Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grey Work Dresses

I've been doing some temp work this week, and I have to confess that I've been enjoying the challenge of dressing for the office. I am sure that I won't feel this way when I have to work five days a week, but for now I'm having fun trying new combinations of pencil skirts, button-down shirts, and heels.

But in this office, there are all these devastatingly fierce women strutting around in power suits and perfectly tailored dresses. Today, it seemed like everyone was wearing grey dresses, which is a smart way to bring feminine fashion into the workplace, without offending any dress codes. A Little Black Dress at work can, with the wrong accessories (too high heels, too glittery a necklace), look too fancy or sexy--as if you don't know the difference between cocktail hour and lunch meetings. A Little Grey Dress, however, is just right: more conservative than a colorful or print dress, but still with enough personality. Here's how I want to imitate the look when I'm a corporate HBIC.

You can't do much better than this Magaschoni Wool Dress, $129. The bateau neckline is sexy/modest in that Jackie Kennedy way, and the pleated skirt with pockets makes this more interesting than your typical shift dress. If you have buff arms, the cap sleeves are insanely flattering; if you'd rather cover up, add a cropped cardigan or jacket and then layer over a thin belt in a statement color like red or yellow.

Speaking of belts, this Banana Republic Wool Sheath Dress, $149, is the ideal blank canvas for a hot corset-style belt or a trendy double-wrap leather belt. The slightly exaggerated shoulders also give you an hourglass silhouette (without going full-on 80's, which, I don't care what the fashion press says, is not a good idea). This dress is good for offices that are a little more creative--it's a big short, especially if you're on the leggy side. On the other hand, it gets colder everyday, and once it's tights season you can get away with a little bit more, length-wise.

Now for a slightly cheaper option, if you're more of a cubicle-dweller than mistress of the corner office. From Modcloth, the Hold My Calls Dress, $84.99, practically screams, "I'm young, I'm ambitious, and I'm not afraid to look good while I work harder than anyone else." This dress is a bit of a combo between the two previous: the pleating and pockets of the Magaschoni, with the shoulders and wasp waist of the Banana Republic. In the Modcloth lookbook, they added a brightly-colored pin to the shoulder--that's the perfect excuse to spend an afternoon combing through vintage and handmade brooches on Etsy!

At this temp job I'm currently in, I spend the entire day sitting behind a receptionist desk. It's a mixed blessing--since I'm not running around, I can wear uncomfortable-but-hot heels, but since I'm sitting, no one ever sees them but me. But sometimes that's enough, as I expect would be the case with these Chunk of Change mary-jane heels, $56, from Lulu's. The grey suede body will match your dress quite nicely, while the teal heel and oversized strap adds a lot of personality. These shoes deserve to be shown off--maybe I can answer the phones and greet guests standing up?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Catalina Island posters

Bad news for my bank account: I'm falling back into shopping mode. All summer I've been so good: avoiding H&M, coming out of the Gap empty handed, window shopping but never actually pulling out my credit card. See, when you're a recent college graduate with no job, living in the most expensive city possible, you need to be frugal. But when I was home in Arizona I bought a dress from Target, and a few days ago I got a Ralph Lauren blazer off Ebay, and today I went to Target (which is obviously a weakness of mine) and spent way too much. I intended only to snag a peg off a bookshelf on display (long story), and ended up buying :a poster frame, Never Been Kissed and Catch Me If You Can on DVD (have I already mentioned how my dream job is thinking up movie combos for those 2 for $9.99 packs?), and a bunch of treats like microwave popcorn and fruit snacks.

See, shopping mode is like a wound that won't stop bleeding, except the blood is money. You get used to throwing down $30 bucks here and $60 bucks there, and before you know it you're buying a $3,000 wedding dress that was on sale, even though you're completely single.

So I am making a concerted effort to stop shopping...and yet. I moved in August, and I've just now started to really decorate my room and put things on walls. I have a few posters that I really, really love, but there are also a few that I've had for so many years that I'm sort of sick of looking at them. Sorry Lloyd Dobbler, sorry Scarlett O'Hara, sorry doorways of Prague. So I was thinking, maybe I should get just one or two new posters, and then I can start a rotation of posters--switching them around every six months or so.

