Shopping: Marc by Marc Jacobs Meets William Morris

Marc by Marc Jacob’s 2015 Fall ready to wear line saw the designs of William Morris, the English textile designer and social activist, married to crepey blouses, mini skirts, and military inspired jackets.

When I saw the tie-front crepe blouse in the Strawberry Thief print, I nearly died. It was all of my favorite things. A bow blouse. Marc by Marc Jacobs. And a William Morris design (inspired, apparently, by the small birds Morris saw stealing strawberries from his garden).

Too bad the blouse was $348. That’s a bit steep for a writer, you know. I’ll wait, I thought. It will go on sale. And it did.

Marc by Marc Jacobs Strawberry Thief tie front blouse
Marc by Marc Jacobs Strawberry Thief tie front blouse

And I love it. It’s a triacetate/polyester blend, which I was a bit skeptical about at first. Triacetate? Yuck. But, it’s fine. The fabric is drapey while having a slightly heavy feel to it. It’s delicate and durable at the same time, if that makes any sense.

The tie sash is actually removable, so if there should ever be a point in my  life when I decide I’m over ties and bows, I can just take it off and keep on wearing the shirt.

William Morris Strawberry Thief Fabric at the V&A museum.
William Morris Strawberry Thief Fabric at the V&A museum.

Although the shirt has an eye catching pattern, it’s actually pretty versatile. It looks all office-ready and librarian like when worn with a pencil skirt (as seen in the photo above).

Put it on under a sleeveless sheath dress, though, and you’re channeling the 1970’s:

marcbymarcjacobs_strawberrythief_bow_blouse_with_dress

The blouse is hand washable, with the option of dry cleaning. I might be a bit nervous about taking it to my usual cleaners though, given the fact they’ve shrunk stuff in the past and I just don’t want to think about what they might do to triacetate.

Fit is true to size to a little big – I’m in a small and it’s quite blousy and the sleeves are on the long side, although the shoulders are pretty fitted.

If you’re not into bow blouses, MMJ is offering a tie-free version of the blouse, in blue. There’s also a red version with a bow, plus several dresses in the same pattern.

5 Things That You Need to Bring to Reykjavik in Winter

In my post on packing for Iceland in December, I mentioned feeling a bit of uncertainty about what to expect weather and temperature wise. Would there be snow? Would things be super cold? Would I look like a tourist? As it turned out, yes, sort of yes, and no, but it’s possible that your mileage may vary if you visit the country in the late fall, too.

Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall

My travel happened to be bookended by two blizzards, leaving about 16 inches of snow in Reykjavik before I arrived. The day I left, the city was gearing up to be hit with a “once every 25 years or so” blizzard featuring hurricane speed winds. But, while I was there, the weather was fairly mild. It averaged around 0 degrees Celsius, although one day the temperature did fall to -8 C. There was the occasional snow and some pretty strong winds. Still, it was all in all not that bad.

Although a lot of guesswork was involved in terms of what to bring (my main concerns were getting my carry-on under the 10 kg weight limit IcelandAir has and not being cold), in the end, I was completely fine. Aside from one day spent on a bus traveling the Golden Circle, I spent most of my time in the capital city itself. Here are my recommendations for things to take along on a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, so that you don’t look like a super tourist and so that you don’t freeze.

 

1. Doc Martens

I’ll be honest here, I almost didn’t pack my Doc Martens. I thought they took up too much space in my suitcase (they did) and that they weighed too much (they didn’t. I weighed them and they were just 2.5 pounds). I was going to pack a floppy pair of suede boots instead.

Am I glad I didn’t do that. Let’s just say this, Docs are awesome. They look good, they keep your feet warm, and you can stomp through huge amounts of snow in them without getting your feet wet. As I mentioned, there was a lot of snow in Reykjavik. Some of it was shoveled away the first few days I was there, a lot of it wasn’t. Which meant that I had to walk through piles of snow to get from point A to B. In the Docs, that totally didn’t matter.

Ok, sure, you can get “winter boots” like Sorels, but I think they look a little obvious and aren’t nearly as versatile as Docs. They’d be fine if you’re going out on an adventure in the country, but if you’re wearing them around the city, you might stand out a bit.

2. Uniqlo Heattech Stuff

I’m not really sure how Uniqlo’s Heattech clothing and accessories works in terms of keeping you warm — it traps in your body heat and recirculates it around you or something, but it’s really pretty effective. I got a long-sleeved “extra warm” top and a short-sleeved top, plus a pair of gloves and some tights and was perfectly comfortable, even on that -8 degree day.

