Shopping: MM LaFleur Bento Box Review 2.0

Nearly a year ago, I ordered my first Bento Box from MM LaFleur, a company that specializes in clothing and personal styling for “professional women.” The Bento box concept is similar to how other personal styling services work. You fill out a survey, they send you clothes that might fit you based on your answers. In my review of my first Bento Box, I noted that I kept one item, the Graham kimono. I had a similar experience this time around, and ended up keeping one of the items in my box.

The Bento Box Request

When you Re-bento, you can make specific requests to your stylist. I’ve been wanting to try the Foster pants, but given my track record with pants, was nervous about purchasing them and having to return them. I figured getting a pair in my Bento would be the ideal option. If they worked, great, if not, no worries, back they’d go. I left a note with my order requesting the pants.

MM LaFleur’s newest collection has a number of dresses in an amazing deep, forest green color. Since green is my favorite color, I asked my stylist to include a few of their new dresses in that color.

The Bento Box Arrives

My box arrived a day before my requested date (10/5, it got here on the 4th). When I opened it up it contained:

mm lafleur bento box review - foster pant in black

Bento Box: Foster Pant

So let’s start my Bento Box review with the Foster pant. The description on the website said that the pants ran small, so I asked for a size 8. My first reaction when pulling them out of the box was, well, I’m not going to fit into those.

I did, but just barely. I had to suck in to pull the waist closed and I’m standing with my legs slightly apart in the photo, because I couldn’t really bring them together due to the tightness of the pants. Not a good look and definitely not how I would want to go about my day.

The fabric of the Foster pant was also a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a soft and stretchy ponte, since they are described as feeling like yoga pants, but these were a woven cotton-blend fabric. They were stiffer than expected, which didn’t go well with the overall tightness.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t keep them.

bento box review mm lafleur davis top

Bento Box: Davis Top

I was pleasantly surprised to get the Davis top in my Bento. I’d seen in on the website and thought it looked interesting, but wouldn’t have ordered it for myself, especially in the yellow-orange watercolor print.

The top fits close up in the bust, but then loosens up over your waist and hips. It’s lined, so it’s a really sturdy feeling shirt.  I like the overlap on the front, but ended up returning it for two reasons. One I’m not super into the yellow-orange pattern. Two, it was $210, which I think it just a bit too much for a top, although it is made in NYC.

Bento box review Aditi 2.0 dress

Bento Box: Aditi 2.0 Dress

Let’s move on to the dresses. I love the shape and color of the Aditi 2.0 dress. But this style doesn’t work on me. This is a size 6, and there are a lot of bumps and rolls in the dress because of its close fit. Some of those bumps are me, some are the dress.

Maybe it’d be worth trying in an 8, but this was just way too tight for me to wear.

Bento box mm lafleur lydia dress

Bento Box: Lydia Dress

I debated for a couple of days over whether to keep the Lydia or not. Arguments in favor of the dress: great color, interesting twisty part at the shoulder, soft, comfortable fabric. Arguments against the dress: weird fit, dry clean only.

I ended up sending it back, because it was loose at the waist and very tight at the hips (this was a size 8). Also, I dunno, I just don’t want another dry clean only dress.

bento box mm lafleur woolf jardigan

Bento Box: Woolf Jardigan

Last, but not least, the one piece I did keep. The Woolf Jardigan (that’s jacket + cardigan) is a slightly longer version of the St. Ambroeus jardigan (which I also own). It was love at first wear. From the minute I pulled on the Woolf, I knew I was going to keep it, even though I really, really don’t need another jacket.

The Woolf works well as both a blazer and a comfy cardigan. I always feel a bit dowdy in cardigans, but not in the Woolf. It also has split seams on the side, which give it a more flattering shape and look. It looks OK worn with pants, but I find it’s most flattering worn over a dress.

So there you have it. My second Bento Box. All in all, I find getting a Bento a fun experience and will probably do it again. I think specifically asking for items or giving your stylist a clue about what you like and don’t like, helps make the Bento experience more useful, rather than hoping and praying your stylist gets it right.

Book Reviews: What I Read in September 2016

Another month’s gone by! Check out the book reviews for what I read in September:

How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff

I feel pretty conflicted about How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff. A memoir of the year the author spent traveling around (through parts of Europe and Asia, spending a lot of time in Thailand), the book really lives up to its name. Juliff starts her big round-the-world trip off by nearly missing her flight to Croatia. Once she gets to the airport, she struggles at check-in because she doesn’t know what a “checked bag” is. When she finally gets past security, instead of dashing to her flight (she’s late, after all), she dawdles in the bookshop. From there, she has mishap after mishap, some of which are brought on by her complete lack of common sense, others of which (like nearly experiencing a tsunami in Thailand) are just due to bad luck or bad timing.

Yeah, so the book is basically what not to do when traveling 101. My main struggle with it was it didn’t feel that believable. “Really, you’re in your 20s, you live in London and you don’t know what checked luggage is?” That sort of thing. I get that the writer had lots of anxiety and that traveling around and breaking out of her shell was a struggle for her, but the whole “I didn’t realize” schtick gets old pretty quickly.

It was a quick read, and Juliff’s a pretty engaging writer, but after more than 300 pages of “oops!” I’d had enough. Small annoyances aside, the book did make me want to travel to Thailand. So I guess it didn’t entirely fail as a travel memoir, since it did incite some wanderlust.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Years ago, this guy I was going out with gave me a copy of the The Secret History by Donna Tartt, because I was a classics major. I broke up with the guy and never read the book.

Then, a few years ago, I read the Goldfinch and really liked it. So, I figured it was time to revisit the Secret History. Creepy ex boyfriend’s copy was long gone, so I picked one up at the library. I’m really glad I finally read it.

