My Essentials List, Part I

The everyday life and style essentials...

everlane linen tees - an essential!

Oh hey, have you heard? The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is happening. Wait, don’t X out of this post quite yet. I promise, I’m not bombarding you with the best deals and trends I spent hours finding (though mad props to fellow bloggers who are far better at pinpointing said trends and deals, seriously!).

Instead, I wanted to talk about essentials. Honestly, when I first heard about the Nordstrom sale a few weeks ago, I got excited for exactly two items: this bra and this beauty product. You see, over the past year and change, both have become indispensable to me, and I found myself thinking that I would use the sale as an opportunity to stock up. At the same time, I found myself re-ordering products from a couple other brands, which led me further down this path of thinking about essentials in my everyday life — those things that make my life easier, free up energy, and generally make me feel happy and confident. That’s what this post is about.

Quick back up: when I was first jotting down ideas about my everyday essentials, a bunch of tech items and products made their way in too. So I’m thinking that today, I’ll share my lifestyle essentials, and later this week, I’ll share another (probably massive) post about work essentials. Cool?

Ok, here they are, the things I’ve bought over and over again, with my own money, and are essential to my everyday:

THE NEWS // I’ve mentioned in the past that I spend a lot of time reading articles and posts on the Internet. Frankly, it’s probably what prevents me from reading more books — I would guess I spend at least an hour a day (often more) reading news content online. I trained Facebook’s algorithm to serve me content I’d actually enjoy looking at (more on that in the work essentials post), and through that, I started getting served content from The New York Times. Whether current national or global events, stories about food and culture, the Modern Love column, health news, you name it, I found myself enjoying the content, the editorials, and even the discourse in the comment sections (often rare on such a public news site). The Times has a pay wall such that you can read up to ten articles a month for free before you should subscribe. Alright, I’ll admit it: I lamely gamed the system for a few months, after I discovered that the article count differed if you were reading the newspaper via Facebook, vs. via a browser, vs. via the Times app, vs. the iOS News app. Recently, after saving SO many articles in the Times app for later, I realized the $3.75 a week was nothing compared to the joy I got out of reading the paper everyday. Total essential.

BROWS // When I was in my 20s, I was not diligent about going to have my brows waxed/threaded/plucked on the reg. I think I viewed it as a cost savings things, figuring I could simply pluck and trim on my own at home, and go in for professional help if things got really dire (which they did). This worked, I guess? But while living in New York, I found a gal at a local Shobha who I enjoyed seeing for all things (ahem) hair removal, and I realized that every time she’d hand me the mirror to inspect my freshly shorn brows, I’d be like, “Wow. You make these look a lot better than I do.” So frequent brow maintenance became a necessity for me, because I loved the feeling of waking up and not having to worry about plucking and shaping these things. One time, she colored in my brows with a pencil, something I didn’t always do. It felt heavy handed at first, but I realized how different I looked. This sent me down a rabbit hole of experimenting with brow tinting (not worth it: on me at least, the dye washes off after just a few days). Nowadays, I do not feel “dressed” and ready for the day without combing out my brows and applying a little pencil and recently, Glossier’s Boy Brow. The Boy Brow thing is new around here, so I’ll reserve judgement for now, but yes: paying for regular brow maintenance (I go here) and spending 5-7 minutes in the morning grooming these babies makes me feel like I can go virtually makeup free.

