Monday, February 28, 2011

A Saturday spent with Dallas fashion bloggers? Yes please!

There are lots of adjectives I could use to describe myself: Eclectic. Introspective. Sarcastic. Scrappy. However, I do not consider myself a joiner. In high school I spent much of my time hiding in music practice rooms working on flute concertos, and exploring Manhattan with only my worn leather backpack and cup of coffee as accompaniment. While I cherish my time spent with friends, I'm not one of those women who needs to be with people all the time. I'm perfectly content shopping alone, or making a solo trip to a bar for a shot of whiskey (I must be the only person who nurses a drink while reading chick lit on their Kindle.) In addition, large group gatherings intimidate the crap out of me. Despite my tattoos, and bright red hair, I'm not as outgoing as you might think. I get crazy anxious before parties and events. I worry that I'm going to spill something in myself, be under-dressed, be over-dressed, talk too much, talk too little, or otherwise embarrass myself.

However, I squealed with delight when Kileen invited me to the DFW Blogger Meetup on Saturday. Despite my apparent social anxiety disorder, there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to socialize with other fashion and personal style bloggers in the Dallas area. I wasn't sure how many people were going to be there, but fifteen bloggers turned up! Thank God I changed 1423 times or I would indeed been painfully under-dressed.

Good lord is my hair red. I stuck out like a traffic light among all those gorgeous brunettes.

We began with brunch at Ristoranti Cibus in Northpark Center. Northpark is a fantastic place to spend a day, and even more so with fashion bloggers. Over brunch we introduced ourselves and described our bogs, exchanged business cards, discussed blogging techniques, and got to know one another over bottomless mimosas and bellinis. Brunch was absolutely delicious too - I dug into a plate of brioche with gravlox, capers and cream cheese. Yummo. As a relatively new blogger, it was really fun to be included in a group of such stylish, intelligent women. I learned so much and hopefully made friends I will keep in touch with for a long time.

I was too busy schmoozing to take many pictures, but here's a few from the day:

The epically stylish Angga of Reservade Fashion, wearing  a Forever 21 bag and spring's hottest color: coral! She drove all the way from Kansas to attend the meetup, and I was so excited to meet her.

Posting with Tina of T Minus T Plus, who gave me so many useful tips for promoting and tracking my blog. I really hope to stay in touch with her - she was so much fun to meet!

Posing In Northpark's courtyard in a thrifted J Crew blazer, Forever 21 top, thrifted J Brand jeans; Stuart Weitzman wedges, Forever black pyramid bracelet, and thrifted vintage bag

After brunch we attended a cosmetics consultation courtesy of Dior and Allure magazine. I was drooling over the color-rich, luxurious makeup available for us to try. We broke up into two groups and received lessons regarding moisturizers, primers and foundation, followed by instruction on eyeshadow blending and liner application. I'm a total make-up junkie - though most of my cosmetics come from Target (Loreal shadows are the bomb) - so this was a pretty amazing experience. It was like Christmas morning, my birthday, and a sorority road trip all mashed into one. But with better clothes.

Irene of Pink Hearted Princess served as the perfect model, though she was perfectly gorgeous before getting made up!

I had an absolutely fantastic time, and I'm really hopeful the other bloggers and I can organize regular monthly gatherings. It was a blast.

Would you ever attend a blogger meetup? Have you made any personal connections with other bloggers outside the internet?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week in review: February 19

Ah, Sundays. 

Time to sleep late, catch up on blogs, do 18203 loads of laundry, clean the bathrooms, browse through magazines that were delivered this week (hello, InStyle, you're looking lovely,) and scarf down some pancakes and bacon whipped up by my husband. Ideally, all of these activities would be accomplished in bed, if possible. I would make dinner in there is I could. I want a full-size stovetop for my birthday, jimmy rigged to my bedside table. That would be awesome.

I have the hardest time dragging myself out of bed on the weekends. I want to stay snugly cocooned under the covers, read the Sunday Times on my iPad and drink mugs of coffee from my ginormous Tulsa coffee mug. It's cheesy and huge and holds approximately three cups of hot caffeinated deliciousness. And I love it because my coffee mysteriously tastes better from it.

This weekend was extra-fancy for me, because I was able to attend the DFW Blogger Meetup - an event that gave me the opportunity to shop like a mad woman for the perfect outfit, lipstick and heels, only to revert to wearing stuff that was already languishing in my closet. Huh. What did you guys do this weekend? Anything interesting?

Okay, onto more productive matters. This week on Dress With Courage, I:

I want to take a moment to welcome my new followers (wave!) and thank everyone for your continued support and thoughtful comments.  You have no idea how much this 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, February 26, 2011

Outfit Post: Is women's fashion man-repelling or merely absurd?

What is the point of fashion? Self-expression? Creativity? Individuality? According to one blogger, fashion is about repelling men. Oh. Okay. Darn.

The blogger in question is named Leandra Medine. Here is her fashion "thing", as described by the New York Times:
Since April 2010, Ms. Medine, 21, has been publishing photos of herself on her blog, the Man Repeller, as well as shots of similarly challenging recent runway looks: fashions that, though promoted by designers and adored by women, most likely confuse - or worse, repulse - the average straight man. These include turbans, harem pants, jewelry that looks like a torture instrument, jumpsuits, ponchos, furry garments resembling large unidentified animals, boyfriend jeans, clogs and formal sweatpants.
Medine's blog is a tongue-in-cheek chronicle of her adventures in these bewildering articles of clothing. A quick examination shows her in suspenders, argyle socks with pony hair sandals, and drop-crotch pants, posing for photographers with other slovenly-chic high-profile fashion bloggers. She argues that now, more than ever, designers are producing clothes which push the boundaries of fashion so far that they turn off (and repel) the average man.

