Friday, September 28, 2012


Normally I'd be posting another Girl Friday interview this morning, but here's the thing... I'm rushing out the door to catch a plane to Key West instead!

David and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this past spring, but since Vi was still pretty young, we didn't do anything too big (which I was fine with... David's surprised me with awesome trips in the past). Little did I know he'd been secretly planning this getaway for us for months.

So this morning, when I woke up, he handed me an envelope with two tickets to Florida in it and told me to pack my bags -- we're leaving this afternoon!

I really don't deserve him.

I gotta go... our taxi's coming soon... see you back here on Tuesday!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Violet & Accessorizing.

My kid, Violet, is very into accessorizing right now. She's one year old, and loves what she calls "prippies" (pretties).

It's not uncommon to see her running around our apartment in some assisted getup: blankets on her head, socks on her hand, play rings on her wrists.

I thought you might enjoy seeing (and maybe even be inspired by... haaahahaha okay) Violet's favorite accessories:
She saw me wearing my glasses and wanted to join in the fun, so we popped the lenses out of her sunglasses.
Pretending to be Baby Gandalf in David's hoodie. She requested we put this on her.
An early attempt at wearing glasses like Mom does, courtesy of Mr. Potatohead.
I think she's going for the chic bag lady look here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Secondhand September: The Haul

Hello, Twenty-Ninth Readers! This is Kari again.

I'm closing out my retail fast this week. I'm really glad I did it. Beyond learning a lot about the fashion industry through reading and a lot about myself by taking a break from the mall, I scored some really great wardrobe pieces. Here's the round up!

I went shopping once a week for four weeks in a row, and the financial grand total for the month was about $45. I found some incredibly satisfying and inspiring pieces (the four dresses below, in particular), and I denied myself nothing. Add to this the feel-good feelings of doing good to a do-good organization and a complete absence of buyers regret, and I had a phenomenal shopping month.
As I close out this series, I want to share a decision I've made with you: I want to stop being a shopper, and rather be a careful curator. This basically means I want to head out strongly committed to a wardrobe vision, just like a gallery curator is committed to showcasing only the best art. I want to be intensely faithful to my personal style and only bring home the pieces that ring true with my creative tone. This might mean I make a heavy investment here and there in things that will really enhance my collection. It might mean I pass up a number of not-quite-perfect things as I wait for perfection to come along. I don't want to do this to be snobby, but rather for the maximum satisfaction and inspiration that comes from loving everything in my closet.  

Whether you shop thrift stores or mall-crawl, you too can have such a closet. It just requires that you know yourself and what you like. However you do it, take the time to hone your personal style and stay true to it. Good luck!

*   *   *   *   * 

End note from Casey:
I couldn't agree more -- being a careful curator of your clothes is one of the best ways to ensure that you're staying true to your aesthetic and personal style. Instead of buying things to just to fill your closet, consider your wardrobe and style as a whole, and then thoughtfully add pieces here and there that enhance your entire look. That doesn't mean you can't go shopping for fun! Just have your vision in mind, and shop like a curator.

That concludes Secondhand September! Thanks to Kari for all the time she put into writing up her thoughts and going shopping (although I'm sure that part wasn't hard, haha).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tips for Wearing Boxy, Loose Tops

boxy tops

Hannah asked: "Any tips for keeping a loose, fun top (like this) from looking like a floppy pajama top?"

These kinds of tops can be a little tricky to wear -- originally I thought they were off limits for me because my torso isn't mile-high. Happily, I was wrong! It just takes a little fashion magic. A few tips:
  1. Wear a long tank underneath. This is for shirts that skim the waist. If you have a shorter torso, the idea is to create the illusion of a longer one (to which you're probably saying, "Duh.") A long tank pulled down over the top of your pants and hugging your hips will help with that.
  2. My favorite fashion fix: the front tuck! Take the front shirttail and tuck it sort of haphazardly into the front of your jeans or skirt. This blouses the top some, and allows it to skim your front and sides in a slimming way, while gathering the shirt and making it look a little neater and tailored. (The front tuck and I became friends after I had my daughter Violet... a little tucking does wonders for hiding postpartum baby abs.)
  3. In general, pair boxy tops with skinny jeans or slim pants, or a pencil type skirt. Since you're wearing something looser on top, you want to make sure you don't look boxy and baggy all over. A slim silhouette on the bottom will help with that. 
There ya go! Hopefully that helps. Anyone else have tips for wearing boxy shirts?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Trend is Not a Four Letter Word

