Discovering Personal Style

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Jacket: Theory sz 00  Shell: H&M sz 2  Sandals: Target sz 5.5 (similar)
Akoya pearls: eBay  Ring: YSL Coral Arty
Crochet skirt courtesy of Modcloth (very similar)

A few months ago, I entered a contest for which I had to define my personal style. Although I've had a keen interest in clothing since my early teens, and gleefully took home fashion superlatives in HS - I never really had my own sense of style. It was hard enough to find "adult" clothing that fit, without paying an arm and a leg for alterations. Whine whine whine.
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Coming out of college, I wanted professionalism during the week, yet short shorts on the weekends. I wanted to look more mature, but not plain. With these goals in mind, through personal trial and error and the encouragement of friends (both helpful blog friends and a super-critical-but-well-intentioned friend who mandates accessorizing), I'm slowly developing a style that is my own.

These days I combine feminine details with tailored pieces, pair bargain finds with investments, and mix fast fashion with classic staples. I strive to look put-together, yet practical for my everyday life. 
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While writing up this post, I noticed how eclectic the brands were within this outfit. Theory - my all-time favorite brand for tailored suiting. H&M - fast fashion (and select work pieces) that often come in teeny sizes. Target - adore their cheap and trendy shoes starting in sz 5.5. Modcloth and ebay - supporting independent designers and small businesses. The mish-mosh of brands in this outfit represents just a tidbit of options out there that petite women have, and confirms that size should not be used as an excuse to not have personal style.

I also noticed that none of the pieces in this outfit are in petite sizing. I stress the importance of simple alterations, especially on items in non-petite sizing. For the jacket in 00 regular, I got the sleeves shortened. For the blouse in sz 2, I took up the straps. And for the skirt in a generic sz Small, I did some DIY slimming, and am hoisting the waist up with a snug belt. I wish I had a "before" photo to show what a difference these small adjustments make, collectively.
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Longtime readers of this blog know that I've come a long way in dressing since early posts. I hope that you guys have gotten as much out of the online community as I have.

Readers - Can you define your personal style? What factors have influenced it?

52 comments:

  1. this is a wonderful post jean. i love that lace skirt on you and am proud of how far you've come as well as a blogger. there is no excuse to feel confident about having a sense of style and personality in our clothing because we're too short, tall, skinny, fat, boyish, curvy. i'm glad you emphasized that we have to respect what we're given and work it!

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  2. so informative as usual! Keep up the good work! Wish I could still find your skirt...any ideas?

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  3. i love this lace skirt and you paired it so well with this light green top and blazer. i agree that blogging really has helped me define my own style too and it always amazes me to go back and see how a blogger's style develops over time.

    this skirt is so lovely on you!

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  4. Love this post! My entire blog is about personal style--yet I still haven't perfected it. My style is more rocker and sometimes cutesy, but I'm starting to favor feminine and mature. I'm in the process of marrying the two!

    I have to say that I really admire your style, though, perhaps because it's different from my own. You make it look so effortless!

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  5. I love this look! You're awesome at posing! Stay pretty!

    http://pastelbluejacket.blogspot.com

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  6. You are amazing, I've followed your blog since the earlier days and you have come so far, not that you were EVER lacking style! I do see a lot more color in your wardrobe and it's inspiring to see your accessories paired w/work clothing. I especially love the blue ring you have on :) And the beautiful skirt and blazer combo. You are simply flawless in every sense!! :P

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  7. This was truly an inspiring post. I can't even come up with words to explain how inspiring it was. Though I've only followed you for a couple of months now, I could already tell that your style is very unique - very you.

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  8. Oh Jean...I'm a long time reader and def know that your taste and style has evolved! But I've always been a fan from the beginning:)

    My personal style hasn't really changed changed because I've always loved feminine looks with skirts and dresses BUT my shopping has definitely done a 360!

