Friday, July 30, 2010

Bookworm Blues

Earlier Drafts:
I wear this white tank with practically everything.  Whether or not I should?  That's up for debate.
These oxfords make me feel like a bookworm while I take a break from formal studies.

white tank (Target)
grey slouchy sweater (Target)
black shorts (Old Navy)
oxfords (Steven Madden)

Happy Friday, folks!  I'm scooting out to run a few errands before my parents arrive for the weekend.  My first order of business?  Locate a bookshelf for housing the orphans of my beloved book collection.  We've nearly maxed out the shelf space in the rest of our house, and these libros  never made the cut since they were in constant use during my last year of graduate school.   They need a home before 9 p.m., stat.

I'm wearing these oxfords because I like them - or, I want to like them - but I haven't yet determined how to wear them.  For that matter, I haven't yet determined whether or not they suit my body.  I've tried pairing them with dresses, boyfriend jeans, leggings, skirts, and now shorts, in the hopes that I'll find a match sooner or later.  Even if they don't make me look good, they at least make me feel good.  With Liz and Katie gearing up for their teaching responsibilities, I've lately felt nostalgic for a classroom setting.  Finding a permanent home for my notebooks and school files doesn't help, for it reminds me that I'm putting my plans on hold for a bit.  As consolation, the ritual of lacing-up a pair of old school flats makes me feel like back-to-school is right around the corner.

Despite this moody little post, I assure you I'm feeling confident about my grad school decision and, especially!, proud that my house no longer looks like my college apartment got sick and threw up on a distinctly adult space.  On that note, let me introduce you to the wall behind me.  You might have known him as the formerly Confederate Blue partition of olde?  Well, he has been made-over in "Manhattan Mist," courtesy of Behr, and I must say it has been sending out some delightfully androgynous vibes ever since.

(My husband disagrees.  He interprets "Manhattan Mist" as a feminine shade and therefore misses Blue.  I'll let you be the judge.)

  • Will someone devise a wardrobe game-plan for me and these oxfords?  I want to like them for more than sentimental reasons, I really do.
  • What's your take on my mixing of grey, black, and brown?  Good attempt?  Poor attempt? Success?  OMG Never Again?
  • Tell us what you'll be wearing around town this weekend! 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

She's Got It In the Bag


red vinyl laptop bag (Vie via Target)
clear acrylic beaded necklace (Kohl's)
black cami (Old Navy)
black and white print wrap dress (Target)
black patent belt (H&M)
black leather wedges (Lauren Ralph Lauren)

While wearing this black and white ensemble, I was extra conscious of the red laptop bag I've been carrying to my summer class.  I've said before that I find myself gravitating toward classic black and white combinations fairly often, and though I don't think this look "needs" a pop of color, I do like what the bag adds to the outfit.  I've been carrying this bag (which dates back to my days as a high school teacher) because my giant German textbook doesn't fit in my favorite scholarly bag or my new summer staple, and it has has reminded me what a big impact colored accessories can make.

Since I was thinking about my bag, I looked around my class and realized that the bag is another thing that sets me apart from the undergrads; every last one of them has a backpack!  Last week, when I was thinking and writing about why I might have been mistaken for the instructor, it didn't even occur to me that this bag might have been the (mis)leading indicator.  I think I might have been oblivious to the ubiquity of undergrad backpacks for two reasons.  First, I carried a messenger bag in undergrad (yes, I went to school during the four years when those were cool), so I haven't carried a backpack myself since high school.  And since my own high school students weren't allowed to bring their backpacks to class, backpacks haven't been on my radar for about ten years.

This easy wrap dress has been a staple in my wardrobe for years, so I'm kind of surprised that this is the first time it has found its way onto the blog.  It was actually one of the first things I bought when I decided I was going to make-over my wardrobe to look more tailored and professional.  A friend of mine who still teaches high school was just telling me that lately, she finds herself more and more drawn toward buying dresses instead of separates (Hi Danielle!).  I think a few versatile jersey dresses are definitely good foundational pieces for building a professional wardrobe.

And look at that-- we've surpassed 100 posts on the blog!  When we started writing, we had no idea what kind of response we would get, but we continue to enjoy your participation in these conversations.  You all reassure us every day that there are plenty of other intelligent, critical, serious thinkers out there who also nurture an interest in style and fashion, and we're so glad to have found you!

  • Do you prefer carrying a shoulder bag, a backpack, or something else?  Or do you switch between different styles of bags depending on the event?  I carry single strap shoulder bags almost exclusively, but I do like that double strap bags tend to be easier to keep on your shoulder while you're rifling through them.
  • Do you have any suggestions for our next 100 posts?

Visiting the Parents


Composition 1:
purple dress (Rumors)
beige tank top (Old Navy)
green ruffled t-strap wedges (Steve Madden)
Divot (Ossa cat - courtesy of boyfriend's mother)

Composition 2:
black tank top (NY&Company)
purple skirt (H&M)
sunglasses (Liz Claiborne)
flip flops (Rainbow)

So sorry for my absence on the blog.  Due to unforseen circumstances, I was without a decent internet connection for the past five days.  My boyfriend and I are on what I've been calling Great Family Tour 2010.  We just left his parents' house and are currently in my hometown.

I wore this purple dress out to dinner with boyfriend's mom and stepdad.  I love the criss-cross on the front of the dress.  I usually wear it with a beige or black tank top underneath, but I would like to try it with a more colorful tank top too.  Since I just got the green ruffle wedges, I decided to throw those on too.  My boyfriend said that I looked like the Joker because of the color combination, but I like it.

Normally I would be a little hesitant to wear a dress this short out to dinner with my boyfriend's parents.  The first time I met them I wore a pretty simple, conservative outfit: a short-sleeved white ruffled button down, dark wash jeans, and black boots.  Last time we visited, I wore this dress out to dinner with them.  Now that I've known them for a little longer, I feel a little more comfortable wearing different styles with them.

