Friday, May 30, 2014

OUTFIT: Mixed neutral stripes and crochet hat

Adding that extra element of style to an outfit in the summer can feel like a challenge when you can't do it with layers.  In the heat, even a bold necklace can be too confining for some of us (at least for me!).  How can you add that extra oomph to an outfit under those circumstances?  Try a hat.  Here's the beauty of that option:

1. Sun protection
2. Covers a bad hair day (my #1 reason for this entire outfit plan)
3. Adds style

I'm determined to remember to wear my hats more this summer.  Want to join me?

Outfit details follow pictures.

Hat: Old Navy (similar)
Tee: Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Skirt: Old Navy (similar)
Shoes: Korks by Kork Ease (similar)
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs (save, splurge)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

OUTFIT: Casual neon chic

Summer has really arrived around here.  What about where you are?  How do you adjust to the new, non-layering-friendly reality?  Color can help a simple outfit have style.  Try a bright tee, pencil skirt and trendy metallic gladiator style flat sandal.  

You could always add a statement necklace, but chandelier earrings are a heat-friendly alternative (at least for those of us who get hot with a giant necklace/noose around their neck in warm weather).  Bonus: bold earrings really pop with an updo or ponytail hairstyle, too.

Outfit details follow.

Tee: J. Crew Factory (exact)
Skirt: Athleta (similar)
Sandals: Steve Madden (similar)
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs via Nordstrom Rack (savesplurge)
Sunglasses: Cole Haan via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Earrings: gift (similar)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

OUTFIT: Moving day polka dots and stripes

Last outfit photo taken at my old house.  Pause for waves of nostalgia.  Okay, all better.

Did I really wear this on moving day?  Yes, but I didn't really move much that day.  Mike and a friend moved all the big stuff, so I just moved a few small loads, then did volunteer work that required a dressier outfit.  Never fear, I wouldn't really wear a skirt to move furniture....

Are you ready for summer?  A tee and pencil skirt is a great option to look chic and stay cool.  Simple but sophisticated.  You could always go with sandals to dress it down and make it even more warm-weather friendly.  Give it a try!  

Outfit details follow pictures.

Tee: J. Crew Factory (similar)
Skirt: Old Navy (similar)
Shoes: Steve Madden via ebay (similar)
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs via Nordstrom Rack (save, splurge)
Sunglasses: Cole Haan via Nordstrom Rack (similar)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

EBAY: The Buying Edition (Part 2)

There are a few things to know before you start snagging all that good stuff just waiting for you on ebay.  Check out what I wish I had fully understood at first.  (You're welcome.)  

My first buying edition was mostly singing the praises of ebay, but check it out if you want more information.  This edition should give you some concrete information to get started.

Basic ebay terminology:

Auction price: The current bidding price for an item.  If you bid on an auction price, you'll have to wait until the auction ends to win the item, then seller can take one or more days of handling, then the item would ship.  So keep the auction end time in mind if you need something quickly.  

Buy It Now: The price for which you can buy that item immediately.  It is at least 30% higher than the opening auction price, but it means you don't have to wait for the auction to end, nor worry about being outbid.  The item is yours and will ship right away.  If you really like an item, it's a highly competitive type item, or you need it to ship sooner than the auction end time, consider using this option.

Watch List.  This adds items to a list where you can track them.  When I'm searching for particular items (say a size 4T pink dress shirt), I create my search, then I add all the options I like to my Watch List, then go back to the list to compare prices and details on all of the options (i.e.: this one is brand new Ralph Lauren but is $15, that one is used BabyGap for $9, this one is also used BabyGap for $5 but has one spot on the sleeve).  Once I've seen all the options together, I can decide which item is best for me and then place my bid on that item.  Or I may just decide to keep an eye on certain items to see if they sell, or if they don't sell and are relisted (sometimes for a lower price).

