Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Outfit: Willow Lane Barn wedding

I love Oscar de la Renta dresses, but I'm not as fond of the designer prices. And while I've noticed that stores like Anthropologie and Banana Republic often carry very similar prints and styles, I was very pleased when I discovered The Outnet and The Real Real

The two sites are very different. The Outnet is the discount version of Net-a-Porter. I've noticed that styles tend to show up on there about 1-2 years after they were current. They stock handbags, shoes and accessories as well as clothing. There are usually a range of sizes available. The items are new with tags, and as such, the discounts are not usually as steep. They occasionally will have additional promotions, like 30% off selected items. You have to pay for shipping and duties, but returns are free and very convenient and easy. 

The Real Real is primarily a consignment site, although I've found new with tags items and sample items on the site which have never been worn. Each item has measurements listed as well as a description of the condition of the item. I've generally found these to be accurate. The prices are quite a bit cheaper than retail, and there is a mix of older items (ie up to 10 years) and current season items. They seem to constantly have an extra 20% off promotion running, and at the end of the month, items are often marked down 30%. Shipping and duties are again extra, and returns are not included. I have only returned one item so far, and I found it to be a hassle. Whereas with The Outnet, you just slap on the DHL label and call for pickup, with The Real Real, you have to make all the arrangements on your own.

I thought this dress would be perfect for my cousin's fall wedding in rural Alberta. It was held in a beautiful wooden barn in the middle of the prairies, only an hour's drive from Calgary. I love how from Calgary you can be in the mountains, the prairies or the badlands in just an hour by driving in completely different directions.

As you can see, the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous autumn day. Some of my family came all the way from Korea for the wedding and it was great to see them again and celebrate with my cousin.

Outfit details:
Dress: Oscar de la Renta from the Real Real,(similar in pink at the Outnet, also reminds me of the Baikal dress from Anthropologie last winter)
Shoes: Nine West, (similar)
Scarf: from Cambodia
Purse: Sophie Hulme, (similar in green at the Outnetsimilar in black at the Real Real

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tanzania, again: Part 2

I only had 2.5 weeks in Tanzania this time, compared to 1 month last year. Also, the work week is 5.5 days which makes weekend trips difficult. 

However, I did manage to cram in a 1-night trip to the Serengeti. We went with Mosses from Sange Safaris. The company is locally owned and run, and I was very happy with the experience. We got picked up from Mwanza around 2 PM, drove to the Serengeti and came across a group of lions napping.
They're like giant housecats!
We spent the night at a gorgeous lodge on a hilltop. They were doing a controlled burn of the grass in order to control the tse tse flies (they can transmit sleeping sickness) and all of the smoke in the air created a gorgeous sunset. 

Almost every book about Africa seems to have a picture of a sunset and an acacia tree on the cover. Here's my version, and a few other examples
In the morning, one of my friends had a terrible migraine. While we waited for his meds to kick in, my other friend and I had amazing Swedish massages in an open-air room overlooking the Serengeti. We could see and hear zebras on the grasslands below. Because of our late start, Mosses told us we would not be able to make it to the central or northern parts of the Serengeti. Luckily, we spotted this guy when we were leaving the lodge, right by the side of the road.
My first cheetah!
We spent the rest of the day looking at lots of other animals like zebras, giraffes, elephants, hippos, wildebeast, and crocodiles before making our way back to Mwanza. 

After I finished working in Mwanza, I spent 5 days in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is well-known for its beautiful beach resorts and diving, but I chose to stay in Stonetown. Stonetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it's easy to spend hours exploring the twisting streets and wandering past colourful markets, carved wooden doors and coral stone buildings. 

Zanzibar used to be a major hub for the slave trade, and there is a church and a memorial built at the site of the old slave market. Underneath the church, you can see the tiny cells where dozens of slaves would have been crammed together while waiting for transport. It was very sobering to think about how many people suffered and died there.
Monument to the slaves
There are many spice and fruit plantations on Zanzibar. I toured a spice plantation one day, and it was interesting to learn what actually goes into all those little glass jars on my spice rack.  

