Packing 101: Philippines 2016

Packing 101: Philippines 2016

Disclaimer: I’m not about to teach you how to pack for a trip to Asia–there are actual bloggers who do that sort of thing for a living; I just want to talk about what I ended up bringing and what worked or didn’t. 😀

I realize I’m five months late on this but hey! it’s still fun to discuss, n’est-ce pas?

Background:

Left California in December (aka 55F-79F highs/lows) to go to Manila “winter” (mild rain, humidity 80%+++, makes 80F-95F feel like 90-105F)

Activities: city travel, island stay (4 days), exercise (running)

Things I brought:

Tops: cotton short-sleeved tees, tanks (a few each), a light cardigan, rayon long-sleeved split neck blouses

Dresses/bottoms: one polka dot 3/4 sleeve dress, two pairs of Levi’s cutoffs, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch skinny jeans, Everlane culottes

Shoes: brown Saltwater sandals, running shoes, Nike Free RN Flyknit, Sam Edelman ballet flats

Special: three bikinis (to rotate wash/dry), goggles, water shoes

Outerwear: Arc’teryx rain jacket, Uniqlo Ultra Light down jacket

img-polyvorevacation
The winning bits!

What worked:

  1. Arc’teryx rain jacket: you would think wearing what amounts to a huge plastic tarp would be insufferable in humid rain, but it actually was surprisingly comfortable. Not to mention it doubled as an emergency layer when we entered heavily air-conditioned areas. Note to self: you can get sick from the AC-inside, hellfire outside dichotomy. bring scarves too, it gets cold AND dry when a draft is blowing on you all day.
  2. Long sleeved (rayon) blouse/top: counterintuitive when you think about humidity and heat, but I was more comfortable in these blouses (and looked more put together) than in a tee-shirt. As long as the material is breathable and not constricting, I actually did better and preferred to be covered up rather than exposing my arms.
  3. Levi’s shorts: wore these more than the culottes which needed to be ironed every night. They broke into my shape in just the right way and were comfortable as all get. The only downside? full exposure to mosquito bites 😦
  4. Saltwater sandals: an impulse Amazon buy right before leaving. Not the most comfortable of all footwear (there’s a pressure point under the arch for me that kept bugging after 2-3 hours of wear.) but it goes well with the summer-casual dressing. I would have brought my Birkenstocks but I didn’t want to risk getting them damaged at the beach.

What I forgot and wished for:

  1. Tweezers and nail clippers – sounds basic. I thought I’d be able to borrow some from the family I was staying with–which I did eventually, but when my nails broke while at the beach I made a note to make it part of my makeup/grooming kit.
  2. Goggles – this was my fault. I forgot/couldn’t find mine, ended up buying a pair while on vacation. Unnecessary necessary expense.

What I learned:

  • Pack a beanie for the long plane ride (doubles as eye cover) and keep drinking water throughout (bathroom line be damned.) Hydration and sleep so that you feel less beat up when you get off the plane.
  • You really don’t need five tee shirts when three and daily washing suffices. YMMV on what facilities and opportunities are available to you regarding cleaning your clothes while traveling, but I still only used a good half of what I packed and the rest was just sitting in the suitcase.
  • Importance of curating (ugh, I hate that word) your closet IRL so travel packing is less annoying: after a few years of culling (also buzzword) my stuff into the things I really like and use time and again, all my potential building blocks for an outfit are thematically related. All that’s left to do before departure is ensure they are in good condition (I repaired a seam that was coming undone on a top) and you’re done.
  • Whatever you forget or is broken or missing can usually be replaced while abroad (except for special medications, most likely.) Don’t sweat the small stuff and try to relax!
Advertisements

Review: Taylor Stitch Katherine in Washed Black Oxford

Review: Taylor Stitch Katherine in Washed Black Oxford

I’ve had this review sitting in my Drafts forever, but thanks to a lovely (and timely!) comment from a previous post,  I’m finally finishing this! Let’s get to business with a look at Taylor Stitch’s Katherine shirt in Washed Black Oxford.

