Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is Your Shopping Style?

Next time you go clothes/shoes/handbags/jewelry shopping, think about how you tend to shop. I'm not talking about what you do when you are helping your friend find a dress for a last-minute event. I'm talking about your natural tendencies when you go shopping for yourself, alone or maybe with your favorite shopping buddy.
Below, the types of shoppers I have seen and my unsolicited advice for each...
Indecisive Shopper
This shopper can't commit to a purchase, great or small. She might try on a lot of items, but she buys little.
My recommendation is that you examine your closet, make a list of what you want/need, and befriend a Power Shopper or Shopaholic (discussed below). And note your store's return policy- if you get home and change your mind, just bring it back!
She shops for fun, for therapy, as a hobby. She tends to buy often, even when she doesn't need anything.
If you are able to browse without buying, I recommend indulging in your desire to see what's out there either online or in store, while limiting yourself to 1) a strict list of needs, 2) a budget, or 3) a certain number of times per month or week when you are allowed to make purchases. Or start helping your friends shop- you can be out there in the wide world of retail without spending your own money.
Bargain Hunter (Huntress?)
Price is her first consideration regardless of the item. Typically has specific price caps, over which she will not spend for certain items (i.e., no more than $80 on shoes). Now, I don't advocate spending more than you can afford, but she may be looked upon as cheap.
The problem with shopping this way is that you may be sacrificing quality. I recommend expanding your price range, even if just slightly, to allow for a greater number of things to be considered. True classics- trench coat, LBD- may truly be worth more than your (probably) arbitrary price ceiling.
Power Shopper
She is Type A in every sense. She has a list and she sticks to it. Efficiency is the name of the game.
My only recommendation is that you take a little time to enjoy yourself. Shopping can be fun, and I hope you can enjoy the process at least a teeny tiny bit.
The Browser
Examines every option. Wants to try on every pair of pointy-toed boots in the city before selecting one pair to buy. Makes informed decisions, but they often take a long time to make.
I recommend doing some online research to shorten your in store search time. I also recommend befriending a Shopaholic, who also tends to know what's out there and could help you edit your choices more quickly. If you love the browsing process, stick with it, but when you find something that fits your life/style/budget, just get it already!
The Hater
She just doesn't want to be there. She sticks to very few stores, buys a lot at once to get it over with, and is relieved when it's over.
My recommendation is to make a list and befriend a Power Shopper, who will help you get in and out without much fuss.
Who are you when you shop?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Top Ten Sites/Stores for Cute, Inexpensive Work Clothes

Continuing in the spirit of recession chic, I am listing several sites (many with bricks and mortar stores, too) where you can find cute work clothes that won't break the bank.

With all of these stores, the following disclaimer applies: some inexpensive stuff is cute and doesn't cost a lot; some of it is just plain cheap. Understand the difference and you can bargain shop with the best of them.

10. Target

I love Target for many reasons, not the least of which is that you can score a super cute, fully lined, totally warm coat for $45 like a co-worker of mine just did.

9. Victoria's Secret

Sweet sweaters under $60, awesome wool coats under $150, fun work blouses. Steer clear of anything that deliberately exposes cleavage unless that's the angle you are working at the office these days.

8. Chadwicks

Don't laugh- they have some fly little dresses for great prices. They also have some shit I wouldn't be caught dead in; stay age appropriate, people. If the maxi dresses with boots isn't hot on the model, it's not going to be in real life.

7. Urban Outfitters

This is a great store, but it can run on the collegiate side, so make sure you select clothes that are professional AND cool. A plaid flannel shirt dress that barely covers the arse does not fit the bill. A solid boyfriend cardigan, however, does double duty over a cami and skirt at work and with your favorite jeans on the weekend.

6. Old Navy

Better selection than the Gap with lower prices. Their fall collection is pretty cool. Check out the one button blazer for under $40 and puff sleeved sweaters for $15.

