Sunday, 21 April 2013

Wardrobe Interrupted

A few months back I mentioned that we were aiming to move to a new place.  Well we are currently packing up to move but not quite yet to the new place of our dreams.  We've made an offer on a really lovely flat but the process of purchasing has stalled so we are yet to exchange contracts.  In the meantime we are having to move out of our current abode into temporary accommodation as we've already given notice.  We move out mid next week so currently we are in the chaos of packing.  Our flat is full of boxes and upturned personal possessions.  We are putting everything in storage with no clear idea of when we might see it all again, such are the perils of the process of buying a property in the UK!

I have to say that we leave this flat with a great sense of relief.  The bathroom ceiling looks like it is about to come down due to an ongoing leak from the upstairs flat, the boiler never works, the shed is leaking and getting the landlord to repair anything has been an uphill battle.  We also won't miss the terrible and persistent racket we have been enduring for the last couple of years from the neighbours from hell.  I'm looking forward to living somewhere with more space and where I can actually hear myself think when I come home.

In the meantime it has been an enlightening and frustrating process packing up the wardrobe.  I face the rather formidable wardrobe challenge of having to whittle everything down to a capsule wardrobe of no more than one suitcase's worth of items.  This needs to last me until who knows when and to cater for working in an office, flamenco classes, and performing in flamenco gigs.  I'm struggling ladies, I'm struggling.  My bata de cola takes up half a suitcase on its own!

It is pretty frustrating to see all the fun, pretty things I'd like to be wearing being packed up in boxes now that the sun has come out to play.  It has also been sobering to see just how many clothes and shoes I have.  Boxes and boxes and boxes of the stuff.  I've noticed many repeating themes.  It is as if a woman with obsessive compulsive shopping disorder has been shopping for my wardrobe.  Oh wait - that woman would be me!  I managed to half fill a box with tutus...

...and another entirely with flamenco costumes!  Somewhere else there is box full of sequined jackets, another of feathery things, another of little black dresses and another of furry coats and gilets.  So I now have a banned items list when I go shopping - if that is, I dare go shopping again!  Mr V is muttering darkly about a one in, three out policy and giving me looks as yet another box appears in the hallway.  I now concede shamefacedly that he has a point.

To be fair there has been a bit of a clear out, hardly the brutal pruning that is needed but, progress is progress!  After a long dark winter of indulging in comfort food some, ahem, extra padding gained has forced me to give away stuff that no longer fits.  Note to self: return to regular pilates sessions immediately.

So adieu dear wardrobe!  May we be reunited sooner rather than later and hopefully in a place with more space within which to hang you.

In the meantime, whilst we are in this uncertain state of flux, blogging and visiting other blogs to comment will be increasingly difficult as there will be limited access to the internet.  I shall pop up from time to time to say hello, time and Wi-Fi permitting, but I can't say when regular service will resume!

And so adieu to you too dear reader!  May we be reunited soon, perhaps via another blog reading service.  If you are a regular visitor I hope that with Google shutting down their Google Reader service (boo! hiss!) that you'll continue to visit via another route.  I'm on Bloglovin' and have recently transferred all the blogs I'm following over to that service, hopefully I'll make it onto your lists too! My Bloglovin' follow button is up there on the sidebar.  If you want to connect via these routes I am also on twitter (@taxnomywardrobe - note unusual spelling due to not enough letters on twitter!) and Pinterest (under Veshoevius).  Take care and I look forward to exchanging wardrobe stories with you all again soon.

Joining Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style for a last hurrah before we lose the internet!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Neon Sandals

Oh yes I did!

I said I'd come round to the idea of adding some neon to the wardrobe, so I'm taking baby steps in acid yellow snakeskin by adding a new hue to my summer shoes.

Still a bit nippy here in London for these but there has been more sunshine and milder days and it is finally feeling like proper Spring weather is just around the corner.  I can't wait to wear these with a floral printed dress when the weather warms up enough to ditch tights altogether.

I'm also on the lookout on the high street for a neon lace skirt in either bright coral or yellow.  Will let you know if I find one!

