Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thrifting 101, Part 10: Cleaning vintage leather

This week I made an epic thrifting score. On my way out of a newly discovered thrift and vintage shop, I spied an ancient Coach satchel hanging on a shelf near the register. The asking price was twenty bucks, which I deemed astronomical considering how beat up the bag looked. On closer inspection, I saw the damage was far worse than I initially expected. Two dark stains were prominent on the back and bottom of the bag, a water stain embellished one of the bag's sides, and the entire thing was covered in dust and grime.

In addition, the bag smelled as if it'd spent it's life on the arm of a two pack-a-day smoker.  I imagined the previous owner was named something like Tracy or Thelma, a woman who lived alone in a basement apartment with four cats and dined on TV dinners washed down with Pabst Blue Ribbon. This was a woman who listened to Dolly Parton and worked at a bowling alley. She was sassy, and wise-crackin', and wore Hanes sweatshirts decorated with puffy paint and rhinestones. Twenty-five years ago her boyfriend Hank surprised her with her very own Coach satchel for her birthday. I visualize this woman carrying the Coach during special events like casino night or bingo down at the Elk's Lounge, where it dangled from her arm while she took long luxurious drags from a cigarette. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually she and Hank broke up. No longer being able to stand memories of that miscreant, she pawned the bag for something really nice like a .38 revolver or electric rollers for her hair. And that's how it ended up at the thrift store. Or so I imagine.

I knew that with a little research on cleaning leather, and a lot of elbow grease, this Coach had potential. So I haggled the price down to $10 and walked it out of the store. As soon as I arrived home, I got to work.

Here's the bag before cleaning:

The first thing I did was remove the strap and wipe down the bag with a dry cloth to remove any loose dirt and dust.

Then I brought out products I purchased specifically for cleaning leather: Saddle soap, a dry white cloth, mink oil, three white cloths, and a pair of rubber gloves to protect my hands. I purchased all of these items at my local grocery store, though saddle soap is also available at most pet supply and equestrian shops. 

I began by gently rubbing a generous amount of saddle soap with a cloth to the bag, moving in small circles. I repeated this process over the entire bag, paying extra attention to the grimiest parts - the bottom and handle.

When finished, I rubbed a dampened white cloth on the bag to rise off the saddle soap. (Failure to rinse the soap could cause the leather to become dry and cracked.) I repeated the entire process to remove as much dirt and grime as possible.

When I finished cleaning and rinsing, I rubbed the bag with a clean dry cloth to remove any lingering moisture. Then I hand-applied the mink oil, which is used to condition and make leather water-resistant. I used the same process as I did with the saddle soap - rubbing in small circular motions gently over the entire bag, paying extra attention to the seams, handle and bottom. Using my hands helped warm the oil, allowing it to penetrate further than if I'd used a cloth. When finished I gave the bag one final wipe to remove any extra mink oil and buffed it with the cloth to make the bag really shine. The entire process took forty-five minutes from start to finish.

Here's the finished product. The bag is lustrous, soft and gorgeous. And look at all that dirt left on the cloth - ewww.

As an extra step, beeswax can be used on the bag's hardware to polish and help zippers run smoothly. Cleaning and conditioning vintage leather should be done every six to nine months in order to prevent cracks and damage from drying out.

And the smell? Well, that proved to be far more challenging to remove. I sent out a tweet requesting advice for removing cigarette smoke from leather and received a number of suggestions. Erin of Work With What You've Got instructed me to air the bag outdoors in the sun for a few days, filling it with dryer sheets for good measure. Tina of T Minus, T Plus mentioned I put the bag in the freezer to kill the odor. Kate of Divergent Musings suggested I stuff it into a plastic bag with Odor Eaters. Juanette of Fashion Nette-Work voted that I spritz the interior with Febreeze, while Erica of The Put Together Girl recommended I spray the interior with vodka (which roused a pretty hilarious debate between Erin, Tina, Julie, and Juanette, who thought it sacrilege to waste perfectly good vodka on a bag.)

Initially, I went the vodka route. When finished, the bag smells like an alcoholic cigarette smoker. Then I did a bit of research and came upon a tip to stuff the bag with a tube sock filled with baking soda. Voila! Cigarette odor significantly vanquished.

Do you have a thrifted leather item you were wondering how to clean? Have these tips encouraged you to give it a shot? Got any further advice regarding cleaning vintage leather? 

(Are you curious about the previous posts in my Thrifting 101 series? 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, recommendations for finding the best thrift and consignment stores, tips for determining what days are the best for thrifting, a post where I explained my love for thrifting, and advice regarding thrift store etiquette.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Outfit Post: Abercrombie's tween bikini top controversy and me

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I made a pact that we wouldn't learn the sex of our baby until he or she was born. Like many first time parents, we swore that we didn't care whether we were having a boy or a girl. "As long as it's a healthy baby, we'll be blessed!" we crowed.

Well, I was lying. Kinda. I really, really wanted a girl. I wanted a girl to dress in pink frilly clothes and coddle in a pink frilly nursery. I wanted to grow her hair out into teeny pigtails that would curl adorably at the ends. I wanted a girl to buy dolls for, to read Babysitter Club books with, to spoil with Barbies and stickers and a pink bicycle and Bonnie Bell lip gloss. I imagined afternoons shopping together, accompanying her during mommy-daughter manicures, and giggling with her over pre-teen crushes. My daughter and I would bond over such activities, and be best friends for life.