I wore the second outfit on a wine tasting excursion with my boyfriend's dad and stepmom.  I'd say this outfit is more what I would typically wear around a boyfriend's parents.  Cute, comfortable, and slightly more conservative.

As for accessories, I wore one of my new signature items - a garnet ring I received as a birthday present abroad.  I love the different, modern design.  I also wanted to show off the octopus necklace my boyfriend gave me.  OPI's You Don't Know Jacques, a gift from Liz, served as a great neutral polish for a parent visit.

I've found that in dressing in situations like this one - dressing for a significant other's parents - I don't really change my style much.  I don't tend to dress flashy; I don't really accessorize a lot; I don't wear skimpy clothes.  Maybe I'll tone down the heels, but normally not much changes.

P.S. My boyfriend outted the blog to his mom and stepdad, so A and G, if you're reading - we had a wonderful time, and I hope you liked my outfit!

  • How do you dress for visits with your significant other's family?
  • Do you change your style much in situtations where you want to make a good impression?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Grass is Always Greener

What I want to wear today:
What I'm actually wearing today: 
Earlier Draft:
This skirt is my summer's pop of pink. 

black and white striped button-down (Passport, borrowed from sister's closet.  Surprise, Em!)
pink skirt (Target)
black belt (Shop Mamie)
black strappy heels (Carlos by Carlos Santana circa high school)
pink striped slippers (Roxy) 

I'm going on what feels like Day #1,000 of unemployment and house projects.  At the end of May, when I graduated from my M.A. program, I felt liberated by the month(s?) of job-hunting ahead of me.  Job-hunting meant long-awaited free time for plowing through our growing list of home renovation tasks.  My husband and I purchased our house in October, when I was in the thick of graduate school, so by May we had lived among unpacked boxes and unopened paint cans for eight eternal months.  

After graduation, I launched into a home improvement frenzy, fueled by what felt like an endless supply of energy and creativity.  One striped guestroom, a grey? purple? foyer, nine trips to Ikea, one built-from-scratch tabletop, a nearly-botched installation of a Roman shade, three curtain rods, one uprooted front yard, a new desk, two trips and a moving crew to transport the heaviest armoire imaginable, a love affair with Craigslist, and a hoard of dying house plants later, I am officially losing steam.

Today I have to paint one last room before my parents arrive for the weekend.  One. last. room.  I am the dehydrated do-it-yourselfer in the desert of never-ending home improvement projects!  Numerous as the sand, I tell you!  I think I spy an oasis ahead!  A mirage?  An oasis?

So it stands to reason that all I want to do is dress up and go to The Office.  Any office.  Any out-of-my-house office, really.  Isn't that the way it goes?  I want what I don't have; I don't want what I do have.  I want to wear heels and a skirt and a belt cinched at my waist, because sartorial order will most assuredly compensate for the chaos in my house, right?  Since I can't - or shouldn't - wear this neon pink number whilst applying primer to bedroom walls, I'm wearing these neon pink striped slippers instead.  And I will proudly wear them as I trot across my front yard to activate the lawn sprinkler.  Today my neighbor's grass is greener and less-weed-ier, but it won't be for long.

  • What do you wish you were wearing right now?  Office-bound readers, care to switch lives for a bit?
  • Fellow DIY-ers, tell me there's an end in sight!  What do you wear on house project days?  My husband wears the same T-shirt and shorts, and the Young House Love bloggers actually designate a house project wardrobe.  Have you organized your closet according to function too?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walk the Line


Earlier Draft:
I wore this dress for my MA defense, which forced me to consider the difference between projecting and performing professionalism.  (And if you have a little extra time, I'd love to hear what some of our newer readers think about the issues I raised there.)

blue cotton dress (J. Crew)
gold disc earrings (NY&Co)
gold hoop necklace (Old Navy clearance bin)
brown wedge heels (Old Navy)
brown snake platforms (Nine West)

Last week Michelle, our friend and colleague IRL, suggested that she's looking forward to seeing how our footwear choices might be impacted by the switch into the classroom.  I thought I'd address that today since my German class has actually forced me to face the "walk across campus" obstacle a few weeks early.

I normally pair these snake print platforms with this dress because I like the juxtaposition of the big, feminine,  flowy skirt with the hard edges and print of the platforms.  Plus, the whole thing feels a little reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon (one of my style mentors) as June Carter in Walk the Line.  It is a truth universally acknowledged, however, that these are the world's most impractical shoe.  In order to survive yesterday's walk across campus, I had to swap them out for a more comfortable (but still sky high) wedge.  So there's my admission: the wedge is my way of finding a middle-ground.  I actually tried on a pair of heels made by Born at Marshall's the other day, and though they were not wedges, they were easily the most comfortable pair of heels I've ever put on my foot.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the left shoe in my size, so despite their $28 price tag, I left the store without them.  The perils of discount shopping!

I also wore my hair up with the dress this time because the button detail on the back is one of my favorite things about it.  It was actually Michelle who also mentioned a few weeks back that wearing your hair up or down can make a huge difference in how an outfit looks.  The swingy ponytail felt like a good match for the swingy skirt and it gave me that extra June-Carter-spring-in-my-step even without the squared platforms.

And finally, I had to include the lower left photo not only because it offers a better view of the wedges, but also because it's as if Oscar said "Oh, we're posing backwards today, Mom?  I'm in!"  And while he's getting some extra airtime on the blog, he'd also like to wish Tiki over at Orchids in Buttonholes a continued healthy recovery from his recent surgery.


