Sunday, July 15, 2018

Packing Up Our House For The Move To London

There's nothing like a move from the Far East to Western Europe to rethink one's entire wardrobe.

Magazines (remember those?) used to have regular features about dressing in Dallas vs. New York, or London vs. Milan.  Well, Hong Kong dressing is nothing like all of those.  Heat and humidity forbid jeans for most of the year, and tight clothes and winter coats are mostly out of the question.  After a few months western women who don't work in an office start wearing dresses most of the time, particularly in flowy fabrics like viscose or silk.  Men wear white shirts under their suits as pale blue oxford cloth is particularly adept at showing perspiration.  Local women working in offices look like consummate professionals in dark dresses and low heels.  Local tai tais (ladies of leisure) bring visual joy to the malls and streets in their impeccable haircuts and makeup and head-to-toe designer outfits.

The Landmark, one of the many luxury malls in Hong Kong, hosting a Louis Vuitton pop-up shop this week

I was at a party in London a few weeks ago, in a pretty new Sandro dress, but with a full face of make-up to cover up my tired eyes from an early morning flight.  I'd had an expensive blowout and used the dark red lipstick I bought after meeting Charlotte Tilbury (she thought it went well with my green eyes!!!!), and I'd lined my eyes heavily without quite achieving a smoky effect.  In Hong Kong I would have fit right in (here's an old post of an evening out in Hong Kong).

Hong Kong style often involves silk and some of the moment designer accessories

Sandro dress (HERE)
Dior shoes (HERE)

At this party, however, I was faced with a bunch of women (mostly British) in very casually expensive clothes but not a lick of makeup.  After a few minutes on a terrace surrounded by mirrored trellis, I felt more hot and uncomfortable than I've ever been in Hong Kong.  How could I have forgotten?  After all I lived and worked in London for ten years before moving to Asia.

Despite global economies, worldwide fashion available at a mere click, and social media connections to far flung locations, style still has well defined hubs.  London is different from Hong Kong, Hong Kong is radically different from New York, and Paris is an island (I say that because I think Parisian style is too classic when you take it out of Paris, but when worn by Parisian women amongst the beautiful backdrop of Paris, it's magic).  My fashion has slowly but surely adjusted to Hong Kong, and my wardrobe will likely scream tourist when I am in London.  The defiant girl in me doesn't care at all, but the party guest girl in me was dying to look the same as everyone else.

Iconic London evening style: vintage dress, messy hair, minimal make-up, one piece of jewelry only.  (although I am not sure how this translates on non-stunning regular people)

So what am I bringing to London?  All my Isabel Marant and Proenza Schouler clothes for sure, a beautiful velvet Masscob jacket I recently bought on Matches, all my ankle boots, linen T-shirts, grey jumpers, any cheap and cheerful long floral dresses I have (great with a chunky knits and tall boots), and jeans, glorious jeans.  I cannot wait to embrace year-round denim dressing again - I particularly love wearing glam shoes with jeans and jumpers (see this old post from September 2017).  Even the great Yves Saint Laurent loved jeans so much he wished he'd invented them.

What I am not bringing, however: complicated high heeled shoes, yellow and orange shoes or bags (too jarring under low grey cloud cover), anything with bright large patterns (although small flower prints are as British as the proverbial upper lip).  In London I prefer to bring subdued color into my outfits through timeless accessories.

Fiona Kotur for Swarovski ring

my daughter on the pastel streets of Chelsea

The future is looking lean, hopefully lean enough to fit in one of those tiny pastel colored houses with even tinier wardrobes off the Kings Road in Chelsea.  We'll be considered locals there, so no expat housing allowances, and no cooks or drivers (woe is me!).  I'll need to invest in basic sweats comfortable enough for hoovering, something I have not done for ten years.

Expat life has been such a treat and such a privilege, I am beyond grateful for my years here.  I have met so many wonderful adventurous people coming from all over the world try their luck in Asia.  Expats often form an instant bond, as we are all here without our extended families, and the friendships I have made here will always be important to me.

Just like the bare faced women at the party, Londoners won't be quite so welcoming to strangers, and that will be hard for sure.  Quite a few expats have told me when they returned home they soon started hanging out with other former Asian expats, even some they didn't actually know in Hong Kong.  I suppose it's the shared experience that brings us together.

Hong Kong is beautiful, even when covered in fog and cloud.

Two weeks left here in Hong Kong...

Hope you are having a lovely Sunday!  xxx Dianne

Friday, June 29, 2018

High Street Buy Of The Week Is From The Gap

On another really hot summer day in England I am thrilled I had walked into the King's Road Gap for some knickers the other day.  I came out with clean pants and some super cute velvet slides.  They were reduced to 10 Pounds by the time I got to the register.

Soooooo fun and gorgeous.  Really worth popping into the Gap for.

One night in England before our last month as expats in Hong Kong.

Country house style on the border of Warwickshire.

See you back in Hong Kong on Sunday!

xxxxxxxxxx   Dianne

Monday, June 25, 2018

Wise Words From A Professional Expat

There's a nice simplicity to summer dressing when the weather is fresh enough for sleeves and trousers.  I don't like going around in bare arms (even skinny arms become lumpy way earlier than one might expect) and imperfect bare skin always detracts from the clothes.  

