Monday, June 29, 2009

"Vintage" can be "nasty"

If you read fashion and/or celebrity "news" magazines, then you know that Hollywood ladies (or more appropriately, the stylists who dress them) love vintage dresses.

Renee Zellweger (with a crazy smile) in a vintage Jean Desse gown, Julia Roberts in vintage Valentino and Reese Witherspoon in vintage Dior.

Following the Oscar's, Grammy's, Emmy's, etc., you rarely see negative words written about how a starlet looked in a vintage dress. In fact, the wearer will most likely end up on a "best dressed" list.

During red carpet events, paparazzi shout, "Who are you wearing?" The way I see it, when the actress smugly states, "It's vintage," this is her nice way of saying, "Don't even think you can get your hands on this very dress for your prom, quinceaƱera, wedding or super sweet sixteen."

Vintage has various meanings. For example: defines vintage as "old-fashioned or obsolete." Merriam Webster defines vintage as "of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality." Generally speaking, clothing which was produced before the 1920s is referred to as antique clothing and clothing from the 1920s to 1980 is considered vintage.

Good to know. But I don't like to get caught up in semantics. (For examples of how this statement is ironic, please see my post from last week or last month.)

I use the word "vintage" to describe something I bought more than two seasons prior. Given my no shopping streak, these days, when someone asks me, "where did you get that _____ [article of clothing]?" I often find myself replying, "It's vintage," while using air quotes. It's my way of saying, it doesn't matter where I got it, you won't be able to find it in a store (emphasis on "store," because I believe that if you really set your mind to it, you can find anything on the internet). I think the air quotes add that whisper of acknowledgment and let's the listener know that I realize it is not technically vintage.

In that vein, I'm not the only one who adopts words into their personal vernacular and twists the meaning to suit themselves. For example, I was
in the store wearing these shoes and a woman said to me, "Those shoes are nasty." Huh? (she didn't use air quotes) "Honey, where did you get those shoes? Those shoes are nasty." Oh, I get it -- "nasty" is the new "phat" or her interpretation of my "fabulous."

There's an analogy that will never make the SATs:

Fabulous : Admire

(A) hairy : hate
(B) purple : browse
(C) cold : hungry
(D) nasty : like

Today I wore "nasty" snakeskin shoes, so-called "vintage," green chiffon layered blouse and black skirt. I wore an actual vintage black bead necklace that belonged to my grandmother. So no matter how you interpret it, you won't be able to find this outfit in stores, but The Style Within can help you create your own "vintage" (air quotes) or real vintage look using what you have.


I have received several requests from readers, asking me to provide more information about what I'm wearing. From here on out, I will do better about letting you know. Thanks for reading, and you can always email me with any questions.

Blouse: Bandolino (Macy's)
Skirt: Banana Republic
Shoes: Nine West (Marshalls)
Bracelet: Cookie Lee
Necklace: Vintage (really)

Friday, June 26, 2009

My closet -- the Noah's Ark of Clothing?

They say "good things come in pairs." I'm not sure who "they" are, but this is what they say and I was reminded of it today as I dressed.

If the blue dress I'm wearing today looks the least bit familiar, it is because I wore a magenta one just like it last month. (I wanted the green one too, but figured that was overkill).

I am shameless about buying the exact same item in multiples. My clothing duplicity reads like a grocery list:

2 pairs of Nine West wedged-heel espadrilles -- one black pair, one white pair;
2 pairs of Steve Madden "Christen" wedges -- both the same color. One for wearing with the uber-dark jeans because the indigo dye rubs off and one pristine pair (I'm practical that way);
2 of the same sundresses from TJ Maxx, one pink, one blue.
2 pairs of the same Aldo spike heels -- one brown pair and one nude pair;
2 pairs of Nine West sling backs-- one nude pair and one black pair;
2 wrap tops (one that I wore last month), in both brown and green.

