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Fashion Cents: Flats

I write about my constant search for comfortable professional shoes a lot here, but I didn’t update everybody on my search for totally wearable flats.  I have the problem with flats usually that they cause horrible blisters on the backs of my heels or on the top of my foot, so I’m very wary of everyone’s suggestion that they love ballet flats and think they are the greatest thing ever.  However, I needed something cute and stylish to wear with jeans that wasn’t sneakers, so I decided to invest in a nice pair of flats that hopefully wouldn’t make me cry (I’m not being hyperbolic or exaggerating, I’m super blister prone.)

I was looking for a pair of nude shoes, preferably patent leather.  At the very least, I wanted a neutral shoe, that was maybe a bit interesting, but would go with pretty much everything.  Enter the B.O.C. Batik Flat.

 

 

They took a bit of breaking in – wearing them for short distances, and with stockings, and for short periods of time, but I wore them all weekend, including for a mile and a half walk, and they did not give me a single blister – although my legs did start to hurt because they don’t have any padding.  I was very concerned about having orange shoes, but they are a very neutral color and go with almost anything that I own, which is really nice.  I don’t feel quite comfortable wearing them with skirt suits for court, but I definitely wear them with pants to work and with jeans around town, so I’m pretty happy with them.  They were more expensive than I have spent on flats in the past, but if the difference between $30 flats and $60 flats is blisters, I’m okay with spending the extra money.  I only wish they would go on sale so I could snap up the blue and raspberry pair.

Does anyone have any recommendations for possibly less pricey but still cute and comfortable flats?  What do you wear for long walks to/from work?

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Makeup Follow Up

My makeup post got some really great comments, so I ventured off to Ulta to check out what they had.  I love Ulta – not only is their staff helpful, and their rewards decent, but they stock expensive makeup and super-cheap stuff, and the staff is totally honest with you about how you could buy the cheaper brand, and they will recommend stuff based on a budget and not treat you poorly because you are eyeing the Cover Girl products.  Plus, their own Ulta line of products is consistently good, and reasonably priced.

I’ve been using the Ulta Minerals collection for awhile – I’ve gone through two of their starter kits, which include foundation, blush, a brush, and finishing powder.  I’ve started using silicone spheres instead of finishing powder recently, and I still have blush left from the last starter kit, so I just wanted foundation.  It gives really nice coverage, lasts awhile, and is reasonable-ish. ($14 for a pot of foundation.)  Which took awhile to find – apparently it’s now with all the rest of the Ulta products, instead of in the Minerals section.  The good thing was that they were having a buy-one-get-one-free sale, so I could get not only my foundation, but the nearby tinted moisturizer, which I thought might be a good alternative.  I also picked up a white eyeliner pencil, as recommended by my friend Erin, who always looks like a knockout, and then I moved to the lip products.

I was struggling to decide on a lip product, because I’m terrible with both longevity and color, so I pretty much begged the salesgirl for help.  Ulta has a line of tinted lip balm which is kind of awesome, and basically exactly what I’m looking for in a lipstick – something that my lips wear, not my teeth, and I can put it on without a mirror.  I picked the bloom shade, and then was asking about stains.  The salesgirl told me her favorite stains were the Revlon stains (which I have one of, and they are great), but that they go on pretty dark, or they get dark really easily.  So she recommended their long wear lipstick (which I like, but it gets waxy), and then she pointed me in the direction of the NYX tinted lip balm, pointing out to me that at $3 apiece, I could buy a lot more of it than any other stuff.

I’ve worn the mineral makeup two days this week, the tinted moisturizer one day, and the NYX lip balm all four days.  I stashed the moisturizer in my work purse, for days when I don’t have time to do makeup on my way out, and am keeping the foundation at home for mornings when I have an extra 2 minutes.  I’m pretty happy with the moisturizer – it’s light coverage, but it’s good enough to look polished, plus I don’t really need blush with it.  I am madly in love with the tinted lip balm.  It’s pretty neutral, but gives me that slightly more polished look.  It isn’t sticky, it doesn’t leave a mark, and it lasts surprisingly well.  I don’t have to worry at all when I put it on that I might miss my lip line or something, and it doesn’t get on my teeth.  I will definitely be stocking up on this in the future.

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Building a Business Casual Wardrobe

For my current position, I get to dress business casual, which is awesome – except I didn’t really have that much business casual clothing.  Over the last six months, I’ve acquired a few new pieces and repurposed some old ones to put together outfits that work.  When I started, I pretty much had three pairs of black pants and a few skirts and I would just rotate them with two button downs and four or five knit tops.  A newly employed friend on Twitter asked for advice on building a wardrobe, and since I’ve had to do that recently, I thought I’d pull together my thoughts.  This is not about style.  This is about buying practical pieces that will allow you to go to work and look like a grownup for the next five years.  If you want fashion, there are other blogs for that.