The great thing about Heattech tops is that they are thin and tight fitting, so they don’t add a lot of bulk to your shape and you can wear them under even the tightest fitting tops. I have a pretty fitted merino sweater that I wore over top of the long-sleeved top and it didn’t look bumpy or weird.

As far as the tights went, I found them warm enough to wear on their own with just a wool skirt over top. They also came in handy on the night we saw (or rather, sort of saw) the  Northern Lights, when I wore them under a pair of jeans. I also put a pair of socks on over top of the feet part of the tights to keep my feet warm.

The Heattech gloves I had weren’t actually all that warm. They were fine on the warmer days (when it was above 0), but on the cold ones I actually put on another pair on top of them for extra warmth. You can use the Heattech gloves with your phone or other touch screen devices, which is nice when you’re trying to take a picture outdoors and really don’t want to take your gloves off.

3. Something Waterproof

It either snows or rains frequently throughout the day, so you want something that will keep the water off of you that isn’t an umbrella, which will just get shredded in the wind. I went the down jacket route as my outer layer, but I’m sure anything is fine as long as it repels water and keeps you warm. The Patagonia jacket I got is hydrophobic, so water actually forms beads on the surface of it, which looks cool. I would just brush the water away when needed. It was also windproof, so the gusts of wind didn’t bother me either.

iceland_picture

Although a waterproof coat is a must, I’m going to say that waterproof pants are probably overkill if you’ll only be hanging around in the city. I saw a few people wearing them around Reykjavik and they just looked overdressed. I mean, what to do I know, they might have been about to go tour an ice cave or tramp around the mountains in the snow. But, when you’re sitting in a toasty warm bakery in the middle of a city, drinking coffee and eating breakfast, looking like you just came off of a ski slope looks a bit silly. And like a tourist.

4. Fitted Jeans

As you might know, I recently got a pair of flares from Madewell and they are great. So great that I almost brought them along with me. Thanks to the snow, I’m glad I didn’t. The flares would have just dragged on the ground and gotten soggy. It’s no wonder you see Icelanders wearing skinny jeans a lot. My recommendation is to pick jeans that fit close to the ankle or that are slightly bootleg, so that they cover the top of your boots. I worn a slim fitting pair of bootleg jeans from Loft and ended up cuffing them slightly so that they didn’t drag.

5. Your Swimsuit

Swimming’s a big thing in Iceland. You can shell out the big bucks and hit up the Blue Lagoon, or you can do what I did and visit a public swimming pool. I think admission to the pools is something like 600 ISK, which is slightly less than $5 (at time of writing). If you get a Reykjavik City Card (which I totally recommend), the cost of admission to the pool is included for the time the card is valid, so you can pretty much go for free.

I ended up going to Sundhollin, which is the oldest pool in the city. It also happens to be near the city center, so it was a short walk from my hotel. And, the swimming pools at Sundhollin are indoors, while most of the other pools in the city and surrounding area are outside. The hot pots (hot tubs) at  Sundhollin are outside, but they are heated to a toasty 42 Celsius or 39 Celsius (there are two) so you don’t even notice the cold air around you.

The one thing I didn’t have was a towel, but no worries, as you can rent one from the pool for around $5. You can also rent a swimsuit, too, but do you really want to do that?

You can probably totally leave the tractor at home, too.
You can probably totally leave the tractor at home, too.

Books: What I Read This November

Oh, wow. November really got away from me. It’s going to look like I didn’t read that much this month (just 2.5 books), but really, I was drowning in scripts from a few of theater festivals I read for, so that took up much of my reading time (I lost count, but I think I read somewhere around 50 plays last month). While there weren’t that many books this month and I had to return one to the library before I could get through it, I’d recommend each of them. Even the one I didn’t finish.

After You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You was one of those books that I didn’t think I’d be that into when I started reading it, but people in my book club really recommended it and raved about it, so I read it. And loved it. And cried so, so much while reading it. It was a perfect, sad but uplifting story with fantastic characters. Given what happens in that book, I assumed that would be the end of things and the end of the story. So, I was pretty surprised when I found out that the author, Jojo Moyes, was writing a sequel, titled, fittingly, After You. Since some sequels have proven not to live up to the grandness of their predecessors (I’m looking at you, Broadchurch, season 2 and the second season of True Detective), I was a bit nervous that After You would be a let down.

