Neutrals and Orange

Blazer: Theory sz 00  Skirt: H&M sz 2, $24.95 (similar in wool jersey)
Blouse: Gap Shirred Shoulder Top sz XSP (petites sold out, check in-store for reg. sizes)
Shoes: Aldo (old, similar in Natural) Earrings: from NYC

Just a quick outfit from yesterday incorporating favorite basics, old and new. Seeing these photos, I note room for improvement. Next time I'll trade the formal blazer for a slouchy crewneck pullover, and swap the stiff updo for loose waves. As for the shoes - sigh, I love seeing sky high, sculpted heel, or platform heels on fellow bloggers, but I have no idea how they go about daily life in such. I'm always taking public transit or dodging brick sidewalk cracks, so no fab shoes for me.
Crossbody/Clutch: H&M (similar in leather), Watch: Michael Kors Tortoise Jet Set
Gap has really hit it out of the park with their poly blouses this season. I avoid manly button-up dress shirts like the plague, but feminine, drapey ones in a peachy nude? Yes, please!

This weekend I also had the pleasure of seeing the Raw Edge Henley Shirt in "new bisque." I thought the olive one was nice (see my fitting-room review), but the "new bisque" blew me away. In person, it looked ten times better than in the stock photo. The shoulder epaulet and raw edge detail made it look much more expensive than a Gap blouse. If you can wear a sz S - XXL, then lucky you, because it's only $24.99 online, while still full price at my local store when I tried to buy the XS.

September Shopping Hits and Misses

Items shown in video:
1. Gap tie-neck blouse in XSP (petites sold out online, check in-store for regular sizes, on sale)
2. Gap dropped-shoulder sweater in sulphur in XS
3. H&M Divided faux-fur vest sz 2, $29.95
4. H&M wool-blend mini sz 2, $24.95
5. Ann Taylor glazed lace pencil skirt in 00P (yes, I caved during the last sale)

Are you sick of seeing this blouse yet? I wore it 2x last week - to work and also to the ice cream festival. Remember these bunchy $11 H&M pants? I think they look better for casual slummin' w/ the hem rolled up.
And some "misses" this month that have already been sent back:

1. ASOS Chiffon Sleeveless Pussybow Blouse sz 2 reg. For a regular sizing item, the length on this was fairly short. I love the electric blue color, and the mesh shoulders, but it was a complete tent on me and poofed intensely when tucked in. See also on Elle.

2. Ann Taylor Melded Shell Print Dress sz 00P. This dress fit me nicely throughout and I like the elegant boat neckline. However, it is not worth the price, even when discounted at 40% off. It's a stretchy knit tee dress that I'd expect to be $30 at H&M. See also on Ping.

H&M Update - Coats, faux leather, and more orange

If you signed up for H&M emails, check your inbox for a 20% off one item coupon. Or, download the H&M app on your iPhone or Android and shake it for the same coupon, good 'til 9/26. No purchases for me this visit, but here's what caught my eye:

1. Wool Double-Breasted Coat sz 2 - $49.95, item #051404. On my wishlist (but no rush) is a classic, quality camel coat. I don't plan on finding it from H&M, but this coat is a great value for those looking for something affordable (esp w/ the coupon). Sizing runs big and is shapeless when un-belted, but looks decent when belted.
2. Faux leather paneled pants sz 2 - $24.95, also in brown. The juniors Divided department also has faux leather shorts in pink and black. The material on these is thick and the side paneling is stretchy. I came so close to getting these, but thought they may need to be tighter given the style. In the pic I have ~ 2 inches folded under. Leather-look pants are more versatile than some would think, and are a chic (and warm) alternative to jeans. I'd wear these with this slouchy blouse and ankle booties.

MNG by MANGO Challenge #1 - London Style

mango1-1 mango1-2
Dress: MNG by MANGO sz 4/XS c/o jcpenney Trench: Burberry sz 2 (similar) (for less)
Faux-Fur Collar: H&M  Shoes: Aldo heels & Adrienne Vittadini suede booties (similar)

For the first MNG by MANGO challenge, we were asked to create a look inspired by our fave British style icon. I raced to my closet and whipped out this trench that has been begging to be worn. I suppose my style inspiration can be Emma Watson from her glamorous 2010 Burberry ads. 
I stopped by jcpenney last week to pick out my MNG by MANGO items. Flipping though the racks, I started to panic as every item I pulled out was cut generously. In the midst of my flipping fury (and still empty handed), Nick surfaced out of nowhere with carefully selected, potentially petite-friendly items. I thought for sure he was off wandering the mall for pretzels or checking fantasy football stats. Instead, my photog-turned-personal shopper pulled through for me in a time of need. Almost every item I ended up bringing home was hand-picked by Nick!