    I mostly have you to thank! You really are amazing:-) I love this skirt and can't believe I snagged it! Lol I would have loved to see your DIY on slimming the skirt because it's so annoyingly big in the waist but I refuse to invest in taking it in.

    Thanks for all your hard work blogging and helping all of us (bloggers/non-bloggers) dress better:D

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  9. I really enjoyed reading this post as a relatively new reader. Your journey, trial and errors really help us all. It must be something in the air as I've written my first post about how I'm reassessing my closet to better reflect my own personal style.
    I've always been a classic dresser and as I've grown older I realise this can be ageing so one of the aims of the reassessment is to rejuvenate my look a little and to eliminate clothes that don't earn their keep anymore (or never did as the case may be!).
    My investment pieces have stood the test of time and fashion cycles but I've added more colour and feel things work so much better. Next is getting the right balance between everyday, weekend, special and any future additions to my closet.
    Thanks so much!

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  10. love your style! outfit is soooooo beautiful! xoxo

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  11. This was a great post! I went back to your older posts and you're right, your style has changed a great deal (besides Theory). I guess I've liked fashion since high school, and mine was quirky, but I quicky felt like others (the science community) viewed it as a complete waste of time in college so I dressed in a hoody and jeans for a great deal of college. Then by the end of college, I started reading blogs, and although I don't have a job yet to need to dress more professional, I read yours and Anh's blog for professional style and Kendi for more everyday as well as Rumi's and Clothes Encounters more urban stuff... so essentially I'm liking everything haha. Right now I'm a mashup of everything and every day is different, but what I want in the end is effortless style. The end ;]

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  12. I love your blog! I just stumbled across it and it's been a great resource seeing as I just started working in a corporate job as well. You have some really great ideas for outfits!

    I was wondering if you could give me any feedback on these NUDE flats I just bought off asos: http://www.asos.com/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=1438749

    I wasn't really sure if they were work appropriate but they were cute as! Any thoughts? Keep up the good work! :D

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  13. You've definitely given me something to think about! If I were to be asked today what my personal style was I really wouldn't know! I guess my generic answer would be that I like to feel put together and classy while adding twists with accessories. I definitely have an inner rebel within me :P but I think I get more creative with makeup or hair colour when the mood strikes me.

    I think in the end there are so many women I admire in my real life, in my blog life and just random stylish ladies I see on the street. I think my goal would be to be one of those girls, that other girls look at and want to know how I put that outfit together. STanding out from the crowd but still being appropriate.

    You Jean are definitely one of my inspirations. I love how you are trying new things, mixing and matching textures and pieces in unpredictable ways :)

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  14. I'm so glad I found your blog because you inspire me especially as a petite gal myself. You have a classy and elegant style with a little something extra thrown in. I look forward to reading your blogs. Keem 'em coming.

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  15. I loved this post. I've been quietly following your blog for some time now, and you have been very inspirational to my personal style as well. You always look classy and put-together, whether it be with work-wear or casual-wear. I love the color of the green silk shell paired with the Theory blazer. I look forward to reading more posts in the future :)

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  16. Great post Jean! As for personal style..I think my personal style can't really be summed up in a word (or even two or three). I know what I like and my style often times lacks a cohesive theme (which I am ok with). I think it's hard trying to describe perfectly anyone's personal style and I think life is more interesting because of this. That said, I draw a lot of inspiration from you because I can identify with your style in parts. I think blogging definitely helps though sometimes I still struggle with finding my distinct voice, no one wants to get lost in the crowd (kwim?). I really enjoy reading your blog because you are adventurous without compromising the integrity of your style. :) Keep up the great work!

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  18. every your outfit is perfect!
    great skirt / dress :)

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  19. I loved the lace skirt!
    That's so cute on you!
    Beautiful, young and trendy!
    Kisses

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  20. I absolutely LOVE this post! One idea I've been toying with myself - how to define my style. Like you, I've had people comment on my sense of style and that it very defined and distinct...yet I have NO idea how to begin describing it myself. When I was younger we had very, VERY little money to spend on clothing. I wore a lot of things my mom sewed for me and a lot of hand me downs from people at church. As soon as I was able to make my own money, I spent it on clothes because I always wanted to dress nice, but never had the means. As I bought items, I made mistakes and also learned what I like.

