Monday, March 30, 2015

Managing the 15 hour work day

We all have days when we have to work much longer hours than we'd like.  In my case, Mondays and Thursdays this quarter are going to be roughly 15 hour days for me.  Some of those days I'll be able to work from home for a few hours in the morning - so I will only have to spend 12 hours or so in the office.  Some days it will be all 15.

So, how do I make this work?  Well, obviously, step 1 if you are working mom is to make sure you have a good team to provide childcare!  And for 15 hours, it's a team.  :)  I'm still working on this one - wish me luck in finding a babysitter willing to work 6-11pm on a weeknight...

But what else? 
  • Not only is my day going to be 15 hours long, but for the last 3 hours, I need to be super high-energy and running around in front of a classroom, keeping students who have worked all day too from falling asleep while I teach them.  SO, for me, step 1 is comfortable shoes.  I think I can wear tall skinny heels with the best of them (well, the best of them in Boston anyway, OC does have a different scale), but for 15 hours? Nope.
  • Step 2 is taking a blogging break mid-afternoon.  :)  No one can be efficient for a full 15 hours.  I think the key is to recognize that and give yourself truly restful discrete breaks.  For me, 15 minutes of a true break and 45 minutes of truly working is just as refreshing as 1 hour of sort-of working sort-of not, and is much more efficient. 
  • Step 3 is getting the commute right. When you're working these types of hours, even 5 extra minutes can feel awful.  I drove in along PCH - a little slower, but beautiful and relaxing.  I took the extra time to park super close to the building, which I normally wouldn't do, because I know that at 10:30 pm it will be a relief to have a short (and safe and well-lit) walk to my car.  And tonight I will drive home on the absolute fastest route - I took one quarter to experiment and figure out exactly what that is. 
  • Step 4 is getting the caffeine use right!  :)  I need to make sure I drink a little to give me that great energy to truly work and concentrate and run around at 10pm, but not drink too much caffeine that I'll be wired at 11pm.  This one - it's probably going to take me a few tries to get right.  After all, I'm new to caffeine.  Wish me luck.
SO, this is my 15-hour-workday outfit #1.  Expect a whole series of them on Mondays and Thursdays for the next few months.  And expect Tuesdays and Fridays to be "the day after the 15-hour workday" outfits...  This might not be my most stylish quarter ever.  But it will probably be my most practical.

(Suit: J-crew factory, shirt: Banana republic, Fit note: The sleeve lengths on this shirt and jacket are perfect - this is exactly what you want if you are suit- or shirt-shopping and going for a classic suiting look, necklace: Target, belt: J-crew factory, Shoes: Style and Co. purchased from Macy's.  Chunky-heeled oxfords are one of my favorite categories of shoes for work - they are so comfortable - no pinching or rubbing or slipping - but still look professional. They do not look as good as some of those more painful shoes of course, but good enough for me for days like today.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A new necklace for a Saturday conference

I had an all-day conference at USC this weekend. The conference turned out to be terrific, and the USC campus is gorgeous.  I wore a cream blouse and my brown suit which are both work standards for me (though I haven't paired them together before).  But I also wore my new spike necklace.  It was fun to wear something a little edgy.

(Necklace: J-crew factory, Earrings: Ann Taylor Loft, Blouse: Express, Suit: J-crew from many many years ago, Shoes: Two Lips from Macy's)

Friday, March 27, 2015

White midi skirt, take 2

I followed your advice and paired the white midi skirt with a fitted top worn over this time.  What do you think?  I love this top - the color is great, and the detailing is fun but not distracting.  It's a funny poly fabric, but it's really comfortable and I like the look.

(Skirt: Esprit, gift from Sri Lankan relative, Top: Arden B. from years ago, Shoes: Aerosoles)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Daycare drop off

I often throw on a relaxed dress and sandals if I'm just going out to drop the kids off or run errands, once the weather warms up anyway.  

I also carry my small cross-body purse.  I can wear it as a shoulder bag, or cross body when I'm carrying a baby and kid gear. I looked for a spring/summer version while I was shopping yesterday but didn't find one, so I'm still searching.

