My First-ever Capsule Closet

6 April 2020

I created my first capsule closet ever during this past week. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and well, what better time to get creative with one’s closet, than during lockdown. I must admit, it is far larger than any other blogger’s capsule I’ve ever seen, but hey, cut me some slack. This maximalist is trying! Here is my list of clothing I decided on for this first-ever capsule closet of mine:

Bottoms:

  • X5 pairs of jeans in varying shades and styles
  • X1 pair black cropped raw hemmed jeans
  • X1 pair of white cropped straight legged trousers
  • X1 beige tapered leg trousers
  • x1 pair pale blue linen joggers
  • x1 pair grey tracksuit/joggers
  • X1 blue/white patterned linen midi skirt
  • x1 black maxi skirt

Dresses:

  • X1 striped tee shirt midi dress

Tops:

  • X 3 tee shirts (navy, white, peachy nude)
  • x1 Cream knitted top
  • X1 patterned grey floral blouse
  • X1 Chambray shirt
  • X1 Beige/white striped shirt
  • X1 green/grey boucle 3/4 sleeve top
  • X1 paisley print pink/olive shirt
  • X1 short sleeved light blue Broderie Anglaise top
  • X1 pale blue/white striped long-sleeved tee
  • X1 black/cream peasant style top with flowy sleeves

Knits/Jackets:

  • X1 Beige lightweight knit
  • X1 Grey buttonless cardigan
  • X1 Navy Blazer
  • X1 Denim Jacket

I do believe I have given myself some good choices, and with this being my first ever capsule, I didn’t want to be tempted to go into my closet and sneak something out there. I have too many pairs of shoes to number, and although, at the beginning of the year, I did have a few pairs on my list, I am going to give it my best shot not to buy any more shoes at all this year. You will remember, I did buy three pairs for my daughter’s wedding, two last year, and after my major foot surgery in November, neither fit me in time for the wedding, so I did end up purchasing one pair of shoes specifically for that event, this year. But to date, it’s the only pair I’ve acquired. That’s quite a mean feat, as shoes are my downfall. I used to be able to buy 1-2 pairs per month! Speaking of shoes, here’s the list of footwear for this particular capsule.

Shoes:

  • X 1 pair white sneakers/trainers
  • X1 pair beige espadrilles
  • X1 pair slip-on black espadrilles with pearl detail
  • X1 pair slip-on grey shoes
  • X1 pair tan leather slides
  • X1 pair white leather slides
  • X1 pair navy leather criss-cross slides
  • X1 pair black slip-on sandals

In most parts of the Southern Hemisphere, we have entered the Autumn season. For the first time, honestly, in 11 years, we are experiencing cooler weather in the city I live in. It’s usually quite warm until mid-May. I am not complaining. Spring and Autumn are great times of the year. It’s not often I get to wear lightweight knits on their own, or closed shoes without my feet sweating. I am loving the rain too. It does wonders for cooling down the earth. One can’t help wonder if the minimised pollution, has had an effect on our weather and we’re experiencing Autumn as it should be. Whatever the reason, this is a fun time to dress.

I purchased this cream knitted top almost a year ago at the Vintage Square Thrift Fair. This is a second-hand clothing market that is held monthly here in Pretoria, the city I reside in. Matilda and I, have a pre-loved clothing store called Belle Whimsy, (@belle_whimsyclothing on Instagram). We rent a stall each month and sell our clothing at this market. The distressing of the jeans in the final pic, was done by me. I watched a YouTube hack and very bravely tried this hack on dark jeans. I love the fit of these jeans but am not completely happy with how they turned out. I don’t often reach for these jeans because of the distressing I did (I feel it wasn’t a great job), so I made sure to add them to this capsule. That way, if I don’t end up reaching for them in the next two months, which is for how long this capsule closet has been created, I can donate them to our store.

So far, I can see that I have chosen colours, tones and patterns that work well with each other. I am pleased with these few outfits I was able to throw together without giving them much thought. I think that’s the beauty of a well thought out capsule. All the pieces should go well together and the entire point of the capsule, is to simplify getting dressed in the morning. I do look forward to many more outfits I’m going to get to create during the next few weeks, and especially during this stay-at-home time, I won’t need to put any effort into thinking about what to wear. The added bonus is that I can’t be too slouchy as I haven’t added a ton of cosy wear, so I am going to have to dress properly each day (unless I choose to have a PJ day). I’m sharing a final pic with you of myself and my granddaughter. My husband took my pics this morning, and she was desperate to be included so we took a few off her and me. This is one of them.

