A Year in Review: Fashion Favorites & Thank You

This year, my fashion focus was on curating a wardrobe of versatile, flattering, and often-worn pieces, through shopping more selectively and learning alterations skills. Here are some of my favorite DIY projects, tips & tricks, and seasonal outfits over 2012:
Favorites of 2012: DIY & Tutorials

Favorites of 2012: Tips & Tricks
Clockwise from top left: belting a shapeless shift, styling a dress as a skirt, length & proportions, converting a bra for low-backs, protecting clothes from underarm stains, packing light
Favorites of 2012: Wear to Work

Favorites of 2012: Weekend Wear

Favorites of 2012: Dressed Up
a+o ombre shift, florals + jewel belt, Tibi lace, faux fur + wine gloves, holiday sequins

Thank you all so much for following along on my style journey, and for sharing your own good finds, tips, and feedback. I am incredibly appreciative of your support and friendships over the years, and look forward to what 2013 may bring. Wishing each of you a happy new year!

Holiday Sequins & Special Moments

Zara dress, Ann Taylor nappa clutch thanks to Sydney (love it : ), pearls gifted from a friend

For those who celebrate - I hope your Christmas holiday was filled with laughter, hugs, and good food. I was spoiled by home cooking and had a blast with my little brothers, giggling under throw blankets with bowls of popcorn and Disney movies. It's special times like that with loved ones that mean so much more to me than presents under the tree. Yesterday was spent on the opposite coast with Nick's family, and was filled with delicious dim sum, a good cry during Les Miserables, and some of the best Filipino fare I've ever had.
I popped into Ann Taylor for a hot second before the movie, enticed by 50% off full priced items (use code GIFTANN). There was nothing to try on in my size, but I thought this knit striped blazer was a nice nautical basic and not a bad price after the discount. They also had a floaty mint blouse that was very similar to one of my favorite old AT tops, as well as some striped drapey blouses that would be nice for spring.

Extra Petite and LXR & CO Vintage Silk Hermès Scarf Giveaway

**Giveaway is now over. The winner is Danielle (please see below) Thank you everyone for entering!**

Before signing off for a few days, I wanted to wish all of you a happy holidays with your loved ones, and leave with a special giveaway:
From handbags, to jewelry and even a belt - some of my favorite wardrobe accessories are pre-owned designer finds with a little bit of character. I love shopping the secondhand market not only for lower prices, but for the more unique selection. One of the biggest risks in this, of course, is authenticity. I receive so many messages from readers asking to help authenticate Louis Vuitton, Chanel, or Hermès accessories online, and it's just not something I'm comfortable with doing (especially since I've been duped myself!).

When LXR & CO reached out to me a while back, I was intrigued and did some research. They offer guaranteed-authentic vintage luxury goods through sales on their website that last 3-4 days, as well as their Beverly Hills storefront. The condition of items are rated based on an alphabetical scale, and priced accordingly. They also accept returns for a refund (see policy), which is rare when shopping pre-owned items. During the few weeks I watched their sales online, I've seen a number of items I already own and love - including LV speedys, the Hermès reversible Constance belt (priced at $412), and these Chanel turnlock earrings (priced at $249):
LXR&CO offered me something from their sales, but I really wanted to find a special piece for you guys as well. I'm thrilled that they agreed to give away this vintage 100% silk Hermès scarf (in AB condition, with original box) to an EP reader, plus a $20 credit for all new members w/ code EXPET20FAN (type into the "redeem credit" section of your account page). The measurements of the scarf are 34.5" x 34.5," and it can be worn a number of ways including draped against a blazer, casually over a tee, or decoratively on a handbag - just to name a few.
Rules: This giveaway is open to U.S. readers only (I'm sorry, international friends!). Winner will be drawn at random and validated, and will have 72 hours to claim her prize. To enter:

Mandatory - sign up for an account on LXR & CO via this link.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you all for entering, and good luck!

