Month: October 2010

A girl and a closet: Laura (pt. 2)

Last month, I worked with Laura to help her put together a few less basic, more funky weekend looks using the pieces she already had in her closet. In going through that process, we realized that there were a few missing pieces that could supplement (and complement) her wardrobe – a pair of slim-cut jeans (of the right length), black cords, and belts, among others. Laura is a budget-conscious fashionista, so it made sense that on our shopping excursion we would head out to the place guaranteed to give Laura the most bang for her buck: Superstore.

I’ve said it before, and I will say in again (and again): Joe Fresh is a great place to start if you’re looking for wardrobe staples – cardigans and sweaters, shirts, tank tops, cute flats, belts and the like. It’s also a great place to shop for pants. Who says that jeans have to cost $300?

 Cardigan and striped T-shirt, Laura’s own; jeans, Joe Fresh ($19);
flats, Joe Fresh ($19)

These ones didn’t; they cost $19 (plus tax) and they looked – and fit – fabulous. Laura looked amazing in them, and she felt it too. The nice thing about Joe is that they’ve started to offer jeans in different lengths (28-32 inseam so far), so we were able to find a pair that was the perfect length for Laura to wear with flats – no hemming required. 
These jeans are also great because, although they’re a boot-cut, it’s a fairly slim style. It elongates Laura’s gams, while still offering a little bit of flare at the bottom, which balances her hips. It’s like getting the “skinny jean” look for your legs, but in a style manageable even for people who are not 6′ tall Amazons. The good news is that we were able to find the same style in a pair of black cords.

Cords, Joe Fresh ($19); felt pumps, Joe Fresh ($39)

The really great news – another $19 deal! You can’t beat it! This is a great pair of pants for dressing up on the weekend, especially for fall or winter; think of it as the weekend version of your favourite pair of office dress pants.

After our successful stop at Superstore, we headed over to H&M to see about some belts. Although the selection seems to vary almost from week to week, you can usually count on H&M to have at least a few cute belts at fairly reasonable prices. We were in luck. 
Remember this outfit? Last time we improvised with one of my belts, but now Laura can truly make it all her own.
 H&M belt ($15.99)
This is a really versatile belt, ideal for cinching in and showing off the waist; because it’s elastic, it’s also somewhat adjustable so it can be worn higher or lower on the waist depending on the look Laura wants to achieve.
The total damage for the day: just about $60 including tax. The results: fantastic!

Got a style question? Want your own style session or shopping trip with me? Contact me at or on Facebook.

Project October

It’s funny … as soon as I decided to write a column around my shopping habits, I promptly stopped shopping. Well, not entirely, but close. Actually, I’ve been keeping busy doing lots of styling this month, which has left me little time to devote to my other favourite activity … but that’s another story. 

In the past week or so I did manage to pick up a couple of things here and there. In fact, you might call them splurges. The first was a necessity, the second a case of love at first sight.  You are probably wondering what could possibly constitute a necessity given my fairly extensive wardrobe, and you might be surprised at how basic the item is.  What I needed was a pair of plain black, closed toe pumps. I have a pointy patent pair already – my beloved Stuarts – but that’s my sum total of black work shoes and I need a second pair for every day use; I seem to be wearing a lot of black these days. Hmmm … Anyway, after a few weeks of looking, I found a great pair of Ralph Lauren pumps at Winners ($59.99). 

They remind me a little bit of classic Louboutins. The heel is a smidge too thick, but these are sturdy shoes that will stand me in good stead for a few years.

My second splurge was a Michael Kors silk halter-neck camisole. I have already plenty of tops, but the swirly pattern and the blinged-out neckline were like catnip to this magpie. Although I bought it at consignment, it still had its original price tag on – for a cool $195. Whew! That made me feel a little bit better about the $60 I actually spent on it.

To kill two birds with one stone, here are the shoes and the top, three different ways.

Look #1: office

Look #2: weekend

Look #3: evening

What to wear … when shopping

You may not think about this (or agree), but clothes shopping is something of an art. I’m not talking about those occasions when a casual stroll through the mall results in purchases you may or may not have anticipated – “happy accidents”, as it were. Heading out to the store(s) with the specific intent to shop – or better yet, with the intent to shop for a specific something – is serious business. You have to go about it in the right way. The right frame of mind is important; feeling cheerful, optimistic and not hungry is probably your best weapon. [And the enemy is those awful jaundiced lights they put in changing rooms. Seriously, what is up with that?] Equally important, though, is what you wear.
You might be thinking, “Surely, it doesn’t matter what I wear when I go shopping! The whole point is to find something new to wear, isn’t it?” Yes and no. Or, rather, no and yes. In order to shop strategically, you have to come prepared. And that means wearing the right things.
Nine times out of ten, the perfect shopping outfit will look something like this (along with the appropriate outerwear if we’re aiming for verisimilitude):

Here is why: 
– Wearing separates will allow you to try on more things, more quickly and easily.
– Wearing a favourite, darker wash pair of straight or boot-cut jeans will let you see how a top might be worn “casual” or “dressy” (just imagine the jeans as dress pants). A classic, streamlined pair of jeans will complement almost any style of top and will not “compete” it visually. This lets you focus on the top. Plus, any time you wear something you like and feel comfortable in, you’ll be in a much better mood and more open to new (style) ideas.
– A fitted tank top or camisole in a solid, neutral colour will go with any style of skirt or pant you might want to try on. As a bonus, a black or cream tank will serve you well if you want to try on any sheer blouses or tops. A tank top is also easier to take off and put on than, say, a turtleneck or anything that requires buttoning.
– Having a favourite cover-up (be it a jacket or cardigan) at hand means that you can quickly see whether the piece you are trying on can be easily incorporated into your existing wardrobe. It will also remind you about the proportions that work best for you in the event that you are, in fact, shopping for a similar piece (i.e. a new cardigan) or a complementary one. However, your cover-up option may depend on what you’re shopping for – if you want to find a pair of pants to wear with your boyfriend blazer, it makes sense to take that blazer with you when you’re shopping.
– Black shoes in your favourite heel height (be it flats or 3 inch heels) will be most versatile in terms of helping you pull the whole outfit together. In particular, if you are shopping for skirts, dresses or pants, wearing the right heel is important. If you are a flats girl, then by all means, wear flats. But if you plan on wearing the piece under consideration with heels, bring a pair along to see how it all looks together; you can always put them in your bag if you don’t want to wear heels to the store.
– Avoid extra accessories, as they could easily clash with the pieces you are trying on or otherwise be distracting.
– And always – always! – wear the right undergarments. For the most part, a nude colour, seamless bra with moderate padding  and push-up (whatever that means for you based on your preferences)  is the best choice. It will (a) make your cleavage look nice and uplifted, and (b) work with almost any top, except halter neck and strapless ones. [Btw, the quickest way to “lose” 5-10 pounds for anyone with B+ cups: make sure your bra straps are adjusted properly.] If you know you are going to be trying on something like a cocktail dress – which might very likely end up being strapless – then tuck a strapless bra in your purse.  Similarly, if you have concerns about smoothness, also bring a pair of Spanx or other control garments with you; that way, you don’t have to second guess yourself on whether the dress you’re trying on will really work or not, and you’ll save the yourself the hassle of dealing with possible returns or exchanges. It pays to come prepared.

OK, so the shopping “uniform” may not be particularly stylish, but in this case, function needs to win out over the wow factor. That comes afterward.
Happy (shopping) trails!!