Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Budget Wardrobe Building: The Capsule Concept

After organizing your closet last week, and thinking about your needs and wants (for your wardrobe), I'm sure that you are raring to get moving with the planning process. Since this series is about wardrobe building on a budget, I want to introduce you to the capsule wardrobe concept.

The term hails from the 1970's and the mind of Susie Faux, a British shop owner, author, and personal style guru of sorts. At it's essence, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of items that won't quickly go out of fashion, that can be updated occasionally with seasonal pieces. The total number varies based on lifestyle and budget, but the general principles are less is more, quality over quantity. The elements originally suggested as key were trousers, a dress or skirt, a jacket, a coat, two pairs of shoes and two bags, all in neutral colors. The wardrobe was then to be rounded out with tops and accessories such as scarves, sunglasses, jewelry for a total item number between 20-25.

In the 1980's, Donna Karan brought the concept to an even greater public and level of distillation when she introduced her "Seven Easy Pieces" workwear collection. The collection consisted of a body suit, wrap skirt, chiffon blouse, longer jacket, leggings, blazer, and dress. In 2009, Karan released a collection that updated the key pieces to turtleneck, skirt, pant, jean, jacket, and coat.

So what does this mean for us budget wardrobe builders? It means that by choosing certain pieces we can create a small wardrobe, one that functions effectively for all the situations we find ourselves in, and that is both durable and current. Within our overall wardrobe, there will be smaller seasonal wardrobes, and key pieces will often work across multiple seasons. If you are just beginning the building process, creating such a wardrobe can seem overwhelming. I highly recommend beginning with your immediate needs for this season. You can break it down even further into finding eight pieces you can wear in a variety of ways right now.

So, here we go.  Keeping in mind the items that survived the culling...

Choose a color story (look here for an example).

Focus first on the basics - choosing tops and bottoms. Going for eight total, settle on a ratio (i.e. five tops / three bottoms).

Decide on a mix and match or a spectrum technique. Mix and match means that all bottoms and tops are various colors of the color story and can be worn together. Spectrum means that all the bottoms are the same color, and the tops are various colors from your color palette. 

Choose one neutral for shoes and bags.

Choose either gold or silver for bag hardware and other accessories (silver for cool complexions, gold for warm).

Once you have these eight basics working hard for you, start to look beyond your immediate needs. Think about your day to day needs and activities as they play out through the year. Go back to your note taking. Maybe Donna or Suzie's key pieces don't fit your lifestyle or personality (bodysuit, anyone?); I listed them more to give you a general starting point for pieces to consider rather than a list to copy. This is the point where you need to decide your key pieces.

Even if you don't have the money to go out and purchase them now, you need to make a list of what would make your wardrobe most functional. If you do have the resources immediately, keep in mind that you want the key pieces to last, so go for the best quality you can afford and keep the colors and cut to a more classic look (anything too faddish and you won't want to wear it longer than one season). If trendy is your thing, update tops and accessories frequently.

For example, for someone creating a personal casual wardrobe (for a four season climate) on a budget, I would make the following list:


1 pair bootcut jeans (to be worn with heels or boots/ "date night" jeans)
1 pair straight or skinny jeans (hemmed to wear with flats)
1 pair of trousers (cropped for a fresh look)
1 skirt

1 sweater
1 blouse or button down shirt
1 twin set
1 casual dress

1 short jacket (blazer or other style)
1 coat
[and if you've got the first two covered] 1 belted trench

1 pair of heels
1 pair of flats
1 pair of boots

1 day bag
1 clutch

3 bras: 2 nude, 1 black
1 swimsuit

inexpensive v-neck tees, tanks and/or other shirts

Thanks for sticking with me this far! If you want to see wardrobe building in action, check out the  transitional and warm weather wardrobe I have been working on for myself. Also, please give me feedback!

