Archive for December 2011

Thrift Finds for December

Saturday, December 31, 2011 9:35 PM

I mostly shopped for other people this month. But I took a few minutes during a long day of holiday shopping* to try on a few things for myself. Here's what I came away with:

Talbots plaid wool skirt, Goodwill Portland (Forest Ave), $5
 This skirt was was brand new; the tags still attached to it said it went for $68 retail. It was slightly too big, but that was no problem. Because it's a wrap skirt, all I had to do to take it in was to move a few buttons, which is well within my limited sewing capabilities.

Style & Co. (Macy's) cable-knit sweater, Goodwill Portland, $5
This sweater is nothing special, but gray is my most versatile neutral, so I suspect I'll get lots of use out of it, though it's a tad too short to wear untucked with pants.

SDII skirt, Goodwill Portland, $5
I have never heard of this brand before, but it seems to be a cheap juniors brand. I don't mind that — it's a really cute skirt! But you won't see me wear it for a few more months. Between the lightweight cotton fabric and the white background, it's hardly appropriate for winter wear.

I also stopped into a couple of stores in the past week but didn't find anything worth buying. I plan to spend some extra time shopping in the next week or two in the hope that people have cleaned out closets and drawers to make room for gifts they just received. Wish me luck!

* I went back to the Forest Ave Goodwill a few days later to return some shirts that didn't fit J, and the striped sweater was gone! I hope I get to see the buyer wearing it, maybe with some black cigarette pants, dark denim (skinny or wide-legged) or winter white.

My Under Armor

Friday, December 30, 2011 10:38 PM

Sorry to keep talking about the weather, but it's winter in Maine, and I have reached almost comical levels of layering. In addition to the usual bra and underwear, I put on a tank top, two pairs of tights and thick socks before I even touched a garment that would make me decent to leave my apartment. I was armored up to face the cold today.

I thought up this outfit a while ago. I figured that a Friday, during the slowest week of the year, with no meetings outside our building, was the perfect day for it. And then it turned out to be somewhat less bold than I expected once I actually put it on. Not to worry — once it warms up, I'll pair this skirt with a short-sleeve top I have that combines the black and bright pink (this T-shirt is less purple than it appears here) with a crazy pattern of criss-crossing lines. I'll blind my coworkers yet.

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Black cardigan, Banana Republic (eBay)
Magenta T-shirt, Target (thrifted)
Necklace, thrifted
Tomato red skirt, Modcloth
Pink tights, Old Navy
Cashmere socks, gift
Boots, Aerosoles

Teal Time

Thursday, December 29, 2011 9:59 PM

Yesterday started out bizarrely warm, and then the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in 10 hours. And today was truly cold — high around 20 and lots of wind. I pulled out my heaviest winter coat for only the second time.

As I've mentioned, I love teal and turquoise. Today I paired them atop a deep, rich purple. And check out how my new purse matches the belt!

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Turquoise cardigan, Target
Purple turtleneck T, Target
Teal skinny belt, Target
Gray pants, New York & Co.
Gray socks, Target
Metallic flats, Bare Traps
Herringbone coat, J.C. Penney
Teal purse, Gianni Bernini
Houndstooth scarf, thrifted

The Stripe-Tights Connection

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 9:37 PM

Last time I wore this sweater, I matched my tights to the pink stripes. So this time I went with the navy. I can't decide which I like better; good thing I don't have to choose.

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Striped cardigan, Aeropostale (thrifted)
White tank top, J Crew
Necklace, from a mall kiosk in high school
Brown tweed skirt, Urban Outfitters
Navy tights, Target
Brown ankle boots, Macy's

After Christmas

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 9:57 PM

Although I've made progress in my work wear, I'm still trying to class up my weekend clothes. Too often, I default to jeans (or cords) and a T-shirt or plain sweater. So for my day off today, I pulled out a skirt and my new tights that finally arrived from We Love Colors. Seriously, they took so long to get here that I started to wonder if I was just imagining I had ordered them. These maroon tights are lovely, but now I have to decide if I'm going to keep the rubine or the purple, or both. The purple is BRIGHT.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas weekend! My younger brother flew up from Florida, and J and I drove to New Hampshire on Saturday for a fancy Christmas Eve dinner out with my family. Then my parents and brother came to visit us yesterday, and my dad made a delicious roast duck.

Today I made a return to Macy's and checked out the after-Christmas sales. The mall was mobbed. I came home with a teal purse, purchased with a Macy's gift card. It's my first bag made of real leather — I guess I'm all grown up!

