Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Shopping in Amsterdam and Paris, September 2014

tweed dress - COS, color-blocked dress - COS, Soleil de Soie scarf - Hermes (vintage), black and white silk Bandana - Hermes, grey and black "twilly" silk hairband - Hermes, grey and black star cardigan - Rika, black and white star sweatshirt - Maison Scotch

I did not shop the first four days I was in Europe, because I was escorting my two photographer friends, and we were BUSY finding great locations and walking, walking, walking!  (there will soon be a new header for The Vivienne Files!)

But once B and I got to Amsterdam, I began to look about.  I didn't throw myself madly into the process; I waited until I saw things that had whappage; if I hadn't found anything at all that really had appeal, then I wouldn't have wasted my very hard-earned money.  It's important to remember how long it takes to earn money when you go to spend it - is object "X" worth 3, 5, or 14 hours of your effort?  Sometimes, you just have to conclude that the answer is NO.  (screamed loudly, while running out of the store waving your hands about like a crazy person)

The first thing I found was in Amsterdam, walking toward the Rijksmuseum. Tamago isn't very big, and it doesn't scream out at you, but once you're inside, it's fully of lovely items.  Draped beautifully in a display case I saw the "twilly" - those odd little Hermes scarves that look like a hair ribbon or a belt for someone more svelte than I.  I liked the simplicity of this design - nothing but letters! - and the taupe/grey color looks really cool in my hair. Whappage?  Yes!

Amsterdam is absolutely chock full of vintage, and also of amazing little stores with clearly defined points of view.  I've been looking at Maison Scotch clothes online for a while, so when we found one of their stores very near us, we had to stop in.  While much of their clothing is... young... in viewpoint, the sweatshirt in black with white stars (faux leather, meticulously satin stitched in place) was irresistible. 

And bizarrely enough, we were staying upstairs from a store - Rika!  (I'll tell you about it tomorrow - it was amazing...)  I adored the owners and staff; they seemed like instant friends.  All of Amsterdam was warm and friendly, but these people topped everyone.  So when Rika herself was wandering around wearing a star cardigan, I was attracted to it.  She pointed out that if I remove all of the tags, it is, in fact, completely reversible!  Sold...

Back to Paris on the train, and into COS to look at dresses that I've been admiring online for weeks.  The tweed one was on my shopping list for sure, and the color-blocked one convinced me on the basis of it's excellent styling, great heavy fabric, and high-quality construction.  I could pretty much live in dresses, and these two are going to go into heavy rotation immediately.

At this point, I'm thinking I'm pretty much finished, but while we were doing an in-depth wander of the Saint Germain neighborhood, we happened upon Adrenaline.  The owner is lovely, friendly and helpful (unlike some very famous resale shop owners, who seem to feel that they're doing you a favor).  I asked if she had any Hermes in black, and she did indeed have the Soleil de Soie, in immaculate condition and at a very competitive price.  Sigh...

Bear in mind that through all of this, I had been spending money that I'd been saving for months for this trip. So I was pretty happy with my finds, except for one thing.

Remember that I mentioned the mayhem and chaos of our cab ride from the Amsterdam train station to our room at Rika?  Well, in the midst of near-death experiences at the hands of our cabby, and trying to text the owners of Rika to let them know we were on our way, we managed to mislay my cell phone.  My really nice, invaluable, I live with it in my hand phone. So I went through the entire week thinking that I needed to come back to Chicago and replace my phone.

But getting ready to go through the scanners at the Charles de Gaulle airport, my phone appeared.  In a hidden pocket of Belovedest's briefcase!  How this happened defies our best efforts searching in the memory palace, but I ended up going through security feeling that I had a little bit of free cash.

And Hermes duty free is STRAIGHT AHEAD.

Thus, the really nifty black and white silk bandana.  It's 55 cm square - just a nice size to go around my hair, or as a wee sprightly touch around my neck.  I consider it a celebration of finding my phone!

I know, it's hard to imagine that I saw any museums, monuments, or restaurants... but I have found that my Paris purchases almost always become my wardrobe staples for years to come, so I've started to plan for some shopping when I'm there.  Does anybody else have this much luck shopping 4,000 miles from home?

You might not have noticed the new tab at the top of The Vivienne Files page, just below the header.  The Vivienne Files Books, CD's and Scarves are my way of giving you all first dibs on things that I'm clearing out of our very tiny and cluttered home; I've already got a few books listed!  Drop by...


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Packing: A 5-Pack Would Have Worked...

Or, in my world, 8 = 42...

