Friday, October 30, 2009

I never win anything, but...

Today I won a super cool necklace from Ruth Parker Jewelry. Every Monday Lauren (the designer behind Ruth Parker Jewelry) posts a piece of her design for a giveaway. On Friday the winner is announced. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on the post. Anyway, this week, the giveaway was this necklace:

And I won it! Whoo-hoo! Lauren is inspired by California and many of her pieces reflect that. She has earrings inspired by Pasadena, necklaces inspired by Santa Monica, etc. She also has recently opened up an Etsy shop. Visit it when you have a minute and support this fabulous jewelry artist!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Project Runway- Episode 11

Such a cool challenge this week, don't you think? I think it was a perfect sort of mini-prep for their future task of creating a collection for Bryant Park. I also think the judges have gotten a little more on track with their decisions.

WIN: Althea
AUF'd: Logan

I think that Althea's look was a little out-there, but I get it. At the time that this episode was filmed, harem pants were just starting to make a come-back. Now, that trend is starting to pass (fingers crossed), so the volumous "paper bag" waist pants that Althea made were in line with that trend and fashion forward at the time. So all I'm saying is, I get it. If I were to choose a winner, though, it would have been Irina. Her look was the perfect complement to the original winning look in every way- from soup to nuts, it was perfect. I felt like we were seeing two looks from a very cohesive collection- one where we get to see the type of woman Irina designs for and through her clothing, we see her story, too. It's really unfortunate that Irina is such a pill, because if that talent were backed up by a little more positivity, she'd be unstoppable.

As for the auf, I completely agree that Logan needed to go. He's been consistently in the bottom. His weirdo zipper dress was exactly as Nina Garcia described- a student's project. Also, what's with Logan's silver sneakers?

I have to talk about Christopher for a moment, too. I'm SO over his "play on volume." His dress tonight was decent- as one of the judges put it, "I liked 2/3 of the dress." I want to see Christopher DO SOMETHING ELSE!!! Volume, volume, volume. Over and over and over again! And it's not as if he's playing with volume in different places- it's always a skirt with volume. We're seeing the same silhouette from him week after week. I'm not denying that his pieces are full of interesting detail, but at some point, he's going to need to show more versatility.

Ok, I'm stepping off my soapbox now. What did you think of this week's episode? Also, do any of you watch the show "Models of the Runway?" What do you think of it?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shoesday Tuesday- Payless for work shoes

Payless has had such a bad rep for so long, but oh my word have they changed dramatically over the last couple of years. The prices at Payless are still fantastic, but the styles have improved like you wouldn't believe. They are even starting to draw in designer diffusion lines which is really exciting. Today I'd like to show you some shoes from Payless that are all appropriate for the office. There is no reason to think you have to wear frumpy, dumpy, clunky shoes to work because they are "sensible." Sensible shoes can also be stylish. For example, take these adorable American Eagle kitten heels:

Available for only $24.99, these kitten heels are perfect for work. The heel makes them dressy, but it's also practically as comfortable as wearing a pair of ballet flats. The pointed toe with the pleating detail adds a touch of sophistication, too. These work with a pair of trousers or a skirt, a suit or a dress, tights or bare legs- they are incredibly versatile. Often at the work place, basic neutrals rule, but adding a pop of color or pattern with your shoe is a fun way to show your personality without taking the outfit over the top. For example, look at these ballet flats in a beautiful jewel tone:

Perfect for a casual Friday with jeans or khakis, or even on a more dressy day with a skirt or dress, right? (And? They're currently on sale for $12.99!) Also visually interesting is the pattern on these pumps and flats by Lela Rose for Payless:

Both are just $29.99 and are equally fabulous, don't you think? The details are wonderful, but they aren't so bold that you can't consider each of them a neutral. They'd both work with a myriad of outfits. Personally, I love a little shine at my feet, so these patent wedges are perfect for me:

I love the color, the tiny wedge and the embellishment on the toe. I also love the price: $22.99! Tiny wedges like this are great for work, especially if you're on your feet a lot. They look professional, but feminine and they're practical but stylish. What more could you ask for? Tell me about your work shoes in a comment- what are your go-to work shoes?

Clip-on Earrings

So, I got my ears pierced when I was pretty young- 7 or 8 years old, I think. I've worn earrings ever since. In high school, I went through a truly bizarre earring phase, but I was also really into making a lot of them myself (more evidence that my career path began long before I realized it).

Anyway, since I've had pierced ears for so long, I never wore clip-on earrings. It's funny that it never really occurred to me because I love vintage jewelry, but I tend to just gloss over the earrings, always assuming that they're clip on. Well, I finally found the pair of vintage earrings that would change my feelings on clip-on earrings.

I'd always been afraid that wearing clip-ons would be uncomfortable, and at first it took a little getting used to, you know? But by the end of the day, I hardly even noticed them anymore. So what fabulous earrings made me decide to live with potential discomfort for an entire day? These ones:

Sorry the piecture isn't that great, but it's the best I could do- I really need to figure out lighting. But I digress. Aren't these earrings fabulous? I just love the deco-quality they have.

What are your favorite earrings like? Or do you have a story about getting your ears pierced? I'd love to hear from you, so leave me a comment!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

McQueen's Elephants

Fashion week seems like it was ages ago even though it's only been a little more than a month since it ended. (But let's be honest- a month and a half in the fashion world is like a year anywhere else.) I keep meaning to post my favorite runway shows and items from NYFW 2009 but it just seems like such a daunting task at this point. So instead, I'll just show you what was perhaps the most controversial element of said fashion week- Alexander McQueen's shoes:

The shoes with his collection were all incredibly outrageous, but these "elephant" shoes are what intrigued me the most. He essentially had three styles of shoe in his show- all incredibly high (around 10 inches with a huge front platform to make it possible for the models to walk), many embellished with ornate carvings or beads as pictured above, and all very eye-catching.

