Petite Fashion Challenge #9 - Work Attire in the Heat Wave

This month's Petite Fashion Challenge is hosted by Elle of Fast Food & Fast Fashion. Be sure to visit her blog tomorrow (Saturday) night to see all the other ladies' outfits! I'm posting a day early because I won't have access to a computer all weekend and I don't trust Blogger's scheduler.

The Challenge: "...create an outfit that accounts for the various environmental factors that plague us in the summer. I want to know how you dress when it's 90 degrees outside and 65 degrees inside (due to blasting AC!)..."

This challenge is very relevant for me. Outdoor temps here have been in the mid-90s, yet the office where I'm working at is downright frigid. We're in a room where the air control is broken and the temperature is set at around 55 degrees (no exaggeration). I wore my colleague's XL man-blazer as a blanket, yet my lips were still blue.
Top: LOFT Blouse sz XXSP (similar here in 2P+)
Skirt: Ann Taylor (thrifted & altered)
Flats: Talbots D'Orsay Bow Flats sz 5 - 75% off in 3 colors!

The obvious answer to this challenge is layering, and for that purpose I like print cotton blouses. These are great because they're breathable in the heat, machine washable, and the various colors in the print make it really easy to coordinate layers with. Just pick one of the colors in the print and choose a layer in the same color family, or, experiment a little with color theory. I wore this ensemble a few days ago.
Heels: Louboutin Simple 100's sz 35 (similar in sizes 34 to 35.5) (or, the affordable reader fave in taupe) 

When I have so much going on color-wise, neutral shoes really come in handy. Also, I've mentioned this many times in the past, but a blouse with an eye-catching detail down the center (ie. pleats, ruffle) visually elongates your body when peeking through under a layer. Plus, it's just a pretty look!
Khaki blazer: Theory sz 00  Watch: Michael Kors Tortoise Jet Set   Cardigans: J.Crew
In Boston, most women commute in flats and keep heels at work. Unfortunately, this summer I've been working at different locations every day, so I carry a large laptop, laptop cord, heels, clothing layers, snacks, and more in my Longchamp tote. I weighed it today and it was a little over 10 lbs - terrible for the shoulder!

To find out more about Petite Fashion Challenges and how you can sign up, visit this thread in the Alterations Needed forum. And don't forget to visit Elle's blog tomorrow night to see everyone's entries!

Brunch Favorite: DIY Striped Ruffle Dress Revisited

Dress: DIY using two H&M t-shirts (DIY instructions here)
Clutch / Crossbody Bag: H&M Style# 568146  Watch: Michael Kors Jet Set
11-12mm pearl studs: bought here for $5 (make sure to ask for white)

One of my simple joys in life is a yummy al-fresco brunch, followed by lazy strolling along the streets of Boston. Now that I'm not studying anymore, I try to indulge in this every weekend. Yesterday I donned this slouchy little tee shirt dress for brunch with friends, but in these Talbots Metallic T-Strap Sandals. Heels do not fare well in Boston. We walked about three miles yesterday, from restaurant, to shops, to numerous places to get frozen treats. I can attest that the T-strap sandals are comfortable! 
Longtime readers may remember this dress. I spent $8 on two striped tees from H&M, then slaved over my sewing machine to recreate this little number as seen on Tiffany (which at $267, was out of my price range for a casual shift). Over one year later, this is still hands-down my favorite casual dress!

Nick was inspired by my watch shopping and brought out his "vintage" Timex. JCrew is bringing vintage-styled Timex back into style, but why pay $200 when you can just dig out your old watch from high school? Fruits of my bargain-hunting labor = J.Crew tee ($7) + Chambray shorts ($7) + Keds sneakers ($24).

Oversized Watches for Small Wrists : Michael Kors Review

movadoI've always been a big fan of timepieces because they are a functional accessory. I love checking time discreetly during meetings. For the past two years, I've worn my Movado Esperanza watch (pictured left) religiously on work days (found it for half off at a Movado outlet store). This sleek watch has a face diameter of 26.5 millimeters, and it's a great "professional" watch for tiny wrists.

Lately I've been itching to expand my watch collection with something that's compatible with gold jewelry and warm-toned outfits. My friend had a favorite Michael Kors one (donned frequently in this post). I fell in love with the oversized look and masculine chronograph details. And for accessories that need to be super versatile - you can't go wrong with a tortoiseshell pattern. The black and browns in tortoiseshell goes just as well with bright colors, as they do with a classic black suit. 

