The Point Of You When There Is No To Do, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:54am

I often think life should be lived backwards. I’m not thinking of Youth is Wasted on the Young, or Everyone Should Get a Divorce Before They Get Married, although both those ideas can be true.

No, I’m starting to wonder whether everyone should retire before they start their career.

One morning during my quarterly Privilege blog break, I picked up my lined yellow pad, crossed out To Do, and wrote instead, Things I Might Choose To Do. Then all day I tried to ask myself before everything, “This?”

I’ve been planning and resulting my entire life. My work motto was, “Always Be Closing,” taken from David Mamet’s play, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” I can’t tell you how many outfits, trips, and Thanksgiving dinners I’ve planned, down to the 15-minute increments required for making of mashed potatoes and gravy.

This last week, with no blog posts to write and, for a few nights, not even a husband to feed, I was clearly in a position of choice.  And yet I made lists. I wrote down things like Clean The Kitchen and Return Levis. Finally I tried to plan my children’s lives. Luckily they are considerate and loving people who know how to accept an apology.

So at last, one day, it might have been Wednesday, I put aside the list. And found myself outside, in my side yard, taking the time to hand water a few new plants. I looked up. It was a beautiful California morning, the sky blue like it had melted to the color, the sun warm on cooler air. A breeze at the edges. Awe, joy, wonder, bliss, all of it swelled in what I have to call my heart because I cannot locate another source.

Northern California Rapture

Even though it’s just a corner of my house – with regular telephone lines, sky, and trees – when I subtitle this blog, “The raptures of living” that’s what I mean.

Technically, when I was a young woman in Manhattan, I could have looked up from, say, Central Park. I had received my initial inheritance. I wanted for nothing. But back then anxiety would have overshadowed rapture. I must be a data point in someone’s experiment about self-created fears.

How much of the anxiety endured when young do we create for ourselves? Maybe unavoidable? Maybe – in privilege at least – the unknown bears as much responsibility as much as the exigencies of survival? We have to build constructs about the world then hustle forward towards self-taped finish lines. Out of breath.

If I could bottle up how I felt in my back yard this week, and give it away at street fairs, I would. It’s not surprising that one can enjoy retirement. “News flash! Middle-aged woman feels happy in garden!” But the only material difference between now and Central Park is a bunch of stuff I know. Stiffer joints. And peace in my relationships.

I’m not yet the Buddha, trailing inner peace. My To Do has outlived its usefulness by years. But the impetus is shifting.

What might I have done without self-created anxieties, when young? I admit, some worries are real. Life requires work, and failure is scary, and all that warrants nervousness. But the stuff I made up? My To Do lists based largely on imagination?

Ah well. Regret nothing. Only resolve to recognize the privilege of the moment. Only resolve to start afresh from the authentic. Only resolve to say, “Hey life, thanks for the raptures. You did good.”

Only resolve to make sure you know what is the point of you when there’s nothing To Do. Then, probably, go Do something.

What If Stacy And Clinton Came Back, Took Your Clothes, And Gave You $5000?

How would you put together a wardrobe on $5000? I saw that Stacy London’s on TV again. Clinton’s been back for a while.  So I thought it might be time to have a What To Wear extravaganza of our own. We don’t do shame here, so we’ll leave out the Not. My take.

Elegant capsule wardrobe


How About A Little Look At The Reasoning?

