Ageless shopping: Modern Citizen

Having not blogged in three years—and having left New York—I worry that I'm a little out of it when it comes to new brands. I certainly felt that way when I read about Modern Citizen, a startup of sorts that Who What Wear called the new Zara—a statement that I don't necessarily agree with, but a bold one nonetheless. Modern Citizen was started as an e-commerce business by a former Gap employee, and over the last three years, has steadily built a solid following online. Last month, they opened their first brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco—they're based here too, adding to my shame of not having heard of them—so in the name of investigative journalism, I decided to check it out.

The store is on Union Street in Cow Hollow (also home to Anomie, one of my favorite boutiques, which started online as well); it's not large, but it's also not overwhelming (Zara difference #1), and the shop girls are lovely. As for the clothes, they're mostly neutral in color, and the style is minimalist-with-a-twist—think drapey details, interesting seams, and architectural cuts. The selection is well edited and trend-aware, but not at all fashion victim-y (Zara difference #2); prices are mostly below $100, and while there is a significant amount of synthetic fabric, quality is generally pretty great. Most importantly, the clothes are flattering and age-appropriate (Zara difference #3). Here are some of my favorites.

Tie-back tops are a big trend happening with style bloggers; most of them are so open in back, however, that wearing a bra is out of the question. Not so with this tie-back sweatshirt—I tried it on, and the cutout is subtle enough to camouflage both flaws and straps.

I also tried on the Eiko boyfriend trousers, for comparison to the pair I tried on at Madewell, and found these superior in terms of fit and fluidity. They're actually quite flattering in person and comfy too—which might have something to do with the strategically placed elastic in back.

I loved the look of the Kellyn slip dress—it reminded me of the "naked dress" Carrie wears in Sex and the City—and the fabric was a pretty good approximation for silk. One thing to note: like Zara (finally a similarity!), Modern Citizen's sizes run small-medium-large, and in certain cases, as with this dress, you may find yourself in between sizes.

I also loved the Sylvie crossback sweater—it's the perfect thing to wear with high-waisted and/or wide-leg pants, and it's also bra-friendly. I'd advise against trying it on with the Eiko trousers above, like I did, as I was treated to the sight of my back fat when I turned around, and nobody needs to see that.

I thought this cape sweater was really cool, but I didn't try it on, because I was super hot from my walk to the store, but I think it would be perfect for that weird fall-transitional weather. The horizontal ribbing is something you don't see very often, but it's unexpectedly flattering.

Speaking of flattering, I also should have tried on this cross-front blouse, but now that I'm realizing it's polyester, I know why I didn't. If poly doesn't make you sweat, this would make a great layering piece, especially for wearing to work.

Finally, this camel wrap coat wasn't yet in the store during my visit, but it will likely warrant a return trip—it's exactly what I've been looking for and looks like the perfect weight for San Francisco (where summer can be as cold as winter).

As I mentioned earlier, the service at Modern Citizen's store was fantastic (they sent me a thank-you email for my purchase). Not only do they hold in-store events, you can make an appointment for a one-on-one consultation or even host a private shopping party. So, who wants to join me?

What to wear to wine country

One of my favorite things about San Francisco is that you can get out of it quickly. After living in New York for years—where trains, buses, and even boats were required to take you mere miles away—I love that you can drive for 30 minutes and be in a completely different climate, which is pretty much necessary in August, when the city is constantly blanketed in fog (we call it Fogust). If you follow me on Instagram (and you should!) you know that I make frequent weekend trips to wine country; in less than an hour, I can be outside in the sun with a glass of rosé in my hand, and that is just perfection.

Over my four (!!!) years living here, I've gotten my wine country outfit down to a science. It involves the following:
1. A cute dress
2. A light jacket or sweater to keep you warm on the drive out of the city
3. A hat and sunglasses (must shield one's pale office-dwelling skin from the sun)
4. Low-heeled sandals for rocky and/or hilly terrain; bonus if they slip off for picnics

I'm wearing several of my favorite pieces of the moment. This sweater (sadly sold out!) is from Modern Citizen—a store so great, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post on them—and I've been wearing it nonstop. I love this dress because you can eat (or drink) as much as you want, and it's loose enough that you can't tell; it also has a really flattering hemline that's lower in back and not scandalously short in front.

As for the bag, I impulse-bought it a few weeks ago, and I don't think I've ever received more compliments on a purse, especially from men. It's really lightweight; I got the small size because the large felt a bit too large, like I was carrying a picnic basket.

