Month: May 2012

Manicure of the week: Blue Boy

As part of last fall’s Fashion’s Night Out, Chanel released a trio of then-limited edition polishes names Les Jeans. These made quite the splash, not least because, well, they are blue. Chanel doesn’t do blue very often. To be honest, jeans are not the first thing I associate with Chanel, but who am I to question Chanel beauty guru Peter Phillips? To the chagrin of many, Les Jeans were not widely released last year, and quickly sold out; lucky for us that Chanel decided to re-release them this year at all their department store counters – no more eBay hunting! 
First up, we have Blue Boy. You might say this is a medium-wash denim or, otherwise, a dusty cornflower blue. 

The name actually reminds me (as intended?) of Boy Capel, one of Coco Chanel’s paramours and, some say, the love of her life. He helped to finance her first forays into the fashion world and was apparently supportive of her personal ambitions, which could be said to have been quite progressive for the times; on the other hand, he married someone else (though the affair with Coco continued), which makes the whole thing much less idyllic. [If you are interested in a cinematic version of the story, check out Coco Avant Chanel, which stars the always-fetching Audrey Tatou as the titular Coco and Alessandro Nivola as Boy Capel. Be warned that the movie ends with – SPOILER – Boy’s fatal car accident, and does not detail Chanel’s subsequent legendary career; hence, the movie title which, if my high school French doesn’t fail me, is “Coco before Chanel”.]

Application was good but not great. Although it is a creme, Blue Boy does not have the usual, one-coater formula of Chanel cremes. It is actually quite watery on the first coat, which had me worried. However, two coats are sufficient for full opacity, as long as you’re careful with the application – going over the same spot twice seemed to create bald spots for me.

For my inspired outfit, I present a sneak peek at one of my recent Vancouver purchases. This Zara dress won me over with its whimsical bird print, and a cute Peter Pan-ish collar. I have been trying to find a blouse with this type of collar for ages, and this is the closest I’ve come so far. 
I have to admit that this was a bit of an impulse buy; I had spent a frustrating two days running around downtown Vancouver in search of thrifting and consignment finds (more on that story later), with no success, so I was primed to buy something – anything! – that caught my eye. The dress wasn’t a bargain ($68 after you count in the darn PST), and it has a few problems. It’s a tad bit short, especially for work, so it really calls for tights. It’s also polyester, which might be OK in humid Vancouver, but can be a ticket to Staticville here in Alberta. Still, it is ever so cute. 
Finished off the look – appropriately enough – with earrings I bought years ago at a now (sadly) defunct boutique on West 4th in Vancouver, Lulu Love. They always struck me as rather Chanel-esque. What do you think?

Happy Friday!

Frugal style: How to suceed at thrifting without losing your mind

Thrifting is a great way to expand your wardrobe without straining your wallet. There are benefits to thrifting that go beyond the financial – it’s a great way to upcycle and reduce waste, and it can also be a way to support various charities in your community – which, in my mind, outweigh any negatives. And by “negatives”, I mean primarily the time investment. I grew up wearing hand-me-downs, so the thought that my clothes don’t reach my closet straight from the hands of the retail fairies (’cause, obviously, clothes you buy in regular stores are untouched by human hands) doesn’t bother me; nor am I fussed by what other people might think about my wearing second-hand clothes. So, yeah – the time investment. It can be a pain.

As anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a thrift store knows, thrifting is a very different beast from your regular retail shopping experience. It requires time and patience, and your investment doesn’t necessarily always pay off every time. I decided to write this post to share a few of the “tricks” that have helped me thrift successfully over the years, in the hopes that others – who might otherwise continue to avoid the “hassle” of thrift stores – give it a chance. Keep in mind that I am, by no means, a thrifter extraordinaire. I only go occasionally, and I am pretty selective about where and how I spend my time. I am not one of those people who can turn $5 into an entire wardrobe – a dabbler more than an expert (but you already knew that). [If thrifting was Storage Wars, I would be Barry; sometimes lucking out to find a true gem, yet just as often coming up empty handed – always with a sunny attitude at least.] On the plus side, my tips apply, to some extent, to shopping at consignment stores and even places like Winners, so they’ll give you some extra mileage.

The most important thing is preparation. I am not talking about being mentally prepared for the arduous task of browsing through umpteen racks of random pieces, although that helps too. I recommend educating yourself in two areas primarily: brand awareness and quality recognition. Leafing through magazines like InStyle or LouLou will help with the first; it helps to be aware of brands that are higher-end but do not carry the “mall standard” recognition factor. The quality will often be higher than on pieces that carry more recognizable labels like, say, Zara or Mexx, and which will often be priced higher for that reason alone. Examples of this would be labels like Rachel Paley, Vince, Nanette Lepore, Rebecca Taylor, and a slew of others.

The second part might be a bit tougher, as it involves training yourself to identify high-quality materials, mostly by touch. First, though, get familiar with your fabrics; it helps to zero in on the good stuff when you know what it is you’re looking at and for. This will save you time insofar as you can get to a point where you won’t need to scan each item on a rack by label, in order to find quality pieces, but rather can do so simply by touching them in passing, or even just eyeballing the rack as you go. This will also be a guide in situations where a particular label is unfamiliar to you. This takes quite a bit of practice, so go ahead – (window) shop, (window) shop, (window) shop. [Responsibly, of course.]

