Search Results for: label/Vintage Fashion

Wearing Vintage

Sorry I have been MIA – I had work training Monday and Tuesday. It was great, but the trainer had a cough and the sniffles and he mentioned being sicker earlier… and I think I got what he had. I was sniffly and a bit icky Tuesday, woke up Tuesday night with a bad cough and by today it feels like a full-blown flu. So the past two days I have been taking Oscillococcinum and pumping my body with lots of fluids and nourishing foods.

And there’s no pics because no one wants to see my bedhead and old hot pink Victoria’s Secret terry bathrobe.  Though on a Weight Watchers-related note, it’s really nice that the robe fits again well enough that it can really wrap around my body and stay in place.  The tiny things that bring such pleasure to one’s life.  Last Christmas I considered asking for a new robe in a size larger because my robe couldn’t be worn and still let me answer the door, dash out and get the mail, or walk past a window.  So, baby steps of progress!

Anyway, I am often asked why I don’t purchase more vintage.  I don’t purchase more vintage because vintage requires time.

Trolling the thrift and vintage stores, trying on item after item after item.  Or knowing my measurements exactly and trolling eBay, Etsy, vintage online shops.  Once you have the item, it often requires some alterations to really make it fit in a modern and flattering manner.  It means having the time, and a good knowledge of your body’s shape and size.  I do not have either, so I stick to brands I know well and can usually have luck with right off the rack.  Once my body gets to a point where its size and shape is relatively consistent, I will go back to shopping smaller retailers and vintage.

That being said, I do love vintage and thrift shopping – more opportunity for a unique look, and I adore the frugality and eco-friendly aspect of it.  I hate disposable fashion, and love the idea of giving garments a second life.  Having a child really makes me grateful to thrift stores, Freecycle, and friends who aren’t afraid of hand-me-downs.  Babies wear clothes for such a short period of time before they outgrow them, I love knowing that what Emerson wears was worn by a previous kid and will go to be worn by another kid (or two, or three, or more!).

My mom kept a bunch of my and my sister’s clothes from when we were babies.  When Emerson was born I received a giant Rubbermaid tub of newborn clothing – Emerson wore the same kimono-style tops, gowns, and footed sleepers that I wore in 1975 and my sister wore three years later.  She has paired her frilly Easter dresses with hand-crocheted cardigans made by relatives for me and my sister decades earlier.  And now she fits into overalls that my mom sewed for me and my sister for everyday play.

Here are pictures of Emerson wearing homemade brown cord overalls circa 1976.  Like great vintage fashion for women, these overalls are better made than what you can currently find in stores.  They have a silhouette that does show its original decade, but still looks stylish in 2010.  The price is nice (hello FREE) and it’s so cool to have my child wear what I wore when I was her age.  Now I just need to scan a picture of me wearing them when I was a baby!

Wednesday: Vintage Vibes

Top: c/o Karen Kane | Camisole: Banana Republic | Skirt: eBay | Tights: Nordstrom | Booties: Miss Sixty | Coat: Thrifted | Jewelry: gifts, had forever, that sort of thing

I never have time to go thrifting, but Wednesday before Thanksgiving my sister and I got off a bit early, drove home together and along the way stopped at a thrift store and the Salvation Army. She got a couch and a cookbook, I got a desk for Emerson and this coat. The coat was $10 and smelled like an old lady who loved Designer Imposters; I took it to the dry cleaners but they said $40 to clean it. I decided to take my chances and washed it alone on the gentle cycle and let it hang dry. Turned out quite nicely!

Thrifted jacket, eBay-ed skirt and shoes (this is my third pair after buying the first pair two years ago), 10-year old camisole, old jewelry that I have had for years, and a new Karen Kane top that looks vintage (and is gorgeous untucked too, love all the details in it!)… a mix of new, new-to-me, and old faves makes for an ensemble with good vibes.  And lately, I’m in need of some good vibes!

Work has been busy but fulfilling, the blog has been busy but fulfilling, personal life has had some rocky moments but as a family we’re doing great and supporting and loving one another.  I sometimes don’t think I have time for things like sleep, eating, or using the bathroom but everything always ends up working out.  I’ve found dressing for me has been helping – I’m not focusing on what will get the most pageviews or repins, but what makes me feel good that specific morning.  Everyone’s personal style goes through transition, and I can feel this happening with me.  Pieces I used to adore are collecting dust in my closet and I am gravitating towards silhouettes and trends I normally pass over.  I’m looking forward to what direction all this ends up taking in the coming new year!

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What I Wore: Let’s Have a Kiki

What I Wore: Two Potatoes Laguna Beach vintage wrap dress with Born Myndy Sandals and Sweet & Spark necklace What I Wore: Two Potatoes Laguna Beach vintage wrap dress with Born Myndy Sandals and Sweet & Spark necklace What I Wore: Two Potatoes Laguna Beach vintage wrap dress with Born Myndy Sandals and Sweet & Spark necklaceDress: Vintage (Two Potatoes via Etsy seller Found Yesterday Goods), more dresses from this brand | Shoes: Born ‘Myndy’ | Necklace: c/o Sweet & Spark | Bracelets: Nordstrom (similar), Gorjana, had forever (similar)

It’s hard to shop vintage online when you’re not a small dress size. Size charts have changed drastically over the years and there’s not a lot of quality selection when you’re cusp or plus size. This dress is one piece, reminiscent of a hospital gown as the front has two ties you tie at the ribcage, and then at the waist against the body. Then you take the two ties on the back piece and tie in front as an empire-waist height bow. This dress likely would fit anywhere from an 8 to 14 because of these ties and was advertised and labeled as a Large. Two Potatoes is a brand that is still around today, but doesn’t carry any dresses in this style; the seller said this was from the ’70s. I’m glad I took a chance, this dress is so unusual and perfect to have a kiki or a summer party!

Budget-friendly Fave – Old Navy Vintage Tee

This weekend my husband caught a bug so I took Emerson to a nearby strip mall to keep her entertained and have the house quiet so Karl could sleep. We grabbed a snack at Starbucks, went to say hi to the animals at PetSmart, and went into Old Navy. I only planned on checking out the clearance rack for Emerson, possibly grabbing a pair of shorts or pajamas, but we walked through the women’s department and they had a table full of perfectly-heathered and worn vintage tees.

