Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manufactured Snow


If you were paying close attention to Monday's post, you might have noticed the mention of a 'holiday party at your realtor's house' as a possible San Francisco event that one might have to dress up for. Well, Mark and I attended just such an event the weekend before last, and knowing that our realtor has a gorgeous, 4-level Victorian house and is also one of the top realtors in the city, I figured the party would be a swanky one and therefore decided to wear one of my most formal dresses. I was not mistaken in my choice; the party was definitely a high class event, with a sumptuous array of food, 2 bands, and even a machine that blew snow from the second floor window down onto the front porch. Yes, it's true -- if we want snow here in San Francisco we have to manufacture it ourselves. Not being a big fan of snow myself, I really prefer this approach.

The dress I wore is from the 1930's and is one I found in a vintage store many years ago. I'm assuming it was handmade, since it has no tags of any kind. And actually it seems like it was handmade specifically for ME, so perfect is the fit.

Speaking of perfectly-fitted dresses, back in 2000 when I bought this one I was also fortunate enough to try on an amazing 1930's gown that had been worn by Myrna Loy. Myrna Loy! One of my all-time favorite actresses! It was a black, long-sleeved gown with a cascade of huge silver stars that ran across the fitted bodice and trailed diagonally all the way to the bottom of the flared, floor length skirt. It was magnificent, truly magnificent, and in a tragic case of non-buyer's remorse, I passed it up because it was fancier than I imagined I would ever need, and it cost $1200. But I have to tell you, if I had it to do over again I'd spend double or even triple that amount to own that amazing dress, even if it meant eating nothing but ramen noodles for several months. It fit me so perfectly, and the fact that it had been owned by the great Myrna Loy made it so very special, that I'll forever regret the decision to let it go. Needless to say, if I ever come across an item that special again, I'll do whatever it takes to make it mine.

I figured this was a good outfit to end my regular posting for the year with; tomorrow my company begins its holiday shutdown, and I won't return to work until January 3. There may be a post or two thrown in over the break if I get around to it, but I'm planning on mostly taking a rest from blogging as well as work. Mark and I are staying in town this year rather than the usual escape to Mexico, but we have some exciting things planned that I'll tell you about later. In the meantime, here's wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday!

I'll leave you with some images of the stunning Myrna Loy. Who, apparently, wore the same dress size as me. It's not as good as owning the actual dress, but hey, it's something!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1912


I think this is an outfit that Tinyjunco (aka Steph) would approve of, with its romantic, Edwardian details. It was cold enough that day that I mostly kept the fur stole on, which I preferred because it brought some rich color up near my face. But it was also fun to wear so much white; I felt like this outfit is something you might wear ice skating... in say, 1912.

The jacket has been lingering in my closet for awhile because it is considerably too large and needs to be altered. But I figured in the meantime I should just belt it up and go ahead and wear it anyway, because the presence of a brand new item in my closet that can't be worn is a torture to me. You can tell from the back of the jacket just how much extra room it has.

The reason this jacket is so large is that I followed the size chart on the J. Peterman site and ordered a size up from my usual. Never having ordered from them before, I didn't realize that not only do the clothes NOT run small as the size charts indicate, they actually run a bit on the generous side, making this jacket nearly 2 sizes too big for me. But, it was the last one of its kind and was marked way down (I'd been stalking it for months), so I figured that even with paying for alterations it was still a fantastic deal.

I also ordered a shirt from J. Peterman at the same time I ordered the jacket; it was also too large, so I sent it back for an exchange. They did finally send me a replacement, but I have to say that it took an inordinate amount of time (approximately 5 weeks), and in the interim the communication was less than stellar. My biggest complaint is that there is no online form for returns or exchanges, so you have no way to ensure it was received or track the progress until the replacement (or refund) shows up -- and my inquires were met with either a vague response, or no response at all. So on the whole, though I'm pleased with the two items I ended up with in terms of style and quality, I'm pretty leery about ordering from J. Peterman again. I know a lot of people really love the company, so it's rather disappointing.  





Stole: vintage
Hat: hand knit by me
Jacket: J. Peterman
Skirt: Noa Noa
Boots: from Scoop in Copenhagen

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just For Kicks


I have Fawn to thank for this dress; it was she who alerted me to the fact that All Saints was having a big sale (and still is, by the way). I'd had my eye on this dress for quite some time, but in fact it was out of stock in my size when I first discovered it. When Fawn told me about the sale, I decided just for kicks to see if it had been restocked, and lo and behold it had. Not only that but it was marked down 30%, so clearly it was meant to be.

