Thursday, April 28, 2011

Petite Fashion Challenge #7: LBD

I'm going on my second month of participating in the Petite Fashion Challenge, and this month's challenge (graciously hosted by the Little Dust Princess, blog here) is:

This Month's Challenge: "The Little Black Dress"
A little black dress (LBD) is essential in every woman's wardrobe. It's always great for back-up if you run out of outfit ideas for a night out. Adding a pop of colour to your LBD will change up its look and make your dress a little less boring.

For this challenge, add a pop of colour (or two) to your little black dress to change up the look. You could add anything from an accessory to a blazer, or even nail polish!

Given my new introduction to skinny belts and how they can add pizazz to any outfit, my "spin" on the little black dress is pretty simple - the addition of a thin silver belt to add definition to the waist.  Oddly, I get Audrey Hepburn vibes from this look - so I decided to also jazz up my picture with some bling (please forgive the terrible photo-shopping skills) :)

Also paired with the LBD is one of my favorite jackets from White House, Black Market.  The mark of a good jacket is something that can serve as a statement piece alone (or, in this case, amp up a LBD). 

Little Black Dress - Jones New York (purchased at TJMaxx ages ago and still being worn!)
Shoes - Christian Louboutin, Sz 6
Belt - Banana Republic Silver Belt with Bow Detail
Jacket - White House, Black Market
Jewelry - Courtesy of Google Images and the Paint Function on my Computer!

Hope you enjoyed my impromptu post (busy weeks calls for older pictures + creativity rather than toiling in front of my camera trying to capture a decent self-portrait - oh, and the Paint function).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Re-soling Louboutins

After I was promoted last May, I decided that I was going to drop a serious wad of cash on a pair of shoes that would give me that added bit of confidence for scary work situations (e.g., presenting in front of a group of executives).  So, a pair of Christian Louboutin black leather Simple 100's were my item of choice!  These ladies instill confidence by 1) giving me about 4 inches of additional height, 2) look fierce with their painted red soles (even people not aware of the Louboutin signature sole have remarked on how stunning the red soles are), and 3) with some minor adjustments and upkeep, may go down in history as the best pair of shoes I have ever owned. 

Now that I've taken these shoes out for a few spins, the red sole has started rubbing off and have turned my fabulous red-soled shoes into my less-than-fabulous red-scuffed shoes.  But hope arrived in the form of Wendy's post about re-soling her Louboutins (find here).  Soon after reading this post, I Googled "soles for Louboutin shoes" and up popped a link to eBay hooking me up with Red Vibram Rubber Soles for Christian Louboutin Shoes.  Once I received my purchase, I took my shoes and the soles to my trusty cobbler, and 3 days later, my little beauties were back to being completely red on the bottom. 

A few learnings from this experience (you know, to apply to the next pair of Louboutin's I buy!):
1.  Most cobblers will have the red vibram rubber soles in stock (they must use it for other shoes), so check first before you go off and spend additional $$ buying them yourself (I paid $10 for mine).
2.  Ask the cobbler to stop the sole at the point where your shoe lifts off the ground.  I personally would have preferred that the vibram sole be cut shorter so that it didn't extend into the arch of the shoe as you can see the seam when it's extended to mid-arch - see picture below.

3.  I actually feel like I have better footing now that these rubber soles are on the shoe - before, the shoes were a bit slippery because of the slick bottoms.
4.  The cobbler suggested that I keep an eye out on the heel, as the heel tacks are very hard to remove if the tips are worn down too close to the heel itself.  They also suggested that when it comes time for replacing the tips, to use rubber ones instead of the tacks provided with the shoes - as the rubber tips are easier to replace and will also make the heels more comfortable (due to greater shock absorbency).

Also, per ExtraPetite's video comparing the Louboutin's to Ann Taylor's Perfect Pump, the Louboutin's do not have as much cushioning as the Perfect Pumps.  I have therefore added a couple of shoe pads to the fronts of my shoes which not only makes them more comfortable, but also keeps the shoe on my foot as I walk and when I wear stockings.  So, with a few little adjustments and upkeep, I am now getting the most out of my precious investment!