Nearly every design magazine has covered them recently, but Scribe is the first winery I joined as a member, and I hate to refer anyone else there since it's always a madhouse, but it's one of the most magical places in Sonoma (it's where I conceived #sundaywinechurch) and their wines are delicious. I also recommend Larson Family Winery—it's a completely different experience, but their wines are tasty and reasonable, everyone who works there is incredibly friendly, and it's a great place to hang out for a few hours or all day.

OUTFIT DETAILS: Sole Society Panama Hat || Modern Citizen Ofelia sweater (sold out, sadly!) || Topshop T-shirt dress || Cult Gaia Ark bag || Raen Durante sunglasses || Madewell Greer sandals (sold out; similar here) || Rachel Zoe tassel bracelet (similar here) || Hermes Clic H bracelet || HappyWay Jewelry X-ring

Right down the road from Scribe is Domaine Carneros, which is where I like to go when I want to feel fancy. A wise woman taught me, too, that a proper way to start a day in wine country is with bubbles. Also, I'd like to note that temperatures in Napa reached 107 degrees on the day these photos were taken; I was wearing a denim jacket that I shed by 10 a.m. because it was already that hot (and yes, we like to start drinking that early). And when it's hot, we drink rosé.

This dress, sadly, is from last year. I bought it in Nice, France, from the most typically chic French woman you can imagine. It's incredibly lightweight and comfy, but chic too, and I always feel like I'm on vacation when I wear it.

There are a gazillion amazing restaurants in Napa, but our latest find is The Charter Oak, which had catered the fancy party I was at last weekend. It's by the same team behind The Restaurant at Meadowood, which has three Michelin stars (and like five dollar signs), but it's much more casual and the perfect stopping point for a midday refueling. Also, it has this very Instagram-friendly spiral staircase.

OUTFIT DETAILS: Etoile Isabel Marant dress (similar here)  || Raen Durante sunglasses || Cult Gaia Ark bag || Minnetonka Savona Sandals || Rachel Zoe tassel bracelet (similar here) || Hermes Clic H bracelet || Stella & Dot arc pendant, Signet ring || Chanel scarf (similar here)

Ageless beauty: Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum

When I was a kid, I used to sleep over at my grandparents' house on my parents' date nights. Sure, I loved the generous Neapolitan ice cream sundaes and being allowed to watch The Golden Girls, but a highlight for me was observing my grandma's nighttime beauty ritual. In retrospect, it was pretty simple—she removed her makeup with Pond's Cold Cream, then followed with Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair—but it instilled in me two critical points that have stayed with me to this day: 1) always take off your makeup at the end of the day and 2) moisturize the living crap out of your skin. My grandma was in her 80s but looked maybe 60; her skin was smooth and translucent. The woman knew what she was doing.

Over the years, I've added a few steps to my routine, but whenever my skin starts acting up (I am very dry and my skin will flake in sheets when it's upset with me), I always go back to point number two and that seems to solve the problem. That said, I am always up for trying a new moisturizer, particularly one that gets glowing reviews in Into the Gloss, Racked, my favorite I decided to pull the trigger on Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum.

Let's get this out of the way: it's $185. Yes, that is a lot of money. Yes, you can probably find something nearly as good for a lot less. But in my experience, that's pretty on par with a lot of luxury anti-aging creams and oils, and considering Vintner's Daughter is 100% natural, I decided it was worth the investment. That is, if it delivered the same results for me as it did for everyone else on the freaking Internet.

I've been using Vintner's Daughter for two months now, and my conclusion is that the hype is real. My skin is soft and glowy, I haven't had a pimple or flaking, and the only makeup I need is a touch of concealer under my eyes. More importantly, it has greatly simplified my morning routine—instead of a hydrating mist, serum, and moisturizer, I just use Vintner's Daughter (I keep wanting to abbreviate it to VD but that's gross). The one catch is that applying it is a bit of a process, and following the instructions is key—you warm it up in your hands, then "push-press" it into your skin for 60 seconds, a massage-like technique that probably helps to boost circulation and thus contribute to that glow you're getting. Also, with 22 active ingredients, it has a distinct scent that I like (it smells like rich ladies) but that some might not. And bonus: the founder is from a winemaking family in Napa, so...well, I don't know what the bonus is, but I love wine, so there's that.