Imagine my delight when I did have a daughter. And imagine my shock when she turned out to be the consummate tomboy. Becky is ten years old and couldn't care less about Barbies and shopping and make-up. Her favorite books are those in the Captain Underpants series. And forget about make-up and manicures - she has to be nagged to brush her teeth.

However, the closer she gets to becoming a teenager, the more concerned I become about the pressure girls feel to mature before they're developmentally and emotionally ready. We live in a world where the rush to grow begins shortly after birth. You only have to glance at clothing and beauty products marketed to children to see proof. Pole-dancing kits have been available in the toy section of stores, Hooters Girl in Training t-shirts can be purchased for toddlers, and sequined bras and spa treatments are advertised at shops like Libby Lu.

However, products marketed to pre-adolescents can still shock. Abercrombie and Fitch Kids recently introduced padded bikini tops for children as young as eight, igniting controversy among parents and the media. Originally called the 'Ashley Push-Up Triangle Top' (the term push-up has since been dropped) the nylon and spandex garment features padded cups and a string-tied top. Part of the Abercrombie Kids summer collection, it retails for $19.50 and is sold separately from the matching bottoms.

When reading about this late last week, I immediately wondered how these tops made it into stores in the first place. The very idea of a padded swimsuit for tweens is disturbing in and of itself. Sadly, this is not the first time Abercrombie has marketed a controversial article of clothing targeted at pre-adolescents. A range of thongs bearing the words 'wink wink' and 'eye candy' sold by the retailer for the same age group in 2002 sparked a debate, but Abercrombie Kids refused to recall the line. The company said at the time: "The underwear for young girls was created with the intent to be lighthearted and cute. Any misrepresentation of that is purely in the eye of the beholder."

Not surprisingly, consumers and bloggers have had mixed reactions to what some consider a blatant attempt to sexualize young customers. Parents have flooded the ABC Facebook page with comments after a segment regarding the bikini aired on Good Morning America. bloggers posted that the push up bra is, effectively, a sex tool, designed to push the breasts up and out, putting them front and center where they’re more accessible to the eye. In an interview with the UK publication The Daily Mail, parenting expert Dr. Janet Rose said "
If we continue to try to make our children value 'sexy', I shudder to think what damage we are doing to their future self-concepts and adult values."

However, a minority of parents are arguing that padded bikini tops are functional and far from titillating. One commenter on Jezebel mentioned that lightly padded swimsuit tops encouraged her to be more comfortable with her own developing body when she was a pre-teen. Others added that extra padding provides more coverage and helps prevent the see-though effect some swimsuits have. Argued a commenter, "Padding does not necessarily mean push up, and it also does not mean sexualization. Padding means that your nipples will not show through."

Having not seen the actual swimsuit in question, I am hesitant to offer an opinion regarding it. I have no idea whether the top is lightly padded for coverage, or heavily padded to enhance developing breasts. However, as a parent, I am aware of the need to distinguish the difference between healthy sexuality and sexualization. I talk to my daughter about what's appropriate to wear and what's not. And I try to set a healthy example of what appropriate dressing means. I believe it is my responsibility to monitor and discuss age-appropriate milestones, such as padded bikinis (and bras, for that matter) with Becky. I never want her to feel inadequate or ashamed of her body, and I hope frequent discussion between us will help her foster a healthy body image.

Now I put this to you: What do you think of retailers marketing padded bikinis and bras to tweens? Do you think tween padded tops are scintillating or vulgar, or do you see them as a innocent and functional tool for body acceptance? Do you believe it is solely the parents’ responsibility to monitor age-appropriate milestones, or does the retailer have a moral obligation to do so as well? 

Thrifted J Crew velvet blazer; thrifted gray Gap sweater; thrifted Loft shorts; Hue tights; thrifted Cole Hann booties; Forever 21 necklace; Anthropologie bag

And here's one of my beautiful girl before the daddy-daughter. That bow in her hair is an anomaly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Outfit Post and event recap! Pretty bloggers at Park Lane Dallas

On Saturday I had an an invitation from Tina of T Minus T Plus to attend the Progressive Fashion Blogger Event at The Shops at Park Lane in Dallas. The social media director of Park Lane, Nichole Luna, hosted the event, and our group of twelve had a fantastic time meeting store managers, getting swag, and enjoying lunch, all courtesy of the shops. In addition to 600,000 square feet of great shopping and restaurants, Park Lane offers outdoor jazz concerts, events for children and moms, and is located directly across from HWY 75 and Northpark Mall, an upscale shopping destination that entertains over 21 million visitors a year.

We started out at Whole Foods, which immediately made me regret not eating breakfast that morning. Everything looked incredibly fresh. The Park Lane Whole Foods is a flagship store, and the largest in North Texas. It was impeccably clean, modern, and easy to navigate. We drank free samples of kombucha tea (which smelled kind of like mushrooms but tasted surprisingly fruity) and had a full tour of the store.

Whole Foods believes in environmentally respectful and conscious eating, and the store reflected the clean lifestyle they encourage.  One of my favorite things was a vintage cigarette machine they had refurbished into a dispenser for crafts by local artists. For $5, you could purchase an original piece of artwork or jewelry from a machine that looked like a piece of art in itself. I was blown away.