(via Lucky Magazine)
Let's have a heart to heart: The word "trend" is loaded and misunderstood.

Mention a trend and you're guaranteed a variety of responses. Some live for trends and stalk fashion headlines, eager for the next new thing. Some roll their eyes, or even run in the opposite direction screaming "PRESERVE INDIVIDUALITY!!"

Okay. I understand the blessed, rebellious joy of rejecting what's popular. But by dismissing trends altogether, are we cutting ourselves off from beauty, art, and personal growth?

Maybe that sounds a little extreme. Allow me to explain.

Consider: trends, or what is currently commonly accepted and enjoyed, are a way to build community with people. Whether you admit it or not, there are common ties that bind you to people -- political mindsets, clothing styles, favorite TV shows, etc. Why is it okay to like the same TV show as someone else, but conformist and an attack against individuality if you appreciate the art and beauty of the same fashion trend as someone else? In the same way talking about political candidates or quoting favorite movie lines can bring people together, enjoying fashion trends allows people to connect as well.

Let's face it... no one is completely original. We're all a combination of the experiences, preferences, and influential people that have shaped us and influenced us since we were young. By allowing yourself to be influenced by (some) trends, you expand your horizons and your wardrobe. Not everything will work for you, but the things that do can become assets that you can use for the rest of your fashionable life -- whether they continue to be trendy or not. When understood and applied correctly, trends can help you gather and develop the best version of your style, and even help promote and embellish your deep personal history, because they introduce you to new things you haven't previously considered.

For example, when the skinny jeans trend first hit, I remember mocking them relentlessly with my sister. We'd parade through stores in our sophisticated flare-leg jeans and giggle that skinny jeans were ridiculous -- they were reminiscent of the slightly frumpy Canyon River Blues jeans we grew up with, for crying out loud. Then I started seeing them styled in ways that were really becoming and cute. I was intrigued by the way they made wearing boots easy and stylish. It made me curious... so on a whim, I tried a pair on. And wonder of wonders miracle of miracles, they worked for me.

This does not mean that I think you should up and buy everything you see everyone else wearing. I always think you need to pick what you truly love, and what works for you and your style/closet, whether it's trendy or not. I'm talking more here about not completely disregarding something just because it's a trend... if you like it and it also happens to be trendy that's okay! 

See trends as a kind of life-long scavenger hunt. As things go in and out of vogue, keep your eyes open for styles and pieces that you can add to your arsenal of personal style. It might take some time before you see a particular trend styled in a way that you feel makes it accessible and acceptable for your look. Stay open-minded when it comes to fashion. If you try a trend, it works for you and you love it, congratulations! You just found another element of your personal style.

Thoughts on trends, anyone?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Girl Friday: Megan

This is Megan!
Megan is an inspiration to me: she has 5 little kids and a booming photography business (believe me, she takes the sweetest family pictures) and she always manages to look hip, put together, and cute. She's mastered the art of beautiful but comfortable & practical fashion, and she's helped convince me that the fact that you have kids doesn't mean you have to wear yoga pants and t-shirts all day in order to maintain a home and a family. Megan is proof positive that fashion and kids can co-exist! Enjoy her interview.

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The Twenty Ninth: Describe your style in a few words or a phrase.
Megan: J.Crew casual with a splash of graphic pattern and color thrown in.