The novel picks up where Me Before You left off, and I really can’t say  much about its plot without ruining the major story of the first book, except that we find the main character, Louisa, trying to put her life back together after the events of the prior novel. Things aren’t go so well for her – she has a crappy job at an airport bar, she’s basically just treading water in life, and then she falls off a roof. From there, everything changes for her, mostly for the better, but there are some rough patches in there.

After You nicely gives the reader a bit of closure for Louisa. The end of Me Before You had a sense of finality, but there was also a bit of uncertainty about whether or not she’d be able to actually live her life as she had promised. I didn’t cry as much at this one as I did at its predecessor, but there were still a few tears. I found myself drawn into the story and characters, just as I was the first time around.

 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I’ve joined another book club, and Fun Home, graphic memoir, is the book of the month for December. Written by Alison Bechdel, it recalls her childhood, growing up with a closeted father who was very particular about design and aesthetics  and who tended to have outbursts of anger and frustration towards his children. At the time that Alison comes out to her parents, she also learns that her father is gay and that he’s been having relationships with younger men (often, his students at the high school where he taught), for years. Shortly after that, her father is hit by a truck and dies.

There’s a sense of swirling in the book. Although it’s a memoir, it doesn’t start at year one of Alison’s life and move forward from there. Instead, it moves backwards and forwards, circling back to her father’s death, wondering if he killed himself or if it was really an accident, tying bits of her father’s life to the literature he loved so much.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

A Brief History of Seven Killings is my half book for the month. It’s nearly 700 pages long and I just couldn’t finish it before I had to return it to the library. I wish I had, but I can’t be a person who doesn’t return books on time. That’s just not fair and not how the system is meant to work.

A Brief History . . ., which won the Booker Prize this year, starts off with the events surrounding the 1976 attack on Bob Marley at his home in Jamaica and goes off from there. The story is told from the perspective of at least a dozen different characters  and is broken up into many small chapters, which helps make the book flow. James does a fantastic job of giving each character his or her own distinct voice, too, using varying patterns of speech and dialect with each person.

Since the story does have some basis in reality, and follows events that actually occurred in what was a confusing and jumbled time in Jamaican history, it does get a bit difficult to follow who is who and what’s going on. But, it’s very informative. Although I only got about a third of the way into the book, I felt like I learned a lot about what was happening in Jamaica in the 70s, with the political battles, the gang wars, and the CIA and US sticking their noses in.

I hope that I’m able to check the book out again, when my plate is less full and actually get to finish reading it before I have to return it.

Planning and Packing for a Trip to Iceland in December

When you tell people you’re going to Iceland in December, you get a lot of weird looks and reactions along the lines “why would you do that? It’s cold (and dark) there.” Truth is, Iceland’s a little cheaper in the late fall and winter and a bit less crowded than during the spring or summer.

Although it will be cold, it won’t actually that much colder than it is where I live. My big concerns are the dark, because there’s only about four hours of daylight (combine that with jet lag and I think I’m in for a bit of a rough ride), and the snow and wind. But, while it might be snowy, windy, and dark, I think with a bit of preparation and planning, I’ll be able to have a great trip.  Here’s what I plan on packing.

Travel Capsule

I may not be the poster woman for a seasonal capsule wardrobe, but I’m pretty good at putting one together for travel. Figuring out what to wear when the weather’s cold and unpredictable and I might be spending a fair amount of time outside has been more of a challenge than figuring out what to pack for a trip to a more temperate area, though.

There aren’t that many websites out there that have useful information about to bring to Iceland in late fall, if you’re not planning on going glacier climbing or otherwise exploring the country’s great expanse. Although part of my trip includes a tour around the Golden Circle, most of the time, I’ll be in Reykjavik, the capital, which is pretty trendy in its own way. I really don’t want to look like a clueless tourist in a fleece and snowpants, nor do I have need for crampons (spiky things you attach to your boots so that you don’t fall).

First things first, I figured a wool coat was out of the question and that my best bet was some sort of water resistant, down filled jacket. My first thought was a down jacket from Uniqlo, because they are inexpensive and lightweight and claim to repel water.

But, I feel weird about down. It keeps you warm, but I’m bothered by the idea of feathers being ripped from geese while they are still alive. Luckily, I did some research and learned that Patagonia has a traceable down program, meaning that the birds they source their jackets’ feathers from are not live-plucked or force-fed. It’s not a perfect solution; please don’t come after me for getting a down jacket if you’re vegan.


