Search Results for: label/RocksBox

Ask Allie: From the Comment Box

I must admit, life has been pretty hectic lately and your comments and emails have been piling up. Here’s a post to address some of the questions I have received. If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, hang tight!

I have professional head shots being done at work soon. What should I wear?! (I’m 31 and work in a ‘typical’ office setting. Our normal attire is business casual).

A solid color that is not white, black, or red. A neckline that is flattering but a top that is also flattering to your shoulders. A v-neck sweater may be nice for some, but if you have curves you may find a more structured jacket with a scoop neck top, or a collared shirt may elongate the neck and draw attention from your bust and shoulders.

I’ve received my first piece of Stella & Dot jewelry; I want to create a small display of my fashion jewelry – like seen on Pinterest – but I read on the little note enclosed with my necklace that I should keep it in its own little baggie. How do you store your jewelry?

I have a jewelry armoire with velvet-lined drawers, but my favorite costume pieces (Stella and Dot as well as my other pricier higher-quality pieces) I store in the armoire in plastic baggies. Air will cause costume jewelry to tarnish. While those pretty displays on Pinterest will look nice, they aren’t very kind to your accessories in the long run.

I am a plus size knitter and have been looking at patterns for beautiful shawls and am currently working on a semicircular lace shawl. But, I have no idea how to incorporate a shawl into my wardrobe. Can you provide some suggestions?

That sounds so pretty! I’d say make it your signature style for a shawl can look great with most anything. I’m imagining it as some wear scarves or pashminas – just wear over your knit tops and pants or dresses. Keep other accessories to a minimum – maybe bracelets but low on necklaces and earrings so the shawl becomes the focal point. Also consider wearing it over your coat as an accent!

I was wondering if you might have some tips on nursing tops. My daughter is two months old and I’m starting to get out of the house more, which means breastfeeding in places other than my bedroom. It’s not great to hike up my shirt in public, not least because it’s cold! Everyone suggests button-down shirts, but the ones I already have won’t close over my newly-larger chest and I don’t want to have to buy a whole bunch more.

I nursed for two and a half years and hardly owned a single nursing top and never wore a button-front shirt. I swore by wrap styles, be they surplice neckline tops, wrap tops, or wrap dresses. Matte jersey or another stretchy fabric is best so you can just slide that one part of the bodice over and keep the rest of yourself covered. I had a few camisoles I cut short (and a few Second Base camis) that I would wear when I needed more cleavage coverage – I would slide the part of the top to the side, pull up the cami, and still be covered, warm, and it was easy to rearrange everything back in place. By steering clear of traditional nursing tops, you’ll be likely to wear the piece after your finish breastfeeding, and be able to find such pieces at great sale prices at most any retailer!

I’m going to a country concert in Texas. I bought these gorgeous brown cowboy boots; they are between a tan and a dark brown. I also have a gorgeous curve hugging gray dress with a black sash that would be perfect for the venue. Can I pair the two together with even though there is a black belt and brown boots? Or should I just go ahead and put a brown belt on to go with the boots?

I say yes, there’s no need to have the brown belt. While it used to be passé to mix brown and black, now it’s the norm and seen on many a celebrity. By the dress being gray and not a strong color like a primary or white it makes the brown boots even better of a pairing. Not only that, cowboy boots are a neutral (at least I think so). They are like a cowboy hat – they can be paired with most anything and look good.

I’m 25 years old and 5’8” tall with very long, slim legs (I always need to order my pants in talls). I also do not have much in the hips. However, I am a little thicker in the middle (about size 14ish). Finding pants that fit is awful. If they fit in the waist, they are baggy and ridiculous looking in the thighs and hips. If they fit in the legs, they are disgustingly tight. I like my pants to hit a little higher (no butt cracks allowed!), but not creeping into mom/grandma territory. Do you happen to have any suggestions on where I could find some pants (primarily denim, and chinos) that might work?

Try Jag Jeans. They sell up to a 34” inseam on sites like Zappos and I have found that they have a good inseam, a straight torso, and reasonable leg openings. A slimmer style like their narrow bootcut may be better for your legs. Jag Jeans are already more reasonably-priced, but they often go on sale at Amazon, Nordstrom, and Zappos so you can get some pretty fab deals on them. Do note they run a bit big, so if you’re between sizes you may want to size down.

Also consider Junior’s brands of jeans. While you may first think that they all will have incredibly low waists, not all do (and the trend for higher waists is happening FINALLY!). A junior fit will have less allowance in the hips and thighs and usually has a slimmer leg opening. Alloy has an amazing selection of jean styles and washes and have inseams up to 37”.

From readers, I have heard good things about Victoria’s Secret and Old Navy for tall jeans that aren’t also curvy. Old Navy has a more extensive selection of inseams online though you can still return anything that doesn’t work quite right in their stores.

Can an A-line skirt/dress + boots be considered a classic (winter) look? The older I get, the less I want to fuss with wardrobe choices and my ideal wardrobe would be a highly versatile minimal capsule, but I do not want to look hopelessly passé or “not having a clue”.

That actually sounds quite classic and chic. There are some silhouettes and combinations that stand the test of time, and an a-line skirt with tall boots is one of them. With a turtleneck sweater, a striped boatneck and scarf, a fitted blazer and shell… I love that classic look and think it looks great now and will look great years from now. The only thing to watch is skirt lengths and minor details over the years – it is possible to maintain this look for years, but stay tuned so your skirt isn’t a dowdy length, you have too many details that can go out of fashion (pleats, patch pockets, double slits, etc.), or you’re wearing too many colors or fabrics that were hot once and may not be now (various shades of green, red, camel, brown – true neutrals and jewel tones are less likely to go out of fashion).

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Back in Black

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: Etsy | Watch: c/o WatchCo |  
Bracelet: c/o RocksBox | Shoes: Joan & David (similar)

I adore this dress, and find the length flattering but a bit too much with opaque tights or boots. So when the weather is how it is now, I look forward to wearing it. You know I adore ponte, and I adore how this dress flatters my curves and is elegant yet work appropriate and is a unique style, but a style that will be fashionable for many seasons to come.

These shoes I got last week at the grand opening of the new Nordstrom Rack in DC; they fit beautifully and I love the gradient of color. I had a pair of snakeskin pumps with a pointy toe years ago – I remember then in some of my first outfit posts on this blog and they were so versatile and chic I literally wore them out. I think these are a great replacement, will look smashing with jeans as well as dresses!

I’ve been given the opportunity to try out RocksBox for a couple months, and my first order arrived this week. RocksBox is sort of like a mix of Netflix and Rent the Runway, where you pay a monthly fee, enter some details about your personal accessory style, and get to borrow designer jewelry. This bracelet (can see better on my Instagram) is so much fun and so much sparkle, but completely out of my budget; RocksBox is a fun way to try chi chi jewelry without the committment. My first box only had this piece which I adored, but what’s cool is I return everything in a postage paid package with my feedback and they better tailor my next box to my style. I’ll let you know how it goes, but if you’d like to try RocksBox yourself, follow this link and use the code FABB to get 50% off for three months ($9.50/month – first three months).  Per reader Michelle, in order to use the promo code, you have to click on the “Gifts” tab and purchase a gift membership. If you do the regular one, there is no place for the promo code.

Note: I received a complimentary RocksBox subscription through iFabbo; I do not receive any commission off of those who subscribe nor receive additional compensation for the promotion, but the link in this post is specific to me to track my participation in this campaign.

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Hiding from the Heat

Tee: Old Navy | Skirt: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Scarf: Nordstrom (similar) | Bracelets: Silver Cuff (similar), Pilar Leather Bracelet c/o Lulu Avenue, Indigo and Turquoise Bracelet c/o Lifetherapy | Necklace: Etsy | Rings: Had forever, Argento Vivo (similar) | Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar)

Yesterday I wore a nice outfit to work. White blazer, striped tee, the most amazing black pants from Karen Kane. I felt sassy and professional yet me. Karl and I went outside to take pictures and by time I got to the sidewalk I was a sweaty grody mess. My hair had gone flat, my face was shiny, my glasses steamed up. I deleted every picture. Today, I didn’t have meetings at work and wanted to dress more comfortably for the weather and my life so I grabbed some easy wardrobe favorites. And I decided to take pictures indoors. Obviously, we’re trying to perfect the lighting. Our living room is well lit with a bay window and two glass doors, but all pictures end up looking wonky. Karl had one of his photography lights still out from a recent shoot so we set it up but didn’t have a lot of time to play before I had to head out the door. We’ll keep working on it so it’s not so extreme, but don’t be surprised if the majority of my outfit posts this summer are in front of Karl’s grandfather!