So when it comes to building a business casual warddrobe, start with the bottom up.  First up, shoes.  They should be comfortable, and something you can wear in the summer without stockings.  I recommend flats.  I love my Eccos and I also highly recommend Merrells.  You should definitely have at least two pairs of work shoes, and they should be different colors.  Either black and brown, or black and red, or blue and purple.  As long as its practical for the rest of your taste.

So you have your shoes to start with.  Then, if you are going to need some socks (I know I said you should be able to wear the shoes without socks, but that doesn’t mean you should do it all the time).  I recommend ankle height nylons, to go with pants, and you should buy a pair of stockings if you are a lawyer or get cold.  I found a six-pack of ankle stockings at the Leggs Hanes Bali Playtex outlet and highly recommend them.  You can get knee highs if you prefer, but I was surprised by how much I preferred the ankle socks.

So then the exciting part: pants! You will need at least three pairs of pants.  One should be black and one should be gray and the third should be another neutral.  I recently got two pairs from the Limited and I love them both – they come in interesting colors so you have more than basic black, and they are really comfortable.

If you’re short on cash, I recommend the Style & Co. Everyday Value line from Macy’s.  Comfortable, flattering, and washable, all for under $30.

I have had good luck in the past with the Express Editor pant as well.

And, if you are looking for comfortable, you can’t beat the NY and Co. City Knit line.  It’s like wearing pajamas to work.

As far as skirts go, you should definitely own a pencil skirt, but not one that is super tight.

Tops:

I love knit tops and sweaters for business casual wear.

You should also invest in a few plain t-shirts that you can dress up with a sweater or a scarf.  These are great because you can also wear them on the weekends.

I find it’s helpful to have a few button down shirts, but I don’t buy many of them and I mostly wear them under suits, because I don’t actually like them that much.  If you like button downs, get a few in some different colors and patterns.

If you get cold, you should have a sweater you keep  in the office to stay warm, especially if your office runs the AC on high in the summertime.  I like a “topper” sweater that can work over dresses as well as with any outfit.

If you have the budget for it, add in at least one work dress – great for lazy days when you don’t want to match pants and shirts.

And if you still have a few pennies left at the end, throw in a blazer if they are your style.  This one is pretty pricy, but I found my favorite one on the clearance rack at New York and Company for about $15.

So there you have it – the beginnings of a solid business casual wardrobe.  If you are wondering where to shop, I would start with New York and Co. and The Limited (featured heavily here because NY & Co. doesn’t let you copy and paste their images.)  I also recommend the Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic outlets if you are near an outlet mall.

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On Going Without

This November marks a year of going without.  Not without food, or shelter, or heat, or any of those truly important things.  Not without the love of my husband or my friends, so really, I’m not talking about any great hardship here.  By a year of going without, I mean going without shopping.  Which isn’t an entirely accurate statement – but it has been a year of conscious consumerism, of asking myself if I really need an item and whether it is worth the price I am paying for it.  It has been a year of re-discovering myself, in terms of what I value as a consumer and what I value as a person and what I value as a wife.

I have discovered that I will almost always choose race entries or hockey dues over a new outfit (or 10).  I have learned that, in fact, you almost never need new shoes.  I have discovered that I would rather buy an item that is higher quality and going to last longer, even if it costs a bit more, and I have learned that I should forego entirely purchasing things that are cheap if they are going to fall apart on me shortly thereafter.  I have started investing more money in wardrobe basics – my shoes, my suits, and less money in trendy pieces that I will only wear for a year, on weekends.  I have learned that if I am working a 9-5 and wearing business attire, I really don’t need to own more than two pairs of jeans.  I have learned that if I do more laundry, I need less clothing.

I have also learned that, in attempting to go without, and stretching things further, clothing wears out.  After four years of use and abuse, my bras have finally revolted, ripping apart.  Like many, I usually replaced my undergarments sporadically, buying them when they were on sale or it struck my fancy, and throwing them away when they were too old or pulled out of shape.  When you stop doing that, in fact, it turns out that they fall apart on you.

I have learned that I can alter my own clothes.  I’m sitting here typing this in a pair of skinny jeans I made myself, by altering a pair of boot-cut jeans that were well past their prime.  I’m incredibly happy with the results.  I did the same with a pair of yoga pants that had extremely wide legs but were also too short, and were basically unwearable.  I took them in and turned them into capris.