    My style has also changed because my lifestyle has changed. Doesn't that play a huge role in how we dress? (You briefly touched on this above.) I'm a corporate professional, although we're business casual. I work in a marketing department consisting mostly of younger women, which means we're also trendier business casual. I'm a mom of two so my outfits also have to be kid-friendly. I have definitely grown into a more mature and sophisticated style from my pre-mom and college years!

    To me, you have a very sophisticated and feminine style that suits your personality - at least what I know of it from your blog. :) I love your style and find it similar to my own, but not exact because your style still inspires me!

    Again, love, love, LOVE this post! Great job!

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  21. I love your crochet skirt! No, I haven't found my personal style yet. Still discovering it.

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  22. Finding the online petite community was awesome! It's jut nice to know that I'm not alone and that there are things I can do to project the image I want to.

    We both have come a long way =)

    I LOVE the green color of that top with the white skirt and beige blazer. You have always had excellent style; changes and all.

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  23. I think my personal style is a bit more on the casual side. I’ve learned so much about styling since I started my blog. You’re definitely one of my inspirations. You are not afraid to go out of your comfort zone but still manage to look classy and professional.

    I can’t really describe what my personal style is. Not sure if I even have one but I am working on it. Thank you for sharing your personal style with us, Jean. Your outfit is well put together as always.

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  24. Your style has evolved quite a bit from the olden days of "Petite Asian Girl". I still remember your first photos, headless, just like mine used to be! :)

    I used to think of my personal style as "classic with a twist", but I really think I'm heading more in a "tomboy, country club chic" direction. I'm not quite where I want to be stylistically, which is really the girl version of those ridiculously dressed old italian men on The Sartorialist with fun patterned suits and bright purple socks. If I could figure out how to be that...but a girl version...I'd be really happy. LOL.

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  25. I really like this outfit of yours. It makes me wish there was a Theory outlet near me. (Although it's better for my wallet that there isn't.) I'm still on a quest to find a nice jacket that looks right on me.

    I've started reading your blog recently and I think you do a great job. My wardrobe isn't as nice and put-together as yours, but I am always conscious of the need to "dress up" since I look so young.

    But I still do like a lot of the more feminine, "young" details - for example, pink is my favorite color to wear and I love soft, flouncy skirts. I'm learning to balance this out with looking professional. The result is that I have a lot of classic pieces that serve many purposes, but not too many pieces of clothes that are interesting, expensive, or risky.

    I recently started my own business so I have been trying to define myself in other ways. One thing I have read about defining your "brand" is to pick three adjectives and try to make sure they show through everything you do. Right now I'm going with simple, smart, elegant. I guess my style ideally would fall under that too... although my first priority right now is to get my business in order, I think it's always important to present a good image. (The other day at work I forgot to put on my high heels after lunch, and I got "Whoa, you're tiny!" Like they hadn't realized it before. :) )

    Style-wise, I suppose my goals are to get fewer pieces that I can get a good value out of. Also, I need to dump some of the things in my closet that are holdovers from high school, college, or earlier. Just because they still fit doesn't mean I should wear them!

    Anyway, thanks for all your hard work on this blog. You do a great job.

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  26. The thing I've noticed the most about the evolution of your blog is not so much a change in style, but... that you smile so much more! :) Your increasing confidence has really shone through.

    In my personal style, I like to combine casual/youthful pieces with more adult/tailored pieces. For example, at work today, I'm wearing a Fox Clothing striped graphic tank top with Loft trousers and cardigan, and heels. I'm a graphic designer, so I like to keep some elements of casualness and fun. But depending on my mood, sometimes I go more casual/youthful, and other times I'll go more professional.