I won't be posting on Friday because of the Holy Day. See you next week!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Illusion of Proportion

Today I want to talk about dressing for proportionality. Proportionality is pleasing to the eye, and it draws the eyes of the beholder to the face (because no one part is "sticking out" so to speak). The only problem with proportionality is... most of us aren't! What's a girl to do? Why, create the illusion of proportionality, of course! 

This is actually easier than it sounds. The first step is knowing your measurements and your body type (see the bold portion here for a brief explanation and how to take your measurements). This info is power. You need to know where your volume naturally occurs in order to balance it out. For example, if you are a pear shape, your natural volume is in your lower body. To create the illusion of proportionality you want to minimize your lower body's appearance while creating artificial volume on top. If you are an apple shape, the opposite is true. If you are an hourglass or a box, you can also use these principles to maintain proportionality and create the illusion of a more feminine figure. 

The second step, creating volume, can be done actually (such as in the fabric and construction of a garment) or merely visually. Consider these easy pointers:

Manipulate the placement of color in your ensembles.

          - Light colors add artificial volume and draw the eye

          - Sheen adds volume

          - Dark colors de-emphasize or streamline (because they recede)

          - Monochromatic dressing streamlines

          - The eye is drawn to the point where contrasting colors meet. Avoid meeting contrasting colors 

            at your widest points.

Manipulate the placement of line in your ensembles

          - Horizontal lines (stripes, zippers, etc) can add artificial volume, but....
          - One strong horizontal line across the narrowest point of the waist can be flattering

          - A hemline draws attention, so think about where they fall. Unless you want legs to look wider, 

            avoid skirts that cut across the widest part of the calf or thigh (!) and long tops / jackets that hit the      widest part of the hips

          - Vertical and diagonal lines streamline

Manipulate the placement of pattern in your ensembles

          - Pattern adds artificial volume, especially high contrast patterns (i.e. black on white versus charcoal on light grey)

          - Solids (relative to pattern) streamline

Manipulate the placement of texture and structure in your ensembles

          - Thicker naps can add artificial volume

          - Cowls and collars can add volume, so do pleats and some pockets - place accordingly!

Now let's look at a two examples.  I recently tried on this Thakoon shift dress (at a thrift store):

Super cute, right? The point where green meets blue hit at the widest point on my thighs and it just wasn't flattering. Not terrible, but definitely not my best look. So I didn't buy it (remember the 100% rule). This is an example of creating volume and emphasis visually. 

In the same shopping trip, I also found a "like new" J. Crew dress.  I can't find an image of the exact dress, but the one below has a similar pocket situation.


I was so excited, but.... Again, not my best look. Why? Because the dress had cargo pockets that fell on the biggest part of my thigh, and the structure of the top portion of the dress was minimal. Let's just say the girls already need a little help to keep up with my hips. This is an example of actual volume, created by fabric and structure. Both of the dresses would probably have looked amazing on someone with an apple shape, because both would have complemented that figure with color and structure volume.

I can't end without showing you at least one thrift "keeper." Here it is:  

Notice the black geometric pattern on this dress. The pattern draws the eye to the smallest portion of my waist, and then down to the hem, without adding undue emphasis to my hips. Isn't it all so fascinating? I could go on forever, but lucky you, I won't.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Things

Some of you  may have seen the "Five Things" going around in blog land. For those who haven't, it's kind of a "tag you're it, quick tell us five random things about yourself!" I've been tagged by not one, but three wonderful ladies - Heather, Sheena, and Natalie. I'm honored and embarrassed that it has taken me so long to get to it. Well, here goes (and I'm unashamed to cheat by only listing five things rather than 5x2, or 5x3, it's been a rough week)...

1. I love to read, I really do. Fiction, non-fiction, you name it. Probably as a result of this fact, I only missed one question on the Verbal portion of the SAT (don't worry; I more than made up for it on the Math portion). 