  • How do you manage the comfort vs. style dilemma when it comes to shoes?  There's been quite a bit of blog discussion of we've been dressing to beat the heat, and I'd love to hear you weigh in with your ideas about how you dress to manage days when you'll be walking or standing for prolonged periods of time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How to Be Mistaken for the Instructor

Earlier Drafts:
This whole ensemble is new (except for the wedges that may soon fuse to my feet), but this is a pink version of the same blue print dress I've been wearing to death and the purple one I took out of my sister's closet during black-out week.

pink satin dress and belt (H&M via sister's closet)
abstract floral/rorschach test print tee (American Eagle)
white canvas wedges (MIA)

Two weeks ago, I started a six week intensive intermediate German course in order to get a head start on my PhD degree's foreign language requirement.  I spoke German fairly well after studying it in high school and college, but that was years ago, so I am really enjoying getting back into the language.  I'm taking it with undergrads, so I anticipated that they might mistake me for the instructor.  In an attempt to avoid this confusion, I wore the more "casual" of my work-appropriate ensembles during the first week (like this one and this one) and no one mistook me for the instructor.  Success!!... I thought.

Until the second week.  When I cruised down the hallway Monday morning wearing this more formal ensemble (but with short sleeves), a young student waiting outside the classroom hit me with "Are you the teacher?"  I answered "No," but she still told me she was hoping to add the class after being on the waitlist.  I said "She usually gets here about 10 minutes before class," but I thought "then where were you last week?"

Anyhow, my instructor is the same age as me, and even dresses fairly similarly, so though this young lady had never seen her, the guess wasn't far off.  In fact, when my instructor arrived that day in the black version of this beloved, extremely versatile H&M dress, I laughed to myself and felt jealous that I don't own it in black.  (Perfect LBD material!)  When she complimented me on this bold, experimental (for me, at least) pink and purple ensemble the following day, we commiserated about how difficult it is to dress in this heat.  She also told me she never thought of wearing a top over a dress before, and she is going to try it next week.

I agree with her-- I really like how this $3 clearance tee from AE gave a whole new look to this dress.  I felt like putting the belt that came with the dress over the top of the tee brought the whole thing together and drew attention to the pink flowers? splotches? on the tee.  And, while there was a lot of girl-love for that outfit that day (Katie and another office mate both complimented me on it), one guy who sits behind me in German class said "What do you see in her shirt?  It looks like a horse to me."  Oh, undergrads... how I have missed you! : )

  • For those of you who teach, do you feel pressure to dress differently when playing the role of "student" than you do when playing the role of "instructor"?
  • Or maybe, how do you dress when you'll be in a group of people who are, in general, noticably older or younger than you?  Do you dress to match or do you just wear your normal attire?
  • How else might I style this tee?  It's actually deep purple, not black... and I have an identical one in different, almost neon shades of pink.  I haven't worn them much, though, because I'm having trouble figuring out what they "go" with, and they're banded at the bottom, which makes them difficult to wear with jeans or shorts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brand Loyalist?


Left: Mall Kiosk Aviators (also seen here and here)
Left Center: Ray-Ban 3362 Cockpit (via Zappos)
Right Center: Ray-Ban 3025 Aviators (via Zappos)
Right: Ray-Ban 2132 New Wayfarer (via Zappos)

I have a new admission to make: I'm a brand loyalist.  I didn't even realize it until last week, when I tortured Anne-Marie with a lengthy gmail-chat session about whether or not I should keep one of the pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses I had purchased via Zappos.

I've long admired the classic styling and fairly subtle branding of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and though I normally buy myself a cheap pair of sunnies every summer, I decided that this year I would take the plunge and buy a nice pair that would last me a long time and protect my eyes.  I ordered the pair that most closely resembled my mall sunnies, the classic Ray-Ban aviators, and the other classic style I like, the Wayfarers.  I had grown so attached to the look of the mall sunnies, though, that I couldn't decide.  Plus, I was hung up on how popular these styles are with celebrities and wanted to resist buying something simply because it's worn by the rich, famous, and (un)talented.

Anne-Marie patiently worked through my neuroses with me and helped me realize that Ray-Ban is actually quite similar to the other brands I'm normally drawn to, so it was unlikely that I wanted them just because celebrities sport them.  In general, I like to own high quality, timeless staple items that will last me for years, and I periodically purchase inexpensive, on-trend items to keep my style fresh.  Ray-Ban manufactures a high quality product with classic, timeless styling.  I would consider their price point in the "luxury" category, but not in the "exorbitantly overpriced" arena.  After discussing it with AM, modeling each pair several times for my husband, looking at these photographs, and taking a cue from the Don Henley song my husband cued up, I decided on the Wayfarers.  I've been buying plastic tortoise shell frames in different variations for about ten years and I think my interest in aviators might be a passing fad.

But all this talk about Ray-Ban made me realize just how loyal I am to my favorite brands and products.  I wanted to share my brand loyalties with you all (even though I'm self conscious about some of their price points and think my dedication to them borders on neurotic) in hopes that you'll share with us some of your favorite brands and/or your own reasons for buying some brands instead of others.  So here goes--
  • I've written before about my loyalty to the Express Editor trouser.  I own about 6 pairs that I've purchased both retail and via ebay, and I literally do not own or shop for any other style of trouser.
  • I used to wear Abercrombie jeans exclusively because I loved their fit, but eventually the ethics (or rather, lack thereof) of the company angered me so much that I stopped purchasing them.  It was harder for me to give them up than I'd like to admit, though.
  • I only run in the Nike Women's Pro Training Bra (worn inside out). The only running shorts I own are the Under Armour Escape model.  I replace my Asics Gel Kayano running shoes about twice a year.  These items are all overpriced, IMO, but the sporting goods store near my house puts the old models on clearance when the new designs come out, so if I shop one season behind, I can get great deals... but I wait for them.  I'm not interested in buying anything else.
  • Two years into my relationship with my beloved black Kate Spade bag, I purchased a similar style in cream to serve as my summer month bag.  Kate Spade must sell them at a discount somewhere because authentic ones can always be found at about 50% off retail on ebay.  I also wear Kate Spade eyeglasses, and I like them so much that I had new lenses put in the same frames this year when I needed a new prescription.
  • I buy from Zappos whenever possible.  I love their core values as much as I love their customer service.  I freaked out a little bit when the were essentially bought out by Amazon, but this article calmed my fears.
When Anne-Marie wrote about the way her personal style is currently evolving, Sally of Already Pretty commented that "If you decide how you want to look and never flex or grow, you'll end up looking stodgy and dated in a heartbeat."  I tend to agree with her suggestion here, but at the same time, I'm the type of person who knows what she likes and sticks with it.  It's just my personality.  While Katie would rather own several different pairs of inexpensive shoes than a single expensive pair, and I think the variety in her shoe collection is really fun, I'm happy to wear my LRL black wedge heels until they fall apart on my feet (though I anticipate this will never actually happen because they're so well made).

