fab find friday

She’s back. My intrepid hill staffer of a friend who cannot be named, but who has some words to share on how she’s approaching fall weather on a public servant’s budget.

Somewhere along the pathway to adulthood, fall becomes the season to fall in love with.

Between the search for the perfect cup of coffee, walking to work to enjoy the nip in the air, apple picking, and devouring the September Issue – I put together a few of my favorite fall fab finds.

Fall is the season when I crawl back in to my comfort zone of black and neutrals. I take fewer risks. I look for cozy and comfortable but not sloppy and ill-fitting. Chelsea would never let me get away with that.

Fashion Trend, ikat. I wasn’t a fan of this print in bold colors that littered every store this summer but I like this black and cream version as a more subtle way to incorporate this trend in my wardrobe. And for less than $20, if it doesn’t work I’m ok with that.

A pair of black skinny jeans are a must have and a great substitute when you need something a little sturdier than leggings. Old Navy’s Rockstar Super Skinny jeans are perfect (don’t be intimidated by the name).

Cozy sweaters are synonymous with the season – bold stripes from Zara can be dressed up or dressed down, swap out heels for flats or add a bold necklace and easily go from day to night. This folksy cardigan from urbanog is exactly what I would throw over jeans and a white tee to wear to Sunday brunch or pumpkin picking. I’m a sucker for a hood (not a hoodie).

Keeping basic black interesting takes some effort. This skirt from Jennifer Lopez for Kohls is the right way to go because not only does she know how to cut clothes to flatter a woman’s body, she gets creative with details like faux leather and zippers. I also mix up the black with deep jewel toned jewelry. Both pieces here are from forever21.com. I just bought them both for $16.

And I leave you with the wedge. Chic. Classic. Comfortable.

Now only if the fall weather would return.


my first vintage find

Photo by chelseachroniclIt happened totally by accident. It almost felt like cheating because there was really no more patience required beyond what it took for me to get a parking spot right out in front of the building.

Yes, it was that easy.

I had been planning on popping into Secondi (before heading to a #dayjob coffee meeting in Dupont Circle) only to drop off an armful of items that had long gone unworn in my closet. As I waited for the sales associate to ensure she had all the information she needed from me, my eyes caught a glimpse of this jacket. It’s not quite red. It’s not quite pink. It’s slightly cropped and rather fitted. It’s genuine leather. I instantly fell in love.

I looked at the price tag and expected to see something outrageous. Instead I was greeted by the doable $55.00. I inspected the lining for rips (none) and the leather for wear and tear (nothing that doesn’t just make it look awesomer). Then I tried it on and knew it would be mine.

It turned out I had a small credit of $25 on my account remaining from the spring closet purge, which means I really picked up this little number for a mere $30. I’m already dreaming up outfits and looking forward to the next time I can visit one of DC’s vintage stores.

A monster might have been unleashed.

WTF, J. Crew?

$795.00 for a cashmere camel blazer. $895 for a sequin top that looks vaguely like the one I got on sale last November for $49. $595 for a toggle coat. (As beautiful as it looked on gp, I know toggle-coat devotees can do better.) $350 for a lace dress seems mild by comparison but DVF makes the Zarita every season and it’s both more flattering looking (based on my on-line assessment) and is slightly less expensive. $695 for a yellow sequin skirt seems especially steep and this python getup can make any woman look like a pregnant snake for a mere $475. (I thought it was a dress at first give the way it is styled with a matchy matchy blouse.) And rounding out my favorite J. Crew question marks is the $325 golden paisley pant, which looks suspiciously like pajamas. Hey, I know the floral pant is trending right now, but if you want to venture into this territory (note: I do not) I recommend starting at something in the two-digit price range that you won’t regret after the first wear.

I love J. Crew. But this is ridiculous. These examples just confound me (and they aren’t the only ones). I appreciate the idea of J. Crew Collection. Banana did it with Monogram. But at the end of the day, you are still J. Crew. And I really hope no one is paying full price for these items because I fear that (1) they are getting ripped off and (2) it will just encourage the Crew to offer more of the same.

I rely on J. Crew for staples such as pencil skirts, tee-shirts, and the only pants I wear that aren’t jeans. (Yes, I mean you, Minnie.) I’m a recent convert to their cashmere. I’ve contemplated getting my winter coat there. But at the prices they demand for their Collection, you expect to bring home an investment piece, produced by a brand known for its longevity and quality. You don’t want a $700 yellow sequin skirt that you get limited wear out of. Or maybe you do, but if I see you in public, I’m going to call you yellow sequin skirt babe and I’m going to hope you got it way on sale.