Of course, good things don't always come in pairs -- sometimes they come in triplicate or more. I have 3 pairs of Report flip flops -- pink, black and brown. As I mentioned the other day, I have Carlos Santana Vertigo shoes in 3 different colors. And I have the exact same seamless cami in 8 different colors. I'm the octo-mom of camis!

I don't want you to think I buy all of this at once. In fact, most of the duplicate items were bought at different times. It's just that when I find a style I like, or an item that fits well, my consumer impulse kicks in and I must have more! Same concept with peanut M&M's. Try to consume just one -- impossible! Could this be because there are so many colors to choose from? Perhaps.

And then today, as I was clicking around checking out other fashion blogs, I came across a posting about a woman who has vowed to wear the same dress for a year "to expose our wasteful, over-consuming generation." Are we a wasteful society? Definatley. Do I own too many clothes? Yes. And while I think this woman's mission is noble, I can't help thinking -- can I get her dress in green?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I have 3 diplomas from the School of Thought

I usually subscribe to the school of thought that comfortable equals unfashionable. Let's face it, anyone who spends the better part of her life in 4 inch heels, is not too concerned about comfort -- or podiatric care. However, yesterday, I was looking for something comfortable to wear. And what could be more comfortable than a loose, knit dress? (But just so I didn't confuse this comfortable dress with my pajamas, I rocked my Carlos Santa Satisfaction heels in mauve.)

The dress must have looked comfortable too, because someone asked me, and I quote: "What is that a shirt? A dress?"

I bought this dress (yes, it's a dress) last Fall, when purple was the color of the moment. And here we are, a full two seasons later -- citrus hues are all the rage --and I'm still wearing purple. I also subscribe to the school of thought that no matter what the trendy colors are, you should wear what you want.

Seasonal or not, this color is still a hit. At work, someone said, "That's a great color." I nodded in agreement. Rude? I don't think so. I agreed with her statement, but her statement was not a compliment to me.

If she had said, "That's a great color on you," then I would have said "Thank you." I subscribe to the school of thought that a declaratory statement, about something I have no control over -- e.g., the color the manufacturer chooses to dye fabric -- does not count as a personal compliment.

I'm sure the color purple was flattered. I'm sure somewhere there's a crayon with an inflated ego.

Now, I'm sure some of you think I am over analyzing what people say to me. And to those people I say, "That tree is tall. You're welcome."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Using colorful language

I am not shy about wearing color. I believe my record speaks for itself. Red, purple, yellow, orange -- I love them all. And today I decided to wear them all at the same time. At first I thought this sweater resembled a sand art jar project.

I got several compliments on it. A couple women asked where I bought it (Macy's by way of Marshall's). A friend at work referred to my sweater as "festive." Festive? Like a pinata?

Given the many vivid colors in the sweater, I opted to wear my white skirt. To me, this skirt says: "Tennis anyone?" However, this thought may have been evoked by Day 2 of Wimbledon(which I know about only because I have no control over the TV at the gym), but I think it has more to do with the pleats. I thought about doing a brown or a nude shoe, but I chose my dark burgundy heels. I think the rich shade compliments the sweater nicely.

In case you did not know, all colors have meanings or assertions associated with them. Colors are proven to affect our mood, productivity and some experts say certain colors garner positive attention from the opposite sex. As today's public service, I will provide you with the general interpretation of certain colors.

Red is often associated with power and determination as well as passion and love. No surprise there, but I also read that red invokes hunger -- which is why so many movie theaters use it in their decor. You buy your ticket, find a seat, get comfortable and before you have time to answer the Coke Trivia question, you think: "I really want a large popcorn and some peanut M&M's." And bam! There goes another $17.50.

Purple is associated with royalty. With all the colors in the sweater that I had to work with, I chose to add a purple cami under the sweater. One can never be too royal -- just ask Prince.

Yellow is associated with happiness, intellect, and energy. Or in my case, bumble bees. It's not like anyone has said to me, "I see you are wearing your happiness outfit today." No. I wear yellow and I'm an insect. It will be years before I let that one go.

Orange is associated creativity and stimulation. However, this could just be the caffeine.