I first ordered the Michael Kors "Jet Set" Two-Tone Watch with a face diameter of 38mm - a huge jump from my beloved 26.5mm Movado. Apprehensive of the size, I also ordered the "mini" Kors, measuring 33mm. When the two watches arrived, I took one look and knew that I had to "go big or go home." There was no doubt in my mind that the 38mm was the keeper!

Likes (of the 38mm on the left): Blend of rich tortoiseshell colors with gold, light champagne colored face, chronograph details, date (neato! I never know what day it is), plus the bold size allows it to double as a statement bracelet. I'm in love!
Dislikes: Not much. If I had to nitpick, the links are a bit stiff.

After having 4 links removed, the watch fit just right. I think the key to pulling off an oversized watch is to wear it higher up on your wrist where it's more "meaty" and wide. You don't want the face to cover the entire width of your wrist. Preview of my next post, post-link removal:
Nordstrom currently has a wide selection of these watches on sale as part of their Anniversary promo, but neither of the styles I bought are included. See Vicky's post on a gold-toned one.

Readers - what are your thoughts on oversized watches? Are they a do or don't for tiny wrists?

Talbots Sale Shoes Review

Before shoe talk, two things to share:

1. I wrote about my favorite places to find petitewear on refinery29. I thought about this list carefully, and in the end crossed off BR and J.Crew Petites. BR has just been so drab lately, and J.Crew...beautiful items, but online only (with high free ship minimums) and terrible vanity sizing!

2. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Katherine of FeatherFactor. Thank you, Katherine!

During Talbot's secret shoe sale, I started with three pairs but was guilty of adding more. These are all still on sale, but not the flat rate of $29.99. Code JULY gives free ship at any price.  

Preface: I thought all the shoes were fantastic quality. Leather upper, leather soles, reinforced heels. I usually waver between sz 5-5.5, and ordered sz 5 in everything except the yellow pair b/c 5 was sold out.

1. Yellow Chunky Heel Sandals - worn here. Gorgeous suede with lightweight chunky wood heel. Since the slingback is elastic with no adjustable holes, I suggest sizing down if you're between sizes. 
Runs: TTS (true to size)
Verdict: Keep.

2. D'Orsay Leather Flats (still $29!) - The fit on these seem to be inconsistent. Of all the shoes I got, these felt the loosest. Not slip-off-my-foot loose, but not snug, and I think leather flats need to be snug. However, I adore the design. the leather is buttery soft, the bow is sweet, and there's ample toe cleavage.
Runs: tad large, sz 5 is loose
Verdict: Keep. Returned - too big.

3. Metallic Gem T-Strap Sandals in Champagne - Love these! I had a tough time wavering between these and the turquoise leather sandals. I commute to work in T-strap flat sandals (rubber flip flops ruin an outfit!) then change into heels at work. I've worn my Target ones to the ground, so these are a welcome replacement. The neutral shade is so versatile.
Runs: Small to TTS. Even at the loosest ankle hole, the straps of sz 5 are snug.
Verdict: Keep. 
4. Patent Peep-Toe Pumps in Cameo Rose - I'm not used to chunky soles, but this shoe is surprisingly flattering on me and the color really elongates my legs. I love the Cameo Rose ... it's like a pinky nude. The structure of the shoe is sturdy and is a little stiff at first. 
Runs: TTS, sz 5 fits me snugly
Verdict: Leaning towards keep.

5. Croc Embossed Peep-Toe Pumps - These are the same exact style as the above, but the chalky color is unflattering against my skin tone. The color also emphasizes the chunkiness of the heel against my short calves.
Runs: TTS, sz 5 fits me snugly
Verdict: Return.

For more Talbots sale shoe reviews, see SewPetiteGal, Jane and Gigi's posts.

H&M Finds under $18 - Floral Tunic & Crossbody Bag

H&M Divided tunic dress w/ tie belt, sz 4, $14.95 (Item # 058904)
H&M Divided cross body bag, $17.95 (Item # 568146)

I know this outfit is eerily similar to my last one, but I wanted to show these affordable finds while they're still in stores. While at H&M last week, my eyes were drawn to this vibrant print with yellow, purple, and brown. The pattern is summery, however the colors are perfect for transitioning into Fall (yes, I'm eagerly anticipating Fall dressing). There's also a mini skirt and a maxi dress available in the same exact print.

This tunic is generously cut, but shapes up once the belt is tied (petites will have to wear the belt higher up than where the string loops are). A sz 4 was all that was left at my local store. It's big on me and I'm wearing an undertank to prevent peeksies. I'll be sure to slim the sides once I have access to a sewing machine.

