Category Archives: Geek Chic

Sneak Preview: Gowns & Bridal Package!

Jasmine: After “When is your big day?”, the second-most popular question is “What are you wearing?”

I was tasked with the job of finding a bridal salon that could offer us a reasonable and comprehensive package.

I researched close to a dozen bridal salons, and finally shortlisted two: Bridal Veil and Emanuel B Couture.

I had heard good reviews about the level of service and professionalism about both, but in the end I went with Emanuel B.

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The reasons why:

1) Portfolio and style

Emanuel B’s portfolio was closer in style to the wedding and evening gowns that I had in mind, which involved a fair amount of draping, micro-pleating and lace. In contrast, Bridal Veil by Michelle Huimin specialised in simple, clean lines, and adding pleating and French lace would require us to top up substantially for the additional materials.

2) Professionalism

Of all the bridal studios I called or emailed, only two bothered to even reply- Bridal Veil and Emanuel B.  (The Wedding Present sent me a default email with their rates, but I don’t think that counts.) Of the two, I was more impressed with Elaine because when she called me back, she had already looked through the email I had sent her with my dream dresses, and was able to tell me what sorts of material she planned to use.

On that note, she didn’t charge extra (unlike Bridal Veil) for using French chantilly lace, corded lace and silk chiffon- top-of-the-line fabrics. (Lower-tier bridal studios use polyester chiffon, which isn’t as smooth and doesn’t move as fluidly because it’s more lightweight.)

Lastly, during my initial meetup with her, Elaine was able to make helpful suggestions. For example, I wanted a row of buttons on the torso, and Elaine responded that she “liked things to be there for a reason”, and said she would place a seam there so the buttons would have a reason to be there.

It’s extremely difficult to impress me, especially on all things fashion, so trust me when I say that Elaine knows her stuff and most importantly, she has good taste, which is essential- after all, she is only designing the dress for the biggest day of your life!

3) Value for money

Emanuel B Couture is a mid-range bridal studio that specialises in made-to-measure gowns.

Hence, comparing its price to that of lower-end salons that throw in photography as well is unfair. I’ve seen the gowns and photoshoots done by bottom-tier bridal studios. I admit that when it comes to value for money, Emanuel B simply can’t beat studios that include bride’s gowns, MOTHER’s gowns, flowergirl dresses, groom’s suits, photos blah blah blah. However, when it comes to quality and taste, I am sure Emanuel B outclasses these studios. I cannot stress how important it is to find a designer who has taste, so you can trust that she will execute your design with impeccable workmanship and elegance.

I am rather mortified by the “princessy”, overly-embellished, poufy, outdated ballgowns provided by the lower-end studios that don’t take into consideration the wearer’s figure or age. Elaine and I were on the same page here, as she even mentioned how so many brides want princess ballgowns that even she gets bored of designing them! (Why even go to the trouble of doing made-to-measure if you’re going to show up in the same dress as every other bride… Why not just rent a gown off-the-rack and like, switch the brooch or something? :P)

Don’t even get me started on the budget photography, with the unnatural, Taiwanese-inspired shots, which frankly border on cheesy and contrived.

Here’s the package I negotiated with Elaine, the designer:

1) Wedding Gown (Made-to-measure) – Rental

2) Evening Gown (Made-to-measure) – Rental (the deal was either top up $400 for the extra silk chiffon needed for the draping and keep it, or rent it to waive the $400)

3) 2-Piece Men’s Suit (Made-to-measure) – To keep

4) 2 handbouquets

5) 6 corsages

6) Silk flower decorations for bridal car

7) Trial makeup and actual day makeup

8 ) Men’s vest (Made-to-measure) – to keep *

9) Men’s shirt (Made-to-measure) – to keep *

4) Good Reviews

Although Emanuel B. is not quite as high-profile or prominent in the media as other salons in its price range, all online reviews were unanimous in recommending Emanuel B for the quality fabrics and especially the service provided by Elaine.

Now, the sneak pix you’ve been waiting for! (These are outtakes from our pre-wedding shoot)

You’ll notice that we’ve made very subtle changes to Andrew’s outfit. The beauty of his three-piece suit is that it can be worn in endless combinations. The two looks featured here are:

1) just the vest, paired with a purple shirt and bow tie for a casual feel (made-to-measure vest and shirt from Emanuel B, bow tie from N. Tyler)

2) vest under jacket, with white tux shirt and cravat, for a formal vibe (all from Emanuel B with the exception of the tux shirt, which was custom-made at Rossi)

And I think it goes without saying that my gown has been designed by yours truly and made by Emanuel B. Heh.

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Terracotta Warriors @ ACM

Andrew: Dearie and I love to go to museums, but we don’t often have the time to go down. ACM is a place that holds pleasant memories for us as it was one of the places we went for our first dates and the first time Jasmine and I met in a social setting outside of NIE was at Timbre, near ACM for a friend’s birthday. I had heard good things about the Terracotta Warrior exhibitions, hence we squeezed in some time to go down during the week to check it out!

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Andrew: Before we entered the exhibition halls, there was this series of clay figurines which captured the process of making the terracotta warriors. The exhibit captured almost every step of the construction of these warriors and the very tactile and drab feel of the exhibit conveyed very dramatically the torturous and demanding process of making these terracotta warriors.

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Jasmine: At the foyer, we were ‘treated’ to a display of contemporary art. I guess the placement of the artwork was suitable as it seemed like a parody of the original terracotta warriors, standing positions and all, but I actually grimaced quite a few times walking around this hall. Having quasi-classical Oriental figurines holding fire-engine red laptops and handbags seemed so tacky. Although the explanation given was that the artist was making commentary on the impact of consumerism and affluence on Chinese culture, the ‘artwork’ was far more apt for a shopping centre than the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Andrew: We had seen some of these exhibits at the National Museum before and weren’t impressed then – we weren’t impressed this time as well.

Jasmine: We are a family friendly blog ok, but I should warn you that for the first time in Andrew Loves Jazzy history, we will be posting a picture which depicts genitalia!? Tucked away in one corner was this glass case of naked figurines. These two are eunuchs. Don’t look too closely.