I haven’t taken this Lifetherapy bracelet off in weeks.  It makes me feel like high school, when I’d wear my early ’90s arm party of friendship and gummy bracelets in the shower, the ocean, the pool, even to a relative’s fancy wedding… and I kinda like that.  In fact, it had me pull out some of my old sterling rings that I still have and still fit.  I’m also doing a bit of a 2013 take on the arm party these days, with more unique pieces instead of trying to have metal from palm to elbow.  Lulu Avenue sent me this leather and chain bracelet which I think fits my personal style quite nicely and I like how the size is adjustable. 

Speaking of jewelry, I have not been able to find my silver chain with my charms ANYWHERE.  That’s pretty typical for early ’90s Alison, but not for 2013 Alison.  I thought I was going insane and scoured the house from top to bottom before Forecastle.  Just as I was sitting in a sweaty mess in my bedroom crying, I get an email from RocksBox – they received my last box back and a strange silver necklace with an Egyptian and a Maryland charm was in it.  I have NO IDEA how that happened, but I am thrilled and RocksBox is sending it back with my next box!  For those who haven’t heard of RocksBox, it’s kind of like Gwynnie Bee for jewelry – fill out a questionnaire about your style and each month you get cool designer jewelry delivered to your door.  Return for more next month, keep what you wish to purchase.  Pretty cool concept, and pretty cool people who run it too!

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What I Wore: Purple and Primaries

Blouse: MICHAEL Michael Kors | Jeans: NYDJ | Shoes: Born “Myndy” | Bracelet: c/o RocksBox | Rings: Etsy, Vintage via Etsy | Bag: Latico

When looking for a link for the black blouse I wore the other week, I found the top in purple and green on sale at Lord & Taylor... and I bought them (sadly they are out of stock online, but may still have in the store). With the heat and humidity, I adore these tops because they’re thin yet opaque, breezy but polished, and machine washable. They also look great under a blazer.

I’m old school and I feel weird wearing pure white after Labor Day (winter white is a whole other animal and I support it wholeheartedly) so I am sneaking another wear of these jeans before the weekend. I originally had this outfit with some purple snakeskin kitten heel pumps (the Nine West Austin, also a steal on Amazon like the shoes I featured the other week), but I felt a bit matchy-matchy. I asked Emerson and she agreed and said I should wear yellow.  Hey, I knew I’d get an honest and unexpected answer from a four year old!  I am not one to wear yellow, but I did have these shoes and they are super comfy, so yellow it was! I decided to continue the primary color accents with this bag from Latico, which has been my go-to bag all summer. Bold color, pretty soft leather, adjustable strap so it can be a shoulder or crossbody bag, nice pockets. I can see this bag still getting a ton of play this fall and winter!

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What I Wore: Feeling Blue

Blouse: MICHAEL Michael Kors | Pants: c/o Karen Kane | Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Rings: Etsy, vintage via Etsy | Bracelets: Bead and Turquoise c/o Lifetherapy, had forever, “Emerson” c/o Stella and Dot, Enamel Bangles c/o RocksBox | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Maybe it’s the new mani (the nailcolor reminds me of my old Saturn’s paint job), but I have really been digging the color blue this week. These pants are ah-may-zing. I wore them on the train up to NYC the other week and they were so comfy, didn’t wrinkle, and I felt fresh enough to wear them straight to a meeting. While today is quite cool and lovely in DC, this entire outfit has become a go-to for me on sweltering hot days. This top is also ah-may-zing, I was so sad that I didn’t get it in hot pink and white when I saw them on sale at Nordstrom – I ordered the white in Large Petite but it’s just too short.  However when writing this post, I found the top at Lord & Taylor in green and purple and snagged another (Code FIRSTLOOK for an extra % off).  Seriously, great top for summer, figure flattering, but also wonderful under a blazer for cooler weather.  I have worn this top with a pleated chiffon maxi skirt, a pencil skirt, harem pants, and these pants.  The fabric is on the verge of sheer, you’ll want to wear a tee-shirt bra close to your skin color (or black with the black color) to if you do consider getting it but it’s not too sheer (at least in the darker colors) to wear to the office.

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What I Wore: Reality

Dress: Lands’ End c/o Gwynnie Bee | Shoes: Ivanka Trump | Bracelets: c/o Lulu Avenue (Rhodes, Majorca, Granada) | Rings: Etsy | Earrings: c/o RocksBox | Lipstick: Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids in Neon Red

Reality is having your breasts seem to grow a whole cup size the week before your period and having none of your closet fit.
Reality is dressing for the weather.
Reality is being thankful for Gwynnie Bee who brings your wardrobe to your front door, cleaned and ready to go without having to put forth any thought or effort.
Reality is wearing your outfit – sitting to put on makeup, scrunching into the back of the car to belt in your child, hugging your dog, and having it all show on your garments.
Reality is trying to distract with a mega pop of color on the lips.

The family and I have had a busy few weeks.  Going to Kentucky for a music festival (details soon), doing some home redecorating (details soon), attending another music festival in Maryland, a few photo shoots for Karl and me heading to NYC for two days for a fun project with Foxcroft (details soon), lots of projects and busy days at work.  We see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re glad to have had all the experiences but are ready for some chill time.  In the mean time, I dress for reality!

By the way, Lulu Avenue sent me a few great bracelets, I’ve been wearing the leather one from this post quite often but this is the first time I wore these bangles.  They’re a great choice for those who have large hands or wrists, they’re a bit bigger than the other gold bangles I wear, but as you see they aren’t so big that they look wonky on smaller wrists.

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Friday: Daytime Sequins

Tank: c/o Gwynnie Bee
Tux Jacket: Ann Taylor (similar)
Bracelets: Ann Taylor (here and here)

Jeans: Gap
Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors

I was so excited to get my latest Gwynnie Bee box – so much sparkle and fun for fall! This tank was one of the pieces and it’s reason # 4,521 why Gwynnie Bee rocks. I love sequined tops, but I don’t have the lifestyle for wearing them on a regular basis. However, with a Gwynnie Bee subscription I can get fun sparkly tops like this just for a bachelorette party, a weekend away, or even an upcoming holiday party. This top comes in a variety of colors too; I love how the black isn’t plain, it’s iridescent with lots of green that shows up in the light.

If you wear a 10 or larger and are intrigued by Gwynnie Bee, I encourage you to read my review of the company here. And if you want to sign up, the next few days are the time to do it!

Do know I get a commission for each person I refer to Gwynnie Bee, but I have chosen to partner with them because I really do believe in this company, their service, and commitment to their customers!

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Ask Allie – My Beauty Products

I am not a beauty blog, and I don’t claim to be an expert. However, after mentioning my beauty routine in a previous post, I have received many emails and comments wanting to know more about what beauty products I use. Today’s post will be about my medicine cabinet.

Though we had our house remodeled over two years ago, we still don’t take showers in the new master bathroom. There seems to be some place where it’s leaking, and we need to seal it properly… and just haven’t gotten around to it. So while I use this bathroom for getting ready in the morning and before bed, I actually take showers in the hallway bathroom. So my medicine cabinet only holds the items I use at bed, in the morning, and when doing my hair post-shower:

A. Get My Hair Did

  • L’Oreal EverPure Smooth Frizz-free Serum. I bought this… wow maybe two years ago? I bought it when I ran out of my BioSilk serum, and that I milked a travel-sized bottle for a couple of years. I don’t wear this often because I think it usually makes my hair look greasy, not shiny. However, it’s great when I’m past due for a hair trim – I’ll add it to the ends before letting it dry.
  • Pureology Texture Twist. Sometimes I love this stuff, sometimes I hate it. Lately I have been adding a veeeery tiny bit to damp hair, scrunching and letting it air dry. It’s very sticky, so it keeps curls curly when it’s humid out. I don’t like it for much else because it’s so thick and sticky and makes my hair feel strange.
  • Frederick Fekkai Luscious Curls. This stuff rocks, this is probably my fifth tube of this product. A pea-sized amount, scrunch, let hair dry and you have lovely soft, shiny waves and curls without any stickiness.
  • Jonathan Create Motion. It’s a cream gel, so it has the best of both products. Not too heavy, not too light, not too sticky. I got this as part of a Birchbox-like program that is now defunct, and since I don’t use it every day this tube has lasted me almost two years. It’s worthy of a re-purchase, I like that it gives more hold than Luscious Curls, but does a similar thing. I also like using it before blowing out straight, and it helps hold any heating tool styles.
  • TRESseme Heat Tamer Spray. I don’t use this as often as I should. It gets rave reviews online, and I got it when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. Many YouTube beauty vloggers swear by this product, I find it sometimes makes my hair too soft.
  • Salon Grafix Spray Powder Shampoo. I have reviewed this before. This is my third bottle, I like it so much.
  • Jonathan Product Silky Dirt. I bought this for me, my husband took it over. He adores this for a soft hair look and he loves the regular Dirt when he wants a mussed look.