Here's how it fits into my routine:

Step 1: Exfoliate with Biologique Recherche P50 (I don't wash my face in the morning)
Step 2: Vintner's Daughter
Step 3: Pat on Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado  (I've been using this for years)
Step 4: Finish with sunscreen (I've been using Drunk Elephant Umbra, but it's not my favorite)

Step 1: Cleanse with Biologique Recherche Lait U or Koh-Gen-Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloths if I'm feeling lazy and/or drunk
Step 3: P50 again (also skipped if I'm lazy/drunk)
Step 3: Vintner's Daughter
Step 4: Kiehl's Avocado again

What to wear to Concours d'Elegance

What to wear to what? Concours d'Elegance is a week-long vintage car show in Pebble Beach, California—stick with me, ladies—and while the main event involves the man in your life drooling over a $20 million Ferrari 250 GTO, I agreed to go for the people-watching and the parties. The former runs the gamut from middle-aged men in windbreakers collecting sponsor swag to Botoxed trophy wives looking bored while their husbands make seven-figure bids on trophy cars. As for parties, I can only imagine what the high end of the spectrum is like, because we somehow ended up in the Carmel Highlands at the Cadillac House and for a couple hours, I got to pretend I was in an episode of Big Little Lies, minus the domestic abuse.

We took in the views, we lounged by the pool, we ate (free) lunch from the Charter Oak in Napa—which was so good, we're going there for brunch next weekend—and then I discovered the Jason Wu pop-up in the library. It's not as totally random as it sounds, as Cadillac's Escala comes with a set of Jason Wu luggage, but since the bags were largely being ignored by the (majority male) party attendees, I decided to borrow one for a few shots because a) they're simply gorgeous, b) they were much nicer than the one I was carrying that day, and c) when an opportunity like this presents itself, you seize it. Literally.

As for the rest of my outfit, this dress is an oldie but a goodie—it's breathable, it's flattering, and it looks great with or without a belt (I love a little status symbol in my accessories, particularly when I'm trying to blend in with people who have too much disposable income). The sunglasses are my new favorite pair, and the sandals are one of the most comfortable pairs I own, which is important when you're walking 14,000 steps, as I did.

OUTFIT DETAILS: Gap shirt dress (similar here) || Gucci belt || Jason Wu Mini Saddle Bag || Sam Edelman Trina sandals || Quay Australia After Hours sunglasses || Stella & Dot Trevally necklace, abundance necklace, pavé cuff, open wave cuff, signet ring, X-ring

This is the house, by the way—it's on sale for $10 million, in case you have a little extra change left over from the car auction.

Can I still shop at Madewell?

Madewell launched in 2006 (or 1937, as they'd like you to believe) and though it's still smaller than their sister brand, J.Crew, to me, it's the far superior place to shop. (And I'm not alone.) I haven't felt compelled to shop at J.Crew for several years, but Madewell just keeps getting it right: collaborations with cool brands like Daryl K and Sézane, on-trend but not fashion-victim pieces, and generally good quality at the right price. That said, the vibe is more casual and definitely more millennial, and sometimes Madewell can veer into twee territory—ruffles, flounces, pithy statements—which, at my age, I'm actively trying to avoid. So the question is, can I still shop at Madewell?

This is the embroidered dress that drew me into the store; I saw it in an email Madewell last weekend. Apparently so did a lot of other people, because I'm wearing a small, which was the largest size they had in stock. The body was perfect but the arms were a bit snug; this is a frequent problem for me at this store.

I own several dresses from Madewell and they all kind of look like this. They're great for summer...which in San Francisco lasts about two months and happens in fall (go figure). This eyelet dress was on sale for $99.99. which seemed a bit much, but now it's down to $69.99, which is darn tempting. I'm wearing a medium in the above photo and think I need to size down to a small.

I also own a few tops like this embroidered peasant top. I loved the fit (I'm in a medium again) and the cotton was nice, but it was a bit sheer and, at $98, a bit pricey.

I saw this loop-edge pullover when I first walked in and decided to try it on, immediately breaking the busty girl's first commandment: thou shalt not wear fringe on top. This was not flattering on me, and the yarn was kind of weirdly textured. I'm wearing a small, which was boxy in the body but too small in the arms (see?).

I feel like wide-leg cropped pants have been happening for awhile, and I've been wanting to try a pair, even though I'm kind of afraid of them. As you might have guessed by the model's odd stance, they're hard to photograph well, but they're not unflattering. I'm not yet convinced that I need a pair, but at $68, I thought these were pretty reasonable. Unlike Madewell's excellent jeans*, these appear to run true to size—I'm in a size too small in the photo, so please excuse my FUPA.

I had a Madewell chambray shirt several years ago and I wore it so much, it became threadbare in several places. This chambray ex-boyfriend shirt seemed like a good replacement until I tried it on in two sizes and both gave me the dreaded boob-gape. I'm in a medium, the larger of the two, and it's hard to tell from the photo, but I'm swimming in it.