43 by 43: vintage patience

While some of the goals on my 43 by 43 list are easily crossed off (paint living room, wear red lipstick at least once a week) others are more subjective and harder to judge success. For example, how do I adequately measure goal #26: be more patient.

As I make my way down the list, I’ve been struggling to come up with a form of patience measurement. I almost took it off the list for something more concrete, but that felt like cheating, whereas patience is a virtue, and one I need more of in my life. After much soul searching, I finally decided that one interesting way to exercise patience is to use it as I strive to fulfill one of my other goals. Then I get to kill two birds with one stone. (Not that I’m pro bird killing, unless of course it’s the duck I’m going to roast since that’s a goal too.) In other words, I need to pick one of my goals that requires patience to execute and use that goal to fulfill the patience goal.

Following me?

Well, this weekend an idea came to me.

I’ve often longed to be one of those people who has a knack for vintage shopping. I’m a huge admirer of women who incorporate vintage pieces into their modern day looks, but the few times I ventured into a vintage store, I felt out of place and overwhelmed, coupled by a fear that the effortlessly chic vintage shop owners are looking at me in my completely current day (read: boring) outfit and wondering what I’m doing in their store? (I’m sure this is my own projection of insecurity and not actually happening.) Instead of taking my time to imagine what pieces might work with my current closet, I pass quickly through the racks the way I would at a warehouse sale (another shopping arena where patience eludes me).

Since goal #42 is to push my style envelope more, I’ve decided that by working on goal #26 to fulfill goal #42, I can both practice the art of patience and perhaps score some vintage finds in the process. Who knows, if I take my time, I may find that perfect sexy secretary something that would compliment my army of pencil skirts. I’m thinking a hat, clutch, some funky broaches or even a pair of gloves. Perhaps I won’t find anything my first few trips, but I won’t let it discourage me and I promise myself I will keep trying.

I’m going to be patient as I embrace this fun way to shake up my style while remaining true to me.

The only question now is who’s coming with me?

on being nice

In the last week, I’ve been confronted by two real and painful examples of what happens when adults don’t stick to a rule they often reprimand children for not following: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

While the first example is too personal to go into, this second infraction on the cousin to the golden rule came at a kids’ soccer game this weekend. Let me pause for a moment to express that even after seven years of watching my children play youth sports, I haven’t immuned myself to the way some sidelines parents criticize kids, coaches and refs alike. It’s infuriating and distracting. Youth sports are supposed to be fun. These children play not to win the world cup in peewee soccer but to run around and “learn” a sport. In the process, they get fresh air and an understanding what it means to be on a team. The coaches are all volunteers, usually parents to one or more kids on the team. These parents are not professional coaches but real people with full time jobs on top of their household responsibilities. For many hours each week they spend their “free” time with our kids on a soccer field.

At Saturday’s game, I was caring for our coach’s toddler daughter while he guided a field of seven and eight year olds in the chaotic art of soccer. Our kids don’t have many fancy moves. They don’t even get called for offsides yet. Most of them still follow the ball like a herd and freeze with fear sometimes when confronted by a chance to kid the ball. In other words, they play like little kids.

The team we were facing was a little more sleek and sophisticated. And they quickly went up on us by five goals.

After the 3rd or 4th opposing goal was made, some team parents started criticizing our own coach. I took exception not only because he’s a good guy doing a tireless (and apparently thankless) job, but because these loud mouths were making these comments right in front of our coach’s two children.

At first I tried a few gentle exclamations of my own. To his daughter sitting in my lap I said, “hey, look at your daddy over there! See daddy coaching! Do you want to wave to your daddy the coach?” To her older brother sitting on the grass I said, “is your dad taking you to your soccer game after he’s done coaching this game?” But subtlety is lost on the socially degenerate. After temporarily redirecting their tirade to the kids playing on the field with a “get the ball! kick the ball! pass the ball!” chorus (can we please have a moratorium on statements of the obvious from the sidelines?) they returned to their original target. This time I took a bolder approach. I turned around and said, “perhaps you’d like to meet our coach’s kids; they are sitting right here.”