Taylor Stitch is a clothing company based out of San Francisco, California. I think their crowdsourced method of funding and pushing projects is smart–it allows them to determine and predict demand and only produce as many units as needed. If you sign up for their emails you’ll get notified when new items enter the Workshop, whereupon customers have about two weeks to purchase at pre-sale price. Taylor Stitch started with menswear but has been steadily increasing their women’s offerings throughout the year. When they announced this shirt I thought it would be a good time to try out the brand. From pre-sale purchase to receiving my shirt, it took about 6-8 months overall.

My package arrived in a brown paper envelope with a historical map of San Francisco’s street grid printed in white ink:

Packaging is key.

I had initially ordered a M, but it was soon evident that it was too big in the shoulders (although the relaxed fit throughout the body was good.) I contacted Customer Service to arrange an exchange for a S, which didn’t take more than two weeks to return and receive the new size. Here are some fit pics for the Small size:

DSC_6993 crop
Katherine shirt, old Uniqlo boyfriend-fit ankle jeans, Gap belt, Blondo Valli ankle boots.

Measurements (Women’s Small, after multiple washes)

Sleeve (measured from shoulder): 24 in
Shoulders: 16 in
Body: 27 in

DSC_6999
Because averted gazes are all the rage in the blogosphere.

Things I like (nay, love) about this shirt:
– the fit: I mean you can’t really tell in these pics, since I wore it straight out of the package (gasp! bad blogger) but the shoulders are spot-on. And the slim fit follows my body without making me look cramped. There’s no boob gap on the buttons (good placement?) and the sleeves while technically long aren’t comically unusable.
– the fabric quality: I won’t insult the shirt by comparing its fabric to other retailers’ offerings, but this particular cotton cloth just feels better than my Uniqlo and JCrew oxfords. It’s thicker, but it wrinkles less even though I spend 9 hours in a chair at work. It also irons like a dream. You could wash and dry it and be fine, but it just feels so crisp after ironing.

Not much I don’t like except to wish that it were offered in more colors (oh wait, it is.) Quick check of the other Katherine models available reveal, however, that not all the fabrics are the same weight or type, so I don’t know how that will influence the fit. I wash all my clothes cold/normal cycle and dry on medium. There was no appreciable shrinkage, and in the last 6 months of owning the shirt I’ve not seen any stitching or buttons come loose yet.

Final thoughts: if the folks at Taylor Stitch ever see this post (hi!),  I’d like to see a short-sleeved version like their men’s Short Sleeve Jack but with a tailored fit like the Katherine body. The mens’ line gets such beautiful fabric choices: I want a women’s shirt in this hanami batik fabric! Please share fabric choices over to the women’s side and you will quadruple sales. Short-sleeved versions with collars with men’s fabric as an option. Just a thought. (indigo for ladies too!) 🙂

I hope that helps you shop wisely; if there is anything else I can cover, leave me a note below!

Review: Blondo “Valli” Waterproof Ankle Bootie

DSC_6957

It’s only been a week (or less!) with these but I’m enjoying my new Blondo “Valli” waterproof ankle booties. My beloved Ecco Sculpted GTX booties of 2013 are still doing okay, but because they ended up being the most comfortable and dependable (MVP during NYC 2014) they’ve been wearing down quicker than I would like. So in my head I thought that if I were to split the wear and tear between two pairs of boots I might be able to add a dressier version and also introduce a slightly different shape into the collection, etc. etc. Okay, I also really wanted another pair of shoes, because shoes. 🙂

I didn’t have much criteria this time around–it just has to be comfortable, supportive (somewhat snug around the midfoot/arch, which is where I have the most trouble fitting shoes), and ideally waterproof. Not that I live in a place with any water action whatsoever, but my mind is always trying to optimize and have items that do double-duty in case of travel (to places with actual weather.) Not to mention the old “buy nice or buy twice.” So all throughout fall and winter I’ve been on the lookout for something low-cut and waterproof to little success, until these.

