Sunday, August 31, 2014

OUTFIT: What to wear to a casual summer dinner party

Activity: Casual dinner party at a friend's home

Tank: thrifted (similar)
Jeans: Old Navy (similar)
Sandals: Steve Madden (similar)
Earrings: sterling silver ball stud via ebay (similar)
Necklace and pendant: sterling silver, via ebay (similar, similar)

I'm not the only one who struggles with what to wear to various events, am I?  It's not like it's the hugest, most important event in life, but it is nice to feel like you nailed it in the fashion department.  You're not too dressed up, you're not too casual, you don't look like you tried too hard, and your clothing is appropriate for the occasion (which might include walking, sports, etc.).  When I do feel like I got it right, it's a nice feeling.  I can spend the occasion relaxed, and feeling confident, instead of second-guessing myself and wishing I'd chosen another outfit.  While this picture isn't my best, it does at least capture the essence of my outfit, which was pretty simple, but felt classic and appropriate for the casual, hot summer afternoon into cooler evening that included dinner and a 4-wheeler ride (and which didn't, but could have included volleyball and a bonfire).  I added a simple white cotton button-down camp-shirt for when the evening got cooler.

Summer fun!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Inspired by nature...

I've been struggling with fashion inspiration (hence blog inspiration) this late summer.  If I remember right, I always seem to falter a bit this time of year - you've worn all your summer things ALL summer long already, there aren't new summer things to buy (or why buy them when you're about to enter frozen tundra season?) and it's too hot to wear the fall things you're starting to crave.  

After a family trip to an incredible aquarium last week, I am once again inspired (as I always am there) to try to imitate the gorgeous design in nature.  I would love to design fabric patterns based on designs seen on aquatic life, but since I'm not exactly a fabric designer (nor is anyone knocking down my door to become one), I thought I would focus on some of the amazing color combinations I found.  THIS I can handle.

I'm testing some new clothing layouts using a different application, so hopefully this will work!

Inspiration: Taupe, gray, brown, black and teal


Inspiration: Warm brown, black, red and yellow


Inspiration: Sparkly gold, gray and reddish orange



Inspiration: Yellow, black and tiffany blue (the inspiration photo doesn't show all of the colors) AND pattern mixing of spots and stripes


Inspiration: Yellow, black and blue (blue not shown on photo, sorry!)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

REVIEW: J. Crew Factory mid-rise skinny jean

I finally got myself some new skinny jeans that don't fall down at the waist after they've been on more than 5 minutes, like the ONE pair I've had up until now.  I decided I'd try J. Crew Factory, a brand I like already, and they were even on sale (still are, if you're interested)!  The verdict: I'm a fan!  Here's my comments, since the J. Crew Factory website doesn't have reviews (at least last time I checked...).  Hope it's helpful.

REVIEW: J. Crew Factory mid-rise skinny jean
Fit:  Moderately skinny leg - really not that slim in the calf area, but fine.  My upper leg is not on the small side (as the picture unflatteringly shows), but they fit there, so these are not super skinny, by any means.
Sizing: These are sized by waist size, 24-33, and I sized up one size from what the sizing chart says my conversion from regular sizing to waist sizing would be.  I'm glad I did, or the waist wouldn't have fit comfortably (I'm more of an apple-shape, however, those with a smaller waist could probably get their regular size).
Rise: This hits me about 1/2 inch below the belly button (but I am short-waisted).  It is accurately a "mid-rise" designation.
Length:  These are about an inch longer in inseam than I like, but I am 5'2" so that's always the case unless I get a petite size.  As expected.  Taller ladies may need a tall version.
Fabric:  Nice and structured, stretchy but doesn't stretch out too much after wearing for just a few minutes - holds its shape.  This is more of a thicker, fall fabric, which is fine
Wash: This is the "Huron" wash, a medium tone which I like, with only a touch of whiskering at the top, and no distressing.
Quality:  Good, as expected from this brand.
Comments:  Not the absolutely most flattering jeans I've ever owned, but for $29, I'm very happy.  I didn't get a picture of the back pockets for you, but they are plain, on the larger size, and somewhat lower placed than some others, making them classic and flattering, in my opinion.

