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Hi everyone! This is my first post for 2019 but it's more of a retrospective one. I'm so excited and amazed that I managed to complete a whole year of monthly look books - all 12 months! When I first started off, I hadn't thought about how long I'd last. But in totality, I presented 59 different outfit posts over the course of 2018 via the monthly look book series. Here's a look back at the 3 different outfits I sported during the festive month of December. Do let me know if you enjoyed the monthly look book series and whether you want to keep seeing them in 2019.

Let's start with this Zara dress. It's actually a dress I bought when I was 3 months pregnant with Arjun in 2017 so it's a dress I've had for some time. I purchased this dress one size bigger than my usual one with the intent to keep room for my tummy to grow over the course of the pregnancy. Sure enough, I managed to wear this dress almost into my third trimester at which point, it began to look quite unsightly on me. After I delivered Arjun, this dress served as a great postpartum dress with its roomy, billowy feel. I'm quite certain Zara did not intend for this chainlink design dress to serve as a maternity/post-partum dress but hey, it worked really well for me and I continue to wear it now! I love the chainlink design (such a classic one!).

Zara chainlink dress | Shoes from Charles & Keith | Michael Kors bag (similar design here)

I had previously raved about this Aijek dress on my Instagram. Aijek is a Singapore-based fashion label and the designer's creations are beautiful. What made me love this dress was its ability to create an optical illusion! With its vertical stripes and ruched features around the midsection, the dress is a winner because it magically covers up my problem areas. I look tall, skinny, and could fool you into believing I have flat abs! Haha...I chose to pair it with a bright pop of yellow with my purse and flats.

Aijek dress (unable to locate a link to share) | Flats from Urban Revivo
 | Purse from Nine West (old)

This dress is quite an eye-popping shade of red. I wore it for our "Be Body Positive" campaign with fellow Singapore bloggers in December (do check out my Instagram for those posts and to see the awesome lady bloggers I collaborated with!). The dress is from a local store called BYSI which carries casual and dressy clothes at a mid-level price range. I don't normally love their designs but this dress attracted me because I fell for the poufy sleeves and the ruched design over the midsection (similar to the Aijek dress). The dress looked glam and dramatic and I loved that! What do you think?

BYSI dress | Shoes from Charles & Keith | Purse from Mumbai 
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In high school, I was voted as “Most Academic”. It wasn’t something I was particularly proud of. Being “Most Academic” was akin to be labeled as nerdy, boring, and lame and who wants that?

I so wanted to be one of the “Popular Girls” in school, sought after and admired by everyone. Or so I thought. Until I started seeing the negative effects and pressures that came with being “popular” in school. You had to be pretty, you had to be skinny, you had to be fair-skinned, you had to wear makeup and dress a certain way. I didn’t fit into this category and the more I saw, the more I was put off by it. A lot of these girls in my school were decidedly unhappy beyond the cool persona they projected. Many suffered from eating disorders and made bad decisions to be cool and likeable. I was confused by this world where your looks and outward image was given more importance than how you are on the inside. I didn’t want any part of it and stuck to my close friends in high school, secure in myself as a person but filled with those adolescent doubts and uncertainties of how others beyond my inner circle viewed me. School can be a harsh place for early life lessons.
Over the years, beyond college and into adult life, I have come to learn that media and certain people or societies will try to put a certain pressure on how you should look and what you should be. I'll admit, I have never really agonized over my body image and physical self. Rather, it's been more about my persona. I went on a long journey to earn my PhD s in the field of cancer research. I was "Dr Richa Tiwari" but somehow, even after years of legitimate hard work to get there, I felt weird referring to myself as that and would always downplay my achievement. What if someone thought I was too geeky to relate to? When I started blogging and exploring my interest in fashion, then too I struggled with presenting what might be seen as a frivolous side of me. What if people thought I was superficial?

Maybe it was all in my head. I've always felt proud of who I am. I never thought I was nerdy or superficial but felt self-conscious that others did. It's taken me a while to accept and be comfortable with presenting the different facets of myself without the inhibitions. A scientific, data-crunching thinker and a creative being who loves ideas, writing and fashion...Why can't I be both or whatever I want? Don't let others' inside or outside perception of you lead you down a path of self-doubt or insecurity. Believe me, life is easier when you are comfortable in your own skin, inside and out. So just own it!

Note: This article was first published as a guest post on Styling Redefine for the #IAmMoreThanMyBody series. It has been re-posted here with some edits. 

Dress by BYSI | Clutch from India | Shoes from Charles & Keith

Every weekday morning is the same story in our home. Arjun sees me reaching for my office bag and putting on my shoes and knows that's the cue for me heading out to work for the day. Immediately he waddles over to the shoe rack and pulls out his own shoes and looks at me beseechingly. He's hoping that I'll take him along but of course I can't. This devolves into him crying at the top of his lungs as he watches me leave….not exactly a pleasant way to start off the day for either one of us!

