Thursday, April 30, 2015

White distressed denim - a DIY experiment

Inspiration photos:

I love this look - white distressed skinny jeans, preferably slightly cropped.  But while I am willing to spend a lot on a good classic pair of jeans (like my Frame skinny jeans), white distressed cropped skinnies do not fall into the category of "classic."  And my two favorite pairs on the market are J brand and Frame, and both sell for about $200.

SO, I decided to buy a pair from Old Navy and distress them myself.  Here are my results, I will say that I am super happy with one leg, and unhappy with the other.  But I learned a lot, and honestly the jeans were so cheap that if I find myself wearing them a lot and wishing I'd done a slightly better job, I might just buy another pair and try again.  :)

I also realized something else super interesting.  I'm pretty sure the threads aren't packed in as densely on the cheaper old navy fabric, so even if I cut just right, I won't be able to get the same look as the j-brand jeans.  Isn't that interesting?  Well, I'm still not willing to pay an extra $180 for that j-brand look, so I will settle for my low-thread-count imitation.  :)


You can see that these jeans are slightly distressed already.  But in my view they are not enough.  The distressing is subtle enough that it's not clear if that's the style, or if I just got a hole in my jeans.

I looked up a few youtube videos on how to distress jeans, and followed the instructions.  It turns out by far the hardest part is getting the cuts to run parallel to the cross-leg threads.  I failed a few times, which led to some awful looking gaping holes, instead of that cool look where the threads cross the holes.  Oops.  So I had to try and "fix" it by distracting from the awful looking gaping holes.  I made myself feel a little better about my "Oops" holes by looking up more designer denim that has gaping holes.  Actually, my Frame inspiration pair does too.  But it still wasn't my original target, so it might take a little getting used to. 

I think it needs a little more distressing at the knees, but I don't want to overdo it my first time.  I already did more than intended with that botch plus the fix.  I'm going to wear these as is once or twice, and then see what I want to do to them.

So, my first DIY distressed jeans - we'll call them a draw, not quite a success and not quite a failure.  I'll post more pics, and people's reactions, when I actually wear them out.  :)

Toss on and go - easy jeans outfits

I tend to post work outfits most often.  But I often just toss a pair of jeans and a top on, pair a practical (but sometimes cute) pair of ballet flats with it, and go.  I thought I'd post a few of my easy toss-on-and-go jeans outfits.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Claire-inspired outfit #4 - the belted peplum jacket

I never would have tried belting this jacket if not for Claire Underwood's wardrobe, but her fitted peplum jackets, occasionally belted, inspired me to give it a try.  I love it!  I feel so sexy and powerful, yet still professional.  This outfit is also more neutral than my usual, but I do love a good black and grey combo.  My "color" in this outfit is probably my cream top.  :)  This outfit reminded me how much I love black and grey, without those hits of color.  Living in such a sunny place, I slowly started wearing more and more color.  It's nice to reset a little bit.  I will never go to an entirely neutral wardrobe like seasons 1 and 2 Claire, but it is good every once in a while.

What I've learned from this week:
Dressing like Claire feels good.  I feel sexy, powerful, strong...
Dressing like Claire is a bit tiring for the feet.  :)  As much as I love my heels, well wow - 4" pumps every day?
And, trying to dress like Claire makes me pull out all of my most expensive clothing.  That's just how it is.

(Jacket: Zac Posen, Sweater: Banana Republic, Skirt: Express, Belt: White house black market, Shoes: Sergio Rossi)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Claire-inspired outfit #3 - If Claire wore pants...

If Claire Underwood wore pants, they would clearly be black, grey, or navy.  She would have perfectly matched heels.  She would probably pair them with a fitted button down, in white or a men's shirting fabric.  And she would wear a fabulous belt - either the exact same color as her pants, or a clearly contrasting (but still neutral) color.  In terms of fit, I think she would either go for an obvious wide-leg (which is what I went for), or a very fitted pair - nothing in between for her.

So this is my version of "If Claire wore pants."  Her belt wouldn't be leopard print, but I think the colors and fit could all work for her... 