The other component of preparation is knowing your ground. Make the rounds of your local thrift stores and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Some will have better selection than others in certain departments, and not in others. Some thrift stores will be over-priced compared to others. This is information that will later help you decide where to go, depending on what it is you’re (generally) searching for, and how much time (and money) you have to spend. I tend to hit the same one or two stores regularly, because I know my chances of finding something I like are better there than elsewhere based on past experience; however, once a year or so, I check some of the other thrift stores in my city, just to see if anything has changed. For Edmonton gals, my go-to thrift store is the Value Village on 82 Ave, which seems to get a greater proportion and selection of higher end labels than other VVs and Goodwills. [As a bonus, it is across the street from the Cheese Factory, where you can stop in from a bite of yummy poutine or burek. Trust me, you need burek in your life!]

So, you’ve done your homework; now what? Unless you’re the type of shopper who enjoys endless hours of rack-browsing, I suggest going to into a thrift store with a general list of categories in mind. I wouldn’t go in with a list of specific items, though, because the chances are you’ll only end up being frustrated at not finding exactly what you need. In order not to be overwhelmed, pick two or three categories – such as skirts, sleeveless tops, and dresses – and focus your attention on the corresponding racks. The key, really, is speed-scanning; focus either on (a) quality fabrics, as discussed above, or (b) prints or colours that jump out at you. Zero in on those items alone, for further investigation, and don’t allow all the other million of hangers to distract or overwhelm you. This goes hand in hand with another (general) shopping tip: don’t be swayed by labels alone. I have never bought a piece of clothing simply for its designer label, if I didn’t also love the item on its own merits. This is why I don’t feel the urge to check every single item on a thrift store rack; if it doesn’t possess some quality that makes it jump out at me, the fact that it may or may not have a particular label attached doesn’t matter to me. I’ll pass on the deal, if any. 

As an aside, don’t rely too much on the size indicators (small, medium, large, etc.) provided in store. Often, pieces will be misplaced, either by accident or because the sizing provided on the label is confusing to the store employees; I find it’s worth spending the extra minute or two scanning the entire rack, up to size XL, just in case. Additionally, different brands’ sizes can vary wildly, especially when you move to the high-end side of the spectrum. 

Some of my favourite thrift finds have been in the dress category, but if you’re not a dressy kind of gal, don’t worry. Jeans are, hands down, the best bargain category at thrift stores, at least in Edmonton. It is a little bit tougher to sort through the racks here – you can do it by colour/wash if you want to skip checking every hanger – but the pay-off is worth it. I have seen everything from Rock & Republic, Paige, paperdenimcloth, True Religion and a score of other high end denim brands for well under $20 a pop. They are usually in excellent condition, too; the only drawback is the hem length. Jeans that are too long pose no problem (hello, hemming!), but at 5’7, I tend to have the opposite problem – jeans that have been hemmed for a shorter person. C’est la vie!

A few additional thoughts for successful thrifting. Having access to a good tailor is a huge bonus, because it will allow you more leeway when it comes to what is worth buying; minor alterations and repairs may be a necessity for some thrift pieces, which may otherwise be in perfect condition. It helps to know what alterations are easy (and cheap) to make, in order to know when a piece is worth getting despite its imperfections, and when it’s not. Similarly, I always check the care instructions, and tend to stick with pieces I can easily clean myself, at home. Buying items that require dry cleaning will increase the overall cost, sometimes making them not very thrifty deals. 

Have you tried your hand at thrifting? Do you have any success stories? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Manicure of the week: Tentation

Released alongside Frisson in the Roses Ultimes de Chanel spring collection, Tentation was a bit of an impulse buy for me. To be perfectly honest, it’s not a very “me” colour. A stunning, in-your-face fuchsia, it’s a bit too bright, too bold, and too pink for my everyday manicure. It’s the sort of colour I would be more likely to wear on my toes … which is my usual cue to walk away from the Chanel counter. This time, however, I caved in to temptation (pun intended), and got Tentation.

You can see the fuchsia shimmer come out in direct light (flash):

Application was super easy; the formula is a bit jelly-like, but it gives full coverage in one coat. That’s all I’m wearing in the pics above, no top coat. While I love the formula, this is one colour I’m not sure is “me”, so i will have to decide whether to keep it or swap it. Thoughts?

For my inspired outfit, I had to think long and hard about finding just the right pieces to pair with such a statement polish. In the end, I picked an old piece that recently underwent a major alteration and, hopefully, will now get a new lease on life. It all started in Paris; on one of my first shopping trips to H&M – long before it became a household name on this side of the Atlantic – I fell in love with a beautiful silk dress. It was yellow (definitely not my colour) and had a halter neckline (definitely not my style), but I adored its gorgeous floral pattern. At the time, I was about two sizes smaller than I am now – in fact, smaller than I was ever before or have been since. The dress fit me comfortably for about 6 months … and has been sitting in the back of my closet ever since. This year, I finally gave up the hope that I was going to wear it again; but I couldn’t give it up entirely. It was that print that I just couldn’t let go. So, I asked my grandmother to turn it into a skirt. I think it turned out great!

I love how the bright colours of the skirt match up with the almost neon-brightness of Tentation.

Happy Friday!