Monday, January 31, 2011

Quinceaneras, bat mitzvahs, and ruffles ruffles ruffles

This is embarrassing.

Today I dressed kind of like a goth adolescent preparing for her quinceanera. Not that I've ever been to one, but like I've seen on Wizards of Waverly Place and late-night programming on Telemundo.

I imagine a quinceanera is kind of like a Latin American Bat Mitzvah, minus the Hebrew and phlegmatic accents.  For those non-Jews reading, allow me to explain exactly what it is. A Bat Mitzvah is a rite of passage for a thirteen year-old girl. It's a ceremony symbolizing the passage into Jewish adulthood, requiring years of preparation (in the form of tediously long Hebrew lessons, the consumption of bland, downright bizarre foods (gefilte fish, kugel, and charoset come to mind) and painfully long family traditions. For months beforehand you attend Hebrew school, where you learn violent songs about Passover and practice warbling your Torah portion with an ancient rabbi. On the big Bat Mitzvah day, you climb up onto the synagogue stage and read your Hebrew portion while your parents beam proudly from the congregation. Then you give saccharine-sweet speeches of tearful thanks to your parents and siblings. After synagogue there's a huge reception, either at a catering hall or restaurant, which is decorated with towering balloon sculptures and centerpieces made from fresh flowers and curled ribbons and cartoonish cardboard cutouts.

I had an epic Bat Mitzvah. My mother rented out an entire restaurant and invited every relative in the Tri-State Area (and some strangers from California.) I wore a off-the-shoulder white lace dress with rhinestones and beads and more lace and satin ribbons and pantyhose and white satin pumps. There were ruffles. Many, many ruffles. It was 1986, so it was okay.

The hotness that was thirteen year-old me in my Bat Mitzvah dress, with an entourage of male suitors.

In my adolescent years I attended quite a few Bat Mitzvah's, which was a fairly common experience as a Jewish girl growing up on Long Island. A Bat Mitzvah was announced with invitations constructed from four (or more) layers of embossed cardstock and translucent paper and satin ribbons, and packaged in it's own keepsake box. Each layer of paper symbolized how much money your parents were willing to flush down the toilet for your special special day. Invitations were no joke. Parents scrutinized them like Cold War spies deciphering code intercepted by intelligence agencies.

The typical Bat Mitzvah reception featured thirteen year-old's swaying to loud music (preferably from a band and not, God forbid, a DJ, because ohmygawd a band is like so much classier, you don't even want to know what the neighbors will think if we have a DJ, people will talk), and a Kosher buffet, and elaborately themed centerpieces (usually CANDYLAND!, or ON BROADWAY! or ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD!) and distant cousins shoving envelopes stuffed with money in your face. In my days, Bat Mitzvahs also included glow sticks and custom-made tee shirts with the date and location of the event, just in case you forgot where you slow danced for the first time and nearly got kissed right before your Grandma Helen interrupted looking for the ladies room.

As I looked at myself in today's outfit, with it's ruffled beaded sequined tunic, I immediately remembered my bat Mitzvah dress, resplendent in it's ruffled glory. I'll admit that I'm uncertain if this outfit is really me (and the tunic made me photograph lumpier than I actually am....and even after three kids, I'm in pretty decent shape) but I felt like trying something new. What do you think? Does it work or not? Is there something you'd change?

Forever 21 tunic; Gap Outlet jeggings; thrifted Justin boots; Coach bag; Forever 21 bracelets; Betsey Johnson gold watch; target rhinestone pyramid studs

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week in review: January 23

I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing weekend! I've spent the past two days sleeping late and catching up on housework (Note to self: Put away laundry immediately after folding. I have this annoying habit of leaving everything crammed together in the basket while I pick out what I need each morning. I am a lazy lazy girl.) I also indulged in a salmon burger and the most amazing sweet potato fries on the planet at Square Burger in Downtown McKinney, chased after my kids at the playground, went to church, thrifted, and cleaned out our garage with my husband (which resembled an archeological dig.)

It was a busy week for blogging too! 

I've really, really enjoyed reading everyone's comments (keep 'em coming!) and am especially thankful to have so many new folllowers! Y'all have no idea how much your support and interest means to me. If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please consider becoming a follower, tweeting with me on Twitter, or becoming a Facebook fan. As a relatively new blogger, I get embarrassingly, ridiculously excited when reading a new comment or gaining a new follower. I appreciate you all so much!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Catalogs: Living the dream

Vintage cars draped in Pendleton blankets. Sandy beaches with hammocks swaying in the breeze. A quick flip through a catalog encourages daydreams of living in these fantasy worlds. I squeal with glee at the the sight of a freshly printed catalog in my mailbox. I love them - the way sweaters and tees are stacked enticingly by color; the creative names for colors (beige becomes "beechwood;") the perfectly styled models gazing thoughtfully into the distance. I am not the only one in love with catalogs: James Stegall once wrote a sad missive to the ladies of Lands End. Each catalog has it's own distinctive style, marketed to a specific customer.

Victoria's Secret: Your apartment is so warm you don't need clothes, and every room includes a plush chaise lounge for napping and sexy time. Despite a closet overfilling with silk chemises and cotton boy-shorts, you choose to wear a boned periwinkle corset that is slightly too small for your heaving bosom. You like the feel of sand on your ass. I mean REALLY like it. Also, you have no nipples.

