Do you Wash and Wear?

Wow! I had a feeling when I embarked on this subject that I would be a bit surprised, but never did I consider how horrified I would be…

The subject: Washing your clothes directly after purchase.

As I have previously confessed, I’m a teensy bit of a germ-a-phobe. I’m one of those people who washes her hands constantly, keeps a pump bottle of antibacterial hand-sanitizer in her car, tries not to touch bathroom door handles, and well, the list goes on and on… (ok, so a bit more than a teensy germ-a-phobe, I admit). I thought I had considered everything which may be germ-infested which could leave me at risk of germ invasion. Not so.

I suppose I blocked the arena of freshly purchased clothes because they usually look so clean and crisp. Well, I’ve opened Pandoras’ box now and it turns out Pandora is a bit of a dirty girl. Never again will I purchase an article of clothing and wear it without washing it first.

In my reading, I discovered that retail sales people witnessed a multitude of scary things emerging from the clothing boxes as they unpacked new items; bugs a-plenty, rodent excrement, and yes, even whole dead rodents! I read that some items are treated with chemicals to prevent mould developing during transit from point of origin until we slip that garment on next to our bare, clean, germ- and chemical- absorbent skin.

Then there is the fact that the clothes are very likely handled by an abundance of people as well: fabric manufacturers, seamstresses, packers, customs inspectors and shop people. How do we know these people wash their hands after going to the bathroom? And of course these garments may be tried on by numerous people – or even returned to the clothing store after wearing. Let’s be honest, it must happen a lot – before we end up with them in our own closets. There is no way of knowing if any of these people would be clean and washed when they went shopping and tried on that same hip pair of jeans we just bought!

In addition when you consider the unsafe conditions that factory employees must work in in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Honduras (which is a whole other subject), where a lot of clothing going into the North American market is produced, it’s not a huge leap to suppose that cleanliness is not top of mind for factory managers – or its clients. These are hot countries as well with plenty of labour perspiration, I would bet. Do you think that many of these facilities would be kept clean? I wouldn’t think it would be a top priority for managers who are under pressure to meet unrealistic output targets.

In fact, a couple of years ago Good Morning America did a story about how clean – or dirty – new clothes are, collecting samples from several unnamed popular retailers. Enlisting the help of a microbiologist, they discovered that there were all kinds of human bacteria on brand new clothing including “respiratory secretions, skin flora, and some fecal flora”, as well as “vaginal organisms”! The microbiologist said some articles of clothing were “grossly contaminated”. And what’s interesting is that the cleanliness factor of the clothing didn’t change if purchased at a high-end or a low-end retailer. My skin is officially crawling!

So, with all this new information in my hygienic little brain, I’m thinking about that new top I just bought and hung straight up in my closet all ready to wear…

What do you do right after you buy new clothes? Are you a buy-it-and-wear-it type or a germ-a-phobe like me?

Safari Style

It is entirely true what they say about Africa getting under your skin and getting into your blood.

I was lucky enough while living in South Africa for 5 years to be able to explore some of the southern part of the continent and enjoy a number of safaris during that time.  Each was an amazing experience and on the return from a few of these trips, my husband and I said to each other, ‘ok, I think we’ve checked the safari box now’.  But a couple of months later we would be talking about our next plan to get ‘back to the bush,’ as the locals call it. We could never get enough!

There is something magical about going on safari.  The whole experience from watching those incredible animals – most often up close – in their own environment to the beautifully comfortable tented-camp accommodation to the outdoor lantern-lit evening meals served fireside in the boma that makes it such a romantic adventure.  And a very civilized G&T at sundown out of the back of a landrover could convince any sceptic that this is living!

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So given my love for the bush, I suppose it’s not surprising that I have a soft spot for safari-inspired style both in interiors and fashion.  It seems to have such staying power with its classic prints, neutral hues and casual sophistication. Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Michael Kors, Nicole Miller and others have all come out with hits of safari in their catwalks over the last several years.  Below are some examples of how to incorporate this look into either your wardrobe or your home.

Animal print is a definitive safari style print, which can be added to an outfit through accessories or worn from head to toe as your personality allows. Pair it with strappy sandals or boots and a chunky piece of jewellery and you have the look.

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These khaki pants combined with a menswear-inspired shirt, leather accessories and beaded jewellery screams safari.

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Blending into the environment is key when on safari so as not to arouse attention from hungry carnivorous animals, hence the use of many neutral hues reminiscent of the African Savannah.

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The khaki clothing above paired with a hat, sunglasses and a sizeable bag all come together to create a good safari look.

