BLB -Black Leather Boots

Boots, but more specifically booties, are undervalued, in my opinion. To me they mean business; they say “I’m here, and I’m ready for anything”. Whether in a second-hand store or on the clearance rack at Marshall’s, black leather booties are always classic. They provide elegance to a wardrobe without trying too hard. Paired with skinny-jeans and any top,  booties take an outfit from “grocery-store” appropriate to “an all-day affair”. While the heel heights can vary, boots and booties will always be more comfortable than their high-heeled contenders.

Multiple Personality: A Closet Theory

I once gave a presentation in college about how the paintings I created revealed split personalities within myself.  I believed it to be thought provoking and heartfelt, if a bit humorous.  Somehow my ten-minute presentation managed to piss off one of the teachers, who thought I was mocking the project.

I didn’t take the less than impressive grade very well at all. I had not been mocking the assignment;  I was very much in earnest.

The clothes we wear today, the sense of fashion that we identify with, much like the presentation topic I was assigned, ask that we describe who we are; to show it on the surface.

One of the most beautiful things about shopping at a thrift store is that, when you consider previous owners of the clothes, you reveal more personalities in a second-hand clothing shop than you are likely to find anywhere else (excepting only a psychiatric hospital and the Louvre).  It is true that once these clothes hit the racks, they are just pieces of sewn fabric cut and styled, patterned and monogrammed, dyed and layered.  They are no longer smaller articles that make up the greater whole.  When we shop, therefore, we are looking at the potential of the piece.

In his Critique of Judgement, a philosophical theory of aesthetics by Immanuel Kant, he said that when looking at a work of art (and here, read “article of clothing”), the viewer experiences “four moments” in deciding the success of beauty in the piece:

1. Disinterest: viewing it with no personal interest. For example, look at craft, look at wear and tear.

2. Free Play: using the imagination and understanding. For example, what are the possibilities, what societal categories would we assign to the apparel?

3. The Whole: “considering the [article] as having elements that work together to form a whole.” For example, what would this pair well with to show it at its best? What would be the overall picture? Can the piece stand alone, or would it need to depend on another article of clothing, and if so, what?

4. Consideration as something others could find “beautiful”. Again, what are fashion and style without the consideration of how it places us in appearance and attitude with relation to others.

 

The beauty of thrift shopping is that, in addition to the wealth of options, thus improving the statistical odds of finding something “fitting”, is that it all comes at a very low price.  We cannot ignore this blatant appeal.  Financial possibility spearheads most of the decisions we make; that is the plain, honest truth of it.

So when we are in the thrift store, or standing at the clearance rack, or digging through a box at a rummage sale, it is not a sign of condemnation to financial despair.  Instead, it is the bargain that we are taking advantage of.  We are Rumpelstiltskin, where gold is an adventure of the self.  The gold is the newness of how we feel about ourselves, the feeling of rebirth, in a way, as an entirely different type of person, who not only considers all possibilities, but  a type of person that seeks them out.  We are spinning straw into gold; we are turning cast-away threads into a prop for an experience we are determined to add to our general outlook on the world.

A friend once told me that I was a “Jack of All Trades”, and I took a umbrage thinking, and a master of none. Now I realize the fallacy: I feel exhilaration in the attempt to master the art of the “man who wears many hats”.  It is a learning experience, to conform, but as a chameleon, to whatever occasion or mood suits. Is it truly conformity, therefore? Or is it a refusal to remain staid in one attitude?

When we shop at a thrift store, specifically, we are opening Ali Baba’s secret den to the innumerable treasures of personalities and identities held within.  We are rich with opportunity and adventure and self-expression. We are able to find something surprising, something perfect, something unique.  We are able to detail our expression of self, as a work of art.  If you feel like a princess one day and a street-rat the next, then let those personalities shine.

 

Lots of Love and Happy Hunting!

Girls Don’t Sweat, They Glisten

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The sun is beginning to open it’s bright warm eyes and bring with it the beauty and bloom of Spring.  I, for one, will be breaking out of my bear-like hibernation patterns, which includes working out and going for runs in the fresh outdoors.  I’m so excited! So much so, in fact, that I ran a half-marathon a couple of days ago to get myself into the spirit of Spring.  Naturally, this means I have to replenish my workout gear.  If you wear the same old gear, and if you’re working out so hard that you break more than just one sweat, your gear probably smells and is worn to its last thread.

If it is the case that the clothes are smelly but aren’t worn, there are a few tricks you can use to get rid of the smell: let them dry completely before putting them in the hamper so that the smell doesn’t contaminate everything in your bin, soak the clothes in warm water for a bit before washing them, and add a cup of baking soda to the load when you throw them in the washer.  I’ve also heard of people using white vinegar instead of baking soda, but both kill the germs, apparently, and frankly the thought of adding vinegar to my lavender Tide doesn’t sit any better with me than washing my hair with vinegar.  But that’s just me.

