Thoughts on Life

Letter of Rec #051: Patent leather kitten heels, salty drinking water and the irony of ambition

Welcome back to Cafe Leandra
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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The big theme I’ve had on my mind this summer is expectations but recently I have been thinking about how expectations interact with ambition too. I think the former might be one way we tend to suffocate the natural ambition that runs through so many of us. Expectations cut ambition off before it can materialize, ever make it to actualization.

I was talking to a relative about this recently noticed from her part that there was a finite emphasis on accessing ambition that sounded like it was already there. What she wanted really was to figure out how to use her ambition. It occurred to me from our conversation that this is probably The Thing for a lot of us, or at least that it is definitely a thing for me.

It’s like, I can feel the ambition pulsating through me when I’m in touch with my creativity, can feel the ideas starting to sprout out through the surface (which seems often to be at its most potent at the end of the summer, right before fall).

But so often, if I don’t have a vast terrain of time or whatever resource I think I need, the ambition turns into a wheel of anxiety that starts rolling about over my person, more unhinged with each flip that it makes. I don’t need more ambition, even more motivation, I more need to access the rigorous, anchoring process of prioritization that follows the spark of that heated energy, that helps me rank most important endeavor to least.

I lose touch, I think, with the grounding process because of expectations. Because the ambition sets off a chain of events where I can imagine myself doing the thing I’m motivated to do, feeling proud of the work but really the outcome, retrieving the praise — and because I place so much emphasis, I think, on trying to live up to this feigned idea of the future, this great expectation, I get too impatient, too distracted to do it. It’s too great a risk for my ego.

Only it’s not, you know? The untangling of the wheel of anxiety is as straightforward as reminding myself, I’m learning more clearly, that ambition mixed with impatience dissolves the former into these dust particles of productive energy that never get a chance to become anything.

That the creative ideas generated to propel ambition are their own kind of fetus, in need of incubation as much as any other in order to ultimately survive in the world alright.

A helpful reminder as I return to real life with ideas pouring out of my ears. There’s no rush — it’s the clock of my own expectations against me. Let them take their time! Forget the expectations, don’t even compare new work to what came before it.

This is another thing I recently see has been suffocating me. Assuming my new work has to somehow relate to or exceed or flatly beat out my old work, and measuring whether it has done this by the response it collects. But my commitment really, is to the work, which is not the same as the outcome of the work. I have no control over that.

All I can do is see the present ideas through me the best way I can for who I am and what I can make.

Anyway, what have you been wearing lately? Does anyone ever ask you this? I love the question — it’s a good one to think about if you care enough to become more conscious of where you’ve been with your style: comfortable, writhing, in flow, out of step?

I’ve settled into a pair of white bike shorts which I have been wearing with this raw silk shirt that I bought from a gift shop at a hotel in Ibiza. It’s styled with the Gabriela Hearst sandals I’ve been telling you about since before last summer, but in black now because by some miracle of the digital glitch, I found them for $320 at Bergdorf Goodman.

Other themes in rotation have mostly included roomy silk pants with elastic waistbands and lightweight, oversize button-down shirts. Either that or a version of the above, looking more like this:

I think these laidback cues (formerly known as giving up, or that’s too passive, this is more like, deliberately checking out bc I’m done w summer clothes) are a symptom of summer’s drag on — the final toy pistol, shot before the crispness of fall with its rigid polished leather and fine white socks and defined waistlines set in.

There’s one size 2 left at 65% off at SSENSE, and a 4 and an 8 at 70% off at Mitchell’s, I got them from Matches at around the same discount with an extra 20% off, but they appear to be gone from there.

Some bridge garments I’ve been thinking about of late include:

Tory Burch
Cotton Poplin Layered Skirt
$398 USD

1. This khaki skirt from Tory Burch. It’s a lighter weight poplin version of the white one I wore and endorsed at great length last winter. I’m picturing it with a grey t-shirt, red socks and gold shoes.

2. And to this point about gold, I think it’s back — like for clothes and shoes and in a more salient way. I keep thinking that my color combo of the season is going to be red, gold, black and white. Classic, but a little nasty.

Emme Parsons
Leandra in Black Patent
$515 USD

3. Two points extra for patent leather, and in particular on these shoes — a take on Emme Parsons’ classic t-strap block heel which I gently suggested to Emme that she should make with a kitten heel in patent leather. She listened, she did it, and now they’re called the Leandra. The cafe is open for biz, ppl!

Opera Sport
Pollensa Pants
$130 USD

4. Have you heard of the brand Opera Sport? I want these capri pants to wear with the Leandras (as in, the shoes above) and a pair of socks (or maybe half a pair of socks, a la The Row) that hit mid-calf.