The materials used on the non-elephant platforms were very industrial and edgy- metal pieces that appeared to be welded together- all very futuristic in style. There were shoes carved from porcelain with intricate designs that were almost seaweed-esque (think a high-heeled version of Disney's "Little Mermaid" underwater castles). Mr. McQueen has truly outdone himself this time. So what do YOU think of these shoes? Are they wearable? Are they art? Are they wearable art? Would you wear them? I'm pretty crazy where shoes are concerned, but these are WAY out of my league.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


When I reflect back on my life, my career path seems less a departure from my norm and more and more the inevitable conclusion to draw. I have always been interested in fashion- even from a very young age. The thing is, I think my interest in clothes and style was continually overshadowed by other things, particularly my weekly piano lessons. According to everyone I knew, I was "so talented." Everything revolved around how well I played the piano. I started taking piano lessons when I was 8 years old and I continued right through college, majoring in music with piano as my concentration. I even went on to work as a music teacher and professional musician for years. I still freelance every now and then. Just a week ago I was in the studio recording some really silly songs for a coworker's album she's making. But when I think back on all the accolades and rewards I received for my performance as a pianist over the years, what always seems to come back to mind is the bubble dress I asked for for my annual piano recital. I couldn't tell you what I played at that recital, but I remember every detail of my outfit- the taffeta dress, the string of faux pearls, the white tights and new white shoes purchased to match- all of it is as clear in my memory as it was the day I wore it.

Bubble dresses and skirts have made a serious come-back over the last couple of years, I think mostly due to the 80's fashion revival we're currently experiencing. I don't remember exactly how old I was when I asked for the bubble dress. I only remember being told that I could have a reward for doing well in my piano lessons. (I'm sure there was a specific goal, but I can hardly recall what it was.) Anyway, my mom said I could have a reward and asked what I wanted. My response: a mint-green bubble dress. Unfortunately for my mom, no stores around carried what I wanted, so she went to the fabric store, bought a pattern and some polyester taffeta in mint green. And then she labored over that dress for what felt like months. I have no idea how long it actually took her. I only know that she struggled and at some point nearly ripped it to shreds. The fabric was slippery and difficult to work with and my mom, though an accomplished quilter, was not incredibly experienced in sewing garments. Lucky for me, she persevered and in the end, I had my beautiful bubble dress that I had always dreamed of:

Poofy sleeves like Anne of Green Gables completed my fabulous party dress. I think my mom did a spectacular job. I remember wearing it to my recital that year and pretty much any other occassion I deemed appropriate. I'm sure there were countless times when I wanted to wear it and my mom said, "No." I'm sure I managed to wear it to church, to school, to my recital, to a friend's recital, out to dinner with the family, Easter Sunday- anywhere I could. Here's a bit of evidence:

The first photo is of me and my mom's friend Cindy on the way to HER piano recital. I eventually ended up taking piano lessons with her teacher- Mrs. Noonan, but I digress. (Mrs. Noonan deserves a post all her own- she wore the most glamorous gowns for our recitals. We're talking over-the-top beaded, floor length, ultra-glam. No one could out-do her, not even Cindy in 25 yards of tulle and lace.) The second photo is my third (or fourth?) grade school photo. Don't you just love the glasses? If you look closely in the school photo, you can see that the fabric color was chosen to match the color of my eyes. To this day, my eyes are what draw the most compliments from people I meet. I got them from my grandmother and I think they're my best feature.

Although this bubble dress was my favorite childhood outfit and will always remain so, I did have a favorite outfit a few years prior in first grade. Of course, once the bubble dress came into my life, it was quickly forgotten, but this school photo has forever preserved its memory:

I remember being so completely in love with that green corduory jumper and pink shirt. I was so happy I got to wear it on picture day. I also love that I have no front teeth in this picture. Damn, I was cute!

Of course, I wasn't always so fashionable:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Project Runway- Episode 10

I have to say that these late nights waiting for PR to air after a long day at work- it's not easy! I'm practically falling asleep as I type!

It is really getting down to the nitty gritty- seven designers left is not a lot when you consider the fact that three of them will be going to New York Fashion Week. And after tonight we're down to six designers. Crazy!  Ok, on to the episode:

WIN: Irina
AUF'd: Nicolas

I agree with the judges decision this week for win & auf. My favorites were Irina and Gordana. The open back on Irina's was very surprising, but in a good way. Irina was smart to choose Aspen as her inspiration location. And Gordana's dress was spectacular. It looked like a dress you would see on the red carpet. What I didn't understand about this episode is why the judges like Carol Hannah's dress- it looked like everything Uli ever sent down the runway. Nothing innovative about it at all, really. And let's be honest, Uli did the flowy print dress far better than Carol Hannah.

As for the bottom, I agree that Nicolas & Logan deserved to be there. Christopher needs to really get his act together, though. His dress wasn't terrible- I can't believe Heidi called it "unwearable." That's a bit harsh. Maybe I have bad taste, but I would love to wear that dress!

What do you think? It's getting close- who do you think will be in the final three? I'm predicting Irina, Gordana and Carol Hannah, but I think it could be a close call.

