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.