Thursday, December 22, 2011

Red Charter Club cardigan,
$4.50 at my favorite thrift shop
So this morning as I was getting ready to leave the house, I realized I don't own snow boots.  This wouldn't have been an issue on any other day, but today there was over a foot of snow when I opened the door.  So much in fact, that I couldn't back out of the driveway because it had drifted over the back bumper.  I threw on the red cardigan over the black tank and black slacks, tied the red scarf under the trenchcoat and slipped on the warm black gloves (that allow me to text without taking them off!), and realized my most 'sensible' shoes that could go with the outfit were black fringed moccasins....with a four inch heel.  :)  Got to work late, but I didn't slip or fall.
Have a fabulous Thursday!  (gotta do some actual snowshoe shopping on the way home I think...)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Imitiation Really IS the Sincerest Form of Flattery!

So it's almost the end of another week and only a few shopping days left before Christmas and, as usual, I'm nowhere near being ready.  Thank the gods for internet shopping.  I don't know what I did before this was an option!  Not that that saves me from still getting things in the mail late...I think someday I may stop procrastinating...
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Needless to say, I haven't done much clothes shopping the past few weeks so don't really have any special deals to report as most stores are catering more to gifts in the form of jewelry than gifts of cloth.  But someone asked me the other day where and how I figured out what I like.  It sounded like a strange question at first, but after Ii thought about it a little bit, I realized that, as far as fashion is concerned, I've absolutely and completely become a thief!  My advice to her was "Steal.  Steal every chance you get and from any source that inspires you". 

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If I'm held captive for more than 5 minutes (think nail salon, hair stylist, doctors office), I grab the biggest, fattest magazine I can find and thumb through it.  It doesn't even have to be a fashion magazine; anything that has pictures of people who are wearing clothes.  Study hair styles and shoes....look at accessories and how they're put together with different outfits....think of what you have in your closet that you could pair together to create a similar look and imagine how you'd feel wearing it if it's something you haven't tried yet.  Check out how makeup is done (adverts are great for this as they usually show a woman's face up close so you can really see how the makeup is done).  In doing this, I realized that I hadn't changed how I applied my eyeliner since I first started sneaking it on at boarding school almost 30 (?!!!) years  ago.  I used my cell phone to take a picture of the ad that had the eyeliner application I wanted to try, and have been using this new method often lately.  Cell phone cameras are a great resource when it comes to this.  If you're anything like me, you won't remember what you like unless you have a reference point.  My camera is full of ideas, from a new color of eye makeup, to a jewelry design I particularly like, that I would have otherwise forgotten if I hadn't snapped a pic.
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TV is another great source where the camera also comes in handy.  The hairstyle I have now came directly from a Nike commercial that I saw on TV four years ago.  I found the commercial online, bookmarked the video in my phone and took it to my stylist.  She used it as a reference point more than once as she cut my long hair into the new short style, and she appreciated having the entire commercial to see the hair style at different angles and in motion.  And I love the's exactly what I wanted, exactly like the woman's hair in the commercial.

Study people (try not to be creepy about it though!).  For instance, because I work in a professional office, I am in constant contact with many women, a number of whom are in my age bracket (though certainly not in my tax bracket!) who take a lot of pride in their appearance.  There is one woman in particular whose sense of style I greatly admire.  Lucky for me, we have similar coloring and body build, and I've made it a point to surreptitiously check out her wardrobe every morning when I see her.  She's always impeccably dressed, a little dressier than business casual since she is a VP, but what strikes me the most every time I see her is how she wears her clothes.  She's not a knock-out; she's as ordinary as the rest of us.  But she walks in with her head up, looks you in the eye when she says 'Good morning', stands up straight even though she's above-average in height, and doesn't rush when she walks.  She exudes this aura of control and femininity and strength that is fascinating to me, (who feels like I mostly stumble around with my head down bumping into things and apologizing!)  'Regal' is the word I think of when I see her.  But she doesn't come off as snooty or conceited.  Just very, very confident.  And it's the most striking thing about her.  It's something I genuinely aspire to (but that's another entry for another day)! :)  But I truly believe that confidence is the smartest thing you can put on every day.  No matter how that confidence is dressed, it's what people will notice the most.