Neon snake print sandals: Diane Von Furstenberg

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Vintage Chinese Silk Blouse

Recently I was reminded of a wonderful French word I had all but forgotten by another blogger. Adrienne of The Rich Life (on a budget) shared her experiences of the Parisian second hand clothing shops for which the French word is friperie.  I love that word!  I actually used to speak and write reasonably good French and sadly it all got pushed out of my brain when I learnt Spanish! But there was a time when I had a lot of French and French speaking friends and visited them in Paris often.  

Adrienne asked if we had ever friperi-ed on vacation before and if we'd found anything special.  I have to say that bargain hunting with a friend in the friperies of Paris are some of my favourite memories of the city.

When I was still a PhD student I went over to Paris one Easter to visit a dear friend, lets call him R, who had gone there to study law.  R was a Swiss national who was fluent in a few languages including French and he knew Paris like the back of hand.  He was also well into his clothes, always impeccably turned out and he and I had often bonded over our love of fashion.

When we were all studying together we often had formal dinners to attend at college where we would all get dressed up.  All the girls loved R and he was always invited to come around to our rooms beforehand to see what the ladies were wearing, to give us opinions on our outfits and to accompany us to the venue.  He would always coo enthusiastically over what I was wearing.  "Vous ete maqnifique!" he would declare as he twirled me around.

So during my Paris visit it was inevitable that we made time in between visiting the tourist sites and galleries to trawl the fashionable shops together and he also showed me around the friperies of the city.  Then in the evenings we would go dancing for hours in the gay nightclubs of Paris.

I had so much fun on that trip with R. Imagine having a companion with exquisite taste who knows all the best places to shop, pulls things out for you to look at and try and gives you his opinion.
This vintage Chinese silk blouse was the result of a trip to one of the friperies R took me to. I have worn this blouse so much over the years the silk is now shattering but I don't care. To me it just adds to its vintage charm.  In spring and summer I wear it with shorts or jeans either buttoned up or open with a pretty singlet underneath.

This blouse became even more special to me when just after the death of my grandmother, a photo of her as a young woman was discovered in an old box of personal items of her wearing an almost identical oriental style blouse in the same tint of pale aqua. I bear such a striking resemblance to her physically that it could have been a photo of me wearing my blouse.

With the photo emerged during that time of mourning, so too did stories of her life recounted to me by older relatives who had known her throughout it. They painted the picture of a young woman who was the life and soul of the party, who loved dancing, who adored fashion and dressing up and who accumulated a vast amount of beautiful clothes. Turns out my resemblance to her was not just physical, we were similar in so many other respects and I was always a little sad to have made this discovery only after she had already gone.

These photos were taken in Penang where my grandmother was from.  I took the blouse with me when I went there, in a way to pay the spirit of that wonderful woman my respects.
As for R, I unfortunately lost contact with him for many years after we both moved cities but happily he recently found me via social media! And it turns out his job brings him over to London quite often so we have arranged to meet up in May.  No doubt there'll be some shopping involved!

Silk embroidered Chinese blouse: Vintage from Parisian Friperie; Navy lace shorts: Whistles; Beaded flip flops: Zara; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Paisley, Lace and Teal for Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea on a Sunday with the girls is fast becoming a new tradition! Last weekend I accompanied a party of eight to celebrate a joint birthday party at the Soho's Secret Tea Room in Soho London. So secret in fact that when someone heard I was going there they asked me to let them know where it was if I found it as they completely failed to do so!

This was my afternoon tea outfit which was a last minute combination when I realised I was running very late and still had to get dressed.  It was one of those daft "I have nothing to wear" moments when faced with rails absolutely stuffed with clothes to choose from, a moment I'm glad to say I managed to overcome by pulling out two items I haven't worn in long time and mixing in a more recent purchase, this colourful, fitted wool paisley jacket which I had set my heart on wearing.  It was very much a "let's randomly fling these three or four things together and see if they work" process!

On consultation for his esteemed opinion Mr V expressed reservations about "all those different collars going on together".   It wasn't working for him.  I began to fret!  But I had pretty much run out of time by that point to change, and if I had it would have been exchanging a colourful jacket for a black one.  But I'm trying not to do that anymore right?  That's the whole point of this blog!  It was still cold but there was glorious sunshine and I wanted to wear some colour for a change.  So dressed like this I went.  A navy coat, a pink and blue paisley scarf and some gold studded burgundy heels to change into in my handbag and I was good to go.

