Happy New Year!

I hope that all of you will have a wonderful New Year. Have a safe and wonderful celebration with friends and family, look back at all the accomplishments and mistakes of the year, and start 2008 with new insight.

This year has been rather pivotal for me. I'm absolutely done with school. I'm grateful to be employed and work with a wonderful group of people. I still have a huge student loan debt to contend with, but for the most part, this is the first time I actually don't have to be constantly worried about my financial situation, which is a huge relief. I'm grateful that some things stay the same, like my wonderful group of friends. Without their support, life would have been rough right now.

Next year I'll need to work on being more punctual (I've been skating too close to being late for things) and get things done more promptly. I definitely need to be more diligent about cleaning things up more frequently. Hopefully I'll be able to balance all the different facets of my life better. There are lots of other things, but these are good as starters.

Last but not least, thanks for being such a friendly and smart audience. It's exciting to get that email message saying someone left a new message; I always look forward to what you have to say, and I enjoy the intelligent discourse we have on fashion and other things. My hat's off to you. I hope that the new year will bring you great news, cute and comfortable shoes that fit to a tee, and just all around a good life!


Just click your heels...wait, there aren't any

Isn't it always like this: back when I was in school, I said I'd take a break from blogging because I have finals, and I ended up blogging in procrastination. Now that I'm supposed to take a "break" from the computer to recoup from all the craziness, I'm not doing it. Imagine that--I actually have *time* tonight. There isn't enough of it for crafting, so blogging it is. I'm still trying to find that work-life balance, so trying to regain a regular blogging schedule is a start.

I've been wanting a pair of red shoes for a really, really long time. Since my outfits are now based on the grays and the blacks, red shoes became an even more coveted accoutrement. They add a little bit of levity and punch to an otherwise somber and serious outfit. I have a pair of red sneakers, but they don't go with the dressy outfits I now frequently wear.

The search for dressier red shoes has been long and hard. Price, of course, is the foremost consideration. Comfort is another major consideration. I've been wearing pumps a lot, so I wasn't sure I wanted another pair of heels, even if they were red. Unfortunately, comfortable and sharp-looking red flats have been in short supply. Finally, the perfect shade of red was hard to find. I'd find things that are either too bright or too dark, never juuuust right.

As I was trawling through the mall during the last days of Christmas shopping, I came upon the pair I've been looking for. It wasn't at all what I expected, but it's perfect. At the very corner of the $19.99 shelf in the Naturalizer store, I saw these:

They're comfortable, they're cute without being cutesy (the pointy toes make them look grown up, despite the words "mary jane" being part of the shoe model name), and they're the perfect shade of red. And the price is right, last pair in my size, so on and so forth. What more can I say? Oh yes--they go pretty well with peaches and pinks. These dressy patent leather flats really go a long way.

What I love about them is that they look fancy without costing like so. Here's what really gets me tickled: after I made my rounds through the adjacent Loehmann's (where I got my mom a perfect-fit cashmere sweater for about $40), these shoes got me to the Beverly Center--a huge mall in ritzy Beverly Hills--to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. I noticed quite a few fashionistas openly staring at my shoes, particularly when I walked into a pricey boutique, where *gasp* I dropped $215 on a Christmas present for myself. (Got your attention, didn't I? But you'll have to wait another few days for this juicy story). A few people in there complimented me on those shoes. I couldn't help but secretly smile against the monied fashion establishment.

About that Christmas gift to myself...come on, surely you know me better than that. It's not quite the horribly foolish, extravagant blowout one might imagine. You'll see why next time.


The Home Stretch

This is it--just one more day to finish Christmas shopping. And this year, I will have to use it. Fortunately, I didn't leave all my shopping completely to the 11th hour.

Usually I would have finished my Christmas shopping by now, but unfortuantely, I don't have the luxury of a flexible schedule anymore. So I've been doing my shopping here and there, getting one or two things at a time. I found that I've spent a lot of time wandering around different stores and malls but coming up empty. I was starting to develop "shopper's fatigue."

As the clock ticks by, the pressure was on. Last weekend I finally knocked off a good number of names from the shopping list--it took a combination of online and good ol' fashion shopping to get things done. Throughout last week, I did some more shopping during lunch and after work. Slowly but steadily, my shopping became 90% done. I learned my lesson, though. Next year, I should do more online shopping late at night and regular shopping during regular business hours, which are far more limited. It boils down to a simple game plan of clock management.

What about the people who are still left on the list right now? There are a couple of variations of the same option. Sometime last week, an online portal had an article about how gift cards are the worst. gifts. ever., on the account of being thoughtless gifts. I completely disagree. I think gift cards are very thoughtful gifts indeed. Why should I impose my idea of what's suitable for Cousin Bob on Cousin Bob when he is the one who knows best? Let the gift recipient decide what he or she really wants. I also advocate giving cash, especially if that's what the person needs. Someone who is unemployed this holiday season may be less concerned with getting fancy gadgets than he/she is with paying for rent, utilities, and food. In that event, cash or gift cards to such places as Target or grocery stores may be particularly of help.

Of course, the downside to the cash/gift card gifts is that the gift recipient knows the exact value of what he or she is getting. This might not be so good if you can only afford to give something worth less than $10. People may say that it's the thought that counts, but unfortunately, it's not completely true.

I'm going to take a week off from blogging to regroup and recoup. I wish you all Happy Holidays. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next year.


All Dressed Up...

...and nowhere to go? Maybe it's not as bad as people say it is. Dresses as casual wear is a nice change from t-shirts and jeans.

You may recall that I've looked long and hard for the perfect dress for my work's holiday party (yeah, I know it's been a while since I've last written). Ideally, I wanted something that could be dressed up or down. I was even willing to spend more for the dress because I wanted something nice and long-lasting to invest in. Alas, I've looked high and low and couldn't find what I was looking for...until the day before the party.

I had taken that day off of work because I had to go get sworn in for my license. After that was done, I decided to hit the Friday sample sales. I figured that it was one of the few opportunities I had to go, now that my work schedule is so busy, and I needed Christmas presents anyway. To my chagrin, I spent a lot of money on myself (and a little bit for 2 t-shirts for the boys of my family), but I landed a lot of good stuff.

One of the purchases is this wonderful Beaus and Eros dress. It's long-sleeved--perfect for this weather--and very, very soft. I could easily dress it up with a nice necklace and pumps, or dress it down like so. Or dress it down further with flip-flops. $25 is admittedly more than I'd like to spend on casual clothing, but this has such a professional look that I knew it can go a long way.

Here is my Christmas party dress in all its glory. I went without the tights (which I did wear for a different holiday event), and accessorized with my own Garden Variety bracelet and the vintage yellow clutch I snatched up at the Goodwill.

This Ella Moss dress is incredibly soft and drapes beautifully. I love how there are multiple layers that makes the dress look elegant but not weigh me down. I got it for $40--far lower than what I had budgeted for a nice dress. As it was a sample, I evaluated the construction carefully before plunking down my money. There was a split in the seams of the halter strap, but the pros of the dress greatly outweight the little tiny flaw, which was easily fixed with a needle and thread.

In addition to the draping, the gorgeous color got my attention. It's a deep (almost midnight) blue, which is as close to black as you can get and still be different from the typical LBD's out there. Another thing I love about this dress is the casualness of it. Sure, it can be dressed up for a party the way I did, but because the fabric is not satin, taffeta, or anything else that would give it away as a "party dress," I can easily dress it down with flip-flops for the summer.

I'm so glad that I was so productive on my day off ;-). Now it's time to go finish my Christmas shopping to the extent possible. It's been incredibly hard because I've been working long hours, but a little bit of local retail and a little bit of online buying helps knock a few names off that list. Hope you're staying warm and got everything done!


Saving and Helping

Are you still doing Christmas shopping for others and for yourself? Now you can do good and save money at the same time (I love that combination). I just learned that Banana Republic and Goodwill have teamed up for a special--bring in a gently used sweater to BR from 12/6 to 12/12 (next Wednesday) and you can get 30% off BR merchandise, excluding 100% cashmere items. The sweaters you give will be sold in Goodwill stores.

I'm seriously behind on my Christmas shopping...chalk it up to poor planning this year. Things are just not as easy to schedule when you're working long hours. Makes for an interesting write-up on shopping strategy, though.


Shades of Gray

What a whirlwind of a week! I just got sworn in so I can officially work in my full capacity as a lawyer. All of a sudden I realize that some of the stylish things I've been wanting are no longer mere wants--they are real needs. For starters, a briefcase/bag is a must...I'm still working on that. At least I've got the business card case covered.

And then there are things that are definitely "wants" and sort of "needs." I do have quite a bit of work attire, so I'm not quite in "need" of them, yet I want to expand my collection, particular for the colder climes. Also, I wanted a dress for my firm's Christmas party. I already have a lot of dresses, but I didn't think any of them would do for this particular occasion. This post is primarily about the work attire; the dress will the topic of the near future, when I actually have the opportunity to take a picture of it.

Lately I've been hitting quite a few stores in search of the dress, the work separates, and the suits. The dress has caused much frustration--when I was broke, I spotted things I wanted, but now that I'm willing and able to buy something special, I couldn't find any. I've spent much time in Loehmann's trying to find that dress and came up empty. Instead, I found a couple of pairs of pants that are great for the cooler/colder weather. How I found them was quite a story in of themselves.

I went to Loehmann's for the specific purpose of finding that cocktail dress, but I kept an eye out for other things as well. I picked out a number of pants and dresses to try on, and none of them worked out for me. Frustrated, I decided to put things on the rack of rejects in the dressing room. As I was doing that, a pair of pants French Connection pants caught my eye. The pants were charcoal gray and seemed warm--just what I was looking for. I tried on the pants and--surprise!--they fit like a glove. Searching through the rejects has worked for me before at the crazy BCBG warehouse sales, and this method came through for me again. When I finally hit the checkout line, I spotted a whole rack full of the same pants (albeit in sizes different from the pair I already possessed) plus pants of a different color and fabric. Because I was so impressed with the fit, I ended up picking up another pair of French Connection pants, the second being of light gray wool. At $25 a pair, the price is really good for good-quality, well-fitted work pants.

As an added bonus, the pants matched perfectly with tops I bought a few days later from the Calvin Klein outlet. The floral top is something I've eyed for a while, and it finally went on sale. The gray wool vest was something that my shopping companion (my sister) saw lying around as I was trying on the floral top. Both were around $27; the top is a bit of a splurge at that price (though I love it) while the wool vest is a good value.

As it turns out, the gray wool pants also matched with a wool blazer I got from the crazy BCBG warehouse sale a few years ago. The colors aren't an exact match, but close enough that they work. Now both blazers I picked up from that sale are completed with matching bottoms; the two suits are essentially $50 each. Yup, I'm pretty stoked.

It's no surprise that I've got a thing for gray. It's a great alternative to black or white, and all the different shades are nice to work with. They mix as well with black as they do with white and other colors. Tone on tone is one of my favorite concepts to play around with.

I've done quite a bit of shopping lately, and I hope to write about it soon. It's hard to find the time to post, deal with work, deal with orders, and shop for Christmas presents, but I'll try to make it work.