Weekday/Weekend: Freedom of Movement

While I like flowy tops and outerwear, loose dresses usually do not suit my body type very well. It creates the illusion of a huge midsection. Somehow, Stella McCartney's signature loose look works for me. I feel like can move around freely, and even throw in a silly twirl or two. This is pretty important on busy workdays--after all, all work and no play turns Jane into one dull lass.

A casual dress with a pretty print makes dressing up literally effortless. The dress doesn't need accessories, though I usually throw in a simple necklace or two. A jacket instantly sharpens the sillouette for the weekdays. After putting on a pair of shoes, everything else is optional on the weekends.

[The feature: Stella McCartney silk tank dress from Barney's Warehouse Sale. Weekday: Development blazer, Modern Vintage pumps. Weekend: Sigerson Morrison sandals, F21 fleece bomber (for air conditioned interiors), secondhand bag from the last clothing swap, $1 3-rhinestone necklace from Robinson's May a long time ago.]


Dressed to the Nines (from Nine to Nine)

It is hard to work to really, really long hours. It is even harder to motivate oneself to dress up for it. However, I do believe that making a little bit of effort to look good does somewhat translate to feeling a little better and adopting a more serious demeanor to face the challenges of the day.

My workwear this past week consisted of a mix of loose, flowing dresses to fitted but stretchy pants, things that are sharp but decidedly comfortable. Most of the outfits could have swung to weekend mode, but a pair of pumps instantly makes them look office-ready. It's amazing what a difference a pair of shoes make.

Monday: I tried to start off the week by setting the right tone--a comfortable silk racerback tank dress with a fitted blazer. After much hemming and hawing as I was about to leave the Barney's Warehouse Sale last week, I'm really glad I stuck with the decision to buy this dress. The pretty bird and sailboat print and the silk fabric make the dress elegant, but racerback style and loose fit leave a decidedly casual mark. It certainly deserves its own Weeday/Weekend feature.

[Development blazer, necklace I received as a gift, Stella McCartney tank dress, Modern Vintage gray suede pumps.]

Tuesday: After wearing dresses for almost a whole week before, I decided to go back to wearing pants. The weather was sweltering, and the wildfires blazing in the surrounding mountains only add to the suffocating nature of the heat. Non-clingy cropped sleeves and cropped pants were in order.

[BCBG seersucker top, Calvin Klein silk anorak, Fashion Q cropped pants (really old, really cheap, and still alive and loved), Abaete for Payless pumps.]

Wednesday: Since I got home too late the night before to pick up my newly shortened pair of pants from the tailor shop, I decided to go get it first thing in the morning and promptly put it on. I took advantage of the Barney's Warehouse Sale to stock up on some high-quality dress pants, and I am happy I was able to find something. These Balenciaga cigarette leg dress pants are seriously the most comfortable pair of dress pants I own, beating out even wide-legged pants (which present tripping hazards). It was previously impossible to find something high-waisted and slim-legged without accentuating the hips too much or making my legs look like stuffed sausages, but these pants did the impossible. Best of all, I look really tall in them! It is definitely an article of clothing that I will reach for repeatedly to counterbalance loose blouses. The trims and other details are pretty awesome. Because these pants are so versatile, a future spotlight feature is warranted later on when I have the time for it.

[Calvin Klein printed blouse (with exposed zipper in the back), Thakoon for Target cardigan (one of my favorites at the moment), Balenciaga pants, Dolce & Gabbana mary janes, ring from Etsy.]

Thursday: In order to start my day efficiently, I headed to the office even before the crack of dawn. Dressing for the day in California has always been difficult, since it can be cold in the early morning, hot by mid-morning/afternoon, and chilly after the sun sets. Too lazy to think, I wound up doing a mashup of 2 outfits that I wore recently involving the same dressy t-shirt. Light and breathable layers of cashmere and wool kept me comfortable all day long.

[Ann Taylor Loft t-shirt with chiffon flowers, F21 cashmere-blend cardigan, Rick Owens wool pants (fooled people into thinking it was made of linen), Givenchy wooden sandals.]