  • Necessaries. Fancy underwear is great and all, I’ve owned my fair share of fancy Swiss cotton, but at the end of the day Target is my source of choice. As I’m small/medium-busted, they can even supply my bras. I wear flannel PJ bottoms to write – why not zebra stripes?
  • Workout & Swim. Here in California, where one can easily spend successive days by the pool, we need 2 bathing suits. One bikini (Thanks to Stiletto Jungle) for the days when I love the sun, one Land’s End shaper for the days I do not love my midriff. And workout gear is non-negotiable, but I’m OK with cheap Champion from Target. I’m so proud of myself for exercising that I require no image-augmentation from my sweaty clothing.
  • Outerwear. Northern California requirements are clear – we want water resistance and room for layers underneath, we don’t need industrial-class warmth. A field jacket and a lined trench would be my bare minimum.
  • Day Clothes. 95% of the tops I wear are t-shirts from either UNIQLO or J. Crew. The key for extreme casual style is color, color, color. I wear neutrals and blues, sometimes adding a stripe of a complementary or contrasting color with a layer. And I have realized good sweatshirts now get more use than my beloved cashmere sweaters. So I just might splurge on this expensive Kenzo number. (Mater has one of his scarves…)
  • Night Out. There is absolutely no room in a $5000 wardrobe for the kinds of dresses I used to enjoy. No Prada, no Narciso, no Dries. No Lela Rose. What to do? I think I might buy a dress from Siri, in a perfect fabric, in the perfect color, and wear it so often it became my signature. I think I’d be happier with that than multiple cheaper department store dresses. For non-dress dressup, I’d stick to dark wash boot leg jeans, (happily inexpensive!) a black linen-cotton sweater from Brora,  and edgy comfortable shoes a là Une Femme and Duchesse.
  • Accessories. Those who can wear costume jewelry survive this category much better than I do. Needing precious metals, I chose a reasonably priced pair of gold and diamond hoops, and some interesting lavender pearls. The bag is Village England, a brand I learned of via That’s Not My Age. It’s logoless. Booyah! And a pretty colored cashmere beanie from Brora matches the requisite Etro scarf. Another case of picking quality and allowing it to become your signature.
  • Shoes. Turns out, we women buy a lot of shoes not because we are fetishists but because we know instinctively that shoes can make an outfit. I like comfortable modern footwear, with a little attitude. Nikes, Vince, Birkenstocks, Havaianas (lavender!). And, again, no more Louboutin, Caovilla, or Choo. To dress up, I’d go for a pair of generic satin heels, in a fun color, with a bow. Paired with the Siri dress, memorable. And I could buy new pairs of shoes in a different color for future events. At $79/each, doable.

What I Had To Give Up And A Brief Summary Analysis

Technically, Stacy and Clinton never threw away people’s underwear, jewelry, handbags or workout gear. So we could repurpose those budget amounts, stick to the concept, and augment this very sparse list. What would be the next items, or the next upgrades to items on the list? I have a few candidates. You probably have others.

  1. I’d want a casual blazer. Something to wear with jeans for polish.
  2. I’d miss my Comme des Garçons fierce heart tee, would probably replace it.
  3. In making this list, I thought I wanted this Michelle Mason $600 raincoat, but I realize that’s for my pretend, swash-buckling life. In reality, I’d go for a motorcyle jacket, leather or canvas.
  4. Since I’d be keeping my jewelry, I wouldn’t need a 3rd pair of earrings (which would have been semi-precious chandeliers) or a necklace. Or a watch.But those are very necessary parts of my wardrobe.
  5. My beloved Valentino Tangos. With this budget, one has to rely on one’s own creativity for impact – there is little room for extraordinary pieces.
  6. Rain boots. In the California drought, I forget.
  7. More tee shirts. More pajama bottoms. More shoes. Probably even more shoes.

But no new category. Once you find a happy style, (for me, Extreme Casual/Polished Tomboy,) you stick to it, no matter your budget.

And with that, I’m off for the usual Quarterly Privilege Break. See you in a week(ish), with new posts, but I look forward to your thoughts on the $5000 wardrobe and chatting with you below.


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Why I Still Call This Blog “Privilege,” Or, Saturday Morning at 9:07am

When I listed my daughter’s ballet shoes on eBay, I was reminded that my user name in many parts of the Internet is Amid Privilege. You know how that happened. I started this blog as a way to explore and articulate my as-yet-unnamed family culture, to integrate it with my blurt-it-all out, notice-every-iota, feel-all-the-feels temperament. I had my reasons, as they say.

In those early days, I wrote in a voice from my past, the imperious tones of older female relatives. Then, as it became clear that the artifacts and aesthetics of that culture were most interesting to readers, I began to write about style. This dovetailed quite nicely into my 2011 back-to-work project, since, lo and behold, I had to wear clothes. Cue the outfit posts. So fun.

Now we’re on to full lifestyle blogging. Martha Stewart meets Jacques Derrida. Kidding. But the joint’s still called Privilege.

The other night I heard my stepmother speak about her childhood. She was born in Germany, during the war, and emigrated at 5, her mother having divorced her German husband to marry an American soldier. This is a story worth telling. Meaning hangs on bare facts. The pain of war, the fraught role of women, the experience of immigrants in America. The word “father.”

