How to Style: The Maxi Skirt (& Petite Fashion Challenge #14)

This month's Petite Fashion Challenge is hosted by Couture Coco. The challenge:

"Holiday Emergency: You have a pre-booked dinner date on the first day of your holiday (vacation), but your luggage is delayed. This month’s challenge is to style your travel outfit into a special evening look using whatever you carry in your purse and anything else immediately at hand."

Please visit Couture Coco's post to see the other ladies' outfits. The participant list is short, as this was a true styling challenge requiring resourcefulness and/or creativity (I loved reading ktrstyle's entry). The scenario may not be realistic for everyone (I never check luggage when flying), but it certainly is for some...I'm always hearing about people's luggage getting lost or delayed while on vacation. Here's my travel outfit:
Old Navy maxi skirt (runs big), H&M shell & belt, LV Speedy 25
Michael Kors tortoise watch, Gap hat (similar), Prada sandals, F21 necklace

Maxi skirts and dresses are perfect for traveling, and transition nicely for casual daytime outfits after reaching your destination. The jersey fabric and elastic waistband on this are super comfy, plus the length will keep legs warm on chilly flights. I usually bring my LV Speedy on trips because it folds nice and flat into my carry-on tote. Be sure to take off all your metal accessories before going through the scanner and put them into your purse (to avoid leaving anything behind).

My dinner date outfit came to mind almost immediately. Before reading the challenge, I had conveniently just tried on this maxi skirt as a tube dress. Nick was fooled and gave my new dress a thumbs-up, which is good enough for me to wear something in public.

I know this isn't a "special evening look" - more like a casual dinner outfit. When I think of vacation, I dream of sunset walks along the beach and al-fresco dining, so I kept the look fairly relaxed. I used the exact same accessories except swapped the satchel for a clutch. When traveling, I usually bring this H&M convertible clutch/messenger bag along for holding my wallet, passport, tickets, etc. - it's one of my best purchases ever for $17! Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a second, simpler variation of outfits I did with this maxi skirt.
Old Navy chiffon bow tie top (XS), Old Navy maxi skirt (XS petite, taken in)

I wanted to take a moment and discuss how lengthening long skirts and dresses can actually be on shorter women. The piece just has to be not full or poofy and not too fitted - it should graze your figure and create a seamless line almost to the ground. A skirt that sits higher up on your waist will create a longer line than a low-rise one...

CLOSED: Ann Taylor Spring Giveaway

**The winner was drawn using Congrats to Thuy N. from Temple!**giveawayspring2012Ann Taylor is offering one of their most popular spring accessories to a lucky reader of Extra Petite. I could not pick between the striking neon necklace (sold out online) or the classic leather strap tote, so the winner will get to choose her prize. Rules: This giveaway is open to followers of this blog. To enter, please fill out the form below letting me know how you follow - whether it's via Bloglovin', liking my Facebook page, or through Twitter. 

This giveaway is open internationally. AT ships within the US only, however I will forward on the prize to the winner's address. Winner will be chosen on Monday, 4/2/2012 and will have 72 hours to claim her prize. The winner will be validated and multiple entries per person will be disqualified.
Giveaway is now closed. Thank you all so much for entering!

Lunar New Year in Canton, China (pic-heavy food tour)

Last month, Nick and I visited Guangzhou/Canton, China for Lunar New Year. This is the biggest holiday of the year there - all homes are decorated in lucky red, streets are lined in lanterns, and businesses are closed for 1-2 weeks at a time. Children and unmarried young adults especially love this holiday, as they can go around relatives' homes collecting red envelopes full of "lucky money."
I was born in Canton and am extremely partial to good Cantonese cuisine. The people there place so much emphasis on eating fresh food, and spend a large portion of their income doing so. They go to the local outdoor market every day to buy ingredients for that day's meal. My uncle frowns upon buying meat and seafood that were previously refrigerated, or veggies that don't still have dirt on them. As a child, I absolutely loved tagging along at the market as he scurried from booth to booth, inspecting and smelling the ingredients while brainstorming dishes for dinner.
1. The Cantonese live for fresh noodles. First stop: The quintessential local dish is wonton noodle soup. We went to a shop where they beat fresh noodles (with a bamboo stick...apparently it's an art) and fold pork and shrimp wontons every morning.
2. Left: Slurping up more noodle soup at a street-side vendor. Right: You pick veggies, meat and sauce to be braised together in a table-top pot. Hand-pulled noodles were made on the spot and tossed into the casserole. The noodles were thick and had a deliciously springy texture.
3. Dim sum (Chinese version of Spanish tapas) originated in Canton and is a beloved pastime there. I like the classic dishes, but these were tasty too: (clockwise, from right) sticky rice atop shortrib, tuna rolls, matcha green tea pudding cakes, and rice noodle with braised beef sauce.
4. Munching on spicy BBQ lamb skewers while buying festive decor for Lunar New Year...