Friday: I love living on the West Coast, but the downside is that I'm 3 hours behind East Coast time, hence another early start to my morning. Too lazy to come up with new outfit ideas, I went with the same chain necklace and faux pearls combo from the past weekend, albeit with a darker shirt this time. I could have just given up and wore jeans, but I decided to make an effort with the clothes and go a little crazy with the shoes instead. My strategy seemed to work--I had an efficient and productive day. The pic is a little different, since I was too lazy to stand in front of the camera when I got home, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to experiment with a photoshoot concept.

[Friday: Target dress shirt, Ben Amun chain necklace, faux pearl necklace made from beads on F21 tank top, Mike & Chris blazer, Vince pants, Pierre Hardy sandals.]


Classic Metal

When I was a student, I believed that I needed to start building a wardrobe of dress shirts for my impending entry into the professional world, even though I never liked wearing them. However, I overestimated the true need for these shirts, and most of them have been banished to the very corner of the closet. I've come to realize that I've been behaving somewhat like a kid who does not want to eat her veggies--the closet staples are good for me, and I should learn to embrace them instead of being wasteful and banishing them to a corner.

Part of my prejudice against dress shirts is the perception that it is too corporate, too preppy, too "classic," too stiff and uncomfortable. I'm trying to challenge myself to convert these shirts into outfits that I am comfortable with and fitting with my style. I started doing that on a very hot Sunday with a loose-fitting and light white shirt that I picked out from a Robinsons-May clearance rack for $7 a good number of years ago (I think 6-7 years ago), when I was still not completely versed in the art of finding a shirt that fits properly. I haven't worn this dress shirt in ages because it is too loose, but the looseness is perfect for a relaxed outfit on the weekend. Also, a conservative shirt allows me to wear less-than-classic pieces--shorts and my new sky-high Pierre Hardy sandals--without looking like a streetwalker. As a fan of color gradients and geometric forms, I just love the straps of the sandals--very edgy, but also ageless. A "modern classic," if you will. The back closes with a Velcro strap, which is an unexpected touch.

Pearls (real or faux) have a conservative bent, but I've always enjoyed designing jewelry by combining pearls and other materials to create sleek contemporary baubles. I don't have any time to design jewelry these days (though I hope to start making things again once an upcoming trial is over), but I do have time to wear them. Wearing pearls with a white shirt is a bit too classic for me, but juxtaposing pearls with a contemporary metallic piece results in a look I want to achieve--timeless, but seemingly ahead of time. A cauldron of contradictions.

[Valerie Stevens shirt, Ben Amun necklace, faux pearls that I took off of an F21 tank and converted into a long necklace, various rings from Etsy, Gap shorts, Pierre Hardy sandals.]


Rocking After Midnight

Last night/this early morning was boisterously fun, a kind of fun that I haven't had in a long time. My friends and I hopped from one party to another, but it's not the kind of party-hopping that would have happened in the earlier years. We're all grown up now, have complex and demanding jobs, and some starting families, so it's a lot different these days. Still, we put away our Blackberries (well, or at least I tried) for a few hours to enjoy good food, good company, and being loud and rowdy without repercussions (in the karaoke booth, that is).

It was hard to dress for two different events--one was a dinner/baby shower for a couple of friends at a family-friendly restaurant, the other was a birthday party at a karaoke club. Something more casual would have worked for the first event, but as one of my friends said, it was better to be overdressed than underdressed, particularly for the second event.

A blue knee-length skirt is unquestionably suitable for the family-friendly fest; a blue knee-length skirt made of leather is completely appropriate for late-night partying. Sandals covering the front of the foot with lots of leather and grommets are just perfect for any occasion. It took a while to find "the" jacket to complete the outfit, but black denim is just right--a little casual, a little tough. Bright silver jewelry polishes up the look.

My throat is still sore from belting out a little Patsy Cline here, a little Nirvana there. I don't have as much energy to stay out late these days, but last night was the first time in a while when midnight felt like 8 p.m.

[Max Edition mesh camisole (gift), Argento Vivo silver twist necklace, Joie denim moto jacket (from the Joie warehouse sale a good few years ago for a few bucks), thrifted leather skirt, Forever 21 dome ring (which I've been wearing rather frequently), Giuseppe Zanotti sandals (from the Barney's Warehouse Sale yesterday).]