In the far right corner is Jonathan Dirt, a replacement brush head for my Clarisonic Mia, and a bottle of bath and Body Works body lotion from a hotel (sometimes use it as a hair styling product). Far left next to the serum is some Sally Hansen hair remover – every 2-3 weeks, does a great job of getting rid of the ‘stache without irritation or redness.

B. Hydrate!

  • Some random tube of a hydrating mask. I don’t know the brand offhand, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t think it accomplishes much but my husband loves masks and uses it.
  • CVS Night Cream. It’s a cheaper version of RoC.
  • Olay Beauty Fluid, SPF 15. I ran out of moisturizer while in Vermont and picked this up when I went into town. It’s light, it has some SPF, it’s fine.
  • Olay Definity Eye Cream. I like this eye cream because it doesn’t leave the skin greasy; it really absorbs quickly so I don’t have to wait before applying makeup.

C. Washing Up

  • Clarisonic Nourishing Face Cleanser. It’s gentle, it’s creamy, it doesn’t strip the skin but I am not in love. Doesn’t take off makeup and is very pricey for not wowing me.
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser. My husband picked this up because he too doesn’t like the Clarisonic cleanser. It tastes terrible, it’s hard to rinse off, but boy does it do a great job at removing makeup. This stuff can even take off waterproof mascara and liquid liner.
  • Clarisonic Mia. I bought it as a birthday present to myself but was never immediately wowed. After a recent article on Un Femme d’un Certain Age I started using it again, either with face wash when I haven’t taken off my makeup, or alone on clean skin. It does make products like the Clarisonic face wash work better, and hopefully it will help my skin texture and clarity.

D. My Eyes! My Eyes!
I wear contacts. Here’s my case, here’s my solution (I ran out so am using my travel size for now).

E. Get My Nails Did
I am not a big nail person, I never wear polish on my hands and often go sans color on my feet. These are the basics – polish remover, clear topcoat to maintain a pedicure, and a lovely sheer pink that will make nails just look healthy and complete without color. I usually keep any colorful polishes in my dressing table.

F. So Random
This tumbler from my kitchen holds all the little random things in one place:

G. Brusha Brusha Brusha

  • My husband uses a Sonicare, I kick it old school with a cheapy toothbrush. I should switch to a Sonicare, but I just ENJOY a regular toothbrush. I have one here, one at work, one in the bathroom downstairs. I brush my teeth 4-5 times a day and replace my brushes regularly.
  • Dental Floss. Yep, I floss. My dentist is very proud of me.
  • NTIs. Nothing sexier than a couple with matching mouthguards to prevent tooth grinding. His and Hers.

H. Holy Grail

  • Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel. This stuff is awesome. I sometimes use this after cleansing to calm my face, I use it in the morning to remove dead skin and leftover moisturizer. If I accidently put on eye cream before my contacts, I use this to remove it so I won’t goop up. I also use it as a body refresher, wipe my décolleté and back of neck to feel fresh when dashing out of the house. My husband also uses it as a toner. It’s gentle, it’s a pleasant scent, and it’s natural. Score.

Next to the witch hazel is one of our three toothpastes. This was from Bonnaroo (travels well, won’t explode in heat – think it’s Colgate but when I went to peel off the safety packaging the whole label peeled off). We also have some tube of Tom’s of Maine that is almost gone, and a new tube of Crest 3D White because my husband believed the hype. It’s new, so I don’t know yet whether it will take our coffee- and wine-loving chompers to pearly white-ness… will keep you posted.

J. Got Sweat?
Does one household really need four different deodorants? Guess so. I switch between Dove formulas for day (find if I stick with one too long it stops working). For night I was using CertainDri but it seemed to stop working so I switched to Dove Clinical. The Dove is almost out, so I’ll go back to CertainDri until the bottle is empty and go back to Dove. The yellow is Arm & Hammer, my husband switches between that and the blue Dove.

And when you turn around from the sink you see the bathroom’s second door. I didn’t want this door. The bathroom is half in the master bedroom, half in our office. The contractor and my husband thought a second door would be useful if we used the office as a guest room, if we tried to sell the house. We never use the door – there’s furniture in front of it in the office and it’s a waste of space in the bathroom that could be used for a proper cabinet. So this is how I use it:

 

This over-the-door rack was originally purchased for the powder room on the main floor. I envisioned umbrellas in the basket, lightweight jackets and such on the hooks. We don’t have a closet on the main floor, so figured this would be a great alternative (we have a coat rack near the front door that is always overflowing). When I realized this bathroom has no wall space for a proper cabinet, I put this here for a “temporary fix.” Two and a half years later it’s still here. Usually there’s towels hanging there, but I took these pictures on laundry day.

In the top are all the things that don’t fit in the medicine cabinet:

  • Listerine
  • Hairspray (Elnett and Jonathan spray)
  • More contact lenses (the big box of more is in the linen closet in the hallway but I keep one box of each at the ready)
  • Diffuser (came with the dryer)
  • Brushes (two are missing from this photo – one is in the other bathroom, and one has disappeared because Emerson finds brushes to be playthings)

While the hooks hold damp towels, they also hold all my appliances:

  • Remington S9950 Shine Therapy Moisturizing and Conditioning Digital Ceramic Hair Straightener. This one was favored by many beauty vloggers back when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. I don’t think it gives my hair shine, but it has a thermostat so I can control the heat level and I like how narrow it is – does a good job with making waves as well as straightening bangs without a weird bump at the hairline.
  • Hair Dryer. This one sucks and burns my hand if I use it too long, but I won’t buy a new one because this one gets the job done. When it dies, I will buy a new one.
  • Vidal Sassoon 1 inch Curling Iron for Fine Hair. It has a tight clamp so it holds fine hair in place. Can control the heat level and a cord that never gets all twisted up. Not bad, though if it dies I want to replace it with my sister’s – whenever we travel I use hers (think it’s a Conair) and it’s awesome.
  • Charging cord for my Clarisonic Mia.

Oh and yes, photobomb by Emerson who was using her potty as a cave for her bath toys.

Whew, are you still here? Still reading? I am impressed! So that’s my bathroom in a nutshell. Not a lot of fancy, fun, and glamorous things but things that get the job done. Still need to get a proper day moisturizer and face cleanser, but I’m frugal and wait until the current bottle or tube is completely empty. So keep sending me your recommendations, I am noting all of them and they will help me when I do finally purchase!

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My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Black Knit Moto Jacket – Gap (no longer available online but you may find in their stores in black or gray)
Black Ponte Dress with Exposed Back Zipper – LOFT (no longer available online which is a shame because I LOVE LOVE LOVE this dress!)
Belt – Ann Taylor (bought a couple years ago)
Black Patent Mary Janes – Nine West (see below)


Shop your closet, folks. Shop your closet!

I have been spending this week doing a hardcore closet clean-out.  I dumped everything out of my bureau and only put back that which I like.  I made one bag of things to donate, and one bag of things to put on eBay.  Now I am working on my closet.  I took everything out that is too small, too big, too ugly, too worn.  There’s a pile of items to repair, and then I added to my two bags.

I am putting all my shoes in boxes on the shelf, because the floor of the closet it a bit of a No Mans Land. My dogs sometimes like to take a nap in there, my husband uses it as a place to throw things and close the door when people come over, I often find Emerson’s books and toys hidden in corners… anyway it’s a bad place to keep shoes. I opened each box to ensure the shoes inside match the label on the outside… and found these shoes!

Long-time readers may remember them. I saw them at Nordstrom a couple years ago and HAD TO HAVE THEM. They only had them in 7. I ordered them, and they were far too small. I started searching online for these shoes from another retailer and found then for half the price of Nordstrom, but only in an 8. I ordered them anyway… and they were too big. I think I wore them twice, both times bad experiences with rubbing, blisters, and carefully shuffling from Metro to office. After that, I shoved them in the box, stuck them in the back of the closet and figured I would eventually put them on eBay.

Well last night I found them and tried them on… and now they fit! Not only do they fit, they are pretty comfy! I am so excited because on my shopping list I had a pair of patent Mary Janes. Granted, I wanted all black with a pointy toe and a slimmer heel, but these are pretty stellar. I had a stranger stop me on the street and ask me who made my shoes and two coworkers said they are “Fierce.” Hooray!

Tonight I hope to finish the closet and this weekend hope to tackle the attic. After that I will be posting even more stuff on eBay – check it out!