Double the Chartreuse, Double the Fun

Gap cardigan & blouse, Crewcuts sweater, Yes Style skirt (similar), H&M clutch, Adrienne Vittadini booties
Shop chartreuse sweaters on sale: J.Crew (free ship on everything), Madewell, and another Madewell

Chartreuse has become one of my favorite colors over the years. It's similar to classic mustard yellow, but has twinges of green and neon, making it very current. At first I didn't know what to do with two chartreuse sweaters, but soon realized how fun they were doubled up. There's something I love about layering pieces in same exact shade (see it here with emerald green) - It's like mom's favorite twinset, reinvented.
I've received some questions from readers on how to pair brighter or fluorescent yellow. If the color has a true fluorescent tint, I'd suggest toning it down with neutrals (taupe, white, camel, browns), or going full-on bold with a complementing print. If it's just a brighter yellow, I'd experiment with earthy pairings like deep red, olive, and leopard print. Here are some past outfits incorporating my favorite color (click images to visit post):


DIY alterations: How to slim sleeves + armhole & raise neckline

I mentioned in my review of this printed dress that there were slight issues with the fit. If it fits you perfectly off the rack - excellent. If not, here are three possible DIY alterations (I went with #2) that beginners can do, even if you have to sew by hand. However, learning to sew can be a waste of time if you don't first learn how to identify proper fit—a concept worth mastering for women of all shapes and sizes. A bargain unlined dress is the perfect piece to practice on!

If you don't own this dress, the general concepts below can easily be applied to various garments - blouses, tank tops, dresses, etc. I've done the shoulder part in #2 quite a bit with tops that are too low/gaping/long.

Alteration # 1: Slimming sleeves and making armholes smaller. 
Problem: Armpits are too big and sleeves are too loose. If you are taller or have a longer torso, then this may be the only alteration you need.
Solution: Measure out how much you want to take in - you want sleeves and armholes to be fitted but not snug. Stitch in one continuous line (on each side of the dress) as shown below...

Faux leather + cropped tweed; Chanel-style jacket for petites

No. 5 jacket in brown sz S c/o Uniqueen, H&M faux-leather leggings (similar), Target blouse

This jacket from Uniqueen is undoubtedly one of my favorite pieces right now. It comes in 6 lovely colors and I spent ages trying to decide what to try. The cream is crisp and clean, the yellow is fun, and the peach pink is ultra feminine. After looking through my wardrobe, the most versatile color for me is brown (I returned the peach pink, but did snap some pics of it). I tried to answer most of your questions in this post, but please review the measurements on the website and compare them against your own clothes, and ask the retailer any questions before ordering.

I liked Uniqueen's Malang jacket (now back in satin lining), but the fit was not perfect on my frame. The Malang fit me in the shoulders, but the torso was a bit roomy and the length hit my hips. I mentioned wanting to shorten the length, but never got around to attempting it.
Left: For work with Gap blouse & Ann Taylor tropical wool skirt, taken in (this season's color)

The first thing I noticed about this No. 5 jacket was the cropped length - a S measures 18" long vs. the Malang which is 20" long. This jacket may be too short for taller ladies (unless you want cropped), but is perfect for petites. As someone who is 5 feet tall, it’s been very hard finding jackets that are short enough to pair with skirts and/or flat shoes without truncating my leg line. The length of this jacket makes it so versatile for me. I've worn it already with longer pencil skirts, wool mini skirts, jeans and flats, leggings and tall boots, sheath name it.
Chanel tortoise wayfarers (similar) & WOC, Target pumps w/ DIY cap (similar), Revlon coral lipstick

Sizing: Comes in three sizes (unlike the Malang) – S, M, and L. These sizes definitely run smaller than mainstream American sizes. A Small in the No. 5 feels comparable to XXS-00P at Ann Taylor / LOFT (except with longer sleeves), or in-between a size 2 and 4 at H&M. Again, please check the measurements on the website listed for each size...