2. I also read every book I was ever assigned in college. Because I liked it.

3. Speaking of college... By the time I was nearly done there I had spent a lot of time thinking about my ideal man. I kind of had a growing list of qualities in mind. Okay, let's be honest. I basically created an entire narrative of how Mr. X would need to be [including but not limited to interests, childhood experiences, education, and career] to catch my eye and hold my interest for a lifetime. I even had "a feeling" that his name would be Mike. I won't go into too much detail (you're welcome), but I figured that he would have to be an intellectual, probably a philosopher, who was into adventurous stuff like rock climbing, who loved to travel, was a little bit older than I but not too much, blah, blah, blah. 

Out of the blue, a friend called and wanted to set me up with his roommate, a new philosophy professor, just a little bit older than me, named... Mike! He sent me a pic, handsome guy in outdoor gear, looked like he had just finished a hike in the mountains. Could it be? The providence of the good Lord was finally conforming itself to my omniscient wisdom? We arranged a phone call, and... He was really easy to talk to, but there was no spark (now I'm not saying every lasting relationship is founded on the unshifting sands of spark, but there has got to be something). Mike, however, thought it went great with a capital G and asked me to send a pic and if it would be alright if he called again. Sure, I said; I thought maybe I just needed more talking to find spark

I didn't have a camera at the time and most phones didn't either, so I sort of forgot about the pic. And Mike never called back. Months later I ran into my friend. I suspected that Mike had gotten scared off when I didn't send a pic, so I asked my friend. No, no, he assured me, that couldn't be it. Why not? Because he had taken the liberty of giving him a pic from a youth conference that we attended when I was 16. I'm not sure what the pic looked like exactly, but I think it was something more along the lines of this: 

than this:

I was a late bloomer. Take courage all you awkward youths.

4. After the Mike debacle, my mom did comment that she wasn't surprised that there wasn't spark. In reference to the not so subtle similarities between the list and my own personality, she said, "Did you really want to spend the rest of your life with yourself?" Touché.

5. It all worked out for the best, though, because my soulmate turned out to be a handsome guy by the name of Joe who is not a philosophy professor, and is my opposite in personality. We dated for six months, got engaged, and got married six months later.  It seems fast, but I just knew. 

I knew enough to not be deterred or disturbed by the fact that random people kept asking me the same question, "Are you sure you aren't supposed to be a nun?"Who asked? The priest who was going to marry us and my pastor (individually and on separate occasions, both were polite enough to ask Joe to leave the room first), several Polish sisters from St. Faustina's order at the Divine Mercy Shrine, and the Mother Superior of a group of cloistered nuns in the Polish countryside (through the very grate, I might add!). I didn't even bat an eye, because sometimes you just know.

And there you have it folks, five things.
And now, I tag Mary, Sarah, Laura, and Kallah. I know that's only four but I am sick and quickly running out steam. 
I'll see you next week for more fun (and wardrobe building)!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Guest Post: Natalie from CEVIchion

Today we are joined by the lovely Natalie. She puts together the best outfit boards over at CEVIchion, so I asked her to weigh in with some Easter outfit inspiration. She obliged, and I must say, she didn't disappoint. Enjoy!

What2Wear: Easter Edition

It’s finally time to break out of the winter coma!  Easter is the beginning of the Spring Transition.  It can still be pretty chilly around Easter so we can’t hop into a sundress just yet.  And since it is a wonderful day to celebrate, let's dress up a bit.

Easter Mass: Dress // Necklace // Bangles // Booties
Simply Classic: Blouse // Cardi // Skirt // Earrings // Heels
Brunch: Blouse // Capris // Belt // Necklace // Flats

1. Dress it up with something classy and perfect.  A simple pale dress with pearls (favorite set from J.Crew Factory Outlet), bangles and for a punch of fun: lace booties.

2.  Button it down with a fun pattern, keep it chic with a bright pencil skirt and throw on a lightweight cardigan that compliments both.  Since this outfit can be taken as more conservative, make it fun with metallic accessories.