OUTFIT DETAILS (already mentioned in this post):
Top: Madewell (sold out but alternate color heresimilar)
Blazer: Gap, old (similar)
Jeans: J. Crew Factory (exact - on sale for $29!)
Heels: J. Crew, last year (similarsimilar)
Maroon bag: Coach via outlet (similar)
Earrings: Sterling silver balls via ebay (similar)
Watch: vintage Citizen via ebay (similar)

Monday, August 25, 2014

OUTFIT: Feeling sassy (orange tank, light blue shorts and white blazer)


Jacket: via ebay (similar)
Tank: Old Navy (similar)
Shorts: Old Navy (similar)
Shoes Cynthia Vincent via ebay (similar)
Bag: Cole Haan via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban via ebay (exact)
Earrings: Sterling silver ball studs via ebay (similar)
Bracelets: vintage, biggest one was my Grandmother's (similar, similar)

I love combining complementary colors like orange and blue, they always work together, whatever the shade of the color.  I wore the shorts and tank for my everyday activities at home, then decided to test this upgraded version out while Gavin was napping.  Think I might have a date night outfit!

Happy summer!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

OUTFIT: Madewell top (and maroon musings)

 Long with blazer, heels and maroon bag

 Half-tucked with blazer, ankle strap sandals and maroon bag

With minimalist ankle strap sandals and large black clutch

Top: Madewell (sold out but alternate color here, similar)
Blazer: Gap, old (similar)
Jeans: J. Crew Factory (exact - on sale for $29!)
Heels: J. Crew, last year (similar, similar)
Sandals: Charles David via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Maroon bag: Coach via outlet (similar)
Black "clutch": Built laptop cover (similar)
Earrings: Sterling silver balls via ebay (similar)
Watch: vintage Citizen via ebay (similar)

I just received my first Madewell order (this top was a clearance item, and there was free shipping) and I couldn't wait to try out some outfit options paired with my new jeans (these ones, currently $29 and still available in many sizes in this Huron wash).  I might also try it with my new black sporty pants, a denim jacket and heels for my upcoming anniversary weekend in the city (our 15th anniversary!), or with a black pencil skirt and the ankle strap sandals pictured above.  (I do plan to bring the bottom hem of the top up an inch or so to make it more flattering when worn with pants.)   Don't you love it when one item singlehandedly makes you excited about your closet again?  

I'm really feeling the color maroon (burgundy? whatever you want to call it) for this fall.  It's so versatile, I have a bag, tights, shoes and a skirt in shades of maroon, and I've worn it with citron (here and here), black (obvs), navy (here), and a light blue print skirt (here and here).  I'm looking forward to trying new  combinations with this maroon top.  

What colors put you in a fall state of mind?

Friday, August 22, 2014

REVIEWS: Athleta Interlude pants and Aspire pants

I'm so excited about this sporty pant trend, especially now that I found my Interlude pants!  I have always loved Athleta products, and when I decided I wanted to try the this trend in a higher quality option than my initial Marshall's cheapie pair (which already had to be repaired once), I knew Athleta was the place to go.  I had planned to get the Aspire ankle pant, then later the City Jogger pant, but these Interlude ankle pants were half-price in the store (and online, I see!), and looked great.  I got them in black and dark gray, but they also come in a very light gray.  I also tried on the Aspire ankle pant while I was at the store, so I am reviewing that as well, even though I didn't purchase it this time.

So here's my review of each of these pants, in case you've been considering either of them.  They look relatively different from one another in person, but online and in the catalog, it's difficult to tell the difference between any of them, so perhaps this will help you decide what you're looking for.

PS Not a sponsored post.  I'm just really a fan of Athleta's products, especially when a sale brings them into my price range!

Size: True to size - I wore my regular size.  
Fit:  The pleats on top make it feel a bit more relaxed and comfortable (but not super loose), then it tapers down to a slim calf area (those with heavier calves may have issues). 
Fabric:  Light, drapey, great-feeling, quick-dry "featherweight stretch" fabric.  I think it will perform like a sport pant, but look presentable for regular life.
Length: This basically fits me like a full-length pant, but I'm 5'2" with a 29" inseam.
Quality:  Feels very nice, as expected from Athleta
Overall:  This is the perfect mix of performance fabric and real-life style.  I shied away from even considering these pants online because I was afraid of the pleats, but because the fabric is so drapey, the pleats don't stick out or add any bulk.  These will be great for biking in the city!!  SO glad I bought them.

November 2014: Additional note after owning these for 2 months.  I love these pants!  They are great for running and especially biking, since they are so narrow at the bottom.  And, because of the extra fabric at the top, it wasn't really obvious I was wearing bike shorts underneath.  I'm really glad I bought 2 pairs!  

Additional note added late November 2014: I just wore these to play tennis - they are PERFECT for a cooler day low-intensity game.  I wore them to the store to pick up some tennis balls and didn't feel like a total frump, then found that the pockets are great for holding balls.  (Why doesn't everyone put pockets in everything?).  Plus, the fabric was light enough to stretch, move, wick sweat and all around work perfectly!!  So happy I got these, once again!