If your clothes are worn and smelly, wash them as best you can (preferrably with one of the aforementioned methods) and donate them to a Goodwill or Salvation army.

And since you’re there anywaaay…

Why not pick out a few things to give you jazz hands! while you work out?

I love wearing brightly colored clothes when I exercise, because it get’s my mind energized and gives me an extra spring in my step.  With workout gear, bright colors don’t always have to match, so long as you don’t blind someone.  Recently there’s been a trend towards compression pants and capris instead of shorts.  I have both, but I buy my compression bottoms new from Target, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc. There was one time I found a brand new pair of unworn, tags-still-on Nike compression pants at a thrift store in Edinburgh, so I bought them for dirt cheap.  But if you’re going to wear compression gear, try to get it new.  Many “chain” thrift shops are required to sterilize the clothes before they sell them, so it’s mostly about preference.  Personally, I want to know that my compression gear is supporting my body, not my body insofar as it differs from the body that previously occupied it.  Does that make sense? Buy it new if you can (though I always go for the clearance…why not?) because it’s about the support the bottoms offer you as you bound down the street.

Shorts are a different story.  I look for workout shorts not only in the women’s shorts section, but also the men’s and the boy’s. Make sure you’re not getting swimming trunks, though.  But basketball shorts are great, soccer shorts, anything.  I love sweatpants, also, of which you will find the most comfy ones in the men’s and boy’s sections.

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Go crazy with the tops! Look for tops that serve a function, and that enhance your workout experience.  T-shirts with great images or phrases on them can be as cheap as a dollar apiece, and they don’t have to be high quality tees, since you’re just going to get them gross and sweaty anyway.  Racerback tanks are one of my personal favorite styles in the summer, and the brighter the better!  I recently bought a bright neon orange racerback that I can’t wait to wear when the weather warms up. You can get really fun tops to cheer up your workout routine.

Don’t forget to also pick out a few zip-ups or light-weight pull overs, too. I tend to prefer lycra or similar stretchy materials.  Nowadays we can even find these long-sleeved wonders with tiny zipper pockets for your keys and ID and thumb holes and mesh under the armpits for full circulation.  I stocked up just such jackets/vests/pullovers at a goodwill and walked out with four or five and my wallet was 12 bucks lighter. Not bad, especially since often times you’ll find gear from Under Armour, Nike, Puma, Adidas, or Saucony, and these guys know what they’re doing.

After that, you’ll have a good collection of workout gear to get you pumped. When you look at yourself in the mirror, panting after a hard workout, I guarantee you’ll smile at yourself a little at your rozy glow and realize that what they say is true: girls don’t sweat, they glisten!

Lots of Love, and Happy Hunting!

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Your Dream Closet Checklist

I just found this book called “The Science of Sexy” by celebrity stylist, Bradley Bayou. In it, he provides guides about choosing clothes that look great on you.  At the very end is a checklist of what you should have in your closet so that you never look in it and think “but I don’t have anything to wear!”

TOPS AND SWEATERS

❏ 1 Basic white cotton tailored shirt
❏ 1 Colored, tailored shirt (That flatters either your eye color or your skin color.)
❏ 7 Cotton t-shirts (One for every day of the week; choose some in long-sleeve styles that best suit your shape, and some in short-sleeve or tank styles that best suit your shape.)

❏ 1 Sexy party top (That can be dressed up with the right accessories.)
❏ 1 Shiny, silk camisole (One that can be layered under your structured jackets or, for some of you, worn casually alone.)
❏ 1 Pretty top with special details
❏ 1 Black sweater (Ideally, a cashmere one that works for your shape.)
❏ 1 Solid-colored sweater (Again, buy a cashmere one in a color that flatters your eye color or your skin color.)

DRESSES

❏ 1 Timeless black dress (Choose the shape that flatters your silhouette so you can dress up, from cocktail parties to weddings.)
❏ 1 Daytime dress (It should have a simple neckline and be in a color or pattern that flatters you.)
❏ 1 Unique sexy party dress (Either in a bold color, with interesting details that work with your silhouette, or in a print that flatters you.)

SKIRTS

❏ 1 Black skirt that fits your figure
❏ 1 Flirty, dressy skirt
❏ 1 Knee-length business skirt

PANTS AND JEANS

❏ 1 Casual pant (It should flatter your figure and be tailored to a perfect fit.)
❏ 1 Pair of black pants (These should also flatter your figure and be tailored to your length when you’re wearing heels.)
❏ 3 Pairs of jeans (They should flatter your figure and one should be hemmed to wear with a pair of heels, for casually dressing up.)