I often don't photograph these types of outfits, but I figured I better start if I want to dispel the impression that I go out in yoga clothes!  :)  One of my pet peeves is moms who wear yoga clothes all the time.  At home - okay.  If you are going to excercise immediately before or after (or during) - okay.  But other than that, I don't think yoga clothes are appropriate.  Sometimes I almost feel peer pressure to wear yoga clothes or other workout wear to the park - so many moms do it.  I do think if you are truly running, jumping, and climbing with your kids, then it makes sense - that counts as a workout! :)  But many of the moms are just standing around chatting with other moms - you can really do that just fine in a pair of jeans, shorts, crops, ... really any number of quite comfortable items that are not yoga pants. 

What's your view on yoga clothes or workout clothes as everyday-wear?

(Dress: BCBGMaxazria through, a great site for heavily discounted designer clothing, sandals: Payless shoe source, purse: Rebecca minkoff.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Floral Pumps

When I first saw pictures of floral pumps, my reaction was that they were horribly hideous and only old ladies would ever wear them.  But then they started to slowly grow on me.  Some are still horribly hideous, but some are very pretty.  I do love color.

In terms of the pics I've seen online - my favorite styling of floral pumps is with ankle or rolled jeans.  However I pretty much never wear jeans with heels.  So I'm going to have to go another direction if I want to try this trend.

Plus, I'm just not that into florals.

So I like the floral pump trend, but not the florals, and not the main way of styling them...

I went shoe shopping today.  I went to DSW and saw a wide variety of styles in floral fabrics - pointy-toe pumps, dorsay pumps, open-toe pumps, strappy sandals, ballet flats, and even sneakers!  And in addition to florals, there were one or two "watercolor" shoes.  The watercolor pump is a nice variation on the floral pump - it is still colorful and has a similar feel, but without those flowers that just don't work for me.

I found a pair I loved the look of, and that seemed not too painful.  Watch for them in coming weeks.  I spent a little more than I really should for something that's so trendy and that will be so hard to wear and style.  But that just means that I'll try to wear them more!

And in the meantime, here are some of my favorite floral and watercolor pump pics from the Internet.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Wasn't Midi Skirt Week Fun?!

I really enjoyed Midi Skirt Week!  A few days of midi skirts was easy, but doing a whole week really forced me to get creative, explore my own closet, and explore different ways to wear midi skirts.  If you have ideas or suggestions for other posts, trends to try, or theme weeks, let me know!

And I still am hoping to make it to a store to try on more midi skirts, and other stuff.  If I do another shopping trip, I'll try to take some fitting room photos to share.  Let me know if there are other items you'd like me to try.

Casual Monday - spring break working style

Spring break at a University is usually a little more casual than other weeks.  Summer is the same way.  But I still want to dress somewhat professionally.  This is an example of my "Casual" work style. 

I've never owned navy shoes, and I've never missed them.  But I'm finding myself wearing these pants so often that I think I'm going to search for navy shoes now.  Wish me luck.  My current shoe shopping list is:
  • navy work shoes
  • floral/watercolor pumps (very trendy, so don't want to spend too much)
  • block-heel nude/beige/light-brown sandals
  • nude or gold ballet flats or up to 1" wedges (that can work with dresses)
  • black chunky-heeled ankle boots (these were on my winter list and I never found them, but I know I'll want them next winter too, so they'll stay on the list even though they are out of season.  A lot of times the best deals are on out of season items anyway.)
 (Top: super old and the brand doesn't seem to exist anymore.  But it's worth pointing out that this is a size Medium Petite.  Sometimes I have good luck with petite sizes given my short torso, and larger sizes for more fitted/stretchy items where I don't want it to be quite as tight (esp. across my chest).  Pants: Reiss, Shoes: Enzo Angiolini from Nordstroms, Blazer: J-crew factory.)

