Category Archives: fashion

mix master

jardin des tuileries, paris.

Confession: I did not just encounter this girl on the street. This is Julia, a study abroad student in Paris and an old friend of my friend Naomi. She hung out with us for a couple of the days we were in town, and for one of them she was rocking a seriously sick outfit.

Another confession: that compliment sort of applies to me as well.

See, three out of the seven items you can see in this photo are mine. Julia borrowed my pants, belt, and hat as well as Naomi’s tank top for a little sightseeing trek. (A perk of traveling with girls around your size – triple the wardrobe options!) I love seeing how differently two people can wear the same clothes. When I rock these burgundy jeans, I go for nerdy prep – button downs, v-neck sweaters, navy blazers. Naomi’s style tends towards effortless, 90’s-inspired layers. But even though she put most of the outfit together with our clothes, Julia is all rock star in this photo. Her punky boots and the hardware on her bag add just the right amount of edge, and I’m seriously jealous of how hard she’s rocking that hat. I wore it out the next day on our bagel run and when I sat down in the deli, I realized I was dressed exactly like the Hasidic man chowing down at the table next to me.


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at any age

4th arrondissement, paris.

In case you hadn’t heard, I made it to France for the first time a few weeks ago. I went originally with the idea of model-stalking during Haute Couture Week, but it turns out it’s kinda hard to make yourself spend five days sulking outside fashion shows when you’ve never seen Paris before. Lucky for me, good style is fairly easy to stumble upon in the City of Lights, even in the dead of winter. This woman caught my eye during a pilgrimage for bagels in the 4th arrondissement. From far away, I thought she was an Agyness Deyn-esque hipster type, but as I approached her I realized she was no 20-something – and I love that. In Portland, I rarely see women over 30 take fashion risks like this. Paris is full of the young and beautiful, but I felt like it was this woman who embodied the city’s style.

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la sevillana

alfonso xii


More than any other photo I’ve taken in the last three months, this one represents the modern Spanish woman to me. I mean, check this girl out. Bold red lipstick, both sexily feminine and unabashedly powerful at the same time. A borrowed-from-the-boys tweed coat accented with edgy leather sleeves that still manages to show off her waist. Tailored shorts. Chunky, heeled oxfords (sorry you can’t see them…I really have to learn to keep my hair tied back so I can see what’s going on in my viewfinder!). I mean, she’s wearing a sheer, snakeskin-patterned blouse buttoned all the way up for goodness’ sake!

What I see in the classic but sexy style of Spanish women is a serious self-awareness. These ladies aren’t ashamed to be ladies. They know the power of their sexuality, but they also know it doesn’t need to be exaggerated. Just like this woman, they can be completely covered up – honestly, there’s not a shred of skin showing from neck to toes – and yet still be absolutely sure that they look sexy. I love that. What I see in America is either an over-emphasis of femininity – low-cut tops, slits up to here, bows, frills, sparkles, etc. – or a complete rejection of anything that can be interpreted as sexy (I’m looking at you, Mom Jeans). I think we can really learn from the balance this woman exemplifies – sartorially, and in life as well.

Or, you know, just marvel at her awesome style.

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how to take it with you: packing for study abroad

Dear future study abroaders,

If you are anything like me, you are probably panicking right now. After all, you’re leaving for a whole semester in less than a month – how the hell do you pack for something like that? I made list upon list from May up until the day before I caught my plane, and as previously discussed, I still failed miserably.

So here’s my (incomplete) guide to building a study abroad wardrobe. It’s not everything you need by any means, nor is it everything you want. But it’s a start. Pick and choose from each category, prune where you want, and add in what you’ll die without. Just try not to go overboard – those baggage fees are no joke.

To see all my tips, read on!

Continue reading

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oh the weather outside is weather…

snuggly sweaters and lacy layers.

Well, it’s finally happened: fall has arrived. Last week clouds rolled in, the wind was blowing, and I finally started to understand why everyone’s senora freaks out about bare feet in the house – these tiles are freezing. And along with all the rain and chill breezes came a deep sense of regret for items left behind.

Yup, I packed too light.

It’s a little hard to believe, actually. I’m one of those people who lives in perpetual fear of needing something I don’t happen to have on me. On any given day I’m most likely carrying on my person a bottle of Advil, perfume, a travel-sized toothbrush, five bobby pins, and my external hard drive. I mean, I literally brought thirteen pairs of shoes with me for three months in Argentina. Thirteen! I had to buy an extra duffle bag and transfer them all over from my huge suitcase in the middle of PDX just so I’d be under the weight limit.

And yet, here I am, freezing my tail off in southern Spain because I failed to pack anything warmer than my favorite blazer.

Of course, I’m well-aware of why this all came about. Airline baggage policies have changed quite a bit since I flew to South America: in 2008, I was allowed two 50-pound suitcases plus the normal carry-ons for international flights. On my way here, I had to fit my whole life into one 23-kilo square, plus the duffle I lugged over a dozen pairs of shoes in three years ago. All things considered, that’s not a lot of space. But I figured, as my mother repeatedly said to me as I edited my wardrobe down to airline regulation size, they do sell clothes in Spain. I wasn’t permanently limited to what I could stuff into my measly 28-inch box.

Two months in, I can tell you from personal experience that yes, they do sell clothes here. But they sell clothes in euros. With value-added tax. And no Forever 21s. So yeah, I’ve been doing some shopping out of necessity. A girl can’t live in sundresses and pink shorts alone. But it definitely would have been a good deal cheaper in the long run to pay the extra baggage fee.

Learn from my mistakes, future study-abroaders: pack what you need.