You might remember my excellent travel outfit:
brooch - Tiffany (no longer available), earrings - Majorica, necklace - Max and Chloe, tee shirt - Lands' End, bag - L.L.Bean, slouch pants - Eileen Fisher, scarf - Julie Egli, cardigan - Eileen Fisher, loafers - Stuart Weitzman
I had this outfit on for an eternity of time, and I don't regret a thing!  It was ideal, and I will almost certainly wear something very similar for future trips.  But my suitcase was TOO MUCH STUFF...  I'd have been well-served to have just packed this:
marled sweater - J Jill (no longer available), black shirt - J Jill, blue scarf - Nordstrom, grey shirt - J Jill (no longer available), white tee - Lands' End, square scarf - Hermes, pearl bracelet - Majorica, pearl earrings - Majorica, pearl necklace - Majorica, waxed jeans - Eileen Fisher, hoop earrings - Katherine Seaman, black and pearl necklace - Majorica, pink scarf - Christian Dior (no longer available), woven flats - Cole Haan/Nike (no longer available), silver bracelet - Spring Street

I understand that this seems like amazingly little, but I need to remember something really critical about my trips to Europe - especially my trips to Paris:


I shop a lot.  I start shopping the second or third day, and I tend to wear my purchases almost immediately.  Thus, I leave things in my suitcase unworn, and I run out of space to bring back my purchases.  So for me, personally, and maybe nobody else in the world, eight total garments is plenty.

So what if I get there and can't find anything I want?  (yea, not going to happen in Paris...)

Remember, back when I explained the Triple Top Secret?  It's where a tee shirt, a button-front shirt, and a cardigan or sweater can be layered, or can be worn on their own.  This eight-piece total wardrobe of my suitcase plus what I wore on the plane includes TWO "threesomes" of tops...

Okay, this is boring.  You're going to smell to high heavens after a few days unless you do some laundry.  But, depending on what your weather is, you will have options, until you're shopping is finished.

The other great benefit that I found from having this range of tops is the ability I had to accommodate exceptionally warm temperatures in Paris.  On the warmest day, I wore pants without socks, ballet flats (with orthotics, thank you!), and an untucked linen shirt over the waistline of my pants, as a tunic.  Not bad for temps in the upper 70's!

And yes, accessories are key to keeping this from getting dull.  They're small, they're light, and they pack a pretty big punch.

Tomorrow, I'll show you what I bought.

(So you can visualize the 42 possible combinations, I'm showing them all.)

                        Happy Socks

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lessons Learned: Amsterdam and Paris

This was the view from our bed at the Maison Rika.  Notice one car, but a LOT of bikes...

What an adventure THAT was!  Belovedest and I had a wonderful time - of course we did - we were together.  And we learned some things that I think are worth sharing...

  • If you're connecting from a plane to a train, buy your train tickets in advance, even if you can't guarantee that you'll be on time. (and of course, you can't guarantee, because you're flying in, and planes are delayed)  It's MUCH less expensive to purchase train tickets in advance, and you'll be assured of a seat.  B and I had been promised by a couple of different people that it was ALWAYS easy to get train tickets from Paris to Amsterdam - au contraire, my friends!
  • When buying train tickets, even if you don't know your return time for sure, buy round-trip tickets.  Exchanging a ticket that's the wrong time is much less expensive than purchasing one-way tickets for each leg of the trip.
  • If you're delayed in a city for more than six hours, the first thing you do is sit down and make a plan.  The temptation to check your luggage and run out the door willy nilly is great, but ten minutes of thinking about what you'd really like to do can save a day of otherwise wandering aimlessly.  You might also have time to make reservations for a great meal...
  • When things get frenzied (i.e. you're late to your guest house and your cab driver is trying to drive you into a canal, taking the longest possible route), just take a deep breath.  Focus on what matters, which in this case is reining in the cabbie, and THEN worry about your housing.  Trying to multitask leads you to confusion, in which you NEITHER take care of crazy driver, nor text your guest house, and then mislay your cell phone for SEVEN days. (seriously, in a hidden pocket of B's briefcase, which I NEVER use...)
  • Don't feel that you must do the "done" things in a city.  B and I did not see ONE prostitute in Amsterdam.  We know of them, we've seen photographs of the physical environment in which they work, and we agreed that we might find it more unpleasant than edifying, so we chose to avoid that neighborhood.  I know some people will be aghast that we were in Amsterdam and chose to NOT go there, but we are happy with our choice.  Your happiness is what really matters, after all.
  • If you have a great meal, go back to that restaurant more than once.  You're not under contract to visit different restaurants every night (unless you're a travel/food writer), and the delight on the faces of the staff when they realize that you came BACK (as well as the champagne with which they might toast your return) makes it all worth it.  And you can try the other stuff on the menu that you had to miss the first time!
  • Pack less.  We saw MISERABLE people in the airport, on the subway, on the train, in the streets - all of them shackled to luggage.  Sometimes, preposterous amounts of luggage.  One couple in our Paris hotel must have been wretchedly crowded in their room...
Lots more to come - what I saw on the streets in Paris (although why didn't anybody ever tell me how handsome the men are in Amsterdam????), what I bought, our amazing room in Amsterdam etc. etc.