Dresses under $30

Hello, everyone! I thought that today I would share with you two adorable dresses from Old Navy. Both of them are currently available for less than $30! Bargains! What I like about all of these dresses is that they are all unique, but also, they're all great layering pieces. Pair each one with a pair of tights, some fun shoes and DON'T forget your accessories!

This lovely drawstring dress from Old Navy is available currently for only $24.50. What a steal! It comes in a light grey, the deep purple pictured and in black. I love that it's so casual- you can wear it all spring and summer and then add tights and a cardigan for fall and winter. Layer a cami underneath, for a contrast in color and then layer on some fun long necklaces. Voila! Instant cool outfit. The next dress selection is this adorable tie-front flutter sleeve frock available in the grey pictured as well as red, black and cobalt blue. And the price is once again a mere $24.50- not too shabby if you ask me! 

I live my life in dresses and I love to encourage other women to do the same. After all, a dress is nearly always super flattering and also nearly always a complete outfit by itself. In a nutshell, they're versatile, comfortable, flattering and feminine. What more could you ask for?

For questions on how to style a simple dress, leave a comment or email me. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I lied...

In my last post I said I was too busy to write anything thoughtful or useful. I was wrong. Silly me!

After I clicked "Publish" it occurred to me that I had a great dinner tonight with my good friend Jen. She's currently working with me at AMT and I'm loving having one of my close girlfriends around right now. You may remember the importance of girlfriends from this post.

Anyway, at dinner, Jen mentioned how she struggles with shopping because it gets overwhelming. She used this example:

You go to Target (or where ever) and start looking at belts.

You like belt #1 but it costs $35.

You don't really like belt #2 but it costs $10.

And then you start thinking, "Well should I get black or brown? Which one will I use more? Do I need both? Can I afford both?

In the end, you leave the store empty handed. It's happened to all of us at least once. Maybe not over a belt- maybe over a pair of every day shoes, or a pair of special occassion shoes. Maybe because of a pair of jeans. Maybe it's over a bottle of nail polish- the bottom line is that sometimes shopping can be overwhelming.

In my line of work, I rarely feel overwhelmed by a store, simply because I'm almost always on a mission in one. I shop for a living, literally, so I'm able to become very familiar with what's out there. When I'm shopping for work, it's almost like I'm doing reconnaissance for my personal shopping. When I need that bargain trendy top, I know what store had it on sale two days ago. When I need a staple item like a white button front or a pair of jeans, I'm already in tune with what's in stock and when the sales will be.

The average person working any other type of job might not be so lucky. And so for all of you not in the business of shopping on nearly a daily basis, I offer you these pieces of advice:

1.) Ask your friends where they shop. When you see something you like on a friend or coworker, ask them where they got it. If you have one particularly smartly dressed acquaintance, go shopping with them- you might pick up a few tips! Asking around helps you narrow your shopping search to a smaller handful of stores where you know you're going to like what they have.

2.) Do some research online before you head out. Google what you're looking for and you'll no doubt see local department stores in the results. If you're really busy, call ahead and ask if the item(s) you're looking for can be set aside for you. The style numbers are often listed on the online stores so be prepared with them as well as the item name and description when you call. When you get to the store, the searching has been done for you, so you get to head straight to the dressing room to see if the item is as fabulous on you as it looked online.

3.) Be methodical when you shop- know what you need and what you're willing to spend to get it, then stick to your plan. Choose stores that align with your needs. Don't go to Neiman Marcus expecting to walk out with a blouse for $25. If your budget is modest, shop at a store with modest prices. If the sky's the limit, then shop at Barney's. And get me a little present while you're there!

4.) If you don't find what you're looking for, don't give up. Think about what was missing when you searched. Did you find jeans that were the cut you like but the wash wasn't quite right? It could be that you're looking for dark wash when light wash is the current trend. Wait a bit or go to a store that's a little less trendy. Or...

5.) Ask a salesperson for help. That's what they're there for! They know the inventory of the store, so they can tell you right away if they're carrying what you're looking for.

Always remember that shopping should be fun because the goal of any purchase is to improve your wardrobe and overall appearance. If you don't enjoy that, then why bother?

Good luck and happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shoesday Tuesday- I'm SO busy!!!

Ok, I know this is a total cop-out, but I'm so incredibly swamped with work right now that I just don't have time for a long, thoughtful Shoesday Tuesday post. I'm so sorry and I promise to get back on track just as soon as this Christmas Show opens. I know that sounds like it will be a long time from now, but guess what- we open on October 31st. That's right. For all of us at AMT, it's not "Happy Halloween" it's "Merry Christmas!" No joke!

So, today I offer you a fun pair of shoes and nothing more. They will probably be going into the closet for a while since they are not exactly "winter" shoes. But I feel they are worthy of their own blog post:

What do you think? Do you think I'm insane for wearing them? Or do you love them? I know I do. Which is why I wear them every chance I get.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's been a while- rate my look!

The weather has been terrible here lately- rainy, cold and dreary. This week, the forecasts show higher temperatures and sunshine! Whoo-hoo! Since this brief rise in temperature is probably the last one we'll have before winter sets in, I thought I'd show off one of my absolute favorite summer dresses. The picture is blurry and I apologize for that, but I couldn't let that stop me from sharing. This is one dress that makes me feel incredibly feminine- the high waistline that really makes my waist look tiny, combined with the top chiffon layer that is just so flowy and the neckline that is just so flattering- I feel great in this dress. Really great. And I often get lots of compliments on it, too. On this particular day, I chose to wear the pink satin heels with rhinestone embellishment on the toe- who doesn't love a little pink in their life, right?

