Saturday, April 30, 2011

V is for Vendetta...

 Sweater: Urban Outfitters clearance / Gloves: Target clearance / Jeans: Gabes (Express) / Boots: JC Penney clearance / Belt: J Crew final sale / Earrings: Thrifted both English and French, actually. And I'm pretty sure Mother Nature's got one out for me. The morning after I wore my springy Easter blossoms, vainly trying to seduce Mother Nature into putting out her own buds, it sleeted.  Icy slush pounded my windshield so hard my poor wipers could barely keep up. Then, it hailed. Hailed. Little balls of ice pelted my face and even found their way down my high-neck top where they melted on the ladies as I ran from my car. Thursday, we were graced with snow:

Till Mother Nature comes 'round, I'll keep warm with these long, soft gloves I scored on clearance at Target, thanks to the fact that over the mountains, where we have to go to find Target, spring has already sprung.

Perhaps I should quit pleading with her, challenging her, trying to make her jealous, and complaining about Mother Nature in general. Perhaps I should just accept that I am living in the mountains, and winter is longer up here. Much longer. Perhaps that's lame. Way lame. Zut alors! Zut, zut, zut  ALORS*. 

On a lighter note, does anyone out there know how to wrap hair around a pony and actually make it stay? Bobby pins just never hold for me- they pop right out within minutes.

P.S. I realize that pairing black and brown, by this point, is probably no longer a true rule to break since it was like the first to go when all this rule breaking business began, but there was a time not too long ago when I would never dream of pairing my blacks and browns, so I just wanted to point it out by linking here :)

*Zut alors! = Darn it! / Blast!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Introducing Lady Iris Copperfield of Cherry Tree Lane

 Dress Suit: Thrifted / Top: Gabes (Express) / Tights:  TJ Maxx / Shoes: Maurices

That's my British Royal Wedding moniker.

Lady Iris Copperfield certainly sounds like the type of person who'd, at the very least, host a British tea party to commemorate the grand event. Complete with scones served with Devonshire cream and jam, treacle tarts, and faux diamond tiaras. Wills and Kate are my generation, after all, and what young Cinderella lover hasn't dreamed of being the commoner turned princess?

If I were to throw my fanciful fête, this is most certainly what I'd wear. With pearls, of course. It's the closest I have to British "morning dress." We'll just say my lord is kindly holding my gloves and bejeweled topper.

I got this suit from a little hole-in-the-wall shop carrying Bay-area estate sale finds. Just before leaving empty-handed, a flash of canary caught my eye from behind musty old blazers. And suddenly there it was. Precisely my size, for a mere 7 dollars. I kid not. I'm positively giddy at the possibilities this darling suit presents: a dark wig and big sunglasses as Jackie O for dress up days, summer picnics and croquet, afternoon spring weddings with sparkly jewels and feathers in a structured hat, polo tournaments followed by crumpets and tea with the Queen. Okay, so maybe I got a bit carried away with that last one. And maybe I don't have any afternoon spring wedding invitations to which I could wear it either. I certainly wasn't invited to the royal wedding, obviously. But I could wear it, were the opportunity to arise, and in top stylish form!

Considering Halloween's months away and it's still rather cold for picnics and croquet, I just took it for quick stroll by the lake. I will, mind you, wear it to some elegant fête* by the end of the summer. I may even find that perfect chapeau paré de bijoux* to go with it. You hold me to it.

Since I'm unfortunately not Lady Iris, and am not cool enough to actually have my tea party, I linked up here at my friend Tiffany's cute party and here for What I Wore {or would have worn...} Wednesday!

P.S. Name games are fun, but they're clever, too. For the love of frivolity, please never use real information you'd use for a security question.

P.P.S. Check out this swoon-worthy bit about British royal wedding gowns. I can't wait to see Kate's gown. And yes, I am watching it live. Since I live on the West Coast, this means I'll be staying up all night, rather than getting up early. If an exam is worth an all nighter, a fairy tale certainly is!
*fête = party ; chapeau paré de bijoux = bejeweled hat

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Blossoms

Dress: B Moss / Cardi: Elder Beerman / Tights: Kohls clearance / Shoes: Target clearance / Necklace: Inherited from Grandma / Earrings: NY & Co / Bracelet: Made by Yours Truly, not that you can really see the jewelry...

