Dispatches from London: Retail Therapy

Today I bought another pair of shoes.  From a fellow medievalist working in a shop.

It turns out the extremely charming Italian salesman had recently interviewed at the large research institution just up the road from the smaller college where I teach and had just completed a PhD in medieval Persian literature at UCL.  He is way smarter and has a much better academic pedigree than I.

This was one of those days–and there are many–when I wonder how I have a job at all.  I am lucky to get to spend my days in archives and my evenings at the theatre.  And my Sunday afternoon at Laduree with an old friend and violet-scented macarons.  And my nights  prowling the Thames in search of sleep in one of my favourite cities in the world.  I am lucky to have the job I have.

But I could just as easily be working in a shop too. I spent a miserable year in the late 80s working at Laura Ashley and looking like a flower garden had barfed all over me.  In fact, I wore a very similar pair of brogues to the ones I bought today with lace tights and a square-necked, puffy-sleeved, corduroy floral frock, with my spiral-permed hair caught up in a huge-ass velvet bow.  I was dreadful at retail.  It is a very trying job.    
I might work hard, at both the job I had before and the one I have now, but I don’t work harder than anybody else.  And hard work doesn’t mean I deserve this job anymore than anyone else.  And sometimes I wonder if I deserve it less … which is what keeps me up at night.  
Luckily there are deeply-discounted, Italian-made, kitten-soft, blue suede shoes that come medievalist-approved.  
I might sleep in them tonight. 

NSFW: Maxi Dress

I would be remiss in my duties as a style blogger if I did not report in on London street style. It did not seem distinctly different from North America, actually—jeggings, gladiator sandals, general pantslessness—with one notable exception: the maxi dress. Maxi dresses were everywhere in London. Weren’t they everywhere here, like, two years ago?

At least, that’s when I succumbed to the trend with this dress.

Dress: Calvin Klein

Beads: belonged to my grandmother (I love them)
Pose: Wonder Woman, via A-Dubs

It took me a long time to get on board with the maxi dress and I think I’m still on the fence, even though I own one (I’m ignoring the mixed metaphor; please follow suit). Something about the maxi seems costume-y to me. And this was especially evident in London when groups of women in maxi dresses would go out en masse looking like a mis-matched bridal party. There is something distinctly 70s about the maxi dress that I don’t dislike, I just think it’s difficult for me make it current (except, obviously, it is current so what do I know?). I also think that it looks best on tall, willowy chicks and that is not me (it is A-Dubs).

Nonetheless, I do love how comfortable my maxi dress is, especially in the hot weather. And this one is the perfect long length on me because it does not trail on the ground, even if I’m wearing flats.

Gold flat sandals: Cole Haan Canvas Wedges with a kicky bow: Keds

I don’t think it’s at all suitable for my workplace though I do wear it a lot when I work from home, mostly because it feels like a nightie. And, of course, I’ve worn it to the cottage. I love the pattern and the softness of the fabric but this dress does not get a lot of street wear and I think I bought into the trend because it was deeply discounted even though I was not convinced I could pull it off. Lesson learned (probably).

These are my favourite things about my ensemble today.

And I like the beads too. (I’m here all week, folks. Try the veal.)

Do you wear a maxi dress? How and where do you wear it and how do you tone down the 70s? Or maybe the 70s isn’t a bad thing? After all, TV’s Wonder Woman is from the 70s.

I’d like to sup with my baby tonight

Have I mentioned that it is HOT in London? Oh yes, I have. The thing about my being here during the hottest summer on record in London is that I did not pack for being here during the hottest summer on record in London. I packed for England: cardis, long pants, jeans, coat. I needed all of these things when I was up in Leeds, where it monsooned daily while I conferenced and tried to be charming and smart, but these things are just not on with the daily living in London.
The day I landed I took the tube from Heathrow to Russell Square and was miserable and sweaty (I really hate the tube and yet I am still too cheap to take the Heathrow Express) so when I got out and hauled my suitcase and my arse up the stupid, stupid stairs I went straight to Joy and bought this dress. It was modelled in the window AND by a very stylish customer rocking it in the store. I don’t think I’ve ever bought something because I saw it on someone else but my brain was heat-addled and she was willowy and beautiful. She might have glamoured me. The dress is tent-like and does absolutely nothing flattering but it barely touches me and only needs to be accessorised by a pair of M&S knickers, footwear and a smile.
Dress: Louche
Undies: Marks & Spencer (not pictured)
I actually like the bright florals, the precious heart-shaped buttons and the pockets but it is a little short for my comfort level (especially since I washed it) and trapeze-like for my shape. But it has been a staple for my days in London (outside of library time, where it is freezing and cardi-friendly).
How are y’all survivin’ the heat?
(I have been watching True Blood on-line for the first time, because I am also too sick to sleep.
I am in love with Sam. Why doesn’t he love me?)