Anyway, I'm sure it will soon be time to put it away for the winter, but I'm sure I'll pull it out right away when the weather warms up next spring. In the meantime, I'll be counting the days until summer dress weather is back!

What about you? What clothes make you feel really great? Why do you feel so great in them?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Go bold with color

Having my mom around this weekend has actually provided me with a lot more ideas and inspiration for this humble little blog. Yesterday was the story of the red shoes and how to ask for a discount. Today, she was pleasantly surprised by the color combinations I chose to wear over the weekend. Today was chocolate brown with bright turquoise. I'm not saying that blue and brown is a color combination revolution, but it did get me thinking about color combinations in general. This fall, bold colors are hot, but instead of just adding a pop of fuchsia with a pair of shoes or a scarf, try pairing it with a cobalt blue or a lime green somewhere else on the outfit. Not so much that you look like a clown, but enough that there is more visual interest to your look.

I have a fabulous lime green jersey dress that I love to wear with brown tights and a brown cami. Boring, right? Not when I add a bright purple flower pin at the waist! Instant style and it didn't take any longer than the outfit without the pin. Adding color is a fun way to update your wardrobe without spending a fortune. Pair pieces that you would never have put together before and see what happens. You might find a new look that you never thought of before.

What's your favorite quirky color combination? Orange and pink? Emeral green and sunshine yellow? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How to get a discount

My mom is in town visiting this weekend which is why I was MIA yesterday. So sorry for not posting! Anyway, we had a lovely dinner tonight and she was asking about all the shopping I do for work. I told her the story of the red shoes and how I got a discount on them. It made me realize that it's a great lesson for anyone to learn- if you want a better price on someting, ASK for it. The worst thing that will happen is the salesperson will say "no." And then you're no worse off than you were before you asked for the discount. In a best case scenario, you get a bargain!

In today's current economic climate, a lot of people are looking for a good deal, but guess what, a lot of shop owners are looking for a sale. And most of them are willing to cut you a break in order to make that sale, so do yourself (and them) a favor and ask for a discount! I do it all the time and I have no problem doing it. For some of you, it may be a little awkward the first time you ask, but eventually you'll get over that.

Keep in mind that you have to have reasonable expectations- they aren't going to knock 50% off a brand new dress, but they might take 15-20% off a piece that's the last of its kind taking up space on the rack. They'll also be more likely to give you a discount if you are spending a lot or buying several items. You are probably thinking that this advice won't work in a major department store, but you're wrong! No matter the size of the store, go for the discount. Ask the cashier if they have a coupon to scan, or if there is a promotion starting soon or that ended recently and see if they'll give you the discount despite your off timing. More often than not, they'll do it.

Some areas are easier than others to get discounts, too. For example, shoe departments in major department stores often have empoyees who work on commission, so discounting (to an extent) can be at their discretion. It may reduce their commission a bit, but like I said before, they are still happy to have made a sale rather than see you walk out of the store empty handed.

In any situation where you are asking for a discount, know your bottom line BEFORE you ask. And always ask for more than what you actually want. If you are hoping for a 15% discount, ask for 25% just in case they haggle a bit. Who knows? You might get the 25% you asked for! (I did with the red shoes, remember?)

When I shop vintage or antique shops, I always wait until I have picked out everything I want, then I look at the price tags and add it up in my head. Let's say my total is going to be $45 for a handful of vintage accessories- a scarf, a couple of brooches, a pair of earrings and a necklace. I might approach the counter and offer $35 for everything. They'll probably counter offer me back up to $40, but guess what- I just got a little over 10% discount!

Finally, be prepared to walk away. Decide before you hit the counter what it will take for you to make the purchase and if you don't get the discount, walk away and leave the purchases behind. Nine times out of ten, you'll get what you want as you are about to exit.

Good luck and happy hunting! Email me if you have a discount story to share- I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Project Runway- Episode 9

BOB MACKIE!!!! Wow. I think that when the designers are creating a look for an icon, they tend to implode a little. And let's be honest- I'd do the same thing if I were in their shoes. If I was presented with the challenge of designing a dress to be judged by Bob Mackie, I would probably freak out from the pressure. Clearly that happened a little on this episode. Also, it seemed as though most of the designers were a little out of their element.

WIN: Carol Hannah
AUF'd: Shirin

I definitely agree with the judges choice this week for both win and auf. Shirin has been struggling and I think that the caliber of designers she is up against is just too much for her. She's so young, and she'll be fine- her career will be fine. She has a strong point of view, and I'm sure if she isn't being forced to work with old wedding gowns and sequin fabrics, she'll be just fine. As for Christopher almost being auf'd, I think his days are numbered. He's been in the bottom a lot lately!

I love Nicholas' line about Irina this week, "Irina's a good designer. The only problem with her is that she's a b*tch." He hit the nail on the head with that one. She's a great designer, but I really don't like her. She's so arrogant and rude towards the rest of the designers.

My favorites this week were Carol Hannah and Christopher. I wasn't a huge fan of the hot pants Christopher made simply because of the fabric choice, but if it was a different fabric- something like a black sateen maybe, I'd like it a lot more. Also, I felt his was the most "Christina" of all the designs and I liked his concept the best. He just needed to update the "revealed" outfit more. Carol Hannah's was a spectacular gown- she completely deserved the win.

