Category Archives: shopping tips

THE Scarf

Okay, so I can’t do a series of posts on scarves without at least mentioning THE scarf–an Hermes.

According to Nina Garcia (author of The One Hundred), an Hermes scarf is sold somewhere in the world every twenty-five seconds. That’s particularly amazing considering the crazy-intricate process a 90-cm-square piece of silk endures before it leaves the design house sporting the famous “H” (you can find a full run-down of the process in Garcia’s aforementioned book).

If, like me, your current budget doesn’t allow you to be a member of this (no doubt elated) scarf-aquisition party, there’s much to be said for simply observing and appreciating the level of quality that results from design with such intention.

When it comes to forming your personal style, study the best to familiarize yourself with great craftsmanship and design.  Then it will be easier for you to spot these qualities wherever you find them (whether or not they are stamped with an H).

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To Real or Not Too Real? Part 2

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Sublime sparklers

My friend Elyse is tall and therefore, her frame can handle larger accessories. Elyse moves in the art world and possesses an air of mystery and sometimes sly mischief, so I chose larger accessories with a artistic/global vibe that make a bit more visual impact on Elyse’s taller frame.

Adventurous Elyse

For a casual Friday at the office or a Saturday of errands, I chose bright accessories toned down with grey (you could also use camel to the same effect with orange). The large stone earrings and cuff bracelet combined with the striped scarf (remember our chilly offices) look put together but unstudied with a classic tee and cropped jeans.

Elyse Out on the Town

For the opening of a local art exhibit (Invisible Elephant, anyone?), I chose sculptural shoes and jewelry in analogous colors (here I go with the mint and navy again) with a sophisticated bag to give jeans a bit of understated elegance and polish.

A word on price:  While I heartily believe that you usually (usually!) get what you pay for, you might have noticed that in this post, I seem to have entered a dream world where a stylish girl of modest means can somehow afford to drop over 1k on earrings and nearly that on shoes.  While I won’t deny that those Neil Barrett stunners are totally sacrifice-worthy (yes, even the level of sacrifice that involves eating ramen for a week), my personal style strategy would be to look for a similar pair at Marshall’s or (in cases where it. must. be. mine.) follow Stephanie’s tips and attempt to locate them at a lower price online.

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Petite Perfection

Now that we’ve begun to build wardrobes that flatter us and work with our lifestyles, let’s add some icing to the cake! Accessories are a super-fun (that’s the technical term) way to tsuzj up any outfit, and they can be acquired on any budget. And while there aren’t too many ways to go wrong with accessories these days, some pointers can make it easier if you can only purchase a few pieces.

Stature is one thing to consider when building your accessories collection. If you’re petite, you may wish to choose accessories (this includes bags) that are on the smaller end of the spectrum to avoid overwhelming your delicate frame. Conversely, if you’re tall or larger-framed, you may wish to increase your accessories’ visual impact by choosing what I like to term “statement pieces.”

Check out my friend, Jes, who’s a cutie patootie petite with a megawatt smile. She was gracious enough to allow me to accessorize the outfit she’s sporting below for work and weekend.

Jes at work

I sometimes find it easiest to accessorize with analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel), so with Jes’s navy skirt, I couldn’t resist choosing the mint that’s so popular right now and a purple-tinted blue bag to pop a subtle hint of color that’s still appropriate for even a conservative office. Also, since we Floridians tend to combat the sweltering summer heat by cranking the A/C, I’ve added a scarf for a chilly office.

Weekend Jes

For the weekend, I chose bright hits of color and a playful attitude to match Jes’s cheery smile. However, the scale of the individual pieces is kept small to harmonize with her petite frame. Keeping our proximity to the equator in mind, I’ve included a lightweight straw hat in case the farmer’s market is one of her Saturday destinations.

What do you think?  Do you prefer to accessorize with analogous colors, complementary colors (opposite each other on the color wheel), or just by feel?

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Live zesty!

“Zest is the secret of all beauty.”

There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.”

Christian Dior

This outfit is almost entirely composed of bargain, thrift, consignment, and vintage purchases.

Shirt: What’s New Consignment, $1 
Shoes: Nine West via Marshall’s
Bag: B. Makowsky via T.J. Maxx
Necklace: Rae’s Retro (local vintage store)

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Shopping bargain, thrift, consignment, & vintage

B. Makowsky bag from T.J. Maxx

I’ll be the first to admit it—I have a love/hate relationship with bargain, vintage, and thrift/consignment stores.  With a few exceptions, I have not found them to be the most reliable places to pick up basic building blocks for my wardrobe.

That being said, I do shop bargain stores (such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls) regularly for a few particular items, and often find special little “extras” at thrift and consignment stores.  So if you’re feeling really adventurous, here are a few things that I’ve found helpful when shopping these types of stores.

