Goodwill Hunting

Seventeen items for just about $100. That’s what I walked away with this weekend after my visit to Omaha, one of the best places around to Goodwill shop. The Omaha Goodwill’s are not only categorized by size (which cuts down dramatically on how long you spend there), but clean and stocked full of brand name clothing. You never know what you are going to find there, but I’ve purchased just about anything and everything you can think of at the Goodwill. This weekend’s treasures include:
1) Two pairs of khaki Bermuda shorts. Shorts are always something easy to find at the Goodwill. Shorts hardly ever change in style, you simply just need to find short or long and the right color. And for someone with kids, mine are forever getting some crazy stain on them that will not come out. So finding cheap pairs that I don’t have to worry about is a must. Plus, it is easy to find brand names. The two I came home with were GAP and Eddie Bauer.
2) Cream, silk shorts. These deserve a different category.  I have been seeing these at Ann Taylor this summer and wanted to try them, but not for those prices! $5 though, sure, I’ll risk it.
3) Pants, pants and more pants. Sometimes just having the right pair of pants to wear with a blouse is a hard find. Pants are also a great Goodwill purchase because in general you don’t wear many pants with prints and most are neutral colors. That doesn’t mean you can’t find pants that don’t fall into this category, however. I found a pair of Limited purple plaid pants and a pair of grey and a pair of cinnamon colored corduroys. I think the cinnamon corduroys were actually my favorite purchase of the day. I also bought a pair of winter white dress pants (in perfect condition) and a pair of ankle cropped Ann Taylor brown plaid dress pants.
4) Tops. When it comes to tops, things get a bit harder. I’m pretty picky about my prints and this is really where you see trends, wear, etc. This is what I found on this trip-a pink lace blouse (seems lace is really in this fall), two casual but brightly colored shirts, a faux shearling shrug-like sweater and a red plaid print sweater.
5) Skirts.  These also can be hard to find. Many are outdated and again, I’m picky about prints. But I did find a classic purple and black tweed skirt and a summery brown and white floral printed skirt
(so easy to wear for a busy mom).
6) Jackets.  Lastly I found a dressy grey jacket in a silver brocade. Looking forward to wearing this over the fancy dresses I will be wearing at Christmastime.
At close to $6/item, I think I did quite well!

Temptation by Mail

What has just arrived in my mail slot? The InStyle Fall Fashion Guide. Thank goodness, now I know what to buy for fall. I love poring through this magazine, page by page-especially the style section. While most of the shopping is completely beyond my bank account, I can always take their looks and make them my own on my shoestring budget. This magazine is not for wimps, it is approximately 638 pages, taking me usually days from cover to cover. Which is what makes it so great. I save all of the pages from the Instant Style section. I have since 2003. When I can’t figure out what to wear, open up my Instant Style pages and there I’ve got it! When you need to pack for a long vacation, find your pages and you’re set. With categories like “Dinner and Dancing,” “Date Night” and “Day at the Beach,” you will always find what is appropriate for your event. Do I always plan out what to wear every morning? No. Do I have days where I’m not happy with what I have on. Absolutely. But this magazine really helps. Now, let’s see if I have the composure to resist opening until after picking up the kids from school. Nope! Bye!

High Point of My Week

This is different for me than it is for most people, but the high point of my week is church! As a stay-at-home mom there aren’t many opportunities for me to get out and about (especially in the winter) without spending a lot of money (especially on gas). So I look forward to church, seeing people who care about me and I love to pick out what I’m going to wear. I still have so many work outfits from when I was actually paid to do something for a living that it is nice to have a place to wear them.
Here it is, my biggest beef about church apparel today…no one dresses up! I understand that most people have to wear something nice five days a week to their job and many would point fingers at what I do and say, “Oh, it must be nice to live in jeans and a t-shirt.” But I don’t live in jeans and a t-shirt because what I present to the world says something about how I feel about myself. I have a serious problem with said people that wear their best clothes to church and dress like a street person to church. What does that say to the Lord? I’m not suggesting that you need to wear a ball gown for church on Sunday. And I’m also not suggesting that in order for you to attend church, you can’t be a street person. I’m just saying, out of respect, dress appropriately. For me that means dresses (yes, even in winter) and skirts on communion Sunday and pants when not. In the summer, I wear skirts and dresses almost every Sunday for the simple reason is that it is nice out.
Maybe I sound like a grandma saying this. And I don’t want ANYONE to not attend church because they can’t afford nice clothing. Half of my wardrobe comes from the Goodwill anyway, so I don’t buy that people can’t afford something nice. God doesn’t care what you look like, but YOU should care what you look like to worship God. Would you wear shorts and flip-flops to your grandpa’s funeral? No. So don’t come to church in them.