Nice to be home with you all,


Friday, September 26, 2014

Six Pack: Ivory and Green - All About the Sweater

This sort of screams "winter holidays" to me, but if you look good in green, this could be the best suitcase ever!
Sweater – Desigual, dark green jade earrings – Zandra Lorena, green loafers – Tod’s, scarf – Linea, ivory pants – Dorothy Perkins, quilted coat – Closed, bag – Parfois
Tee shirt – North Face, suede skirtRalph Lauren Black Label, cardigan – Dolce and Gabbana,malachite earrings – Barbora Rybarova Jewellery, silk scarf – Hermes,  ivory silk blouse – Hoss Intropia, floral top – Dorothy Perkins, pumps – Roger Vivier, gold necklace – YooLa, gold clutch – Lacambra


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A 4 by 4 Wardrobe in Coral, Turquoise, Black and Grey

Please bear in mind that I prepared this post before I left for my vacation, so some of the links might be dated...

This is a great, unique, way to accent black and grey; coral and turquoise are often found together, and there's some AMAZING jewelry available (usually in warmer weather) that combines these two colors.  But of course we don't wear real coral anymore - it's pretty endangered...

Black v-neck sweater – Closed, black jeans – R13, tee shirt – Kin, black cotton trousers – Mangogrey tee – Kin, grey jeans – Uniqlo, grey cashmere sweater – Uniqlo,  wool trousers – Reissombre sweatshirt – Proenza Schouler, fair isle turtleneck – Jaeger, cardigan – Violeta, striped tee – Isabel Marant Etoilecoral sweater – Jardin des Orangers (sold out), turquoise tee – Jane Norman, coral tee – Warehouse, turquoise cardigan – John LewisIkat print scarf – Vince Camuto, turquoise stud earrings – Alon Diller, pearl and calcite bracelet – Anusara, onyx wavy earrings – Camen Anocibar, tassel necklace – Jennifer Loiselle, suede short boots – Aquatalia, loafers – Paul Green, tote bag – Solomon Appollo, paisley scarf – Liberty London

In both of these Cores of Four, I chose high-necked tee shirts to go with v-neck sweaters.  This way, if you want to layer the grey tee under the black sweater, (or vice versa) it will show nicely.  These little details can make a lot of difference in how versatile your clothes can be. 
Black v-neck sweater – Closed, black jeans – R13, tee shirt – Kin, black cotton trousers – Mango
Grey tee – Kin, grey jeans – Uniqlo, grey cashmere sweater – Uniqlo,  wool trousersReiss
 I have a deep and abiding passion for the Fair Isle sweater...
Ombre sweatshirt – Proenza Schouler, fair isle turtleneck – Jaeger, cardigan – Violeta, striped tee – Isabel Marant Etoile
What excellent accents - on a cold day, these would be a nice touch of brightness!
Coral sweater – Jardin des Orangers (sold out), turquoise tee – Jane Norman, coral tee – Warehouse, turquoise cardigan – John Lewis
When looking for accessories and jewelry, make sure to always have swatches, or a skein of embroidery floss, with you in order to make sure that your shades are correct.  Both coral and turquoise can vary WIDELY (and wildly) and you can get some icky clashes once you get something home...