And I know what I want--sort of. I would love to have the second season Mad Men poster: the one with Jon Hamm striding through Grand Central Station. The first season poster (the iconic back of Draper's head, with arm outstretched) is great but doesn't feature Jon Hamm's glorious face, and the third season poster (Draper in his office with the rising waters) is too stressful. But this poster is gorgeous, with Jon Hamm looking like a man above men. Ugh, I love it so much, but I can only find a small version on Ebay--$9.99 for 11x17 inches. Maybe if I got some nice matting and a frame, it wouldn't look dwarfed by my other posters.

Ok, next, I want a poster of Catalina Island. I went to Sea Camp there for nine straight summers when I was a kid, so Catalina Island is one of my favorite places in the world. But the problem is that there are so many fantastic Catalina posters available, that I'm having a hard time choosing. So that's the main issue of this post (and it only took me five paragraphs to get to it).

I'm partial to the posters that look like vintage travel ads, but I'm not totally sold: they're usually drawings, so they don't quite capture all the picturesque details of Avalon.

A: "Catalina by Air," 26x38 inches for $25.

B: Air Catalina, 18x24 inches, $49.99.

C: Giant Palm Tree, 12x18 inches, $19.99. I wish this and the next one weren't 12x18--I think that's too small a poster size.

D: Two Palms, 12x18 inches, $19.99.

E: Ticket to Catalina, 18x12 inches, $19.99. This one is sort of weird--all that text in the middle. And the faux-Hawaiian girl is out of place, since Catalina is off of California and does not have indigenous people. And yet, it's so weird that I think it works!

F: Avalon Graphic, 18x12 inches, $19.99. I think the green in this print would match really well with my blue/green accent wall, but the design might be a bit too minimalist for me.

G: Avalon Harbor photo, 37x26, $18. This one is the biggest and also the cheapest, which makes it very attractive. The only other black and white poster I have is of Say Anything (the movie), so it could be smart to get another and not overwhelm my walls with bright colors. My big hesitation is that this photo was taken in 1885, before the Casino was built--the Casino is the big, round white building with the red roof, and it's by far the most distinctive aspect of Avalon Bay.

Any one have an opinion they want to share? Like I said, I need help deciding. I think my favorite is the Air Catalina one (option B), but it's also significantly more expensive than any of the others. I could get it on Ebay for $36, but still. Please, tell me what you think!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nine West's Vintage America Collection

As evidenced by my last post, I've been planning to go into fall kicking and screaming, wearing white pants and backless tops and hiding my tights under my bed. Since June was so rainy and cold, I feel like Mother Nature owes me an extra month to wear sundresses and sandals.

But then I saw this month's Lucky, and I started to get a little excited about putting my sweaters and corduroys back into rotation. And then I saw pg. 189, which featured items from Nine West's new Vintage America Collection. Lucky is doing a giveaway of $200 gift cards to Nine West, and I'm in it to win it. So what would I blow $200 bucks on?

I'd definitely start with the Roll Tab Boyfriend Tunic, $59. Plaid continues to be a personal obsession, and I plan to rock it in full force as soon as the temperature goes below 60 degrees. This top looks perfectly cozy, and it has that "I'm too confident in my sexiness to need to show all that skin," while still being form-fitting and cute. The roll-up sleeves and bib front give it a little more character than your typical button-down. I'm digging the tunic length, although if it were dress length I might love it a little more.

Ok, so buying these boots would already put me over the $200 mark, but I don't care: I need them, I want them, oh baby, oh baby. The knee-high Fiddle Boot, $169, does a fantastic job of mixing in Western inspiration with everyday style. Having grown up in Arizona and ridden horses for half my life, I tend to be a little suspicious of anything that tries to imitate Western style. I've worn chaps, and riding boots, and spurs, and I have no desire to bring that look to the East Village. But the cowboy influence is subtle in these boots--just some silver studs up the side and a practical mini-heel. I also like how these appear to have a good amount of structure, so they won't slouch down your calves and make your legs with stumpy.

These boots would get ruined in about five minutes on a real ranch, and that just makes me love them more. The Frollic boots, $99.99, come in three luxe suede colors, and I want the lightest brown, in order to form a perfect set with the medium brown boots I already have and the black boots above, that I own in my imagination. Sure, I'd have to put in a bit of work to keep them clean from sidewalk slush and subway grime, but looking killer in suede boots is the ultimate reward.

But a girl can not live in boots alone. Enter the Coby flats, $69.00. My passion for shiny studs and girly patterns is well documented, but I have to confess that I'm digging this gunmetal green color. It's so unexpectedly pretty, and will match nearly everything while not fading into the background. I'd love to wear these with a cranberry red dress, or maybe a loose cream sweater with super skinny jeans.

