone who is visiting; what you’d wear to get up and go to work is probably a bit different that what you’d wear to be on your feet all day sightseeing. The “locals” also often have access to their armoires full of clean and freshly pressed clothing, so may look crisper than those of us living out of suitcases. My goal now is to create a travel wardrobe that’s comfortable, appropriate (for climate, culture and planned activities) and allows me to travel with a carry-on sized suitcase that I can shlep through airports or train stations, navigate up and down stairs and lift over my head to place in a bin or rack. And my wardrobe focus has shifted from “not looking like a tourist” to looking like a stylish traveler.

There are a few general concepts and strategies I’ve acquired over the years that are my starting points to help achieve this. Your travel priorities may be different: some people want more style and color options, don’t want to have to deal with any laundry along the way or have formal events to contend with. It helps to decide before planning your travel wardrobe what’s most important to you, and go from there.

Start with shoes. First, determine what activities are on the agenda, and pick your footwear accordingly. Here’s one area where I’m going to urge you to put comfort first. Nothing spoils an otherwise good day like painful feet. You want footwear, whether shoes, boots or sandals that you can walk in all day without noticing your feet, and that fits securely. You don’t want to slide around in your shoes (not only more difficult on uneven surfaces but will tire you out more quickly) but you also want to be able to expand/adjust if your feet swell over the course of a day. Once you’ve settled on your 2 or 3 pairs of shoes (OK, 4 MAX but one of those has to be what you wear on the plane), then you can focus on clothing.

Neutrals. No your entire travel wardrobe doesn’t have to be black but by keeping your key pieces to one to three neutrals that all work together, you’ll find it easier to travel with fewer pieces that can be mixed and matched. If you need more color, use items like tops and scarves to add two more colors that work with the neutrals and each other. I prefer dark neutrals as they don’t show dirt as quickly, but go with what’s comfortable for you and feels appropriate.

Knits. The majority of pieces I usually travel with are knits. Not only are they comfortable, but are almost always wearable right out of the suitcase, no pressing or steaming needed. They can often be hand washed and line dried. (But if your style is more tailored and you prefer a bit more structure, look for non-iron shirts like these from Foxcroft.) Which leads to the next item…

Lightweight layers. Unless you’re traveling in the dead of winter or to a totally tropical resort, you’ll find that lighter layers give you more options and deal with fluctuating temperatures better than bulky pieces that can’t be worn over OR under another layer. (When we went on our Alaska cruise in 2009, one of the excursions was a helicopter trip to take a walk on a glacier. I layered one Eileen Fisher silk tank and two of the long-sleeved tees under a fleece vest and was plenty warm even without a jacket in 40F conditions.) An adjunct to this is, be wary of clothing with a lot of volume or that has a lot of loose bits. Trying to navigate a narrow turnstile in a voluminous “cascading” sweater or carrying around a bulky coat once the sun is overhead will drive this home. And again, lightweight layers will be easier to wash if needed.

Be yourself. By this I mean stick to the same kinds of clothing styles that you’d normally wear and feel most yourself in (taking climate, culture and activities into account). It’s disorienting enough being in new environments and different time zones; you at least want to feel at home in your own clothing. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t maintain a separate travel wardrobe, but tend to consider travel when I purchase for my day-to-day wardrobe. Resort vacations may encompass some exceptions to this…if you’ve always wanted to try a kaftan, there’s your opportunity. Likewise outdoor adventure type jaunts…break out the cargo vest and hat with mosquito netting!

What are your priorities for travel clothing?


Affiliate links may generate commissions for

Friday, September 26th, 2014

rolling with Jenna

Doing the Jenna roll. Click on images below for links to items shown.

Attempting the Jenna roll, see below. Click on images below for links to what I’m wearing.

Oh, Pinterest, you foul temptress!! From the moment this shirt from J.Crew appeared in my feed, I had to track it down. Stripes, like them I do. But to carry the Yoda-ism a bit further, “sorry I am not,” because this is a fabulous shirt that is so easy to wear. (Available in Petite and Tall too.)

Do you do the “Jenna roll” on your sleeves?  I’m still getting the hang of it, but find it works better with crisper fabric than with soft silk.

(Beware, sound levels seem to be rather loud on this one.) Maybe I’m crazy, but I love the jeans she’s wearing here.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'...

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

silk striped 2


Affiliate links may generate commissions for

Linked up with Throwback Thursday at Happiness at Mid-Life, Share-in-Style: Autumn at MIS PAPELICOS.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

the beauty toolbox

A lighted magnifying makeup mirror is essential! Conair at Target.

