Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Fall 2016 Minimalist Wardrobe Inspo

I wanted to keep myself busy this weekend so I wouldn’t get too down about the election and everything that it implies. It really helped to read Lar’s post a couple of times and to spend time away from the news. I busied myself with house stuff like painting an old dresser for my bedroom (follow that riveting saga on my SnapChat: AsianCajunsCath) and cleaning my sneakers (future blog post coming).

I also distracted myself with some fall clothes inspiration. Now that it’s finally getting a little, tiny bit cooler in the south, it’s time to start thinking about long sleeves, cardigans, and boots.

This year, instead of showing you want I want to buy, I’m going to show you what I want to wear. Once I gathered these six images, I realized that I have almost everything in these photos:

fall2016_uniform

I’m a big fan of ankle-showing pants. They might not be practical for other parts of the country during the winter, but there are very few weeks in Atlanta where ankle length pants aren’t warm enough. I need to get some that are work appropriate because right now I just have some cropped jeans, which don’t give off that pantsuit air that I’m going for. #pantsuitnation

fall2016_uniform_casual

I still think white sneakers are the bee’s knees even though white is not traditionally appropriate during the winter. They’re also harder to pull off if you’re not showing a little bit of ankle (see a theme here?), but I think you can pull off that Scandinavian black jeans, black socks, and white sneakers look if you have enough confidence. For the two photos above, I have the slouchy blazer already, t-shirt, and jeans (both boyfriend and skinny styles), but I don’t have a wool 3/4 length coat and that’s definitely at the top of my list. Last year I wrote about how I ended up with this very practical winter coat after Kon Mari-ing all of my clothes. It functions perfectly for the winter, but not for nicer events like going out to a fancy dinner or going to the ballet (both of which I do all the time. . . ahem).

fall2016_fancy_uniform

Now, when I do want to dress up I like simple pieces like color-block dresses (is it still color block when it’s just black and white?!) or black skirts with a statement necklace. I love chunky, big, handcrafted-looking necklaces and am thinking about making one or two for the fall/winter season.

So there you have it. I’m still a sucker for an aesthetically minimalist pieces. If you’re bored with that look, check out Lar’s post, Is Minimalism as a Trend Waning?

In the same vein (and if you’re looking for more post-election distraction), read this article on Racked about how embellishments are back – and minimalism is out.

P.S.: All of the photos in this post are from Cup of Jo. Her blog is another good distraction and I love her Style and Beauty Uniform posts that show what real women wear.

P.P.S.: If you still want to indulge in some retail therapy, purchase one of these shirts or pins that supports Planned Parenthood.

Goodwill Hunting Part 2

goodwillhunting8  goodwillhunting9

Top: shirt from Goodwill (drawn on by moi), cropped shorts from UK charity shop, shoes Superga. Bottom: Club Monoco dress from Goodwill.

Since taking these photos last week, a strange thing has happened — a new season. Somehow the end of summer rolled into town. Why and how and why so fast?

I’m sure Cath is rolling her eyes at me in Hot-lanta where the temperatures still soar and the humidity smothers. But here in the temperamental PNW, we’ve had one or two 90 degree days nestled between chillier 60-70 degree weeks. I’m not complaining — nooooo. It’s far summerier than the summery of summers in Edinburgh, but it’s still ending too soon.

And for some reason, this change in season has me moving away from the above pictured minimalist style and into piling on rings and a sweater or two with a (gasp!) print or pattern.

Does that happen to you guys too? Change in season or time of life and your style asks for a shake-up without you realizing it?

It’s confusing because I thought in my 30s I would sort of start sticking to one style a bit more (Cath and I have talked about this repeatedly on the blog here and here). Maintaining one style is friendlier on your wallet and your closet (aka living with less). So I’m kind of baffled by this need to, stylistically-speaking, maximize my wardrobe — at the same time as limiting acquisitions.

But I’m going to go with it. I find any time I try to stick too closely to one school of thought — even when I can feel things shifting to explore new avenues — I end up frustrated and feeling stuck. So let’s embrace the confusion and the arm parties and contrasting patterns.

