It's Frickin Freezing, Mr. Bigglesworth


Sweater: Orchard Pullover by Nicole Montgomery; Bartlettyarns Glen Tweed in granite; my notes and modifications on Pink Lady
Skirt: bcbgeneration; similar styles at Club Monaco and by Joa
Socks: Delicious Knee Socks by Laura Chau, expertly knit by AJ aka glacierflame
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik boots; still kinda bummed by this year's classic black stiletto boot selection, however, if these go on more sale (say total price in the $300 neighborhood), I would feel good recommending them
Gloves: Cashmere-lined leather from a shop in Florence; buy a pair; heck, buy three Lips: Korres mango butter lipstick in nude PLUS Bobbi Brown high shimmer lip gloss in Hot

I was feeling pretty good on the drive to work. I had finally figured out that iTunes is so effing stupid that even though I definitely own the music and it's on my external hard drive (and has been synced to iTunes previously), iTunes doesn't believe I still own it once the external hard drive is turned off, so in order to get to that music, on goes the drive, transfer goes the iTunes, music goes to me. This allowed me to be cruising down the highway with Joe Cocker playing. Loudly. This was making me really happy until I saw the life I really wanted in the lane next to me. There was a simply gorgeous vintage Mercedes SL red convertible (top up, obviously) cruising along having a grand old time, and I realized that what I really wanted was to be listening to Joe Cocker in that car. I hope to all the gods in all the worlds that the man driving the car that should be mine wasn't listening to Miley Cyrus.

While I shouldn't be complaining about the cold as I will, personally, be temporarily unaffected by it starting Sunday when we travel to warmer climes to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving of walking on the beach, sipping daiquiris, and taunting the residents of underwaterland, I still hate the cold and BEG of the world's lovely warm locales to get something approximating a non-tourism economy and a Whole Foods so that I can move to you. The strange thing about this winter when compared with all the previous ones, is that I will actually spend very little of it outside. My garage is attached, I drive to and from work, and the only mandatory daily outside is the 50 yard walk from my car to the front door of my office. So I feel as though I will experience winter a bit differently this year. Which doesn't make me hate it less. Especially as no matter what, my toes always get cold. I don't know if you can really see the socks in the photo (it's dark out there), but they are delightful and come well over my knees and I am wearing them over socks and under boots and have been in my office now for 45 minutes...and my toes are still cold.

This yarn comes from Rhinebeck 2013 and while it is a touch itchy and I am unusually wearing a t-shirt under the sweater, it is definitely warm. Which is why I definitely bought more yarn from this company Rhinebeck 2014 (though I got their sportweight this year). While I think the cabled cuffs are pretty cool on the sweater, they are also a touch impractical because they make the arm opening amply large enough for cold air to blow in; however, the turtleneck permits no such incursions. Which owns. I don't know why more people haven't made this sweater as the cables are really nice and it's really really winter appropriate. With a couple of tweaks, this is a pretty perfect winter sweater. Go forth and knit!


The Creative Process (snicker snicker)


Mu husband thought you all ought to see what it looks like when I'm not posing for the camera. Oh hi there, surprise, I'm still in a sweater and high heels even when I am hunched (sorry, mom) over the computer with knitting in my lap.

I'm working on my first design with a chart and it is way tougher than I thought it would be. WAY! I've identified some of the problems: I don't spend a lot of time reading charts because I kind of internalize what the stitch pattern is and then only refer to the chart to verify my work along the way. As such, if something is out of place or dubious on the chart, I auto-correct it in my brain because I see that, for example, all the other rows cross the cable to the right, so this one line where it crosses to the left is an error. Such luxuries are not cool when you're the one writing the pattern. A gorgeous, wonderful, patient, group of knitters are joining me on this journey and have been super helpful - so much so that I am almost ready to move from crappy notes to attractive pattern layout AND make a chart for them (and future knitters) that is not riddled with errors and inconsistencies.

But it's not easy, I tell you.