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Andrew: It was Dearie who pointed me to this exhibit and I was really rather amused by it. There was actually another set of statutes of non-eunuchs, with genitalia rather subtly carved in. Heh.

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Miniature version of the Terracotta warriors

Jasmine: I was really impressed with the suit of armour. It probably was my favourite exhibit in the gallery because it was visually imposing and more importantly, had a great story to give it depth. When archeologists found thousands of these limestone plates lying scattered in a mass tomb, they couldn’t figure out what it was.

It was only upon closer inspection that these were suits of armour which had been hung upon wooden stands. (80 suits have been excavated so far and work in that part of the tombs is still ongoing.) After many decades though, the wood had decomposed, leaving the limestone plates lining the ground.

Since then, they’ve been restrung and interlinked with copper wire in a fish-scale formation:

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Interestingly too, these pieces of stone armour are acknowledged to be too heavy for a soldier to wear them in battle, so debate is still continuing over the function of the armour.

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Jasmine: One of the highlights of the exhibition was the specially-created iPhone app! We actually went back three times to find all the hieroglyphic symbols. It was interactive and engaging for us and I can easily imagine kids having great fun seeing history come to life, literally. Although the app really only boasted that one function, the 3D concept has much potential for converting a new generation into museum-goers!

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Andrew: It was really a novel and effective idea to introduce an iPhone app to jazz up this exhibition. There was a guided tour to follow using the iPhone app to tell the story of a terracotta warrior. We weren’t patient enough to follow that, so we ended up just making use of the most ‘kiddy’ function of the application. It was really fun and most interesting of all, these figurines which appeared weren’t ‘static’, but actually animated. They would move in and out of the screen or move forward.

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Andrew: The animation above was one of the most dramatic animations in the exhibition. The Chinese character on the wall as ‘pan4’ (traitor) and it was huge! When I put the camera over, we only saw the tunnel initially with the glow of a flame. Gradually, this soldier would climb out of the tunnel and look around menacingly. It was fun! Heh.

Jasmine: These archers are virtual animations too. What gives them away? The fact that they cast no shadows.

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Andrew: This bell 3D graphic had an added dimension of interactivity and we could swipe the screen to ring the bell. Heh. What cheap thrill!

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Andrew: And of course, we save the best for last! These were the actual terracotta warriors shipped all the way from China.

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Andrew: The warriors had such a great aura of mystique about them. I found myself inexplicably drawn to them and was fascinated at just how much history was contained in these sculptures.  It was rather creepy too as it seemed like the warriors were looking at us out of the corner of their eyes.

Jasmine: Very delicate and detailed austere facial expressions on each of the soldiers. This exhibition was also laid out in a way that would mimic the original layout of the Xi’An tombs, as the soldiers were in the centre of the gallery, led by the general (who is much taller than the foot soldiers to connote his high rank), flanked by horses on both sides.

For more on the Terracotta Warriors, visit The China Guide (which is a commercial enterprise but the research is surprisingly comprehensive):

http://www.thebeijingguide.com/thexianguide/Terracotta_Warriors.htm

Andrew: It was a good exhibition indeed, which brought both classic and contemporary elements together very well. There was something for children & adults, for the history buff & someone who just dropped by due to curiosity.

Uniqlo Uni-glow

Jasmine: One of our favourite mass-market brands has got to be Japanese retailer Uniqlo. I firmly believe that while other large brands like H&M produce affordable, trendy fashion, Uniqlo is unrivalled in terms of quality and value for money.

We’ve unearthed quite a few good quality staples for Andrew from Uniqlo!

For Him

1. Hunter green polo tee, $29.90

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Jasmine: One of Uniqlo’s strengths is that it always delivers wardrobe basics in an extensive and on-trend array of colours. We liked how the forest green went well with Mr Chong’s tan.

Andrew: Uniqlo’s the best place for good, affordable polo T-shirts. I had been looking for them high and low as most of them were either too generic or too expensive (ie. Fred Perry). This was perfect! I wore this for a ‘green-themed’ party and my colleague commented that this was the most ‘interesting green’. Heh. Another colleague commented that this was RI green.

I liked the shirt a lot, but being rather stingy, was unwilling to buy it. Dearie thoughtfully made an additional trip down to Uniqlo on another day just to get it for me as a surprise gift!

2. Navy blue bermudas, $39.90

Andrew: I always find that I don’t have enough casual clothes, so this berms was perfect for me (perfect price, perfect fit and perfect colour too!). The colour doesn’t come out too clearly in the picture below, but it is indeed a very versatile pair of berms as it matches almost everything.

blueberms High tea at HOUSE

Jasmine: The slim cut and nautical feel of the navy blue bermudas make this a slightly more smart casual alternative to baggy berms. Dear wore this ensemble (I bought the top for him for $5 in Hong Kong- it was supposedly XS!) for afternoon tea at House. Navy blue is consistently underrated but it makes a great staple colour to have in your wardrobe, apart from the usual (boring) black.

We like to keep it sharp and tailored with white, stripes and anything nautical, really. However, you can pair your navy blue berms the way you would pair your jeans: with anything.

3. Wrinkle-free shirt and jeans, $49.90 and $69.90 respectively

Andrew: This  is one of my most comfortable and flexible pair of jeans that I keep wearing again and again every weekend. The shirt is simple yet versatile too, suitable for work and for casual weekends.

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Jasmine: For the grand price of $69.90, a very decent, nicely-cut pair of jeans to wear again and again. Although we advocate mixing different brands, this turned out to be a head-to-toe Uniqlo look styled by Dear himself for a Sunday matinee at the  Esplanade. It’s smartened up by the Raoul belt and Geox shoes. Tip: pointed shoes elongate you and make you look taller and leaner. Just don’t get too carried away with the pointiness though, unless you’re auditioning for the role of Aladdin:

4. PVC leather bomber jacket, $99.90

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Andrew: I couldn’t find a clearer picture of me and the coat alone, but this leather jacket has come in very useful in my travels or at church. It took us two trips to Uniqlo before we managed to unearth a jacket which was of a size suitable for me. I always find that leather jackets add an immediate element of style without having to work too hard.