Dispatches from London, part deux

Due to popular demand, and because the website didn’t have a proper photo of my new skirt, I am posting a picture of my All Saints skirt (which was 50% off, but still not cheap). I had to stand on the window sill of my little London dorm room, a dizzying eight storeys up, to get it in. The lengths I won’t go to for a blog picture; please note my mad photog skillz and my efforts to get the shot (gripping window frame for dear life):

Skirt: All Saints, close-up of pattern on the right
Purple argyle tights: Marks & Sparks (Spencer)
Mary-Janes: Camper
Background: Bloomsbury

London is lovely. And unseasonably HOT (I know you New Yorkers are suffering but England is not versed in the air conditioner, so there is little respite). I continue to labour with a summer cold though I am determined to soldier on tomorrow at the library with my moldy books. Here are a few shots of guerilla theatre (free!) in London that I have witnessed:

The red unitards are an impromptu dance/contact improv performance on the South Bank by City Hall (the Testicle without Red Ken, sadly), all the more impressive because it was +30 degrees in London that day. That’s the Thames and the Tower of London in the background.
The opera-looking piece was an excerpt from a new opera commissioned by the Royal Opera (for RO2) called Pleasure’s Progress, based on the writings of Hogarth. In Covent Garden, just outside the Royal Opera House. Both were fantastic, and I would have paid to see them. Theatre is the one thing in London that is not exorbitant. Civilised.

Well, theatre and Wensleydale cheese.

Is there anything (cheesy) you binge on when you are in another country? Also, how awesome is my new skirt?

Dispatches from London

Fish Monkey wondered about the length of this sweater so here are a couple of snaps:
It’s tough to measure because the button placket is off-centre and the hem is purposefully uneven. It’s also tough to measure because I can’t find my measuring tape. It hits just below the waistband of my mid-rise jeans, though I think the length can be played with because of the loose collar. The back is higher than the front, except for the little tail.
I tried taking some outfit pictures this morning to show you what I wore to the library (not at all exciting: green t-shirt handed down from A-Dubs, black cardi because manuscript reading rooms are like freezers, denim skirt from the grocery store, black flat mary-janes), but the light in my little dorm room was not working in my favour. Plus I’m sick and I am too snotty and cough-y for the manuscript room. The Watchtower was blanching and you can’t take water into the reading room so it seemed best to cut my losses and come back and sleep. Right now I’m drinking wine (Good Ordinary Claret) because it is a cough suppressant. Also because it is wine. I can’t believe I’m sick.
Anyway, while I was trying to talk myself out of buying my dream boots yesterday (I am counting on these boots to change my life. Is that unhealthy?), I went into All Saints and I bought these two items. I’m sort of panicking and thinking of taking them back even though they are awesome and I love them:

The skirt is actually a grey-on-black pattern, so much less “ditzy floral” than the one pictured and it hits just above the knee. I actually love the stripes and florals together and I’m not much of a pattern-mixer so I think the tone-on-tone entree is the way to go. I’m picturing it in the classroom with black tights and my new boots. (Because I have to wear my new boots with everything to justify the expense. Oh yes, and because they rock.) All Saints seems to me like the high street version of Vivienne Westwood, whom I love. Not cheap, but considerably less than lovely Viv.
Anyway, here’s another tone-on-tone pair. I love London, and I love being here, but I sure do miss the fur treasures. This is a scene from the conference-paper-writing frenzy that occurred just before I left:
Can they get any closer to me or each other?

I am very familiar with this look that says why-did-you-feed-me-out-of-fitting-comfortably-into-this-box? Also, please feed me.
Are you on any fun vacation adventures? What do you do to mitigate ill-timed illness?

On Shopping: London Styles

So I’m going to London. I’m not going to visit the Queen because she was just here. And I think she is an outmoded figurehead anyway (though—embarrassing admission—I did get up at 4am with the rest of my family to see Diana marry Charles and my gran sent me all of the English papers which I poured over. I was kind of underwhelmed by her dress and I thought her hair looked squashed, but I loved her shoes. I had a very critical fashion eye even as a pre-teen. And I liked seed pearls and heart shapes.).

But I digress. While I am going for work, I’m also going to squeeze in some fun (aka shopping). Where I live now is laughably free from good shopping options (Literally laughable, as in I had a huge guffaw over the advertising campaigns for summer tourism that touted the “great shopping” here. Yeah, great shopping if you’ve never heard of The Gap, though we did just get H&M. Teenagers wept with joy when it opened.).

Here are some places I am definitely going to hit up in Ole Blighty:

Marks & Spencer: for sundries, as noted below. We don’t need to go over that again.

Topshop: the one on Oxford St. because I love the bottom floor especially for the local designer duds.

Liberty’s: mostly just to punish myself, though the sales will be on but picked over. I love everything about the aesthetics of the shop, especially the staircases, though I really cannot afford to shop there. They still let me in though.

Selfridges: not as lovely as Liberty and I can’t afford Selfridges proper but they have that section with an omnibus of all the high street shops. Efficiency is key.

Bloch: for ballet flats.

Comptoir des Cottoniers: on the King’s Road, although French sizing is even more devastating than UK sizing.

Fortnum & Mason: for the smoky Earl Grey.

Spitalfield’s Market: Friday for fashion, I think, but Sunday is fun and insane.

Lamb’s Conduit: lovely street near where I used to live with pretty, independent boutiques and a bespoke tailor. I love the look of bolts of suiting fabric.

I hope I have time to fit in some research.

I’m considering flying over with an extra empty suitcase (I will also be buying a lot of books. For reals.). I covet this carry-on wheelie from Heys for its mod-ness but I already have a boring old grey one that is perfectly serviceable. Dammit.

Plus it’s sold out. Dammit.

Any further suggestions, Gentle Readers?

Where do you like to shop when you are in London leading your glamourous lives?