You might be asking yourself (because I know I’m certainly asking myself), why the heck is this author/Marine/mother/wife writing a fashion blog? Aren’t there like a bajillion fashion blogs out there? Why do we need another?
We probably don’t, and I don’t think I’m a fashionista at all, but apparently some of my friends and family do, and they asked me to do one, soooo… I figured this would be kind of fun to do. So there.
I guess since one definition of the word is “a woman with a penchant for shopping and a natural flair for combining both current and vintage fashionable trends” and I do like to combine styles…
That said, my personal style is constantly evolving (i.e., when I was 16, to me the height of fashion was jeans, Birkenstocks, and a Beatles t-shirt… okay I’ll be honest, some days this is still the height of fashion for me).
Now, what I wear is driven in part by the situation. For example, I am currently working on Capitol Hill as a Marine Liaison Officer for the House of Representatives. I wear a uniform one day a week instead of everyday – this means I wear a lot of professional civilian clothing. Still, I try to show my own flair and personality in my clothes, while still maintaining a professional appearance appropriate to my surroundings.
Oh, and I absolutely LOVE thrift stores, vintage, used, handmade clothing, clearance sales, you name it. In fact, I get a bit ill if I pay full price for anything. Bleh. So yes, it IS possible to look great without spending half your pay check doing it! You’ve got to go by the old adage (my friend Caitlin told me about): You can have it perfect, cheap, or fast – pick 2 of the 3. If you want a perfect, yet inexpensive outfit, it will take you time (sometimes even years) to get it all together. You need to learn patience. If you want it cheap & fast, well then you’ll probably have to settle for less than perfect. If money isn’t an object, well then, you can generally get what you want when you want it.
For me, I’ve learned to be patient. Besides, that makes the hunt that much more fun, and the satisfaction of finding $500 shoes in a thrift store for $30 is glorious!
So, how did a tomboy like me, who only owned a skirt in my teens/early 20s so I’d have something to wear to church, grow to develop my own “style” and not just give into wearing a dress, but fully embrace my feminine side?
Well, I blame Iraq, Tim Gunn, and my friend Jen (who will be an occasional guest blogger here).
After my first deployment to Iraq in 2006, I came home with a very strong desire to own a pretty dress & feel like girl again. So, one trip to the local Banana Republic outlet later, and I was the proud owner of my very first BNR item (I’d always considered Banana to be too mature for me). It was a navy blue eyelet dress that I adored and wore frequently until a few months ago, when I passed it on to my cousin Mel for her mission.
I loved that dress, and as silly as it sounds, it changed me. I learned to let go of my prejudices against looking “girly” (in a male dominated work environment I sometimes felt like if I was too “girly” I wouldn’t be taken seriously – I eventually figured out that I could be my girly self, and still be professional).
I also learned the value of “investing” in my wardrobe. That was thanks to Tim Gunn’s list of 10 Essential items for your wardrobe. I’d never much paid attention to my closet. As long as I had enough clean uniforms, jeans and t-shirts, I thought I was set! Heh, the first time I had to “dress nice” for an occasion where I couldn’t wear my dress blues I was seriously stuck & scrambling. So, I’ve gotta say, you may not be a fashionista, but you’ve definitely got to have these items in your closet:
Here are the Top 10 Essential items a woman should have, by Tim Gunn
1. Basic Black Dress – The basic black dress has been around for a long time. It is often called the “Little Black Dress”, and it’s true that shorter skirts on the basic black dress, when they hit you in the right place, can be more flattering than a long black dress.
2. Trench Coat – The trench coat is one of the pieces that is both classic and currently a hot fashion item. Most any store sells this piece now. It is great for fall and you can pick it up in a wide range of lengths.
3. Classic Dress Pants – Although it doesn’t say black, this is probably what you want to look for. Black is flattering on all figures and goes with everything.
4. White Shirt – The white shirt is a definite classic. But it can also come in many different styles to make it look trendy and not dated or like a man’s piece of clothing. Find one that accentuates your best attributes and minimizes trouble spots. For example, if you have wide shoulders, stay away from large collars.
5. Jeans – Everyone has a pair of jeans, but does everyone have a pair of jeans that make them look great? The wider leg, low-rise jean style has been popular (and still is) but a narrower leg is coming back along with a higher waist, which eliminates the unflattering “muffin top” look.
6. Cashmere Sweater – This is one item probably not many people own. But including it forces people to buy a piece of clothing that is high quality and that is also a luxury item. Having a cashmere sweater in your closet is like giving a gift to yourself. And aren’t you worth it? I must admit I DON’T own a cashmere sweater, but I do have many nice items in my closet that I think makes up for it. I’m just not fond of cashmere.
7. Skirt – If you need dress pants then you also need a skirt. A skirt is womanly and can be flirty or businesslike. Nowadays women do not wear many skirts or dresses, which makes a lot of them fall into a rut of dressing sloppily or like men. See number 8.