What really made me fall in love with this dress was that it has a slate blue stripe pattern. If I have one complaint about All Saints it's that most of their clothes are solid black or gray; now to be fair, that's probably the one thing that keeps me from unloading the majority of my income there, so in a larger sense it's probably a good thing. But nevertheless, coming across All Saints items with color is something of a rarity, so color AND pattern together made this dress a must-have for me. Even though the fabric of the dress still comes across as a neutral, I could easily pair it with brighter colors and make the blue stripes stand out.

The dress has all the interesting detailing and amazing quality I've come to expect from All Saints. The shape is great for my figure because it adds volume up top and at the hips, while at the same time showing plenty of leg. It looks warm and cozy all layered up here, but it's a light enough cotton that I can also imagine wearing it with bare legs and arms (the dress is sleeveless) for a summer look. As an added bonus, that pile of fabric at the back of the neck unbuttons into a hood; I'm not sure I'd actually wear it that way, but I love that the possibility is there.

Dress: All Saints
Cardigan: thrifted
Belt: Urban outfitters
Tights: Noa Noa
Boots: Bronx

Monday, December 20, 2010

Obligations

I almost forgot to post this outfit -- it's what I wore when Mark and I saw the Yard Dogs Road Show last month. I figured that like many San Francisco events, there would be a lot of people dressed up in the typical eccentric styles I've come to expect on such occasions; I was surprised, however, that I could've actually gone a lot more over-the-top than this and fit in perfectly well.

San Francisco is a town that loves to get dressed up, and not only that, but people seem to have an outfit for every occasion. Whether you're going to see a vaudevillian cabaret, attending a Jewish LGBT Hanukkah fundraiser, or making an appearance at your realtor's grand Victorian house for a holiday party, it's important in this town to dress the part. Such are our obligations as San Franciscans. So for the Yard Dogs I mixed up a little steampunk with a strong dose of Burning Man fashion and I was all set.

It's tough to make out here, but I'm actually wearing a short, sequined black skirt underneath the tunic, which is otherwise way too short to wear as a dress. The skirt gave the outfit just the right amount of sparkle and covered up the tops of my long socks. Under the socks I wore leggings for warmth. This is one of my favorite tricks for wearing short skirts in the winter; the dual layers keep my legs warm, but because the bottom layer is leggings, there's still only one layer inside my shoes, ensuring that they aren't too tight.




Tunic, skirt: Forever 21
Socks: Sock Dreams
Boots: All Black
Fascinator: "Francine" style, Audra Jean
Harness: "Ryder" style, Audra Jean

Friday, December 17, 2010

Team Building

This was a casual outfit that I wore to a company event in which we were having a team-building exercise that required a lot of walking around outside. Oh, how I live for corporate team-building exercises (insert sarcasm here). Actually it turned out to be not as mind-numbingly stupid as I'd anticipated it would be, and as an added bonus I got to spend the day in downtown San Francisco rather than having to commute to the office.

The comfy and casual ensemble I picked was made up of my soft, warm argyle sweater, my most comfy pair of jeans, and my beloved and well-worn brown boots. The big scarf not only kept me warm, but it also added some interesting pattern and color to spice up the casual look.

Sweater: All Saints
Jeans: Acne
Boots: Bata
Scarf: a gift from my sister

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Twisted


Here's my second go at styling this maxi dress; this is after I modified the twisted strap by covering the twisted part with black jersey fabric. It looks better, but I think it will be further improved by twisting the other side, because twisting the strap actually makes the dress fit better across the bust. I'm still not sure if I'll keep the black jersey accent, but I'll figure that out after the next round of modification. I foolishly forgot to take any close-up photos of the modified strap, but I'll do that the next time.

With this outfit I wore some pretty substantial heels, which I was concerned might look funny, but ultimately I was pleased with how it turned out. These shoes make me about 5'11", but still I don't think they throw the proportions off in any way. I'm really encouraged to try out some full length skirts now, so that's high on my thrift shopping list.