After Whole Foods we walked over to Ulta. The front of the store was devoted to prestige brands, such as Elizabeth Arden, Neostrata and Borghese, as well as top-tier skin care lines, such as Murad. We also checked out the Benefit cosmetics and brow bar and got a chance to play around with some of the cosmetics, including their popular Benetint. The Park Lane Ulta also has a full service salon, including an on-staff brow specialist. Ulta gifted us with a ton of samples to try, including a full size Stila lipgloss. That was awesome.

Then it was onto Nordstrom Rack, where I spied 39425 pairs of Frye boots (on super sale!) that I lusted for, racks of designer jeans, spring dresses in a huge range of styles and sizes, and a display of Betsey Johnson watches and earrings so glorious I almost cried. Almost. My style guru/friend Juanette of Fashion Nette-Work won a Marc Jacobs watch in a giveaway just for our group. I actually squealed out loud when she won. It was that good.

 Juanette and Katie of Fashion Dinosaur

Once we finished touring the store, we stopped by Gordon Biersch for lunch provided by Park Lane. Despite a gusty wind, it was a really pretty day, and we ate outside on the patio. I had a hummus salad with chicken and fresh pita bread that was divine, though I honestly had trouble choosing what to order - the menu was huge, and everything sounded good. For dessert we were treated to frozen yogurt at Fresh Berry. Unfortunately, I was too stuffed from lunch to have any, but it looked super delicious.

Frozen yogurt finished, we walked across the street for glasses of champagne and a tour at Baileys Prime Plus. Between the sexy bar, glamorous private dining rooms, and glass-walled wine cellar, it felt very chic. It was the perfect place to take a date or host a group event.

Then it was onto the Aveda Store and Institute. Containing a full service spa, hair salon and cosmetology school, the Institute was huge, and smelled invitingly of Aveda's signature mint and rosemary scent. We toured the facility and I dreamed of a time when I could spend a day there indulging in a massage, facial, and mani/pedi. Aveda generously gifted all of us with pedicure in the salon, and I'm really looking forward to going back.

A HUGE thank you to Tina and Park Lane Dallas for hosting such a wonderful event. I went home with bags of samples, coupons and gifts, a group of new blogs I can't wait to catch up on, and a mental list of things I want to buy for spring. Oh boy. And tremendous thanks to Ivonne and Katie for the pics here. Somehow I accidentally deleted mine while uploading. Yes, I am an idiot.

Attendees: From top row, left to right:
  1. Juanette from Fashion nette-work
  2. Hayley from Hey, It’s Hayley
  3. Chris from My Fashion Juice
  4. Isabel from Style Geek and Dallas Fashion Connect
  5. Stephanie from Beauty and Gardens
  6. Julie from Rosie + Tart
  7. That's moi
  8. Ivonne from Ivonne Stacy Style
  9. Tina from T Minus, T Plus
  10. Katie from Fashion Dinosaur (check out that crinoline! Do want.)
Here's what I wore:

The Spice Rack vintage sequin jacket; thrifted vintage silk tank; vintage thrifted silk skirt; vintage thrifted belt; Forever 21 oxfords; vintage thrifted bag; Forever 21 pyramid bracelet; Forever 21 hoops

Forever 21 pyramid bracelet; Betsey Johnson watch; heirloom diamond tennis bracelet; James Avery sterling silver ring

Monday, March 28, 2011

Outfit Post: My first kiss went a little like this...

Today I am wearing shorts with tights and boots. The last time I sported this look was in 1988. I had a really unfortunate perm and spent hours making mix tapes (y'all know what a cassette is, right? It's a demonic device that get tangled and twisted and eventually knotted into one gigantic mess that leaves you swearing and defeated.) I had also just received my first kiss, and drew the following conclusions about kissing and life in general:
  1. Kissing is disgusting. 
  2. Kissing is gross. 
  3. Kissing is overrated.
  4. I will never kiss anyone ever again. 
  5. Ever.
These sentiments were not exactly those I expected to have after fourteen years of watching the birthday-cake-sitting-on-the-kitchen-table kissing scene in Sixteen Candles, and the dropping-the-purse-in-the-rain-in-the-parking-lot-after-prom kissing scene in Pretty in Pink.

I met First Kiss during a spring break jaunt with my family to a friend's farm in Upstate NY. He was a sixteen year old country boy with sandy blond hair that fell into his eyes in a sexy, pre-Justin Bieber sort of way. For a week we swam together in the lake, went out for ice cream, and talked around the fire late into the evenings. On my last day of my trip he led me into a barn, through dusty horse stalls and towards a dark corner. I knew in my head that he was going to kiss me that day. He knew I had never been kissed, and that I wanted my first kiss to be with him. Plus, I was fourteen and scared that if I didn’t kiss someone (him) soon I would surely die an old maid.

He leaned across and took me by surprise. Instead of the lustful, drawn-out, passionate staring into one another's eyes I expected before our mouths met, I felt a forceful smash of the lips to the face and a tongue halfway down my throat (or so it felt.) It was too wet, too slimy, too aggressive.There was no romance. No passion. I felt disgusted and duped, but I also knew that wasn't how it was supposed to feel. Unfortunately, that kiss did repel me from kissing for quite awhile. I seriously thought that I could never enjoy it. Ever.

Thankfully, I dated a lot of boys after First Kiss, and I eventually learned that as intimate as a kiss is, it's even better when it's with someone who really knows what they're doing. One should not need a shower after being kissed. The lips should not feel bruised. And if the sensation of being choked is present, run like hell. Sure, there's a time for full blown, against the wall, hands on the face, unrestrained passionate kissing accompanied by the frantic removal of clothing. But then again, a sweet brushing of the lips, simple in its intent, is just as delicious.