Winter Work to Weekend: Thick Pine & Wool Squares

J.Crew honeycomb sweater (similar), thrifted Ann Taylor skirt, Burberry coat, Ann Taylor pumps (now $64)

This basic outfit combines two of the warmest pieces in my wardrobe. I found this Ann Taylor skirt at Savers thrift shop for $3 a while back, and liked the thick 100% wool and quality. It's probably my only success story ever with shrinking a wool item in the dryer. Due to the texture, any damage made to the material by the dryer was not visible (unlike these poor J.Crew pants or this thrifted skirt, which now look faded and worn). I kept opening the dryer at 15 minute intervals to check on progress, before finding success in the fit. It shrunk almost 2" in width, and 1" or so in length.
For running errands and on the weekends, I've been trying to stretch more wear out of work pencil skirts by rolling up the waist for a shorter, more casual length. This definitely creates some bunchiness at the waistline and hips, but can be concealed under a longer, thicker sweater and/or a roomy jacket.

DIY: How to make a bra strap converter for low-back dresses

If you've ever passed on a low-back top or dress due to qualms about what bra to wear, here's a quick DIY project that might nix such qualms in the future. After posting about a few holiday dresses this season, several readers (thank you all!) informed me about a low-back bra converter. It's very affordable to buy, but not always easy to find right when you need it.

Thankfully, the converter design is not rocket science. The night before my event, I scrounged up some supplies at home and finished one in 5 minutes. All you need is:

Winter Work Wear: Wool Lady Jacket + Simple Slacks

I hope each of you are having a good weekend with your loved ones. Earlier today, I went to have afternoon tea with some friends at Taj Boston. It's part of our tradition for the holidays, but all we could think about this time were those affected by the tragic events in Newtown, CT and Henan, China. Reading an interview with one of the Newtown teachers had us in tears - it showed how much our educators care about the kids, and how fragile life can be.
On a much more trivial note, thank you for all the input on this last post. I read each one and noted down some favorite suggestions to try. To answer questions on why bother keeping the jacket - I personally love the vintage-inspired look (when paired right), and appreciate that it challenges me to experiment beyond my typical safe pencil skirts/dresses. It was also final sale, but I would've kept it either way.
J.Crew wool lady jacket & lady day coat (WISHLIST for 30% off and free ship), altered no-brand pants
Calvin Klein pumps (this year's version), 60" 8mm pearls gifted from a friend (love, similar on eBay)

As some readers noted, more visual volume on the bottom helps balance out the boxy structure of the jacket. One easy way to do this is with long, lean, boot-cut or slightly wide-legged trousers that just skim the top of your heels. I stuck with a light color, but also liked reader suggestions of denim or navy pants in a similar cut. Looking at these photos, I realize that the torso looks a little short now compared to the leg line (making a mental note to un-tuck my blouse next time).

Trying with: Banana Republic Martin flannel trousers in "cocoon," waist pinned back in the left pic:
I tried these BR Martin flannel trousers (love the wintery look with the wool jacket) in 00P, but unfortunately did not keep & alter due to the higher rise and visible pocket lining.

Trial and Error: Styling a short, boxy jacket

Update: J.Crew is currently having 30% off your order and free ship at any price w/ code WISHLIST (ordered this Crewcuts merino wool dress in camel/navy previously). One of my favorite purchases last month was this J.Crew lady jacket in spicy gold (must thank Elle again for her review and sale alert). It's a solid quality, ladylike piece that I've received many compliments on, but boy is the silhouette hard to work with! The shape is short and square, and the fit is slightly roomy on me - but my tailor didn't think it was wide enough to warrant taking-in.

I tried this jacket with many different types of garments, in hopes of finding a pattern to what works. Some parings look bad and some look okay, but I can't put my finger on exactly why. Since several readers have asked for ideas on how to work with this shape, I figured I'd share some photos, and hopefully you guys can help decipher the fit code.