The fashion world has taken notice.
Medine's blog won top honors in last month's Bloglovin' Awards. And fans have begun to use her blog name as a verb, as in, “I am totally man-repelling today.” (Warning: This might have to become part of my vernacular from now on. I think I'll start today. My belt is totes man-repelling. Uh, yeah.)

On first glance, The Man Repeller seems very similar to other blogs I read: a young, coltish woman mixes thrift, discount and runway pieces in a haphazard way that somehow looks chic in the end (while these pieces would transform me into a schizophrenic hobo.)
However, I truly believe that this girl doesn't understand men. On average, men do not care what you wear. If you're that concerned about repelling men with your outfit, ask yourself these questions first:

1. Have you showered in the last 24 hours?
2. Do you have a vagina?
3. Are you single?

If you can answer yes to any or all 3 of these questions you will fail to repel men.
An outfit composed of six types of material might confuse them, sure. Bizarre as they might be, most of the clothes Medine wears only underscores that she is slim and elegant, albeit in a quirky, offbeat sort of way. Even in a homemade dress constructed from office supply paper and a body stocking, Medine looks charming and sort of cute.

Furthermore, I don't believe women's fashion is about attracting men. As far as I'm concerned, fashion is about
self-expression. There's freedom in being creatively attired and wearing pieces that communicate your individual sense of style. Shopping for the perfect heels, the sharpest tailored blazer, and the ultimate red lipstick is a uniquely individual, personally rewarding experience. Choosing an outfit is even more so. When I get dressed in the morning, it's always from the perspective of what I want to wear, what I find comfortable and appealing, and what message I want to send to the world. I really could care less about what men think.

Despite its name and the running joke Medine has about not getting action because of the ridiculous things she wears, The Man Repeller isn't really about men. It's about the absurdity of 'high' fashion - stuff that is just plain ugly and confusing. Medine is funny, and her advice regarding how to be featured on fashion blogs like The Sartorialist was totally accurate and literally made me chortle out loud. Hint: wear as many different types of fabric as possible in multiple clashing pieces. Add heinous lipstick, an affected snarl, sky-high clogs, and you're in.

According to my husband, I am not man-repelling in this outfit today at all. Actually, he described it as "hot". So I suppose I need to work on my skills a little bit more. Maybe if I added a turban, leg warmers and suspenders I'd make the cut.

Thrifted Gap sweater; thrifted Loft skirt; Target belt; We Love Colors tights; Kate Spade boots; thrifted vintage crocodile bag; Fossil earrings

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Blog Awards

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. And definitely read Modly Chic - it's such a great blog. 

Source: We Heart It

This week brings the introduction of the FBFF Blog Awards! Each participant is to nominate one blogger for each of the categories below and explain their nomination. The responses will be counted and the top five bloggers named in each category will be decided. Those finalists will then be opened up to a public vote over a couple of weeks!

1. Creative Juices (most creative):I really enjoy Suze of Miss Vinyl Ahoy. Her blog is full of creative and unique takes on fashion and beauty, and she's as authentic as they come. She's also fantastic at mixing prints and colors, and has encouraged me to try out colored tights (which I now love!)

2. The Real Deal (authenticity): Without a doubt, this award should go to Erin of Work With What You've Got. I've had the privilege of spending time with her, and she is just as genuine, sincere and stylish in person as she is on her blog.

3. Spark Notes (most helpful): Kileen of Cute and Little has some really helpful tips regarding blog design and html on her blog. I'm still learning how to navigate through blog design, and her tips are encouraging me to be more courageous when it comes to computer navigation. And Sally of Already Pretty offers such wonderful styling advice and tips on dressing best for your body type.

4. Newbie (best blogger less than a year old): Me! No, just kidding. I really enjoy reading Dwelling and Telling. Linley has only had her blog for a few months, and she's already up to over six hundred followers. That's saying something. Her style is simple, clean and elegant, and she comes across as very genuine and sweet.

5. Can You Hear Me Now (most connected):Without a doubt, this award should go to Kendi of Kendi Everyday. As the creator of the 30x30, she turned a small challenge into a blogger-wide event that unites bloggers across the world. She created a community through which bloggers of all ages and style types can network and learn from one another.

6. If I had a Hammer (best DIY): I really love the DIY's from Love Maegan. From jewelry to clothing, she imprints her unique, Californian sense of style through tutorials that are clear and easy to follow.

7. Tribe Leader (blogger who leads others and brings bloggers together): Gotta go with Indiana of Adored Austin and Gretchen of Gretchen's Closet. Together, they're  organizing the Texas Style Council Conference in March, and I'm thrilled to be attending. 

8. Practically Perfect (most fashionable): I love Karla of Karla's Closet. She mixes very high-end items with vintage and mall-store pieces in a real way, and always manages to look impeccable. Her shoes are beyond killer too.

 9. Paint by Numbers (best beauty blogger): My vote is for Keiko Lynn. I adore her makeup tutorials, and she's genius at applying shadows and eyeliner.  I also like The Beauty Look Book for comprehensive make-up and perfume reviews.
10. Renaissance Woman (best all around blogger, fashion, beauty, lifestyle): A tie between Erin of Work With What You've Got and Sydney from The Daybook. Both are authentic, stylish, informative, and unique. They blog about many different topics, include readers on a glimpse into their lives and relationships, and aren't afraid to put their opinions out there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thrifting 101, Part 5: How to thrift for vintage

We're about to delve into my favorite topic in my Thrifting 101 series: shopping for vintage at a thrift store. In my opinion, there is nothing that can replicate the high of scoring a unique, vintage item when thrifting. I adore knowing that not only will I wear a piece that no one else owns but also has quite a bit of history behind it. Whether it's a pair of white gloves from the 1950's, a suede fringe hippie-era vest, a 80's prom dress (see mine here) or a drop-waist 1920's flapper dress, vintage clothing instantly transports you to the era of it's origin. It's a fascinating glimpse into the development of fashion trends.

