Spring Sale Reviews: LOFT & Banana Republic Petites

Happy Easter to those who celebrate! There's a few sales going on this weekend, including 50% off and free shipping on all orders at LOFT with code CYBERSPRING, 40% off and free ship on all orders at Ann Taylor w/ APRIL40, and 40% off (excludes denim) at Gap w/ code GAPEGG. I haven't been inside a LOFT for quite some time, and was pleasantly surprised by the bright colors and cute prints.
LOFT floral skirt ($30 in stores), LOFT ponte shell (orange on the bottom, $18 in stores for reg sizes)

I love the vibrancy of this skirt and the weight of the material, which felt like a thick canvas. I'm trying on a 4P with the extra material pinched behind me, so unfortunately I can't gauge the fit (but in my experience, LOFT bottoms require waist alterations). I also liked the juicy pink and orange color combination and the neckline pleats of this thicker ponte shell. I could only find a regular XS at my local store, which was too boxy throughout with generous armholes.

Both items are still available in smaller petite sizes online - I ended up ordering the ponte shell in petite XXS, this box pleat blouse, and the Marisa white linen pants in my quest for white trousers without sheerness issues. I was also eying this colorblock shell with good reviews, but already own several black & white items.

I love my tweed jackets, but the thinner texture of this one felt flat. I tried it on along with the dress below only to check out the fit (and in the spirit of Easter). The jacket fit me well in length and not bad at the shoulders and torso, but the sleeves would need slimming.

This mod-inspired shift dress fit just as expected, with the length being on the shorter end. As with most shift styles, I would not recommend this for larger chests. I was disappointed that there were no pockets or lining (if memory serves me right) for a dress like this. If you're hankering for something in spring colors, I really like this floral print dress which looks more flattering and costs less, but was not available at my local store.

BR was also having 40% off everything yesterday, but I see it's only 30% off online. This mustard yellow blazer with piping (reviewed here) is now a bargain for the quality at just $49 (update: excluded from this online promo), but smaller petite sizes may be hard to find at this point. It's still fully stocked in regular sizing online, with two other colors that aren't marked down as much yet (love the "angora white"). While shopping for Nick, I tried on two new arrivals but didn't feel compelled to purchase either:

The peplum trend got a bit overdone last year, but I liked this subdued variation with a slight flared bottom. I can see this worn both with pants as well as belted over a pencil or A-line skirt. In person, the jacquard material has just a slight sheen and is very pretty. The fit was good with a small issue - the shoulder straps felt a little wide on me.

I loved the fit of this blazer from the front - the collarless design with tapering along torso made for a seamless fit, and the knit material laid smoothly and felt comfortable. I couldn't see my full back, but one possible fit issue might be the lack of a back vent. I was also disappointed by the partial lining that just covered the upper torso of the blazer. Not sure why retailers are doing that more often, especially for items that retail over $100.

Overall, an empty-handed shopping trip for me (other than the LOFT items ordered online to try), which my full closet is perfectly happy about. If you had any good sale finds this weekend, I'd love to hear about them!

Dress Reviews: Gap Floral A-Line & J.Crew Origami (in petite)

Sale alert: Express is having 40% off everything (plus extra 15% off w/ code 9076 - thank you, Chloe!). If you need work pants, they offer a wide selection starting in size 00 short (runs a little big). I just loved this high-waisted ponte skirt on Kelly, and have been waiting for a sale to order it in colorblock and stripe to try. Based on how it fits her, I'm pretty sure it'll be a winner!
gap floral dress
Gap sateen floral dress (30% off w/ GAPEGG) H&M sandals, old (similar in "citron patent")

Haven't done one of these in a while, but wanted to share quick thoughts on two dresses I tried on. I've been a fan of Gap since my teenage years, and only wish that they'd carry petite sizing in-stores too. They do offer free shipping & return shipping on all orders over $50, but my orders never come with a return label (need to go online, fill out your address, and print).