Note added April 2018 (seeing as how this is my most popular blog post to date): I still own these pants, both in gray and black.  I still wear them semi-regularly (I forget them because I don't store them in either my "regular" pant area, nor in my "workout" pant area), they still look great, and are still my go-to pants for light family biking or tennis in cooler weather.  I've drooled over other cute pants of this type, usually also by Athleta, but since these are both in such great shape, I can't justify buying another pair!

Size: Runs a tad on the bigger/more relaxed side, as the reviews online stated.  Not huge, though.  I tried on one size down, and it felt a bit more fitted than I wanted at the hip (probably because this style isn't pleated), but the legs fit right.  The rise was still a bit long for me (I am short-waisted).  When I tried my regular size, the rise was droopy and the legs felt overly baggy at the calf.  So, I think I will order the petite option in my regular size, which may solve the rise issue.
Fit: These are less roomy in the hip area, since it is a flat front, but more roomy in the calf area - more of an old school sweat pant vibe.  That's just how they are supposed to fit in this style, so keep that in mind depending on what you're looking for - fitted vs. relaxed.
Fabric:  Same great recycled "featherweight stretch" fabric as the Interlude pants.  Drapey, light, wicking, opaque and flattering!
Length:  These ran longer than the Interlude pants, I thought.  They are adjustable in length, however (mine were extended to the longest length).  I will probably order them online, in petite, since the regular length felt a bit longer than I wanted (even though I could probably adjust it up).
Quality:  Very good, as expected.
Overall:  I liked the feel and look of these pants, also.  To me they are a bit more "edgy" than the Interlude pants, because of the zipper pockets and the fit.  They remind me a little of these J. Crew pants (pictured bottom right in the layout above), for less, of course!  I may go back and get these pants raisin or navy color later if I end up wearing the Interlude pants a lot. 

OUTFIT: Shorts again

Activity: Errands and appointments

Sweater: J. Crew Factory, old
Top: J. Crew, old (I wish you could see the detail in the photos, it's beautiful black eyelet with a ruffle at the neckline)
Shorts: Old Navy, old
Shoes: Charles David via Nordstrom Rack
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs
Earrings: ebay
Watch: vintage Citizen via ebay

I think I've sort of figured out the "making shorts look presentable" thing (feel free to disagree).  The key, for me anyway, seems to be NOT using a regular tee shirt with the shorts.  Thankfully, in summer, a woven cotton top is usually 1) easy to find and 2) cooler than a knit tee.  So just that simple addition seems to add a bit of spice to a simple outfit.  

Although you can work with a tee and shorts, too.  I go there regularly...

Happy summer.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

OUTFIT: Color combo: citron, maroon, black, leopard

Activity: Volunteer ministry

Sweater: J. Crew, thrifted
Top: J. Crew factory, this season
Skirt: Athleta, old
Shoes: Sperry Topsider via Nordstrom Rack, last season
Bag: Gap, old
Earrings: ebay
Watch: Lucien Piccard via TJ Maxx, old

Fall is coming!  So get your season color combinations ready.  Try an unexpected pairing like citron and maroon to spice up an otherwise simple outfit.  And a touch of pattern mixing (space dye tee) and animal print (leopard shoes) doesn't hurt!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FASHION GOALS: Fall trends (and breaking a fashion rut)

red blazer/large bag/envelope clutch/stripe sweater/dress/black pant/gray pant/black oxford/skirt/brown sweater/zebra shoes

I just received my fall fashion issue of InStyle.  You know, the fat, yummy one that makes your day when it comes?  It was just the right timing, since I'm working on setting my fall fashion goals to get out of my blazer and pencil skirt fashion rut.  So, these are the styles I'm planning to try out that InStyle says will be big this fall:

-Minimalist/mod style
-Long skirts (tailored, not maxi)
-Animal print
-Oxford shoes
-Sporty pants
-Chunky/patterned sweaters

I have one more to add, just for me personally (so it doesn't have the InStyle stamp of approval...): pleated skirts (probably knee length, maybe I'll be brave and try a midi, but midi length is usually not kind to us shorties).

Here are some lovely layouts illustrating some options of the trends above:

Minimalist/mod and long skirts: I'm most excited about the minimalist/mod trend.  I know I already have some items that might work for this trend, and it's always fun reworking your own closet, plus it's easy to find vintage thrifted items that might work with this.  Yay!  Thrift shopping fun awaits me.  Long skirts were mentioned by InStyle, but perhaps it's a bit ahead of the trend, since I really didn't even find much to put in the layout that fit the tailored style.  We'll see how this one turns out!