I found myself wondering, what would I say, if ever I found myself at a podium with an audience and an hour? Not that I’d be at a loss for words, they gurgle in my throat at the ready. But what would I say that mattered? I imagine bunting on the hills above Darjeeling, fluttering –  there’s a pattern if one can but see it.

So I leave Privilege up top. If I changed the name I’d call it Kindness. Because if I find underlying meaning in my life experience so far – that’s it. If the world makes sense, when we grow up in privilege and we are not harmed, we will become kind. Our striving to Get will lead us to Give. Otherwise we’re all going to hell in a handbasket and I refuse.

Kindness can’t be legislated. Can’t be theorized. Shame gets us only so far. I believe that people are naturally good but I concede that even in privilege people get damaged – grow up sad or angry or in need forever. If we fail to heal ourselves we can’t follow what I optimistically believe is the natural course.

So take the time and thought to parent kindly, remember that supermarket clerks are human and deserve courtesy, keep your hand off the horn. It’s all hard and if you find yourself unable, you’re probably tired.

Be then kind to yourself.

It’s possible I rely too much on my family as proof that people are good. Please excuse my pride, in advance. Nobody’s perfect. But they work in the service of knowledge, social or personal. Everyone’s trying or has tried to give.

And my stepmother, who, when asked what she had learned in her retelling and repicturing of her past, said, “I was a coward.” She must in fact have been heartbreakingly brave. In the context of her story, she meant she did not search for her German father, didn’t see him until he reached out decades later. But still, once safe from war, to look back and wonder how one could have done better.

Not to blame the world. That’s kindness.

If I’m wrong, if there’s no correlation between privilege and good behavior, why then is the world getting better, overall? So let’s say I’m right. Let’s say people are basically good. Let’s say our main job in parenting is to do no harm. Let’s say that every little bit counts. And let’s admit that when we are lucky we owe it to the very idea of humanity to be worthy of our good fortune.

It’s hard to go by Amid Privilege. In counterpoint, I write on my Twitter profile, “I try not to be a jerk.” I imagine there are many who land on this blog, see the title, and depart in haste. But Privilege is the truth. And truth demands we keep our feet on the evident path.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Time is a privilege and a kindness both.


Keeping A Resolution At Last, Also Known As, Pointe Shoes For Sale


Time to check off of my New Year resolutions. Wait. Some among you may remember vaguely but correctly, I made none this year. I’m talking about resolutions from 2014. What?!? I am a wholehearted believer in better late than never.

I had vowed to learn eBay. Alicia Kan gave us an amazing guest post on how to do it. I had planned to sell my old clothes there, and my daughter’s rare, vintage, unused pointe shoes. When it became clear that I could not easily find volunteer work that fit with my other projects, I decided to conflate fashion, charity, and the blog. I have been giving most of my clothes to the American Cancer Society boutique in town.


But I still owed my daughter, and my conscience, a sale of the shoes. So, tomorrow, up on eBay they go. Here’s the product listing:

Unique, hard-to-find, vintage pointe shoes

This lot includes 9 pair of vintage Freed DV Wing C pointe shoes, one pair of Blochs, and a box of Freed and Bloch elastics. Shoes are all new-in-bag, all size 4.5XX. All were bought at San Francisco’s SF Dancewear in 2003. As dancers know, each pair of Freed shoes is marked by its maker. These Freeds include 4 pair from the “Square” maker, 2 from the “Taurus”maker, 1 each of “R,” “Q,” and “”V.” All the Freeds are pale pink, the Blochs are pale gold/peach.

Here’s the history of the shoes. My daughter used to dance seriously. The spring before she was set to attend ABT’s summer intensive in New York, she got injured. These shoes were bought in anticipation of a heavy pointe schedule that never materialized, and have been sitting in her closet ever since. That was 12 years ago. We have 10 pair of shoes for sale, the entire lot can be purchased as one for the next 7 days. If the lot is not taken, I will then list each pair separately, at a higher starting price.

This is my first and probably only sale on eBay, but if you would like some information about my online trustworthiness, a link to my 6-year old blog can be found in my profile.”