The Barney's Warehouse Sale (the second time around)

The Barney's Warehouse Sale has moved from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica out to the LA Convention Center. A lot of people don't like the move, with the parking situation being the main complaint. To be sure, the parking is no longer free, since parking rates anywhere in Downtown LA do not come cheap...unless you know the area well and can find a spot gratis on a safe side street. However, it is closer to me now, and it is also more accessible by public transportation if one is going to browse and do not expect to walk off with a lot of merchandise. Another thing I like is the big changing area with mirrors, which definitely helps.

Shopping is fun, and great deals certainly can be had at the warehouse sale. But if one is not careful, buyer's remorse may ensue and a lot of money would go down the drain needlessly. To be a savvy shopper at these sales, one needs to go in with a plan and lots of discipline. The basic question is, "what do I want out of the sale?" If one goes in with the mindset of a casual shopper, picking up whatever piques the interest, that's perfectly OK as long as there's a sound budgetary limit. It still helps to get an idea of what is needed and what is wanted. Some people are glad to have the opportunity to get designer fashion at a more accessible price. There are plenty of labels out there at much lower prices than they would otherwise be, but much of it are not things that would wind up with a low cost-per-wear ratio. That leads to the second consideration, which is the value one is likely to get out of the purchase. That definitely helps with the narrowing process in terms of deciding ultimately what to take home. Since the warehouse sale is a final sale, there is no going back to the store to return or exchange.

Personally, I view a sale like this as an opportunity to invest in some high-quality, wearable statement pieces. I went to this year's sale with some idea of what I wanted to get (more work pants, and some cool shoes), though not a completely concrete idea because I didn't know what would actually be there. Even though it was a sale, it was still a Barney's sale, and thus the price was still going to be a bit on the steep side. If I was going to spend more money, I obviously want something that would be of good quality, comfortable, would not go out of style, but would also have some uniqueness to it. The last 2 criteria seemingly clash, but they do not have to. It is fairly common for me to wear some unusual pieces, but they are not so "out there" such that I would not be able to wear them regularly. If I want to buy something crazy, I'd opt for a regular cut but a crazy print/color, or an ordinary color but unusual drapery/details. Luckily, I had some experiences from the last sale to serve as a guide.

The only other time I've gone to this sale was last year (along with a follow-up visit), when I snagged a couple of pairs of Stella McCartney work pants and a couple of pairs of jeans. The work pants were a really big deal for me back then since they were especially splurgy for my fresh-out-of-school income level, but after wearing them so many times and getting compliments on them, I know that they look good and are of a good quality. Thus, I can safely conclude that I got a very good deal on them.

Having gone to one of these sales before, I returned with a better strategy. Some people go when the sale first started, since they want the best selection. I went the first week not so much to buy, but to browse and see if the sale had the pieces I want. If the answer is no, the buck stops there. If the answer is yes, but the prices are still too high (which turned out to be the case), I would return for a second visit during the final days of the sale, when I know that bigger markdowns would be applied.

I ended up going back there yesterday, since I had already scoped out a few pieces that I wanted. The shoes were what I was primarily after, and they were now 50% off the warehouse sale price. A few pairs of Pierre Hardy shoes, a pair of Giuseppe Zanotti grommet sandals, and a pair of Lanvin ankle boots with a mirrored heel particularly appealed to my inner rocker-chick--my job precludes me from having colorful streaks in my hair, but by gosh, I am going to wear shoes with attitude. I went through the rows, grabbed what I was after (and then a few more that caught my eye along the way), sat down, and tried them on. The process of trying on the single shoe for comfort and fit eliminated a lot of the candidates. It seems like Lanvin shoes in general are just not made for my feet; the boots hurt my pinkie toe as I walked a bit on the concrete floor. When I got the mates for the remaining shoes, the list got whittled down even further. One pair of sky-high Pierre Hardy sandals and the Zanotti grommet sandals were the last ones standing.