This lace blouse and embroidered organza teal skirt have both been in my wardrobe for many, many years so it was nice to get them out again.  I've noticed recently that teal is back on the fashion world's radar as a colour de jour and the peplum on the blouse is very now too.  So there you go!  You know what they say about keeping clothes for long enough...

These are the same patterned tights I wore my friend's wedding last month which a lot of people commented on.  I'm hoping it keeps warming up here as after months of thick woollen opaque tights I'm ready to embrace feminine lacy tights like these every day!

Given Mr V's reaction I was a bit unsure of my ensemble, but when I arrived at tea I found it was a hit with the girls!  Just goes to show I should trust my own instincts more often.  It also illustrated an interesting point in how differently men and women can view an outfit.  I doubt most men would "get" this outfit but it turned out to be just right for a girly tea gathering in vintage styled tea rooms on a sunny spring afternoon.  Do we really dress for ourselves or do we dress for others?  Or is it a bit of both?  Who do we have in mind when we are getting dressed?  Men or women?  There is a theory often banded about that women are more likely to dress for other women as men are unlikely to be an appreciative audience for fashion.  I have to say from my own experiences I can see some truth in that and would be interested in what others think.

There are some women who admirably and adamantly live by the mantra of dressing for themselves.  As for myself, I'll admit that while I don't really need approval from my loved one to go out wearing something, I do prefer on the whole that he likes what I'm wearing.  It's natural to want the person you love to think you look nice isn't it?  But even if he isn't entirely convinced, I sometimes try it anyway and then feel sartorially vindicated when I get fashion high fives from the girlfriends!

As for the afternoon tea...this was my first time at Soho's Secret Tea Room.  It will also be my last.  Firstly when I arrived in the old dilapidated pub above which the tea house is located I asked the girl serving if there was a tea house there.  She regarded me snootily and asked if I had a reservation - it was as if I'd asked her if I could have a table at the Ritz!  Then she proceeded to studiously ignore me and serve people at the bar as if I wasn't standing there waiting for her to show me where to go.  Part of the secretive process I wondered?  Was there some secret hand signal I was supposed to be giving her that I didn't know about?  I finally just had to press her into telling me where I had to go as as my friends were all already up there, at which point she finally conceded and let me pass through and behind the bar to a stairway leading upstairs.

The tearoom is not large but it was very full and the staff seemed to be struggling to get orders on to the tables.  I ordered tea but it took ages to come and had to remind the girl I ordered it from to bring it over, by which time it was cold.  Our sandwiches and cakes were hardly brought promptly either but we had barely got through half of it when we were brought the bill and asked whether we wanted the rest packed up in boxes to take away.  It turned out they wanted their table back after a mere one and a half hours.  I hadn't even finished my first cup of tea.

This kind of thing happens often in London and it drives me nuts.  Even in some of the top restaurants where you pay a lot of money to eat, you have to eat within a one and a half hour shift so that the punters are churned through and profits are maximised.  Forget going out for a relaxing meal! The birthday girls insisted they were not told at the time of booking that this was explained to them otherwise they would have never booked the table.  Rather than a customer is always right stance, the waitress suggested in a rather passive aggressive manner that she would be sending over the manager (to kick us out no doubt).  

We managed to be belligerent enough to keep eating and drinking for a bit longer than we were perhaps welcome and unsurprisingly nobody wanted to pack up any leftovers to take home when we were again pressured to give up the table.  Poor service of the sort we received was enough to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth to wipe out any memory of how tasty the cakes might have been.  

After having had such wonderful afternoon tea at the British Museum earlier this year, where the price was pretty similar, where the staff were so sweet and obliging, where we could sit without being harassed to leave for as long as the tea room was open and leisurely eat the food that we had paid to eat, I have to say that Soho's Secret Tea Room experience fell completely flat on it's face in comparison.

The wonderful company and conversation of my friends however, was and will remain the most pleasant and memorable thing about the afternoon.  Happily, on finally being shoved out the door and having had our afternoon tea cut short, we extended the celebrations into ginger beers and cocktails at the lavishly decked out gay bar down the road!

