Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shoe Haiku

Why, oh why must new shoes always be so uncomfortable? I don't remember these pumps being quite so torturous the first time I wore them, but today, the second time, they absolutely killed. They rubbed the tops of my toes, they rubbed the backs of my heels, they rubbed the sides of my feet. But hey, after awhile they also made my feet go numb, so I couldn't feel how much skin was being rubbed off! Way to go, Modern Vintage!

Sigh. I will of course wear these again, and again, and suffer through the painful breaking-in process because (a) the shoes are exquisitely beautiful and (b) I paid a small fortune for them. I also wrote them a haiku today:

Modern Vintage pumps
Oh the exquisite torture!
Won't you break in soon?

Ahem. On to the rest of the outfit. This is another that I had to throw together in the morning, not having had the time this week for my usual wardrobe planning. This is an example of spending an inordinate amount of time on an outfit I ended up not being entirely happy with, and not just because of the shoe discomfort. For some reason I just wasn't getting the look I wanted, though I do like the color combination. I was really hoping to pull together a more Jackie O.-inspired creation by building upon this little teal skirt from Anthropologie, but I never quite got there. Maybe next time.

The purple top is a cast-off from my sister, and the cardigan is unknown, because I cut the uncomfortable label out of it. The scarf is by Anne Klein and the tights are some I bought at Monsoon in Copenhagen a couple years ago. This delicious little teal clutch and yellow lacquer brooch are two more of my great finds from Minneapolis last weekend. The clutch is by Tracy Reese and is made of super-soft patent leather. I found it at Saks Off 5th on Nicollette Mall, where they happened to be offering an additional 20% off all purchases that day. It was a great deal but still a little pricey, which led me to ponder the fact that a lot of items in my wardrobe could best be described by Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man: "About a hundred dollars."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Off Kilter

This week I'm a bit off kilter, since I didn't have my normal Sunday night wardrobe planning session. Today's outfit was thrown together this morning, so I used this little sundress as my starting point, since dresses are easier to design around. Since a dress already has the top and bottom built in, there are fewer possible combinations and therefore less time is spent agonizing about the different possibilities, or at least for me that's the case.

This dress is by Crystal Candy and is one I got for a steal on sale at Lady Language. Since the top is really cut for a bustier frame, I added a tank underneath and this cardigan by Kersh. The leggings are also by Kersh and the t-strap pumps are by Gabriella Rocha. The belt came with a top I got at Forever 21.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Katherine Hepburn

I'm back from a fun weekend in Minneapolis, though still feeling the effects of a late flight and lack of sleep. Today's outfit was thrown together on the fly, but was aided by the fact that these fabulous new trousers require little else to make a great look. They're from Anthropologie and were among my finds over the weekend.

I typically shop for clothes whenever I'm in Minneapolis, for a variety of reasons: summer clothes, which are wearable year-round in California with the addition of a long-sleeved shirt or a pair of tights, are practically worthless by September in Minnesota and are deeply discounted towards the end of the season; they have different styles that aren't always available out here; and not only are the prices better than in San Francisco, but there is also no sales tax on clothing, which saves me an additional 8.5%, or whatever the going rate for highway robbery is these days.

Purple tank: Thrifted
Orange cardigan:e-klah
Shoes: Camper
Brooch: Alemany flea market
Green jewelry: Cost Plus
Gold necklace: ?

I love the way the high-waisted, wide-legged trousers paired with the cropped cardigan plays with my proportions. Pants like this always remind me of Katherine Hepburn and the androgynous yet sexy outfits she used to wear. I especially like the lace-up detailing on the back of the waistline. I should note that these pants are among the new fall line from Anthropologie and were full price; my friend Belinda's assertion that they were a "must-have" was enough to make me ignore the hefty price tag. Belinda would never steer me wrong about something like that.

Not surprisingly, my weekend purchases did not stop with these trousers; there will be plenty more new things in the days to come.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Memento Mori

This outfit was originally supposed to include tights and short boots, but since my new tattoo was still pretty sore this morning I decided to leave my legs bare. The new design looks really good so far; it still needs color and shading, but the artist I go to is booked out for the next several months, so I will have to live with it in its unfinished state for awhile. In the outfit picture to the left you can see the placement of it and get an idea of the size. I had originally conceived this as a very small, simple design -- you can see how well that idea worked out.

