Monday, July 14, 2014

Vintage Elegance: Accessories with Interest

Collage made at

One of the most prevalent aspects of fashion is the statement accessory.  Like I mentioned in my Professional Ensembles article, accessories can turn a neutral outfit into something fun and eye catching.  But what makes for an "interesting" accessory?  And how do you pair it with anything?  I feel that interesting can mean basically anything to anyone; we all have different tastes and attractions when it comes to style.  That's the beauty of having your own style!

For me, an interesting adornment is something that's bold and full of detail.  I look for color, sparkle and a metallic feel.  I like pieces that feel strong and standalone that I can wear by itself if I want to, and I won't look completely bare.  Wrist cuffs, large rings and necklaces with multiple strands are the pieces that I am attracted to most of the time when I'm out shopping.  I also like the idea of a brooch in certain cases; believe it or not, I have seen several brooches in recent outings, and I think they look fabulous.  A decent sized brooch with gemstones and vine detail (like the one pictured to the right) can offer a classy feel to an everyday professional look.  I actually was just gifted this piece by my grandmother yesterday.  She found a bag FULL of old jewelry that was simply beautiful.  This brooch actually has matching earrings, bracelet and necklace, but I'm not sure I'd wear them all at the same time.  It might be a little to matchy-matchy for me.  This gold gem-filled brooch is an accessory I would like to use to bind a solid, colored scarf together after draping it around my neck to glam it up a bit.

Interesting can also be something that shows off your personality.  For example, let's say you have a soft spot for the 80's; we all have that, right?  ...Maybe it's just me then.  Anyway, as most of us know, 80's fashion was popular for bright colors.  Put on some hot pink, chunky beads that double over around the neck.  Let's say you lean more towards the bohemian look.  Find one of those cute, leather-thronged headbands and wrap it into your hair for a casual weekend accessory.  There are so many ways to showcase your personality and likes.  My all-time favorite story is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I've read all the books and watched all of the movies countless times.  What catches my eye while watching the movies is the silver, elegant jewelry of the elves.  The headdresses that the women wear take my breath away.  The leafy details in the circlet combined with the delicate silver chains that waterfall down their long locks of hair is just beautiful to me.  The detail in some of these pieces is astounding.  One thing I knew I had to have was the Evenstar Pendant (pictured left).  I bought it last year when I saw it displayed in a tent at an Irish Fest my fiance and I go to every year.  Wearing it is a way for me to display my love for the elegance of Elvish craftsmanship. [ - Nerd Alert! - ]

Like I mentioned earlier, a statement piece to me is something bold and full of detail.  And when I say bold, I mean BOLD!  I have two wrist cuffs that I love to wear because of their bold color and shine.  One is a silver metallic cuff with a large turquoise center and one flower on either side.  Just those three pieces alone made for a bold piece, however, the band itself has major detail as well.  It is a strong enough piece that I feel like I can wear just the cuff and my engagement ring, nothing else, and still have some bling.

The other bracelet/cuff I have is a gemstone lizard.  I found him at an antique store in Corbin, Kentucky.  I don't know who made it or how old it is, but I honestly did not care when I laid eyes on him.  I just knew I had to have him!  This is by far, the most amazing piece I have ever owned.  It is simply gorgeous in my opinion.  It's colorful, gold and metallic...and did I mention...a REPTILE.  The cuff seam is in the back and it splits open at the toes and tail to wrap around your wrist.  I cannot go anywhere without somebody noticing this one.  Several of the women who have commented on it to me have had mixed feelings about it; it's interesting, but it's a lizard.  I personally think the fact that it's a lizard is what makes it so cool.  But like I said, everybody has their own taste when it comes to style.  Reptiles just happen to be awesome in my book.

Collage made at

I hope you've enjoyed reading this article about statement accessories.  I think having pieces like these that you truly love and wear with pride is a way to tap into your inner fashionista.  When you gravitate towards a bold necklace, don't question whether it's too gaudy or too "weird."  If you love it, I say GO FOR IT! 

Much Love,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Confessions of a Makeup Amateur - Foundation Routine & Tips

I'm going to switch gears today and focus on my experience with makeup.  While I love fashion, makeup products are another area of the beauty spectrum that I have been curious about the last few years.  I love the idea of turning an otherwise plain (albeit beautiful, of course!) face into a dramatic, photo shoot ready visage.