.....but I digress.  As I was saying, find someone whose style you admire and copy it for all you're worth, always remembering to put your own spin on it.  (Remember, you're copying the style, not the outfit itself, so no 'twinning' here...creepy).

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Don't be afraid to try something new!  Never worn eye shadow before?  There are these great little compacts that are sold at Walgreen's for about $3 that come with three complimentary colors: one for the lid, one for the crease, and one for the brow.   It makes a smokey eye fool-proof!  And for the cost, even if you decide you don't like how it looks on you, you haven't spent so much you're going to feel bad if you never use it again.  Always wear diamond studs and nothing else?  Walmart is a good source for inexpensive experimentation.  You can usually find some cute earrings there for under $5 that you won't be upset tossing out if you decide you hate them.  A lot of times those little stores in the mall that sell accessories only, like Claire's, are good for this too.  Just make sure that you're always comfortable with what you choose to wear.  Don't wear it just because you convince yourself you have to try something new.  So many woman I see seem so uncomfortable in what they're wearing, they look as though their clothes are wearing them!  More than anything else, you have to feel comfortable with your fashion choices in that they are a true representation of you as a person.

And I think that is the most important part: making sure that when you step out of your house, you feel confident in what you've chosen to wear.  That doesn't have to mean the latest fashions, bright colors, or even makeup or jewelry.  If it doesn't make you feel comfortable and beautiful, don't bother.  Confidence that how you appear to others is a true representation of who you are on the inside is truly the only accessory you'll ever need.  So copy what you like and wear it like you mean it!

Confidence:  It's the new black.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Prioritize Something Special Just for Me

This weekend I had the pleasure of catching up with my oldest and dearest friend who unfortunately has lived on the other side of the country for most of the 20 years we've known each other.  Her kids are just a little bit younger than mine but are still living at home, and she's also a single mom (who just got engaged a few days ago, so it'll only be for a little while longer...congratulations Lisa!!).  She's had a rough time of it financially over the past few years and is finally getting back solidly on her feet, but was saying how discouraging it is to get dressed every day.  How every time she sits down to pay the bills and wonders how she's going to make what she has stretch into what she needs, she realizes that another month is going to pass where she'll be wearing the same clothes she's had for many years that now don't fit exactly right.  How, added to the stress of the constant worry of not having enough for those things that we consider 'necessities' as moms, she also leaves the house most days not feeling so great about herself and how she perceives the rest of the world sees her.  She said she felt uncomfortable in most of her clothes, but wasn't sure how she was going to buy more considering the volume of what she isn't comfortable in.  But I've known her for a long time and know that, like most of us, I'm certain she makes sure that her kids are wearing exactly those name brands that 'make or break' a kid in high school and middle school, (because their self esteem is so important), no matter how much she has to pay for them.  Hmmmm....
I ran into something similar when it came to weekend wear.  We were getting ready to go out to breakfast one Saturday morning when I noticed that I had a stain in my jeans.  I've made quite an effort to find clothes that are suitable for work five days of the week, but had bought absolutely no weekend clothes.  (Again, with the priority thing!)  I mean, I could justify buying clothes for work; but for some reason, buying clothes just for me to wear when it was really only just me seeing them, wasn't important enough to include in the shopping, and I realized that I was a little stressed every weekend when I had to find something to wear now that I've become more used to looking put-together when I leave the house every morning!  I have a second job that I do from home almost every weeknight, and I realized that I walk in from one job, take off my nice work clothes, and toss on either pajama bottoms and one of Rik's t-shirts, or a pair of sweats before I start working my other job.  I also immediately shed the confident walk.  I slouch.  And I feel reeeaalllly tired for some reason!