My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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True Fashionista: Denisio

Sometimes in the blogosphere, it just seems like more of the same. Every woman has a slightly different personal style, but with so many fashion blogs out there, you can grow tired of the same trends, same poses, same sameness. So when you come across a blog like The Ravenous Creator, it is like a breath of fresh air.

The Ravenous Creator is a peek into the mind of Denisio Truitt, DC-based blogger, business owner, creative spirit. Denisio sees fashion as a form of art, by reworking vintage (and selling it at 8 Vintage, a business run by she and fellow fashion blogger Krystin Hargrove), sketching designs, sewing garments, photographing provocative portrait (and self-portrait) series, and pushing every possible sartorial boundary.

I couldn’t carry off 90% of the things Denisio wears on her blog, but that is one reason why I like her personal style so much. Her combinations are what I would never consider, she plays with proportions, colors, and textures. She embraces her curves, her freckles, and rocks the short hair (which often changes colors). She inspires me to think outside the box, give a new life to a garment collecting dust in my closet or even consider wearing lingerie as part of a streetwear ensemble.

Denisio is proof that Washington DC is a city full of creative, fashionable, and fabulous women. I am honored that she was willing to be a part of my True Fashionista series. Here are her answers to the same five questions I ask of each True Fashionista:

How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic, feminine and sexy. I love embracing my curves and wearing things that showcase them. In short I like looking and feeling like woman.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
My mother and grandmother. They’ve had me looking sharp since birth.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Two words: Karla Deras. Her style is more simple and clean than my aesthetic but her love of vintage, unique accessories, and attention to the feminine form is a constant source of inspiration.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion are the items, the ingredients. Style is the execution, the way in which you cook and put said ingredients together.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Know what works for your body, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone while still remaining true to your aesthetic, and have fun! 

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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday for the next few weeks. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments!

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A Minty Miss – My Experience with StyleMint and JewelMint

If you follow fashion and beauty bloggers, I’m sure you have heard of JewelMint, StyleMint, and ShoeMint. These are celebrity-sponsored sites that offer a monthly “showroom” of pieces based upon your personal style.

You start by filling out a survey of your personal style – are you more Zara or J. Crew? If you’re getting a pedicure would you rather read InStyle or Cosmo? From this, the Mint site decides what from their collection is most appropriate to your taste and creates your custom showroom. The collection is updated each month, so you have new pieces to choose from.

The idea is fabulous – jewelry designed by Kate Bosworth and her stylish friend, shoes picked for you by Rachel Bilson, tees via the Olsen twins (and skincare via Jessica Simpson, though I won’t be discussing BeautyMint site in this article).

All of these sites are subscription sites – once you make your first purchase, your credit card is on file and you will be charged every month. You have the first five days of the month to dash to their site to say “skip this month” or else you will be charged the monthly cost ($29.99 for Style and JewelMint, $79.99 for ShoeMint).

Last year, I won a “gift certificate” to JewelMint. I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to use it, and realized in essence it was just a free credit for the site. I went to the site, and wasn’t too impressed with the options – my skin doesn’t react well to rings not made of silver or platinum, I am not really an earring person, and I don’t like delicate necklaces. However, they had a green pendant on a longer gold chain that looked promising.

My JewelMint necklace

The necklace came quite quickly, and I was impressed with the packaging. A glossy mint green box with magnetic closure, the necklace was carefully displayed on a velvet-covered foam box insert. The packaging was so pretty and luxe, I felt I was getting an item from a high-end designer. Then I opened the box… and was underwhelmed. The necklace was… fine. The quality was average to below average – lightweight, a weird color of gold that looks fake even from several feet away, an odd length of chain. A stylish friend said it looked like a piece from Forever 21 and I had to agree.

My JewelMint bracelet

JewelMint has a referral program – get others to join with your custom URL and you get free credits towards more jewelry. I ended up acquiring four credits in 2011. Each month I would go to JewelMint to use my credits, and leave with nothing. Seriously, I could get free jewelry and couldn’t find a single thing I would actually wear. Last month I saw a gold link bracelet that looked promising and used a credit towards it. Again, the piece arrived very quickly, and in quite luxe packaging. And again the piece is underwhelming. While this bracelet is a better color of gold, it’s still lightweight, simplistic and should cost less than $29.99. I have heard from friends and fellow bloggers that pieces have turned their skin green and have broken in just a couple months’ time.

Even with my less-than-awesome experience with JewelMint, I was curious about StyleMint. I respect Mary Kate and Ashley’s personal style and taste. Also,the blogger A Girl in Boston had the StyleMint “Venice” tee and I liked how it looked on her. I also got an email from StyleMint for a discount on my first purchase so I decided to give the site a go.

Based on the size chart on StyleMint, I got a size 5/XL. With my shoulder, arms, and bust I usually err on the side of too big with tees to get a flattering and work-appropriate fit. While I felt the cut of the “Venice” tee would be cute with jeans on weekends, I was also hoping to wear it sucked into pencil skirts for an office-worthy ensemble.

As with JewelMint, the purchase arrived quickly and was wrapped with care. At first glance, the tee looked pretty nice – a soft lightweight knit that had a luxe, silky finish. Unlike cheapy big box retailer tees, there was care to have the stripes line up at seams. I liked the neckline – a slim hem that would look appropriate with a blazer or for casual wear.

The other night I tried on my tee… and it was huge. HUGE. The sleeves were so long they went past my fingertips, the neckline gaped and displayed a bra strap, and the swing cut made it look like a maternity piece. With all these Mint sites, returns are accepted but it cannot be worn, washed, must be in its original packaging, you need to contact them for a shipping label, and while shipping is free there is a $5.95 restocking fee.

I looked at the label – 100% cotton (though online it says 50% cotton, 50% modal), though it said to wash on gentle and lie flat to dry. I decided to throw it in the washing machine and dryer in hopes it would shrink. It did – not a lot, but enough to make it wearable. I was pleased to see that the color did not fade, and the knit held up nicely through the machines.

Me in the StyleMint “Venice” tee

Yesterday I wore this tee, and I like it… okay. It’s a beautiful color scheme, and a unique silhouette, but I don’t know if it’s really worth it for a tee sight-unseen, especially with the return process. The swing style is a bit too short to be flattering on most – even my sister agreed that a couple more inches would make the style more wearable (able to tuck in), and more flattering. It’s nothing dramatically awesome, and by looking at this month’s options, I don’t really know if any of them are. While the price is reasonable for a designer brand tee shirt, I don’t really consider StyleMint to be a designer brand, just associated with designers/style icons.  I would rank the quality and style to a store like Gap or LOFT.

These Mint sites are great if you have a pretty standard size or personal style and crave something new each month. However, they can quickly become expensive if you aren’t quick to manage your memberships. Unless you tell them otherwise by the 5th, these sites will charge your card each month, whether or not you purchase anything.

The cancellation process for these different sites vary – for StyleMint you need to call them during business hours, for JewelMint you can send them an email. I sent an email today and within a couple of hours, they replied saying it had been done. I was pleased to find it so simple, no attempt at wooing me back with discount codes, just a cancellation notice and request to rate the customer service experience.

I have not tried ShoeMint because I am a hard-to-fit person. I know certain brands fit me best, and prefer to have the ability to try the shoe on in the store.


Have you joined any of these Mint sites? What are your experiences with the product or the service?

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True Fashionista: Catherine

While I like reading blogs of women with similar personal styles as mine, I find the most inspiration from those who do not dress like me on a regular basis. It’s easy to follow a blogger and see how they styled the same blouse you own, or how they fit in a brand you have been considering, but bloggers with different personal styles can force you to think outside your sartorial box, encourage you to try new things, and refine your own look. A blogger who has a clear vision but sometimes shares an outfit that is not my personal cup of tea inspires me to think about WHY, to analyze my feelings on certain styles and trends and how that fits into my personal style. This is how I feel about Catherine of the fab blog Not Dressed as Lamb, and that is one of the reasons I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

When I first found Not Dressed as Lamb, I found Catherine’s color and print combinations to occasionally be jarring, but as I read her blog I understood WHY she made such sartorial choices and grew to admire and adore them. Gosh, she even calls herself “Queen of Clash.” You can also see in the past year how I have made bolder choices in pattern and color mixing and I would have to say blogs like Not Dressed as Lamb gave me that confidence. I would bet that Catherine’s blog gives many women a boost of confidence. She regularly shares musings about age, the media, and her thoughts about fashion that make one think about society’s expectations for women dependent on their age.