Style: I love the silhouette of this dress and details like waistband and on-seam pockets. The skirt is fuller but not overwhelming, and I can see this being flattering on ladies both with or without natural curves. My only qualm with the cut is that the armholes cut inward a bit, possibly exposing armpit flab and bra straps. In-person, the sateen material is white and smooth and the orange and yellow flowers were more fluorescent than I expected.

Material is a comfortable, slightly stretchy 97% cotton, 3% spandex and is lined in the torso only. Care tag says machine wash cold.
gap floral dress1
Fit: I ordered a 0P to try on, and would say it runs small for Gap and fits similarly to a 00P at AT/LOFT. I can pinch about an inch of extra material at the waist, but not necessarily enough to require alterations (a belt also helps). Measurements of a 0P: 15" across the bust, 13" across the waist, 13" from top to the top of the waistband, 1.25" wide waistband, 32.75" total length, 14.5" wide across the bottom hem of the skirt.

Verdict: Unfortunately, most of my time is spent at work and I had trouble coming up with conservative pairings given the colors in this dress. It looked nice with a bright yellow blazer, but I couldn't find much else in my current closet to wear with it as a cover-up. The fit was flattering and the price with coupon is fair - no keep for this one, if Gap makes the same dress again in navy stripes or a more versatile print, I'll be all over it.

Next up is a J.Crew dress that I tried on a few times over the years....

Cross-seasonal baroque: Printed blouse + ivory bell skirt

baroque blouse ivory skirt1 Blouse c/o Grace Stars (use code ep20 for 20% off; free shipping within Canada)
Louboutin simple 85 pumps, thrifted wool skirt (also worn here), vintage ring from eBay

Colorful printed pieces are great for getting dressed in a rush, as you can mindlessly choose one color in the pattern to highlight with similar-colored solids. I loved the baroque print on this top from Grace Stars with a dark navy backdrop, rustic gold "chains," and splashes of bright blue, marigold, and fuchsia. I wore this outfit to dinner during an unseasonably warm day this month, which sadly has not repeated itself.
baroque blouse ivory skirt2 I can see this with dark slacks in the winter, and either a vibrant color or fresh white for fall or spring.baroque blouse ivory skirt4
Left: J.Crew No. 2 wool pencil skirt in petite (altered),  Right: J.Crew wool cafe capris (shrunken)
Both on clearance and get 25% off $150+ w/ code LOVEJCREW

Spring Under $50: Printed dresses, bright maxis & white shift

spring under 50

The past two months flew by for me with lots of work and a record light $20 in shopping, but I’ve been eagerly eying spring arrivals. I’m a little hesitant to share pieces that I’ve never tried on before, as all too often, things look promising online but are disappointing in-person. Unfortunately, almost all of these items are online-only, so your thoughts would be greatly appreciated if you've tried any of them!

1) Old Navy wrap dress, comes in 4 color/print choices in extended sizing. I wore their wrap dress last year quite a bit (several complimenters thought it was DVF), and look forward to breaking it out again. The sleeves on this year’s version look more classic (last year’s were poofy and mid-length) and they made petite sizing available. I got a regular XS last year and had to perform these alterations, but here's how the unaltered dress fit on my 5’2” mom. I’m hopeful the petite version will fit ladies my size right off the rack, but the length might then be short for work.

2) Gap Sateen dress w/pockets (25% off w/GAP25, or 30% off for cardmembers through 3/24 w/ 30GCSTYLE. Thanks Vicky!) - The last time I tried a dress from Gap petites, it was sadly shapeless and roomy. I finally ordered this one after reading reviews about it running small, and will report back once it arrives.

spring under 50-2
*From my past experience, Target’s petite XS runs similar to a Petite 0-2 from AT/LOFT/BR.*

3 & 4) This is veering straight into summer territory, but I'm always on the lookout for a flattering maxi dress. The Old Navy option (lots of color choices) has rave reviews, and can be easily taken up by the straps if the neckline is too low and/or length is too long. I also love the zesty color of the Mossimo one. The shape by itself isn’t very defined, but a waist-cinching belt will fix that.

5) Labworks white shift dress with fun yellow trim – I love a crisp white dress for warm weather, and the sale price of this is good for anyone who is stain-prone. The simple design can be dressed down with a denim jacket and flats, and easily taken up a notch with colorful statement jewelry and strappy heels.