I was thinking of First Kiss when I got dressed this morning. Surely he'd approve of my tights under shorts styling. Despite the fact that it's been years since I pulled off this look, I think I did pretty well.

What was your first kiss like? Did it intrigue you, or repel you? Do you think bad kissing is a relationship deal-breaker? And how do you feel about the denim shorts with tights revival?

Gap windowpane blouse; Gap Outlet tee (under blouse); Gap denim shorts) Gap Outlet belt; target tights; thrifted J Crew boots; Gap crossbody belt; Plato's Closet leather belt

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week in Review: March 21st (with a love-fest for Twitter)

If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be writing a bog about personal style, and taking my picture everyday, I would have 1. Laughed in your face, and 2. Found you a reputable psychiatrist because CLEARLY you were going through some kind of psychotic break. And yet here I am, blogging and writing and taking pictures of myself. And working social media like a pimp turns out a ho.

Social media has become a huge part of my life. Through simple research, I've learned how to use Ping; which tools are best for analyzing my blog's analytics; and how to set up a Facebook fan page. For someone who a year ago had just figured out how to attach a document to an email, my participation into the field of social media has been nothing short of monumental.

If you know me, you know I'm a Twitter girl. I get my news from Twitter. I make friends on Twitter. Twitter brings me information on my canceled TV shows (goodbye, Perfect Couples...I hardly got to know you...sob), jokes about Charlie Sheen, tips regarding writing a better blog, and endless coupon codes, sales news, and information regarding new shipments from my favorite stores.

Since creating my Twitter account three months ago, a strange phenomenon has started. I think in Twitter. The challenge of constructing a witty, informational, memorable bite of communication in 140 characters delights me in the way I imagine a crossword puzzle does to more sophisticated people. (For the record, I am most definitely not a a puzzle fan. Crossword puzzles frustrate the hell out of me and reduce me to crying and rocking back and forth in a fetal position on the floor.)

I often wish real life was like Twitter. People would be much, much more concise. We'd say only what we really needed to. We'd think more carefully. They're be no more redundant, long-winded discussions. No more horrible phone calls where you're trapped by ceaseless chatter from a relative who insists on exploring whether the term bon appetit is French or Italian and did you know that before 1861 Italy was fragmented into numerous kingdoms and city-states? You know these one-sided conversations with elderly relatives. And you know how they make your blood pressure rise.

If I read something on Twitter that's not interesting to me, I simply don't reply. You only talk about the things you want to, when you want to. And even then, in short little bursts.

So, if you're not following me on Twitter, maybe you should. Let's be friends. Because you'll find no more eager participant than me. And I retweet the things I find interesting, amusing, or useful a lot. So you can share the wealth of my coupon codes, Charlie Sheen jokes and updates regarding television programming.

NOW, here's what went down on Dress With Courage this week:

I'd also like to take a moment and welcome all my new followers (wave!) Thank you for your continued support and thoughtful comments. I really love reading what you share. I don't like to brag, but I have some of the most intelligent readers around. There. I said it. That just happened.

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please consider becoming a follower through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter, or becoming a Facebook fan. As a relatively new blogger, I get ridiculously excited when reading a new comment or gaining a new follower. I appreciate you all so much!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Outfit Post: Tiptoe through the tulips

It has recently come to my attention that this blog has veered away from it's original intent. See, when I began blogging, I thought my posts would be based around daily outfits and include no further content. There'd be outfit pics, details concerning said outfit pics, and a few cutesy quirky sentences full of puns and humor and double ententes for entertainment. You know, just to break things up a little. However, after a few days of those type of posts, I tumbled down the rabbit hole and the real me spilled out.

The real me likes to talk. A lot. The real me also enjoys ranting. Blessedly, the two are easily combined into one snarky, sarcastic entity here on this blog. I have ranted against rompers, sleezy Valentine's Day lingerie, the weather, being sick, hoarding, working out, fake bags, people who wear pajamas in public, fashion-related ridiculous, and flash-sale sites. To be honest, exaggerated, unadulterated hatred expressed through blog rants is an exhilarating and liberating activity. Writing is a therapeutic outlet for frustration. And damm if there aren't a lot of things that frustrate the heck out of me.

But I'll admit that truly, deep down, I am a lover.

I love all sorts of things, and I love LOTS of stuff. I love dive bars, brunch, Modern Family, Morrissey, whiskey, the sounds of my kid's laughing, thrifting, New York City, Twitter, cowboy boots, new books, that epic moment when a song on the radio ends just as you're pulling into your destination, Greg Laswell, road trips, manicures, getting a package in the mail, singing the national anthem at a baseball game, spring, fishing, disaster movies, Fage yogurt, seeing a dog chasing it's own tail, vintage pickup trucks, old men who wear overalls, red wine, and even a certain handful of special people. (You know who you are. All of you. Duh.)

For today, let's put the ranting to the side and focus on a thing I really love - the Dallas Arboretum.

The Dallas Arboretum makes me happy, in a little girl squealy sort of way. Being outdoors, walking through the trails of the Arboretum, with fields and trees and flowers on one side of me and White Rock lake on the other, satisfies something deep in my soul. I believe it's the best place to be in Dallas on a pretty day. Go ahead, try to come up with another one.  Well, a restaurant patio complete with ice cold beer, good friends and basket of fried pickles comes close. But the Arboretum still wins.