Williams-Sonoma: There is nothing you will not infuse in olive oil.

L.L. Bean: You live just outside of somewhere named Portland (Oregon, Maine, whatever.) You love wearing high-performance outerwear on your day hikes with your golden retriever. In the evenings, you curl up with the New York Times on your enormous red couch, wearing slippers made of boiled wool.

Urban Outfitters: You go to rock shows in your romper. Your apartment is full of sarcastic coffee table books and repurposed window frames , but you don't care because you are always a little drunk, and you look beautiful all the time even though you never wash your hair. Your boyfriend's t-shirt has a Midwestern state on it, and yours has a bird turning into a roller skate, and sometimes you trade and nobody notices.

Brooks Brothers: You are rich, Republican and possibly a little bit evil.

Anthropologie: You have a collection of first-edition Jane Austin novels. Your job involves traveling to Prague and being pensive in rooms. You have a wrought-iron bed. You know how to applique. You buy your art from Etsy. You own a cedar chest filled with heirloom lace. You wear a plumed fascinator constructed of netting and Victoria daydreams to dinner, and no one notices.

J Crew: Your luggage has been lost on your way to East Hampton or Côte d'Azur or wherever you are vacationing that weekend. You are left with only the contents of your carry-on bag: a few silk chemises, a bathing suit, 5 necklaces, a pashmina, two skirts, a cardigan, a pair of socks. In an attempt to make the best of the situation, you wear everything at once and belt it together. It inexplicably looks amazing. Also, you have lots and lots of money. 

Here is my mostly-cataloged outfit from today. I would fit in perfectly in Anthropologie's romantic, muted world, where models gaze wistfully from frosted glass windows and jewelry is glistening dewdrops of wonder. And I thought this blazer would be perfect for the latest challenge on Everybody, Everywhere.

Juicy Couture velveteen blazer; Velvet ruffled top, Anthropologie rufled denim skirt; Anthropologie tights; vintage thrifted boots; vintage thrifted Coach satchel.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Blogger Mechanics

Another week, and other provocative set of questions for Fashion Beauty Friend Friday

1. What technology do you use in blogging? (computer, camera, video
camera, tripod, etc...)

I use an ancient Cannon Powershot I bought approximately five years ago. It's embarrassing, and I'm really unhappy with how my photos come out. I would love to upgrade  - either to a point and shoot or an SLR when some money comes in. And I definitely need a tripod. Badly. I use a new Dell laptop to upload pics and blog through. Photobucket for editing. And Ping to automatically send out blasts of new posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and Yahoo. Ping is awesome.

2. What computer and online technology do you use? (blogging system,
photo storage, photo editing tools, etc..)

I'm a Blogger devotee, though I'm becoming increasingly curious about Wordpress.  Blogger is simple to use, and perfect for those of us who aren't the most computer-literate. But Wordpress blogs look so much more professional. Blogger is also a pain when it comes to editing backgrounds and fonts. I am trying to teach myself more about HTML, but I need a lot of help.

3. What is your process for taking pictures? 

My husband takes my photos when he arrives home from work at 5:30. I usually go through a bit of a mental breakdown before he begins...I'm not as young or pretty or stylish as some other bloggers, I'm probably going to hate how I look, why am I doing this, etc. But I get myself together, plaster on a smile, and let him click away. Some days are easier, some are downright crushing. But I'm getting better.

4. When it comes to backdrops for your photos what do you consider? Do
you scout locations or shoot the same spot daily?

There's a nice spot out on my patio where we take my pics, in a corner against the brick of my house. I like a textural background. I've never scouted locations, though I might when the weather warms up.

5. If you could splurge and get one new piece of equipment what would
you be buying?

A new camera and a tripod. Preferably a Cannon EOS Digital rebel XSI with various lenses (money is no object, right?)

The Friend Friday group by Modly Chic is a way for fashion bloggers to share more about themselves and join a friendly community of bloggers.  Join the fun by checking out the  Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My feature in this week's Independent Fashion Blogger's Links A La Mode!

This is just incredible.

I've just learned that I have once again been featured in Independent Fashion Blogger's Links A La ModeIFB is a website for style, fashion and beauty bloggers containing articles, forums, polls and promotional tools. Home to thousands of members, it is an incredible resource for those interested in promoting their blogs, networking with fellow bloggers, and improving their posts. For a beginner blogger such as myself, it's like heroin. Not that I know what heroin is like, it's what I understand it's like on 20/20. 

I am so humbled and thankful to be featured in Links A La Mode again, and be included with such talented, stylish, informative bloggers. Here's the feature with my link:

It’s Getting Hot In Here

Edited by Ann of Holier than Now

Though you may be living in a snow globe (sure feels like it here on the East Coast), you’re never out in the cold – assuming the snow hasn’t knocked out your internet … This week’s links will warm you up with hot topics that, ideally, bring out the best in a thoughtful, vibrant blogging community. Take your gloves off (the wool kind, not the boxing kind) and join the conversation!

P.S. If you’d like your voice heard here in Links a La Mode, take a look at this helpful guide by Grit & Glamour.