Up to this point, Thrifting 101 has focused on tips for newbies and those dealing with the squick factor, advice regarding how to shop at a thrift store, thrifting for the clothing snob, and recommendations for finding the best thrift and consignment stores. Now, we'll examine all things vintage!

First things first: Before you go vintage clothing shopping, take a look at your existing wardrobe. One of the easiest ways to put together an amazing outfit is to pair a vintage piece with modern items you already own. This will cut down on the stress and time trying to put together an entire outfit each trip. It also helps to do a bit of research regarding vintage clothing. Find styles, or time periods, you really love, and try to focus on hunting down those types of items when you thrift.

Most vintage, though old, is of a better quality than our disposable clothes today. However, they most likely have had a lifetime of being worn, so it's important to make sure the items you buy are still wearable and don’t look old or worn. 
Here is a check list of problems you should look for before purchasing a vintage item.
  • General Wear and Tear - Check elbows, knees, backsides, cuffs, collars, hems, and armpits for excessive wear as they are the parts of clothing that endure the most stress.
  • Fading - You can check for fading by turning the item inside out and looking at the seams. The color on the seams will probably be a darker shade. If the fading is minimal or completely even on the outside of the garment, then the item should be okay to purchase.
  • Sagging, Drooping, and Stretching – Since Lycra is not part of the fiber content in vintage clothing like it seems to be today, well worn clothes might have possible sagging or stretching from wear and tear. Try the item on to determine if such wear is noticeable. In some cases the wear might improve the fit; in others, it may make the item look overused.
  • Stains - Some stains on vintage items are possible to get out, especially more recent ones. Stains that will not come out include mildew and some perspiration stains. Use your discretion depending on the size of the stain, its location, etc.
  • Odors – Vintage clothing may not have been washed for some time, especially those from thrift stores. As a result, there might be some sort of persisting odor on an item. Fortunately many of these smells could be removed at home. Just be sure to use the appropriate cleaning method for the garment’s age and fabric contact.
  • Tearing (other than in seams) – Tearing in any other area except on the seams of the item are irreversible and not always easily masked. Use your discretion when buying an item with known tears. 
  • Deterioration - Fiber deterioration is common in old pieces made from natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool, etc. Look for signs of pilling and treadbareness.
  • Moth Holes – Here's an interesting fact: Moths prefer dark colors, so be sure to double check items that are darker. Use your discretion depending on the extent of damage and location. If you chose to buy an item with moth damage, be sure to have it dry cleaned or wash in hot water immediately to prevent any moth larvae (ewww, I know) from infesting the rest of your wardrobe. 
  • Mildew - All signs of mildew are irreversible. Do not purchase a garment with any sign of mildew damage.
  • Hardware and Fastenings – Be sure that zippers zip properly, buttons are all attached and move smoothly in and out of the button hole, and that snaps have both pieces and fit together.
  • Decorative Details - Pay special attention to any garment with beading, sequins, applique, embroidery or lace. Make sure embellishments are attached securely and not missing an undesirable amount of pieces. Vintage sequins were usually hand-sewn in India, and while a piece may look great from afar, a critical eye can catch missing sequin sparkle and fraying thread. If thread is beginning to fray, chances are the sequins will eventually fall off the piece. 
Identifying Vintage Clothing

One trick to help identify vintage clothing is to look for a union card or tag attached to the inside seam. A union tag is proof that the piece was produced and supported by a clothing union, which existed in the U.S. before the overseas boom of clothing production beginning in the 1980s. They're usually square and about 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch; red, white, and blue; and state the name of the union, like "The Ladies Garment Workers Union" and "Made in U.S.A." If you find a union tag, you're definitely scoring a vintage piece, which by definition is at least 20 years old. It's like having a time stamp on your clothing.

Here's an example of a union tag from a blazer I purchased at a local Goodwill: (See pics of me in the blazer here.)

Another tip to help identify vintage is to examine the zippers on the garment. Does it have a metal or vinyl zippper? Vinyl zippers were not widely used on dresses until mid-late 1960’s so the presence of a metal zip could indicate a pre-1970’s dress. You might also want to compare the zipper brand to the list of common brands from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. If the zipper maker is Scovill, Conmar, Crown, Gripper Zipper, Talon or Ideal then the garment is most likely authentically vintage. If the zipper is YKK it is most likely a new reproduction. Vintage denim and military clothing will normally have the non-YKK brands listed above.

The location of the zip is also a key indicator. Up to the 1950s the zips were often placed at the side of the dress, moving to the back during the 1950s and 1960s.

Finally, be sure to check the labels of each piece you're considering for purchase. There are three types of labels to look for: the makers label, the size label and care label. Before the 1960’s size labels typically indicated the hip size in inches. After this decade sizes such as 12, 14 etc. were more commonly used. These standard sizes have change over the years -  a size 14 in the 1960's is equivalent to a 1970’s size 12, and modern size 10. Care labels are also a good indicator. They were introduced in the mid 1960’s and became widely used in the 1970s. The Pure New Wool symbol was only introduced in the 1970s. Furthermore, the absence of any labels might indicate that the dress was home made, a common occurrence before the 1970’s.

Hopefully these tips will help you dig up a unique, verifiable vintage item. As your collection grows so will your experience and confidence!