1. Below left: Starting off with the easiest and most natural looking pairing - with the matching pencil skirt. I think this works because the same-color, same-width (at the hips, anyways) bottom piece makes a continuous line with the boxy jacket. But how often does one get to wear a matching mustard wool suit, especially without a politician husband in tow?
2. Below right: With a bell-shaped mini skirt. This looks okay to me. Again the similar width connects the two pieces, and even though the skirt color is different - it's short enough so that there's enough leg visible (+ heels) for creating a lengthening line.

3. Below left: With legging jeans, no blouse showing. This looks okaaay, but the tight, narrow bottoms plus wide top is starting to border on football linebacker style.

Holiday Dressing: Rent the Runway Tibi Dress + Red Accents

Tibi "High Tea" dress rental c/o Rent the Runway (regular link) (referral link), Burberry coat
Louboutin Decolette pumps, J.Crew bag, H&M tights, pearls from a friend, Revlon "ravish me red" lips

Earlier this week, the Rent the Runway team was in Boston and offered complimentary dress rentals for their event. I was so pleased with the service that I wanted to share my experience for any readers who might be interested. As someone who has trouble with standard sizing, I never really considered RTR because I usually purchase items and tailor them to fit. True to my expectations, there aren't many options for those who need smaller than a 0 or bigger than a 16. If you can wear between that range of sizes (height is less of an issue, as I saw many options that work on shorter women), then this service would be more useful.
For an overview on Rent the Runway, please visit my old post. I completely forgot about this post, and was even more surprised that my "pick" over two years ago was this same exact Tibi dress.

Some notes from my experience:
- The most helpful feature to me, by far, is the "Our Runway" tab where you can browse dresses based on member photos filtered by height, bust size, age, and more. I completely missed this feature when I was renting (smacks head). After you click into the photos, it shows a detailed review plus the member's weight. Some of the reviews are especially helpful and share what was done to "adjust" the fit. To make this feature even better, I wish it'd be possible to click into an individual member's profile and see all the dresses they've rented and reviewed. If I ever need a long gown for a black tie event, I will be back to scour the options.

- When I was renting, I did a traditional search for dresses based on style, length, price range (starts at $40), size (0 to 16), and more. Each dress detail page shows reviews and photos of members in the dress, and what size they took. I found two ladies who rented this Tibi dress that were my height and weight - they both said a 0 fit big, but wore it regardless. From their photos, I determined that I could make it work.

- Every rental price includes an optional 2nd size for free, in case you're not sure which size to get. If none of your rentals fit, you receive a merchandise credit less the cost of shipping.

Oxford shirt + around-the-world skirt

JACHS shirt (in pink or blue; can't find this exact combo anymore), J.Crew schoolboy blazer
Ann Taylor block heel pumps c/o (40% off), custom skirt thanks to SewPetiteGal, Prada tote

After starting my career in ill-fitting, stuffy dress shirts (similar to this "before" top), I swore off collared button-downs for a while. Only in recent years did I discover how the right material or details -think pretty silk, chambray, or prints - can make these shirts stylish and fun to wear.

I got this top for 50% off thanks to Elle's helpful sale tweeting last month, and love the plaid crested pocket (pictured further below; possible DIY idea), contrast collar/cuffs, and textured fabric. The site describes these shirts as chambray, but I feel the material is more like an oxford weave. It's a good shirt for wearing un-tucked over jeans, or to work tucked into skirts or slacks. An XS fits casually loose on me, and the sleeves are not excessively long. Measurements of an XS: 17.5" across armpit, 13" across shoulder, 16" across waist, 22" approximate length, 22" sleeve length. 
This custom map skirt from the talented SewPetiteGal remains one of my most special pieces. I can't wear it too much as it's such a recognizable piece - but every time I do, it manages to garner new compliments. I hope she has time in the future to open up her Etsy store again, so we can access more of her beautiful creations!