I didn’t wait to see the deer-in-headlights looks that I’m sure they flashed. They didn’t make an effort to introduce themselves to said children, nor did they apologize, but their tone certainly changed. “Oh, he stepped up when no one else volunteered to coach the team,” I heard one dad say.

Yeah, that’s right. He volunteered so that we could have a team. A team you just spent the last 45 minutes yelling at because they aren’t playing up to your expectations. Maybe the kids can’t hear their coach because ten adults are yelling directives at them from the sidelines. If you are such an expert, get off your chair and volunteer to help at a practice or game. But don’t criticize our patient, unpaid and under appreciated coach for his efforts.

And most of all, when you are in a public setting, be nice. Choose your words wisely. And don’t just do this because you might get caught saying negative things but because it’s the right thing to do.

retail therapy

photo credit: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=59305787
temporary relief from a tough day

Yesterday, I succumbed to retail therapy.

How could I help it? I had a 30-minute gap between my lunch meeting and my coffee meeting, and J. Crew just happened to sit in between the two locations that required my presence. I’d had a rough day to that point, and all the wool, cashmere and fall colors beckoned me inside, promising to relieve my distress.

I walked away with four pieces that I had had in my dream on-line shopping cart, all items that I can mix and match with my current wardrobe. The graphic skirt will pair with a gazillion shirts in my closet: denim, navy, black, patterned.  (Yes, pattered. Stay tuned.) The burgundy skirt I plan to pair with mustard, pink or brilliant blue. As the salesman pointed out, it also looks nice with the French Hen blouse.

Speaking of the French Hen blouse, I will wear it with jeans, my burgundy skirt, my flame skirt, red cords… the possibilities are endless.

And the navy cashmere v-neck sweater? It had been on my wish list for awhile, and the 20% discount on sweaters in store helped make the splurge easier. J. Crew cashmere is so soft, so luxe, and I’ve never regretted a purchase. I can wear this sweater as easily to work as to the soccer field.

But the euphoria of shopping had worn off by the time I got home. Luckily, the two awesomest (to use a Colin-ism) boys in the world awaited me. And our evening together provided the real therapy I was seeking.

I’ve been peplumed

Did I say I would never wear peplum?

Yes, it sounds like something I would say. Or write. I could not imagine that this style would do anything but make my childbearing hips look larger than they are. But then I was seduced by the trend, so I have been keeping my eyes open for a version that isn’t too ruffly.

I like this J. Crew peplum jacket because the boucle texture toughens it up. I could just as easily wear it over a denim shirt (as J. Crew styled it) as I could with my silk blue blouse with gray elephants on it (a little too politically charged to wear at this point in an election cycle). Today I chose to pair it with a sleeveless underpinning because it’s early fall and the temperatures could climb to the mid-70s today.

It’s versatile. It’s flattering. I’ve received numerous compliments on it today. And I’m happy I didn’t completely close my mind off to the idea.

Sometimes, you have to push your own envelope.



men’s wear wednesday: cufflinks

photo credit: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=59139601There is little that raises the swoon factor more than a well-dressed man wearing cufflinks. Maybe it’s the extra difficulty in rolling up sleeves fastened by a piece of jewelry (especially since you guys don’t carry around a purse to put your accessories in if you need to take them off) but I don’t see a lot of French cuffs in the summer. But now it’s close to officially being fall and hopefully your reluctance to wear the ultimate in men’s shirts is about to change. Gentlemen, if you don’t own a shirt with French cuffs, go buy yourself one. Now. And don’t reserve this look for the office. A guy wearing dark wash denim (i.e. no dad jeans) with a blazer and a French cuffed shirt presents just as nicely as a man wearing such a shirt with a well-tailored suit.

(On a related note, if you need some guidance on how to mix and match patterned ties and shirts, hop on over to my friend Rosana’s blog for her recent shopping advice on this very topic.)

When it comes to buying cufflinks, my advice is to not be too literal with your choices. You don’t need to wear your heart, I mean, college team on your sleeve unless maybe you are head of the Booster Club. (But even then, you only get a pass on game day.) The same goes for your favorite football team, baseball team or political party. We all know which teams you support. Your cufflinks should otherwise be reflective of your personality and can complement your tie-shirt ensemble. If you tend more toward the daring, your can choose a bold or hip cufflink. If you are more conservative, there are plenty of very standard yet elegant options. Do you have a particular hobby you are passionate about? They probably make a cufflink that connects. Some of my favorites are pictured here, but I recognize this is about you not me.

It’s not about me at all.