Has my Thrifting 101 series been helpful to you? What part have you enjoyed the most? Are there any topics within thrifting you'd like more information on? Please let me know by leaving a comment! I truly appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Outfit Post: Sentimental old sap or crazy crazy hoarder?

One of my favorite TV shows is Hoarders on A&E. If you've never seen it, you are missing out on one of the most fascinating sociological experiments of our time (aside from Jersey Shore, that is.) Hoarders documents the exploits of people who, for whatever reason, cannot throw things out. Whether it's a childhood stuffed animal collection, stacks of canned tomatoes, or rusting fetid beer cans, the items pile up to the point where they are literally eating the house. Though hoarding seemed to be the hot-button topic of 2010, it's hardly new. In 1947 Langley and Homer Collyer, two well-heeled New York City brothers, died after becoming trapped under 170 tons of debris. One suffocated after being crushed by a tower of baled newspapers. Clearly, these guys had issues.

I audibly cringe when watching Hoarders, mostly because I just cannot understand the thought process behind hoarding. I don't consider myself much of a sentimental person. I'm not one of those people who believes items have the magical ability to transport them back to the time of their origin. Back in high school, when my friends were saving the pens discarded by their crush and rereading notes passed between them from sixth grade, I was cleaning out my locker, gleefully tossing the previous week's notes. During cleaning spurts I am cold and ruthless when it comes to deciding what to keep and what to toss. If I don't need it, it goes. Period.

However, I will concede that there are a few things I will never, ever get rid of. And all of these items are clothes or accessories. Like the Santa outfits worn by my twins when they were newborns. Sure, they're covered in baby drool and smell a tiny bit like spit-up. Will they ever wear them again? No. Do they serve any purpose at all, aside from making my uterus weep? No. boys wore them during their first Christmas photos. And they're awfully cute. The outfits I mean (though my boys are pretty darn cute too.) So they stay.

There's also my prom dress - a dress so horribly, spectacularly tragic that it makes me wonder if I suffered a mysterious head injury before purchasing it. It reminds me of a simpler time, a golden age when I sported a bad perm (which I sprayed into submission with Aussie Scrunch Spray) and did hard time in detention for talking in class (sadly, this happened a lot.) In addition, I've got a too-small leather bomber jacket I scored on eBay, ancient concert tee shirts, 107263 pairs of designer jeans, multiple pairs of black ballet flats, and a J Crew argyle sweater I purchased with money saved from babysitting. In high school. The dress I'm wearing today, picked up during a particularly fortuitous thrifting excursion back in 2006, is another one of my can't-let-go items too.

Many people create attachments to clothing for one reason or another. Over time, these clothes can take up too much space and create a cluttered closet. While I believe in sentimental value, there has to come a point where you have to differentiate the important things from the not-so-important stuff. There are certain things that I will never get rid of (see items above, though I could stand to pair down my denim collection.) And others, like those skinny aspirational-sized pants I hold onto to torture myself with, need to be donated immediately. The feeling of needing to keep everything is hard to get rid of. But the value of having less crap in your closet is priceless.

Do you have things in your closet you could never get rid of? How do you determine what to keep and what to donate/throw out?

Thrifted Loft denim shirt; thrifted Forever 21 dress; Anthropologie lace camisole; thrifted Coach belt; thrifted vintage Coach satchel; Frye boots; Target socks; Plato's Closet leather bracelet; Betsey Johnson gold watch

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Things That Are Awesome: Flea markets

I am a simple woman. A shot of whiskey is my perfect drink. Take me to a used bookstore and I will be your best friend for life. I am perfectly content spending an afternoon on coffee shop patio reading my Kindle. And flea markets make me exorbitantly, unreasonably happy. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing better than a day spent outdoors, wandering from booth to booth, never quite knowing what to expect.

My parents didn't have much money when I was growing up. Fortunately, my mother was a champion bargain shopper and a frequent visitor of flea markets near our home in Queens. On our trips together I'd closely study proper market behavior -  the art of haggling with vendors and hunting down bargains, and which stand sold the best frozen lemonade. At the flea we'd pick up things like handmade tie-dyed socks and scented candles bottled by bored housewives in their basements and knock-off purses and hippie jewelry woven out of hemp. I grew to love the uncertainty of it, the unpredictability of vendors and the ever-changing merchandise. Perhaps I would dig up a bargain on tights. Maybe I'd go home with a parakeet. If I was lucky, I might actually end up with something I needed, like tube socks and personalized pencils for math class. You just never knew.

However, Texas flea markets beat the New York markets of my youth to a bloody pulp. In addition to better food (Frito chili pie and hot boiled peanuts? Yes please) there's completely epic people-watching. There are grizzled old men in overalls selling firearms and "art" constructed from antlers and and whatever crap scrounged from their front yards. Women in housedresses push rolling carts past you, cigarettes hanging limply from their lips. It seems that everyone either sports a mullet, Civil War-era facial hair, or Nascar apparel. Or a combination of all three. The truly stylish wear Carhart jackets and camo pants. The supremely stylish are outfitted in Carhart camo and a Nascar tee. And don't even get me started on the accents flying through the air. I couldn't understand a damm thing anyone was saying.

Several booths do a brisk business selling fried apple pies, dusty Depression-era glasswear, studded tee shirts and bags emblazoned with crosses and zebra prints, and household items constructed from scrap metal. Here's a sample:

If you're ever in the Dallas area, definitely take the time to check out McKinney Third Monday Trade Days, Canton Third Monday Trade Days, or for the truly adventurous, Bonham First Monday Trade Days. Bonham's market offers things like chickens and goats and truck engine parts and grandma's musty afghans. It's really something to see.

