Avoiding the Corporate Look

So this may be an odd post to start with after more than a month of not blogging. But here goes:

I came across this faux snakeskin blazer from Zara via Girls of a Certain Age yesterday, and I’m really digging it. I always find blazers tough on my shape. They veer into the corporate direction instead of the cool I-just-threw-this-on style. But something this wild can’t possibly look too business-y, even on me, can it?

Beauty DIY vs. Pro

Yesterday I was reading this post by Garance Dore, when her post script got me thinking. She mentions that most French women color their own hair, but most women in the United States pay professionals to do it, along with manicures, waxing, etc. I’m wondering if that’s true and what beauty regimes you outsource.

Personally, I’m willing to spend a bit more on my hair. I think a really good hair cut is worth something. (Although I admit to touching up the cowlick that forms at the nape of my neck with embroidery scissors between cuts.) When it comes to hair color, I’ll only let a professional do it. I have a horrendous DIY dye-job story from college. And after a recent bad dye job from my regular stylist, I might only let a “colorist” do it from now on.

I’ve only ever had two professional manicures, but last summer I indulged semi-regularly in professional pedicures. I loved the way my toes looked all cleaned up with cute polish. But that ish is expensive, and I should save my money this summer. I’ve never had a facial, but I’d like to some day.

So what beauty and skin care things do you pay a professional to do? Are there one or two things you’ll pay a little more for on a regular basis and do the rest yourself? Only pay for beauty treatments on special occasions? Or do you outsource it all?

Black Pump Hunt

RIP Nine West pointy toe pumps. They died a few months ago, unable to be revived by the cobbler one more time. I’ve been leaning heavily on my Madewell booties to get me by. But I finally decided enough was enough — my wardrobe couldn’t support the void any longer.

So my quest became finding a low, delicate heel with an extremely pointy toe in black. I favored d’Orsay styles — closed heel and toe, cut down to the sole on the sides — this time around because I find the shape interesting. D’Orsay pumps were popular in the 1940s, and I’m happy they are having a revival.

A big concern was finding a heel that didn’t provide too much coverage. I know that sounds odd when you are talking about shoes, but low-heeled, pointy-toe shoes can go matronly fast. A little less leather, a little more foot revealed is sexier.

These Calvin Klein Dolly heels are classic and would get the job done. I like the slight contour dip on the outer edge. They were a solid contender.

I considered these French Connection d’Orsay pumps. The striped toe is textured, which is a cool detail to break up a monotony of black. The kitten heel is cute and practical too.

I dreamed about buying the Jess pumps by Kate Spade New York. The shoes have smooth contouring, which adds a hint more femininity. These are as timeless as you can get my friends.

These Christian Louboutin Malachic pumps went on my Pinterest wishlist board immediately. The wingtip vamp is equal parts lady and evil. Just like Malificent, right?

I ended up trying these Mairi heels from Nine West. My last pumps were from Nine West, and they lasted years (with some cobbler touchups). But alas, the vamp pinched my feet too much and sizing up only caused them to slip off my heel as I walked.

I finally settled on Anne Klein’s Christa heels. They fit great, are made of buttery leather, and have an alluring d’Orsay shape. The heel is slightly higher than my general preference (three inches), but they were comfortable for a full day of work last Friday. They seem to have solid construction, so let’s hope they last.

Style File – Swan Skirt

A week and a half ago I found myself strolling down State Street in the Loop after a long day. I wanted to see the Isabel Marant for H&M line in person, even though I had no intention of buying anything. Isabel Marant just isn’t my style. I was impressed with the quality of the coats, but nothing else stood out as worthwhile for its prices.

Continuing up State Street, I found myself drawn into Anthropologie. While I found little interesting at H&M, Anthropologie felt like a jackpot of texture, whimsy, and embellishments.

And that’s when I came across a knitted swan skirt with needle felting. It hit the spot — romantic design, quality fabric (100% wool), really comfortable, great fit for my body, and modest. The needle felting is an unusual technique at a high street store.

The back of the skirt, by Troubadour, features tiny knife pleats.

I paired it with a vintage black silk tee, black nylons, and my somewhat new Madewell Billie Boots in true black. I finally pulled the trigger on a pair of ankle boots (after trying these first without success), and I’ve been wearing them everywhere for about a month.

The Billie Boots have been very versatile. I’ve been wearing them with work clothes and jeans on the weekends. However I need to put in some gel inserts for the balls of my feet because there is no built-in cushion on the insoles.

Style File – Springy Wool Skirt

A couple weekends ago, one of my good friends got married. I had my hair blown out at the salon for the occasion, and the next day, my hair was still looking pretty cute. So I took it out for another spin.

I recently bought this glorious wool skirt from Elmidae at the fall sample sale. It has a very similar cut to the skirt of my Elmidae olive green shirtdress. The wool is thick and springy. It’s got great motion when I walk.