3.  Brunch is the best meal of the day.  And brunch is even better on Easter Sunday.  So throw on a bright easy top with navy capris and some studded flats. Finish it off with a nude belt and a thick necklace over the shirt.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What I Wore: Sunday

Saturday I was flirting with the idea of exporting some of my winter clothes and importing some of my spring clothes into the closet and dresser (despite the snowflakes lazily floating around all day). I only ended up trying on the lighter jackets; midway through a package arrived containing a sweet note from a good friend and a cute tweed jacket with faux leather trim. 

Of course, I had to wear it the next day to Mass. I usually don't wear jeans to Mass (it looks strange beside my husband who's rockin' a suit), but I decided at the last minute to go by myself to an early liturgy so I threw this on... Dark jeans, black v-neck tee, black wrap sweater, tweed jacket, and snood (I bet you are getting tired of it by now...). What do you think? I don't know if I'm the right person to be posting What I Wore's; you can pretty accurately guess that whatever the ensemble, it will involve black on black...

And finally, a recommended part of this What I Wore Sunday Linkup is the inclusion of a Lenten reflection. I've got nothing. Okay, maybe one thing, something that dawned on me last week as I struggled to focus on prayer, struggled to drown out the many distractions that constantly beset my mind. And it is simply this: prayer is encounter, not focusing on words. As this idea sank in it became easier to forget everything else in order to be present with God. And today I came across this quote, "...prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours" (CCC 2560). Wow. 

Outfit details: Jeans: Old Navy // Black tee: thrifted // Black wrap sweater: Express (from my sister)  // Jacket: Target (gift) // Boots: Fugu Malibu from Piperlime // Bag: Banana Republic (gift) // Snood: homemade // Watch: Citizen Eco Drive  (gift) // Pearl stud earrings (gift) 

Friday, March 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Save Yourself Some Green

I know that is such a corny title, but I couldn't help myself! Many of us are on budgets, and it's a good thing, because knowledge is power, and discipline and responsibility are beautiful things (though often in kind of a harsh way, like the taiga in winter....). And maybe your budget is tight because you are doing great things - hammering away at that student loan debt, making it on one salary, or staying independent despite a reduced income, all of which feel great on one level, and yet... There is something about holidays (next up: St. Patrick's Day, Easter) and changing weather that makes sticking to a budget more arduous and uncomfortable than usual. So, here are seven things, quick takes, if you will, to let off a little steam without breaking the bank.

Stay in for St. Paddy's Day (Sunday, March 17). Instead of a pub crawl, end your weekend with a relaxing pot of traditional Irish potato soup, a loaf of fresh sourdough or soda bread and a six-pack of Great Lakes Brewing Co. Conway's Irish Ale. Snuggle in and enjoy a movie with some good ol' Irish humor and charm, such as Waking Ned Devine (available on Hulu). Don't have a Hulu subscription? Get a free one week trial here.

Though it is snowing here in Buffalo, spring is in the air, and soon (hopefully!) it will be sandal season. No money for a pedicure? Grab a pumice stone and some vaseline (both $1 at the dollar store). In the shower, run the pumice over the bottoms and sides of your feet. Smooth some vaseline over the rough spots and throw on a pair of old socks before jumping into bed. Your feet will look amazing in no time!

Did you clean out your closet already? Before throwing out those worn jeans, check to see if any of them would make good candidates for a DIY pair of cutoff shorts (thanks, Natalie, for bringing this link to my attention!). It's like new clothes for free!

Since we are talking about clothes... Are you looking for something new to wear for Easter or tofreshen up your spring wardrobe? Why don't you take some of the things you've decided to get rid of to a place like The Clothes Mentor, sell them, and then get something new to kickstart your spring look? For you local readers, the Amherst location is having a "Ladies Night" on Sunday, March 24th from 5-7 p.m. There will be complimentary wine and appetizers, and 20% off your entire purchase. Maybe I'll see you there! 

