Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's In My Closet

Outfit of the Day - 1.31.13 Retail Cost: $339.93 What I Paid: $65.91

Outfit of the Day - 1.31.13 Retail Cost: $339.93 What I Paid: $65.91

Outfit of the Day - 1.31.13 Retail Cost: $339.93 What I Paid: $65.91 by madonah42 
White 'Impressions' sleeveless top - Reuse shop $2.50  (R-$16)
Long white '88th & Madison' cardigan - Ross (sale) $9.99  (R-$42)
Black 'Valia' slacks with white pinstripe - Ross (sale) $6.49  (R-$14.99
Black 'Margit' tasseled loafer - Just Fab (sale) $19.95  (r-$59.95)
Black 'Nine West' tote - Reuse shop $4.50  (R-$69)
Long silver necklace - Walmart (sale) $1.50  (R-$5.99)
Navy blue 'Mackintosh Collection' overcoat - Reuse shop $12.99  (R-$98)
Powder blue 'D&Y' scarf - Reuse shop $7.99  (R-$34)
Dark red lip, black cream liner, no shadow

Happy Thursday everyone!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"But They'll Kill You!"

Just in case you might have missed it, I love high heels.  The higher the better, though my closet only goes to about 6" (including platform of course).  I hadn't ever really worn them with any regularity in the past -- there's rarely extra money for such things when you're a single mother -- though man did I look upon them with lust in my heart!  I'd be serving lunch in my deli, and I'd see the women who worked in the office up the road come in in their classy business suits and coordinated pumps, and a part of me longed to join them; maybe not for work, but definitely on their next shopping trip!  But in that era of my life, it was jeans and tennis shoes all the way.

Years later when I began the job I have now, other than those tennis shoes,  I had a pair of black loafers.  Just flat black loafers, no tassel, no fringe, no frills; but they did the trick and were presentable.  I had no extra money and was putting together my wardrobe from the clearance racks at Ross and Marshall's with a personal dollar limit of $5 on any item I purchased; that budget couldn't stretch far enough to apply to shoes, so black loafers it continued to be.  But I distinctly remember walking into Marshall's one Sunday afternoon in late spring about two months after I started working, and seeing on the clearance aisle what I thought to be the most beautiful sandals I'd ever seen.  For $16.99.  And they had my size.  

I sat down on the bench with the box on my lap and slowwwwly removed the lid, holding my breath as I folded back the layers of paper gently and pulled them reverently from their nest of tissue.  I unzipped the back and slid my foot into that crisscross of blue goodness and spent my weeks' clothing allowance - the whole $20! - on that pair; and the rest as they say, is history.
Almost exactly like that first pair I fell in love with
 (and still have)
As I got on my feet (so to speak!), my budget got a little wider (my dollar limit for a single object is now around $8 on clearance stuff!), and I found the buy-one-get-one-free shoe club sales, and my love affair took off.  Even now, the most expensive pair that I purchased myself are the 'Bordello' black platform pumps with the red polka-dots and bow that I won at auction for $45 (they retail for $89).   My Person has fed my addiction this past Christmas with a couple of new pairs (and bags...I'm now a bag person thanks to him, but that's another story entirely!), but that first pair will always hold a special place in my heart.

My mom, on the other hand, fears for my life.
My 'Bordello' platforms...LOVE them!

Well, maybe not my life, but definitely my health.  When I first began my love affair with shoes, high heels in particular, my mom would see pictures I posted or hear me excitedly describing the latest pair, and would opine about the detrimental affects of high heels on ones spine.  The particular spine she worried about had issues.  Her concerns were valid.  You see, 13 years ago I was in a horrible accident that left me in a wheelchair for a number of months unable to walk, followed by years of physical therapy and surgeries.  You wouldn't know it to look at me now, but I was pretty messed up, and the accident has had lifelong implications on my health.  I worked my ass off to get out of that wheelchair, get through my surgeries, and learn to walk without a limp.  And she stood by me the whole time.  I can't even imagine how hard it must have been on her to have to sit by feeling so helpless and watching me do what I did.  But I couldn't have asked for better support.  She moved into my house (thankfully she and Dad lived just up the block at the time), and took care of my then two little boys, and me who had to this point been the picture of self-reliance, suddenly completely unable to care for myself, while maintaining her own full time job and charity work.  Up to that point, I'd been one of those people who never took their independence for granted.  I distinctly remember running up flights of stairs at the hospital where I worked just days before the accident, two-at-a-time, and thinking how amazing it was to be able to move that quickly and effortlessly.  I played softball, though not very well.  I hiked, and took great pleasure in the motion of my body covering ground on the hacked-out trails of the Alaskan woods on my way in to the lake where I used to like to take my dog.  I hadn't taken my movement for granted, which strangely served me very well in that time when I couldn't walk at all.  It was so gratifying to know I'd not taken it for granted when I could .

I know her lectures were for my own good.  She'd seen me suffer and worried about me doing even more harm to my already messed up skeleton.  And working in the healthcare field myself, I've read the literature and studies and am aware of the various posture, ankle, spine, and foot issues that can occur in association with the use of high-heeled footwear.  But I eventually had a talk with her about how I knew all this and was making the choice to continue to wear them, and ended with "...and that's the last we're going to talk about this, right?".  And insisted on a response. :)  She has been good to her word.  She hasn't spoken of it since.

However, I didn't realize until recently why I insisted on continuing to wear them with equal insistence on ignoring all the reasons why I shouldn't.

'Taylor Says' Freddie's
I put on the amazing shoes that My Person gave me for Christmas this year (see above), and something clicked in my mind as I excitedly danced my way down the hallway to our room so I could see them in the mirror in all their glory.  And it's pretty simple.  And, like everything else about me I'm finding, pretty complicated.

I wear them because I can.

