Menswear redux

Workplace dress will always fascinate me. There’s no shortage of wonders in what people deem work-appropriate, and I like to see what others come up with. My employment does not have a dress code, but my job has a significant front-facing, public dimension. This whole blog has been about me trying different ways to improve my outer image, to learn how to build a good foundation of a wardrobe that will serve me well in my daily activities.

Last month I was hemming and hawing over adding a new silhouette to my repertoire, but this month I’m back in my menswear corner, opting for a far more masculine vibe:

Blazer: old JCrew maritime blazer (see 2013 me)
Shirt: old Lands End No Iron Supima dress shirt
Pants: Gap tailored crop pants 
Boots: Ecco Structured 45 Gore-Tex booties
Belt: black leather, silver buckle. borrowed from my grandmother.

I got some new pants from Gap and they’ve revitalized my workwear pieces. I’m back to slacks, socks and shoes! I’m enjoying them. I have been searching for new pants for a while and I hope these ones stand the test of time (and the washing machine.)

Eventually maybe I’ll learn to look less rumpled and be even slicker but for now, I’m happy with what I’ve got. My pants have functional pockets and don’t drag on the floor (thank you “ankle length” option). Next on my vague list is a black jacket that ends at the waist–maybe a light bomber style jacket. Something to throw over myself at work that can be casual or dressier depending on what I’m wearing.

That’s where I am sartorially as of late. I suppose because there’s not much change in what I’ve been doing, it’s affected my blog posting schedule here. These days I’m far more likely to update via Instagram–it’s admittedly a lot easier to write a short sentence than a whole post, not to mention I’m quite visually oriented. Please join me there should you feel so inclined :)

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Sometimes I run

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and sometimes 90s pop song lines work as blog titles, so we’ll run with it (ha). In case you didn’t know, I took up running as a hobby in late 2013 and have been keeping up with it since. Today I’ll be talking about mostly the gear I use to run, whose importance is rising as I get more¬†involved with the sport. I’m planning on attempting a half-marathon this year (!!!) so the topic is near and dear to me as I put myself through torture for reasons which I still don’t quite understand as of yet.

Shoes

Gear preferences and needs are specific to each person. I currently prefer cushy, supportive, stability running shoes. Typically these types of shoes are recommended to people whose feet roll inward (pronation) or outward (supination) but I like them because they’re very comfortable. I favor the Nike brand of running shoes because my feet are small and somewhat narrow–it’s what works for me. I currently run in these:

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Nike Lunarglide 5+ in volt/gray (source)

I’ve owned Lunarglide versions 3 – 6. They are my never-fail, walk-everywhere, travel-anyplace shoes, and they’re more than comfortable on asphalt and concrete. The stock insole could use a slightly higher support in the arches, but that can probably be fixed by getting custom insoles.

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Left to right: my black Lunarglide collection (versions 4-6.)

Clothes

My current running wardrobe looks something like this:

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Since it’s “winter” for California my tanks are put away and I’m running in Heattech and one of the full zip tops + pants. I prefer running outdoors early in the morning when I have the most energy, but it happens to be the coolest time of the day where I live. Thankfully the weather here is mild enough that I can do this, but my advice probably won’t work out for most of you who have actual seasons.

Under Armour Printed Qualifier 1/2 Zip (source)

Under Armour Printed Qualifier 1/2 Zip (source)

This Under Armour top has been a great workhorse since fall. It has a pocket in the back to hold cards, an energy gel pack, or keys. There are thumbholes sewn into the sleeves that can be pulled over the top of your hands for extra warmth. The fabric is very soft on the inside and the zipper/neck area are comfortably snug and warm without being restrictive or cold on the skin (there’s a tab that covers the zipper at the top.) I wish it had a few more reflective elements, like a stripe down the arms or on the back, but I figured safety orange would be a good bright color for running on the street.

Sports bras
I will be forever indebted to high-intensity sports bras with discrete cups. This will vary from woman to woman, but for running I find that structured bras with molded cups (not necessarily padded) are really useful for feeling secure during long distances. I’ve found the most success and comfort with GapFit’s high intensity sports bras–which sadly are not in production currently.