Stay safe everyone.

Belinda xo

Japanese Boro Textiles

3 April 2020

https://www.japansociety.org/page/programs/gallery/boro-textiles

Most of us can remember our mothers or grandmothers mending clothes or at least you would have heard the stories. My mom often tells me how they had to repair their clothes by darning or sewing patches onto worn out garments. I can even remember her mending our clothes when I was little, but as time went by it became something to be ashamed of – you only repaired clothes if you were poor. Fast fashion made is very easy to replace clothes. You can afford to buy a dress of low quality, that looks tattered after a few wears and washes, and then replace it with another dress of low quality. And so the cycle can continue on and on. The big issue isn’t even the quality of fast fashion clothing, but of the cost to the earth and the people making the clothes. I think it is time to remember how to take care of clothes and how to keep them in our closets for longer.

In New York, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the Japan Society has an exhibit called “Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics” showing century-old garments suspended in mid-air. Boro, an over 200 year old handicraft, is the practice of mending or patching clothing. The term is derived from the Japanese word boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired. Hemp was more widely available in Japan than cotton and scraps of old hemp fabric were often pieced together into coats, gloves and blankets. These were made by repurposing carefully saved garment pieces and other handspun and indigo-dyed fabrics. They were sewn together as a patchwork built up from many layers providing extra warmth.

https://www.japansociety.org/page/programs/gallery/boro-textiles

Boro, then, wasn’t an aesthetic choice but rather a necessity for survival. The women who made these coats and blankets took whatever they had and transformed those things into functional items, and this sounds exactly like so many stories from all over the world. Women doing what they must with what they can find to take care of their families, and the result frequently ended up being beautiful as a byproduct of the process. This is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is a testament to their creativity.

For most of us maximising the life of our textiles is no longer a necessity. These same values, however, are making a comeback now that conservation of energy and resources is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. As we move into a new age of living more responsibly, taking care of the earth and one another, we can glean some style lessons from the designers of sustainable fashion.

Matilda xo

Sisters… Different Flowers from the Same Garden.

2nd April 2020

On holiday in Mozambique back in 2010

There is a saying that goes, “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” For anyone who has a sister or more, you will know this to be true.

Growing up, my sister and I didn’t share many things in common. Unfortunately, we were born into a rather dysfunctional family and we were exposed to unhealthy patterns of dealing with strife. In fact, strife was a constant in our home, and obviously, that filtered into all the relationships within our family. We were never really friends growing up. There was more rivalry than peace between us.

The two of us with our mother, in 2015.

We both got married to men, who in varying ways, represented aspects of our father. My sister married a man who was absent from her and her children’s life. My father was absent due to the war in our country while we were growing up, but he wasn’t a ‘present’ father when he was at home either. My sister, very much like my Mom, managed her family on her own.

My situation was a little different. My father was quite the overt abuser. Yes, I know that abusers usually come from abused homes themselves, but this post is not about my father. I married a man who was more a covert manipulator. So, although there were resemblances between him and my father, I didn’t see them until many years into my marriage, and more so, after I left that marriage.

When two sisters are not in good marriages, and they themselves don’t have a great relationship, they can’t really be there for each other. Growing up, we learned to pretend! We had a public ‘face’ that was far different from the truth of what we were going through at home. In our own unique ways, my sister and I, perpetuated the same behaviour in our own marriages. I suspected it wasn’t good for my sister, but whenever I asked her about it, she’d say this is what works for them. I was so deep in denial about any issues in my own marriage, that I never felt safe to talk to anyone about my pain. My sister was the last person I’d ever share anything with. We had mastered the art of wearing our masks well. Each of us presented as flowers that hid their beauty, afraid to shine in the light. We became content with sheltering in the darkness.

On another Mozambique holiday in 2013.

I left my first marriage in 2010. My sister was initially shocked, but I do believe that moving on, was a brave step which gave her the strength to come clean about her own dissatisfaction. At this stage, her husband had been living away from home, mostly in other countries, for almost ten years, with no plans of returning to South Africa. Talk about being different flowers. In both our cases, we felt that we wouldn’t be able to handle the other’s husband. We could see clearly what the other was going through, even though there was no communication of any sort between us. It didn’t surprise either of us, when we left our first marriages. I often wondered how my sister could’ve stayed so long.