DVF for Less: Old Navy & Gap Wrap Dresses Review

Use code ONPLUSUP to get 10-15% off online, ends 3/21. My Old Navy order arrived and I fell in love with the prints and colors. Sizing is big, as expected, but there is at least one keeper. This dress is very reminiscent of Diane Von Furstenberg's iconic print wrap dresses.
Fit: True to what the reviews said, the neckline of this is low. But it's a wrap just wrap it tighter, or wear a camisole underneath, or use a safety pin or fashion tape to secure the neckline. The only issue I had with this dress was the larger armholes that continues into billowy sleeves, but it was the easiest fix ever. It took me about 10 minutes to slim the sleeves (I'll show what I did later) and now I'm in love with the dress. I was pleasantly surprised that a regular was not too long on me.

Quality: Material is on the thinner side but it's what I expected for a jersey-like wrap dress. If you're prone to showing bulges, make sure to wear shapewear underneath. The inside is not printed, as shown below:
Here's another dress that I ordered to get free shipping, but unexpectedly fell in love with it. The silhouette is simple but the ruffles add a feminine edge, and the deep wine color is timeless. The fit of a Petite XS is perfect everywhere on me (and can probably accommodate someone a size up, as well). One thing I don't like about this dress is the thin waist tie - I prefer thick. The material is thin just like the Old Navy.

Gap Ruffle Wrap Dress, 2 colors in reg/petite/tall - extra 25% off w/code GAPEVENT (ends 3/21)
For more wrap dresses at reasonable prices, Gap also currently has a cute polka dot wrap dress (see reg XS on Sydney; thanks RL, for sharing!) and a solid striking summer pink wrap dress available in petite sizing.

Old Navy spring - prints and bright colors under $35

Just a quickie post as I realized Old Navy's 20% off new arrivals (use code ONNEW20) ends tonight. I recently browsed their website and was pleasantly surprised by all the spring choices. Unfortunately, knowing their quality and typically generous fit, I'm keeping expectations low. I started with a mountain of items in my cart, and whittled it down to these three (out of which, I'm only expecting the blue skirt to fit):
Print wrap dress (reg only), Print bow chiffon top (reg only), Jersey maxi skirt in petite (3 colors)
**Only the maxi skirt is a "new arrival" and qualifies for the 20% online discount**

The bright blue skirt looks so comfy and perfect for warm, casual days...I was ecstatic to see it available in petite. I've received several emails from women who are self-conscious about their legs for one reason or another, seeking advice on what to wear in hot weather. I have skin issues and inverted bow knees (got the obligatory teasing for both in grade school), and thus used to be very uncomfortable showing my legs. Although I've gotten over it as I slowly learned to embrace my body, I can still relate. I highly recommend maxi skirts or dresses (I love a good maxi) for staying covered up, yet cool and comfortable.

I bought the maxi skirt last week but customer service kindly gave me a price adjustment for 20% off. Here are some other items that were in my cart but got cut...

ASOS Petite: Blue Peplum Cocktail Dress Review

Asos Petite Peplum Dress sz 1 (3 colors), CL Simple 100 pumps (similar for $40), H&M clutch & belt

A few weeks ago, I ordered this little number in the quest for a spring cocktail dress. This was before my DIY transformation success with the H&M mint dress, and now that I have that for half the price - I can't really justify keeping this one. I just didn't expect to love it so much!
This dress combines features from two of my favorite old pieces - it has the striking cerulean blue color of my Banana Republic sheath, and a flirty silhouette like my H&M cocktail dress...

Style in a Suitcase, Part 5 - Tweed, Leopard + Bow

Gap bow blouse (similar), Ann Taylor cardigan (similar in gray)
Thrift store skirt (self-altered), CL Decolette pump, Chanel wallet on chain

My apologies for reviving this series when all of our minds are on spring, but I just discovered some unpublished pics from December in California. Here's the original entry showing the contents of my suitcase for ten days, and here are some previously-posted ensembles out of said suitcase (click to view):
I got dressed in a rush with just this blouse, skirt, and tights...and wasn't feeling it. Too much solid. Thankfully, I had a cardigan to pull it together. Packing print/patterned layers that coordinate with your solid and neutral garments may sound like "style tips for dummies," but it works, and it's something I'll keep in mind for more deliberate packing going forward.