Two Bloggers, One Thrifting Challenge

About a month ago, my dear friend (also super sweet and so gorgeous) Amy from My Soapbox Moment, and I decided to take on a thifting challenge.  We agreed to spend $20 on a thrifted outfit, including shoes.

At first, I thought, oh sure, $20 dollars, no problem.  Then I got to the store and realized, this challenge was going to be more difficult than I thought!  That is, until I really started to actively look through the racks of clothing at the store.  Then, I had more clothes than I knew what to do with, haha!

I’ll tell you what prompted me to even consider this challenge.  A while back I heard a story on NPR (I wish I could remember the name of the segment…), where they mentioned that the average person in Alabama only has about $7 a month to spend on clothing.  $7 a month!  That’s nothing!!  So it made me think about the young woman going in for her first job interview, or perhaps the one that landed her first job out of college and needs an office-appropriate look for her first day of work. Or maybe the graduate student going to her very first scientific conference.  What can she afford to buy?

So off to Salvation Army I went.  With this young woman in mind.  And I was faced with racks and racks of clothing.  SO many clothes!  It can be a little overwhelming for the novice shopper, but not me!  I’m a pro. 😉

black rackHere’s how I approach racks.  Usually, they are categorized either by color (as in picture above) or type of garment.  So, I actively search the racks for colors or fabrics that stand out and catch my eye.  Take a look at this rack, for example:

Clothing selectionOf course it depends on what colors and prints you tend to wear, but in my case, I was immediately drawn to the cobalt blue top.  The color is very on trend and the fabric doesn’t look wrinkled, which likely means that it won’t wrinkle at home either.  By the way, this top came home with me. I’ll be styling this top on Instagram in the coming week!

After looking through multiple racks – okay ALL of the racks – I found two outfits, which I envisioned this girl wearing to work/conference during the day, then to happy hour with her girlfriends to celebrate her first day on the job or a successful poster presentation!  Take a look at what I put together for the ‘day look’:

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0722141808aAn orange and black number for my day look.  I thought the top was feminine, conservative, and office appropriate.  I went with a basic, black pencil skirt that she could wear over and over with different types of tops. Finally, because it is summer, a pair of peep-toe heels. In retrospect, I could have done without the belt…but, the young woman I have in mind is a ‘chic’ academic, a ‘chic’ professional, so a chic belt it is!  The bag (a Phillip Lim for Target) was also not included in the budget, but it’s currently my go-to work bag.  Why?  Basically, my MacBook Pro fits in it, so it’s the perfect bag for work!

Here’s the price breakdown:

  1. Chico’s Black Label top, $3
  2. New York and Company pencil skirt, $2.50
  3. Anne Michele Peep Toe Heels, $4

Total cost for this outfit: $9.50 (sans accessories)

Okay, so a little more than $7, but maybe she can borrow $2.50 from her girlfriend, right?!

For the ‘happy-hour-after-work look’, I wanted to be able to stay within the $20 proposed spending limit, which meant, I only had another $10.50 left to spend.  So, I purchased the Bisou Bisou top you see below, which is super versatile.  It is another very on trend piece, reminiscent of Mara Hoffman or Clover Canyon, in my opinion.  Take a look and tell me what you think:

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0722141820Here’s the price breakdown:

  1. Bisou Bisou top, $5
  2. Same New York & Co skirt from previous outfit, $2.50
  3. Same Anne Michele shoes from previous outfit, $4

Total cost for this outfit: $11.50 (but only $5 additional dollars from the $9.50 spent for the previous outfit and also not including accessories)

In all, I spent $14.50 and had two outfits to wear! With the $5.50 left, I could certainly have searched for some accessories, but unfortunately the ones available that day did not strike my fancy. 😀

The most difficult part was finding shoes that fit in my budget.  These shoes were actually tagged new, so I went with these shoes as opposed to a black-goes-with-everything pair of used shoes.  The orange tone was somewhat limiting, but I wanted to buy something that was going to last, that I would actually wear again, and that would work beyond the scope of this blog post.  So, orange it was and I chose clothing items accordingly. 😉