TN: How has your style evolved over the years? 
M: It was only a few years ago that I woke up to the fact that there was more to clothing than the frayed hem American Eagle jeans and solid color t-shirts I had been wearing since high school. Through the great big wonderful world of fashion blogs, mail order catalogs and Pinterest (and the help of my fashionable sister), I started to revamp my wardrobe and find my "style." I don't think I'll ever be any expert on the latest fashions or designer labels, but I'm happy to have found a look that I like and enjoy wearing.

TN: Any fun/embarrassing clothing mishaps or stories you'd like to share?
M: I have always been prone to be a very matchy-matchy person who loves all things symmetrical and coordinated. Naturally, this translated over into my clothing choices. I particularly remember a season in middle school where my favorite outfit consisted of a very neon splashed t-shirt, over cut off jeans, a neon orange shoelace in my hair and matching neon orange shoelaces in my white Keds. I also loved layering multiple pairs of colored socks over brightly colored tights that somehow matched up with whatever dress I wore to church, and the coordinated scrunchy in the hair. Classy.
TN: Who are your style influences? 
M: J.Crew and Madewell are my current catalog crushes, and I love finding color palette and outfit combination ideas on Pinterest.

TN: Where's your favorite place to shop?  
M: Nordstrom Rack, Zappos & Target for shoes; J.Crew, Madewell & Gap for pants; Anthropologie, H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom Rack and occasionally Target for tops & dresses. I love Forever 21 and H&M for good cheap fun accessories. Every once in a while, I'll stop by TJ Maxx and find something, but usually I don't have the time (or patience) to search the racks.
TN: How do you pick out an outfit? 
M: I'm a photographer and have a background in graphic design... a few years ago, it was like a light bulb went off in my head and I realized I could apply my love for all things aesthetic to the way that I dress. My favorite thing is to find new/unexpected complimentary color and pattern combinations. I am a complete nerd and have my closet organized by color. Usually, I'll start with whatever color I feel like wearing that day and then look for what pattern, layer, accessory, or shoe that I can play off that to inspire an outfit. These days I'm working on complementing and accessorizing, not matching :)
TN: What's your favorite thing in your closet to wear and why?  
M: Currently, as we are heading into my favoritest autumn, I am loving cardigans, dresses, colored tights and boots. Oops, I guess that's more than one thing. ;)

TN: Any shopping tips or fashion advice you'd like to share? 
M: My sister has really inspired me with her excellent use of layering and accessorizing. It adds visual interest, as well as making an outfit look so much more "put together." Add on and finish off... Personally, I've been really helped by making a Pinterest board of looks I like and referring to it often, alongside my closet contents for ideas. I think it's really important to know what you like, as well as what looks good on you, so you can be a thoughtful, smart shopper. Go cheap on trendy items and accessories, and invest in pieces that fit you well and will be able to stick around through changing looks.

*   *   *   *   *

Megan, thanks for interviewing, and for inspiring me!
If you're interested in more information about Megan's photography, check out her website: The Penny Gray Photography Co.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Secondhand September, Part 3

Hello again, everyone, it's Kari!

We've been slightly philosophical as we've thought about thrifting thus far, so today I want to take a very practical turn and consider the price differences between thrifting and retail. I've chosen five pieces from my thrifted wardrobe to do this. Here they are, side by side with something comparable from the retail market.

My Riding Boots: Mine are real leather, which made them an incredible find. As I've mentioned before, there was a very similar pair at Madewell.
Madewell Archive Boot: $298
My Boots: $5
Savings: $293

My Yellow J.Crew Chino Shorts: Even though I had to do a little tailoring to make these into shorts from pants, I started with J.Crew quality and got J.Crew's unbeatable color.
My pants: $6
Savings: $39

My Unique Satchel: I can't find another bag like this to compare it with, which is why I bought it - its a one-of-a-kind. I don't think its real leather, so I'm comparing it to another vintage faux-leather bag of similar size that I found on Etsy.
My Satchel: $9
Savings: $35 

My Free People Dress: Notorious for whimsical designs at exorbitant price points, very few of the dresses in Free People's dress shop fall below $100.
My Dress: $7
Savings: $91