Jasmine: I think this has got to be one of our best buys from Uniqlo. A rugged yet city-appropriate jacket for Andrew, to replace the casual white Adidas jacket that somehow mysteriously vanished. This jacket fits Andrew snugly and looks alot more expensive than it really is.

For Her

Jasmine: And although my dressing veers towards the vintage and eclectic, I’ve also found Uniqlo exercise gear to be affordable and made of high quality materials on those (rare) occasions when I break a sweat!

I have a pair of shorts ($19.90), a pair of 3/4 pants ($25.90), and two exercise tops ($14.90 and $29.90). I bought the 3/4 pants and both tops for my Pilates sessions, but I’ve only done three so far. Heh.

p.s. Dear says I shouldn’t “model” my workout gear as it’s rather body-hugging, but I assure you that they fit well and have sufficient stretch.

3/4 sleeve top, $14.90

This 3/4 sleeve top is designed for breathability, and what I like about it is how well it integrates with my everyday wardrobe, as it provides the perfect minimalist complement to some of my more “out there” skirts.

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Tutu skirt from Etsy

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Floral applique skirt from H&M Finland, hairband from Covent Garden London

Andrew: I’m quite amazed at how versatile the top is, creating such simple yet sophisticated looks for Dearie.

Credits for most of the photos go to Dearie for deciding which were the best spots for photo-taking in terms of colour contrasts. It was a fun time indeed! 🙂

Eden Sanctuary

Andrew: I read about Eden Sanctuary last year on a food blog and was tremendously fascinated by the concept behind it of ‘food with flowers’ (which was how the blog I read promoted it). However, we never really got down to it until last week, when Dearie volunteered to plan our dates so that I could just relax and enjoy myself after my long work day. (Thanks a lot Dearie!) She did even more extensive research on Eden Sanctuary and strongly recommended that we go there. It was definitely not easy to get there and not cheap as well (we had to go past at least 3 ERP gantries!).

Was it worth it? We’ll let the pictures and our verbose descriptions (mostly Jasmine’s, heh) tell the story!

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IMG_9938The herb garden

Andrew: The place is actually rather small, but both of us appreciated the unique decor, especially the many rows of fresh herbs grown in pots placed by the window!

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Jasmine: Andrew’s attempt at an artsy shot of the lighting, along with his attempt at a poem: "The humongous ball hung from the ceiling/ as if overlooking the customers"
(Andrew: I didn’t know my description was that quote-worthy. Heh.)

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Jasmine: Eden Sanctuary is based on the principle of colour cuisine. For a full rundown of what that entails, you can visit this site, but basically it means that food can be categorised by colour, and different colour groups yield different health benefits. The Rainbow Salad (so named because it contains all the colour groups) was one of my favourite items of the evening as every ingredient was fresh. In particular, the mandarin orange slices were outstandingly sweet and bursting with juice.

Andrew: I enjoyed this salad a lot too. The fruity dressing was lovely and greatly enhanced by the very fresh lettuce. It was light and appetizing!

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Jasmine: We weren’t quite as fond of our other starter, the pumpkin soup. It was meant to be a creamless version for the health-conscious, but unfortunately the soup ended up tasting like strained pumpkin or pumpkin puree, and the copious amounts of black pepper we sprinkled onto it did little to mask the taste.

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Andrew: We got the waiter to take us a photo, but decided that we also wanted to play around with our latest tripod, hence the shot below :)  IMG_9944

Jasmine: The butterfly blue pea tea seemed so unusual, and the inky indigo hue was perfectly enhanced by the clear glass serving set. Sadly it looked better than it tasted, as the pea aftertaste produced too much cognitive dissonance in me (i.e. peas belong in stew, not tea) and  tasted somewhat unpleasant, especially after it became lukewarm. I gave up after two teensy glasses and reverted to drinking iced water instead.

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Andrew: This tea didn’t quite do it for me. It had too much of an ‘organic’ taste to it and it felt weird too drinking something that was blue in colour. *shudder* Ironically, I ended up drinking more cups of this than Jasmine did as I realised that it was quite a good palate cleanser in between dishes.

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Jasmine: I quite enjoyed the polenta with sauteed mushroom. This is supposed to be a dish of Italian origin but I had never once come across it though I’ve been to Italy twice and backpacked half a dozen cities there. Believe it or not, it was Andrew who introduced me to it last year. In Singapore. Anyhow, I actually had to check out Wikipedia so that I could tell you:

1. The cornmeal was finely ground but not too dense, so you could still detect individual grains crumbling away when you were chowing down. (Little of that bloated feeling of heaviness that results from carb overdose.)

2. The abovementioned texture of the polenta paired well with the mushrooms, which were savoury and woodsy.

3. Although polenta is regarded as a peasant dish, the ingredients and presentation really upgraded this to something suitable for a modern gourmand. I love it when simple, homespun dishes are done to perfection with the freshest ingredients!

Andrew: Other than the polenta, we also ordered the balsamic strawberry beef. By the time I got to this dish, I was experiencing lettuce overload already and I was wishing that I had my usual unhealthy side-dishes of fries and boiled vegetables to satiate my hunger. Heh.

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Balsamic strawberry beef

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Andrew: The dish was alright, but I didn’t feel that it was great. The tastes didn’t quite meld together and at times and the basalmic taste wore off very quickly after each bite, meaning that it was ultimately just a piece of beef with a brief taste of baslmic vinegar and strawberries. The strawberries didn’t really add much to the taste of the beef, hence making them seem to be purely decorative. With the exception of the usual unhealthy sides, I can’t see how this dish is really much more healthy than the usual mushroom steak.

Jasmine: I’m not much of a desserts person (give me a bag of chips and I’m in Ruffles heaven), but you cannot visit Eden Sanctuary without sampling some of their cakes! At the reasonable price of $2 for a petite dessert and $5 for three, it’s pretty easy on your wallets too.

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Modena mousse

Jasmine: The bittersweet taste of vinegar and cream made for a nice, zingy palate cleanser.