Parsing the end of summer sales

There comes a point in late August when you think to yourself, "I cannot wait for sweaters and corduroy and scarves and boots... is it fall yet?" But no, you're still a good month or so (or three months if you're in Arizona) away from chilly weather, and if you try to wear an argyle cardigan now, you'll probably die of heatstroke. But there is a bright side! All those light, airy, skimpy summer clothes are now on sale, and if you go for pieces aren't overly trendy (aka: no rompers), you'll be able to wear these next summer, too.

A loose jersey dress is one of those wardrobe workhorses that you can always count on, and J.Crew makes some of the best out there. Unfortunately, J.Crew tends to price them inappropriately high...until sale time comes around, that is. This jersey tank belted dress, $39.99, could transform into a bikini cover-up, date night frock, or casual Friday office dress, with the right accessories. For the first, big sunglasses, gold necklaces, great tan. For the second, switch out the jersey waist-tie for a leather belt in a contrasting color, and maybe match it to your pumps. For the later, throw a slip underneath and a buttoned-up navy blazer on top, with maybe thick tights and boots when it gets chilly. This dress also comes in heather grey and navy, but mango is the perfect color for an Indian summer.

Speaking of multi-tasking, this is the perfect top for when you're going straight from work to happy hour. From Old Navy, the embroidered border top, $20, will hide demurely under a cardigan or suit jacket from 9-5, with only the bottom edge suggesting that you're more stylish than your fellow office drones. As soon as you're done for the day, whip off the extra layer and get ready to have 15 guys lining up to buy you drinks, because your shoulders are just that hot. Just be careful to wear the appropriate undergarments; this top would be absolutely ruined by an errant bra strap poking out top.

I've been craving this American Eagle bustier dress all summer, and now that it's more than 50% off at $19.95, I think it's time to go for it. How to wear it into fall? Tough to say, since the big sash makes layering a little more difficult. I would try wearing a loose, sheer grey t-shirt underneath, and maybe undoing some of the buttons on the bodice. Anyone have better suggestions?

I can't officially include this AE Belted Party dress, $44.50, since it's not on end-of-summer sale and because it's only available in size 16 and 18. But wow, it looks really adorable on the model, right? It's the perfect mix of sexy and cute--very Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights.

Confession time: I've always wanted an I Heart NY shirt, but am too embarrassed to buy one for myself. I've put a lot of thought into scenarios where it would be acceptable for me (my 4 year NYC anniversary was last week!) to own one of those shirts, and here's what I've come up with: I won it in some sort of contest on NY trivia ("The answer is...New Amsterdam!"); it was a gift from my friends when I decided to go to NYU in 2005; I saw it in a thrift shop in Prague and bought it because it made me homesick; my boyfriend got one ironically and I stole it because it looked better on me. But since I have never entered a trivia contest, can't travel back in time, am not going abroad anytime soon, and don't have a boyfriend, it appears I'm out of luck. But wait! Forever 21 is selling this I Love My City tee for $8.72! That's so cheap that I can buy it with no crazy justfications or doubts! And since it's probably made out of tissue paper, when it inevitably starts to fall apart it will look that much more "I'm so hip without trying." I'm going to get so many compliments on the L train! I just need to buy it quickly, before a well-justified copyright infringement lawsuit ensues.

On a semi-related note, I once saw a family of five walking around a particularly trendy part of Nolita, and every single one of them was wearing an I Heart NY shirt, albeit in different colors. I got so much secondhand embarrassment that I had to cross the street. I know I sound like a snob, but seriously: take your matching t-shirts and fanny packs to Applebee's, because in NYC you need to try a little harder.

Today, you can wear this Anthropologie Bloemist Cardigan, $39.99, when you go see Inglourious Basterds, because it's a law of nature that the hotter it is outside, the colder it will be in a movie theater. In a month, you can wear it for long strolls in the park, and feel perfectly cozy and stylish. I love how the fabric flowers appliques look a little bit ragged, as if you dug this sweater out from under a pile of your great-aunt's wool skirts and fur muffs (oh, how I wished I'd been alive when women wore fur muffs to keep their hands warm. Basically, I wish I could dress like Samantha the American Girl doll--especially the pinafore she wore in the summer). But the voluminous sleeves and artful draping is very current, and I love the detail of the button on the shoulder, so you can fasten one end up and wear it shawl-style.