While these shirts came in a variety of necklines, I was drawn to the v-neck. Without trying it on, I grabbed one in a heathered purpley blue (not online). I bought a Large; though the Medium may have worked, I figured such a tee would be better too large than too small. I got home, tried it on, and fell in love.

The heathering is perfect – not too extreme, a true vintage look and feel. The shirt is soft and weathered, but completely opaque. the v-neck is deep enough to look feminine, but high enough to not expose too much. It’s fitted, but not too fitted, the perfect length where you could tuck it in, or slouch it on the hips untucked. I had a hard time choosing a color as almost all of them look pretty darn fabulous and classic. This weekend I wore the tee with a pair of denim cutoffs, after washing and drying (it shrank only slightly but otherwise looks the same), I wore it again today untucked with white bootcut jeans, silver beaded necklaces and yellow heeled sandals. I can see wearing it with my Talbots Garden skirt and a wristful of colorful bangles, with a white blazer and distressed jeans, with a hot pink pleated skirt and a printed scarf at the throat. It’s the type of tee that usually costs $80 at the department store, but right now at Old Navy it’s on sale for $8.50.

There are some negative reviews, so I believe that like other retailers, the quality is based upon the factory where the tee was made. I can recall when I worked for Express I preferred their Metro tees made in the Mariana Islands for they had the right weight and amount of stretch compared to supposedly the same tees made in other countries. The tee I am wearing and loving is made in Vietnam.

When I find a budget-friendly fave, I just have to share it with you. The next time you visit Old Navy, check out their vintage v-neck tees – while the blue and medium gray are classics, don’t discount the dark pink, light purple or yellow for a subtle pop of color that can dress up and down with ease and may possibly become your favorite tee in your wardrobe!

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Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Fashion Undressed: Plagiarism as Design Inspiration?

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

“It’s been done before.”

If you’ve watched any of the ubiquitous fashion design shows, you’ve heard coaches, mentors, and judges critique rising courtiers, telling them that their designs aren’t new.

“What goes around, comes around.”

Not just life advice, those of us who’ve been around tend to roll our eyes at the cyclical versions of trends we wore in our youth – sometimes twice.

Isabel Marant Fall 2015 Look 3Isabel Marant’s Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear line pulled from Native American graphics. Image via Style.com

When I saw The Guardian’s June 17, 2015 piece in the latest fashion plagiarism accusation, I wondered – again – where the line lies for a designer and her inspiration. In this case, women artisans in the Mexican Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec community have accused French designer Isabel Marant of plagiarizing their native costume for her Fall 2015 collection. Blouses strikingly similar to those they make and sell in their village retail under Marant’s Etoile label as dresses for upwards of $300.

KTZ Fall 2015 Look 21An issue since designs became art, modern fashion plagiarism came “back in” over KTZ’s Fall 2015 New York Fashion Week collection. Blog Native Appropriations discussed the accusations at length. Image via Style.com

As each season’s runway rolls by, designers put out press releases and show notes citing their “inspirations.” Some are purposeful, like Karl Lagerfeld’s 2013 Dallas, Texas, Metiers d’Art show. In that case, Lagerfeld turned on “cowboys and indians” to recall and use Coco Chanel’s fascination with Texas. The designs, many of which reused stereotypical “western” motifs, were not received well by critics. They were considered uninspired and almost cartoony. Using a “Native American”-influenced graphic blanket as a coat didn’t turn anything on its design head. Unlike some of his contemporaries (think Givenchy’s Fall 2013 Bambi sweatshirt), Lagerfeld applied not a lick of irony or sarcasm.

Chanel Fall 2013 Look 12Fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld drew – unabashedly – from not only Scottish plaid but also from traditional Scottish structures for his Pre-Fall 2013 collection. Image via Style.com

Where is the line, then? Can a designer not see a shape, line, or color in a native costume or a previous season’s design and apply it to make it current? Artists (and many designers certainly fancy themselves as such, whether or not the rest of the world views them that way) use life and the world around them as springboards to their creativity. Art is exactly that: taking that which surrounds us and interpreting it as an expression of ourselves or our message. If fashion is art, can designers call on and bring native cultures’ art forms to the runways? When is inspiration an honor and a positive spotlight for those cultures, and when is it a designer profiting from an ancient artist’s creativity?

Mara Hoffman Fall 2015 Look 10Inventive prints and global inspiration are considered designer Mara Hoffman’s “signature,” even resulting in travel articles centered on her designs. Image via Style.com

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.

True Fashionista: Pearl

We “old school” bloggers stick together. We remember when the fashion blogosphere was much smaller, less commercial, and just about sharing personal style and connecting with like-minded folks across the globe.  While we may lose touch a bit from time to time, there’s always a place in our hearts for one another.   Pearl Westwood is one of those “old school” bloggers who I have followed over the years. While she has always had killer style, it has been so much fun to see her hone it over the time on her blog, Fashion Pearls of Wisdom.

Pearl really knows herself, and how to use clothing to express it. Her look shows that she is an individual, celebrates it, yet has a passion for fashion. Pearl epitomizes what I think of as British fashion – edgy, eclectic, yet relaxed.  The Brits see the fun in fashion, yet take it quite seriously.  It is no surprise that Pearl’s favorite fashion designer is Vivienne Westwood.   

Pearl’s blog Fashion Pearls of Wisdom doesn’t just feature her personal style and recent purchases, but breaks down the latest looks and runway shows, analyzing the concept, thought, and designer. Pearl understands and respects the talent and history behind fashion.  She will often feature a designer I had never heard of but instantly love and respect thanks to her analysis.  I love how she will drop a fact about an obscure brand or a designer’s collection from a decade ago as easily as many speak of reality TV or current events.  Sharing of such information isn’t for Pearl to show off her immense fashion knowledge, but because she loves and lives fashion.

While Pearl is quite aware of what is current in fashion, she stays true to her personal aesthetic, and only takes on the trends that adhere to her personal style.  I think what I admire most about Pearl’s style is how consistent it is.  Consistent isn’t a bad thing – one look at Pearl’s blog and you can see that her style is anything but boring.  But she knows herself, what she likes, and what she wishes to say with fashion and is always true to herself.