Layering with my Target chambray top (similar here in Petite sizing)
Here are the true colors of the dress and bag (love it as a clutch!), under natural light:
I promise these Suede Chunky Heel Sandals mark the end of my yellow fever (as reader "a rose" so aptly put it). I need more yellow shoes like I need a hole in my head, but the combo of suede and wood is unexpected, and the quality is fantastic. The color is more muted and mustard-y than in this pic. Only sz 5.5 was left, but they actually fit (all the other pairs I'm keeping are sz 5). Update: Due to the elastic heel backing, you really need your true size on these, or size down if you're between sizes. I thought these fit great despite being half size up from what I normally order, but the heel strap slips a little. So sad! I'll review more Talbots shoes later. Readers - please share how your orders worked out if you shopped the secret shoe sale as well!

Chanel Reviews, Part II - The Classic Flap Bag

For Chanel Part I, visit here: Petite Shopping Tote and Wallet on Chain Review

I get a lot of questions from readers who are considering a classic flap, but are not sure where to begin due to the myriad of options out there. Before I purchased my bags, I did a lot of research on the different variations and the different places to buy from (saving that for a future post). Although there's no need to know exactly what you want, it's helpful to be informed of your options and to set some guidelines. I know it can be apprehensive at times due to snobby SA's, but I recommend going to your local Chanel boutique and trying on a variety of bags. Write down the styles you like, then go home, do research, and shop around for the best price.

*Clarification: "2.55" most accurately refers to Chanel's initial design with a mademoiselle lock and chain straps with no interwoven leather. This was re-released in 2005 as the Reissue. However, the term "2.55" is now loosely used to refer to all flap bags.* (source)

Chanel Flap Variations:

1. Size
The decision that I wavered the most on was size. I thought the small was going be too small, or the M/L was going to be too big. In reality, these two sizes are incredibly similar and both of them work well for someone my height.

Retail prices below are for informational purposes only. I prefer to save by buying pre-owned. I've also linked to modeling pics on fellow petite women.

**UPDATE - Chanel classic flap retail prices as of February 1, 2012:
Medium/Large - $4400
Jumbo - $4900
Maxi - $5300 **

Prices as of June 2011:
Mini Mini or "New Mini" - $1900 7" x 2" x 2.5" (see on the PurseForum)
Mini - $2200, 6.5" x 5" x 2.5" (see on Wendy)
Small - $3700, 9" x 5.5" x 2" (see on me)
Medium / Large - $3900 10" x 6" x 2.5" (see on me)
Jumbo - $4300 12" x 8" x 3"  (see on Elle, Sunshine, and Khatu)
Maxi - $4700 13" x 9" x 4"

One size that I didn't mention in the video (but is very petite friendly) is the East-West flap. This is longer in shape than the classic, and has just a single flap. This was an affordable alternative to the classic, but unfortunately it has been discontinued. If interested, you can try your luck in the pre-owned market. See the E/W on Kelly.

Small vs. Medium/Large (minimal difference)
2. Leather Type
Lambskin vs. caviar is a very personal decision. I've met women who strongly favor one over the other, and then there are some who love both. Despite all the research I did, I made the mistake of purchasing one bag in light-colored lambskin (I think black lambskin may be less fussy). After carrying my lambskin bag just twice and always storing it after use, I've already had to address small dents, scratches, and fading. On the other hand, all of my caviar bags have been a breeze to maintain.
Caviar vs. Lambskin
3. Color and Hardware Combo
If you prefer to buy new, a tip is to visit the Chanel boutique before their next collection comes in, and ask to flip through their look book. Their book contains pictures of all the styles and colors that they have on order. If you like to buy pre-owned, the internet holds a vast selection of different color combos from years past.

As mentioned in the video, I think Chanel is trying to phase out the small size that I have in this post. The mini, however, is making a comeback and will be available in black, red, navy, and more as part of their Autumn collection. The M/L and up sizes are usually available in a larger color selection.

In part III, I'd like to share my experience with buying both pre-owned and new, from a variety of places. Stay tuned!