  • How do you go about choosing sunglasses?  Do you own luxury sunnies or cheap ones?
  • Are there any brands or items of apparel to which you are loyal?  What are they?  Why have they won your loyalty?
  • Or do you think I am a little out of my mind for stalking a single kind of sports bra until it goes on clearance?
  • Will someone please tell me if, a few months down the road, my style becomes woefully boring and static?  I really do believe that buying inexpensive "on-trend" pieces adds enough flavor to my classic pieces to keep my style from looking "stodgy and dated," but I could be wrong.  
(Scholar Style Guide is not sponsored by any of the companies I've mentioned in this post.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Musings on a Shoe


Earlier Drafts:
I wore this skirt for my glasses confession.

white eyelet skirt (Express)
green t-shirt (Target)
green ruffled t-strap wedges (Steve Madden)

After reading Liz and Anne-Marie's posts on outfits that epitomized their personal style aesthetic, I planned to post mine today.  However, I'm cat-sitting, and in my haphazard packing spree, I neglected to bring the necessary skirt with me.  So I had to move my Tuesday outfit up a day, and I'll take some pictures of the quintessential Katie outfit once I've gone home to retrieve the missing piece of my personal style puzzle.

I am in love with this t-shirt.  It's stretchy enough to be super comfortable but fitted enough to hug the body in all the right places.  And at ~$7 it's pretty unbeatable.  But the real discussion point of this outfit is (what else?) the shoes. 

I came across these Steve Madden wedges at a discount shoe store near my house, where I got them for $20.  I love cheap shoe stores - think: Payless - because though you may have to wade through the muck, when you find something great, you get it very cheap.  I often find shoes for $20 or less, and the last time I paid more than $30 for shoes was when I bought the heels featured in this post, over five months ago.  I was willing to pay more for them because I had been looking for a good pair of patent leather Mary Janes, and these were 50% off.  Yes, there is something to be said for investing in quality, but frankly as a grad student, I'd rather get six pairs of cheap, cute shoes than one pair of really nice ones, which would still probably cost me more.

These wedges came in a multitude of colors, from this apple green to a deep raspberry to candy apple red to (insert next food related color) and back around to a basic black.  I don't have green shoes, so I thought I'd take these for a spin.  I've found that when shoes come in bright colors and neutral colors, I'm almost always drawn to the colorful ones rather than the safer neutrals.  This means that while I could make a rainbow from my shoe collection, I am lacking in basic shoes.  Sure, I have a set of basic pumps and slingbacks in both brown and black, but they're relatively old, and I could really use some more neutral variety.

  • Do you prefer variety (six cheap pairs of shoes) or quality (one nice pair of shoes)?  Does it change if we're talking about clothes rather than shoes?  What about jewelry?
  • Are you attracted to colorful footwear or do you gravitate toward neutral shoes?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Sense of StyleSelf

Earlier Drafts:
These shoes? Some of my faves.
I carried this bright yellow clutch while wearing a neon skirt.

chartreuse shirtdress (H&M)
purple cardigan (Martin + Osa)
braided belt (Lulu's)
yellow clutch (SR Squared by Sondra Roberts)
nude suede heels (Seychelles via Piperlime)

Liz's post about her personal style aesthetic sent me on a mission through my own closet to concoct an outfit which best represented me.  Many outfits and a few detours through past photo albums later, I concluded that I do not (yet?) have a personal style aesthetic.  At this stage in my life, when I'm between hairstyles and between jobs, it seems I have begun to shed the pseudo-bohemian style of my late college years and to explore more tailored adaptations.  I'm in transition.  Today's outfit represents my exploration into the clean-cuts of the professional world.  A recent photo on The Sartorialist reminded me that I own this chartreuse shirtdress and inspired me to wear it in a new way.  The color acts as a punchy reference to my former, slightly more juvenile self.

Perhaps my tendency toward imitation indicates that I'm still in-the-making style-wise.  When does one begin to solidify a personal sense of fashion identity, at what age or stage in life?  Does one ever?

  • When did you feel mature in your style identity?  What were your life circumstances?
  • Those pesky adjectives on my bio page - "creative, colorful, and easy" - bother me because I'm not sure they're true.  At least not anymore.  So a) which adjectives should I use instead, and b) which adjectives would you use to describe your own style?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dinner With the Girls!

Earlier Drafts:
Anne-Marie considers these shorts and these heels her summer staples.
Katie loves this purse for summer outings, and she previously paired these heels with a more subdued outfit.
Liz already professed her love for this striped tank and these rose gold sandals.

On Anne-Marie:
pink and green patterned tunic (inherited from either mom or sister?)
linen shorts (Lulu's)
nude suede heels (Seychelles via Piperlime)
brown suitcase purse (gift from sister via Target)

On Katie:
cream "dandy" tank (Ann Taylor)
dark green shorts (JC Penney)
pink heels (Bakers)
green purse (Coach)

On Liz:
navy and white striped tank (Gap)
black pin-striped vest (H&M via sister's closet)
black beads (unknown)
black linen skirt (Forever 21)
stone colored leather bag (Kate Spade Westbury Dani via Ebay)
rose gold sandals (Old Navy)

When we recently got together to catch up over dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, we realized it was a great chance to stage a photo shoot!  And after enduring several scrutinizing looks, we have a new respect for those of you who take your photos out in public!