My Loft Tees: It may seem dumb to buy a T-shirt at Goodwill when they're already so cheap on the open market, but even if you're buying a $5 top from Old Navy, you'd be saving money by combing the thrift racks.  I've found two of these Loft tees and love the fit.
Loft Basic Scoop Neck Tees: about $10 each
My Tees: $2 each
Savings: $8 per tee

As you can see, it's not difficult to prove the point that the savings of thrifting are worthwhile! But this does raise the question of patience -- for example, I'd been in the market for a pair of riding boots for years before I found them. But in that case, patience definitely had a payoff! There will always be immediate needs in your life which retail can fill much faster than a thrift store probably can. But, considering the savings... Maybe its worth stopping in to your local Goodwill before you hit the mall.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Black On Black With Black

Kati asked, "Some of my coworkers wear black dresses/skirts, with black hose and black flats. What do you think of this look?"

Answer: I like it, especially for the colder months. (But I personally wouldn't want to wear it every day... I love other colors, variety, and blue jeans too much.) Whenever I see or hear about a black with black outfit, I immediately think of New York. All-black ensembles are the classic New Yorker's uniform, especially in the fall/winter. Since black is always classy and chic, when it comes to clean cut office wear in that color, you're pretty much guaranteed to look professional and put together.
Another perk of wearing all black is that it's lengthening and slimming. Especially if you pair black stockings (or black pants) with black shoes, you'll look taller: the uniform color creates a long, clean silhouette. (Side note: the same goes for nude-colored shoes... if you want to look taller, pair nude flats, wedges, or heels with a similar color hose or your bare skin. The "rule" for wearing nude-colored shoes is that the tone of the shoes should match your skin tone, or be a shade lighter than your skin tone.) It's a win-win.

Since I've only gotten over my fear of wearing black in the past two years or so, I'm feeling liberated and plan to try all kinds of black ensembles this fall/winter. I'd love to see pins of your favorite all-black outfits!

Monday, September 17, 2012

"running wild & looking pretty"

(pic via Pinterest)
I've been wearing headwraps a lot recently. I was looking for something new to try with my hair that wasn't too cutesy or complicated. So. Headwrap.

I was expecting to feel kind of like a poser the first time I tried it. I was expecting my older brother (of maxi skirt comment fame) to ask me if I could tell him his fortune or do his laundry or pick dandelions in a field. So I was surprised that, when I'd wrapped the fabric (from one of David's old ties) around my head, I... felt like myself. Not a poser, not a weirdo, not a hippie... just myself. It worked for me.
(Instead of a face, a cellphone. Also, my electrical outlet.)
Might not seem like a big deal. But when you find something you like, and then you just relax into it with no weirdness and no problem, it's pretty cool. It's like finding part of yourself that was out there, but that you didn't know about. And when you find it, it completes you a little bit. Makes me want to keep trying new things. Anyone who says that you're a poser just because you're trying something new doesn't know what they're talking about, okay?

This is probably sounding more philosophical than I mean for it to. But there you have it. Be brave! Run wild and look pretty! Try whatever your equivalent of a headwrap might be (maybe it's a weird pair of shoes, a new color, or jeans in a different cut?). Let me know if you find part of yourself. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Girl Friday: Carmen

This is Carmen!
A couple of things I admire about Carmen. First, her expertise at dressing her petite frame: everything she wears looks elegant and effortless, and her clothes fit her perfectly (which, I have heard, is not easy when you're petite). Second, I love the way she rocks her enviable stash of cute dresses and accessorizes them so well. She says it in her answers below, and it's true -- one of the first things I noticed when I met her was her knack for matching up endless dress + boots combinations, while always looking fresh, gorgeous, and modern.

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The Twenty Ninth: Describe your style in a few words or a phrase.
Carmen: Classic, feminine, & artsy.