Catherine is inspiring because she shows that current trends and fun with fashion doesn’t have to be limited to those under 30; she rocks the milkmaid braids, pattern mixing, neon pops, and shoe trends with finesse. Catherine doesn’t just share her personal style and thoughts on fashion, she’s also a blogger’s blogger offering photography tips and how to improve your blog. She writes these tutorials in a manner that a blogger of any level can understand, and usually has access to the tools suggested.

Catherine shows that fashion can be fun, and that fun isn’t limited to a certain age demographic. That color and patterns and play with lengths and silhouettes can be educational and inspiring. That the best way to rock your age is to dress for the woman within, not the date on your driver’s license. As with every other True Fashionista I asked Catherine to answer the same five questions; here are her answers.

How would you describe your personal style?
I’d describe my style as eclectic, but veering towards preppy with a twist. I also can’t get enough of pattern mixing and bright colour.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I think by having much older sisters, I always wanted to emulate their music, their clothes, lifestyles, etc. I was ten when one sister was a stylish and beautiful 19 year old and I first noticed that she wore “fashionable” clothes, and, in my eyes, I didn’t. I always loved dressing up and role play; her beautiful clothes sparked my interest in fashion, so it seemed a natural progression from the dressing up box! Also my best friend at school from the age of 11 was also really into magazines and fashion, so the two of us spent our teenage years obsessed with clothes and make up.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
My number one inspiration is other bloggers’ style. I used to physically cut out images from magazines and keep a scrapbook for inspiration, but now of course there’s Pinterest to do that online for me! Most of my looks can be traced back to an outfit I’ve seen on a blog as inspiration, from the whole outfit to just the way a shirt’s been tucked in. The bloggers whose style I love the most are Kim of Eat.Sleep.Wear, Krystal of This Time Tomorrow and Sheree of It’s Not That Deep.

When I was a teenager I used to copy looks I’d seen in movies, for example Ali McGraw in Love Story, Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, and Molly Ringwald in Pretty In Pink. In fact I watched Pretty In Pink not long ago, and I thought how I’d wear a lot of the clothes that she wore in that film now ;)

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I recently read a quote along the lines of Fashion is what you buy, Style is what you do with it – I wish I’d written that because I think that is the perfect way to describe it! But I always maintain that what is stylish to one person won’t be stylish to another: we should all embrace our uniqueness. And rather than trying to be someone else, take inspiration and work with what you’ve got. I think someone who’s put loads of effort into a crazy-ass (and arguably uncoordinated) outfit is, in my opinion, extremely stylish – much more so than someone who’s made no effort at all in sweats and unwashed hair, or someone who’s wearing all the current trends by copying a store or designer’s look from head to toe with no personality added to it.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Draw inspiration from what you see around you and in the media, online, on blogs, etc. Don’t be afraid to try unexpected combinations or try on clothes you wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole. As mentioned above, work with what you’ve got: once you’ve accepted that you can’t make your legs longer or your boobs smaller for example, move on and highlight your best bits! Make a note of compliments you receive about any part of your body and make sure you draw attention to that area. And my best piece of advice for finding and perfecting your own style comes in two parts:

  1. Buy a full length mirror. It’s truly impossible to dress yourself properly without one.
  2. Photograph your outfits and upload the photos to study objectively on a monitor screen (don’t just zoom in on the camera). I guarantee you’ll see the outfit totally differently, and you’ll be able to get a feel for what suits you and what doesn’t very quickly. That’s how to develop your own style, because you’re not dressing anyone other than yourself.
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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

The Artist’s Way: Week 5 Recap/Starting Week 6

I must say, starting The Artist’s Way has messed with my head a bit. I was really doubting myself, feeling as though I was holding myself back, not accomplishing what I was capable of. And this week, my Morning Pages got me back on track. Comparing myself to fellow bloggers I feel as though I am not accomplishing all I could, but my Morning Pages reminded me that I may not have the same lifestyle, the same age, the same needs, the same goals as others. I am putting this pressure on myself not for my personal growth, but to be in some sort of invisible competition with others. And so I gave myself permission to lighten the hell up.

Friday I was a different person. Even Karl said that I got my “BAMF-ness back.” It literally felt as though a cloud was lifted. That morning I did my Morning Pages and write the ten ways I am mean to myself, I wrote how I put too much pressure on myself to prove to others that I am smart, creative, successful. And it’s true, I’m a 39 year old adult with a family, a career, this blog. I’m happy with who I am, why am I torturing myself on what I feel I SHOULD be versus what I am right now? It’s as though the past few weeks of The Artist’s Way has brought up all my teenaged insecurities. But as the exercise for writing the ten ways I am mean to myself states, making the negative explicit helps us to exorcise it.

Week 6: Recovering a Sense of Abundance
One positive thing about modern blogging is that you see how life will give you the money to be creative. I’ve seen that when I am stuck creatively, I receive fewer opportunities with the blog or have the wrong types sent my way. I was amazed this past Friday how I woke with a new outlook, felt free, and my inbox all day contained cool opportunities, emails from readers that were inspiring and positive, replies to old emails that kept me in the right frame of mind. As soon as I read the beginning of this week’s chapter I knew that Cameron was right.

We act like it’s God’s fault we didn’t go to Europe, take that painting class, go on that photo shoot.

I’ve never felt this way. I have always known that life/God/whatever provides the opportunities, but we are the ones who decide whether to take them. I have always felt that if I am in a bad situation, I am there by my own accord, and I am the one to get myself out. I read this section of this week’s chapter and thought immediately of this blog. This blog became a form of income right when we as a family needed it to achieve our life goals. It offers just enough to cover our bills so Karl can stay home with Emerson, so I don’t have to search for a different job that may pay more but may expect more time and emotional stress, so we can have a life where we can accomplish some dreams and goals.

What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do.

The older I get and the longer I blog the more I realize I don’t want to be a full time blogger. I don’t want to be on TV, I don’t want to be hosting events every month, I don’t like the pressure of figuring out how to style gifted items or photographing every life event in a creative manner. I like being able to do this creative outlet on my terms, being able to say no, being able to unplug every so often. What I really want to do is spend more time with my family, write more but write what I enjoy not what I am contracted to write, travel, make my house a warm and welcoming space for us and our loved ones. When I think about what I want… fashion is low on the list. Being famous is even lower.

Authentic Luxury

When I did The Artist’s Way in 2006 I felt as though my creativity was stifled. I bought a box of 64 crayons, and organized them by color. I got a pack of markers, and organized them as well into a rainbow. I purchased one of those velvet posters that you can color in, and spent hours by myself filling it in. I ended up taking that poster and covering my journal with it. Just a few bucks at Target reclaimed my artistic inner child, and it was amazing, it was luxurious.

My life right now is busy, but I do have the luxury of time. I’m sitting on my couch right now banging away on my laptop while Karl and Emerson cuddle on the other couch watching The Olympics. I have nothing I NEED to do today. I can write, I can play on Polyvore, I can doodle in my journal or whip out my sewing machine. Together, Karl and I have worked hard to get to this point, to have time to do our passions without being selfish or sacrificing our quality of life or the life of our child.

Money Madness

Wow, this totally fits with my Little Bits of Luxury series, and I started it not even remembering this portion of The Artist’s Way. It’s something Karl and I have been trying to master since we decided to have him quit his day job and stay with Emerson. Watching how we spend just a couple dollars here or there which add up and prevent us from doing something more substantial and pleasurable. Scheduling get togethers at our home to force us to clear out and clean up our space; each time we end up finding things to donate, to sell, to reorganize and redecorate.

Having Emerson is a daily reminder to find the beauty in nature, the picture above is of a shelf in our downstairs bathroom. When I chose this medicine cabinet I imagined little candles or a collection of glass paperweights that I didn’t yet own.  But we had a baby and both ideas seemed too expensive or inappropriate. It stayed empty for a long while, and then we found an amazing shell on a trip and placed it there. Over the years, it has filled with more shells and rocks from walks in town or trips to other states. Emerson adds to it too, often coming home from the playground with a teeny little stone that she found special enough for the collection. I love how this tradition has forced all of us to be aware of natural abundance.

The more I do this process, the more I am remembering who I am and respecting it. I don’t need or want to be anyone but me, and The Artist’s Way is confirming this.

We’re halfway through this project, how are you feeling? It has been a crazy couple of weeks, what have you learned about yourself or changed in your life to encourage your creativity?