Readers, what splurge have you taken strides to care for and get the most use out of?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Finding "Your Color"

A couple of weeks ago, I was tractor-beamed into H&M after dropping off a few items at my tailor (terribly located in the mall - makes it too hard to control spending) and picked up this shirtdress for $39.50 (available online in black, army green, and khaki for $24.99 - what gives??).  I also bought it in black, but in an effort to re-gain buying power and curb my habit, it's going back today (as I return to pick up my alterations - danger! danger!). 

H&M shirtdress (find here, orange available in stores)
Ann Taylor platform pumps in nude, Sz 5.5 (no longer available online)
I'm usually not one for bright colors, but I've worn orange a few times before and I've been told that it's a good color for my skin.  About a year ago, a client told me about a book called "The Color of Style" (click here to buy).  The book is written by a celebrity stylist who touts the importance of finding your colors.  Based on the colors found on your body (highlights in hair, color of original hair color, color of veins on your wrist, color of your iris, etc.), you can find colors that accomplish different things - energize, calm, give you power, etc.  It's pretty interesting, but I had a hard time finding my colors due to the fact that I am Asian, have very few different colors on my being (hair color - black, eyes - brown, highlights - brown, you get the point).  Nonetheless, I do think there is something to be said about finding that color that compliments your skin tone.

I'll be taking this little dress out for a spin during a professional conference I'll be attending this week and will report on whether this truly is "my color."

Readers - what is your IT color that makes you feel all sassy inside (and black is not a good answer!)?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Out w/ the Old, In with the NEW!

Perhaps it was the 70+ degree weather today that inspired me to finally give my closet a good "spring" cleaning, or maybe it was that little voice inside my head saying "you have WAY too many clothes and if you want to continue to add to your collection, get rid of stuff!"  Grace has been encouraging me to post about a good purge so as to stay true to my charter to keep my clothing consumption in check.  For those who don't know, I spent most of 2010 not shopping and going through my closet item by item, wearing each one until I exhausted took me 8 months to go through everything!  Yikes!  Anyway, I have finally gotten around to picking out a good stack of items that are going to 1) the Goodwill, 2) a consignment shop, or 3) the trash!

Below is a picture of the items that were corralled together.

Now, compare that with the items I've acquired since returning to shopping on February 7th, 2011 (EEK!).  I didn't say that I've completely stricken a perfect balance between shopping and getting rid of stuff, did I?  But, it's certainly something to aspire to.  Note: being part of the fashion blogging community is certainly not helping with my shopping addiction - but it is a reality and something that will just require me to strengthen my willpower.

A word about consignment shops - in my experience, the non-couture consignment shops (such as Plato's Closet, Clothes Mentor, etc.) have strict policies about buying clothes that are over 2 years old.  The way they are able to tell is by the label.  In case you haven't noticed, popular brands often revamp their labels after a couple of years.  Why they do this is completely a mystery to me (perhaps you readers can enlighten me?).  My guess would be that it has something to do with their branding, or a way to track really archaic items vs. those that were only from a few seasons ago.  To illustrate this point, I've taken a few pictures of labels from different years...

The newer Ann Taylor tags have an "EST. 1954" tag line added.

Not much difference on the LOFT tags, so you might be able to get away with bringing in something a little older.  The tag on the top is from a cardigan I purchased back in 2003.

Big difference on the BR tags - not just in the font but also in the spacing between the letters.
 Interesting huh??

Readers, how often do you purge?  What criteria do you use to decide what to get rid of and what to keep?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Entry into the World of Spanx

Sigh...I have sadly come to the realization that my mid-30's body has no plans of changing and reverting back to the more slender version of itself.  "Trouble spots" have now become "I'll be darned if I change spots."  So rather than fighting the wonderful process of aging, why not just use a little help from great products developed by women who have also come to terms with their reality?