And when you're searching for things that are turquoise COLORED, don't forget to look for calcite that's been dyed blue.  It's very common, and quite inexpensive...
Ikat print scarf – Vince Camuto, turquoise stud earrings – Alon Diller, pearl and calcite bracelet – Anusara, Onyx wavy earrings – Camen Anocibar, tassel necklace – Jennifer Loiselle, suede short boots – Aquatalia, loafers – Paul Green, tote bag – Solomon Appollo, paisley scarf – Liberty London

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Six Pack: Blue and Grey - All About the Tee Shirt

Please remember that I put these six-packs together last month, so that there would be pretty things to spark your imagination while I'm on vacation.  It's entirely possible that some of these garments won't be available anymore, but there's a world full of pretty things, if you search long enough!
Tee shirt – Dorothy Perkins, silver hoop earrings – Katie Lees Jewellery, cardigan – Jardin des Orangers, jeans – Dolce and Gabbana, wrap – Nordstrom, tote bag – Deux Lux, driving moccasins – Sperry Top-Sider, Suitcase – Tumi
Long-sleeved top – Marc by Marc Jacob, grey skirt – Evans, grey tunic – Mint Velvet, grey pearl earrings – Allurez,  scarf – Front Row Society, grey pearl and silver necklace – Allurez, geometric clutch bag – Asya Malbershtein), grey wool pants – Michael Kors, blue tee – A.P.C. grey dress – Stefanel, wedge pumps – Cole Haan, patent penny loafers – G. H. Bass and Co. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Six Pack: Black and Bone - All About the Coat

Coat – Ter et Bantine, scarf – Rag and Bone (yoox), black loafers – Robert Clergerie (stylebop), trousers – Miu Miu (my Theresa), black tee – Dorothy Perkins, cardigan – Calvin Klein, earrings – Max and Chloe, tote bag – Marni

Green sweater – Dolce and Gabbana, onyx earrings – David Yurman, ivory silk blouse – Jaeger, black sweater – Alexander Wang, skirt – Lutz Huelle, scarf – Mary Katrantzou, corduroy pants – Stella McCartney, black and gold bracelet – Caipora Jewellry, black pumps – Munro, ivory sweater – Stefanel


Monday, September 22, 2014

A 4 by 4 Wardrobe in Bright Plum, Smoky Blue, Navy and Grey

I don't want everybody to feel like I've beaten the "navy and grey" horse to death, but I had a lot of requests for variations of those colors, and they all take on their own feel...  Please remember that I prepared these posts back in August, so you'd have pretty things to read while I'm on vacation; if the hyperlinks don't work, or an item is sold out, I sincerely apologize!

This is the color scheme - three of the colors we've worked with before, but this bright plum color changes everything.  What once was a soft and muted palette takes on a brightness and life that can be included in an outfit on a day that feels right, or you can always stick with the softer colors when that's what you prefer.  It offers a nice range of versatility in mood.
    Navy henley – Uniqlo, jeans – Mango, navy shirt – Uniqlo, corduroy skirt – Peter Jensen
Grey tee – Kin, grey jeans – Uniqlo, grey cashmere sweater – Uniqlo,  wool trousers – Reiss 
A lot of "marled" fabrics here - it could be a signature for sweaters for this particular person...
Turtleneck Chloe, striped tee – Mint Velvet, jacket – Uttam, cardigan – Acne Studios
I have a serious crush on the turtleneck in the last photo, and on the plum crew neck here.  Clearly I need to pay attention to my fondness for the marled sweater, eh?
plum tee – J. Crew, tee shirt – T by Alexander Wang, violet sweater - Fatface, blue silk blouse - Equipment
 Since the scarves seemed flower to me, I stuck with a flowery motif for some of the jewelry.
Square silk scarf – Antagoniste, silver flower earrings – 21dgrs, flower bracelet – Ngurah Gede, silver flower necklace – Kadek Hendra, long scarf - Minuet,  hoop earrings – Simon Sebbag, bag – Brooks Brothers, ankle boots – Sam Edelman, loafers – Walking Cradles 
I really like the choices this provides - that plum tee shirt with a scarf and almost any of the "bottoms" would be bright and cheery, but on a day when you wanted to stay low-key and muted, solid grey with silver jewelry would still look elegant and pulled-together.
Navy henley – Uniqlo, jeans – Mango, navy shirt – Uniqlo, corduroy skirt – Peter Jensengrey tee – Kin, grey jeans – Uniqlo, grey cashmere sweater – Uniqlo,  wool trousers – Reissturtleneck – Chloe, striped tee – Mint Velvet, jacket – Uttam, cardigan – Acne Studiosplum tee – J. Crew, tee shirt – T by Alexander Wang, violet sweater - Fatface, blue silk blouse - EquipmentSquare silk scarf – Antagoniste, silver flower earrings – 21dgrs, flower bracelet – Ngurah Gede, silver flower necklace – Kadek Hendra, long scarf - Minuet,  hoop earrings – Simon Sebbag, bag – Brooks Brothers, ankle boots – Sam Edelman, loafers – Walking Cradles

                        Bogs Footwear (Weyco)