Andrew: When Jasmine told me that this was a vinegar mousse, I was apprehensive and didn’t really want to try it. However, all it took was one bite and I was won over. This is truly a mousse like no other. I have never tasted such a unique blend of that savoury-sour with milky-sweetness. The texture was just right and the portion size was perfect for enjoying right after a heavy meal. IMG_9955

Hibiscus cheese filo

Jasmine: This was, for me, the stand-out dish I would come back for. And indeed, after two weeks, my mind still wanders back occasionally to this hibiscus cheese filo.

The whole dessert is pre-frozen, and only upon ordering is the filo pastry baked, not fried, at 250 degrees (a random and completely useless fact, but I just had to show off the research I did, heh). This means that the outsides are flaky and warm, but the insides are still cool. As for the hibiscus cheese puree itself, it was almost like eating ice cream because the consistency was smooth and the cream cheese itself was very mild, and the whole puree derived much of its icy sweet flavour from the strawberries and hibiscus. The perfect meal topper!

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Andrew: I’m not one who really loves filo pastry, I wasn’t as won over by it as Jasmine was. I much prefer cakes or mousse like desserts. Nonetheless, this was definitely not a bad dessert at all and I did enjoy it too. The hibiscus puree was like nothing I’d ever tasted before and its cheesy texture and taste was perfectly complemented by the sweet and tangy taste of the frozen strawberries inside.

Not every dish at Eden Sanctuary were show-stoppers, but I must say that it has been one of the most unconventional or unique meals we’ve ever had. We ordered quite a considerable amount and the bill came up to about 65, which is reasonable for restaurants of this range. Would I come back again? Just for the desserts. None of the main courses really wow-ed me, but there are many strongly recommended ones on food review sites, so we might return just for that!

Biennale at National Museum

Andrew: In spite of our bad experiences with the Biennale thus far, Dearie and I decided to give it one last shot with the exhibition at National Museum (actually I ‘tricked’ her into going by telling her about the dress exhibition, knowing that there was no way she would turn down a dress exhibition! Heh.)

Jasmine: Hmph! And may I just point out that Andrew made us proceed to the Biennale first, where we spent almost two hours, as opposed to our paltry fifteen minutes at the dress exhibition.

Andrew: Although this was the least advertised venue out of all the venues, it was ironically the one we enjoyed the most and the most thought provoking of all!

Here are some of our favorite pieces:

Compound by Somheap Pich

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Andrew: ‘Compound’ is the first exhibit that you see upon entering the museum and I felt it was perfectly placed. The photo doesn’t do justice to its architectural grandeur. I really liked the mix of modernity and tradition in using rattan to create a modern architectural structure.

Flooded MacDonalds by Flex (Copenhagen, Denmark)

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Andrew: Our experience at the previous two Biennale exhibitions left us apprehensive about video pieces and we often left after 2 minutes of each video installation (except for the twins one). This piece had us sitting down and discussing its implications for almost 15 minutes.

In this piece, the artists recreate a MacDonalds stall and flood it, responding to the “apocalyptic language in the mass media, as well as humorously evoking the threat of climate change.” Dearie and I both had rather different interpretations of it.

I understood and appreciated the piece through its conscious replication of famous apocalyptic scenes in movies and saw many uncanny parallels within that MacDonalds stall and human landscape. There were many shots of a huge Ronald MacDonalds collapsing as the flood waters rose and that brought back memories of the Statue of Liberty being destroyed in many apocalypse movies. There were also shots of flood-waters ‘washing’ into the seats of MacDonalds, which looked a lot like a seashore being flooded. I saw this film as a parody of the over-dramatized apocalyptic imagery employed by movies. Interestingly enough, the film was completely silent, making it even more eerie and haunting than the stirring soundtracks of many apocalyptic films.

Jasmine: I was quite captivated by the director’s take on waste caused by over-consumption, which was quite evident in several scenes where the deluge of water was littered with Macdonald’s paraphernalia. This seemed to resemble the amount of waste caused by human excess.  Numerous slow-motion, underwater shots were used. The floating debris gliding past the camera was reminiscent of space, which is also a gravity-less environment, so I read that as  a visual metaphor for the exporting of waste into outer space.

stored in a jar: monsoon, drowning fish, colour of water, and the floating world, 2011-11 by Tiffany Chung (Ho Chih Minh)


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Andrew: One thing we really liked about this exhibition was that the pieces were actually aesthetically pleasing and good to look at. Most contemporary art prides itself on being disgusting, shocking and off-putting, but this piece was alluring and it drew you in. I spent so much time just walking around the ‘floating island’, appreciating the intricacy of detail and immersing in Chung’s utopia.

This was actually meant to be Tiffanny Chung’s creation of an alternative model of urban development, where ‘floating life’ is the way of life. I really liked the attention, not just to aesthetic detail, but to the scientific detail (like how the water pumps and pipes would be arranged, where the buoys would be etc.).

Jasmine: Although "beautiful" is a rather cliched word to use, there’s no better way to describe this piece.  One issue that I often encounter with contemporary "art" is the lack of artisanal merit or craftsmanship in the piece. Chung’s piece, however, drew me in without requiring over-elaborate  explanations or shock tactics.

In addition to being well-made and well-conceived, the piece was also well-displayed. Everything worked together to create the effect of surreally floating islands, from the spot lighting which cut through the glass surfaces and threw some interesting shadows on the floor, to the wires which suspended the glass in midair.

‘Spring and Autumn’ series, 2004-10, Shao Yinong & Muchen

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Andrew: This was another beautiful piece with many war-time currencies woven onto black cloth. The weaving was so fine and the lighting was perfect in highlighting the subtle shades of colour and shadows in the dollar note design. Apparently these notes were created using traditional Suzhou embroidery techniques, to suggest the ‘fragile nature of political and economic power’. These notes were obsolete bank notes from different countries and periods, which carry symbolic images of leaders, heroes and mythical figures. While the artists wanted to highlight the fragility of power, they also ironically created a very captivating piece which conveyed a great sense of awe.