Inspired by a recent Wendy's Lookbook video focused on her Forever21 haul, I headed to my neighborhood store in search of a crocheted sweater that she featured in her video.  Of course, when you go to Forever21 in search of a specific item, it's nowhere to be found, and you are instead looking at a gazillion other similar items that come in only one or two sizes.  Nonetheless, during my search for Wendy's item, I found a few other things...things that when viewed in a distorted mirror that makes you look like you did at the age of 21 (also likely how the store go it's name), you are convinced to buy items that you really shouldn't.  Enter nude colored dress that resorted to my purchase of my first pair of Spanx. 

With the help of what I believe will become my new bff, and not drinking alcohol for a month (oh, and giving up sugar, and carbs, and doing pilates everyday), I could probably pull this dress off alone (see photo below (this is how trustworthy I am of you readers!) - one of many that did not make it to the blog because they looked horrendous).

Perforated Knit Dress (find here)

Trust me, it's the $15.80 price tag of this dress that makes it a keeper - that and the fact that I have no intentions of wearing the dress alone.  On my search for Wendy's tunic, I found this lace top that I originally dismissed, but after putting this dress on, figured it would be the perfect cover up for this very unforgiving dress (it yells at me with each sip of wine that I take while writing this blog).

Perforated Knit Dress paired with Lace Top (find similar here)

I think I can also pair the dress with some bolder jackets (given it's nude color) - see below for a jacket that I keep refusing to give up in hopes that it will one day find another article of clothing to be paired with - you tell me, does this work?

So, bottom line, nude unforgiving dress has 3 uses: 1) to act like a skinny litmus test, 2) will be worn with cover-ups, and 3) has served as a catalyst for Spanx.  Perhaps one day, when my body does decide to temporarily revert itself back to what it was in my 20's nude perforated dress might go solo (underneath a coat that will only be shed when in a dark room with flattering lighting) ;)

Readers, what "acceptances" have you had to make when it comes to things you can and cannot wear? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fashion Don't of the Month - April, 2011

Let me begin by saying that I do not purport to be a proclaimed fashionista or even someone who is always put together.  I have committed some very heinous fashion crimes in my day (probably even within the past month).  That being said, to keep things interesting, I've decided to blog about a "fashion don't" that I've observed (and believe me, I get to see a lot of them here in smallish town Ohio).  Some may disagree with my assessment of fashion don'ts, and I'm totally okay with that - in fact, I urge you to comment and put me in my place.  All I'm saying is that in my perhaps own weird sense of style, the things I will post as Fashion Don'ts will be fun to re-create and comment about as I go...

So, here goes, my very first Fashion Don't Post...

FASHION DON'T: Avoid pairing too many pieces together from the same color or theme.  Doing so will create an over-done look and appear to be too "matchy, matchy" (yes, that is the technical term). 

On a few occasions, I've interacted with who I will call Mrs. X.  A very lovely, middle-aged woman with a great figure, and generally nice pieces of clothing.  Where I've seen Mrs. X go wrong is by wearing too much of something thereby drawing way too much attention to how overly thought out her ensemble is.  For example, I last spotted Mrs. X in a white button down shirt, and well-tailored khakis (by themselves a nice understated classic look).  Her crime was then donning a pink beaded necklace that hit just below the collarbone, a floral patterned pink scarf that was tied loosely at the bustline, pink dangly earrings, almost neon pink slingback pumps, and to top it off, a handbag with a dog with a pink scarf tied around it's neck.  It almost brought back images of Legally Blonde - but way less couture.

In an attempt to re-create this look, I started with part of an outfit that I would normally wear - a sleeveless black ruffle shell, and a leopard print skirt.  Where it goes wrong is when I begin adding animal-inspired jewelry (including a faux-fur belt), and to really take it over the top, animal-print shoes (which appear to be from the giraffe family).  By the way, that's me trying to look animal-like (sad, I know).

Ann Taylor Ruffle Shell in black, Sz SP
Ann Taylor Wild Leopard Skirt, Sz 2P (no longer available online, sorry!)
Nine West animal print shoes
So, you ask, how do I make this "Fashion Don't" a "Do?" 