Links à la Mode: January 27th

Thrifting 101: Tips for newbies, and dealing with the squick facor

When I was a little girl, one of favorite activities was making mud pies in my front yard. My mother would send me out in my oldest, grungiest clothes with a wooden spoon and some warped Tupperware containers, and I'd go to town creating elaborate concoctions made out of dirt, leaves and basically whatever detritus I could find on our property. Getting nice and dirty never bothered me, and it took a lot to gross me out. Most little girls my own age were repelled by worms, and bugs, and blood, but I was fascinated. Sure, I loved my frilly dresses and hair ribbons. But they were always accompanied by dirt under my fingernails.

I suppose this is why I am unafraid of thrift stores. Thrift store excursions put one face-to-face with musty odors, dust, and dirt. There's a guaranteed ewww factor. Some consider the idea of rummaging through racks of use clothing distasteful, and I've received more than a few raised brows and scrunched noses after confessing my love for thrifting (you can see evidence of this passion here, and here, and here.) But I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Jentine of My Edit recently discussed this very topic in her Thrift Friday series. I was impressed by her tips for those who find thrifting intriguing, yet struggle with getting past what she calls the ick factor. However, I think there's another group of potential thrifters who could use some advice: those who have never, ever been thrifting, and are simply intimidated to enter the store in the first place. I thought I'd add my own tips to both groups. 

  • First of all, ask yourself if you are the type of person who can physically handle thrifting. If you have allergies, asthma, a super strong aversion to germs, or are unable to spend much time on your feet, thrifting is probably not for you. Also, you won't always find an item in your size. You won't always find something you like, either. If you are someone who loves to rummage, would sacrifice a half day in pursuit of a bargain, can thrift without triggering allergies, and enjoys the thrill of the hunt, then thrift store shopping is for you.
  • Decide what time to shop is best for you. You'll need at least a spare hour. Since rummaging requires energy, choose the time of day when you feel most energetic. Some stores are open at night or weekends, and I've found that fewer people visit thrift stores at night. Weekends are likely to be busier, and sales days are by far the busiest. Most thrift stores post hours and information regarding sales on their website; definitely take the time to check before planning an outing.
  • Leave your purse in the trunk of the car (or at home.) Carrying cash in your pocket frees up your hands for sorting/digging/browsing. And avoid wearing your coat into the store for the same reason.
  • Understand that the types of people who visit thrift stores are not necessarily the same as in your neighborhood or at church. Thrift stores attract all walks of life. This means that you may be chatted up by lonely souls seeking comfort, confronted by people with intellectual disabilities, or brush shoulders with those down on their luck. All of them have their reasons for being there; just be polite and move on to the next rack.

  • If the idea of the Goodwill or the Salvation Army squicks you out, try consignment stores instead. Consignment stores hand-select their items, and some even clean clothing before making it available to customers. They usually sell higher-label merchandise too. They're a nice steps towards becoming comfortable with the idea of wearing previously worn clothing.
  • Be honest with yourself even before trying on the item (if that's possible - many thrift stores don't include dressing rooms.) Do you really like the style overall - the arms shape, the leg flare, the neck plunge etc? Is it really your color? Don't buy clothes that you don't absolutely love, or don't quite fit, or are otherwise substandard - even if they are a bargain. It's tempting to purchase something because it's so inexpensive, but it's a waste of time, money, and space to buy something that's not quite right.
  • Check closely for stains, tears, mended parts, stretched stitching (often hard to repair) and marks. Do pants have a shiny seat, are beads or buttons missing, is stitching coming loose? If you see these, ask yourself if they're reparable or so damaged that they're better left behind. Only get items in good condition or capable of an easy repair. Buttons, zippers, and small holes can be replaced or mended by a tailor. Perspiration stains, fade marks, and large moth holes are beyond repair.
  • And finally, my most-important piece of advice (and I can't state this emphatically enough): Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed to be shopping second-hand. It's practical, smart, and financially sensible. And thrifting makes it possible to find some really unique, vintage pieces that no one else has. Anyone who would put you down for doing it only makes themselves look bad (and shallow.)

    Now I ask you: Does any part of thrifting squick you out? Do you avoid thrift stores entirely because of the squick factor? And please share your tips for newbie thrifters!

    Thrifted Kimchi Blue cardigan; thrifted Michael Stars henley; thrifted Seven For All Mankind bootcut jeans; thrifted Frye boots; thrifted vintage Whiting and Davis clutch; Betsey Johnson gold watch

    (Thanks for the positive responses, everyone! I think I'm going to start a Thrifting Thursday series now. It's nice to see that so many people share my passion for thrift stores!)

        Wednesday, January 26, 2011

        Suit yourself: How do you stay true to your personal sense of style?

        Have you ever seen the TV show Dharma and Greg? It revolves around an extremely mismatched couple - quirky, free-spirited, yoga-teaching Dharma, and conservative, old-money, silver-spoon lawyer Greg. When my husband and I were dating, Dharma and Greg was one of the few shows we enjoyed watching together, primarily because we could relate to the lead characters so well. Like Dharma, I was eclectic, liberal, and Jewish. I came from a performing arts background and had wildly colored hair. My husband, meanwhile, was a young lawyer working at a midtown Manhattan boutique law firm. He wore lots of Ralph Lauren, read Wine Spectator Magazine, and was president of his college's Young Republicans club.