Today, the Husband and I had our own little Easter. First we went to church, where I got to hear him speak about the last week of the Savior's life. I love hearing him speak; he's so eloquent it makes me a teensy weensy bit jealous. I figure that's okay since it also makes me love him even more. We visited friends, we hosted a spontaneous play date with the cutest, bounciest puppy for our hound, we made balsamic glazed salmon and edamame and marble cake with my Grandma's fluffy chocolate frosting and strawberries on top, and we delved into the Easter basket full of goodies {Utah truffles, anyone? They're divine} from my super sweet mother-in-law.

I wore my springiest dress full of blossoms. The neighborhood is now decorated with flowers that have sprung up despite the cold and wind. The trees still haven't bloomed, but I'm hoping once they got sight of this dress they were so bitterly jealous that they decided tomorrow's their big day.  And they're going to go all out to beat my dress in loveliness and since they've been preparing for so extra long this year, they'll be even more beautiful than ever. And it will scare the cold right out of here. And my life will be full of warm, green happiness. Fingers crossed!

Joyeuses Pâques!*

Post linked up here for What I Wore Wednesday and  here for Rule Breaking Monday! When I was a young Brownie, an Avon lady gave my troupe makeovers. Everyone got pink lipstick, except me. I was devastated. She said red heads must absolutely avoid reds, especially pink. She gave me orange instead. 80s orange lipstick. Yeah, much better, lady. I shamefully avoided reds the next few years before rebelliously overcompensating with hot pink capris. By now, however, I like to think I've showed her who's the color boss and that redheads can tastefully wear reds and pinks. I've even dared wear red lipstick a time or two. Like in my last post, for example. Ha! Take that, misguided pink-monger Avon lady!

*Joyeuses Pâques = Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Waiting for Godot, I mean Spring

Trench: Gap Outlet / Skirt: Gabes (LOFT) / Sweater: Gap clearance / Tights: Kohls clearance / Boots: Bloomingdales (Burberry) There's an excellent story behind why I have Burberry rainboots.  It involves a high-stakes bet with the Husband...Guess who won?

Waiting for spring's warmth feels like waiting for Godot. Will it ever come? It snowed last weekend. Snowed. Now all it can seem to do is be cold and rain. Or even better, sleet.

You know, I was once in a mash-up play (don't you speak Glee?) that included Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Which was originally written in French, entitled En Attendant Godot. You just never know when something French will pop into your life. I wore a leotard and sat in an old tin trashcan for an entire scene. Oh, theatrical interpretations. Godot never comes, in case you didn't know. Spring dandy well better come. Did you hear that Mother Nature? It better come, or you'd better watch out. That's a threat, not a promise :)

To distract myself from the wintery weather, I went thrifting for a springy outfit. This was strictly retail therapy so I went to the price-friendliest shop in town with a limit of $7. At first there didn't seem to be much, but persistence paid off and amongst the acid washed mom jeans and old lady dresses I found the below Eddie Bauer skirt for $3 and lemony seersucker blazer for $2.

When I went to pay, they didn't take card! Quelle horreur*! I searched my car but only came up with a total of $3.32. I asked if she'd hold the items for a bit, and that lovely lady told me not to worry about it! So there you go, I stayed under half my budget and got a nice outfit that's waiting its little heart out for warm weather to show off its pastel colors and seersucker springiness. Despite the cold, I decided to challenge dear old Mother N and try it out this morning. And she put me right back in my place. It snowed. Again:

Skirt & Blazer: Thrifted / Tank: Shade / Boots: Zappos (MIA) / Necklace: Inherited from Grandma /  Earrings: Gabes (1928). Please excuse the dark photos. Mr. Sun broke through right as the Husband left for work. Hopefully he sticks around to melt this tiring white stuff.

Looks like she didn't mistake my threat for a promise. Guess I won't be challenging her again any time soon.

