Monday, January 31, 2011

A Bevy of Baubles

      While most shopping is fun for most people, there are three types of retail therapy that are especially dear to a girl's heart: clothes, jewelry, and bags/shoes. And from those three, there is one that each girl loves just a tiny bit more than the others. For some it's the satisfaction of the heft of a new handbag that perfectly complements their latest peep-toes, for others it's the joy of falling in love with a dress, finding the last of their size on the rack, and zipping it up in the fitting room to find that it looks perfect on them. But as for me, it's all about the jewels. 
     Of course, by jewels I mean cut glass, faux diamonds, and silver rather than gems and platinum, but I love them all the same. I love my clothing collection almost as much, but I think that if I were to lose, say, one of my favorite cardigans, I would be distraught for maybe a day before managing to find another one that was just as amazing-or even better-than the lost article. But losing my favorite faux pearl cluster bracelet or my silver stag-head ring? Unbearable. 
The effortless display that took me like 30 minutes to arrange.

     As for shoes, I admire them from afar, but any girl who has feet bigger than size 9 has long learned to say goodbye to pretty, delicate footwear. I have two pairs of silver ballet flats, two pairs of flat sandals for summer, three pairs of basic low-heeled pumps for work (black, nude, and grey), and two old pairs of the SAME knee-high suede boots (one black, one brown) that I have been desperate to replace for the past two years. In fact, shoe shopping is one retail activity that I truly hate. I hate the disappointment of seeing a gorgeous shoe and finding out that it only goes up to a size 8 even more than I hate the embarrassment of seeing the shops assistant's pitying look when they find out my size (some even insist that I try out a size 10, which, unless it happens to be a very generously cut sandal, just mortifies me further).
     So for me, it's all about the bling, whether or not it's real. The only "real" jewellery I have is my engagement ring, which is just fine by me since I can find more than enough gorgeous costume jewellery here in Tokyo. My favorites come from a few shops in Shinjuku, one of the busiest areas of Tokyo in which millions of people work, eat, and shop. Most pieces cost between 10 and 20 dollars, though a few are between 20 and 30. My #1 favorite costume jeweller is mayglobe (no website, unfortunately, and even if they had one, most Japanese websites are crap anyways), which is actually meant to be named maygrove, but due to the unfortunate local habit of mistaking l for r and v for b, it didn't quite work out. Oh well, mayglobe works fine; at least globe is actually a word! I've seen worse. Waaaaaaaaay worse.

Awesome Thing About Living in Tokyo: Cosmetics

     There are many great things about living in Tokyo. Being an American living for a fixed amount of time in Tokyo, that is. As great as life here in Japan can be there's not a day that goes by that I'm not grateful for my Yankee origin.
     Maybe it's because I'm a girl? In terms of gender equality, Japan lags far behind the rest of the developed world. That lovely fact coupled with the amount of unchecked and public smoking and drinking that the hordes of "salarymen" indulge in daily can make me feel like I'm living in an episode of Mad Men...and NOT in a good way. Or maybe I'm just tired of living in foreign countries. Constantly having to ensure that I'm on top of all my immigration renewals/deadlines/restrictions and not being able to indulge in simple pleasures like an eggnog latte in winter or a backyard BBQ in summer gets old after awhile.
     But there are some truly great things about living here, things that no other country can offer. Being able to pay all of your bills whenever you like (even a few days after the deadline!) at any convenience store? Check. Feeling safe enough to walk around by yourself even late at night? Check. Being able to pay COD when online shopping? Check! So while the cons do indeed outweigh the pros, there are a few facts of Tokyo life that I will dearly miss when I leave for greener pastures.
     First up? Japanese toiletries and cosmetics.
From left to right, top to bottom: Riff underarm dress shields, DHC gel primer, Maybelline Angelfit cream primer, DHC oil make-up remover, Shiseido Majolica Majorca mascara and pearl eyeliner, Mavala and BonBon nail polishes

     I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tokyo is a shopper's paradise. Food, clothes, CDs (remember those?), you name it. And wander into any department store or higher-end drugstore and you'll be overwhelmed by the number of make-up and beauty products on offer. Whatever you need or desire in the ways of toiletries or cosmetics, they've got something for it...10 somethings, to be exact. While this can make for a dizzying and lengthy decision-making process, it can be fun. Okay, it IS fun.
     This situation, however, has made me totally dependent on cheap yet high quality product lines that are only or primarily available in Japan. What will I do without my thin adhesive dress shields (all you girls who can wear a heather grey top without a care in the world, you don't know how good you've got it), or my awesome Asia-exclusive Maybelline primer? Or my beloved Mavala polish (beats OPI and Essie hands down), which is actually Swiss but is so prevalent here it may as well be Japanese. Well, I'll cope and adapt, I suppose. And if I don't, there's always eBay.

     And, to be fair, a PSA...
Yes, some girls DO dress like this. And yes, the name of the store really is Jesus Diamante.