Jasmine: Another interpretation I had of the piece was that it intended to elevate currency, which we normally deem as a base and mundane transactionary tool, to the status of high art, by rendering it in intricate embroidery and fine metallic threads to create the impression of something precious and valuable.

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Andrew: I just liked the symbolism of this piece a lot. It was supposed to show how status was symbolized by how ‘high’ you were in the residential building. Scaria also intended to critique how the buildings in New Delhi seemed to be designed more to impress others for their ‘ingenuity and specularity rather than functiong as a living space.’

The use of a spiral staircase was indeed intelligent in highlighting that as spiral staircases are purely aesthetic and have no additional ‘functionality’ as compared to usual staircases. (Jasmine: I would have to gently disagree here dear; spiral staircases are often used to save space in cramped quarters. See for instance lighthouses or shophouses.) Putting it as a spiral staircase also adds to that sense of ‘exposing’ the structure as every individual unit is seen and every unit is revealed as being the same. In fact, looking into the unit, you will notice there’s nothing in side at all, it’s all empty. It was a visually appealing and engaging piece as I found myself wanting to walk around the piece and peek through the various windows. (Jasmine: Another feature of the spiral staircase is that it doesn’t require any weight-bearing support from surrounding walls. Aesthetics aside, the artist may have chosen a spiral staircase as it provides viewers with a 360-degree view that a normal staircase wouldn’t.)

Story lines By Beat Streuli

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Andrew: This was another video installation which I thought was very successful. I generally have no patience for video installations which merely show people walking or various landscapes with no discernible storyline, but I thought that this video installation was very thoughtfully crafted. There were 3 screens on which scenes of street life in New York and Singapore were projected. The expressions on the individuals were varied, yet all so revealing, drawing you in and inviting you to think about what might be on their minds. It was also fun to notice the little things that make Singapore Singapore, like the design of the railings, memorable colours of our SBS buses etc.

What Teenagers Want to Know About Romance

Jasmine: During Valentine’s Day, Andrew and I decided to conduct Civics lessons for our classes based on the theme of romance and relationships! Our lesson structures were pretty similar- we invited our students to scribble any question they might have about romance or dating, and we would collect these papers and answer them as honestly as possible.

Here are some of our favourite questions posed by our students:

1. When is the correct age to date?

Jasmine: I could give you the whole "there’s no correct age and when you’re ready, you’re ready" spiel, but to be honest, there are certain ages at which one definitely should not date. Ages 16 and 18 are a no-go because if you’re a Singaporean, chances are you’ll be sitting for high-stakes exams in those years. Very bad idea. (The dating, not the exams.)

I’m an old-fashioned girl and I believe in dating with the intention to marry. By this I mean that you should carefully consider whether this is a person that you could imagine spending the rest of your life with, given both his strengths and his weaknesses, before even entering into the relationship.

Think about your ideal age to get married,  bearing in mind that you should have completed your higher education and have worked for long enough to save some money for the wedding (let’s say 27, but probably older for guys). Then subtract the number of years you deem suitable for a courtship (let’s say 3). Give or take a couple of years and that could be the approximate age at which you start dating.

Andrew: When I offer this answer, I’m not saying that those who are currently already in relationships should end it now and focus on ‘what is important’. What’s more important are the reasons behind why that is an ideal time to start dating.

I firmly believe that the best age to start dating is when you start working. One very practical reason is that that is the age when you become financially independent and no longer need to depend on your parents for money. This is especially important for guys as you don’t want to be using your parents’ money to treat your girlfriend to dates and buy meaningful gifts for her. It also means that you are ‘dating within your own means’, which starts the relationship off on a more realistic, practical note.

Jasmine: I couldn’t agree more. Nothing is worse than a cheap date or a guy who is still living off his parents’ money. I’m blessed: though  Andrew and I are both financially stable, he loves to treat me to dinners and movies and plays (and the occasional scrapbook supply).  For Andrew, it is his way of "providing" for me and I do find that very manly.

Please girls, always offer to pay your man back. If he refuses to take your money, find an opportunity to treat him back. It does not have to be an equivalent amount but it should show that you aren’t taking his generosity for granted.

Andrew: Another key reason why it’s good to start when you start working is that you are generally a more stable person then. The JC and University stages of your life are the times where you really start becoming aware of the options available to you and you specialise and discover who you are, what you are interested in and what you want to do. These are times too of great change in your character and personality and you are more certain of the kind of person you are when you start working. If you start dating when you start working, it also means less transitions to manage as some might go to different countries during the university years and then there’s NS for guys.

What is definitely not a good time to start dating is now (as I was speaking to JC2 students). If you are not in a relationship already, then please do not start now because it will be distracting and takes your focus away from your major exam this year.

2. How do you know if your guy friend likes you and what should you do?

Jasmine: You’ll know if he begins treating you differently from other female friends. For instance, calling you often, messaging you "for no reason" or teasing you especially frequently.

If you do not feel the same way about him, don’t lead him on! The worst thing you can do is to keep entertaining his attentions. Men tend to see your responsiveness as an encouragement to proceed. When guys tried to get too close in the past, I would make rather pointed statements about what a good friend he was and how I wished we’d remain friends for a very long time 🙂

Andrew: Indeed, if a guy starts smsing you ‘just to chat’ or ‘because he is bored’, then you know that he probably has some interest in you. He will also do subtle things to show that he pays special attention to you, like commenting if you have worn something different or letting you know that he’s noticed you like a certain drink/ colour/ type of food etc. The guy might suddenly just treat you ‘for the fun of it’ or buy you something just because he ‘thought you would like it’. At the heart of it all, all the guy wants to do is to show you that he is paying attention to you and he wants to make you feel that you are special and unique to him.

Well, what you should do – if you like him, then respond to his smses and kind acts positively. Guys might kill me for this, but my advice for girls is not to respond too quickly or too hastily to a guy’s signs of interest. (Jasmine: Could not agree more! If he’s serious about you, he’ll work for it. And strangely enough, he’ll treasure you more when you finally acquiesce.) Don’t let your interest be shown immediately, but give it a while and see how the guy responds to you so that you can see if he’s really interested. On the other hand, if you’re not interested, then don’t lead the guy and you should make your lack of interest known immediately. You don’t have to be harsh and brutal about it. Be subtle about it by simply ignoring or responding in a very neutral manner to the guy.