Gray sweater, Macy's brand (thrifted)
Red miniskirt, Gap (thrifted)
Maroon tights, We Love Colors
Black flats, Ecco

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2011 11:30 PM

So, I worked today. I worked last Christmas, too. As a Jew, I don't mind volunteering so that other people can have the day off. Especially because J also worked today, so we couldn't have gone the Chinese-food-and-a-movie route, anyway. And also especially because I get to take Tuesday off, as well as tomorrow.

The shorter necklace here was too short to layer this way, so I lengthened it a bit with a loop of thread. I'm a genius.

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Sky blue sweater, Target
Necklaces, thrifted
Jeans, J.C. Penney juniors brand (thrifted)
Boots, Miz Mooz Journey


Saturday, December 24, 2011 10:07 AM

Cardigan, Banana Republic (eBay)
Pinstriped shirt, Target
Necklace, thrifted
Jeans, DKNY Jeans
Boots, Aerosoles

This is a time of year when most people probably feel anything but relaxed. And I can sympathize to some extent — there's a lot of cleaning to do in this apartment before my parents come to visit on Monday. But all my gifts are bought, and the cleaning will get done.

Meanwhile, at work, there was very little going on yesterday, and it felt like everyone was marking time until they got to go home for a long weekend. It was definitely a day for a relaxed outfit like this one: no buttoning the cardigan, no makeup, hair pulled back into a low ponytail just so it wouldn't compete with everything else going on around my neck.

Goodbye, Sweater

Thursday, December 22, 2011 9:21 PM

When I pulled out this sweater this morning, for the first time this season, I realized that I had been avoiding it subconsciously. The fit is boxy, and it requires dry cleaning. I think I'll give it one more cleaning and then donate or swap it.

This was one of a few sweaters my parents bought me for my birthday three years ago. I had just moved to Ohio two months prior, and I was struggling to put together a work wardrobe to get me through the winter. I had some warm-ish clothes for my winters in Atlanta, but nothing work-appropriate; my professional internships had all been during the summers. This sweater has served me well enough, but it's time to start looking for something more fitted to replace it.

We had a holiday potluck at the office today, so I pulled out this sweater one more time and paired it with my new wool skirt for a festive, cozy look. And because I love matchiness, I couldn't resist coordinating my outerwear with my innerwear.

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Sweater, Charter Club (gift) 
Wrap skirt, Talbots (thrifted) 
Tights, Target 
Cashmere socks, gift 
Boots, Aerosoles 
Scarf, a shop in Edinburgh 
Peacoat, Kenneth Cole Reaction

Clashing Neutrals?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 10:19 PM

I think there's some sort of fashion "rule" against pairing gray and brown. I'm not sure why — is it because gray is related to black? If that's the case, I have no compunction about mixing black and brown either. And I think gray is the most versatile neutral.

This outfit was inspired by Kendra's mixed neutrals. I was concerned about wearing gray on gray, and I considered adding a necklace or scarf for more color, but I liked the way it turned out with just the neutrals. The only things that didn't quite work were the slightly-too-short sweater and the dark, dark brown of the boots, which almost looked black. In any case, expect to see gray plus brown here again!

Sweater, Macy's brand (thrifted)
Belt, thrifted
Pants, Banana Republic
Boots, Macy's

Eight Crazy Nights

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 10:17 PM

I typically have avoided dressing to coordinate with holidays, going out of my way not to wear red on Valentine's Day or green on St. Patrick's Day. But I could change that, I guess, especially when the holiday colors in question are ones I love, like blue and silver. Happy Chanukah!

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Blouse, New York & Co.
Skirt, Target
Belt, Old Navy
Turquoise tights, Old Navy
Polka dot tights, Old Navy
Wedges, Bandolino (thrifted)

Shopping Diet

3:08 PM

Last winter I found myself in about as big a rut as possible when it comes to dressing oneself. I was so bored that I had decided to give up entirely. I would maintain about a three-week rotation of simple, solid tops; I would wear neutral, flat shoes; I would stop wearing skirts. I just didn't want to think about getting dressed anymore.

Ironically, my quest to turn dressing into a mindless act led me in the opposite direction. I googled for lists of wardrobe essentials, and one of the sites where I landed was Wardrobe Oxygen. Allie clearly gives a lot of thought to clothing, she knows her stuff from working in retail and she has a personal style that is classic and streamlined but certainly not boring. And from her blog, I found links to many others where women were taking the task of getting dressed — for work or for going out or for running errands — and turning it into an act of creative expression.

Yes, I had stumbled into the world of personal style blogs. And I was inspired.

What these women were doing looked fun and doable. I had just wrapped up months of wedding planning, which gave me a chance to exercise visual creativity muscles that otherwise had lain dormant since my years as an art kid in high school. Maybe clothing could be my next medium.