That said, I’m pretty excited about my recent additions to my wardrobe. I’ve been slowly adding fall pieces, one or two at a time, and I think I can reasonably say that I’m prepared for colder days ahead.

my closet - finally almost full!

So what have I bought for fall? Let’s recap, shall we?

1. Cocoon coat in a lovely shade of tobacco (Pull&Bear)
2. Foliage/leopard-inspired printed dress (Pull&Bear)
3. Wide-striped sweatshirt dress (Stradovarius)
4. Cozy gray cableknit sweater (Oysho)
5. Pink and camel striped mohair sweater (H&M)
6. White lace tee (Zara)
7. Black stacked-heel ankle boots (H&M)
8. Black mini-dress with Stella McCartney-esque polka dot sleeves (Zara TRF)

Notice the trend of WARMTH. I was taken by surprise when the stormy weather blew through, but I will not be defeated by a little wind and rain. So if you’re planning some time abroad in Spain, make sure you come prepared; my blazers definitely aren’t enough.

the h&m boots - less comfy than they look, but so worth it.

I’m less than thrilled about the amount of money I’ve spent on this capsule wardrobe, but at least it’s all pieces I can wear back home, too. I have to remind myself that I’m not shopping on a whim here. While I’m excited about everything I’ve bought, it’s all necessary to a certain extent: I can’t run around in 40 degree weather in my sundresses. I needed some substantial clothes. But to those of you preparing for spring semester abroad, a word of caution: sometimes it’s worth it to pay for the extra baggage! Make sure you pack for weather from freezing temperatures to humid and rainy to dry and 100 degrees. This city is insane; choose your clothes wisely.

dresses in neutral colors for mixing and matching.

As the departure date for spring study-abroaders approaches, keep an eye out for packing tips from yours truly! I’ll do what I can to keep you from making the same mistakes I did.

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i’d like to return to the classics

I heard a lot before I left the US about how well-dressed Spanish women are. “Be prepared to wear heels ALL THE TIME,” was a common warning. Jean shorts, sweats, and any sandal resembling a flip-flop would be completely out of place here, I was told. Many well-meaning souls advised me to leave out shorts all together – and this when I was headed to a part of the country that averages 90 degrees in September.

Now that I’m here, I’m beginning to realize there’s been a little bit of exaggerating going on. First of all, shorts are completely commonplace – yes, even jorts. Granted, you won’t see them on women over 25 generally, but for the youth of the day it’s no big deal to show some leg. Secondly, not everyone dresses well here. (I can hear the gasps of shock from across the Atlantic.) There’s an epidemic of poorly-worded English message tees, and I think if I see one more psychedelically patterned drop-crotch pant (where do they find these things?) I’ll go insane. But when the women get it right, they really get it right!

calle sierpes

Take this charming young lady, for instance. Those preppy loafers are the fall shoe of my dreams. Really, everything about her outfit is simple – plain tee, cotton skirt, structured bag – but together, it creates a cohesive outfit. I’m dying to channel her ladylike style in the near future.

plaza de alfalfa

The classic sensibility of chic youngsters is pretty obviously inspired by the previous generation. This woman is the epitome of put-together casual – I’m sorry, but linen wide-leg jade green slacks? WITH A LEOPARD BELT? I have found my people. I never want to leave.

plaza del salvador (excuse the quality, settings got messed up on my camera.)

I think the most striking thing about Spanish style is the complete lack of layering. These women manage to be chic with just two pieces – a top and a bottom. I’m so used to seeing street style snaps of girls swathed in coats on top of twelve sweaters on top of neon tanks that the simplicity of Spanish fashion is just plain refreshing. This woman lets the embellishment on her shoulders do all the heavy lifting, then adds a few simple extras with bangles, a woven belt, and desert booties. So cute, and so easy to put together!

Since I’ve been here, I’ve found myself paring down too. I’m sure it’s partly due to the extreme heat – it’s only now starting to cool down to anything below 32C – but it’s also a side effect of living amongst these classically chic ladies. And yes, there definitely are more well-dressed women here than back home – no Columbia fleece vests in sight!

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plane outfit

plane outfit

Ok, so I’m not really taking a Globetrotter trunk. But sneak a peek at my picks for my plane outfit!
  1. KUT from the Kloth ‘Roll-Up’ Boyfriend Jean, $45.90 (on sale)
    Comfy, roomy, and casually stylish, these jeans will work both on the plane and on the street. Much better than sweatpants!
  2. Old Navy Leopard-Print Scarf, $12.95 (actually bought a heavier version at H&M, but it’s not online)
    Fact: Planes are freezing. Fact: I can’t sleep without a blanket. Fact: Even the simplest outfit looks more polished with a scarf. FACT: This find is awesome.
  3. Gap Rayon Crewneck Sweater in tan, $39.95 ($25 through 9/5!)
    Ohhhhhh my Goddd if you felt this sweater you would die, it’s so soft! It’s slim-fitting but stretchy, and it won’t wrinkle. Plus a Labor Day sale? Done and done.
  4. H&M Basic Tank in red, $5.95
    A cute pop of color that will stand on its own when I leave the chilly recycled plane air and step out into the Spanish heat.
  5. Toms Red Canvas Classics, $44
    Easy to slip off at security, and mine have plenty of room for (gulp) swelling feet.

I’m adding a leather cuff similar to the one pictured – the “metal” is plastic, so it won’t set off the metal detector. I like looking pulled together on the plane, and a little bit of accessorizing goes a long way. Oh, and the glasses? I don’t actually wear them, but I’m thinking about breaking out a pair of geek chic frames just for fun!

What’s your go-to travel outfit?

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