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Belted dresses and clothing with lots of pockets and accessorised with gold jewellery is also quintessential safari.

Earth, Wind & Style has a collection of game skin handbags that will coordinate beautifully with safari style (in fact one of our handbags is almost identical to the one that appeared in Michael Kors’ safari-inspired spring/summer 2012 collection!).

Safari lodge interiors, like fashion, tend towards utilising neutrals as a basis for their design.  Most lodges are inclined to blend into the environment in which they are located. With the use of natural elements, such as rattan, wood and sisal it is easy to bring a sophisticated bush influence into the home.  Layer in textures like cow hide rugs or ottomans, woven hemp or raffia fabrics such as bakuba, and baskets to up the African element.  A bowl of ostrich eggs, a grouping of porcupine quills or some oversized seed pods will also add authenticity to your scheme if you can get your hands on them.

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Lanterns are used generously at safari lodges, which definitely adds to the drama and romance of these venues.

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The carved tables above, zebra ottoman and cowrie shell basket all lean toward this style.

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If you have used a lot of wood in your design, you can soften the look by bringing in throw rugs and mosquito netting, which is almost always found around beds in the bush and definitely adds a touch of romance.  But what could be more romantic than sleeping under the stars as above?

I think I feel another safari plan coming on…

What do you think about safari style?  Do you already wear some of these elements or do you have some incorporated into your home?  What are your favourite pieces?

Fashion Photography’s New Kick – the Cinemagraph

I was checking out the blog over at I Get a Kick Out of You where I was introduced to the fascinating cinemagraph!  Fashion photography comes alive with this new layered photo, allowing for selective movement within a still image.  It’s really captivating.  Below are some of the best examples I’ve come across so far by inventors Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg.

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What do you think of the cinemagraph? Where do you see it being utilised in the future?

Who rules the fitting room?

After a recent clothes shopping experience here in Malaysia, I was led to wonder what the unspoken expectations are for us shoppers when utilising the fitting room in a store.

While researching this blog post, I’ve read some interesting opinions and ideas about what people believe should be required of us customers when trying on clothes in their shops.  I’ve read rants from retail sales people, entertaining etiquette lists on random blogs, and even a reference to Ann Landers’ answer to a dressing room etiquette question (which, by the way, she answered with severely conflicting information to that given by a ranting sales person. Seems Ann Landers doesn’t know everything after all! But more on that later).

It’s all left me wondering, who really rules the fitting room?

While I completely understand that the people working in retail stores don’t probably have the most fabulous job in the world, they are getting paid to provide services for us that should increase exponentially with the price of the clothes for which we are shopping – i.e., I don’t expect much help nor do I expect to be bathed in deep sales love at Old Navy, but if I was the type who shopped at Chanel, you can bet your cabootie I’d be anticipating some personal worshipping!

Chanel dressing room

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I understand that it must be exasperating when people try on 50 garments and then leave them in a pile on the floor for the retail slave to clean up (interestingly, my research tells me that adult women are worse for this than their teenage counterparts!). That’s terrible etiquette and shows a complete lack of respect for anyone who has to pick up after them (Moms the world over yell at kids for this very reason!).

Another common infraction by customers in the dressing room is by those who hand back quantities of clothing that are either in a pile without the hangers; are inside out; or those who actually place items back on the hangers, but in complete disarray thereby negating the purpose of doing any re-hanging.  Again, I get that this is a complaint.  Aside from the fact that If I purchase a clothing item, I would like to think it had been treated nicely before I paid for it, the poor girl has enough folding and re-buttoning to do ad-nauseum that I can see why my inside-out pajamas might just make her want to wail with weariness.

I’m reasonably thoughtful and I put things back on the hangers when they have been provided for me (unless it’s one of those freakish bra hangers. Then I’m not responsible for my neglect in re-hanging. Those things are just silly.). And when I bring things out to the fitting room attendant, I provide the corresponding number for the number of clothes I tried on.  Hear the hallelujah chorus from the sales chicks for that one!

Where I fall down occasionally – and in good company with Ann Landers apparently – is that I sometimes don’t bring the clothes out of the fitting room with me when I leave. Gasp!  Shock and horror, I know!  But I’ve only just discovered that this is a retail sin.  In my defence, I will only leave the offending clothes behind if there isn’t an obvious fitting room attendant at work, but I would hereby like to apologise to any sales people who I have offended by violating this code.