Midi Skirt Week! Day 7, Midi with flats

I had two main activities today:
1. Had a couple and their toddler over for a casual brunch at our place.  That meant a lot of running around with toddlers, playing upstairs (no shoes allowed), etc.  I was barefoot for a lot of that, so I decided to take a pic of myself in the dress barefoot.  :)
2. Went on an Easter egg hunt at a local park.  This meant running around on grass with a toddler.  Flats required.  I tried the dress with two pairs: Flat sandals and ballet flats.  The ballet flats are more flattering given the lack of ankle strap, but I wore the sandals anyway because the sandals are more comfortable for truly running around.  I have decided to get a pair of reasonable-quality gold or nude ballet flats (ideally peep-toe) for spring/summer though - I think they will be useful for outfits like this. 

Overall I really enjoyed wearing this dress for a casual weekend day.  It was flowy and pretty, and the flats dressed it down enough that I still felt appropriate.  I would have been severely overdressed among the crowd I was spending time with if I had worn heels, even my wedges or chunky heels.  And I found the length to be much better for sitting on the ground with the kids, running around, etc., than a shorter dress.  I think I will be wearing this dress in this way much more often now, and possibly even looking for one or two more like it.  I know hubby would be happy if I replaced my maxi dresses.  Also - no bra!!  Yay for being able to go bra-less!  :)

(Dress: at least a decade old, from a random store in/near San Jose CA, shoes: sandals Kelsi Daggar and silver flats Walmart, Earrings: gift from mother in law, cardigan: Express (I think - I'll double-check that next time I wear it...))

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Midi Skirt Week! Day 6, weekend wear

These minimal strappy nude wedges are pretty much the most flattering shoes to wear with a midi skirt for day-time, other than the office. The wedge helps to make the shoe just a bit more casual and day-appropriate in my opinion, but the shoe is still very sleek and refined.  The heel is high, and the straps don't distract at all from the leg line.  The shoes basically make the exposed part of my legs, below the skirt, look a good 50-60% longer than if I were wearing flats or something like the olive booties I wore a few days ago.

This outfit felt very comfortable, bright, and fun to me, but still a little dressy (as L-- described it, "medium").  My lifestyle doesn't make this type of outfit appropriate very often, but I will definitely find a few occasions to wear it this spring and summer.    

The t-shirt is just a little thinner than I'd like, and I probably should have ironed it, but I would totally be willing to wear it out like this.  The fit of the t is just right - loose/blousy enough, but still close to the body.

(Skirt: A gift from a Sri Lankan or Indian relative - I can't quite remember - which I've kept in a drawer in the hopes that I'd figure out a way to wear it, T-shirt: Old Navy, Belt: The fabulous hand-me-down collection - same belt I wore on day 4 with the pencil dress, but with the end hanging instead of tucked for a more casual feel, Shoes: Bandolino from DSW (Bandolino tends to fit well for my slim feet - the brand tends to have a nice slimmer-than-average but not full-out narrow-width fit - and because the fit is unusual the shoes often end up on sale or at DSW))

Friday, March 20, 2015

Midi Skirt Week! Day 5

I love the pairing of a midi skirt and ankle boots, even though it's horribly leg shortening. My meeting schedule this week didn't really allow for ankle boots to the office though - it's a different look than pumps.  But just so you can see, I paired the two side by side above.  (The lighting isn't the best in those photos, but you get the idea.)  And yes, I stand differently when I'm wearing chunky-heeled ankle boots and a leather jacket than when I'm wearing pointy-toe pumps and a blazer.  :)

This skirt is one of the soft stretchy fabrics that's really popular right now.  It curves over my hips but I got it in a larger size (4) so that it's not too tight over my hips and butt, to avoid the lumpiness that can occur with these super stretchy fabrics.  And this fabric is oh so comfortable and cozy. If you aren't lumpy, totally go for that smaller size and show off your (smooth) curves! 

This is the length midi skirt that I would recommend for most women this season.  It's long enough to be clearly midi, but it is short enough to still be very flattering.  A more flowy or full skirt can go a couple inches longer and still look good.  But I honestly think very few women can pull off the below-calf midi length.  Even the most beautiful women look shorter and wider wearing that length.  If you are okay with looking shorter, then it's a cute style to wear, but let's face it - most of us want to look taller and thinner rather than shorter and wider.