Tunics!  Until dinner with the girls, I had forgotten about tunics!  And how much I love them with shorts in the summer when my tan line is too obnoxious to wear strapless tops!  This outfit is actually the fourth I tried that night.  My closet was conspiring against me and took pleasure in showcasing the outline of my bikini with every other garment.  This light cotton number came to my rescue.  Now, the hefty brown satchel I carried is another matter.  I tote it everywhere and affectionately call it my "Mary Poppins Bag" because it holds everything.  E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  But its container merits do not negate the fact that it is far too bulky in both color and size for this otherwise easy look.  I m on the look-out for a new, seasonal, hold-everything bag.  Maybe one like Liz s white Kate Spade would fit the bill?

As everyone knows, I am a huge fan of frills and dramatic clothes.  I am also a recent shorts convert.  So I decided to pair them together and see how it went.  I like this cream top for the fun flounces on the neckline.  I normally wear it with a skirt or tailored pants, but I wanted to see how it would work with an incongruous bottom.  These slate green shorts provided the contrast I was looking for; it's casual summer fun meets romantic dandy wear.  To highlight the contradiction, I completed the outfit with these bold statement heels.  I like the way the little frills on the shoe match the frills on the shirt, and I thought it was a fun way to punctuate this sartorial venture.  Also, I've been wanting to try shorts and heels, and this particular evening I had the attitude of go big (tall?) or go home.  For a bag, I just went with my beloved bright green purse since I think wearing different shades of the same color can add some sense of unity to an outfit.  Looking at the pictures, though, I'm not completely sold on that decision.  Perhaps I'll try a brown bag like Anne-Marie's or another neutral next time. 

Why did I show up to dinner with the girls wearing an outfit that paired navy with black, horizontal stripes with pinstripes, and a menswear-inspired vest with a full short skirt?  Well, where else could I go wearing such an experimental ensemble?  One of my favorite things about participating in the style blog community is how much it has encouraged me to try out styles that are outside my comfort zone, so I thought dinner with my co-bloggers was a good time to experiment.  Another thing I like about going out with these two is that I never have to worry that my outfit will look like "too much" in comparison;  I know they're also going to be wearing clothes that  say "I had fun putting this look together."  Today's post also marks the blog debut of my new Kate Spade bag, which is the summer replacement for the Kate Spade bag I blogged about earlier.  I bought the bag as my MA graduation gift to myself, and since that accomplishment is one I got to share with Anne-Marie and Katie, this post seems like the perfect place to introduce it.  My only regret about my outfit is that these two seem to be sharing some kind of color coordination ESP, and I didn't get the memo.  Look at them-- they're both wearing bright pink, cream, and slate green and they both combined shorts with heels! 

  • What do you wear for dinner out with the girls?
  • What situations or events encourage you to try more experimental styles?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Look Familiar?


Earlier Draft:
I wore essentially the same outfit earlier this summer.

eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
clear lucite beaded necklace (Kohl's)
dress (H&M)
white canvas wedges (MIA)

I've featured this dress frequently enough this summer to convince you, I think, that it's one of my favorite items of apparel.  This time, I left the belt at home to beat the heat and I wore my new white wedges, but otherwise this look is identical to the look I posted last month.  I'm afraid I'm boring you to death, but I wanted to share this ensemble again because I'm curious how frequently others re-wear similar looks.

I read the blogs of several ladies who actively avoid repeating outfits, and I have a lot of respect for all you remix masters out there, but I personally don't have a problem with repeating an outfit.  In fact, I really enjoy re-wearing the ensembles that I feel the best in.  My general rule of thumb for re-wearing is to ask myself if I wore the item last week, and if the answer is no, I'll happily wear it again.   Most times I style the item differently, but sometimes I don't bother.  I guess it's a sort of "If it's not broken, don't fix it" approach.  I'll admit, though, I even break this rule of thumb for items I really love-- I've worn my navy striped tank at least once a week since I got it.  I think I re-wear fairly often because I only buy clothes I really like and it bothers me to have items in my closet that aren't getting worn.  I do like to buy new things, but only if I can think of several different ways and places to wear them.


  • How frequently do you re-wear items of apparel?  Do you try to style them differently or do you repeat entire looks like I do?
  • If you prefer to wear a different outfit every day, what motivates you to keep finding new ways to style your clothes?  Do you think you buy more clothes than the average person, or do you just find a greater variety of ways to wear the same items?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Styling "Aesthetic"


Earlier Draft:
I discovered this red jacket in my sister's closet during black-out week.

eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
black cami (Old Navy)
red short sleeved jacket (sister's closet)
black patent belt (H&M)
red and black rose print skirt (gift from my roommate in undergrad!)
flat t-strap sandals (gift from my godmother)

I'm prepared to make a pretty bold declaration concerning this ensemble:  This look represents my style "aesthetic" better than any other look I've posted here on the blog so far.

If you're a Project Runway fan (as I used to be, before the show lost me when it moved to LA and the Lifetime network), you've surely noticed the way they use the term "aesthetic."  Apparently, an aesthetic is a thing, and each designer has a different one.  I've written before about why I believe aesthetics is an egalitarian mode of evaluating the arts, a la Ranciere, but that seems to have little in common with the way the term is used in the design community. suggests that "aesthetic," when used as a noun, refers to a philosophical theory or idea of what is aesthetically valid at a given time and place.  I guess that fits with the way it's used on the show, but their use of the term seems even more specialized.  I think they use the term "aesthetic" to signify a hybrid between what we, in composition, would call "voice" and "point of view."  One's design aesthetic seems to relate to one's personal attitude toward fashion, how one demonstrates that attitude in the design of one's clothes, and how one differentiates one's own designs from those of others.