For my flea market adventure, I went with a favorite pair of boyfriend jeans and a lightweight sweater. Compared to my comrades in camo and overalls, I was most definitely overdressed.

Are you a fan of flea markets? Any interesting ones in your area?

Gap stripped cotton sweater; Gap tee (under sweater), AG Adriano Goldschmied boyfriend jeans; Forever 21 shoes; thrifted Coach belt; Urban Outfitters flower studs

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shoes versus bags - which side are you on?

Today I introduce you to the world's cutest bag. It's studded. It's black. It weights approximately 10 ounces. While many purses strive to be functional, this one is mostly decorative. The opening is just barely wide enough for a lipstick, my driver's license, and a credit card. And yet my love for this bag borders on obsessive. I stalked for weeks waiting for it to come in, and my hands trembled with delight when I placed my order. It makes me inexplicably, ridiculously happy.

Since I was a little girl, I've had a thing for purses and handbags. Some people stroll through the mall and see shoes beckoning from windows, watches and jewelry glistening in cases, and hear the soft beckoning of this season's pencil skirts and cardigans. I see bags. Bags I'm thinking of buying, bags I already own, bags I can't understand, bags that could double as luggage, bags I couldn't dream of being able to afford. They sit in store windows and swing from the shoulders of shoppers, teasing me with their studs and zippers and tassels and quilting.

From canvas, to crocodile, to butter-soft leather, on and on through my daydreams they march, each more unique and coveted than the last. They haunt me, these bags. I fantasize about the sequined Marc Jacobs clutch I spied in Neiman Marcus back in September. An Urban Outfitters satchel from spring '07 is a frequent player in my fashion daydreams. And don't even get me started on 1994's Lady Dior, which makes my hands clench into ineffectual grabby-grabby fists of want.

Truthfully, as I progressed from little girl to teenager to adult, I never thought I'd stay a bag person. I always thought I'd morph into a shoe person. Shoe people are impetuous and fun and understand that fluctuating waistlines are no match for a jaunty little pair of heels. When nothing else fits, a new pair of shoes will. Shoe people read blogs like Sea of Shoes and Obsessed with Shoes, where they spend hours researching this season's ankle boots. Shoe people travel in packs and will happily spend an entire afternoon in the Saks shoe department. They talk about footwear by name: Mary Jane. Billy. Karolina. They spend afternoons obsessive-compulsively organizing their shoes according to heel height and color. And they speak the language as if they were born into it - vamp, brogues, t-strap, grommet.

Mostly, though, shoe people are willing to sacrifice their comfort and sanity for a gravity-defying pair of heels. I am not. An hour in heels transforms me into a whining cripple. But a bag would never torment me the way a pair of stilettos could. Give me J Crew's sequined, chain-strapped minaudière over a sparkling pair of pumps any day. I'd rather sling Bodkier's aggressively-zippered Howard Street satchel over my shoulder than suffer in black leather platforms. And with the coming of seventies fashion for spring, you'd better believe I'd chose a color-blocked flap bag (such as this little beauty from Marc Jacobs) over a sky-scraping pair platform sandals.

A bag doesn't require a pedicure and endless supply of band-aids. I don't have to consider hem height and hosiery. The weather forecast is of no importance in my choice of what to carry. I can walk to my closet, pick a bag off the shelf, and be done.

And now I ask you: Are you a shoe person, or a bag person? Do we need to be one or the other? And what's your favorite bag?

Forever 21 lace top; James Pearse tank (under top); Seven For All Mankind jeans; Forever 21 necklace; Nordstrom cross necklace; Gap leather bag; Steve Madden flats; Betsey Johnson gold watch

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week in Review: February 13

Info on this outfit can be found here

This week brought a return of warm weather to North Dallas, elevating my mood to the point of giddiness. The snow melted, birds resumed their chirping and I spent some much-needed time outdoors, soaking in much-needed vitamin D. It's it amazing how much the weather affects how we feel? Temperatures are supposed to stay in the upper sixties at least for the next seven days, and I couldn't be happier. I also watched the Grammy Awards, met the awesome and epically stylish Erin of Work With What You've Got for lunch, went thrifting, did a ton of housework, and went to a flea market (more on that tomorrow.)

This week on Dress With Courage, I:
How did you spend your week? Any highlights?

I've really, really enjoyed reading everyone's comments (please keep 'em coming!) and am especially thankful to have so many new followers! You have no idea how much your feedback 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. I get embarrassingly, ridiculously excited when reading a new comment or gaining a follower, and I appreciate you all so much!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Outfit Post: Lord of the dance

When I was growing up, my mother signed me up for all sorts of extracurricular activities to "broaden my horizons" and "make me well-rounded." I'll admit I was kind of a quiet, introspective kid. And weird. My nine year-old self thought an ideal afternoon was one spent reading and reenacting the previous evening's Dynasty episode with my Barbies. Except my Barbies were far bitchier than Linda Evans and Joan Collins were, if you can imagine that.

Between second and sixth grades, I was forcibly enrolled in gymnastics, ice skating, tap, theater, ballet, soccer, kickball, and dollhouse making (don't ask.) You should know I have always had very poor body awareness. Some might call it clumsiness; I prefer a more scholarly label. When I was ten, I delicately stepped off the curb in front of my house and broke my ankle. The other day I injured myself just from opening the dishwasher. I often sport mysterious bruises whose origin I cannot identify. So it's no shock that athletic pursuits have never been my strong suit.

Like most little girls, I started out with tap and ballet. My classmates preened in the mirrors, worshiped our teacher and diligently worked on their steps. I spent most classes huddled in the back of the room chewing on my hair and faking some kind of injury. I was surprisingly good at this. I was even better at fake-practicing. My father bought a square of plywood for me to practice my tap steps, and I'd shut my door and pound my shoes on it to make it seem like I was practicing while I was actually organizing my scratch and sniff stickers and watching reruns of Fame.