Every year in March the Arboretum hosts an event called Dallas Blooms. Thousands of spring flowers are on display in an almost overwhelming burst of color. On a warm early afternoon it seems like the entire city fills the Arboretum, taking photos and picnicking and posing their tiny adorable children in their pretty pastel Easter dresses in the middle of a flower field. School buses drop off children for field trips, and carloads of senior citizens arrive in white sneakers and sandals with socks. 

Tulips, azaleas, hyacinth, poppies, and daffodils made for the perfect backdrop for outfit pics taken by completely random strangers. Thank you, random strangers, for allowing me to pretend I am zee world famous model. I appreciate it.

Thrifted Fossil dress; Old Navy tights; thrifted boots; Plato's Closet leather bracelet

What are some things that you love? What random things make you squeally happy?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Feminism

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!

1. Do you think there is an incompatibility between feminism and a love for fashion?

Some would argue that there is definitely an incompatibility between fashion and feminism. If you examine the development of fashion trends throughout history, it seems apparent that women have dressed and presented themselves to conform to standards set by the patriarchy (i.e corsets, push-up bras, the demurring fashion of the 1950's.) With the emergence of the fat acceptance movement and plus-size advocates, this mindset is beginning to change. “Feminist writers have consistently argued that a woman’s attempt to cultivate her appearance makes her a dupe of fashion, the plaything of men, and thus a collaborator in her own oppression… Though this wisdom has seldom been open to question as a matter of principle, it has always produced discord at the level of practice,” says Linda Scott an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois in her book Fresh Lipstick.

In addition, the fashion industry is largely about money.  Cosmetics, clothes, and other beauty tools are a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Particular brands and styles are promoted because there is money to be made, and profits to be enjoyed. Often there is zero connection between comfort, figure flattery and fashion trends (hello, stilettos.) We live in a culture where for women beauty, success, and glamour have a very high price tag attached, and that to be an accomplished, modern, sexy woman, you have to look the part—in a $4,000 dress and $400 shoes, of course. Some women buy clothes to communicate class and power over other women, establishing competitiveness between them. Our capitalist society encourages this behavior.

However, I believe that embracing femininity is about embracing everything about womanhood, both outside and in. If wearing make-up, flattering clothing and expressing my own unique style through fashion is a way I express my femininity, that's empowering. And isn't that what feminism is all about?

2. There is more to each of us than a love for fashion. How do you incorporate every aspect of yourself into your blog?

My blog is a truly honest expression of who I am. I discuss topics that I'm interested in and that I feel others can relate to as well. In my blog, I'm been open about my eating disorder, role as a mom, and importance of fashion and authenticity in regards to who I am. My blog is about embracing our own unique sense of style and shaking off the "should's" - what we should wear, how we "should" present ourselves. It's about being courageous through fashion and style, and that's how I live every day.

3. With the fashion industry still being a male-dominated profession, how do you think it would differ if women played a larger role?

I strongly believe that if women dominated the fashion industry, body acceptance would be a priority. It would bring the end to the ultra-thin models that walk down the runways and appear in magazines.  Fashion might become more about comfort and utility than restriction, and about self-expression and individuality rather than trends.

4. How is your self-image and the way you carry yourself informed by your beliefs?

I work really, really hard to accept my flaws, especially in the context of my eating disorder. A large part of my recovery concerns body acceptance and embracing the womanliness of my figure. For years I struggled to restrict the curves I was meant to have. I dressed to hide my figure. Now, I try to not only accept how I look, flaws and all, but show off my curves in a tasteful and flattering way. I believe that establishing a stronger sense of personal style not only permits me to express my femininity, but also makes me feel more empowered and self-confident.

5. Do you think clothing/makeup/hair helps communicate the truth about yourself or are those things superfluous add-ons?

Fashion is something that makes me happy. Through thrifted and vintage clothes, I can create a unique sense of personal style that I find deeply gratifying. As I continue to examine fashion and beauty as an individual choice, the more apparent it becomes that these things help communicate the true me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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

This week Dress With Courage was featured in 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. For fashion and style bloggers it's like crack. Not that I've tried it, but like I've seen on Intervention. Anyways, I've learned so much about blogging through IFB and made from pretty wonderful friends through the 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 seventh feature in Links A La Mode, a pretty amazing feat considering I've only been blogging for four months.  I am so grateful to be included with such talented, stylish, and informative bloggers. Here's the feature with my link:

As the World Turns

Edited by Fajr of

With so much going on in the world, the Japan earthquake, the upheaval in Libya, the aftermath of John Galliano’s actions and the social phenomenon that is Charlie Sheen, it’s great to see the fashion blogging community talking about the issues and bringing a little light with the fancy of fashion! Included in this week’s amazing links: Shopping to Aid Japan Relief, an outfit post for Charlie Sheen, exploring the new neon trend and behind the scenes of how Hermes scarves are made!

Links à la Mode: March 24th


Thrifting 101, Part 9: Thrifting Etiquette

So yesterday I almost got into a fistfight. While scouring Goodwill, on an endless quest for vintage maxi skirts and silk tanks and sequins sequins sequins, I happened upon a gorgeous vintage sequined crewneck sweater. It was just lying there, all sad and lonely and abandoned, on a rack outside the dressing room. Magpie that I am, attracted to anything sparkly, sequined and shiny, I walked towards the sweater in a trance-like state, hands trembling in anticipation. This lovely sweater was mine. Or so I thought. The moment I laid hands on it, a furious middle-aged woman flew out of the dressing room, screeching that the sweater was hers, and WHO DO I THINK I AM TAKING HER CLOTHES??? I consider myself pretty scrappy, but I'm not about to get shanked over an article of clothing. So I skulked away, head hung, muttering half-hearted apologies as I departed.