Enough of me raving about Pearl, here’s her side of the story.  As with every other True Fashionista, I have asked her to answer the same five questions:

How would you describe your personal style?
‘Like Vivienne Westwood vomited all over me’ is how one friend likes to describe me ha ha good job we share a wicked sense of humour! I hold my hands up and have to admit Vivienne Westwood features heavily in my wardrobe, I just love everything about her designs. I don’t think there is any other designer who pushes the boundaries quite liker her and the fact that many of her pieces come with political messages, such as to save the rainforests, they have have meaning as well as style. Mixed in with that are other carefully chosen designer pieces and a stack of vintage. I don’t really care where my clothes come from, it’s not about the label, but about how they look. I would rather have one thing that I am totally obsessed with and wear everyday than a bag full of things I wasn’t all that fussed about. My key items are jackets particularly vintage sequin ones, ankle socks and crazy heels.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
You know I’m not really sure, it has always been something I was interested in. My mum says I get it from my maternal grandmother, who I sadly never met and since my mum is totally glam herself I would say it runs in the family. I think my mum really helped by encouraging me to experiment with fashion as a child, when I was a kid she would braid multi-coloured ribbons into my hair so I could look like 80’s pop star Boy George!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I gobble up everything and anything fashion, from runway shows, glossy magazines and hundreds of blogs it is my job to know about all the latest trends and I love to learn so I can’t deny this has influence on me. But what I really find inspiring is vintage shopping, just getting to examine beautiful and unique things sets my imagination off. I also really like to see what other people are wearing, I find it fascinating how two people can wear the same thing in such a different way. I admire people who dress for themselves regardless of current trends such as Dame Vivienne Westwood and the late Anna Piaggi. I try to take all this on board to feed my own imagination but most of all the one thing that inspires me are the clothes themselves. Nothing can beat that feeling of finding a item which you just fall for head over heels, be it for it’s beauty or unusual construction, the pieces that you put on and want to twirl around in, fashion should be fun above all else.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Ah the ago old question! I think anyone can go out and buy fashion but it takes style to be able to wear it well. That said everone has their own opinions on what defines the two. Personally I love fashion, I love a new trend and I love getting dressed up. Perhaps it is more to do with your attitude, you could wear a bin-bag and be stylish so long as you had the confidence. I am reminded of a story about Vivienne Westwood, when she had gotten caught out in the rain whilst riding her bicycle to a meeting. Ever the DIY advocate Vivienne had fashioned herself a hat out of one of her store carrier bags to save her hair getting a soaking. Pulling up under the window to park her bike, those she was meeting laughed and ridiculed her, even taking a photography and publishing it in a mocking way. So Vivienne went and embroidered that very photo inside her couture clothing, the eccentric lady with a plastic bag on her head grinning at you as you handed over thousands of pounds to her. I think we can safely say it was Vivienne to get the last laugh. Have faith in yourself and take your own opinion, it is you who has to wear the clothes at the end of the day.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Enjoy it! I actually started my blog because I wanted to record the style journey I was on. Having had an interest in fashion for many years it wasn’t until I finished my undergrad degree at uni and I guess started to grow up that I really found myself conscious of fashion again. I was on a personal journey as I had to decide on my career and also a journey of self discovery as I finally lost the weight I had been wanting to shift for the past couple of years. Suddenly fashion became something I was able to play around with instead of just having to wear whatever I could find to fit. I realise now that most of my problems with fashion had been in my own head, it was more to do with confidence than dress size. So now I would advise everyone to stop worrying about what anyone else thinks, stop worrying about all the ‘style rules’, pick and choose what tips you like and get out there and start having fun. If you want to wear bright pink and orange do it! If you want to go into a designer boutique do it, don’t be intimidated. Have no fear! 

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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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How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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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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True Fashionista: Judith

When I think of a True Fashionista, one of the first women who comes to mind is Judith of the blog Style Crone. I have enjoyed her blog and amazing personal style for years and was thrilled when I saw her featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s blog and book Advanced Style. I was so honored that she agreed to be part of this series.

Style Crone, as stated on her About page, is “Dedicated to the older woman, in her most creative, outrageous, authentic, powerful, adventurous, funny, and proud era. Let’s take back the word crone, to its original meaning, signifying a woman of a “certain age’ who embodies all her life’s wisdom, knowledge, experience, and love.” Judith’s personal style is so quirky, colorful, sophisticated, and completely unique. She inspires me to give clothing an atypical new life, to embrace color, and make me crave a fabulous hat collection.

I remember when I found Judith’s blog, it was one of her “What to Wear to Chemo” posts where her husband Nelson took her picture while undergoing chemotherapy. I remember reading it and tearing up at my desk, recalling a decade prior when I was in a similar situation keeping Karl company while he underwent the same. Cheerful, positive, and comfortable for long spans of time is a big expectation for an ensemble, but it was a good way to get my mind off things. I could see Judith doing the same with her outfits.  Sadly, Nelson lost the battle with cancer; Judith chose pictures for this feature that Nelson photographed, as he was supportive and instrumental in the launching of Style Crone.

Though Nelson passed in April of 2011, Judith continued with Style Crone, showcasing her amazing ensembles, where she wore them, and why. She journals her life through her ensembles, showing that clothing isn’t simply something that you wear, but a way to express your feelings, your life, and your personality.  Here’s Judith’s take on the same five questions I ask of each True Fashionista.

How would you describe your personal style?
I’m a lover of hats, vintage clothing and other recycled pieces. I mix it all together according to how I feel, usually starting with a hat. Over the years I have gathered a vintage and hat collection which I draw from and at this point, as I wildly flirt with 70, I find myself shopping my closet and having more fun with style than ever before. I suppose this could be called eclectic, but I don’t really have a label for what I put together. Perhaps quirky?

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I would say that my passion evolved. I remember enjoying style at an early age, but it escalated during the 70’s around the time that a friend owned a vintage store and I began wearing hats for fun and self entertainment. I also discovered estate sales, vintage stores, thrift shops and consignment stores around that same time. I loved finding pieces that weren’t found in the usual places.