TN: How has your style evolved over the years? 
C: I've learned how to dress for my body (height, build, etc.). This may sound overly simplistic, but looking back on my high school and college years, I wish I would have learned this lesson much sooner! I've also learned that it's more important to wear a coordinating outfit than a matching outfit, and that you'll likely save money in the long run if you invest in quality clothing staples.

TN: Any fun/embarrassing clothing mishaps or stories you'd like to share?
C: I was heading off to class one afternoon during my junior year of college, feeling slightly uncertain (but too tired to care) about the outfit I had just thrown together -- a light blue H&M tweed skirt paired with a black, cap-sleeved button-down and black wedges. Let's just say that the raised eyebrows I received from my housemates as I dashed out the door later translated into a firm but gracious fashion citation.
TN: Who are your style influences? 
C: I draw style inspiration from a myriad of sources: fashion blogs (e.g. The Daybook and Atlantic-Pacific), fashion magazines (Vogue, InStyle), Pinterest, and stylish family & friends. :) If my Pinterest fashion board is any indication, women like Kerri Russell, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Middleton are some of my top style influences. (I realize I lose originality points by mentioning the Princess.)

TN: Where's your favorite place to shop?  
C: Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, H&M, annnnnd, believe it or not, Ebay.

TN: How do you pick out an outfit? 
C: After staring into my closet for a minute or two, I ask myself, "Do I want to wear a skirt, pants/jeans, or a dress today?" I then build my outfit around my answer.

TN: What's your favorite thing in your closet to wear and why?  
C: Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love wearing dresses (I wore dresses so much in high school, I got asked if I even owned a pair of jeans). Dresses are versatile, easy to wear, and many of them transition well from one season to the next.

TN: Any shopping tips or fashion advice you'd like to share? 
C: Two things:
  1. Never pay full price for any article of clothing. Always be on the lookout for sales & get accustomed to shopping off-season. I also highly recommend shopping on Ebay. I've purchased brand new Banana Republic & J.Crew items on Ebay with which I've been extremely pleased. 
  2. Purchase items that fit you well and flatter your body type. (As much as I love maxi dresses, I stay away from them because they engulf my petite frame.)

*   *   *   *   * 
 Thanks for interviewing, Carmen!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Emma's Birthday List

Today is my littlest sister Emma's birthday. In honor of that, I present to you her birthday list, featuring everything a 7 year old could want.
Please note the alternating lines of pink & purple marker, the request for root beer float gum (this exists?), and the jelly mark at the bottom. (She handed it to me with the warning, "Oh sorry, I got some jelly on it, watch out.") When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she ran to get her list off the fridge and then read it out loud to me. The thing is, she just lost both of her front teeth on top so she's got a perfect precocious little girl lisp to go with her big blue eyes, warbling singing voice, and goofy imagination. I had to take a picture of it, once I saw how specific her requests were and the effort that went into writing it all out.

I love you, Emma -- I hope you get your "Sthrawberry Thortcake sthet."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Secondhand September, Part 2

Hi again, everyone! This is Kari, back to talk more about thrifting.

Today, I want to touch on a skill that's often overlooked when it comes to second-hand wares: the art of vision. What I mean by vision is this: the ability to mentally take something out of it's current context and place it in another. One has to do this when shopping retail, but retail stores help us have vision through suggestions. When thrifting, there are fewer suggestions.

Vision is another area where strong personal style is crucial. If you are well acquainted with your "likes," you're better able to have vision. This process is very intuitive, but if there were coherent steps, here's what they might be: 
  1. Something about the piece attracts you. It could be the color, the print, the style, or the cut. It could hint at a dream piece you've had in your head. It could somehow complement something you have at home. It could meet a practical need, or fill a hole in your wardrobe.
  2. Further examination shows it's imperfect. Maybe the pant legs are too long. Maybe the shirt is too big. Maybe the neckline is too low. Maybe the pattern is too overstated. Maybe the color isn't just right.  
  3. Brainstorm - can you fix the imperfection through alterations or styling? Can you roll up the pant legs, or hem them? Can you take in the shirt, altering it's cut while you do so? Can you layer or tack the neckline to give more coverage? Can you wear or layer the patterned piece with something less pronounced to tone it down? Is dyeing the piece at home an option?
It's difficult to do this shape-shifting in your mind, but it's a talent worth exercising. Some of my favorite clothes are those that I've had to alter, or bought specifically because they'd complement something else.  Here are some pieces from my own wardrobe that needed a little imagination.
My butterfly dolman: It started as a beautifully printed sack, which I altered to fit.
My yellow chino shorts: They started as too-big, wide-legged highwaters. I wanted to try the bright shorts trend from last spring, but didn't want to pay J.Crew prices.

