Best of 2011: Reader Favorites

As 2011 is coming quickly to an end, I wanted to say a heartfelt "thank you" to each of you who read and support Extra Petite, and especially to those who take the time to interact on this blog and share helpful tips and opinions. Here are some reader favorites from the past year (click pictures to visit the post):

Tips & Tricks: 

Hair & Makeup Videos:

Favorite Purchases of 2011:

...and just for fun:

Readers - Wishing you a happy and healthy 2012!

Zara Tweed & (Faux) Leather Lapel Jacket

Jacket: Zara TRF (juniors) sz S   Dress: Theory "Yeneth"   Booties: Adrienne Vittadini "Sonnet"  Accessories: Chanel WOC, c/o t+j Designs bracelets, H&M 40den tights, Michael Kors watch

This jacket is my first purchase from Zara for as long as I can remember. I love Zara styles, but not the sizing nor the prices (especially for the low quality). While in Barcelona, I caved and picked up one piece from the flagship store as a souvenir.

Secret Santa Reveal & H&M Gingham / Flannel Shirt

This year I participated in a secret Santa exchange organized by Jessy (thanks for setting it up!). I drew the sweet Elaine from Toronto Beauty Reviews and immediately knew to get her Ann Taylor stuff (which she loves, but is not available in Canada). I first got a leopard top, then remembered Elaine doesn't wear animal print. Oops! Next, I exchanged that for a sweater, then remembered she was allergic to wool. Silly, forgetful me. I hope my last exchange was a winner : ) Head on over to Elaine's post to see what she received!
My own secret Santa turned out to be a thoughtful reader (and now a new blogger) - Ying. I had stud earrings and makeup in winter shades on my wishlist, and Santa did an amazing job picking out gifts (and wrapping them so beautifully). Thank you so much, Ying!
Shirt: H&M "L.o.g.g." sz 2 - $19.95, comes in green, pink, and blue, item # 029601
Shoes are no-brand leather boots scored from eBay.

On a separate note, here are some photos of an affordable gingham alternative from H&M. I would've never tried on this shirt if Kelly didn't point it out, because it's part of the "l.o.g.g." casual basics department which I usually pass right on by. Continue reading for my review...

Holiday Work Outfit (& first time at high tea)

J.Crew Lady Day Coat (old), 0P in "Cobblestone" (2011 version is called "Warm Gray")
Ann Taylor Perfect Patent Pumps, sz 5 (now 50% off w/ WINTER50), Chanel small flap

Here's another example of an affordable business casual outfit. If you're starting out fresh, make sure to first add some quality pumps to your lineup that can be worn repeatedly with bargain finds from H&M, thrift stores, and the like. My trusty pumps here were scored for $65 (you can get 50% off right now using WINTER50), blouse was $10, and skirt was thrifted for $4 plus $25 for dry cleaning and alterations.
This month, my dear friend Carolyn introduced me to one of her favorite traditions - afternoon tea. After a few of my friends studied abroad in London, they came back obsessed with having afternoon or "high" tea every weekend. The prices charged by local hotels here are a bit extravagant for the amount of nourishment you receive, so we're reserving the experience for the holidays : )

My TJ Maxx Shopping Guide (giveaway to come)

This holiday season, TJ Maxx & Marshalls asked me to share some picks from their stores. I'm a pretty loyal customer of this locally-based company (perhaps it's because my first job ever was at a Marshalls) and especially for last-minute gifts. Here's some of my regular "pit stops" when speed-browsing my local TJ Maxx:

1. Scarves - gifts that are guaranteed to fit.
The scarf selection at my local store is extensive to say the least. This winter wall continued for a few more yards, plus there was a whole other wall of silk & lightweight scarves behind me. Prices of the ones I tried on ranged from $6 to $40 for cashmere, and were marked at about 50% off retail or more. tjmaxx1
Wearing: My J.Crew lady day coat from 2010 in 0P, and Calvin Klein Elara pumps in leopard. I tried on this lightweight olive one with mustard fringe, imported from Italy (approx. $24?):

H&M Spring Review: Double-Placket Shell & Floral Skirt

Holiday sales flooding my inbox this morning:
- Ann Taylor: 40% off your entire purchase with code ENTIRE40
- LOFT: 40% off full-price styles and 50% off sale items with code SHOP40
- Gap: 60% off lots of sweaters including the lambswool cable crewneck which is now $23.99 (review coming soon - the knit is smooth, heavy, and not itchy). *UPDATE 12/18 - use code GAPCHEER for another 30% off, making this sweater $16.79*
^Update: Here's Petite XS on me in Lagoon Teal, worn with Payless Pumps (use code 59863 for 40% off).
Blouse: H&M sz 2, item #030395, $17.95   Skirt w/ belt: H&M sz 2, item #057592, $24.95
Accessories: YSL Arty ring, MK watch, Revlon Vixen polish, J.Crew earrings (old)

H&M is currently having their winter clearance with many items marked down to $5 - $15. Jaded by the older merchandise, I was on my way out when a teeny tiny rack of floral and brights caught my eye. I ended up getting two double-placket shells and an emerald green dress. I see the tops going fast, so in the interest of time I'll review the shells first and the dress in a later post.