Memento mori translates roughly to, "Remember that you will die." It sounds a little morbid at first, but really it has to do with living life to the fullest because our time here is limited. I came across a lot of examples of memento mori when I traveled in eastern Europe the last couple of vacations, and it sort of struck a chord with me. Curious Expeditions has an interesting article on the concept of memento mori as applied in the Sedlec Ossuary, one of the places I visited, here. The look of the design is based on the art nouveau style of Alphonse Mucha, some of whose work I was fortunate enough to see when I was in Prague. As the idea for this tattoo developed, the complexity of all the concepts I was trying to incorporate ended up necessitating a larger image.

Okay, on to the outfit. I got this little ecru dress from Lady Language for $20 on sale. The knit fabric is very soft, swingy, and comfortable. The button-down shirt is from Old Navy, short-sleeve jacket by BCBG Max Azria, and shoes by Cole Haan. I love the ruching and button details on the bodice of this dress, and am looking forward to trying out other ways to wear it that will show off those details more.

Tonight I'm heading to Minneapolis for an extended weekend, so there won't be a post on Monday. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend, and I'll be back with more work outfits on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fresh Ink

Today I decided I needed to boost the color quotient, since my earlier outfits this week have been comprised mostly of neutrals. My original starting point for this outfit began with the random proximity of this cropped vest by Hale Bob with a different teal top, but since that one didn't work out I ended up with this long teal t-shirt instead. Not content with wearing one simple t-shirt, I layered on this gathered v-neck tee from H&M for more of a colorblock effect. The orange skirt is from Sunhee Moon.

I picked up these Nine West slingbacks recently at a thrift store for $10. They show zero signs of wear and indeed have probably never been worn at all, since they still had the original tags on them (original price: $69.99!). Normally I'm not a huge fan of slingbacks but these are surprisingly comfortable and don't dig into the backs of my heels at all.

As I described in yesterday's post, I pick out the week's outfits in advance. Usually I'll have some idea of the order in which I'll wear them, which is generally based on the weather forecast, how much walking I'll need to do that day, or other factors such as important meetings or presentations. Today I had another factor to consider: after work I have an appointment for a new tattoo. Since it will be on my thigh just above the knee, I wanted to wear a skirt with no hose or leggings. It's not often you hear about designing an outfit for a tattoo appointment, but there you go. I'm tempted to say this will be my final tattoo, but I'm pretty sure I said that the last time around, so I'll refrain.

Coincidentally, Bits & Bobbins posted an item recently about tattoos and posed the question of whether or not people consider them when they dress. For me I'd say the answer is generally no; in fact I often forget I have them and am sometimes taken aback when people stop me to ask about them. I do consider them when I'm shopping, however, and have sometimes rejected an item if it cuts across any of my tattoos in a funky way. In general I'd prefer to show the whole thing or none of it, with the exception of the snake tattoo on my shoulder, which I allow to peek discreetly out from under many of my tops. I'll try to post some photos of the new design tomorrow, although fresh ink looks vastly different from what the final result will be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Peter Pan

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday; I stayed home sick and spent the day in my grubbies. Thankfully the cold I felt coming on didn't quite materialize, so I'm back on my feet today.

Today's outfit was built around this little snakeskin-pattern minidress that I found at a thrift store about a month ago; this is the first time I've worn it. I knew I needed a layer underneath, but quickly eliminated anything loose-fitting, lest my outfit end up looking like something from Eileen Fischer, god forbid. Intending this outfit to be a mix of neutrals, I started with a layer of basic black: cabled knit leggings by Kersh and drape-neck tank from Sunhee Moon. I added this khaki button-down top by Susina to lighten up the outfit, and put some more browns into the mix with this faux-croc belt, Bata boots, and Lucky bag. I realize the colors are tough to see in the pictures; the contrast is much more obvious in real life. Wearing this little minidress with boots makes me feel a bit like Peter Pan.