        As our marriage has evolved, we've both somehow managed to retain our individuality. I've gotten tattooed, remain fiercely independent, and spend at least two days a week digging through the dollar bin at the Goodwill. My husband, meanwhile, is employed at a large, extremely conservative insurance company, where he sports expensive cuff links and rep striped ties and enjoys conversations about residuary charitable bequests.

        Yesterday afternoon I met him for lunch at R&D Kitchen, near his office in University Park. R&D is the kind of place visited by old-money Dallasites who wear couture purchased at Stanley Korchack and own private yachts. It is also where you dine on food like this:

        That's my $16 rainbow sushi roll, and my husband's sea salt and parsley french fries.

        Visiting a restaurant like this always causes a bit of a crisis concerning the need to dress appropriately, and my desire to remain true to myself. I am extremely hesitate to sacrifice my personal style in order to appease those around me. It has taken me a good long time to fully accept who I am, and embrace all the qualities that make me unique. That includes my weight, my nose, my proclivity towards vintage clothing, and my loud girlish laugh. I truly appreciate who I am, and am proud that I don't blend in with the crowd. Furthermore, due to the large tattoo on my neck and my red hair, I am undeniably noticeable and unique. I couldn't blend in if I tried. And that's perfectly fine with me. Life is too short to be anyone other than who I am.

        Yves Saint Laurent said, “Fashion fades but style is eternal.”  My personal style is here to stay. It is forever. I believe that too often women downplay their personal style because they are either too busy to refine it, lack the confidence to reflect it, or fall into the trap of dressing as they believe they're "supposed to." It isn't easy to be courageous and embrace who you are. You have to be brave and authentic, and take risks. That's what dressing with courage is all about. I realized years ago that I was never going to be the glamazon my mother wanted me to be, or the romantic woman dolled up in ruffles and lace. I am only comfortable dressing as me.

        However, there are occasions where it becomes necessary to reign in my personal style in order to be respectful. Dressing respectfully often means "doing as the Romans do." In an establishment like the one I visited, that translates to subtle jewelry, covered shoulders and subdued make-up. I personally have no problem trading in my 1970's beaded sheer blouse for a simple crewneck sweater, if that's what the occasion merits. Furthermore, I understand that my value as an individual is not defined by what I do or do not wear. Just because I outfit myself in long-sleeves and simpler styles does not mean that I have abandoned my own beliefs to take on that of those surrounding me.

        Respecting other people's beliefs does not mean you have to give up your own. It also does not change who you are.

        This morning, I actually found it rather easy to dress respectfully while remaining true to myself. My entire outfit is thrifted aside from my accessories. I'm covered up, yet fully comfortable, and feel my personal sense of style is well represented.

        And my lunch was delicious.

        Vintage thrifted mink cape; thrifted Gap black sweater; thrifted Urban Renewel faux leather skirt; Forever21 belt; Target tights; Kate Spade boots; Louis Vuiton Speedy bag; Betsey Johnson gold watch

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        Tuesday, January 25, 2011

        Someone had a case of the Mondays

        I am not a morning person. When my alarm clock goes off it induces a state of pouting, whining and depression akin to a five year-old's failed attempts to get candy. I snuggle deeper into my blankets, attempting in vain to pretend I have hours available for blissful slumber. I engage in luxuriant fantasies of having the kind of life where a staff of nannies is on hand to wake my kids, get them dressed and fed, and drive them to school. Like I am certain my arch nemesis, Gywneth Paltrow employs (read my rant against her here.)

        Monday mornings are especially difficult. On Monday mornings, accomplishing my usual tasks feels like swimming through cement. And something always, always goes wrong. Monday mornings are when I discover we're out of coffee and that my daughter neglected to do her homework over the weekend. Mondays are learning it's 21 degrees out and forgetting to warm up the truck (leading my youngest son to declare that his bottom has turned into a butt-sicle.) Mondays are misplaced car keys and leaving the house without mascara and lipstick and sitting in an hour of traffic and not being able to find even one decent song on the radio. Mondays also involve stifling urges to bitch-slap that annoyingly chipper barista at Starbucks. I don't care if it's her job to be friendly towards customers, or that she's ingested enough caffeine to fuel the Space Shuttle. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE THAT HAPPY FIRST THING IN THE MORNING, IT GOES AGAINST NATURE. Mondays are going to the supermarket and forgetting to buy the most important thing on my list, like toilet paper. And coffee. And, worst of all, Mondays are always the days I bump into someone I haven't seen in three years and, of course, I look like crap.

        So, on this Monday, I decided to dress simply. This vibrant red sweater dress is uncomplicated, comfortable and cheery. I love the quilting at the neckline, and it coordinates nicely with my freshly-colored red hair. (I also have the same sweater dress in cream - see it here.) Wearing this red dress makes me feel good, even without lipstick, coffee, and a warm butt.

        Free People sweater dress; Michael Stars long-sleeves tee; Joe's Jeans jeggings; Frye boots; Via Spiga bag; Lucky Brand earrings

        Monday, January 24, 2011

        The pretty clothes are scattered 'round the room. And it's so like candy.