5. H&M and Zara

There are probably at least two of each of these stores within easy driving distance from most of you. They both have huge selections of trendy clothes at very low prices. Quality can be hit or miss- some pieces look way more expensive than the $30 you spent and some will just be cheap-looking. Check for even seams and hems, lined jackets and pants, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, whether it actually fits.

4. Ann Taylor Loft

A great place for basic, classic dresses, suits and separates. Check out the turtleneck sweater dress and cowl neck dress, each for $79.

3. Macy's

This store has too many sales for you to shop when there isn't one going on. Sure, there are expensive sections in this store and on their site, but they have great sale stuff all the time. Some of my favorite well-priced brands are INC, Alfani, Nine West, and Sunny Leigh.

2. Newport News

Huge selection of cute stuff for great prices.


Yes, it seems like a cop out for the #1 spot, but some of the best deals are often at sales at a typically higher priced store, like Nordstrom or Banana Republic or Anthropologie. If you love these or other stores, go at sale time. I recently got an amazing black trench for $119 (originally $225) at Banana and a fitted cropped blazer for $49 (orignally $98) at Anthro.

What are your favorite go-to sites and stores?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The One Hundred

So, I just read The One Hundred from Nina Garcia, the cool as a cucumber judge on Project Runway.

I was underwhelmed.

Here's the thing: I have read a lot of fashion and style books. A LOT. And while I am not expecting anything deep or life-altering, I do expect the advice to be grounded in reality as well as good taste. Some of her choices were neither.

I completely agree with many of the One Hundred: A-line dress, cocktail ring, clutch. (Seriously, if you still don't own a damn clutch, I don't know what the heck you are waiting for.)

But leather pants, moccasins, and Missoni knits?! Are you freaking kidding me?

Leather pants: Unless you are an actual rock star or a Hell's Angel, these are totally unnecessary. Even the real ones often look cheap.

Moccasins: Gross. If you own some, yay for you. If not, there's probably a reason. Most likely that they are ugly and again, completely unnecessary.

Missoni knits: I love a designer label as much as the next brand whore, but these pieces start somewhere around $1500 for a dress. The idea that every "stylish woman" must own something this overpriced is not only ridiculous, it's insulting. Several schools of thought exist on the subject of style, obviously, but I subscribe to the notion that all women can be stylish at any price point with creativity and their own personality shining through.

If you can afford a Missoni dress, go for it, but don't sweat it if you can't. Crazy head to toe horizontal stripes aren't my thing, FYI.

Anyhoo, I do not regret my purchase, but I don't think it's the best style read out there.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

COLOR! Part 3

As promised, the hideous:

Seriously, people, flags are not inspiration for fashionable- or even viewable- color combos. This is just disgusting. Red and green are great on grandma's Christmas sweater, and that's IT. You may be able to work deep red and olive together, but anything this bright just advertises that you are indeed color blind.

Schizophrenia is not funny. So why dress like you have it? This is simply too much at once, without anything neutral or common tying the colors together.

Juvenile. This might work on your 14 year old kid sister, but otherwise, give it up. If you have eyes, you can see that this little number includes purple, red, pink, yellow, and black. At the very least lose the pink and red and try working the purple and yellow for a slightly less crazy ensemble.

No, no, NO! What I said before about red and green is still true. Strawberries can be added to your list of things that should not inspire an outfit for you.

Here's the thing: red and blue can look amazing together. Or they can look like this. No matter how much this outfit cost, it looks cheap and tacky. One way to finesse an unusual combo like blue and red is to use one color as your base (here, blue), one contrasting accessory (red bag) and then STOP. Use neutral shoes and very simple jewelry.

First of all, who does this?! Secondly, this just epitomizes the idea of taking the color wheel too literally and not using common sense to judge a color's tone and mood. The loud dress already contains red and purple (obviously I will discuss the use of animal print in another post). Adding a red jacket in a completely different red shade and boots in yet another red shade is just adding insult to injury. The addition of a purple hat and what appear to be blue or purple earrings is god awful. The bag is simply unspeakable.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Recession Chic

"There are no ugly women, only lazy ones."

