Discovering Personal Style

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.
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. 
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.
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?

To alter or not to alter: a guide to getting items tailored.

Regardless of your body type or size, proper alterations can help transform mediocre-fitting items into garments that flatter your figure and boost your self-confidence. For women who wear special sizes, alterations can be critical. However, if you (like myself) don't have the good fortune of being related to a skilled seamstress, and are too lazy/clumsy to sew yourself, alterations can really add up and become quite costly. 

I'm sure many of us have tried on a garment that is "ok," but would be much better if it fit perfectly. To alter or not to alter? When faced with such a decision, I try follow this 3-step thought process:

Step 1. This is the most common mistake that I used to make. Spending $ on altering something that I felt lukewarm about to begin with. Return or sell "meh" items before it's too late. Also, be realistic about what can be altered (ie. don't convince yourself you love something by imagining wildly different "results").

Step 2. When assessing worth, look at garment quality, and again at how much you love it. If you will love a Forever21 dress to pieces after it's taken in, and would've paid XYZ for something like that to begin with, then go for it.

Alteration costs vary a lot from tailor to tailor, but here are some prices that I've paid, for reference:
Hem: $10 no lining - $25 w/ lining
Shorten sleeves: $15 no lining - $25+ w/ lining
Take-in waist: 15+ no lining - $25+ w/ lining
Take-in shoulders: $40+
Take-in sides: $15 for shirts - $40+ lined items

Step 3. Risk level is a function of both the complexity of alterations and your tailor's experience. I have had so many (even basic) alterations come out messed up.

Higher-risk (even w/ a good tailor): fancy dresses, suiting, taking-in shoulders, changing the design of a garment, or changing a garment more than 2 numerical sizes.

Example: Last month I found myself at the Ann Taylor outlet, clutching onto a suit in a beautiful lavender and cream tweed. Unfortunately, the smallest size it came in was regular 0, and I was swimming in it. The length of both pieces fit me fine though (must've been a shorter style), which was key, because blazer length probably can't be altered. 
Step 1. I was instantly drawn to the color and texture, and needed a Spring suit. I saw vast potential in the suit as a set, and also as versatile separates. Nothing similar is available in smaller sizing.

Step 2. Alterations would be very costly (guesses, anyone?) but the suit was 75% off. I probably would've paid the total cost for a tweed suit that fit great right off the rack.

Step 3. Alterations needed: Sides slimmed, sleeves slimmed/shortened, skirt taken-in, and shoulders narrowed (pretty risky) + tailors who do a good job 90% of the time = somewhat risky.

But I really loved the material and overall Chanel-inspired look, so I went for it. Stay tuned for the results.

Readers - what criteria do you consider before dropping $ on alterations, or buying something that requires alterations?

For tips on how to identify or find a good tailor, visit my vintage post, Signs of a Good Tailor, and Kelly's post - 10 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Tailor.

Pleated Skirt & Pearls (and dress becomes a top)

Crochet lace dress: Ann Taylor Factory (altered) (similar here and here)
Blazer & Pleated Skirt: H&M sz 2 (similar under $18)
Shoes: Aldo  Purse: Chanel taupe lambskin M/L flap  Pearls: eBay

This old H&M skirt survived several rounds of blog sales. The knee-length A-line is not my silhouette of choice (much prefer fitted pencil skirts for my body type), but I held onto it as it's unlike anything else in my wardrobe. For this outfit I broke out my girliest pieces - pretty lace, polished pearls, and delicate peep-toe pumps.
This is my second attempt at the dress worn as a top. The first attempt did not go so well. When done right, this is a great way to get more wear out of your favorite dresses. But for the pairing to work, the dress must be somewhat fitted and short enough to hide under the skirt, and the waist line of the dress must also be lower than where your skirt waist will hit. This dress was made nice n fitted by my tailors, but the length is a tad too long for this skirt. For a good example, Anh is the queen of this tip. I was also inspired by Callandra wearing this dress as a pencil skirt.
To break up this neutral palette, I added a juicy lip. Revlon Colorburst in Coral was too firetruck-red for me on it's own, so I layered on my fave Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef. Here's an obligatory twirl:
PS - Nordies lovers, on Friday 5/13 Nordstrom purchases through ebates will receive 12% cash back (one day only). This is a good opportunity to pick up designer or beauty items that typically don't qualify for extra discounts. Other retailers that have 12% increased cash back this week include Sephora, DSW, Gap, BR, and many more (full list). For info on how ebates works, visit my post here. If you need a referral link, click here.