Along with a friend I created a hat shop in the 80’s, but continued working as a psych nurse as the business grew. The experience was radically different than working in health care. Choosing outfits, which always included a hat was a way to express myself creatively and became a form of meditation as I approached my day, which usually included extreme and painful stories told by interesting and traumatized people. I find style to be healing and a form of art and self expression.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. The radiantly beautiful diversity of the world’s people, nature, other blogs that I love and the internet in general, personal experiences, movies, books, music, history, museums, travel, food, art. Everything about life and the list is endless! Having a space of time to quiet the mind also expands creativity.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
So many people have defined this difference with eloquence. For me fashion is in the clothes at a certain point in time and includes trends. Style is in the wearer and includes timeless self expression and creativity. Style is a celebration of life and the manifestation of the inner experience projected outward.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Be open to experimentation, inspiration and the silhouettes that make you feel good about yourself and bring you a sense of confidence. Consider it a journey and have fun with it! Style is a reflection of your inner self and can change over time with life experiences and shifts in perceptions and passions. Stretch and expand and do something that makes you feel just a little bit afraid. Try on a new persona like trying on a new pair of shoes. Changing an outfit is under our control, as opposed to the many things that we have no power to modify or alter. Thrift shops and consignment stores are great places to explore when searching for personal self expression. The financial output is small and it’s environmentally friendly. 

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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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Gone Thriftin’

In college, the majority of my wardrobe came from thrift stores. It was the grunge age, and every woman’s attire for the campus bars was a fitted baby tee, some baggy vintage jeans with a flannel around the waist. Oh, and of course a well-loved pair of Doc Martens or chunky black Steve Madden loafers. My friends and I would pile into the one car amongst the six of us and we would head to the suburbs, coming home with musty-smelling bags of men’s oxfords, old jeans, wool peacoats and ironic tee shirts from the 70s.

As styles changed and I got into the career world, I visited thrift stores less often. I was in the fashion field and needed to be current – and in the late 90/beginning of the millennium the look was very polished and vintage rarely looked right. I had a steamer trunk full of old clothes I felt may come back eventually – Shetland cardigans, classic blazers, 60s inspired dresses and such. I realized the majority of my “classics” were purchased at thrift stores.

Over the years, my career has changed, my lifestyle has changed and fashion has become less rigid where classic pieces are admired and quirky combinations are applauded. With the change in style, thrift stores have come back into their own – not just scouring for the perfectly worn pair of Levi’s, women are finding career pieces, cocktail dresses and brand names. Companies are made just to scour the thrift stores to stock popular vintage shops and with all this popularity, it can sometimes seem that all is left at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army are stained polyester blouses and pleated tapered trousers from an itchy synthetic blend. But thrifting is about the thrill of the hunt – never was shopping at a thrift store as convenient or easy as hitting your local mall, but with some patience and the right preparation, thrifting can still be rewarding and add amazing pieces to your wardrobe – no matter your personal style. A few tips:

1. Do your homework. Find out what shops are in your area, ask friends about their experiences at locations. I know in my area, some seem to specialize in furniture, some have sales on Tuesdays, some put out new merchandise on Thursdays. Knowing this before you schedule your trip will save you time and headaches. Also, many companies donate old sale product and overstocks in November and December to thrift stores to get that end-of-year tax deduction. Also consider location. The best thrift stores for designer duds are often near wealthier and more fashion-conscious communities.

2. Know this will not be a quick trip.
Thrifting is a long process where you slowly go through racks and rounders and try on more than you would expect. Schedule accordingly – I find a thrift store with a medium to small selection will take a minimum of an hour to get through the clothing section. For bigger locations, plan for more. And to enjoy your time, either go alone or with a friend who works well on her own – this is not a shopping trip with Starbucks lattes and giggles through the fitting room walls. You will do a lot of digging, thinking and analyzing. Keep the giggles and coffees to after the event.

3. If you have allergies, be prepared. Take your Claritin/Flonase/Benadryl before going and bring a bottle of water. Thrift stores are known to be musty and are harboring items that have been stuffed in attics and basements for years before seeing the interior of the shop.

4. Dress for the event.
Like shopping for bridal dresses or heading to Loehman’s, the fitting room situation is not the best. Often meager cloths cover doors, actual doors have broken latches and privacy and modesty can be compromised. I shop in short bike shorts and a cami under a pull-on skirt and knit top so it’s quick changing and if a door opens, you aren’t exposing all your little bits. Wear slip-on shoes so it’s easy changing, and leave your big purse and coat in the car so you can throw garments over your arms and not have a lot of extra stuff to lug around. And don’t think holding an item up to you will do the job – pre-worn garments often have a different fit from new pieces and don’t always match the size on the tag. Most thrift stores do not do returns so take the extra 5-10 minutes to try on a garment before purchasing.

5. Don’t expect five-star service. Most employees are volunteers so say hello, give them a smile and don’t expect them to be at your beck and call. Do not expect the store to put items on hold or to help you find anything. This is also not a place to haggle price – remember what you are purchasing is usually sold to make money for a charity. Bring cash as that credit card machines cost money and are not always available (and bring small bills).

6. Save time – shop the top of the rack. Look at textures and colors – no point in pulling our a purple angora piece if you hate angora and look awful in the color purple. This method is also great for discount retailers like Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Save time and search for textures and fabrics that you would like on your body, and then search by color. Many thrift stores organize by color which helps you save time by passing up the pea-green rounder and heading straight to the blue one.

7. Be realistic. If it’s missing a few buttons or is an inch or two long, this can be remedied and the cost is justified because of the low thrift-store prices. However if the knit is unraveled, the item is obviously stained, the seat is shiny or an elbow is looking threadbare, you may be spending more than you like to get the item to be in wearable condition.

8. Don’t be blinded by the brand. Digging through a rounder of jackets, you may come across a gorgeous Calvin Klein blazer that is in great condition, a classic fabric and shade but maybe has 80s shoulderpads, is a size too small and has weird embellishments on the lapel. If you are not loving it, do not purchase it, no matter the label. I have seen designer dresses and vintage brands, but the garments are too small, in poor condition, not a flattering style and so they stay on the rack. Also, if it looks great but is a brand you never heard of, don’t put it back. Style comes from cut, fabric and color and not from the name sewn into your neckline.

9. Consider refashioning a garment. Fabulous color and style on a dress but calf-length and dated? Consider having it shortened to a mini or even tunic. A bottle of RIT dye can make the most humdrum knits look brand new and spectacular. A nip and tuck if you’re crafty (or have a reputable tailor) can make mediocre pieces become stylish must-haves.

10. Give back. If you’re en route to a thrift store, why not scan your closet for any garments that aren’t worn or past their prime and donate when you shop?