Clearly I'm not alone in this and many working moms experience a similar emotional struggle every day. But here's the thing: Yes, it tugs my heartstrings to see my little one crying but I refuse to let the mom guilt get to me. The thing I tell myself and honestly truly believe is "I'm doing the best I can". I had a bad case of mom guilt with my older one but by the time Arjun entered the picture, I had overcome that crippling emotion.

I had to go through a few mindset shifts and I wanted to share with you what worked for me…

Mindset Change 1: It’s not you, it’s them.
Whether you are a working mom or a SAHM mom, it is perfectly normal for toddlers to experience separation anxiety. They want you no matter what and express this through wanting to be with you. Once I understood that, part of the guilt went away because I realized this is an inevitable and normal process in a child’s development. What matters how you deal with it.

Mindset Change 2: Focus on spending quality time with your children.
On my part, I just make sure I give my little one the due time and attention in the mornings before work. We enjoy making coffee together, he sits next to me and watches me as I put on my makeup, I involve him in picking out what I'll wear, etc. Then we head out of the house together as he sees me off for the day. It’s those few moments of special quality time together that I try to make count. Unfortunately, he still cries when he sees me driving off to work. But it’s normal for a young child to vocalize his separation anxiety with crying, and I tell myself that I’ll do my best to make it up to him when I get back home. In the evenings after work, I try to prioritize time with the kids until they go off to bed. We do play time and activities together. I’m not saying I’m perfect. Far from it. There are moments of yelling and shouting and me losing my patience with them. Sometimes I just want a short while to myself after a long day at work. But let’s go easy on ourselves, ladies. Work and raising kids is a constant balancing act but somehow we have to make it work the best way we can.

Mindset Change 3: Choose to be content with the choices you make!
By choosing to work, I have made a conscious decision to be away from my kids for my career and to do something engaging and productive for myself. Likewise, if you choose to be a SAHM, you have decided you want to focus full-time on the kids and home life. Either way, I think it is important to fully embrace our choices without feeling bad or apologetic about it.

We women are wired differently and tend to be much more emotional than men. We seem to impose this “mom guilt” on ourselves and perpetuate our feelings of inadequacy as a mother. Add to that the conditioning and judgment we seem to get from society about what mothers should and shouldn’t do with their children. It’s exhausting. Do you ever see dads racked with guilt the same way moms are? We need to stop doing this to ourselves and realize that we are doing what is best for our family and our own personal situation.

I had previously written about "Why Mother's Should Stop Feeling Guilty" here as well (before my second child Arjun was born). 

Tell me how you deal with mother's guilt and has it been easier after the first child? 
November was an eventful month for me, including visits from friends and an amazing travel adventure in Myanmar (more to come on that soon!).  Here's to sharing some of the looks I sported during this month.

“Gingham style”
 Gingham doesn’t have to be seen only on men shirts. I’m actually quite fond of that pattern and own the gingham print in various different colors. This gingham skirt itself is from your trusty, fast-fashion store H&M while the top is from Mango. The belt is from Charles & Keith, which I find to have a great collection of belts, not just shoes! When I paired the top and skirt together, something was missing. The addition of the belt was a last minute thing which seems to pull the outfit together and adds an extra dose of color. You could just as well go without the belt. What do you think – would you wear it with or without the belt?

Mango top | H&M skirt | Charles & Keith belt | Zara shoes | Gucci cross body bag

Linen appeal
This linen dress has an Indowestern quality to it with its color and floral “ambi” design. It’s from Linen n’ More, a store in Singapore which I’ve talked about before. I love the color of this dress and because it’s linen, it’s super comfortable for wearing in the warm weather here. I dressed up the dress with heels and this funky ethnic clutch (gift from a friend).

Dress from Linen n' More | Charles & Keith nude heels | Ethnic clutch from India |
Earrings from Lovisa

All a-blaze!
When I had posted this picture on Instagram, I had also shared a mini-tutorial about how to style blazers on my Instastories (which you can catch on my Highlights reel now). I liked the combination of white, gray and orange. The orange color of this blazer makes the white and grey tones on this outfit pop. This is an old blazer I had bought a few years ago in New York and it’s still such a closet staple for me!

H& M blazer (old) | Plain white blouse from Forever 21 (old) | Waist tie plaid pants from SheIn | Furla mini-bag | Charles & Keith nude heels

Feroza Designs
I fell in love with this Feroza Designs soft cotton dress the moment I wore it. You can literally live in this all day long – which is precisely what I did when I wore this on my trip to Myanmar recently. It was a hot day of sight-seeing and visiting temples but the dress kept me cool and put-together. I chose to add a white belt to this cap-sleeve dress in blue print. 