Maximum Automatic bid function.  This allows you to put in a bid for an item you want, but you enter your top price right away, so the system will automatically continue to bid up to your maximum price if others were to place bids on the same item.  Let me put your mind at ease: Adding the highest price will not automatically raise the bid price.  If no one else bids on the item, you will win the item for your original lowest bid.  But, if others DO bid on your item, as long as they don't bid over your top price, you'll still win the item.  (Which is why you just put in the top price you are willing to pay - if someone else is willing to pay more, let them have it.  If you're sad you lost it for that price, you should have used a higher top price.)  

"EBAY SPEAK".  You'll often see these kinds of descriptions within ebay listings.  When I was first shopping on ebay, I had to ask my sister what some of these meant, so here's a shortcut for you:

NWT: New with tags
NWOT: New, without tags
EUC: Excellent used condition
VGUC: Very good used condition
GUC: Good used condition

You may want to check whether the seller has a description of what these terms mean to them (some of them do put that information in the description section of the listing).  While I've had mostly positive experiences, and ebay does protect against blatant fraudulent claims, I have found that one person's "excellent used condition" is another person's "good used condition".  The tips below can also help protect you from buyer's remorse.  (Although, again, I'd like to stress that of the MANY items I've purchased on ebay, all but one or two experiences weren't positive, and had I followed these tips, I would have avoided those experiences.)

1. You bid, you buy.  If you win a bid, even if you realize you don't want that item, you found a better item, etc, etc, etc, you are expected to complete the purchase or you will receive bad buyer feedback which could end up getting you blocked from bidding.

2. Check the description section of the listing BEFORE bidding, not just the photos.  Sometimes flaws don't show up well in the photos, but are well described by the seller in the description.  Or, a lack of description along with subpar photos may signal you need to ask the seller a question prior to bidding.  See #1 - you are contracting to buy an item by bidding on it, so make sure you're confident about the item BEFORE you bid on it.  A good seller will answer your questions.

3. Watch for inconsistencies in the listing.  Sellers aren't perfect, and some sellers are listing a bunch of items all at once.  You may see a size listed that doesn't coincide with what looks to be the size in the photo, or the photo may not match the listing.  Use the CONTACT THE SELLER option (way way way at the bottom of the listing) to ask the seller a question before bidding.  Better safe than sorry.

 4. Pay attention to seller feedback!  I mentioned this in my original ebay tips post, but it's worth repeating.  If the seller has less than 50 stars, go check if they have sold before (you can sort feedback by seller feedback).  You can save yourself a bunch of hassle if you avoid being a sellers first-time sale.  Or, you may decide the price is worth it, since you may well win an item without other bidding since others avoid low-feedback sellers.

5.  Contact the seller prior to leaving negative feedback.  Many sellers will refund your money if you are not happy, even if they don't say they accept returns.  Most sellers want to make it right, so if you contact them in a reasonable manner, and describe the issue, they will most likely work with you so that you are both satisfied.  Just don't haul off and leave negative feedback, then expect the seller to fix the issue, as even revised negative feedback shows up in ebay.

That's what I can think of as a starting point.  Let me know if you have any specific questions, or if you have tips that have helped you!  I plan to add more information later, as there is an art to getting the most from your ebay shopping...  (Or so I like to think!)

Monday, May 26, 2014

OUTFIT: Summer Uniform: White eyelet and cognac accessories with.... whatever you want

White eyelet is everywhere this summer.  Add some cognac accessories, then use whatever color you'd like, and you have a formula you can use in different ways all summer.  What about a white eyelet dress with an orchid color sweater?  Or try all white with cognac shoes and bag with a neon statement necklace for a safe way to start wearing neon.  Or swap out the neon skirt for neon shorts (try these) with a half-tucked eyelet top for a more casual option.  Or go more subtle with navy shorts. The possibilities are endless, so stock up on white eyelet items now!

Outfit details follow.