Get scheming for spring. That's right. You heard me. Start thinking about little projects that you want to do to create a space outside (for when the weather gets nice enough to actually hang out there). As the weather gradually warms, people in your neighborhood will begin cleaning out the shed and/or garage, getting rid of old planters, patio furniture, stones, wooden beams (for real, I saw it last year), etc, etc. Their trash may be your treasure if you know what you are looking for. I myself am on the lookout for some old hanging baskets, so I can make this easy [AWESOME!] outdoor chandelier.

Right now Google play has Sinatra's I've Got the World On a String as a free download. Thank you, Frank, for reminding us that when you have love, you have everything.

And this last one, it's just shameless self promotion. Check out my guest post on the LBD over at Life in Mod!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Budget Wardrobe Building: Organize & Take Stock

As promised, we are going to talk a little bit more today about your closet. If you've already done the overhaul, I'm betting that you are looking at a much tidier closet and dresser already. Congratulations! Do you have a  sense of relief, or possibly even freedom? That is how I felt after getting rid of things that I had been hanging onto for years. Now a few tips on organizing what remains, and then we'll move on to the more fun stage of wardrobe planning.

I have found that it is best to keep only the current season's clothes present in my dresser and closet. It leaves more space for the objects you are using regularly; if you can see an item, it is less likely to "fall through the cracks," so to speak. Formal and semi-formal dresses are the one exception that I make to this rule. In my closet, I have a moderately narrow dresser on the left (actually in the closet because the bedroom isn't large). In the dresser I keep undergarments, jeans, t-shirts and un-hang-able tops, gym and sleeping clothes.  On the right side of the closet [starting from the left] I hang jackets, then dresses, then blouses, then dress pants, all on wooden hangers (the hangers came with my husband when we married, but Ikea has wooden hangers 8/$3.99 here). Within each category of clothing, I arrange the items by type and then by color. To the far right I hang scarves and belts.

On top of the dresser, I have a three level shoe rack where I keep whatever shoes are in regular rotation and special occasion heels. I highly recommend a shoe rack. It's super easy to grab a couple pairs to try on when deciding what to wear, and just as easy to put them away. Shoes can also breathe when stored this way. Shoe racks are relatively inexpensive on Amazon or at the local hardware store, or you can use a small bookshelf. Other solutions include storing shoes in their box with a pic taped to the outside, or using clear plastic shoe boxes. The local dollar store carries clear plastic shoeboxes for $1 each, and they are actually very sturdy.

To diverge a moment... If you don't already own a full length mirror, get one! In order to look great, you need to be able to see yourself, all at once, in a mirror (there is no judgement here if you don't own one, I went almost a year without one after mine shattered, but get on it and get one). I have this one from Target. It is $5.99. Again, I say, get one!

Now that things are tidy and paired down, play dress up.  Maybe you can find lots of outfits or maybe not so many; keep an open mind and play with what you have. Take pics and notes. Jot down ideas about what would make your wardrobe more functional. Also consider if there is a discernible color story present in the items that survived the culling. If so, is it one that you like, or does it need to be tweaked?

Now, pour yourself a cup of coffee (why don't you make it wine? You deserve a reward for making it this far!), and sit down and think about your needs. What does a week in your shoes look like? Do you have regular special events that require special outfits? Think about the season, and any special needs that it brings (e.g. swimsuit, heavy coat, etc.). It is very important to get all of these items and ideas down on paper. Once you have done so, you can begin to really create a list of needs and wants, and prioritize and reconcile them within your overall budget. Tune in next week to learn about creating a capsule wardrobe based on what you've discovered today, and how to do so on a budget.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thrifting Tip and Link Up

For those of you who saw Friday's Quick Takes, this link up comes as no surprise.  To take part, all you have to do is write a post with your best thrifting tip or trick. Include or don't include an outfit photo; it is completely up to you. Then, link up below to join the fun!

I'll go first... I had a difficult time choosing a tip to share with you, but I finally settled on one that I think is the foundation for all the rest. Are you read for this jewel of wisdom?  Do not purchase an item from the thrift store if it does not please you 100%. 