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  27. I'm STILL trying to figure that out.

    I just realize slowly, the things that work with my body (waist cinching belts, circle skirts (since I have no butt), and try to mix them with things I absolutely love, lace, leopard, stripes, blazers, poufy sleeves, leggings... I feel that, as long as I stick to thinks that please me, things that I adore, while remembering the silhouettes that suit my body--then I don't have to worry about defining and claiming a certain style as mine. The true nature of the human condition is change. Might as well go with the flow.

    I love your style, though. I think it's very inspirational for tiny girls like us (tho, I'm a bit of a giant for a petite--5'2"--C Cup, 26" waist) to learn from those who chic professionalism with flare very well.

    xx{ish.},
    Mae Lu @ thereafterish.!

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  28. Love this. That shell is gorgeous!

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  29. This is a great post. I feel like that a lot of the time, I'm so small that I can't find great clothes so I end up resorting to second best. So it's great to hear your success story =) I hope someday I can truly find my own unique style =)

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  30. I really like it when you bring back really old pieces like this mint shell.

    I dont know what my style is. I only know what it's not. HAHAHAH.

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  31. Btw, what kind of blush are you wearing? You look GLOWING!

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  32. I would love to see a picture of your closet! Blog post? <3

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  33. Such a classy look! Love it! I agree blogging has helped me dress much better. Things I once thought look good on me I realize don't!!! you see and understand it only when you see yourself from someone else's eyes! Thanks to you I'm into blogging and paying much attention to what i wear :)

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  34. i am in love with your blog and style. you always look so effortlessly chic. xx

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  35. Your blog is one of very first blog that I followed. Before that, I actually read it for a few months and just tired of refresh the page lol, so decided to follow your blog properly. My impressions about it were:

    -Your writing is concise and informative.
    -You dressed classically and functionally.
    -You didn't smile in the picture, which made me to be curious to keep following lol.

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  36. I'm a long-time lurker and first-time commenter. I'm so glad you wrote this post. In the few months that I've been following yours and other petite-style blogs, I've noticed that there is a certain blogger who seems to run out and buy the very same pieces you have right after they show up on your blog. Now I realize certain items may become popular and create a stir within the blog community, but it's somewhat creepy when this blogger mimics not just your clothing choices, but your poses, photo backgrounds, etc. HOWEVER, I'm very glad you haven't let things like that stop you from blogging. This really is one of my favorite blogs and I have really learned so much from you.

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  37. I love the lace crochet skirt! I actually just saw it on another petite blogger's OOTD post and was wondering where she got it from :D

    I think you have a great sense of style - you always look so sophisticated, elegant, and modern. And it is very clear that you have great self confidence just looking at the way you smile and carry yourself in your photos :)

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  38. I first found out about your blog when I was google-ling for covergirl mascara review, but instead I was immediately drawn to your outfit posts, and I was most excited that it had a petite theme, which I'm one and always had trouble finding grown-up clothes that fit...from there I got sucked into this whole petite and non-petite fashion-blogging community. But you were the first who got me into this :) I also don't think you have ever lacked in style, even in the earliest posts (unless you really do dress like the "before" pictures...like when you did the what-not-to-wear before and after pics....I miss those posts). I think you naturally have good taste. But what has dramatically improved is your photographs and how you model the clothes for sure!

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  39. nice outfit.
    love your skirt. :)


    xoxo
    Antonia

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  40. It's so awesome that you're not afraid to purchase an item even if it doesn't fit perfect! *so brave*

    I love how your style is to classic/professional, yet always has a little twist to it.

    http://www.atelier630.com

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  41. New reader here. That is such a gorgeous outfit. I'm finally feeling inspired after days of searching for fashion help. I am definitely extra petite (4'10 and 95 pounds.) Lately I've been having a horrible time finding clothes and I seriously need to update my wardrobe to more sophisticated casual wear. This blog is exactly what I needed to find.

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  42. Hi Jean!