        This weekend, my family and I participated in two of my favorite activities: We went out for brunch, and we went bowling. Both are completely awesome. Brunch is awesome because it's, well, brunch. Brunch is an excuse to sleep late, and blend two already great meals into an epic one. It's a leisurely activity, tailored for long conversations with friends, Bloody Mary's and mimosas, and, if you're alone, the chance to plow through the Sunday paper in public. And it must be said that foods consumed at brunch are as close to perfection as one can find. Bottomless mugs of coffee? Omelettes? Pancakes? Sausage and biscuits and corned beef hash? Yes, please. I am convinced that if more people carved out a couple of hours for brunch on a Sunday, the world would be a much more peaceful and contented place.

        And bowling? Bowling is the chance to feel like you're participating in a sport without actually breaking a sweat or doing anything remotely athletic. You are not going to whittle away a muffin top through bowling. But it's undeniably fun to hurl a fifteen pound ball down a slippery greased lane, and drink beer, and eat disgustingly greasy food, and wear really, really ugly shoes, and laugh at your kids when they accidentally throw their ball into the lane next to yours. Going bowling with small children is especially fun because it's an excuse to use the bumpers on the lane. I truly relish the chance to cheat, because if I didn't I doubt my score would break double digits.  I also take great pleasure at snickering at the bowlers who take the game really, really seriously. You know - the ones who belong to a league, and wear matching shirts, and lovingly polish their custom-made bowling balls in between frames. They become grim and silent when they miss a split, and downright depressed with a loss. I love them.

        Bowling reminds me of my junior-high days, when my friends and I would hang out at our local bowling alley. We'd scope out guys, gnaw on stale gumballs from the vending machine, and eat burgers purchased at the snack bar. It was a sweeter, simpler time, of Bobbie Bell Lip Smackers and hair scrunchies and Debbie Gibson. Perhaps it was this youthful,  fun-loving spirit that encouraged me to dress like a bag of Skittles:

        Thrifted Kenneth Cole blazer, thrifted Harajuko Girls tee, Gap long-sleeved white tee, Citizens Of Humanity jeans; J Crew ballet flats; Marc Jacobs bag

        I also wore this outfit when I grabbed dinner with the epically awesome Erin of Work With What You've Got. I've been following her blog for well over a year and was super excited to met her. Unsuprisingly, she was just as sweet and genuine in person as she is through her blog, and I'm lucky to have her as my road-trip partner to the Texas Style Council Conference in March. *I promise* not to drive too fast.

        Sunday, January 23, 2011

        Girls just wanna have fun, men just wanna get out.

        I have the unfortunate condition of being married to a man that absolutely hates shopping. Well, that's not entirely true - he abhors shopping for anything other than golf equipment, golf accessories, and electronics. He gets edgy and jumpy and visibly uncomfortable; put him in a mall and he will break out into a cold sweat, begin hyperventilating, and run for the nearest exit. I consider shopping as necessary to my spirit as breathing, so after 12 years of marriage we have reached a point where I have taken over nearly all shopping excursions. Husband has no black socks? Kids are growing out of their sneakers? It's time for a teacher appreciation gift? I'm your girl.

        However, in the course of my life I've met plenty of guys who loved to go shopping. In high school I dated a man who enjoyed hanging out at the Ralph Lauren store, trying on bespoke shirts and tailored blazers. My college boyfriend loved browsing through Barney's, ogling sharply tailored suits and polished black shoes. And I have friends whose husbands absolutely relish any kind of shopping, whether for cologne or Merino wool sweaters or cashmere overcoats.

        A recent article by Christina Brinkley in the Wall Street Journal explores the differences in shopping styles between the sexes. Based on interviews with designers, salesmen and shop owners, Brinkley argues why she believes men are the superior shoppers. Women, she argues, have been encouraged to favor "fast fashion" by the faddish womenswear clothing industry, which has "trained generations to seek out throwaway styles" of clothing that are of lesser quality. Many women I know bypass the opportunity to try on a garment in the store before buying, assuming that because the brand is established, the fit will be flattering. Sophisticated men, on the other hand, are meticulous when considering a purchase, and deathly focused on tailoring and comfort. According to Brinkley, when they go shopping, they peer inside the garment inspecting for loose stitching and soft seams. They are patient and thorough when trying on clothes, stretching and moving to check for puckering and gaping buttons. And they put much less focus on the brand. Men will not compromise tailoring and utility for trendy uncomfortable clothing. Unfortunately, most women will.

        I must agree with the theory that men shop differently than women, though not necessarily for the reasons Brinkley mentions. I believe most men shop like they're smartbombs dropped from F-22's. They're tactical. They have lists. If they walk into a mall, they usually know exactly where they're going and what they're buying. They are concerned with durability and comfort because if the item lasts, they can shop less often. They don't pay attention to what's trendy. They don't go from store to store to store. They don't wander aimlessly. They want to get in, buy what they need, and get out. That's it.

        While men might be more utilitarian and focused when shopping, there is no doubt that women have much, much more fun. We enjoy buying, owning, exchanging, and trying on dozens of items before making a decision. We love the thrill of locating the perfect shoe and the greatest bargain. We research, we consult our friends, we spend afternoon reading fashion magazines - all for the glory of feeling attractive.