Happy almost-Fall!

Goodwill Hunting Part 1

goodwillhunting 1 goodwillhunting 3

Tee thrifted from Revival, Pants from Goodwill, Dress from Goodwill, Red bandana from Ban.do

I’d say roughly a third of my closet is thrifted, the second third is at least five years old, and the last third is stuff bought within the last five years. That’s pretty good, right?

Ideally I would find everything I needed (and wanted — such a bad minimalist) at Goodwill or a charity or vintage shop. But certain things (undies, a fresh white T-shirt, socks) are better bought new.

I’m always on the hunt for good ethical sources for closet staples. If you guys have any suggestions please do send them our way.

Thrifting has become my default for “ethical” — I feel I’m at least not adding to the overabundance of STUFF by re-using. And I honestly think being conscientious about our buying habits is a first great step to living with less.

I currently live about a 7 minute walk to the nearest Goodwill where I found these pants-that-feel-like-pjs (#winning!) and this dress that, with a red bandana, makes me feel like Rosie the Riveter. I really can’t ask for more sartorial dreaminess for less than $30 combined.

To sum up: get thee to a Goodwill (or similar establishment of thrifty repute)!

In which I (inadvertently) wear two pairs of underwear

queenieOne of the wonderful results of living with less is that you know exactly what you own. For instance, I used to have a mess of a sock drawer, but I now know exactly what’s in there: orderly wool socks, posh socks, sporty socks — the whole Spice Girls gamut of sockdom.

I also know exactly where to find the stuff I need because I don’t have to keep track of so many things. Generally speaking, things don’t go missing because there’s a space for everything. Since my KonMari weekend a few years back, nothing gets relegated to a miscellaneous closet that never sees the light of day.

Well, that might not be exactly true. I don’t actually know everything I have. But I really thought I did — until last week.

You know what they say, pride goeth before the fall, etc.

I bought this new hoody back in early spring. It’s light-weight and super soft – perfect for a bit of light layering. I ended up wearing it all day last week because Seattle hadn’t quite warmed up to a proper summer just yet.

I went to meetings, I went out to lunch, I had multiple water-cooler chats with coworkers. It was an unusually long day, but my super-soft hoody made me feel comforted even after blinking at a screen for 9 hours.

And then I came home.

I dropped my bags on the floor and shook off my hoodie and on to the floor falls a pair of undies. Mine, thankfully. And clean ones! With no holes (thankyoubabyjesus)! But still!

I have a sneaking suspicion that they were sticking out of my hood all day after comingling with my hoodie in the laundry. I’m praying everyone just thought I had a purple-lined sweatshirt.

So here’s a fair warning to you all: check your hoods before leaving the house, kids! You thought the pant-leg undie-rider was bad, just think what would happen if you casually popped on your hood and a pair of frilly knickers slides over your forehead. (I bet Queenie, pictured at the top of the post there, checked her hood and scarf before venturing out for a bit of fox hunting or what have you — one can never be too careful).

So this really isn’t a helpful post on owning less, but this incident has really made me seriously reconsider the true genius of days-of-the-week underwear.

Oh and guess what, guys?! I actually have two outfit posts lined up for this week and next. So hold on to your hats, kiddos, AsianCajuns is back in business!

My Spring Capsule Wardrobe

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of a capsule wardrobe but felt like I needed to purge my closet before I could focus my brain on a set wardrobe. It’s been over six months since I KonMaried my closet and I’ve gotten comfortable with having a paired-down selection of clothes. Now I’m ready to figure out what I really have left to work with.

A few weeks ago I pulled out all of the spring items in my closet, photographed them, and then took stock of what I had. For the most part, it felt like a pretty complete spring wardrobe. The only glaring hole was the lack of work appropriate blouses. So in the middle of photographing my clothes, I purchased a few more workwear items and I feel pretty excited about the end result.