There is also a hint of brown in the pattern of my sweater. Brown is associated with stability, reliability, and approachability. What can brown do for you? And why do you want to get closer?

Not to beat a dead horse (or pinata), my point is this. What you wear says a lot about you. Clothing allows you to express yourself without words. You should not shy away from wearing bold colors. Just a little bit can make a big difference.

To draw on something I learned from the incomparable Cyndi Lauper -- who I have admired for countless years (and I have the paraphernalia to prove it). Your true colors are beautiful, like a rainbow. Don't be afraid to let them show.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Romper Room

This weekend, while visiting my family in Austin, I saw a girl wearing the cutest black, strapless short romper. It was very similar to the picture shown at the left -- but shorter. This girl was super tall, super slim and had fantastic arms and legs. She was a vision of blonde hair and tan skin as she moved gazelle-like up and down on the elliptical. Say what? You read right. The elliptical. At the gym.

Now, I must admit if anyone could pull off a strapless short romper it was this girl. She had the body for it. However, great limbs or not, I found the low cut socks and worn out Nikes a bit distracting. Couple that with the fact that she clearly was not wearing a bra and I think I have a great case for fashion negligence.

Running on the treadmill, I was so distracted by her that time flew by. I should have thanked her. It made my hamster run more interesting.

Later, my attention was diverted from romper girl to an older lady doing tai chi movements while pedaling on a stationary bike. It takes all kinds. And this my friends, is what they mean by "Keep Austin Weird."

If anyone was wondering, this is my idea of work out attire -- doggie dumbbells not included.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion...unless it's wrong

InStyle magazine, has recently added actress Rachel Bilson as a style columnist. Having no idea who she is, I looked her up. Apparently, she made it big on the "O.C." a show I (surprisingly) did not watch. Each month, the "style-setting actress" answers reader's fashion questions. In the July issue, one of her answers got me so worked up, I decided to blog about it.

What could possibly prompt me to forgo the usual, self-serving photo opportunity that is my blog? Here it is:

Q. I've chosen a summery maxidress for my sister's graduation. What shoes do I need?

A. Flat sandals with interesting details are the way to go. I like T-strap or braided pairs that buckle at the ankle. Try Coach or Giuseppe Zanotti -- both have pretty versions. It's nice when a bit of toe peeks out from underneath the hem. Opt for nude polish, though -- you don't want to distract from your dress.

Now just in case you do not know what a maxidress is, I've arranged for the AV department to provide a visual aid:

Popularized in the seventies, the maxidress has made its way back to mainstream (much like David Carradine). These dresses are super long and depending on how tall the wearer is, they could drag the floor.

I agree with Ms. Bilson, flat sandals are the way to go with the maxidress. This could be why I do not own/wear a maxidress -- you would be hard pressed to find anything lower than a 3" heel in my closet. However, it is her advice to opt for nude polish so you don't "distract from the dress" that really irritated me.

As someone who's toes are always painted a bright or dark color (depending on the season) I am offended by the assertion that color on the toes would distract from fashion. Couple this with the fact that maxidresses will, in most cases, completely cover your feet and it is an absurd response!

Bottom line: there is only one way your toenails will "distract from your dress" and if this is the case, you have a whole mess of other issues to worry about.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nothing but "softly feminine" for this "smart girl"

I truly believe that if Donna Reed and Pat Benetar got drunk together and created an outfit, this would be it.

The full skirt and feminine button-up blouse playfully calls, "Dear, dinner's ready," whilst the skirt's funky brushstroke pattern and wide, red, double-buckle belt sings "Heartache to heartache we stand."

Unlike most of my outfits -- which are born of spontaneity -- this outfit progressed over time. I bought this skirt last year at Nordstrom's Rack. When I first wore this skirt, I paired it with a black cotton tank with a matching black shrug and sandals. I remember thinking -- eh, nothing special. The next time I wore it, I let Nick-at-Nite (a/k/a TV Land) be my inspiration.