So anyway, all this is to say that sometime in January or February, I decided to overhaul my wardrobe. I couldn't devote much money to it, but I had noticed something else on many of the personal style blogs I now followed. Pieces from places where I shopped, such as Target, or that I liked but couldn't really afford, like Banana Republic, were mixed in with items labeled "thrifted." There was my answer.

I decided that I would go six months without buying any new (but not new-to-me) clothing or accessories.* It wasn't a shopping ban because anything secondhand was fine. I thought of it as a shopping diet instead. In Weight Watchers, for instance, fruits and vegetables count for zero points, so you can eat as much of those as you want. Well, clothes from thrift stores would be my vegetables.

I started my shopping diet on March 1. And yeah, I went a little overboard at first. I got caught up in the thrill of the bargains, which become not so bargainous if something isn't in great condition or doesn't quite fit, but hey, it's only $5. I rarely left a thrift store without spending $25 or $30, and some items from those early days ended up redonated in short order. I also spent a lot of time searching for items on eBay, but that really only served me well when I was looking for something specific.

Eventually, I figured it out. I learned how to navigate thrift stores more quickly and how to put that $2 skirt back if I didn't love it. I also learned more about my personal style and the gaps in my wardrobe. I brought home a lot of great clothes, both classic and unusual, functional and funky. And now I see thrifting not just as a means to the end of putting clothes onto my body, but also as a hobby.

That doesn't mean, however, that I wasn't getting a little antsy as I got to July and August, the final months of my shopping diet. I knew exactly what I would buy on Sept. 1: some flat sandals and a full, knee-length red skirt. Neither had turned up in my months of thrifting. For the sandals, this probably had a lot to do with timing; you could probably find some decent sandals in a thrift store now, though I think a lot of people don't get rid of those unless they're really uncomfortable or really grody. As for the skirt, I had found a burgundy pencil skirt; a pleated, floral midi skirt; and a miniskirt — all great, because I love red clothing in basically all forms, but not good enough. A saved search on eBay also did not produce the skirt I envisioned.

A few weeks before the shopping diet ended, I found a skirt on Modcloth that looked perfect and crossed my fingers that it wouldn't sell out before Sept. 1. Guess what, it didn't! And though I often cringe now at paying retail prices for anything, especially full price, I didn't hesitate for a moment to drop $50, including shipping, to have it. I really think it goes with everything in my closet and will serve me well for a long time.

For the sandals, the timing actually worked out perfectly. I hit up the clearance racks at DSW on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Because the summer was officially over, I had lots of options and came away with two pairs of cute sandals for about $50.

I still do most of my shopping at thrift and consignment stores. Like I said, it's hard for me to stomach spending $40 on a sweater now. I also like the treasure-hunt aspect of thrifting. My new system is that all "just browsing" shopping happens at thrift and consignment stores. If I want something specific, I often give myself a few weeks to try to find it through thrifting; if that's not successful, I'll search for a new version. I'm mostly happy with my wardrobe, at least when it comes to actual garments. These days I'm focused more on accessories. Stay tuned for more on that!

* I actually "cheated" on my diet once, when I needed new underwear. Yeah, that's not something I'm going to buy used. Ick. So I don't think that should count against me.

Confession Time

Monday, December 19, 2011 9:08 PM

Today's dirty (pun intended?) secret: With the exception of the necklace, this outfit is a repeat from yesterday.

Sweater, Tommy Hilfiger
Necklace, thrifted
Skirt, Old Navy (thrifted)
Sweater tights, Target
Boots, Macy's

In truth, I hardly ever wash items after each wearing — basically only underwear and socks. And I promise I had on fresh underthings today.

I got more dressed up than I usually do on weekends for some Special Family Time in New Hampshire. J and I went to his father's house for an early Chanukah celebration on Saturday night (for which I wore the skirt and boots with a different sweater, bare legs and a belt). It was my first time celebrating Chanukah there, and J's brother was able to come in from Chicago and his sister from Schenectady, with their respective partners. Then we met my parents for brunch on Sunday morning.

There were many fabulous gifts all around on Saturday. I think the gifts we gave (framed wedding photos, cookbooks and beverages) went over well. J and I received several gift cards to some of Portland's best restaurants, ones we wouldn't be able to afford on our own, like Hugo's and 555. J's grandmother very thoughtfully gave me a lifetime membership to Hadassah.