(Suit: Ann Taylor, Shirt: Martin and Osa, Shoes: Enzo Angiolini from Nordstroms, Belt: Ralph Lauren)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Claire-inspired outfit #2

Fitted cap-sleeve pencil-dress, fitted blazer over, and actual Louboutins - all Oh So Claire!  Not Claire: A bit more color than she'd go for, though maybe by season 4 given the extra color in season 3...  :) 

I've been eying these Felicity and Coco pencil dresses on the Nordstrom website for almost a year now.  When this purple one went on sale one day, I jumped on it (and sure enough, it was sold out when I looked again the next day).  I figured worst case it wouldn't work and I'd return it.  The picture online made the purple look a bit pale and light, which I was nervous about, but the color was much richer in person.  The dress is definetely tight!  And it is unlined.  But the fabric is thick, and I put my Spanx tank on underneath to add a little extra lining-like layer up top.  Overall, it turned out to be great.  The zipper bunches a little on me, with my short torso, but that's a very normal problem for me.  And of course, the below-knee-length isn't actually below-knee on me, thanks to my long legs plus short torso.  But at least it is at-the-knee, which is not bad. 

Now I'll be keeping an eye out for additional sales.  I'd love to get one of these in grey.  And when it warms up a bit, I'll wear it without the blazer!  There is really great seaming detail on the dress which doesn't show in these pics, but I'll make sure to capture it next time.

(Dress: Felicity and Coco pencil dress from Nordstroms, Blazer: Filene's basement from ages ago, Shoes: Christian Louboutin Simple Pumps, from Neiman Marcus) 

Claire-inspired outfit #1

A well-fitting black pencil dress with origami detailing?  Definitely Claire.  Simple minimal accessories?  Also Claire.  Grey 4-inch heels?  Claire.  Not Claire: Bright pink belt and the snake-print on the shoes (and of course the lack of red soles).  What can I say?  Black on black on black, as stylish as it can be, just isn't me. 

Channeling Claire Underwood

I recently finished watching the third season of House of Cards on Netflix. As with each of the other seasons, I was left wishing I had Claire Underwood's wardrobe, and was half as fit as she is.  I can work on the fitness, but I will never be able to afford an entire closet of designer dresses, Louboutins, and high-end designer bags.  Still, I can take a little inspiration from her costume design.

One thing I loved about Claire's wardobe in season 3 is that, while it remained strong and powerful as in seasons 1 and 2, it added a little color.  Claire branched out from her usual black, grey, navy, and white, to include dark rich purple and burgundy shades. 

Here's a fabulous pinterest page of Claire Underwood pics:  And some pics taken from random places on the web, but mostly

I love her use of pencil dresses and skirts, button-down shirts, and of course high heels.  She also looks amazing in A-line and flared dresses, which I know I would not look quite as good in.  She makes great use of peplums to help make her tight/body-con outfits look just a bit less tight.  And I really love how she occasionally pulls out her amazing glasses.  I often feel like I have to wear my contacts to look stylish, but I know I bought my glasses specifically because they seemed stylish and flattering to me.  I should really allow myself to wear them out in public every once in a while.

We also saw her in casual clothes a couple of times this season.  Of course, one of her casual outfits was a chic pencil dress with louboutin knee-high boots and a knee-length coat.  But that's just how she rolls.  We did get to see her in a pair of flat oxfords, a button-down and sweater over, and I think perhaps even jeans?  Couldn't find a picture of that one.

So, given my recent binge, I'm going to post a few Claire-inspired outfits over the next few days.  Of course, given that this is me, I will incorporate more color. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cropped pantsuit again, different shoes

I think my best shoes for this suit are the black pointy-toe pumps, but the truth is - they're a little painful.  And given that I'm teaching at the end of a very long day these days, I don't want to wear painful shoes.  These aren't exactly ballet flats or sneakers, but they are more comfortable than the black pumps.  So I decided to try pairing the suit with these instead.  What do you think?  I think it works.