Helena Rubinstein, a Polish-American philanthropist and cosmetician, said this, and I agree.

In our current recession, there may be a temptation to dress down and not focus on something as frivolous as your appearance. Avoid this temptation if you have a job and want to keep it. How you present yourself at work is one of many ways to tell your employer that you take your job seriously.

I saw a woman on the train today wearing a periwinkle fleece track suit. That is not just out of style, it is butt ugly. Unless she was about to teach gym in a very cold building, this is entirely inappropriate for ANY job (yes, this includes stay at home mommying).

Back to black, back to basics, blah, blah, BLAH. Dressing in times of financial decline is not an excuse to wear something as ugly as a track suit or anything as boring as all basics in all black. What it can mean is a great opportunity to look at what you have and 1) shop in your own closet, and 2) evaluate what you really need (versus what you want, such as yet ANOTHER pair of knee high black boots).

Shop Your Closet
If you have ever read a fashion magazine, you have heard this phrase. What it means to me is that you reacquaint yourself with what you own and see how many different ways you can wear it.

For example, I am in a major I Must Buy New Fall Dresses mindset right now. However, on looking at the dresses in my closet, I realize that I already own at least 4 fall-appropriate dresses and 2 or 3 others that can be adapted for fall. So I really have 6 or 7 already. This doesn't mean that I won't buy any new ones this year, but it does mean that I now realize what I actually have and see that my dress situation is not nearly as dire as I thought it was.

This brings me to my next point...

Evaluate what you really need
In my example, this means that with the several dresses I can adapt for fall, I see that I will need tights and a cardigan to bring the short-sleeved dresses into the new season. I can evaluate my sweaters and tights to decide what will be necessary to not freeze while wearing my beloved (and I DO love them) dresses.

My point?
Instead of 5 or 6 new dresses (can get expensive quickly!), I actually need 1) 2 pairs of tights,
2) 1 cardigan, and 3) POSSIBLY 1-3 new dresses.

And look, we did all that without talking about basics and black. Woo hoo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

COLOR! Part 2

As promised, I will demonstrate several ways to use colors in a fun but sane way. I will start with the good, and move on to the bad and the flat out ugly in the next post.

The good:

This is just one example of using black on purpose, rather than as a cop out. To offset and accent white pieces, black is lovely and crisp.

You CAN put three colors together, as this picture and several people in my office can atttest to. Just be sure they are chosen purposely and are of the same tone or mood. The orange and yellow would not work with a hunter or forest green, for example. Here, the green almosts acts as a neutral, balancing the orange stripe and yellow top.

When mixing several shades of the same color, think compliment, versus contrast. These shades of purple work together since they act in concert to compliement the skirt, which contains all of the other shades used in the rest of the outfit. The result is colorful without being loud.

I love orange. I really love orange with brown. Here, the brown and orange are so harmonious, I couldn't imagine the orange with any other neutral, except maybe tan or khaki.

Monochrome: Feel free to start with a color you love, like grass green, and continue it throughout the outfit. Note that this outfit includes a colorful top, so colorful accessories, and some neutral peices for balance.

This is one way to mix colors in different families. The yellow top is so bright that any other color used as a contrast must be equally bright, such as the earrings. Again, neutral peices complete the look.

Combining purple with red isn't as hard as you'd think. The colors are next to each other on the color wheel, making them complimentary more than contrasting. Just be sure the tone or mood of the peices work together.

This is a great way to add purple. With an aqua top and basic neutral jeans, the purple hoodie and shoes are put together without looking over the top.

Love, love, love this combo. Navy and mustard are weird in theory, but sophisticated and pulled-together in practice.

P.S. Check out for more outfits with color.

Monday, September 15, 2008

COLOR! Part 1

At a good friend's request, I give to you a teeny tiny (and very basic) guide on clothing colors...

DISCLAIMER: there are exceptions to every rule, so don't feel constrained. If you already mix colors like a pro, you don't need this entry.

First: tint, shade, and tone are WAY more important than the color itself.