I believe it falls to me to be organising the next afternoon tea (birthday coming up) so if any Londoners out there have a stellar suggestion for an afternoon tea experience that could compete with my current favourite at the British Museum then I'd love to hear from you!

And this week Bella of The Citizen Rosebud is hosting a favourite Shoe Shine Link up!  Right up my street!  Well I really have a hard time picking favourites but I do love these ones.  Head over to Bella's to see some shiny shoes!

Wool and Silk Velveteen Paisley Jacket: Carven; Lace blouse: Chine; Embroidiered Organza skirt: Karen Millen; Wool turtleneck: Cos; Tights: Max Mara; Burgundy Suede Shoes: D&G

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

How To Wear Neon

I'll admit it, I have not historically been a fan of neon.  I've always thought you had to have the sort of skin tone, sass and attitude of Solange Knowles to pull it off as well as a unnervingly sunny disposition to boot.  My sister is a chirpy sort of soul with the kind of caramel coloured complexion which means lime green and bright yellow work a treat on her.  Such acid brights against my sallower skin generally only succeed in making me look sea sick and as they have always had the reputation of being passing fads in fashion, I have traditionally steered clear of them.

Simon Rocha SS13, Source: Vogue

Yet this season I have surprised myself to find that I'm actually seriously considering an injection of the brightest neon into my wardrobe.  Two seasons ago you wouldn't have caught me dead in lime green, bright orange or fluorescent yellow.  Now I'm eyeing up pieces and wondering if I could make them work for me with a bit of crafty styling.

Maybe it is the eternal winter and the months of being swaddled in dark colours that has got me craving palette cleansing citrus shades, bright corals, hot pinks and electric blues.  Having suffered the coldest summer on record, a harsh winter and now the coldest spring in decades, I'm sure my seasonally affected disorder is running at an all time high.  It's culminated in a burning desire to wear something brighter than the sun itself in order to blast the winter blues into oblivion and as a colour, neon seems fit for purpose.  There is an undeniably happy go lucky, feel good factor to it too.  I have a dance student who turns up to class regularly wearing simple neon yellow or orange shift dresses with equally bright accessories and a megawatt smile and I swear I feel better just looking at her even in the darkest depths of winter!

Sportmax SS13, Source: Vogue

 As for being a fad, given that I've been seeing neon pop up in spring and summer collections as far back as 2007 it is probably not as much of a throwaway fad as you would think.  See Raf Simmons first collection for Jil Sandler, or Christopher Kane's inaugural collection back then.  Neontastic.  Since then the neon idea has never really gone away, if anything it just snowballed into something big.

Antonio Berardi, Source: Vogue

In fact you can almost bank on certain things coming out every spring and summer in designer collections: florals, whites, pale colours like nudes or pastels, and then the bright colours where very often neon is a key look.  This is the season where the sun is shining, we are baring more skin, people naturally end up more tanned and as a result, we can get away with wearing more colour and in stronger shades.

Gucci SS13, Source: Vogue

My new found enthusiasm for all things bright may also be down to the fact that this season neon really gained traction and many designers sent beautifully crafted, show stopping neon pieces down the runway.  From the girlishly pretty lace separates and dresses at Simone Rocha to the statuesque elegance of Gucci's ruffled column dresses and trouser suits, to the sheer beauty of Erdem's embroidered floral motifs, designers showed that neon could look very feminine, grown up as well as fun.

Erdem, Source: Vogue

The easiest and also cheapest way to work neon into an outfit is of course in accessories.  A bag, belt or shoe is probably enough for most people to play it safe and dip a toe into a trend.  This is of course considered the cheat's way to the die hard fashionista, for whom nothing less will do than plunging into the deep end and boldly swathing herself head to toe in a neon look.

This season I'm feeling adventurous enough to wear a block piece in the brightest, most saturated shade my skin tone can tolerate, but I am going to have to take some care in how I approach it.  Happy the woman for whom the glow of neon flatters, for she is the one who can turn heads in a bright dress for all the right reasons.  I am unfortunately not that woman!

But is there some comfortable middle ground in between these extremes for those who are feeling a bit more adventurous than just accessories, but not quite able to do a head to toe look?  This season designers have come to the rescue with looks that cater for everyone's neon saturation threshold.

