Category Archives: Simplifying Style

What’s In Lar’s Downsized Purse

A couple of weeks ago I talked about downsizing my wallet. And, you guys, I did it! I’ve been using just this little turquoise wallet for the past month or so. I’ve never once been caught out needing any of the cards that I got rid of, and my purse is so much lighter than when I used to carry my ginormous wallet(s) around with me!

Because of my wallet success, I thought now is the time to downsize from my tote bag to a real purse-sized purse — you know, the kind that don’t give you back problems and leave you with those purse strap gouges on your shoulder.

I didn’t want to go out and buy a small purse (I don’t own one because in the past I never used ones that I bought — I’ve since KonMaried them), so I used this mini Le Pliage that I found at Salvation Army in Edinburgh for £3 — a steal and environmentally friendly.

The mini Le Pliage is still pretty roomy and not as small as I’d eventually like to carry (this is my dream bag in all its vegan leather glory). But I’m really chuffed that I’ve been able to swing a tiny (in comparison) bag on my arm instead of hefting my tote straps over my coat. I’ve been a successful small-ish purse carrier for nearly three weeks!

Hi, my name is Lar, and I no longer carry my life with me wherever I go! (I seriously feel like I should get a badge for that — no, scratch that. No room for a badge in my now compact-bag lifestyle).

If I can keep this up through the winter, I might allow myself to get that Mat and Nat bag for the spring.

And if you guys are interested, you can see what’s in my bag in the pics below. I keep trying to trim this down, but I use pretty much all of these things every day. What are your tricks, small-purse carriers?

And in my make-up bag there are these essential bits and bobs: 

A tale of three wallets

Apart from the number of face products I use, I’ve also been a maximalist in regards to my purse. And by purse I mean tote bag. And by tote bag I mean my life!

I’m definitely one of those women who like to carry everything with her just in case. And just-in-casers can not carry small bags because where would you put that hand lotion, hand sanitizer, extra pads/tampons, pain killers, hair elastics, bobby pins, stamps, band-aids, lip gloss, lip stick, lip balm, powder, blotting papers, loyalty cards, credit cards, debit card, coins, insurance card, I.D., bus pass, old receipts, lucky cat talisman, single small googly-eye, mustache-shaped paperclip, 2 still-pertinent and positive fortunes from fortune cookies … Okay, maybe those last few aren’t universal. But you get what I mean.

I have tried to down-size before. And I was totally inspired by Cath doing it (read how she down-sized her purse here). But somehow (again, like my face products), the fewer things I tried to have, the more I acquired. Math isn’t my strong point, but when has 2 minus 1 equaled 65?!

So I realized just recently that things have gotten out of hand. Why? Do you see those two wallets to the left of the turquoise mini-wallet in the pic above? I was using both of those simultaneously. That’s how much stuff I was carrying. I mean who uses two full-sized wallets day-to-day?

It seemed sane at first. I bought the Michael Kors wallet because my office building has a number of security doors with card beepers. Forget your card and you’re stuck in the 4th floor cafeteria when you have a meeting in the conference room on the 22nd floor. This wallet has a handy wrist band and holds my phone, so I could always have my card and phone and be kinda hands-free too. There are slots for a few other cards so I thought great! No more bulky wallet, I just need a credit card, debit card and my office pass!

But then I had to go to the doctor’s one day and didn’t have my insurance card. And then I realized I needed to carry two credit cards because one of them offers me cash back on groceries (aren’t you so proud, Dad?!). I couldn’t fit everything into my spiffy Michael Kors wallet so I pulled out my much-loved and seven-year-old Marc wallet and added that to my ever expanding tote-that-wishes-it-were-a-purse.

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But enough is enough! I’m sure, I have actually used the band-aids and the hand sanitizer in my stash of seemingly ultra-necessary things I carry — but not that often. Maybe once a year. So, I bought this cute little turquoise wallet and am going to see if I can handle at least a smaller wallet and then see if I can graduate to a smaller bag.

I mean, I don’t even own a small purse. All of my purses think they are purses because they are leather and not canvas, but cavernous totes they are. I figure this is safe though. I don’t get a bag unless I can live the lifestyle of the bag.