        I suppose my shopping style utilizes techniques from both sexes. While I enjoy browsing from store to store, and keeping up on fashion trends, I also put much more weight on how a garment fits and whether it's something that reflects my individual sense of style than its popularity or brand. I believe in trying things on and taking the time to examine for defects. And if it's too tight, it stays in the store, no matter what the price. 

        What's your shopping style? Do you believe women have been trained to compromise fit and quality for "fast fashion" and throwaway styles?

        Saturday, January 22, 2011

        Nine-Oh-Two-One Oh Honey, No: A stumble through the mall

        This morning I went to the mall. You know, for research. The things I do for my readers!

        I have a love/hate relationship with the mall. Perhaps you can relate. I hate how overpriced everything is. I hate the unidentifiable noxious scent wafting from Abercrombie and Finch. I hate the long lines, and the sound of toddlers screaming, and the fact that the bathrooms are never, ever clean. But I love the ease of having some of my favorite stores neatly contained under one roof. I love cooing at the adorably overdressed babies catching story time at Barnes and Noble. I love grabbing coffee at Starbucks, and the whimsical windows at Anthropologie, and those department store make-up ladies who look like they had their cosmetics applied by transvestites. In the dark. 

        Mostly, though, I love the people watching. That's the real reason I go to the mall. Today I visited Northpark Center in Dallas, which displays the most colorful species of shoppers in North America. Every corner revealed some new, wondrous cluster. There were the ladies who lunch, clad in Tory Burch and Chloe, giving each other the up and down as they sipped their iced green tea. There were the emaciated urban hipsters, resplendent in skinny jeans, stalking the newest plastic-rimmed sunglasses in Urban Outfitters. You also had your Botoxed-injected mall walkers, your rosy-cheeked Lululemon soccer moms, your exquisitely tailored gay men in Tom Ford suits, and your groups of giggling pre-teens training to master the art of simultaneous texting, flirting, shopping and walking.

        I could spend hours at Northpark just observing the shoppers. Today, though, I was on a quest to peruse jewelry at Forever 21. As I made my way towards a glistening display of shiny shiny blindingly shiny necklaces, I came across this:

        It was as if I tumbled into a Very Special Episode of 90210. You know, the one where Kelly develops an eating disorder and Brandon gets drunk and arrested and David has a rap career and Brenda pretends to be French and Steve bribes a janitor to break into school and change his math grade and Donna almost has sex but she's going to remain a virgin until she gets married, God damm it, and it's all VERY VERY SERIOUS. It was *that* bad.

        I just don't think I can get behind the 90's floral dress revival. I was there the first time, and believe me, it wasn't good. I prefer to leave Kelly and Donna and Brenda and their poly-blend dresses in the past, mostly because I haven't a clue how to wear these clothes off without looking like a sad middle-aged woman playing dress-up. But that's just me. If you can give some tips on successfully pulling of this look, I'm all ears. I could use the help.

        Today I went with a recently acquired thrifted faux-fur vest and skinny cargoes. Brenda and Kelly might scowl with disapproval, but at least I was comfortable.

        Thrifted I Heart Ronson faux-fur vest; Old Navy shirt; Michael Stars long-sleeved tee; Gap Outlet cargos; thrifted booties; Forever 21 belt; Plato's Closet leather bracelet

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        Friday, January 21, 2011

        Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Authenticity

        This is my first week participating in Fashion Beauty Friend Friday! Katy comes up with such thought-provoking questions, and her blog is one of my favorites.

        1. Most readers and fellow fashion bloggers value authenticity in the blogs they read. How would you describe blog/blogger authenticity? 

        Blogger authenticity is the the fight to remain true to yourself, even if that means going against the grain. It can be difficult to be true to oneself if you're solely focused on attracting followers and being "popular." Authenticity is measured in truthful, sincere posts, where the blogger draws from their own unique perspective, rather than emulating someone else.

        2. When it comes to your blog, how to you infuse it with that true/authentic feeling?

        My blog is fairly new, and I definitely struggle with being authentic while attempting to gain interest. I believe that my writing is what sets my blog apart. I am not a taciturn person. I have an intellectual, wordy, quirky, somewhat sarcastic way of writing, and I want to remain true to that as my blog grows.

        3. Have you stopped following a blog in the last three months? What made you lose interest?

        The blogs that have lost me as a reader are those that became too concerned with fancy fonts, edited photos and pandering to sponsors. I read blogs because I enjoy a different perspective on everyday life. They  encourage me to challenge old ways of thinking and take risks, whether in fashion, femininity, or my relationships. Blogs that become too polished and pandering smack of insincerity to me. The seem much more focused on promoting products. If I wanted that, I'd read a fashion magazine.

        4. We can't communicate effectively on our blogs, something we don't live in real life... what are some ways you try to live an authentic life?

        I live authentically by continually challenging myself to be true to who I am. I constantly question whether my wants are driven by a desire to emulate someone else. I never want to lose sight of my own opinions, whether through the choice I've made in clothing, the music I listen to, or the words I communicate with.

