Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I'm Sproutin': Paisley Me Be


Jacket: Modcloth, dress: Oh My God (store in Taipei, yes, it always confuses people when I tell them I'm going there), tights: night market, shoes: Aldo, bag: Hayden-Harnett for Target, headband: Accessorize

oday was another one of those days in Taipei where the sun put in an appearance for an hour or so in the late morning, and then disappeared. These photos are fuzzier than I'm happy with, but I wanted to post them because they show off my latest obsession -- gray tights. Gray: the perfect compromise between black and white! I got the idea to pair them with bone-colored shoes from Anja at Clever Nettle.


I love the paisley print on this dress. It's so loud. I would also like to point out that this is the second outfit in a row I've posted without any black in it! Wow! I'm on a roll here. When I was in high school and college, I was known as the girl in black and my Mom wondered why I always dressed in such somber colors. I told her I was in mourning for my lost youth. Well, now I'm 28 and over my lost youth. Time to embrace the rainbow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Unlikely Sources of Inspiration: "Eastern Promises"


It's been a while since I did an Unlikely Sources of (style) Inspiration post. In fact, I think the last one, about "The Orphan" was also my first one. I like finding ideas in costumes from films that aren't thought of as "costume films," especially if the outfits say things about each character that you can't necessarily glean from the dialogue.





Directed by David Cronenberg, "Eastern Promises" is about the Russian mafia in London and is known for its infamous naked knife fight scene, which involves Viggo Mortenson's character, Nikolai, and two other gangsters (though, technically, only Mortenson was naked and the knives were linoleum cutters, but I digress). The plot revolves around Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife at a large London hospital who becomes obsessed with finding the family of a Russian teenager who died giving birth.


Throughout the course of the movie, we find out that Anna is motivated by several highly emotional experiences, including a miscarriage and the recent death of her Russian-born father. Her uncle Stepan spends a lot of time with Anna and her mom and I loved the family's interactions because they reminded me of the dynamics between the first- and second-generation Taiwanese-Americans in the community I grew up in.




When she isn't in hospital scrubs, Anna's wardrobe consists mainly of jeans and heavy knits (the movie takes place entirely between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve) in neutral hues, but they have little details like unusual closures and intricate stitch patterns. Her character is warm, practical, intelligent and hard-headed -- but at the same time very vulnerable. I think those traits are well-represented by her wardrobe.

In several scenes, she wears a motorcycle jacket to ride her father's old motorcycle, which he brought over from Russia. The jacket and helmet serve as a sort of armor, while at the same time tying Anna to her late father and, in turn, her Russian heritage. In fact, all of her jackets and overcoats are black and sharply-tailored, which links her visually to the gangsters, including Nikolai, that she becomes increasingly involved with.



The set detail in the movie is also great. Most of "Eastern Promises" takes place in Anna's mother's apartment, which is filled with the kind of knick-knacks you'd expect to see in a multicultural family's apartment (an embroidered wall hanging contrasts with Laura Ashley-ish curtains and a large collection of porcelain cows in the kitchen) or an upscale Russian restaurant that is a front for Nikolai's gang. The restaurant is grand and decorated in dark colors (pine green, dark varnished wood, crimson) that look festive or ominous depending on the scene.

I highly recommend "Eastern Promises," but it's a very violent film, so don't see it if gore freaks you out!

Monday, February 22, 2010

What I'm Sproutin': School Spirit

Navy jacket: See's (a discount store in Taipei), blouse: BCBG sale, yellow skirt: same sale, shoes: Aldo, pendant: F-ck You Barbie, double-stranded choker: self-made, purse: Hayden-Harnett for Target, headband: Accessorize

Blue and gold reminds me of my elementary school, because those were our school colors. I remember being very sad when I realized that gold actually meant "bright yellow." I would have liked to break out the bling on school spirit days!