And there you have it. But I will elaborate. Because I always do. If an item is worn out and cannot be fixed do not buy it. Check pant hems and cuffs for fraying. Look for spots, pilling, fading, and stains, especially inside the collar, down the front, and in the armpit areas. If an item almost fits, do not buy it (unless you can and will make whatever adjustments it needs). If an item leaves you with a "blah, it's okay," kind of feeling, do not buy it. If an item is about to go home with you only because  you feel like you can't leave empty handed because then your shopping trip was pointless and because then you have proof (in a negative sense) that your afternoon was wasted..... Don't buy it! And one more clarification about the above statement. If you are 100% pleased with something, but it scares you just a little bit because it is outside your comfort zone, buy it!

And for the outfit details. If you read the aforementioned Quick Takes you will already know that I have been contemplating whether or not to include more details about each outfit. Since readers either said that they preferred more info or were neutral, I will oblige. Jeans: Old Navy // Merino black cowl: Banana Republic thrifted // Navy long cardigan: Eddie Bauer "thrifted" from a friend's "about to go to Goodwill" bag // Belt: 7 Hills from Piperlime // Boots: Fugu Malibu from Piperlime // Watch: Citizen Eco Drive  (gift) // Pearl stud earrings (gift).


Friday, March 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Today's post is just going to be a good, old fashioned, random quick takes...

Here is a burning (in my mind) question for all of you.... Do you want outfit details? I mean, do you want to know what brand each piece is, and where it was purchased? I don't usually give this info, because I want the viewer to process the image as he or she would if we met on the street. I also don't think that brand and/or price necessarily correlate to true style. See my quandary? Please let me know what you, the readers, want!

All of you fellow bloggers out there, I want to give you a heads up about a link up that I'm going to be hosting next week. It will be a variation of the Thrifting Challenge that took place in November. All you need to do is write a short post that includes your best tip or trick for successful thrifting and link it up (it can be an older post if it fits the specifications). The post doesn't have to include a pic of a primarily thrifted outfit, but feel free if the spirit moves you!

Have you seen what Anna and Hilary are doing for the month of March? Their "Encourage Beauty" campaign is a brilliant idea. Please click on the links above and check it out!

As you may have gathered from some previous posts, I am starting my own business as a personal stylist. I am super excited and can't wait to share some changes that will be happening with the blog and for me personally. Stay tuned!

Speaking of personal style, have you been following the Budget Wardrobe Building series? Join us for the journey; get started by cleaning out that closet!

I just want to say thank you for reading, and following here and/or on Facebook. And thank you for the comments. If you don't blog, you may not realize that comments to a blogger are like sunshine to the whole of the photosynthesizing world.

And finally, on a completely random note, do not ever purchase and/or consume this beer. I know, I know, one should never trust beer in a can this big... I was lured in by the words "high gravity lager," hmm, fascinating, and by the fact that it is brewed in my back yard, Rochester (that's basically Buffalo's backyard, right?). And the $1.29 price tag softly and seductively whispered words of encouragement too, I won't lie. It was utterly awful and I could not drink more than a few ounces of it. You may think that because I usually recommend specialty beers I must be a snob. Not so! Not so! I am an Indiana girl at heart, and I throw back some Old Milwaukees every time I visit home. I also have a no waste rule, but I couldn't follow it for this sickeningly sweet concoction. Consider yourself warned!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Budget Wardrobe Building: Clean Out That Closet!

Hopefully I have already convinced you of the importance of wardrobe building rather than collecting; now let's get down to business! The first step to building a wardrobe on a budget is to clean out the closet (to see the other steps, in list form, look here).  Do not skip this step, no matter how anxious you are to get planning and shopping! A closet purged of useless clutter is absolutely essential to a highly functioning wardrobe. To make today's task as painless and straightforward as possible, keep in mind a clear goal -  to get rid of any items that are of no use to you (read, they don't make you look and feel great).