Blondo is a new brand to me; it seems to come from my northern neighbors in Canada. Note: this particular model of ankle boots is a Nordstrom exclusive and it was initially the suede “Mushroom” model that I tried on while boot-hunting. But since suede is notoriously hard to clean (even though Blondo certifies that their shoes are all made with “Aquaprotect” waterproof treated leathers), I didn’t immediately bite on the suede pair. It wasn’t until the next day when I did a little more research (ah! the wisdom of patience) that I realized Blondo also made a full-leather version, in black, and that magically my size was one of two left online at Nordstrom.

As far as fit, take your standard shoe size. The suede is a softer fit overall; the full leather is still a little stiff around the top of the ankle and will need some break-in time. I’ve been wearing them to work, around town, just about anywhere, really…fastest integration I’ve seen thus yet. Let’s hope they become a wardrobe valuable player* as the year goes by!

DSC_6963
“editorial” pose 😀

 

______________________________________________________________

*from lovely Pret a Porter P‘s post re: Wardrobe MVPs

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Water Defender Jacket

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Water Defender Jacket

It’s been a while since I did one of these, but judging from my stats/analytics it seems quite a fair amount of people happen upon this blog because of my previous post on Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down vest. Here’s a hybrid review/update now that I own its sleeved-sibling, the Ultra Light Down (Water Defender) jacket.

DSC_6777

Over Christmas I received a Uniqlo gift card from my awesome relatives, so first thing I did in January was to go for that ever-exciting black for the jacket version. If it ain’t broke, or so the saying goes. Fit is the same for me–the small is the best across the shoulders, but it IS a little tight across the hips. I’m okay with that since I wear it more like a shirt than a jacket. Size up if you want to wear thick sweaters under, otherwise, take your usual sizing.

I’ve owned the vest for about two years now. I lost some fill in the bottom part in the back, and a small amount around the neck. It’s not visually noticeable, but I know how puffy those sections used to be. I predict about the same pattern of loss will occur with the jacket–and who knows how much I’ll lose in the sleeves. Overall, it shouldn’t affect the fit or the warmth of the garment.

DSC_6783
Seams on the jacket version.

Something to note: the jacket’s pockets have zippers, a welcome upgrade from the zipper-less ones from my vest. Not sure if this year’s vests have them–so you might be luckier than I. The pockets will do for a phone and keys.

Water Defender: I’ve been unable to test this claim as 1. I live in California, which barely sees any rain, and I don’t know if the news has spread internationally, but 2. we’re having a terrible drought as well. To be correct: it has rained some in other parts of the state but not as much where I live. As far as this jacket’s waterproof abilities, I’m sure it will keep out a mist or a small spatter, but I wouldn’t toss out your Gore-tex any time soon. The jackets and vests do not have weather-sealed seams or zippers.

Nota bene:  I vaguely remember at one point maybe late 2014 or early 2015 there was a regular ULD line and these “new” Water Defender style jackets. This year they seem to have incorporated it into the main ULD offerings. So to be exact, my 2014 vest is not part of this new line, but my 2016 jacket should be water-repellent. It probably doesn’t make sense to market one jacket that is hydrophobic but still offer one that isn’t. Anyway.

The Ultra Light Down products really shine in the weight and layering department, which is what I bought it for. I’ve worn the jacket under a rain coat, and the vest under a wool peacoat. It’s not going to be a severe-weather solution, but for most people and most situations, it will be plenty. It’s best to think of them as modular warmth for the torso and arms that you can pack easily.

DSC_6767 ed
Carhartt beanie, Uniqlo ULD Water Defender jacket, Vans Excerpt chino joggers

I hope some of that discourse helps you with your purchases! Stay warm and enjoy your weekend. 🙂

Some thoughts on clothing

Some thoughts on clothing

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these types of posts, mostly because I’ve attempted to do need-based purchasing as opposed to window shopping. Anyway, I don’t live in a minimalist vacuum, so in the last half of the year there have been some purchases and mistakes, so I’d like to talk about those today.