Rik came back to see what the holdup was, and found me scrubbing the stain (and I'm sure I was muttering under my breath), and wanted to know why I wasn't just changing into a different pair of jeans.  I was a little embarrassed to tell him they were the only pair of jeans I had that fit me or that were comfortable...I didn't tell him they were 5 years old.  His immediate remedy was to take me to Kohl's and buy me whatever I wanted (after stating he was buying jeans whether I picked out what I wanted or not, so I had the choice or picking what I wanted or living with whatever he picked whether it fit or not).  I love him for doing things like this for me; I certainly hadn't expected it!  But it made me wonder why I'd prioritized the way I had.  Why was it, not okay...important to feel good about myself during the week, and okay to feel crappy about how I looked on the weekend?  I'm still not sure what the answer to that one is...maybe when I can afford therapy I'll figure it out.

So I have a new mission:  To find clothes for the weekend that make me feel as spectacular as I feel every morning when I leave for work.  I've found that this doesn't mean that I need to have two wardrobes.  Now that I have those awesome jeans that Rik was so generous to spring for, I've started looking for button-down shirts I can tuck into these fabulous washed beauties, toss on my high-heeled moccasins and a sweater, and Saturday breakfast out is suddenly looking brighter. 

And I've made a small change in myself that seems to have made a difference, too.  When I get home from my day job and change for my night job, instead of putting on my sweats or pj's, I put on a pair of those jeans, tuck in the shirt I wore to work, and sit down at my computer feeling more relaxed and less ready for bed.  Somehow I'm not as sleepy, and certainly am enjoying less schizophrenia from getting off of the fashion roller coaster I had been creating.

The next time I hit my favorite thrift store, I'm going to check out tops to go with my brand new jeans.  I'll keep ya posted. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A SERIOUS Fashion Savings Find!

So while I was spending the time immediately after lunch searching for the end of the internet (as Rik says), I found this amazing thing:  name brands that go on sale becasue they're samples!  And these aren't just all size zero's, either!  Up to 90% off original desinger prices on bags, shoes, clothes, outerwear, underwear, and even travel and home items.  They're called 'flash sales' and after you sign up for the updates, you'll receive an email stating that 'something' is about to go on sale.  Then, it's first come, first serve.  So far the things I've seen are lovely.  Definitely something to check out though!  here's the link:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wardrobe Beginnings...Starting Out

For years I worked in industries where uniforms were the dress code and my only choice was which color scrubs I'd wear that day, or which pair of brown pants and blue shirt.  When I was interviewing, the woman whose job I would eventually get (as she was moving up) advised me on what to wear to each interview.  She called me just as I was leaving to my final interview and "reminded" me to wear a blazer.  I didn't own a blazer, and had exactly $36.47 in my bank account at that time.  I ran to Ross in desperation and grabbed the only black blazer that fit me.  It happened to be a Kenneth Cole blazer I paid $19 and some change for!).  When I got the job I have today, I didn't have a lot to choose from in the closet...I started out with two pairs of slacks, one black, one brown, and a couple of blouses I had picked up and, now, a very nice black blazer.  But none of these things were really "me"...they were sort of just another uniform; 'dressy' clothes that were appropriate to the job, but that was all.

As I began to have a little bit more money (and by that I mean an extra $20 here and there, nothing more!), I started reading fashion magazines and haunting stores like Kohl's and Dillard's just to get an idea of what I'd like to own, even though I couldn't afford to shop there.  Every once in awhile I'd run into a great deal while I was doing this 'homework', but more often than not, I just felt discouraged that I wasn't going to be able to afford to dress the way that I 'felt'.  I made myself a deal that I wouldn't buy clothes just to have them; I would only buy pieces that I really liked.  I also set a limit of how much I would spend on a single piece.  For instance, I still to this day will not spend more than $15 on a shirt, more than $10 on pants, and my only real splurge is my shoe clubs where a pair is $40.  Once I had a good idea of the clothes I thought I'd feel the best in, I went to the thrift shop "just to see". 