Immediately after the accident, while lying in that icy puddle on the road that Pearl Harbor Day in December of 1999, I thought I was paralyzed.  I thought I'd never walk again.  Ever.  As the snow fell on that part of my face that wasn't submerged in water, I remembered running up the flights of stairs the week before, skipping every-other step, and remember being so sad that I'd never do that again.  Fortunately this thought was only for the amount of time it took the ambulance and the EMT's to arrive and assure me that I would in fact walk again someday, though they and many doctors that came after them wouldn't say when or how well.  But every day that I put on a pair of heels, walk smartly down the stairs and to my car, it's me thumbing my nose at that day Fortuna was on a coffee break, and flipping off the world -- with both hands! -- that said so many "you'll never..."'s.

I promise not to wear high heels when I know I'm going to be on my feet a lot.  I try not to run in them.  And if it's really icy, I keep them in my bag and wait to put them on until I get into my office.  I'm minimizing risk.  But someday, when I'm old and gray and finally sitting in a wheelchair that I've earned by virtue of my many, many, (many!) years and experiences, I have a feeling that underneath that afghan thrown over my legs you'll find a pair of stilettos.         


1.30.13 Today's Outfit - Retail Cost: $408.95 What I Paid: $97.43

1.30.13 Today's Outfit - Retail Cost: $408.95 What I Paid: $97.43

1.30.13 Today's Outfit - Retail Cost: $408.95 What I Paid: $97.43 by madonah42
Red 'Investments' two-pocket blouse - Reuse shop $2.50  (R-$23)
Black 'Calvin Klein' skinny tie - Ross (sale) $4.49  (R-$36)
Black 'Kenneth Cole' blazer - Ross $24.95  (R-$99.95)
BLack 'Jessica Simpson' wide-leg trouser - Ross $15.99  (R-$69)
Black 'Bordello' polka-dot platform pump with bow - Tophatter Auction $45  (R-$89)
Black 'Nine West' tote - Reuse shop $4.50  (R-$69)
Silver half-hoop earrings - Gift from my Mom!  (R-$23)
Black liner, red lip

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Land of the Free and the Home(land) of the Dull

Over the holidays I had some time off from both jobs, and we watched two entire seasons of Showtime's 'Homeland', the show that even President Obama says he takes the time to watch, and we really got into it.  The story line is about a man who comes back home after being a prisoner of war in the middle east held captive for eight years by an Osama bin Laden-type character, and his reintegration into society after reuniting with his wife and children, turning into a spy himself, and all the drama that then ensues.  It's a great show, has some amazing actors, and I like the plot.  

I know this is nuts, but the part I found least believable was that all of those women working in the FBI and CIA offices were dressed so badly, seriously to the point of distraction.  I know there's probably a method to why they're all dressed in such uninspiring outfits, and the show is nothing about fashion.  Maybe that's the reason the main female character, Carrie, played by Claire Danes, drove me so nuts.  Pictured right, she wears the same two (or three?) monochromatic suits, usually in shades of grey, with similarly boring blouses underneath.  I know her character isn't supposed to be consumed with fashion.  But really...wouldn't she at least own something in a color pallet that can't be found on the side of my car after driving in the snow?

My Person and I love sci-fi shows, and I tend to get caught up in the stupidest things on which not to believe.  Like in The Avengers:  So there's a doctor who turns into a huge green man when he gets angry, a WWII hero who was frozen in ice after crashing his plane (he could have landed it in various ways in his own movie/comic, but chose for some unknown reason to crash-land in the ocean where he was frozen for years and then revived!), a guy with a bad ticker who has it replaced with this radioactive genius tool that makes him into a bad-ass, gorgeous flying geek....I could go on...but the part I can't believe is that the group of them in the final fight scenes are actually communicating without any visible evidence of an ear piece.  Or walkie.  Or telepathy.  And when Captain America holds his hand over his ear to talk like he's shielding a mike from the outside noise, I laugh every time.

Not that I expect her to dress like that other Carrie (I miss that show...sigh...), but couldn't they do a happy medium?  I could still see the grey suit, but how bout some color?  Kim Cattrall was the fashionable business woman in SITC (see that hot red suit?!   A little 90's, but seriously!!!) and always looked the part.  I used to love watching her 'costume' changes on that show as she always looked what I imagined a successful New York Business Woman should be.

So I guess I'm stuck watching Homeland for the content. :) (Yah, I got nuthin' today)

Outfit of the Day: 1.29.13 Retail Cost: $299.98 What I Paid: $67.96

Outfit of the Day: 1.29.13 Retail Cost: $299.98 What I Paid: $67.96

Outfit of the Day: 1.29.13 Retail Cost: $299.98 What I Paid: $67.96 by madonah42
Sheer chiffon animal print 'Marisol' blouse - Ross $12.99  (R-$24)
Brown 'My Michelle' slacks - Burlington Coat Factory $14.99  (R-$29)
Brown 'Axcess by Liz Claiborne' blazer - Reuse shop $4  (R-$79)
Silver choker - gift from my mother-in-law
Silver filigree square pendant - $2  (R-$12)
Two-circle drop earrings - Walmart (sale) $1.99  (R-$4.99)
Pandora bracelet - Gift from My People!
Brown 'Dollhouse' ankle boots with large side buckle - Marshall's (sale) $16  (R-$36)
Black 'Arizona' backpack bag - Reuse shop $4  (R-$16.99)
Navy 'Mackintosh Collection' overcoat - Reuse shop $12.99  (R-$98)
Red lip, shadows in brown, black cream liner

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Mary Jane Shoes

Mary Jane Shoes

When I wear my Mary Jane shoesI can escape from the bluesThe whole world seems a little bit brighter, brighterMy heavy step gets a little bit lighter, lighter

If you're not familiar with Fergie's 'Mary Jane Shoes', maybe you're at least familiar with the feeling.  Do you have that pair?  The ones that, when you pull them out of their box and slip them on your feet, you walk just that little bit taller?  And I don't mean in inches. :)

That shoe for me tends to change pretty often.  Right now, they're this pair, an actual take on a Mary Jane: the ones My Person gave me for Christmas.  For some reason, when I put these babies on I feel like a million bucks.  Doesn't matter what's going on with me that day, how big the workload, how much I'm dreading going to work or how tired I am.  When I put them on, I feel fierce.  Unstoppable.  A force with which to be reckoned. (I know that's proper written English, but I like the verbal version better:  "A forced to be reckoned with"...but you get it).