For example, you might hear the following uses of this term on Project Runway:
Nina Garcia: "I don't see any sign of taste in her aesthetic."
Michael Kors: "I think she has kind of a cool trailer trash meets outer space vixen meets Nabokov aesthetic."
Heidi Klum: "I like her aesthetic because it involves showing a lot of skin, and I favor micro-mini hem lengths and plunging necklines whenever possible."  (Okay.  Maybe Heidi isn't quite this self-aware.)

I don't know if stylists are said to have "an aesthetic" in the same way that designers are.  (Maybe Anne-Marie will weigh in here with her expertise as a devoted fan of The Rachel Zoe Project.)  But if I take this term and apply it to myself in order suggest I have a styling aesthetic, this ensemble is the quintessential representation of it.  Though I've never before worn these items together, when I styled this outfit up and looked in the mirror, I thought, "Wow.  If there was ever an outfit that could be described as Liz-ish, this is it."
Tailoring details that create visual interest?  Check.
A bright color paired with black?  Check.
Body conscious but tasteful?  Check.
Items that hold sentimental value?  Check.
Belted?  Check.

I felt great in this look all day.  I've already started giving thought to what I'll wear on my first day of teaching when the new semester begins, and this is the new frontrunner, though I'd likely wear a blank tank with a higher neckline underneath and pair it with my favorite black wedges instead.  I do like how the ensemble looks with these flats, but it might have helped the proportion here if I'd rolled the skirt over a few times so the hem fell just above my knee instead of below it.

  • Do you agree with how I've characterized the use of the term "aesthetic" on PR?  Want to share more general thoughts on the show with us?
  • Is it wrong to suggest that both designers and stylists develop this kind of an aesthetic?  In my opinion, designers and stylists seem to perform a lot of the same functions when it comes to putting a look together... but then again, I'd be kind of offended if someone suggested that writers and editors do basically the same job, so maybe I'm just ignorant of the differences.
  • Do you think you have a style "aesthetic"?  Does it take work to style looks that fit that aesthetic or does it just come together naturally for you?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Washed Out, Not Washed Up

Earlier Drafts:
Blue peasant top, meet blazer.
Does this belt make me look like Jennifer Grey?
In honor of opposites, I wore this white skirt with a black tube top.
These nude heels are closet workhorses for me.

blue peasant top (H&M)
belt (Anthropologie)
white skirt (thrifted)
nude heels (Seychelles via Piperlime)

After Wednesday's brief departure from my fascination with summer neutrals - I've lately showcased toned-down ensembles here, here, and here - I'm back in the washed out saddle today.

The above look is inspired by the challenging wearability of this otherwise lovely skirt.  Here is my free association on the subject:

"It's the skirt's fault.  The chiffon hangs limp on my hipless body because the skirt has zero shape.  Well, other than the bubble hem and the vertical pleats along the right side panel.  Hm, pause.  Normally, I would consider those elements more than adequate, especially in a thrifted garment.  Why are those details insufficient in this one?  I can't figure it out.  This skirt puzzles me.  Is it the length?  Maybe I should shorten and re-hem it to an above-the-knee style?  Maybe I should add a layer of tulle underneath the chiffon to give it volume?  Maybe I should take in the waistband and wear the skirt higher, at my natural waistline? Maybe I should sprout curves, grow three inches?  Ready, set, go?"

How would you doctor up this piece?

I'm determined to coax a flirty femininity out of this gauzy number, so today I'm pairing it with a peasant top whose billowy sleeves mimic the skirt's own relaxed personality.  Since the skirt will inevitably fall to my knees without it, a chunky belt cinches around my middle.  And the nude shoes theoretically elongate what little leg shows beneath the skirt's hem.

Not-so-ironically, I'm devoting the afternoon to writing cover letters and sending out employment applications.  In the oppressive temperatures of these long days, I sense myself lapsing into a state of jobless anxiety, so I take frequent breaks to pep-talk myself out of feeling washed-up.  (Angsty much, right?)  We're not done yet, I tell myself.  My cover letters and I - and my chiffon skirt - just need a little editing.

Happy Friday!

  • How would you wear this skirt as is?  How would you edit it?
  • Tell me about your garment-editing projects!  Which alterations have worked for you, and which haven't?
  • In reading your blogs, I'm inspired by your own garment-alteration and -creation endeavors.  I'm not sewing savvy, so I welcome your advice.  Any tips you'd like to offer as I tackle this skirt as my weekend project?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat Wave!


Earlier Drafts:
This dress is one of my summer staples
These cheap but cute flats are one of my favorite pairs
I just debuted this necklace

blue dress (Target)
blue faux-jeweled flats (Payless)
striped cardigan (Marshall's)
octopus necklace (ModCloth - gift from boyfriend)
water bottle (SIGG)

It is HOT outside.  Dear readers, I hope you're not currently enveloped in the massive heat and humidity that surrounds SSG Headquarters right now.  If you are, I feel for you.  Trying to stay stylish and keep cool can be an issue - it's hard to look and feel your best in an oven-like environment.  Here's my attempt to do just that.

I started with my summer staple blue dress, my go-to for warm weather.  It's perfect for lounging around my no-central-air house or for casual date night with the boyfriend.  I used the octopus necklace I wore in my last post to add a personal touch to this simple dress.  I also had to work on this particular day, so I replaced flip flops with these studded flats.  Though Liz and I's work dress code is relative lax and casual, I felt that the dress needed something over it to be work suitable.  I've worn bare arms and bare legs to work before, but only with longer skirts.  I recently bought this striped short-sleeved cardigan for just these occasions, and I used it to complete my look.

I'm normally really hesitant about horizontal stripes, but after seeing Liz and Anne-Marie embrace them, I figured I'd give them a chance.  This top is the perfect way to experiment without diving headfirst into horizontal stripe territory since it isn't really a primary, necessary component to the outfit.  I especially love the detailing in the back.