I’m not aiming for a specific number of items to create a capsule wardrobe. Right now I have 37 items in my closet and I don’t see me needing to buy anything else in the near future. That might change once the weather gets too hot to even wear short sleeves and I’ll address that in a future blog post when that time comes.

Here is my 37-item Spring Capsule Wardrobe:

Tops

capsule_wardrobe_tops_spring2016

Loft pocket shell | Uniqlo oxford | Sincerely Jules t-shirt | Madewell top
H&M blouse | Primark t-shirt | Penfield oxford | Loft pocket shell
Marshalls blouse | Madewell v-neck | Anthropologie blouse | Loft sleeveless top
Secondhand black t-shirt | Primark short-sleeve oxford | Cos short-sleeve cardigan | Everlane cardigan

Bottoms

capsule_wardrobe_bottoms_spring2016

Uniqlo jeans | H&M jeans | Old Navy jeggings | Blank NYC jeans
Isaac Mizrahi pants x 2 | Loft skirt | Squash Blossom Boutique skirt

Outerwear

capsule_wardrobe_outerwear_spring2016

Etsy wool jacket | June leather jacket | J. Crew jackt
Everlane rain jacket | Joie blazer | Zara bomber jacket

Shoes

capsule_wardrobe_shoes_spring2016

Adidas sneakers | L.K. Bennett flats | Yosi Samra slip-ons | J. Crew Factory flats
TopShop flats | And Other Stories pumps | Office oxfords

Some thoughts on my spring capsule wardrobe:

  • I took a page from the Unfancy blog and did not include active wear, lounge wear, underwear, socks, accessories. None of that stuff really changes for me season to season.
  • Most of my spring wardrobe consists of items that I wore throughout the fall and winter and I’m sure there will be a lot of overlap in the summer.
  • A lot of folks who create a capsule wardrobe store their nonseasonal items in boxes. I’ve kept all of my clothes in my closet per Marie Kondo’s advice. You can see my full closet inventory here.
  • I’ve noticed that since minimalizing my wardrobe, some of the items look pretty worn after six months to a year. I usually hold off for as long as possible before giving them away, but this capsule wardrobe project really helped me objectively look at the condition of my clothes.
  • I’m not sure how long this spring wardrobe will last in its entirety. It’s already starting to feel like summer in Atlanta and I might be breaking out my sandals well before June!

Living with Less is a Luxury

(Above: our Aunt Nancy, grandfather and Dad in the mid-1940s in Chinatown D.C.)

Having the choice to live with less (paradoxically) is such a generous idea, don’t you think? Choosing to get rid of what you own because you have so much, is a luxury — a generous lifestyle of surplus. Cath and I have been so lucky to have always grown up with enough, and then some.

We’ve never been truly hungry or without basic comforts. And I do see the minimalist movement as something that people like us can easily do because we’ve always had enough and never had to go “without.”

Gratitude for the stuff you already have and love is a huge part to learning to live with less. But there is also gratitude for the whole concept: that we get to have this choice and it’s not one forced upon us by circumstance.

Growing up, Cath and I did not just have enough, we had more than enough. Part of this was because our dad grew up without very much. So not only was our kitchen always stocked with food, we also had an additional closet in our laundry room full of food too. Cath and I jokingly called our family’s linen closet a mini pharmacy because growing up, our dad would stockpile soap and toilet paper and shampoo whenever it was on super sale. When I was little, I remember being so confused when I was at a friend’s house and they ran out of paper towels — how was that possible? Where was their extra closet of back-up supplies?

Diddy1(Above: A family friend, our Dad doing his best Robert De Niro and our Aunt Nancy)

Our dad grew up in a small one bedroom apartment with his parents and five siblings in DC’s Chinatown. He’s never mentioned not having much, but we know he didn’t. And as we got older, Cath and I realized part of the reason why we had these extra reserves around the house was a direct result of not always having enough.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the current minimalist trend — capsule wardrobes, nothing superfluous, etc. —  but I think it’s always nice to be able to put lifestyle pursuits in perspective and realize how lucky we are to feel the freedom to live with less.