Nicholas' dress was great, but just like Tim Gunn said, it was so similar to his movie challenge outfit. He chose the exact same color palette and everything- the main difference was the length of the dress. I have to wonder why he is still on the show! I've said it before and I'll say it again- with the judges constantly changing, there has been no consistency and it must have been really difficult for the designers to find their footing. In previous seasons, they were more able to get a feel for what the judges loved and hated, but it's been so hard for them this season. I feel for them all because of that. I can't believe we're only a few episodes away from the finals- this season has been flying by! Good stuff always seems to go by too quickly!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nude Shoes

I don't know about all of you, but I have short legs. Shapely, but short, so I'm always looking for ways to elongate them. You've seen in many of my "Rate My Look" posts that I tend to wear tops and dresses that accentuate my natural waist or fall even higher at an empire waist. That's one trick that works really well, but another that's a little more subtle is the use of a nude shoe. Even though ankle booties in solid and cut-out styles are so hot right now, they can look a little bit heavy. And for women like me with short legs, the LAST thing you want to do is cut yourself off at the ankle, especially with something as heavy as a boot. It's that exact reason that I often pair the trendy booties with tights of the same color. Which brings me to the leg-elongating trick I want to focus on today: nude shoes.

When you wear a nude shoe- pump, ankle strap, sling back- whatever style you prefer, you create a long, uninterrupted line on your leg which creates the illusion of a longer leg. This works particularly well with high heels- the higher the heel, the longer your leg looks. Here are a few lovely nude shoe options for you:

First up is the Miss Me "Alyssa" open toe in beige available at Endless for $29.95. It's simple, elegant and timeless in style- this shoe could be a staple in your closet for the next 15 years- seriously.

Next is a personal favorite of mine- the Luichiny "Wicked" sandal in beige also available at Endless. I love the t-strap and the peep toe- the details are totally adorable, but with a bit of a retro feel. These shoes are a little more pricey at $43.34, but at that price, they are a steal.

And while I may be a pasty white, I know that "nude" means a whole array of colors, so for those of you with slightly darker skin, I love the Caparros "Bernie" pump available at Endless for $27.50- what a bargain!

I just love the detail on the toe, but it's not so distracting that it would be an issue. I love them! Any other tricks you're hoping to learn? Leave me a comment and I'll post with an answer to your style dilemmas.

It's my 100th post? For real?

It's funny how I didn't even notice that this was going to be my 100th post until I finished my 99th post and thought, "Huh. Well that's interesting." I googled "100th post" and found that just about every blogger on the face of the earth seems to devote the 100th post to the fact that it's the 100th post. I'm going to use my 100th post to see how many times I can type "100th post" in a single post. Just kidding. I do think it's interesting how many bloggers make note of it like I am. After all, 100 blog posts isn't really all that impressive. Television shows celebrate the 100th episdoe, but it often takes several years to reach that point. Blogging is a lot simpler- I could post 10 times a day and have my 100th post in less than 2 weeks. But even though it's a simpler process, I still understand making note of the milestone. I hope that when I reach my 1,000th post, I am still enjoying it as much as I am now at number 100.

However, instead of counting the times I write "100th post," I'll use this 100th post (sorry! I couldn't resist) to show all of you some of my favorite past posts. And so without further ado, I present (in no particular order), my top 10 favorite posts thus far:

1.) Inspiration, July 16, 2009
2.) Tim Gunn said I'm FABULOUS, October 8, 2009
3.) A Second Story, August 6, 2009
4.) It's a wrap, July 22, 2009
5.) Breaking the Rules, September 6, 2009
6.) Top Ten for Men, July 21, 2009
7.) Etsy Besties, September 28, 2009
9.) Style Support, August, 29, 2009
10.) One Shoe, Three Ways, August, 27, 2009

Maybe by the time I've reached 1,000 posts, I'll have a top 100 list to share. That's a crazy thought, isn't it? Time will tell!   

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shoesday Tuesday- Downtown Lancaster store

Over the weekend, I went downtown to queen Street in Lancaster, primarily to show my friend Brance the two vintage shops there. Unfortunately, both Mommalicious and Zap & Co. were closed, but what was open was a fairly new shoe store called "Walk in Style- Fashion Footwear & Accessories." I was skeptical because it had the look of an expensive boutique, but I also figured it was my duty to all of you to check it out. It's a really cute little store with tons of fabulous and affordable shoes and boots. I ended up with a pair of cute low-heel wedges in a green patent for $22. Most of the shoes ranged from $20-50 and were all really adorable. Even the knee-high boots were all around $35-50, which in my opinion is a fabulous price. The boot selection was the most fun for me- there were lots of great colors and details to choose from with the boots.

In addition to boots and shoes, there were lots of handbags to choose from as well. Throughout the store you'll also find lots of interesting jewelry mostly necklaces, but some bracelets and earrings, too. What I like about this store is that there is a large selection, but the space itself isn't over crowded.

My pick of the store is this pair of Casa di Torino leather kitten heels in beige:

Technically, they are a tad bit taller than an actual kitten heel, but these heels are low enough that they'd be pretty comfortable. I highly recommend a kitten heel to all of you ladies out there who want to wear heels, but can't because the height just isn't practical. If you walk to work, or are on your feet a lot throughout the day, a kitten heel can be a great solution. It's slim and feminine, but usually under 2 inches. A kitten heel will always look better than a larger short heel, which can be kind of clunky and dated-looking.

I really like the detail on the toe as well as the rich caramel beige color- they'd be a perfect addition to any closet- you could wear them with just about anything. And at $28, the won't break the bank.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ruth Parker Give-away

You all know what an accessories addict I am, right? And anything vintage or upcycled has a special place in my heart. I stumbled upon Ruth Parker Jewelry about a month ago and I fell in love with the pieces featured on her blog because they are not only beautiful, but they are often re-purposed vintage pieces.