Sisters and our Mom xo

Fast forward to today. We have come a long way, but it has taken immense inner work on both our parts. We have desired for many years, to have a bond that was naturally there. It isn’t always easy. We don’t always agree. Our perspectives on life vary greatly, but we know that this garden of life, deserves for both of us to shine. We can see more clearly now, the gifts the other brings to this dynamic. Both of us chose to bring our own daughters up differently. Our daughters share deeper bonds than we shared at their ages. That’s because of all the work we ourselves have done.

Neither of us apportion blame to our parents. They did the best they could with what they had. We too, made many mistakes with our own children and they have wounds to heal because of our parenting styles and choices. We’re not oblivious to the fact that our wounds have hurt them. But we do have better relationships with our own children. We choose to talk openly and allow our children the freedom to speak their mind about the hurts in their childhoods.

My heart is filled with gratitude, with love and with the deepest sense of satisfaction that my sister and I have chosen to walk a path to healing. We don’t always get it right. The physical distance has also helped, rather than be a hindrance. We’re passionate about building new and precious memories that are far different from those of our childhood. We are aware that this is a gift. I see my sister as a deep, red rose, with such intensity and insight, and I hope she can see the lily I am, with the fragrance and strength I bring to life.

We are indeed different flowers that are growing in this beautiful garden called family.

Belinda xo

Shared Experiences, Shared Joys.

31st March

In 2012, not even a full year after my husband and I had exchanged wedding vows, we took our family on a holiday of a lifetime to Zimbabwe. We have five children between us. He has twin girls, who were then 15 years old, and I have three children. I have two daughters and my last born is a son, who were 22, 20 and 11 years old respectively. We spent five days on this amazing houseboat, where we cruised to different islands on Lake Kariba. It was quite a luxurious experience and we thought that if we gave them this amazing experience, it would bring much joy and connectedness to our lives. Well, anyone who’s ever had to ‘blend’ families together, knows that a holiday in such close quarters, on a lake where no one can get off, for fear of being killed, literally, by crocodiles and hippopotami, understands that we actually set ourselves up for failure – or did we?

It started off well, with all the children getting along and we all, for the most part enjoyed the gentle ride on the boat. We had a crew that prepared brunch and dinner for us each day, so that took quite a load off of me. There was also never any cleaning up to do. It was simplistic, luxury and total bliss, at least where that was concerned. But day after day, playing cards on the deck, spotting animals as we passed islands, the forced interactions began to take their toll. My husband and I weren’t able to really have time to just ‘be’ without the kids. There wasn’t very much privacy, and I need my time away from people (and yes, that even includes my family), in order to recharge my introverted self. It took me about two days before I could sense myself begin to relax. We did eventually settle into some sort of rhythm that felt semi-normal, and where I could, perhaps not stop over-thinking each comment or gesture entirely, but at least begin to let things go and not take each perceived jibe, personally.

Exquisite, breathtaking sunsets

The evenings were spent mostly on the deck, with a drink in hand, perhaps a Margarita or a beer, and we drank in the incomparable sunsets and the stillness. Nature started to transmute her joy into our own experience. In time, we began to spend time just chatting and taking in the magnificent sights. I became aware of a deep, inner joy within myself, a profound knowing that no matter how far we still had to go, we would get there. We were going to be that step-family that makes it, that thrives regardless the challenges.

We had many experiences that we’d never before had. Our children attempted to fish for bream and tiger fish off the tender boat. Our captain took us out daily and our brood got better and better. My hubby and I joined in and these shared experiences were filled with a sense of accomplishment. My children hadn’t really had the opportunity of fishing before and I hadn’t fished since I was a child. The sheer elation of actually catching anything, regardless how small, was stimulating. We participated in friendly competition with each other. None of us ever caught a tiger fish, but the chef did prepare the bream for us on our second last night, as a crumbed, fried snack which we ate with our sun downer drinks that evening. Heavenly!

Each morning began with the captain starting our houseboat and moving us along the lake, to our next destination. Usually, by lunchtime, we would be at the new location and all the views would be different. Taking in all these glorious sights, was good for our souls – each one of us. Being able to be so close up with nature, her animals especially, was indeed sublime and surreal. We live in Africa. We’ve all seen wild animals, but never before were we so close to them that we felt we could reach out and touch them – and we truly could have done so, (to our detriment), but it was a possibility.