Ann Taylor faux-fur skinny belt (not available online)
Express bracelet (I think)
Earrings from somewhere in Portland

Step 1, lose the similar-themed accessories and (as Tim Gunn would say), use your accessories "thoughtfully"

Step 2.  Change it up a bit: I've always tried exercising the rule of wearing one bold item of clothing (in this case, the leopard print skirt), and then using the colors within that item to inspire the rest of the outfit.  So, the colors that jump out a me with this skirt are camel, black (covered by the top), and slight hints of tan and white. 

Step 3.  Add an understated necklace - like the Swarovski cat necklace I'm wearing (pictured below).

Step 4.  If the weather or occassion requires it, add another layer that picks up on colors in the bold item and tones down the loudness.

Step 5.  Wear shoes that represent another color in the bold item, will blend in with your skin tone, but also do not match the jacket exactly - or else you might be once again entering into "matchy matchy" territory.

So, you tell me, is the result a Fashion Do?  Judge for yourself (and please do feel free to say I'm wrong, I'm a big girl and can handle criticism - but appreciate it if you keep it constructive, I am human, after all)!

Swarovski cat necklace (find similar here)
Ann Taylor Loft Scuba Jacket, Sz 0P (no longer available online)
Aldo laser cut stilettos in tan(find similar here, beware of high price, though!)

--Very humbly yours, self-proclaimed fashion police-hionista

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

LOOK RECREATED: Ann Taylor LOFT Woven Ruffle Neck Dress

Recently, I decided to start a new personal challenge - to (at the best of my ability) re-create looks that are currently in my favorite clothing stores.  Ann Taylor LOFT has a dress that has gotten some buzz and fitting room reviews (by me, Proudly Petite, and Sisters Sincere, just to name a few).  In order to curb my spending habit and also get some use out of items that already exist in my closet, I decided to let this dress be the focus of my first "recreation" blog post.
The dress is currently in stores, but is sold out online.  In stores, the dress retails for $89.50.  I was anxiously waiting for it to go on sale, but that will likely not happen for such a hot-ticket item, so if you're interested, you may want to stop into your local LOFT store and ask the sales associate to help you locate one.  Or, you might also be able to create your own version of this dress.  Here's my rendition (sorry for the bad lighting - but for an apples to apples comparison, decided to re-live the fitting room using my iPhone and my bedroom mirror):
On the right: Ann Taylor Loft short-sleeved ruffled blouse (find similar here)
Banana Republic wool pencil skirt, in beige (find similar here)

As you can see, the silhouette created by the shirt/skirt pairing creates about the same look, though the rusching in the shirt, and lack thereof in the skirt, somewhat reverses the look (fuller upper, slimmer lower).  Nonetheless, I think the overall spirit of the look is captured by combining these two separate pieces together. 

PRO's of the AT Woven Dress:
  • No un-tucking of button down shirts.  However, here's a tip: in order to keep your blouses tightly tucked, use fashion tape (regular old double-sided tape works well too), stick it on the underside of your shirt, and adhere it to your skin.  A similar effect could be achieved by tucking the shirt into your leggings (if wearing any), underwear, or any body shapewear being used.
  • Fuller ruffles at the top.  The ruffles at the top of the dress are very flowy and pretty (though some may find them to be overkill).  For smaller chested women out there, however, this might be a bonus.
  • Linen & rusched bottom.  I love linen, especially in the warmer months.  This gives a summery feel to the ensemble.  The rusching is flattering and makes the waist appear smaller (as does the extra detail at the waist).
PRO's of Re-Created Look:
  • Sleeveless.  I actually prefer that the two-piece look covers the arms, as I have hang-ups about wearing sleeveless dresses at work.
  • FREE.  Need I say more?
  • Versatility.  I can wear each of these pieces with many other things to create multiple outfits.
I'm certainly interested in hearing others' thoughts on my first attempt at a re-creation. 
Is this good enough or have I completely missed the mark? 
Also what other suggestions do you have as to how I could better replicate the LOFT Woven Ruffle Neck dress?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Confessions of a Relapsing Shopaholic - Part 2

So, after sharing about the inner turmoil associated with my shopping addiction, I am happy to report that I have regained composure and am on a path to recovery!  Thanks to the comments left by Proudly Petite, Stylepint, and Beartea, I have put together a 3-step program (which incorporates many of their wise words) which I hope will help me regain balance:

Step 1. Return a few items that I have not worn, am not 100% about, etc. - I took an assessment of some of the yet unworn items from my previous month of binging, and have returned or will be returning some things (I apologize for the bad photos, I was reduced to using my iPhone and snapping pictures in the mirror as both of our cameras ran out of juice).

