Windowpane + Red (and Banana Republic petites reviews)

windowpane blazer red pants
H&M blazer (reviewed here) & blouse (very old), YSL heels
Ann Taylor petite pants, tapered (old, similar in "New Vermillion" now 40% off)

A few of you have asked for additional styling ideas for this windowpane blazer. I've been keeping it safe by starting with a black and white color scheme, then picking one accent color to add interest. Here I swapped blue suede shoes for my favorite red pants, and used a blouse with vertical detail down the front center. The large square print on the jacket can feel 'widening' at times, so the blouse line helps to visually slim and lengthen.
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This $10 H&M blouse from 2011 has now lasted years of regular wash and wear. The launch of their U.S. online store was so highly anticipated, but I was surprised by the small selection as compared to what's in-stores (usually it's the other way around). Shipping is $5.95 and return shipping is the same (no online returns to actual stores), but you can sign up for their newsletter for occasional coupons. Their items are hit or miss quality, but they do run smaller than any U.S. brand, and can last if you take care of them.

Hair Tutorial: Easy overnight loose waves (no iron required)

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J.Crew seahorse dress (last worn here) as a top, thrifted & altered skirt,  
J.Crew Everly pumps (from eBay), Parentesi bag (sold out, but they make other cute work bags here)

This hairstyle is so easy that it may not warrant a tutorial, but I've received many requests on past posts for a how-to. When my hair gets too long and I'm short on time, I often use this quick trick before bed to add texture. U by Kotex asked me to share about one of their promotions, along with a hair tutorial involving their current gift with purchase (which is the only tool you need for this style). From now until October 4th, text KOTEX to TARGET (or 827438) to receive a coupon for a free pack of Goody hair elastics when you purchase two U by Kotex products. I’m already a customer of the latter, so a free supply of hair ties (where do they always disappear to?) on my Target stock-up trips gets no complaints from me.
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As some background, I have coarse and thick hair that dries naturally into frizzy waves. Not soft, sexy, waves...but rather scary mushroom head waves. I usually wash my hair at night so it flattens down when I sleep on it. For this hairstyle, I suggest starting with 90% dry hair to avoid the myriad of ailments (possibly all fabricated by moms and grandmas around the world) that may result from sleeping on wet hair.

Complex Alterations: Kate Spade dress tailored into separates

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Kate Spade dress from eBay, altered & separated into 2 pcs, vintage bracelet & earrings
Coach Legacy "Penny" bag, Nana sandals (in 3 leather colors, or colorblock suede)

I rarely come across a garment and am completely smitten by it, especially if it won’t fit without a lot of work. This last happened with this coat, and again when I saw this Kate Spade fan print dress at an online sample sale. There was only a size 8 left at half off, but I later found a size 2 for much less. Having never tried on Kate Spade before, I bought the dress with the intention of simply tailoring it to fit. When it arrived, however, I realized that it needed to be taken apart for all-over alterations, plus there would be a decent amount of pretty fabric remaining, wasted. I’ve been loving this DIY 2-piece “dress,” and the idea crept into my head to refashion this into something similar. I'd probably only wear the sundress 1-2x a month in warm weather, but the possibilities really open up with separates. I also figured that I'd be paying a pretty penny already for alterations, so why not make the most out of the resulting piece(s).

I want to note that I do not recommend buying anything with the intention of dramatic refashioning, unless you have a tailor whom you really trust (or the skills/patience to do it yourself), and are okay with the risk and cost of possibly ruining the item. I also do not recommend buying anything more than two sizes up than your normal size to alter down, because the difference in proportions become difficult and risky to work with.
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I love Kate Spade's feminine, vibrant pieces, but most of them are designed for a regular-height frame. If I were just altering the dress to fit, the following changes would still be needed:
- Narrow the neck opening and shoulder width (my tailor considered adding darts or lifting the neckline, but in the end added a new seam down the front center) and re-attach the black piping trim
- Re-size the armholes
- Detatch the skirt to raise the waistline and re-do back zipper. Sometimes the waist can be lifted simply by raising the shoulder straps, if that area fits well already.
- Take-in along both sides, re-create pockets that are lost during the slimming
- Hem skirt length

The cost of this at the average tailor will probably run $100+, which is why I always recommend buying petite sizing (if available) to petite women. Even if something still needs to be slimmed or taken-in, at least the proportional aspects like waist placement, neck opening, shoulder placement, and armholes should fit.