So whenever I’m bemoaning the fact that my closet isn’t perfectly monochromatic or my kitchen utensil drawer would make Marie Kondo blush, I remind myself how ridiculously lucky I am to make these choices. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

My Ideal Closet – Cath

I love how Lar’s ideal closet is full of inspiration from timeless style icons. Mine is not. Currently, my ideal wardrobe is all about comfort, simplicity, and masculinity – in a Katharine Hepburn kind of way.

I’ve always dreamed of a monochromatic wardrobe. Ever since I Konmari-ed my closet that desire has only gotten stronger – and more attainable now that I can see what I actually own. I’d love to have a handful of high-quality pieces that go with each other and don’t require a lot of maintenance (e. g. dry cleaning). If I had won the Powerball two weeks ago (still can’t believe I didn’t!), here are the building blocks that I would have bought for my closet:

Basicsbasics

Madewell turtleneck | Need Supply muscle tee and t-shirt

I don’t need a lot of basics, but a handful of black, white, gray and striped shirts for layering would be the perfect foundation.

Sporty

sporty

Everlane sweatpants | Need Supply dress | Commes des Garcon hoodie

I love a good pair of sweatpants – especially ones that can look a little dressy. I pretty much like anything that is stretchy and forgiving whether it’s in dress, pants or hoodie form.

Cozy Knits

cozyknits

Cos sweatshirt | Everlane cardigan | Madewell cardigan

Maybe because it’s the middle of winter and we just had a little dusting of snow in Atlanta. Or maybe because my current wardrobe is completely lacking in cozy knits, but I have a sudden urge to buy more chunky sweater and sweatshirts. They’re perfect for throwing over anything and something like the double-breasted Madewell cardigan has that perfect mix of comfort and pull-togetherness.

Quirky

quirky

Madewell T-shirt | Need Supply sweatshirt | Cos dress

Yes, that’s a  boob sweatshirt and I love it! I like gray and black pieces that are a little off – either with the pattern (e.g. Madewell t-shirt and boob sweatshirt) or the cut (e.g. the Cos trapeze dress). It shakes up a wardrobe and the look of an outfit a little bit without getting too colorful and trendy.

Accessories

accessories

Bag &Other Stories | Everlane slip-ons | Adidas Stan Smiths

Lar and I keep talking about how someday we want to be able to carry small purses like this one from And Other Stories #lifegoals. I’m sure I’m doing permanent damage to my back by trying to carry around my whole life in my in a giant-tote-bag-of-a-purse. A black pair of slip-ons would be my go-to shoe and I’ve had my eye on those black and white Stan Smiths for ages.

I know my ideal closet might be boring to most people, but I think it’s perfection. Also, most of these items do NOT fit my body type. I’m short/petite so flat shoes, big sweatshirts, white sneakers that cut off the leg line, and shapeless pieces aren’t items that a fashion magazine editor would recommend. The thing is, at the ripe old age of 32, I don’t care.

Lar mentioned that we’ll be digging deeper into the whole discussion about dressing – or not dressing – for your body type. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems. Yes, heels would elongate my line and short skirts look more proportional on me than midi skirts, but I’m over it. I’m over the rules and those limitations. Bring on the sweatpants and boyfriend jeans!!!!

My ideal closet

One of the reasons Cath and I changed the focus of the blog was to figure out how to dress better. That might sound silly coming from 32-year-old women who’ve spent the better part of nearly three decades dressing themselves, but I think your style evolves all your life.

And I don’t mean how to dress “on-trend” or be “fashionable”, but how to find your own style. That takes time and dedication. It also takes years of giving yourself the freedom to wear whatever you want, like this (holy-moly).

I’m not saying there aren’t some days where I still want to Gaga-it-up, but in general, I love the idea of being comfortable enough in my own skin to wear what I want — not because it looks cool but because it feels like me.