I finished a sleeve last night so I know that the sleeve works mostly. As in the sleeve will work better for everyone who isn't wearing my imperfect sweater, with two more stitches per size. I will likely do the collar next so that I can have all the bases covered in advance of the testers. This will produce a hilarious WIP since it will have 1.5" of body below the underarms (aka not even remotely enough to cover a bust), one sleeve, and a collar. I'll spare you those photos.

And yes, that is a stemless wineglass next to the coffee cup. What, does your desk look any different?


If You Have To Dry The Dishes...


Sweater: Nora Sweater by Linda Marveng; Polo & Co Masgot Fine in gres; my notes and modifications on "Distaff"
Skirt: J. Crew; similar styles by Line and Dot, Joseph, and if you're one of the sizes left, on supersale at ASOS
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik Carolyne; similar styles by bcbgmaxazria and Brooks Brothers
Lips: Marc Jacobs Lovemarc Lip Gel in Showstopper

"If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
('Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore"

This is what happens when it's 8:10 in the morning and I ask my husband to shoot a couple of photos. Now some would say that it's love: the man adores me even when I give him the double finger and stick my tongue out, but in reviewing the 20 or so completely unusable shots, I think it's more a case of dropping dishes on the floor.

Over on the Yarniacs board on ravelry, there has recently been some discussion of how many sweaters people have knit and if there is a limit to how many one can reasonably keep track of in one's wardrobe. I have a frightening number of sweaters, but every so often I reevaluate their utility in my wardrobe. Maybe my taste has changed, maybe something that didn't bother me at first, now bothers me, maybe I've decided I can't really wear a certain color, or maybe I just look at a sweater, realize it doesn't get enough wear as it ought to, and consign it to the outgoing pile. This morning I was all set to wear a different sweater. I tried it on, it went well with the skirt, but something about the neck wasn't right and I knew it was going to bother me. My helpful husband said it looked like I was wearing it backwards (I wasn't) but I tried it on backwards just to see. Nope, something about me and the sweater no longer clicked. I generally throw them up on ravelry for sale for the cost of the yarn, because clearing out my closets in that way assuages potential guilt over new yarn purchases. It also allows me to look at sweaters like the one I ended up wearing and identifying what it is I like about them.

I like this sweater because it is both really busy and yet really refined. The combination of the light fingering yarn and the neutral color make the complex design work in my wardrobe. If I had knit this in red, a color I adore, it wouldn't have been the same. For a piece like this to end up in my rotation, it had to be a neutral, and I really love it. As you can see, I did very little other styling - everything else is simple so that the sweater can steal the show. I wore a similar outfit yesterday with a navy skirt, nude shoes, and a pink cabled sweater with a peplum - I'll wear it again before sweater season is over and get a photo for you.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice something unusual about the outfit in the footwear department: these shoes seem rather sedate for me. You're not wrong. This style, the Carolyne, has been around for years and I would never have considered buying a pair (I thought them a little dowdy); however, when one finds a pair on ebay for 1/10 the retail price and in one's size, well, it seems somehow wrong not to at least give them a try. And you know what? They're ok. They're not my favorites, but they are such a staple and as soon as the shoemaker fixes the tension on the slingback (when you have a foot as large as mine, shoe manufacturers also seem to believe you have barrels for ankles and make the straps WAY WAY WAY too big), they will get tons more wear. And one day, I might want to rock the dowdy look...