A. Mossimo Sheath Dress, in Olive - a few posts ago, I was raving about this sheath dress.  The one I fell in love with was the turquoise one below.  I, being a relapsing shopaholic, returned to Target to buy this dress in beige, then exchanged it for the olive color below.  Though the pictures do a bad job showing this, the turquoise dress fits very nicely, while the olive-colored dress is a bit roomier at the top and does not hug the shoulders well - so, this puppy went back to Target yesterday - $27.99 (pre-tax) back in my wallet!

 B. Xhiliration black lace cardigan - I decided to buy this cardigan after seeing how awesome it looked on Jean from ExtraPetite (but, then again, what doesn't look awesome on her?).  Anyway, I bought this lacey number and gave it a twirl in one of my posts (here).  However, this item would have likely been something worn once or twice, forgotten, and then would end up in my donation pile a year or two out.  So, this cardi was also brought back to Target - $11.97 black back on the books (hey, every penny counts!). 

 C. Ann Taylor Loft Denim Pencil Skirt - I loved this skirt, and thought it would get a lot of use, but bought it in at least a size too small (those store mirrors lie to you!).  When I tried this skirt on again yesterday at home, it was clear that I was squeezing into it and that it was not fitting the way it was intended.  I took this back to the LOFT today with intentions of walking in, getting a refund, and walking out.  However, LOFT is having a 50% off sale items sale, so I naturally grabbed a few items to try on (more on my epiphany during this shopping trip later - in Step 2).  I did try on the 2P in the skirt, which looked okay, but was a bit roomier than I would have liked, so I passed (yay me!).  I did end up purchasing a pair of pants that did fit perfectly, are something I'll get a lot of wear out of as the weather out here is still frigid, and only came out to around $20.  So, I left the LOFT with about $15 back in wallet - small victory! - definitely a first for me!

 D. Ann Taylor Platform slingbacks, in nude - I looooove, these shoes, and kept wearing them around the house yesterday.  In fact, you can see them pictured above with my Mossimo turquoise sheath dress.  However, as I was going through my closet, I was reminded of a pair of $10 shoes I bought from Target that I think could take the place of these pumps for most of the casual outfits I plan to wear (see comparison below).  As for business attire, the Ann Taylor Perfect Pumps in nude will do just fine.  So, these darlings (as much as it pains me - but pain in this case is good), are going back to Ann Taylor when I'm next in the mall (which will only be to pick up alterations from my tailor, and nothing else!).  Returned cash - $77!
E. H&M Short-Sleeved Shirt Dress, in black - Again, another item I LOVE and bought in two colors (keeping the red-orange one) and would get a lot of use out of.  However, as I was looking through my closet, I saw a BR black dress, though different in style, that would likely fit the bill and is something I already own (I could perhaps throw on a belt to add more definition to the BR dress).  See below for comparisons.  H&M Dress, $34.99, exercising restraint? - Priceless.

So, with step 1 in my 3-step plan, I am putting about $170 back in my bank account - certainly doesn't completely offset the damage I've done (ok, not even close), but, baby steps, right?  Before talking about Step 2, I would like to quickly vent about a certain local boutique that I bought 2 costly dresses from - neither of which I can return for a refund (only store credit on the full-priced dress, and the sale dress was final sale, though I was uninformed of this).  So, though I would like to return these dresses, I'm stuck with them.  Also, I have a few unworn items from outlet stores that I acquired during a business trip to Chicago.  Since the nearest locations of these stores is a 2 hour drive away, returning these items is not an option.  Okay, now back to my 3-step program...