5. Meanwhile, everywhere I turn there is another mid-length denim skirt with a zip and fly.

Tory Burch Fall 2023 at left, followed by the Dries skirt ($305), Co skirt ($386) and Khaite skirt ($480)

Fraser Denim Midi Skirt
$480 USD
Denim Midi Skirt
$270 USD
+ NET SUSTAIN Organic Denim Midi Skirt
LouLou Studio
$320 USD

The best shapes I’ve seen are from Co and Dries van Noten, but I’ll give Khaite’s the credit for the overall surge in popularity on the shoppable internet. I have a yeshiva day school complex about it, but am inching closer to surrender with this one version ($320) Chloe from Loulou Studio sent to me earlier this summer.

On the bright side, I will definitely score points at the yeshiva day school my kids now go to.

6. In shopping news: Emily Bode formally launched a women’s collection on Tuesday. But it was gone before it ever arrived. That’s just the Bode effect, huh.

7. From the realm of things I have bought:

Blue Nash Overalls
$165 USD

One way you know something is worth getting is when you don’t just think of 101 ways you’ll wear it but are flooded with the ideas before even getting to add to cart. The most exciting of which on my mind right now includes a bandana in my hair, a nude chest on my chest and MNZ’s yellow Lido wedges.

8. Another way I’m excited to wear them: with a grey t-shirt, fancy earrings, thick white socks and polished black loafers. Per the grey t-shirt, I have been thinking again: what makes a grey tee good? Who makes the best one? What are the best ways to wear it now — a forthcoming post with the spoiler of these thought starters is in progress, with Cos in first place for fitted cropped tee, in second for a looser fit and Flore Flore as the best option for a long sleeve style.

x Wales Bonner SL72 Suede Sneakers
$130 USD

Finally got my feet in a pair of Adidas x Wales Bonner sneakers. I think my friend Laura influenced me on this one, I’ve been craving a loud shoe color pairing on a casual silhouette to pair with loud pants and quiet sweaters or a classic denim button down and that is like a page straight out of her playbook.

They’re fun, they’re practical, it’s an easy duh.

Paris Texas
Roxy Leather Knee-high Boots
$905 USD

10. While we are still in the valley of shoes, I’ve had cowboy boots on my mind since mid July and maintain that they’re one among the best evergreen boot choices to make right now. But as a sort of portmanteau between the cowboy and moto-style are these from Paris Texas.

A trendier choice to be sure, but one that will reflect the shape of the season’s dressing cues pretty accurately.

11. I guess in line with the aesthetic vibe I’m after is also this belt from Maison H. Some cross between the old west and Bali, a good foil to a pair of crisp black pants and loafers and maybe…

12. This shirt.

A stand off between Ines at left ($211) and LMND at right ($157)

It’s a good time to get a black button-down! I like them most with white buttons — gives them an edge that makes them feel more wearable because the buttons break up the black. For a fine-quality pick, delicate and proper, the linked one from Ines is your best bet. For an easy throw on and roll in the mud vibe, it’s obviously LMND.

From The Real Real:

Plaid Print Crew Neck Jumpsuit w/ Tags
$431 USD

13. This relatively recent Gucci jumpsuit that is extremely on sale right now.

Canvas Printed Slingback Sandals
$116 USD

14. And these linen-printed Prada sandals with the crystal heel. They’d feel so wrong in exactly the right way with wooly grey socks and a big ass sweater. Pants optional!

Vintage 1999 Evening Jacket
$837 USD

15. If you are still thinking about this outfit Mary Kate Olsen wore to the Met Gala in 2019, I invite you to consider this Chanel leather jacket (swapping out the buttons should not be tough).

Geoffrey Beene
Button-Up Leather Jacket
$590 USD

Or this from Geoffrey Beene. If not for the mentioned reference then definitely because we are all going to care so much more about wearing the look of leather over the next season and onwards. (So much more that I had to bold that part of the sentence.)

16. Now, to the point I made initially about what you’ve been wearing lately, I ask and wonder what have you been eating?

Oily pistachios notwithstanding

Lots of cherry tomatoes and Greek feta for me, sometimes with these Cult Crackers, other times with Yiayia’s mandarin biscuits. So much olive oil too.

17. And have you ever grilled a cucumber? My sister-in-law took me to a cooking class this week and the chef made a grilled carouse salad with radish and cucumbers she left on the grill for 6 min and fresh (raw) cherry tomatoes over a bed of lemon dill hummus. The dressing was mostly olive oil, salt, sumac and maybe some other herbs and spices that I probably won’t add when I make the salad myself tonight.

18. And finally, because I was in Spain for the bulk of August, one more plug for Vichy Catalan. The Ruinart champagne of sparkling water! But saltier! The ultimate thirst quencher. Come over and I will pour you a glass.

That’s a wrap for today.

I have missed you people, by which I mean that I have missed writing to you, an audience full of warm recipients that make trust within this kind of engagement feel like it is a given. Thank you for giving me that! I’m glad to be back. Have a great weekend…,