Category: What I Read…

What I read this fortnight…on my Italian vacation!

What I Read ItalyI’ve had these two books sitting on my shelf for the better part of this past year, and though I have flipped casually through the odd section at one time or another I had yet to really tuck into them.  Now was the perfect time to slide them out.

First of all, my interest in the topic of personal style was suddenly piqued.  I had been feeling a sense of charity shopping withdrawal (especially when it came to the clothing racks) plus, it’s the time of year I tend to re-evaluate my cold weather clothes, deciding whether they are to be packed away or put in my charity shop donations bag.

I also felt they would serve the practical purpose of getting me excited and focused on my upcoming birthday charity shopping trip. I knew that after such a long absence from the charity shop racks I might fall into the trap of picking up things that I don’t really want or need simply because they looked like a good deal. I wanted to really tidy my charity shopping list and head out to the Chelsea charity shops with focus.

Italy porch

Our beautiful house in Lake Garda, Italy

And finally, I was about to leave on a family vacation to Italy with my in-laws.  I knew this trip was going to provide more time than normal to sit on the deck in the sun (and as it turned out, during thunderstorms) reading but I also needed books that weren’t too big (or hardcover) to pack in my carry-on luggage.

Harper’s Bazaar Great Style

Jenny Levin
Aurum Press, 2008
This book is full of great photographs of style icons and celebrities alike and in a book on style, photos are exactly what I’m looking for.  The photos are even more appreciated because they include well dressed ladies from different walks of life, ages and decades.  When you see a classic trench coat being worn by Catherine Deneuve in 1964, and Kate Moss in the 2000’s, and Coco Chanel and Drew Barrymore are sharing a page looking amazing and stylish, you know the trench coat really is a classic piece you need in your closet, and great personal style is timeless.

And if the photos weren’t enough to make this a great read, It is full of lists! *drool* There are few things I love more than a great list.  They made it easy to jump around to the different sections of the book as your mood struck you, rather than feeling as though you had to read it cover to cover to get the most out of the content.

Italy porch William

My early morning reading buddy

Style Clinic
Paula Reed
HarperCollins, 2009
On first glance, this book was much the same as the Harper’s Bazaar offering.  The take away being that both Jenny Levin (senior editor of Harper’s Bazaar at the time of publication) and Paula Reed (style director at Grazia at the time of publication) are women who know how to help women get started discovering and developing a sense of their own personal style.  They both highlight the importance of classic and basic pieces that we should all have hanging in our closets; and the common items they chose (although set out differently) are almost identical.  This book included just as many photos, but more often depicted individual clothing pieces and outfits on mannequins or draped empty rather than on individuals of notoriety or celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity) status.  It also included much greater detail throughout the book, including advice on how to select the correct style and fit for your body type when it came to those “essential”  basic pieces.  Throughout the book, quotes on style and fashion could be found jumping off the page as well as “universal style truths.”  From the words of famous designers and style icons to Paula Reed’s own truths, you are likely to find something thought provoking. For me it was this:

Diana Vreeland, legendary editor of Harper’s Bazaar and American Vogue, once said “Elegance is refusal.” In simple terms, success is about knowing what works for you and what would look better on someone else.

Final Thoughts

These books were both great places for me to start considering how to proceed with focusing in on and understanding my own personal style.  I will say that for me, Style Clinic offered more detail and opportunities to consider the style that suits my personality, shape and lifestyle.  I think that is where the empty clothing or clothing on mannequins came in handy.  I was seeing the items for what they were rather than on someone “famous” who, while lovely and stylish, is absolutely nothing like me.  It did require more focus however to really read and appreciate the valuable content.  Great Style was a much easier read and similar to the glossy magazines full of celebrities we find at the salon.  It was still full of great fashion and style advice and admittedly it can be easier to narrow down styles we are attracted to, when we can see them on people whose style we are drawn to and admire.

