Category Archives: Fashion

Fall fashion highlights: Boots, tops, and boyfriend jeans

I’m so excited about fall clothing this year. I have a basket full of beautiful merino, cashmere and silk scarves, some cute black hats, and I haven’t lost all of my gloves…yet.

It helps that (with the exception of those hideous plaid double-breasted babydoll winter coats) this year’s fall fashions are attractive, practical, and even comfortable! Here are the highlights:

Boots: THEY REally are made for walking

born lottie bootThe passion for Frye engineer boots has given way to low-heel equestrian-style boots, which are now ubiquitous on the streets of Seattle. Brown is the favored color. Not only do they look great, they’re easy on your feet.

Tip: If you love the boot look but have trouble getting boots that fit over muscular calves check out the Born boots at I tried on a few pair of Born boots at a store in Seattle, purchased a pair of the Lottie equestrian boots, and then went online to look at a much wider selection. I’m now rather wishing I’d gotten the Lizzie (very subtle studded, and in a choice of black, red, or tan). I did, however, go completely over the top and order the Montana in grey with red insets. Not a subtle look!

Tops: Essential TEES

I lived in black Gap essential and market t-shirts over the summer, so got the Gap essential neck long-sleeved tee for winter. It runs large, so I got a petite medium rather than a petite large. It’s lightweight, extremely soft, and drapes but doesn’t cling. I expect that this shirt will have the same problem with durability that I’ve experienced with other Gap lightweight t-shirts (one even came with a hole in it and had to be returned) but I’ll tolerate that to get the great fit. The crew neck is neither dorkily high or stupidly low — it’s a modified scoop. Price? $23 or $17 on sale. The Gap fluid pleat-back (rayon) T looks intriguing, but I’m waiting for the reviews. The phrase “skinny sleeves” has me worried.

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Bad Bounce

I loathe scented dryer sheets, and I have to wonder about the people who use them.

1. The smell is wretched and overpowers pleasant, natural scents. I don’t use dryer sheets, but my next door neighbor does. Unfortunately, her dryer vents onto my property. I can’t tell you how many times this spring and summer I’ve gone out to enjoy my garden only to be driven back indoors by the acrid, cloying stench of Bounce dryer sheets. Writer Jane Periat describes it perfectly in this column for CoastViews Magazine.

2. The disgusting smell is impossible to get rid of. I love buying clothes on eBay, but I’m about to give up because items that arrive smelly and oily from contact with dryer sheets are impossible to clean. Just out of curiosity, I washed one Bounced t-shirt 10 times — after soaking it in vinegar, stain removers, Borax, and even the Oxy-Clean solution used to remove pet smells — and it still smelled strongly of artificial perfumes.

3. They cause allergic reactions in many people. Ask a dermatologist.

4. Not that anyone seems to care, but many of the chemicals in the dryer sheets — and their emissions from dryer vents — are carcinogens. I’m not quoting a bunch of New Age finger-waggling alarmists here. I’m citing a study by environmental engineering researchers from the University of Washington, quoted by CBS news.

Can anyone tell me what is so wonderful about dryer sheets that it’s worth annoying and poisoning yourself and your neighbors when you use them?

I love Vera Wang

I used to think “elegant wedding gowns” when I heard the name of designer Vera Wang. And with good reason, because that’s what her design group is known for.

But after seeing the designer and her staff featured in the Wall Street Journal’s  weekly “Work Wear” column, I now think “great professional clothing.” They don’t just design it; they wear it.

The photos accompanying the article show Wang and her staff in beautiful tones of olive and beige worn with black basics — many of the fabrics interestingly textured knits, wools, heavy cottons, and mesh. In short, they were wearing classic mix-and-match elements that would make a great wardrobe for urban professionals of all ages.

Dressy jackets and sumptuous tops


More than 10 years ago I bought a plain black top at a boutique in Langley, Washington. The top was by a Canadian company called Sympli, and when I went to find more of the tops a few years ago, they were impossible to get in the U.S. But Sympli is back, available in expensive boutiques and, of course, in thrift stores. The shirt I bought 10 years ago still looks brand new, and I recent found an even nicer Sympli top — scoop neck, navy blue — in a thrift shop. Now I’ve spent quite a bit more to get a Sympli tank top through Adare’s Boutique, which sells on eBay. It seems that they’ve made their sizes a bit larger in the past decade, or perhaps are suiting them more for the American customer. Anyway, still great silky material that drapes rather than clings. Sympli clothing comes in a dizzying choice of necklines, sleeve lengths, etc., but this chart from Sympli explains it.