11. Don’t give up. So you hit the Community Thrift and find only duds. Consider how often you donate clothes, and how often others do too – that store will be full of completely different garments a month later. An hour once a month can be a great investment – I think of that every time I see my Diane von Furstenberg silk blouse in my closet that cost only $1.25 or my classic blue J. Crew oxford I got for a quarter.

A few links to find a thrift store near you:
-The Salvation Army of the United States
-Goodwill Store Locator (and check out their fashion blog too!)
-National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops
-The Thrift Shopper

Happy Hunting!

#Blog4Good: Suppporting Goodwill Come Rain or Come Shine

A while ago, to maintain balance (and my sanity), I decided to stop attending blogger events unless they were really worth it.

An event for Goodwill is always worth it.

Why Goodwill? Because this January, the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia was at 8.1% compared to 5.5% just six years ago; the unemployment rate in DC’s Ward 8 is 18.9% and is one of the highest in the country. The people Goodwill serves want to work, but lack the skills, education, resources or opportunity. A purchase from Goodwill can offer the resources to get these people back to work.

Last week I sloshed my way through a torrential rainstorm to the Pepco Edison Place Gallery for the VIP Launch Party of #Edited4Goodwill, a spring Trunk Show featuring some of the very best fashion from local Goodwill locations. Racks and racks of curated fashion for men and women, bags, and shoes galore.

Shocker, I’m checking out the shoe selection!

I eyed an amazing embroidered silk caftan but knew I was too short to even consider it; my friend Alison tried it on and even Catherine Meloy, President and CEO of Goodwill Greater Washington and Debbie Jarvis, Vice President Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility of Pepco told her she HAD to get it, it was so perfect (see on my Instagram). My friend Deb went home with adorable pink studded Sam Edelman flats and I was thisclose to buying a buttery soft black leather jacket but held off knowing it’s not the right time of year for such a piece. I saw brands like Victor Costa, Cynthia Rowley, and Ralph Lauren, and amazing vintage one of a kind pieces like the caftan Alison got, as well as an adorable navy summer dress.

Check out her fab pink heels – Goodwill score!

A clear example of how a purchase from Goodwill was shared at this event. A representative from Goodwill Young Professionals Council stated that the adorable pumps she wore were purchased from Goodwill for just $20; that one shoe purchase can provide an hour of one-on-one resume building (and by the way, those shoes mentioned were a still in stock style from J. Crew!).

A view of the crowd socializing and scoring great fashion.
Perusing the racks with Alison and Deb holding the leather jacket I almost purchased

It was fun to connect with other fashionistas and fashionistos who know that you can have great style and make a difference at the same time. I will always make time for Goodwill, come rain or shine because Goodwill is a way to look good and do good at the same time.

May 4th through May 10th marks Goodwill Industries Week, an annual celebration of Goodwill’s mission to provide free job training and employment services to people with disabilities and disadvantages. In support of Goodwill Industries Week, I am participating in #Blog4Good – a social media campaign designed to help put the most vulnerable members of our community back to work by devoting a blog post this week to explain how Goodwill impacts lives and communities in the Washington, DC area.

We support #blog4good to help end unemployment

Images via the Goodwill of Greater Washington Facebook page .

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Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

Ask Allie: Where to Sell Used Clothing?

I’m wondering if you have any resources or suggestions for someone who is trying to minimize their closet. I’m moving towards capsule wardrobes and limiting my shopping, so this is leaving me with some very high-quality items (though not necessarily designer) already in my closet that I’d like to sell to get some money back, especially since a few of them have never been worn or worn only once! Over the years I’ve donated bags and bags of clothing, but for these purchases I thought putting a little extra time into it could get me some money back. Tips? Where to start?

selling used clothing online tips how to

This is a post where I’d like to ask you, the readers to share your suggestions. I have my suggestions but even I am wondering if there’s better ways to pare down one’s wardrobe and recoup some of the original cost. Here’s some suggestions:

Selling Clothes on eBay

eBay has been my most successful avenue for selling quality clothing that isn’t necessarily designer or a recent season. I make sure to have multiple photos of the item in natural light without a flash – full front, full back, photo of the tag (proves the brand, proves the size, and also many brand loyalists can recognize a year or season by the style of the label), photo of any details (fly, style of buttons, cuffs, close-up of applique or fabric texture), and a photo of any flaws. When it comes to flaws, be upfront from the get-go; it’s not worth it to sacrifice your rating on eBay. My description has as much detail as possible – the fabric, length of skirt in inches, size and how it fits me with my measurements, and I also offer styling suggestions (I wore it with X, it looks great with opaque tights and tall boots in winter but also with sandals in summer).

When it comes to listing price, don’t assume a bidding war will happen on your piece, especially if it’s a lesser known brand or more than a season or two old. Don’t price it any lower than you’re willing to take; nothing worse than having to go through the process to ship out an item for 99 cents, especially when you know you could have received more in a tax write-off for a charitable donation. eBay often has promotions where you can also offer Buy it Now for free; when that happens I always choose that as well and offer it for a price I hope to get but not an unrealistic one. To get an idea for prices, search eBay for similar items and brands and see what they’re going for. If you see one is sold by an eBay-er with a lot of sales, click on their profile and you can see recent sales and prices likely of similar items to what you’re hoping to sell.

Be firm with what you are willing to do and not to do in your listing. For example, I state no returns or exchanges and shipping only to the United States. However, I do offer other methods of shipping they can request it upon winning the auction

For shipping, I use the eBay calculator and labels; I can print the labels at home, go to USPS.com and schedule a pickup, and not have to wait in line at the post office. If you wish to ship Priority Mail, you can order shipping containers for free from USPS.com. While it’s tempting to get an item out in the smallest and cheapest packaging possible, don’t scrimp and sacrifice the quality of a piece. I have received leather skirts shoved into tiny boxes that are bent and creased and necklaces broken upon arrival because they were barely wrapped in newspaper and mailed in a standard envelope. You’ll end up losing money if you have to return payment for an item that arrives unwearable, so take the time to pack carefully. I have a box in my closet that’s full of shipping supplies I gather from online purchases. I save plastic shipping bags, tissue paper, bubble wrap, and useful sizes of nice-looking boxes just for eBay sales and in my storage box I also have a Sharpie, packing tape, and a pair of scissors so I have everything I need for an afternoon of shipping. If you wish to do this long-term, I recommend adding a little something extra to the packing – wrap in the same color tissue paper, safety pin a business card to the garment tag, show a little care and it can help your customers actually leave reviews, leave better reviews, and come back to see what else you’re selling.