I wore it with a Rachel Rose silk tee from Of A Kind, a black Merona cardigan from Target, a pair of black Calvin Klein nylons, and black Pour La Victoire flats.

My bracelet is also new, but a favor from the bachelorette party I attended a couple days before the wedding. Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, who designs Elmidae, is also a friend of the bride, and she made them for all the bachelorette partygoers! The braid is made out of the same thick wool as the skirt. Heaven! And I love the oversized copper pipe ornament.

Style File – Late Summer Wool

Last week was pretty busy in order to prep for the fall semester, which begins today. It’s time to transition from a casual summer wardrobe into something a bit more polished at work now that the faculty and students are returning.

For a day-long, in-service meeting, I wore a charcoal Marc Le Bihan dress I bought at major discount from Yoox.com earlier in the year. Made of a thin wool, the edges are left raw to look deconstructed. I couldn’t resist wearing my black leather sandals to work one last time, and I carried my Pour La Victoire bag (which has turned into a really good investment).

Marc Le Bhihan is one of my favorite designers. The way he shapes a dress with pleats, tucks, and draping gives it dimension and interest. The genius of his designs are often found in subtle details.

One strange quirk about his dresses, though, is that the torsos always seem to be too long on me. I am short waisted, but this is extreme. Both of the Marc Le Bihan dresses that I own needed to be altered at the shoulder in order to fit in the upper body. Now they hang correctly, and I feel great in them.

Style File – Masnada Dress

Last week we had a department meeting with all full-time and part-time faculty. I presented updates about the fashion collection, so I stepped it up from the more casual outfits I’ve been wearing this summer.

I love the texture of this Masnada dress from the Fall/Winter 13-14 collection. It’s a blend of 4 different synthetics, cotton, and wool. Up close, it kind of looks like a leathery latex woven into a wool ground. Also, I really love that it has tails in back made from a knit fabric.

To complete the outfit, I wore Kenneth Cole Reaction flats and carried the Pour la Victore bag.

The dress was a hit with faculty. Masnada is new to me, but I’m obsessed with what I see on its site. It is an Italian brand, and I am definitely going to keep an eye out for it now.

Are you familiar with Masnada?

Summer Wardrobe Fading

For me, it’s that point in the year when my summer clothes are feeling a little old, but it’s irresponsible to buy anything new and summery when I know the temperatures are about to change.

And if you go into any of the shops, pre-fall is in full effect. On Saturday, I stopped in Robin Richman, which is undoubtably one of the best boutiques in the city. They had beautiful wool coats and drapey sweaters, but I couldn’t bring myself to give them too much notice yet. It’s too early for me to consider cold-weater clothes when the forecasted temperatures for the week are in the high 80s.

I can’t pull my clothes out of storage because those are either from my fall/winter wardrobe or are too small.

Maybe the solution is a new piece of jewelry to breathe some new life into my summer clothes? I’m in love with the Odyssey necklace by Bjorg above, which I found in Robin Richman. It’s a half circle of black horse hair on a curved metal plate. Unfortunately it’s way out of my price range. So I guess I’m on the hunt for something just as cool, but for much less. Might be an impossible feat.

Anyone else feeling the same way about their summer clothes?

Style File – Floral Skirt Redux

Like I said a few weeks ago, I’ve been wearing this floral skirt from the Gap a lot lately. I’m glad I hung on to it for so many years, even though I haven’t worn it as much in the last couple. It sits just below my waist now rather than on my hips, since I’ve put on a little weight. The print feels a bit nostalgic.

I styled it differently than I showed it last time with a black silk tee, two-toned chain necklace, and Kenneth Cole Reaction flats. I think this outift might have looked a little more polished with heels, so I’m keeping that in mind for next time.

Do you have a long-time piece in your wardrobe that goes through cycles of use?

Style File – Zara Trousers

We’ve definitely seen some cooler temps in Chicago the past couple of weeks, so pants are back in my daily rotation. I’ve had this pair from Zara since March or April, and, oddly enough, am wearing them more often this summer than I did in the spring.

I don’t wear pants often to begin with (in fact, I had a coworker tell me she had never seen me in pants before when I first bought these), but am really digging how comfortable these are. I’m not exactly sure what they are calling this style these days. They feel like a cross between trousers and sweatpants.

Last week, I paired them with a Rachel Rose silk tee from Of a Kind. This particular edition is long gone, but, hint hint, there are two other ones currently available.

The heeled sandals are also from Zara, and they go with just about everything (duh, neutrals). The chunky heel helps so that they don’t hurt my feet even though they are a little higher than the heels I generally wear. I wonder how long chunky heels are going to be in — they make an appearance every few years, but grow tired on the eyes quickly. Hopefully, not too quickly because I think I like them this time around.