Bella Sisters jacket

Bella Sisters jacket

Bella Sisters

Two or three years ago I bought a gorgeous remade vintage jacket by Bella Sisters at the Fremont Sunday Market. Sadly, I was so entranced by the clever appliqué and cashmere sweater trim (and hood) on the tweed jacket that I didn’t pay sufficient attention to the fit. Like most jackets, vintage or current, it was too longwaisted for me. And, I decided, I’m just too petite to carry off a bulky hood on a tailored jacket. I sold the jacket.

This weekend I ran into Bella Sisters at the Northwest Folklife Festival and gave it another try. I found a jacket that really fit, and I asked them to remove the hood (which they were most gracious about doing). This left me with a beautiful brown tweed jacket with gray appliqué, front and back, and tan fresh-water pearls. I think Bella Sisters is more of a Portland, Oregon, presence than Seattle these days, but you can also find them online.

Exciting clothes: in stores, online, and at the consignment shops

Wonderful clothes have been turning up for me in the past few months, and I want to alert everyone to some great brands and styles.

Bogner jackets and Fire and Ice sportswear. Bogner? Two months ago, I’d never heard of Bogner. Then I found a beautiful wool blazer in a heathery periwinkle color at Classic Consignment in Ballard for $20. It had a metal charm attached to the front pocket — a bright silver “B” — that made it look more like sportswear than a dressy jacket. Some online sleuthing revealed that it was a casual jacket from a company best known for skiwear — Bogner, a European firm. The tailoring and fabric are exquisite. The price, had I bought it new? $400. The story is just beginning. A few weeks later, at a flea market, I spotted a cherry red micro-fleece half-zip top that looked like a great style for me. The label? Fire and Ice. Which, it turns out, is a part of…yes, Bogner. (Price online? $200. I’d paid $5.) Not only are the beautiful pieces of clothing, but size 12 (or Large) fits me perfectly. Definitely items for petite women. Check out the vaguely steampunkish Lindsay blazer, currently selling for way above my budget.

Vintage Pendleton jackets. At Goodwill I snagged a gorgeous Pendleton blazer, a lightweight pale-champagne Harris tweed, petite, for $14. I’ve gotten so many compliments on it that I’m now searching Etsy, eBay, and all the thrift shops for more of them. A lot of vintage Pendleton is in bold colors or plaids that aren’t quite me (shocking pink and forest green check, anyone?). But I’m going to be patient to get this fit and quality.

Moving Comfort's Maia bra

Moving Comfort’s Maia bra

Moving Comfort Maia sports bra. For years I’ve been wearing Moving Comfort’s  wire-free Fiona sports bra for yoga (after being stabbed savagely by an expensive underwire sports bra while doing twists). The problem with the (seemingly  indestructible) Fiona is that they don’t make it in my size, so I’ve been wearing it one cup size too small. It squishes me, and I look…squished. I’d tried a few other Moving Comfort bras but hadn’t liked them. One, which seemed to be made out of latex, was difficult to get on, and nearly impossible to get off. But I decided to try the Maia bra, which does come in my size. It is very tailored, and works as a camisole with V-neck shirts and sweaters. It is so comfortable, even with underwires, I feel like I’m not even wearing a bra. And it looks so good I’m now wearing it with dressy clothing as well as for yoga. Question: Why don’t they remove the little white sports logo from the strap and sell this as a regular bra? They’d make a fortune.

Eddie Bauer StayShape jeans. These are jeans with a little bit of stretch that look great the first time you wear them and keep looking great. They don’t stretch out or bag. Like a number of Eddie Bauer women’s pants, they come in three styles: Straight, Slightly Curvy, and Curvy. I ordered all three because I was curious. I’m in between the Slightly Curvy and Curvy, so kept both of those. I’ve had one pair of these for six months, and they still look fabulous. (Cold water wash, inside out.)

Eddie Bauer Pima tee

Eddie Bauer’s new Pima tee

Eddie Bauer Pima Cotton 3/4-sleeve T-shirts. Another big win, particularly if you buy them on sale. These are fairly long shirts, but Eddie Bauer has moved away from the skinny fit, and these are just lovely. I ordered petites and the V and scoop necks were the perfect depth and width (unlike the necklines on the “petite” shirts at the Gap, which are apparently designed to reveal as much of your bra as possible).

