Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's in My Suitcase? (AKA an Attempt at European Effortlessness)

I'm about to leave for a 17 day trip all around Spain with my family. After a stressful year and a pretty uneventful summer of work I'm ready for vacation! One of the biggest struggles of preparing for my trip (besides working on my horrid Spanish) was figuring out what clothes to bring (and not bring). The idea of only having a suitcase full of clothing options while traveling in one of the most fashionable countries in the world is pretty daunting. I also wanted to bring clothes that were super comfortable, basic, and could go with everything else I'm bringing. This lead to me buying a fair amount of new clothes that compared to some of the crazier pieces in my closet are, dare I say it, boring. While at first I was sad that my traveling clothes were so not "me", I realized this was a good opportunity to add more basics to my closet and experiment with clothes I usually wouldn't take a second look at. Also, buying garments that are super soft jersey makes you not want to wear anything else ever again. 

I decided to put together a little list of all the clothes I'm bringing (which really isn't a lot). I'm also including links to the items (or similar items). One of the most interesting parts of shopping for my trip was how hard it was to find the clothes I was looking for. I had the image of the perfect blouse and the perfect sweater in my mind, but in practice, these garments were a lot harder to find. Even working in a clothing store, it took a couple weeks to sometimes find exactly what I was looking for. 

I hope this list can provide you with some ideas if you plan to travel in the future or just to add some great basic pieces to your closet.

The T-Shirt Blouse
This was one of the first pieces I had in mind when I started packing. It had to be in a neutral color (black, grey, white), flow, not wrinkle too easily, and provide a certain chicness despite the 90 degree (32 degrees celsius!) temperatures. I ended up buying two of these blouses, one in black and one in white. The black one is from Splendid and is made of a great, super soft cotton. While the white blouse (from Lovetree) is a little
sheer, it (as well as the black one) looks great with shorts or over one of the t-shirt dresses. 

The Classic Tank
The perfect piece to sleep in, wear on a hot day, or layer on a cool night. I love cotton ones that flow a bit at the bottom (this, this, or this).

The Going Out "Out There" Dress
I decided that to give my traveling wardrobe a little "pizzazz", I needed to include a few pieces that were more me. This Rachel by Rachel Roy dress is super cute, but also loose and flowy. It doesn't go with everything I'm bringing, but will be a great going out outfit. Sadly it's no longer available to buy, but here's a similar one.

The  More Than a T-Shirt
The first time I saw this t-shirt from H&M I fell in love. While technically a t-shirt, seeing that I'm only 5 ft tall, it is an acceptable dress length as well. I first bought it in a camo green, though after I found the same t-shirt in grey, I bought it too (and am bringing both on the trip!) It fits with all the bottoms I'm bringing as well as on its own or with a blouse layered over it. While I couldn't find the exact t-shirt online, I found a few similar ones (most are actually dresses!) Here's an H&M version and a similar ASOS t-shirt dress.

The Palazzo Pant
These were a last minute addition to my suitcase. I thought that I needed to bring another bottom that would be good for the plane rides (and layovers!) Palazzo pants are great because they are comfortable, breezy, and actually really cute. The pair that I'm bring are straight leg with a tie belt. ASOS has a lot of cute pairs (like these simple black ones or a more fitted version by Girl By Band of Outsiders). I also love these from Topshop.

The Sneakers
One of the hardest parts of packing was deciding on only two pairs of shoes that were "practical". I know I'll being doing a lot of walking and such and needed a pair of sneakers that were comfortable, but also not super touristy. I still had these Born shoes from a trip to France a few years ago and their classic shape and color made them a perfect fit again for travel. While they don't make those ones any more, these Converse are a great alternative. 

The Sandals 
I knew for my second pair of shoes I wanted a simple pair of leather sandals that also provided good support (view here). While these aren't the most stylish, the moment I stepped in them my feet were more comfortable than they've been in years (sorry Elizabeth and James platforms- I still love you!). Sometimes you have to give up style for practicality. 

The Jean Jacket
It gets pretty cool in Spain at night and a light jacket was definitely a most. I truthfully would have preferred a military inspired one (like this or this) because I feel it's more classic. A great Levi's jean jacket, though, is a pretty close second. 

The Leggings
Seriously. A long plane ride's best friend. I love American Apparel's

The Turtle Sweater
When I think of what I want to hide from everyone else on a long plane ride to try and get at least a few hours of sleep, this Nike sweater (in a different color here) is the perfect companion. It's a piece I've had for almost a year and I love dearly. It's cute in a sporty way while also being the most comfortable thing ever. Pro tip- pull the long cowl over your head and you can create your own little sleeping haven.

The Really Cute Bathing Suit
This goes without saying. Spain and beaches are made for each other. Practicality doesn't really matter in this area so I went with these American Apparel bottoms and this old Target top. I love the mixing and matching.

The Skirt That Flows
I have a really hard time describing the perfect skirt. It's flowy, but not too flowy and simple, but not plain and not too long, but not too short. The one that I'm bringing is a little vintage number, and I had a really hard time finding a similar one online, but I've included some options (ASOS and AA).