But what I never do – and this is unapologetically – is to return my clothes to the racks in the shop after I’ve tried them on. Well as hideous as this may be of me, I would never remember where the items went and would just cause more work for the staff who would have to chase around putting them in the correct places after I made a disaster of it all. And I could never fold a sweater up the way the staff could – I’m not trained!  Besides, in my mind, this task definitely falls within the sales person’s job description.

We’ve all been into shops where the staff are growly, disinterested or disgruntled and treat us with as much disrespect as they claim we the shoppers show them regularly.  Likely they are pissy because someone has left thirty inside-out clothing items on the floor and their empty starbucks cup in the fitting room for them to clean up while strolling out without acknowledging their existence (reference retail gal Way Too Much Aubrey’s funny testimonial about the ‘Rich Chick’). But – and this is where I should maybe explain that I had to fight being growly for many years when I was waitressing (some years being more successful than others) – this is part of their job!  I want them to be cheerful and helpful and, yes, grateful when I bring things out of the fitting room on the proper hangers. I need them to get me different sizes because I won’t remember where the item was located and I certainly never know what freaking size I wear (yes, I can feel you sales people rolling your eyes at me, but unless the world goes universal with sizing you are going to have to cope with my kind!).

We also expect the shop in which we are spending our hard-earned money to maintain a certain level of cleanliness and care in the fitting rooms in which hundreds of women are peeling down to their skivvies, don’t we?  Nothing is worse than taking off clean clothes and trying to find a place to put them in a dressing room in which cleaning, dusting or washing have obviously not been made a priority. Or taking off shoes and having to walk around on a grimy floor.  Ew.  This says to me that the company doesn’t care enough about my business to make an intimate room, which is intrinsic to its sales, clean and comfortable for the people who are key to those sales.

And so yes, there are some unspoken expectations on the part of the consumer to treat staff respectfully and in return we consumers expect the same consideration, of course.  But one party shouldn’t have a stranglehold over the other. A kind hello and a thank you are equally welcome from both parties and will go a long way to maintaining a fruitful symbiotic relationship between the sales team and the spenders-of-money.  We need each other to keep this retail bliss going, afterall!

Who do you think rules the fitting room?  Do you have a story of a customer or a sales person who took over rule?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Ooh La La Bustiers!

Inspired by our night out on Saturday at a local show, at which a couple of gorgeous ladies were donning bustiers for their Cigarette Girl costumes, I’ve rounded up what I think are some stunning examples of the latest comeback trend.

Love this classy tone-on-tone combination of bustier with high-waisted shorts.

From Beyonce’s new line of clothing, House of Dereon, the pink studded bustier above works really well with a pair of jeans for a casual spring or summer look.

 J-Lo rocks the bustier top with pencil skirt in her December 2011 Glamour cover shoot.

Dree Hemmingway shows just a glimpse of her tummy in her vintage-inspired Dolce & Gabbana bustier and matching skirt.

This Victoria’s Secret bustier is perfect for a night out and super hot with these skinny jeans and sexy heels!

And if bustier dresses are more your thing, they can be found everywhere from the runway, like this chic Dolce & Gabbana above, to the Highstreet.

Do you own a bustier?  If so, how do you wear it?  Do you wear it with jeans, a pencil skirt or is it reserved for intimate moments with your man?

Travel Style

I do a reasonable amount of travelling and, as I confessed here, I detest packing. Love to travel. Hate to pack. You’d think it would get easier – or less formidable at least – the more frequently it is done, but no, it is still one of my least favourite things about going away.

However, given my frequent usage of airplanes, suitcases and foreign accommodation, I have some things down to a fine art in the category of easy packing and comfortable travel attire.

In my experience airplanes tend towards Arctic temperatures while airborne, though while on the ground they can be anywhere from cool to roasting hot. Layering is the only way to go, with a preference for at least one long layer to keep the back warm while seated on the flight in case I miss out on a coveted blanket (or two). Kim Kardashian has it down here with a long layer, jacket and scarf, comfy jeans and someone to carry her bags for her!

Kim Kardashian’s travel style

Coordinating clothing is a must to keep suitcases from bursting at the seams.  I try to stick with either a black, grey & white or a brown, cream & white clothing combination when I travel. I’ll then throw in a few colourful pieces which I can wear with almost everything in my bag, as well as a few accessories to upgrade basics from day wear to evening. Anything that can multi-task while on the road gets priority.