Hair Tutorial: Voluminous Puffy Bun

Per your requests, here's a tutorial for the voluminous bun I've been turning to lately (to conceal unwashed hair). In this video I share my secrets for extra volume both at the crown of my head and in the bun itself.

Tools used:
1. Velcro bumpit (search for "velcro bump" on eBay. Shipping took a few weeks.)
2. Elastic and bobby pins for flyaways
3. Teasing brush
4. Goody Spin Pin (comes in dark or light)
For anyone who doesn't know what a flat head means...allow the photos below to explain!flathead1
A flat head makes one (or me, at least) look very childish. An extra inch at the crown of the head makes any updo look a bit more elegant and mature.

Fall Dressing: Neon, wool, and faux fur

Sweater: Gap dolman-sleeve sweater (similar)
Vest: H&M Divided sz 2 ($29.95, current)  Skirt: thrifted and hemmed
Bag: H&M Divided, Pearls: Nordstrom Rack S (similar) Watch: Michael Kors JetSet

I woke up today, shivering, to a brisk 49 degree morning. Where is the mild 65-70 degree "Fall" weather that allows for donning light layers while sipping cider and watching the leaves turn? I wore this today (with a tee layered underneath) and was still cold and Rudolph-nosed. I just don't want to give in to tights yet.
Low heels: Aldo (old) (similar here in "Natural")

Today's outfit combines three elements that I'm embracing this Fall - color, textures, and faux fur. This vest is very shrunken fit in sz 2 because it's from the juniors "Divided" line, and I really wanted to swap it for a sz 4 for more frontal coverage. Nick vehemently protested, saying there was a "subtle but noticeable" difference from the back view, and that sz 4 looked like a fur backpack on me. Alas, I'm still with the 2.
neonwool3A splash of neon from this Gap dolman-sleeve Sweater prevents my outfit from veering into full neutral, monochromatic territory. I have enough mustard yellow, but this eye-catching color is different from anything I own. I also love the comfy, slouchy fit - just have to be careful not to snag the material.
And oh, do you recall this wool skirt from earlier this week? : )

Accessory Storage: The Belt Ring Hanger

After going from owning 1 belt to amassing a small collection, my poor mannequin begged me to find a new storage solution. Growing up, I remember toying with my dad's belt ring and thinking how clever it was. I don't know what took me so long, but I finally ordered my own from Amazon.

For the ring to be effective, look for a thin ring with the open ends super close to each other, preferably touching (this way the ring can move smoothly through all your other belts as you get to the one you are looking to remove). The open ends on mine are a little too far apart and belts fell off, so I flexed my muscles and did some bending. This one looks like a better alternative with close-together ends.

Readers - how do you organize and store your belts?

Thrifting Chronicles - $5 Wool Skirt, Before

thriftedskirtI want to gush again about how much I like Savers thrift store, where items are sorted by size. I only go once every few months, and have "finds" just half the time, but those finds usually become cherished pieces. Even after factoring in dry cleaning and possible alteration costs, you can't beat the value of quality thrifted pieces (look for materials like wool and silk) that no one else will have!

I picked up this wool skirt (nice texture, fully lined with generous pockets) for just $5, and it's on it's way to becoming a chic little Fall mini. Move over, $80 mainstream J.Crew minis that require a small fortune in alterations! I couldn't believe the waist was on this size 4 skirt. Can you picture the "after" yet? Or are you too distracted by my Amish semblance : )

Past faves from Savers:
- Petite Sophisticate red skirt sz 2P, taken-in and hemmed
- Ann Taylor purple skirt sz 2, taken-in
- Banana Republic olive skirt sz 4, taken-in and hemmed
- gold chain necklace and bronze chain necklace

Readers - Are you a fan of thrifting? Share your favorite finds!

H&M Blazer - Black or Gray? (& LOFT Lace Skirt Review)

Top: LOFT Lace Yoke Top sz XXSP  Blazer: H&M sz 2  Skirt: thrifted and altered
Earrings: F21 (similar for $3.80)   Belt: J.Crew skinny belt

And here is the black version of the H&M blazer. Please help me decide whether to keep the black or light gray! I've sworn off buying duplicates of the same item because I don't want to be a hoarder...err, well, unless it's Ann Taylor perfect pumps or this old factory ruffle shell that is a work staple in every color.  