Tomorrow I'll share some pics of myself in a midi skirt that's about 3" longer than this one. If you're going for the longer midi, I recommend one that cuts *just* below the calf, like the one I'm going to share tomorrow. 

(Skirt: Halogen, from Nordstroms, top: Vince Camuto, from Nordstroms, Cami: Spanx! from Nordstroms, Belt came with skirt, Shoes: Ann Klein from Macy's a long time ago, Booties: Kenneth Cole from the Kenneth Cole outlet, Leather jacket: from one of those leather stores that used to be in the mall (used to be a great place to get high-quality leather goods with a reasonable price tag, but I don't think they exist anymore), blazer: Max Edition from Filene's Basement ages ago)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Midi Skirt Week! Day 4, the midi pencil dress

If pairing skirts and tops sounds like too much work for you, a midi-dress is a great option.  There are a lot out there right now, including structured pencil dresses and flowy fit and flares.  I will admit that this dress is just barely "midi" on me, but it gives you an idea for what a midi pencil dress can look like.  You've seen me wear this before, once without a belt, and once with a belt, both paired with black shoes.  These taupe (my version of a "nude" given my darker skin tone) pumps are much more leg-lengthening, and I felt the lighter-colored belt and shoes helped to make the dress feel more spring-appropriate. 

There are also a lot of great dresses out there that look like a skirt and top, but which are one piece.  These are ideal for a time- and energy-strapped working mom.  See this post for a knee-length example: A made for me work dress.

(Dress: Roland Mouret for Banana Republic. They have a great black pencil skirt (on sale for $44.50) made out of the same fabric which was clearly inspired by their Roland Mouret collaboration. Shoes: Christian Louboutin from Neiman Marcus - yes, I splurged on these.  Belt: part of my fabulous hand-me-down belt collection from my mom - purchased by my dad in Argentina and made of butter-soft leather.)

ALSO, the easiest midi pencil skirt to pair is a black midi pencil skirt.  In addition to that one from Banana Republic above, I found a super-sale black midi skirt from white house black market for $19.99, and you can use extra coupon codes for more of a discount!  It's a crazy good deal and probably won't last long, but they usually restock from returns every once in a while, so it's worth checking again if they're out of your size at the moment. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Midi Skirt Week! day 3, a casual midi-skirt outfit

Today is a "work from home" day - I really only go out to drop the kids off at daycare and run a few errands.  So I am going to try some more casual midi-skirt options.

Chunky-heeled or wedge sandals are great for more casual midi-skirt-wearing, in my opinion.  The block heel or wedge is more casual, but you still get the leg-lengthening effects of a heel.  I also prefer fuller skirts for casual wear.  Some ladies look fabulous in a below-calf tube midi with a casual white t tucked in, but you have to have a really amazing figure to pull that off, and I don't have it - I searched a little, and I think there was pretty much only one lady on the entire Internet who pulled it off really well.  ;) 

With this outfit, I am sort-of pretending that my hips are my waist.  This outfit would work better with a skirt that fit my waist nicely.  But this skirt is a couple sizes too big (it was a gift).  I decided to go with it anyway, and I think it worked.  I felt casual and comfortable, breezy.  I loved how the skirt swayed around my legs as I walked (in and out of Walmart), and I had no worries about my skirt flying up to reveal my underwear when the ocean breeze blew.  To me, this has a similar functionality and casual ease as a maxi dress.

Do you have any other ideas for how to wear this skirt?  It is such a pretty skirt, but the fact that it sits at my hips is making it tricky to style... 