The Layering Sweater
This was one of the hardest pieces because it had to go with EVERYTHING. I got this Zara sweater when I was in L.A. earlier this year. It's light, but still is a good layering piece and can go over practically everything. Here is one good option from Zara.

The Not Your Grandma's shorts (or maybe)
I think a great pair of cargo shorts are the way to go when traveling. They aren't super in style right now (it took a while to find some good examples, but both these and these are really great). Despite this, I think they will always be good for traveling and look great with everything from a t-shirt to an oversized sweater. 

The Wear With Anything Scarf
Out of every piece of clothing I wrote about, this is probably the biggest necessity. A great scarf can transform the ordinary to ultra cool with just a few wraps. The endless possibilities (head wrap, belt, or neck scarf) make this versatile piece perfect for travel. Here are a few great ones (neutrals or muted patterns are best for traveling because they will go with a lot.) I love this one and this one


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Own Personal Jordan Catalano

We all have one. Our own Jordan Catalanos. Those boys who enter our lives and then refuse to leave. Their names are written in Sharpie on our Fruit of the Looms with a small speckling of hearts. They’re older, cooler, and have a certain nonchalance that makes them men among boys.

I first heard about the species known as Jordan Catalano the summer before my freshman year of high school. To prepare me for the next four years of torture, my parents decided it was time to watch the seminal 90s cult classic “My So-Called Life”. The show follows the life of sophomore Angela Chase as she navigates high school with a new group of friends. She faces many obstacles- family, teachers, friends, but both importantly, the irresistible love interest, Jordan Catalano.

I met my own Catalano that same summer, Max. While Max lacked the gruffness and rough edges of Angela’s love interest, to me he seemed as bad as boys got. I had gone to elementary and middle school with almost the same group of 20 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. It was difficult to find my male classmates attractive when I could still remember the days when we shared nap-time.

Max, though, was different. He was older, for one thing, probably 16 at the time, and had long, shoulder length hair. He was quiet and played bass. He was unassuming, though was beyond cool in my eyes. I would say we became friends that summer, but that would probably be an over exaggeration. He had his own friends and girlfriend, but it seemed like none of that mattered.

My closeness to Max became an “in” for me at a new high school among the other freshman girls. I quickly learned that despite our perceived closeness, I wasn’t the only one who saw Max as her own personal Catalano. While this could have easily lead to negative tension between us, our mutual affection helped us grow closer.

To us, Max was worthy of rock star adoration. We would analyze every wave and smile. Even a passing glance counted as evidence towards his true feelings.

I became close with two other girls named Gretchen and Nanni, both who shared just as strong feelings for Max. Nanni was quiet, but had enviable blonde hair and blue eyes. She never slept and constantly had bags under her eyes that added a certain amount of character. She didn’t speak much, but whatever she said packed a punch.

Gretchen, on the other hand, was the one I looked up to. She would always look chic with her long brown hair controlled in a tight chignon, something that was contrasted perfectly by her oversized 90s dresses that she wore over her black dance clothes. She was the first girl I ever knew to wear red lipstick and go to “real” parties. She only spent half the day at my high school and then the other half at a different high school with an elite dance program.
She seemed to always have something to do and was always going somewhere, though could always devote a few minutes in between classes to discuss a recent interaction with Max. When Gretchen wasn’t around I felt lonely and insignificant. I imagined her spending her afternoons doing pirouettes and plies while I sat in Geometry. I envied Gretchen mostly for her electric personality. She was infamous for her forward demeanor and inability to hold back, though it felt like everyone knew her, or at least of her. When I was with Gretchen, it felt like some of her popularity rubbed off on me.

Like many high school friendships, though, ours soon dissolved. While there were many factors that led to our separation, specifically a long-term divide between Gretchen and Nanni, it was Max that was one of the final straws. After cheating on his girlfriend many times with many girls, he eventually broke up with her. 

And now, it was at a party that only Gretchen was invited to that she finally got the chance to kiss Max. While this kiss never lead to anything serious between Gretchen and Max, the fact that one of us had finally kissed him lowered him from a god, to a mere mortal.

His availability made him ordinary and boring. The kiss seemed to leave no lasting impact on Gretchen and her indifference made us question what really made Max so great. There was nothing that interesting about obsessing over a boy who was not a man. Gretchen, Nanni, and I now had nothing to bond over and we soon attached ourselves to different friend groups.

Soon after this, Max transferred to an alternative school. I no longer saw him on a daily basis and he became a memory of my first few months in high school.

I ran into Max a few weeks ago, working as a waiter at a thai restaurant after not seeing him for a year or two. I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t flutter a little when I caught his glance as I sat down at the table and again when he came over to say hi.

Max will always be my own personal Jordan Catalano. He is a reflection on my first few months of high school; when I giggled by my locker and gossiped in the bathroom with the first group of high school girls I ever considered my friends. We were still caught in the whirlwind of high school, not ready to leave. We grasped on to everything and found meaning in nothing.

And as high school already begins to feel like a distant memory, I know Catalano will never leave, no matter how hard I try to shake him. Because somewhere, in the back of my mind, I’ll always dream he’ll ride up in his beat up car, ready to take me with him.