Selling Clothes on Poshmark

I haven’t used Poshmark… yet. However, I know my friend Alyson at The Average Girl’s Guide uses it often and raves about it all the time so I asked her to share her thoughts on the site:

“I’m obsessed with selling on Poshmark. There are definitely pieces you know will sell fast, and others you need to wait for the right buyer. I personally don’t post anything under about $10 because I find that the time it takes to post (though just 2-3 minutes), plus any back and forth, packaging and dropping off, is not worth the eventual payment. I rather donate. That said, items from J. Crew, Lululemon, Tory Burch, Rebecca Minkoff all do really well, though I’ve sold everything from Gap, Target, Old Navy, TJ Maxx pieces, you name it. Think about posting the right time of year… posting a sweater and boots will probably not sell now unless you mark it really low, where going through your closet for springy pieces you’re no longer into could result in extra spending money.”

“If possible, take photos of yourself wearing the item — it really helps! — and be sure to label everything accurately and thoroughly. Lastly, be mindful of price. It’s just like how they say people who try to sell their homes on their own always have unrealistic selling prices; I’ve seen the same on Poshmark. Remember, you’ve likely worn something or it’s not brand new. If someone can go into J. Crew and buy a similar brand-new item for what you’re selling your used button down (and remember, buyer pays shipping) then you’re too high.”

Selling Clothes on Consignment or to Resale Boutiques

Back when I worked in apparel, before the start of each new season I would take bags and bags of clothing (hello employee discount, dress codes, and the need to wear current pieces) to a shop near where I worked. They would buy on-trend pieces for half the price they’d sell it for on their salesfloor, and a bit more if I was willing to take store credit.  I’ve used stores like this off an on since and know many friends who visit them every season.  I know there’s stores like this all over the country, from Buffalo Exchange to Plato’s Closet.

Appearance matters when trying to sell your clothes at such a store. Dress stylishly, and even if you have enough clothing to put in a lawn and leaf bag, instead choose a nice tote (I used my LL Bean Boat and Tote), or shopping bags from a “cool” retailer (think Anthropologie instead of Old Navy). Make sure the clothes are clean, folded nicely, ironed if necessary, and free of stains and damage.

And seriously, no damage. A tiny bleach dot that never bothered you when you wore it will be too much damage for the store to take. The wearing on the backs of your jean hems is only cool if the rest of the jeans are distressed. All buttons should be in place, tags still in place, linings still attached.

Know the store before you bring in your clothes. There’s no point in bringing in a bag of J. Crew if the store focuses on vintage fashion. Not only that, you’ll know if they already have enough Jackie Cardigans and will likely refuse yours, even if it’s like new.

Where To Sell Gently Worn Quality Clothing?

And now I ask you, what do you suggest to this reader? Have you used Twice, Threadflip, or Tradesy? Had any success with Craigslist or a local listserv? What do you find to be the most successful way for you to sell gently worn clothing?

If you have a storefront on Poshmark, etc. feel free to share it in the comments below, your castoff may be another’s must-have!  Do know any non-fashion related shops or obvious spam links will be deleted.

Just Call Me Grandma

I don’t mind my age, in fact I really enjoy it. It is far easier to be 36 than it was to be 26 – I love myself more, I care less what others think, and my life seems to have far more enjoyment and far less drama. People are sometimes surprised to find that I am 36, believing that I act and look a few years younger. However, I often catch myself thinking or saying things that make me (and those around me!) realize my age.

At least Ashlee Simpson isn’t heading to the office in this 
{via}

Today, I felt like a grandma when I was walking to work. In front of me was a woman who I can only assume was heading to work. It was almost 9am, she was in a part of the city where there aren’t any shops or tourist attractions, she was walking with purpose, she knew her destination.

Her skirt was so short, if she took too large of a step I know I would have caught a glimpse of cheek… and not the cheeks on her face. She had on a white cotton blouse with flutter sleeves, tucked into a tweed skirt that looked vintage. Espadrille wedges, a camel handbag, the entire ensemble was simple, summery, sweet. But the SKIRT!! I couldn’t imagine where she worked being able to wear such a skirt. When I stepped out for lunch, I saw her again with two friends or coworkers; one was in black trousers and a refined knit top in a print, the other in a knee-length shift dress. Her companions were dressed in clothes that were stylish, flattering, work-appropriate. This woman surely stood out for her excellent fashion sense, but the skirt was just as short looking from the front at noon as it was from the back at 9am.

I crossed the street, and ended up at an intersection with another fashionable woman. White crisp shirt, sleeves rolled, collar popped. Adorable cat-eye sunglasses and round-toe pumps with a slight platform. Perfect shade of red stain on her lips, her hair was groomed yet casual. And then… yet again the SKIRT! It was a bubble skirt that ended right below her bum. Unlike the woman in the vintage skirt who was probably in her early ‘20s, this woman seemed to be around my age and though slimmer than I, had similar legs (pale, touches of cellulite, the occasional visible blue vein). As she crossed the street, three times she went to smooth the back of her skirt to ensure she wasn’t exposing more than she desired.

Call me grandma, but I believe such skirt lengths should not see the light of day unless you are at a beachside party or a fashion event. If you are wearing something that forces you to constantly fidget, adjust, and ensure you aren’t exposed it’s not the best attire… especially for the office.  You should dress in a way that makes you feel confident, and flatters what you find to be your best features.

I stepped out for a quick Starbucks run; when I walked out of the coffee shop I practically walked into a group of four folks who seemed to have just left a business lunch at a nearby restaurant. Two men in suits, both holding their jackets, their shirtsleeves rolled. One woman in a knee-length gray crepe wrap dress with snakeskin pumps and a mauve leather handbag. The fourth woman was wearing a khaki linen skirtsuit with nude patent peeptoe pumps and a brown leather purse; she too chose to carry her suit jacket in the heat, exposing the white eyelet strapless bustier that was underneath. A BUSTIER?