Roberto Cavalli SS13, Source: Vogue

If you're like me you may have to settle to keep any neon away from being directly against your face or mixed in a print.  The most wearable neon in the spring summer collections appeared as either an accent on an otherwise monochromatic palette of black and/or white as seen at Sportmax and Chalayan, or mixed in with another print as seen at Roberto Cavalli.  Neon as an accent on snake print seemed to be a big theme this season with designers like Preen, Proenza Schouler, Gucci and Erdem all getting in on the act.

Proenza Schouler, source: Vogue
Preen, Gucci and Erdem SS13, Source: Vogue

Alternatively neon was used as one element in colour blocking with a selection of other shades including other neons or black, allowing the option of keeping the most flattering tone for your skin colour nearest to your face.  Here, London fashion intellectuals Osman and Chalayan came to the fore grounding the playfulness of neon with some sharp tailoring.

Osman used sculptural shapes such as peplums and severe origami folds to lend neon pink and blue gravitas.  Neon met more serious black in peek-a-boo combinations: a neon peplum partially covered by an asymmetric shawl collar or sitting atop a black pencil skirt, or lime cropped trousers protuding underneath a thigh high split in a black overskirt.

Osman SS13, Source: Vogue

Hussien Chalayan worked his pared back tailoring in a base of pure bright white on which neon trims provided a fresh pop of colour.  He added bright yellow and lime green lapels in a sporty mesh fabric to tailored tuxedo jackets, which worn with a plain white tee underneath would be understated enough for day wear, yet smart enough for work with a crisp white collared shirt.  In a bit of sartorial reverse psychology, Chalayan used contrasting trims and sheer layers in white to clever effect in toning down neon shades and making them more wearable for the neon shy.  A white chiffon overlayer reduces the colour of a lime green bodice to a subtler hint of neon, whilst a decorative strip of white gauze bordering the neckline of a flirty lime green peplum top draws the eye's attention.

Chalayan SS13, Source: Vogue

So there you have it, I am a new neon convert!  I expect I have probably been subject to the slow and constant drip feeding of a new idea that makes one accept that idea as a new normal, both from the fashion press and from seeing neon being embraced by other people I know or on the streets of London.  I'll never be able to carry off a head to toe look but the ideas in the designer collections have given me some inspiration for new, subtler ways to try wearing neon other than just using accessories.  After all, what is art and design for, if not to challenge our world view, show us new ways of looking at things and open up new possibilities?  A trim on a jacket, a bright skirt with a white shirt, an accent in a monochromatic print or snake print with a yellow stripe. The possibilities are exciting!

Would you wear neon?  How would you wear it?

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

An Everyday Bag...

This week Jill of Everything Just So asked us to contribute to the How I Wear My... series she runs with Adrienne of The Rich Life On a Budget with the topic being how we wear our everyday bags.  I'm not and never will be one of those women who has to have or even likes the latest "it" bag.  I always have and always will find that kind of thing quite vulgar.  But for a long time I was someone who, when putting together an outfit, paid a lot of attention to choosing shoes and clothes and little, if any, to choosing bags.

In fact I used to spend very little money on bags, usually buying one a year from the high street which I would use until it was so trashed, scuffed and dirty that the sheer embarrassment of carrying it around any more would force me to throw it out and buy a new one.  Then I found I was replacing them more often.  Whether it was the pace of London life, or a dramatic decline in the quality of the average high street bag, or as I suspect, a combination of both, I found I was having to replace my handbag far more often than annually.  Some bags I bought lasted barely a month before a strap broke or a trimming fell off in some irreparable fashion.

It was only after a work colleague mentioned the sorry state of my last high street bag purchase that I thought it was time to rethink my bag buying habits.  Not only were my cheap handbags letting my otherwise carefully put together outfits down, they were also making me look unprofessional and probably costing me the same amount annually as buying a single, more expensive, higher quality bag.