3. When should a girl initiate a relationship?

Jasmine: Never.

I waited five months for Andrew to ask me out. I’m still glad I did.

My reason is very simply this: I believe that the man should take the lead in the relationship, right from the start. If I initiate the courting, I will always wonder if he agreed to be with me because he truly liked me or because it was just convenient/ flattering that a girl would ask him out.

Andrew: Well, I have to say I really agree with Jasmine here. I firmly believe that the guy should be the one initiating the courtship and leading the relationship eventually. Call us traditional, but that’s what we believe in – the guy should be the one pursuing and the girl should be the one being pursued.

4. What should we do when we quarrel?

Andrew: For guys, the most important instinct to resist in a quarrel is to be solution-oriented. What guys must learn is to do is to be patient and sit down and listen to how the girl feels about a certain issue or what you all disagree about. A girl really wants to be heard and she wants to know that you are willing to listen to what she has to say. When listening to the girl’s perspective, resist the desire to interrupt her or to offer a differing perspective. (Jasmine: All women, say amen!) It is useful to double-check that she has finished what she wants to say before you speak. Frankly, a guy will never be able to fully understand how a girl feels or what she goes through, but it is important that you make the effort to try and listen to her.

For a girl, it is important that you know that guys are wired very differently from girls. You need to explain very clearly how you feel to a guy and state the reasons why you feel this way. I know it sounds ironic, but you have to try to explain your emotions logically. I feel that my girlfriend has done very well in this area. You need to be patient as well and expect that the guy will take a while to understand your perspective.

Jasmine: I think my Mr Chong has provided a really thoughtful and balanced perspective on this question, so I will just supplement his advice by offering a few practical approaches for conflict resolution.

  • When you are both ready, share your feelings honestly and calmly,  without pointing fingers or laying blame on the other person. For instance, you could say, "I felt really shocked/ upset when that happened". Simply put, your sharing should focus on your feelings and reactions rather than his flaws and failures.
  • Sit side-by-side, holding hands (a good friend taught us that). It may be a minor detail but the physical touch helps ease any atmosphere of confrontation. Sitting across a table and glaring at each other seem more like a face-off than a discussion.
  • When appropriate, also affirm him for things that you appreciate him for, even if he was in the wrong this time. It takes alot of humility for a man to acknowledge that he screwed up, so help him along by being supportive and encouraging, even if you’re still mad at him. Which brings me to my last point:
  • When you close the matter, you close the matter. Do not ever bring up past incidents, no matter how great the temptation or how striking the similarity between both events.

Andrew: In terms of more practical tips, when you sense that the argument is getting too heated, it is useful for one of the two of you to recognise it and stop talking for a while. Call for a time-out of at least 30 minutes to an hour before you continue conversing again. When arguments get too heated, we are responding based on emotion and not working out issues in a fair and reasonable way. You don’t want to end up saying things that require even more damage control in the future.

What has really helped my girlfriend and I is the support of more experienced couples too. When quarrels reach a point where we can’t resolve it, we often go and find our church leaders to help us work through the issues. For some of you, you might not have such leaders, but you should have someone, maybe your parents or a close friend, whom you can trust to help both of you work through your issues. It should preferably be someone who is already married or experienced in counseling. Relationships is something that everyone has an opinion on and very few opinions out there are actually reliable. Those that are reliable are only from those who have first-hand experience or experience dealing with a wide range of relationship issues.

5. What is love? (Yes, a fourteen-year-old girl posed this question)

Jasmine: Many people define love as a crush or a temporary infatuation, which has given rise to that most cliched of all sayings, "Love is blind".

However, I think of love as acceptance of the other person (all his faults and failures), resilience (to weather storms  together)  and commitment (to love each other even when the infatuation fades). In other words, love isn’t blind- love sees through you and still enjoys the view.

6. Is it a good idea to continue being friends after we break-up?

Andrew: Some might say that it depends on the circumstances of the break-up, whether it was a peaceful or a heated one. It also depends on whether you were the one who initiated it or not. If you were the one who was ‘rejected’, then my advice is don’t continue the friendship, because doing so would only cause more pain and cause the hurt from the break-up to continue after that. My general belief is that for every break-up, there needs to be at least 3 months of no contact before you resume the friendship again so as to ensure that both of you have really let go of the possibility of the relationship.

7. Is there such a thing as ‘the one’ for you?

Andrew: If by asking this question, you are asking about whether there is anybody that is perfect for you, then the answer is definitely no. All couples, regardless of how compatible they are, will definitely have areas where they differ which they will have to work out through the process of dating, marriage counseling and marriage itself (if they get to that stage). There is no relationship where you get into it and you immediately know that this person has been the one you’ve been waiting for all your life. My girlfriend and I have had differences we’ve had to work through, even though we are common in so many other areas. The process of working through it helps both of you to grow and also learn if you are eventually the ‘right one’ for each other.

Jasmine: Instead of asking if he’s The One, be The One instead. To echo the wise words of my senior pastor, the secret to a successful relationship is to give, and when you’re done giving, give again.

What we need to realise is that no matter how perfect he may seem, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. The idea of The One is a rather static notion that doesn’t take into account that real-world relationships encounter many challenges, transitions and circumstances, and they must evolve and grow to adapt to these new situations. Therefore, I don’t quite believe in The One; I only believe in making a commitment and choosing to work at it with all you have. You’ll become a better person and he’ll love you all the more for it. Trust me.