Oh, and if any readers want to give me suggestions for the listing, I’m all ears.


I’ll be pricing the entire lost at a starting bid of $350. Buy Now for $450. Similar shoes apparently sell for up to $55. Note that one reader, back in 2014, bought a pair to hang on her daughter’s wall. Warmed my heart, that did.

In case anyone reading would like the lot, email me today, and I’ll extend a special Privilege reader price of $400. Email me at skyepeale(@)

A note. These are old Freeds, from makers no longer working. If you’ve just started dancing, they aren’t a good option for you, since you won’t know if these specific makers’ shoes fit your feet. I imagine that the most likely buyers will be either a dancer who’s been at this for 10 years and wishes she could still find “Square” Freeds – for example – or a dance studio that wants to offer special shoes to its pointe students and is willing to hold them for the right dancers.

But as this is the first and only time I expect to be selling ballet shoes, I simply don’t know. I do know, however, that pale pink satin is really pretty, and resolutions are to be kept.


Edited: Here’s the eBay link. If it turns out they don’t sell as a lot, I’ll update here and let you all know.

Urban Archeology To Decorate A Personal History

In just 17 days, for an as-yet-unknown sum, you could take ownership of an iron gate. Not just any iron gate, mind you. A work of whimsy and commitment. Starting bid? $35,000. Estimated to go for $70,000-$90,000. Not overpriced, in my opinion.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Wrought Iron Gates

Where’s this being sold?  Guernsey’s Urban Archeology auction.  And my goodness, look at what else is on the block. More wrought iron, here avec bunny.

Wrought Iron Avec Bunny

If you’ve no need for a balustrade, surely you want a lantern. No additional details available beyond the metal thorns and flowers.




But you might want to switch eras, might prefer industrial lighting.



Or to travel overseas, to Place de la Concorde. For a mermaid.

Mermaid from the Place de la Concorde

Archeological artifacts feel far more historical to me than furniture or even art. As though stuff affixed to the ground carries time like dirt on its feet. If I were to build that imaginary house in Napa – the modern one of plywood and concrete and glass – I’d install St. Patrick’s iron gates at the entry. Imagine them against lavender, and a plain wooden front door up a hill.

#RememberingLisa, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:52am

I’m going to take a moment in memoriam, if you don’t mind. Lisa Boncheck Adams died yesterday, at the age of 45. She leaves behind a husband and 3 young children. I wrote briefly about her last year, here. Back when I first met Lisa online, 5 or 6 years ago, she was always open about her experience with breast cancer, and clear that her “survivor” status was conditional. In October 2012 her disease recurred, metastasized.

She spoke plainly and openly about her treatment, dismissing both false hope and shock-mongering. She used her large Twitter following, in part, to remind everyone to get their medical tests, regularly. Not to delay.

Of course delay is what I wish she had had, of another sort. Lisa knew she was going to die early. But she had hoped to see another spring. Not to be. I’m going to spend today cleaning my house and tending to my garden. I’d be lying if I said I made my plans in Lisa’s honor, it’s just what I need to do. Plain speaking. Its companion, a moment of silence.

Resquiat in pace, Lisa, you served us so well.

Some Small And Manageable Changes To A Small But Multi-Use Laundry Room

Although we began our ongoing interior fix-up with the master bedroom, that’s paused because, no kidding, our new bed arrived and we’re keeping the old one until my daughter is ready to take possession. It’s bedtastic round here, with not even room enough to roll out the new rug. I’m oddly untroubled.

We moved on to painting walls. That took absototalutely forever, even though for the most part I just had everything re-whited. But it’s finished.

So now, as we wait for bed removal and other acts of decluttering, I’m focused on quick hits. The table and pouf, for example. And, surprisingly, the laundry room. You can find a lot of design for sudsy spaces out there.

From modern with spark,


to the traditional – if your traditions include a country house in Provence, that is.

Country house laundry room

to the, well, not my style. I don’t much want straightforward signs, a chandelier, Tiffany blue walls, or curtained appliances. (That’s High WASP communication restraint, right there.)


So I hung a Mark Rothko poster instead. What? I can’t decide if the artist would have liked keeping company with a place of labor, or resisted any bourgeois love of his work for its beauty. BTW, the Google image search for Blue & Gray 1961 is gorgeous.