Grab a beverage and head to the closet. If it isn't large and well lit, pull out items belonging to the current season (warm or cold) and put them on the bed. Go through the items adding them to one of four piles: KEEP, MAYBE, STORAGE, and GOODBYE (i.e. donate, consign, or trash).Let me give you a few guidelines to help you in the discernment process:

Add an item to the keep pile only if it fits, the color works for you, and you feel good in it.

Say goodbye if an item is worn out and cannot be fixed. Check pant hems and cuffs for fraying. Look for spots, pilling, fading, and stains (don't forget those armpit areas).

Say goodbye to any items that you just do not like (it sounds obvious, but you might be surprised).

If you love the color and fit, but still don't ever wear an item, ask yourself why. Is it because you don't have pants that work with it, or is it because it just feels too [insert any number of adjectives here]? Ask yourself if [that adjective] could be played down, or if it's a lost cause. For example, a dress has some frilly detailing around the neckline, and you aren't into frills. BUT, the dress fits in a flattering way and is obviously very high quality.  Could you throw a no-nonsense blazer over it and feel like yourself? You be the judge. If after some such grueling soul searching, you still don't know, put it in the maybe pile.

Put any items in the maybe pile that could have real potential with a little tweaking. For example, would you love that sweater if the buttons weren't so cheesy? Would you wear that skirt if it flattered your figure a bit more? Maybe it would if the hem hit an inch above the knee instead of right across it. Would that dress be in regular rotation if you weren't constantly worried about a wardrobe malfunction? Some fixes are not complicated or expensive. Take your item to a good seamstress and just ask what can be done (and for how much).

Beware of keeping items because you have a preconceived notion that no wardrobe is complete without X. If you haven't worn it in the last year, you probably don't need it in your wardrobe.

Beware of keeping an item simply because you may need it. If you haven't worn it in the last year, you probably don't need it. I used to be guilty of this; I was on such a tight budget during college that I was scared to get rid of anything. After awhile, the drawers were so packed and overflowing with stuff "I may need someday" that my wardrobe was not functioning. I kept up a steady rotation of the same few items that worked and missed out on some other great ones that were tucked in amidst a bunch of losers.

Put any keepers you aren't currently using into storage. For example, don't waste precious space on sweaters during the summer, or on maternity clothes if you're back to you pre-pregnancy size. While you're at it, remove anything from your drawers and clothing shelves that is not clothing. It's so easy to start using those nooks and crannies for other purposes ("husband will never find his birthday gift now!"); resist!

Now, by this point, everything should be in one of four piles. Go through the maybe pile one last time. Still not sure if this or that item looks great on you? Try it on and take a picture. A friend of mine suggested this practice to me, and it really is about as honest as it gets!

Don't worry if there isn't much in the keep pile. The items that are going weren't doing you any favors and you probably weren't wearing them (or shouldn't have been wearing them!) anyway. There is a tried and true wardrobe system that proposes eight pieces (!) plus shoes and accessories are enough for any given wardrobe (i.e. work, personal casual, etc). It sounds radical, but I guarantee you that you will dress more creatively (it's a paradox, I know), with greater ease, and with a better finished product - a super stylish you! So, get cleaning, ladies! Next week we'll talk about organizing what remains, and  taking stock of needs and wants.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What I Wore: To Meet My Bishop

I hope that all of you had a great weekend! I bet you are wondering about the title of this post! On Saturday night, my husband and I went to Mass and then a semi-formal reception for our visiting bishop. As you may know, I am a Maronite, and here in Western New York we belong to the eparchy (diocese) of Brooklyn. A visit from the bishop is a very important occasion. Our parish was also celebrating the feast of St. John Maron. The celebration of a parish's namesake is a very cherished tradition among the Maronites, so it was a joyous occasion on many levels.  A Mass sans kids, followed by a couple of glasses of red wine, a medium rare filet mignon, and my love next to me - this was definitely my best feast of St. John Maron ever!