Then again, I've always been very literal when it comes to dressing up. Our middle school had school spirit weeks. Each day had a different theme; home rooms earned points based on how many students showed up in whatever the costume of the day was. I remember Eighties Day, Backwards Day and Pajama Day. On the latter, I came to school wearing my PJs, which were made out of a soft white jersey and had little pastel flowers on them. They looked like baggy long underwear. It wasn't until I saw my classmates parading around in crisp satin sets from Victoria's Secret and brand-new bunny slippers that I realized there was (is?) an unspoken rule among the student body that you don't wear your actual pajamas to Pajama Day. Whoops! I got funny looks, but then again I always got funny looks, so I didn't care.


I've had this skirt for a little while now. My Mom bought it for me at a BCBG sale when I was in California planning my wedding last year. It also came in navy blue and I debated for a bit until my Mom said I should pick the yellow because I already owned enough clothing in depressing hues. I agreed, but then had a hard time figuring out how to style the skirt until I picked up this structured hoodie. Yes, the jacket is navy blue, but I really like this color combo. When my yellow skirt was hanging unworn in my closet, I regretted not choosing the navy blue, but now I'm glad I have such a cheerful-looking item greeting me every time I get dressed.


To make my outfit a little less preppy (not that there is anything wrong with preppy), I added my anatomically-correct heart pendant from a Taipei-based indie design team called F-ck You Barbie. They also made my beloved brain pendant. The weather's been awful recently in Taipei -- gray, wet and chilly. The lack of sun has made me feel both blue and mentally foggy. Maybe I should wear both my pendants together for good luck. Goodness knows, my brain and heart could use some extra help right now!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



At the beginning of the Lunar New Year celebration, Ron and I headed over to Breeze Center (微風廣場) to do some shopping in their grocery store. While dilly-dallying in the rest of the mall, I discovered Breeze's MUJI had expanded -- and now included a whole new collection of clothes called MUJI Labo.



MUJI Labo has a lot of the same silhouettes (dropped waist dresses, up-and-down shifts, swing coats, A-line skirts) found in MUJI's regular clothing lines, but features more luxurious fabrics and higher price tags. Most dresses I saw were about NT$4,500 (or about US$140) to NT$6,000 (~NT$187.50).



My favorite pieces included this shawl-collared sweater coat, which looks ordinary from the front but has beautiful, undulating horizontal cables on the back...



...a black/white plaid drop-waisted dress -- the stripes looked like they were felted, instead of woven or printed, onto the white fabric...


...and this cream shift and vest set because of the silhouette and textured brocade.


Overall, I really like MUJI's newest clothing line, even though it's out of my price range (and I always have fit issues with MUJI's more tailored items). I know MUJI enjoys an almost cult-like status in countries where it's hard to find their stuff, like the US, but there is a store in almost every major mall in Taipei. Since moving here two and a half years ago, I've had plenty of time to think of how good MUJI is at marketing their items (and creating really gorgeous catalog shoots) and how their brand philosophy of minimalism just disguises how unextraordinary and overpriced a lot of their products really are.

I hope MUJI will continue to launch new product lines that focus on design and quality and spend less time trying to flog plastic boxes that warp easily, hats with seams that fall apart after a month of wear and pens that dry out within a couple of months (can you tell by my little rant that I've bought a fair amount of MUJI stuff?) before they dilute their appeal.

ETA: One of my commenters noted that MUJI has a lot of great designers working for them and that they have to stick strictly to a MUJI aesthetic. I am well aware of their brand history. It's fascinating and is one of the reasons why I was a fan of MUJI (and still am, for certain of their items). But I think they have to do something about ensuring consistent quality control. One of the most important criteria of good design is functionality and, in my experience, a lot of their products fall short in that regard. It's a disservice, not just to the consumer, but to the designers of MUJI.

What do you think of the new line?