Lately, Lauren (the talent behind Ruth Parker Jewelry) has been featuring a give-away each week on her blog. Take a minute to visit her site, leave a comment on the give-away post and you'll be automatically entered into the give-away raffle. This week, the give-away prize is a necklace made from beads and a crystal taken off a vintage chandelier.

At the end of the week, she announces the winner and it could be you! But it won't be yours unless you visit & comment, so head on over. While you're there, take a look at some of Lauren's other pieces- I guarantee you'll like what you see.

Rate My Look- dressed for church

So today was an absolutely beautiful day outside- cool with a bit of a nip in the air. I woke up early and got ready for church. I picked up my friend Brance and then proceeded to have the most fabulous day. After church, we walked around downtown Lancaster for a while, then had lunch at the Chestnut Hill Cafe. Brance is in town because he's been hired to work at my theatre as a performer in the Christmas Show. Our mutual friend Jen has also been cast in the show and she was coming in on the train late this afternoon. After lunch, Brance & I parted ways because he had to get ready to pick her up at the train station. I knew they would be coming over for dinner and a viewing of this weeks Amazing Race, so I took the rest of the afternoon to get some errands done, which involved some shopping for both me and the theatre. I was so disappointed- it just wasn't a great day for either bargains or fabulous finds. At least I looked pretty good while hopping around town shopping. I like this outfit because it's demure enough for church, but still stylish and cute.

I love when the sun shines in the front window like that, although in this picture it makes the shoes a little harder to see. They are these lovelies:

I can't tell you how much I love spectator shoes- they are so sharp looking. These ones are soooo comfy. They're so old, too- at least 5 or 6 years old. I can't even remember what they cost. As for the rest of the outfit, the dress is from Banana Republic and I got it on sale for about $20 (also a while ago, so I'm not completely sure). The sweater is New York and Company and also so old that I can't remember what it cost. The belt came free with another shirt. The earrings were inexpensive- I believe about $8.

I'm sorry for posting so late- technically this outfit is for Sunday, but after my shopping excursion, I went home and started cooking dinner. Brance, Jen and another performer- David- came over for dinner, then Amazing Race and then lots of chit chat. They left around midnight, so I'm just now getting around to posting. So sorry! I guess I'll have to post double at some point to make up for missing Sunday altogether. Mea culpa! I'll try not to let it happen again!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Handbags? Oh yeah!

You know what I don't write about enough? Handbags, that's what. And I love them! I'm a total handbag addict! I often encourage other people to be handbag addicts, too! I don't believe in one perfect handbag for any person, I believe in many handbags for all different occasions. I believe in changing handbags often- not necessarily every day for each outfit, but certainly often enough that you keep it fresh.

Lately, I'm carrying a faux- bought in Chinatown, NYC, Canal Street to be specific. It's the exact faux that I made fun of in this post a couple of months ago. Call me a hypocrite, but I totally understand the appeal. Plus, I have to admit, being in New York City right at the start of fashion week made me go a little bonkers. My judgement suffered, but I haven't regretted this purchase for one second.

Isn't it a pretty color? That was really the deciding factor for me. Blue is definitely my signature color (although some of my friends might think it's pink). And I'll be honest- it's the perfect size for me. I'm a big handbag kind of girl. I wasn't always like that, but the older I've gotten, the more I'm into the big bag. I have small purses, but they mostly exist for special occasions when I don't want to lug around a 10-pound suitcase. Also, I use a small wristlet as a wallet and when I go somewhere and don't want to carry the big bag, I leave it in the car and take the wristlet with just the essentials. It's big enough for my debit card, license, some cash, my phone and maybe a tiny lip gloss.

Lately, I'm totally obsessed with the idea of a bright kelly green tote- structured or boho, fabric or leather- these details don't matter as much as the color. I love the idea of a bright pop of color for the fall and winter. I've seen a few over the last few months that I really liked, but something always stopped me from buying.

I found a few online that I'd love your opinions on. First up is this lime green bag from Amazon:

It's only $34.99 which is a decent price. I like the color, but I don't love it. It's a little too lime, not enough kelly. It's good, but not perfect.

What is close to perfect is the Patent Maggie tote from Coach:

The color is definitely more along the lines of what I want, but it's almost heading in the emerald green direction. Unfortunately, even if this bag was perfect in terms of color and style, it's still $348 which is waaaaaaay out of my price range.

And when price matters, I always seem to come back to my old standby- Target. All of these bags are under $30:

I'm definitely getting closer with these last three, but I'm still not quite there. I wish I could marry the color of Target bag #3 to the shape, structure and sophistication of  Target bag #1. Target bag #2 is ok, but just not that me. It's too square- literally. I'm sure it would function well given the outside pockets, but I think it's just not that me.

I'll keep looking and let you all know if I find the perfect green bag. I remember my friend Beth buying a faux Prada (maybe) in Chinatown years ago that was hysterical- it had a huge round metal handle and the "bag" was actually two little pouches mounted in the center of the circular handle. Totally impractical, but also totally unique. Maybe I can persuade her to take a picture that I can post on the blog for all of you to see. I remember when she bought it and I was so jealous of how cool it was. Handbags make me crazy!

Leave a comment if you want to see a picture of Beth's bag and maybe if there are enough of you, she'll be persuaded. It can't hurt to ask, right? Right! Now go comment!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Layering for Less- for Men!