Shirt: H&M
Dress: Forever 21
Belt: not sure, I've had it for ages
Bangles: Amrita Singh
Socks: Sock Dreams
Boots: Doc Martens

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gothic Lolita


I have a soft spot for Gothic Lolita style, partly because I've been to Japan twice, and partly because it's so unique and boundary-pushing. I also love the fact that it combines so many different concepts: fantasy, punk, cosplay, goth, and so on. And though it's not really a look I'd want to try out in its entirety, there are elements of it that I can incorporate into my daily wear, such as this dress. Actually I'd call it more of a jumper, since it really is designed to be worn over a shirt.

I ordered this jumper from Fanplusfriend, a company that specializes in all sorts of fun Gothic Lolita styles, as well as cosplay costumes and a lot of steampunk looks as well. All of the clothing is very reasonably priced, they can custom fit just about any of their items, and there are different options available for fabrics. The fabric I selected for this dress is called "tender fleece," something I hadn't heard of but which turned out to be similar in texture to a cotton twill. It has a nice drape and weight, and resists wrinkling.

Because it was custom fit, the dress did take several weeks to arrive (I'm assuming it was also due to the fact that I placed my order before Halloween, which is likely an extremely busy time for them). But I'm quite happy with how it turned out, and it fits beautifully. Worn over a button-down shirt and belted, it has less of a schoolgirl vibe and to me works perfectly well as a workday outfit. If you're interested in adding some Gothic Lolita or steampunk elements to your wardrobe for not a lot of money, I'd say give Fanplusfriend a try.

Shirt: thrifted
Dress/jumper: Fanplusfriend
Belt: Red Dress Shoppe
Boots: All Black

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harem Pants

Here's the second wearing of my new harem pants; this time I wore them with pumps so that the shape of the pants is more visible.If you look closely you can see that the pant legs are quite snug where they end, about mid-calf; they can also be worn with the cuffs pushed further down towards the ankle, giving the upper part of the leg less of a baggy shape. So far I'm really liking these, and I can see them working equally well in a sock-less warm weather outfit.

Jacket: Max Studio
Top: Ann Taylor
Pants: Vera Wang
Shoes: Tsubo

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ladylike


For this outfit I tried something completely different with this dress, covering the top half by buttoning the jacket up all the way. I was immediately struck by how just buttoning the jacket gave the outfit a Victorian vibe, so I built on that by adding the tulle skirt to give the dress a fuller shape. I thought the boots added a little bit of an equestrian feel.

To bring in some more off-white and continue in the vintage vein, I finished off the outfit with my grandmother's double-stranded pearl necklace. I just love this necklace; it's classic without looking stodgy, and of course every time I wear it I'm reminded of my wonderful grandma Ruth. I think she would've liked this outfit; I felt very ladylike wearing it, and my grandma Ruth was most definitely a lady.


Well, I'm off to start my weekend early. Happy Friday, everyone!




Dress: eShakti
Jacket: a gift from Sal
Skirt: Noa Noa
Boots: Modern Vintage

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shape and Proportion


As promised, here is the jacket that goes with my vintage 1960's dress. What's funny is that several times when I've pulled out this skirt to wear, I've searched for the perfect cropped, boxy top or jacket that would give it the mod flair I wanted, but I just hadn't been able to find the right thing. And here it was in my closet all along, hanging there paired with the dress (in the 'dress' portion of my closet, rather than with the tops and jackets) and not even registering as an option. It has exactly the shape and proportion I've been searching for the whole time.

I also wanted to encourage everyone to check out the special deal Wendy Brandes is offering on her Little Woolf necklace. Fellow blogger Sister Wolf has had an incredibly difficult year, having endured both personal tragedy and financial difficulties. Wendy is currently offering the Little Woolf for $50 plus taxes and shipping, with $35 of each sale going to help Sister Wolf repair her crumbling roof. Click on the widget below to go to Wendy's site and purchase this beautiful piece of quality jewelry while helping to support a worthy cause. You can read what Wendy has to say about Sister Wolf's dilemma and the fund-raising effort right here.

Jacket: Violetville Vintage
Sweater: Banana Republic
Skirt: Anthropologie
Belt: Lazaro
Boots: Bronx

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Behind the Times

Well, I'm behind on uploading my most recent batch of photos, so I got nothin' for ya in the way of an outfit. BUT! I recently had a, "Holy crap, how did I not know about this band??" moment and I thought I'd share. Actually I had two such moments. Forgive me if you see these videos and think, "Oh please, I've known about these guys forever! Where the hell have you been?" I've been listening to my iPod, that's where. It wasn't until I got a smart phone and discovered the joys of listening to Pandora in my car that I unearthed all this new-to-me talent.