After getting the shoes, I walked off to go peruse the clothes. I did not get a chance to really go through the ready-to-wear section on the first go-around, so I spent more time there yesterday. I must say that I was rather disappointed--the discount was only 25% off, and much of the merchandise looked like they really belonged in the as-is section because the seams were ripped and buttons and other attachments were torn off. Ironically, the "designer" section had a 60% discount and much better deals. A Stella McCartney silk tank dress in my size was still there for under $100 (which was surprising, since the small sizes for something cute like that would usually be gone by now). It looked really sharp with the blazer I had worn earlier in the day for work, and I an definitely going to wear that ensemble to the office one of these days.

The items I initially wanted in the Balenciaga section ended up not looking quite as good on me as they did on the hanger, and as for the ones that did, they are still not good enough of a value upon further consideration. However, I did find the most comfortable pair of skinny-leg dress pants--the fit was just impeccable, and it really feels like a soft second skin without The Sausage Effect. The pant legs are a little long, but even after factoring in the price of tailoring, the price was well worth it. Admittedly, I did spend quite a bit of money at one sitting, but when all was said and done, I was within budget, everything I got was at least 80% off, and I am confident that they will be all worn for years to come (especially the pants).

Pics of the goods will come in due time, but I thought I'd post my experiences on the sale first in case anyone is thinking about going and wanted to know what to expect. The sale ends tomorrow.


Form, Function, and Fabric

It's hard to believe that we're already halfway through August; it seems like Summer had just begun. The daytime is still very hot, but the air rapidly cools down once the sun starts to set, enough for me to want to put on another layer. The question, of course, is which layer to choose. Knits and hoodies are too warm, and the very sheer pieces are a bit too light. What is just right?

I've never been a fan of windbreakers or anoraks--I do certainly appreciate the functional aspect (the light fabrics are just right for this kind of weather), but windbreakers or anoraks are often ill-fitting on my wispy frame, and as much as I like the sporty look, they are just too obviously athletic for my tastes. Luckily, I recently found something on the 70% off rack at the local Calvin Klein store that is as functional as it is pretty. The sporty form done up in a luxe silk fabric and tailored fit captured my attenion quickly. The color is pleasing to the eye, and the bright exposed zipper is a detail that I am a fan of.

The contrast of the form and fabric creates a middle ground between the casual and formal, just the way I like it. I've worn the jacket with shorts, I've worn it with jeans, I've worn it with slacks for work, and I've also worn it with leggings and high heels on the weekend. There are more ways to wear it, I'm sure...

[Casual Friday: Calvin Klein silk anorak, F21 t-shirt underneath, Paper Denim & Cloth jeans, Nike sneakers. Saturday Night dinner with friends: Calvin Klein silk anorak, Gap knit tank top, F21 leggings, Marc by Marc Jacobs bag and shoes, Tarina Tarantino bracelet.]


Weekday/Weekend--The Embellished T-Shirt

I try to distinguish myself in a suit-and-tie world by dressing a little less corporate, but no less professional. I just hate fussing with collared shirts. The dress shirts are saved for my suit days; I try to avoid them on days when I don't need a suit.

It might surprise some people to learn that a large percentage of tops I wear to work are well-fitted t-shirts. It makes perfect sense to me, actually--they're easy to take care of (just throw it in the wash and dry cycle), and a good t-shirt lasts quite a while. However, by no means do I just roll into the office with a t-shirt-and-jeans combo (unless it is Friday, in which case I usually wear a blazer with the t-shirt). I like to dress it up with accessories and add a few layers to diffuse the casual, commonplace look.

Most of my t-shirts are black or gray--simple, streamlined, and fairly discrete backdrops for blazers, cardigans, and skirts. My newest t-shirt, however, is anything but discrete. When I ran out of clothes in Arizona a couple of weeks ago, I had to go to the mall to get something quick. I just love the pretty lavender color, the delicate chiffon embellishments, and the fact that the t-shirt is still machine-washable even with that frontal floral arrangement. The t-shirt turned out to work perfectly with the cropped pants that I wanted to wear for work, and it is so pretty that no one would see the t-shirt as a t-shirt.

I've been told that purple is a good color for me. I don't dispute that, but purple can be an awfully difficult color to work with. A purple top looks terrible with black pants or with light-wash blue jeans, which can make it difficult to wear no matter if it is a weekday or weekend. It seems like cream, beige, and light brown are the colors that contrast quite well. The addition of another shade of purple, fuschia, or a dark blue ties it all together rather nicely.