I will explain. Unless you live in a cave, you are aware that purple is totally hot this season. What that means for you is not that you should run out and buy the first purple outfit you see. That's hideous and a gross disservice to yourself. Instead, think about what you already own. If you wear a lot of neutrals, then the shade of purple/lavendar/violet/berry simply has to be pleasing to you (and on you).

If you already wear a lot of color, then the color wheel starts to mean something for you. For example, if your go to pants are olive (a psuedo neutral), you can find that color on the outside of the color wheel. Also on the outside in the purple "slice" of the wheel are slate blue, eggplant, and plum. This is your cue that the deep, rich shades of purple will be lovely with your pants, while fushia (on the inside of the purple slice) will not.

Second: wearing complimentary colors is more modern than head to toe in one color.

Here's the thing about head to toe color: it just doesn't work most of the time and it tends to look dated. If you have a fab all yellow outfit and you beg to differ with my advice, more power to ya (and please send me a pic, because I don't believe you). For the rest of us, it just looks off. To be purposeful about your color choices, choose complentary shades.

In this scenario, you could choose any two colors either in the same slice or spoke of the wheel or one from the spoke and one from either side of it. For example, you could wear a midnight blue skirt with a blouse in another shade of blue (powder blue, blue-violet, blue-green, etc.).

Third: contrasting colors can be awesome, but beware of black.

Black does NOT go with everything. I may be met with skepticism, but hear me out. If you are a big proponent of black, you understand that black pants with your rich jewel toned sweater is lovely. You may not be aware, however, that black with super bright or pastel colors is actually cheapening the color and making your whole outfit look cheap.

All those myths you learned about black- "it goes with everything," "it's slimming," "it's sophisitcated"- get over them. A certain about of black is useful, but use it on purpose, not as an excuse not to care.

I will give you several examples.

Black pants, red top, black shoes: Snore.
Black pants, red top, gray shoes, gray jacket (yes, that is what I'm wearing today): A+
Red and black looks fab if you add another neutral to the mix. It looks retro in a bad way if you don't. The ONLY exception I have found to this rule is the LBD + red shoes.

Black sweater, eggplant skirt: lovely.
Black sweater, pale lavender skirt: looks like you are confused about which season it is and had nothing else to put with that lavendar skirt you just got on sale.

Another contrasting color scenario: colors from different spokes of the wheel. How about mint and lemon this spring? Notice that both colors are in the same position in their respective spokes. Mustard and rust may sound super 70s, but technically they work.

That brings me to my final point for now: Use some discretion and trust your instincts. I have an aunt who must have a detailed color wheel in her head, because she can tell what works and what doesn't from a mile away. If you don't think that way, consider playing with the colors you have on a day when you aren't rushed to get dressed. You might find that your teal top looks amazing with a khaki skirt and your new red-orange pumps.

P.S. Part 2 will include pictures of awesome and god-awful color choices.

P.P.S. For more info, check out:

Fall Handbag Alert

For those of you losing sleep over my impending fall handbag decision, your long wait is over. I have purchased the Kenneth Cole Motorway Flap Hobo in Ash.
It's a glove leather, so it looks a little worn and not at all shiny. It reads a little 70s saddlebag, but is a completely modern look overall. The color is super clean- there are some muddy grays out there that come across as dull and aging. This is a clear, bright gray, if that even makes sense.
My favorite feature? The two straps- one long one and one short. When I use the short strap, the long one fits right underneath the bag so it's not in the way. When I use the long strap, the shorter one can be tucked under the flap.
I love, love love this bag. Many thanks to those of you who weighed in on my dilemma.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Top Ten Things I Covet for Fall

Yes, Top Ten Tuesday is back. We will now return to regular programming.

Top Ten Things I Want for Fall (or possibly have just purchased):

10. Grey ankle boots.
Check. Obviously, I got the ones pictured above. You all have jeans, pants, skirts, and dresses, right? So you already have a complete wardrobe with which to wear some nice new booties.