I thought today I'd share a few tips on building outfits. I always struggled with putting together very polished-looking ensembles, and it's really only in recent years that I've developed any confidence in my abilities. Here's the strategy that works best for me:

1. Allot some time to the process. I usually set aside time on Sunday or Monday evening to plan my outfits for the next several days. I start by checking the forecast so that I'll have a rough idea of what items I'll have to work with. If I try to throw together an outfit in the morning when I'm in a rush, the creativity will most certainly be stymied.

2. Get in the right frame of mind. Again, this is a creative process. If you're feeling stressed out or bad about the way your body looks, it will severely impair your ability to put together interesting looks. Sometimes I have to quit and come back to it later if I'm not in the right mood. I think that looking forward to this weekly ritual and having fun with it is at least half the recipe for success.

3. Set the stage. Sometimes this can help with item #2. I start by putting on some fun music and mixing myself a cocktail. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a little alcohol. Not too much, though, or else you can end up with creations that you're not brave enough to wear when sober. Trust me, I know about this.

4. Pick a starting point. I'll either pull out an underutilized item, start with something new that I haven't worn yet, pick one of my favorites, or build on a combination I've discovered randomly. Sometimes an idea will hit me when I'm reading another blog or out shopping or whatever; I usually write these down and end up with little scraps of paper in my closet that say things like, "orange dress + turtleneck" or, "purple top, green pants." I'll pull these out when it's time to plan the week's outfits. Another strategy is to mark photos as favorites on Wardrobe Remix, or to bookmark pages from style blogs and the like, and consult those before beginning.

5. Try anything and everything. I take my starting item and hold it up it next to other things in my closet, including things I don't think it'll go with. It helps if everything is visible and easily accessed, rather than being buried in a drawer or under a pile of other clothes. Sometimes I'll find a good combination right away, and sometimes it takes several tries. The point is to keep experimenting; after all, you've allotted yourself the time to do this, right?

6. Accessorize. Once I have the basics together, then I start playing with additional layers and accessories. Is a necklace interesting enough or does the outfit require the additional texture and pattern that a scarf can contribute? Is my waist well-defined or do I need a belt or a vest? Can I make the outfit cuter by adding a hat? Can I add a little splash of color with a different pair of shoes? Generally it's the accessories that elevate an outfit from good to great, and that allow unlikely color combinations to make sense.

7. Save! Once I have my outfit assembled I hang everything together, including nylons, jewelry, handbag, and whatever else. I will most certainly forget something if I trust it to the caffeine-deprived, groggy state I'm in every morning.

I hope someone out there finds this helpful!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nerd Girl

Today's outfit was built entirely around these shoes, which I found at a thrift store for $4 over the weekend. They have a nerdy appeal that I thought I could play upon by adding some argyle and plaid.

This argyle vest is from A. Byer. Originally it came with a fake button-down shirt sewn in, which I thought was really dumb, particularly since the collar stuck out in a weird way and the tails of the shirt didn't really lay flat. I like the vest part though, so I cut the collar, tails, and sleeves of the faux shirt out and layered the vest over this Guess shirt, which actually fits me. Cropped pants by Poleci, shoes by No Boundaries.

Another great find over the weekend was this cute brooch, which I picked up at the Alemany flea market along with a bunch of other great stuff. The brooch only set me back $5 after a bit of bargaining. Also among my purchases were a couple of pairs of clip-on earrings, which I plan on turning into cardigan clips using Kasmira's instructions.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Shoes

This beautiful new pair of pumps by Modern Vintage just arrived yesterday from, so of course I was determined to wear them today. It's been a long time since I've owned a pair of white (actually they're more of an ivory color) shoes, and I was momentarily at a loss as to what to do with them. Then I remembered these cute eyelet tights I bought a few months ago, and decided I would pair the two to make my legs look extra long. This allowed me to wear this long tunic and below-the-knee skirt together, which otherwise would've made my body look very truncated.