I know that if there were any men reading this blog, they are probably long gone because all I ever write about is Project Runway and shoes. I'm sorry, guys, but don't think that menswear isn't just as interesting and important just because I tend to focus on brooches and handbags or over-the-knee boots and sundresses. In an effort not to neglect all of you, I'd like to offer today's post: Layering for Less- for Men! The other day I wrote a post about layering for women, so now it's the guys turn.

Just like with women, men should view their outerwear as an extra outfit they get to wear. So that's where we'll begin- with outerwear. For starters, most men look great in a classic pea coat. This dark version is about as classic as it gets and it's a steal at $59.99 from Target:

If you're looking for a pea coat that's still a bargain, but a little less classic, Target also offers the classic cut in a charcoal grey, which I think is a nice variation. The weather isn't always so chilly that you need a wool pea coat. Other times, you just need a light top layer to keep the chill off. In that case, I'd like to recommend these two jackets from Gap:

First, the Wool Private Jacket- because military details are very hip for men as well as women right now. I love the pockets on this one and the grey is really nice. At $103 (on sale), it's a little pricey, but it's also classic enough to be considered an investment piece.

Next, I also love this "Barracuda" jacket from Gap. It's casual but interesting. Gap is currently having an "Outerwear Event" and offering $25 off select outwear. The Private Jacket above is part of the sale, but unfortunately the "Barracuda" is not. Originally $68, it's only marked down a few dollars to $59.99. With all three of these jacket selections, you can feel confident that the materials are decent enough quality that you'll get quite a few seasons of wear out of them, so shop with confidence.

But layering isn't all about jackets and coats- it's about, well, layering. And there is no better shop for bargain layering pieces than Old Navy. Start with a couple of great light-weight sweaters. I'm a fan of the v-neck and the half zip like these:

The v-neck is a great color and the half-zip option is one of many color combinations. Both have the slightly more open neckline which makes layering much easier. You could have a t-shirt and a button front underneath either one of these. P.S. the v-neck is also available in several argyle versions like this one:

And the best part? All three of these sweaters and their many different colored versions are available for less than $30 each. Also bargain prices are these polo shirts- argyle, striped and solid (long and short sleeve):

The other great thing about shopping at places like Old Navy is that their dozens and dozens of color and pattern choices all work incredibly well together, making it very easy to get dressed in the morning. You could practically dress in the dark. Well, maybe not really, but you get the idea. Shops like Old Navy and Gap are great for creating wardrobe capsules. A wardrobe capsule is a collection of complimentary pieces that all work together to create different outfits. For example, a wardrobe capsule might include a pair of dark wash jeans, a pair of charcoal dress pants, three button-front shirts- one dark solid, one light solid, one vertical stripe, a light-weight sweater, a blazer and an overcoat. With those eight pieces, you actually have the potential for a lot more outfits:

Outfit #1: Jeans and dark solid button front
Outfit #2: Charcoal pants, striped button front, sweater
Outfit #3: Jeans, striped button front, blazer
Outfit #4: Jeans, dark solid button front, sweater, blazer
Outfit #5: Charcoal pants, light solid button front, blazer
Outfit #6: Charcoal pants, striped button front, blazer
Outfit #7: Jeans, light solid button front, overcoat

You get the idea, right? The idea is to purchase pieces that all compliment each other so that putting outfits together with them is a no-brainer. Layering the pieces in the capsule creates more visual interest, but wearing just single layers is always an option, too.

I hope this has been helpful for all you guys out there. And if it's the girls reading this post in the hopes of helping your man, good luck!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Project Runway- Episode 8

This kind of wedding dress challenge could be such a blast, provided you get a decent dress and a decent client to work with. Weren't some of those dresses hideous, though? Oh my goodness! You can tell some of them got married a looooong time ago. Challenges like this always make me want to be the "real woman" client. I'd be the perfect client- totally willing to wear whatever they want to put on me. I'd love to see what different designers would make for me, so maybe I'd rather be the special guest judge than one of several clients. Also, wouldn't you love to have the Macy's accessory wall in your own closet? But I digress... on to the show details:

WIN: Gordana
AUF'd: Epperson

Major kudos to Shirin for coming back from that hole she had dug for herself. The stitching idea was a brilliant solution. The boys really blew it this week, though- all four of them! Nicholas and Logan made horribly unflattering pants and tops for their clients. Epperson and Christopher made equally unflattering dresses. I don't know what Christopher was thinking with that hideous dyed organza. Michael Kors was spot on with his advice to the model- DON'T go to a party in that outfit, particularly one in the entertainment industry. I completely disagree with the judges- Logan or Nicholas should have gone home for their hideous pants. Epperson has shown really beautiful pieces in previous episodes, whereas Nicholas and Logan have been spotty at best.

The girls, on the other hand, really rocked the challenge. My favorite was Irina- I would LOVE to wear that dress. It's such a perfect cocktail party or date dress and the color was really stunning. I thought for a minute she was going to get three wins in a row, but I was also happy for Gordana- her dress was really spectacular, too. It looked like it took a lot of time to make, but she only had the one day to do it, so I was very impressed with her craftsmanship.

I'm very happy to have Michael Kors back, but from the looks of next weeks clips, he's gone again. Fortunately we get Nina back. I really really really hope that Season 7 is back in New York. The judging is just too spotty when it's out in LA. The heartbeat of American fashion is in New York City. Bottom line. Bring PR back to its home, Lifetime!