NEULASH // I said virtually makeup free. Back in the summer of 2012, Neulash was recommended to me by Molly when I was looking for a way to grow out my lashes before my wedding. To be honest, I think I ordered it and used it a little too late, because after a couple months of use, I didn’t notice a significant difference. I shelved it in my medicine cabinet and forgot about it, until the tail end of New York (when, admittedly, it had probably expired, but for the cost, ain’t no way I was throwing a nearly full tube of it away). I decided to start using it again shortly before we moved back to SF, and though it took several months, after a while my naturally short, sparse lashes really started to take off. So much so that even Joe noticed, sans mascara. (Also, for the record: a fresher tube made them grow faster). I bought this duo pack during last year’s Nordstrom Anniversary sale, and still have a little bit left in one of the tubes, but it’s made such a difference in my beauty routine that I’ll be repurchasing this year. Why? Working from home, I don’t typically put on a full face of makeup, but I do like to do brows, a bit of mascara, and a little blush, simply to feel put together. Having these longer, fuller lashes with just a bit of mascara makes a big difference in my overall look (at least I think so, and isn’t that all that matters?). It’s an expensive beauty purchase, but one I only have to buy once a year, so for me, it’s more than worth it.

SILK TOPS // You know that awful feeling of standing in front of your closet and feeling like you have nothing to wear? Three styles of silk tops have made that a thing of the past for me. I love Joie’s Marcher top so much, I own three of them (because I’m terrified that they’ll stop making them). It has a flattering V-neck that looks great on a bustier gal like me, and I love that the elasticized waist is visually slimming. I’ve thrown this top on countless times when I was running late or didn’t know what to wear — you can wear it with jeans or dressier black skinnies, add flats or heels, a blazer or a more casual jacket, and it looks great. I’m also a big fan of my Tibi signature camisole, which is a date night staple. It’s an easy layering piece, so comfortable, and subtly sexy. I had to have the straps on mine altered, but I love it so much, I’d have no problem ordering another one and having it altered too. The other top I really love is Joie’s Rancher top, a silk pocket tee. They come in a lot of colors, and are also super versatile. Silks like this have become an essential for me, whether for date night, a meeting, or cocktails with friends. I used to stress a lot more if I felt like I had nothing to wear, and now, I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way. I think that’s part of the beauty of recognizing and investing in essentials in your life — it really streamlines things.

NATORI FEATHERS BRA // The Natori Feathers bra is like a wonder bra without being the Wonder Bra. Oddly enough, I often hear people talk about it being a great bra for smaller sized chests, but I think it’s fabulous for larger sizes too. Something about how Natori constructs the panels on it — I dunno, it just holds everything in without providing excess va-voom, which I never want. I bought one of these bras from Journelle when I was living in New York, not realizing what a cult favorite it was. While I’m also a fan of Chantelle bras, the Feathers quickly became my favorite, and I found myself reaching for it again and again because of how comfortable it was, and how good it looked under all types of tops. I’ve since bought it in a bunch of colors, and multiples of the nude and black shades. I try to look out for deals online via Journelle and other places during seasonal sales, but Nordstrom’s sale on it ($45 vs. $68) is pretty good! Honestly, I love the construction and fit on it so much, it’s completely worth the full price. Oh, I do find it runs the tiniest bit small, so if you have larger breasts, you may want to size up in the band or cup (but not both).

A CLEANING SERVICE // Welcome to an ongoing argument I’ve had in my marriage for years: whether or not to hire a cleaning service. Joe is someone who’s always been fine with (even happy to) clean the house, whereas I…well, am not. We like to agree upon household expenses like this, so since Joe had never wanted to allocate a budget towards a regular cleaning service, we hadn’t. Recently, with all the craziness that life presented us, neither of us had been up for doing a deep clean (ok, or even a light clean) of the house. We happened to get a coupon in the mail for a local service, and decided to give it a try, ordering a “deep clean.” OH. EM. GEE. Talk about life changing. I think when I walked out of my office and saw one of the team members removing and washing individual knobs on our stove, I knew I was 100% sold. Our apartment was so freaking clean when it was all said and done — honestly, I think cleaner than the day we moved in (which is sorta gross if you think about it, so I’m trying not to). Joe was very impressed too, and is now much more on board with hiring a team to come at least once a month to clean. The thing is, we’re ok about picking up the clutter, but have no desire to scrub out showers on the weekends. Just like that, a cleaning service has become an essential. I’ve heard from so many friends and readers that it’s an essential in their own lives, and I totally understand why. Time is such a gift.