I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but considering the heat and especially the humidity, I've forgone blow drying my hair in the morning, preferring to let it wave out or just pulling it back.  My hair has a naturally wavy texture, so sometimes I'll let it go with just a few scrunches and occasionally some curl-enhancing product.  It curls out then fades as the day goes on - these pictures were taken at the end of the day - leaving a purposefully messy, tousled look.  I usually prefer my hair to have a more polished, straightened look (I didn't start letting it wave until the end of college), but my natural hair has been growing on me.

As I think about my styling for the day, one thing in particular comes to mind: is this look too matchy-matchy?  With the blue dress and the blue shoes and my beloved SIGG water bottle that I tote nearly everywhere in the summer and a hint of blue eyeliner, am I too color coordinated?  I've never really had a problem with dressing monochromatically, nor have I had a problem mixing and matching different colors.  I think it just depends on the mood I'm in on a particular day, though I know some people are very against being overly matchy in their clothing and accessory choices.

  • How do you dress for excessive heat and/or humidity?
  • How do you feel about dressing monochromatically or meticulously matching?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lady in Red Has a Story to Tell

Earlier Drafts:
I wore this scarf as a neckerchief with Breton stripes for Dress Your Best Week.
I paired this bangle bracelet with blue and orange for my brother's graduation.

red patterned scarf (a giveaway from La Merce in Barcelona, Spain)
silver necklace with dove charm (Ornamental Things in Austin, Texas)
red dress (Ya via Party Dress in Fells Point, Baltimore)
bracelet (thrifted)
yellow flats (Target)

This weekend I learned something about myself:  whenever I travel, I dress in trinkets from past journeys.  For me it's instinctual.  Perhaps that's why I haven't noticed until now.  Apparently I like story pieces, garments or accessories or shoes that remind me of where I've been.  My sister recently recalled our all-time favorite set of Story Shoes: a banged-up pair of suede cowboy boots, now too ragged for use.  She wore them for a year in high school during her grand Tour de Colleges.  Then she flew to Barcelona to visit me, at which time she graciously entrusted the boots to my care.  Those trusty, well-worn, high-steppers carried me all over Spain and through much of the U.K.  They led a full existence, those booties, and they mark for my sister and me what we consider a life-changing year for both of us.

This Fourth of July weekend, I traveled with my husband to visit his family in Bethany Beach, Delaware.  We've been celebrating Independence Day at the Delaware shore for five years now, since before my husband and I married.  Five years doesn't sound like a long time now that I type it, but it has been long enough to accumulate memories and some sentimentality to boot.  Normally, once we arrive, I spend the weekend in bathing suits and his sister's hand-me-down Bethany Surf Shop T-shirts.  This holiday, however, I kicked off the occasion with a new dress, the first red frock I've ever owned.  Perhaps now, after sporting it during fireworks and the like, this fiery number will acquire significance of its own.
I paired the dress with other items that hold meaning for me.  The scarf I snagged for free during a crazy festival weekend in Barcelona.  Since headscarves have my attention this summer, I wore the red patterned fabric as a kerchief.  The necklace I purchased at Austin City Limits music festival last fall.  The dove and rose charms made me feel pretty all weekend, even though the rest of me was coated in mud from the torrential downpour.  Ah, fond memories.

The latest addition to my story piece collection is an antique brass cameo ring, which I purchased last month at a boutique in Savannah, Georgia.  I wore it last week in an easy outfit inspired by the charming city itself.

  • Do you wear certain items of clothing specifically for the memories you associate with them?  If so, tell us about your favorite story pieces!
  • Have you recently acquired un recuerdo?  Where did you find it, and how does it function as a memento for you?
  • Has anyone seen the play Love, Loss, and What I Wore, now running at The Westside Theatre in NYC?  Have any of you read the book on which the play is based?  I'm dying to see the show, because, from what I can tell, it relates to women and the histories our clothes tell.  Fun!
  • Anyone else feel conflicted over the associations between women and the color red?  I can't clear the mental hurdle of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.  Am I too limited in my understanding?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes


aviators (mall kiosk)
white cami (Old Navy)
green cotton blend dress (Billabong via surf shop in NC)
rose gold sandals (Old Navy)
black cotton dress (Old Navy)
green cotton blend dress, same as left
pink cotton blend dress (Billabong via surf shop in CA)
aqua polyester blend dress (Billabong via surf shop in CA)
khaki castro hat (American Eagle)
black castro hat with buttons (Roxy via surf shop in SC)
rose gold sandals, same as left

You guys!  I'm back from my vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina!  My husband and I try to get away to the beach for a week every summer, but this was our first trip to OBX.  I really enjoyed the laid-back pace of the area, and since other travel plans prevented us from getting to the beach last summer, my week spent in the sun listening to the waves was even more restorative than usual.  Normally I like trying out new places, but I would happily return to the Outer Banks in the future.

Growing up on the West Coast, I spent a lot of time at the beaches in SoCal, especially near my grandparents' house in Santa Barbara.  I've always loved going to the beach, but now that I'm older, I'm struck by how calming I find it to be near the ocean.  I love sitting on the beach and watching the waves come in and out (wearing plenty of sunscreen, I promise!).  I also love hearing the waves in the background while I engage in my otherwise everyday activities, like laying in bed (with no alarm!), running (on the sand!), and reading (in my beach chair!).  The ocean calms me down, and for some reason, the repetition of the waves forces me to slow down enough to look outside all my academic pressures and get a glimpse at the bigger picture.  At the beach, nobody really knows I'm an aspiring university professor with more work to do than I can ever actually accomplish (though they might grow suspicious when they see what I'm reading with a pen in hand).  It's not that I want to be anything else, but being in a different environment reminds me that I'm not only an aspiring university professor.