JCP (aka J.C. Penney) a.n.a. sportswear. Having read all about J.C. Penney’s controversial new business model, I decided to check it out. It’s now a store full of fashion boutiques with very, very, very inexpensive prices (and somewhat confused-looking customers, wondering what happened to the old system of long racks full of sales merchandise). I bought two jackets from the a.n.a. (“A New Approach”) petite boutique, which mimics a Ralph Lauren style. They were about $3o each; one is a nicely shaped workshirt in a featherweight, faded denim and the other is an attractively styled army-green fatigue jacket, also in a summer-weight fabric. My one complaint: an XL petite is almost too tight for me across the back and bust — and I’m a size 10 petite at Eddie Bauer. This is definitely a place I’ll check again for inexpensive summer clothing.

And now, for a little bad news:

Eddie Bauer’s long-awaited Travex pants for spring are a disappointment. Last year’s Travex pants sold out almost immediately, were not restocked, and still command full price on eBay. They may now become collectors items, because the 2013 version of them is simply not as good. The new 2013 capris have those yoga-style flare-out hems (calf-length bell bottoms? Really?) that look bad on everybody. (Last year’s had drawstring hems you could adjust.) And they have this unattractive zig-zag top stitching everywhere that looks like a second grader sewed them. I’ll resume hunting for another pair of last year’s on eBay. (Note: The waistband on the Travex capris is a bit low — if you’re a petite, you could go for the regular size to get a slightly higher waistband.

Fashion fail: Women’s flannel shirts in pastel plaids

Thousands of women looking to buy classic flannel shirts this season are in consignment shops and vintage clothing stores. They’ve been driven there by retailers who got some weird idea in their heads that women would like their flannel shirts in pale turquoise, pink and lavender plaids. Sorry, I have no desire to look like I’m from Clan McBarbie.

Classic plaid flannel shirts are based on tartan-weave fabrics, which date back thousands of years to early Celtic tribes in Europe. As early as the 1500s, tartans were used in Scotland to identify wearers by region or by clan.

This GiltMANual blog post has a lovely visual guide to some of the classic plaids in fashion: Royal Stewart, Black Watch, MacDonald, McQueen, MacLeod, MacGregor, MacArthur, and Wallace. Wallace is my own personal favorite, being thick and thin black stripes on a field of scarlet red. These plaids are characterized by rich reds, blues, greens, or yellows and plenty of black stripes.

The Pendleton wool mills brought plaids onto the fashion scene in the 1950s with wool shirts and shirt jackets. These went through a huge revival as an essential element of grunge fashion in the 1990s, and Pendleton plaid shirts are still in high demand in vintage clothing stores.

Outfitters like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Orvis, along with outdoor clothiers like Woolrich and Cabela’s, translated the Pendleton wool plaid shirts into less-expensive cotton flannel. (Expensive New York and London clothiers also make pricey viyella shirts in classic plaids. But I digress.)

Back to the basic plaid flannel shirt. If you’re male, flannel shirts in classic plaids are available just about anywhere that sells men’s sportswear. But if you’re looking for a women’s flannel shirt (especially in a petite size) this season, good luck. L.L. Bean was sold out of five of six colors of its women’s classic-colored Scotch Plaid flannel shirts by December 4 (Gee, I wonder why?). Woolrich has a few classic plaids left (I quickly bought two of the red Pembertons), but most of what they and other stores have in stock this year in the women’s plaid flannel department are your choice of pastels or (even more ghastly) fluorescent pastels:

The perfect pie (pan)

We haven’t hosted a large Thanksgiving in several years, so I can afford to use Thanksgiving as the opportunity to test the kitchen’s readiness for the December holidays. I make a list of what’s missing and, of course, discover what aging piece of equipment is about to give up the ghost. (This year, the toaster oven suddenly lost it while trying to heat a casserole dish full of extra stuffing.)

As usual, I volunteered to bake pies for the Thanksgiving feast we were invited to at our friends’ house. I love to bake piece because I have such great pie pans, especially this one, for fruit pies:

Apple pie

Apple pie in vintage HOLZIT pie plate with deep lip.

It is a medium-size (9-inch) pan with a wide, deep lip that catches any bubbly juices from the pie. That means I don’t have to fit foil-covered cookie trays beneath my pies or spend the next few days trying to chisel baked sugar syrup off racks or oven surfaces.