A lighted magnifying makeup mirror is essential! Conair at Target.

We talk a lot about beauty products but sometimes it’s the tools that make all the difference between “artful” and “aarrggh.” Even as a self-described Makeup Minimalist, there are some tools I just do not want to be without.

How did I ever function without a lighted, magnifying mirror? Especially when one is near-sighted, it makes ALL the difference!


While some prefer application with fingers, I’ve found various options that provide a quicker and more even application. If you can splurge, the Kevyn Aucoin Foundation Brush is my gold standard. This baby evenly distributes foundation without waste, and the tapered tip of the brush gets into tight areas like under eyes and the corners of the nose. Because the bristles are so densely packed, liquid and cream foundations and BB/CC creams go on without streaking and don’t require a lot of blending. My only gripe is the long handle which can be awkward when you’re working close to a mirror.

IT Cosmetics has created a line of brushes for Ulta Cosmetics. Karen alerted me to the “Airbrush OMG!” foundation brush, which is a darn good and a moderately priced alternative to the Kevyn Aucoin brush. The shape is slightly flatter and not as tapered, but the application is just as smooth. The bristles are synthetic, so non-allergenic and extremely soft. Karen uses the Velvet LBD Brush as a second step to buff the CC Cream to a velvet and very natural looking finish. I like it to apply a finishing powder.

After reading so many glowing reviews of the BeautyBlender sponge, I had to give it a try. After a getting the hang of it, I get what the fuss is all about. It’s used damp, which prevents absorption of product, and provides a very sheer, very natural looking finish. (You don’t need the special cleanser; a gentle hand soap or baby wash works just as well. Wash weekly.)


Even if you don’t wear mascara (or any other eye makeup for that matter)…if you have straight lashes, before you do anything else, curl them. It will open up your eyes and make you look more awake. After shu uemura stopped selling their cult-status curlers in the U.S., I tried several different options. My favorite so far is this one from Kevyn Aucoin. Remember to warm up your curler with your blow dryer for a few seconds (warm NOT hot!); your lashes will curl more easily and hold the curl longer. Start at the base of the lashes, use gentle pressure and then move to tips, 2 or 3 curls. Opinions vary on how often to replace the pads/curler. I tend to replace the pad every 4-6 months and the curler annually. Remember to use your curler before mascara, less risk of damaging your lashes. And clean your curler regularly; I use a cotton pad dampened with a bit of Bioderma Sensibio H2O.

I’m a convert to tightlining, and find the Laura Mercier Flat Eyeliner Brush used with a waterproof gel liner works brilliantly, goes on very subtly and stays put all day.

When it comes to eyeshadow, I’m a simpleton: one color from lashes to just above the crease. If you use powder shadow, the Trish McEvoy Angled Contour Brush gets the color exactly where you want it in one or two sweeps.

I’m never without spoolies. Keep a few on hand to remove mascara clumps, or dial back eyebrows from Mommie Dearest territory if you’ve gone a bit heavy-handed with the brow pencil.


If you use a powder blush or bronzer, an angled brush provides amazing control over application. For creme blushes, a “stippling” brush can produce a very subtle, natural looking application, especially if working with a very vivid color. Swirl into the product then apply in small circular motions to blend. Try it!

If you use a loose or compact finishing powder, you’ll get a more natural look with a large brush. This one from Sonia Kashuk is good, so is the LBD brush from It Brushes if you need a bit more targeted coverage.

Take It Off, Take It All Off

You know I’m going to flog the Clarisonic again. Even though I’ve dialed back to using every other day on the recommendation of my dermatologist, nothing gets your face as clean. (As one blogger said, it “rattles the crap right out of your pores.”) Be sure to get the softest brushes and use in a gentle circular motion (don’t apply pressure). I noticed a huge difference in my skin when I started using this device.

If you’re using waterproof eye makeup, you may need to start with a cotton pad soaked in an eye makeup remover. There are several out there that are effective; I’m currently using this one from Clarins (bottle lasts for months).

On The Road

I love it when I can find short-handled versions of my favorite brushes. (See “near-sighted” above.) Look for travel sets that include at least 2 brushes you normally use. (The best time though to shop for travel brush sets is before the holidays.)

Whew! What are your favorite Beauty Tools?