I also love that being at the beach gives me an excuse to dress very differently than I can for my professional responsibilities.  After a HOT day at the beach, all I want to put on to go out in the evening are easy summer dresses.  I look for them everywhere, but I find myself gravitating most frequently toward the ones sold by Billabong.  Though I think other surf brands make cute dresses, I like that Billabong dresses tend to add interesting details to simple silhouettes, especially since I don't wear any accessories when it's hot.  The aqua dress has ties on the sides and a great embroidery detail (plus, its name is "Liz," so how could I pass it up?!), the pink one has cute lace and eyelet detailing, and the green one I added to my collection this week has pockets!! and some woven accents that highlight the tie-dyed inspired look of the material.

Flat sandals are also a must for puttering around a beach town, and I wore these t-strap rose gold sandals every single evening.  I like that they're one step up from flip flops and they "go" with absolutely everything, but what I like most about them is that they are as close as I can get to barefoot while still wearing shoes.  I always take these two castro hats to the beach to help give my face some protection, and I find that I end up putting them on in the evenings, too, though I don't often wear hats in regular life.

As I prepared to put this post together, it occurred to me for the first time that I might be getting a little old for surfer gear.  But I've decided I don't care, even if it means I could run into a teenager wearing the same dress somewhere.  I've also seen several moms running after their little ones in similar dresses, and I've never done a double-take, so I think I have several years left to enjoy these styles.  Plus, while on vacation, I don't think I should have to think as much about what my clothing says about me as a person.

Thanks to my beach vacation, I feel rested and ready to return to my final month of office work before I get to switch over to my teaching position.  I hope all of you enjoyed a relaxing weekend and that those of you here in the States got to enjoy some extra time off for the 4th of July!


  • What places or activities help you relax and unwind from a difficult academic year or gear up for another one?
  • What do you wear when you go on vacation?  Does your vacation style differ from your daily style as much as mine does?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Shorts and Summer


Earlier Drafts:
I wore this tank top in my first(!) post
OPI's My Chihuahua Bites! is my favorite summer polish

blue shorts (Old Navy)
green tank top (Old Navy)
purple flower wedges (Payless)
octopus necklace (ModCloth - gift from boyfriend)
on fingers: OPI My Chihuahua Bites!
on toes: OPI Pamplona Purple

Summer brings higher temperatures and higher heamlines.  It also provides the perfect opportunity for backyard barbeques.  These three summer standards came together for me this weekend when my house hosted a cookout.

I have not worn a non-athletic pair of shorts in maybe four or five years.  For warmer weather, I dress exclusively in skirts or dresses.  I'm not entirely sure why I've eschewed shorts for so long, but I have two theories.  Part of it stems from the fact that I tend to dress a bit conservatively due to my curvy figure filling out certain clothes a bit too much, making styles that look fine on less busty women look inappropriate one me (I discussed this issue in this post).  Thinking this way about clothing over an extended period of time has made me a bit gun-shy about all fashion choices, and I feel uncomfortable if I'm not covered up.  The second reason is that while I like my calves, I don't like my thighs at all, and wearing shorts makes me feel self-conscious.

Then, this week I bought not one, but two pairs of shorts.  I'm happy to say that SSG significantly influenced my decision to revisit shorts.  This project has really driven me to rethink and push my (self-imposed) fashion boundaries.  So I purchased and debuted this pair at our party.  Along with a simple tank top, they made a nice, casual look for outdoor festivities.

This statement necklace completes the series of sea creature necklaces (sting ray, seahorse, octopus) I received from my boyfriend for my birthday.

The octopus added a quirky kick to the outfit.  I also decided to play with non-sequiter shoes.  Nothing about them really connected to this outfit, but I thought that they would complete it nicely.  It needed a cute pair of shoes, and I love these wedges that I got for $10 at Payless, especially the flower detail and the strapes around the ankle.

My shorts experiment definitely went well.  I felt comfortable in them, and I definitely plan on incorporating shorts into my regular wardrobe for summers now.

  • Do you wear shorts?  What kind of shorts - longer, shorter?
  • Are there any articles of clothing that you do not wear, for whatever reason?
  • What kind of clothes do you like to wear for summer get togethers?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hired or (gulp) Fired?

Earlier Drafts:
I wore this shift dress to a work-related event.
This headband kept my curls in check during a flight.
I'm head over heels for these heels!

headband (J.Crew)
dress (Lulu's)
heels (gift from Liz, Xhilaration via Target)

Yesterday I wore this outfit to a job interview.  I'll pause for your collective inhalation.  Does this look make you nervous?  It makes me nervous.  In fact, I have more anxiety today regarding yesterday's clothing than I have regarding yesterday's Q&A content.

This get-up has me sweating for the following reasons:
  1. Headband?  No really.  Headband?!  Many headbands gesture at the juvenile.  But this one?  This one with the oversized fabric bow?  It proclaims, "I am incapable of instructing your college freshmen because I struggle to maintain authority in the classroom."  I am banging my head - erm, glittery floral applique - against a wall over the choice.
  2. Bare arms.
  3. Naked legs.
  4. Peeping toes.
Though, to confess, immediately after snapping these photos I wimped out on my new-fave peep toes - or, rather, I conceded to a moment of sobriety - and exchanged them for these more conservative heelsKatie saw me just before the meeting; she approved.  I think?  I hope?  My feeble confidence wavers even as I type this post!

Three potential caveats/saving graces:
  1. It's summer?  It's toasty outside?  Bare skin is thus more acceptable in the office?
  2. I interviewed for a position within my own English department?
  3. My interviewer wore shorts and Birkenstocks?
What's your assessment?  Is this a "Hire Me" or an "Uh, Eventually You'll Have to Fire Me" look?

  • Is this outfit appropriate for a job interview?  If it isn't, to what sort of event should I wear it instead?
  • What's your go-to look for an interview?
  • Would you have worn these accessories to a professional meeting?  I'm afraid the headband is too juvenile and the peep toe heels are too sexy.  Do you read them the same way?
  • Do your workplace sartorial standards adjust to each season?