 A very funny American friend of mine often says:  if you are a contemporary of Heidi Klum... but you're not Heidi Klum... you have no business wearing...  fill in the blank.

Riverwoods cotton blouse (sold out on website but still available in the Eindhoven store, and similar HERE, and HERE)
Urban Outfitters sunglasses (HERE)
Chanel shoes
Chanel bag
Zara jeans

I always feel I look very different when I am here in Holland.  I suspect it's because I am rooted here, rooted to my niece and nephew, aunts, cousins, the village, my old neighbors. While in Hong Kong I am a careless fashion and champagne loving expat, but here I am a former classmate who's turned 50 just like all the others, and a grown-up among very sensible and mature Dutch adults.

If you happen to be a reader who is considering becoming an expat somewhere, please don't hesitate for a second and go, because there is nothing more exciting than living in a brand new country, the more different from your own the better.

I would have never appreciated my parents' Dutch garden (simple pleasures) as much as I do today, had I not spent the last thirty years in New York, London, and Hong Kong.

Thank you for reading,  I am off to London again tomorrow.

xxx Dianne

Saturday, June 23, 2018

It's A Nineties Thing: Floral Dress And A Cardi (J.Crew and Uniqlo)

J.Crew dress HERE
Super old merino wool Uniqlo cardigan from my mum's closet
Nike Blazer sneakers (HERE)

In reality it's more of a weather thing.  Fifteen degrees at the moment in the south of Holland.  I can't wear anything I have packed without borrowing jackets or cardigans.

Hope your summers are sunnier and warmer wherever you are.


I also want to say thank you for your concerned messages after my Annus Horribilis post.  I agree with some of your advice that it's important not to get overwhelmed by things one cannot control.  

But just sitting back and pretending America's leadership has nothing to do with me is something I cannot abide.

My brave grandparents resisted the nazis by sheltering British soldiers in their home during the war, a war which became inevitable after years of appeasement of a dangerous authoritarian government.

There are plenty of small things all of us can and should do at this moment in history.  One of the reasons the American government stopped separating children from their mothers at the border is that private companies working with the administration spoke up and refused to be compliant.

Those private companies did so not out of the kindness of their heart, but because their customers demanded it.

Why worry about injustice in America, you may ask, rather than much worse-off places?  We should be concerned about inequality everywhere in the world, but if American democracy fails, oppression in less developed countries won't stand a chance of ever being squashed.

Ronald Reagan described America as a "shining city upon a hill" a beacon for all freedom loving people everywhere:

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

When that America actually exists in the world, every other country will ultimately become a better place to live.

I strongly believe that speaking out about wrongs today will make the world a better place for our children tomorrow.

Thanks for reading   xx Dianne

Friday, June 22, 2018

Summer Packing Fail: My Cousin And Mum To The Rescue in Holland

A vintage Chanel bucket bag from my mum's closet

A new chambray pleated skirt with matching tank from Riverwoods (HERE), where my stylish cousin Danielle is a buyer.

And more vintage from my mum's collection, some lovely Prada sandals.

I love that Europeans dress mostly in a classic way, and take really good care of the things they buy.  With oceans full of waste, it's so nice to revisit this traditional attitude to clothes:  what you buy is meant to last.

Family dinner in Roermond last night.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Floating past the London Mastaba and eating lots of mayonnaise

Floating on the Serpentine Lake and admiring Christo's spectacular London Mastaba (HERE and HERE)

This is surprisingly hard exercise when facing the British wind.

But luckily so many restaurants nearby where mayonnaise is always on the table.  I am home again.

My daughter and I are sitting down on grass at least once a day. This is a stop-and-smell-the-roses trip.

The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park (HERE), the best place to take off your shoes and cool down your feet.

Dior sandals (HERE)

J.Crew dress (HERE)

Old free tote from J.Crew which I brought because there were reports of street robberies where criminals were demanding people's designer bags!  So far I've felt very safe as usual.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Annus Horribilis

On January 20, 2017 I was acutely sure of one thing:  whatever happened I could not die for at least four more years.  I was hoping of course to have very many more years, but still the thought of dying before seeing decency return to United States leadership became a fear that paralyzed me.  The United States was after all the place I chose to live when I was 19 years old, the country that liberated mine from a devastating war, the country that taught the world about inalienable rights.

Kate's and Anthony Bourdain's deaths make me sadder than I could ever imagine.  I don't know Anthony, but he seemed like decency personified. Decency doesn't require piety, decency means trying to do the right thing whenever you can. We needed Anthony in this world. We needed him so much.

When I moved to America I was incredibly inspired by the young Americans around me at university. The people I encountered were hugely adept at determining right from wrong without bringing politics into their decision making.  I often wonder where all those beautiful citizens are now.  Are they in one political camp against the other, or are they still the confidently righteous people I once knew?

Since January of 2017 life has felt like an annus and a half of horribilis without hope or end in sight.  I feel so helpless I am turning to religion to help me through, even though I have considered myself an atheist for most of my life.

Deep Water Bay in Hong Kong

All I can think is:  in a world this beautiful, things will have to turn out alright at some point, right? 


Please tell me I am right.