Sweater: Textured Tunic with side buttons by Stephanie Japel; madelinetosh 80/10/10 worsted in hearth; my (very few) notes and modifications on Knittin' With Dian
Skirt: Saks black mini-skirt; similar styles everywhere because it's a staple, but here's one from The Limited that's on sale and one from Loft that will be eventually - remember do NOT buy from Loft full price unless you enjoy setting money on fire
Shoes: Maiden Lane; similar styles by Miu Miu and Gianvito Rossi
Lips: Bobbi Brown Art Stick in Sunset Orange and Dolce and Gabbana passion duo gloss fusion lipstick in Sensual

Notice anything different?!?!? I cannot tell you how much better I feel about myself. Really. I need to remember how good this feels so that I don't permit another 4 months to elapse before my next chop. But a lot of work went into this photo this morning because when I put on the sweater, I realized that since I had made it, both the neck and the keyhole had stretched, and stretched in a way I didn't find attractive. So at 10 minutes to 8 this morning, I grabbed the leftover ball (yay for saving those) and a crochet hook and crocheted myself a little more sweater. So glad I did. Of course, then I noticed a moth hole and didn't have time to fix that, so I tied a hasty knot and tucked the offending bits away. Prior to this year, my sweaters were stored non-optimally, and every once in a while I find a casualty of that. Now everything is stored in big plastic tubs of moth free goodness!

Today I want to talk about two things, both under the heading of compromise. The shoes I'm wearing are new and they're cheap. If you took a look at the similar styles for the lady wanting calf-hair leopard pumps this season, you will notice that the CHEAPER pair costs $800. I didn't (don't) want to spend $800 on shoes, but I really wanted calf-hair leopard pumps. So I've been on the hunt for two months to find something that meets my stringent requirements: leather, good heel, and did I mention leather?, and under $300. Here's the problem, though, and it's one I am loathe to share because it's depressing. Remember when I was bitching about J. Crew charing $200 for $20 merchandise? Yeah, well shoes work the same way. Last year, when I knew my black pumps needed replacing, I attempted to find a cheaper replacement. I tried on a very popular style by Kate Spade which cost in the neighborhood of $250 and you know what? They were cheap as all get out. They looked cheap, they felt cheap, but at $250 they weren't cheap. See also: DVF, Stuart Weitzman, Tibi, and a whole host of other "mid-priced" shoes that aren't demonstrably better than what you'd find at Aldo. And it really really chaps my ass because the price suggests quality. DVF, Kate Spade, and Tibi make reliably good clothing, so one would assume their shoes would be similar. One would be wrong. So I took a $80 chance on Gilt.com's house brand. I say a chance because if the shoes didn't work, I'd only get my refund as a credit for other things on Gilt. The heel looked good, the leopard pattern was also the right color and distribution of spots (you'd be surprised what passes for leopard print), and the shoe was leather. Not the sole (which it is on expensive shoes) but the shoe itself. And I deemed that close enough. Well, the fact that they're on my feet should tell you how I feel about them. Good enough to keep, wear, and blog about. Now, I don't know if I would have liked the plain black leather pump in this style and the reason is that, without leopard to distract, any flaws in the leather or construction would be very apparent, but I would consider buying another pair of these shoes in a patent or even a suede. At $80, it's a relatively small risk, and a far better investment than in a pair of synthetic shoes from one of the mall brands.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is this skirt and the one I didn't wear today. You've heard me talk about vanity sizing before, but I think it's important to illustrate it wherever possible because women, as a generalization, are ridiculously obsessed with the sizes we wear. And I will fully admit to my complicity in this: after I stop laughing at the ridiculous size my skirt from Loft is (or my dress from Anthro), I do a little fist pumping because of a number on a piece of fabric fully knowing that it doesn't correspond to any reality. Strangely, I own fewer black skirts than I feel I ought to. Originally, before discovering the one I'm currently wearing, I thought my only choice for a straight black skirt was one from Brooks Brothers that wasn't quite right because it has two decorative buttons on a grosgrain ribbon waist band, and the buttons show through the sweater making silly lumps at my midsection. The Brooks Brothers skirt is a size 4. The skirt I am wearing in this photograph from Saks's house brand, circa mid-90s is a size 10. "How is that possible?" you ask. I respond that it's due to the fact that sizes are lies. Prior to putting on the Saks skirt, I laid it down on top of the Brooks Brothers skirt. They were (within 1/2cm) the exact same width at the waistband. Well, but which one is "right?" I would answer that neither is right. According to the kids at wikipedia things are worse than you could ever imagine. You're probably so fat you shouldn't even leave the house. Because charts! Which is why compromise is so important. When Karl Lagerfeld pronounces judgment upon me, he will likely judge me a pretty mundane size 6 because when I try on a skirt at Chanel or Fendi, that's generally what it is. He would probably look down his nose at me and hand me a size 8 dress because boobs, but then direct me to a tailor to fix the waist. So I can neither lock myself in the bathroom and cry all day because I'm wearing a, gasp, size 10 skirt (high school me would have killed a man to fit her ampleness into a size 10 anything), nor can I prance around like a mean girl because I could have also worn a size 4. Full disclosure: last week I bought a dress online in a size medium because the company's size charts assured me that was the size that would fit my actual measurements. But, in a panic, because my other letter-sized dresses are smalls (and one or two are EXTRA smalls), I called the 1800 number to get the actual measurements of the dress if possible because moi, a medium? Impossible! Except for every instance in which it is possible. And in every instance in which it is possible my actual body has not changed. Whether you call it a 4 or a 10, the actual measurement around my waist (which is sadly larger than it has been since quitting smoking) remains the same. And so do yours!