Sometimes it's not the shoe, it's the outfit.  I haven't had one particular one in awhile, but am in constant search of a new one.  Last summer, it was this one: the wide-leg trouser (they're just so 40's glamorous, aren't they?), the chiffon shell and the black & white spectator pumps, topped off with the extralong ropes of pearls with a couple of long thin gold chains thrown in....whenever I put this outfit on in the summertime, I felt like I owned the place.  And by 'The Place", I mean anywhere I happened to be standing while wearing it.  
The feeling goes way beyond just simply looking good.  When you look good, whatever that definition is for you, you approach things differently.  More self-assured.  More certain.  More present.

You're you concentrate.

It took a lot of years for me to figure this out.  And in my job, I have to come off as confident and at ease with myself so as to make others feel the same and thereby do my job correctly.  I set out an outfit the night before, but almost always find that my idea of what I'll feel most confident in changes by morning.  For instance, last night I set out those cream-colored wide-leg trousers pictured above, a navy blue polka dot blouse, and some navy sandals.  What I wore to work was a dark cobalt blue chiffon blouse, black slacks and blazer, with cobalt blue platform peep-toes!  I find I wear black more when I feel the need to hide just a little bit.  Sometimes there's a real reason, like I feel like a popped tube of Grands biscuits, and other times that reason is so subtle I can't put it into words.  I think today's reason was just 'Monday'.  The need to hide from the day itself....  (just a note:  It didn't work.)

But, for me, this is the absolute coolest thing about fashion: we express our moods with it (see above).  Our moods are affected by it (again, see above).  Certain colors are reserved for certain occasions (think white for weddings, black for funerals).  We have longstanding 'rules' about it that can sometimes affect our relationships with our mothers (remember 'No white after Labor Day' or, most recently 'We don't wear pantyhose anymore and no one thinks we're skanky mom"...ohhh know what I'm talkin' about!) or our bosses (slingback sandals used to be outlawed in the workplace for being 'Too suggestive').  Fashion goes far deeper than pulling out a t-shirt and throwing on some jeans.  Actually, that's a bad example.  My Person almost exclusively wears t-shirts and jeans, and I've seen him change t-shirts three times of a morning until he finds the "right" one for the day!  It's as complicated as eating and our relationship with food.  And I find that fascinating!

I have this daydream that in my searching through all those racks in my favorite second hand stores, I'll eventually have a collection hanging in my closet that, no matter what I pull out and in what combination, I'll feel "that" feeling every day.  
And I hope you can too :)

Outfit of the Day: 1.28.13 Retail Cost: $459.95 What I Paid: $69.92

Outfit of the Day: 1.28.13 Retail Cost: $459.95 What I Paid: $69.92

Outfit of the Day: 1.28.13 Retail Cost: $459.95 What I Paid: $69.92 by madonah42
Dark blue chiffon 'Timing' blouse - Ross $12.99 - (R-$29)
Black 'Jones New York' blazer - Gift from my Mom! - (R-$119)
Black wide-leg 'Jessica Simpson' trouser - Ross $15.99 - (R-$69)
Multi-strand silver necklace I made for about $8 - (R-$16)
Cobalt 'Eve' peep-toe platforms - Shoe Dazzle (sale) $19.95 - (R-$39.95)
Navy blue 'Juicy Couture' baguette - Gift from My Person! - (R-$189)
Navy blue 'Macintosh Collection' overcoat - Reuse shop $12.99 - (R-$98)
Navy liner, red lip, French manicure

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dressing For .........

Dancer Serena Cuevas, whose adorable short
style I loved from the first time I saw it.
I got a text this morning from a woman I've really been looking forward to spending some time with. We met the first time last spring when I walked into her salon with a Nike commercial on my smart phone, showed her the video, and then said "I want THAT".  She spent the next hour transforming my very long hair into very short hair and had such a good time that I could hardly believe it when she said "All done" and spun me around to see my new 'do!  She not only did an amazing job on my hair (a miracle in itself as I can count on two fingers the number of stylists in my entire adult life who have been able to do to my hair what I's just that thick and hard to cut), but I left feeling like I'd spent an hour in the presence of a kindred spirit and I found that I looked forward to the time every few months that would find me in her chair catching up on gossip of our kids, our jobs, and the men in our lives.

So this morning I get a text. . . of those times where life has given her a basket of lemons, and she's really doing a truly bang-up job of making lemon curd (I like lemon curd better than lemonade myself, so we'll go with that).  She's feeling the need for some girl time outside of work, without the scissors in hand, and a change in her habits along with her change of circumstance.  And I of two jobs don't get out often, so any extra time that I do find for myself, I tend to like to spend sleeping or hanging with My Person.  And other times we've tried to get together something always comes up.  This is a frightfully long ramble on its way to an entirely different topic: For Whom Do We Dress?

Picture courtesy of:
Mentally going over my closet in my mind on my drive back from lunch today, I was looking for that perfect "Girls Night Out Without Trying To Pick Up Men" outfit, and once again started thinking about for whom it really is that we spend so much time and money looking good.  Most women will tell you "I do it for myself!"  But if they're being totally honest, it's quite a lot more complicated than that.  

