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Chambray 5 Ways

7 Jun

I know, I know, I said that I didn’t want a chambray shirt.

But after a while the tunic I bought just wasn’t cutting it. I relegated it to the swimsuit cover-up section of my dresser and kept half an eye out for a chambray shirt that didn’t make me feel like The Hulk.

Randomly, at Old Navy, I found a chambray shirt in my size for … $6? What! I tried it on, and it was okay. A bit boxy for my taste, but the shoulders fit, and I could roll up the sleeves comfortably. Also, um, SIX DOLLARS. So I bought it, and I’m so glad I did.

In May, I included this shirt in my 31 items to wear for the month in order to figure out how to wear it better, and it turned out to be one of my most frequently worn items with 5 occurrences. Here are all the ways I wore it:

Chambray 5 ways

  • May 6: layered under a dress
  • May 13: cuffed under a cardigan
  • May 20: untucked with a statement necklace
  • May 27: unbuttoned over a tank
  • May 30: knotted over a dress

Of these 5 outfits, 3 of them included things I’d never done before (untucked, unbuttoned, and knotted), and I ended up really liking all of them, especially the knot. I’m definitely doing that again this summer with more dresses. Also, I just noticed that, 4 out of 5 times, I wore this shirt on a Monday. Huh. Monday is chambray day, I guess?

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I got my money’s worth out of this shirt. Again, it doesn’t fit perfectly, and I could probably find a much better one if I wanted to tear my hair out searching and spend a lot of money, but I don’t want to do either of those things, and this is Good Enough. As much as I railed against the button-down, this shirt has been a great addition to my closet.


Mixing and re-purposing clothing

6 Jun

Well the 31×31 Mission: Put Together challenge is over. There are a few items I wore to death during May and don’t want to see again for a good long while – I’m happy to have my full closet to wear again. Overall, though, it was a fun challenge and I am very happy with some of the new clothing combinations I came up with. I never would have put some of these things together normally! I also tried a bunch of new hairstyles in an effort to get some variety going, which I’ve continued.

My favorite new outfits included:

Day 15

This skirt/dress combo I wrote about two weeks ago

Day 11

This pattern-mixing, belted-cardigan, so-much-going-on outfit! It’s not noticeable in the picture, but this white cardigan has a beige pattern on it. I never would have thought to pair it with my leopard print tank top. It made me feel a little daring while still not being too out there.

Day 3

Blue striped scarf on blue striped dress. When it SNOWED IN MAY, a couple days into the challenge I didn’t have a lot of options as far as warmth went. I never would have worn a patterned scarf with this striped dress, especially one that also had stripes, but I think it really worked.

I’ve just now noticed all of my favorite outfits included that same belt. I only wore it 5 days out of the 31, but man do I love that thing!

Disguising Casual Dresses as Office Wear

24 May

When I chose 31 items to wear during May for Mission: Put Together, I picked a handful of dresses, including 3 sleeveless, jersey dresses. By themselves, they are more suitable for a backyard barbecue than sitting in an office, but I’ve managed to make them work at work. Granted, a couple of caveats are in my favor:

  1. My office is incredibly casual. “Business casual” is a stretch for most people, and my outfits probably wouldn’t fly at a typical pharmaceutical company.
  2. I almost always wear closed-toed shoes at work. It’s not a rule, but I feel more professional in them.

Here are 3 ways I disguised my casual dresses for the office:

Sun dresses at the office

I layered a chambray shirt from Old Navy under this striped dress from Forever 21. This dress has some structure from the box pleats at the waist, but it reads pretty junior on its own. Add ruffle flats from Target and a statement necklace from Charming Charlie, and I think it looks like a modern Girl Friday, even though I’m almost sure that term is offensive now. I’ve also done this layering trick with my black v-neck dress from the middle picture.

This is my favorite jersey dress from Target (I can’t find the one I have, but it’s kiiind of like this one, without the tie; it’s a basic v-neck, faux wrap-style dress with an elastic waist), and I love wearing it to work because it’s so comfortable. To add some structure and cinch in the waist, especially with this loosey-goosey jersey cardigan from J. Crew Factory, I added a skinny patent leather belt (J. Crew). I couldn’t resist wearing my purple Target flats, but I don’t think it’s too matchy because the shades of the cardigan and shoes are different. This is the same trick I used when I was traveling for work last year.

This striped, strappy dress comes off very young (it’s legitimately from the juniors section) and is not appropriate for work alone, so I added a navy cotton jacket from Gap and kept it buttoned all day. The jacket is casual — unlined, eyelet trim, 3/4-sleeve — but it gives the idea of a businesswear silhouette effectively. I paired those pieces with mustard flats (Target)  and a flower brooch (LOFT) keep the outfit light and feminine.

I made a new dress!

23 May

Ok, so I sort of made a new dress.

I’m doing the 31×31 challenge associated with May’s Mission: Put Together so I only have 31 items of clothing (including shoes and accessories!) to wear for the month. By last week I was getting sick of my options. One of the things I picked was a long-ish brown skirt:

Day 7

I was brainstorming ways to make it look different – tuck a shirt in? wear the skirt high so it’s shorter? – but didn’t have a lot of options with the other items in my 31×31 closet. I saw my favorite red dress hanging there, though, and had an idea:

Day 15

The brown skirt is full enough it looks fine (great, even!) with the extra fabric of the dress underneath. I love this colorblock look so much I think I prefer it to either item on it’s own!