Post linked up here at my friend Tiffany's cute party, and here at The Pleated Poppy's What I Wore Wednesday (the rain outfit was Wednesday).
*Quelle horreur = Oh no! How horrible!

This post was featured on Making the World Cuter! Thanks, Tiffany!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Maxed Out of My Comfort Zone

Maxi, Necklace: Piperlime (Hive & Honey) / Button-Up: J Crew final sale / Belt: Ruche / Earrings: Gabes (Monet) / Bangles: France / Sandals: Piperlime (BC) / Bag: Bunco Prize (BCBG)!

I have to admit, when I saw that the maxi had won for this month's Everybody, Everywear challenge, my heart sank. I've never felt flattered by casual long skirts or dresses. The maxi's a trend I'd yet to even think of trying, and I didn't fancy purchasing an item that would fall straight into Category 3 of items for my closet purge just for a participating post.

In complaining about this to the Husband, he suggested I just get one and give it a try. Ha! I guffawed at him. Little did he know he may be encouraging me to purchase a look he's notorious for disliking- the empire waist. He says they should be reserved for those with child. Cue the eye roll.

I decided to give it a whirl. Since my sewing skills are nil and we live in the middle of nowhere in terms of shopping, I took a look online after Ross failed me. I went straight to Zappos and Piperlime, since they have free shipping and returns. I was convinced I'd be returning. As you can see from the photos, my stubbornness was humbled. This thing is comfort to the maxi {ha ha ha} and I managed to avoid the empire waist.

In fact, I even found several others that piqued my interest, including this lovely from Aqua that's out of my price range, this and this chiffon darling from Express that I'm hoping will go on sale, this nautical nicety from Accidentally in Love, and this cutie from Bebe.

Mince alors!* I like maxi dresses. Even more astonishingly, I think the Husband does too. He took an awful lot of photos from this angle....

P.S. This dress isn't actually green. It became so as I was jealously reading all the blogs out there showing lucky ladies frolicking with bare skin in sunshine and apparent warmth. I, meanwhile, have been pleading to no avail with Mother Nature to share the love in my neck of the woods. It was 40 degrees with a devilishly fierce wind when we took these photos. You'd think I'd have picked a jacket to go with my new maxi. But alas, I let the sunny skies fool me into thinking it wouldn’t be that bad. Brilliant, am I not?

Maxi | Everybody, Everywear

*Mince alors! = Holy cow! / Blimey!

Working Wardrobe Phase 1: The Purge

This is how purging made me feel...repeated cycles of sadness then madness. And yes, as you can see from my closet, I have years and years worth of purging to do. Over a decade, really. 

Weeks ago, I began to purge my closet, all in the name of Phase 1 of Project Working Wardrobe. Why am I doing this? Essentially, I’m a sucker for bargains and know all the best places to find them. This means I have a lot of nice clothes. It also means that I have excess that's muddling my closet and brain, rendering me quite l'espèce d'idiote* in the mornings as I stand before my closet trying to figure out what to wear. I knew my closet was a gold mine. I just wasn't being a very good miner. It was time to separate the diamonds from the rough so I could see how to put things together to make them shine. I began my purge with a pile of clothes stashed in the spare bedroom...

...and over time added a piece here and there. Then went back for a piece here and there. Then delayed donation. Um, purging is exasperatingly difficult.  I thus I decided I needed a method to my madness and decided upon 3 basic categories of clothing to purge. So let’s be rid of them once and for all, shall we? And perhaps we'll learn some valuable lessons along the way. Or just get a massive headache.

Category 1: Clothes that don't fit.  Exhibit A:

 Skirt: Down East. I got it on a sweet sale, but it's too big. I bought it online and didn't want to lose the money in return shipping.  I lost money anyhow because I could never shrink it down enough to fit comfortably.

I have this ridiculous habit of intentionally purchasing, or sometimes unintentionally purchasing then keeping, bargains that are too big because I think I’ll use them when I gain weight or have kids. That’s just plain unhealthy. Who plans for a fatter future? And it certainly won’t motivate me to lose the baby weight when the time comes. So I packed away a select few stretchy items for future maternity wear, then said ciao to all other clothes that don't fit, including the above skirt.