8. Day Dress – Women also are not wearing as many dresses anymore. It was certainly liberating to go from the ’50s when women wore dresses every day to wearing more practical pants for gardening, exercising, and so forth. But the dress does not have to be abandoned altogether. They can be very flattering, and there is nothing wrong with “dressing up” for daytime.
9. Blazer – The blazer sounds very masculine, but when you get the right one with a proper shape it is not. Women’s blazers should follow the silhouette of a woman’s body and accent the hourglass curve at her waist. It is also a perfect piece to put with the skirt or dress pants, and white shirt. Or make it casual with a pair of jeans.
10. Sweat Suit Alternative – As mentioned before, women wear fewer skirts and dresses these days. But some women have taken casual to the extreme and spend days on end in sweat suits. It is possible to be casual and comfortable without looking like a slob. Find a comfortable material (that’s why this doesn’t say jeans again as denim is not as comfortable as a nice soft cotton) that you would want to wear every day. It could be khakis, cords, a cotton dress, or much more.
Bonus: One Indulgent Trendy Item
This brings us to my friend Jen, who I will occasionally feature on my fashion blog posts. She’s one of the most beautiful and classy women I know. Her sense of style is gorgeous and impeccable, and she does another cool thing: she’s made a commitment to wear at least one vintage or handmade item every day. Let me tell you, she looks AMAZING! Her commitment to vintage clothing and her attitude of “it’s timeless, therefore always in style” has truly rubbed of on me, and taught me to appreciate the value of “old things.” I love my vintage dresses, and try to find any opportunity to wear them.
So, as this post is getting rather long, let’s wrap it up to a bit of administrative details – I don’t plan to blog about fashion all that much, because let’s face it, most of you are here for my author content. My intent is to blog about my real world outfits once or twice a month for as long as this is fun to do. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them! Like I said, I don’t think I’m a pro or that my fashion sense is all that great, but I do, generally, love what I wear, and have a lot of fun with it.
Outfit the first
Special Agenda? Nope, just a typical day at work on The Hill.
Tan Banana Republic Column/Sheath dress, $15 (Purchased at one of my fav local used clothing shops, Mustard Seed)
Grey and black patterned tights, Nine West, $8 (on sale)
Bellevues by Fluevog, eBay, $40
Paul McCartney Blackbird Necklace & Earrings, by Good Karma jewelry, gift.
Watch, Raymond Weil, gift
Total: $63. At full price would have been: approx $355. (bling not calculated in total)
Notes: This sheath dress was me kind of taking a leap of faith – I found it at Mustard Seed, but was very pressed for time, so didn’t have time to try it on. Given that I own loads of BNR clothes, I figured it would fit based on the size on the tag, and since it was only $15, that I could take the risk. If it didn’t look ok on me, I knew I could pass it on to a friend or family member. I needn’t have worried – I loved it once I got it home & tried it on! Oh, and yes, it’s as comfortable as it looks.
My Fluevog shoes are the perfect example of patience – I first saw these on the previously mentioned Jen and asked her “Where did you get those GORGEOUS shoes?” She pointed me to the Fluevog website (DON’T GO IF YOU VALUE YOUR WALLET) and a new love was born. The things is, I have no desire drop $300 on a pair of shoes (don’t think I haven’t done it – because I have, but hey, it was Paris, the sky was blue, we’d just sold our house, it was my 31st birthday, they were beautiful Fendis on sale from $600… but I digress), nor do I have the budget for that. So I started trolling eBay. Occasionally they’d pop up in my size and I’d bid on them, but the bidding would always go way too high for me. Until one day, years later (probably 3 years), I got lucky! This is probably the MOST extreme case of patience, but hey, it paid off. I got a $250 pair of shoes for $40. And let me tell you, Fluevogs are worth EVERY penny. Not only are they super comfortable, last forever, and easy to repair, BUT they are funky, sassy, and just plain old fun!
I own exactly ONE nice watch. It was a “congrats on your new job” gift from my husband, and even though he got it on a 40% off sale, I know it still wasn’t cheap. But as the old saying goes “you get what you pay for.” It matches everything (casual and business attire), and looks a lot classier than my pink plastic timex watch did. So yes, I’d say if you’re going to get a nice watch, go for something clean and simple that will go with everything.
My necklace was a gift from my husband, who knows what a HUGE Beatles/Paul McCartney fan I am. It’s a unique hand crafted design by Good Karnma Jewelry made out of copper, called “Blackbird,” one of my very fav songs ever.
And there you have it, my very first Thrift Fashion post.
Pics taken by my adorable daughter, who literally JUMPED at the chance to help me with my fashion blog. Oh, yes, she’s got a very unique sense of fashion too.
Lastly, need a copy of my books? As it happens you can buy them here.