Since I was never curious as a kid, I didn't start experimenting with makeup until college.  I think I purchased my first makeup products when I was 19.  I've watched tutorial after tutorial on YouTube and read umpteen articles on different products, their uses and what would be beneficial to my fair complexion.  I have very sensitive skin, so I am always careful to research each product I buy and it's effects on the skin.  The one thing I want to focus on today is my foundation routine and how I've experimented to get the results I like.

I'll be the first in line to admit trying to buy, apply and set a full face of foundation was extremely scary at first.  What if I use the wrong color and look like an oompa loompa?  Liquid, cream or powder?  Apply with a brush, sponge or fingers?  Does it look cakey and worse than if I just left my skin as is?  Is the $30.00 liquid really any better than it's $8.00 dupe?  All of these questions plagued my mind as I stared at countless brands, shades and prices available to use.

I would like to share some helpful tips that have helped me get to where I am now when it comes to attempting the flawless face.  I hope that in sharing these tips, it will save you time and money, but also help you with the application itself.  All too many times during my experimentation, I wound up looking cakey from too much product OR the wrong color altogether because I chose the wrong shade for my skin.  Let's just say "ivory" doesn't always mean ivory...I learned to never trust the names that companies give their different shades.  Just because Ivory matches you in L'Oreal Paris doesn't mean Ivory will match you in Maybelline New York.  My biggest foe, though, was deciding what to buy and how much to spend on each product.  I would like to point out that I use drugstore products only unless I manage to score a great deal on higher end products.  I've found the cheaper alternatives to high end products (like MAC, Urban Decay, and Chanel) get the job done just as well if used properly.

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First off, the list below is in the order I put on face products (followed by the current products I am using) when applying what I call my "base face."  Base face is a clean, even canvas before I paint it with my favorite eyeshadows, lip colors and the like.  You'll see that I don't use any blushers.  I have naturally rosy cheeks, so I just allow that to shine through instead of covering it up completely.  Why apply another product for something your skin already does naturally?

5. Contouring Bronzer - NYX's Mosaic Pressed Powder in Latte ($8)

Current products listed were used in this photo.

My first tip to beginners is don't get frustrated if you don't get it right the first hundred times.  It takes trial and error to find the right products and amounts to apply in order to achieve your flawless face.  As you can see, I have products from all different drugstore lines.  It has taken me about three years of experimenting with products, ways to apply and the amount to apply to achieve a balanced, clean look.  Enjoy the experimenting and laugh off the oompa loompa phase - we all go through it.

Secondly, I recommend to ALWAYS use a face primer before applying any foundation.  I used to scoff at all of the YouTube tutorial people for spending money on and taking time to apply a primer.  Foundation is supposed to smooth you out and even your skin tone, right?  Not necessarily.  Primer ups the ante by providing a nice glowing finish.  It fills in the pores, smooths fine lines and creates an even base for your products to glide on with ease.  I was sold the minute I tried my first all over face primer.  If you want to try one without spending much, E.L.F. makes a wonderful primer for just $6.00.

My third and final tip that I think is one of the most important to achieving a flawless face is to use makeup brushes to apply your products.  The only exception for me is that I use my fingertips to apply primer.  For all other products, I use brushes.  It may take a lot of trial and error to find the right brushes for a good application, so I recommend purchasing some cheap ones first before spending much more money on different brushes.  The E.L.F. Essential Line is great for experimenting with; these brushes are only $1.00 per piece.  The E.L.F. Studio Line has a little higher quality for $2 and $3.00 per piece.  I use a small stippling brush for liquid foundation, a small concealer brush for under-eye concealer, a soft Kabuki brush for setting powder, a medium-sized, tapered bronzing brush for contouring and a fluffy powder brush for the final dusting of setting powder.  For me, using brushes instead of sponges or fingers makes the application much easier and quicker when I'm getting ready for work in the morning.  Now that I can gauge how much product to use, brushes help give me an overall even and full coverage application.

I hope these three tips have been helpful to beginners out there.  Stay tuned for more makeup tips in the future!

Much Love,

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thrift Store Vs. Consignment Shop: Part II

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time talking about thrift stores, and why I love them.  Today, I want to shine some light on consignment shops, when I choose to go to them, and why.

Property of Consignment Chic, LLC.

The Consignment Shop

Consignment shops are stores that take in outside products from individuals and agree to sell them for the individual in return for a percentage of the sale.  Selling on consignment is a popular avenue for gently used prom dresses, wedding gowns and other formal wear that has already been worn and will probably not be worn again by the original owner.  I also see a lot of name brand clothing go through consignment shops.