COATS AND JACKETS

❏ 1 Basic black suit with matching skirt or pants
❏ 1 Blazer that looks great with pants
❏ 1 Three-quarter-length light coat (This length looks great on most figures.)
❏ 1 Overcoat (This is a serious investment for many winters to come, so don’t skimp on fabric here!)
❏ 1 Casual, light jacket

SHOES

❏ 1 Pair of heels
❏ 1 Pair of flats (For a comfortable day of shopping!)

Lots of Love and Happy Hunting!

Philosophy of Cocktail Dresses

Amber orange cocktail dress with bow. Goodwill: $3.50.

Amber orange cocktail dress with bow. Goodwill: $3.50.

When it comes to dresses, I am a sucker.  While it’s not practical for most of us to wear dresses everyday (nor would many of us want to), I do wear dresses and skirts whenever possible. I truly believe that dresses and skirts, as articles of clothing designed specifically for women, are a way to physically celebrate our love for our own bodies and our femininity. When I was younger, I never used to wear dresses (willingly), and when my mother made me wear one for some reception or ceremony or whatever, I’m sure I grumbled enough to exhaust her patience. Bless her heart!

The problem was that I felt uncomfortable in dresses and skirts. With the exception of my 6th grade graduation dress (a gorgeous green floor-length dress with embroidered flowers on the bust, and a voluminous, “poofy”, shimmery skirt), my young mind thought all of my dresses were boring and ugly. They were so plain and so…itchy. At twelve years old, ballgowns were the way to go.  Period.  End of story.  A dress had to be long, flowy, voluminous, sparkly and hey, if you had a tiara and long white gloves to wear with it, all the better! Now, I picture wearing this Cinderella costume to a work party, and I cringe. This is not the Victorian era.

Back in the early 1900’s, gals were donning the whole get-up to go waltzing, to go to a friend’s house, to go on a carriage ride, etc.   Today, we break out these formal dresses that fulfill every one of my twelve-year-old self’s ball gown fantasies, but the occasions to wear those arise so seldom for most of us.  Today, cocktail dresses are the answer to wardrobe maladies for many many social occasions.

Cocktail dresses can be versatile with the right accessories, such as jewelry, bag, and shoes that accompany it.  I also love love LOVE the versatility of cocktail dresses when paired with the right jacket.  When I find a cocktail dress, I ask myself a few questions:

a) Can I picture myself wearing it more than once?  b) Do the color and cut flatter my skin tone and body? c) Is the fabric of good quality? d) CAN I ACCESSORIZE WITH IT?

When I look at cocktail dresses, I look for something that is subtly elegant.  I only own one cocktail dress with patterns on it, because my own aesthetic appreciates the fabric and the cut and the subtle style choices like buttons more.  I love simple elegance in cocktail dresses; it allows for appreciation of the finer details.  Now, this is not necessarily the case for casual dresses like summer dresses or tunic dresses that you might wear with a pair of sandals to the beach with a friend.  Cocktail dresses demand more attention and refinement, more polish than T-shirt dresses.

"Deep Sea"/ Navy blue cocktail dress. Goodwill: $6.99.

“Deep Sea”/ Navy blue cocktail dress. Goodwill: $6.99.

Black, 3/4 sleeve blazer. Goodwill: $4.99.

Black, 3/4 sleeve blazer. Goodwill: $4.99.

One thing I love about tossing a jacket over your cocktail dress is the variety of looks you can achieve.  I have jackets in different colors, styles, and for different seasons, but a black blazer is a MUST for any woman’s wardrobe.  Seriously, go get one.  If I can find a London Fog trench that fits me perfectly for $10 at a thrift store in PA, you can find an excellent black blazer that flatters your figure and style.  With blazers, though, don’t be afraid to get them tailored.

The photos in this post are ones I took of friends for a project in college.  I got all of the clothes from goodwill, and their payment for modelling for me for hours was that they got to keep the clothes.   The two pictures above show the different attitude and style you can achieve with choice of jacket.  Here’s another example:

Black, wide strap cocktail dress with red pleather jacket, Goodwill. Dress: $6.99. Jacket: $3.99.

Black, wide strap cocktail dress with red pleather jacket, Goodwill. Dress: $6.99. Jacket: $3.99.