My long-sleeved olive top: This started as size extra large. I merely took this piece in. I liked the timeless color, and recognized that it would be very versatile.
My half-sleeved leopard print top: This shirt started as a 3XL! I wanted to try the leopard print trend. I chose to stay with a shirt on this piece, but I had also considered making a pencil skirt - there was enough fabric! (Also pictured are my favorite jeans, which I had to hem to my length.)
I hope this inspires you!

A note of caution: If after brainstorming you cannot satisfactorily solve the problems you see with the piece, don't buy it. Again, never compromise on your personal style. But if you're reasonably confident, take the risk! You're spending much less than you would at a retail store, and it's good practice. You can learn just as much from failure as you can from success.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Four Times a Year

(Quote by Lauren Hutton, featured in J.Crew last year)
Fall is upon us, but NY Fashion Week is in full swing, parading all the trends (good & bad) we'll be seeing in Spring 2013. That's one exhausting thing about the fashion industry... they're not very good at letting each season have its day, unless that day is 6 months ahead of time.

In any case, every season it's the same -- we have tons of options presented to us on the racks at our favorite stores & in our sisters' closets (ahem, Libby)... but only you get to determine what your style is going to be. Don't be a mannequin, be a little (or a lot) picky!

In case you're interested, here are the top reasons I pick and wear what I do, in order of importance to me:
  1. It makes me feel like myself: Meaning I can wear it comfortably, whether it's a sweatshirt or a silk dress, and it works with my overall style.
  2. I love the color, pattern, texture, or details: Sometimes it's as easy as, "Oooh pretty."
  3. It fits in well with the other things in my closet: I'm all about building a wardrobe that can be mixed and matched from season to season, year after year... with a few surprises thrown in.
  4. Because it's comfortable: I hate tugging things up and down, feeling like my pants are going to split, or dealing with abrasive fabric.
Why do you pick what you do out of the fashion that's offered to you? (That sounded like a question written by Dr. Seuss.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Casey & Libby vs. The Dye

So I bought this dress when I was 18 at a little thrift store on the Outer Banks.
I bought it because it fit like a glove and the cut was (still is) really flattering. And it was $4 (this is a perfect post for Secondhand September, no?). I was less than thrilled with the print (it's dated, and too Laura Ashley), but I had visions of finding a tailor who could take the dress apart and use it as a pattern to make a version of it in navy or black.

Now, 7 years later, the dress still fits like a glove and I still love the cut, but the tailor hasn't materialized. My sister Libby mentioned that she was eager to try her hand at dyeing something, so she suggested we grab a bottle of Rit and go to town. I wasn't planning on wearing the dress as is, so why not experiment?

After reading how-to instructions online, along with several warnings about how dyeing clothing is MESSY and PERMANENT and HORRIFYING we set up camp in my mom's laundry room, promising to bleach the heck out of anything we splattered. Spoiler alert: If you use common sense, dyeing is easy-peasey and not as messy as the doomsday prophets at Rit would like you to think. So I don't have any shocking "OMG THE CARPET IS RUINED" stories or pictures.

Here we are, about halfway through the process:
That thing that looks like sludge is the dress. We used 1 bottle of black liquid Rit dye, 1 cup of salt, and 5 gallons of water (along with an old bucket, and my wooden spoon who offered up its life in the name of fashion and discovery). We stirred and stewed the dress around in the salty black water for 30 minutes, to make sure the dye took and was evenly distributed. As you can see, it was looking really dark and really promising.