Let’s back up. My laundry room is and always has been very small. But it exists. When the kids were little I always thought I’d like to bash out a wall to extend into the garage, and set up a table for folding, bins for clean clothes, a domestic desk for bills and such. But in retirement, and with thoughts of a future move, I wanted to work with what I have.


Painted new white, of course. That faux ceramic flooring is actually vinyl, and 30 years old. Feels quite vintage. I liked it when I installed it, and I like it now, faded. Why am I showing you pictures of a decidedly unglamorous space? Because it has added, measurably, to my sense of wellbeing.


The new seagrass basket, and this below, are from Cost Plus World Market. (10% off everything with code SAVEBIG). They smell good. I use the one on the floor for dirty laundry that escapes the master bathroom, and the one atop the washer for clean rags. Dirty rags go in the white plastic thingie.

I used to keep rags of all sorts in random plastic buckets; attractive baskets are infinitely more calming.


This little laundry room gets almost beautiful in the morning. Light is recipient-agnostic, it’ll beautify even the most daily of objects. And I’m switching out all cleaning products for non-harmful sorts. That distilled water, for example, does more than refract.


It fuels the new blue-handled Bissell steam cleaner you see below. Why is it wearing a dirty shower cap? Nah, it’s the washable cleaner head. Wonderful gadget to replace a mop, which I found on Rachel’s blog, here, and purchased immediately.

Can I say, all in sincerity, that I love hanging stuff on hooks behind the door? Gravity provides its own order.


And finally, a small quirky detail as suggested by an artist. With a little black sticky shelf paper, and a couple of white pens, Uni-Ball Signo Broad Point Gel Impact Pen White Ink,  (japan import) [Komainu-Dou Original Package] and the Sharpie Paint Marker White Pen Oil Base Extra Fine, I doodled.


and eventually wrote completely silly labels on all the laundry room shelves. Which serve, of course, as our pantry. (Apparently written words are a trend in fashion too.)



I scribbled, impatiently. Nothing like Mrs. Blandings and her glorious wall paintings. Could be wholly improved upon with downloaded calligraphy fonts, or a real artist at the helm. But it’s oddly right for me, one of little patience and great love for language.


I did not doodle on Mr. Rothko. He apparently found Pop Art frivolous. So he presides over the shelf where I keep gardening substances; neem oil, epsom salts, organic fertilizer, and diatomaceous earth.


I have one other recommendation for laundry zen. I bought an over-the-door drying rack, kind of like this, and I love it. Of course, it’s hung in the kids’ bathroom, instead of in the laundry, but organization is rescued from the dictatorial by little bits of random.


Labeling the shelves concept by Kathy Leeds
Silver-tiled laundry room
Country house laundry room
Tiffany blue with chandelier
Curtained appliances

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Use The Shopbop Sale To Get Ready For Spring

Shopbop, an online store featuring many of the slight edgier but still mainstream designers, has a sale on. It’s tiered – meaning the percentage given depends on how much you spend – and uses the code: BIGEVENT15. I’m going to buy a pair of Citizens of Humanity white jeans for spring. I had been eyeing them, just yesterday, so clearly the universe is telling me the time has come. (If you hightail it over to Une Femme, coincidentally, she’s gone black for this event. Something for everyone!)

I’m also going to stock up on tees and tanks. I’ve figured out that I like a wider-leg, narrower-top silhouette for this life of Extreme Casual. So, to treat my midlife midriff gently, I layer tops. One long, underneath, to make sure I am always covered up and provide a little stripe of color contrast, one shorter, looser, neutral, above.

And, I confess, I’ve always wanted white sunglasses and white Birkenstocks. Bringing resort life to Whole Foods, Monday, Wednesday, and alternate Fridays.

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Simplifying The Kitchen, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:34am



One imagines that in retirement one might indulge deeply in one’s interests. Yes, and occasionally no. In particular, I’ve always loved to cook, but now find myself looking to spend less time in the act.

Turns out that the kind of cooking I liked, and did well, was of the Dinner Party variety. You know. Main course, 2 sides, perhaps even a soup, and dessert. 3 different cooking techniques, 29 ingredients, and 1842 dirty implements. All the spoons in the universe.