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True Fashionista: Sheila

I hate the idea of changing your style or love of fashion because you’ve hit some age milestone. It’s utterly ridiculous, we don’t lose our personalities at certain ages, why should our style disappear? As I get closer and closer to 40, I’ve been more and more inspired by women in the blogosphere who have amazing, inspiring personal style and show that age is but a number. One of those women is Sheila from the blog Ephemera, and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

I’ve actually been a fan of Sheila for many years; I can’t recall how I found her blog but it has been on my reader a while and I continue to be inspired and excited by her outfits. Sheila rocks color, print, unique cuts and silhouettes. She is a thrifting queen and creates the most unusual pairings. Her personal life is infused into her outfits – a bit of steampunk, accessories with sentimental value, garments she has swapped with other bloggers. And speaking of which, Sheila is one who truly loves the community created with style blogging – she has made many friends, has met many of them, and even trades clothing with them.

Sheila is proof that you don’t need to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks. She thrifts and cosigns, she keeps things for years and brings them back into rotation when they fit current trends or her current personal style. She isn’t hesitant to get rid of something that isn’t a wise choice (and I love how she asks the opinions of her readers), and is always adding new secondhand scores to update the wardrobe.

Sheila’s blog Ephemera makes me feel as though I’m hanging out in her bedroom with a glass of wine, watching her try on clothes in her closet. She shares multiple views of the clothing (as you can see from my collages I adore her reclining on the stairs pose), her reasoning behind the garments and ensembles, and a peek into her life and where she wore the outfits.

Sheila’s style is creative, unique, yet extremely wearable. She is proof that one can still have fun with fashion (and life!) and look polished when over 40. She’s fun, inspiring, intelligent, and has amazing personal style. As with every True Fashionista, I asked Sheila to answer the same five questions; her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Um…crazy lady chic? Classic with a twist? Eclectic? Eccentric? All those kind ways to say, “Sheila’s a little “out there” with her clothes.” I love colour, pattern, texture, shine – even better if it’s all in one item! I’m a bit of a crow that way. I don’t like to look like everyone else; I want to stand out, especially the older I get (I’m 45). I refuse to disappear into drabness in my middle age – I have more confidence now about my body and myself in general than I did 10/15/20+ years ago, and I make a statement with how I feel by how I wear my clothes. I’m a supporter of Patti’sVisible Mondays” at Not Dead Yet Style, because it’s helping women feel better about themselves, no matter what age they are!

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I grew up surrounded by creativity – my mom is an artist, so I learned about colour very early in my life. I don’t remember ever not wanting to wear bright colours. My grandmother also dyed her hair bright red (I’m a blonde right now, but I’ve been a box-dye redhead for a good portion of my life) and wore bold jewelry, which was also inspiring. When I was 14, I met my great-aunt Ann – she must have been in her 60s, but she was wearing a flowered mini-skirt, hot pink heels, and a fitted top. Her black hair was scraped back and she had pink lipstick and bold make-up. I remember thinking, “I want to be her when I grow up!”

In my teens and experimenting with fashion, my mom gave me some excellent advice that I’ve never forgotten: “Never wear the same thing twice. Always keep them guessing.” She didn’t want me to get locked into a look/stereotyped and encouraged me to try on different personas through clothing. I looted clothing from her, from my dad, and shopped vintage and loved playing with people’s perception of who I was.

I struggled with my weight and my self-esteem in my twenties and thirties. It wasn’t until I lost 50 lbs 6-7 years ago that I finally felt like I was getting my life under control. I work hard to maintain my weight, and I am proud of my shape. I want to show it off!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Oh, gosh, everywhere! Afraid to mix colours? Look at nature for inspiration: irises for blue and yellow, cherry trees in bloom for pink and burgundy and brown. I love seeing what other people wear, both in the blogoverse and in real life. I always notice what people are wearing, especially if they’ve put some thought into it and are pushing the creative envelope. I like to look at fashion magazines to see what’s coming, and then I either shop my closet (I have a large closet and a big wardrobe!) or keep an eye out for it in thrift stores and consignment stores.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I think fashion is inspiration and style is perspiration – you have to work at style! You can be a slave to fashion and end up looking good, even great, but constantly chasing the next new thing – fashion is ever-changing, fleeting and ephemeral (which is where I got the name for my blog, by the way). Style is taking what you like and what suits your personality and body type and creating an expression of yourself. When I really feel like “me” in an outfit, I know that I’ve hit my personal style just right. Style is always experimenting and trying something new, even if it fails – you’ll never grow if you don’t at least try! Style also changes, sometimes due to time and aging, or a change in circumstance (my job allows me to be fairly creative in my sartorial choices), or just through one’s own personal growth, but it has a timeless quality that never looks stale or dated like trendy fashions eventually do.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Don’t be afraid to try something different; don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace who you are – right now! – and wear what you love, and to hell with what other people think! Be yourself and enjoy your clothes!

***

The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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How to Be Stylish on a Budget

The most popular question I receive is how to be stylish and look great when you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t believe that money equals style. Think of style like a college education. Jane gets a full scholarship to State U, Sara’s parents fund her entire four years at the same college, and Amy works full-time and takes classes when her schedule and budget permits. All three get degrees, all three have to work equally hard in the classes to get that degree, they just fund it in different ways. Your style can happen no matter your income level, it just may take a bit more time or a bit more effort and creativity.

Here’s some of my tried and true tips to be stylish and look great, no matter your budget.

Don’t Buy a Fake
If you can’t afford a real Birkin, don’t buy a fake one. That means don’t buy those faux designer bags that are sold on street corners in the city, and don’t buy bags from lower-end designers that are trying desperately to look like another. No monogrammed fabric, no padlocks, no trends replicated right off the runway.

This also goes for shoes and accessories. If you can’t afford the original, don’t buy a cheap copy. You are an original, make sure your style is as well. The only place where I think it’s okay to wear fake is when it comes to fur. Fake fur can be done well and can be darn fun, but don’t try to fool anyone with a floor-length faux mink!

Follow the Trends
No need to subscribe to every magazine under the sun and watch livestream of New York Fashion Week, but be aware of designer fashion. Know what the hot designers are featuring each season so you can stay one step ahead in translating it. Not only will this help you avoid fakes, it will help you understand how to style unique pieces and mix prints and colors in a modern manner.

Most fashion magazines do a web-based recap after each Fashion Week showing what trends were hot and what designers showed those trends. In these slideshows of 30 – 300 images, you’ll see the underlying themes of the upcoming season, be it a certain print, heel height, fabric, skirt silhouette, or lipstick color. This is also a great time to use Pinterest – follow Pinners who are knowledgeable about fashion and see what they pin the week after Fashion Week. See what appeals to you, and what is feasible to add to your wardrobe considering your lifestyle and budget.

Shop for Need not for Want
Shopping feels good. The ego is boosted when you put on a new dress. The idea of something new takes the stress off a first date or a job interview. I get it, I know, and I do it often. The thing is, when you shop, even if it’s for $5 clearance earrings, you’re taking away money that could be used for something better. Consider the Return on Investment (ROI) on each thing you buy, even if it’s 99 cents. Don’t buy just to buy, don’t buy to feel better. Buy to fill wardrobe holes and to look better today and a year from today.

Focus on Fit
One reason big box clothing is cheaper than designer is because more are made at once. The piles of fabric are higher when they are cut for the pattern, which can cause pieces to be different sizes. This is why sometimes a jacket has one sleeve a bit tighter or one pant leg a hair longer. Also, vanity sizing is more common in lower-cost stores.

Because of these two things, it’s imperative to try things on before you buy. Same dress and a 10 may fit but a 14 may be too small. Ignore the size on the label and if in doubt, buy a bit too big. It’s easier to style something a bit big than make a too-small piece look polished, and many simple alterations can be done at a reasonable price by your local dry cleaner.

And with everything, when you have the money, hit the tailor.  A tailor can make a clearance rack find look like a custom piece!

Choose Solids
This is my most controversial tip, but I stand behind it. A solid black dress will look more expensive than a floral. A solid blue top will be more classic than a plaid. Prints can look dated quickly. Prints can fade if not done well. Lower-priced garments often try to replicate runway prints and we already went over wearing fakes. Also, lower-priced prints aren’t as likely to be matched up, making the cheaper fabrication far more obvious.

Don’t Buy Any Old Fabric
I don’t buy 100% cotton shirts from lower-priced retailers because the cotton is often rough and more likely to wrinkle just if you look at it. I don’t purchase cashmere or cashmere blends from discount shops because the gauge is usually so low it’s transparent or else balls up and pills within an hour of wearing. Don’t just assume all fabrics are made the same; some are just better when purchased from reputable and higher-end brands. That being said, jersey knits, matte jersey, merino wool, ponte knit, chambray, polyester and blends are usually just fine at a lower price point.

