Monthly Archives: July 2012

Thrifting and sewing

All my life, I’ve been a thrift-shopper and a dressmaker.

But I’ve been on a sewing hiatus for quite a while now. Years, actually.

I think it was because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to wear, and since sewing is such a time-consuming activity, I didn’t want to waste my efforts on clothing that in the end I might not even wear.

And I had a similar problem with thrifted clothing. It seems I was buying things, only to re-donate them a few months later because I didn’t want to wear them. Finally I made the decision to stop shopping at thrift stores. I was wasting time and money, and regretting almost all my purchases.

But I think I’m ready to start sewing and thrifting again. Nowadays, I’m feeling more sure of myself when I go shopping. More and more, I’m finding things while shopping online or in a department store, and immediately I know that I could easily find something similar at the charity shops, or make it myself.

I’m actually feeling really excited and relieved about the opportunity to get some new things without spending an arm and a leg!

Oh, and did I mention that I decluttered my formerly-massive collection of sewing patterns? I’m down to about 20 patterns. I remember when I had at least 200. Things are really coming into focus.

Makeup I don’t “need” anymore

My makeup basket continues to shrink. 🙂

I think I must have reached the age where “less” becomes “more”, as far as makeup is concerned.

I thought about listing what I’ve got left in my collection after yet more editing. But I think that would be boring. Suffice to say, I’m left with just the basics, and they are mostly neutrals.

I thought it might be more interesting to list what I’m not using anymore:

  • Bronzer. Actually, I never really saw the point of it, but everyone else seemed to be using it to “add dimension” or contour. I’ve decided that my cheekbones are fine as they are. I did keep one compact, for those times when I need to add warmth to a too-pale foundation.
  • Highlighter. I think I prefer an all-over, subtle glow rather than spot application of highlight powders or creams. For instance, in the winter, when my skin is dry and I need a bit of “glow”, I will use Laura Mercier’s Radiance primer under my foundation. In the summer, my skin is oily enough that I don’t need any extra highlighting.
  • Concealer. I can’t seem to find one that doesn’t enhance the wrinkles under my eyes. I’d rather live with my undereye circles, which really aren’t that bad, anyway. And I don’t have a lot of blemishes to conceal, either. (But even when I had acne, I never bothered concealing my blemishes. It never fooled anyone into thinking I had clear skin.)
  • Pencil, liquid, or gel eyeliners.  Instead, I use a black powder eyeshadow. Powder is so much easier to apply, glides gently on my lids, and I prefer the look of it. (I use a small angled paintbrush, similar to the MAC 266.)
  • Lip gloss. They are just too much “gloss” for my face! But some makeup brands are now formulating sheer, shiny lipstick formulas–kind of a gloss-lipstick hybrid with a more subtle shine–and I’m really liking those. I also have a shiny lip balm (Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream stick) that I use under and over lipstick to add a more natural-looking shine.

I’m also using a lot less foundation these days–just the thinnest layer. Again, I had to choose between coverage and wrinkles. Darn those tiny little lines!

Settling into a uniform

I know I’ve been blogging about dresses lately. But if I look at my day-to-day life, the reality is that I’m more likely to be wearing jeans on most days. Casual wear is simply more practical for my daily life activities.

Last year, my workplace was becoming more formal and there was talk of a dress code. The administrators were concerned about projecting a more professional image for our department, and the focus seemed to be on appearances.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Perhaps it has something to do with recent budget cuts, or the economy in general. It’s probably not easy to ask people to upgrade their wardrobes in times like these.

As for myself, I was at first excited about the opportunity to dress up a bit. But when I was assigned a project that turned out to involve a lot of dust and dirt, I reverted to my “uniform”.

And that uniform is:

  • Dark-wash jeans
  • Knit top
  • Cardigan (if it’s cold)
  • Flat shoes (usually ballerinas)
  • Jewelry or scarf

And almost everything I own is some shade of:

  • Blue
  • Red
  • Purple (i.e. blue + red!)
  • Black

Over the years, I’ve experimented with various new looks and silhouettes. Some worked better than others.

I’ve gradually narrowed it down to my favorites, and the funny thing is, I’m almost back to where I started: jeans and tees– but now, in a more refined version.