Donation Station

Well, it is official. My closet is so stuffed, I can barely find a thing in it. That means it is the semi-annual event in my house referred to as “donation station.” I must organize, edit and tidy my clothes so they all get a chance to be worn. Here are some helpful hints on how to accomplish this quickly.
1) I organize my closet by pants on bottom, shirts on top. Some people organize by outfits together but I find that limits your creativity. You don’t always have to wear that suit together, break up the pieces! Therefore, when you begin, do a pass through for anything you do not wear anymore, has something wrong with it (stains, holes, worn), or doesn’t fit and pull it out.
2) Second time through, I match each piece with something, starting with tops. If there are bottoms or tops that do not have something to go with them, pull them out too, but place in a different pile.
3) Step three may involve more trying on than the above steps, but start looking at the loner items carefully. Are they really loners? Or are you just not thinking the pieces through? Maybe that printed skirt can be matched with a printed top, if the prints go together.
4) With the remaining loner pieces, now write a list to keep in your purse when you are out shopping (note-not setting out to find these pieces, just having them with you when you are browsing) of the pieces that you think you might need to create an outfit with the loner piece. If you can’t even think of what should be worn with it, then perhaps it should also be in the donate pile.
5) Compile the donation station items, bag and place in the car for your next trip so they can be donated shortly.
Now enjoy your clutter free and managable closet!

You Had Me At Coach

This weekend was tax-free weekend on clothing and shoes (and also diapers) in Iowa. Off I headed to Williamsburg which was a good hour and a half drive to inspect the Tanger Outlet Mall. I have never been there and thought it would be a fun day of back-to-school shopping. There are many stores that I needed to visit- Gymboree, Children’s Place, Nike, OshKosh, etc. But there were also stores for me-LOFT, Banana Republic, Gap and Coach! Hello, you had me at Coach. I printed out coupons online before I went- LOFT’s coupon was just mentioning the coupon for a “friends and family discount” and getting 15% off. I purchased the kids clothing and also found a few goodies for me. My purchases included: three summer tees for playing with the kiddos for $50 and a pair of jeans from the Gap for $20 (cheaper than some Wal-Mart pairs). At Banana Republic I found a summer skirt, a sexy date night top, a colorful blouse, a t-shirt looking blouse, a nightgown and a headband for just under $100. But my best find of the day was when I walked into Coach and the sales attendant handed me a coupon for 30% off anything in the store (yes, even clearance!). This was all I needed to tempt me. I looked around for a good fall purse, something in a bright color. Who needs a neutral? But didn’t find many options but blue and I’m not a big blue person… But I did find two small clutches on the clearance rack- a canvas one with a sequins starfish and also a faux croc one in neutrals. Score! Both purchases from Coach for less than $50. Whoohoo! Gotta love back-to-school sales, tax-free weekends and outlet malls!

Women’s Brunch

Here is an example of how I put an outfit together.
I have a function coming up, what’s the first question I ask myself? That’s right, “What am I going to wear?” That’s my favorite question and I usually have the answer.
This particular event is casual, but has some high-brow people in attendance at a all-women summer luncheon. Therefore, sloppiness is not allowed. Here are my options:
1) Casual skirt (aka cotton or other cosy material), casual blouse
2) Maxi dress
3) Capris with casual blouse
Which to choose… Well, the maxi dress although is a “dress” and also casual enough to go to any low-key event, may give the impression of too casual. That leaves options number one and three. When the event is all women, it makes me think wearing something that is maybe in the not so “work appropriate” category. And by that, I do not mean, something I would wear to a club, but something more on the really girly side. Let’s check the closet for option number one.
First, let’s find the skirt. These are more limited in my closet that blouses and therefore with less selection, the blouse will be easier to match. What do I have that fits casual, feminine and conservative?
Answer: a floral skirt from H&M in navy blue. It is girly, casual and yet has a retro feel. Now, what blouse to match? This is more difficult than I thought. The best option would be to find a color in the skirt’s floral print and match it. However, I find a cotton navy tank from the GAP with ruffles on the front. Perfect! Now, on to accessories. This is where you get the most versatility. They can take your basic outfits to many different places. I do believe I will try my new necklace and earrings set. Lastly, but sometime the hardest part, shoes. There are three options to try: grey suede heeled sandals, white strappy sandals with a kitten heel adorned with pink flowers or my heeled nude faux croc strappy sandals. The grey suede matches the best but I choose the white kitten heels for a more demure look. Now I’m set!
Yes, this is really how I think when I put together outfits. And no, I don’t do this on a daily basis (at least to this extreme) but for events when I know I’m going to be representing myself in public. Now think about that one…