Eyelet top: Old Navy (tee, tank options)
Cardigan: J. Crew Factory (similar)
Skirt: Relativity (similar)
Sandals: Franco Sarto via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Belt: Thrifted (I turned the buckle to the back) (Similar)
Sunglasses: Cole Haan via Nordstrom Rack (similar)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

OUTFIT: Cargo vest and maxi skirt

Are you ready to meet your new best fashion friend?  Try a cargo vest.  It adds instant style to whatever you're wearing.  Adding style to a simple white tee and black pencil skirt (check out this post)?  Check.  Upping the style ante on a simple casual outfit (check out Audrey's outfit idea)?  Check.  And making a simple white tee, striped maxi combo stylish?  Check.

You.  Need.  This. Vest.  I have only owned mine two weeks and have already worn it in at least 4 distinct ways.  I dare ya to give it a try...

Outfit details follow, including where to get your vest...

Vest: Old Navy (exact)
Tee: Lands' End (exact)
Skirt: Old Navy (similar)
Shoes: Franco Sarto via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs via Nordstrom Rack (savesplurge)
Sunglasses: Cole Haan via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Earrings: gift (similar)

Friday, May 23, 2014

GAVIN STYLE: Second edition

Is this blatant exploitation of my child to fill blog space?  I don't think so, but please forgive me if you disagree.  Just wanted to share a few more style shots of my little main man (two bonus shots even includes my big main man).  And even though I'm not the one wearing these outfit designs, I definitely was the designer/stylist/crazy mom behind all these looks...

(And, no, he doesn't always wear suits and ties, I just tend to take pictures when he's in his dressed up meeting clothes...)



Thursday, May 22, 2014

OUTFIT: Casual navy and kelly

At long last, a casual outfit that feels fun, cute, and appropriate for my day (this day was mom activities: park, errands, etc.).  Pictures didn't turn out all that well, and please excuse the muffin top, but I get so sick of looking at myself on the back of the camera during the picture taking process, I sometimes give up too soon and don't realize my shots weren't so great until I upload them to my computer.  

Outfit details follow pictures.

Jacket: Gap, thrifted (similar)
Tee: Banana Republic Factory Store (similar)
Pants: Old Navy (similar)
Belt: American Eagle, thrifted (similar)
Bag: Vintage Coach via ebay (similar)
Shoes: Franco Sarto (similar)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

7 thoughts on moving

1. Moving sucks.  I forgot how much.  And that was with Mike doing tons of the yucky stuff I usually had to help do (changing utilities to new address, moving the heavy stuff, etc....)

2. Moving is exhilarating.  I love purging stuff (post coming on my love-hate relationship with stuff, in case you care), and it's fun to have a reason to redesign and rethink your room arrangements.

3. I really hate it when I can't find my lip balm.

4. The definition of living like an animal? Having to live without a nightstand. I might as well be an animal.  Sigh....

5.  Apartment designers must not have to live in their designs.  Otherwise they surely wouldn't place doors and windows in such a way that there is no way to arrange furniture in a normal, human, livable fashion.  That's it.  Apartment designers are animals.  Or maybe from Mars. Or Martian animals.

6.  I really really hate it when I can't find my lip balm.

7.  Did I mention I can't find my lip balm?

OUTFIT: Shorts and platforms a bit dressed up

Are you like me in that you dread the heat because it forces you to dress so casually (tee shirt or tank top with shorts and flip flops)?  No more layering, no more blazers.  Well, I think I found a formula that will work for this summer where I still feel like me, but appropriate for the weather.  A really light cardigan over a tank top with breezy loose shorts still feels a bit dressed up with jewelry and platform sandals.  Now I say, bring on the heat!

Outfit details follow.

Cardigan: Banana Republic factory store (similar)
Tank: Store brand, Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Shorts: Old Navy (similar)
Bag: Vintage Coach via ebay (similar)
Shoes: Franco Sarto via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Jewelry: Purchased on Spain vacation (similar)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

OUTFIT: Uniform: white tee + black skirt + military vest

This is such a simple combination, but could be altered a MILLION ways to fit whatever you needed.  Imagine a statement necklace in place of the scarf.  Or a sweet floral scarf to contrast with the utility vest.  Or brown suede knee high boots for fall.  Or pointy toe pumps for a night out.  Or cognac platform sandals for warmer weather (swap out the long-sleeve tee for a short-sleeve tee or white tank top, too).