First, the successes:

2015wins

1. Arc’teryx Beta LT Hybrid Jacket (REI)
I got it for $250 at REI’s Labor Day sales for the Seattle trip. I am not too familiar with Arc’teryx’s sale prices, but I decided on this rain jacket vs. the orange Marmot Minimalist  because of the fit of the hood, deep front pockets, and the comfortable collar. I’m sure both would have performed adequately, but I have to give Arc’teryx a thumbs up for what it does. I was bone dry in that jacket. The adjustable hood and collar ensured a great seal around my face, and there’s a slight lip or stiffness to the hood which I noticed directed water away from my nose and eyes. That is not to say the affordable Marmot jacket would not have done the same, but I feel extra pleased by the workmanship and quality I get from this jacket. It gave me confidence during the Washington trip and now I have a solid rain jacket for the future; I won’t worry about future travel to the East Coast and/or other locales with inclement weather.

2. Forever 21 Jersey Dress (sold out. pic shown is Brandy Melville’s Alena dress.)
Struck by some inspiration somewhere on the Internet. This is an example of when buying a fast fashion interpretation works out in my favor. The F21 version is opaque, didn’t shrink, doesn’t stink. It is a very basic, flattering cut and there are plenty of versions out and about.

3. New Balance Fresh Foam Zante (2015)
I am so incredibly happy I found a shoe that works with my orthotics. The Fresh Foam Zantes pictured here are from NB’s running category, so it’s not really a #hypebeast or trendy shoe like the Nike Flyknit Racers or Roshe Runs. It’s an actual neutral running shoe. I was clunking around in Lunarglides anyways, so going with another running shoe-as-lifestyle isn’t a surprise. It’s much less cushioned and much lighter than what I’m used to, but the most important part is it is deep enough to house my orthotic inserts and I can lace up tightly for a very secure fit. I guess my review is skewed because I never wear the base insert, but I’d still recommend the shoe for its light weight. There is a men’s all leather version that is very very tempting…but I can wait on that and see what comes out after Christmas.

Then the underutilized:

Black Crane Pleats Dress (gray)
I didn’t wear this dress as often as I thought I would:
1. the fabric is a bit scratchy (wool/rayon mix) and for me, is a bit too warm
2. caring/cleaning for the dress is a bit complicated–I hand washed it and it shrank from a glorious full length, dragging skirt to just skimming the bottom of my feet. I kind of killed the fit I wanted from it by hand washing.
3. The daringness/oddness of wearing an extremely long, kind of sack-like dress was daunting. My coworkers just didn’t get it, and my family, bless their heart–didn’t say anything but I also get the vibe that if I want to avoid unnecessary commentary, I shouldn’t wear these dress to certain functions.
4. the 3/4 sleeve + dolman effect bothers me. I already know I don’t like either of those two elements, and yet I still bought the dress, entranced by the sale price and the excitement I felt at the store I bought it from.

I still like the dress, but there’s certain things I need to do to make it more me. I want to see if I can chop off or trim off those sleeves, but I’m a little afraid of editing it so permanently. The other half is just to wear the dress until it rips/dies–the fit is already irrevocably changed because it shrank–so I just need to wear it and stop babying it. Clothes are for the wearing, not storing, Kristina.

Muji linen dress
This is a case of I didn’t want to put the work in to maximize this dress (aka too lazy to iron.) I would take the dress out of the washer and hang it up to dry but didn’t fix the collar wonkiness and wore it to work pre-wrinkled. Not my style. I am getting ready to wear this dress later this week and yes, it has been pressed. Lesson of the day: don’t shirk the care for your clothes and reap the rewards of feeling #onfleek to work.