On how to fit sports bras (or even bras in general, really): Running Warehouse and Moving Comfort put this video up on Youtube that I think best explains how to get a good fit on for a sports bra. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to scoop your breast up and into the cup securely–really, this way you’re ensuring the mass is adequately supported by the band instead of the band sitting on most of the breast tissue. Now any time¬†I change in and out of any of my undergarments, I do this adjustment and I feel a lot more secure.

Accessories and socks

I live in a place with sun year-round, so a hat is essential. I like my Nike Feather Light 2.0 Dri Fit hat:

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Available at Nike.com

It’s not groundbreaking but it sort of acts like a sweatband and shades my eyes. It’s breathable and doesn’t add weight to my head, so it’s a worthy purchase. Hand wash and line dry.

I also occasionally use something like the SPIbelt (Small Personal Item Belt) or what my folks would call a fanny pack. I like that the SPIbelt and other products like it change size to fit your needs but what they don’t tell you is that the belt has a tendency to move while you run–resulting in the contents bouncing around in a most distracting manner, and the belt moving around and up your waist. Also, good luck fitting anything heavy like a phone or an iPod in there–even if you cinch the belt tight it will droop somewhat because of the weight.

Re: socks

This is the issue I’m currently grappling with–what sock brand to use? I’ve been working out in Adidas Climacool socks for a while until I realized they chafe the ball of my foot on long runs. They also seem to fall apart quickly, though I’m wondering how much of that is also the stress I put them through–they’re both workout and everyday socks. I’m looking at trying Balega’s Hidden Comfort sock¬†which was highly recommended online and by one of my marathon-running friends who swears by them. I like padded, cushioned socks and while these aren’t the thickest, online reviewers said they were happy with its cushioning and durability.
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And just because I’ve been very impressed with this retailer I will mention that I love shopping at¬†Running Warehouse. They’re a California company out of San Luis Obispo and have top-notch customer service. Their 90-day No Sweat Returns policy is easy as pie, and I’m spoiled because I get free overnight shipping (and so do select Arizona and Nevada residences.) Otherwise it’s free 2-day shipping which is still pretty darn quick. If you add them on their social media they’re quick with coupon codes and deals to all sorts of sportswear, accessories, and shoes.

I recognize that this type of topic is somewhat new on here–what do you think, was that informative? I geek out about a lot of things, and I guess running is now one of them. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions; I like to share my discoveries. Do you run? Have you got any long-distance running tips for a n00b like me? What are your favorite brands for sportswear?

Mode: wo(mens)wear

Pret a Porter P had some interesting insights on her evolving wardrobe that got me thinking about my own influences, which are currently in flux. Lately, I find myself inhabiting these two spheres of dress:

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Structured and prep || a nod to avant-gardeish dark flowy neutrals.

Lately¬†it’s been mostly dark clothing (#allblackeverything, really) and loose, soft, flowing lines. But a few days ago I found these double monkstrap shoes, which reminded me of how much I love #menswear:

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Nine West Foodie Monk Straps. There’s a few left at Amazon.

Went into Macy’s looking for discounted North Face jackets and ended up with these instead, which I consider a worthy use of a 20% off discount and a Christmas gift card from the parents. They’re so handsome! I am excited to wear socks and trousers and button downs again, just to pull these babies off.

The discovery of these shoes reminds me of how much I love classic tailored clothing, especially with the nod to menswear. But if I look over what I’ve worn in the past few months, I’ve moved away from that aesthetic quite a bit. That¬†long black open cardigan¬†that I received from my aunt sparked a bunch of looks I’ve only seen online but never worn in real life. Now all of a sudden, these images below don’t seem too foreign:

Not sure of what to make of this current mood I’m in. I enjoy both styles: menswear has a recognizable¬†structure (pants, crisp shirts, jackets) and I delight in the rich colors of leather shoes and the potential for endless sock combinations. But long flowing dresses are physically appealing¬†too. They evoke mystery and I like the non-aggressive femininity that the pictures above display. To me, these shapes are unassuming and quietly ladylike.