So I resolved a few years back to stop buying and tossing several high street handbags a year and instead buy better and buy less.  To me an expensive handbag has to be a Trojan of a workhorse to justify the expense and an item that I expect to have for years rather than just a few months.  It needs to work with a host of outfits and be able to successfully accessorise the full gamut from casual to dressy.  It needs to be tough enough to survive being dragged around gritty, grimy London and an owner that doesn't want to be precious with it.  It has to be roomy enough to carry half my life around with me if I have to and yet light enough to take with me whilst travelling abroad.

I am not a small handbag gal, I like my bags BIG!  So the tote is my everyday bag of choice regardless of whatever bag type happens to be trendy.  As a busy woman on the run who often leaves the house early and comes home late at night, my bag has to both work hard and be able to fit my day's worth of essentials.  Not for me tiny bags that just hold your phone, keys and wallet.  I need something to be able to stuff in my gloves, hat and scarf in winter, some spare knitwear to deal with the changeable UK weather or office air conditioning, a bottle of water, a snack, documents from work, a camera, a magazine or book to read on the tube, and sometimes even a pair of heels to change into.

Most style guides I've read recommend you have at least two everyday bags in classic colours to see you through a large range of outfit choices, one in black and one in a more neutral colour.  I've found this to be fairly sound advice.  There are times when a black bag can look too harsh against an outfit, especially when you are wearing lighter shades or lots of colour.  So I was on the lookout for a neutral tan or brown bag. I got this Michael by Michael Kors one because I liked the gold hardware and it had some tassel action going on, but not too much that it would make the bag too casual (i.e. festival chic) for the office.

Jill asked us to show us not just the bag but how we wear it.  It made me realise just how frequently this bag has been featured in outfit posts on this blog.  I've had this bag coming up to two years now and it is still going pretty strong bar a bit of fraying on the braided straps.

So here is how I wear my bag...
I've worn this bag to work...

...on my days off...

It's travelled with me to Penang...

...and to Australia (including to the beach)...

It's been to France...

...and to Spain.

It looks great in the spring... well as in summer... has served me well throughout autumn... well as in winter.

Now it's just waiting for spring again!

I got more than my money's worth out of my trusty Michael Kors bag and it's still got life in it yet.  The money I saved by not replacing my handbag quite so often went towards buying a new black tote by Marc Jacobs this year, which is nicely filling the "black handbag" gap that I had for years in my wardrobe.

Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style, Monday Bloom at DC In Style and Monday Mingle.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A Modern Cheongsam

London report: still single digit degrees during the day and freezing at night, still wearing lots of black, still have furry trapper hat permanently attached to head.  Same old, same old.  Why don't I share some happier, warmer times with you instead?  I was certainly better dressed!

While I was in Penang I spent an evening out with Mr V. at the English and Oriental Hotel, which was historically Penang's luxury hotel where distinguished guests were received. When I was a very young girl the hotel was home for three months to my family whilst my father was working on a particular contract and I have very strong memories of being there. Whilst my Dad was attending a college reunion dinner here with my Mum, Mr. V and I went for dinner at the hotel restaurant so I could show him where I'd lived for a while.  I remember sitting with my parents and siblings on this wall watching crabs crawling on the rocks below and dolphins swimming out at sea.

We were only going for dinner but we thought we'd get dressed up anyway.  Nothing too formal, just like we'd made some effort.  We ended up being very overdressed compared to the other people drinking and eating in the hotel bar who had opted for flip flops, shorts, tee shirts and general "I'm in the tropics on holiday and feeling too hot, what's the point of dressing up?" type outfits.  Honestly!  Tsk tsk!  I understand people go on holiday to relax but what's the point of slobbing around and looking shabby in a nice hotel restaurant?  Dinner with a loved one is enough occasion for me to get dressed up and put on some lippie!

Here are Mum and Dad all ready to go to their reunion dinner in front of what I had built up from my childhood memories as being a very grand staircase - instead it was actually quite small!

We started with some cocktails by the pool. When we were staying here as children it was before I was old enough to go to school and my main memories are days upon days of swimming and playing in this pool with Mum and my brother and sister.

I bought this dress last summer because it reminded me of a modern cheongsam.  I actually remind myself of my grandmother in this dress in these photos.  I look very much like her, inherited her hair and she wore very similiar outfits to this one in the fifties. I have a thing for cheongsams because of my Asian roots and also have a rose printed, lace trimmed one I love (link here).