And the fail:

Forever 21 Chambray Shirt Dress (mine is gray)
The fit is fine, but it STILL stinks like preservative and rubber even until now. I Febrezed it, I soaked it in straight vinegar (maybe with a splash of water) for 3 hours. Still smelled after 5 washes and rinses. I should know better, but I gave into the urge after seeing a cool girl at a coffee shop (because where else) wear sleeveless shirt dresses with hoop earrings (which you could say is where my current IG pic inspo is from.) Holly if you ever read this, you’re a dope muse. What a disappointing use of $20, but I really should have known better, especially with fast fashion.

Upcoming guidelines for shopping F/W 2015:
1. no more sweaters/outerwear
Let’s face it, I live in a desert with little to no hope of really experiencing the proper temperatures for lovely cashmere sweaters and the like. I’ve already got a wool coat, tall and short boots, and now a rain jacket. I’ve also got several sweaters to choose from so remembering these and being realistic about the actual weather I live in should keep me from acquiring any more items. I barely have a week in January or so as it is to really properly wear what I own, during the season they are meant for. I own enough.

2. only shop for what I actually wear
What does Kristina reach for time and again?
– Cotton button-downs. My little collection of navy and white button downs are on heavy rotation for work. I also would like some short-sleeved ones like the Muji checkered one I got last year.
– Black pants and blue jeans (I own enough jeans for the moment, but I could always use fade-resistant black straight pants. The Gap ones I got earlier this year attract too much lint.)
– Black running shoes. I bring loafers or flats but I bail out into the running shoes when my feet start to hurt, or if I’m moving a lot between the two buildings at work. My health and strength come before fashion, every day.

Above is my no-brainer work uniform. Occasionally I’ll throw on a different topper–olive jacket, blue soft blazer, or a cardigan, but the base uniform doesn’t change. Some days I’ll wear skirts or have a few dresses to change it up, but rarely. If anything I would like more tops and perhaps one or two more work-appropriate dresses. I tried on this Gap floral print one that apparently just sold out (but here’s the cut with a different print.) Something easy going like that, with a nice understated print would be great. Could wear it to work and into the night.

I also would like some real sandals (not just Crocs) and some flats to replace the Gentle Souls Gabbys I have, which are 3+ years old and no longer have true arch support.

3. Support local artisans/boutiques
While it’s not always possible or financially prudent to buy 100% handmade, ethically sourced/produced goods–I can do a little bit by buying accessories, gifts, and goods by local makers. I love the LA Printer Fair for buying birthday and Christmas cards, and I’ve been to Unique LA’s December events for two years now. Last year was great–I bought some cards, candles, and jewelry as Christmas presents. I liken it to shopping Etsy but in person 🙂 This year I am going to try and go to a Patchwork show in Long Beach or Santa Ana.

That’s the longest you’ve heard from me in months now! Whew. That’s my little shopping update in the last quarter of 2015. How are you all faring with the annual #omgFALL marketing? What are your shopping thoughts for this time of year?

Workweek 12/8 – 12/12

I haven’t done one of these in a while, it seems. Let’s look at what happened this week in the wardrobe department:

IMG_3789

Monday: Zara faux leather sherpa-lined moto jacket (thematically similar), Lands End supima cardigan sweater, Cotton On mini, Target tights, Born Valentina riding boots.
Tuesday: Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck, old H&M & straight leg-jeans, Target leather belt, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Wednesday: Banana Republic textured cropped turtleneck, old H&M & straight leg-jeans, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Thursday: Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck, Uniqlo Ultra Light Down vest, Banana Republic coated shine mini, Ecco Sculptured 75 Shoetie, Target tights
Friday: old raincoat (my grandma’s), Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck, Muji gray/black colorblock cashmere sweater, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans (navy), Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie

Mini-review of the Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck: it’s like regular Heattech but better. Soft and fluffy micro-fleece on the inside, same comfortable cotton-feel fabric on the outside. The neck isn’t tight at all. I wish it came up a little higher on my neck but it’s still very usable. The Extra Warm also seems a little less sheer than the regular Heattech fabric. I want a second black turtleneck for my winter uniform.