6) This Mossimo striped skirt (3 color choices) looks flattering on the model and has a 5-star review so far. Ponte is one of my favorite materials for comfortable work wear, but I can't speak to the quality or weight of this one as I haven't tried it.

spring under 50-3

I’m not in need of another short jacket, but wanted to share a recommendation by a reader, Alexis B. (thanks, Alexis!). For anyone who is interested in a military-style jacket, this one is 100% cotton, has all the basic features plus roll-up sleeve tabs, and comes in petite sizing. While browsing this line that I’ve never heard of before, I also liked the short belted trench (again, thumbs up for 100% cotton) with piping that's a tiny bit over the $50 mark.
DIY animal print clutches
Lastly, I wanted to share these DIY clutch photos that Kelly D. and Celia C. posted to my Facebook. How adorable is the striped lining in Kelly's bag, and how professional does Celia's look? Thank you ladies both for sharing - I am so impressed by your skills!

Tutorial Preview: DIY A-Line Skirt w/ Pockets

equestrian print skirt
Ann Taylor blouse, DIY skirt (tutorial coming soon), J.Crew Factory belt, H&M blazer
J.Crew Mona pumps (only cap toe colors left - use LOVEJCREW for 25% off $150+), Prada tote

A few weeks ago, I saw a swatch of fabric posted by the talented SewPetiteGal, and immediately caught equestrian print fever. A big thank you to my friend Ping (another DIY extraordinaire) who scored the last bits of the material for me at Fabrix for $3 / yard. I haven't made clothes from scratch in years, and wanted to re-learn by starting as simple as possible. I know a proper zipper looks best on a skirt, but you can't beat the ease of an elastic waistband. I've heard from many of you who are interested in trying sewing (or have already started lessons!), and thought this would be a great beginner's project to share.
equestrian print skirt2
I'm not entirely pleased with the results or with this outfit, but one of the best things about sewing is that you can tweak everything to your own preferences and learn from mistakes. Self-notes for next time: try a heavier, less wrinkle-prone fabric, blind hem the bottom, and pair full skirts with more fitted tops. And eventually, attempt to learn zipper insertion. I'm already eying fun printed fabrics in more season-appropriate colors for skirt # 2.
equestrian print skirt1
Please check back next week for a tutorial on the basic process for this easy skirt, which you can tailor to any length or fullness, and of course use any fabric that you want. And for anyone who tried marking this DIY clutch, I'd absolutely love to see any photos of your creations via Facebook or Twitter!

From Work to Weekend: Banana Republic Mad Men Collection

banana republic mad men
Me: Banana Republic dress c/o, Louboutin pumps, Burberry trench (similar), AT clutch
Nick: Banana Republic blazer, pants and tie c/o, Cole Haan shoes, DIY pocket square

When Banana Republic asked me to style my favorite piece from their Mad Men collection, this printed silk shirt dress was an easy choice. The colors are vibrant without being too retro, and I saw it as a great candidate for serving double duty as a blouse. Inspired by Khatu's stylish husband, I also encouraged my boyfriend to take a break from behind the camera and join me for this post. Nick's always been a fan of slim cut, tailored pieces, thus gravitated towards this subtle plaid wool suit and silk skinny tie.
banana republic mad men5
These photos were taken by Dave Salafia, who is a talented (and rather resourceful with limited spaces) Boston-based photographer. I've admired his work and was excited to be his subjects. A big thank you also goes to our friend Matteo, who let us take advantage of all the nooks and crannies in his beautiful loft.
banana republic mad men10
Me: J.Crew wool mini (altered), Coach court bag & no-brand shoe clips from eBay, AT pumps

We decided to show our favorite pieces styled for a more formal workplace, as well as for a weekend date. Nick dressed down his blazer by swapping out suit pants for comfy chinos, and replacing the white button-up with casual chambray. For me, I still wanted to let the silk print shine. I paired the dress with a soft ivory mini, and added personalized touches using beloved pre-owned finds.
banana republic mad men14

Extra Petite x Garment Recycling with H&M

As longtime readers know, H&M is one of my favorite places to shop for petite-friendly work and casual wear. They asked me to share about their global garment recycling effort, focused on not letting fashion go to waste. As mentioned in the video, all H&M stores internationally now offer garment collection recycling services - anyone can bring up to 2 bags of clothing per day and get a 15% off one item voucher per bag donated. And if you bring in unwanted clothes before March 31st, you'll receive 15% off your entire purchase and a chance to win multiple prizes. I usually just discard items that are damaged or falling apart, so am happy to hear that garments of any condition are accepted.

