My Sewing Machine // When a Gift is more than a Gift

ted baker navy wool wrap coat rag bone zoe hat

Ted Baker wool coat sz 0 (sleeves shortened), Rag & Bone hat sz M; runs a bit small, Stuart Weitzman boots in Praline

I was so excited when L’Occitane invited me to be part of their holiday campaign, especially after having gotten to know to the brand better earlier this year. Their campaign this season is inspired by the idea that “a gift, no matter how small, can change a life.” So for a video we were collaborating on, I had to answer one seemingly simple question: what’s one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve received?

I know for a lot of people, gifting conjures up images of neatly wrapped packages under a tree. But my family was never big on presents in the traditional sense of tearing open surprise dolls or Easy-Bake Ovens. The most elaborate gift someone would receive was a bag of oranges or pears (the “good” kind, of course)! So here I was, sitting at my desk wracking my brain when Nick pointed to something in the corner of our office, “What about that?”

It was my plain, plastic, yellowed sewing machine from my parents with a few paint chips and cracked base. I’d had this old thing for two decades, long before Nick and I even met. It certainly had taken a few bumps and bruises along the way! Looking at it, I started tearing up, and I didn’t even know why.

jean extra petite sewing machine

I have to admit, as a young teen, I didn’t think of that sewing machine as a gift. There was no memorable occasion – it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, it wasn’t a fun visit to the coveted Toys R Us – instead just a non-sexy routine stroll through Walmart. But as soon as I got it, I remember I would spend most of my time after school with it into the wee hours of the morning, refashioning my mom’s curtains or dad’s oversized dress shirts (much to his dismay!) into new “styles.”  

I used it to create my own prom dresses. I used it to help apply to fashion school. I used it in college, even though I chose the “sensible” route of business instead of art. I used it as a badly needed creative outlet during my first corporate job. And I even used it to fuel some of the posts in the earliest days of this blog. Now, although I have less time and patience to sew (after all these years, I never got any better at it!), I still rely on it for last-minute quick fixes when I can’t get to my tailor. My sewing machine was with me as I grew, as I wavered over life decisions, changed careers multiple times, before eventually found the courage to pursue what I have been most passionate about this whole time.

After Nick pointed it out, it became painfully clear to me that what I thought was a very practical trip to the store, was really one of the most supportive gestures my traditional immigrant parents could have given me as a child. Like with a lot of Asian families, I was nudged in the direction of a stable job as a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. But looking back, my parents quietly encouraged and supported what I truly loved doing. They were never very verbal, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. 

loccitane holiday stocking stuffers christmas gifts

 Ann Taylor blouse xxs petite (similar tie-sleeve top), Modcloth skirt, Sam Edelman boots

loccitane holiday christmas campaign video shoot

I was able to to meet some of you in-person in NYC last week, which I’m so grateful about! And to think, getting to connect with so many wonderful individuals from around the world may not have been possible without inspiration from the gift I received as a child.  Thank you so much to everyone who braved the cold to come out, and I hope you guys were able to get some holiday shopping done!

If you still have last-minute gifts on your list, I wanted to wrap up this post with a few of my favorite holiday sets from the brand. Apart from just their lovely scents, many of these L’Occitane products have unique, interesting stories of their own that I’ve found to be inspirational and empowering for women – small gifts that could change a life in their own small ways.

loccitane holiday gift sets shea butter almond shower oil

Nourishing Shea Butter Collection – this is a gift that will be appreciated by guys and gals alike. Everyone battles dry, flaky skin in the winter, and this set includes with their moisturizing signature hand cream, foot cream, gentle soap, and extra rich body cream all containing organic, natural shea nut butter. I like to apply the foot cream and slip on socks before bed, to let the cream work itself in overnight. If you have sensitive skin or tend to avoid strongly fragranced products, this is also a great gift-to-self option as it has just a light and natural scent from the shea nut.

Delicious Almond Body Collectionmy personal favorite, and a popular one at the event! I’ve shared my love (and Nick’s!) before for their moisturizing, lightly-scented Almond line, and this set comes with a great range of product from shower oil to hand cream, to milk concentrate moisturizer to use post-bathing.

loccitane holiday gift boxes gif skirt sweater outfit

ASOS flippy skirt sz 00 petite, BP sweater xs (similar & very comfy in xxs), Stuart Weitzman boots

Thank you to L’Occitane for partnering on this post.


When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

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Leave a Comment


  1. Erika wrote:

    I know this was such a tiny detail in your post (which I loved, btw). But you mentioned that you used your sewing machine to create your prom dresses. I would love to see what those looked like?! If you can, please share in a future post!!!

    Posted 1.3.18 Reply
  2. Maureen wrote:

    Great post Jean. I love your floppy skirt from Asos. Such a fun look. Christmas to my family isn’t about gift giving either. I grew up in a traditional Filipino household and while my parents did everything they could to make sure my brothers and I had everything – the most amazing gift they gave was their time and sacrifice. Time to be present in our lives always regardless of I having started my family. They make the time to be present. And secondly, this comes with the territory, their sacrifices to make my brothers and my life so much better. It is true that in my household my parents aren’t vocal in words of love but their actions will always speak louder than words and remembered.

    Posted 12.23.17 Reply
  3. Kay wrote:

    Such a cute post, I love it! Thanks for sharing <3

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  4. Kira wrote:

    This is so sweet! 🙂 I love all of your posts, and I’d love to see you with your family in another post.

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  5. Brandi wrote:

    Hey Jean, this is such a sweet story! Its great that your parents nurtured your interests when you were young. I’m sure we’d all love to see some of your early sewing projects! I love reading your blog, you really inspire me. I even borrowed your holiday decorating idea and now i have a few (six!) mini christmas trees. Haha.. have a great week! 🙂

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  6. diaw wrote:

    love this look

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  7. Great post babe!!

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  8. Elizabeth wrote:

    Thank you so much for sharing this little story behind the sewing machine. Like you, my parents have always encouraged me to find a stable career. I’m glad you’re able to get some quiet support from the ones you love 🙂 <3 Have a lovely holiday, Jean!

    XO, Elizabeth

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  9. Marjorie wrote:

    Such a cute an amazing post!

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  10. This is awesome. Always love reading your sharings. It’s a shame I didn’t get to make it last week. Hope to see you in NYC for future events!

    XOXO //

    Posted 12.20.17 Reply
  11. Denise K wrote:

    What a lovely, heartfelt post. You are a special daughter.

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply
  12. Mijia wrote:

    Jean, I just saw you in London, near Holborn!

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply
  13. Dear Jean,
    Your remark that actions speak louder than words hit home. That is exactly what I do as a teacher and as a mum. You can say whatever you want, but if kids (and adults alike) see what you do, this action makes the real difference. These impressions you leave can often last a lifetime for the ones that receive them. That’s a real gift you give to others. Have a lovely holiday season with lots of time with your loved ones. Love, Lieske

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply
  14. YZ Chan wrote:

    L’Occitance products are definitely great Christmas gift options. 🙂

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply
  15. The Nourishing Shea Butter Collection sounds divine. Would make a wonderful Christmas gift! 🙂 ❤

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply
  16. La Bijoux Bella | by mia wrote:

    Such a cute cute post! 👍🏼👍🏼

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply
  17. La Bijoux Bella | by mia wrote:

    Awww, such a cute cute post! 👍🏼♥️

    Posted 12.19.17 Reply

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