A lovely look… though not for the office

Magazines often try to make items seem more versatile than they really are. They show sequined tube tops paired with pinstriped pantsuits for the office, with ballskirts for a wedding, with leather shorts for a night out on the town. The thing is, most people do not work in the sort of environment where such “day to night” pieces really work. I often see women in what is obviously a strapless dress trying to make it corporate with a cardigan, in halter-tops hidden by blazers, backless blouses under wrap sweaters. It doesn’t make the piece look like a 9-5 garment, it just looks like a nightclub top covered up by a corporate one.

Call me grandma, but I believe sexy attire should be left for evenings and weekends. If you have plans after work, then tuck your sequined cami or backless dress in your bag and do a quick change in the office lavatory before heading out. In addition, if you by chance do think an eyelet bustier is an appropriate base layer for your suit, think twice before stripping off your jacket in front of business associates (and the crowd in Dupont Circle at lunchtime).

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Updating Your Wardrobe for Spring 2008

I love the 80s; some of the most fun in music and even in fashion. I am one who does not flush with embarrassment when I see a picture of me decked out in mall bangs, puffy socks and shoulder pads. I thought at the time, the look was fun and colorful; fashion took risks. You could wear Versace, or you could wear vintage (though back then it was usually just a Joe Shmoe thrift store find) and still look totally tubular.

That doesn’t mean I like the resurgence of metallics, shoulder pads, boyfriend blazers, leggings and skinny jeans in weird washes. It was fun… 20 years ago. Not it makes the most chic of women look like a fashion victim.

So how can you get the new look for spring without looking like a leftover valley girl or a fashion victim? Here are some of the trends for spring that can work with most any wardrobe and survive more than one season of style:

Watercolor Brights
These aren’t quite the Crayola hues of the winter; they are a cherry spring version. Instead of orange, try tangerine. In place of emerald, a leaf or Kelly green offers pop without overkill. Instead of red, try hibiscus (has a pink undertone) or Chinese red (has an orange undertone). Yellow will also be a big color for spring – keep it bright and clear. These hues aren’t muddy, they aren’t neon, they aren’t muted. They have the pop of 2007’s primaries, but a feminine and sunny twist to them.

How to Wear Them: With almost anything! They are being shown paired with pale gray, black, denim, white and optic prints. Jazz up your boring suit with a silk knit tank in tangerine, consider a green handbag for the season (quite an unexpected neutral), or a pair of yellow flats to brighten up jeans or a black and white print skirt. I love the look of a basic khaki or tan with a bright crocus purple or a strong pink for the warmer months and am glad this is a combo easily achieved with this trend.

The Dress
Hooray, dresses are still quite en vogue for this spring! Almost every figure can find a dress that flatters, and nothing says spring more than a feminine frock and a pair of sweet flats or kitten heels. As for style, most anything goes. The day dress is still popular, with styles varying from the figure-flattering wrap in soft silks and jerseys to more structured s-line, sheath or polo-inspired styles ending right above the knee. After five, look for a return to femininity with frills, lace, sheer floaty fabrics, goddess-inspired cuts and a second year of the maxi dress going strong.

How to Wear Them: The day dresses can easily be worn now with tall boots and come warmer months with shoes that fit the style. If it is a structured style, a flat or pump will be a great choice. For the evening dresses, a feminine shoes with delicate styling and some skin (your peeptoes are still stylish) are the way to go. The skinny belt is still a strong look; try one in a metallic or black patent leather over your simple shifts to add a feminine flair. For solid-colored dresses consider a statement necklace or a scarf as your sole accessory – both are available in almost every price range at your favorite boutique right now.

Prints
The winter was a lot of solid colors, fashion has rebelled with a spring full of all sorts of prints. Love animal prints? You’ll be happy to know that there seems to be zebra prints in many stores already. Scarf prints and Pucci-inspired patterns are all over the place, and colorblocking is a very strong trend.

It is also the return of the floral print, and stronger than it has been in many years. Designers are mixing different patterns of florals, adding them to shoes, dresses, skirts and even the linings of coats and purses. These are not Little House on the Prairie calico buds; the look varies from luscious and full cabbage roses and flowers picked from a Victorian garden to modern-art inspired graphic patterns.

How to Wear Them: Like all honesty, this look isn’t for everyone. Printed cardigans and boxy short jackets add style to a simple tank and jeans; a skirt can add fun or femininity to wardrobe staples, and I love the a-line shifts where everything else is simple – minimal accessories, simple shoes, fresh face. Colorblocked styles can be quite flattering to the figure, but keep in mind that the light colors in a pattern will jump out so make sure they are not located where your least favorite body part is. If you wear a pattern, everything else should be solid and simple. The stronger the pattern, the less jewelry and cosmetics you should wear.

Yellow and orange dresses by Banana Republic; red and white print dress by Diane von Furestenberg via Nordstrom; skirt and jacket/shorts outfit by J. Crew; blouse by Kenneth Cole Reaction via Nordstrom

What I Wore: Mosaic

gwynniebee2 gwynniebee3 gwynniebee1
Dress: Triste c/o Gwynnie Bee | Shoes: Nine West | Necklace: c/o Sweet & Spark | Bag: J. Crew (old – similar) | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Ultra HD Lipstick in Poinsettia

This dress is the same as the one I wore in this post, but in a completely different pattern it gives a completely different effect. I love this print; it reminds me of a mosaic or stained glass and in some of my very favorite colors! Gwynnie Bee is so great, this dress arrived the day of this dinner which made it super easy to know what to wear the next morning. Nothing better than a freshly-laundered arriving in time for a morning of a wine hangover and too few hours of sleep! Click here to try Gwynnie Bee and get your first month free!

This necklace is from one of the coolest companies I have come across in a long while. Sweet & Spark is a curated vintage jewelery company. Jillian and her dad Howard travel about the country scouting the most modern costume jewelry from the 1940s-90s with the goal to make vintage jewelry cool again. Sweet & Spark believes that every woman is unique and should celebrate her personal style with something one-of-a-kind. In just two years, Sweet & Spark has been featured in Instyle’s best of the web round up, on Luckymag.com and The Zoe Report and have fashionista Olivia Palermo as a customer and fan. Jillian was kind enough to send me this necklace and a bracelet (seen on Instagram, stay tuned for it to be featured here on the blog).  Visit Sweet & Spark to learn more about this great company, shop their collection, and learn how to host a Spark Party and get a 20% commission on pieces you sell at your event!