        5. Give a shout-out... Which bloggers do you think are truly genuine and why? 

        Indiana of Adored Austin, Angela of Everyone Loves Lipstick, Erin of Work With What You've Got, and Suze of Miss Vinyl Ahoy. These bloggers are consistently inspiring and thought-provoking. And they aren't afraid to express vulnerability through their posts, which proves their authenticity.

        Leave a comment below if you have thoughts on authenticity as a blogger!

        I wore a velveteeen blazer. I describe a bitter internal debate. That is all.

        True confession time: I have not always been a fan of the blazer. Blazers always felt so... complicated. For one, they seemed too tailored for my stressful day job of doing laundry, wiping up my twins' fourteen millionth apple juice spill, and creating flying vehicles out of Legos. I couldn't imagine wearing a blazer to the playground, or throwing one on with my leggings for a trip to the supermarket. I also blame my strained relationship with blazers on too many viewings of the movie Working Girl. Over time, I've begun to associate blazers with linebacker shoulder pads, teased hair, and white sneakers with pantyhose. Let's face it - I was never going to be a New Jersey secretary desperately angling to be a high-powered executive while bedding Harrison Ford, so clearly blazers were not for me.

        A couple of years ago, I was killing time before preschool pick-up when I found myself browsing in TJ Maxx. I was thumbing through racks of sweaters when my fingers brushed against the softest, thickest velveteen. Allow me to describe the point-by-point conversation I had with myself following this discovery:

        Oooh. What have we here? Is that velveteen???
        *squeal!* Yes! A Juicy Couture velveteen blazer!
        Hello lover. Come to mama.
        But it's a blazer.
        You fear blazers.
        But it's so pretty! And soft! And has delicate antique lace detailing at the cuffs!
        Hello, it's a blazer. A blazer.
        Where will you wear it? You just spent an hour scraping dried bananas off the floor.
        Honey, you are just not the blazer type. 
        And that color. Seriously, you won't know what to do with it. looks like something that came from Anthropologie! (which, let's face it, is the predominant criteria I use when deciding on a purchase.)
        AND it's $250 off full price. 
        AND you should know that if I do not buy this blazer some unsavory girl will walk away with it and I WILL DIE. And WHEN I DIE my husband will coldly bag up all my clothes and dump them at the Goodwill and I JUST CAN'T LIVE WITH THAT, IT'S NOT RIGHT. 
        *uncomfortable silence*
        I'll figure out how to wear it. I know I will.
        Well, fine. Go ahead and buy it. Don't say I didn't warn you. *stomps off in a huff*

        Buy it I did. I proudly took it home, hung it on a padded hanger...and didn't wear it until today. That damm blazer cursed me in the store. The color proved to be troublesome, and it's blazer-ness intimidated me. But thanks to my helpful, inspirational list of blogs, I've learned not to be afraid of structured pieces. Blazers don't need to be stiff and pointy-shouldered and accessorized with teased bangs and pantyhose and New Jersey accents. They can be soft, and worn almost anywhere, with nearly anything in my closet.

        In conclusion, I feel pretty great in my blazer today. Even while fighting urges to chain smoke and kick Sigourney Weaver's ass, that is. 

        Juicy Couture blazer; Citizens of Humanity jeans; thrifted Gap floral button-down; Gap white tee; Gap belt; J Crew booties

        Thursday, January 20, 2011

        Laura Ingalls, fashion icon and bad ass

        When I was seven, there were only three things I wanted in this world:
        1. Long, wavy, glossy blonde hair, like the girl in the Johnson and Johnson's Baby Shampoo commercial,
        2. A pony, preferably white, whom I would name Candy, and
        3. To be a rough and tumble prairie woman in a faded floral dress, crossing the country in a covered wagon.
        As a young girl, my all-time favorite books were those from the Little House On The Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Did you ever read them? Little House follows the adventures of the Ingalls family - Ma Caroline, Pa Charles, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and baby Grace - as they travel through the Midwest during the nineteenth century, searching for a hospitable place to settle. The books are told from Laura's perspective, and they do a beautiful job describing the rigors of life in the nineteenth century; specifically, the struggles the family faced against disease, frigid cold, governmental regulations, and Native Americans competing for the same land and food. 

        Although I loved everything about the books, Laura was what drew me in so deeply. I desperately, desperately wanted to be Laura. Because, let's face, Laura was kind of a bad ass, and she led a suitably bad ass adventuresome life. I wanted to call my father Pa, and help him build a dugout house from the side of a hill, and listen to him trill out a hillbilly folk song on his violin. I wanted to wear faded floral dresses and pinafores with petticoats peeking out.  I wanted a dog named Jack to scamper next to me while I chased frogs out of the pond.  I wanted an older sister to squabble with (no offense to my younger brother, with whom I shared many legendary battles.)  I wanted a mother as sweet as Caroline, who wore a bucolic smile while darning homespun dresses. But, mostly, I wanted to challenge that mean, nasty Nellie Oleson in an epic mudfight, just like Laura did. Laura was loving and affectionate, but also mischievous and scrappy. I wanted to be the same. Hell, I still want to be her.

        I was thinking about Laura when I plucked this dress out of my closet. In another form or color, the floral print might be dainty. But here it kind of smacks you in the face. It's feisty and still kind of sweet. If Laura was around today, it's something I imagine she might pick out, now that she can shop beyond the mercantile.