Thrifting is a complicated process. It is not about dropping into a store and immediately finding what you need. There are no guarantees you will find success. There are also no hints in regards to how long a thrifting expedition will take. Thrift stores are not the venue for you if you need instant gratification, are working with time limits, or are otherwise unwilling or unable to dig. It’s a delicate dance of give and take, steadfastness, perseverance, and restraint.  

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, recommendations for finding the best thrift and consignment stores, a post about determining what days are the best for thrifting, and I explained my love for thrifting.

While nursing my defeated ego yesterday, I realized that some of my fellow thrifters could use a post in Thrifting Etiquette 101. So I offer up a few hints to keep in mind for future thrift adventures.

  • Don't shop down the racks in the path of another shopper. It's much easier to go with the flow, in the direction of other shoppers, even if that means following behind someone and not getting first dibs. You’ll also have more time to mull over items instead of doing that awkward sidestep-fall in the rack. In addition, don't let your cart monopolize the aisle. Park it within sight of where you are.
  • If something falls off the hanger, pick it up. At the least, throw it over the rack so it’s off the floor. Maybe it's my years of retail experience talking here but it really bothers me when people blatantly see things fall on the floor and just step over it, or worse…step on it.
  • Don't hide or secretly squander merchandise you think you might come back for. If you aren't immediately drawn to it, leave it for someone else.
  • No taking other people’s stuff out of their shopping carts while they are indisposed in the restroom, the dressing room, or otherwise not smart enough to guard their things. This will lead to hostility on the part of the person returning to their cart only to discover that their vintage polka-dot blouse is now in someone else’s possession. Note my near-smackdown above for proof.
I have seen people gazing longingly at another customer's items piled in their carts. For some, the temptation is too great to bear. Before the unsuspecting shopper knows it, their cart has been pillaged and treasures stolen. I have been that unsuspecting shopper. The one-of-a-kind nature of thrift stores, filled with unique items, make perfectly normal people behave rather ungraciously (I yearn to use more colorful language, but I'm a lady and trying to work on my manners.) Unlike a traditional retail stores, there are no copies in The Back.

  •  No stalking employees while they're wheeling new merchandise out onto the floor. It's creepy, and might get you kicked out. Store employees do not care that you MUST HAVE the red Christmas sweater circa 1984 on their rolling rack, the one you spied leaving the back room and have been stalking like a famished cheetah circles a herd of axis deer. That red sweater might be the jackpot in your virtual casino, but control yourself and wait patiently for said item to be hung. Then it's fair play.
Do you have any tips regarding thrifting etiquette? What's the worst display of behavior you've seen in a thrift store?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Outfit Post: How many sizes hang in your closet?

Yesterday, emboldened by the suddenly warm weather, I decided embark on an epic quest to clean out my closet. One of the things I insisted on when we relocated here to Dallas was a  walk-in closet in the master bedroom. As a former New Yorker raised in teeny tiny apartments, I've spent the majority of my post-adolescent life daydreaming of the Perfect Closet. As a result, my closet fantasies have grown increasingly intricate for a space some might consider insignificant (and by some, I mean men. Men whose footwear is limited to a pair of Chucks and scuffed black dress shoes. You know those men.)  

My Perfect Closet is a spacious, airy room, flooded by daylight from floor-to-ceiling windows and antique chandeliers. Anchored by a pink quilted fainting couch, it features custom-designed closet rods designed to bear the considerable weight of maxi skirts, dresses, jeans and blazers. Perfect Closet also includes a generous array of padded, compartmentalized drawers to hold jewelry, lingerie, tights and socks. Rows and rows of shelves are dedicated to shoes, organized by color, heel height, and brand. Floor-length mirrors make it possible for me to know exactly what I look like without relying on my husband's opinion (which is always the same. "Uh, you look great...I mean hot...I mean thin. Yeah, that's it.") Perfect Closet comes fully equipped with an Italian seamstress and Italian-English interpreter for said seamstress. It would always be immaculate; it would always be organized; and it would always smell like clean laundry, suede, and Gucci Envy.

Basically, imagine Mariah Carey's closet, but with less glitter and butterflies.

Dream lover, come rescue me.

Naturally, the reality of my closet doesn't quite meet with the fantasy. Instead of custom-made shoe cabinets and padded drawers, it features haphazard mounds of rejected potential outfits, belts intertwined in a sexually suggestive manner, and twisted wayward hangers. However, it's a walk-in, and includes plenty of room for my ever-growing collection of vintage clothes and whatever intriguing crap I haul home from the Goodwill.