Perhaps the only drawback (if you consider it one) is that long (dark) dresses generate interesting¬†comments like “who died,” “are you a nun,” and “you look like (insert malevolent character here).” I personally enjoy these comparisons and I like running with it–I don’t mind being Severus Snape. Or Morticia Addams (particularly Carolyn Jones’ depiction):

black is such a happy color

And soothing too!

I suppose there is no crime in subscribing to both, or any other schools of thought re: fashion. There’s so much crossover now that I don’t need to label myself or my style. But as a person who likes to¬†compartmentalize life to make sense of it, two or more (seemingly) unrelated influences is jarring. Can one still consistently project the same message even if the external image might change?¬†Can there be a multi-directional wardrobe that expresses different themes, but still remains true to its owner?

tl;dr: Kristina likes dude clothes AND swirly long skirts. Cue much introspection; such overthinking :)

Skirting issues

I mentioned earlier this month that I’ve been feeling pretty content¬†with my wardrobe as it is. The last few things I purchased from November 2014 to present were these Banana Republic turtlenecks¬†and¬†some Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck tops. I’ve lived in these for the last two months along with my trusty Uniqlo Ultra Stretch denim. It was great for the slow days at work over the holidays, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit unpolished. I’ve been riding the casual line at work for so long that I’ve forgotten what actual slacks are like. I want to go back to more structured work looks, like blazers and pants and flats–not so much because I am required to, but because I feel good when I look good and that affects the way I approach my work and duties.

I decided to challenge myself to spruce up a bit more and put the jeans away for a week. It’s January and I want to enjoy what passes for “cooler” weather in California before it goes away all too soon–and it already has. We’ve had low 80-degree days just this past week with humidity that makes hair go haywire. The challenge was to wear either a dress or a skirt for a week–no jeans.

I’d done a few looks with mini skirts and tights last year that felt comfortable, so I opted to get a second pair of Target Merona opaque tights¬†to help me out this week. I’d purchased a cheap pair from Marshalls but it fit uncomfortably; it had a little too much control in the control top and it was cutting into my stomach. Maybe I bought the wrong size? At any rate, I’ve found a pair of tights that are opaque enough and more importantly comfortable at the waistband with no heavy seams or itchiness.

Prepare to be underwhelmed, because my creativity apparently decided to disappear this month:

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#allblackeverything club

Monday: Macy’s INC long open cardigan (similar from ASOS), old babydoll sweater dress (similar cut), Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Tuesday:  Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (sold out), Cotton On mini skirt, Clarks Charlie brogues
Wednesday: Banana Republic cropped turtleneck, Gap striped mini skirt, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Thursday: Lands End supima cardigan sweater, Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (sold out), Cotton On mini skirt, Clarks Charlie brogues
Friday: Macy’s¬†INC long open cardigan (similar from ASOS),¬†Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (sold out), Cotton On mini skirt, Ecco¬†Sculptured 45 GTX bootie

Fun facts:

– the long black cardigan and the baby doll sweater dress were “shopped” from my aunt’s donation pile. She’d never worn the black cardigan and was going to get rid of it until I intercepted the stash. I also got a nice gray peacoat out of the pile, which I haven’t worn to work yet.
– Tuesday’s outfit is the base for Thursday and Friday

As far as the challenge goes–I completed it successfully–no jeans during the workweek and I even managed a maxi skirt¬†and Crocs¬†during the weekend because it was warm. As for variety, well, I could do better, but my addled brain couldn’t think up of anything new. It’s a combination of things: I’m bloody comfortable, so I keep reaching for the same few things every morning. I’ve also been preoccupied with running, so most nights I try to go to bed right after dinner so I can run before work. This doesn’t leave much time to hem and haw over outfits, which is good, but also leads to a lot of monotony and repeats.