It’s not easy to find a HOLZIT aluminum pie plate! I inherited one, and I’ve spotted one or two on eBay over the years. There’s also a new $49 Royal Prestige 11-inch stainless steel pie plate with a wide, medium-depth, lip — pricy, but pretty wonderful (and available only through distributors or on eBay).

The Royal Prestige is notable because it’s an 11-inch pie plate — not easy to find in stores.  You can still find 11-inch vintage Pyrex (#211) on Etsy or eBay for about $15.

(The pie plate in the background, containing a pecan pie, is a 9-inch vintage anodized aluminum by Regal. It has a wide, but not deep, lip. You can find them, as I did, on eBay.)


I can’t pronounce it, but I like it


According to the Wall Street Journal, in five years we’ll all be wearing it.

This ambitious Japanese clothing enterprise features high-tech cooling fabrics, heating fabrics, and styles by top international designers. The clothes will remind you of Eileen Fisher or the Gap; the stores will remind you of Apple.

While a new name in the U.S., Uniqlo is one of the defining labels in Japan, and has stores in the fashion centers of Asia and Europe (including 10 in the U.K.) Even if you can’t get to one of the New York City stores, you can buy (highly affordable) Uniqlo fashion on eBay.

Shoes that look good and make you feel better

The Juil Mesa sandal

The Juil Mesa sandal

The ideal shoe is one that looks great and feels fantastic. Juil’s Mesa sandals (which I’ve been wearing for the past few days) certainly do that. In addition, they’re equipped with copper conductors in the soles designed to enable you to walk your way to better health through better connection to Mother Earth.

The mechanism behind the health claim comes from the practice of grounding or “earthing.” When people walk — or sleep — directly on the ground, electrons from the earth are believed to pass into their bodies. Proponents of earthing cite recent research that correlates the use of earthing beds and earthing devices to improved health. (Here’s a helpful review of that research.)

The copper conductors in Juil shoes are intended to give you the benefits of walking barefoot without giving up the protection and support of shoes.

The Juil Brio, with copper grounding

The Juil Brio, with copper conductors

The folks at Juil sent me a pair of Mesa sandals to review, and I can tell you that these are sweet shoes. They run true to size, and are made from high-quality materials (Mesa’s have leather uppers and footbeds, and the company also offers vegan models, such as the Gaia). I like the lightweight cork outsole on the Mesas. My only qualm about fit is that the Mesa footbed is a little narrow in the arch — probably best for someone with high arches.

Juil shoes for men and women are available on the site and from resellers as diverse as Naturalizer, Planet Shoes, and Amazon. Prices are from $125 to $145 for sandals and from $155 to $165 for clogs.

Naked ladies and bright-colored jeans

photo of orange, blue and red Gap jeans

Gap jeans (Photos: Gap online catalog)

I desperately want a pair of this summer’s hottest fashion: lightweight, bright-colored jeans. In melon. Or maybe cherry red. Perhaps lime green.

But it’s not going to happen.

The chances of me finding a pair of jeans that fit are so slim (pardon the pun) that it just isn’t worth my time shopping for them. I can go to a major department store and try on dozens of pairs of pants without finding a single pair that look decent. For some reason, the only jeans that work for me are ones that turn up at consignment shops — strange brands no one has heard of, or past-season styles that are long out of production. My current favorites are:

• Kut from the Kloth straight-leg dark-wash jeans. I found a pair of Kut jeans at a local Buffalo Exchange shop — they turned out to be a size too large, but they inspired me to go to Macy’s to try on other Kut jeans in a smaller size. The style that works for me now seems to be out of production, but I’ve got two pairs and love them. The waist runs a bit large, but wearing a belt or the Hip Hugger from Hollywood Fashion Secrets takes care of that.

• Eddie Bauer chino-fabric capris. I bought these last year at an end-of-sumer sale and they’re no longer in production. Finally got them shortened to the perfect length this year. However, in the intervening year capri fashion got so much narrower in the legs that these now look baggy — what’s called “boyfriend” style. But one pair is a fashionable melon color and looks great with a lime tencel blouse.

• Jeans D boot-cut jeans-style pants. This pair of lightweight jeans-style cotton pants with a “Jeans D.” label turned up at a “naked ladies” party (where friends bring clothing to try on and exchange). I’d never heard of the Jeans D brand, but have since managed to locate them in the Juniors section on eBay, some under “Jeans D” and some under “D Jeans.” If anyone knows where I can buy them retail, please get in touch.