Growing up, I watched reruns of The Donna Reed Show and Leave it to Beaver. Boy could those ladies dress. Whether they were vacuuming the house or mending socks, they always looked flawless in their full skirts, demure blouses, hostess aprons and heels. Personally, my feminist ideals are closer to Gloria Steinem's than June Cleaver, but that does not keep me from appreciating a classic silhouette and feminine details. I mean, look at the tiny little pleated pockets on my blouse...fantastic!

I just need my Bobbi-Pin Curl Perm and I'm ready for a day of baking muffins and thorough dusting:

Monday, June 15, 2009

What the...

"The devil is in the details," meaning that small things that are often overlooked can cause serious problems later on.

I totally get that.

Take for instance this rayon/spandex blend jacket-thingy I wore today. It is a slick material much like that of a windbreaker. There are drawstrings with toggles at the collar -- much like you would see on a hooded jacket. Only there is no hood -- those are faux drawstrings. Why are they there (and do they pose a strangulation hazard)?

When I bought this jacket, I only saw two things -- it was black and it was cropped. A prime example of how I would speed shop and not notice details. I would buy just to buy. I wanted a black cropped jacket. And I bought a black cropped jacket. Only, it wasn't really what I bargained for.

It wasn't until after the first time I wore it, did I realize that it was a swing jacket (not necessarily the most flattering cut on me since it tends to encircle) and it appears to have been modeled after a parachute (ripcords?).

Having lacked my usual attention to details, I am here today to tell you that the little things matter. I tell you this today, as I'm wearing my shiny, waterproof, psuedo windbreaker, parkaesque swing jacket counting down the days (48) until I can buy a black, cotton-blend, fitted cropped jacket. Preferably, something without a pulley system.
Details are important. Believe me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You're getting sleeeepy

Why do zebras have stripes?

According to author Peter Apps, the stripes could act as camouflage by breaking up the zebra's outlines. However, he acknowledges that zebra's behavior does not fit what would be expected from a camouflaged animal -- zebras are noisy and active. Interesting -- I'm noisy and (somewhat) active and I'm hardly what you would call a camouflaged animal. Another suggestion is that the conglomeration of dazzling stripes in a zebra herd would make it difficult for a predator to concentrate on a particular target. That's it! Dazzling stripes makes it difficult for an onlooker to concentrate on one specific area.

This may be why stripes are one of the most popular patterns used by the fashion industry. Clearly, stripes have a way of concealing. I mean, today's dress even tricked the camera. In person, this dress is perfectly vertically striped, but in the picture, it becomes crazy wavy lines -- similar to what you see before someone in a movie has a flashback. Genius! Want to look taller and/or thinner? Wear vertical stripes. You never hear anyone say "as big as a zebra," and yet female zebras weigh 850+ pounds -- food for thought.

Another trick to make your legs appear thinner and longer is to wear a nude colored shoe with skirts/dresses. At this rate, I should look about 6' tall today.

*Author's note: A yellow belt would look really cute with this dress, but alas, I did not find such a belt before I got the genius idea to stop shopping. If any of you happen to have a dress like this and a yellow belt, I'm jealous.

Friday, June 5, 2009

T.G.I.F. - This getup is fierce

If I was to go shopping this weekend, I would immediately buy a purple dress and aqua belt. I saw this on Tyra Bank and fell in love with the color combination.

Random fact: Tyra coined the catchphrase "fierce" during America's Next Top Model. I don't watch that show, or any reality shows, but I do love a good catchphrase.

And look, here are the same colors in reverse on Vivica A. Fox.

Random fact: Vivica appeared as Jazz's sister on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Tyra played Will's love interest during the college years. This is a show I did watch.

That's odd. I seriously doubt that I'm the first white woman to ever wear these colors together. Moving on.

Since I do not already own a purple dress or an aqua belt -- nor am I allowing myself to go buy these items -- I made the most of what I had. I shopped my closet and came up with this:

Today I paired an aqua tank top under a purple jacket. If the jacket looks familiar it's probably because we all owned a Members' Only jacket (or in my case a knock-off) at some point in the 80's. Like all fashion, the Members' Only jacket style has been recycled. Today's jackets offer shorter sleeves and brighter colors.