I have learned that I value my husband’s respect, and that he thinks that shopping is silly.  He does not understand replacing things that have not totally worn out.  I also learned that I am incredibly uncomfortable spending his money on anything I don’t need.  The times during the year that I have gone shopping were mostly when I was employed as well, and therefore could feel like I was contributing to the family, and therefore felt like it was okay to buy stuff.  There are people that would argue that my husband judgmental nature are exactly why every couple should have separate money – and I understand that, but when you don’t have enough money for it, you don’t have separate money.  You have calculated decisions as to what each person can spend on particular items, and you have a partnership deciding the best use of it’s resources.  My husband has never ever told me that I can’t buy something.  He has said that he doesn’t think a particular thing is a good use of money.  I say the same thing about things he buys – it keeps us honest, and it keeps things fair.  I will always value peace in my relationship over a new pair of shoes.

I have learned that it is, in fact, possible to have enough pairs of black shoes.  For me, this number is 8.

I have learned that I don’t value spending money on certain items.  For example, loungewear.  Before, I would have told you that you can never have enough lounge wear, that it is vital to every woman’s warddrobe.  But now, even though I come home from work every day and put on lounge clothes, I don’t spend money on lounge wear.  I make do with what I have, and it’s going pretty well.

How do you spend your money?  What do you value?

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Fashion Cents: Patent Leather Confidence

So a bunch of us were chatting on Twitter about how we don’t really know how to dress ourselves and we want to dress like adults who have Serious Jobs but not be boring or frumpy or make ourselves seem younger because we are not confident in how we dress.  And I was thinking about how over the past year, what with the unemployment and all of that, I haven’t bought a whole lot of stuff.  What I have bought is stuff that I know that I need, that is high quality (save for a few tide-me-over cheap items), and that I wear all the time.  But more importantly, I bought stuff that makes me feel good.  Not in a bad-retail-therapy kind of way, but in a, “I am excited to get dressed in the morning and go to work” kind of way.

May favorite of my new wardrobe additions is one that has been in the works for awhile.  In my first year of law school, I bought a pair of green Nine West flats which are super cute and I wear with my brown suit and green shell.  Or black suit and green shell.  I love them and they jazz up an outfit.  So at the time, I decided I would get more colorful/fun flats.  I bought a pair of zebra striped ones that are Dr. Scholls but they hurt my feet so badly I can’t wear them to work.  So when we were last at my in-laws and I hit the Ecco outlet, I had my eye on a pewter pair I knew I could wear to work.  Instead, I came home with these (which, since it’s the outlet, only set me back $40):

I love them.  They make me feel sassy and stylish, but the buckle says, “I’m still a lawyer.”  I love wearing them – although I still don’t know what to wear them with, besides black suits with white shirts.  Or gray suits with white shirts.  Suggestions welcome.

I had been wanting a pair of red shoes for awhile now, and so when I saw these, and the price was good (especially good for Ecco) and I knew I would like them because I like my other Eccos, I went for it.  They have breathed new life into some of the pieces in my wardrobe I was tired of, like my constant supply of black dress pants and white shirts.

A few other acquisitions have been a new gray plaid suit, which is a variation from my other suits, dress pants, and a few other pieces, like tank tops to wear with my skinny jeans.  I find that unemployment has been a bit of a blessing in disguise in a lot of ways, but a big one is that I have had time to sit back and reflect on what things I want to add to my wardrobe, I have to consider what I want to pay for those pieces, and I have to be sure before purchasing them that I will get enough use out of them.  I’m also much more likely to invest in a high-quality item now than I used to be.  I don’t want to have to shop for new work clothes in a year when everything is threadbare.

I’m still a long way from having a sense of “style”.  I know what I like – but I’m not quite sure how to put everything together and wear it to work.  I also don’t feel like I can pull certain things off – like I want a white summer suit jacket, but I’m not sure how to wear it.  (I get that one arm goes through one sleeve, etc.) I don’t know how to wear certain shapes and things like that.  So I still dress like my career center told me to for interviews for anything serious – interviews, court, etc.  In between, I work as I go.  How does everybody else go about developing their personal style?  Anyone else sort of in the dark going, “hmmm….this works….I think…”

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Fashion Cents: Long Haul Biking

We went for our first long bike ride over the weekend, and I wore what I usually wear for 10+ mile rides, but I thought I’d share with the group in case anybody else is interested in getting into long rides.  The annoying thing about bike gear is it can be kind of pricey, but the great thing about it is that you don’t have to buy much of it – one pair of bike shorts and one jersey will generally suit you, unless you bike long distances daily.