The gift I'm most excited about, though, is my new iPhone 4! I've had my LG phone for two years, and in the last several months it has taken to turning itself off randomly — at least once a day now. Unfortunately, I may be stuck with it for another week. The folks at the Verizon store here in Portland said I need to take my iPhone to the store where it was purchased to activate it. It's a good thing we're already planning to go back to New Hampshire next weekend for Christmas with my family. I'm really looking forward to be able to look up directions when I'm lost and to google labels when I'm thrifting!

I'm Sensing a Trend

Sunday, December 18, 2011 4:56 PM

Because one of my 101 in 1,001 goals is to prepare 180 new recipes, I'm keeping a list of everything I cook and bake. Take a look at the last four items on my list:

- grated beet and carrot salad
- beet and feta tart
- beet gnocchi
- chocolate beet cake

This doesn't even include the borscht I made a few weeks prior to these other dishes.

Except for the gnocchi, they were all quite good. And I don't even like beets very much — I find their flavor boring and one-note, so I look for recipes that will introduce other flavors to create something more interesting. I'm sure we'll get lots more beets through our winter CSA this season, so I welcome any recipe suggestions!

The Lazy Gal's Guide

Friday, December 16, 2011 10:58 PM

How to create get dressed when you're lacking in inspiration:
1) Start with an outfit from August (see below)
2) Add a cardigan and a belt
3) Umm, wear the same shoes? I don't have a step three. Oh, wait —
4) Take a bunch of photos you don't realize are out-of-focus until you upload them.

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Cardigan, Banana Republic (eBay)
Top, New York & Co.
Necklace, thrifted
Trouser jeans, Express
Pumps, Calvin Klein (eBay)

Dark Days

Thursday, December 15, 2011 10:26 PM

May I never take another photo this bad:

Not only are we one week from the shortest day of the year, I had to leave for work a half-hour earlier than usual, and it was gray and rainy all day. This was not at all conducive to outfit shots, especially because five of the light bulbs in our living room track lighting are burned out. We need to borrow a ladder from someone else in our building in order to replace them. But in the life of a personal style blogger, you just have to take the good shots with the bad ones and hope tomorrow's turn out better, amirite?

My tights were a bright spot in the day, though — bright enough to startle one of my co-workers into a double-take.

Dress, Gap
Sweater, Jones New York Sport (gift)
Necklace, thrifted
Tights, Old Navy
Pumps, Nine West (consignment)

Houndstooth and Herringbone

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 9:41 PM

I love houndstooth, but I didn't own any until I came across this scarf at Goodwill Topsham a couple of months ago. I've been looking forward to this pattern mix ever since; I just had to wait until it was cold enough. And then it ended up being considerably warmer than I expected today. But I was still really excited to wear this outfit. Fashion dorkitude.

Hmmm, I think my pants need hemming.

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Sweater, Target
Scarf, thrifted
Pants, LOFT
Boots, Macy's

All in the Details

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:03 PM

Big necklaces, bold patterns and colorful tights can be tools to create eye-catching outfits. But for most women, they can't be the foundation of a wardrobe. We need basics — closet workhorses that can be worn over and over, combined in new ways and embellished with accessories. That's not to say those basics must be boring!

Whenever possible, I try to seek out basics that have some unique or interesting detail to make them just a little more fun to wear. You don't have to pay a lot for garments like these; just make sure that whatever detail you find isn't too trendy, or that item could start looking dated very quickly. I think I've done an especially good job with my neutral pencil skirts — and what could be more basic than pencil skirts in gray, navy and black? (I'm not including my burgundy pencil skirt, though it's a virtual neutral for me.)

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Gray: isn't actually gray at all. This skirt is a bit of a Monet: It looks gray from a distance, but get up close and you'll see that it's a micro-herringbone in black and white. Bought at Target in February 2011 for $10; it needed hemming by 1.5".

Navy: has the criss-crossing tabs, the buttons and the pleats. The buttons especially make it impossible to wear any top that's untucked unless it's quite loose, but the details look great with anything tucked in. No tag, bought in June 2011 at Goodwill Augusta for $5.

Black: It's hard to see the decorative top-stitching in the photo here, but that's secondary to the kick pleat, which takes the place of a slit. Neat seaming, too. Brand is The Limited, purchased at a Goodwill in Ohio this spring for $5.


9:47 PM

Chanukah starts a week from tonight and yes, I still have plenty of shopping and wrapping to do. What I am ready for is to get dressed up in blues. No silver, though. I'll have to work on that.

Try as I might, I couldn't seem to capture a focused detail shot this morning, so please accept this artfully blurred one instead.

Cardigan, Target
Shirt, New York & Co.
Pants, New York & Co.
Socks, Target
Flats, Ecco (eBay)

Second Take or Maybe Third

Monday, December 12, 2011 11:01 PM

So I don't just copy from other people. I copy from myself, too.