In Stores Now: H&M Mustard Pants and Cascade Blazer

Blazer: H&M sz 2   Cropped pants: H&M sz 2 (similar)
Tee: H&M (old)  Shoes: BR (old)  Bag: LV Speedy 25  Necklace: Talbots (old)

Ah, good ole H&M - where you can score a full, semi-dressy outfit for less than $50 (jacket - $29.95, pants - $11 with printable coupon or shake your H&M iPhone app for the same coupon, tee - $6). I loved the drapey front of this blazer, and bought it in both light gray and black. I'll show the black shortly, and you guys will have to help me determine which color to keep! The shoulders are cut narrow and the back is cropped. The sleeves are also the perfect length, but my one qualm is that the sleeves feel very wide.
These pants look so fitted on the models, but in reality they're cut big. A sz 2 was very loose on me and fit like a 4 (see before pic). I got them anyways, because I've been waiting over a month for these to hit stores. There is endless Fall outfit potential for a mustard cropped pant, so I figured the $11 price tag was justified. I washed and dried the pants on high heat (today's pics shows post-shrinking), which brought them down half a size but the fit is still a little baggy on me. Length is also a tad long for my short legs.
Readers - Did anyone pick up either of these pieces?

Chanel, Part III - Buying pre-owned or new bags at a discount

Dress: Asos Petite Pencil Dress in cafe cream, sz US1  Necklace: Talbots (old)

In this video, I shared the three places from which I've personally purchased Chanel. When buying from anywhere other than an authorized retail boutique, it's important to:

1. Be familiar with current retail prices, for reference. The amount you can save by not purchasing at retail stores will vary with the age, condition, and "rarity" of the bag. 2011 Classic prices: Petite Shopping Tote - $1595, Wallet on Chain - $1295 to $1595, Classic flaps in all sizes - visit this post for prices.

2. Know almost exactly what you want (style, size, leather type, color, hardware) at set a price cap for yourself, so you're not distracted by non-perfect options or random "bargains" when browsing online.

3. Become an authenticity expert. Some good things to learn about:
 - The serial number (found on both the hologram tag and the authenticity card for each bag) tells you when the bag was made. This site lists serial numbers by year, and what authentic tags should look like.
- The CC logo. The right C should overlap on top, and left C should overlap on the bottom.
- The hardware - This will differ with year and style, but on the classic flap, the snap button and the back of the turnlock closure should be engraved with CHANEL PARIS.
- Stitching. The quilt stitching should line up neatly on the front flap and back pocket. On the back pocket, it is not one continuous stitch that runs from the purse onto the pocket. The pocket and purse are two distinct pieces that were stitched separately, and joined via a stitch along the outside perimeter of the pocket.
- Packaging. I usually look for bags with the original box, because boxes are less commonly counterfeited (possibly due to space issues when shipping from overseas). Dustbags, authenticity cards, and even receipts are often included with knockoffs, but the black purse boxes are more rare.

chaneltips2Final thoughts: Beware of really good fakes out there that show all of the above "signs of authenticity." My advice is to not rely on any one of the above or just inspect photos, but to look at the overall big picture. Is the seller a reputable seller with all positive feedback, and a history of many higher-end items? For individuals (not resellers), I like to ask where and when the bag was bought (then checking that year against the authenticity code), for how much, why they're selling it, etc, and asking for large extra photos.

In summary, Chanel classics are timeless bags that I feel are worth the extra research and money. My black flap is hands-down my favorite purchase of all-time. A fellow blogger, Bessie, shared with me photos of her mom's Chanel flap from 19 years ago (retail $990). It's in pristine condition with buttery leather and glowing hardware - a true testament to the quality of the brand and longevity of the style!

While at Bloomingdales, I saw the newest addition to the classic flap family - a size between the Mini and the Small at about 7" long x 5" tall. This bag has a single flap (no smaller flap that snaps inside) and retails for $1900. Here it is on Ping, who is approx. my size.

Other relevant resources:
- IamStyle-ish posted about where to buy vintage Chanel
- Wendyslookbook has videos on buying designer items on eBay
- PetiteLittleGirl shared her journey to find her dream Chanel

Other posts in my series:
- Part I - Review of Chanel Petite Shopping Tote and Wallet on Chain
- Part II - Review of Chanel Classic Flaps

If you have any questions for me (who is not an expert), the quickest way to get a response is through my Twitter or Facebook. Please note that if you are private on Twitter, those who are not following you can't see your message : )

Readers - If you have purchased pre-owned Chanel (or discounted new), please share your shopping experience and any advice!