    Love this post. What you described up there is pretty close to how I would describe my personal style too. BUT...having similar styles do not mean we all have to wear the exact same clothes. Although it's inevitable that we'll see the same pieces on different bloggers from time to time, I cringe a bit when it's abused. Where's the creativity? Fine line between being inspired and copied.

    I went back and read a lot of your older posts...I don't think your personal style has changed that much...rather, it's just an extension of it. The execution/styling and the actual clothes are much better now because you have more experience in that area. Thanks to you, I own a couple petite favorites: H&M sweater jacket (yours is tomato red, mine is boring black lol) and AT factory ruffle shells. OMG I wear those items to pieces! Now if only I can find the AT petal shells too. ;)

    Congrats on a very successful blog! <3

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  43. lovely skirt! ♥ the sandals!

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  44. Thank you ladies SO much for your comments - I'm blown away by the response and your thoughtful messages and I loved reading every single one of them.

    @couturecocoI do love your investment pieces! When I first started dressing I thought I would try to only buy quality clothes, but sometimes one just needs fun pieces as well. There's nothing wrong with fast fashion like f21/H&M/Topshop if the pieces are carefully chosen.

    @Rainy Days and Lattes Jen, thank you so much. I love seeing your familiar face on here : )

    @Nancy Lol! Oh no...Theory will never change : ) And I sure know what you mean. Certain fields (as you've mentioned) do view fashion as a waste of time, and sometimes don't take you as seriously if you spend too much effort on dressing. I love the bloggers you've mentioned. Good luck evolving towards your goal of effortless style : )

    @AnonymousThank you! And those flats are darling, I really like the oversized bow. I'm not sure what kind of environment you work in, but flats (especially solid colors) are generally pretty work aprops. Unless you work in business formal, I would stick to darker shoes. I think these would look great with bright or print pencil or A-lined skirts.

    @Elaine A (TOBeautyReviews) That means a lot to me Elaine! And you bring up such a good point. I too am drawn to random stylish women (I'm not talking about the ones that are extremely fashionable, but just the ones that look really put together) and sometimes I turn my head and just stare off at them taking mental notes. Your goal is a great one for any woman who is working on her personal style.

    @Nancy @aneetac Thank you both so much!

    @Elle I think your personal style is amongst the more distinct in the petite community...very feminine yet whimsical : )

    @Cadrommy Thanks so much, Ying. I grew up the same way...Route 66 from K mart. My Mom bought me a Gap hoodie in high school and I thought it was the most precious designer item in the world. Wore it every picture day. And you know I wouldn't have given up that childhood for the world, because I'd never want my kids to grow up feeling like they have to be defined by nice clothing. But like you, as soon as I started to earn my own income I absolutely loved indulging in things for myself, but also made mistakes along the way. Lifestyle IS the biggest role - whether one is single, with children, with pets (haha), and such. Props to you for being a mom of two little ones and still so stylish.

    @Jackie I know we sure have. You've been a longtime reader and member of the petite community : )

    @PetiteLittleGirl You're more casual, but your outfits are full of pieces that flatter you. They're simple with feminine twists, and suit your lifestyle as a chic mom, and I love that.

    @Alterations Needed LOL I haven't browsed old old posts in a while, but sometimes I do go back to AN archives and enjoy a blast from the past. I can totally see you with your funkly tweeds and colors and bright purple socks and oxfords.

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  45. @Diana THank you for your kind words, and thanks for sharing such great tips! I really love the guide to defining your brand in three adjectives, and then making sure everything you do exemplifies that. I think that philosophy can carry over to many of us, even if we don't own a business or brand. I smiled at your story about forgetting your heels - I change into flats sometimes at work, and it doesn't fail to generate some sort of comment along the lines of whoa...you are short!