9. Plum or burgundy dress.
Will look smashing with tights and my new booties AND will be a flattering fall color.

8. Fall/winter handbag.
This one is tough, because I have caviar taste without the matching budget. So finding a bag that a) suits my needs, 2) looks fab, and 3) indulges my inner bag snob is not easy.

7. Scarf.
This is not only for warmth in cooler weather but also to look rockin' with a leather jacket.

6. Tights.
To bring my dresses into fall and winter. I am a DKNY tights girl.

5. Gloves.
I covet a lovely pair of leather gloves that are lined in something sumptuous, like cashmere.

4. Flat pointy-toed boots.
Check. I just got a sweet, well-priced weekend pair that should hold up in the rain this winter. Woo hoo.

3. New camis.
Not super exciting, but a girl can't be showing too much boob in the office, people.

2. Nude T-Straps.
To wear with dark tights. Sexy secretary, baby. Loving the options at right now.

1. Lovely evening top.
Colder weather does not always lend itself to beautiful evening wear. This is a challenge I am willing to take, though.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I heart Smart Bargains

If you love shoes that used to cost $295 and are now a mere $79.97, look no further.

I just have to tell you that I am LOVING Smart Bargains ( I know there are a lot of discount sites and some are better than others. Smart Bargains has Charles David shoes for 60-70% off, people- what the heck are you waiting for?!

Go. To. The. Clearance. Shoes.

One downside is with limited quantities available, there's not a lot of time to deliberate. If they have your size and you like them, make them yours as soon as possible.

The 30 day return policy means that if Charles (or Arturo Chiang or Betsey Johnson) doesn't fit, you aren't stuck with them.

The pictured shoes are the Franco Sarto Soda Cap for $29.97.

Flats, pumps, sandals...Seriously, why aren't you on that site right now?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Let it ride

I have been on a quest for underwear that does not ride up my arse for some time. I think I have found them, but since I fear that calling them THE solution to my arse-riding issue will jinx me and thus condemn me to a life of wedgies, I will simply say that I seem to have found what I'm looking for. Sorry Bono.

I ordered 7 pairs of the Vanishing Edge panties from Soma Intimates ( I tried the hipster, the bikini, and the boy shorts. The secret is apparently several small bands of rubber/elastic/whatever aroud the inside of the leg openings. This sounds less comfy than it actually is, I swear.

Here are my (very personal) thoughts:

I love the boy short. It doesn't ride up and I feel like if a wear a dress on a breezy day, I won't be flashing every schmoe on the street. I will be ordering several more pairs immediately, in every color. If they don't work with pants, trust me, I will let you know.

The hipster is great. I felt secure that everything was, ahem, contained and I wasn't exposing some sort of hideous panty line. This comes with a caveat though- make sure you are wear a size that actually fits. No panty-line free undie in the world will work if it's too small for you. I typically wear medium and I ordered everything in large, which was perfect.

The bikini is also great. I have the worst time with bikini underwear riding and these stayed in place all day. Woo hoo.

Needless to say, now that I have Soma Intimates in my life, I will not be returning to Victoria's Secret any time soon.

P.S. I will test and review other products for you from time to time. Next up: Zakkers- a way to keep long pants from dragging on the ground during your commute. Sounds weird, but I think they work...


I subscribe to the camp that believes that flats should never be basic. Unlike heels, flats have to draw visual interest from something other than an alluring curve or straight up sex appeal. Basic black might be practical, but it's boring as hell. The same black flats would be just as practical in quilted patent leather, or with a buckle, bow, or reverse stitching.

So, we come to rule number 1: Even when practicality is your first priority, shape, pattern, and texture should be considered, too.

Some basic black flats that hit the mark:

Why do these work, you ask? The first is a Steve Madden in tweed with a buckle accent. These would work with skirts, dresses, jeans, whatever. A round toe is super practical and the shoe is cute without looking like something you stole from your kid sister.

The second is a pointy toed Report, with a grommeted buckle and a subtle shape that gives it just a hint of sex appeal. This shoe is also practical without putting anyone with eyes to sleep.