Men think we dress for them (we don't really).  In my experience, especially as a younger woman, I tended to dress for other women; they were, after all, "the competition".  Being the one who turned heads when they walk in the room was the ultimate goal when you're a young woman, and I'm not sure that really entirely changes as the years progress.  Our outward appearance is almost exclusively our first impression, whether that hinges more on our attire or on the general personality and overall attitude we exude at a first meeting isn't clear.  But appearing put-together gives the impression of confidence, and confidence has always been the big winner no matter what the packaging.

Picture courtesy of
As the first person people meet when they come to my workplace, how I dress and present myself was literally discussed in my job interview with quite the emphasis on appearance and professionalism as a couple of their top priorities, using phrases such as 'Face of the company', and 'First point of contact', and I was reminded more than once in the following interviews that my initial meeting and vetting of visitors is the foundation on which the rest of their meetings will then take place.  We can poo-poo this as irrelevant all we want; but it is a valid point nonetheless.

Appearance is a loaded subject and one to which many can take immediate offense. Just the things I've said to this point can be interpreted as sexist, elitist, or just downright in poor taste.  But at least in my office, the woman who came in for a job interview nicely dressed in a conservative suit, hair and nails done, tasteful makeup applied, and got the job, but then came in on her first day in jeans and a ponytail, got a talkin' to.  She came in the following morning looking more like the package she initially 'sold' than the one it appeared the hiring manager had 'purchased' the day before!

And that's just workplace impressions.  Dressing for social occasions can be even trickier when attempting to strike that balance between relaxed and stylish, not overdone, but making sure you look as though you cared enough to prepare with thought before arriving at the event, not even taking into account whether the information you received -- or didn't receive! -- beforehand was accurate in that you're dressing appropriately for the occasion rather than showing up to something semi-formal in jeans and some ballet flats!

See what I mean?  A little more complicated than it first appears! :)

Of course, it could totally be true that I', just be really over-thinking the entire subject altogether considering the brain damage I experienced surrounding clothes growing up as mentioned in my earlier post The Closet.  I may entirely over sensitive to the real or imagined implications that appearance entails.

Thinking of our outing tomorrow night to a local watering hole not specifically a notorious pick-up type place, women my age think more in terms of 'tasteful' than 'attention-getting', and I wonder if the holey jeans, t-shirt, black boots and jacket might be a little much or just right?

No matter what you decide to wear this weekend, have a good one!       ~M

Outfit of the Day 1/25/13 - Retail Cost: $371.98 What I Paid: $47.97

Outfit of the Day 1/25/13 - Retail Cost: $371.98 What I Paid: $47.97

Outfit of the Day 1/25/13 - Retail Cost: $371.98 What I Paid: $47.97 by madonah42 
Black Chiffon 'Julia's Closet' tank - Marshall's $11.99  (R-$28)
Green 'White Stag' cardigan - Reuse shop $2.50  (R-$15.99)
Black 'Celebrity Pink' skinny jeans - Ross $12.99  (R-$18.99
Green beaded necklace I made for about $6  (R-$12)
Pandora bracelet - Gift from My Person and my boys
Black 'LEI' fringed clog - Walmart $14.99 (R-same & not included in cost of set)
Black 'Chinese Laundry' ribbon scarf - Ross $9.99  (R-$28)
Black leather 'Juicy Couture' bag - Gift from Rik!  (R-$200)
Eye shadow in greens and grays, black liner, nude lip

Thursday, January 24, 2013

This Week in Fashion

With the inauguration now behind us but still making news headlines, regardless of your politics, you've got to admit that Michelle Obama has some class (or at the very least, an amazing stylist!)

I've enjoyed the pictures of her in the fashion blogs this week in her many outfits, and this custom-made Thom Browne silk jacquard coat (left) in particular has caught my eye.  Can't wait until copy cats begin to replicate this one, and hope that I can find one in my price range!  I love how she's paired it with the subdued suede boots, and then has that pop of gorgeous plum with the gloves.  And I can't say I follow political fashion, but I'm really loving what she's done with her hair.  The bangs are fantastic!!!

And no matter which side of the lip-syncing debate you fall, Beyonce's velvet and chiffon Emilio Pucci gown was to die for.  I love everything about this dress.  And like Anderson Cooper stated about the whole pre-recorded national anthem, "We got to look at Beyonce's beautiful face and hear Beyonce's beautiful voice singing the national anthem.  There is one thing we should be saying today, and that's 'Thank you, Beyonce'.  Francis Scott Key himself would send her a fruit basket".  Well-said mon frere...well-said.

E News Online

And while we're talking celebrity fashion, I love that Lucy Liu had the ovaries to wear this dress to the Golden Globes last week!!

Not only is Lucy, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful women alive today, this gown was taking a BIG fashion risk. And I've read more than one fashion review that used words like 'a fashionable Victorian couch' and 'the drapes from Sound of Music'.  But I personally love that she wore something like this and took a risk.

She looks absolutely amazing in this dress (as she does in anything she happens to throw on!).  The pale blue sets off her perfect skin, and her simply-coiffed black hair down one shoulder pulls in the darker colors of the print to perfection.

LOVE it.

Speaking of love though, I have a love/hate relationship with brown.  Actually, if I'm honest, it's mostly hate.  But My Person swears I wear too much black, and brown is an acceptable workplace color.  I don't know why I don't like it.  I own perfectly gorgeous brown suit that I only wear rarely, like today (see Polyvore set below).  But lately I've seen fairly monochromatic outfits in the magazines, like these below taken from that fabulous site, and it sorta makes me rethink my "brown issue".

The cool chicks at SheFinds have put together a list of 10 cool leather jackets to have this spring, and these three in various shades of tan are on their list.  You can click the link above to read the full article.