“Sparkly” skirt success: the skirt was well-received at the office luncheon.  I brought a red sweater to layer over the turtleneck but true to my color-eschewing self, I got lazy and opted to keep the vest on. Too bad I forgot to bring eyeliner in my purse–I had blush and even brought my Naked palette to work so I could jazz up my Five-Minute Face. I’m thinking of synthesizing a throw-and-go makeup/toiletries kit for these kinds of situations (or just plan better and do all my makeup before leaving the house? That is what I really should do.)

Waterproof coat musings: I used to own an LL Bean boy’s fleece-lined jacket with a waterproof shell. It was oversized, but at least it was less comical because it was from the kid’s section. I have since lost that coat, and have been borrowing from my family. My grandparents’ coats are from the 80’s and they look like I’m wearing a comforter. It works for now, as my area doesn’t really get any serious rain, but I remember now my two trips to the East and how there was a day I could have appreciated a water-repellent coat. I’m going to do some research on what features I want–packable? semi-lined? short (hip) or thigh/knee length coat? and keep an eye out for end-of-season sales. The last time I raised this point Amanda of Assembled Hazardly brought up North Face rain jackets for the waterproof-shell. If I go with that route, I’ll have to get creative with my layering scheme underneath to provide warmth. I don’t think I’m going to invest in a puffer anytime soon–there is no true need especially with SoCal living, plus as I’ve learned with Uniqlo’s inexpensive ULD line, down gets messy.

I can safely say I think Southern California is finally in what passes for “winter” around these parts, if at least evidenced by the strong rotation of boots in my daily wear and the fact that I’m not melting wearing my sweaters. Hooray for “seasons” and double hooray for the rain we’re supposed to be getting today and over the next week or so. We need all the help we can get restoring our water supply.

Have a lovely weekend and stay warm!

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest

Kali asked me a question re: my Ultra Light Down vest which I’ve been wearing for a solid month now and I’d like to share my notes on this oft-ballyhoo’ed piece from Uniqlo.

The good:
Overall, I like the vest. It’s very light and comfortable to wear, folds down into nothing and can be stored in a small purse. It does add warmth to the torso and the tall collar keeps my neck covered.

As far as styling it, I haven’t been terribly creative:

IMG_3695
I have many plaid shirts/checked shirts. #hansoloseason

Yawn. Hehe.

IMG_3694
The easiest most comfortable outfit to wear .

It’s just an easy piece to use. In my case, I’m wearing it as outerwear, but I can imagine it could go well under coats.

The meh: what I think is a lot of feather leak. Since I prefer wearing mostly dark-colored clothing, I notice the little white fuzzies very easily. Most of what escapes is small fuzz, thin fibers. But there’s enough of it to where when I look down I spend some time picking stuff off of myself. The seams of the panels seem to be the culprit and where I see the fuzz escape. Not happy with that. Then again, this is my first down-filled item, so maybe that’s just how those items work.

This vest retails at $49.90,  which isn’t unattainable, but I’d still like my clothes to not make a mess on me as I’m wearing them. Depending on your budget and comfort level, I personally would suggest other brands if you want the vest to work as a full-fledged outerwear piece vs. as a layering piece. I like wearing mine on the outside, so should I pursue a black puffer vest in the future I’ll look at North Face or Patagonia.

Final thoughts: I would recommend this piece, with a caveat: buy it on sale. Its tendency to shed makes me unwilling to recommend it at full price, rather, if you have an opportunity to grab a ULD item on sale, go for it–it will be useful and warm, but I personally think one can wait for a sale. I wish I could report how other similarly-priced down vests perform (I would class the Uniqlo ULD with other packable vests,) but the only ones I’ve seen are TJMaxx/Marshalls diffusion lines (Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors all make packable down pieces. Haven’t owned those, so I cannot comment, but the price point is comparable.)

Tell me what you think! Have you owned Uniqlo Ultra Light Down items? Is my feather leak problem standard, or should I just expect that from down-packed jackets? Do technical brands like North Face do it better, or do you know of other brands (LL Bean, Lands End, etc.) that work just as well?