While struggling through Project Closet Purge yesterday, I couldn't help but notice that the size of my garments varied. Widely. One shirt was a XS; two skirts, one a size four and one an 8, shared a hanger; another top was a M. I recently learned that the majority of women have a minimum of three sizes in their wardrobe. What gives? I have a number of theories:

  • Weight fluctuations: We all have things we can't wear because they're too big or too small. Many of us own articles of clothing in "aspirational sizes" - items in smaller sizes we either used to wear, or own merely to emotionally flagellate ourselves into eating less and exercising more. I'm always reluctant to get rid of items that don't fit. It makes sense: I spent good money them! And I might even love that blouse/dress/pair of jeans! Having an emotional attachment to an item certainly makes it more challenging to part with. Furthermore, if your weight yo-yo's,  there's a little voice in the back of your head whispering keep it, you might wear it again. And there's really no way to know if this voice is right.
  • Complex Proportions: Quite often (and this will simply shock you) our bodies refuse to conform to one size. Occasionally, and stop me if you've heard this, your top half and bottom half are different sizes. Large-busted and small-hipped; small on top and larger bottom; tiny waist and fuller hips; broad-shouldered and petite. Most clothes rarely account for such wide variations. Traditional sizing revolves around six different body types: round, inverted triangle, hourglass, pear, diamond, and straight. However,  today's fashion industry has replaced the six different categories with two terms, “bottom-” or “top” heavy, with multiple combinations between each. A Google search regarding dressing for your body type revealed over eleven million pages. It's no wonder our closets hold so many sizes.
  • Standardized Sizing Is A Joke: This is ridiculous and not discussed enough. If you wear a Small T-shirt from the Gap, you'll need a Medium at Abercrombie & Fitch. If you wear a size two at Loft, you'll need a four or six at Urban Outfitters. Occasionally, even garments sold at the same store won't have congruent sizing. Take Target and Old Navy. I've bought the same style pants in different colors, all in the same size. One pair was too big, one too small, and one just right. There is no reasonable explanation for this. Nothing causes more cognitive dissonance for me than to know that my beloved faux leather bomber jacket from Target is an XL while the T-shirt I'm wearing under it is a small.
  • Vanity Sizing: According to Wikipedia, vanity sizing, also known as size inflation, is used to refer to the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming larger over time. So pants you purchase in stores today might be two to three sizes smaller than those you purchased five years ago, despite no change to your weight. Vanity sizing, as its name suggests, is designed to satisfy buyers' wishes to appear thin and feel better about themselves. However, in the end, you have no clue what size you really are.
Of course, it doesn't
matter how many sizes you have. But I'm curious - have you struggled with sizing issues? Do emotional attachments make it difficult for you to get rid of things? Do you purchase clothes in aspirational sizes as a weight loss or fitness goal? What do you think about vanity sizing? Has it affected how you shop? And...just for fun...what does your dream closet look like? 

Thrifted Target blazer; thrifted Romeo and Juliet Couture tee; thrifted vintage Ann Taylor silk skirt; Gap Outlet tights; Urban Outfitters 6x6 booties; Gap crossbody bag; Forever 21 bracelet; Betsey Johnson watch

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Outfit Post: Favorite lipstick, rest in peace

I need to ask for a moment of silence.

It appears that at some point during last weekend's Texas Style Council Conference, while tweeting and eating Tex-Mex and drinking and getting hit on by lonely hobo hipsters and singing karaoke and blogging, I lost my most favorite lipstick. I have done the things most of us do when realizing we've misplaced something: Freaked out, emptied my purses, tore apart my suitcase, had a panic attack, checked all my pockets, cleaned out my SUV, freaked out some more, and, eventually, stoically and tearfully accepted that the lipstick was gone (sniff sniff.)

The lipstick in question was MAC's Viva Glam. It was the perfect almost-red color - glossy, creamy, and not too bright. No matter what I was wearing, this lipstick made me feel gorgeous. (I should also add that this lipstick was my introduction into the wonderful world of MAC cosmetics, my obsession on which has become a bit of a Problem. I used a capital P, to emphasize the serious nature of this situation.) Viva Glam reminded me of my early childhood, when I'd perch on the corner of my bathroom sink and watch my mom apply her make-up. My mother was an intense hoarder of cosmetics. Eyeshadows spilled from Zip-Loc bags. Blushes were crammed into shoe boxes. Nail polishes, in a rainbow of colors, lined our medicine cabinet. Every morning my mom and I would crowd into our teeny tiny NYC apartment bathroom and I'd watch, enthralled, as she powdered and plucked and painted herself into an eighties glamazon. A final spritz of Dior's Poison capped off her opulent, somewhat embalmed look. I was smitten.

MAC's Viva Glam had a similar effect. It transformed me from a harried suburban mom into a chic gamine Aubrey Hepburn-type, the kind of woman who wears kitten heels and smokes unfiltered French cigarettes and drinks red wine at 1 pm while listening to Edith Pilaf records. This woman also has a collection of Hermes Birkin bags, drives a vintage Jaguar XKE convertible, and owns a flat in Buenos Aires. She and her sultry Latin boyfriend spend afternoons wandering through art galleries, eating tapas, and making love on an antique mahogany bed draped in filmy linen. They serve cocktails in vintage barware, vacation in Budapest, and spend their free time collecting feminist art with which to decorate their Moroccan-inspired, zebra-carpeted, Rococo chandelier-ed home.

I want to be this woman.

In my MAC Viva Glam, I believed I was one step closer. Without it I'm, well, me. Cheapskate, half-hearted cook, insomniac, thrifter, slow typist, and procrastinator of most household chores. And unfortunate object-loser. (Editor's Note: Yesterday I also lost my favorite ring. THANK GOD NOT MY ENGAGEMENT RING, or I'd have serious issues.) My life is about as scintillating as a shampoo commercial.