The first artist I discovered was Santigold, who came out with her wonderful debut release way back in 2008, while I was blissfully ignoring radio and probably listening to nothing but the same 25 songs on my almost fully-packed 60G iPod. Sometimes I amaze myself with my immense and mostly unlistened-to music collection. Mark gives me all kinds of shit about it already, so don't you even start.


I liked Santigold so much that I created a Pandora station for her, and it was there I discovered The Knife, whose song "Heartbeats" I immediately recognized from the acoustic, folk version released by fellow Swede José González back in 2005. The original "Heartbeats" dates all the way back to 2003 (just going to show how far behind the times I am), from The Knife's Deep Cuts disc. This version is pure electro synth-pop perfection; Karin Dreijer Andersson's intriguing vocal stylings blend the Scandinavian sound of Björk or Emiliana Torrini with the plaintive, raw edge of Patti Smith, throwing in a bit of Cyndi Lauper's hiccup-y warble for good measure. Combine this with the heavy bass synth beat and Karin's adorable Swedish accent, and well, click with caution -- this song is so catchy you're pretty much dooming yourself to a lifetime of addiction.


If that's not enough for you, check out José González's beautiful cover of the song, which he recorded for his 2005 release Veneer, a CD I bought after discovering José at the Iceland Airwaves music festival.


If that's STILL not enough for you, have a look and a listen to The Knife's eerie, mesmerizing live version of the song, which in some ways is even better than the recorded version. Recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2006.


Want more? The Knife went on to record progressively darker and more ambitious material; their third studio album, 2006's Silent Shout, includes some truly brilliant material. It was hard to pick just one track to highlight here, but in the end the animated mice won out for cuteness.


STILL not enough? It wasn't for me either. After researching the band a bit more, I discovered Karin's innovative side project, Fever Ray. Let's just say my already over-crammed iPod was loaded up with a lot of new material recently.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Travel Series: Going Solo

It's been quite awhile since I've done a travel post, and since Meadow Walk gave me the great suggestion to do a post on traveling alone, I figured the timing was right. The photos included here are from solo trips I've taken.
                                                                                                                                                             

By nature I'm an extrovert, and although it might seem that would make it easy for me to meet people any old time I want to, the fact is that I still have the impulse to be shy when I don't know anyone. Extroversion and boldness are two very different things; I might not want to spend a lot of time alone because of my extroverted nature, but the natural reserve that most anyone feels in an unfamiliar place will doom me to that very fate if I don't make an effort to get over it. So traveling alone requires a certain strength of will, even for an extrovert like me; I think all but the most confident and unabashed among us will find it to be the same. But trust me, it can be done, and it's very, very worth it.

The first time I tested the waters traveling alone in a foreign country was on a trip I took to Japan in 2003 with my ex. Since he was there for work, I was left to my own devices for much of the time, and decided to take a couple of day trips on my own. On my very first outing I ended up in Hiroshima, where I was approached by a group of students of all ages who were taking private instruction in English. Their assignment for the day was to find and interview a native English speaker, and among a sea of Japanese faces I suppose I was pretty easy to pick out. The students were friendly and respectful; they asked polite questions about myself and about American culture, they gave me their email addresses and small gifts they'd made themselves. When I got back home we corresponded for quite some time afterwards; they would, as a class, send photos of themselves and brief updates on how they were doing. It was a simply amazing connection, and one I probably never would have made if I'd been caught up in traveling with a companion.

Berlin wasn't even on my travel itinerary in 2005, but I was persuaded 
to go by an Australian friend I made along the way.

In 2005, I decided to leave my then job and move to my current company, taking a 1 month break in between to travel. My first thought was, "Who can I convince to go with me?" Because no one hops on a plane and heads off to a foreign country for the first time all alone, right? Especially not a woman. But after I gave it some more thought and remembered all the great experiences I'd had by myself in Japan, I decided I was going to do the whole trip alone, and not only that but I was going to extend my break to 2 months. I wasn't even going to ask anyone to join me for part of the trip. So there!

I'll be honest with you, one of my first experiences on that trip was getting my wallet stolen in Rome and feeling utterly adrift. But as luck would have it, a few days before that I had met a friendly Chicagoan down in Sorrento, who I'd reconnected with in Rome and gone sightseeing with that very day. I called him as soon as I'd been pickpocketed, and he immediately offered to lend me cash and help me with anything I needed, including letting me crash in his hotel room. Ryan and I have been good friends ever since, and in fact it was he that Mark and I went to visit in Chicago this summer. It's amazing how kind people can be if you only give them the opportunity. And it's equally amazing how a seemingly terrible experience can lead to all sorts of wonderful things that you never expected.