Set at a fictional liberal arts college in Vermont, the book is narrated by Richard, a transfer student from the West Coast. Since he studied ancient Greek at his old school, Richard decides to study it at his new college. The thing is, the classics students at Hampden are few (there are just five) and admission to the program is closely regulated by Julien, an eccentric professor.

Rumors swirl about the school about Julien and his students — that they worship the devil, for instance, but Richard is undeterred. He convinces Julien to accept him into the program and quickly becomes part of the group.

The Secret History is a murder mystery, but a murder mystery that’s been flipped. The murder opens the book, the next 500 or so pages are spent learning why the murder happened and the consequences of it.

More than a thriller, though, the novel takes a look at the effects of privilge on a group of young students. All five of the classics majors, save for Richard, come from cushy backgrounds. Most of them have inheritances to rely on and families to support them. No matter the consequences of their actions, there’s the sense that they will be fine.

Richard doesn’t have that same assurance. He’s cut off from his family (in part by choice, in part not). He has no financial cushion. Although he’s part of the action (he is there at the murder), he’s also outside of it, standing aside the narrator, retelling the story many years later.

When the major consequence of the murder happens, Richard is the one who stands to lose the most, since he lacks that familiar support. Yet, he’s the only who ends up pressing on with his studies, earning a degree. The novel is as much a commentary on the damage having too much wealth can do as it is on the damage of having a single professor be the sole influence over you in college.

book reviews

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

About a year ago, I saw Kazuo Ishiguro at the Free Library, when The Buried Giant had just come out. He mentioned that he had meant for The Remains of the Day to be a comedy, but few people saw it that way. I don’t know if his saying that influenced my reading of the book, but I did find it quite funny. And tragic. But also fairly funny.

James Stevens served as a butler for Lord Darlington for three decades. Now, Darlington is dead and the great house has been purchased by an American. Stevens, ever the proper butler, wonders often is he should be bantering with his new boss, since the boss is American, and don’t Americans like banter? His uncertainty and his attempts at banter are quite hilarious.

Around this time, Steven gets a letter from a former coworker, Miss Kenton, who was once a housekeeper there, but then got married and left. She seems unhappy in her letter, so Stevens gets the idea that he’ll drive out to her and see if she wants to come back and work at the house, which now has a limited staff.

Over the course of his multi-day drive across the country, he reminiscinces about his past at Darlington Hall. His remembrances about Miss Kenton are tinged with the suggestion that he was attracted to her, and she to him, but that his inaction was what led to her to go off and marry someone else. Stevens also begins to question his many decades of devotion to Darlington, who it is revealed in the flashbacks, might not have been such a great guy.

It’s not just Stevens’ love life that suffers because of his sense of propriety and his refusal to act in any way but as an exemplary butler. His relationship with his father also suffers. In one memory, Stevens leaves his father on his deathbed because he feels he needs to fufill  his duties for the day. His father dies and Stevens has no chance to say good-bye.

So, a funny book at times. But also a deeply heartbreaking book about a life lived under so much constraint that you might argue it wasn’t a life lived at all.

 

fates and furies book review

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies closely examines the marriage between Lancelot (“Lotto”), a successful playwright and former struggling actor and Mathilde, his wife. It’s divided into two parts, the first of which (Fates) focuses on Lancelot/Lotto. The second part (Fury) is all about Mathilde.

The pair meet in college and get married pretty quickly. Everyone thinks they’ll get divorced, but the years gone on and they don’t. It looks as though Mathilde is the quiet wife, supporting her husband while he pursues an acting career, standing by his side after he makes sit as a playwright. But there’s much more to it than that and the second part of the book rips off the facade of the first part, unveiling Mathilde and giving more of an explanation for the couple’s relationship. It’s not so much telling the story of a marriage from two different people’s point of view. It’s telling two different stories that happen to contain the same people and events that take place at the same time.

It’s not so much the story of Fates and Furies that made it such a good read. It’s Groff’s style. The words tumble on the page. We’re shown brief, terrible glimpses of the character’s past and future, all in one breath. It’s a beautifully written book, probably one of the most stylistically engaging novels I’ve read in a long time.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review*

One day, Yeong-Hye stops eating meat. She’s been having terrible dreams about murder and violence, so she gives up meat.

But it’s not as if she simply goes vegan. She stops eating most foods and wastes away. Her behavior changes too, unsettling her husband and family. At a family dinner one day, things reach a tipping point and Yeong-Hye ends up in the hospital.

Although Yeong-Hye is the title character, The Vegetarian is told from everyone’s perspective but hers. There are some brief descriptions of her violent dreams, from her own point of view, in the first part of the book, but otherwise, the action is narrated by her husband. The second part of the book is from the POV of her brother-in-law and the final part is from her sister’s point of view.

The Vegetarian is some sort of terrifying parable. When Yeong-Hye finally tries to assert herself, by first becoming vegetarian and by doing other considerably more shocking things later on, her family’s reaction is first to force her to eat meat and later to lock her up. No one gets what is going on with her. The response is either to abandon her, to take advantage of her or to have her actions call into question everything that a character once believed or thought important.

The premise of the novel might feel so strange and foreign to us that it can be easy to dismiss it. I think it’s more important not to try to define the “meaning” of the story or to really analyze what it all means, especially the ending. My first inclination was to think, oh clearly, this is a woman throwing off the shackles of society. But there’s more to it than that. Yeong-Hye isn’t just rejecting the expectations placed on her by society. She’s throwing off the expectation that she is even a human, and that is what ultimately terrifies her family and others around her.