Style-File: The Belated CNY Dress-Up Post

Jazzy’s outfit

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(Dress from Soon Lee, shoes from H&M Hong Kong, bag from FemmeX)

Detail shots:

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(Ring from Topshop, London- a thank-you gift from my students for taking care of them on last year’s UK trip)

Andrew: I really liked the simplicity of Jasmine’s dress. The stripes of colour worked really well together and suited Jasmine’s skin-tone very well. I liked too how Dearie sneaked in pops of ‘CNY-colours’ in her ring and some of the ‘bands’ in her dress, without being too obvious and boring. Of course, I always like Dearie in such dresses as they are so relaxed and girly. Heh. 🙂

Andrew’s outfit

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(Shirt from River Island, pants from P.O.A., oxford shoes from Geox)

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(Belt from Raoul: Jazzy’s Christmas present to Andrew- it’s reversible too!)

Detail shots:

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Jasmine: Although Andrew took a lot of ribbing from his cousins about his "man jewelry", I thought those finishing touches really made his outfit more youthful and relaxed! Those stripey socks added a kick of colour to an otherwise subdued outfit. The oxford shoes were half-price at Geox and in such an unusual colour (greyish taupe) too… we walked from Raffles City to Marina Square to get them!

Andrew: Besides the shoes, the River-Island shirt has a long history too! We initially spotted the shirt early 2010, but I was hesitant and unsure as I felt that this shirt was too ‘adventurous’ and ‘bold’ for work. We didn’t manage to get detail shots, but the shirt has ‘floral’ patterns on it and silver buttons. We went in repeatedly to see the shirt and I believe I even tried it twice but chose not to buy it. One day, I finally decided to buy it and we went back to River Island only to discover that my size was no longer available – that was about August or so? However, when Dearie was in Sydney last year, I spent some time in Orchard by myself (shocking, I know) and somehow decided to go into River Island at Ion. To my biggest surprise, the shirt was there again and in my size! I bought it immediately! I have started wearing this shirt to work and it’s getting some good reviews from my colleagues.

Some shots with our families:

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Style File: The CHECK List

Jasmine: After much trial and error in the changing-room, we’ve accidentally discovered that Andrew looks really good in checked shirts. Over the past year, Mr Chong’s amassed quite a collection of checked shirts! Of course, he has his beloved black-and-white checked shirt from Domanchi that he’s worn on a number of special occasions (a staff dinner at Sentosa, our very first birthday celebration, at the Peak in Hong Kong) as well as casual weekends. We present to you some of our new favourites:

1.  Blue checked shirt from P.O.A.

Jasmine: I normally don’t push Andrew into making a purchase decision, but I’ve to confess that it was only after much cajoling on my part that Andrew finally caved in and bought this shirt.

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Jasmine: He originally protested that it was too “metrosexual” to wear to the office. I liked that the checks were diagonally placed, which made him look taller. The light blue hue also complemented his tanned skin.

[Andrew: I must admit that I was very uncertain about buying this shirt. After wearing it to a friend’s wedding, many friends complemented it and said it was a nice shirt! I guess Jasmine’s fashion sense is always a step ahead. While Dearie has commented extensively on the checks, what I also like about the shirt very much are the lines (which you can’t really see from the picture above) that enhance the ‘top’ of my frame and slims the waist area. I have another POA shirt (which I’m equally uncomfortable wearing) which has a similar effect and it does so in a similar way. Korean-cut shirts are great!]

2. Red-and-blue shirt from Topman

Jasmine: The bright colours are a refreshing change from the myriad of blacks and blues that typically predominate a man’s wardrobe. The checks are also not too large- this would be too overwhelming since red and blue are both strong primary hues. I remember seeing a similar shirt retail at Paragon for quadruple the price. The best part is that when Andrew tires of this shirt, we can re-purpose it as a picnic mat!

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Andrew: This shirt is otherwise known by my colleagues as the “Pizzaman shirt”. Heh.  My initial reservation about this shirt was that I thought it would be too casual for work. Dearie suggested doing some slight alterations to add some ‘darts’ behind to make the shirt slimmer and it really did help give it a more ‘formal’ look. This shirt has become another one of my unexpectedly good buys, purchased from Topman at 50% off!

3. Pink gingham shirt from Raoul

Jasmine: We got a really good deal on this shirt. After Andrew spent an hour deliberating whether to buy his Raoul briefcase, he spied this shirt on the sale rack and got it in five minutes. It was 50% off!

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IMG_9462 I think Andrew looks rather good in pink and this pink in particular, is a more sophisticated, deeper hue than the baby pinks that we normally see at G200o or horror, Goldlion.

[Andrew: Interestingly enough, my dad also likes to wear pink shirts and they do look quite good on him. In my first few months of teaching, a colleague of mine put up this skit in which we pretended to argue to illustrate the concept of argumentative essays. I had to wear pink shirts consecutively for 3 days (I only had 2) because he would make fun of my pink shirts by calling me a ‘pink cow’. Heh. That earned me a reputation amongst my students for wearing pink shirts. I do realise that deeper hue of pink (and not any other hue)! ]

In short, these are our tips when it comes to buying checked shirts for men

  • Print: Ensure that the size of the check/ plaid is right for you (or your man, if you’re a girl reading this). We’d advise against extremely tiny checks, especially for very buff or heavyset men, because they can make guys look larger. Actually, we’d advise against checks for heavyset men in general.
  • Colour combis: Choose interesting colour pairings but don’t go overboard. Sticking with two, maximum three, colours is a safe bet. When in doubt, go with a traditional manly check in red, blue or black, such as this one from the Gap:
  • Fit: Never too baggy, unless the look you are going for is lumberjack! For a modern update, try a checked shirt with a narrower collar, also from the Gap:
  • Hint: I don’t particularly like this oversized plaid (its proportions are too overwhelming for guys of average build) but I do like the touch of teal, which makes an otherwise staid monochromatic ensemble surprising.
  • Sleeve-length: If you are considering short sleeves for work, plaid or gingham is respectable, yet classically stylish. In fact, I think that short-sleeved shirts look best in a checked print. For added Italian flair (and if your stomach is reasonably flat), select a shirt that’s snug (but not too snug) around the midsection.

And of course, who says girls can’t do checks too?

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(Shirt: M&S, tutu skirt: H&M Kids)

Style File: Dressing to Match while Still Being You

Jasmine: Couple dressing has earned itself a (deservedly) bad rep thanks to those clingy types who wear identical T-shirts with horrendously cheesy slogans i.e. We Belong Together or I’m With Stupid (which I never quite got- why would anyone want to advertise his own bad taste?).