I Am A Lying Liar


Sweater: Audrey in Unst by Gudrun Johnston; madelinetosh dk twist in onyx; my notes and modifications on Indispensable
Dress: Dorothy Perkins; similar styles at H&M, ASOS, and Kohl's
Belt: ASOS; similar styles by Mango and Lafayette 148
Shoes: Christian Louboutin Apostrophy pumps; more wallet-friendly options by bcbgmaxazria and Schutz
Lips: Bobbi Brown high shimmer lip gloss in Hot
Nails: Essie in chinchilly with matte topcoat

I was all bluster and promise, wasn't I? Oh, you're going to be totally amazed by my amazing outfit and new sweater and it's going to be totally off the hook and OMGPONIES! Funny thing. I finished the sweater last night - it's awesome, by the way - and then took a look at the designer's email which asked her testers, politely, if they would refrain from posting photos of the sweater until its release. So....no photos for you until the release and no superfantastic matching outfit for me.

I wanted to use this time, instead, to discuss fast fashion since I seem to spend a lot of time discussing why you should forego this month's mortgage payment in favor of a new pair of shoes. I adore fast fashion. And I kind of hate all the people who have taken to bashing it and linking it to our conspicuous consumption culture and rape of the earth. And if you'll allow me to skirt politics for a moment, I'll try to explain in an apolitical way. There's a New York chef who holds a place in my heart for a) being a fellow alum of my high school, b) giving my brother a job at his super fancy restaurant while my brother was still in college, c)serving delicious, farm fresh, free-range, fair trade, blah blah blah blah blah food without making you want to stab him in the face with his own sharpened self-righteousness. Since he was the beneficiary of such a stellar education, you can find him writing about his food and farm and such and you know what stuck out for me most? When he said that the only reason he free range fair trades organicohydroponicoantibioticfreeomegawhatevers is that it TASTES BETTER. Not to put words in his mouth (and I'm not going to identify him just in case I'm grossly misinterpreting him), but he more or less said that he might be all in favor of eating lab-grown four-assed monkey if that happened to taste good. That his food is better for the environment/people's health is icing on a delicious cake. And I kind of feel the same way. If the apple from Stop & Shop tasted as good as the apple from Whole Foods, I'd be buying it at half the price; I shop at, and defend the practice of shopping at, Whole Foods not because it's an important part of my insufferable yuppie identity, but because the shit I buy there is, for the most part, better than the shit I buy elsewhere.