Monday, February 15, 2010

What I'm Sproutin': Memento Mori of the Heart

Skirt and coat: Modcloth, tights and scarf: night market, boots: Breeze Center (微風廣場), bag: Booday (蘑菇)

The weather in Taipei decided to turn rainy and chilly -- just in time for Lunar New Year (AKA Chinese New Year) vacation! Woo-hoo! I shouldn't complain too much, though. Today was the start of the lunar new year in addition to Valentine's Day. There were a couple hours of sun this afternoon and I took advantage of it to go jogging. I worked on a needle-felted miniature sculpture of my cat after I went home (yes, I'm crazy). Ron and I then had a Valentine's Day/New Year dinner incorporating pretty much everything I fantasize about eating but try to stay away from -- red wine, red meat, chocolate ice cream, sponge cake. Heh heh. Double holidays should happen more often.



The point of this outfit post is to show off my Heart coat from Modcloth. This is probably the last Modcloth order I will be making from Taiwan. I love their stuff and their shipping rates are actually quite reasonable if you use their international coupon code (inter75), but I got hit with a doozy of a customs charge. I ordered this coat because my bodice measurements are considered pneumatic by Taiwan standards and I wanted something roomy enough to stuff tons of layers underneath. I had an oversized cardigan, long-sleeved thick jersey shirt and gathered skirt underneath this and still felt comfy. In fact, I should have sized down because the coat's measurements are actually a bit roomier than what the Modcloth site stated.

To keep this coat from being too twee (I swear, I saw a toddler wearing an exact replica of it, but in red... and obviously much smaller), I paired it with my weird face tights and creepy Louis Vuitton pastiche scarf. I love how there are skulls in place of the L's and V's.



The tights are 180 denier and very comfortable. They are by a Japanese brand called Tutuanna. I think you can find them in most night markets -- the packaging is brown. My scarf is also from a night market. I bought it last last year because it was so cool looking I couldn't resist (and I needed a scarf). At first I was worried it was a LV knock-off, but I haven't been able to find any results when I do a search for "LV skull print." I like to think it's a sardonic comment on the cult of luxury goods and the LVMH empire.

Happy Valentine's Day and a Happy New Year for those of you who celebrate the Lunar New Year (or as I've taken to calling it because of the insane number of fireworks that went off in our neighborhood this year, Loony New Year)!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What I'm Sproutin': Dandelion Green

Dress: Dandelion Vintage, shoes: Aldo, tights: the black hole of my sock drawer, purse: Hayden-Harnett for Target, vintage wooden heart pendant: vendor in Shida night market (師大夜市), belt: J. Crew outlet, headband: Accessorize

This is my first vintage shirt dress and one of my favorite 1960s styles. I bet I could do a nice, collegiate winter look with it and a v-necked black lambswool sweater, but unfortunately I left my v-necked black lambswool sweater home in California. Argh! It's on my list of stuff to fetch when I visit my parents.


This shirtdress has red and yellow stripes that run through the green. You can't see them from afar, but I think they brighten the fabric. They also remind me of dandelions, which is funny, because I purchased this dress from Dandelion Vintage right before I left for Taiwan.


I highly recommend them, by the way. One of my first eBay purchases ever (back in high school, when I still had to go to 7-Eleven to get a money order because I didn't have a checking account yet) was from Dandelion Vintage. It was a chartreuse green satin evening shift and coat set with a rhinestone-encrusted mesh neckline. It's as fabulous as it sounds. I haven't worn it a lot, but I might also bring it back to Taiwan with me and wear the shift an everyday dress. After all, rhinestones are considered a basic embellishment here, the way buttons and top-stitching are in the US, so I would fit in perfectly!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The little details in "Elizabeth"


"Elizabeth" was one of my favorite movies when I was in high school. As a (former) theater geek, I adored the little details in the costumes, like the motifs embroidered onto Elizabeth's mesh sleeves, layers of jewelry, ribbons intertwined with braids and the scallops on Dudley's jacket.