Fresh nutmeg
I also did a day trip to Prison Island, which is visible just off the shore from Stonetown. Prison Island is home to a colony of Alhambra tortoises. You can feed them and pet them.

Finally, I went to Cheetah's Rock. The website says that it's not a zoo or a wildlife sanctuary, and I would agree that it's something that's hard to define. Many of the animals have been rescued or donated, and the owner teaches about the animals while allowing guests to interact with them. For some of the more dangerous animals, like the hyena, that meant feeding her chicken through the bars of her enclosure. We were allowed to hold and pet some of the other animals, like bush babies, lemurs, monkeys, and a cheetah. It was fun and I was sad to leave at the end of the tour.

I could hear the cheetah purring as I was petting her.

Feeding the bush babies. They liked cooked spaghetti.
I think this will probably be my last visit to Tanzania for a few years, but I'm looking forward to going back again someday.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tanzania, again, and an outfit

I was lucky enough to go back to Tanzania this summer for work. Most of the time, I was in Mwanza. It's not a particularly touristy town, but it's on the shores of Lake Victoria which is very lovely and picturesque (although teeming with schistosomiasis, a nasty parasite that enters through the skin and makes swimming a bad idea).

Mwanza means "Rock City", and true to its name, there are boulders and rocks everywhere. Some of the rocks have names. Dancing Rock overlooks the city and the lake, and it is named that because they have filmed music videos there.

There were no music videos when we visited, but it's an awesome spot to watch the sun setting over the lake.

The skirt I'm wearing in these photos is an African wax print. There are tailors in certain areas of town, and they can make clothing from photos. I found a photo of a skirt I liked on Etsy and picked the fabric at the tailor's shop. She took my measurements, and then the skirt was ready 2 days later.

Outfit details:
Shirt: very old, Smart Set
Skirt: handmade, from Tanzania (wax print but maxi length)
Shoes: Naturalizer
Purse: very old, Banana Republic
Closeup of the fabric

Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Oldie, but a Goodie

As I've mentioned several times on this blog, it's been a long time since I bought anything at Anthropologie. Rising prices, declining quality and uninspiring designs are the main reasons why my Anthro obsession has faded.

I bought this dress in 2012. I fell in love with the pretty, romantic red colour, the feminine details like the ruffles and the tie-neck. Plus it's silk! On sale, I'm pretty sure it was $119 or something similar. If it pops back, the price listed is $9.99 which would be amazing. This is the type of dress that I would love to see Anthropologie offer again...

Yesterday, I pulled it out of the closet for a date with my husband at the Trough. With the ruffles and the tie-neck, I felt like it didn't need any accessorizing. I paired it with simple grey suede pumps.

The Trough is our favourite restaurant in Canmore. The food is amazing and the service is always without fault. There are other restaurants in Canmore which also have good food but the service is often slow and lackluster.

The best part of the meal: dessert. I love sticky toffee pudding!
Outfit details: Anthropologie, Ruffled Oska Dress
Shoes: Nine West, old (similar)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Frock and Bike

After 25 years of riding a heavy bike I got from Canadian Tire for $65, my husband bought me a new bike for my birthday. It's from Mountain Equipment Co-op, and has all kinds of fancy features like an integrated hub. Thank you, Jeff!

Despite living in a city that is pretty anti-bike, I cycle almost everywhere in the summer: to work, to get groceries, to visit friends, to go out for dinner or to go to the theatre. I've learned over the years that wearing a skirt or a dress should not be an impediment to bike commuting. 

Here are my tips for riding a bike in a dress:

If you have a longer skirt (ie below knee length), it helps to gather up some of the fabric and tuck it under your bum on the seat. This prevents your skirt from getting caught in the spokes or the chain. It also makes it less likely that your skirt will fly up.

If I'm going a short distance, sometimes I'll cycle with one hand holding the front of my skirt down against the seat.

Another good option is to hold a coin or button behind you, in about the middle of the skirt. Then, take a rubber band or hair elastic and wrap it around the coin from the front of the dress. If this is clear as mud, you can check out this article on Slate for a better explanation.

Finally, you can wear shorts under your skirt or dress for better coverage. This is a good option if you're wearing a tight, short skirt as I've found they tend to ride up as you're pedaling. 