A Night With Andre Leon Talley

Last night I went to the Corcoran in Washington DC to see Andre Leon Talley give a lecture on his opinions of the Spring 2007 lines and to have a Q&A. For those who have never heard of this man before, Talley is the Editor at Large for Vogue. He has been there since 1983, previously working for Women’s Wear Daily and other fashion powerhouses in New York, and was part of Andy Warhol’s entourage.

Andre looked dapper in a black suit, dove gray shirt with white collar, gray silk tie and white pocket scarf. He wore burgundy socks and black flats with pave “Ben Franklin” buckles that were custom made for him by the designer who originally designed the shoes for Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill. He started the lecture with a slide presentation he created of his favorite collections from the Spring 2007 shows in New York, Paris and Milan. It was fascinating to see the clothing as we see it in Vogue, and then see the models backstage and how real the clothing seemed to be on relaxed women chatting and giggling. Suddenly sequined bikini bottoms with a silk blazer seemed wearable, and not just art on the runway. We also learned some inside stories behind the collections and designers. Vera Wang’s father passed away less than 24 hours before her show. Talley told the story of how she received the call from her father’s caretaker and dashed to his bedside in time to say goodbye, then raced back to New York to conduct her show. Miuccia Prada’s collection may have seemed to be full of unrealistically short dresses that no person on earth could carry off. In fact, a few days before her show the skirts for the collection arrived and she didn’t like them. Instead of sullying her collection with incorrect skirts, she just sent the models down the runway in only the tunic tops. Suddenly the strange collection of ultra-minis and skinny leggy models seemed to work – you focused on the gorgeous jewel tones of the silk tops and how they were cinched with an unexpected rough-hewn leather belt. Knowing the back story made the collection all the more beautiful.

It was also funny to hear Talley speak of Vera Wang as “Vera.” An elegant name for a simply elegant woman, but when her first name is used alone suddenly I imagine a blonde waitress chomping on gum and screaming, “Kiss my grits!” It really humanized Wang. Talley was discussing Wang’s fame, how she originally was an editor and was getting married and couldn’t find an appropriate gown. She designed her own and ended up getting into the business, now having lines of china, crystal, lingerie, and even clothing at Kohl’s. “What next Vera, Vera Wang coffins?” Talley laughed when speaking of a recent conversation with Wang and her new business ventures.

Talley has elegant and sophisticated tastes; the lines he found the best of a “super bad” season were classic standards like Balenciaga, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Versace. Lots of white, platinum and silver metallic pieces, 1940’s inspiration and great textures. The theme for shoes was as he put it “ugly.” Large clunky sandals with huge platform heels and studs holding the leather to the wood soles. Dancer-inspired flats with lots of elastic straps. Very tall platform wedges with patent leather peep toes. “This Spring it’s all about the ugly shoe. Get yourself an ugly shoe,” Talley told the crowd to gales of laughter.

After the slide presentation, Talley took questions from the audience. I was expecting an audience full of well-dressed fashionistas but was surprised to see quite a variety of attendees. College kids in jeans, older women in artistic home-crafted designs, elegant socialites of the city in all ages, and many women who look as though they are interested in and learning about fashion, heading to the Corcoran after a long day at their government job. Women in couture, women in chain store pieces, women in vintage, women in Target. Talley noted some well-dressed women in the audience and asked them to stand. One was in a black and white heavy tweed shift with a foldover collar. She wore it over a lightweight white ¾ sleeve tee and carried it off with black flats. He loved the texture and the simplicity of the outfit. She admitted that she bought the dress at Antrhopologie. The second woman was in an off-white puff sleeved chiffon dress with a full skirt. The dress was covered with black oval polka-dots. She had a very large Fendi-inspired black patent belt around her waist, black tights and black heeled Mary Jane shoes. She admitted that the dress was vintage and the belt from Target. A cheer came up from the crowd when she mentioned Target and Talley smiled and said, “Oh I love Target, I love Tar-jay, I got there all the time!” Another cheer from the crowd.

Talley skirted away from the tougher questions, and didn’t really admit much about his personal opinions or thoughts. When asked about the movie The Devil Wears Prada, Talley said he never saw the movie nor read the book so he could not discuss it in any manner. He did admit that Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue did attend opening night and found the film “entertaining.” Talley would not discuss the thinness of models in the industry today, stating that he feels that designers should be able to use any model they feel shows off their clothes best. He noted that Prada did use unusually thin and leggy models this season, but designers like Jean Paul Gaultier use models of varying heights, weights and bust sizes. When asked about the show Project Runway, he admitted that he has never seen an episode and that he watches little television other than the news. “The McLaughlin Group is the best show on television, I love the McLaughlin Group!” He also admitted loving Hardball with Chris Matthews.

The conversation changed to fashion, the current trends of American fashion and more specifically, the lack of care and respect in today’s fashion. This is something that bothers me as much as it did the woman in the fur vest in the front row who asked the question. She was most concerned with the fashion of Americans in places like airports. Talley believes that we live “in a spin-cycle world” and need to accept that. He told a story of him and Diane von Furstenburg visiting the Google headquarters and one of the first rooms he saw at the complex was a Laundromat. He found it brilliant that the employees were able to bring their clothing to work to clean and believes that is the way of America. Talley believes that a woman does not need to spend a fortune to look stylish, that one can update her wardrobe just by changing accessories. He said for Spring a woman should invest in some colorful flat shoes, a beaded necklace and a fabulous bag. He disagreed with an audience member who said that style is all about self-confidence. I agree with Talley, some people have oodles of confidence but terrible style. He was most impressed by simple, classic, basic outfits in the audience and during this conversation noted the outfit of a woman in her 40’s in the back row. She was wearing a basic black suit, but an elaborate necklace of varying lengths of jet beads. The accessory made the outfit.

After the Q&A session, the audience adjourned to the hallway where a reception was set up just for us. High-top tables wrapped in orange organza, waiters passing out feta and watermelon skewers, grilled shrimp and chicken . Bars were set up serving sparkling water, club soda, chardonnay and a signature-tini with a ginger/orange flavor and color. DC magazine passed out their latest issue. The crowd was 90% female, everyone checking out one another’s attire and chatting about the lecture. After about 20 minutes Talley came out to the reception, signing autographs and shaking hands. It was a wonderful evening, well put together, and I found Andre Leon Talley to be a funny, passionate and charming man. I am glad I was able to experience it.