     Perhaps nowhere else in the world do girls take their make-up as seriously as they do in this city. They spend TONS of money and time on elaborate gel nail art, eyelash perms and extensions, and blow-outs and colorings.  From university students to patent attorneys, from age 15 to 50, most women don't leave their house unless they are dolled up. And, as seen in the photo above, in some cases REALLY dolled up. Of course, I'm guilty of that too, at least to some degree, and it does point to a worrying underlying issue if girls are clearly expected to be cute and doll-like first and intelligent and confident second (if at all). But hey, this is a fashion blog, so let's keep the real world out of it, shall we?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wardrobe Workhorse: The Pencil Skirt

     In every girl's wardrobe, there are few staples that she couldn't do without. They're not necessarily the most unique or expensive, and they're often pushed to the dim corners of the closet rather than enjoy the pride of place that trendier pieces do. But without them, we'd be lost. They are the wardrobe workhorses, the sartorial Clydesdales and Belgians that jockey for position with the flashier Arabians and Thoroughbreds. Though they often loose the spotlight to their more glamorous cousins, they do most of the heavy lifting and provide the base that allows that damask skirt or cashmere cardigan to shine.
     For most working girls (the variety that keep their clothes ON, that is), the most prized of these workhorses is the simple pencil skirt. As long as it's the right size and length for your frame, you can't go wrong. I only have three basic pencils, one light grey, one darker gray, and one black (which I don't normally wear), all from H&M. Out of my five work days, I probably wear one of the grey versions at least three times. Unique or eye-catching they ain't, but that's all right. That's what the tops are for!
     For example...
Grey pencil skirt (H&M), taupe cardigan with floral appliques (Japanese label anatelier), accessories (Japanese label mayglobe rings, studs, and necklace and Tiffany&Co. engagement ring), sheer stockings and nude pumps (unseen)
Day one...
Grey pencil skirt (H&M), dot-print cardigan (H&M, about 6 years old!), lace mandarin-collar top (Forever 21, recent), faux pearl accessories from Japan and Tiffany&Co. engagement ring, dark grey cabled tights and grey pumps (unseen)

...and Day Two.

Pencil skirts, we salute you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Tweeds

     Last week I spent my Friday afternoon as I always do: selecting my work clothes for the weekend, ironing, frebrezing, and mending them as needed. My work schedule is pretty much the inverse of everybody else's; my busiest days are Saturday and Sunday (I have two weekdays off instead of the traditional weekend). It's much better than it sounds, since trying to do anything in Tokyo on weekends usually results in blind rages when you realize that most of the 12 million people who reside in and around the city have decided to accompany you on your lunch date, supermarket run, or shopping trip.
     It is kind of strange, however, to have to wear office-appropriate clothes when everybody else is sporting jeans or miniskirts. My office has a pretty strict dress code for men, even on weekends, but for the few women that work there, it's much more lenient. Partially because it's tricky for the mostly male management to enforce what women can and cannot wear, but mostly because women have always had more flexible work-wear options and can often wear the same clothes they would on their days off as long as they dress it up a bit.
     Fair? Perhaps not. But we are still are expected to look decent and put together, and those who don't don't exactly endear themselves to clients or the other staff. So while I push things a bit by, for example, occasionally wearing boots all day instead of switching to heels (the horror!), I try to look somewhat professional. Being office-appropriate yet displaying your own personal style isn't all that difficult, as long as you err on the side of caution and know when to rein things in.

     So this past week at work I ended up wearing tweed twice in the span of 3 days, which is quite a feat considering I only have about 2 tweed pieces in my closet. One was a new purchase, which explains the urge to wear it right away, and the other was an older favorite:
Cream frilled neck top (F21), pale pink cardigan (random Japanese store), metallic tweed skirt (Gap)

     I loved this skirt the moment I slipped it on. It was one of the new spring items that had snuck into the store during the New Year's sale. I almost failed to notice it amongst the racks and tables piled high with half-off sweaters and scarves. But the glint of the silver metallic thread caught my eye, and when I pulled it from the cramped rail I knew I had to have it. Luckily the skirt is designed to sit low on the hips; if it was meant to be worn at the natural waist I wouldn't be able to leave the house in it! I was originally going to wear it with a light grey turtleneck, but since I wanted to wear it with my favorite sparkly necklace, I opted for a scoop-neck top (frilled, though it's tough to tell from the picture) and a super-pale pink cardigan. On my legs (which I DO have, by the way! What I don't have is a full length mirror) I wore nude stockings/pantyhose with nude pumps.
Accessories (rings/studs from mayglobe, my favorite Japanese costume jeweler, Tiffany&Co. engagement ring, and mirrored glass necklace), plus a close-up of the skirt's shirred waistband)

The tweed look I wore a day or so later was quite different: monochromatic, edgy, and tight as opposed to the pretty pastel softness of the Gap look.  I like both styles, though the Gap version is probably more "me." But sometimes the ease of the black turtleneck+pencil skirt+black tights/boots is too tempting to resist!
Metallic knit cap (Gap), black turtleneck sweater (Zara), tweed pencil skirt (F21). The frilled faux leather jack is from a random Japanese clothing store, the type that you can find in train station shopping arcades, selling gems mixed in with a truly ugly collection of old-lady/tramp clothes. I think I unearthed this one from a sales table that also boasted a neon orange sweater and a terry-cloth halter. Sexy!
Without the outer layer and a close-up of the day's baubles (mayglobe earrings/rings, Tiffany&Co. engagement ring, faux diamond bracelet)...and a random bird!
    So yeah, I like tweed! It's elegant but cool, and it doesn't wrinkle. Like at all! Perhaps one day I'll be able to add the Chanel version to my collection...

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Just a quick post in order to, uh, actually have a post on this page! No real need to have an official "first post" with fanfare and confetti, since basic info about me and this blog can be found in the tabs and sidebars. Regular (and hopefully more interesting) posting will soon (?) commence!