Affiliate links may generate commissions for

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

accessories that carry the day (and evening)

Chanel classic flap, AG Stilt jeans, Eileen Fisher top, French Kande necklace

When relying on a wardrobe composed mostly of basic neutrals, it’s important to have a few accessories that can do some visual heavy lifting.

I really like the lightweight Eileen Fisher top for casual-with-oomph looks. It’s made mostly of hemp, so very cool and breathable, perfect for our still-warm-to-slightly-cool evenings. I’ve also seen it styled with a maxi skirt which looked amazing.

Chanel and Pearls

The necklace is from French Kande. More pearl options. You can read the stories of the different medallions featured in the pieces here.

The bag is a VERY vintage Chanel Classic flap that I purchased several years ago. You can see she’s softened up over the decades (as we all tend to do ;-) ) and the quilting isn’t as perky as with a new bag, but that’s part of her charm. Her skincare routine consists of some gently applied leather conditioner a few times per year.

I think both the necklace and bag are such standout pieces that I didn’t want to clutter up the look so stopped with those two plus my engagement ring which I wear daily (custom design by Wendy Brandes…you can see a great shot of it here).

Sam Edelman ankle strap heels

Sam Edelman “Okala.” Something about the ankle strap makes these feel very stable on the foot.

Which accessories do you rely on to kick it up a notch?


Will be linking up with Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, linked up with Throwback Thursday at Happiness at Mid-Life.

Affiliate links may generate commissions for

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Travel Wardrobe: Second Round Draft Picks

Image via Pinterest

Hong Kong tram. Image via Pinterest

Thanks so much for all of your feedback on my proposed travel wardrobe for Hong Kong and Vietnam! I’d truly hoped to compile this travel wardrobe without any new purchases, but I think the demands of the climate (heat and extreme humidity) may require some special “equipment” not found in my current wardrobe. From the standpoint of selection it’s absolutely the wrong time to be searching for summer-weight clothing, but from a discount standpoint, if you can find something that works, chances are it’s on mega-sale.

Based on (overwhelming) majority opinion, I’m going to ditch the boyfriend jeans and replace with something lighter. The one pair of linen pants that graced my closet was six years and twenty pounds ago, and has been long since donated. Luckily, a quick search turned up a lot of options, most of which are on sale including some in darker colors. I’ve ordered a pair in a straight leg style in navy, which should go nicely from day to evening.

Eileen Fisher straight leg linen pants

The two skirts currently in my wardrobe are both just-above-the-knee pencil skirts, which are great for evenings but not the best for daytime walking/sightseeing. Both of these from Eileen Fisher have possibilities..

Asymmetrical skirt, Silk skirt

Asymmetrical skirt, Silk skirt (imagine if you can with different shoes…)

I’ll report back after I’ve tried them. I’ve looked at “skorts” online but haven’t seen any that are long enough for my comfort zone. And here’s another question for you…are bare legs with skirts considered acceptable in Hong Kong? I can’t imagine wearing tights during the day in heat and humidity.

The good news is that I’ve been acquiring knit linen tees for a couple of years now, and they currently are available at every price point. This one from Madewell seems to have been designed with tropical conditions in mind: it’s very light and drapes nicely.

Madewell linen tee

Linen swingline tee, available in multiple colors

Last year I purchased this simple white linen tee from Eileen Fisher, and a few weeks ago picked up the striped linen tee from J.Crew (mine’s grey/black). Between these and my silk jersey tanks and tees, I think I’m in good shape for tops.

The shoes are a conundrum. Most of my walking shoes are either boots or sandals. Boots will be too warm, and many of you have advised against sandals. My Taos sneakers are a great in-between option, but I feel as though including a second pair of walking shoes in case those get wet is prudent. I’ve been eyeing these slip-on sneakers from Vince for some months now, and am going to try them out.

I’m hoping the perforated leather will translate to a cooler shoe in the heat. Again, will report back. I will still need some dressier shoes for some evenings (which should not require lots of walking) and am not sure what to include if not the low heels. Some of the planned activities on our Halong Bay cruise (like kayaking) will require sandals that can stand a dunking, so will probably just take my Havianas.

Again, I very much appreciate all of the great feedback and suggestions!

And a general housekeeping note: we’ve had some big projects at work lately that are sucking up a great deal of time and my mental energy, so I haven’t been able to visit your blogs as much as I’d like. We’re nearing the end of the project, and I’m hoping to do some catching up over the weekend or soon thereafter.

Do you have any other tips for putting together an “out of season” travel wardrobe?
Affiliate links may generate commissions for