After rinsing it till the water ran clear and then running it through the washer, here's what it looked like:
Yeah, pretty disappointing. It might look okay(ish) from far far away, but up close... it just looked muddy and drab. It sort of reminds me of something Little Orphan Annie might be forced to wear. My mom suggested that if we'd used a navy blue dye, it might have complemented the slightly visible blue pattern more than the black did. Of course, I had hoped that the pattern wouldn't show through at all, but I thought her point was valid.

Have any of you tried dyeing clothes before? Any ideas on what went wrong (maybe we didn't let it sit in the dye long enough, or rinse it in cold water long enough so the dye stuck)? Should we try dyeing it with another round of black dye?

Maybe I should find a tailor after all. If you have mad sewing skills and want to make a dress for me, let me know.

Friday, September 7, 2012

People Watching: Ballston Crosswalk

Taking a break from Girl Friday, since we started up our new September feature this week. Don't worry, it'll be back next Friday!

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I always try to take advantage of sitting at red lights by using the time to people watch. Especially in the downtown areas of Arlington and DC -- it's a treasure trove of fun outfits. Although it annoys me when all I see are joggers in their Under Armour or neon workout gear... I feel like they're wasting my time. Hahaha.

On Tuesday, as I sat at a light in Ballston, I happened to catch a glimpse of a girl wearing something like this:
I loved that she used a simple palette, but kept it interesting by matching stripes with a little bit of tribal print. Since the print was on her sandals, it added an element of surprise and personality to what looked like a pretty normal outfit. It's that attention to seemingly small details that made the outfit uniquely hers.

Go and do likewise.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Secondhand September: Braving the World of Cast-Offs

Hey all, this is Kari! Welcome to Secondhand September!
This shirt is a Goodwill find I altered to fit.
I shop at Goodwill for a myriad of reasons, but one of them is because it forces creativity. Retail stores, by definition, need to present an image, a "look," and we go to those stores because we want to "get that look." Goodwill, on the other hand, merely presents you with a jumble of raw materials, and to be successful there, you must have a well-developed and completely independent sense of your own style.
One of our THREE neighborhood Goodwill stores -- this one's close enough to walk to!
But, no matter how well you know what you like, walking into a thrift store can be intimidating and disorienting. So to start this series off, here are a few pointers on braving the world of cast-offs:
  1. Adjust your expectations from retail stores: Go in expecting the store to be disheveled and minimally organized. Brace for the disappointment of not finding your size or your color -- or not finding anything at all.
  2. Have an idea of what you're looking for, then skim: If you know yourself, you'll know if a style piece is "you" when you see it. Have a "skim list" when you walk in, such as "red pumps," or "sweaters for fall," or "kelly green." You can tune in to these items and tune everything else out.
  3. Have some vision: Maybe you find a shirt that doesn't fit, but the pattern is beautiful. Could you modify it by sewing it, or layer it, or wear a belt with it? Think creatively about pieces, and maybe consider learning a few basic tailoring skills.
  4. Don't force it: If the shoes are a half size too big, or the color isn't just right, don't buy it just because it would be a killer deal. This is another area where you may be tempted to compromise on your personal style for sake of the price -- don't do it.  
  5. Still read the tags: I discovered I'd scored a Moreno wool sweater a few days ago... after it shrunk in the wash. Our area is wealthy, and the donations are sometimes of surprisingly good materials -- so read the tags.
  6. Shop your style, not by brand: If you're a brand loyalist, you'll never be a successful thrifter. In our area, you'll find everything from Louis Vuitton to Coach to J.Crew to Ann Taylor to H&M to Old Navy to Merona to that-souvenir-sweatshirt-that-should-have-stayed-in-South-Carolina. If you love it, get it, even if it's not a brand you usually wear.  
  7. Drop in frequently: First, because Goodwill receives new products every few days. Going frequently to skim is the best strategy. I recommend thrifting close to home for this reason. Second, because of deals! The Goodwills in my area run specials on different days or parts of days. On Tuesdays, all clothes are always 25% off, except accessories and shoes. Other times, things like shoes are on sale...
The $5 boots.
I usually pop in to my local Goodwill stores on Tuesdays because of the standing "25% off all clothing" deal. This Tuesday I had my skim list in mind: riding boots, duck boots, a gray cable knit sweater, and a few specific colors, including pale pink. Since I had two pairs of shoes on my skim list, I skimmed the shoe rack first -- there were a pair of leather riding boots AND a pair of duck boots! I tried them both on. The duck boots were a hair too big, and were not as tall as I'd hoped for. They weren't perfect, so I left them. The riding boots, however, were perfect. They were simple and embellished, but had just the right cowboy design touches to make them unique and enable them to swing between my classic and bohemian tastes. They were marked at $9 (for comparison, a similar pair I've been stalking for years has never dropped below $250). It was a no-brainer. While I continued browsing, the store announced that shoes would be 2 for $10 for the next 30 minutes, so I went back and grabbed a pair of T-strap sandals I had been on the fence about. No matter how you do the math, I was getting a deal. I spent $12 that day for two pairs of shoes and a pale pink T-shirt!