Something to work toward, but I’ll let you know if this just turns into me carrying three wallets instead!

 

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:

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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

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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).

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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.

I Totally Kate Middleton-ed This Dress

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Kate and I have soooo much in common: we both have brown hair, brown eyes, arms, teeth … the comparisons are endless really. But one thing we have especially in common — we like to re-wear dresses to events. Hashtag twinsies! (Wait, I’m already a twin. Tripletsies?!)

In all seriousness though, I think this is such a tricky thing to do. To find a dress that’s dressy enough, but not so dressy that it only works for one type of occasion, and you don’t get sick of it because it fits so dang well and lets you have a food baby without anyone noticing it — near impossible! But, guys, I found it!

This fairly nondescript dress was a last minute purchase in the wilds of Pennsylvania suburbia one summer when I was at a wedding and forgot to bring something semi-formal for the rehearsal dinner.

The pattern didn’t immediately catch my eye, but I knew that a halter top is usually flattering on me so I thought I would give it a go. And low and behold, this Banana Republic Outlet dress (yes, outlet) has since become my go-to for semi-formal events everywhere … around the world: the rehearsal dinner in Pennsylvania, a dinner date with Matt in Split, Croatia, just this past weekend at my friend’s beautiful wedding, and a number of non-photographed events.

The other genius quality of this dress? It does not wrinkle! I can roll it in a ball and stuff it in a carry-on and still look fairly presentable at the end of a 5 hour flight.

Do you guys have a magical clothing item that does all that? I seriously didn’t think they existed before I found this dress.

Kate probably wishes she could wear something this casual on her state visits to some far-flung former colony. I mean Alexander McQueen is nice and all, but a BP Outlet dress is apparently where it’s at.

Is Minimalism as a Trend Waning?

Cath and I have always felt that minimalism and living with less, shouldn’t be thought of as a specific “look.” Living with fewer things does not mean your closet will look perfectly monochrome or your kitchen will have absolutely nothing on the counters.

Minimalism looks different for everyone. At least, I think it can.

And so here is where I make that argument that you can dress like this:

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And have a house that looks like this:

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And still be someone who is trying to be more a conscientious consumer.

It makes sense that the Minimalist trend coincided with the aesthetic trend of neutral palettes in both fashion and interiors. But if you look at the amount of color and pattern showing up in Instagram, on Pinterest, magazines and current fashion shows, I think it’s safe to say that that “look” is waning, if ever so slightly.

And I love it! I love a very neutral, clean look too, but I’m equally excited by the exuberance of saturated color and swirls of patterns clashing together.

Though this look is more layered and often more “cluttered,” I don’t think that means it’s because you buy more or have to buy more to achieve that look. In some ways, this more bohemian style works really well with using what you already own. Seriously, pull everything out of your closet and put it together — either on your own body or on your couch. Voila! Boho-ization!

(The street style pics in this post are Phil Oh’s via Vogue)

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(I particularly fancy what these Gucci ladies have going on this and last season):

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In fact, that’s what I’m trying to do. Instead of wearing more color and pattern by running to the shops, I’m scrounging through my closet and figuring out how to combine my existing clothes that didn’t appeal to me when I was doing the black and white thing. I have made some trips to Goodwill to mix it up a bit more, but I’m not interested in adding to me closet’s girth. So I’ve been weeding out things at the same time.

I haven’t gone full Gucci 2016 just yet, but you can see the style change happening in the pic below. On the left is an outfit photo from early spring and below right is from just a few weeks ago:

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These pics do a pretty good job of summing up how I was dressing and how I feel like dressing now. And who doesn’t love a little layer challenge come fall.

Are you guys feeling it? That change in the air?

If you are a monochromatic gal/guy for life, or have been missing your inner bohemian, I still think you can live with less. I’ll try to prove it the next little while and keep you guys updated on how my style progresses and whether I’ve slipped into buying more stuff just so my life looks like Justina Blakeney’s.

Goodwill Hunting Part 2

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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

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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!