<insert heavenly music of harps and other ethereal stringed instruments here>   O.M.G.  I was shocked at the things that I found!  My first foray out, I found a gorgeous 100% silk blouse that I paid $2.50 for.  I'd found a green, black, and cream colored scarf that I'd bought awhile back and stuffed in the

100% silk Ann Pinkerton blouse

bottom of a drawer, and wore this with the black blazer and black slacks.  For the first time, I felt like a million bucks when I walked into work.

Over time, I've discovered what my own personal style is, what I feel best in.  When I walk into my office wearing a black skirt, white blouse with red/white/black silk scarf, and black and white spectator pumps, I notice that I look clients and coworkers in the eye, I smile more, and the set of my shoulders is straighter.  I've never felt like I've suffered from an overindulged sense of self having spent my formative years being bullied for wearing hand-me-down clothes.  But when I feel like I look
great, I've noticed not only is my day is brighter, but the way I react to those I come in contact with is influenced by my sense of self confidence. And knowing that I haven't spent a fortune on it makes me feel not just pretty, but smart :)  Bonus!

You really don't have to have a lot of money to be stylish and stand out in a crowd.  You just have to 1)  Know what you like, what makes you feel gorgeous; 2)  Know how to spot quality amongst crap; and 3) Be patient (sometimes the pearls aren't always the easiest to find).  But if you can figure out the first two, you're halfway there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How do you spot quality?

So I was talking to my mom the other night about my experience finding deals lately, and took the opportunity to ask her how I came about the ability to walk into a place and beeline straight to the expensive stuff. Growing up, we didn't have a lot of money, and most of our clothes were second-hand. I HATED this...I think what turned it around for me was when I was living in Seattle.  When the boys were little, I had a desk job where we had to be nicely dressed, and out of desperation, I went into a second-hand store in an upscale neighborhood and found the most amazing one in my office knew how little money I had to spend on clothes, but no one could tell!  I didn't really know anything about brands or lables at that time, but Mom always had such a fabulous sense of style  and, just as I tried to be the same kind of parent to my kids as she had been to me, I also tried to dress like I had seen her dress, but in clothes more to my personal taste.
Mom said that she didn't really show me how to spot quality, so I'm still not sure how that happened, and I'm not sure if I can explain it to someone else! But try going into your favorite retail shop and browsing through some sweaters. Go to your first choice, the one that 'jumps' out at you. Maybe the sweater is heavier, or the color is brighter...make a mental note of what struck you about it and why you chose it. Then look at the price tag. Look at the price tags of the garments hanging directly to either side of the item you chose. Which one cost more? Was the one you chose a name brand you recognize over the two on either side? Start to pay attention to why you're drawn to one item over another. If you find that you're consistently drawn to the less expensive or lower quality, find one of higher quality (cost is an easy guide) and compare them, and really notice the differences. This will help you leave with the best they have to offer the next time you venture into the used-clothing store. Happy shopping!

Monday, November 21, 2011


For months I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog about the amazing things I've been finding while shopping for deals.  Six months ago I found myself the (ecstatic!!) new Receptionist of a Fortune 500 company.  During my interview process, the woman whose place I would eventually take, coached me on what the company was looking for when it came to style.  At the time I had even less money than I have now, and in desperation, went to a second hand store to see what I could find.  I walked out having spent $32.76, which bought me a cream-colored calf-length skirt from Bloomingdales, blazers from Casual Corner and Ralph Lauren, slacks from The Limited, and a couple of blouses (one silk).  The next day, I got the job.

Since then, by shopping sales on-line and locally, combing thrift stores and sales racks, I've built the basis of an amazing wardrobe of name brands, and have earned the reputatiton as one of the best dressed women on our campus,  I've met the CEO of our organization, and spoken to the Ambassador of Ireland...having a respectable wardrobe in the workplace is essential for women our age to stay relevant.  But if my (much higher paid) coworkers knew how much I spent on this wardrobe, they'd be shocked.  So it'll just be our little secret.