Of course, for such an occasion I spent all week thinking about what to wear. As you may have heard me say before, the Lebanese are beautiful and well dressed. Also, there was the question of appropriateness (more so than usual) because it was a religious event. I didn't want to be too exposed, but I still wanted to look attractive. Is that too much to ask? It was a date of sorts... 

In the end I chose this simple black wool dress. Said dress is just a teeny bit loose and I don't have a very defined waist as it is, so I added a black leather belt to create a more feminine silhouette. I completed the look with oxblood patent heels, a simple black clutch, pearl earrings and a stainless steel citizen watch. And yes, I threw on the grey angora snood (again, I know, I know, but when something works, it works!). Moral of the story? When in doubt, go with the little black dress! 

What do you think?
Now go check out what some other ladies wore this weekend!

Friday, March 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes: More Around the House

I don't know what it is about this time of year, but I always get the itch to re-organize, de-clutter, and re-arrange. So, in a vein similar to last week, I've decided to use these quick takes to talk about stuff around the house. I'm no expert, and my house isn't perfect, but I do take pleasure in a creating a comfortable and pleasant space. So, allons-y!

Use the items you use as adornment. It helps keep the clutter down, makes life easier if space is an issue, and saves you money on "decorations." One example of this in my home is keeping the liquor collection on top of the refrigerator. The bottles are beautiful, it saves on cabinet space, and it keeps that surface from gathering clutter. 

Spend your money on furniture at the furniture store, not on pictures, lamps, rugs, or other house paraphernalia. They are often way overpriced and, if you aren't careful, your living room may end up looking just a little too show room-y (if you know what I mean).

And related to #2, a house doesn't become a home immediately. Don't try to rush the process with little thought out "improvements" or purchases. I'm an impatient person who rushes around a lot; I didn't realize how much I wasn't seeing until I nursed my first child. Just sitting (not reading, just sitting) was a revelation! Sit in various places in your home and try to notice things. What fills your line of site when you look down the hallway? Does the wall color the next room flow naturally, or is the contrast jarring? Does your furniture set-up seem balanced? Is the wall behind the couch missing something? Is that piece of art being all it can be, or is there too much sun reflecting off of it from the window across the room? 

Shop estate sales, yard sales, craigslist, and thrift stores for unique items that won't break the bank. I am constantly tweaking things around the house; making thrifty purchases allows me to feed my compulsion without breaking the bank. They also ensure that I am creating a space that is uniquely me, because the items are chosen with care and are no longer in mass production. Bonus tip: craigslist is always teeming with nursery furniture. If you buy furniture in a white finish, it's very easy to add another dresser or toddler bed to the mix without spending much.

Know that it is okay to shop for some things at the dollar store. For certain organizing needs, this option just can't be beat. I have found durable plastic bins (like the blue and yellow ones below)  in great colors there for, wait for it, $1! I also recently discovered shallow rectangular bins that are perfect for storing children's books under the beds/cribs (we have lots of "under -the-bed/crib" space that doesn't accommodate items over a certain size, and if I'm not careful these spaces become disorganized repositories for... random stuff).

Use old items for new purposes. I started to get really good at this once I had kids and I couldn't just run to the store at the drop of a hat. For example, I wanted to reorganize the top of the bedroom armoire, but the kids were sleeping (the only time such projects happen!).  So I raided the kitchen and found a lone dollar store plate (I don't even know how it came to be there...) and a thrifted glass. I used the glass to hold my husbands shirt stays, and the plate to bring form to the otherwise somewhat random items.  

That's enough from me! If you are itching for some inspiration now, check out Apartment Therapy. I love, love, love this site. Also, to get a feel for what's going on in home decor elsewhere in the world, I really enjoy the pictures on this blog.  And, one more thing, please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear your decorating or organizing tips or something you've found helpful in your own "homemaking!" 

Maybe I'll finally re-hang that pic over the stove and center it...

Aren't those colorful bins adorable? I use them for socks, mittens, hats, tights, etc.

These little trays are perfect for books. The kids can get them out and put them away with ease.

An old plate and thrifted glass bring a little order to the armoire.