Summertime Business Casual Work Outfit

striped pencil
Top: Ann Taylor sz XSP (similar in XXS)
Skirt: BR (thrifted)  Blazer: H&M (old)
Shoes: Ann Taylor Perfect Pump in "Saddle Brown" sz 5

Summertime work wear for me is very simple. For a business casual environment (no blazer required), I usually reach for a colorful sheath dress or comfy tee with pencil skirt. If you have a favorite casual top, don't be afraid to try it tucked into work skirts or pants. On days when I may be sweating up a storm, I much prefer machine-washable tees to delicate blouses that require costly dry cleaning!
striped pencil2
Belt: J.Crew (using hole puncherPearls: eBay (search for 80" or 100" pearls)  Ring: YSL Arty
striped pencil1
Plus it's easy to slip into shorts or jeans after work for running errands!
Jeans: Gap Legging Jeans in "faded dark," size 00 Petite (be wary the petite length is quite short!)
striped pencil3

Lookbook: Romping in Ranunculous (& Misikko review)

Last week, Misikko sent me a HanaAir professional hair dryer to try out. You may be seeing these reviews pop up around the blogosphere (see Tara's thorough review here). My previous dryer was a random one that Nick courted me with after plucking it out of some girl's trash pile on our college move-out day. In comparison, this HanaAir one is about 5 times more powerful with multiple heat settings and a gusty cool air option. It dried my hair in under 10 minutes and didn't really need straightening afterward. At $195, I would rather buy a really good curling rod or flat iron, but fast drying hair time is important to some.  
Dress: Ready for Ranunculous Dress (no longer avail.) sz S courtesy of Modcloth
Necklace: F21 (bday gift from ElleRing: Amrita Singh  Hat: Gap Outlet (similar)
Heels: Cole Haan slingbacks sz 5

Summer afternoons are for breezy floral dresses and floppy straw hats. I wore this outfit with flat sandals to a cafe, but how I wish I were at high tea instead, so that I could wear my dainty heels, gossip in a bad British accent, and curl up my pinky finger.

This sundress is an older acquisition from Modcloth. Every time I visit that store, I find pages of vintage-y inspired goodness. There's something for everyone to love on there, but be careful to read the reviews and fit ratings. I saw that this dress was reviewed to be "indecently short" on some average-height women, and was happy to pick it up.
Similar to my first Modcloth experience (this lovely crochet lace skirt), this dress in sz S fit decently but was roomy in some areas. I took two safety pins and pinned it shut in the front and also took it in a little in the back. A "lazy" alteration, but I've already worn it several times this way and have no desire to get it professionally fixed. 
I never thought I'd be able to pull off a hat but this is just too easy to wear. Keeps your face out of the sun, which = less wrinkles in a few years.
I wanted to point out the cut of this dress. The higher waist placement here is key to making my bottom half look longer and leaner. Not too high so that it's empire-style (I loathe little girl-esque empire dresses), but it falls right between my chest and belly button. See a similar dress on Elaine via Fitreview.
Lipgloss: Revlon "Pink Pop" (Loves it. Sometimes flyaway hairs get stuck, but that's a fact of life!)

Maine Photo Diary

Fresh, no-frills lobster on the dock at Three Sons, plus corn & steamed clams (best meal of the trip).
Scrumptious breakfast made right in front of you by Monica & Rock of White Cedar Inn. This was my first time staying at a bed & breakfast and it was quite different from chain hotels. Our room was cozy and clean, but the best part was the food. Clockwise from top: Tuscan scrambled eggs w/ bacon and biscuits, chocolate cheesecake bites, blueberry rhubarb cobbler, apple pie pancakes with sausage.

Preview: Maine Getaway

Oversized ruffle dress: old BR (similar),  Beaded drop necklace: Forever21 (similar)
Floppy straw hat (my new love!): Gap outlet (similar larger-brim, similar smaller-brim)

Just got back from three days in Maine filled with excessive seafood and good company. I hope US & Canadian readers enjoyed the holiday weekend as much as I did! Here is a preview of gratuitous photo and video footage to ensue later this week.

CLOSED - Ann Taylor Giveaway: Leather & Straw Lady Bag

The winner of this giveaway is...Elissa! Please email me to claim your prize. Congrats!

To culminate my series of giveaways, Ann Taylor provided this chic little Leather and Straw Lady Bag (currently 40% off) for one of you. I love the summer straw with leather, chains, and a turn-lock closure.
You guys know I'm a huge fan of crossbody bags for hands-free eating, shopping, and errand-running. Just like my Wallet on Chain from this post, the strap on this bag can be worn a number of ways. For dressier occasions, I'd double up the straps and wear it with bright colors and a blazer. For weekends, I'd wear this with a pretty tee, trouser shorts, and flat sandals.

Top: Dress (BR), Blazer (Theory), Wedges (buy here). Below: Tee (LOFT), Shorts (H&M), Ring (buy here)
**Giveaway is now closed! Thank you everyone for entering**