And also, yay elbow patches!! :)

(Suit: J-crew factory (a fairly thick/rough wool but fully lined), blouse: Old Navy, Shoes: Franco Sarto from DSW, belt: a super old reversible leather belt)

Friday, April 10, 2015


I can hardly believe I'm posting pictures of myself in swimsuits.  But I've realized this is a big dilemma for a lot of women, particularly past our teens and early twenties.  I am using my usual somewhat-slimming mirror in the pics up above - I don't think I could do this with a regular ol' non-warped mirror.  :) 

I spend a lot of time at the beach.  That means a lot of time on the sand, a lot of time wading in and out of the water filling buckets for the kids, or wading just a foot or so into the water holding a toddler so they don't get swept into the ocean, and a little bit of time actually submerging myself in the water.  While some people are completely comfortable doing all that in an itty bitty bikini, I am not.  And while I love board shorts for how practical they are, I feel very "mommy" wearing them - they really aren't very stylish.  So I wanted to find swimsuits that are cute and stylish, and that I would feel comfortable wearing without board shorts over.  I'm not completely sure that's possible, but here are pics of my 3 best attempts.  I have found that I use these suits a lot, and so far I've gotten compliments every time.  I suspect that there are a lot of people who wish they could find modest, practical, but still cute or stylish suits.

The coral one with little polka dots is Old Navy from a couple of years ago.  It actually has a control lining, a little like the Miracle Suits but a cheaper version.  The ruched part can be pulled up or down - I pull it down enough to be skirt-like, but it can also be higher if one prefers.  They had similar suits for several years, but I don't see one this year yet.  If you're willing to spend a little more, Nordstroms has a few that I think will give a similar look too.  These are my favorites: A boyshort version, swimdress, and another swimdress with a built-in D-cup bra (on sale now, so will probably sell out soon). Modcloth's Bathing Beauty suit is also similar, and comes in tons of colors and prints (I just *love* the skirt-like feature on mine, and the ruching on the back too, and Bathing Beauty doesn't have that.  But Bathing Beauty's wider neck strap is sure to be more comfortable.)

The two tankinis are from Target.  The shorts bottoms are the key, and are available again this year, in black, navy (what I'm wearing), and grey.  Then you can find tops to match.  The peplum top I'm wearing is available again in new fabrics.  (Warning - it is hard to get on because it doesn't really stretch, but once on - wow!) For me, it's important to have a tie in the back along the bustline that allows me to tighten that area.  I have such an unsually tiny band size (30) that most bikini or tankini tops will be too loose and not provide support unless I can tie them. 

Another problem I've noticed with tankinis, on others or myself, is the top riding up.  It's a horrible look.  I took 2 approaches to addressing it: The peplum top is only tight to my waist and has wires on the sides between the waist and bust, and then it flares, so that will never ride up.  The other tankini top is looser through the waist and hips, so it hangs rather than hugging.  Again - won't ride up.

All 3 of these suits also have built in cups or foam lining.  The peplum has underwire.  I'd love if all 3 had underwire, but combined with the customizable band tightness, the foam lining and reinforced seams right below the bust (without wire) are enough support for my smaller DD cup.  I'd rather feel cute and covered in a suit that is just a tad less supportive than I'd like, than frumpy or self conscious in a suit that is supportive enough.  But of course I'm still on the lookout for one that makes me feel cute, covered, and supported!  :) 

NOW, I have lost more of my baby weight, and I am starting to consider bikinis for this summer.  I probably will not post pictures of those on here though - head cut off or not.  :)  But if I do get bikinis, a good beach-friendly easy-on/off coverup is going to be super important.  I'll let you know what I figure out for that.

(Swimsuits: Old Navy and Target, Flip-fops: Old Navy, only $2.50, and good for low-volume or slightly narrow feet!!)

New shoes on a teaching day

I did something a bit risky today - I wore a new pair of shoes on a teaching day.  But they felt really comfortable in the store, and they have a slightly wider heel to make them more stable, and a leather sole so they wouldn't slip on the classroom carpet, so I decided to go for it.  Luckily they worked out, but between the fairly high heel and my morning workout (1st in ages), I did end up with some seriously tired calves by the end of the night. I had leg muscles which I didn't know existed that were aching.

I've never paired this shirt with this suit before, but I thought it worked really well.  I love how the tiny camel-colored stripe between the black and white stripes helps tie the colors together.  And the black helps pull in the black in the shoes.  Every time I wear this suit I love it more.  It just feels so current, totally shows off shoes, but is still pretty professional. 