Snapshots: J.Crew Icon Trench Coat in Wool-Cashmere

J.Crew Icon Trench in Wool-Cashmere (wearing 0 petite), now $182 after discounts

J.Crew is having 30% off everything again and free ship over $100 with code SNOWMAN. I found these old photos of a camel coat I tried on & returned a while back. A review is probably not necessary now that most sizes are sold out, but in a nutshell - this coat was soft and a good weight, but the sizing was too generous on me and felt like a bathrobe. 0P was the smallest size, and I made the mistake of ordering it before I saw the Stadium Cloth Boulevard Trench in 00P. That one out of sizes lightning fast, especially in the camel color. I guess a new coat just wasn't meant to be for me this year!

Tip: It does pay to check J.Crew's website early in the morning (East coast time), as the inventory refreshes overnight and sizes may pop back into stock due to returned merchandise. 

Something Fun: Payless Block Heel Pumps - $18

Payless Brash Block Heel Pumps - use code 59863 for 40% off (thanks, Kellie!)

I'm not usually a platform nor block heel kinda girl. I feel that chunky heels can weigh down short legs, and make them look stocky versus long and lean. There's something about these pumps, however, that's done right (especially for a discount brand). The slightly tapered block heel and high-cut arch look retro chic, without being too clunky.
(Above) Trying 'em on with a holiday mini (or black tights) and (Below) with Seven Gwenevere jeans...

Herringbone, Tweed, Chambray

Blazer: H&M last season (similar in reg XS-L)  Pants: old LOFT  Shoes: Calvin Klein Elara
Top: J.Crew "perfect fit" tee (2010 version) in XXS  Chambray shirt: old Target

Now that mild days are officially over, I'm turning to rugged textures for comfort and warmth. I was so happy to re-discover this chambray shirt, now soft from wash & wear. I wore it to death this spring, but once hot summer days rolled around, I got wary of sweat stains (which show up on light chambray loud and clear) and put it aside for fall.

Since the elbow-patched blazer, trousers, and button-up are so "masculine," I balanced them out with feminine jewels and leopard pumps. This Sparkling Sage jewel bib necklace (also comes in blue) was a random sample sale find a while back, and feels lightweight and a bit cheap - not worth full price, in my opinion. I kept it for the sale price because of the rich jewel tones.
I am so excited to share these affordable chambray finds with you guys. My shirt is a wardrobe favorite, and the styling and layering possibilities are endless. There are many colors of chambray out there, and in my opinion most of them are not "right." Some are too close to denim, some are too light, and so on. In my ideal world, the perfect chambray is a softly-colored, balanced weave of denim and linen fabric. It should have a casual fit and not be snug. Here are my bargain picks:

1. Old Navy Chambray Shirt - 2 colors, available in petite, reg, & tall for $21:
*Update - No more 30% off, but use ONHURRY20 for 20% off until 12/20/11* 
This is probably going to be a pretty good seller on (unless something is cut very wrong), so get your petite sizing online because once it's gone, it's gone! If you can wear regular sizing, ON stores usually have better sales than online so I'd check there first.

2. Coldwater Creek Chambray Shirt - P or reg XS - Now $10.19 & free ship!

Now $10.19! Wow - $11.89 and free shipping for what looks like a classically tailored, chambray shirt? I couldn't believe this deal. I checked out Coldwater Creek's size chart, and a PXS/4 lists the measurements 33.5B - 26W - it's not for extra small petites unless you're okay with a loose fit. I don't like the blue version but the Sour Cherry and light black both look pretty good in the photos. I ordered both of those colors to check out. Returns are accepted in stores, plus if they don't work out for me, I have a feeling Mom might like 'em : )

Readers - How do you style your chambray shirts?

Easy Holiday Treat: Oreo "Truffle" Balls

A few days ago, I was scrambling for something to bring to a holiday party. My friend shared this recipe made often by his family, attesting that it was "easy and excellent." I grabbed the 3 ingredients after work (all on sale for a mere total of $8) and whipped up the treats right at the party. They were indeed yummy, and could make nice gifts for friends and teachers. I couldn't help 10 years, I'd love to be rolling these out with my little ones as our own holiday tradition, and sharing them with love : )

Ingredients: 1 package Oreos (or try vanilla/white ones), 12 oz cream cheese, and semi-sweet chocolate.
Step 1: Let the cream cheese soften (hopefully, in a more socially-acceptable method than Nick's).
Step 2: Finely crush all the Oreos in batches using a food processor, and dump into a bowl.