I ended up getting the Prow Jacket in dark blue from Patagonia because of the feather situation and because I liked the style. The asymmetrical zip looks more interesting than your basic puffer and I like the really high, funnel neck. The jacket also claims to be water and wind resistant, so we’ll see.

Iceland Capsule Idea #2

 

The rest of my travel capsule was pretty easy to put together, using two rules: remember to layer and stick to wicking fabrics. Although I do have a cotton T-shirt pictured in the photo above, I actually plan on bringing a few Heattech Innerwear tops from Uniqlo, to wear under blouses and sweaters. I’m also packing my Gap merino cardigan, which is very warm but still thin and lightweight, as well as a merino pullover, and three silk blouses. Silk is pretty amazing for travel, I think. It’s warm and rolls up nicely, so there are no crinkles or creases.

Although I am packing a pencil skirt so that I don’t look like a slouch when we go out, I plan on spending most of the trip in jeans. I’m also taking along some Heattech tights, both to wear with the skirt and under jeans, if needed. My Doc Martens have gotten me through many a snowstorm in Philly, so I’m hoping they are up to the task of whatever weather Iceland throws our way.

My Travel Must-Haves

Here’s a fun fact about Iceland: they  have different outlet shapes that we do in the US and different outlet shapes than they do in the UK. Rather than keep buying new outlet adapters every time I travel to a different area of the world, I decided to invest in this universal travel adapter, in hot pink (there are other colors available, but I figured hot pink would be difficult to miss). It works in the UK, Europe, the US, and Australia. Although it only  has room for one plug at a time, it also has two USB ports, so I can charge up a phone or Kindle at the same time.

The one thing this adapter doesn’t do is convert voltage. I’m always amazed when I read people’s reviews of adapters and they’re like “this broke my hair dryer!” All I plan on bringing to Iceland is a Chromebook, phone and Kindle, so I don’t have to worry about converting voltage. If you’re planning on taking your hair dryer or whatever to another country, you will need a converter. Just a little PSA.

I don’t check luggage, for a few reasons, the main one being that it’s a pain. So, my carry-on needs to be super organized. That’s where a Seat Pak and Packing Cubes come in.

I actually read about the Seat Pak on a travel blog and was like, I need that. It’s relatively slim and has four separate zip pockets, three on the front and one in the back, designed to carry what you need to be comfy on the plane. There’s a pocket just for your passport and IDs, one for media, and one for “seat comforts.” The pocket on the back is a good size for a Kindle. There’s also a little loop to hang the pack from the tray of the seat in front of you, but that doesn’t work with every airline.

I know some people aren’t into travel cubes, but I absolutely love them. I have a small cube for socks and underwear, a medium-sized cube for PJs and T-shirts and a garment folder for blouses, skirts and pants. The three cubes combined take up less than half of the space available in my carry-on suitcase. They not only keep your clothes contained, they also keep everything neatly folded and help minimize the space your stuff takes up.

We’ll see how I fare in Iceland. I’m hoping I’ll be warm enough and organized enough to enjoy the trip!

Capsule Wardrobe: Winter 2015-2016

Although I went into the capsule wardrobe with a fair amount of scepticism in the fall, I’ve come to really like the constraints of the project. At first, I did feel a lot of “ugh, I only have these options. I’m so limited.” But, after about a month or so, I got into the swing of things and really started to enjoy having fewer things to choose from.

That said, by the end of the three months, I was pretty much itching to switch to the new capsule. It’s been a warm fall, so it wasn’t so much that I wanted to switch to warmer clothing. It was more that after three months of being in constant rotation, some of my clothes were a little worse for wear. I sat on something that left a mark on a skirt, the hem of another skirt fell out when I washed it (an easy fix, but annoying, nonetheless). So, by the end of November, I had a few skirts at the cleaners and one in the mending pile. I also decided that I absolutely didn’t like one skirt:

jcrew_pleated_skirt

And put it in the donate pile. Ugh, no love lost there, but I hope someone else likes it!

With just one skirt left standing (for the moment), it was time to switch over.

Winter 2015 Capsule

 

Here it is, my winter 2015-2016 capsule wardrobe. It’s a 37-piece capsule, but I couldn’t find images of a few of the shirts to put in the Polyvore set, so you’ll just have to trust me. Like this past fall, I’ll be checking in every so often with outfit ideas and updates about how it’s going.