As for Italy, we had such an amazing family vacation.  We did a little of everything, sightseeing, relaxing, eating and drinking, swimming; I could go on.  But here’s a (very) little look at our trip.

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So the question for you is, where do you look for your fashion and style inspiration?
Perhaps you might find it in the charity shop window…

Happy hunting everyone!


What I read this fortnight… about consumer culture

What I Read this Fortnight...

What I Read this Fortnight…

First let me say that I am duly impressed by all those persons I follow that can do a post like this every week. I won’t bother to make excuses, we are all busy, but rather embrace that I read through these books that I was keen to read and at a pace that I enjoyed.

I have occasionally wondered to myself, how do I feel about the fact that one of my favourite pastimes is essentially a niche form of shopping? And now that I have started sharing my love of charity shopping through my Trifles & Treasures identity, this question has been nagging me more often.

IMG_0435It was time to go to the shelves – the library shelves in this case.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I would find in terms of relevance and current content but I was pleasantly surprised by what I was able to take home and read over the last two weeks.

Consumed – How Shopping Fed the Class System
Harry Wallop
Harper Collins, 2013
This was by far my favourite read of the three.  It was an easy read with some classic British self deprecating humour (a fairly common Canadian trait as well) and had me reading particularly interesting passages out to Bryan.  It examined the history of consumer culture and trends in Britain roughly following the period from the Second World War up to today. Having been an expat in London for the last 5 years I was able to recognize most of the brands, labels, places and people he was discussing as well as the categories or “classes” of people he was referencing, but also learn a great deal about the history behind those brands, labels, places and groups of people in a context that speaks to most of us – where we put our money. It really is a unique type of history book and I would recommend snapping up a copy if you come across it.  This might actually make a great summer beach read.

Not Buying It – My Year Without Shopping
Judith Levine
Simon & Schuster UK, 2006
This book caught my attention because the author, Judith Levine was essentially exploring exactly what I was wondering about myself. Am I spending/buying too much?  It is a bit dated and she is an American journalist living in the US without any children but I still found her personal account an interesting read.  She does something I don’t think I could do, spend a year getting by on basic foodstuffs and personal toiletries, in an effort to better understand her own consumer identity and impulses.  She includes a good deal of economic, philosophical and marketing research in her accounts as well giving the reader the opportunity to do some of their own self reflection.

Must Have – The Hidden Instincts Behind Everything We Buy
Geoffrey Miller
Vintage, 2010
Of the three books I brought home from the library, this was by far the most academic and most challenging for me to read.  It was fascinating in parts (I admit I didn’t read this one from cover to cover) and certainly addressed the power behind the marketing, advertising and media of which we are constantly inundated. It did focus a great deal on our basic human instincts and discussed our biological makeup in greater deal that I believe I was able to appreciate.
My favourite part of the book was in fact the Exercises for the Reader in the back of the book.  Even before reading a few of the sections I enjoyed the thoughtful process of completing the exercises.  In fact, I may have gained more from the reading having completed the complementary exercises.

My conclusion – After spending this past fortnight reading about spending and consumer culture I have decided to let my enjoyment of Charity Shopping be.  I don’t take everything that tickles my fancy home, I take my trifles to the shops to become treasures to another and I get a great deal of enjoyment browsing and hunting and taking home treasures for myself and my family.

As a charity shopper and donor I understand the need to go through periods of seeking out treasures with fervour and then purging the home of items destined to be treasures discovered by another. This balance between our possession inbox and outbox was being mirrored in the more creative side of my life. While I am enjoying my new web based identity through my Trifles & Treasures blog, Facebook page and Instagram presence it is proving a more challenging endeavour than I originally thought. And it obviously requires me to be creating creative output and I realized that I was going through a period of craving input.

My new challenge is finding a better balance between input and output on a more regular basis. My first specific goal to try and help me with this balance is to continue with “What I read this fortnight” looking at topics that keep me engaged about the charity shopping lifestyle.

Happy (perhaps guilt free?) hunting everyone.

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