Outfit of the Day - 1.24.13 Retail Cost: $497.96 What I Paid: $66.96

Outfit of the Day - 1.24.13 Retail Cost: $497.96 What I Paid: $66.96

Outfit of the Day - 1.24.13 Retail Cost: $497.96 What I Paid: $66.96 by madonah42
Cream 'Notations' sleeveless tank - Burlington Coat $7.99  (R-$15)
Brown 'My Michelle' slacks - Burlington Coat $14.99  (R-$29)
Brown 'Axcess by Liz Claiborne' fitted blazer - Reuse shop $4  (R-$79)
Extra long multistrand pearl necklace (x3) that I made for about $6 - (Similar at Kohl's for $26)
Matching multistrand pearl bracelets that I made for about $2 - (R-$9.99)
Matching pearl earrings that I made for about $0.50 - (R-$5.99)
Double strand extra long gold chains - Walmart (sale) $1.99  (R-$8.99)
Brown 'Simply Vera, Vera Wang' pointed-toe pumps with buckle detail - Kohl's (sale) $24.99  (R-$74.99)
Camel 'Gemini' overcoat - Gift from my Mom!  (R-$180)
Black 'Nine West' tote - Reuse shop $4.50  (R-$69)
Dark red lip, shadows in browns and cream, black cream liner

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peeling Away The Layers

My office is cold.  I'm talking don't-you-dare-wear-a-skirt-to-work-or-your-legs-will-turn-black-and-fall-off kind of cold.  I sit at a large granite desk, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass, and can't ever seem to get warm.  Doesn't matter if it's mid-summer or the dead of winter:  I'm cold.

I have the cutest skirts that have rarely seen the light of day just due to the temperature under my desk.  Last winter, our Information Technologies department switched out my old computer with a new high-efficiency PCU, and the exact level of 'efficiency' was noted immediately...on my feet and legs.  That old computer had pumped out heat like nobody's business, and having it suddenly ripped from my poor bare legs was quite the shock!    Due to the location of my desk, being surrounded by glass and granite, there isn't a lot that can be done to change the environmental heating in the area without cooking out everyone within the general vicinity.  

But how to stay warm and still look 'fantastic dahhhling'?  My day-to-day work 'uniform' is usually slacks, a button-down blouse with a blazer, or a tank-top and cardigan...feminine, functional, and definitely not reminiscent of the deep freezes of the polar reach.  But I can sometimes pay for that look, shivering under my desk and trying not to touch that frigid granite!Blog
  • Try wearing thick tights under your slacks.  I've taken to wearing tights even under my pants and have noticed a significant change in temperature on my legs and thighs, parts of me that tend to stay cold once they get cold.
  • If your good work shoes will allow for the extra room, wear some trouser socks over the tights.  It seems that most work shoes, or any shoe for that matter that is just adorable and you can't live without, isn't particularly comfortable, and won't generally keep your tootsies warm!  Of course that isn't going to stop me from wearing them.  But doubling up on the foot underwear has helped a lot.
  • Try wearing and a 'cheater' spandex tank-top under your blouse, or even a long-sleeved undershirt.  I've found some cute thermal underwear that goes specifically underneath work attire, at Ross, usually under $10!  They're thin, but are made of the material used by mountain climbers and outdoors-men  lightweight, but very, very good at keeping in your precious body heat.  And if you want to add a little bit of control to that top, Spanx and their generic versions are easy to come by and fairly inexpensive at stores like Ross and Marshall's.  I have a few undershirts with spandex that I wear under my more sheer blouses that not only provides support, but also helps to keep the core body temperature warm. 
  • Make sure that the pashmina or scarf that you grab for the day can double as a wrap if you get chilly.  Again, my favorite place to pick these up is at Ross.  You can always find them generally for around $5, in a variety of colors and styles.  They're lovely pieces to have as an accessory, or in this instance, survival gear.

  • When choosing your blazers, make sure you get one that is lined.  This can make a big difference in being able to maintain warmth during these cold winter months, even indoors.
Though there still remain days that I huddle beneath my heavy winter overcoat in between clients, blowing warm air on my hands, I think I've come to a solution to keeping warm while still being immediately identifiable as a woman underneath the layers.

Today's Outfit: 1.23.13 Retail Cost: $330 WHAT I PAID: $52.94

Today's Outfit: 1.23.13 Retail Cost: $330 WHAT I PAID: $52.94

Today's Outfit: 1.23.13 Retail Cost: $330 WHAT I PAID: $52.94 by madonah42
Blouse is actually black with tan trim but otherwise looks just like this picture 'Fun&Flirt' - Ross $7  (R-$24)
Black wide-leg 'Jessica Simpson' trouser - Ross $15.99  (R-$69)
Long black 'Lauren Conrad' cardigan - Kohl's (sale) $17.95  (R-$69)
Black 'Guess' belt with pewter buckle - Ross $4.50  (R-$18)
Short black 'pearl' necklace that I made for about $3  (R-$12)
Black and tan 'Bordello' "Teeze-24" platform spectator - Gift from Rik!  (R-$69)
Black 'Nine West' tote - Reuse shop $4.50  (R-$69)
Red lip, black liner, charcoal and tan shadow smoky eye

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Accessorizing Your Accessories

So exactly how much is overkill?  Like me, I'm sure you've seen all kinds of accessories out there from crystal-encrusted bumper cases as cell phone covers and little crystal plugs for the headset jack, to purses that allow you to change their outsides without the hassle of moving everything from the inside of one to another.

So how much is too much?

I have to admit here that I've been known to match my cell phone case with my outfit.  Well, 'known to' implies that it happens from time to time.  I do it every day.  I found this great place to pick up iPhone cases on Amazon from this vendor here in the US (I've posted his link at the bottom of this post...truly great deals!) and shipping is usually free.  I recently picked up this cool swirly iPhone case for under $3.  I've seen them listed on other sites anywhere from $15-$32!  And for that price, I got it in red and gold as well!

 You can grab up a case for every day of the week and not break a $20.  I also picked up this cute polka-dot case in black and white for $2.12!  All-in-all, I think I got 9 cases for about $15.  I can match the case to what I'm wearing, or just to my mood.  Just something fun to play around with and not break the bank!