Please let me know if you have any questions from the video, or find out more details on www.HMconscious.com. If you end up participating, I'd love to hear about it! Please include #LongLiveFashion when sharing via Twitter or Instagram.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by H&M for Style Coalition.

Simplified DIY clutch bag tutorial (foldover style optional)

Per your requests, here are the steps I took to make the clutch from this post. Please note that I made a very simple version, so the end product is not lined (I plan on adding lining later, but keep the contents in a large ziploc baggie for now) and is not professional quality.

- Material for the clutch (leather, faux leather, cotton, canvas, etc). Determine what size clutch you want and add approximately 0.5" to each side for the seam allowance. You will need either two pieces of material that size, or one long piece. If you want a foldover style clutch, make sure add extra length to the height for folding down. In this tutorial, I am using a 12" x 20" piece of material which yielded an 11" x 7" clutch when folded.

A note on materials - I ordered the cheetah print hair on leather from here (requested a custom size). It was listed as 1.3 mm thick, however my measurements indicated at least 2 mm thick, which I feel is too much for a standard machine needle to handle. For my red clutch shown here, I ordered "ostritch" embossed leather from the same store. That material was accurately listed at 1.2 mm thick, and was fairly easy to work with using my machine.

- A sturdy zipper. Try to find one that is the same width of your material. I got a 12" metal zipper also via eBay.

Transitional Spring: Camel, silk blouse + Theory dot dress

navy dots cream blouse
J.Crew schoolboy blazer (now 50% off), Theory dress thanks to Cee, thrifted silk blouse
Prada Saffiano bag, Ann Taylor pumps, earrings from eBay, Talbots navy tights (similar for less)

Despite yet another snowstorm raging on outside, I've just about had enough with winter workwear and heavy layers. I've been slowly transitioning to lighter fabrics and fun prints, like this silk dot dress courtesy of the stylish & thoughtful Cee. She mentioned that the waist of this dress was high for her 5'4" frame (which works out nicely for someone several inches shorter!), and asked if I wanted dibs before it got donated. I've always loved this dress on Cee (here and here), and was more than happy to give it a new home.
navy dots cream blouse4
Similar dress options from left to right: (1) Anne Klein, (2) Forever21, (3) Target, and (4) Taylor:

Borrowed from the boys - Zara navy wool blazer + Manolo bows

navy wool blazer2
Zara boys jacket sz 11-12 (altered), thrifted skirt, DIY pocket square from Nick
Manolo Blahnik pumps (similar), Talbots navy tights (similar), H&M scarf + gloves

When shopping, I tend to poke around in the girls department, but rarely if ever venture into the boys. Little girls' stuff is already iffy-proportioned for grown women, so I imagine boys clothing to be even further "off." Not to mention the effort of having to fabricate a "nephew" or "brother" that you're shopping for when clingy sales associates keep asking questions. However, after Kelly's post on shopping for boys blazers and her success with getting one tailored beautifully (see before and after), my eyes were opened up to this world of little jackets with slightly longer lengths and chest slots for fun pocket squares.

Coach court bag (current year's version) and vintage earrings (similar on eBay)
navy wool blazer
It would only make sense that I was with the boys blazermaster herself when I came across this heavier one (marketed as a jacket) in Zara's boys department. It had endured rounds upon rounds of markdowns, and was 75% off at $20. I was skeptical about the wool blend quality but Kelly wasted no time in grabbing a firm fistful of the material. She released it after a few moments, and commented on how the negligible creasing left behind indicated that it was fair quality for wool.