Experiencing all of this with our ‘new’ family, was special, but also, in the end, very necessary. At the start of our holiday, there was much trepidation, and to be fair, it was not all smooth sailing. We did have a serious fall-out between the twins and I, nearing the end of the holiday. But, at it’s core, this holiday set the stage for many beautiful experiences that followed. My husband and I, will share our 9th wedding anniversary this year. I cannot attribute it all to this early holiday, because each holiday since, has, in it’s own way, brought us ever closer as a family, but one things I understand more clearly now, is that shared experiences honestly contribute to shared joys. Are there shared sorrows too? You bet your life, there are. But what is life without risk? We have decided to continue to clock up many more shared experiences in our future too, because we know that it’s in sharing them, our relationships grow. This we also know, we might have come a good distance in cementing our family ties, but there is always room for improvement.

Belinda xo

Styling my daughter

When we heard that our country might be going into lockdown, we decided together with my daughter, that she should come home. She lives about 3 hours drive from us in the university town of Potchefstroom, and would have been all alone in her flat for 3 weeks. Her boyfriend already left for his parents’ home in Namibia earlier when we heard that the borders are closing. So, she had to pack for 3 weeks and she very kindly agreed to help me with a styling blog post.

Karla, getting ready for our photoshoot

She wasn’t quite sure what she had to pack, because the lockdown wasn’t announced when she left. Maybe she would need clothes for going out or visiting with old friends. She now says she wished she had packed more sweatpants and sweaters. Luckily for this blog post, she didn’t. She brought 3 bottoms, about 10 tops, sweaters and a few dresses. We decided to style the bottoms three different ways.

Just like her mom, Karla isn’t a big jeans fan, but she did pack one pair. She only has two pairs. She likes the outfit with the floral top best and I like all these looks, but the jeans with the peachy top is my favourite. Jeans are always such a versatile staple and must pack items when traveling.

Next, we styled her beautiful burgundy shorts. This time of the year we are always very uncertain about the weather. It will probably stay warm enough for shorts, although we had two cooler days because of rain. We both chose the outfit with the green knitted sweater as our favourite look.

Lastly we styled her gorgeous mauve wrap skirt. This maxi skirt is very flattering and suits Karla’s personality well. Both of us loved the striped top with this skirt.

With 3 bottoms and 8 tops, we created 9 different looks. It is just a shame that she won’t wear them and spend the next few weeks in sweats. Stay safe, stay home.

Matilda xo

Wearing Clothes that Matter.

27th March 2020

Styling a silky pyjama shirt from our pre-loved store, Belle Whimsy

When you see a title that says you should wear clothes that matter, what does that mean for you?

Let me share in a few short sentences, what that means to me.

  1. Wear pre-loved clothing: This matters to me because I feel that even though I’m being ‘fashionable’, I’m helping to keep clothes from landfill for longer. This is important to me.
  2. Repeat outfits: You can only repeat an outfit if you love it. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of what you buy. Only bring clothing into your closet that you really love, will rewear and that bring you joy.
  3. Know your style: When you know what your style is, you won’t be lured by the trends. If you’re sure of your style, you’ll purchase clothing that matters to you, and that will be part of your wardrobe for the long haul.
  4. Purchase quality of quantity: When you decide what truly matters to the environment, and purchase with awareness, you will choose clothing made from more sustainable fabrics. This may influence your budget, but instead of buying many ‘cheap’ items, you can decide to bring in one or two quality items into your closet.
  5. Take special care of your garments: In order to get extended wear from your items, it’s important to care for them well. If clothing matters to you, you will take the time to read the Care Labels before just throwing everything into the same wash cycle.
Wearing a pre-loved, silk shirt.

I am aware that as I persist along this Slow Fashion journey, I will become ever more mindful, and act, using wiser practices regarding my clothing spend. I am aware that this is only the beginning. There is so much more that we as a society can learn about being more ethical in our purchases, being more sustainable with our wardrobes, and being more deliberate in general. Maya Angelou said that we should, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

How do we do better? We keep educating ourselves.

Belinda xo

Lockdown Isolation

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

What do you write about when the world is grinding to a halt? Do you write about other things to bring distraction or do you focus on what is happening now? There is an outpour of tips on how to handle life in lockdown. How to keep the kids busy, how to stay healthy and fit, how to cope with the mental strain. And we are feeling the strain.