I've nearly gotten through all my recent Forever 21 purchases once now; this denim tunic is possibly the last. Although I adore the button detailing and the bib front, the tunic has more of a maternity feel than I'm quite comfortable with, so I may just have it altered a little bit for some more definition around the waist. I think an inch or so off the sides would make me happier with it. I'm also going to swap out the buttons for some that are orange or maybe tortoiseshell, which I think would be more interesting. The rest of the outfit: drape neck sweater by Tulle, and the skirt is unknown, as the label has been obscured by dry cleaning tags.

My frequent readers will probably not be surprised to learn that I ordered not one, but 3 new pairs of shoes the other day. I seem to be incapable of ordering just one pair. I mean, the UPS guy has to come all that way to deliver them, so I might as well make it worth his while! Anyway, one of the pairs has to go back -- just think if that had been the only pair I ordered! What a complete waste it would've been.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Well Read

Today I had to give an important presentation in front of the VP and all the directors of my department. I wanted to look somewhat understated while of course remaining stylish. I chose this striped shirt from Promod as the starting point, since it has a crisp, tailored look. Then I layered on this sheer blouse from the Red Dress Shoppe as a contrast to the masculine cut of the button-down. The layered necklaces and strand of pearls worn as a bracelet modernized the look of the 1930's style blouse.

The wide-leg jeans are by Level 99 and the shoes are by Born. I wanted to keep the whole outfit to this simple color scheme of white, blue, and silver, so I added some flash by layering on a bunch of shiny jewelry, as well as the satin, rhinestone-buckle belt from Noa Noa.

I love the look of lots of rings, although my hands aren't exactly my best feature. When I read Anna Karenina many years ago, I remember being struck by the recurring description of her fingers covered in rings; it's an image that has stuck with me and to this day I feel very elegant when I pile multiple rings on my hands. The circle ring is one of my lucky charms (worn particularly for the presentation today) and is from a Seattle designer whose name I forget.

The second lucky charm I wore today was this necklace. I love images of boats and ships, having been a sailor myself. The ship pictured on the necklace has a special appeal for me because I'm completely hooked on Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series, of which I'm working on book 14 out of 20. The stories mostly take place at sea during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, so the ships would have had silhouettes much like this one. I didn't realize until now how many elements of today's outfit were inspired by classic literature.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Today was one of those days when I just didn't want to believe it could be this cold in July, so I dressed for normal summer weather and hoped for the best. Big mistake. No matter, as at least I managed to root out two very underutilized items for this one: the dress and the vest.

The dress is by Tulle; I like it a lot, with the interesting pattern arrangement and the tiny gold threads that run through the fabric. However I don't love it, which is probably why I don't wear it more. It just looks a tad boring, so I think a modification or two might give it the oomph I'm looking for. I'm thinking I may add an embellishment along the hemline to pop the color a little; perhaps some tulle or eyelet lace. Ideas would be most appreciated.

The denim vest is by Anoname, and is one I picked up several years ago at a little boutique in the Haight that's no longer open. I don't much like the way it looks when buttoned, so I left it open to show a peek of the red belt underneath (the dress comes with a matching belt, but I think it looks too bland). The shoes are by Camper, and I'm not sure who made the hat. I loved how my orangesicle toes matched my shoes today.

Georgie really wanted to be in the photo today, but then apparently got so bored by the whole process that she yawned and walked away. I love how the picture turned out though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Walking in Heels

Here's another variation on the classic secretary look. I always feel very sexy sporting an outfit like this one. The leopard print top is slightly sheer and is another recent find from Forever 21. The waistcoat is by Sisley (from Benetton), the skirt is a cast-off from my younger sister, the belt is from the Red Dress Shoppe, and the delicious patent leather shoes are from BCBG Girls.

Indulge me while I rant for a moment. Lately I've been noticing an increasing number of women who don't know how to walk in high heels, but insist on wearing them anyway. I feel very strongly that if you're going to rock a pair of sexy heels, you really need to work the strut that goes with them. Here are the key ingredients, in my opinion, to a proper high heel strut:

1. Take long, slow, confident strides. No shuffling.
2. Feet should be pointed forward, not towards one another.
3. Allow your hips, not your legs, to compensate for the angle of the heel. This means your butt will sway back and forth as you walk. Don't worry, this is the whole point.
4. Each step should be roughly in front of where the last one fell. In other words, don't lumber along with your legs spread apart like a rodeo cowboy. Imagine you're taking a roadside sobriety test.
5. Stand up straight, for crying out loud!