[Weekday: F21 cardigan, Ann Taylor Loft t-shirt, secondhand Banana Republic khaki skirt, Giuseppe Zanotti Design slingbacks.

Although t-shirts are by definition casual wear, I find that an embellished t-shirt is much harder to wear on the weekends. Perhaps it is because my weekend style is far from girly. After piling on a lot of jewelry, an indigo cardigan, shorts and boots, the prettiness adopts a sassy attitude.

[Weekend: Ann Taylor Loft t-shirt, Thakoon for Target cardigan, Calvin Klein shorts, cuff with chain detail was a Christmas gift, multiple rings from Etsy, Bandolino boots]


Wool Over My Eyes

I spent much of the last week in hot weather, both at home and on the road. I had an unexpectedly long stay in Arizona, where it was 115 degrees every day. Looking professional and staying cool was something of a wardrobe challenge, especially when I expected only to be there one day and ended up staying for three.

By now, I've gotten pretty good at packing very few clothing items that could be mixed and matched should an extended stay become necessary. Too bad I didn't have any time to take any pictures of my actual outfits, but I think I can cobble together a description.

My go-to pieces are things that will not wrinkle despite much jostling around. The pretty and light blouse that I actually paid full price for from Target (about $20) is definitely worth the money spent--I wear it all the time, and it never wrinkles no matter the abuse (and I mean never). I wore this blouse on Day 1. You can see enough of the blouse from this older outfit of mine:

[Target blouse, Mike & Chris blazer, black pants from Ross, Bloch London ballet flats]

I also packed a pair black pants, which was worn on the first and last days. Yes, the weather is really hot, but you really can't go wrong with a pair of black pants because no one can tell you've worn the same pair of pants for a few days in a row. If you know that you will be in air-conditioned spaces for most of the time, it really won't be too bad.

My PJs double as an emergency change of daytime clothes. The top I brought to sleep in is comfortable, and definitely not a pajama top--it is an H&M cotton top with a ruffly collar and floral print. I wounded up wearing that top on the last day I was there.

The clothes that I wore to the airport the night before work started also serves as a backup outfit. I wore an Old Navy sleeveless tie-neck, tuxedo-front shirt, Marc Jacobs low-heeled "mouse" slingbacks (which I wore everyday), and my new Rick Owens cropped wool pants (which I got from The Outnet for 80% off). I ended up not wearing the Old Navy shirt again because it got too wrinkled (and I had no time to iron), but I did end up wearing the wool pants again on Day 2. Yes, you've heard right--wool pants in 115-degree heat.

It is actually not as loony as it sounds. I have a couple of pairs of lightweight wool dress pants that are very light and do not feel like wool at all; in fact, I get to wear them year-round because they stay cool in the summer but keep me warm in the colder weather. This new pair of pants was something I got as an alternative to linen pants--I wanted the lightness and the rough texture of linen without the propensity to wrinkle the minute it is worn. I also wanted something that was clearly office-appropriate but relaxed enough for the weekends. I test-drove the pants in a casual weekend outfit before the work trip. I felt like wearing earth tones that day and blended into the urban landscape:

[Forever 21 tank, my own Rock Paper Scissors necklace, Liz Claiborne bag, Rick Owens pants, Maison Martin Margiela shoes]

The "summer-weight" wool is just perfect. It was a hot day, but the fabric felt very breathable. The wide pant legs also make the pants very comfortable. When I wore the pants in 115 degree heat, I didn't feel remotely like I was going to fry. Who would have thunk that wool would be good for summer?

Since my Old Navy shirt was too wrinkled and my H&M shirt did not look right with the wool pants, I had to buy something for my Day 2 outfit, something that I can get a lot of mileage out of. Although I could have just gotten something really cheap from places like Charlotte Russe, I opted for an embellished tee in "Montana Grape", which I bought from Ann Taylor Loft. I love that a) it's essentially a t-shirt, so it was comfortable, b) it is machine-washable/easy to take care of, and c) the petals are just downright pretty and looks professional. It also does not wrinkle easily, which makes it an ideal candidate for travel.