That 2005 trip that started in Italy eventually took me all over Europe, to Iceland and back to the continent, and to places I hadn't even planned to go. And it was all because I went alone; in my guesthouse in Reykjavik I met a couple of Australians who would convince me to drop my plan to fly to Helsinki and instead drive around the country with them. One of them would end up accompanying me to Denmark and Sweden, and then convincing me to go to Berlin. By the end of my 2 month trip I had changed my flights 6 times, was giddy and elated, and was utterly convinced that I should travel alone as much as possible.

I could go on and on about the people I've met, both locals and other travelers from all over the world, and the great times I've had with them. I could tell you about the quieter moments spent alone, whiling away hours in cafes or poking around in shops or happening upon some one-of-a-kind experience when I least expected it. But rather than get carried away reminiscing in my own travel experiences, I'd like to share a few ideas for you to get the most out of a solo trip, because that's really why you're reading this post, isn't it?


In Brussels I discovered that the best dorm-mates are often the guys; they don't make a big fuss 
when they come in late at night and get ready for bed, and they generally don't get up at the crack of dawn.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Before you even set out, it's important to ask yourself what sort of experience you really want to have. For some travelers, the excitement of surrounding yourself with new people in a vibrant city is what it's all about, but perhaps this isn't your cup of tea. Maybe what you actually want are quiet, solitary walks in the woods and a chance to take in natural beauty undisturbed. In other words, don't plan a trip to Rome or Tokyo when what you really desire is the tranquility of the countryside. You can still meet people and experience a new culture in smaller, more out of the way places, but you can do it on your own terms. I don't believe that there's a single place on Earth that everyone needs to go see; if you think Rome might be too hectic for you, it probably is.

If you opt for traveling in more rural areas, you'll need to consider your means of transportation. Trains and other public transportation might not be able to get you all the way to your destination, so you'll need to think about whether or not you want to deal with a car. Personally I love the luxury of not having to drive for weeks at a time, so I tend to choose destinations that are readily accessible by train or bus. But I've also had some great experiences renting a car for a day or two and visiting the countryside as a day trip, or staying at lodgings that are a little off the beaten path and not right in the heart of downtown.

The view of Vienna from my hostel up in the hills; this offered a great balance between 
easy city access and the serenity of the countryside.

Security Tips for Solo Travel

Don't think just because I've gone all over the place by myself that I fly in the face of conventional wisdom when it comes to safety and security. As with any foray into the unknown, a bit of planning goes a long way towards keeping you and your belongings safe.