The eagle eyed amongst you may recognise the abstract digital floral print on this one here from a skirt I bought from Acne which I wore previously here with the same white lace jacket from Zara.  I actually bought the dress first as a birthday present for myself (yeah - I treat me well!).  I wore it regularly to work last summer with either a white or black blazer and loved the print so much I ended up picking the skirt up at the end of season sales.

The Eastern influence on fashion has been big news the last couple of seasons.  It wasn't always the case but these days I love having bit of my own cultural tradition fused into my clothing, however I do find it easier to wear if it has a modern twist.

I actually own a traditional cheongsam, picked up in, of all places, Florence Italy!  It is a red satin maxi with gold floral embroidiery and daring side splits and although I love it, I find it almost too traditional to wear out in London unless I happened to be going to a Chinese New Year formal dinner!  I've worn it once to an Indian wedding where most of the guests were in saris and sherwanis, so it felt appropriate then.  But I'd expect in most other circumstances if I wore it people would think I'm a waitress at a local Asian restaurant on my way to work!

Have you seen Vintage Vix rock a red satin cheongsam?  She looks awesome!  Put me in the same outfit and hairstyle and people would probably be asking me when dim sum is being served.  In a way I think people who are not from a particular culture but choose to wear it's traditional costumes get to have more fun - the result is unexpected and more of a fashion statement than a cultural one.   They are drawn to the beauty of the shape, the colours or prints.  There is none of the association of being forced to wear those garments as a mark of your cultural roots whilst growing up, a time when you perhaps wanted to identify with something else when getting dressed.  Particularly, if you are the child of immigrants growing up in a different culture to those of your parents, traditional dress can be an uncomfortable shackle to a cultural identity you may not feel is yours.

I was thankfully never forced by my parents to wear traditional dress while growing up in Australia but growing up we had friends and relatives who went through difficult times with parents from different cultures who wanted them to maintain their cultural values.  Sometimes that extended to dress but mainly it impacted how we socialised with strict rules imposed on what we could and couldn't do that our Australian equivalents didn't seem to have to trouble themselves with.

Some friends suffered their parents rejecting boyfriends, forcing breakups and I saw the ugly emotional fallout of an arranged marriage.  During my teens and twenties my girlfriends, my sister and I shunned wearing traditional garments.  Perhaps they subconsciously symbolised an infringement of our freedom to be ourselves rather than who our parents expected us to be.  More pertinently perhaps, growing up as an immigrant in Australia also meant sometimes being a victim of racial abuse.  Putting distance between yourself and anything that marked you out as culturally different was a survival mechanism as well as a form of emotional defence as you tried to fit in.

Interesting I really only rediscovered my love of the cheongsam and other forms of Asian traditional dress some years after I'd left Australia and having my family thousands of miles away.  A hankering for home perhaps?  Third generation immigrant syndrome brewing?  Possibly.

My continued reticence to embrace my more traditional red cheongsam as a fashionable option for myself still comes from an association of the cheongsam with formal, culturally significant events and seeing generations of my family's womenfolk in photos at these types of events.  For me it is a garment pregnant with cultural and ancestral associations as well as a reminder of internal struggles to find one's own way when displaced into another culture.  I find that an unexpected print or design detail like this Acne dress or my rose print version breaks down that link for me and allows me to embrace a cheongsam as just a wearable dress.

Here is Mr V doing his best James Bond impression!

And here is what we nibbled on after cocktails.  One of my favourite dishes - satay!

There was a massive storm brewing that evening, the sky turned a stormy blue grey, a wind started whipping the palm fronds around and the odd raindrop would ripple the water of the pool.  As the sky turned dark Penang treated us to an amazing thunder and lightning show with giant forks striking the mainland lighting up the night sky.  It was so exhilarating to be sitting watching it outdoors!  I even took a short video which I've posted at the end here for anyone who, like me, loves watching the drama of a tropical thunderstorm.

Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead StyleMonday Bloom over at DC in Style and Monday Mingle over at Glammamom!

Dress: Acne; Lace Jacket: Zara; Shoes: Aldo
Mr V's shirt: Full Circle; Jacket: Armani; Jeans: Uniqlo; Shoes: Clarks


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