I wore this Club Monaco dress to dinner with my husband a few weeks ago. It's made of silk and cut on the bias, which it makes it really lovely and drapey and flowy. The cutouts are perfect for summer. This dress also comes in pink and a very pretty white and pink floral pattern. I highly recommend it.

A girl and her bike
I love the pretty straps at the back on this dress.
(Husband's fixed gear bike is in the right side of this frame... we're not hipsters, honestly!)
Cycling with my skirt tucked up
New bike even comes with a convenient water bottle/clutch holder!
Exploring new options for clipless pedals
(A word of caution when wearing Charlotte Olympia shoes and cycling: the raised spiderweb on the bottom of the sole actually got stuck on the pedal! It took some very careful wiggling to get it free!)
(Also, if you're curious, the bruising on my back is from cupping.) 
Outfit details:
Dress: Trina Silk Dress, Club Monaco (floral pattern is on sale now!)
Clutch: Arc clutch, Nina Ricci (similar in brown, mine was heavily marked down during Black Friday last year)
Shoes: Day of the Dead shoes, Charlotte Olympia (sold out)
Do you bike commute? Do you live in a bike-friendly city? Have you tried riding a bike wearing a dress?

(PS: I always wear a helmet... just took it off for the photos!)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Another (very) belated birthday post

I'm 35! I had another great birthday. If you can swing it, I would highly recommend making your birthday your own personal stat holiday. I took the day off from work, went to the mall for some birthday freebies, had lunch with my brother, went for a massage, went to a yoga class and then had a beautiful dinner with my husband at Vero Bistro.

This dress was my present to myself. I totally fell in love with the pretty flowers and when it finally went on sale, I couldn't resist. I got this bag during the Black Friday sales last year and it is beautiful and very functional. It's become my go-to bag for traveling because it has so many pockets and compartments. The leather scuffs a bit easily, but apart from that, it's been a good purchase.

Outfit details:
Dress: Oscar de la Renta, sold out
Bag: Proenza schouler, sold out (second hand in jacquard on The Real Real)
Shoes: Nine West, old (similar without an ankle strap, in white)
Do you have any birthday traditions?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Anthro: Tag Sale Reviews

I've been pretty busy lately so today was the first opportunity I had to check out Anthro's tag sale. They are running an additional 20% off sale items so I'm glad I waited!

I tried on this shirt dress first. It has lots of pretty details, including the lovely light blue pattern and the eyelet along the sides and back. I also love the collar. I found this dress fit true to size, and the slip inside is integrated into the dress rather than being a separate piece so it's really easy to put on. I seriously considered getting this dress but the volume of the skirt is just a bit too overwhelming for me.

Seapane Dress
Next up was this pretty dress with ties on the straps. The pattern is pretty and for some reason makes me think of summer trips to Europe. Unfortunately, although the dress is silk twill, the lining is made of polyester. Hot, heavy, scratchy, cheap-feeling polyester. Boo.

Tied Acionna Silk Dress

I also tried this lovely dress on in a size small. It was too big, unfortunately, and the neckline was pretty low on me. I did like the draping around the hips as it gives the dress a unique silhouette. I think I would have taken this home if my size had been available. I could not find this one on the website which may mean it's already sold out. Not surprising, since it is very pretty and feminine.

I tried on this dress by HD in Paris. It's made of a stretchy knit material, but fortunately the seams are not as lumpy as other stretchy dresses I've tried on in the past (Tanith dress, I'm looking at you). This is a nice, versatile basic that I can wear to work now and in the winter. For $49.95 minus 20% off, it was an easy decision to bring this home.

Marceline Flounced Sheath

I've seen this dress all over the blogosphere and Instagram. The halter neck has buttons on it rather than a tie which keeps the look very clean and graphic. The horizontal stripes might be intimidating but they're actually very flattering. I love how the black stripe in the middle defines the waist. Unfortunately, the dreaded polyester curse stirkes again. If I can be very whiny for a moment, "Whyyyy, Anthro??? Why? Why make such a beautiful, unique dress in such a cheap material?" Sigh.

Candymint Halter Dress
Have you found any good deals at the tag sale? How do you feel about polyester?