Cash and Carry

Recently I attended another at-home jewelry party. This one happened to be for Premier jewelry. I browsed the catalog looking for something I’ve been missing from my jewelry collection, something to wear with the pea green color I love to wear. I found a necklace and earrings set (it also had a bracelet) called “Venetian.” The main color on these pieces is blue, that deep peacock blue that I also love, but the secondary color is pea green. This set caught my eye the first time through the catalog but I was in a bit of a sticker shock at the price. The last time I went to a Premier party, I believe they had some sort of sale going on where the pieces were buy two, get two at half off, or something similar. Premier is not cheap. But the pieces do feel quality and they company stands behind their products. They will replace your pieces if they break. All that said, I still didn’t know how I was going to justify purchasing these pieces. I got up to go look at the display table to inspect these pieces closely and “voila” sitting on the table in the cash and carry box is this very set! Ah, I smell a bargain. I pick up the pieces and sure enough, they are marked down half off. I’ll be purchasing these pieces thank you! And I got to walk away from the party with jewelry in tow. Couldn’t have had a better jewelry party purchase!

Not a fashion victim

Maybe I should make something else clear. While I do feel that fashion is my vice, I hope to never become a fashion “victim.” Yes, I try trends, new and different ways of putting colors and pieces together, but… I don’t ever want to look back on photos of myself and seriously wonder what I was thinking. So, while I may be reading magazines that print articles about the runways of Paris and New York, some club in LA and what to wear to the beach in Miami, I will be focusing on real people, real lives and real style. We all cannot afford to purchase designer labels, nor in the Midwest do we have access to every new “it” label. I don’t want to only stick to your basic mall clothing (although I dearly love Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft), my focus is on the truly affordable- the clearance rack treasure, the second-hand find, the garage sale staple. In this economy and in this tough market of Midwesterners, that will be work enough.

Secret Find

I love discovering new boutiques. And although I don’t live far from the city, with three kids I don’t often get to venture out shopping, especially to browse shops downtown. There is a shop I discovered on an adventure that has been around a few years now without me knowing, Runway. Although I do feel the market is for a younger audience than myself (now in my thirties), I do enjoy the clothing options. Reasonably priced, detail-oriented clothes are right up my alley. Not to mention I walked in and they were running a sale on ALL of their jewelry- 40% off. That’s hard to beat. Who can’t afford five dollar earrings? So for the grand total of a mere $20, I purchased four pairs of earrings, one that will go nicely with a chain necklace of mixed metals from a previous purchase (Cookie Lee) and one that I will wear with a black onyx cocktail ring (Lia Sophia). Thank you Runway, I’ll be back for a cute little party dress should the occasion arise.

So I’ve been thinking about what to write in this blog and I’m having a hard time deciding where to start. Maybe I should answer a few questions first.
1) Do I think I have style?
Of course I should answer “yes,” but there are days as a stay-at-home mom where I have to admit, I have gone to the grocery store looking pretty sad. I have run errands in my work-out clothes (gasp). I have even met with a teacher or had a meeting at church looking a little harried. Who hasn’t? That doesn’t mean that I don’t have style, it simply means I’m human. Style by definition is a prevailing mode of expression. Nine days out of 10 I’m dressed in what I view as appropriate.
2) Why is fashion so important to me?
As a little girl, I enjoyed my dress-up clothes and putting on makeup, but my mother chose all my clothes for me. And I recall, I had few variations to the outfits those pieces made together. I do remember desperately wanting a pair of stirrup pants and finally receiving them only to put a hole in them the first time I wore them. I also recall wearing knee-high socks to church with my frilly dresses my mother chose and feeling so embarrassed. During the height of the eighties, it was all push down socks and neon colors, not so much what I was wearing. My mother has a wonderful sense of style; hers is very classic and conservative. Which I have inherited…to some extent. But looking back, her influence on my clothes saved me from the horrid “what was I thinking” photos that would surely come later as I experimented on my own. [Insert dreaded high bangs photo from the 90s.]
As much as I felt I had to try harder than anyone else at my appearance, fashion didn’t really take on a larger meaning for me until after college, surprisingly. I had a teacher in high school whom I remember as never wearing the same outfit twice. This I can relate to. I get bored in the monotony of the same black-pants-and-button-down-shirt type of existence. Above all, I have learned about myself that I strive on variety and versatility. Amazingly enough, I think my first job out of college (a dot com) and the colleagues I had there sent me down the path of the fashion conscious. It was also heavily influenced by my sudden addiction to InStyle magazine’s Instant Style section. More on this later…
3) What do I hope the outcome of all this blogging will be?
Fashion is my passion. You’ve heard that many times. But for me, it is what keeps me going. It is the hobby that gets me through the long days of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sitting in the drop-off lane at preschool. Dreaming and planning a wardrobe and outfits for the events in my life only create more living for me to do.

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