I mentioned heel condoms previously.  This is a way to perk up your favorite pair of heels that might have a little wear on the stiletto.  Don't let the name throw you off.  

Check out where she's currently having a sale on a select few of these crafty confections.  Right now you can snap up the 'Black and Whites' for $14, regularly priced at$36!  Want something a little more outrageous?  How bout the zebra prints on sale for $18?  They will immediately take your ho-hum pumps to something new and fun.  She has a huge selection ranging in price from her sale items as listed here, to $40 using mediums as diverse as feathers, chains, spikes, ribbon, and fur!  A really fun little accessory if you feel the need for something new but aren't quite sure what you want.

Inexpensive Cell Phone Accessories:


Todays Outfit: 1.22.13 Retail Cost: $511.99 What I Paid: $108.33

Today's Outfit: 1.22.13 Retail Cost: $$511.99 What I Paid: $108.33

Today's Outfit: 1.22.13 Retail Cost: $$511.99 What I Paid: $108.33 by madonah42

Sheer two-pocket 'Timing' neon coral blouse - Ross $12.99  (Retail - $32)
Black knee-length 'Express' skirt - Reuse shop $5.49  (R-$69)
Black 'Jones New York' blazer - gift from my mom!  (R-$119)
Black 'Betsy Johnson' belt - Ross $8.99  (R-$38)
Black/white houndstooth and Day of the Dead print Iron Fist 'Foxtrot' shoe - Just Fab (sale) $19.95  (R-$79.99)
Black/white houndstooth and Day of the Dead print Iron Fist 'Foxtrot' bag - Just Fab (sale) $19.95 (R-$60)
Multi-strand silver and crystals necklace I made for about $8  (Similar retails for $16)
Long navy blue 'Mackintosh Collection' overcoat - Reuse shop $12.95  (R-$98)
Red lip, black liner, charcoal shadow, nude black stockings

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's On the Inside?

So I recently came to the realization that I'm old.  Well, old-ish.  I celebrated my 43rd birthday a couple of weeks ago, and found myself, as I do at every birthday, taking inventory.  I generally wake up on my birthday and, as I'm putting on my mascara, take a little closer look at my eyes and the lines that are there.  I'm happy to report that most of them are smile lines, and I can live with those.  But, considering I spend most of my mornings getting ready trying to avoid even a glimpse of myself naked in any of the bathroom mirrors, I began to wonder if it isn't time for a lifestyle change. 
Image discovered at
Like most women my age, I've tried innumerable different diets.  There was the All Protein Diet (I'm not a big meat-eater), the Raw Food Diet (all natural, and nothing heated to over 116-degrees), the Juice Diet (running all of your fruits and veges through a juicer).  And that is just a very small sampling of the crazy diets I've tried.   Then there was just trying to portion control, or counting my calories of every single thing I put in my mouth using an ap for my iPhone, and then finally and (most recently) the Desperation Diet of only 500 calories a day.  I lost weight on that one; starvation will generally drop you a few pounds!  But I didn't keep it all off.
A week or so after my birthday while perusing my email Inbox, I saw my book recommendations for the month, and low and behold, one of the first books on the list was called 'The Conscious Cleanse'; I've posted a link to the book for sale on iTunes at the bottom of this post.  Written by "a nationally ranked diver, a high-level competitive gymnast, and a premed honors graduate ready to start a promising career as a doctor" who was hit by a truck while leading a 3,000-mile bike tour of the US.  Having had a very similar serious accident myself, this alone caught my eye.  But in reading the synopsis, I found that she worked with a nutritionist to not only regain her life, but get off of her chronic medication use for the constant pain she was in; again, another similarity. The book was only $5.99, so I purchased it and began reading it on my iPad as I ate my lunch.

Within the first few pages, I realized that this was exactly what I'd been looking for, though it had apparently been subconsciously, and that I hadn't felt this motivated since I quit smoking about 9 years ago!  I know that my particular body does well on a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean that order.  But, like most of us, and working two basically full time jobs, I usually just eat what is easy.   Breakfast is generally two cups of coffee, and instant oatmeal.  Lunch is almost always a Lean Cuisine and a Vitamin Water.  And sometimes dinner is just ice-cream eaten out of the carton while standing at the sink, and then a chunk of bread and butter taken to my desk and munched on while I type. Definitely not the building blocks to a good 'inside'.  But I care about my personal appearance.  I love to shop and save money, and look great on the outside.  But I've taken almost no time in my life to look after my insides.  And I'd be willing to bet neither have you! :)

But I'm learning some interesting things.  Like, if you're body is used to getting sub-quality food, you might have allergies to those foods that are causing you physical pain.  Or, my inability to lose weight may be influenced by the fact my liver and kidneys are a bit clogged up with toxins which are literally making my body hang on to that extra fat around my middle (I don't care what you call it, 'muffin top' is not cute).
The entire premise is being conscious of what you eat at all times.  Not of what you can't eat, but on everything that is good for you that you can.  Though today is the first actual day of the program, I started on Saturday, and even for a weekend, can say I didn't feel the least bit deprived.  I don't have to count calories or fat or carbs.  I eat when I'm hungry, and don't eat when I'm not.  The plan doesn't eliminate meat altogether, only anything with more than one or two ingredients, preferably one.  As in, an apple is it's own ingredient: no fillers, no additives, no sweeteners.  That's the basic premise.  Nothing processed, no refined sugars, no dairy.  There are just a couple of additional 'no-no's' on the list just for the two-week cleanse portion of the plan such as no bell peppers, potatoes, or oranges, but they give legitimate reasons for this, and nothing is set in stone.  This is all about taking care of your Self with the goal of finding clarity at the end of the two week cleanse and with it the desire to continue to care for Self as you add back in the foods you love.  

See?  Perfectly reasonable.