Despite the lack of variety here, I think it was a good exercise to complete. Comfort doesn’t just mean tee shirts and jeans, it can be a simple skirt and sweater¬†too. It goes with the spirit I’m trying to follow for this year: grow, develop, innovate. I’m not breaking the ground here fashion-wise, but I am challenging my own behavior and tendencies. This also helps me appreciate what I already own/what already exists–who would have thought that Cotton On $5 purchase would turn out to be so versatile? Or that clothes destined for a donation bin would fit my aesthetic so well? I love that long black cardigan and I’ve worn it at least a few times a week since I got it last month.

Do you have any clothes that you feel deserve commendation for being workhorse pieces? What items do you rely on during this time period to feel comfortable and stylish?

Enough

I’ve been quiet lately because there isn’t much to report.

My clothes and preparation throughout all of last year have ensured that at least for the last few weeks, I’ve felt happy and contented with what I own. I’ve been wearing these same few outfits on heavy repeat:

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New Year’s Day at the ARTIC (photographed here.) That Uniqlo vest hasn’t had a day of rest since I got it in November.

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Matchy matchy with the recent weather. Urban Outfitters knit beanie and that beloved Banana Republic turtleneck (seen not only once, twice, but thrice!) Frizzy hair styled by the rain and humidity.

I’ve also been relying on this as a base for most of my daily wear:

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#allblackeverything

Top: Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (currently sold out online)
Pants: Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans
Shoes: Ecco Sculptured 45 Gore-tex booties

There will always be things to get (black work pants–a need, Nike Flyknits–a want) but currently there is no immediate urgency. I’m enjoying this feeling of enough, that what I’ve bought and what I own fulfills exactly my need to be clothed and look presentable (ok, and “cool” too, however you define that.) I feel that I’ve been synthesizing outfits that finally match my idea of my own image, and I think getting that out of the way enables me to focus better on things like interacting with people, exploring my photography, and drinking all the sweet¬†coffee drinks I can get my hands on.

Onward and forward.

2015, salut!

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Happy New Year and welcome, 2015!

Self-reflection, particularly of the public kind, is a bit uncomfortable but I’ll try my best here. To me, 2015 isn’t so much a year of change but rather a continuation of the growth and evolution that began in 2013. I started a new job, this blog, took up running and climbing, learned a few new dishes to cook, got to know some of my family better, made new friends, gained new responsibilities. I foresee that 2015 will be much of the same, but I want to pledge to deepen my involvement in my hobbies and pursuits, and to continue this openness and exploration of my passions.

It feels nice to hear from you and to read what you all are thinking. I enjoy being able to relate to the people who read my blog and to those whose words I read–even if we’re not all at the same place, life-wise, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only person living through a certain experience. Thank you for being here and for engaging with me via emails, social media, and the like.

I welcome 2015 with hope, contentment, and excitement for what it might teach me.

Photographs from New York

I finally have gotten around to editing my pictures from my trip to New York. Here’s a few I’d like to share with you all. I usually try to write a little bit about the things I’ve photographed–mostly for my own good. It makes me sad when people post pictures of their adventures online, and half the time it’s the same building or scene over and over again, from different angles. Or just a picture of some object. Not everyone is a photographer with an eye for composition and symmetry, so I understand that. But at the very least, put a little caption of why you recorded the moment. Anyway. Without further ado, here are my impressions and memories of NYC.

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7 am sunrise in downtown Manhattan.

My plane landed at 5 am on a Tuesday at JFK International Airport. This is one of the first sights that greeted me as I began from the subway station to my hotel (a good 6 block walk.) I started the walk in near-darkness but the sun rose steadily as I went along.

On the first day I mostly walked around Nolita, SoHo, and the Lower East Side. I will never forget that epic lox from Russ and Daughters. After eating my fill, I walked, and enjoyed views like the ones above. I like brick walls and the symmetry of windows and the fire escape stairs. Interesting to me is the way light is filtered/reflected by buildings. With such narrow spaces between structures, finding light in New York is all about keeping your eyes open for moments such as these. Reminds me very much of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the way the city is organized, but NY is even better for building-watching.

