earth tones

“Luxury is aggression dressed as fashion.”

                                — Handbags, Anna Johnson

Here’s one of my ideas of an ideal summer ensemble. Loose and light, ultra comfortable (as in the photo I was recently distracted by).


I could wear earth tones every day.


So, this is a (pretty good) replica of Vuitton’s Sofia Coppola bag.

It doesn’t often happen that I am interested in a high-end designer item, not in the ‘willing to fork over my money’ kind of way, anyway (just in a ‘how inspiring’ way). Usually it’s moot because I don’t remotely have enough money to consider it. I liked the design of this bag so much, however (and for so long. I rarely like bags, only very recently do I even own multiple bags), that I was open to that shady category, the replica. I feel no disloyalty to Luis Vuitton, as they have not lost a sale…I was never going to spend $7,000 on this bag, so this is all happening a little outside their reality (intellectual copyright is still very slippery in fashion, a difficult topic, but the pricing of luxury brands is also a difficult topic). I did look around for something similar, actually, but none of them were as nice as this replica, which is, in fact, quite nice. It is, satisfyingly, about exactly as nice as it should be.

The cachet of luxury items is by turns interesting and troubling to me. They are, to the cognoscenti, walking price tags; subtle or perhaps not so subtle announcements of superfluous wealth. There is something aggressive and potentially gauche (if not outright tacky) about this. Especially when the items are being worn not because they are loved for themselves, but because they are on trend.

In the best cases, though, they are truly sublime objects, beautifully constructed out of impeccable materials. So there is something aggressive about them either way, but there can also be about them something ultimately tasteful, reflective of excellent taste.

Even what is now a kind of middle market, the $50-80 pair of pants, say (even given that a savvy shopper would almost never pay the full price), I would not call inexpensive. That is not inexpensive to me, anyhow. It is difficult to be stylish on a true budget (remembering that this book had a lot of great ideas about it, though). Or, it is not difficult to be stylish (given a bit of time to slowly accumulate good pieces), but it is difficult to be stylish in a variegated way, to have many solid style options. One must be very resourceful and invest a lot of time to find pieces made of good material that have been treated well, designed well, cut well, which, in many cases, at least at some point in their existence, were relatively expensive. Good clothes shouldn’t be inexpensive (someone somewhere was woefully underpaid, if they are…and likely even if they are expensive this is still the case…), they should be an investment.

I do like the French (at least, most famously French) concept of a minimal, versatile closet, some 10-15 carefully curated pieces that can be mixed and matched endlessly with different accessories to provide variation….but I like too many things. I want to look like too many kinds of people. I completely agree with the virtues of this concept but I cannot fully embrace it with my style so in flux. Maybe one day. My closet does need culling.

Ahhh. This is why I have no money left.



This is Nars Taj Mahal blush again. So good.


The necklace is various incarnations of jasper, which is quite a chameleon and has long been a favorite stone of mine.



Camisole from asos, lounge pants from hush, Anthropologie Amentum sandals, obi belt from Viktor Sabo, Breil Milano watch, bag, bracelet and necklace from eBay. On the lips: Lipstick Queen in Jungle Queen, a beautiful, sheer poppy orange-red. [The packaging is a stunning dragonfly green and it’s beautifully done all around.]



reading: Didion, Chandler, budget style, Proust, cookery


The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion — Joan Didion’s account of the year after her husband’s death. Interesting reflections on grief and loss, memory and love. She writes about being lucidly irrational, maintaining certain habits as if her husband might come home at any minute, analyzing her mourning (and researching the human experience of mourning, grieving) while being at a loss to stem or manage it. Compelling reading, especially as I think our culture does a poor job of establishing social and emotional structures/traditions/protocols around grief, despite the fact that grief is universal and visits all.

The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler — A collection of short stories I picked up after seeing [Agatha Christie’s] Ms. Marple reading it in the (I think very good) 2004 BBC series.  Entirely worth it if only for the essay of the same name that serves as a prologue to the collection (I am exponentially more likely to watch a detective story than to read one, but I am interested to read about the writing of them. Go figure.). Full of the kind of dry humor I love, and interesting besides.

“…the good novel is not at all the same kind of book as the bad novel. It is about entirely different things. But the good detective story and the bad detective story are about exactly the same things, and they are about them in very much the same way.”

“I have known relatively few international financiers, but I rather think the author of this novel has (if possible) known fewer.”

“The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.”

“The story is this man’s [the detective’s] adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

Good, right?

Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less, Anna Johnson — There are a lot of memoir/advice books about style, and I have read quite a few of them (I will not say how many, but many, many). I regret to inform you that most may be categorized somewhere along the spectrum between useless and awful. Or plotted on a grid where the x axis goes from useless to awful and the y axis goes from trite to mind-bogglingly dull, the intersection of which axes is pure, unalloyed vapidity. Some can be skimmed quickly enough that extracting one or two redeeming ideas makes the whole business worthwhile, others cannot even boast this. I still keep hoping though, that they are going to have fruit for me, and I keep checking them out of the library. Well, finally, one with some sense. This is not badly written! This is not bad advice! I am going to check out her other books!

Seriously, though, if you are trying to get more mileage out of your fashion budget, or trying to approach fashion practically without sacrificing a sense of luxury (and can tolerate the odd short anecdote), this is a sensible little book. She touches on food, entertaining, home decor, travel, and other contexts of style as well. Not too bossy about ‘every woman should have x in her closet’ kind of stuff, either, which can be hard to stomach. Really incredibly less bad than the genre would lead one to expect.

The French Slow Cooker, Michele Scicolone — I got a slow cooker. If I understand correctly, my mind is about to be blown.

And I’m back to reading Swann’s Way, from which I’d been distracted for a while.