Yesterday I had my last almost normal outing before we go into lockdown tomorrow at midnight. My daughter and I went to the mall to get moisturiser and conditioner. It was more quiet than usual and at the checkout, markers taped to the floor, showed us where we should stand. Not too close.

We were buying normal items at our usual store, but it felt so surreal. Everything was almost the same. The hand sanitiser before you enter the store and one or two people wearing masks were the only obvious signs that normal was about to change. All around us people were talking more hushed than I’ve ever heard in our vibrant South African culture. When you walked by someone, you made sure that you gave them a wide berth and didn’t touch by accident. It felt toned down.

We need time to adjust and that is what we don’t have. This change was thrust upon us, not by government or war or recession, but by something invisible. We cannot come together and protest our dissatisfaction. Waving banners and demanding change has no power. We have to be apart to try and get a handle on this situation.

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Isolation is going to be difficult. Three weeks isn’t a long time, but when you don’t have choice and freedom, it will feel longer. As social beings we will miss interaction with some and miss not interacting with others. We are very fortunate that we can encourage each other via Whatsapp, Instagram and all the other online forums.

Social media seems to be the salvation, but I find that nothing captures my attention. Self-isolation isn’t always physical. To get myself out of my own mind, I am going to practice to be present. No hiding from reality, wishing that this was over already. Living through it as bravely as I can.

Matilda xo

Which Blazer works best?

23rd March 20

A simple white tee, and a pair of white skinny jeans as a base for a cooler, autumn day, are perfect. I know that at this time, we are not moving beyond our front doors, but just imagine you had a quick meeting with a client. The easiest thing to do would be to add a blazer. Obviously, finishing off the outfit with the right accessories and correct pair of shoes, makes all the difference.

So let’s take a closer look at these two outfits.

Navy pinstripe blazer with a pair of white, pointy-toed heels.

This gives the simple outfit an instant lift. The jeans are slightly cropped so the heels give the otherwise casual look, a more polished edge. The shorter length blazer works with the cropped jeans and I’ve given the tee a full tuck so it doesn’t peak out the bottom of the blazer. This helps to keep the outfit polished and business-like. Add to that a pair of silver hoops and a couple of rings, and you’re good to go. I didn’t bother with bracelets as you won’t see them and I left off the necklace because I buttoned up the blazer for a more serious look.

Lime, grey and off-white collarless blazer, with a pair of white sneakers.

In this second look, I did a French tuck with the tee, so although it is a little messier than the first, it lends itself more to the overall casual vibe of this outfit. I added a pair of sneakers. They can always work as long as they are not scuffed or dirty. I’m wearing the same hoops and rings, but added a necklace as this blazer doesn’t have a collar, so feels a bit less fussy.

Depending on the meeting you’re having, and which client you’re going to see, both these looks will work. They both look more elevated because of the addition of the blazer. It’s quite remarkable what a difference a blazer makes to an outfit – and it’s so quick and easy to change things up by adding one. Honestly, you could have endless options here depending on the style you were going for. A simple, classic white tee and jeans, works perfectly as a base for any blazer look.

Which is your favourite?

Belinda xo

Local, slow fashion brand – Me & B

Consumers, now more than ever, are curious about where their clothes come from and how they are made. We feel let down by the fast fashion industry. Inexpensive, mass produced and marketed fashion trends are contributing massively to the decline of our climate. The slow fashion movement attempts to be the cure. A sustainable fashion item is made in an environmentally friendly, ethical manner. From the initial low/no waste design, using sustainable sourced raw materials, ethical manufacturing processes, to green distribution. More and more fashion brands are aligning themselves with this sustainable supply chain.

Me & B is such a brand. This is a South African brand founded by a mother and daughter team. As a brand they support sustainable practices and fair trade. They aim to create timeless pieces that will appeal to all shapes and sizes. Their website states: fashion has no size (everything available from size 32 to 44). The feel of the brand is urban African.

Me & B’s designs are available online: https://meandb.shop/

I like the simple lines and statement patterns. I like the contemporary feel and the idea that I won’t be sharing the same style with thousands of other women. I like the feminine quality of the designs. But most of all I like that Me & B is a local, slow fashion brand.

Matilda xo