(T-shirt: Old Navy banded-bottom t worn tucked in (also fabulous for nursing given the elastic neckline), Skirt: Esprit, gift, Shoes: Payless shoe source!  I was desperate for a block-heel sandal a couple years ago when they were *just* starting to be popular again, but they were super hard to find in stores, so I got this pair.  They are cheap, so I'm on a hunt for a better pair of block-heel sandals this year.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Midi Skirt Week! day 2

To get a really nice slim look on a pencil skirt, it needs to be tight and a little hard to walk in.  This is by far my favorite pencil skirt because of the shape at the bottom and back.  The back is made of 6 pieces of fabric, all perfectly cut to create that amazing coming-in-below-the-butt and flare out at the bottom, and a little bit of a U-shaped hem in the back.  The flare at the bottom makes it easier to walk in than other no-vent midi pencil skirts, and it just looks good.  The fabric is also nice with the subtle herringbone - it works as a grey, but is a little more interesting.

You can see how these pumps are also way more leg lengthening because the grey color is more neutral than yesterday's black, and there are no ankle straps to cut the leg line. (The heel is also a tad higher.)

Finally, the tailored top worn untucked is more flattering to my short torso. For most of you, it's more important to lengthen legs rather than torso, so yesterday's high-waist tucked-in look will work better.

(Skirt: Forever 21 from a long time ago, Shirt: Express size XS - most of the Express button-downs you've seen me wear lately were size S, which are really too large for me.  Getting the right size makes such a big difference.  Shoes: Sergio Rossi from DSW (I got *really* lucky on these.  I've watched out for another deal like it ever since and haven't seen anything close.)
Oh, and it's a coincidence that I'm wearing green on St. Patrick's day - I forgot - or it was my subconscious which remembered.  I also dressed little girl in green, so maybe subconscious?  :) )

Midi Skirt Week! Midi skirt shopping

I've done some more online browsing in the last couple of days, to get a feel for what's out there this season in terms of midi skirts.  I checked: White house black market, Express, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft, Limited, Zara, Mango, New York and Company, Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Target, Macy's, Nordstrom's.
  • Gap and Old Navy are doing a very sloppy casual (boho?) take on the midi.  Everyone else is going more polished. 
  • It looks like there are a lot of great midi pencil skirts in all sorts of solids and prints.  Almost every store had some.  Many do not have vents, especially the cheaper ones, to help create a super-slim look, but are instead made of stretchy fabric so you can still walk.  I've had several skirts like that over the years and loved them - my main warning is to make sure the fabric is thick enough to be forgiving and/or that the skirt is lined (with a stretchy lining).  Otherwise I know on me - a very stretchy very tight skirt makes me look lumpy.  I recently returned a skirt to WHBM for that reason.
  • The super-full circle skirts (very 50's) that are "in" from a high fashion perspective (check the last couple issues of Vogue) do not seem to have hit any stores or lines below about $400 per skirt, not even Zara or Mango.  I don't know if they will show up in a few months, or if these stores have decided that they are just too hard to wear.  The mainstream versions seem to be either more A-line skirts, pleated skirts (either narrow chiffon pleats or wider cotton or silk-look box pleats), or shorter knee-length full/circle skirts.  (And I do agree that the midi full circle skirt in a stiff fabric is hard to wear, and will look odd in most places (outside New York, Paris, Milan, and a few other cities), but it is such a cute and dramatic look that I'm a little sad I won't be able to buy myself one at a low price.  They are *very* similar to what my mom used to wear back when she was young though - so maybe she still has a few around.  :)  )
Here are a few of my favorites based on pics online, and I think these cover the full spectrum of what's out there right now:

This one ($59 full price, and they usually do sell at full price), from Zara's midi skirts (they have others that are nice - A-line and pencil):
This one ($110 full price - but they always have coupons) from WHBM, and they have it in petite, (even regular probably wouldn't be midi length on me, but I'm guessing it would be just barely below the knee on someone with more normal length legs, which would be the most flattering way to wear the style anyway):
This one ($98 full price - but they have occasional 40% off full price sales) from Banana Republic.  This would be more flattering on a lot of women than the tight pencil or the full circle skirt, but is still elegant, versatile and current.  It will look way better on a woman with hips/curves than it does on the model (and just as bad on me as on the model).  I love this color as a spring neutral. 