    @Erica I always enjoy your comments (whether it's on here or on others' blogs). You're right, over the past two years my confidence has increased HUGELY. Before at times, I'd look into the mirror at work and feel either unprofessional or self conscious because my clothes would be baggy or dowdy. Dressing properly makes a huge difference, and allows one to concentrate on more important things. The outfit you described sounds so chic! Love the thought of graphic tops with more structured pieces, like trousers and heels.

    @Rainy Days and Lattes Thanks Jen, I've broken out the bronzer and am wearing Rock & Republic blush in kinky (I think...or Immoral).

    @Alexis Haha I'm sad to say my closet is truly dinky. My bf's larger clothes and my stuff is jam packed into a closet the size of a small fridge : )

    @New Petite THank you, Suman! Welcome to blogging.

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  46. @Anonymous It's something I've battled for over a year, and at times I do feel really discouraged. Thank you for de-lurking to share your words of support and encouragement...I really appreciate it.

    @a rose Lol! Well I feel honored. I too usually just refresh my blogs until I discovered the beauty of blogger dashboard and Google reader. No smiling is intriguing eh? I'll have to work on the curiosity-inducing face some more!

    @Rinny Thank you, Rinny. It's the Social Hour skirt from Modcloth.

    @Olyvia Lol! I can't say I've ever dressed like the before photos, but I do see women who do and felt compelled to post. Thank you very much for your kind words, and as a blogger yourself you can probably agree that ease in front of a camera/tripod comes slowly with practice.

    @Tanya Welcome, Tanya! There's a wonderful community of petite women online (check out the AN forum to the right hand side bar as well as my blogroll for other blogs).

    @Sunshine You put it so well...I completely agree several of my fave bloggers have similar styles, and some of us fall for the same "winner" pieces, but it frustrates me as well when inspiration is abused. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and I have been enjoying your blog so far as your style is right up my alley.

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  47. Lace is your thing! So crazy that nothing is petite sizing!

    I agree about growing from the blogging community...it has helped me to venture out more when it comes to accessories. I see belts in a different way...they do not keep things up, they serve the same purpose as a necklace or bracelet.

    Congrats on the Glamour feature!

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  48. Thanks for your feedback Jean, I was really undecided about those asos flats :S

    Btw, greetings from Australia, I love your blog cos I've just started working in a business environment and I'm still trying to find that balance between jeans, flats and hoodies and pencil skirts and heels and trying to work out my own personal style! I get a lot of great ideas from your lookbook! Sucks that our seasons are opposite though, it's currently winter over here. Also, a lot of the petite US brands that you mention like ann taylor and theory aren't available here, but I've been doing my own experimenting with Australian brands. I don't think we cater as much to petites though cos our markets a bit smaller so I'm on the look out for a good tailor a lot of the time.

    I think your personal style changes a lot with the environment you work and play in and I think I'm in an "inbetween" stage because I'm still transitioning from uni (or college as you may call it) to work. But I still want to keep a lot of "me" in my professional outfits.

    Can't wait for your next post!

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  49. Well said Jean!
    I love the style of Anthropology and I get most of my clothes from them. They have great tops that fit petites, especially their outerwear. They also have some items made specifically in petite sizing.

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  50. The funny thing is, I used to have a personal style which I could call my own. Very classic, very streamlined. I used Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn as my examples. But then, after about 8 years of climbing the corporate ladder, I somehow got bored of creating image and just wore whatever what makes me happy, as long as it's appropriate. I learned to have fun with clothes, something a success, sometimes a flop. I think, it's basically because after several years, I have reached a level at work where I can get away with wearing anything I want (again, as long as it's appropriate). I noticed that after a certain level, the professional women I know stopped caring about what people would think about them THAT much, because they have proven themselves (and people still talk anyway, we don't have many female senior managers in the office, most of them dress like men or my aunties).
    Sometimes I wonder though, what would I be like if I decided to stay in the US and pursue my career there instead of here in Indonesia. Perhaps it would be different? Wondering...

    Visit me:
    LeeAnne, Style N Season
    http://stylenseason.blogspot.com

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