EVERLANE TEES // So yeah, as mentioned before, I don’t often get super dressed up when working from home. Jeans or comfy pants and a great fitting tee are all I need to feel comfortable at my desk, or comfortable with running out for a quick errand. Last year, I bought one of Everlane’s long sleeve linen tees and it became such a go-to. Comfortable, modern, it was just an easy piece I could wear at work or on the weekends. This year, when they debuted linen tees again for summer, I pounced, buying two short sleeves and two sleevelessI’m obsessed. I like Everlane’s regular cotton tees too, but the linen have a wonderful weight and drape that I find really flattering. They look good with a half tuck (without bunching up), their very, very slight sheerness makes them feel more interesting (even sexier?) than a regular cotton tee, and I find they’re great layering pieces under dressier outwear, like a structured blazer. I’m not alone in my obsession: they’ve been waitlisted for a while, but a new shipment must be coming in since many of the linen pieces are becoming available on August 6. I’m ordering a few more tees to stock up for the next year.

M. GEMI LOAFERS // I’ve waxed poetic about these loafers before, but having now bought 4 pairs, they’re worth me mentioning as a total essential. These loafers — they’re just so damn comfortable! I’ve walked a few miles in them, with no issues. They’re great with jeans and a (linen!) tee; I wear them to run errands, out to drinks, to the farmers market on the weekend. I’ve traveled with them, easily. I think M. Gemi thinks they’re an essential too, because they keep coming out with different textures and colors (my wallet does NOT thank them). I have a pair of the regular leather, a pair of textured leather (these ones, which are on sale), and two pairs of suede. I think the suedes are my personal favorite, just because I dig the soft visual texture, but I wear all of them regularly. M. Gemi in general is great — I also have a dressier pair of black flats from them, and a pair of boots too, and have been so pleased with the quality and customer service. Oh, their twice yearly sale is happening right now too, so if you’ve been wanting to try out M. Gemi, now’s the time. The deals are quite good, but hop to it — popular sizes tend to go fast.

//

Whew, I know that was a lot. But you basically just saw the inside of my closet with the things I wear the most! Stay tuned for my work essentials post, coming up later this week…

 

In this post

 

New York Times image via @TheTrotterGirl (a total Instagram follow)   ·   Brow image via Glossier  ·   “Soap” image via Isuun, available to shop here

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18 Comments

  1. Monica wrote:

    Ok lots of thoughts here…

    1) I’m one of the weird bloggers who loves rounding up finds in the NSale, but honestly they’re probably more boring and more “essential” than most other roundups because I generally don’t get behind trends, ha. The Natori Feathers bra was the first thing in my cart because everyone RAVES about them! One came in the mail yesterday and I’m definitely ordering more (as an aside, why are good bras so expensive?!).

    2) M.Gemi’s sale is the besttt (ordered two pairs within minutes…oops) and the Felize loafers may be my next move. If you’re looking for good heeled sandals, LOVE my pair of Attornos… unfortunately they aren’t in the sale :(

    3) I find that I wear my silk tops more than most other things in my wardrobe. That Tibi one is a dream!

    4) Got a cleaning service once, though I take pride in enjoying cleaning. It was lifechanging so no judgement there!

    5) Good to know re: Everlane tees b/c I’ve been wanting to try the linen ones…seemed a little pricey at $35 but sounds like they are worth it!

    6) Smart move on the NYT subscription–I’m locked into my student rate from college of $4/month and am hoping it never goes away!

    Ok my novel is over…basically, love the essentials post and can’t wait for the next one! (and also thanks for the tips on the bulletin board…I’ll probably scoop one up in the next PB sale + free ship!)

    19 Jul 2016 · Reply
    • Yeah, no shade meant at all regarding NSale! Nordstrom’s website kind of drives me crazy, so I do NOT enjoy rounding things up. More power to you!