Lesson 1:  Don’t waste money on clothes that don’t fit unless you plan to immediately have them altered. Don’t plan on this unless you really, really mean it and the item is really, really worth it!

Category 2: Clothes that are past their prime but may have sentimental value. This was the most difficult for me. It includes fads that are no longer in style or age-appropriate and items that have lost their shape or diminished in quality. I had a LOT of clothes in this category, so it was tough to narrow it down to just one. I finally did, and I give you Exhibit B, my Pretty Kitty T:

Top: AE, purchased many years ago, as evidenced by my wearing it in 2005 at an early morning after-work breakfast with my Disney co-workers in FL, and again in 2006 as photographed by my then fiancé husband in WV, and again in 2007 while climbing a tree in St. Louis's Forest Park, and yet again in 2008 when taking goodbye photos of my first car (please ignore my foolish pose.)

It's a bit juniorish to fit in with my current wardrobe, is too short, and has stains. But do you see all those memories? And those are just the ones I captured on camera. Fortunate, indeed, as I will now remember it with photos (aren’t photos grand?), bite the bullet, and send my beloved shirt along with other like items to better days where they can get use again, like the toys in Toy Story. Adieu, mes chéris.*

Lesson 2:  Recycling is good. So is dressing your age, and being able to say goodbye. Hoarding is bad. Never become a hoarder. Become a memory keeper with photos instead.  

Category 3: Clothes I never wear, typically due to the misguided shopper syndrome. This particular ailment leads to purchasing an item that looks good in theory. It should work. But it doesn’t. Exhibit C:

Top: Maurices. Though I find it pretty, the last time I wore it was in this photo, 3 years ago at my cousin's bridal shower. I'm pretty sure I wore it a total of 3 times, ever. But what do you think of my short hair? I'd just chopped 18 inches to donate and am growing it out again.

I usually bought it on a whim because of the price, or to try a trend that doesn’t really suit me or work with my wardrobe. I can't pull it off, it doesn't fit well, it's uncomfortable, or maybe I just don't love it or need it. This is tough to accept. But it just doesn’t work out, and I must face that it never will. Another case of the misguided shopper syndrome involves purchasing items that may actually be fine, but don’t really contribute to your current wardrobe. I give you Exhibit D:

Confession: I have 2 skirts per hanger. I'm fairly sure I don't need another black skirt, no matter how enchantingly inexpensive it may be...

Finally, we don't want to forget the footwear we never wear because of unwarranted pain. Like those last season pointy toed shoes. Which I wore twice. And regretted each time. Breaking in does not always work. It’s time let go and say bon voyage*, all you trickster items, you!

Lesson 3:  No matter how great of a bargain it is, it’s not a great deal if you don’t really love it and won’t comfortably wear it. Or don’t need it. Like I need those 7 black skirts. Yeah…

Finally, I also found the need to address clothes that need mending. These usually fall under Category 3, but for potentially fixable reasons. I present Exhibit E, epitomizing the curse of the torn seams:

Capris & Sleeveless Top: Gabes (Express). The pants also have a tear in the seam, though it's in a rather unmentionable location, so we won't highlight it right now.  Let's just say I can't bend over or take long strides in this outfit.

You see, a lot of my wardrobe is from Gabriel Brothers. I'm currently preparing an entire post about Gabes, but for now you just need to know that they sell fantastic clothes, at unbelievable prices, that are sometimes damaged or irregular. I have a lot of clothes from Gabes. Several of my Gabes finds are in fine condition. Others need mending. Which I am not very good at. Which means I’ve collected 2 shopping bags worth of clothes that need mending. A tear in a seam, missing button, small hole or rip, uneven seams, small stain, etc. Thanks to a free hour of mending I won at a recent church auction (I was ruthless, I tell you) I’m down to 1 bag. It’s time to pick out what I really want (apply Lessons 1-3), do what I can, take the rest to a pro, and be done with it!