When I put this outfit together, I thought of it as a reiteration of this one, in a different silhouette and for somewhat colder weather. Then I remembered that I last wore this cardigan with black pants. I no longer think of black as an all-purpose neutral, but cranberry/burgundy seems to complement it well.

I think it's probably best for everyone involved if I don't reveal how many butt pictures it took me to get a decent shot of the kick pleat on this skirt.

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Burgundy cardigan, Banana Republic (eBay)
Ivory lace camisole, Macy's
Black pencil skirt, The Limited (thrifted)
Black tights, Old Navy
Cashmere socks, gift
Gray boots, Miz Mooz Journey

The Holidays in Portland

Sunday, December 11, 2011 10:49 PM

Have I mentioned how much I love this city?

I spent my afternoon ignoring my dirty kitchen by wandering around downtown for some Chanukah shopping. I started to appreciate the value of supporting local business a few years ago, but this is the first time I've really had many available to me, so I'm trying to use them as much as possible for my gift-buying. Today I bought items at Reny's (which is not Portland-based but is Maine-based), Rabelais, Bull Moose, Maine's Pantry and RSVP. I still need to find a place that sells frames I like, and I plan to stop at a jeweler's and an alterations shop tomorrow.

I also stopped by Picnic but didn't buy anything there. There were dozens of vendors and hundreds of people there. Nothing fit into my gift list, but it was fun to see Maine's creativity on display!

I wore my new pink jeans and my bright red peacoat, which was my first winter coat. I bought it off Amazon my freshman year of college, when I realized that the hoodies I had brought from Florida weren't going to cut it for the Atlanta winter. Walking down Commercial Street today, I passed a man who told me: "Good thing I have sunglasses. You're bright!" Ha. If only he could have seen the bright turquoise sweater I had on under the coat.

Portland's holiday lights really amuse me, by the way. I missed taking pictures of some of the best displays, including the ones on Fore Street and in Congress Square Park, but here's Tommys Park:

Are those footballs?
Portland has dispensed with candy canes and reindeer — and why not? Nothing says "festive" like yellow inverted cones, purple donuts and whatever this green thing is supposed to be:

Blurry, but I think it's clear that's a top, right?
My final stop was the Goodwill on Forest Avenue. I had to get into my car to get to RSVP for some beer for my brother-in-law, so I figured I might as well drive a bit farther to the Forest Avenue Goodwill, which is probably my favorite in Maine, of the ones I've visited at least. I found this gem of a sweater:

That's my peacoat in the background
Normally I would skip right over something made of this chenille or whatever it is, but the trendy combination of hot pink and orange jumped out at me. The fit was too relaxed for my taste, but it was super-cozy. Someone who likes baggy sweaters, please go buy it!

Friday Fatigue

Saturday, December 10, 2011 10:43 AM

This outfit is from yesterday, by the way. I came home from work and went straight to a movie with J and a couple of friends, then the four of us went out for sushi. By the time we got home at about 11:30, all I wanted to do was get into bed and zonk out.

The movie we saw was "The Skin I Live In," and I don't have much to say about it except it was one of the more twisted and disturbing movies I've ever seen. One thing that is interesting to me is the way that some foreign actors who are not well-regarded in the Anglophone movie world do great work in their native cinema. "The Skin I Live In" started Antonio Banderas, who is known mainly as Puss in Boots and Zorro in the United States. But he was fantastic in this movie, and apparently he worked quite a bit with Almodovar — arguably Spain's greatest director — quite a bit in the 1980s. And Almodovar's muse is Penelope Cruz, who appeared in the truly execrable American movies "Gothika," "Nine" and the last "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Anyway, so this is the third time in less than two weeks I've worn my new birthday sweater. Expect to see a lot more of it — it's supremely comfy, and of course camel goes with everything.

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Sweater, Ralph Lauren Sport (gift)
Necklace, thrifted
Pants, Target
Socks, Target
Flats, Bare Traps

Always Be Prepared?

Thursday, December 8, 2011 8:47 PM

This necklace is the only thing I own from Forever 21. For $6, it's not bad at all. The only problem is it's way too fun to play with. That fiddling around eventually loosened the knot, and by mid-afternoon today it was looking so shabby that I just untied it. Unfortunately, I didn't pay much attention to how it was tied, and I can't figure out how to redo it now. Girl Scouts was great, but they didn't teach us how to tie things. Does anyone know knots?

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T-shirt, Old Navy (thrifted)
Necklace, Forever 21
Skirt, thrifted vintage
Sweater tights, Target
Loafers, Rampage (eBay)