Shop outside your Comfort Zone
You know where I do find budget-friendly cotton shirts? Lands’ End. Their prices are reasonable, their quality is stellar, and you can do returns at Sears. Lately I have received quite a few fab dresses from Gwynnie Bee and have been surprised to see they are from Coldwater Creek, a shop I previously considered to be “mom clothes.” My point is that there’s more out there than you may assume. Use blogs and Pinterest to learn about new retailers, Google them to see their ratings, and if they have a good return policy or a store nearby give them a try. You never know, the one item you have desperately needed may be for sale there and at a very nice price!

Baby your Purchases
Polish your shoes and get them reheeled and resoled when needed. Follow the laundry instructions. Hang up after wearing, don’t throw on the floor. Spot clean instead of laundering after every wear. Iron and steam to have pieces look like new after being worn or washed. Mend fallen hems, keep a jar of spare buttons so you can easily find and replace when necessary. It doesn’t matter if it cost $10 or $100, if you care for it, it will look better and last longer.

Quality not Quantity
You don’t need a completely different outfit for every day of the month. You don’t need 10 pairs of $1 Old Navy flip flops, a dozen pairs of jeans, or even three purses. Style comes from choosing wardrobe additions thoughtfully. Not only that, if you didn’t buy 10 pairs of $30 jeans, you could afford a pair of $100 jeans and have them professionally tailored to the right length and to prevent gaping at the waist.

When it comes to quality, it can honestly be found at any pricepoint. One of the most versatile dresses in my wardrobe was $39.99 at Target; I bought it four years ago and still get compliments each time I wear it. My favorite denim shorts are Mossimo and I self-distressed (using this video as a guide) to make them look old and cool and expensive. Thrift stores are always a goldmine, but so are your neighborhood big box retailers.

For more tips, check out:

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Ask Allie: When Your Wardrobe Classics Become Passe

Allie,
I’m just curious, I notice that in your previous postings, you had on Ann Taylor pieces that were on sale some time ago and yet I don’t see you wearing them in current times. What do you do with those styles that no longer seem to fit the current trend? I ask because I have several older style sweaters, skirts, etc. that no longer work and they end up just sitting in my closet gathering dust.
Thanks.
Sonia

Hi Sonia:
When a piece is no longer seen in my outfit posts it’s for one of many reasons:

  • It no longer fits
  • It wore out it’s welcome (faded, permanently stained, stretched out, damaged)
  • I sold it

Here’s some tips on what to do when items in your closet are no longer the wardrobe essentials they used to be:

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It’s in Great Shape but No Longer Fits
If it’s due to weight loss and you adore the garment, consider visiting a tailor or seamstress. A couple nips and tucks can make a piece one or two sizes too large fit like a custom garment. Do know when you get into more complex garments (lined, jackets, etc.) the price for alterations increases – it’s important before you get an alteration that it’s really worth that additional cost. Often, I find it to be a better value to search sale racks off-season for a replacement jacket than deal with complicated alterations.

If you don’t feel it will fit right after alterations, or don’t feel it is worth the cost, consider selling the garment. I have had much success selling on eBay – they make it very simple, and you can search for similar items on the site to know how to price in a competitive manner.

It’s No Longer in Great Condition
The best way to not encounter this is to baby your clothing. Don’t wash after every wear – layer over camisoles or tanks to prevent body oils from damaging the fabric, spot clean as needed, and only wash when truly dirty. Even if the label says you can throw it in the dryer, line dry to preserve color and weave. Invest in a garment rack to let pieces dry flat to prevent stretching.

If you have done all you can and a piece is still past its prime, consider donating the piece. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure – some may find your faded black pants the perfect piece for a costumer, or are crafty with the RIT dye and sewing machine.

I do read of many who revive black clothing with a dye wash in the machine; I have yet to do this due to lack of time and knowing that if I can destroy a bathroom with a bottle of Clairol even with gloves and old towels, I would probably kill my laundry room with RIT. However if you aren’t a klutz like me and your pieces are cotton, a box or bottle of fabric dye isn’t too costly to experiment.

It’s No Longer In Style (or Your Style)
Sell it. Swap it. Donate it. Whatever you do, get it out of your closet! Holding onto garments that you don’t wear only makes dressing each morning more difficult. Remove anything from your closet that doesn’t fit, isn’t in wearable condition, or you no longer like on yourself.

I like selling my old clothing because it gives me money towards proper wardrobe replacements. As I mentioned earlier, I usually sell on eBay. I have a box in my closet of shipping bags and tissue paper from online orders I have placed so I don’t have to spend money on such items. eBay and USPS.com are great tools to figure out shipping costs so you can plan accordingly with each bid. Feel free to limit who can bid (I don’t allow international shipping), and how the bid works (I don’t allow returns). It’s better to over explain than under explain – along with the size, offer the length, the waist in inches, the year you purchased it, the fabric content, an item in everyday life that is similar to the color (“while the photos show the piece as bright pink, in real life the dress is more the color of a ripe raspberry.”). The more information you provide, the more likely people will bid, receive what they expected, and provide you with positive feedback.

eBay isn’t the only way to sell your clothing – vintage and consignment shops are popping up all over and are a great place to take quality items in excellent condition. What may seem dated to you may seem ironic or hip to another. Many of these places will offer you 50% of what price they plan to sell the garment; some offer more money in the form of store credit.

I also love swaps – be they large events sponsored by an organization, or a small gathering with your friends, it’s a great way to rid yourself of the not-quite-right pieces in your closet and acquire new faves. Swap.com hosts events across the country, I have attended swaps in this area hosted by Goodwill – you can often find out about such events by following these or similar groups on Facebook or Twitter. If you’d like to host your own, this link provides some great tips on ensuring your swap is successful!

If You Think It May Come Back in Style
Keep it… but not in your closet. In my attic, I have several storage bins separated by type of garment. While some hold my out of season clothing, others hold pieces that either don’t fit right now (but hopefully will in the near future), or don’t fit my life right now (but may in the future). In there are things such as a silk crepe cocktail pantsuit, a leopard print faux-fur a-line mini, a taffeta bubble dress covered in pink polka-dots, an orange satin sheath covered in hot pink sequins and fringe, a black tea-length tutu, cadet blue silk palazzo pants, a white safari shirt, an olive cargo pencil skirt. These are all things I won’t be wearing any time soon, but may either want to wear in the future or want to pass down to my daughter. I “shop” these bins each season – when I switch out my clothes for the weather, I revisit these clothes to see if anything from them can be incorporated in my current closet. Just this fall, I was able to take a dark green leopard print faux fur coat out of one of those bins as that sort of look came back en vogue and after a few pounds the coat fits again. If you positively adore it and it was perfection the first go-round, it may be worth it to hold on to it for the future you.

If You Have a Trusty Seamstress (or are handy yourself!)
Restyle a piece! Just writing this, I think of my friend Kathy at La Petite Marmoset who can take the strangest thrift store pieces and rework them into on-trend fashion. A cold shoulder, a mullet hem, a bit of bedazzling… small adjustments can make for major impact.

A seamstress can take a dowdy blazer and make it trim, a Laura Ashley prairie dress and turn it into a flippy sundress, a bulky button-front shirt and make it a dress. Before you give up on your wardrobe fave, consult with an expert on how to give it a second life. And heck, if you don’t like the final result you haven’t lost much since it was already collecting dust in your closet!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

Nordstrom
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

Overstock
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.


Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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How to Shop: eBay

For a long time, I was terrified of eBay. I didn’t understand it, and felt that I could easily be scammed by sellers who were passing off fakes as authentic, taking my money and not sending me items, pretty much getting screwed by the whole process.

A few years ago, I fell madly in love with the Sandhurst hobo bag from Banana Republic. I went into the store often to drool over it. I would stand in front of a mirror, hold it in my hand, sling over my shoulder, and admire my reflection. However, I just couldn’t afford the price. A friend suggested I look for it on eBay. I did, found a seller who had the exact style and color I desired and was able to get the bag brand new in its dust cover for 30% off the retail price.

After that I was hooked on eBay for brand-name accessories. If I loved a certain necklace from J. Crew or bag from Rebecca Minkoff, I would get the style number and name, the color, the measurements, and then head to eBay. Often times I could find it, and for far cheaper than retail.

I don’t claim to be an eBay expert, but many of you have asked about how I go about shopping on the site. Here’s some of my tips and tricks for navigating eBay:

Accessories on eBay


Shopping for Accessories on eBay

When You Know Exactly What You Want
So you want the Essex bag from Kate Spade? Before you buy retail, head to eBay. There are lots of reasons why people are selling items on eBay. Maybe they got it as a gift or won it in a contest, possibly they are thinning out their collection, maybe it’s a store sample, and yes maybe it’s hot or a fake.