The shoes were originally $8, but on Thursdays at the Salvation Army, certain colored tags get discounted a certain percentage.  I didn’t know this when I arrived, but happened to chat with the security guard standing by the door, who spilled the beans!  Here’s what he had to say:

  • At least at the Hoover, AL store, Thursdays are the BEE-NEEZ.  That’s the day to shop because some of the items in the store receive an additional discount.  The discount varies from week to week
  • There’s no sales tax on items purchased at the Salvation Army.  I DID NOT KNOW THAT!  Did you?!  And some items are new!  Totally worth revisiting your opinion of thrift stores, if you had a bad one to begin with.  Don’t you think?
  • If at first you don’t succeed in finding what you’re looking for, try asking the sales associates.  They know the stores like the back of their hand and can almost always help you find what you had in mind.

The day I went, it so happened that the purple tags had an additional 50% discount.  So, the shoes, the skirt and the orange button down top were all 1/2 off!  The multi-colored Bisou Bisou top was originally priced $5, and didn’t have any additional discounts.  Do be very careful and inspect all garments and or shoes before purchasing.  Remember, these items are all donated…often because they have a defect of some sort.  Keep these tips in mind when considering thrifted clothing:

  • Inspect for holes, tears, snags, etc.
  • Smell the garment.  If it smells moldy, reeks of perfume/cologne, etc…you should prob stay away from it.
  • Take a look at where the tag has been placed.  At the Salvation Army, all price tags are stapled on to the clothes.  If the item is silk, or some other delicate fabric and the staples are placed somewhere other than the tag, chances are, you will have holes in your new thrifted item when you get home and remove the tag. No bueno!
  • Finally, go for fit versus brand when selecting items.  Sometimes, you’ll find gems in garments with no tags, unknown brands, or simply items that might be considered vintage.  No one is going to pay attention to the tag that sits INSIDE the clothes you are wearing.  They will, however, see if the fit is amazing, or if it makes you look like a frumpy grump. 😉

So, last night, Amy and I compared notes!  And guess what, she found some fab outfits as well!!  Visit her blog for details on what she paid for each item, but generally, I’ll tell you that she spent about $15 for her day look (vintage, thrifted necklace included), which is so FAB by the way:

photo 4and about $14 for her evening look (accessories not included, but were purchased at a significant discounted price!):

photo 1Didn’t she do an amazing job?  I LOVE the color of the evening dress…perfect for a dinner with the hubs, al fresco!  And the polka dot shoes, with the striped dress…LOVE!  Great pattern mixing.  I’m also in love with the day look…every girl needs a little black dress.  Amy is the sweetest woman I know on Instagram!  So full of energy, love, and happiness.  It shows through in every picture she posts. Make sure to follow her on Instagram to keep up with more of her fabulousness!

So, how do you think we did??! Comment below or feel free to head over to my Instagram or Twitter and leave comments there!

Until next time, friends, stay chic!

PS – A special thank you to my hubby hubs for taking my pictures for this post! Love ya, hubby!

5 wardrobe staples for dressing ‘Chic in Academia’ while expecting

So…you’re knocked up. Haha, just kidding!  But really, you are.  So, congrats!!  Super exciting times lie ahead for you!! Let’s see…sleepless nights, hormonal adjustments, very little ‘me’ time, and a body that is dismorphed (possibly temporarily, possibly permanently), to name a few.

Now you’re thinking, “It’s hard enough to be chic with a normal body, much less a gigantic belly protruding from my body!”  And, honestly, you’re right.  No sugar coating there.  I will say this though:  I’ve now been pregnant twice during my tenure as an academician (is that even a word?!).  The first time I was a 1st year PhD student and the second time, I was a 1st year postdoc.  Actually, both kids were also born in June, right before the summer.  Interestingly, neither was planned… A-NY-WAY….I digress. But, that said, I’ve had some experience with having to find maternity clothing that was outfit appropriate.