Tim Gunn said I'm FABULOUS

It's true. In April of 2008, Tim Gunn told me that I am a fabulous costume designer. Then he rejected me from Season five of Project Runway. It was still a really spectacular day. People are always impressed when I tell them that I auditioned for the show, regardless of the fact that I didn't make it on. I realized that a few weeks back I promised to tell you all the story of how I auditioned, so I'm finally making good on that promise. I hope it's not a let down, especially since I just shared the best part! Anyway, here's the play-by-play, which I hope you find entertaining, if you not useful for those of you aspiring fashion designers who may decide to audition sometime yourselves.

Anyway, it was a cold April day- I remember wearing one of my favorite fall outfits- a cute, cowl neck jersey print dress with black tights and my old stand-bys, the black leather knee-high boots. I remember that I specifically decided not to wear a dress I'd made for lots of reasons. The most deciding of which was the three hour drive to New York that I needed to make and let's be honest, I wanted to be comfortable. The audition was at the W Hotel in Times Square. I came prepared- I had the 25-plus page application I'd downloaded, printed out and painstakingly filled out. It is a loooooong application that I doubt anyone ever bothered to read. Along with my application, I had three samples of my work as well as my portfolio.

The line outside the W wasn't too long, which I found a little worrisome because I'll be honest, if I'm going into any kind of competition, I want to be intimidated. I want to feel like I'm up against the best. I'm not sure if it was because it was the 2nd day of auditions and most people came the 1st day, but seeing only 25 people outside bothered me. Of course I found out later there were a lot more queued up inside. The others in line with me were very friendly, we all chatted, mostly to size each other up. A handful of production assistants, very stylish production assistants, I might add, walked up and down our line, asking to see our samples and portfolios and quizzing us on our experience and background. The tended to swoop in unexpectedly rather than go systematically down the line. Anyway, as I neared the front of the line, I was taken out and told to stand with a sign that had a number on it. They snapped a polaroid, stapled it to my application and told me to go back and stand in line.

A little while later, I was interviewed by a woman who writes for Blogging Project Runway. I could tell right away she wasn't impressed, so I didn't get my hopes up about being featured on the blog that day. Shortly after that, one of the stylish PA's asked to see the samples of the woman in line in front of me. She unfortunately did not have any. No pictures of her work, either- only sketches. Well, apparently that wasn't enough. The PA sent her packing. Told her to come back with samples or at least photographs. I remember thinking, "Ouch! Denied!" It made me a tad nervous, but I got over it quickly.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, my group was sent inside. We took the elevator up to the designated floor and were told to hang our sample on the specified garment rack. I was also told to wait until my number was called. Once called, I was to go into the next room where I would be outfitted with a microphone. Then, and this is the second most memorable part, the PA told me that under no circumstances whatsoever was I to repeat anything that went on in the audition. If I was put through I was to tell NO ONE. Complete and utter confidentiality is what they require. She was so serious about it all and I get that. They want to be the ones to announce the new cast without the new cast blabbing all over town before the production company gets a chance, right? Also, under no circumstances was I to move from the "X" taped on the floor. I was to stand there and only there unless explicitly instructed to do otherwise by one of the panel judges.

OH! I almost forgot to mention this! Do you guys remember Stella? The one that always sewed with "leatha?" She was totally in line in front of me- about 3 people ahead. I remember thinking to myself, "She looks made for TV." I was never that impressed with her work on the show, but I'm sure she has her niche of clients who love what she does. 

Anyway, moving on. When my number was called, everything went as the PA described. I was outfitted with a microphone, they tested it to make sure it was working and before I knew it, I was standing in a room with a panel of four judges plus a small audience that I can only assume consisted of production staff. I have no idea who else was on the panel- all I saw was TIM GUNN!!! I just about died. I remember seeing a woman from Elle magazine, but I don't remember her name. The other two? I can't even picture their faces. I remember being careful to stand on the "X" as instructed by the oh-so-serious PA. Before I knew it, Tim Gunn was asking to see my portfolio. As he flipped through it, I told a super lame story about how I'd had a nightmare about the audition. I wanted to break the ice and be memorable, but I'm sure I was just another face in the crowd. As I finished my story, Tim asked me what I did and why I was there. I said, "I'm currently a costume designer." And he said, "And I can see from your portfolio that you're a fabulous one." He asked about my experience in fashion outside of costume design, of which I have none. I was honest. He and the lady from Elle both agreed that I didn't have the fashion background necessary for the show and told me they wouldn't put me through as a result. THEN... and here's another shining moment, Tim Gunn said, "Renee, if you were to put together a cohesive collection that is current, 2009 and fashion forward, I'd be very interested in seeing it." I almost died! How cool is that? I tend to think that Tim Gunn is not someone who says things lightly. I'm sure if he was not interested in seeing my potential, he never would have made that remark. He would have just thanked me for coming and sent me on my way. Right?

That was it. After being rejected, I left the W, met up with some friends and had a fabulous day in the city. Who could ask for anything more?  Well, I guess I could have asked to actually make it onto the show, right? To be honest, after watching Season five, I was tempted to send Tim a "Thank You" note, thanking him for NOT casting me with all those talentless crazies. If I am ever going to be on PR, I want it to be on a great season, not one with the likes of Kenley and Blaine.

What about all of you? Have any of you ever auditioned for Project Runway? Or any reality TV show? I'd love to hear about it!

Hmmm... I wonder if publishing this blog post is a violation of the confidentiality agreement I signed when I auditioned? It's two seasons later, so I'm thinking... no.
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