The next day was spent walking the High Line, an old elevated railway that has been converted into a multi-use trail/park system. I walked several feet above the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, taking in the sights of the city from above. Doesn’t that orange beanie look familiar? :)

My itinerary was mostly focused on visiting historical sites and iconic buildings. While I do enjoy food and art and culture, I do so primarily through my lens. A promise of a great photograph generally triumphs most needs, even hunger (at times. within reason.) My travel days usually start¬†with a hearty breakfast and the most important visits are scheduled in the morning. When I did shop or browse, it would be in the late afternoon or at night. I believe I visited three Uniqlos on this trip. The one photographed here is the massive¬†5th Avenue Uniqlo. It did not disappoint. That location is the largest I’ve seen to date and had the entire Internet catalogue (and then some!) in its space.

Rain was predicted for the third or fourth day of my trip. While the rainfall thankfully never increased (just slight showers all day), the wind and colder temperature did make it quite unpleasant to be outside for any given length of time. I sought refuge in the New York Public Library and was rewarded by magnificent ceilings in the Map Room and the beautiful marble lobby of Astor Hall.

The nearby Grand Central Terminal was a logical next step. I spent the rest of that rainy day in this transportation hub, fascinated by the rush-hour flow of people and the terminal’s grandeur. It is over 100 years old and is still such a vibrant, actively used building. The magnitude of how many people have traveled through here, and the eras that the building has seen leaves a sobering impression on one’s mind.

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This captures how I feel about my entire trip. Was I even there? Did it really happen? It did. Everything moves so quickly in New York.

I wish this photo turned out better; if I could have traveled with a partner I could have left the shutter open for longer. While I wanted to capture the rush of people walking by me, I also don’t like to leave my camera alone for too long. As it was in this shot I left it on a ticket counter and hoped no one would 1. stand in front of the camera while it was recording, or 2. (most obviously) swipe and run away with it. I’m fortunate that that has not happened.

There was some time on the trip to take the train over to Brooklyn and DUMBO for coffee and dessert. Eventually, I will return to NY and focus on visiting Queens and Brooklyn over spending time in the flashy, touristy Manhattan. Nothing wrong with seeing the big famous spots but Brooklyn reminded me of LA’s Arts District which I frequent often. Next time, I know where to go.

Spent a morning photographing the Flatiron Building. It’s one thing to see it in pictures, and another to walk up and view the oddly shaped structure. When you approach it from behind or from the sides, it almost looks normal–until you come sharp around the corner and you see its iconic point. To me it is visually puzzling. I want to know how rooms are shaped inside–do they have weird corners the closer you come to the narrow point? The view is something else. What a strange, and yet fascinating decision to build on such a street corner.

I sometimes just take a photo because the light was interesting, or the colors of the facade are striking. In this case I saw the sun making areas of shadow and light on the front entrance of Le Pain Quotidien and I wanted to remember it.

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My cousin walks along a building in Brooklyn, NY.

I spent my last two days in NY with my cousin who traveled in from DC.  I am fortunate that she shares similar tastes with me, and did not mind me directing us haphazardly all over the city. We spent a great afternoon just walking and talking, stopping for food or rest as was needed.

Was standing near the river’s edge on tumbled rocks. The Hudson River is crossed by several bridges: shown here is the Brooklyn Bridge. To the right of the photograph, unseen, is the Manhattan Bridge.

The last 24 hours went by in a blur: brunch in Gramercy and walking through Washington Square. Dappled sunlight and more brick buildings. All the fall foliage my beach-dwelling soul could ever want at Central Park. This coupled with the brisk but sunny day made our last day in the city very pleasant. I’m generally not a park-goer, but I could see why people would want to go on such a nice day as that. There’s things to see and the leaves’ colors really are a treat for someone who lives in a place with no real “seasons.”

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Last morning in Midtown.

It would be nice if we all could go see the world outside of the one we exist in. I think travel is a good way to stay humble and to appreciate what we already have. When I came back home, I was relieved to be back in a place I understand. New York is a lot faster than I am, is always on point, and brings its A-game every hour every day. I respect that, and I’m glad I was able to see it for myself. The question now is–where to next? What ways of life have I not seen yet?