To add insult to injury, instead of outfitting me in the pastel-colored leotard and blush tights my classmates wore, my mother squeezed me into a too-tight hot pink instrument of bondage. Bright white tights - the kind nurses wear - completed the look. I stuck out like a whore in church. 

Gymnastics was even worse. I was convinced that I was going to break my ankle or crash into another classmate or permanently damage my fertility while attempting to do a split. Considering that I was the most uncoordinated 3rd grader on the planet, these were all viable possibilities. I have horrific memories of being forced into class, costumed in some neon-blue crushed-velvet unitard, begging to do anything but take gymnastics. I railed. I cajoled. I offered to make my brother's bed and clean his room and be nice to him FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE if I could just get out of gymnastics.

Thankfully, after months of protests, my mother relented. My short-lived career in athletics and dance was over, and I returned to my books and Barbies. If I had one regret, it was that I missed out on the opportunity to wear tutus and leg warmers and ballet flats and pastel-colored leotards. Ballet and tap may not have been for me, but the clothes sure were. This swirly sparkly skirt kind of reminded me of a little girls' ballerina costume. And I didn't have to risk personal injury to wear it.

Gap cardigan; thrifted Junk Food tee; Forever 21 skirt; Hue tights; Anthropologie shoes; Forever 21 belt

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Body Image

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. And definitely read Modly Chic - it's such a great blog!

This week's FBFF questions really resonated with me. I wasn't intending to get so personal on my blog just quite yet, but thought this would be a good opportunity for you to understand me a bit better beyond what I wear everyday.

1. Since you started blogging has your image of yourself changed?

It's surprising how much my image of myself has changed since I began blogging. Starting my blog was a giant step forward for me personally. I have not shared this before, but I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for over twenty years. My life was largely defined by relapses, hospitalizations, and crippling negative body image. I despised who I was and truly hated how I looked, and tortured myself as a result. The eating disorder completely dominated my life. I can't begin to describe the friends I lost, the pain I felt, and the opportunities I missed out on because I was sick.

My last impatient stay was October 2009, and I have been in solid recovery for approximately a year, the longest I have been healthy since I was a young teenager. Starting my blog was a way for me to truly embrace who I am and prove to myself just how much  strength I have. Just the fact that I can put a pic of myself out into the world is a huge deal, and I'm incredibly proud that I continue to post every day, no matter how crummy I might feel. It's a way for me to reclaim my life.

2. Are you self-conscious about any aspect of yourself? If so, do you
go out of your way to avoid it or do you post it/talk about it anyway?

Honestly, I'm self-conscious about all of me. But I'm working on it. I'm secretly terrified about the coming of spring and summer, because I won't be able to hide under sweaters and jeans and boots. I'm telling myself that I'll take inspiration from other bloggers, keep posting, and get through it. I've never discussed my struggle with anorexia and negative body image, but the cat's out of the bag now. Maybe that's a good thing.

3. Based on how you are feeling now, what do you think the future holds in the evolution of your body image? 

I am confident that my body images issues will continue to improve the longer I keep posting. I never thought I'd have 59 followers, and their comments and support mean so, so much. Most days now I can look at my pics and be happy with what I see. That feels really great.

4. Do you photograph yourself for your blog? If so, how do you feel about the experience when you're having your picture taken? If you choose not to post pictures of yourself, what prompted that decision? 

My husband takes my photos everyday. I have a personal style blog, and there's no point in posting if I don't include photos. I've gotten much more comfortable with posing - the more pics he takes, the easier it gets. I'm learning to focus on the positives and shut out all those little negative thoughts that run through my head when seeing myself in pics. There is no perfect blogger out there. I'm a real woman, with flaws and curves and the occasional zit. It happens, and that's okay. I don't edit my pics either, so what you see is what you get. It's all authentic Elissa.

5. What would you want every person who struggles with body image to take to heart?

I want to remind everyone that we are all imperfect creatures. In treatment, my very wise therapist told me that when we compare, we inevitably despair. Instead of concentrating on what others look like, and how your body compares to theirs, focus on what makes you unique, talented, and special. This goes so far beyond your appearance. Do what makes you happy, and don't be afraid to speak your true voice. It is our individuality that makes us interesting.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My feature in this week's IFB Links A La Mode: Week of February 17th

Today I was super excited to learn that I was featured in this week's IFB's Links A La Mode! IFB 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. I have learned so much about blogging through IFB and made from pretty wonderful friends through it's message boards. If you're a blogger interested in gaining followers, traffic, and ideas for future posts, don't hesitate to become an IFB member. 

This is my fourth feature in Links A La Mode, a pretty fantastic feat for a relatively new blogger such as myself.  I am so humbled to be featured again, and included with such talented, stylish, informative bloggers. Here's the feature with my link:

Fashion Week’s  Inspirations

Edited by Marie Denee of The Curvy Fashionista

During the midst of New York Fashion Week, fashion took another direction. Beyond the beauty of an artist’s creation, fashion bloggers take their inspirations to raise questions, reflect, challenge the status quo, create and fashion pieces of their own, and analyze the trends in digital and social media- nevertheless, fashion inspired. With this inspiration comes an eclectic look into this week’s Links a la mode.