If this still isn't making any sense, try studying the long shot of Marilyn Monroe walking along the dam in Niagara. Either that, or please, please quit wearing heels if the best you can pull off is a pigeon-toed shuffle like a 5-year-old playing dress up in her big sister's clothes.

Ahh, I feel better.

Monday, July 14, 2008


When I put away this cropped tartan jacket after the last time I wore it, I randomly hung it up next to this black and white floral top. I noticed that the mix of patterns contrasted nicely, so I kept the two items paired in my closet until I was ready to wear the jacket again. This is something that happens quite a bit, where I will accidentally create combinations based on random proximity of items.

This kind of haphazardly-tied look for a scarf is quite popular in San Francisco; in fact, scarves in general have to be one of the most oft-used accessories in this town. I was never a big scarf-wearer until I moved here and realized that even on sunny days, the ocean breezes are cool enough that a scarf makes the difference between Slightly Chilly and Perfectly Comfortable. On foggy days when the damp air seeps through to your very bones, a scarf means your teeth won't be chattering while you're ordering your double latte at the Blue Bottle coffee stand.

The jacket is from A. Byer, floral top and scarf from H&M, cropped pants from La Redoute, shoes from Bobbi Blue. I have to admit I'm pleasantly surprised with how comfortable these flats have turned out to be. Though I'm generally not a big fan of flats for comfort reasons, they definitely have their purpose, and I've recently broken down and bought a couple of pairs. These seemed a little dicey the first time I wore them, but have broken in quite well after just 3 wears.


Friday's outfit proves that with the right accessories, it's possible to pair just about any 2 colors. Mustard yellow and pale pink does not readily come to mind as a fantastic combination, but I started playing around with it anyway, and when I pulled this scarf out of the closet I realized it has the very same colors woven in. I like all the muted tones together, and the green jacket adds the required color intensity to keep the outfit from looking too bland.

The yellow tee is from H&M, jacket from Forever 21, skirt from Noa Noa, shoes by Azul. The scarf is from a local import store and the brooch that's keeping the scarf draped just so is an Etsy purchase from The Vintage Brooch Company.

I just love wearing tulle. It makes a lovely swishing sound and looks so soft and feminine; however if you wear it with too many layers it can easily cause you to overheat. I once wore a wool skirt with a tulle petticoat to the opera, and it got so warm up in the balcony area that when I bent over to grab my purse and stood up too quickly I fainted. I was actually fairly excited by the whole episode when I realized that the last time someone swooned at the opera while wearing tulle was probably in the 18th century.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Michael Stars

Kasmira posted a comment to yesterday's blog asking me if Michael Stars shirts really live up to the hype. I thought I'd respond out here in Blogland because I thought other people might have the same question, and because it's something I do have very definite opinions about.

I'll start off by saying that although I rarely bat an eye at splurging on great articles of clothing, I wouldn't really consider myself someone who's willing to drop $40-50 on a t-shirt, and I never buy things based on the name on the label. When I first saw Michael Stars' shirts, I thought they were great, if only they were about half the price. Then I found a little ecru drape-neck tank on the sale rack at one of my local boutiques, and snapped it up for about $20. I've since gotten so much mileage out of that tank that if I found another one like it, I would gladly fork over the full retail price. The shirts are great because they are figure-hugging without ever feeling tight, and the sparkly texture makes them look dressier than regular jersey tees.

One thing I'll say about Michael Stars shirts is that they really are designed for layering, and should not be worn solo. The stretchy, lightweight fabric clings to the body, and though they're not exactly transparent, they do show off everything including the dimple where your bellybutton is and every ridge of the lacy detailing on your bra. If you're looking to buy some and want to be judicious with your purchases (and at $45 a pop, who wouldn't?), then make sure to carefully consider the colors and cuts that will give you the most layering potential. If you want it as a top layer, then choose a v-neck or scoop neck with short sleeves; if you're looking for a basic bottom layer, then consider a crewneck with 3/4 sleeves. Drape neck tops can function really well as either a top or bottom layer.