Here are a few pointers for dressing for your new, baby-in-utero-body:

1) The Long-Length Blazer Jacket

Think in terms of body proportions.  First and foremost.  You want to wear clothes that make you look, well, proportional!  Hard to do when you have a giant belly, but feasible with a few key pieces.

Take for example the two Kardashian sisters with babies, Kim and Kourtney.  You may love or hate them, but these girls can dress!  And dressing chic while pregnant was something they both did well!  I especially like what Kim Kardashian wore during her pregnancy, because like me, she had major edema towards the end of her pregnancy (I had it with both boys), so I feel a certain type of kinship with her.  Anyway, so, to even out her body a bit, she took to wearing blazers.

Pregnant Kim Kardashian

Photo Credit: JustJared.com

I loved wearing blazers as well.  Here is one example, taken May 2012 (one month before my second son was born, and one of the only pics I had on my current phone!):

PregnantIt’s a little hard to tell here, but I’m basically wearing a non-maternity dress (Prabal Gurung for Target and a Forever 21 blazer, one size larger than usual).  The key for me to wearing blazers, was to find ones that were a little longer than usual, in length (i.e. ones that cover your bottom).  Theory blazers are great (super expensive in store, averaging $400 or so for the blazer alone…though a great investment; and less expensive on eBay), as are Forever 21 Boyfriend Blazers (if you want a way less expensive option, averaging about $30).

And on blogger, Morgan from Allen and Co:

Great style during pregnancy can be done!

Photo Credit: AllenandCoblog.com

2.  The High Waisted Pencil Skirt

I LOVE pencil skirts.  Pregnant or not!  I just think they are incredibly flattering, and work well on most body types.  When pregnant, I really feel that pencil skirts work well.  For those of us who are not blessed with long, slender legs, pencil skirts also help to give the illusion of length and to add, well, proportion!  Here are some examples I love:

Love, love, love these colors as well as the fit of the skirt.  For me, below the knee is key for work-appropriate looks.  This one in particular hits right below the knee, so it really works to give the illusion of (or enhance) an hour-glass figure.

Pregnant Kim Kardashian in Los Angeles on March 12, 2013

Asos maternity pieces are also great staples while pregnant!  They are inexpensive and well-made for the price.  Here’s a popular skirt from their maternity line:

:

Photo Credit: asos.com

NOTE:  Also in this picture are the opaque maternity tights.  Though they don’t really qualify as a staple because you can only REALLY wear them during the fall/winter, they are amazing during pregnancy!!  Let’s be real, for those of us without a thigh gap, they prevent thigh-chaffing; they usually are control top, so they keep your baby-belly nice and snug and your thighs and buttocks in place when wearing tight-fitting clothes; and, finally, keep you from having to shave EVERY.SINGLE.DAY during the winter (don’t judge me!!).  My favorite tights come from Target and can be found here.

Here’s an example of the longer-length blazer paired well with an above the knee-pencil skirt on Ivanka Trump.  A similar skirt can be found at Destination Maternity.

So chic!  *Almost* makes me want to be pregnant again...*almost*. www.chicinacademia.wordpress.com

And finally, this look from Sydney (blogger, The Daybook):

Sydney-daybook-guest-post-1

 

3.  The Skinny Pant or Jean

Okay, so you may be able to give me some insight on great-fitting maternity slacks for the work place, but I was unsuccessful in finding ANY while pregnant with both my boys.  I found maternity slacks to be all around ill-fitting, making me look like I had both a saggy bottom and a saggy belly!  They also were usually didn’t fit well in the thigh area and bottom/tummy area simultaneously.  I did wear one pair that I bought on eBay for $1 (plus shipping, of course) during both pregnancies, but nothing else.  For the most part, I stuck to black leggings with boots (during the winter), and skinny pants/jeans during the spring.

Here are some legging/blazer examples I loved re-creating:

#fabulous and pregnant    http://pinterest.com/treypeezy  http://twitter.com/TreyPeezy  http://instagram.com/OceanviewBLVD  http://OceanviewBLVD.com

Photo Credit: Some pap…eventually Pinterest.