I think consignment shops can be a great way to find nice, designer clothing for a fraction of their retail value.  The nice thing about this type of store is that the majority of the stock will be current style trends.  A lot of stores pick and choose what to accept on consignment based on the probability of a successful sale, so you should be able to find something you like that's fashion forward on the racks.  The other thing I like about consignment shops is that they are set up like a boutique.  The racks are organized, spaced well and arranged in sections similar to retail stores, making them easy to navigate.  Sometimes, they will even separate by color which can be beneficial if you're looking for something specific.

If I'm looking for a specific item, I will sometimes choose to go to a consignment shop over a thrift store because you can usually find better quality, fashionable styles with less effort.  For example, if I'm looking for a specific color dress for a special event, I can go to a consignment shop and have a better chance of finding what I'm looking for that's nice, formal and at a good price point.

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The main reason I don't choose a consignment store on a normal basis is because of the prices.  Granted, you are getting a good deal when you pay a quarter of the retail value, but I have a hard time paying $15-$20 for a work blouse that's used.  I feel I can keep an eye out at retail department stores for deals to get the same price on a brand new blouse instead.  I understand that the items in consignment shops will generally be higher than thrift stores because the profit is being split two ways instead of one, but if I'm just looking for general clothing basics, I feel I can get a much better bargain at a thrift store.

The other reason I tend to avoid consignment shops is because the plus sizes are either very small sections or nonexistent altogether.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average woman in the United States is 5 foot 4 inches in height and weighs 164 pounds, putting her around a size 14 by general standards.  I find the majority of clothing in consignment shops to be in the size range of 8 to 14, so I'd say the majority of women who shop in these stores probably find several items in their size.  However, I am above the national average, so if a store does not carry plus sizes, I won't find a piece that fits.  I have walked through an entire shop only to feel awful by the time I leave because I searched tag after tag without finding a single item in my size.  I'm not saying all consignment shops are that way because I have also been to a couple that carry plenty in my size, but I don't like the feeling of walking into a store and feeling ashamed of my body because it's not important enough to even carry clothing in my size.  That's why I avoid most stores in malls (unless they advertise plus sizes), so I'm naturally going to avoid these stores in the same respect.

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In my humble opinion, I will always choose a thrift store first because of the price point and ability to find clothing in my size.  I am happy to search through racks upon racks of clothing to find quality pieces hidden inside for pennies on the dollar.

I would love to hear other opinions of the Thrift Store versus the Consignment Shop from your experience, so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Much Love,

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Thrift Store Vs. Consignment Shop: Part I

The next two posts to my blog are going to be about the pros and cons of the Thrift Store bargain versus the Consignment Shop bargain.  In my opinion, the true bargains lie in those jam-packed racks of thrift stores, but I think consignment shops can be worth a trip to every now and again for different reasons.

Property of Goodwill Industries, Inc.
Property of The Salvation Army
The Thrift Store

The most popular thrift store in my area is Goodwill.  We have a couple of Salvation Army stores as well, and several locally owned stores.  I will usually dedicate an entire Saturday to traveling to several of the thrift stores in the area to allow myself enough time to look through every rack, try on styles and stand in line to purchase items.

I am such an advocate for thrift store bargains because of the consistently cheap pricing system.  Goodwill has a simple setup for the most part by using a categorical system.  For example, jeans and blazers are $4.99 per piece.  Dress slacks and blouses are $3.99.  Scarves range from $0.99 to $3.99 depending on size, brand and material.  Shoes are $3.99.  They do have items in what they call the "Boutique" section that are generally nicer articles of clothing for slightly higher prices.

Basically, I can walk into Goodwill, search through racks and fill my cart with items to try on, knowing the price without having to look at each tag for a number.  It saves me the hassle of determining whether or not it's worth the price to buy because I know all items are priced cheap enough that I will buy if I like something.  And I may just happen to pick up an item with the right color tag that will be half-price at the register.  I can fill a cart to the brim with items and walk out spending less than fifty bucks.  That goes down in the books as a bargain day for me!

Aside from the consistent pricing system, I also like thrift stores because of the variety of choices.  You just never know what you'll find in a thrift store.  It could be a dress from the 1970's who's style has come back in more recent years.  It could be a jean jacket someone modified with patches, zippers or frays from the grunge era.  Or it could be a piece that's from a current brand in great shape and oftentimes with the original retail store tag still on it.  You are almost guaranteed to find something that fits your own personal style, and you'll get it for a low, low price.