        Forever 21 denim jacket; Forever 21 dress; thrifted Gap turtleneck; American Apparel tights; Target socks; Frye boots; Plato's Closet leather bracelet; Fossil hoops.

        Wednesday, January 19, 2011

        Androgyny, Prada and Taylor Swift: My relationship with perfume

        Do you wear perfume? In my extensive, scientifically conducted research (wave to the five friends I consulted as my subjects) it appears women either love perfume, or avoid it like the plague. I'll admit that I haven't always been a fan. In high school I went through a phase where the only scent I was attracted to was that of Johnson and Johnson's baby powder. Which is comforting and soothing in a way similar to fluffy down pillows, Grandma's hugs, and chamomile tea.

        I was first introduced to fragrance in junior high during a clandestine meeting in the girls room. A friend passed me a can of Love's Baby Soft, which she aggressively applied in a noxious cloud. Love's Baby Soft was the must-have scent among those of the junior high set in the 70's and 80's. Featuring top notes of talcum powder, babies, innocence, and light-heartedness, Love's was simple. Basic. It was a pastel angora-blend sweater, the kind that shed little bits of material all over your corduroy skirt but you didn't really care.

        I left the Baby Soft behind when I entered high school, and stuck to my Johnson and Johnson's powder. After I graduated, Calvin Klein introduced a revolutionary fragrance meant for both men and women that spread like herpes - CK One. Everything about this scent screams 1994. The packaging was made from 100% recycled materials, and the bottle is sleek and austere, a nod to the 90's minimalism trend that dominated runways. CK One smelled clean and crisp. It was reminiscent of sleek, unsmiling women who flat ironed their center-parted hair, and carried Prada nylon backpacks.

        My brush with CK One was short-lived, probably because I'm uncomfortable embracing androgyny. Next came Clinique's Happy, a fruity, citrusy scent. If Happy were a person, she’d be The Girl Next Door. A particularly perky one. She’s young, easygoing, carefree, friendly to everyone, and she smiles a lot. For awhile I alternated between Happy and Juicy Couture, a sickeningly sweet scent with notes of watermelon, apple, pink passion fruit and lilies. Juicy is something Barbie would wear. Or Taylor Swift. I was a fan of these scents when I was a new mom, and I craved a simpler, sweeter time, absent of four a.m feedings and shirts accessorized by spit-up.

        As of this moment, my favorite perfume is A Scent by Issey Miyake (which I'm dangerously low on.) It's a warm, delicate, feminine scent with hints of jasmine, hyacinth and cedar - very sophisticated, romantic and quiet. I like to wear it with cozy materials, like soft sweaters and velvet slippers, such as the items I chose today:

        Thrifted Marc by Marc Jacobs cardigan; thrifted J Jill white shirt; thrifted Seven For All Mankind button-fly jeans; Stuart Weitzman velvet flats; Nordstrom rack necklace

        If you wear perfume, what's your favorite scent?

        (Like this post? Check out my thrifting 101 series, my thoughts on staying true to your personal sense of style, and my internal debate over a velveteen blazer. And consider becoming a follower. I LOVE my readers!)

        Tuesday, January 18, 2011

        Pink is the new pink

        Do you have a favorite color?

        Mine has always been pink. Pink is a cheerfully happy, effervescent color. It is the signature shade of rosy-cheeked little girls in pigtails who ride Barbie bicycles with streamers at the handles. Pink is the sweet side of red - softer, delicate, and decidedly feminine. Pink is the color of cotton candy, tropical sunsets and frosting on a cupcake. When the weather has been stuck in a forecast of gray, gloomy, overcast days (such as it's been here in Dallas all week) wearing pink instantly cheers me up. 

        Studies have shown the following physical and mental effects of the color pink:
        • Has a calming effect on the nerves and creates physical weakness in people.
        • Alleviates feelings of anger, aggression, resentment, abandonment and neglect.
        • Is a sign of hope in color psychology. It inspires warm and comforting feelings, and a sense that everything will be okay.
        • Is so tranquilizing that sports teams sometimes paint the locker rooms used by opposing teams bright pink so their opponents will lose energy.

        According to Wikipedia, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920's or earlier. From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because, being related to red, it was a more masculine and aggressive color. Blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was related to the Virgin Mary and thus thought as the more dainty, delicate color. In the 1940s, the societal norm was inverted; pink became considered appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.

        My love affair with pink extends well beyond my wardrobe. I have multiple tattoos in shades of pink, from the flowers on my neck to a cupcake on my left arm. Pink lipsticks are stuffed into my cosmetics bag. During pedicures, pink is my number one requested polish color (OPI's Shopping Frenzy is amaze-balls.) My journal is pink; I write in pink gel-pen; and I fantasize about adding hot pink streaks to my hair.  

        When I saw this blazer at a thrift store, I knew I had to have it.  It would be my armor against rainy-day gloom. I'd don the blazer, glide on some pink lip gloss, and charge towards victory.

        Thrifted Kenneth Cole blazer; Gap long-sleeved white tee; Citizens if Humanity bootcut jeans (eBay); J Crew pink ballet flats (eBay), Marc Jacobs bag; Forever 21 necklace