Links à la Mode:  Feb 17th, 2011

  • Alterations Needed: Getting a dress altered – before, after, and the thought process in between.
  • Beyond Fabric: Embracing a more stylish ride
  • Brunette Blogging: Blog Seasons – How different seasons have an impact on your blog
  • College Girl: Liberty London Girl spares her time to answer some in depth questions about her blogging experiences and gives amateur bloggers some exceptional advice in the process…
  • Dress With Courage: Valentine’s Day lingerie: Take back the sexy
  • Fashion Writes: Let’s Get Digital. Digital. Women are small in numbers in the always-enhancing and ever-evolving tech side of the fashion industry, but we as fashion bloggers are going to begin skewing the curves.
  • Independent Fashion Bloggers: A blogger’s moment with Anna Wintour at Milk Studios
  • Katrya-Kyla: “Print vs Video: The Industry’s New Plan of Attack”
  • Khola’s Kloset: Looking Back: The models and images that made fashion special
  • Lariza: my struggle with the vanity of fashion blogging:
  • Metallic Kiwi: Top black models emerging within the industry.
  • Most Serene Rabbit: Is there really such thing as ethical leather? Why is there a double standard when it comes to ethics In the fur and leather industries?
  • Previously Owned: BEHIND THE GLITZ- Q&A with designer Carolina Rodriguez about her food/fashion/music inspiration
  • Same Sensibility: Rihanna just ruined your Valentine’s
  • Scrap and Run: Why I remix
  • Seamstress Stories: High heels yay, headscarf nay? Double standards in the symbolic value assigned to female clothing.
  • Style by Santina: My “Happy” Weight: When the Body and Brain Disagree
  • The Button Owl: Why your creative space identifies the real you just as much as your outer image.
  • The Coveted:Running into Anna Dello Russo at NYFW
  • The Curvy Fashionista: “DIY Diva” inspiration with Be Vain or DIY Trying
  • The Demoiselles: Crystal Renn on body image and pressure from the media.


Thrifting 101, Part 4: How to Find the Best Thrift Stores

 I'll be honest: I completely blanked that today is Thrifting 101 Thursday. I was working on an epic post about my failed childhood gymnastics career and resulting post traumatic stress disorder, with a brilliant tie-in to bad athletic wear (stay tuned) when my husband reminded me it was Thursday. Subsequently ending my little trip down memory lane.

So far, my Thrifting 101 series has included tips for newbies and those dealing with the squick factor, advice regarding how to shop at a thrift store, and thrifting for the clothing snob. Today, we're going to focus on ways to find the best thrift stores. Yay!

The easiest, and most time-efficient, way of locating a thrift store is to use a search engine. Duh, right? Well, it turns out there are specific search engines solely devoted to thrifting. Two of my favorites are:

  • The Thrift Maintained by two thrift store junkies, this site boasts a nationwide database of thrift stores, and includes information on store hours, location and reviews. A community forum includes advice on remixing, collecting and pricing.
  • The Thrifty Planet Resource Guide: A collective database of businesses in the United States that sell recycled or previously owned merchandise. Over 1300 resale stores (consignment, thrift, antique) are included on their site.
In addition to these search engines, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Savers (based in the Midwest), America's Thrift Stores (based in the South) and Thrift Town (based in the West) include store locator services on their web pages. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also includes a similar tool on their site as well.

But let's say you want to avoid larger thrift stores. You yearn for a small, undiscovered treasure trove of unpicked-over items, a store staffed by attentive employees who will remember you from visit to visit. Maybe you're new to thrifting and intimidated by large stores. Fortunately, many well-organized thrift stores (and consignment stores in addition) are sponsored by churches, hospitals, military bases, and other agencies. I often rely on Yelp to track down these smaller, independently owned, or charity-driven thrift stores. Reviewers can be scathing, but it's a useful tool for narrowing down stores in your neighborhood. And their Google-driven maps really come in handy when planning an afternoon of thrifting.

There are a number of blogs that specialize in exploring and reviewing thrift stores.  If you're based in Dallas (like I am!)  A Ladies Guide to Thrifting in Big D has a helpful list of thrift stores somewhat off the beaten map. High Plains Thrifter explores thrifting in the Twin Cities. Things I Found At The Thrift Store is another Midwest-focused blog worth checking out, as is Alabama-based Thrift Store Confidential. These are just a handful of blogs focusing on thrifting...just conduct a simple internet search using your city as a starting point to find more.

By now you've likely found some intriguing places to check out. However, before jumping in the car, it's crucial to contact each location by phone and inquire about hours of operation. Information available over the internet may not be accurate. Smaller thrift stores are often not open during normal business hours, largely due to their volunteer-based staff. When you call, it's also helpful to ask about special sales days and when they get their shipments in. In addition, some of my favorite smaller shops offer email lists through which they let customers know about discounts and when special merchandise comes in. Get your name included - you never know what you could end up with as a result!

Do you have any advice for locating thrift stores? How have you found your favorites?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Outfit Post: Oooh, Prado!

(If you can guess the movie this post title came from, you win...nada. Sorry. But I'll still think you're  amazing. And that counts for something, right?)

I am a born a raised New York City girl. I took my first subway ride as a toddler, know the best place to get a kosher sour garlic pickle, learned to drive on the Grand Central Expressway (also known as the North American Autobahn) and can hale a cab like no one's business. As a result, I have planned many a NYC getaway for friends. There are certain activities that are simply non-negotiable, such as eating a bagel with lox and a schmear, walking through Central Park, visiting Ground Zero and seeing the latest exhibits at the MOMA and Met. However, another activity often falls high on the list: Taking in the knock-off's on Canal Street.

The whole Canal Street experience is slightly surreal and completely sinister. Imagine an overcrowded city neighborhood, bustling almost to suffocation with pedestrians, businessmen, tourists and schoolchildren. Approximately 96% of these people are Chinese. The air is perfumed with the scent of urine, moo shu pork, and body odor. Streets are crammed with teeny tiny little shops covered with iron gates, seemingly out of business. Then, suddenly, a signal is given, and the gates swing open to reveal enormous displays of fake bags, knock-off jeans, rows of watches, and logo-ed scarves. It's an orgy of Gucci, Chanel, and Burberry. Oh my!