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One disadvantage to thrift stores can be the organization of their racks, or lack thereof.  It seems to vary from store to store, but most thrift stores do minimal sorting before putting on racks.  One of the Goodwill stores I go to organizes jeans, slacks and skirts by size, but their shirts, blazers, dresses and shoes are just put out on racks in big sections with no size or color organization whatsoever.  It can be discouraging because you are forced to go through these racks piece by piece to find the clothes that are in your size and also suit your style.  If I'm short on time, I find myself gravitating toward the pants because I know I'll be able to go right to my size and then sift through for styles I like.  Sometimes, I'll ignore the tops and dresses completely because I don't want to hassle with or don't have time to check every size tag and style hanger by hanger.

The other disadvantage to bring up is that these stores are often "hit or miss" with successful finds.  I can go to a thrift store five times, and I'll only leave with clothing one out of the five trips.  The stock in these stores just depends on the amount and timing of donations from the public.  If you can find out the days they receive a new truck of goods, you may be able to time your trips appropriately for a better chance to find brand names and current styles you like.

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The disadvantages of thrift stores are definitely notable, but if you are consistent and take the time to sift through racks piece by piece, it's worth the adventure.  I often find the act of searching for the bargains just as much fun as buying name brand clothes for a fraction of their retail price.  You have to be willing to search through overflowing racks of old, shapeless clothing in order to find the gems hidden within.

But when you do find those gems, and you will, it's totally worth the time and money spent.

Much Love,

Part II: Consignment Shops will appear tomorrow.  Come back soon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Professional Ensembles

It's never easy putting a professional look together, let alone at 6:00am before you've had your cup of Joe.  And yet those of us that work the desk life do it day-in and day-out.

Courtesy of Lane Bryant

Don't get me wrong, I set out with fashionable intentions. I envision belted dresses, high heels that click down tile halls with authority and precise, perfect makeup that says "I popped out of bed with ease this morning!"  The truth is though, I often find myself opting for the easiest ensemble to put together because I'm short on time.  A black suit/print blouse combo like the one pictured here tends to be my go-to look for workdays; it's simple construction makes it effortless even in the dreariest of mornings.

I love the confidence I feel in a smart black suit and heels, so I am fine with this daily outfit, but I like to add an interesting piece to it each day to give it my own personal flare. I think it's important to express yourself, and one of the ways to do that is through accessories. It can keep you from getting into an everyday rut of same-stuff-different-day.


Today, my flare started with a pair of black, zip ankle boots with gold grommet and mini spike design. I found these at Lane Bryant on clearance for $19.99. I have to say, I absolutely love these booties! They are comfortable and can easily be worn all day without any discomfort whatsoever. What drew me to them was the gold design. It's different without being in your face, which makes them perfect for professional wear. They are a nice change from the plain flats I often choose to wear instead.                                                                                            
I also added a couple statement pieces of Lia Sophia jewelry to the outfit - a cuff bracelet and necklace. A few years back, I hosted a Lia Sophia party and was able to get quite a bit of credit towards their jewelry because of the amount we were able to sell at the party. (Otherwise, I honestly probably wouldn't own any of their jewelry because I feel their retail prices are way too high.)

The very first item I put on my wish list was this beautiful chainlink cuff. I had been to another Lia Sophia party as a guest, and this baby caught my eye the minute I walked in. The sales lady had displayed all sorts of the brand's jewelry on the dining room table, and in the midst of so many other items was this piece. It was so "me" in so many ways, and I knew I HAD to have it. It's chunky, black and metal. I simply couldn't pass it up.  So when I was able to get store credit through hosting a party, I was able to order this one for free (retail $85.00). When I first bought it, it was all black, but now that I've had it for a few years, it has started to tarnish. I actually really like the tarnished look on this one. I think it enhances the detail of the chain wonderfully. And I must admit, it makes me feel like Wonder Woman every time I put it on...Who doesn't want that?

The final piece I chose was the Lia Sophia necklace pictured below. I apologize, I can't remember how much it retailed for. I chose it because I felt the colors matched my blouse nicely. What I really like about this necklace is it's odd chain. The larger links in the chain give it interest, and the different colored beads make it easy to match with several different blouses.  This necklace is one of the few shorter necklaces I wear because it lays nice and flat on the chest. I have come across several shorter necklaces that pinch the skin and constantly flip the wrong way, and I find myself taking them off before the workday is over. I don't have either problem with this one. I really enjoy the styles Lia Sophia offers, and I still wear several of their pieces on a daily basis years after purchasing them.

It's through subtle details like these that an ordinary career suit can turn into a funky ensemble that makes you happy to wear all day everyday and that reflects your own sense of style. If you take the extra time in the morning to add these little details, I promise you'll love yourself for it.

Much Love,