I liked the cleaner look of the previous style but this chambray oversized ex-boyfriend shirt fit much better (maybe it's the key "oversized" part) and in a size small, at that. Sold! But that does bring me to my biggest pet peeve about Madewell, which is that most of their clothes are small-medium-large sizing and as someone who falls between two sizes, I'm constantly trying to guess which one I am (and it changes style by style). Of course, the reason retailers does this is because it saves a lot of money—fewer sizes mean they can produce more of each and hopefully pass on the cost savings to the customer. But because of this sizing uncertainty, it makes Madewell one of the rare stores that I prefer to shop in-person rather than online.

But the question is, can I still shop at Madewell? 

With 6/8 items I tried on ranging from not bad to pretty cute—and I bought the ex-boyfriend shirt—my conclusion is yes, as long as you avoid fringe and frills.

*Madwell's jeans are incredibly flattering, really comfy, and a great deal. I own several pairs, so keep your eyes peeled for them in upcoming posts.

Ageless outfit: a kimono and jeans

I'd like to personally thank whoever decided pajamas are in fashion. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time in her bathrobe, the idea of wearing one all day makes me feel all hygge inside. (Is it too early to be talking about hygge? Too late?) Of course, this is fashion, so the below is called a kimono, not a bathrobe. You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to. I found the below image on Pinterest; the woman in the photo is a German blogger named Aylin Koenig, and while her bio says she's a business student, she also has 258,000 Instagram followers and quite the collection of Gucci handbags, so I hope you're feeling very accomplished too. And while I'm assuming she's in her 20s, her outfit is perfectly ageless. Let's recreate it for less than your monthly mortgage payment.

The kimono
I'm fairly certain she's wearing one from Zara (I spotted it on more than one fashion blogger this spring), but the Aster Floral Kimono is a great option from Anthropologie (bonus: the print reminds me of Christmas).

The tee
All you need here is a classic V-neck tee, and my personal favorite is Everlane's Cotton V, which is a wallet-friendly $15. Size up for a looser fit.

The jeans
Have you been looking for a pair of Mom Jeans that doesn't actually look like mom jeans? The answer is Levi's 501 Frayed Hem Jeans.

The trench
I'm guessing there's some sort of trench situation happening back there, and, again, I think you can't go wrong with Everlane's Drape Trench Coat.

The bag
Hey, did you know Reed Krakoff is now selling bags at Kohl's? They look almost exactly like his designer line, and they're a tenth of the price! Masstige lives on! Anyway, I like the REED R40 satchel in this more neutral colorblock design, and at $45, it's a sweet deal.

The shoe
They're not Gucci Marmont loafers, but these Aerosoles Best Girl slides are almost as cute (and at least a bit easier on the wallet). Bonus: they kind of look like slippers, thus completing the pajama circle.


Well, hello again

It's been awhile. Nearly three years, to be exact. I've had lot of...personal stuff happen in that time, although that's not why I stopped blogging. I think I was a little tapped out in more ways than one, and having left New York, I didn't feel the need to work work work work work all the time. I needed a break, so I took one.

But speaking of work, I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm doing (which I enjoy) and where I'm going (god only knows) and whether I've found my purpose in life (um...). You see, I'm turning 40 in approximately six months, I'm halfway through my career, and I'm having all kinds of existential crises, including should I get bangs? So a few weeks ago, Cheryl Wischhover (who is awesome not only because she's named Cheryl but because she's also from Chicago and a great writer) wrote this story on Racked about how watching Younger made her realize that, as a fortysomething woman, she has no idea what to wear anymore. And just like that, I had an epiphany.

I don't know what to wear anymore either. Parts of my body have shifted to different places, and I haven't even had any kids. Skirts are too short, heels are too high, and too many things just make me look like I'm trying too hard. Lace and ruffles look childish, too much distressing looks teen-angsty, and let's not even talk about crop tops or cutouts. That said, I'm not yet ready for linen tunics, elastic waistbands, and statement jackets. To paraphrase Other Cheryl, what do you wear when you're too old for Forever 21 but too young for Chico's?

I'm back to answer that question. I'm going to shop my heart out, try stuff on, put together outfits, make my poor boyfriend photograph me in them (bless his heart), and hopefully provide you with ideas and inspiration. I'm not going to tell you what not to wear, but rather show you what I feel good wearing. Hopefully you won't tell me I look like a cow. While I'm at it, I'll also tackle health, beauty, and general life stuff happening to women our age, because if Gwyneth Paltrow can do it, so can I.

So, should I get bangs?