  • The boxy tees have been replaced by fitted tees, some with interesting necklines.
  • A collarless blouse in a soft woven fabric will “read” as a tee.
  • Nice cardigans in a delicate wool, silk, or cotton replace the baggy hoodies and sweaters I used to live in.
  • Shoes are more classic and less “funky” in design.
  • I’m making an effort to accessorize on a daily basis. 🙂

I think my next step will be to simply upgrade the quality of what I own: better quality knitwear, maybe some premium denim. I do think I’ve pretty much determined that I’m never going to stray very far from my “uniform”. These are the clothes that make me feel both comfortable and attractive.

A fitness/weight loss update

I’ve been eating a modified low-carb diet for a few months now. Unlike the usual low-carb fare (Atkins, Paleo, etc.), my diet is not so meat-heavy, because I was a vegetarian for 20 years prior to making these changes. I didn’t want to make a drastic change in the opposite direction.

But I’ve added some fish (several times a week) and have been eating more eggs. I’ve cut way down on grains, potatoes, and beans, and increased my intake of fruits, vegetables, and fats (mostly in the form of olive oil, coconut oil, and goat’s milk butter). I rarely consume regular dairy products, because I’m lactose intolerant.

It all worked really well at first: I lost 13 pounds, and I lost most of my sugar cravings, which was a big plus.

But in the past month or so, I’ve started feeling really lethargic, and I’m having more digestive problems than ever before. (I am missing that whole-grain fiber! I can feel the difference.) My weight has plateaued and my waist measurement (which never went down more than a couple of inches) has not budged any further.

It’s that waist measurement which bothers me the most. Besides making it difficult to find clothes that fit well, I know that belly fat puts me at considerable risk for some really awful diseases.

So I did some more research on various diets which purport to reduce belly fat. And one which came up repeatedly was the low-fat vegan diet.

I’ve been a low-fat-nearly-vegan before, and I have to say, I’ve never been thinner than when I ate that way. Granted, I did still have a bit of a belly back then. But I was also eating candy bars every day. (My fat intake was so low, I could afford the chocolate.)

I eventually stopped eating low-fat because I was worried about not getting enough healthy fats. Also, I was actually worried that I was getting too thin despite eating a lot of food.

And then I came down with a sudden illness (not food-related), had surgery, and started eating convenience foods because I didn’t have the energy to cook at home. This led to some bad habits which I’m still trying to shake, more than 15 years later.


I’ve decided to give the [nearly] vegan diet another try. I’ve done some more reading (The China Study by T. Colin Campbell , as well as related articles and interviews found online) which has convinced me that I needn’t worry about missing out on “healthy oils” from fish or coconuts.

And no, I’m not going completely vegan or completely non-fat. Nor am I giving up caffeine. I’ve never been able to do those things, and I’m not inclined to complicate my efforts by trying them now.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

P.S. I wanted to add that I will continue to avoid refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, and I won’t be eating a daily candy bar, this time around! 🙂

Another stye epiphany!

My, that post title sounds dramatic. Too dramatic for what actually happened. Here’s what happened.

I thought I was a rectangle, but now I think I’m secretly an hourglass.

This was the first clue:

Michael Kors trench coat, old image from


I’d been trying various “classic” trench coats. They were all cut straight and double-breasted. And they all looked awful on me.

Then I tried on the coat above, which has a shaped belted waist and an a-line bottom. And I loved it. And I wore it, and got compliments.

Then I started noticing that the clothes I own which are easiest to wear (i.e., most flattering and effortless to style) are those which highlight my natural waistline. Which is barely there, but it’s there.

The reason I’d previously shied away from belted or shaped waists, is that they always seemed to highlight the widest part of my belly. I now see what the problem really was: I was trying to belt things too low on my my torso, and I was wearing tops and pants that didn’t match the natural contours of my body.

But with dresses, coats, or tops belted higher, on the true waist (or shaped to follow my true waistline), my straight, rectangular (i.e., boxy) figure becomes visually curvy.

So …

This means I’ll have to reconsider some of my style choices. I tend to be drawn to tailored separates, but I think I’ll be taking a closer look at dresses and softer silhouettes.

And though I still have some inches to lose before I can call myself a true hourglass, I’ve decided to “fake it till I make it” with my wardrobe. Because, frankly, I’d rather go ahead and highlight the curves I do have.

P.S. This change in direction exemplifies why it is a good practice to build a wardrobe SLOWLY. I hate to imagine how poor I’d be if I’d gone out and bought a new wardrobe every time I took a new direction with my personal style!