Lesson 4:  Don’t purchase clothes that need mending unless they are needed in your wardrobe immediately, meaning you’ll mend them right away. Also, quickly decide to mend or donate items that were purchased in good condition but have since acquired the need for mending. Clothing does you no good if it’s not wearable, and that growing pile with do nothing but stress you out!

Whew, that was quite a bit. However, I’m already feeling lighter and airier. Amazing how such things can affect you mentally, n’est-ce pas*? Here’s my collection of purged items, ready to be sent off to the world.

Next phase to create a working wardrobe: Assess. In case you haven't noticed, I'm following Kendi's tutorial on creating a working wardrobe. It's marvelous advice, and I found her bit on purging most helpful.

*espèce d'idiote = fool; adieu mes chéris = farewell my darlings; bon voyage = have a nice trip;  
n'est-ce pas? = is it not?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shamrockin' Out

Apparently I deem a random clover slightly more favorable than a huge flash spot....
I'm belatedly blogging about St. Patrick's day because I was quite la diligente abeille* when it rolled around. I worked that day, then hosted Bunco for a group of 12 ladies chez moi* that night. And I don't just host. Hosting is my thing, so I go all out. I'm pretty sure I think I'm Monica, from Friends, when I host something.

For dinner, I made cheesy chicken and spinach ravioli casseroles. I even made the sauce green by pureeing spinach into it and used green spinach raviolis. I also made Irish soda bread with this to-die-for garlic relish, an all-green salad, and green punch. Pistachio cookies with green icing, green cupcakes iced with shamrocks and glitter, and bowls of Andes mint chocolates rounded out my Shamrockin' dinnertime fair. It literally took all night to clean my house and make all that scrumptious food. Oh, but I love hosting so much that I didn't even care.

As hostess, you also get to pick out the prizes. I went to a kitchen outlet near Portland and put them in glitzy green bags to display. They included a doughnut maker, silicone cake molds for a huge cupcake with an insert for a creamy filling (and featuring photos of ideas to decorate your cupcake as a cute animal... I was so tempted to buy one for myself), griddles that make "pancake puffs," cookie cutters, and soft fruit slicers.

I tried to find St. Patty's Day decorations, but ended up with that lone wooden sign you see in the top image. St. Patrick's day was fun, but difficult to decorate. That's why I used my food and prizes to do the job. AND in my frenzy to be the hostess with the mostest, I forgot to take pictures. Can you believe it? All that hard work and no proof. Oh là là là là!*

We still had a fine time, and I was peacock-ishly proud of my St. Patrick's day outfit. I strutted around in it all day like nobody's business, wondering if anyone took note of my efforts (they didn't.) I took 2 matchy matchy outfits I've worn countless time and combined them to make a new ensemble. The first of these matchy matchy outfits, which formed the green base of my St. Patrick's day attire, is nauseatingly matchy:

Skirt, Turtleneck: B Moss / Long-Sleeve Top: Gadzooks (Yes, it's that old) / Peacock Headband: Fred Meyer / Shoes: Payless / Bracelet: Gabes

I started with the green skirt- easy enough considering it's both green and tartan, though the latter is a really Scottish. I first considered just wearing the black top. Boring. So I added some jewelry, but it still didn't ice my cupcakes.

Then it hit me. The black was built in. I needed to add brown. Or, a tint of brown at least. And I knew the perfect piece. It was originally part of this matchy matchy outfit I'd purchased for my business casual wardrobe for my first real-world job post college. It's matchiness isn't so bad because neutral on neutral is still stylish, though not terribly exciting, and the neutrals are different enough:

Top & Capris: Old Navy / Sweater: Maurices / Shoes: Gabes (AE) / Necklace: AE

But when I took the sweater and added it to my current ensemble with some taupe boots, it became this:

Sweater: Maurices / Skirt: B. Moss / Boots: Ross (Apepazza) / Necklace: Urban Outfitters / Man in the Reflection: The Husband

Ahh, much better. So sorry for the reflective backgrounds. By the time I thought to do photos to document my outfitting process, it was getting dark.