So how does that relate to fast fashion? I think I mentioned it yesterday. Over the past 20 or so years, the shit one buys at Banana Republic or J. Crew is NOT better than the shit one buys at H&M, Forever 21, ASOS, etc. It just happens to be 4-10x the price. To me, shopping at J. Crew full price would be like buying a mealy apple from Whole Foods. If my apple's going to be mealy regardless of where I buy it, I might as well buy the cheap one. This Dorothy Perkins dress is terrible (and would it not have cost me almost as much to return it as it did to purchase it in the first place, I would have done so - word to the wise: DO NOT buy from Dorothy Perkins unless you are positive you want the thing you're buying). See that incredibly flattering shelf on top of what looks to be my boobs? I didn't just grow a second set of boobs over my existing set, nor am I wearing a fantastically crappy bra. No, that's the facing on this dress and I'm seriously considering cutting it out (since I only noticed how terrible it was while looking at the photos - but much like my increasingly erratic hair, I like to paint a picture of myself that approximates accurate and I have hair this terrible for real). The obi belt (more on that in a moment) is obscuring the fact that while, in the online photo, the pattern mostly matched going across the seam that separates bodice from skirt, my particular dress has no such aspirations. Long story short, this is a terrible dress. It was also a $25 dress. Thing is, I look at clothing all the time in stores where things cost more than $25 and these problems still exist (the failure to pattern match is of special offense to me because it basically says that while it would only cost the company a dollar AT MOST (in wasted fabric) to match the pattern, you're not worth that dollar now shut up and eat your shit that you just paid $300 for). So when someone on (and I single out this outfit because I happen to have heard a diatribe about fast fashion here on two separate occasions) NPR tells me that I ought to care about where my clothing comes from and not buy from fast fashion stores, I want to set that person on fire - or take her on a tour of what passes for "quality clothing" in all but the highest end of brands. Now it would be nice if my closet was filled with Dolce & Gabbana dresses, but I will likely never own one unless I find it at a thrift store because I don't have $3500 for a dress. So when the blazer at Zara is just as good as the blazer at J. Crew, I'm always buying the Zara one because it is ALWAYS less than half the price. Sometimes, though, you can get really lucky. This belt, which I still don't know how to style on a waist as short as mine, but which I deeply deeply wanted, is a super find. It was less than $40 and it's made of real leather. I don't know how that happens unless it was a sick or somehow inferior cow. I got it at ASOS and while ASOS is a crapshoot when it comes to what you get vs. what you thought you were getting (do not buy any of their items made from "ponte" which is code for t-shirt material which can be sourced at Forever 21 or H&M for far less), you can often find pretty quality stuff there.

I happen to like the earth and its resources. I happen to care about the welfare of people not in my immediate social circle. I happen to also know that the cat is out of the bag. Much like we're not all going to give up our cars and ride bikes so the choices are - wait the CHOICE is - find an alternative to fossil fuels so we can keep driving, the solution to the problem of finite resources to make clothing and the deplorable conditions many who make that clothing suffer is not NO MORE CLOTHING FOR ANYONE, but advocating for better choices within the existing system - ok so that might be a little political, sorry it's election day, stop reading this and go vote.


Last Minute Substitution


Sweater: Harrogate by Amy Herzong; elsa wool woolen-spun worsted in white; my notes and modifications on Chalybs
Skirt: Alice + Olivia Milo suede skirt; similar styles by Forever 21, bcbgeneration, and Red Valentino
Blazer: Smythe wool blazer; similar colors (the funky shoulder thing makes the style pretty unique) by Calvin Klein and A.L.C. (and this looks like a pretty good deal if you're in the market)
Shoes: Gucci crocodile peep toes; similar styles by Ivanka Trump, Gucci (with logo), and Ted Baker
Lips: Marc Jacobs Lovemarc Lip Gel in Showstopper
Nails: Essie in chinchilly with matte topcoat (thanks, pinterest)