  • Have the right frame of mind.  I can’t shop these stores when I need to find something (although I highly recommend doing any clothes shopping before you need something.  It is a proven law that when you need jeans, all you will find is a dress, and vice versa).  Go with the realization that you may not find anything, but you may uncover a gem.
  • Don’t attempt to cover the entire store.  Unless you have an entire day to spend in the store and a constitution of steel, it’s too overwhelming.
  • Decide in advance what you’re looking for.  I generally shop bargain stores for bags (I have been getting fabulous, high-quality bags at a fraction of their original price for years at T.J. Maxx) and shoes.  Also, I have a favorite brand of T-shirt that I regularly shop Marshalls for (I can find them quickly because the brand name is listed above the rack). So when I go to those stores, I proceed straight to those racks and don’t bother with the rest of the store.
  • Some vintage and thrift stores have higher quality/designer items separated out into a special section.  I tend to go straight to those sections, as I find they yield the best results.
  • In a vintage or consignment store, if I find a piece I really like but I’m not willing to pay the price they’re asking, I’ll keep an eye on it for the next few weeks.  If it’s still in the store a month later, I may (politely) note to the salesperson that it has been in the store for a while, and would they be willing to take X dollars for it?  This works especially well in consignment stores (because many times, the store doesn’t make money until the item is sold).

This week, to inspire you to venture into bargain, vintage, and thrift/consignment stores, I’ll share photos of some of my favorite finds.  I’d love to know what your favorite items to purchase at these types of stores are.  Do you have any strategies for canvassing the store?

Happy shopping!

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Hitting the mall

This jacket is one of my favorite mall purchases. Photo by Michael Vera.

Shopping at a large mall offers a great selection of items, but can be overwhelming (not to mention time-consuming).  I prefer to spend less time shopping for my clothes and more time living in them, so below I’ve shared some of my favorite tips that I hope will make your mall trips more fruitful and fun.

  • Shop alone. Wear simple clothing (for easy changing in the dressing room) with minimal accessories (to avoid catching them on any delicate items).
  • Focus on the stores that best reflect your style.
  • Have a list of what you need. (The Shopping Strategy by Nina Garcia makes this process super-easy by breaking it down into 3 questions: What do I have?  What do I need? and What do I want? Bonus: it’s simply gorgeous due to the work of famed illustrator Ruben Toledo).
  • Keep in mind your B.A.S.E. wardrobe (does it flatter your body type, will it serve you well for situations you most often find yourself in, etc.?).  As you practice, you will be able to browse through merchandise much, much faster.
  • Rarely deviate from your list of needed items (example: a find from the gods appears before you, such as when I found a perfectly-fitting, just-my-style Dolce and Gabbana skirt suit ON SALE ON SALE ON SALE at a local consignment shop).   Being a.)desperate for anything, or b.) depressed/frustrated/hungry/cranky are not good reasons to buy random items.
  • Let a salesperson help you, but don’t let them talk you into things that aren’t for you.  Personal examples:

I walk into Sephora.  The fact that there are literally 800 blushes on the shelf makes me want to call it a day and run to the nearest Starbucks for a Venti Caramel Macchiato, but I tell a salesperson that I am looking for a blush and give her a few ideas of what I like, and pretty soon she has narrowed those 800 (you think I’m kidding) options down to 5, from which I can pretty somewhat easily choose one.

I am in the dressing room. Salesperson: “Why don’t you try on this neon yellow top?  Neon yellow is THE color to wear this season.” Me: “Thanks, but I don’t prefer neon yellow.  I really like these kelly green shorts, though.” At which point the salesperson jokes about my husband calling and saying I can buy whatever I want, so why don’t I buy both? And then brings me a pair of neon yellow jeans.  And a neon yellow headband.

  • Don’t settle!  Many times, our choices are not between good and bad, but between good and best (perhaps much of life is characterized by this dilemma?).
  • Be patient.  Unless you are a person of unlimited means, creating a wardrobe that showcases the fabulousness that is you is a process, not a one-day fix.  Hold out for special pieces that really become you.

Now that you’ve bagged a few amazing pieces to incorporate into your wardrobe, take a few minutes to enjoy a nice cup of Earl Grey in the food court while people-watching.  There–that wasn’t so bad, was it?

I’d love to hear your tips on what makes your shopping trips more productive (or any shopping frustrations you have)!  Please leave me a note in the comment section below.

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Shopping on the interwebs

Earlier, I claimed that my friend Stephanie can find anything online, and I confidently stand behind that claim. The internet offers many great fashion resources from designers to bargains, and today she shares some great advice to help you maximize your online shopping experience.


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Shopping designer labels with Tammy

I’m so sorry, everyone! Here is the video of my discussion with Tammy that was supposed to be in my last post, but I was experiencing technical difficulties.

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