So before I tackled my closet clear-out this past weekend (post to come) I sat down and had a think:
• What sorts of things do I feel the best in (I mentioned this in my Uniform post).
• What do I wear the most and why
• Does my current closet fit my lifestyle (for instance, I bought a pair of Adidas because I thought it would make me feel like a fashion editor if I wore them with a beanie and long, minimalist coat — turns out that “look” makes me feel like a bald hobbit — not the lifestyle or look I am for, though I robustly support elevensies).
• Who are my style icons and why (see photos above)

I then delved into Pinterest with a purpose (no aimless scrolling here, ahem) and made a collage of lovely ladies who fit what seems to be a style that I’ve slowly gravitated toward since the end of my 20s:
• 1960s lines
• Monochrome, clean cut outfits
• Black and bold colors (I look washed out in pastels)
• Very little pattern or accessories
• And a bit of eccentricity thrown in

And I don’t just like this look, it also fits with the way I get dressed. Most of my clothes are solid colors because I think my 5’2 stature can’t handle the busy-ness of a pattern.* I also forget to put accessories on anyhow — and when I do remember I spend all day fiddling with them and clanking my bangles awkwardly on my desk. My closet already has lots of mini-skirts (again, good on a petite frame) and clean silhouettes. I also own a basket that I sometimes use as a purse (thank you, Jane Birkin).

It doesn’t matter what age you are. Any time is a good time to really review your current style. In the past when I’ve looked for inspiration, I would go online and find beautiful images of very stylish women and try to emulate them in order to feel fashionable. But I never did. What works on very tall, skinny models with natural bedhead hair never works for me and will never work for me. But that doesn’t mean you have to eschew your inspiration board, just spend a little more time with your images and really delve into why you were attracted to them.

Find inspiration and then learn how to make that fit your lifestyle and yourself.* Your closet and style will always be evolving, but it will begin to be small shifts that always look like you and no one else (even if you are an identical twin).

*Speaking of which, Cath and I have been discussing this idea of “dressing for your body type.” And we’re not sure this should be rammed down our throats as much as it is. Stay tuned for future posts about “dressing for type.”

Cath’s Winter Uniform

Alright. I don’t really have a uniform. I just have a version of what I would wear every day if I didn’t have to go to work and could just bop around town eating at restaurants, visiting museums, going to see movies, and hanging out at bookstores.

Here’s my uniform math: skinny jeans + loose-ish top(s) + flat boots or oxfords.

cath-smiling

At some point, I would love to develop a work uniform like Matilda Kahl. If I ever find the perfect work blouse (looks like silk, but is machine washable, doesn’t bunch in weird places when sitting down, doesn’t wrinkle, is fitted but not tight, etc.), I’ll buy it in bulk. Same goes for black trousers that fit perfectly. These pants are close to perfect, but they get baggy around the knees throughout the day. If you have the perfect work uniform, leave me a commit. I need some inspiration!

Favorite Item: Gray T-Shirt

I ran out and bought this gray t-shirt last August when I was visiting Lar in Scotland and my luggage was lost for two days. I was trying desperately not to spend too much on the trip, so I grabbed the cheapest t-shirt I could find at Primark – I think it was on sale for $5. I never thought I would love it so much. It’s not cut like a cheap shirt. The back piece is slightly longer than the front so I never have that annoying gap between my shirt and my jeans when I’m sitting down and the sleeves are the perfect length. Plus the folded sleeves make it feel more pulled together and the level of non-snugness is perfection.

I know it’s silly to love a t-shirt so much, but it’s rare to find a gem when you’re in a rush and just desperate not to wear dirty laundry for the second day in a row while traveling. If only I had known how much I would grow to love this shirt – I would have bought five more to replace my other t-shirts. Since Primark doesn’t have an online shop in the states, I don’t think I’ll be getting my hands on another beloved t-shirt anytime soon. Although, come to think of it, that’s probably for the best. Primark represents the whole fast fashion world that I’m trying to get away from. While they’re not the worst company as far as ethics go, they’re not anywhere close to the best either. So, I’ll love this shirt to bits while it lasts and then try to find a more ethical replacement for it down the road.