(New shoes!: Franco Sarto from DSW (on sale for $40 now), Suit: J-crew factory (on clearance on their website now, for anyone who happens to be shaped like me.  Search for "Hthr caramel" and it'll come up), Blouse: 100% silk from White House Black Market, Cami: Spanx from Nordstroms (it isn't super tight but the fabric is just so great - thin and smooth), Earrings: Ann Taylor Loft, Belt (hard to see in pics - it's a camel-colored skinny belt in ostritch-embossed leather): J-crew factory)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rainy day brights

There's something about a rainy day that makes me want to wear bright colors!  If the sun isn't shining, I should add a little color myself!  :) 

I haven't worn these slacks in a while, but they are so amazing.  They are high-quality wool, and there is just something about how high-quality wool drapes and looks that can't be matched by cheaper fabrics.

(Pants: J-crew (Yes, it's more expensive than j-crew factory, but the fabrics and stitching are better. Sometimes I'm willing to splurge, or I get lucky in stalking the website for sales, or I get *really* lucky with a perfectly-timed recent-markdown store visit (this happens like once every 5 years, but I buy a lot when it does!). :) ), Shirt: Martin and Osa (oh how I miss them), Blazer: Ann taylor, Boots: Banana Republic, Earrings: White house black market)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Workout wear

This post is about my workout wear, but it also serves as a "before" picture!  I just joined a 21 day online "challenge group" to get fit.  There isn't really any set workout, diet, or anything, but it's a group of women who all want to get fit who are reporting in to each other each day online.  We'll see if this helps me to get myself to work out again.

I "grew up" in the age of yoga pants, but today's high-tech fabrics and fitted workout pants are so much better!  The fabrics are really good for wicking away moisture, and breathability.  They also provide great compression, which research has shown increases workout effectiveness and efficiency.  Nike is famous for theirs.  But I tried on the Nike ones, and nothing seemed quite right for me.  These Champion brand pants are almost as good, and definitely good enough for me, for a fraction of the price.  I love the black in back and grey in front, and how the line between the two is designed so that it's super leg-slimming.  What can I say - if I'm going to wear skin-tight pants, I like for them to be flatteringly skin-tight.

My sports bra is also Champion - from back in the day when they had 32 band bras.  They make bra-sized sport bras, which is excellent for someone like me.  Their bands run a bit tight, so even though I'm a 30 I can get away with the 32s.

Finally, shoes are key.  I went to the New Balance store and tried on a bunch.  Running stores are great too.  You want a place where they'll watch you walk and run and really help you find the perfect shoe.  Mine are expensive, and have special insoles in addition, but they are so supportive and comfortable that it's completely worth it to me.  And if you happen to live in Boston, go to the New Balance outlet!!!  Oh how I miss that place.

The rest of my outfit is pretty low tech: a cheap stretchy tank, and an old Gap zip-front hoodie.

(Pants: Champion brand from Target, Bra: Champion brand from their website, Shoes: New Balance from the New Balance store, Hoodie: Gap, tank - can't remember.)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why I call it my too-big suit

The last couple of times I posted about trying to make my black suit work despite being too big, you, my wonderful readers, said that it looked good!  I was pleasantly surprised, and decided those outfits must be pretty good for "making it work."  I'm wearing one of those same outfits today.  But I decided to post this picture to help you understand why I call it my "too big" suit.  It's not like you could fit 2 of me in it or anything (or even 1 1/4), but it is definitely a size or two too big.  Without a belt it almost falls off, since I don't have much by the way of hips.  And with a belt, it looks a bit baggy and sort-of gathered at the waist.  But I have at least one top that works well with it, and for now that's still super useful.  It is also incredibly comfortable for these long days of teaching nights.  So for now, my too-big suit is staying!  Maybe I'll look for a replacement next fall.  Or maybe I'll just look for one or two more tops that cover the waistline to wear with it!  :)

Easter Sunday, and the 5-minute manicure

This dress is so light and airy, and it is nice and forgiving to post-Easter-lunch tummy.  :) This was my first time wearing it.  The kids both enjoyed the sparkle of the studs and beads at the neckline, and my earrings.  The 3 year old said I was beautiful!  :)