There were also several nice looking ones, both pencil/tube and fuller skirts, from Target's skirts. However I couldn't get the pics to work on the blog.  Target had some especially great prints, and obviously lower prices.  It would probably be worth going to the store to see quality first-hand though - it is Target.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Friday shopping

I took a couple of hours Friday afternoon to go to the mall.  I basically have 3 options for mall shopping near me - South Coast Plaza which is world famous for it's high-end stores and is an actual tourist destination for Asian shopper/travelers, Fashion Island which has mid-to-high-end stores and is sunny, open and outdoors, and just super "OC" (the department stores are Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdales, the mall shops include several high-end-yoga-wear stores, and most of the women are wearing heels, highlighted blow-outs, and fake boobs), and a super-cheap low-end mall which is just a tad ghetto.  I decided to go to the ghetto mall.  :)

DSW has restocked the BCBG Paris Darron pump!!!  I love love love this pump.  It is so gorgeous.  They have it back in the black that I own, as well as other colors.  It is so cool looking with the straps and studs, but still so leg-lengthening because the straps are a neutral.  It is almost as gorgeous as the Valentino Rockstud pumps, but less than 1/10th the price.
(From a recent post, here's the Darron on me:

AND, they have flats (Annia)! I only found these online, not in store, but I had been hoping BCBG would come out with something like this.  But I still have to decide if I want these. I love the heels, but I'm not sure how much I would wear the flats...  Usually when I'm wearing flats I want comfort and convenience - but I do love my ankle-strap flats and get a good amount of use out of them for work and toddler b-day parties.

I also ventured into Sears and JC Penney, which I hadn't done in years.  I have a few items in my closet from those stores which I love.  I have to say, the quality was pretty awful at both stores.  But there were a few cute things in the juniors' departments.  I ended up buying one pretty/cute top, in a gorgeous color, for $5 from Sears.  I can accept low quality when it looks good and costs only $5.  If I get 2 wears out of it, I'll be happy.

And I found kids' clothes!  It's hard to find nice skinny-fit pants for toddler boys and, really, who is going to dress their sons in regular-fit pants?  ;)  I had never seen this store before, but there's a store called Crazy 8 that is apparently owned by the same parent company as Gymboree.  The clothing was quite a bit less expensive.  I think the fabrics are cheaper (Crazy 8 is to Gymboree as Old Navy is to Gap), so they probably won't last as long, but I decided to buy a few items anyway - skinny fit toddler boy pants are hard to find at any price point!

Midi Skirt Week! day 1

So this is not the best angle for taking photos of midi skirt outfits, but we'll just accept it.  :)

My friend, and one of my three readers, K--, asked my opinion on midi skirts a couple weeks ago, and I decided to do a full week on them.  :)  The weather has gotten nice and spring-like, it's finals week so I don't have to teach, and it just seemed like the right time. 

Midi skirts have come in and out of style a few times over the last few decades.  Each time they are slightly different.  The last time they were in, they were in the form of pencil skirts.  While that is not the current trend, it's always office appropriate, and not strictly out of style. Plus I already own several!  So I'm going to start with these.
  • Midi skirt length:  Midi skirts can be flattering even on a shorter person.  Midi skirts can range in length from just below the knee to a few inches above the ankle.  The shorter you are, the closer you should have it to just below your knee.  That leaves more leg showing below, and is leg lengthening. 
  • Shoes: You should also *always* wear midi skirts with heels.  Pointed toes also help elongate the leg.  The ankle straps on these shoes are *not* elongating, but I figure I have enough calf to go for it.  Neutral colors are the most elongating.  I will wear a variety of shoes with my midi skirts this week, so you can see how differently they affect my leg-length-look.  
  • Waist: One of my favorite things about the current midi-skirt trend is that it is all about high-waist midi skirts.  This isn't super great for me, but I can make it work.  It is great for shorter women who want to wear midi skirts, and for longer-torso women (which is the majority of the population).  The high-waist skirts are again leg lengthening, plus they allow you to define your waist.
Other tricks: This skirt has vertical piping, which is also slimming.  The skirt's fabric and fit are a little thicker than ideal for my current weight - I bought this when I was a little heavier - but it still works.  For the most flattering midi pencil skirt, you want a fabric that is thick enough to be forgiving, but thin enough to avoid adding bulk, and you want it to come in below your butt and hips.  If it doesn't have a kick pleat to walk, then either it's too loose, or you can't actually walk.  :)  (I have one like that - it looks amazing, but I have to take itty bitty tiny steps.)