A final thought about these shirts: because they come in only one size they make a fantastic gift, particularly for those friends who are constantly going on crash diets and whose correct clothing size is as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


This green top is actually a long tunic; normally I hate tucking things in but in this case there was no chance of it coming untucked, and it had the added benefit of rendering a slip unnecessary. The tunic is from Forever 21, t-shirt by Michael Stars, skirt from La Redoute, shoes by Anne Klein.

Interestingly, the most expensive piece in this outfit was the Michael Stars t-shirt, which set me back about $45. The tunic was $26, the linen skirt was $21, the sandals were about $15 at Ross, and the belt cost around $12 at my local import store. Still, I've gone on before about how great these Michael Stars shirts are, and I'll stand by my belief that they are worth the price.

I tried a new background today because I didn't think the off-white t-shirt looked very good against my white front door. Sadly, my apartment has no outdoor area that's really suitable for taking self-portraits. My little cart full of potted orchids is about the closest thing I can get to a nature shot.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Today's outfit features another Forever 21 find from last weekend: this sheer floral top. What really sold me on it was the belt, which is a great accessory by itself. I can also imagine a lot of other ways to wear this top; for $22.80, I'd say this was a good purchase. In fact, everything I bought there over the weekend was under $30.

I got this dress at J. Crew before they got so ridiculously expensive. It has a very full skirt and a fitted, sleeveless bodice; by itself it has a 1950's sundress feel. Adding the sheer top, sandals, and turquoise/shell jewelry gave it more of a relaxed look. Today I tried layering a couple of necklaces to add a little more complexity to the outfit. The sandals are by Sofft and are wonderfully comfortable.

The best thing about this dress is that it has pockets. It makes me feel like one of those fabulous 50's housewives who'd get dressed up to go grocery shopping. In the pocket she'd have her list of things to buy: laundry starch, pot roast, Pond's night cream, bobby pins. Later that night she'd have friends over for cocktails and bridge, and she'd bring out one of those wheeled cocktail servers, complete with ice bucket and matching tongs. Ah, what I wouldn't give to have hostessing skills like they did back then.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


This blue shirtdress is one of the purchases from my weekend Forever 21 shopping trip. I've been wanting a shirtdress for quite some time, but I find that a lot of them have arms that are just long enough to restrict movement. This one is lightweight, comfortable, and allows for full arm extension, although there's no way it could be worn as a dress unless you don't mind the front blowing wide open in the lightest of breezes. I've already got a few more ideas for different ways I'm going to wear it, none of which is as a peek-a-boo dress.

The capri leggings are from Kersh, scarf from Ralph Lauren, belt from the Red Dress Shoppe, and shoes by Bobbi Blu. The incredibly gorgeous necklace is a recent Etsy find, and is made from a vintage brooch.

Whenever I mix 2 colors that are difficult to pair, such as this dark blue and black combo, I always like to include some contrasty patterns so that the mix of colors looks doesn't come off looking unintentional. I thought this navy scarf was perfect, but it was far too hot today to wrap it around my neck; instead, I tied knots in the ends to weigh it down and make it hang properly. It's a very low maintenance way to wear a big long scarf like this one.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Walking Dead

Well the good news is that Mark came home last night after being out of town for the long weekend. The bad news is, his flight was delayed and he got in rather late, which meant that today I was like the walking dead. The happily contented walking dead, mind you. Good thing all I had to do today at work was to pack up my office for our big move tomorrow.

Purple tunic top: a cast-off from my little sister
Yellow tank: H&M
Jeans: Dittos
Shoes: Born

Over the long weekend I decided to try a shopping excursion to Forever 21, having seen Kasmira and others sport some cute things from there. For years I've believed that I couldn't wear anything from that store because it carries only juniors' sizing, but I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few things that not only fit, but that don't look like something only a teenager should be wearing. The best part is, everything was very reasonably priced; Kimberly would be proud of me. Several of my new items will make their debut this week.