Kourtney+Kardashian

Um, clearly we are ignoring her facial expression here, haha! 😛 Photo Credit: Some pap…eventually Pinterest.

 

Here are some examples of work-appropriate looks with the skinny pant or jean:

Zadie Skinny Maternity Jeans in Blue | Isabella Oliver | Maternity Capsule Collection

Photo Credit: Isabellaoliver.com

 

And from one of the most chic bloggers, pregnant and not, Anh from 9 to 5 Chic:

Day Time Maternity with Rockstud Flats

Photo Credit: 9to5chic.com

 

And, if you are a bit adventurous and like to wear color to work (I personally DO NOT shy away from this!), here’s a look from Karen from one of my favorite Instagram accounts, @mychicbump:

I give it a couple more weeks before I need a whole new closet to fit my baby bump.

 

4.  The Long Length Tank Top

Omgosh, these are heaven sent during and after pregnancy.  You can wear them alone with your blazer and skinny jeans or pencil skirt; under dresses or tops with low-necklines, under tops or sweaters that don’t cover your belly and/or butt; but most of all, to help keep your pants up that don’t quite button during the earlier phases of pregnancy when you can still manage to wear your non-maternity pants/jeans!

Here, Andee Layne (blogger – The Honeybee – who inspired my preggers-style for my second pregnancy) in a Liz Lange for Target tank top styled in an all-black look with the jacket as the pop of color (though this color is more muted since this was worn during the fall/winter):

All Saints Jacket, Liz Lange Maternity tank from Target, Hudson wide leg maternity jeans

Another great, all-black look with pop-of-color blazer from Red Soles and Red Wine blogger (also a target Maternity tank):

Zara Floral Blazer  |  Target Maternity Tank  |  Citizens of Humanity Skinny Denim  |  Zara Flower  |  Christian Louboutin Slingbacks  |  Chanel Bag  |    t+j Designs jewelry:  Mint Jeweled Necklace  |  Black Faux Leather Square Bangle  |    White Faux Leather Square Bangle  |

Here’s the coveted, all-around amazing, Target tank (though, any long length tank will work of course!):

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5.  The Fitted Maternity Dress

I was really a fan of the fitted dress.  I think one of the best things about being pregnant is that, for the first time, it is actually socially acceptable to wear fitted clothing with a protruding belly! 😛  For me, anything that was not fitted, make me look HUGE and kind of as if I was wearing a tent. 😦  So, fitted dresses for me!  Here are some looks I used for inspiration during my pregnancies:

for office wear

Photo Credit: ProjectNursery.com

 

Different shoes for the office, but this look from Kim K. would definitely work for the office, and very chic, might I add:

Ms. Kim Kardashian (Pregnant) ...XoXo

I loved this look too!  A bit short for the office, but could work with a longer dress:

Photo Credit: Vogue.com

And finally, the business formal fitted dress look.  Sometimes, we have dinners to attend, galas, or other ‘dress-up’ functions!  Dresses like the following work well paired with a nice blazer during the day, and alone for the evening event.  Here’s Reese Witherspoon with a rouched-black fitted dress that I loved paired with the pink heels (similar here):

Photo Credit: Elle.com

 

And this floral number from Asos.com:

:

 

So there you have it!  My 5 wardrobe essentials for dressing ‘Chic in Academia’ while pregnant!  Of course, there are a variety of other clothing options, and omgosh, let’s not even get into shoes!!  The options are endless!  But, I really do feel like these 5 options work well for most work-appropriate outfits, and furthermore, staples that can be mixed and matched so that you don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe to accommodate your growing baby belly!  Stay tuned for my dressing ‘Chic in Academia’ while breastfeeding/postpartum!  I also have a ‘Pregnancy board’ on Pinterest that you can follow for outfit inspiration or other pregnancy-related pins!

Stay chic!!

Mixology

Mixology – mix·ol·o·gy (m k-s l -j ). n.  Most commonly referring to the art of mixing drinks (e.g. as in bartending), ‘mixology’ is a term that is often applied to fashion as well.