Have you ever had a style brainstorm and came up with a non-traditional way to wear something?

Packing Light for a Business-Casual Conference

12 Oct

Last week, I went to Sacramento for 2 days for a work conference, and I was hellbent on NOT CHECKING LUGGAGE, so help me. I bought and rejected 2 pieces of luggage for this express purpose, and finally, because the trip was so short, I decided to suck it up and cram everything into my backpack. So between my laptop bag and my blue backpack, I looked very much like a cross between Dora the Explorer and a mule, but whatever! I did not check! It’s a moral victory!

Anyway, fist pumps aside, here’s what I wore.

On the Flight: I had 2 flights in each direction, so my goals for this outfit were to wear as much jersey as possible and maximize my options for layering. Goals: achieved! Also, I had to flat-out sprint for my last flight, so these shoes came in handy. I missed the flight, but that wasn’t their fault.

Networking Event: Shortly after I got settled in my hotel room, I attended a welcome reception for the conference participants. Can you see how excited I was to start networking already?!

  • The same jersey dress
  • Black pointy heels (similar)
  • Skinny black patent belt (similar)
  • Mustard cardigan (similar)

This conference is listed as business-casual, which some people interpret as full-on suit and others interpret as “whatever I shoved in my suitcase.” You will see skirt suits and pumps next to leopard-print tunics and sneakers. It’s very weird. I try to hit the middle of the road.

Day 1: I went to lectures for most of the day, which was not super fun. In the afternoon, I changed into jeans and flats and walked around the very lovely capitol building.

Day 2: I had 2 3-hour workshops that day, and the rooms are notoriously cold, so I made sure to layer up.

  • Purple top (similar)
  • Same pants, heels, and striped blazer (and leftover hair, while I’m at it)

After that, you can bet that I changed right back into my flight outfit. Hellooo, sweet jersey heaven.

Inspiration: Catalog Looks on a Budget

20 Sep

I don’t know about you, but I love relaxing with a catalog or magazine and a big mug of tea.  As calm as this sounds, I admit the exercise usually devolves into exclamations about the retailer charging “eighty dollars? I COULD KNIT THAT MYSELF!” or pairing the most ridiculous outfits that people don’t wear in real life, ever.  Knowing this doesn’t hurt the opportunity for me, if anything it enhances the journey toward dressing myself without a fancy no-limit American Express card or a batty personal stylist.  Let’s talk about how I take a catalog look that won’t work quite right for me and transform it!

1. Find a picture that you like because you’d actually wear it.  Make sure that you don’t just wish you had the models arms/stomach/cheekbones.  Don’t get attracted to thick knit wool sweaters when you don’t wear wool.  One such photo that caught my eye recently was this sweet look from the Sept 2012 Anthropologie catalog:

(Photo clipped from the digital Sept 12 Anthropologie catalog.)

2. Decide which parts of the photo attracted you.  This can be ANYTHING from the photo.  For instance, maybe you see the great blue skirt and decide that you want to search for a bottom in that color.  I fell in love with the outfit as a whole and these three details specifically: a lace skirt, a patterned blouse and a belt over said blouse.

3. At this point, I think one of the biggest detours that derails the average shopper is trying to find the EXACT outfit.  Inspiration doesn’t have to mean copying the style piece for piece!  Notice in my choice details that I wanted to find a “patterned blouse”.  Not a floral print, neutral colored button down.  (Although that would be ok, too!)  Sometimes you’ll definitely be looking for a really similar piece, but the image can really inspire a lot of different likes and ideas.

With these items in mind, come up with a similar look that suits you.  I decided on this:

Forever 21 Pintucked Pleated Floral Top, H&M Lace Skirt,  Forever 21 Cutout Hearts Waist Belt

I think these three pieces together would result in an outfit that is more “me” than the original, but incorporates my three inspiration ideas.

4. Marvel at your financial savvy.  The three items in the original photo cost $364.  My inspired-by look costs (DRUMROLL, PLEASE) $53.55.


I created another example of the same technique for this photo from the same catalog:

Sadly, the similar pea coat that I had selected was sold out and I couldn’t show you the whole outfit.  BUT!  For THIS photo, my inspiration was a fancy sheath dress under a cozy, short pea coat.  And I found a REALLY GREAT fancy dress that IS still available and wanted to share just in case.

The Suzi Chin Kaleidoscope Shift Dress.  It can be yours for THIRTY ONE DOLLARS AND NINETEEN CENTS.  I love it and hope you pair it with a pea coat and extra fabulous boots.

Favorite Outfit: Dress to Impress

13 Aug

One of my favorite things about fashion is being able to put together different pieces and make completely new outfits. Accessories are one of the easiest ways to do this. For example, take a look at this dress. I bought it at Talbot’s a few years ago on sale ($75). It came with a black and white belt in the same fabric as the dress. Boring! I swapped it out for this stretchy, red woven belt from Anthropologie ($25). The belt really makes the outfit!

I love this dress because it is cotton, perfect for the summer months, and super flattering to my hourglass-ish figure. I usually pair this with a multi-strand red beaded necklace and small red and gold flower earrings. I’ve worn this dress with a cardigan to work in a business casual setting, out to dinner and on vacation. It is really versatile.

How do you mix up your wardrobe? Do you swap out accessories to make an outfit look different?