Downsizing my Purse

I’ve always carried around big purses – like the Baggu tote bag on the left. I don’t know when or how it started, but I can’t imagine not carrying around my wallet, makeup, coin purse, sunglasses, hand sanitizer and lotion, meds, a pen, and any other items that seem necessary.

But I’d like to try to minimize what I’m toting around every day. For one thing, I know that I don’t use all of the stuff in my purse every day. Plus, it probably doesn’t do my shoulder any good to be lugging around a heavy bag.

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Over the past year, I’ve attempted to downsize the number of items I carry with me, but it’s still a lot. Currently in my bag (above), I have my Marc Jacobs sunglasses and sunglasses case, a small bag for one chapstick, one lipstick and one lip gloss, my wallet, a change purse, my keys, a compact mirror, a reusable grocery bag, antibacterial gel, hand lotion, a worry doll (a gift from Lar), a pen, medicine, blotting papers, and a small wallet for my business cards.

I’d love to be one of those women that can carry a small, crossbody bag instead of a large tote, but I’ve been carrying around large purses for so long, I feel like I’ve become dependent on their size. So I’m going to try to carry around less for a week or two and see how it goes.

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I have a small Michael Kors handbag that I use for evenings out. It’ll fit my wallet, a pen, my sunglasses sans case (I’m a little worried about that), meds, keys (I removed some pieces that I don’t use often), antibacterial gel, chapstick, and one lipstick.

I’m not totally confident that I can spend a whole week with just a few items in my purse – as silly as that sounds. Sometimes I feel like all the things I carry around in my purse are more of a security blanket than something I really need. I’m hoping a week or two with just the basics will help me get over that.

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I’ll have a follow-up post in a few weeks about how it goes. Wish me luck!

Change in Style (aka I went shopping)

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See that t-shirt I’m wearing? And those shoes? And that bomber? Alllll new! And I blame my shopping on the seasons. Namely, spring and summer.

Who would have thought seasons could be so complicated?! I mean, I grew up in D.C. and we had four solid seasons. 8 years in Atlanta – there were also four seasons with a blink-and-you-miss-it winter. But after just four measly years in a place with 1.5 seasons (yup, I’m talking about you, Scotland) you wouldn’t think I would have forgotten so quickly about the wardrobe changes that shifts in seasons necessitate.

Scottish seasonal weather could be summed up by Billy Connelly’s apt quote, “There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter.” And even June isn’t guaranteed to stay too warm.

So, whilst living in the wet isles of the UK, I never needed to switch out my wardrobe. It stayed the same year-round except when I would swap out my coat out for a less heavy coat. Yes, even in a Scottish summer, you’ll want those cozy layers.

Well, I tried to do the same thing here in Seattle. I thought how different can one wet place be to another? It turns out, plenty! For one, Scotland makes Seattle look like a desert in comparison. I’ve had more sunny days here in 9 months than I had in all four years in Edinburgh combined. Also, on a blazing hot summer’s day in Scotland, you might hit 68°F if you are very lucky. We surpassed that the beginning of April here in the Pacific Northwest. And my wardrobe doesn’t know what to do with itself.

Neither does my attempt to live a more minimal lifestyle.

I’ve had to shop. I mean, I improvised for a while but eventually I got tired of being muggy and feeling over-dressed. And even though I do feel a twinge of guilt that my closet has grown instead of stayed minimal these past few months, I’ve gotten more excited about clothes again.

But I still feel in flux, if that makes sense. I feel a little startled at warmth and the ease of being outside without battling the elements. So it’s taking me a long minute to figure out how to keep my closet stream-lined when my giddy summer brain keeps bubbling up.

Now that I’ve bought a some new things, I’m going to take a hard look at some of the things that I loved to bits and pieces in Scotland, but don’t really serve me as well in the land of gentle breezes and rays of sunshine. (I’m sorry, tweed dress, but I just don’t see us working out any more!)

Have you guys ever had this experience being in a new place or making a change in your life that dictates a shift in how you dress (for instance, graduating college and taking a job in a conservatively-dressed office environment). I’d love to know how you adjusted and how long it took you to adjust.