Go get yourself one - I foresee lots of outfits to come using this vest!

Outfit details follow pictures.

Scarf: ebay (similar)
Vest: Old Navy (exact)
Tee: Lands' End (exact)
Skirt: Athleta (similar)
Boots: Carlos Santana via Famous Footwear (similar)
Bag: Marc Jacobs via Nordstrom Rack (savesplurge)

Monday, May 19, 2014

OUTFIT: Moto and maxi

A simple 3-part outfit idea: jacket, tee, skirt; but I like that the moto jacket is a change from my usual blazer.  I think I like it better without the scarf, but the weather was cool (okay, cold) the day I wore this for my volunteer work, so the scarf was useful.  You can't see them well in the photos, but I also liked the contrast of the classic pearl stud earrings I wore with the "tough" moto jacket.  And, as you may have noticed, I'm obsessed with my new bag.  It does really seem to go with everything, though!  Navy, white, cream, red, bright blue, neon pink (a maroon combo coming soon).  Drink my neon kool-aid, you'll like it...

Outfit details follow pictures.

Cream moto: MNG by Mango via ebay (similar)
Tee: Boden (exact)
Skirt: Old Navy (exact)
Shoes: Steve Madden via ebay (similar)
Bag: Marc Jacobs via Nordstrom Rack (save, splurge)
Earrings: pearl studs (similar)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

OUTFIT: My formula - blazer, platforms, button-up and stripes

This outfit is so me.  So, whether you like it or not may determine whether you will like this blog.  However, I think this outfit represents where I'm coming from, but not necessarily where I'm headed.  Why do I like it?  Stripes.  Did I mention stripes?  Dark blazer - both the dark and the blazer.  Button-up shirt (although I always struggle with finding ones that fit me right).  Pop of style with the red platforms.  And, did I mention stripes?  My style.

Where do I see myself going?  I'd like to try some different silhouettes (maybe a NON-pencil skirt someday?), as well as some lighter colors (see this post on my fashion goals), and NON-stripe patterns.  So, tune in next time for an all new me.  No, not really, but I do hope this blog will show some subtle changes in my style over time.  We can all improve, right?

Outfit details follow pictures. 

Blazer: DKNY, thrifted (similar)
Button-up: Ralph Lauren, thrifted (similar)
Skirt: Old Navy (similar)
Platforms: Korks by Korkease via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Belt (see it hanging down there out of my blazer in an odd fashion?): Talbots, thrifted (similar)

Friday, May 16, 2014

OUTFIT: Casual tuxedo pant, denim shirt and blingy sweatshirt

What I like about this outfit was how these are basic items all by themselves, but the tiny touches of glam in some of the items (tuxedo stripes, glittery neckline) help make the total greater than the sum of the parts.  I think it would look cute with black linen shorts and platform sandals for warmer weather (if it ever arrives!) - and better hair....

Outfit details follow.

Sweatshirt: Old Navy (refashioned by removing the bottom band to make it shorter) (similar)
Denim shirt: J. Crew Factory (exact)
Tuxedo Pants: Old Navy (exact)
Shoes: Sperry via Nordstrom Rack (similar)

FASHION GOALS: Update on spring goals

So, did you make any fashion goals for this season?  I did (see this post), and found that it really simplified my shopping this season.  Instead of randomly browsing at stores or online, I had a specific list of goals and ideas, which actually helped me buy LESS, not more (I was worried that actually being on the lookout for certain items would turn me into a buying machine, which is never my goal).  I thought I'd share how I did so you could see if you want to give it a try.

1.  My first goal:  Nude wedges: Found them!  As I shared in that previous post, I was able to find these on ebay (new without tags) even before that goals post was published.  However, I've noticed I haven't worn them as much as I expected - I think because of the wet weather (I didn't want to stain them, I almost never buy light shoes for that reason) and also because I need to get used to the lower heel.  These really read almost as flats, and I felt a bit dowdy in them.  I'm going to try them out more on cooler days and give them another chance.  