      It’s true though — I’ve always found more expensive bras to fit me better, last longer, and be all around awesome-r. Happy shopping :)

      19 Jul 2016 · Reply
  2. Emily wrote:

    Love this roundup! What do you wear under those gorgeous silk tops? I love the look of them but I’m fairly chesty and dislike strapless bras!

    19 Jul 2016 · Reply
    • Hey Emily! I’m also fairly chesty. For the Joie Marcher and Rancher, a regular bra is fine (the Natori feathers looks great under both, actually). For the Tibi cami, I’ve worn both a strapless bra, and a strapless bralette (this one doesn’t provide much support, but it keeps me from flying all over the place and is comfier since there’s no stiff boning on the sides). It sort of depends how long I’m going to be wearing it, or what I’m doing. The bralette is definitely better if I have a second layer over the cami and am mostly going to be sitting; strapless is better if I’ll be walking (or if an impromptu dance party breaks out). :) Hope that helps!

      19 Jul 2016 · Reply
  3. Erica wrote:

    I love that you own 4 pairs of the Felize loafers since you were the one that finally convinced me to invest in them! I’ve never regretted the purchase. I’d gladly take another pair (you have me itching to try the suede) and also want to try The Brezza lace up flats. I’ve seen so many people rave about NeuLASH. I know you use a lot of natural skincare products. My hesitation about trying it has always been that it would bother my eyes and that it wasn’t natural (which I assumed, but have not verified). Have you had any problems with it?

    I recently started using Boy Brow and love it so far. Much better than a pencil! I second the cleaning service. Some of the best money I spend each month!

    Thanks for another fabulous post!

    19 Jul 2016 · Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Okay, I have to know…what colors of the suede Felize did you buy?!

      19 Jul 2016 · Reply
      • Hi Erica! Yes, NeuLash is one of a few non-natural beauty product I have allowed into my routine. I have pretty sensitive skin, and haven’t had any issues with it around my eyes. Occasionally I’ll wake up with a few extra crusties, but no redness or irritation — and the crusties could be from diet or crazy dreams or who knows what in any case. Really, no problems, just longer, fuller lashes.

        For the Felize, I recently bought the powder blue, gray, and latte. I had a hard time justifying THREE new pairs for myself, so I promised myself I’d send one pair back. I ended up keeping the powder blue and gray. The blue is such a pretty color and I like wearing them when the rest of my outfit is really neutral (like dark gray or black jeans and a white or black top) for a little hint of color. I figured they’ll continue making the gray and latte too since they’re neutrals, so that was another point in favor of the blue since they might not always have it. For the neutrals, I picked the gray as I felt I’d wear these more in the fall too, but am planning on ordering the latte at some point in the future — maybe next spring. Hope that helps!

        19 Jul 2016 · Reply
  4. Akaleistar wrote:

    Those loafers are beautiful!

    19 Jul 2016 · Reply
  5. Abby wrote:

    I haven’t ordered anything from M. Gemi yet, but I feel like it’s time I hop on the bandwagon… those mocs are so cute and v affordable!

    20 Jul 2016 · Reply
    • Do it! I haven’t regretted any of the shoes I bought from them. They also have free returns and make it super easy in terms of providing a shipping label and all that. Their customer service is just beyond (I had a reader comment on an older post that when a pair of shoes she bought from them had an issue with the sole soon after purchase, M. Gemi helped her find a cobbler in her town that could make fixes/adjustments to repair the shoes, AND they reimbursed her the cost for the cobbler. Isn’t that amazing?)

      20 Jul 2016 · Reply
  6. Kayla wrote:

    Hi Victoria! I am definitely trying to be more of a minimalist and only purchase my must haves and essentials so I love it when you do these types of posts. I think your suggestions for tees and silk shirts are great–they fit in my lifestyle too! I’m curious, though, how do you clean/maintain your silk shirts? I have been going to the dry cleaners, but I am wondering if there is a more cost effective method that everyone is doing that I don’t know about. I’m always hesitant about a silk shirt purchase because I’m thinking about the additional cost per wear. I would really love to hear what you do!