Today's post was going to be amazing. I was going to have a new sweater, a new skirt, and new shoes. I was going to be a newness cavalcade. And everything was going to match amazingly well: the nails match both colors in the sweater and skirt, the lips match a color in the skirt, the new shoes likewise. I was going to look like the kind of adult who has her shit together, even if she can't manage to book a haircut (Saturday, it's happening, for seriouses). This plan was totally in effect until 10:15 last night. It was just me, ESPN's 30 for 30 on the Leonard/Duran matchup, and a mere 3" left to go on the turtleneck part of the test knit I'm doing When I looked down at the turtleneck, however, I noticed something very upsetting: somewhere around 3" into it, I had messed up a total of 6 stitches of broken rib. I knit two more rounds attempting to ignore it. Then I realized that since the mistake was on the front of the sweater, it had to be rectified. So I inserted another needle into those 6 stitches before the mistake an unraveled everything above, assuming I could just use a trusty crochet hook to right the wrong. Which I could, but not without mountains of extra yarn and super loose stitches - a phenomenon I can't quite grok, but one which made the time I took to fix the problem (and it took me several tries because I kept missing a row somewhere) completely and utterly wasted. I had to admit defeat. 4" of turtleneck will have to be ripped out. And while there are some souls who, at 11pm can power through, I am not one of those souls. I need a tremendous amount of beauty sleep to emerge even somewhat human. I will very much attempt to finish today so that tomorrow or Wednesday I can show off.

Which brings us to today's outfit. A great number of my Rhinebeck friends sprinted to, and loaded up on, cormo wool, and who can blame them. The stuff is really really soft, makes great cables, and likely has curative powers (the last one is a joke). I know this because I was fortunate enough to make this sweater from cormo wool earlier in the year and simply adore it. I loved Amy's choice of cables too. What I didn't love, was the idea of knitting this in pieces from the bottom up. So I spent some time with notebook and pen to make this sweater top-down and in the round. A surprisingly simple feat, by the way. It's just a question of being able to read numbers backwards. I also think that I might have decided that in the cable vs. lace wars, I come down on the side of cables. This weekend, I tried to wear one of my sweaters with lace and I just don't love feeling that I ought to wear a camisole underneath. Also, those holes in the fabric make me cold. So this warm, cozy, cabled sweater is something I need more of.

The skirt is one of my infamous buy-the-same-thing-in-more-than-one-color purchases. I also have this skirt in army green. I waited until both went on 75% sale and, as a result feel very good about myself when I wear them. The blazer is another sale-stalked item. Smythe is a Canadian company that saw its desireability skyrocket after Duchess Kate wore one of its blue blazers. I originally saw this blazer in a photo spread in InStyle magazine (2011 I think) and ripped the page out to stare at because it was so so cool. It was also so so $700. It is true that I saw the blazer in person at Saks with my dad during the post-Christmas sale that year, but it was still $350 and I wasn't in a position to spend that kind of money that year (we had sort of just blown all our money on a three-week honeymoon). I did, however, ascertain what size I was (and nota bene to anyone who ever wants to purchase a Smythe blazer - they run INCREDIBLY small. I wear a size up from what I would wear (I know this from dress-up, not from purchases) in couture clothing which is 2 sizes up from what I wear at The Gap). About two weeks later, I was looking at the next round of holiday markdowns when I saw that the previously sold-out blazer was back in stock at Bergdorf's (I love you, returns) and for less than $200. Sign from the shopping gods to be certain. Signed, sealed, delivered, and I haven't regretted it a single day. It is amazingly well made. The fabric is of such terrific quality, the lining is flawless, the cut superb. In other words, Smythe has done enough to make me seriously consider, when and if my finances allow, purchasing their goods at full price. The difference between this blazer I got on sale for about $200 and the blazer I'd pay $200 for full-price at J.Crew is like the difference between the chicken you lovingly roast in your house and a mcnugget. Which is my long way of saying (again) that quality is worth the price in instances where the buyer can reasonably afford it; and that it might be worth having only one blazer you paid $400 for vs. 4 $100 blazers.

Finally, I'd like the thank pinterest for my nails. I saw this pop up on my feed last week, taking the beloved Essie color chinchilly and finishing it with a matte top coat. As both items were already in my house, this seemed a no brainer. I did a kind of crappy job, but I like the idea of this and look to incorporate the matte topcoat more this year.