So I went grocery shopping this weekend to stores I don't generally frequent, and my fridge is now filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked brown rice and quinoa.  I made this surprisingly good salad dressing from celery, garlic, herbs, and cashews soaked in water that I'll be having on my giant salad when I got to lunch in about half an hour.  I found, to my utter shock, that unsweetened almond milk is almost indistinguishable on my morning hot cereal than 2% milk! And a bowl of fresh fruit topped with half a cup of cooked quinoa tasted so good, I actually made a second bowl. I made kale chips that aren't nearly as gross as I thought they'd be.  And I'm drinking the suggested half-your-body-weight-in-ounces of water a day, cutting out my beloved coffee for two weeks, and will follow the plan exactly for the outlined two weeks and see how I feel.  This time, I'm not looking at it as a diet.  I'm actually looking at it as a genuine lifestyle change, and one that I believe I'm really ready to incorporate.  

So I'll keep you posted.  But I'd also like to encourage you to do something similar.  Start small!  But consider considering your insides for just a little bit and see what your self-inventory brings.  Like My Person pointed out yesterday:  we take care of our cars with regular oil changes, maintenance work, and tire rotations.  But can we say the same for what we put into the vehicle we live in?  I love my life.  And I want to make sure that I do everything I can to extend it as far as possible.  And I'd love it if you would too. :)  Cheers!  ~M


If this is something you'd be interested in doing with me, feel free to leave your comments below, or email me at and we can do this whole thing together.  The more the merrier!

Today's Outfit - Retail Cost: $362.50 What I Paid: $58.38

Today's Outfit - Retail Cost: $362.50 What I Paid: $58.38

Today's Outfit - Retail Cost: $362.50 What I Paid: $58.38 by madonah42 
Heather grey 'Ambiance Apparel' 3/4-sleeve v-neck sweater - Ross $8.99  (R-$18)
Charcoal 'Joe Ben-basset' cuffed trouser - Ross $11.99  (R-$26)
Grey polka-dot socks - Walmart (sale) $1.50  (R-4.50)
Long silver necklace with square crystals - Target (sale) $3  (R-$16)
Black 'Margit' tasseled loafer - JustFab (sale) $19.95  (R-$59.95)
Black leather 'Juicy Couture' baguette - Gift from My Person!  (R-$200)
Long, dark navy blue 'Mackintosh Collection' overcoat - Reuse shop $12.95  (R-$98)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weekend Wear - Style Without Sacrificing Comfort

Do you spend an hour getting ready every morning to go to work, but find you spend your weekend in your rattiest jeans and a holey sweatshirt?  Here are some ideas to keep you stlyish and comfortable while you're out running those weekend errands!

This has become one of my favorite weekend outfits.  Comfortable enough that I don't forget I'm off work, but stylish enough to keep me from feeling dowdy.

This is a good weekend date movie outfit.  Yes, like my mother before me, I wear too much black!  But the warm cotton motorcycle jacket over a gauzy black button down is both functional and fashionable.

If you're spending most of the day at home or will be doing a lot of walking, skip the platform boots (I love these, but I can't wear them for long trips grocery shopping!)

Today's Outfit: 1.18.13 Retail Cost: $219.98 WHAT I PAID: $59.95

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's The Little Things

We all know Her.  That One Woman in the office who, no matter how windy or wet the weather, always walks into the building looking like she beamed herself directly from her bathroom to the office: every hair in place, shoes clicking smartly on the tiles, head up, necklace and bracelet and earrings all coexisting in perfect harmony to pull that suit with the trendy coral top together into absolute perfection.  If there were a 'Vogue - The Workplace Edition', she'd be on the cover.  Every month.

In our office, that woman is Georgia.  We've had gale-force winds, pouring rains, blizzard-like snow conditions, and casual Fridays, and none of these seem to affect her sense of style.  When my kids were little, I used to want to be Georgia, but at that point in my life, I had no idea how!  No matter how many magazines I flipped through, articles in Redbook I read, or accessories I shopped, I just couldn't figure out how to put things together in such a way that I could pull off that overall awesomeness.  So how does one achieve that pulled-together look?

Don't Skip The Iron  
Sometimes, if you can get to the dryer fast enough, you can pull everything out before they wrinkle.  Yah.  That's not enough.  Ironing is an art form, and the folks at Real Simple have created an easy how-to video with step-by-step instructions exactly how to achieve the crisp collar and tricky spot across the top of the shoulders.  Take the time to iron your work clothes.  I've started using a light starch on them, also.  I prefer the Sta-Flo liquid starch available at Walmart or your local grocery or drug store (super cheap, and the jug lasts for months).  It's really thick stuff.  I keep a large spray bottle (approx 1/2-gallon) specifically for this purpose and use about 1/2 c of liquid starch and fill the rest up with water from the tap.  Make sure that you're shaking the solution up before you spray each garment as the starch tends to settle to the bottom.  While your iron is heating, shake the bottle of starch mixture well, then lay the garment out on the table and lightly mist the garment front and back.  Wad it up and set it to the side.  I've found if you iron right after you spray, the starch doesn't have a chance to soak into the cloth and do it's job, and just leaves a white residue everywhere - having pants that look like they've got a serious case of dandruff is certainly not the look you're after!  Once you've sprayed all the pieces you're going to iron, start with the first piece you sprayed and go from there.  The starch will make your pieces less easy to wrinkle, and you'll notice that by 4:48 p.m. you won't look nearly  as rumpled as you feel!
If your pants have cuffs, iron the cuffs.  If the trousers look like they originally had a nice crisp crease, learn how to use the iron to get that look back!  These little details may not seem like much, but open any magazine and you're not going to see a single model (even in the ads that you tend to skip over) with those little wavy lines that we convince ourselves aren't really wrinkles from clothes pulled hot from the dryer.  Trust me on this one.  :)  Again, I refer you to the links at the bottom of this post for a quick tutorial on how to make your things look like they just came from the dry cleaners.