Target Nude Pumps Video Review (Versie and Pearce)

A few of you have been asking about my Target nude pump order so here is a quick review. In short, I love the Versie pumps and will be keeping those. The Pearce are a bit too round for my liking so they are going back. Target's 20% off of $75 or more promo ends today (May 7th), and you use a $5 off $50 coupon, plus ebates for 3% cashback.

Wearing: Target Versie Pump sz 5.5 in Natural
ASOS Tailored Pencil Dress sz Petite 0 in "Red" (hemmed)
Amrita Singh Nello Necklace (mom11 for 50% off & free ship - ends 5/8)
Size 5.5 (their smallest size) is a little loose on me, as you can see in the photo. I think these run true to size, and I'm probably a sz 5 in shoes. I intend to add a little heel grip pad to close the gap.

Wearing: Target Pearce Pump in Camel

Video Review:

A general difference I've observed between pricier shoes and discount shoes (aside from the leather or material) is the cut. This is most evident in the "aerial" view below. The Louboutins are more narrowly cut, with a sleeker silhouette and toe box than the Versies, and the "U" of the toe box is lower/better placed (on me, it shows just a perfect little smidge of toe cleavage). Discount shoes usually feel wide and round, but some may find that to be more comfy. 

 From left to right: 
Funnily enough I am wearing the same outfit as in my previous "Quest for Nude Pumps" post, which ended in all returns. Looking back, none of those shoes were a true nude shade for my skin tone. I'm happy I waited for these affordable Versie Naturals - I bookmarked the page and refreshed every week until a 5.5 popped up again.

Readers - Do any of you own either shoe? Let me know your thoughts!

Color Theory at Work

Dress: Banana Republic Factory sz 00P (old)
Blazer: H&M sz 2   Bag: LV Speedy 25
Necklace: Amrita Singh Nello (use mom11 for 50% off - Thanks Alyssa!)
Nude Pumps: Louboutin Simple 100s sz 35 (recently ordered version)

As temps warm up, I'm happy to chuck black tights (so limiting!) in exchange for vibrant colors.
If you work in a professional environment, you can still join in on the color fun. Some simple tips I follow to keep work outfits vibrant, versus loud:

- When wearing large blocks of color, it's safer to do neighboring/analogous colors (blue with green, red with orange) instead of complimentary/opposite colors (blue with orange, red with green, purple with yellow). Neighboring colors appear harmonious together, whereas complimentary colors make each other look bolder - better reserved for casual wear.
- If you have a lot of the same color in your closet, try a monochromatic look. I love layering pieces of different shades or textures, but in the same general color (ie. three blues).

- Use neutrals (or black, if you must) to keep colorful outfits from going over the top. Nude pumps are the bomb. I'm in love with these Louboutins, but they're not for everyday wear for a simple gal like myself. I'm hoping the nude pumps ordered in this post will fill that void.

For color inspirations, I like Wendy's color blocking video, Anh's bright pencil pairing, and the fab entries in Kileen's Color Brigade.

I haven't worn this dress in a year, but it's deeply imprinted in my memory that this is the best-right-off-the-rack-fitting dress I own. I remember it fitting like a spectacular glove. Upon re-discovering it last week, I was shocked by the ill fit and childish silhouette. Either my body morphed over the past year, or my fit standards have completely changed.
BlueGreen5_dressfit copy
To save this dress, I looked for a fitted blazer with a deep V-neckline to conceal the babydoll silhouette and help redefine my waist. This H&M jacket works nicely, but wearing a fitted cardigan in Kelly's X-shape will also do.
Readers - have you been breaking out bright colors for work? Or sticking with safe black and gray?