Step 2. Avoid the mall!  I have come to terms with the fact that I have very little willpower when I am at the source of the problem - clothing stores.  So, if I avoid the mall, I am less likely to fall prey to great sales, items beckoning to me from the shelves & racks, and will thereby regain control over my spending.

Step 3. Re-invent my wardrobe.  I have no intentions of removing myself from the Petite Fashion Community - it's like asking someone to give up TV after having caught a glipse of it's, I do realize that reading up on recent discoveries and purchases of my fellow bloggers is inevitably going to make me want something new.  However, after spending a year trying to wear every single article of clothing in my closet (during my year of no-shopping), I have learned that I have a buttload of clothes.  So, with a little creativity, I think that I can re-create outfits being beautifully displayed in store windows (and on the bodies of the beautiful Petite bloggers) using what I already have, and, as a result, reduce down the amount of new purchases made in a given month.  Being the achievement-oriented person that I am, I figure if I can turn Step 3 into a challenge, I'll be more inclined to stick with it and can continue saving up for my trip to Italy in May!  Plus, this new "challenge" gives me more material for my blogs :)

So, sorry, readers, for the long blog - but it's been a great cathartic time - thanks for indulging me!  Now, onto recovery!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Confessions of a Relapsing Shopaholic

Well, it's happened again - my insatiable desire for shopping has returned full force and I am once again reeling from overspending.  It all began with one innocent trip to an outlet mall about a month ago where I dropped a modest amount at the BR Factory Store (2 skirts, neither of which I've yet worn) and then a more obscene amount at the Ann Taylor Factory Store (of which a pair of shoes and a cardigan I have not yet worn).  Then came the unexpected purchase at a charity event (items acquired here), followed by a self-induced shopping ban which lasted all of 2.5 weeks, which ended with a trip to a local boutique to use my Groupon (, and then caving in again this past weekend at the mall. 

So, now I'm feeling the pinch of my extravagance and am contemplating which items need to go back to the store.  Should it be the dress I bought from the local boutique - very high price tag, but also something totally unique and different (posted about it here), or will it be some of the Ann Taylor items I bought in a state of madness induced by the 40% off already reduced items sign at the storefront (posted about these here).  Or, will it be the shoes that are making their way to my front doorstep that I couldn't resist buying after just having dropped some cash at the brick&mortar AT store (see below).  Oh, and the shoes below are not the same color (as far as I can tell, they just look it - but if they are, I'm not afflicted enough to keep both - or AM I????)

In an effort to prevent my fellow shoppers from experiencing a similar relapse to mine, I am not posting the link to buy this online.  Trust me, you'll thank me later :)

Sadly, I've been working from home so much lately, I am only getting dressed in work attire about 1 day a week - so if I should be buying anything, it should be PJ's (I laugh as I type this in my Victoria's Secret pink argyle flannel set).

Oiiiiiii, thus begins the vicious cycle of binge-shopping, returning, buying more items when returning, returning them again, buying, returning, buying, returning, shopping, shopping, shopping - you get the gist!

In college, I worked at Banana Republic, and distinctly remember a very frequent customer (one that came into the store at least every three days or so), who was always buying a boatload of clothes, and then returning them a few days later.  They all had the tags on them, but I'm sure some of them had been worn - in fact, I wonder if she bought items based on how easily she could hide the tag.  Hey-I'm not passing judgement, the dress that I'm thinking of returning was taken out for a spin when I was in the office last week, and I masterfully tucked the tags into the back of my bra - given that the dress was silk, I'm amazed people didn't notice (or did they??)

1.  How many of you find yourself in the vicious cycle of buying & returning? 
2.  How do you save face when you see the same store associates who you know recognize you?
3.  What do you do to control your habit and exercise restraint? 

Really Petite has a great post about how not to fall prey to impulse buys - sadly, the intoxication of an outlet, a charity event, a Groupon, and then a sale overtook my senses!  I hope you will learn from it.