    Thanks!
    Kayla

    20 Jul 2016 · Reply
    • Hi Kayla! Happy to help — though I think it can also be an individual thing. I’m very lucky in that I naturally just don’t sweat that much. I don’t even have to wear deodorant on a daily basis. So I can get many wears out of silk pieces without them smelling funky at all. I only send my silk tops to the dry cleaners whenever I notice significant odor or a stain. However, here are some tips that might help save you the additional cleaning costs:

      1) I have a handheld steamer at home, and when pieces get wrinkly, I’ll use that to steam out any creases. I’ve also noticed that the quick steam bath reduces any lingering odors, leaving silk blouses feeling fresher. This is the one we have, and despite its mediocre reviews, I think it’s great for infrequent home use! I’ve used it on silks, dresses, even draperies. I’ve also added a few drops of essential oil to it (like lavender), which is a simple, natural way to infuse a little bit of fragrance into pieces to help mask odor and make them feel fresher.

      2) You ever read any of those articles about never washing denim? One tip I keep seeing over and over is to place jeans in the freezer, as the low temps kill off most odor causing bacteria. I’m wondering if this would work with silk too — maybe gently fold the piece and place it in a plastic bag, freeze, then bring it back up to room temperature before handling the delicate fabric? I’m honestly not sure if this would work, but it seems like it could? I often see the “cold” technique recommended for natural fabrics, which describes silk. Perhaps give this a try on a less expensive piece to see if it works!

      3) You can actually wash silk pieces at home, but it just takes a bit of time, care and attention. Here’s a great piece I found online about how to do it.

      4) That same article mentions one really smart technique: using activated charcoal. Check out the end of the post for how to use it. You can get activated charcoal at any Whole Foods and vitamin stores! The comments in the post also have a ton of extra ideas.

      I hope that helps! As far as the washing-them-at-home method goes, I will say that I’ve gotten water on my silk pieces many times, usually from washing dishes (why does it always end up being such a wet, messy job?!). I’d never even thought about it, but yeah, the water always dries fine with no ill effect to the fabric. So give it a try!

      20 Jul 2016 · Reply
  7. Catherine wrote:

    I really enjoyed this post. I always love hearing about what people’s must have items are! I have to admit that you’ve pretty much sold me on Neulash and the feathers bra. Also, I have the Firenze loafers too and I wear them all the time (wearing them now)! I think I need to get another color, but there are too many good ones to choose from!

    xx
    Catherine

    20 Jul 2016 · Reply
    • I know! That’s the only thing with M. Gemi, always too many things I want. Sometimes I see older pairs of shoes from their archives that I missed and I’m like 50% AHHH HOW DID I MISS THAT? and 50% THANK GOD I DIDN’T SEE THOSE.

      20 Jul 2016 · Reply
  8. Emma wrote:

    I love this post so much! I’m going to buy that Joie top! It is so beautiful and perfect for all occasions. Also, my husband and I had the same fight about professional cleaners, and finally one day we had unexpected guests at the house and I was MORTIFIED by the shape of our place (worst feeling ever) and now we have a deep clean once a month. So funny- my husband is usually the one who is looking forward to it more than me.

    Lastly, I would love to see a post about packing! I have some upcoming weekend trips (next one is to NYC) and would love to see what you typically pack when going on vacation.

    Thanks for keeping your blog so real and honest! I love it when I visit and there is a new post. (I think your blog is the only one where I read every word of every post rather than just skimming through). :)

    22 Jul 2016 · Reply
  9. Alexia wrote:

    I am in love with the Felize loafers:):):) Having a hard time waiting to purchase them but I keep waiting for the exact pair I want to be released- scarlet red in the crocodile or lizard style leather. I love the look of the suede ones but sadly I live somewhere where it snows 6 months a year…

    23 Jul 2016 · Reply
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