Personally, I've found trips to Canal Street a kind of depressing experience. It's hard not to feel sad for those fake bags, pretending to be something they're not. And, even worse, there's the fear that some are authentic, and might have "fallen" off the back of a truck. The last thing anyone needs is a midnight visit from the Chinese mafia. And yet, I kind of get the allure of a Canal Street trip. It's the possibility of what you might see. Maybe you'll spy a mirror knockoff of the Louis Vuitton Neverfull you've been lusting for since 2006. Perhaps a shiny "Rolex" watch will beckon. Maybe a scrawny Chinese fellow will lead you to a secret-y secret underground shop filled with enough Marc Jacobs to induce swooning.You never know.

Though I don't carry knockoffs, I always thought a fake Vuitton or Chanel bag was an easy way to stick it to those yachting, champagne-swilling LVMH moneymen (aside from being totally and completely illegal. Which they are.) However, Scientific American's study regarding faux bags makes me reconsider. Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill, Harvard Business School, and Duke conducted a series of experiments that showed that people who wear (or believe they are wearing) counterfeit goods are also significantly more likely to cheat and lie.

In one study, a large sample of women were given Chloé sunglasses. The glasses were real, but half the women were told they were fake. Researchers asked them to take a math quiz and grade themselves on the honor principle. The results?
The women who thought they were wearing the fake Chloé shades cheated more - considerably more. Fully 70 percent inflated their performance when they thought nobody was checking on them-and, in effect, stole cash from the coffer.
The scientists concluded that "faking it makes us feel like phonies and cheaters on the inside, and this alienated, counterfeit 'self' leads to cheating and cynicism in the real world." What I would take from this study is this - if you give women doing studies trash, they will act like trash. Ouch. Then again, maybe it's that they were forced to take a test wearing sunglasses and couldn't see what they were doing.

So here I am, with my completely authentic, ridiculously overpriced (and thankfully gifted) Louis Vuitton Speedy. And I don't have to worry about being a victim of the Chinese mafia, or my conscience.

How do you feel about knock-off merchandise? Be honest - would you ever carry a fake bag?

Loft cardigan; J Crew Outlet silk blouse; thrifted Seven For All Mankind jeans; Stuart Weitzman ballet flats; Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 bag

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Outfit Post: Am I old?

The other night I cuddled up on the couch with a glass of wine and watched in the circus that is the Grammy Awards. I took in performances by Justin Bieber and Katy Perry and Cee-Lo, along with throngs of teenage girls (and boys) who screamed their little tousled heads off in appreciation. There was glitter, and Rhianna in a dress that looked like a collapsed wedding cake, and Nikki Minaj as Elvira Queen of the jungle.  

As I watched the awards, it dawned on me that not only had I never heard of some songs being performed, most of the artists looked pre-adolescent, undernourished and in desperate need of showering. I became more and more confused. Have Kim Kardashian and J. Lo morphed into one glamazon super-creature? Was that my perfect perfect Gwynnie writhing and moaning on Cee-Lo's piano? (and has Cee-Lo taken a second job substituting for a Mardi Gras float?) AND what in God's great name am I supposed to make of Gaga's egg arrival and shirtless gogo dancer minions? Was it some kind of pro-poultry STATEMENT? Will I be expected to carry signs and protest in front of a federal building this weekend??? Because I have plans, you know.

As the show continued, a fear struck deep into my heart: I am officially getting old.

Getting old terrifies me. It means I'm crotchety and old-fashioned. Old people watch PBS and clip coupons and drive under the speed limit and read the newspaper in the library and rail about the demise of society. They reminisce about a time when a hamburger cost a quarter and people waited until marriage to have sex. They sit across from each other in really depressing restaurants like Denny's and don't talk. Old women wear polyester underwear pulled to their chins and perfume from Estee Lauder and spend hours in the beauty parlor setting their hair. The music is always too loud and the lines are too long and it's too hot or too cold and OH DON'T WORRY ABOUT ME, I'LL JUST WAIT BY THE PHONE FOR YOU TO CALL, IT'S NOT LIKE I HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO. TOMORROW I MIGHT BE DEAD YOU KNOW.

There are lots of other signs which point to my almost elderly status:

My bedtime is creeping dangerously close to ten o'clock.
I aim for high fiber content.
I start sentences with "When I was your age..."
A movie and homemade dinner makes for a happening night.
I use the word "happening".

I sat awake most of the night, convinced I was going to suffer a stroke or heart attack or some other malady that strikes the elderly. But things looked different in the morning. I realized that there are lots of ways I remain youthful. For one, Fruit Loops are my most favorite meal ever. My tattoos certainly channel a young, risk-taking spirit. I love taking my kids to the playground and going down the slide. Ear-damaging loud concerts still make for the perfect night out. Experimenting with cosmetics at the MAC counter fills me with glee. I giggle over Spongebob and Pixar movies and can make a meal out of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And I know how to rock my skinny jeans.

I suppose this outfit is a combination of my young and old parts. The cardigan is a senior citizen meatloaf-and-green-bean early bird special, but the jeans are a twenty-something grad student on her way to meet friends for late-night cocktails.

Do you ever feel "old"? How do you deal with the aging process? Does your age affect your personal style?

Gap cardigan; thrifted J Crew long-sleeved tee; Paige Skyline skinny jeans; Via Spiga bag; Cole Haan loafers; Gap Outlet belt; Nordstrom necklace