Watch for more Midi Skirt Week outfits as the week goes on.  :)

(Skirt: Halogen, Nordstroms, shirt: Ann Taylor from years ago, belt: super cheapo belt that came with a juniors top that I have since gotten rid of - but the belt is useful!, necklace: Macy's, shoes: Enzo Angiolino from Nordstroms and on clearance at Nordstroms Rack now.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ann Taylor

It's actually quite difficult to inconspicuously take selfies in a rose garden, but I gave it a shot.  This rose garden is in the middle of campus, and I visit at least once a month during the school year and at least once a week in the summer.
A better pic of the outfit:
Little girl was sick, so this was my "I may have to dash from the meeting to my car and then care for a sick toddler without getting to change, but I still want to look good" outfit.

I recently wandered into an Ann Taylor, for the first time in years.  I walked in, noticed a lot of black and grey suits (blazers, pants, and knee-length pencil skirts), basics like button-down shirts in white and light blue, and a few cardigans and dresses.  The colors were all muted, and the fits looked flattering but conservative and just a bit old (like higher rises than I think a 30-something should really be wearing, while not stylishly high-waisted). I really didn't deviate from the center isle as I walked towards the back of the store, although I did do a stop in the shoe department - the shoes were a bit more stylish in my opinion than most of the rest.  Then, just as I was hitting the very back of the store, a lone red blazer jumped out at me.  Really, I'm pretty sure it leaped off the rack and shouted "Look at me!  I was made for you!"  It was the wrong size, but a helpful saleswoman figured out that we could order the right size online and have it shipped to me free.  And here it is.  

There are some additional interesting looking items on the website, but my local store didn't seem to stock any of them.  I'll give them another chance when spring items come in though - given that the spring items online look so promising.

Overall, based on this visit, I think Ann Taylor is a good store to check out if you are in need of basics - a new black suit, some new basic button-downs, etc.  It's also good for work shoes that are stylish but reasonably priced.  I didn't purchase any, so I can't speak to comfort or quality.  I love my new red blazer, but I think it is an exception - Ann Taylor is probably not the place to go if you are looking for a stand-out statement piece.  If you do shop at Ann Taylor, watch out for fit.  They carry petites and talls, which is great, and they have a wide range of sizes.  I am wearing a 4p above, so someone as much as 3 sizes smaller than me (down to 00p) would be able to get a good fit.  But, while the clothing looks well tailored and of a good quality (nice lined wools for example), it will easily tend towards being just a a tad too big, "forgiving," and old for 30-somethings like us, unless you are careful.  I would recommend always trying on a size or two smaller than you think fits, just to see - chances are that it will fit as well, and look a little younger.

Oh, and I had to show you the photo of this blazer on the website, because it is *awful*! 
I think creative styling is required for some of the Ann Taylor items.  Reviewers of this jacket uniformly hated the sleeve length - in between a full sleeve and a 3/4 sleeve.  I loved it, because I immediately imagined wearing a full-length shirt sleeve sticking out, or wearing a statement bracelet or watch with it.  And wearing the red blazer with the matching red skirt?!  Ugh.  Unless you are 60, in which case - fabulous!  :)  I am totally going to be the 60-year-old wearing the red suit.

(Blazer: Ann Taylor, on sale here in petite and here in tall, white button-down shirt, Ann Taylor from about 10 years ago!, pants: Express columnist pant, belt: Banana republic (I'll take a better pic of it another time - it's a cute dotted calf hair), shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo, from Filene's Basement.  I love and use these shoes so much that I am actually starting to contemplate buying full-price or almost full-price Ferragamos...  I'm not quite ready for that, but the idea is starting to play around in my brain.)