Oxford shoes and animal print: I had a pair of big-soled (Doc Martens inspired) oxford shoes that I wore to death back in the late 90s.  I'm totally ready to re-rock a pair with a scaled-down sole.  As far as animal print goes, I've tried a few basics (leopard scarf and shoes), but maybe it's time to try a project with my leopard and zebra print fabric (passed on from a friend).  


Sporty pants: These have been on my list for a while.  I've got one capri pair I've loved this summer, now I'm thinking I need to be sure to use my patterned pair (this post), and I'm planning to invest in this pair soon (or maybe this similar pair that's on sale).  Both are shown in the layout below.


Chunky/patterned sweaters: This is the scariest one for me.  Thick knits are not your friend when you're top heavy.  Even some heavy sweaters the models wore while I looked online were not flattering.  Plus, I'm not planning to be in a winter climate this year (or ever again, hopefully!).  But, I'm thinking I can find a thinner sweater with some texture that might work.


Pleated skirts:  I've been wanting one of these for a while.  I should have ordered one of those Audrey recommended a while back on her blog, but I missed out.  Here are some pretty options for you to consider!  


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

SHOPPING: Fall purchase planning

jacket/chambray top/triangle earrings/drop earrings/hat/watch/cuff/sunglasses/dip dye tee/pleated skirt/boyfriend jeans/gray jogger pants/black metro pants/light denim shirt/pattern heels/metallic boot/sneakers

I have fall fashion on the brain.  Hard not to, with the big, thick fall fashion editions of the magazines coming.  Yum.  Here are some items I'm coveting.  Tune in soon for my fall fashion goals post.

By the way, I am not sponsored by any of these brands (duh, right?).  These are just items I genuinely like.  Some I will actually buy (when you look at the prices of some of the items, you may be able to guess which I just like and won't buy...).

Monday, August 11, 2014

OUTFIT: It's all in the (half) tuck.... (Dressing up a tee and shorts)

I may have already waxed somewhat poetic on the joys of a simple tee and shorts in the summer (this post - I may also have droned on a bit long about mom fashion vs. fashiony fashion, sorry!).  So, here's a demonstration of what NOT to do with said tee and shorts, even though you may see every one else traipsing about like this (at least if you live in a small, casual Midwestern city like I do).  

Excuse the first facial expression, I was squinting in the sun, not trying to exemplify the "before" nature of the picture in my face (Doesn't my face look like a nonverbal expression of the word "Ew"?).  Think I overdid the balancing out the sun squint in the second picture, though.  Just thought I'd include both beauties for your viewing pleasure...  Ew.

Really, though, this outfit is really just fit (barely) for going to the beach or (maybe) a walk around the neighborhood.  Hardly fashion forward.

I just changed out the flip flops for cute (and comfy) platform sandals, added a bright bag, pink lipstick and half-tucked the shirt.  Better, right??  And none of it is any or less cool or comfortable (other than perhaps taking out the pony tail in my hair) than before, but it looks much better.  (Or is it my stylish blogger poses? Ha.)

Activity: Visit to Bita (grandpa), errands with Gavin

TOP: J. Crew Factory (similar)
Shorts: J. Crew Factory (similar, similar)
Sandals: Michael Kors via ebay (similar)
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs via Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Earrings: via ebay (similar)
Watch: vintage Citizen via ebay (similar)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

OUTFIT: Nautical blue and white

Jacket: via ebay (similar)
Top: J. Crew Factory (exact)
Skirt: via Boston Store (similar)
Shoes: Steve Madden (similar)
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)
Necklace and pendant: via ebay (similar)
Earrings: via ebay (similar)

So, I like this outfit, more or less, but I really feel like I'm in a style rut.  My formula of blazer and pencil skirt is getting a bit repetitive.  Although it's a silhouette that works for my figure, I'm really itching to try something different.  So, today I tried on two different outfits in a different silhouette for my meeting.  One didn't fit right even before outfit photos, and the other looked too horrible in photos (and I'm sure in person, also) to memorialize on the internet.  Ugh.  So, I think a fashion goal post is in order, to try to capture what it is I'd like to change, and what I could shop for (within my range of somewhat flattering silhouettes).  Just in time for fall, right?

Anyone else struggle with style ruts?  What's your solution?

PS If you're wondering, the "nautical" portion of the outfit is the anchor pendant...  Guess I'm adding riddles to the blog now?