The third is the Tory Burch Reva ballerina flat. This one comes in suede and has the signature medallion on the toe. There are countless knockoffs of this shoe, so don't let the $195 price tag of this one scare you. Looks comfy and practical to me, but it screams fashion conscious without being obnoxious.

Rule number 2: Color and pattern can make a basic outfit interesting- embrace them on your tootsies.

Check these out:

I recommend jumping on immediately to check out this first pair- they are from Fitzwell Callie, come in like ten colors, and are $65.

If you are a prepster like my li'l sis, you will recognize a boat shoe with you see one. The second pair above are in rust, the brand is Unisa, and they are perfect for pants and skirts this fall.

Animal print is awesome, especially in a sleek black and white pair like the third pair above. Guaranteed to make your outfit pop, these Sigerson Morrisons are amazing. Don't pay $500 for yours, though- I've seen pairs at every price point in stores and on Zappos.

The fourth pair is the DKNY Brianna in grape patent python. The d'orsay cut out gives the shoe some sex appeal, and the color is fun without being loud. Not only is this one way to wear purple if you aren't sure about the purple trend this season, it is a way to add color and texture in one purchase. These also come in black, orange, and yellow.

Rule number 3: Sporty and weekend flats should not look juvenile or orthopedic.

The first pair is from Privo, a quality brand of comfortable, sporty shoes that aren't bulky. These stay sleek and light: perfect for running errands or as your commute shoe.

The second pair is from Hush Puppies, so you know it's comfy. It is also polished and great with jeans.

The red and white pair tows the line between adult and just for kids. I like a printed shoe with a bow, just make sure the lines are simple and there isn't any other embellishment. From Unlisted.

The last pair is from Kenneth Cole Reaction and I love that it is neutral but not sleep-inducing, since it has a subtle pattern. It comes in 3 other equally neutral and subtle patterns and is only $73.

Other brands to consider: Simple, Grasshoppers, Keds, Naturalizer. The question to ask before buying: Do 16 or 60 year olds wear this? If yes, move on, people.

Rule number 4: if you are short, want your legs to look longer, or tend to wear longer skirts: Beware.

Nothing lengthens your silhouette and legs like heels. So if you wear flats, try a pointy-toed shoe and avoid an ankle strap like the plague.

If you wear skirts below the knee, you will look shorter and squatter with flats.

The general rule for skirt length vs. shoe height is the shorter the length, the flatter the shoe. Thus, the longer the length, the higher the shoe. This is a basic rule of proportion and balance the can't be denied unless you are over 5'10''. So keep your skirt length at or above the knee and you can avoid the dowdy school marm look that screams "celibate for life."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer in San Francisco

Yeah, the picture is fuzzy. Everything is fuzzy in SF when it's this hot.
Outfit details: Tee, Banana. Skirt, Banana. Shoes, farylrobin.
Why it works: Off white skirt and aqua is sharp. And just because it's hot, doesn't mean your skirt has to be ridiculously short, ESPECIALLY at work.
What it needs: necklace or bangles would be my thang.
Dress it up: Heels would be lovely.
Dress it down: Untuck the shirt and you are ready to roll.
P.S. Coming up: Top Ten flats!

Off-white after Labor Day

(I wore this on Tuesday, if you are keeping track.)

I don't buy into the outmoded notion that you shouldn't wear certain colors during certain seasons. I DO approve of taking into account the weather and season generally when deciding on which fabric texture, weight, and color to wear.

If you've got a September BBQ to attend and it's a sunny day, wear those fabulous white flats! But if it's freezing by October, maybe save the open-toed sandels for another time.

Outfit details: Dress, Laundry. Cami, Banana Republic. Shoes, Vince Camuto.

Why it works: One, it was hot, so this had just enough sleeve to not be sleeveless in the office, but short enough so I wasn't sweltering. Two, a little peep toe never hurt anyone, especially when you have an awesome pedicure, like moi.

What it needs: I always feel a little nekked without a cocktail ring...

Dress it up: Add bangles and some stilettos.

Dress it down: Flats, baby.