2.  My second goal was navy closed toe wedges.  Found them!  Also on ebay.  I think this is partially why I didn't wear the nude wedges as much - these are a bit higher and make me feel a bit more like me - comfy but a bit dressed up.  However, these wouldn't be "walk all day in the city" shoes, which the nude ones probably would be. These really helped pull some of my outfits together, though.  See how I've already worn them below (links to the original outfit posts for those blogs here and here).  I also wore them with my striped navy maxi skirt (see this post where I really needed these shoes already!), but I must not have taken outfit photos that day.


3.  Light colored pants or skirt.  Got these khaki pants from Old Navy (did I mention my weakness for their specials on top of credit card rewards?)  Anyway, at the price, these were worth a try.  I haven't had flattering khaki pants for a while, and thought it might be a good alternative to jeans. I wore them this weekend and loved them (no pics, wish I would have made Mike take some photos), and plan to wear them again.  Just washed and dried them, now I think I will refashion them a bit to "skinnify" the pants in the calf area, they are a bit looser than I wanted.  (Tried to copy a picture from the website here, but can't figure out how.  You'll have to check the link if you want to see them - sorry!)

4. White pants.  Got those, too! Haven't worn them yet, but working on styling an outfit with them soon.  I was shopping at the thrift shop (my usual shopping haunt), and decided to just focus on the white pant section.  Sure enough, I had 4 or 5 pairs to choose from.  I decided to go with this Gap pair (similar) because they were thick enough to not show through, and they were cropped.  They are a bit looser than I was thinking, but that may be less intimidating for me to start with.  And I can always refashion the legs, a la Grace (see her tutorial)

5. Cream or white leather jacket.  Found it!  Ebay to the rescue again!!  This wasn't quite as straightforward, I did order one item from ebay that didn't work out (but it was $10 including shipping, so I'm not too broken up about it), but that was a good reminder of why I shouldn't compromise when bidding.  I was really looking for a cream jacket, not camel, plus I was looking for moto style, but I caved and bought a camel blazer type leather jacket, thinking I could make it work since I didn't happen to see what I was looking for in my price range.  Next time I'll remember to stick to my guns.  Even though my final choice was a little bit more than the original camel blazer mistake (but not much, still under $30 for shipping and everything), I should have just been more patient and kept looking until a listing came up from my wish list, in my price range.  If I had just waited a couple more days, I would have seen my original choice right away and not wasted time and money on the first jacket that wasn't what I wanted anyway.  (See more details on the outfits below in this post and this post.)

6. I didn't put this in my original post, but I've been looking for a "military" type cargo coat or vest for a while, especially after seeing the great ways J, Merrick and Kendi style theirs, so I finally bit the bullet and got this Old Navy one (you guessed it, on sale and I had credit card rewards - total price was only $9).  I went with the vest because we are heading into summer, so I'll get more wear out of it, plus I already have 2 jackets/blazers in an olive color with a bit of that "military" feel (see this post), so decided I didn't need yet another one.  I totally love this Old Navy vest.  I wore it for a date day with my husband last weekend, with a navy shirt and khaki skinnies in the cool morning, then with black shorts and a white tee in the warm afternoon, and I actually felt stylish all day long.  Usually I feel so frumpy when I shop in Chicago.  And, bonus, the J.Crew saleslady thought I had the J.Crew vest on - so this is apparently a pretty good imitation.  Give it a try!  (Sorry, no pic yet, but will take some outfit photos with this soon, or check out the link.)

SUMMARY: So, although I did buy more pieces than I normally do for a new season, I feel like setting fashion goals was a good exercise for me.  So far, I'm finding that I'm much more motivated to purge my current wardrobe, full of things that don't match and I don't wear (although knowing that I am moving in a week helps with that also), and I've been wearing most of my new pieces regularly.  But really,  I'm happy that I'm FINALLY living up to my statement that I want to buy what I really need and like, not just what I happen to find on sale, with the goal of having less things but more wardrobe options.  So, it remains to be seen if this setting fashion goals idea continues to have that effect, but I'm willing to give it a try!