Just A Touch of Makeup
Even if it's just a quick outline to your upper eyelid with a touch of shadow or mascara, doing just a little something to your face can make a big difference.  I personally find the caked on makeup that a lot of the younger women are wearing right now absolutely offensive (yes I know, I might get some flack for that one), but you can tastefully add a little something without feeling like "Here comes Jenny's face!", even if it's just a touch of lipstick or gloss.  I tend more toward only eye makeup and some lipstick, but that's what I'm comfortable with myself.  Use your judgement.  Again, our friends at Real Simple have provided us with some really great inspiration on the how-to's of makeup application without looking like you've just run away from the circus (see below).

Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize
I've learned a couple of rules that help me when I'm getting ready every morning, and figured I'd share since I haven't exactly seem them anywhere else and they showed up as a list in my head a moment ago that I realized got there by a few years of trial and error that have now apparently turned into some type of formula...with bullets:
Bordello brand pumps
  • If you're wearing a necklace that is more complicated than a pendant on a chain, stay away from big earrings.  To me, that feels like a traffic jam around my face.  Opt instead for a nice set of coordinated or matching studs or hoops rather than long, dangle-y things that end up touching the necklace and combining into a single funky square of jewelry around the outline of your face.  You want the piece itself to be getting the attention without the distraction of the person you're talking to trying to figure out where your earrings end and your necklace begins.  If you've got a pair of amazing chandelier earrings that you adore, choose to go with a simple chain or pendant rather than the bigger baubles.
  • If the outfit you're wearing is subdued, go with big chunky jewelry and bright statement shoes.  But try not to pair those black platform stilettos with the red polka-dots and bow with black and white striped slacks and a busy shirt.  Unless of course that's the look you're going for.  In this way you're drawing attention to the statement piece alone and giving it the attention it deserves!
  • Go easy on the rings.  Have a few that you really like, and try not to wear more than two to a hand.  
  • If you're wearing a plain oxford type blouse, the kind that buttons up the front, has a collar and cuffs, go with a nice long necklace.  This breaks up the lines of your blouse, especially if you're wearing a suit, and adds a nice feminine touch.  I've learned how to make my own necklaces and have a nice collection for a fraction of what I would have paid retail, and they are exactly what I wanted down to color and style.  You can shop sales at places like Target, Kohl's, Walmart, and K-Mart for great deals on clearance jewelry.  Also look at websites like Forever 21 who often have large sales on line with free shipping.  I've found some of my favorite pieces in this way and saved more money than I can count.
  • If you're a fan of brooches and pins, make sure you don't overdo it with the necklaces at the same time.  If you're wearing a nice suit with a statement necklace, try putting the brooch or pin on your overcoat.  You'll still be able to wear it that day, and it will brighten up your outerwear!  
  • Jessica Simpson
    scarf, Nordstroms
  • Scarves can be your friend.  A short scarf tied around your neck or around a ponytail, a Pashmina draped loosely around your shoulders, a fringed scarf folded into a triage and tied behind your neck can be just the touch you're looking for! And with winter in full swing, yet another layer you can add if your cube or office is, like mine, one of those on the outer edges of Siberia and you find yourself shivering so hard your Spell Check is working harder than you are!  There are many videos and articles out there to show you creative ways to wear a scarf, and you can find these in the same places you find the clearance jewelry: discount and department stores in the clearance sections.  I've found that second-hand stores aren't the best place for these as they tend to be outdated, frayed at the edges, or a little too 'well-loved'.  Not that that stops me from looking!  I did find my Burberry scarf in the $2 bin!
Don't Forget About Your Hands
Shellacked Nails
I personally like acrylic nails.  Not the long, freakishly fake contraptions that render the wearer incapable of retrieving a piece of paper from a counter top, but the very short, polished set that will keep polish looking new and shiny for at least a week.  My jobs are both very heavy on the typing, and for years I've been completely unable to grow out my own real nails.  They break, crack, chip, and basically look horrible.  So every two weeks I sit for an hour at my favorite salon and have Tony work his magic.  The result are 10 nicely manicured, very short nails with bright pops of color that are fully functional and make me feel beautiful.  If you decide not to go the artificial route, there is this fantastic nail process right now that is enjoying great popularity called "shellacking" in which your natural nails are manicured and then a thin gel coating is applied that makes your natural nail stronger.  The coating can be done in clear or in different colors, or can be painted if you like variety, and will last 2-3 weeks.  In fact, the picture I've used for this segment is of a set of shellacked natural nails.  Aren't they pretty?!  Like acrylics, the upkeep is essential, but if you can swing it, well worth the cost ($15-$36).

Keep Your Head Up, Look Them In the Eye, and Smile
Now that part of my job is to smile at people, I've begun to notice outside of work how few people do this.  I used to be one of them, and that embarrasses me just a little bit!  I sit at the front desk of the international headquarters of a Fortune 500 company and am exposed all day long to engineers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other professionals, and I would say the percentage of people who meet my eye and reciprocate when I greet them is around the 70% mark.  Yup.  Sorta shocking!  This is one thing however that Georgia has perfected.  I know that odds are she doesn't feel on the inside as she looks on the outside every single day.  But I can't remember ever seeing her walk by my desk on the way to hers and not look me in the eye and say 'good morning'.  She doesn't shuffle when she walks.  Her shoulders are back and she makes eye contact.  She smiles, and it's a genuine smile.  Most days, that's the extent of our interaction; but she's made an impression, and one I've tried to emulate.  Confidence is the absolute best thing you can put on every day.  No matter what you're wearing, how overdue you are on a manicure, or even if you forgot to put on lipstick: if you look someone in the eye, say hello, and smile like you genuinely mean it, you, like Georgia, are going to leave an impression.                    ~M

How to iron a dress shirt:

How to iron dress pants:

Videos on the proper way to apply all types of makeup:

Ways to wear a scarf that you might not have considered: