Green Means...

A while ago, I made fun of trends in which one color turns into another color for the sake of trends and marketing. Well, green is ever the chameleon, and it has done it again:

The popularity of "being green" is great (I'm all for conservation), but the trendiness of it all is rather suspect. Are people being green because they're truly altruistic, or are they just doing it to look cool? Or is it something more insidious--are they simply being opportunistic?

It's nice that green brings in the greenbacks, since it incentivizes more responsible business and living practices, but sometimes it seems rather gimmicky. A lot of fashion designers are churning out "green bags," which are better for the planet because they replace plastic bags. However, doesn't the creation of all these bags require the use of more resources? Wouldn't this process invariably end up becoming more wasteful, as the bags fall out of fashion and become cast aside?

Lest I sound like a hypocrite, I better explain the bag you see above. I do think that it's great to have a few of these tough, reusable bags around. I keep two of them in my car, since one is not enough--sometimes I shop at a couple of different grocery stores on the same outing, or I'd bring a bag back up to my apartment and forget to bring it back to my car for the next grocery run. The cute, big $1 bag from Target is very durable and holds a lot of things. Now that a new grocery store has opened a block from my humble abode, I decided that it would be good to keep a bag in my apartment for trips there by foot. Loehmann's had the canvas bag on clearance for a ridiculously low price, and it fits my criteria--it's simple, it's easy to carry on my shoulder (especially if it's fully loaded), and it's a cheeky fashion accessory that doesn't cost an exorbitant amount (unlike the clever, initially refreshing, but infamously-overimitated Anya Hindmarch bag). This is the only "fashion statement"-type of a reusable bag I'll really need. I don't plan on getting suckered in beyond this one, but even the best-laid plans are not folly-proofed.


A Day at the Museum

I had a great museum trip with a group of friends and their friends today. Part of the fun of seeing an exhibit is discussing it with other people (I highly recommend a visit to the Broad Contemporary section). The other part is taking silly pictures with the artwork. There was also an unexpected bonus: a freebie notebook featuring quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King. It is quite a fitting way to commemorate today and serves as an inspiring lead-in to tomorrow's historic presidential inauguration.

It was easy to decide on what to wear today. Since there was going to be a lot of walking involved, both from the tour and from walking to the museum from the free street parking spot a few blocks away, comfortable flats were in order. As for the clothing, I decided to wear a dress that I found at Loehmann's for practically 90% off. I usually shy away from strapless dresses because I have trouble keeping them on (or that's my fear anyway), but this one just fits. The print is very museum-worthy--it resembles an abstract field of flowers created from dripping paint. I could literally blend in with paintings lining the walls.

[Michael Kors leather hoodie, Plenty by Tracy Reese strapless dress, Liz Claiborne bag, L'Autre Chose navy flats]


Mani's Bakery Survey (and $5 gift card)

When I have to stay up late but still want to catch a few hours of sleep, I use a good chai latte as my midnight oil instead of coffee. However, very few places make it exactly the way I want it. Thus, after I get off the freeway from work, I'm willing to drive out to Mani's Bakery to get my large chai latte, and occasionally, a delicious organic baked treat. While I can't afford the cakes and tarts on a regular basis, the inexpensive day-old muffins serves as a healthy breakfast.

Sadly, I've noticed some changes recently. The operating hours have shrunken, and the price has gone up a little. According to their blog, the drop in sales compounded with rising operating costs may result in the end of the business. That would be quite sad. To look for ways to improve the business, Mani's is offering a $5 gift card to those who complete a customer satisfaction survey. Depending on your initial responses, it can be a fairly lengthy survey, but I think it is well-constructed to seek out honest opinions. I had planned to go there tomorrow before my LACMA trip anyway, so the gift card comes in handy.

If you've been to the cafe before, want to support it, and plan to go back sometime this month (before the gift card expires), you can take the survey here.

Art Appreciation Day

There are many holidays that I would deride as "Hallmark Holidays," which retailers take advantage of in an effort to sell more stuff. I'm not sure if there is an "offical" Art Appreciation Day yet. In any event, I think it is important to have one sometime in our lives, whether it is on a fixed day or not, on an annual basis or once every few years.

Ever the pragmatist, I used to somewhat dismissive of the fine arts (particularly "modern art") as a waste of time and money. However, ever since I took a solo trip to the San Francisco MoMA and spent a whole day to really look at the exhibits with a critical eye, I discovered a newfound sense of appreciation for art in general. It is a feeling that I cannot describe with words (I guess it would be somewhere along the lines of "the Sublime," for the literally-inclined), but in any event, I think everyone should be able to experience it.

Trouble is, funding for the arts have been drastically slashed year after year, because the decisionmakers often see the arts as "nonessential" compared to repairing roads, building schools, and providing essential medical care. When a household is cash-strapped, it does not make sense to spend money on cultural events. While food for the body rightfully has priority over food for the soul, the latter does not have to get to the point of being completely neglected. Many museums have the occasional free admissions day (or hours) which, based on past experiences, have been surprisingly popular. They are not hugely publicized, but thanks to the modern-day search engine, blogs, and various websites, it is fairly easy to seek them out.

It has been years since I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), even though I drive past it on a regular basis. I have been interested in seeing the Vanity Fair exhibit for myself after reading much (good and bad) press written on it. I plan to fulfill that item on my to-do list on Monday, when Target is sponsoring the free admission (yet another reason to love Target). There are other free admission days this year: Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day. You can find more information about the free days, along with other LACMA activities, here.


Larger than Life

This morning, I woke up remarkably early for a Saturday. I've been waking up fairly early lately for work assignments, so I suppose I got used to it. My day started off with a very big breakfast with a group of friends at the Griddle Cafe in West Hollywood. I didn't bring my camera, so I couldn't fully capture the enormity of my breakfast (the dinner plate-sized pancakes were even bigger), but to give you an idea, here is the size of my leftovers. I was full after consuming just one of my Apple Cobbler French toasts with some of the apples served on the side, and I was only able to accomplish that with help from some friends. As I'm typing this, I am stuffed.

I had no idea that the food portions were going to be that big, but I carried some mighty big accessories that were quite befitting of the occasion. I have been wearing a lot of rings. One day I'd be wearing something very dainty, and the next day I would be wearing a big honkin' ring. I found a couple of cheap rings from the Loehmann's clearance bin, including the big greenish-gray cut glass cocktail ring below. It was remarkably inexpensive for something in remarkably good shape.

I also brought along a big, easy-to-carry hobo, which I dug out of the DSW clearance bin a few days ago. Although I have a variety of purses, I did not have one in a simple neutral color ever since my old one went out of commission. Usually I don't like carrying big bags around, since I just don't like having to deal with the bulk, but sometimes I do need something roomy and capable of being thrown-on-and-go for day-to-day errands or a night on the town. The hobo bag, however, has not been very appealing to me. Although I like the casual and easy-to-carry aspects, the bags I have come across were either too slouchy, too big, too small, too casual (and thus not all-purpose), or too expensive. I never did find the perfect one until now. It is both luxurious and casual at the same time--very chic, with the right amount of slouch, a simple design, and a few choice metallic accents that do not add extra weight.

I became disappointed with my last everyday bag because the lining tore within just a couple of months of use, so this time, I looked for something with a sturdy lining, either in cotton or leather; the thin acetate linings just won't do. For something made of soft, supple leather and a well-made suede lining, the bag is incredibly affordable (around $60) and better in quality than bags in the 3-digit dollar range, which all seem to have the type of lining I have been trying to avoid. The fact that it is not a hip and trendy label probably helps keep the price down. Usually I associate the Liz Claiborne brand with dowdy "missy sportswear," but the accessories have been rather modern and wearable. My black Liz Claiborne work bag may have its limitations (the pretty but color-leaching red lining being one of them), but it has been a faithful workhorse for the many years after I discovered it at Ross. I hope that the new bag will also last as many years, and then some.

[Converse One Star for Target jacket, Marc by Marc Jacobs t-shirt ($15 from Macy's, but at no out-of-pocket costs because I purchased it with a gift card), Liz Claiborne bag, ABS ring, J Brand jeans, Nike sneakers]

Weekday | Weekend: A Footnote

After I did my first post on the Weekday/Weekend series, I realized that I forgot to address an issue unique to bulky rolled sleeves: what to do when it gets a little colder.

A jacket with wide sleeves ought to do it. I found this jacket from Forever 21 last spring, and it has been extraordinarily versatile. It looks great when paired with a t-shirt or a turtleneck, and the wide sleeves perfectly accomodate the rolled sleeves. The clean lines and sturdy lapels also look very professional. I wore this to a deposition. The jacket is also easy to wear on the weekends, but I don't have any pictures.

[Forever 21 jacket, Converse One Star for Target shirt, Stella McCartney pants, BCBG pumps with bow and leopard-print trim]


A Tale of Three Cities (and two stores)

It may be the best of times for many bargain hunters, it is arguably the worst of times for retailers. In any event, it would be wise for retailers to treat those shoppers right. Unfortunately, I have witnessed some incredulously foolish customer service antics; in one case, it was enough to change my purchasing decision.

This morning I met up with some dear friends for breakfast. On my way home, I made a number of stops to take care of business. I stopped by Ikea, which is out in a suburban area, to pick up some household items, wrapping paper on clearance, and some $1 per yard fabric to make another cushion cover.

Problem is, there was no one to help me cut the fabric. Usually I can flag down a passing Ikea employee for help, but this time, there was none to be found in the area even though I walked around quite a bit. I ended up going to the one place that I know has someone stationed at all times: the children's play area. Fortunately, the employees working the area were very responsive and started to find someone to help me right away. Even though I had to wait for a bit, which was irritating, the service I received was very friendly. Perhaps the person who was ultimately responsible for the area was flaky, but I was very glad that the other employees made great efforts to pick up the slack. I would keep on shopping there.

Cut to hours later, when I decided to make a quick last pass of the department stores in Beverly Hills to see if prices have been cut down even further, particularly because this is the last week of Fall/Winter clearance at many of the stores (at least that's what they say). I went to the Co-op floor of Barney's, which I haven't been to before. I found a nice wool skirt that I could wear for work, and naturally, I wanted to try it on. But, of course, the dressing rooms were locked, and I had to ask someone to unlock it.

I went to the cashiering station to ask for help, and I found three sales girls chatting with each other. I asked politely for a room. All three girls looked at me with blank stares, and then they went back to their conversation. I was just dumbfounded--I was sure they heard me...or did they? Why would they be ignoring me? After a few more words, one of the girls finally walked toward the dressing room, unlocked a door, then proceeded to tell me in a bored voice that the store was going to close in five minutes. I have no problem with being politely informed that the store would close soon, but I deeply disliked the tone in which the message was transmitted.

Like Hebden, I wondered whether the service (or lack thereof) was linked some way to my outfit. After dressing up all week for a deposition, I decided that I wanted to dress down for the weekend, but I was by no means walking around in frumpy sweats. Not too shabby, right?

[Gap yellow t-shirt and black/white striped scarf (which I took off before walking into the store since it was too warm), Michael Kors leather hoodie, assorted silver rings from Etsy, BCBG satchel, Fins Denim jeans (sure, I got them for $10, but the fit is great, and they're just jeans!), black and white checkered Nikes]

I can understand that after a long day of work, and possibly one of dealing with many demanding customers, one would get tired. However, I felt that the sales associates were not just a product of weariness--I felt that the treatment I received was downright rude. When I was at the far smaller Barneys Co-op at the Grove (which is technically in Los Angeles and very close by), the salespeople were always energetic and friendly, notwithstanding the busier traffic. What a difference a zip code makes.

Although I really liked the skirt and it fits fine, the customer service was enough to make me not want to spend my money at that particular location. I hope that luxury retailers realize that a snooty attitude does not convey a very upscale image. If I am going to spend money at an establishment, I don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, but I should not have to feel like I have to "bother" sales associates in order to get them to do their jobs.


Weekday | Weekend: The Debut

Shopping is supposed to be fun, but it can be quite agonizing for many professional women. Committing to buy anything for "play" is never easy, particularly because spending money on something that won't be worn much (due to the lack of "play" time) is never a good thing.

I decided to start a new semi-regular feature called Weekday Weekend as a way to challenge myself to make as much use of all my clothing as I can. Whenever I shop these days, I ask myself a couple of questions: 1) How can I style this for work, where I spend most of my time? 2) Is it something I can wear when I go out? I generally don't have a whole lot of trouble turning weekend items into workwear, but it is a lot harder to turn some decidedly professional items (like blazers and suit skirts) into something more relaxed. Perhaps this might also serve as a lookbook for someone struggling with the same problems, or trying to make decisions about purchasing a particular item of clothing.

Today's edition features the rolled-sleeve shirt. This Converse One Star for Target shirt has the perfect fit and look--the sillouette is sharp, the fit is excellent (particularly given the price, which was well under $20 on clearance), and the rolled sleeves are neat with a bit of a safari vibe. The bottoned tabs on the sides keep the sleeves rolled up, but I think this look can be achieved with any other dress shirt as long as the cuffs are neat.

Weekday: Converse One Star for Target shirt, Forever 21 light fleece jacket, vintage lucite necklace made by me, synthetic chalcedony wire ring in seafoam green (also made by me), vintage pencil skirt, Max Studio shoes (no one wanted this at Loehmann's when it was on clearance some months ago, so naturally, they became mine for about $20).

Weekend: Converse One Star for Target shirt, Goldsign "Envy" jeans, Gryson for Target bag, Bloch London flats


Great Scot!

Plaid is quite popular nowadays, and its use in modern fashion has arguably drifted far away from the original significance (or bastardized, if you will). Nonetheless, I find it rather fascinating that something so historic retains it classic nature while lending itself to be reinvented in so many ways. During my New Year's Day shopping trip with a visiting friend (gosh, that was fun and a long time coming), I happened upon very interesting incarnations.

One of my Christmas gifts was an Express gift card. I don't shop there much anymore because the quality of the clothing has seriously declined, but once in a while, a standout emerges. The gift givers had included a $25 off $50 coupon, which was set to expire on 1/2, so I decided to try and make the most out of my gift card during the after-Christmas sales, before it was too late.

Since I'm still trying to diversify my outerwear collection, it wasn't difficult to choose how to use my gift cards. I picked up a tweed jacket, which works with slacks or a skirt for work and looks even better with jeans, and this plaid cropped peacoat. It seems to be edgy yet office-appropriate when paired with a demure pencil skirt and blouse, and it is definitely hot for the weekend. I wore this for a friend's birthday outing at L.A. Live last Friday.

[Express peacoat, Gap scarf, Goldsign jeans, Target bag (this is one $6 clearance gem that never gets old), thrifted pumps]

Before heading out to party that night, I wore a very tame outfit for work. The skirt was also purchased during my New Year's Day shopping trip. I definitely recognize that I have been spending a lot of money lately, but with the sales on higher-end goods being unbelievably good this season, I thought it would be a good move to take advantage of them. I doubt that the classic, high-quality cold-weather pieces I've been looking for will be so heavily discounted again.

My friend and I went to Saks Fifth Avenue, which my friend has not stepped foot in for quite some time. I already got a great deal once, so I decided to try my luck again. The last time I was there, I tried on and just fell in love with a simple white silk top that has a gorgeous cascade of ruffles at the armholes, but hoped it would be marked down even further later. Unfortunately, it is no longer there, but I did find something else equally intriguing and from the same collection. This Abaete "Tristana" skirt has beautiful pleats, a very classic yet dramatic contrast of black and white, and hidden pockets. My favorite feature is the off-centered cross design, which resembles a blow-up of the thick lines that make up plaid. Instead of paying $300 or even the discounted 3-digit price that I've seen for online stores, I snagged it for $50 including tax (60% off the marked-down price). Even though the day was quite cold and I didn't wear any tights, the skirt kept me from freezing. I absolutely love it, but if anyone plans on buying it for themselves, I recommend sizing it up--the waist is very tiny.

[Rebecca Beeson top, necklace designed by me, Forever 21 fleece bomber ($5!), Abaete skirt, Calvin Klein bow slingbacks]


Attention to Details

I know that it must be infuriating sometimes for you to squint to see the details in some pictures. I know I have been, but I didn't know how to fix the problem until now.

For months, I couldn't figure out why clicking on the pictures on the posts do not result in a pop-up of the full-size image the way it used to. I finally have some time to research the issue. Apparently rearranging pictures by the drag-and-drop method results in this problem. This problem can be worked around by cutting and pasting the HTML code; moving the code around physically is easy enough to do, but it takes a little longer to execute. I tried this out for pictures in the last 2 posts, and it works.

I'll probably continue using the drag and drop function in the interest of saving time, especially when the details are pretty clear-cut from the smaller-sized picture. However, for details that I think will be better appreciated in a blow-up, I'll make sure to undertake that extra editing effort.


Blinging in the New Year

As I'm wired from consuming too much of a stimulant following a night of imbibing a depressant (caffeine and ethanol, respectively), I figured that I should take a moment of wakefulness to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope that you had a great time celebrating and enjoyed a bit of respite afterwards.

I started 2009 with a few changes and tackled a few challenges, in addition to the usual year-opening commitment to living healthier, be more productive, and make more prudent choices. I spurred myself to do a few things that have long been on my to-do list. After months of not having time to visit the hair salon, I decided to try out a different haircut instead of playing it safe with what worked in the past. And after having amassed lots of fabric for projects that were planned but fizzled due to lack of time, I finally got around to making pillow cases for a couple of large cushions. It was a good sewing night tonight, since I finally got a better hang of adjusting the tension of the sewing machine and managed to gain a better understanding of how to make better button holes. I still need more fabric to make one more pillow case, but this is at least a good start. I certainly hope to improve my sewing skills this year, perhaps culminating in more sophisticated clothing projects.

As for my first outfit during the first normal business hours of 2009, I decided to take the plunge and work with a type of fabric that I wouldn't have chosen on my own under normal circumstances. When I shopped for Christmas gifts during J. Crew's online sale, I needed one more item to qualify for free shipping. I came across a gold lame shirt, which would have brought me just over the line to qualify for the shipping. Since it was on sale, and I saw potential as a layering piece worn open, I decided to buy it and see what I can really do with it. Since I wore a fairly standard party top for the New Year's Eve party, I decided to wear the shirt today to add a festive touch to a casual shopping/culinary sampling trip with a visiting friend. It's a very different kind of bling, and certainly not the easiest to work with, but I look forward to exploring more options.

[Outfit: Saint Grace hooded shirt, J. Crew gold lame shirt, Issac Mizrahi for Target cardigan, Marc by Marc Jacobs glittery bow ring, Goldsign jeans, Givenchy shoes, BCBG bag.]