A black cocktail dress is a MUST.  In fact, it doesn’t hurt to have two or three in different cuts and fabrics.  This red jacket has a hilarious story behind it: I was looking in goodwill for something “fiery and sexy” for this part of the project, but I ended up finding this jacket in the boy’s sweaters.  But the jacket fit my friend perfectly, even in the shoulders.  The sleeves looked intentionally 3/4 length. Seriously, this was a stroke of luck! I love that she looks so “hard-ass yet sexy” in the photo, while wearing a 10-yr old boy’s Michael Jackson jacket.

But the conclusion of this post is that cocktail dresses are awesome, and can make the base of a fabulous outfit for a social occasion of many varieties, so long as it’s paired with the proper accessories.  Cocktail dresses should be of good quality and be classy and classic in some way.  Timeless dresses should not be underrated.  You can find these dresses at thrift stores, but if it’s not going to fulfill the criteria, leave it on the rack for someone else to find and treasure.

That is all.

Lots of Love, and Happy Hunting!

Bellerose Bag

We girls are amazingly fastidious when it comes to accessorizing.  Our belt has to match our shoes, which should match our bags, which should reflect our jewelry…phew! It can be so hard to accessorize, and what if you have a bag that is the perfect coloring for your outfit, but it’s not practical for the occasion?  What if the only camel-colored bag you have is a great big day bag, and you’re just going out for lunch with work pals?  Next thing you know, they’re asking you why you brought a suitcase to your Sunday brunch when the only thing in there is your wallet, your phone and some tic-tacs.

Believe me, it’s hard to think of something on the spot, and “but it matches my shoes” doesn’t cut it if your words are drowned out by the tic-tacs’ echoing rattles in their vast abyss of space within your bag.  Bags should be the appropriate size for their contents. Period. If you are a busy gal, as many of us proudly are, you need a couple of large bags.  Paired with a great pair of huge sunglasses, a trendy scarf, and a confident stride, a big bag says “I’m a girl on an important mission. I have places to go and people to see, darling!” Very Madonna.  Very city-chic.

We do all need a couple of small bags though.  Make sure they’re of good quality, as well as in good condition and cute.  You may think you’re making a good decision by buying a brand new Walmart bag for $20, but you’re not.  Go to a thrift shop or get on ebay and look for a bag of good, durable material. Look for one that is functional and has minimal to no blemishes.  If it’s Gucci, but the clasp is missing and there’s a cigarette burn in the bottom, leave it on the shelf unless you are a professional that knows how to fix those things, or if you are prepared to pay to have it fixed up.  If your plan is to walk out of the store with a bag that you can carry around proudly that day or that week, leave the torn-up Gucci on the shelf.

Buying a bag is important, because you don’t want it to wear at the seams or have the material start crumbling and peeling off because you left it in the sun for 12 hours: you want your bags to survive the test of time, or a bible-inspired flood if need be.  One way to decrease the likelihood of getting a cheaply produced bag is to look at the name brand.  If you don’t know the name of the designer, whip out your smart-phone and google it, or just familiarize yourself with some good, well-reputed designers.  This will definitely not work all of the time, in which case, look at the tag and find the material.  Tug at the seams if you need to, this is your investment.

As for cute, everyone has their own style.  My aesthetic is primarily for neutral colors like browns, greys, whites, and blacks.  I’ll take any of these with a clever buckle or zipper, and preferably in leather.  Leather is an incredibly durable material that shrinks and expands, and the different treatments of leather can make for subtle elegance.  My aesthetic also puts a repellent force between me and any bag with studs or spikes overwhelming the surface.  It also repels me from cloth bags that aren’t gym bags, bags that have sequined zoo animals , and bags that have enormous flowers sewn on them.  But like I said, everyone has their own style.

I’d love to get feedback that can expand my appreciation for bag design!

As for now, here’s a featured treasure I found at a Goodwill in Newport, Kentucky.

Bellerose purse with clip-on shoulder strap; Leather. Cost: $4. 

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It’s Vintage, Darling!

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve experienced that awkward moment, (at the theatre, formal dinner, gala event, reception, etc.) when someone says “Oh my gosh!  That’s such a cute bag!  Where did you get it?”, to which I proudly reply, “the thrift store”, and their nose scrunches.  Then I remember, oh yeah, I’m not supposed to say that. I am creating this blog to not only disprove the stigma that thrifting is a poor person’s curse, but that it is, in fact, a treasure-hunting adventure!  So come on this adventure with me! I will blaze the trails of shopping on pocket change, looking for that perfect addition to my wardrobe, while keeping it classy and chic, and downright envy inspiring.  Seriously, get your coat, we’re going treasure hunting.

Some may call it cheap, I call it penny-wise. And if anyone asks where you got your incredible bag, I’ve learned to just tell them, “It’s Vintage, Darling!”

Lots of Love, and Happy Hunting!