Since I cannot wear jeans to work (sigh), I opted for my black, cropped pants. I accessorized with my black, Carlos Santana Vertigos (yes, I have them in 3 colors), layered silver necklaces, a silver bangle and silver hoop earrings.

Today a coworker said, "don't you look sporty today?" as if it were a question. Umm, I don't I?

Maybe its the bangs:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Life is like an elevator -- it has its ups and downs

You may be smart, funny or an intoxicating combination of both. You may be one of the most interesting people alive (like that guy in the Dos Equios commercials). Unfortunately, a stranger -- who is only looking at you -- will not know just how amazing you are.

We all know the phrase "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Unlike other well-known sayings, such as: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree", "Go fly a kite", or "How can you walk in those shoes?" "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" is an expression I can get behind.

Anyone who thinks what they wear does not matter is kidding themselves. Of course, there are some individuals who truly do not care what others think about them. To these people, I say "good for you." However, I'm fairly certain that even these people have dressed up for an interview and perhaps a date or two. People who care about how they are perceived by coworkers, friends, family and even strangers, recognize that outward appearances are a huge part of day-to-day life. Shallow? Perhaps. True? Definitely.

You may be thinking to yourself: "Why the hell is she writing about this? Does she have some degree in Sociology I don't know about?" Both good questions. I'm writing about this because: 1) it is true; and 2) I think people at work are on to me and have stopped saying stuff for me to make fun of.

However, when I was leaving the office this evening, a woman on the elevator with me said, "Hi, I rode up with you this morning. I recognized your really cute jacket." She did not say, "I recognized your aptitude for abscure theme songs," or "I recognized your ability to make great braciola." And why would she? She has no way of knowing that I can tenderize cube steak while singing the song from Mr. Belvedre. No, this woman spent less than 30 seconds in an elevator with me, but remembered what she saw -- my jacket.

I know we all have similar stories. Complete strangers complimenting us on our hair, our smile, our shoes, our blouse -- superficial things. Someone needs to know you on a personal level before they can compliment you on your vast knowledge about the former Soviet republics or ability to quote Atticus Finch's closing statement from "To Kill a Mockingbird" (neither of which I have by the way).

But a wise person once said, "Streaks on the china, never mattered before, who cares. When you dropped kicked your jacket, as you came through the door, no one glared. But sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared. All hands look out below. There’s a change in the status quo. Gonna need all the help that we can get. According to our new arrival, life is more than mere survival. We just might live the good life yet."

Appearances. They are a huge part of our lives. Mr. Belvedere gets it. I get it. Do you get it?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Up in arms!

Today I wore my coral flutter sleeve blouse, tan skirt and aqua jewelry set. Doesn't the coral and aqua look lovely together? As I discussed last week, orange and blue compliment each other nicely. I liked my bright blue and orange last week, but I really love this lighter color combination. Plus, I successfully avoided anyone asking me to stow their carry on luggage--bonus!

I find this top to be comfortable, flattering and it wears well with a variety of bottoms. I have worn it with jeans, navy blue walking shorts and a shorter brown skirt (not all at once). Considering how little I paid for it, it has more than paid for itself with numerous wears. I don't want to give all my secrets away for free, but trust me The Style Within can tell you where to find the deals.

Today was the second time I wore this blouse to work. Counting those two times and the time I wore my "bumble bee outfit," today was the third time I arduously avoided our HR admin. for fear she would mistake my flutter sleeves for sleeveless, which is not "technically" allowed in our office.

