Thursday, August 20, 2009

8.19.2009 The Grey Lady... times two

Dress: eBay, pumps: Aldo, satchel: The Cambridge Satchel Company, my beloved woodgrain pattern headband: Accessorize

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the trend for grey clothing and how it coincided with my own emerging interest in this particular (non) color. Bill Cunningham hypothesized that all the grey love might be a reflection of the almost universal doldrums over the economic downturn; I wrote that I had latched on to it after discovering that black clothing makes me look like a giant blob with no discernible body shape from certain angles. (I know that in the previous post I spelled it "gray"... I'm trying to conform to the AP stylebook now!).

I bought this grey dress off of eBay just before I left for Taiwan two years ago. At the time, I assumed (correctly) that it would be difficult to buy 1940s to 1960s era vintage clothing in Taipei. I've heard and read that Taiwanese people are less fond of secondhand goods than Americans partly because Taiwan is still in some ways an emerging economy, and used things continue to carry the stigma of poverty (not to mention there are simply less old things floating around, because Taiwan wasn't a consumerist culture, like the US became by the 1950s).

I've also been told that Taiwanese people don't like wearing secondhand clothing because they are superstitious, but I think the real reason is less exciting and much more pragmatic than that -- it's hella hot here! The humidity wrecks vintage cotton, not to mention the constant washing needed to keep clothing clean in this climate. There are a few vintage clothing stores in Taipei (download my article about one store here), but I've noticed that most of them sell sturdier things, like polyester dresses from the 1970s, or newer vintage items, including jeans, leather goods and t-shirts from the 1980s and on. My own collection of vintage dresses, including this one, which I bought with so much enthusiasm (and so little budgeting caution) before I left for Taipei, spend most of their time safely stowed away in the closet.

In the photo above, I accessorized the dress with my double t-strap black Aldo shoes and a sturdy and cheerful red bag from the Cambridge Satchel Company (I also have a brown satchel from the same company). You probably noticed that the detail shots above are different in tone from the outfit picture. That's because they were taken on a separate day and I don't know Photoshop well enough to match the colors (if anyone can help, please leave a comment!). Last weekend, I wore the same dress with ivory peep-toe pumps (also from Aldo... they had a huge sale a while back) and big hair:

Can you find me? I'm pretty well camouflaged.

I think the shoes make the dress seem a little bit less schoolgirl-ish. I managed to achieve my big hair using a tip I read in Allure magazine -- I washed my hair at night, let it air dry a little bit, and then put some gel in it while it was still damp and wound it into a bun at the nape of my neck, which I let dry overnight. In the morning, I undid the bun, finger brushed the waves and set them in place with hairspray. It actually worked pretty well, considering that the bottom layer of my hair is so damaged it doesn't hold any style well (it's been permed, bleached, dyed purple and then dyed black again).

I think the first look is good for casual days and the second is more appropriate for times when I have to look professional. What do you think?


  1. Lovely! That dress is a dream, everything about it. I tend to wear lots of grey in the winter, I suppose in reaction to the climate. I may have to buy a satchel, I've always wanted one in an interesting colour and they have pink!

  2. I think I like the second shoes better. They make your legs look lovely and long (which is always a good thing!) But I adore the dress paired with the red bag.

  3. Those bags are so great! I'm still thinking about buying one, would you recommend them? What size is this red one pictured & how do you find the larger size of your brown one? I'd really like one with a handle but I'd sort of prefer a smaller size so not really sure which to go with. Sorry about asking 20 questions!

    Love the dress too. I like both looks. :)

  4. quickentheheart: I have my eye on the purple, but I'm trying to exercise some restraint :-). I also love the pink.

    piglet: Thanks! I think ivory is flattering, too.

    lovelornunicorn: I like the bags a lot, they are nice and sturdy and, as you can see, they fasten with two buckles. I live in a big city, so I always look for bags that are securely fastened against pickpockets. The red one is 13" and the brown one is 15". I'm comfortable with both sizes, though being 5'1", I prefer the smaller one for everyday. The 13" can squeeze in a laptop but with room for a couple other things, like a slim magazine and little wallet (depending on the size of your laptop), while the 15" is better as a workbag. I'd definitely recommend a handle. I didn't get one for the red bag b/c I wanted to keep it sleek, but it really convenient to have on the brown one. Hope this helps!!!

  5. those shoes and that dress go so well together i might faint! :D you look adorable!!! xo

  6. The first picture is super adorable! The double t-straps are really eye-catching and that red satchet is totally made of want <3<33 (and your smile!)

    I love your hair in the second variation and I think the curls and the pumps do contribute to a more professional look.

    Actually my family doesn't really like secondhand stuff because of possible hygiene reasons; it could have been picked up from the garbage for example, or been misused by the previous owner... We usually hand down stuff within the extended family or friends :D

    There's also the superstitious factor of wearing a dead person's clothes when you get secondhand stuff from someone you don't know. My dad kicked up a lot of fuss when my brother wore his gf's dead father's unworn polo tees. But I guess this new generation's practical mindset is winning because he doesn't complain anymore :P

  7. That dress is so pretty and you look sweet.
    Interesting thought on vintage clothes...I personally know people who won't wear it because they're snobs...they don't have any good excuses! But the weather and wrecking of fabric makes a lot of sense to me.

  8. I love the shoes in the more professional version of the two outfits!

  9. I love the satchel! It's in a deep red shade that I love sooo much. Lucky girl! :)


  10. You looks so lovely in this dress! I adore the belt. It's all very Mad Men!

  11. you look so adorable! the dress is amazing- i like how the pattern is continued on the white collar. and i'm feeling very jealous of your super shiny hair.

  12. Thanks! My hair is a bit damaged and gets frizzy in the humidity, with fly aways all over the place, but I've been using a boars hair brush along with a grooming cream and it works great for keeping smooth and neat.

  13. Bonjour from France! You look super cute in this grey dress and gorgeous red Satchel. I really want to buy one red satchel too but i'm afraid it fades on clear clothes. What's your experience about it ? Many thanks for your reply ! Have the sweetest day. Sophie.

  14. Hi Sophie!
    I'm sorry for the delay in replying. I've noticed some dye transferring from the red satchel, so I don't wear it on rainy days or with light colored clothes. I hope that helps!