I also wanted to photograph my nails, because I think a lot of us probably end up in the situation where our nails are unpainted or have some uggly chipped polish on them, but we only have about 5 minutes to make them look any better.  This is the solution I've learned over the years, and I think the results are pretty good:
  1. After your shower or bath, push back your cuticles with one of your nails from the other hand.  You really don't need an orange stick or anything like that.  And as long as you don't trim your cuticles often, they don't need to be trimmed.  Apparently it's one of those circular things.
  2. Have Acetone and cotton balls to remove any polish.  Pure acetone is so much faster and more effective than any other nail polish remover, and cotton balls are rough enough to pick up the polish and wipe it off without much rubbing.
  3. After washing your hands to remove any cotton bits or acetone residue, use a high-quality metallic polish, and wipe on a single reasonably thin coat.  Blow on your nails for half a minute to help them dry, and you're done!
If I'm doing my nails properly, I would re-file to fine-tune the shaping and I would put on base coat and two coats of polish.  But a single coat actually works perfectly fine if it's a metallic, as those tend to be more forgiving and dry quickly as long as the coat is thin, and no one will notice if one nail is slightly more square and another is slightly more oval. 

(Dress: White house black market, on sale for $29.99 right now!, shoes: Aerosoles, Polish: OPI. And the other key to this outfit: a good strapless bra. The real trick is going to get fitted. I like the strapless bras at Victoria's Secret if they have your size (they use an interesting lining fabric that helps hold the bra up).  Otherwise a place like Nordstrom's or Lady Grace is good. Mine is Calvin Klein from Nordstroms.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Another Easter egg hunt

Another comfy summery dress with flats for running around on the grass.  I think this is going to become a spring/summer staple for me.  I'm so excited that my kids are old enough that I can realistically wear dresses again - yes I'm still on the ground with my toddlers, but it's not quite the same as having an infant plus toddler - that was not skirt friendly.  (This dress has sewn-in cups, so combined with the halter neckline I can get away with no bra again.)

I also kept promising to photograph my watch, and since it's one of my only accessories with this outfit, other than my usual simple silver-tone and diamond-looking earrings, I figured today was a good day to do it.  When white watches with big faces came in style, I loved the idea of a watch where I could actually read the time, and I've always loved white as a wear-with-anything year-round neutral (my favorite purse for years was a white leather bag).  But I wanted a slightly more polished and grown-up version than some of the more plastic-looking ones.  And yes, some of those were super high-end designer watches, but they still looked a little juvenile to me.  This was my answer.  Mother of pearl face, white leather band.  I could have done without the crystals around the edge, but I don't mind them.  And Seiko is a nice in-between brand with high quality and nice style, but a reasonable price-tag. 

(Dress: Juniors department somewhere long ago, flats: Walmart (I'm getting so much use out of these I might go back there to buy more in other colors!), watch: Seiko, from hubby)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Floral pump Friday

This is my take on the floral pump trend.  I was really excited when I found these shoes.  They are just a little bit floral - really more watercolor than floral - and have perfectly bright but spring-like colors for me.  I also like the white base so much better for this style than the black or navy bases some of the floral pumps have.  I also loved the pointed dorsay styling.  The heel is just a tiny bit higher than I would like for super-practical wear - I won't be walking a mile or two in these any time soon - but they are not bad at all.  I will probably be wearing these a lot this spring and summer, and already have a few ideas for how I want to wear them.  Today's outfit is a nice Casual Friday work outfit for early spring - it is clearly spring, but not super warm yet, so pants and long sleeves were in order.

I couldn't resist photographing one of those tiny details that no one would ever notice in person - my earrings perfectly match my shoes.  :)

These pants are new too.  I love my black Express Columnist pants - they are so flattering on me.  So when I saw that Express had made them in grey, I jumped on them and ordered them in the same size.  This pair fits me just a bit tighter through the thighs, and the grey is less forgiving, but I figured with the flowy blouse it is okay.  I'm hoping they stretch out a bit over the first few wears so that they won't look quite as tight.  I'm also debating whether to hem them - I figure I'll try wearing them as is a couple of times, and washing them once to see if they shrink, before I decide.   

(blouse: 100% silk from White house black market, pants: Express columnist pants (long length - these come in regular, short, and long), cami: forever 21 from a while back, shoes: Vince Camuto from DSW, a super recent purchase.  I cannot find these shoes online *anywhere* including the DSW website!  I'm super excited that I got them when I did.  I spent a bit more than I usually would on something so trendy, but that will just push me to make sure to wear them a lot.  :) earrings: from a street market in India)