The search function on eBay is pretty robust. I usually start by typing in the brand and style name into the search function (you can often find this info on Google if you don’t already know it). If that doesn’t give me the results I desire, I will make the search broader and just enter the brand name, and then the type of item (handbag, jewelry, sunglasses, etc.). Often times sellers do not know the style name or number, so by adding that to your search you may end up with zero results.

I then search through the selections and in a separate browser tab/window, open any that fit my criteria. I then look at each different auction. Are they really the same item and color? What is the condition of each? Who has the better options and price for shipping? What are their return policies?

I look at the seller – I care less about how many thousands of sales they have had, and more on the quality of their feedback. I go and read the feedback; I am especially interested in negative and neutral feedback. Recently I purchased a blouse from a seller who claimed the item was New Without Tags, never worn, pristine condition. When I received it, it was missing a button. I left neutral feedback, as that the blouse was as described except for the fact that a very important button (cannot be replaced) was missing and this was not in the description. The seller contacted me, angry about the neutral feedback and asked for me to return the blouse and remove my feedback. I again looked at her feedback and saw that in the past six months she had two other neutral feedbacks from folks stating their items were not quite as described. I chose to leave that feedback to warn future customers; I wonder how many either didn’t notice their purchase’s flaw or accepted the seller’s offer to return the item and remove the feedback.

Once I find the item and seller that I like, I stop and think, what is the maximum amount I would pay for this item? I then write it down so it is more concrete. I bid, and I NEVER go over that number. eBay will let you know when you are close to being outbid and when you have been outbid, and it’s so tempting to add a couple more dollars just to stay in the game. DON’T. I have a friend who admitted she spent $50 more on an item on eBay than it cost in the store just because she got caught up in the thrill of the auction. I feel that if you are bidding within 30% of the actual retail price for something on eBay it’s usually not worth it. Wait until you get a store coupon so you have the customer service to go with the item in case there is an issue/need for repairs or a return.

Nine times out of ten what you are bidding for on eBay you don’t need in the first place, so if it’s not in your price range, let it go. Seriously, let it go.

Once you get your item, carefully open the shipping package and inspect it from head to toe. Does it match the photos and description of the item? Were you extravagantly overcharged for the shipping? If you are happy, leave quick and detailed feedback about the shipping, the price, the quality, the communication of the seller. If you find an issue, let the seller know; she may offer a quick solution. If you’re wildly unhappy, don’t keep it to yourself – let the seller know and let the world know with your feedback. Feedback isn’t just for the seller, it’s for future customers, future yous who want to buy and know they are getting their money’s worth.

When You Don’t Know What You Want
You can search more general terms like “Stella and Dot ring” or “Ann Taylor” and then use the eBay-offered categories to break down to jewelry or shoes or bags. From there you can usually break it down even further by color, size, and specific type of item. I usually don’t, and let my mouse do the walking through dozens of pages of auctions while I eat my lunch or wait for a friend to arrive. If you don’t know what you want, it’s good to really take a tour because you may be pleasantly surprised with what you find. A search for peacock-feather earrings ended up finding me a great dress for Bonnaroo; a search for a charm bracelet got me my Anthropologie crystal bracelet.

As with others, investigate your seller, and write down a final price. Be sure to check shipping prices – sometimes they are so high (or coming from overseas) that it’s not worth it to wait for it to arrive, or you might as well buy it retail.

Clothing on eBay


Shopping for Clothing on eBay

I hardly ever go outside my brand comfort zone on eBay. I shop brands whose fit I know is consistent. It is either something I have already tried on in a store, or a designer with whom I am very familiar (hello Ann Taylor). Keep in mind, even your go-to brand (hello Ann Taylor!) changes its sizing over the years – you may be an 8 at that brand, but if the item is five years old you may find an 8 to be a bit snug.

The only time I will go outside my complete comfort zone is with vintage clothing, and then I have to have very detailed clothing measurements in the description. If you have questions, ask them! Ask the seller for a photo of the back view of the dress, ask if the skirt is lined or what type of slit it has in the back. Ask if it’s more of a midnight navy or a dark blue, and ask for the fabric content. If you are unsure of the year, ask to see a photo of the label (most retailers slightly change the logo or look of their label every couple of years – you can often Google to find a timeline of the brand’s logo). It sucks to receive an item that isn’t want you believed it to be and go back and realize the seller didn’t misrepresent, you just filled in the blanks without asking.

I prefer a seller who has multiple pictures of an item, and of the actual item, not a JPEG lifted off of Google Images. This way I really know I am getting what I desire.

eBay Shopping Support

PayPal: If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you will need one to shop on eBay. I prefer PayPal to credit cards for online shopping because I have less chance for identity theft. PayPal is very user secure and friendly, and you can easily set it up to your checking account (or multiple bank accounts) so when you have a $0 PayPal balance, it will just withdraw right from your bank.

PayPal can be used at so many other sites online (hello Etsy, drugstore.com,Lands End Canvas and Zappos and more!) that it makes sense to have an account with them.


eSnipe: I haven’t used eSnipe in a while, but loved it back when I was looking for my Sandhurst bag. My hairdresser told me about it, and it has helped me score some great prices on eBay auctions. Instead of having to constantly stalk your auction to ensure you have the highest price, eSnipe will do it for you. Tell them your maximum price that you are willing to pay and in the last couple of seconds of an auction eSnipe will bid on your behalf, helping you win the auction, and not go above your budget.  FYI, eSnipe is now only free for a trial period, and then has a slight cost.

Ebates: I have a love affair with Ebates.  Sign up for free, visit Ebates before heading to most online shops and get cash back on your purchase.  They have popular online retailers like Sephora, Nordstrom, Target, Ann Taylor and Old Navy, but Ebates also gives you 1-4% cash back on all purchases on eBay! 

Ebates gives you an actual check once a quarter, no points to redeem, no gift cards, actual cash.  No spam, no strings, just 30 seconds for money back.  Be sure to sign up and visit Ebates each time before you head to eBay!

Some eBay Acronyms to Know:

  • NWT – New with Tags. This means the tags should be ATTACHED unless otherwise stated in the description
  • NWOT – New without tags. This means new condition, an item could be found at a store like this. No perfume, no dog hair, no creases from wear.
  • NWOB – New without box. (everytime I see this acronym I think NKOTB)
  • NRFB – Never removed from the box
  • EUC – Excellent used condition. Means like-new, though not as perfect as NWOT.
  • MNT – Mint condition (again doesn’t mean new, but is closer to NWOT)
  • VGC - Very good condition.  This means the item was worn, but is still in wearable condition (no stains, holes, etc.)
  • GUC or GU – Good used condition. This description has many shades of gray and it’s important to know details, see detailed photos and ask questions to fill in the blanks.
  • NBW – Never been worn
  • TTS – True to size
  • S/S or SS – Short-sleeved
  • L/S or LS – Long-sleeved
  • FB – Feeback
  • DBL – Double
  • FP – Fixed price
  • GBP - Great British Pounds
  • ITF – Impossible to find (often used in title for limited-edition pieces)
  • VHTF – Very hard to find (ditto, often in auction titles)

eBay Etiquette
Leave feedback. No matter what you purchased, or how many times you shopped from the same seller, leave feedback for every individual purchase you make. Many people make their living off of eBay auctions, and your feedback supports their livelihood. Feedback also helps your fellow shoppers, letting them know who to trust, and who to avoid.

Pay promptly. If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding in the first place. When I win an auction, I pay within 24 hours. I have sold on eBay and it’s frustrating to have to chase down a customer to beg for your money. Not paying promptly is like being rude to your waiter – he will care less about pleasing you and you may get spit in your soup… or a delayed shipment.

Pay. Again, if you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding. Winning an auction and then never paying won’t just give you negative feedback, but will also screw over the seller. There is a lot of steps a seller has to take to prove that you didn’t keep up your end of the bargain, to get back their selling fee, and finally be able to re-list the item. A good month could go by and that’s possibly the rent or grocery bill for that seller.

If something unexpected happens where you just can’t pay… contact the seller. Let them know as soon as possible. Don’t hide and ignore the invoices you will receive. Bad things happen to good people, we have all been there. Don’t leave your seller high and dry.

Accept the seller’s terms. As a previous eBay seller, nothing is more frustrating than having a person from Belgium try to bid on an item when I clearly stated I only ship to the US. I have had sellers try to pay via money order when I write that I only accept PayPal, ask me to ship FedEx when I use USPS, request I take the item off auction and just sell it at a reduced price to them. Read the description, all the fine print. It doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s a small change (offer to pay additional for expedited shipping or delivery to Canada from the US), but remember these are people, not major corporations. They don’t have the time, resources, money or desire to be your personal valet.

Have you had success shopping on eBay?  What are your tips and tricks for navigating the site and getting great fashion deals?

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