The rush and steam of final minutes. Metal spatula clanging in the saucepan, transmutation. Doesn’t a wood spoon against Le Creuset enamelware feel almost silky? Burned elbows.

The sigh of settling to table, breath drawn in as everyone looks at their plates, the clink of wine bottles. Talk. Chairs pushed back. The remove to sofas and upholstery, the curling up, the talk.

Dishes were done by men, or in the morning.

I remember the dinner parties of my late 30s and early 40s as stellar accomplishments. But all that hubbub and chopping loses its thrill with one person cooking and cleaning, and just two people eating. So much sound and stirring, way more effort than satisfaction.


I still like to eat. The other day I went through my old cookbooks, muttering, “Why the cream, why so much cream?!” Above you see what I’m working with. Authored by Tara Duggan, Pierre Franey, Marian Burros, Nigel Slater and America’s Test Kitchen. If a test kitchen can be called an “author.”

I don’t like to use processed foods, or more than a teaspoon of sugar per dish. We shall see. I’m guessing I’ll make a lot of cringe-inducing dinners, some decent ones, and gradually sort out the over-arching patterns of simple, healthy, good-t0-eat food. And manage my ego along the way.

Old dog, proverbial new tricks. Anyone else in the same situation?

Ideas for resources – cookbooks, blogs, even annoying videos of people with very broad accents – welcome. Have a great weekend everyone –  dine wisely and well.

Do You Wear All Black Because Your Courage Fails You?

Do you find yourself wearing an awful lot of black? And do you find yourself apologizing, if only to yourself, for your choices? Does an all-black outfit, we might ask, reek of defeat? No I say, no! Like anything we do, as long as we reveal our intent, it’s an act of courage.

You just want to make sure you don’t wear black in default. As in, “Oh I have to go out, ugh, gee, do I have some black pants, oh good there they are at the back of the closet, what else, oh heck here’s that black sweater and by god I know those black pumps show their age but no one will notice, OK then I’m ready, oh wait, fine, lipstick. Let’s go.”

Choose black. Even if you do so because you can’t quite get the hang of colors, or you really wish your body weight chose a different distribution across your frame. Make the choice with intent. And my bet is that you’ll develop a reputation for incredible style, and simplify, and have some fun too.

(If it makes you nervous, at all, imagine you’re a fashion insider. Or, even better, our gorgeous Tabitha at Bourbon and Pearls.)

You do have to make some choices in addition to he. The most important? Structure? Or flow?

Here’s an example of all-black structure. A tailored blazer, button front shirt, trousers, bold pumps, and a black scarf to drive home your intent. This is not accidental dressing. To give a structured outfit flair, your jewelry should be wiggly. Term of art, that. Your lipstick, playful.

Untitled #197

Alternatively, an unstructured cardigan jacket, layered over a tunic and cropped pants. A little more edge to the shoe, and structured earrings to balance the moving fabric. Makeup focused on the eyes. I highlight eyes or lips, never both.

Untitled #198

What you don’t want to do is wear both structured and flowing together unless you are quite confident. Une Femme today, for example. Or Jenna Lyons. She can pair a chambray shirt with harem pants brilliantly, we more intermediate fashion sorts may approach with caution. We do not want to default to stretch-waist French terry pants and a regular ol’ button-front shirt. Or belted, tailored pants and a tunic for that matter – too much fabric at the waist.

You should also work texture in all-black. You want a similar degree of sheen and tightness across all your fabrics. For example, woven silk with cotton jersey, not so hot, but velvet with denim is great.

A final note. In monochrome, our skin becomes an accessory – be strategic in what you reveal. Show the skin you like, and like the skin you show. Check the proportions on visible ankles, wrists, arms, neckline. Small things make big style statements. As you can, if you but choose.

Shopping For The All-Black Outfit

(Clothing by the Princess of Structure.)
Blazer (J. Crew 55% off at the Outnet)//Shirt (black now sold out but will be back, I’m sure)//Bootcut Jeans//Suede Pumps//Silk-Cashmere Wrap//Earrings//Necklace// NARS Multiples // NARS Lip Velvet Gloss Pencil

(Guess who dominates this outfit? The Queen of Flow.)
Jacket//Tunic//Pants//Shoes//Earrings//Necklace //Eyeliner 1 (navy) & 2 (french blue)

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