I enjoy dissecting and debating fashion. On most days, I will gladly discuss why this is not a sleeveless blouse. But to quote the great Kenny Rogers: "You got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run." Today, I chose to walk away. I walked away as fast as my BCBG heels would carry me and hid in my office until she was gone.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now accepting hand outs

The blouse I'm wearing today is brand new. I just got it last weekend. Now before you cry foul and chastise me for violating my own 90-day shopping moratorium, let me finish. This blouse is brand new to me. My mom gave it to me. It wasn't a proper gift or anything, it was basically "here I don't like this on me, you can have it." I politely put it in my closet and silently thought, "this will go to the consignment store my next trip" (sorry Mom).

Today, I took it out of my closet and got a good look at it. It is white. It is sheer. It is one size too big. Not only does it have a dot pattern, but it has ruffles too. It is hard to see in the picture, but it has ruffles on the sleeves, at the neck and even running along the upper part of the back. Why? Not sure really, all I know is that for one blouse, it has a hell of a lot going on. Perhaps this is why Mom decided she didn't want it.

Not one to shy away from a fashion challenge, I decided to take this blouse -- with all its variety -- and wear it. I figured on a black skirt and accessories -- black and white is always modern. Unfortunately, one trip to the gym did not fix the problem with my black skirt not fitting. I tried on my pale gray skirt, but it is a very full A-line, almost a circle skirt. The volume of the blouse needs to be balanced. What's a girl to do?

I pulled this gray and white striped skirt from a suit. Breaking up a suit is a great way to economize and get maximum use out of something you already have. If (like me) you have suits, but do not wear them on daily basis, you can treat the jacket and bottoms as separates. Try wearing the skirt/pants with a blouse on Monday. Wear the jacket over jeans for a more tailored look on Friday (if you are lucky enough to wear jeans on Friday). If you have to travel for work you can get 3 outfits by wearing the suit, then the jacket and the skirt/pants separately. You get the idea.

Just remember, dry cleaning and washing fades your clothing over time. Though the fade is slight each time, you need to ensure your suit's color remains consistent so it is a perfect match when you wear the pieces together. To keep the color consistent, dry clean or wash both pieces at the same time -- even if you wore only one part of the suit. In that vein, I advise taking any free clothes that come your way because you'll need the extra money for dry cleaning.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dear Diary, Let's take it from the top.

I first got the idea for this blog on May 4th. I know this because, not only does my blog act as a creative outlet and marketing material for The Style Within, but also as a photo diary wherein my outfits are confessed and documented. I first wore this lilac skirt on May 4th. It is less than one month into the blog -- I didn't expect to repeat this skirt so soon.

Confession: After weeks of lousy gym attendance and way too much edible indulgence, the black skirt I usually wear with this top decided it would rather stay in today. This unforeseen (not really) problem gave me the chance to try this skirt in a different combination.

I really like this top. It is a hybrid between a blouse vest and a vest -- a blest. I bought it last year on sale at Macy's. They only had one blest left in my size; however, it was missing the included skinny belt. After haggling with the saleslady, I bought the beltless blest for an additional 10% off with "no returns allowed." I agreed to buy the blest "as is," but I did not agree to wear it "as is."

Confession: On my way out of the store, I grabbed the coordinating belt off a blest that was twice the size of the one I bought. I had my husband punch extra holes in the belt and when I wear the belted blest, I simply cut a thin strip of Hollywood Fashion Tape and apply it to the end of the belt, adhering it to itself -- this way the excess material does not flap around. Also, this trick is great for when you wear belts over clothing without belt loops to secure the belt, such as dresses and blouses.

Today's outfit features my Carlos Santana "Vertigo" heels in "beluga blue" -- which translates to gray -- and some of my hematite (a/k/a gunmetal) jewelry. The necklace is three strands: one pearl, one crystal and one hematite chain. I do not normally wear pearls. I adore the way they look on most others -- refined and preppy -- but that's not me at all. I have a real (cultured) pearl necklace that I received as high school graduation gift. I believe those were memorialized in my sorority composite photo.
Confession: When I wear pearls I am reminded of a scene from Pretty In Pink. The one where Molly Ringwald's character goes to the house party and one of the drunk, mean girls says: "Nice pearls honey. This isn’t a dinner party."