We offer you a few interesting colour combinations for unexpected couple dressing.

White + Navy Blue + Emerald Green

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(On Andrew: shirt from Topman, jeans from Levi’s, sneakers from Fred Perry; on Jasmine: blouse from Far East Plaza, skirt from Southaven, shoes from H&M)

Jasmine: When Andrew saw me emerge from the room in this ensemble, he was surprised that I had not gone with one of my blue-and-white printed dresses. White and blue can be a little austere, so I thought I would inject a shock of colour to our outfits. My paperbag skirt, however, is navy blue. The bow blouse is quite attention-seeking on its own (it’s got a huge bow on the chest, comes in a bright-coloured fabric and has a slight satin sheen), so I thought that a simple skirt with minimal detail would help tone it down. And more nude shoes, this time from H&M Hong Kong.

Another variant on this would be:

White + Grey + (Your choice of bold print/ colour)

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(On Andrew: shirt from Raoul; on Jasmine: dress from Roxy Square, belt taken from another dress)

Jasmine: Grey is not a fantastic colour alone, but it provides a great background for experimenting with primary colours and prints (or in this case, both).

Purple + Pink

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(On Andrew: shirt from Raoul; on Jasmine: custom dress from Etsy, elt from another dress, shoes from Far East Plaza)

Jasmine: For high-profile occasions where there’s bound to be a great deal of trigger-happy relatives, go for jewel tones in solid hues, such as fuchsia pink or royal purple, which photograph very well. Forget black. Black is dead!

Another misconception about couple dressing is that couples have to dress exactly alike, in gender-ambiguous kit such as polo tees and bermudas. (Involuntary shudder.) However, we say that the best thing about couple dressing is that we get to play up opposites i.e. masculinity/ femininity, neutrals/ vivid hues, structured/ unstructured. Don’t be afraid to take risks- should you fail, just walk three metres apart from each other at all times.

Oh, and a close-up of my current necklace du jour (a present from the Lims).

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Toast and Jam: Best Friends Forever (BFF)

P.S. Our more discerning readers may notice that this is actually a spin-off of our previous Style File post on some of Andrew’s favourite shirt brands. Not wanting to be left out of the photoshoot fun, I decided that I would act as the living backdrop to Andrew by choosing outfits that would complement his!

Latest Update: Purple + Green

Jasmine: While purple and green are more typically associated with Barney the dinosaur, I like how our shades of pistachio green and electric purple (yes, I actually checked Wikipedia for the name of this shade) are complementary rather than clashing hues.

(On Andrew: Tee from Animal, jeans from Levi’s; on Jasmine: dress from Far East Plaza, bag from Femme X, necklace from Bondi Beach Market, Sydney)

Andrew: Finally I have a say. We took this picture today after we had published this post. When it comes to couple dressing, Jasmine still has the best instinct of all. I didn’t even realise that our outfits were ‘coordinated’ until Jasmine pointed out today that we were wearing ‘contrasting colours’. Upon which, I just nodded and said, “Mm..”.

Sharing a giggle


Andrew: I’ll comment more on my own outfit then. This pair of grey jeans has indeed been very useful for both smart casual and casual days. I wore it yesterday for my aunt’s dinner with a white Springfield shirt and today with the ANIMAL t-shirt and the jeans complemented both well!

Style File: The Shirt Directory

"We always hold hands. If I let go, he shops."

Jasmine: When we first started dating, Andrew told me that he was slightly disappointed that I didn’t try to make him over. After one and a half years of shopping together, Andrew and I have discovered a few brands that suit his body type well. Our search criteria consist of affordability, versatility, uniqueness (sounds like it contradicts the previous criterion but it doesn’t) and fit.

Under $150: Raoul

Jasmine: Though he probably does not care to admit it, Raoul is the fashion equivalent of comfort food for Andrew. He has dragged me into Raoul on several occasions, and just last Sunday, we spent close to an hour there while he agonised over whether to buy a camel or coffee-coloured briefcase (light brown and dark brown, in manspeak). He even threw in a shirt at the last minute because it was 50% off for 2 items.

[Andrew: I waited 6 months to buy that bag! And a few days ago, we went to the Raoul Outlet at Raffles Place and they told us the colour we wanted was sold out already. Imagine how glad I was when we finally found the same bag, in an even more unique colour and at half price!

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One of my favourite Raoul shirts:

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Jasmine: I must say, he’s a changed man (no pun intended). At last count, Andrew has five shirts from here, a reversible leather belt (my Christmas gift to him) and said briefcase.

IMG_9341Reversible belt 

More pics of Raoul shirts:

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Under $100: P.O.A/ Domanchi

Jasmine: P.O.A/ Domanchi has that Korean fit, which is slim without being tight. Their fabric selection is also more adventurous than Raoul’s and are perfect for casual Fridays at the office.

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Andrew: My colleague says this shirt has a cow-boy look to it. Heh. I do like this shirt very much as it is very comfortable and cooling and all the subtle touches like the buttons and interesting lines give this shirt a nice frame which makes it look equally smart and casual.

Under $60: Topman

Jasmine: Andrew bought two shirts from Topman which have been garnering rave reviews from his colleagues and students.

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We like how the vertical placket makes the torso look long and lean. Also, navy blue, even in small doses, effectively counteracts the yellow undertones of Asian skin.

Andrew: One of my students told me he has the exact same shirt as me! One of the ‘perils’ of shopping at Topshop is that my students shop there too. A student even told me once that a Topman shirt I wore was from a collection 2 years ago (implying I was outdated). Heh. Everyone loves the shirt above. I wore it just last week and it got praises from 3 people throughout the day.

Jazzy’s tip: It doesn’t matter how small your budget is. You can achieve an expensive, bespoke look by altering your shirt to fit you perfectly. I introduced Andrew to my seamstress at Roxy Square: though she’s protested that "no need to take in lah", she’s done a great job tucking in seams and adding darts in a way that complements Andrew’s physique.