Choose your location:
  • When deciding on a destination, take some time to read up on the current situation there. Let's be honest, some places are safer for solo women travelers than others. Check the US (or your home country's) travel advisories and tips for traveling abroad. Pick up a guide book; Lonely Planet books have a section in the back of each guide that details specific considerations for women traveling alone.
  • When choosing a place to stay, do some research into the area of town in which it's located. Read reviews, go on Hostelworld or Hostelling International and read what other travelers had to say, ask people who've been there, and consult your guide book. Take some time to figure out how you'll get to and from the airport or train station and your lodging; it's all good and fine to stay in a safe part of town, but if the only way there is a dodgy bus line, you might be better off somewhere else.
Prep work:
  • Before you leave, make sure you've left a photocopy of your passport with someone at home in case you lose it abroad. As added insurance, scan it and other important documents and upload them to Dropbox, where you can have ready access any time from a computer or your smart phone. It's also a good idea to bring a paper copy with you that you can lock in your suitcase.
  • Bring an extra credit card and ATM card (from a different account than your primary) that remain in your luggage in case of emergency. This was the one thing I didn't do in 2005 and really should have; it wouldn't have mattered nearly as much that my wallet was stolen if I'd had another set of cards somewhere other than my wallet. You might want to open a special travel bank account just for that purpose; before the trip you can use it to stash money away and out of easy reach, and while you're traveling it can be an additional source of cash.
  • Although I generally don't use one unless I'm going out late in a sketchy part of town, security wallets really are a good idea. Rick Steves, travel guru and surprisingly cool guy, makes a nice silk one that seems less irritating than some of the scratchy nylon models.
  • A good purse is an investment worth making. I like a bag that lies flat against my body, has a heavy duty cross-body strap, and has hidden pockets on the inside for my most valuable items. Always go with a bag that zips completely, versus one that is held closed only with a single snap. Highway bags are my personal favorite.
Planning for your arrival:
  • When booking your itinerary, make sure you have a reasonable arrival time so that you're not stuck trying to catch a cab or find a subway line late at night.
  • Make sure you have the contact info for your lodging readily available; people who work at at hotels and hostels generally speak English and are a great resource if you hit a snag. I even had one hostel clerk in the Czech Republic who came and picked me up in her own car when I knew I'd be getting in late. When I stepped off the train there she was, holding up a little cardboard sign with my name on it. Awww!
  • Get some cash in the appropriate currency before you arrive; few things are more stressful than arriving in a new place with no money. Exchange rates are typically poor in airports and other such locations, so don't get a lot of cash out, just enough to get you through the important first steps of getting settled in. 
  • Know where you're going. Study a map and look over the train lines or bus stops that will get you from the terminal to your lodging. People who look lost are ideal targets for thieves and swindlers. If you're going to be taking a cab, know the address of your destination in addition to its name. It's a great idea to know how to say these things in the native language if at all possible; it's not unheard of for unscrupulous cab drivers to take you on an unnecessarily long route to get more money from you (smart phones can obviously help with this too if you can get a reliable signal). If you sound like you know what you're talking about they're less likely to take advantage. 
Once there:
  • Look confident. You might not know exactly where you're going, but never let on that you don't. Don't walk along with your face pressed in your guidebook; if you need to figure out your route, stop and do it discreetly in a doorway, or even pop inside a cafe or shop to figure it out. If you're lost for a few moments, just enjoy the view until you find your way again.
  • Keep your hand on your purse whenever you're in a crowded area. I love the cross-body bags because they make a good armrest as I'm strolling along, and I've always got control over the bag.
  • Avoid keeping all your cards and cash in the same location. I always keep a little cash in my pockets for small purchases, so that I don't have to pull out my whole wallet. A spare set of cards stays in my locked luggage, and I only take a day's worth of cash with me at a time. This protects you not only from theft but also loss.

Some activities are naturally more meditative and lend themselves to a day spent solo. 
A day trip to the quaint Austrian village of Hallstatt is a perfect example.

Meeting People

Regardless of whether you choose a bustling city or a tiny hamlet, you will likely still want to meet people, and unless you're naturally gregarious and completely comfortable among strangers, you might also need to make a conscious effort to alter your social behavior. Here are a few tips for meeting people when you're traveling alone.
  • Choose a lodging that fosters social interaction. Hostels are the obvious way to go, as most of them have common areas and many even have organized activities, tours, etc. for guests to take advantage of. Common kitchens, dining areas, and lounges are great places to meet up with other travelers, so make sure your lodging has one. I've sung the praises of hostels before, so click on over to this post if you'd like more info.
  • Particularly if you're shy, avoid the temptation to get a private room and opt for a dorm instead. Unless you are exceedingly unfriendly, I can guarantee that if you stay in hostel dorms you will meet people. A good hostel will have secure lockers for your stuff, so don't sweat security too much. If you're a light sleeper, get yourself a good pair of earplugs and a pair of eye shades and you'll be golden.
  • Make yourself available. You went to all the trouble to find a hostel or guesthouse with a common area, now get in there! Mosey into the lounge and strike up a conversation with whoever is there. It isn't hard to find things to talk about; ask what they've seen, where they're from, how long they're staying. When you're among other travelers, everybody has something to talk about. The vast majority of the time, when I've ended up finding a companion to spend the day sightseeing or a night on the town with, it has been another guest of the hostel I'm staying at.
  • Don't think that hostels are the only way to meet people, either. Again, it's about making yourself available to others. If you go out to a cafe or bar, don't just sit there with your face buried in a book; start up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. The same goes for riding a train (trains are great places to meet locals, by the way) or visiting a museum or sitting at a park. People are naturally curious; often once they hear your accent they will want to find out more about you, so ask them a simple question such as directions to the theater and see if you can get them to engage in conversation.

The Auchwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, which I visited in 2007 with two other American travelers 
I met at my hostel in Krakow. It would've been very hard to go to alone, because it's so emotionally affecting.