First up, bike shorts.  Mine are by Bellwether, but I think if I was getting a new pair, I would go with these from Lululemon, since I love a wide waistband. I think that bike shorts are a must for long rides, but then again, I’ve never done one without them.  I have done them in tri shorts and that’s generally okay too.  As long as they are spandex and have the rubber bits that keep them from riding up, you’ll be okay.  Don’t wear regular shorts or pants for a long ride – you will probably chafe at some point. If you have large thighs, suck it up and buy bike shorts.  They prevent chafing and keep your inner thighs from hitting the seats.  If you are going to go with regular pants, at least go with a yoga or workout pant that has a gusset at the crotch instead of a seam.

Secondly, to deal with the fact that otherwise you are wearing bike shorts in public, I like to sport a dress that covers the bike shorts.  I have one that is similar to this one from Athleta.  The only problem is that bike shorts tend to be tight, and therefore there is a bit of lumpy-squishiness going on in the dress, but it’s not too bad – just keep it in mind when ordering and get a dark color, not the white.

The only thing I will say is that in my dress, I sunburned quite badly since I was more exposed (mine has spaghetti straps).  I’ve also had success wearing a running skirt over my bike shorts, which worked really well, and I could wear a t-shirt that covered my shoulders.  I might eventually (get a job and) invest in a CYA skirt from Athleta – since it could go over my compression shorts for races or my bike shorts for long rides.  Then I would just wear a regular short-sleeved performance wear top, to protect against sunburn.

Shoes were tricky for me, because my sneakers hurt my toes when I did a long ride in them, and I haven’t upgraded my pedals to clip-in pedals (plus, we won’t be renting bikes with clip-in pedals in Wales.  Since my birthday is coming up, my Dad offered to buy me a pair of Keens for trekking around this summer, and taking to Wales.  I ordered a pair of the Venice H2 Keens in Black so I can sneakily wear them to work before changing.  They are really comfortable (although have required some breaking in) and look cute with capris and skirts (I was surprised, but they did).

Also vitally important are sunglasses.  Sure, they help keep you from developing macular degeneration and other scary eye diseases, but most importantly, they keep bugs out of your eyes.  Don’t worry about looking cool – get a flexible pair that goes as close to your eyes as possible, and preferably wraps a little way around.

Oh, and sunscreen.  Seriously.  Sunscreen is important.  Athletes have a higher rate of skin cancer, skin cancer is bad news, and nobody wants an awkward racerback/farmer’s tan anyway.  Oh yeah, and sunburn is painful.  I’m going to go spray myself down with solarcaine again.

Last things last: a helmet.  I’m not even going to lecture you on this, because I shouldn’t need to.  Ya’ll are smart enough to read, therefore put a f*cking helmet on.  I don’t care about your hair, I really don’t.  I don’t care if your head gets sweaty.  I biked 35 miles in a heat advisory, wearing a helmet, and for of all of my complaining about how sweaty and uncomfortable I felt, absolutely none of that was because I was wearing a helmet. Suck it up, put it on, stay safe.

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Fashion Cents: Skinny Jeans

So, in the winter, I wore my skinny jeans with my Keen boots and a long bathrobe-y sweater.  It covered my hips and made the skinny jeans work.  However, in the spring, I had no idea how to wear the skinny jeans.  Which is unfortunate, because I can’t wear normal pants bike riding since they get stuck in the chain.

So last week, I set out to do a bit of retail therapy and find long tank tops or shirts for cheap that I could pair with my skinny jeans and feel comfortable.  I finally had some luck at Forever 21, where I found 2 ribbed tanks, one for $3.50 and one for $4.50.  Yeah, I know when I can buy a shirt for that little, something is wrong with the manufacturing, clothing quality, or quality of life of the workers.  Nonetheless, I plan to concern myself more with that kind of thing once I have a job and can afford to spend $20 on a shirt again.

I paired the tank with my flowy sweater and my skinny jeans and rode my bike off to whole foods.

The only thing I’m not sure about in this outfit is my wedding Tevas.  I actually thought they looked pretty cute, because they look like casual wedges; but my friend Hana says “no.”  Obviously, it would be way cuter paired with mary janes or a pair of adorable skimmer sneakers, but I don’t own any of those and I needed something that would stay on my feet on my bike.  So wedding Tevas it was.

I feel like the outfit works, but I’m open to suggestions.  I recently bought a wide black belt that I have no idea how to wear.  I keep tying it around baggy sweaters and then being sad when it doesn’t look right.  I think it may actually have to settle for holding up my pants, instead of being high fashion.  Any suggestions?

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