Video: What to wear with red + new style resolution

I’ve been trying to find different ways to wear old items, instead of constantly buying new stuff. Looking through my closet, I spotted this beautiful skirt which has not gotten much wear. I initially struggled to pair items with this bolder color, but after understanding some general color schemes (blog readers, I apologize for the repetitive content), I can now give this skirt the love it deserves.

Find your perfect red skirt:
- Ann Taylor Wool Mini in petite & reg 0-18 (10000003953 for 40% off 1 item. Thanks, Chloe!)
- Express Double Weave Pocketed Pencil Skirt in 00 - 12 reg (use 9372 for $30 off)
- Ann Taylor Wool Crepe Pencil Skirt in petite & reg 00-18 (use GIFT50 for $50 off)
- J.Crew Wool Crepe Pencil Skirt in petite & reg 00-16
- The Limited Stretch Wide Waistband Pencil Skirt in reg 2-16 (use 404 for $15 off $50)

Color schemes shown in video:
1. Black and/or White – Clean and Crisp:
- H&M lace-neck blouse (similar)
- H&M $9.95 white blouse, AA sheer dot tights, Ann Taylor Patent Pumps, eBay pearl studs
- LOFT lace print tee, BR belt, c/o t+j Designs bracelet, Talbots tweed flats (similar)
Also try: a freshly-ironed, white button-down shirt with patterned pumps, or a black & white striped top.

2. Neutrals – Soft and Warm:
- (from this post) Gap blouse, Michael Kors tortoise watch, Calvin Klein leopard pumps
- Makeshift camel shawl (love this camel crewneck pullover)
Also try: pairing neutrals + red with brown, cable, or herringbone tights. 

3. Prints and Patterns – Fun and Modern:
- (from this post) LOFT floral top, Jcrew cardis, CL Simple pumps, Target Versie pumps (review)
- Ann Taylor leopard cardigan (similar in XS-XL) (similar in cashmere), Gap button-up shirt
Also try: layering chambray under prints and patterns for a casual look.
After reviewing this video, I realized with chagrin that every outfit was a top tucked into the skirt. I spend an inordinate amount of time at work, and my go-to outfit has morphed into the blouse + pencil skirt + pumps. Now that I have plenty of those, it is my style resolution to push myself out of that comfort zone, and build an interesting casual wardrobe that's reflective of my personal style.

When I first started blogging, my goal was merely to find some work clothes that didn't make me look & feel like a kid playing dress-up. After that foundation was achieved, I made some fashion resolutions in 2010, and now one more. Many of us (or myself, at least) are not born stylists, so it's a continuous learning experience to dress ourselves well, in a way that flatters our bodies and helps us feel confident. For that reason, I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my trials and errors through this blog, and I'm thankful for your tips & constructive feedback.

Readers – What are your style resolutions? What would you like to refine, develop, or change about how you dress?

Holiday Party Outfit: Casual Sequins Edition (+ Nick's bday)

Skirt: J.Crew factory sz 0 (similar in kids XS-XXL) (similar straight cut mini in reg 0-14)
Sweater: Ann Taylor in "Vintage Wine" sz XXSP,  Shirt: Gap, Tights: Target (similar in 12 colors)

A week or two ago, I stumbled across this skirt on a J.Crew outlet sale rack. The plain side of me would typically never consider such a piece, but after seeing Khatu don her sequin shorts for various occasions and Wendy style her sequin mini, I felt inspired to add it to my wardrobe. Since then, I can't stop reaching for it. You don't need to have glamorous style like those two ladies to rock the sequin bottoms - I love the look of casual sweaters (waiting patiently for cable crewnecks to arrive) and button-ups juxtaposed against sparkly sequins.
Pumps: CL Elissa 100's sz 35.5 (similar in sizes 4-11)

I wore this outfit to a casual holiday party in a cozy setting. It was brisk outside, so I was pleased to discover how well brown tights work with gold and burgundy. For anyone interested in this skirt (style #46626), J.Crew factory just added a nationwide inventory system...

Back to Classics: Red, Leopard, and Trench

Thrifted & altered red skirt (similar in petites), Gap blouse

This outfit combines several of my wardrobe classics - the pieces that I reach for time after time because they make me feel happy, polished and lady-like. This includes my tan trench coat with a crisp silhouette (still in love with the shoulder epaulettes and sharp collar), my neutral bow blouse that friends are so sick of seeing, and my ever-versatile leopard pumps that just tie together outfits which I otherwise have a hard time finding shoes for.
Watch: Michael Kors Bracelets: c/o t+j Designs  Lip: Rimmel Bordeaux  Sunnies: Chanel #5182

My red pencil skirt is a piece that I am dying to wear more often, however it's been a challenge styling it for the workplace in this frigid weather. Opaque black or brown tights (a must for staying warm) are acceptable with a red skirt, but I feel it takes away from the clean look and limits the options up top. Recently we were blessed with a 60 degree day, and I jumped at the opportunity to break out this skirt in bare legs...