A bit about this brand - Feroza Designs is a Singapore brand started by Kavita Dasgupta with a collection of adult and kids bedding products such as throws, fitted sheets, dohars, etc. The material is 100% cotton and is made by artisans in India skilled in block printing. I've seen the designs myself and they're lovely! Recently, the brand has launched a collection of dresses and I was lucky to get a chance to collaborate with them and try these dresses. I love their simplistic elegance and they are so perfectly wearable for Singapore weather! Keep a lookout for their collection launching soon. 

Feroza Designs cap sleeve blue dress | Lifestyle Edit straw bag | Belt from Charles & Keith

So I know I skipped a month for my "Look Book" series (the last one being from August 2018). But here is a combined September-October look book which I wanted to share with you. As I consider back to what I wore, I realize I was gravitating towards simple yet classic cuts and silhouettes. No crazy, funky patterns or bold looks here – just your regular polka dots, stripes, and solids. A touch boring? I beg to differ! But I’d love to hear from you - what is your style mantra is and which of these looks below did you like best? 

1.       Maisha Concept is a new label based in Singapore that I have discovered. I absolutely fell in love with their “Jaipur Chic” collection with its airy summery vibes. The brand works with small, independent artisans to support the traditions and knowledge of local communities (e.g., block printing in Rajasthan). Here are two outfits I wore recently from Maisha Concept – the first is the Pichola jumpsuit which I love for its pattern mixing. The other is the Amber Blue maxi skirt with a side leather strap which ties to a button so you can wear the skirt in two different ways. LOVE! Be sure to use code URBANMAISHA to get 10% off your order with free worldwide shipping.

Pichola jumpsuit from Maisha Concept | Tassel earrings from Just Gaya's |
Sandals from Ammos Accessories

Blouse from Zara (old) | Amber Blue Skirt from Maisha Concept | Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag

2.       Linen n’ More is another local Singapore brand which carries Indian clothes as well as fusion and Western resort wear. With the fabrics sourced directly from India, this store has a lovely collection of cotton and linen outfits. Don't go by just what's listed on their website - the actual store houses a much bigger collection of clothes. I loved this cream-colored kurta with sharara pants. The “gota patti” details (the gold border along the outfit) adds a touch of fancy for the outfit. It’s perfect for a daytime event and that’s exactly what I had worn it for. Doesn’t the outfit just flow beautifully?
Cream Indian suit from Linen n' More 

I also wore this white eyelet dress and it was just perfect for a recent trip to Bali. I threw on a Maisha Concept scarf around my waist just to add a dash of color and flair. What do you think? (you can see an old post of mine about the different ways to style a scarf!)

Eyelet dress from Linen n' More | Scarf from Maisha Concept | Sandals from Ammos Accessories | Earrings from Stella and Dot

3.      Jodi Life is my recent fashion find in India. I love this site for its Indian fusion and ethnic-inspired designs. So totally unique and eye-catching with its prints. I had ordered a couple items from their site and will be sharing those looks soon. Their pricing is quite reasonable for Singapore standards but be prepared for shipping to take a while. Here is a cotton polka dot top which I paired with a pink skirt. You can easily dress it up as I did here or wear it more casually with shorts (try denim shorts with gladiator shoes!).

Jodi Life Polka Dot Peplum Top | Skirt from The Limited (old) |
Shoes from Charles & Keith | Earrings from MegaFash | Kate Spade Purse

4.       Mango is a known brand which offers all the latest on-trend apparel. I’m not the biggest fan of their fits (somehow the dresses don’t always fit right, which is why I always try them on and choose very selectively). However, you can get all the trendy designs here at a decent price.I had picked this simple white striped dress a couple months ago. Very wearable for a weekend! I can imagine throwing on a denim jacket and turning it into an appropriate “Friday casual” work look. What do you think?

Bucket bag and dress from Mango | Sandals from Zara | Tassel earrings from Just Gaya's |
Hat from Bangkok street shopping | Wooden bangles from Amrita Singh Jewelry

5.      eShakti is another recent e-shopping site I wanted to share with you guys. I was blown away by the fact that this site customizes clothes just for you and the prices are still damn reasonable! You can pick an outfit and choose the type of dress length, sleeve length, neckline cut, and other details that you want. Even down to deciding whether you want pockets to be included in a dress. Now that is something unique with an online store! I definitely would recommend you to try it. I had ordered this animal print, wrap dress here and I was quite happy with the fit. I felt that the pictures on the website were reflective of what the actual dress looks like. I have a referral code to share: urbanmantra_es1 for 10% off your next order (valid only until December 2, 2018).

eShakti dress (similar here) | Shoes and sunglasses from Charles & Keith | Mango purse 

6.      All Would Envy is a Singapore fashion brand with a sweet and simple style aesthetic. It is evident in the two dresses I have worn here.  One is a solid color lavender A-line dress and the other is a floral dress. Both are cute and comfy for daytime wear. The price point is around $28-35 for dresses by this brand.

All Would Envy floral dress | Shoes from Charles & Keith | Gorjana bracelet

All Would Envy lavendar A-line dress | Bag from Michael Kors | Shoes from Charles & Keith