Month: April 2012

Frugal style

While it may not always be apparent, one of my perennial goals is to be as frugal as possible, whilst still enjoying some of the finer things in life (within reason, of course). The older I get, the more susceptible I am to the appeal of minimalism – perhaps because life just keeps getting more and more complicated. Frugality and minimalism are not one and the same, of course, but they are related concepts insofar as one can inspire the other, and the latter help with the former. Were you able to follow that?

Anyway, I have learned by experience – and have tried passing on the lesson – that being frugal and stylish are not incompatible goals. It really bothers me when I see people equating being interested in fashion and style as being not only frivolous – which is an opinion to which they are entitled, I suppose – but also fiscally irresponsible. Not every person who loves clothes is a Confessions of a Shopaholic disaster come to life; nor is every money savvy gal a dowdy, no-fun nellie.

Without turning this blog into a personal finance lecture series, I have decided to tackle the financial side of looking stylish over the course of the next few months, in the hopes that I will be able to not only convince you that being a frugal fashionista is not an oxymoron, but also share a few tips and ideas to bring more style into your life without blowing your budget.

I thought I would start things off with an exercise I like to call “deconstructing the outfit”. That means not only giving a breakdown of the cost, but also some of the rationale for pieces worth a bigger investment, and those that are not. For the present exercise, and future ones, I will try to keep these outfits at under $150 or so (not including accessories) … mostly to show that it is possible to look put together at a reasonable price point.

Outfit #1: Total $132
The bulk of the cost here is represented by the shoes (Style & Co., $80). I bought them on sale – not the greatest sale, obviously – and while it’s not the worst-spent money ever, they are not a particularly frugal choice. The reason? While I recommend everyone have a pair of red shoes in their wardrobe, this one is not the most practical one I could have bought. They are made out of a suede-like material (nubuck?), which is always harder to maintain; additionally, though it is a fairly classic style, the horizontal strap is not necessarily the most flattering. [Visually, it cuts the line of the leg, shortening it.]

Moving on, the next most expensive item was my skirt (BCBG, $40). You might think that $40 is still a bit high to pay for a skirt, but the cost per wear on this piece is already negligible. I bought it about 3 years ago at Winners, and if you follow this blog, you have seen it on countless occasions. I have worn it before I was pregnant, during the first 6 months of my pregnancy, and many times since giving birth. It is endless accommodating, comfortable, and versatile. If you find a piece that is all 3 of these things, it’s worth a little investment.

Next, we have the flower print blouse (Marc Jacobs, $12). If you are wondering where I scored that kind of deal on a high end designer item, the answer is – consignment. I have no idea how much this blouse would have cost at retail, but I would hazard to guess that it would have been at least $80-100, if not more. To be honest, I would not have spent that kind of money on it; it’s a fairly basic item, the likes of which you can easily find for $20 or less in plenty of stores. The difference in quality would be marginal, and certainly not enough to justify the price discrepancy.

Finally, the Costa Blanca jacket was the best deal of all – it was free! If you haven’t joined a clothing swap before, you should reconsider. It’s not only budget-friendly, but eco-friendly too. It is a great way to recover, in an indirect way, some of the sunken costs of your wardrobe. [Consignment is another option, which I will address at another time.]

My best guesstimate (because I am too lazy to spend my afternoon googling) is that the original retail price of this outfit would have been somewhere north of $350. Getting it for a third of that cost is, in my books, a good return on my time investment in hunting around for bargains.

Outfit #2: Total $36
You read that correctly. Actually, the cost here includes the necklace (J Crew outlet, $15); without it, the total would be $21. I’m not sure it gets better (or more frugal) than that. The Banana Republic cardigan you might remember from my most recent clothing swap haul; yep, it was free. The rest of the cost is split almost evenly between the shoes and the dress.

You may also recall this Tocca dress from a previous post; it was one of my Value Village finds ($11). I wore it while I was pregnant, and it still fits now. It is made of silk, it’s lined, and it is a classic style. Add in the brand name factor, and it’s an amazing deal. Tocca dresses sell from $200 and up. I know the “thrift store” label can put off some people, for a variety of reasons, but my advice has always been to reconsider. I am debating doing a post on tips for surviving (and successfully bargain-hunting in) the free-for-all retail environment of thrift stores, since it’s one of the (more rational) reasons for which people avoid them.

The flats are not particularly fancy (Old Navy, $10), but again the style is a classic. Similar looking flats can cost upwards of $300, depending on the designer, but wouldn’t necessarily offer a significant additional boost of style. Unlike heels, where a higher cost might buy you some additional comfort – though, it’s debatable whether hundreds of dollars’ worth of comfort – flats are an item not worth the splurge, in my opinion.

Look for more deconstructed outfits, shopping tips, and frugal ideas coming soon!

Springing in the new

By now, you may have noticed a few new things here at BCRL. Look up – notice those new tabs? Check them out; thanks to my awesome and multi-talented husband, they are now functional. My contact info, and the various ways you can connect with me, is available, of course, in the Contact tab. So, if you have a style dilemma, shopping tip, want to inquire about personal styling, or have any other questions, you know how to get a hold of me. The section on personal styling includes all my past style sessions previously featured on the blog (and hopefully new ones, too!); all in one place, for your ease of perusal and, hopefully, inspiration. The Nails tab will take you to a new sister website – Blue Collar, Red Nail Polish – which will showcase (what else?) more of my (non-Chanel) manicures, for those of you who share my polish obsession or like to look at pretty colours. That page will likely be updated a few times a week, if not daily – I am very excited to share more of my collection with you. Information on my anniversary giveaway, coming in May, will be found and updated under the, well, Giveaways tab. 

I am still working on  re-vamp of the overall design of the blog, so you will see more changes coming soon. I hope you will give these new tabs a whirl in the coming weeks, and enjoy the additional content. 

Otherwise, it will be business as usual here. You will find all my regular posts here on the home page; look for new post coming at you tomorrow. As always, I love to hear from you, so keep those comments coming, and let me know what you think about our new look!

Manicure of the week: Red Dream

The last of my Chanel polishes – for now! – was a very special present from a lovely friend across the Pond. She bought it for me as a surprise, thinking I might like it. Well, duh! Of course I do! It’s another gorgeous Chanel red, so how could I not? I have no idea what season Red Dream came out, but I think it’s an oldie. It’s a beautiful, vampy-esque red jam-packed with the famous Chanel shimmer.
I had a hard time capturing the shimmer on camera, so my photos don’t begin to do it justice. Here is a feeble attempt, using flash. Red Dream really comes alive – and on fire – in the sun, but sadly, sun is in short supply whenever my manis demand it.

Application was good; two medium coats have you covered. There might be the ghost of a VNL, if you look really hard, but nothing that detracts from the beauty of Red Dream.

For my inspired outfit, I was drawn to my Tristan cropped jacket because of its subtle sparkle. On first look, for all intents and purposes, the jacket is anything but flashy; but look closer, and there is actually a lot more going on. Kinda like Red Dream, no?
This is a pretty simple outfit, but I am just happy to discover more ways that I can wear pleats … and make the most of my clothing swap haul. I thought about going with a more neutral shoe option, but couldn’t resist the lure of red patent in the end.
Cropped jackets can be difficult to wear, proportions-wise, but they are perfect with any high waisted separates. It creates a lovely silhouette, without breaking up or distorting the lines of the body. The important thing is for the hem of the jacket to hit at or slightly above the waist, so the curves are not lost in the equation.
Happy Friday!