You can see how I applied some of my tips on this trip: I was able to find what I wanted because I knew what I wanted, and went in looking for it. I didn't compromise. I didn't ignore perfection when I saw it. Knowing my personal style let me do these things confidently, without regretting what I bought or didn't buy. Knowing yourself and your style is essential to successful thrifting.

If you haven't given your personal style much thought, I recommend you do! The Twenty Ninth is a great community of fashion-interested people in which to do so.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Secondhand September: An Introduction

Last week, I announced that my friend Kari will be writing a new feature for The Twenty Ninth: Secondhand September! She's going to be posting every Wednesday, except for this week... We wanted to give you an overview of what this experiment/project is all about, so her first official post will be up tomorrow. In the meantime, here are Kari's thoughts and the background of Secondhand September:

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I’m going to conduct an experiment: I’m not going to spend any money on retail clothing or accessories during the month of September. I’m going to shop exclusively second-hand for the month.

Why do this? For a couple of reasons:

First, I always leave thrift stores with a "glowy" feeling. I feel I’ve saved my family money, contributed to an industry that provides jobs to the underprivileged, kept trash out of landfills and reduced my own consumerism. I feel I multiply my money’s power for benevolence when I shop second-hand.

There's also a creative element in this experiment. Retail is full of messages. The fashion industry survives on convincing us that we should be dressing a certain way -- we need to be “on-trend,” on their trends, otherwise... otherwise what? We’re individuals? Unique? Dressing at the behest of our own creative voice instead of the industry’s advertising? That doesn’t sound so bad...

During this September, I won't have any lookbooks influencing my styling choices -- it will be purely my own creativity. I’ll have to ask myself if I really love something enough to confidently wear it despite being different from everyone around me before buying it, instead of having the comfort of conformity. Some pieces may require at-home tailoring and modification before they’re ready to wear. That takes vision, something that isn’t often required when you’re surrounded by dressed mannequins subtly acting as personal stylists and racks of clothing in a range of sizes.

So here I go: One month of shopping exclusively at Goodwill stores in my area. I'm looking forward to sharing what I find and what I learn!

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If you have questions for Kari, leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Clothes for Cheap: J.Crew Blythe Blouse

This classic silk button up from J.Crew is offered in a number of colors, but this particular purple was offered in this year's spring collection and is no longer available. However, do not weep -- if your closet needs some bright purple, Old Navy's got you covered... albeit in polyester, not silk. But the price is nice.
J.Crew Blythe Blouse                                                        Old Navy Roll-Cuff Blouse

Clothes for Cheap: More Madewell Flats

Like these white leopard print Madewell flats? I found a cheaper option at Old Navy...
Madewell Sidewalk Skimmer                                                                   Old Navy Printed Flats