Do you have a favorite lipstick? Are you loyal to a certain brand? Care give a recommendation? Because I could certainly use a pick-me-up.

Here I am, sans awesomesauce lipstick and sultry Latin boyfriend.

Forever 21 linen shirt; Forever 21 floral top; Citizens of Humanity jeans; vintage thrifted Coach bag; Gap sandals; Forever 21 rhinestone bracelets; Forever 21 feather earrings

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oufit Post: In which I rant against rompers

* I begin with a disclaimer. A list of things I DO NOT HATE. Pay attention because it's important for you to know that although I DO HATE some things, I am not a HATER. I do not drink of the haterade, as it were.

  • People who wear rompers.
  • People who manufacture rompers.
  • People who sell rompers.
  • People who buy rompers.
  • People who model rompers.
  • People who design rompers.
  • People who vehemently disagree.
  • People who won't even bother to read this.

Got it? Okay, good, so let's begin.

I hate rompers. I hate rompers because: 
  • They don't fit me. Truth be told, most rompers are designed for tall thin girls who smoke gauloises cigarettes and drink vokda tonics and somehow manage to look gorgeously glamorous without washing their hair for 10 days. Such as my friend Erin, who bought a denim romper in Austin and looks amaze-balls in it.  For short women with inner thighs and non-concave stomachs, such as myself, rompers are extremely difficult to pull off. Last summer I wasted countless hours trying in vain to find a romper that was both flattering and and didn't remind me of toddler wear. This was an epic fail. At some point I had to pause to ask myself "WHY, Elissa, are you continuing on such a pointless, torturous, emotional quest?" So I stopped. And my world became bucolic again.
  • They are not comfortable. I know there are many women out there who will argue this point. "But it's one piece and so comfy!" they'll squeal. In my experience, the crotch-to-neck ratio of a romper is designed for someone with no torso. And let's not even talk about the camel-toe, because I'm too much of a lady to go there. AND, you're probably wondering why I'm so educated with the fit of rompers. Well, at one point, I actually did own one. Every time I slipped it on I wondered how such a seemingly innocent article of clothing managed to fit beautifully at the waist and arms but pulled at my neck and, uh, ladybits and made me feel like I was being STRANGLED AND OH MY GOD GET THIS THING OFF OF ME. And then there's the issue of wedgies. I rest my case.
  • Dresses/skirts/pants/shorts/capris (well, that one's debatable) are infinitely more flattering than a romper. I luuuuve to wear a dress. I look better in a skirt. I feel feminine and comfortable (and do not have to spend a minute worrying about crotch issues.) My husband agrees, but that doesn't really matter because what I wear is a big part of how I express myself and how I take care of myself. If I wore a romper two days a week, I'd be spending two days a week not doing what makes me happy or what makes me feel good. In a world of bills and stress and devastating earthquakes and tsunamis why not do something that makes you happy?

Now, I ask you: Is there an article of clothing that you just don't get? Are you a fan of rompers? Am I being redonkulous?

Thrifted Junk Food Lynard Skynard tee; thrifted Paige jeans; Target belt; Gap sandals; Urban Outfitters necklace; Plato's Closet leather bracelet; eBay gold and turquoise bracelet; World Market Catholic saints bracelet; Marc Jacobs watch; Fossil turquoise earrings

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Week in Review: March 12th

Dear Texas,

You have betrayed me. Hard.

The day I learned I'd be leaving Iowa and moving back to you was one of the happiest of my life. I was overjoyed to return to your perpetually sunny skies, blazing hot temperatures, traffic-clogged highways, and hilariously accented people. I couldn't wait to wear my cowboy boots in public without fear of being mocked. I memorized the date of the first spring rodeo in Mesquite. I knew this was it for me, Texas. The tears of joy I shed when crossing the state line from Oklahoma were genuine. Finally, we were together. I was convinced this was it. No more moving trucks, no more relocations. We had a love that was meant to last.

How have you shown your appreciation for me? Well, you gave me a February most Texans will fondly remember as Icepocalypse 2011. You have also left me in a perpetual state of illness since oh, last summer. From strep throat, to poison oak, to stomach viruses, to sinus infections, to bronchitis, to pneumonia, you've knocked me around pretty hard. Like many spouses in abusive relationships, I continue to come to your defense. "Well, yeah, I was in bed for three weeks and lost my voice from coughing so badly. But pneumonia wasn't that bad." "This medicine might taste vile, but at least it has codeine in it!"

This week you knocked me down again, Texas. The brightest spot in my day happened when I realized I could breath through one nostril. Some would consider that progress. But this is getting ridiculous. A girl can only put up with so much. Much like your delectable pulled pork sandwiches, my immune system is shredded. I've grown accustomed to weekly doctor visits and steroid shots in the butt. But this has got to stop. I just can't take anymore. Everyone has their limits, and I'm at mine.

I still love you, though. It's not you, it's me. Let's try to work things out.

While I'm sobbing into a tissue, take a look at what went down on Dress With Courage this week:

I'd also like to take a moment and welcome all my new followers (wave!) I nearly peed myself when I broke 100 followers last weekend, Y'all have no idea. It's kind of embarrassing. Thank you for your continued support and thoughtful comments. I really love reading what you share. I think I have some of the most intelligent, thoughtful readers out there!

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please consider becoming a follower through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter, or becoming a Facebook fan. As a relatively new blogger, I get ridiculously excited when reading a new comment or gaining a new follower. I appreciate you all so much!