I’ve previously blogged about my love of labels and the reasons I prefer brand name/designer items over non-brand name items.  Affected by long-term memory loss?  No worries, refresh your memory, here. 😉

Anyhow, I realized after putting together a few of my outfit layouts on Instagram, that I too am a mixologist!  I love to pair high-end items with non-designer items.  It is not uncommon for example, that I would choose to pair a Forever 21 dress with a Chanel bag.  The idea simply is to – in the words of Tim Gunn – ‘make it work’!

Here are some of my favorite outfits; examples of mixology in action:

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 10.50.40 PM

Bag, MAC Daddy Rebecca Minkoff, purchased for $185, originally $395 (Saks, here) // Dress, Dorothy Perkins, purchased for $29 (DorothyPerkins.com, here) // Shoes, Cole Haan Nike Air Heels, $37, originally $328 (Nordstrom Rack, read about them here). Cost: $251 (saved, $516).

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Jacket, $17, originally $42.50 (Forever 21, old) // Dress, $12, originally $27.50 (Forever 21, old) // Bag, $250, originally $1275 (Balenciaga, eBay, old) // Shoes, $89, originally $325 (KORS by Michael Kors, TJMaxx, here).  Cost: $368 (saved, $1302).

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Top, $15, originally 22.50 (Forever 21, old) // Skirt, $22, originally $89.50 (JCrew, here) // Belt, $10 (Lotus Boutique, old) // Heels, $12, originally $89 (Nine West, eBay, super old!).  Cost: $59 (saved, $142).

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Dress, $15, originally $79.99 (Maggy London, TJMaxx, old) // Jacket, $15, originally $37.50 (Forever 21, old) // Belt, $69 (C.Wonder, here) // Tights, $8 (Hue, TJMaxx, old) // Shoes, $42, originally $98 (BCBG, TJMaxx, recent), Necklace, $20, originally $365 (Kenneth Jay Lane, eBay, old).  Cost: $169 (saved, $411.49).

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Jacket, $15, originally $37.50 (Forever 21, old) // Dress, $12, originally $22.50 (Forever 21, old) // Shoes, $89, originally $325 (KORS by Michael Kors, TJMaxx, here) // Necklace, $20, originally $365 (Kenneth Jay Lane, eBay, old) // Bag, $800, originally >$2500 (Chanel, eBay, old).  Cost: $936 (saved, $2314).

In general, I tend to purchase less expensive clothes and invest in bags and shoes.  Bags and shoes tend to have better resale value on eBay, so I won’t shy away from spending a little more on those items, since I can guarantee reselling them for at least 75% of my purchase price.  As you can see, though, even my high-ticket items were either purchased on sale or purchased in pre-owned state on eBay (stay tuned for my post on eBay buying soon, including how to tell fake from authentic items!), so I make sure to save even when buying designer items.

Most recently, I was made aware that my ‘mixologist’ tendencies come through, not only in my outfit layouts on Instagram, but in past blog posts as well!  As a dear family friend, Chic in Academia reader, and fabulous fashionista (let’s call her MDF 😉 ) recently put it,

“Your ideas and smart shopping guides show me that one doesn’t have to go crazy spending lots of money or be extremely wealthy to wear higher-end designers’ clothes or accessories. Love how you mix and match, for example when you combine a designer’s accessory with a not too expensive garment!!!”

I hope that this post  – as well as prior blog posts – inspire you to think ‘cheap chic’ when considering spending outlandish amounts of money on high-end clothes, accessories and shoes!  Never pay retail!!

Be a savvy shopper and shop stores like TJMaxx, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, or Marshalls for designer labels at low-end prices.  Also consider consignment shops, online community resale websites like Poshmark and Threadflip, as well as eBay for amazing deals on designer labels.  For clothes, my low-cost staples often come from Forever 21, Target, and small boutiques like Lotus Boutique or Francesca’s Collections, as well as from eBay!

Remember, you don’t have to spend a million bucks, to look a million bucks. 😉

Finally, IF you thought these outfits were still too expensive for your taste, stay tuned for another post where I style 5 outfits with at least one item purchased for $5 or less!!

-Stay Chic!