Having Fun on Your Own

Finally, don't forget about the real luxuries that traveling alone offers: setting your own hours, choosing a busy itinerary or a completely relaxed one, doing exactly what you want when you want, choosing the time and location of every meal; the list goes on and on. I tend to be a haphazard traveler, preferring to have a very loose schedule that I can change at will, and sometimes even arriving in a city not knowing where I'll stay or even if I'll stay there at all. This type of travel stresses a lot of people out, but on the other hand it stresses ME out to travel with someone who has a minute-by-minute agenda that must be adhered to. When I travel alone everything is at my command, and I'm free to spend my time just as I like.

So don't forget to relish these luxuries; if the people at your hostel are planning an outing and it's too early in the morning for your liking, skip it and catch up with them when they get back. If you'd rather spend the afternoon people-watching at a cafe than looking at works of art in a museum, then by all means do. Again, I don't feel that certain things are mandatory experiences for everyone; I went to Paris and skipped the Louvre, even though most people would agree it's a must-see. When you're traveling solo, always remember that the trip is 100% your own.  

A fun day spent alone was my trip to the Lithuanian countryside to visit  
Grūtas Park, otherwise known as "Stalin World" by the locals.

Okay, over to you. Have you tried traveling alone, or would you? If you've got additional wisdom for would-be solo travelers, let's hear it!

Monday, December 6, 2010

International Pie For Breakfast Month

It finally cooled down enough to break out my vintage 1960's wool dress and try pairing it with my black boots, with the cuffs turned up for an over-the-knee length. For this outfit I didn't pair the dress with its matching cropped jacket, opting instead to modernize it a bit with the velvet blazer. But interestingly, when I pulled out the set I realized for the first time that I could use the jacket to give a 60's vibe to other outfits, so I've got one coming up with it. Funny that it never occurred to me before, probably because I always keep the dress and jacket hanging together.

I'd like to digress for a moment and discuss one of my favorite elements of the holiday season: pie for breakfast. Is there anything quite so delightful? A slice of pie is great for dessert, but to me nothing quite matches the satisfaction that comes with eating it for breakfast (especially pumpkin pie, my favorite). If I were a songwriter I would write an ode to having pie for the most important meal of the day, but with my limited musical talents I'll simply declare December as International Pie For Breakfast Month. Please feel free to celebrate accordingly.

Dress: Violetville Vintage
Necklace: vintage
Jacket: a gift from Sal
Boots: Modern Vintage

Friday, December 3, 2010

Never Say Never


Well, Wendy B always says that, "Never is the next new thing" and I'm pretty certain I've said before that I would "never" wear a maxi dress, and that they look universally terrible. And yet here I am, wearing one, and liking it a great deal. A few things finally came together and prompted me to give this look a try: I'd seen Queen Michelle from Kingdom of Style and Emma at My Daily Clothes Fix look amazing in similar long striped dresses, I'd seen Sal wear long skirts to great effect last winter, and in fact when Mark and I were out in Minneapolis over the summer, Sal pointed out how big a difference there is between an unflattering mid-calf length and a true full length skirt, which further eased my doubts about wearing one.

So it was that when I saw this dress on the Forever 21 site for TEN BUCKS, the seeds of the idea had been planted and I knew I could reasonably give this sartorial experiment a whirl. For ten bucks, even if it did look terrible I could always hem it up to knee or even tunic length and it would still be worth it. The odd thing about this dress is that one of the straps is twisted; at first I looked at it and thought, "Ah, I see why it was $10 -- they sewed the straps wrong!" But when I went back and looked again at the listing, I saw that it was done that way intentionally.

To me the twist in the strap doesn't look very intentional though; it looks like a misguided afterthought. So what I ended up doing was taking a piece of black jersey and making a small, scrunched up tube of fabric that goes around the twisted part, which accentuates the difference and makes it look more finished. For this outfit I mostly wore it with the denim jacket, but next time I'll try it with the modified strap showing and you can tell me which you like better. Of course I also have 2 other options: either twist the other strap, or take the twisted one apart and sew it normally to match the other.

I thought it would feel odd and frumpy to wear a big long tube, but to be honest it didn't feel that way at all; in fact it felt sleek and elegant. I've seen lots of maxi dresses styled as summer wear, but I'm looking forward to layering this one up for some more cozy winter ensembles.

Hat: ADS Hats
Jacket: Tulle, thrifted
Dress: Forever 21
Belt: Audra Jean
Socks: Sock Dreams
Boots: Bata