P.S. I found these Apepazza boots on clearance for $15. The tag said "compare to $295" and I didn't believe it for a second, though they did seem good quality. I Googled them and, sure enough, they were being sold for $295 at multiple locations. Real Italian leather boots. Now, you can only buy them from here and they're on sale for $129. A week later I found another pair in black. That's bona fide Luck o' the Irish!

*la diligente abeille = busy bee; chez moi = at my place; oh là = oh my

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Le Rat de Ville: City Thrifting

In my previous post, I recounted my experiences as a country mouse, thrifting in a small town. I found some brilliant pieces, and even more brilliant prices. Then I spent time as a city mouse, and went thrifting in Portland. (Confused by all this talk of mice? Read the previous post first.)

We went to Portland for a long weekend and I took the opportunity to hit up some thrift shops. I was especially excited to go to the Buffalo Exchange. I'd only been to one before, in San Antonio, and remembered it being really trendy. I didn't, however, recall the prices. Maybe it was because I'd just had my incredibly inexpensive experiences as the country mouse, but I couldn't help but be a bit indignant. Twenty bucks for a used skirt? Are you sure? Those prices really put my rationalization skills to the test. I shelled out $16 for this skirt after reasoning that it was not only super darling, comfortable, and machine washable, but also featured an elastic waistband, making it eligible for future maternity wear. That's like getting 2 skirts for the price of one, right? That makes it okay. Yes, it does.

Skirt: Consigned / Tank & Jacket: Thrifted / Shoes: TJ Maxx (Bandolino) / Necklace: Buckle clearance / Bracelet: France / Headband: Target

Did you notice that I paired it with my $3 jacket and 99 cent tank from my small town thrifting? That made me feel a bit better about the cost of the skirt.

I also gave up $15 for this versatile basic skirt from Banana Republic. It has pockets, which I simply love. It's also machine washable! Finding that little phrase on a tag often determines whether or not I will purchase an item. 

Skirt, Shoes: Consigned / Top: J Crew clearance / Short Necklace: Elder Beerman / Long Necklace: Ruche / Earrings: Icing /  Bracelets: France / Jolies Fleurs*: c/o the Thoughtful Husband / Heavenly Scent: c/o les Jolies Fleurs

This price trend continued to the other thrift shops I visited. Not that it stopped me from finding excellent pieces and forking over the plastic for them. Just discouraged me a bit, is all it did. For example, when I saw the $22 tag on this Ann Taylor skirt at Sequel, I said "No way!" and tried to make my fingers stop caressing the little velvet ribbon that trims the top. Then I saw that it was on a rack marked 50% off. Oh, quelle chance!* Suddenly, I could hardly recall purchasing a skirt for less than $3. Sales are tricky like that:

Skirt & Tank: Thrifted (I told you that tank was versatile!) / Cardi: Gabes (AE) / Shoes: TJ Maxx (Bandolino) / Necklace: Buckle clearance

At the same shop I also found this nautical Ann Taylor skirt ($14) and J. Crew blazer ($17). The prices are ouchie, I know. But the jacket is machine washable, possibly not even used by the looks, and was on my list of pieces to look for, and the skirt goes with it oh so well:

Skirt & Jacket: Thrifted / Top: J Crew final sale / Shoes: TJ Maxx (AE) / Earrings: Icing / Necklace: Elder Beerman / Bracelets: France

And, perhaps my favorite find, these Sofft shoes. Have you ever worn Sofft shoes? They're like clouds for your feet. I got my first pair from Gabes back East (more on Gabes later) for $29 new. They're originally priced at ~ $100. I found this pair for $16, and you can hardly tell they're used! I felt like I was on Cloud 9, metaphorically and literally, when I slipped these lovelies on (worn above with the BR skirt):

Finally,  I would be remiss if I didn't confess that I also used my opportunity as a city mouse to hit up a few shops I rarely get to frequent since I spend most of my time as a country mouse these days. Shops like a brick & mortar J. Crew Factory and H&M (!). Those pieces will be featured in upcoming posts. Meanwhile, I'm back to being a country mouse, and appreciating it in an all new light.

*quelle chance! = what luck!; les jolies fleurs = pretty flowers
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