Shoes are always a problem since they take up so much space.  It’s much easier when travelling to a hot climate when you can get away with flip flops (I take one gold pair and one black pair, either of which can be worn in day or evening) and a pair of runners for hiking, walking, trekking, etc. For winter climates I will usually travel in my converse or a pair of boots and pack runners and a pair of multi-tasking day-to-night ballet flats. The pic below shows how versatile these babies can be, worn with skirts, dresses, leggings or jeans. Our Earth, Wind & Style boots are also great to travel with as they are lightweight, super comfortable and take up very little space in the suitcase.

Celebs wearing the versatile ballet flat

I have a very well travelled friend (she’s been everywhere from Antarctica to Zimbabwe) who swears by a version of the below packing technique. Though I confess I have yet to try it (I pledge I will on my next trip!), she always looks polished and unwrinkled when I’ve seen her while globe-trotting.

Some of my other must takes:

A sarong or pasmina can be used for multiple purposes when travelling, including as a scarf or wrap on a cold airplane, as a swimsuit cover-up, table cloth or picnic blanket or as a lightweight blanket for those must-have holiday naps.  It can be used to cover your head, shoulders or legs if you are visiting any religious sites that require these be concealed, or even as a top or dress in the right environment with a few creative tying techniques.

I pair down my cosmetics bag and take Lancome’s multi purpose makeup compact with me.  This saves heaps of space in my toiletry bag, keeps everything together and contains a good colour palette.

Lancome Absolu Voyage

Solid hand cream and solid perfume have got priority in my bag unless I’m going to a land filled with mosquitoes, in which case I will opt for l’eau de repellent and remove any scented items from my bag altogether.  I’ve had enough spills and leaks and refuse to decant my gorgeous bottle of perfume into a mini plastic container, for this would be sacrilege! All my other lotions and sauces are either travel size or get transferred to travel size containers and zip-locked.

All Natural Canadian-made Rocky Mountain Hand Butter.

Marc Jacob’s solid Daisy perfume doubles as a necklace

Yoga toesox and grip gloves.  As a yogi I want to be able to practice yoga wherever I go, so to save on the space my mat would take up, I purchased my yoga toesox and gloves.  This germ-aphobe has, however, come face to face (literally) with a few not so immaculate surfaces on which I’ve been forced to practice and a mat at least acts as a barrier between my squeaky clean bod and the potentially grimy floor…  So, out comes either the sarong again or I lay a towel on the floor and practice over that (hands and feet still on the ground for gripping purposes).

Yoga Toe Sox

Grip-Gloves

Even with all these travel bits and pieces down to a science, I am still on the lookout for things that will make my travel experience even better.  I most recently fell in love with this Rag and Bone woven bag when I spotted it in a post on Bag Snob suggesting it’s multi-tasking potential as a beach bag and carry-on thereby lightening the packing load.  It’s high on my wish list, though I will likely have to suffer with a look-alike rather than the real deal.  Sigh.

So, once I’ve endured the horrendous packing process and included these few practical items and stand-by’s, my journey is made a little more comfortable.

What goes into your bag when you travel?  Do you have ‘must-pack’ items and travel stand-by’s or do you wing it every trip?

The Versatile Blogger Award

Earth, Wind & Style has been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award!  I am very honoured.  Many thanks to Fashion & Style Guru for the nomination!

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are:

1. Add the award to your blog.

2. Thank the blogger who gave it to you.

3. Mention 7 random things about yourself.

4. List the rules.

5. Award to 15 or more bloggers.

Seven Random Things about Me:

1. I love to travel, but hate to pack.  With a passion.

2. My favourite beer in the whole world is Maluti, brewed in Lesotho.

3. I secretly want to be a back-up singer in a rock band.  Even more secretly, I want to be the Lead singer in a rock band.

4. I have a tendency to play my favourite new music purchases ad-nauseam (well, my husband thinks so at least!).  Steel Magnolia‘s Ooh La La is the latest continually repeated song. Yup, I’m a little bit country (only a little bit) and a little bit rock n roll!

Steel Magnolia (album)

Steel Magnolia (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. I resist using a telephone whenever possible and much prefer texting, emailing or facebooking.

6. I love giraffes.

7. I wish we (us people of the world) could all learn to get along.

Now for my nominations for the Versatile Blogger Award in no particular order:

1. The Pioneer Woman

2. Style Theories

3. I get a kick out of you

4. A Detailed House

5. Print and Pattern

6. Yoga With Nicci

7. DESIGNCHICKEE

8. Leen’s Trendy Box

9. The View From My Mat

10. The Style Diaries

I hope I will be forgiven for not nominating all 15 since I am so new to this blogging thing and don’t seem to be following so many wordpress blogs yet.  Thanks again for the award!

If you have any suggestions for blogs you think I might like, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.