Increased options with the dress as "separates," worn with J.Crew Everly pumps:
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Tutorial: Easy fold-over waist skirt using stretchy/knit fabric

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DIY maxi skirt & top (tutorial below), Ann Taylor clutch, Talbots sandals (similar under $25 starting in sz 5)

Earlier this summer, I was sifting through a discount fabric store when this (poly blend) red squares print caught my eye. Even though it was under $4/yd, I was hesitant to buy due to the very stretchy nature. Materials like this are wonderfully comfortable and forgiving to wear, but they can be trickier to work with than non-stretch fabric. I'm glad it ended up coming home with me, as this resulting skirt set has been a favorite this summer - suitable for slightly dressier occasions, yet still appropriate (and lengthening!) when worn with casual flat shoes.coral maxi
Most of my at-home projects have involved a basic straight stitch plus some zig zag (used in lieu of a proper serger machine, which needs to be rescued from my parents’ basement). However, using a straight stitch across stretchy fabric effectively “locks down” that area and prevents any stretching along the sewn line. I learned this as a kid after laboriously sewing a knit skirt, only to have the straight stitches rip open once I tried to pull the skirt on over my hips. Sewing entirely with a serger machine (since the stitches allow for stretch) is one solution, and this excellent detailed post discusses other ways to sew on knits.
foldover waist skirt DIY

Reviews: Ann Taylor petites chevron skirt, bow clutch & more

I received this outfit courtesy of Ann Taylor for this Thursday's Boston event (RSVP here), but wanted to do a detailed and honest review on each of the pieces. There is currently 40% off everything both online and in-stores - not sure when the promo ends. My personal favorite item this season is their chevron skirt, and actually ordered this back when it first came out. I wore it in my last post with a top tucked in, and also tried it un-tucked and belted as shown here. This look is a little mature for me (looks better on the model), but I'll give it another shot with a more casual hairstyle.
Ann Taylor august 2013 review 5
1. Ann Taylor Regents Striped skirt
Fit: From my experience, most non-stretch, non-blousy pieces from AT/LOFT usually do not fit me right off the rack. Shopping such pieces now boils down to which ones are worth getting alterations on. This skirt was too big in the waist, but I could tell the flared silhouette would be extremely flattering, and the colors would be easy to pair with neutrals or even brights (like a kelly green). The cut is a happy medium between my usual conservative pencil shapes, and the poofier styles that may be too youthful.

Ann Taylor x Birchbox Boston - August 15

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All outfit pieces - Ann Taylor c/o

Fellow Bostonians - if you're free the evening of Thursday 8/15, please consider joining me at the Prudential Mall Ann Taylor! I'm excited to be hosting a night of fashion and beauty in collaboration with Birchbox. There will be mini-makeovers, gifts, plus cocktails and treats.
Ready Set Finished Invite

Complimentary Birchboxes and gift with purchases are limited, so please RSVP here if you'd like to come! 

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Prior to the event, the Ann Taylor x Birchbox team asked me to stop by and try on AT's latest collection and experiment with some beauty favorites...

Casual work: Seahorse print + vintage pearl cabochon


Oh, J.Crew online final sales...I usually try to steer clear, but was reeled in last month by this playful seahorse print. A few of you warned that it was sheer, but I was still unprepared for the paper-thin "dress" that can scrunch up to fit inside my palm. In my haste to order, I mistakenly overlooked that this was filed under "beach coverups" and not dresses, so can't complain too much!
This dress has indeed served as an easy beach cover-up, but I've also tried to stretch the number of wears into the office. The sheerness was easily addressed with the aid of my trusty skin-colored bra and slip skirt (have this one in both colors - XS fits well). I dressed up the casual cotton material with some vintage pearl cabochon pieces and gold accents, plus a basic blazer.

Simple striped shift dress (& Yoox sandal review)

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Gap kids dress (now <$10) sz L, altered, Left: J.Crew bag, hat from Khatu (similar)Glitter Pink sandals
Right: H&M scarf, Coach court bag (current version), Adrienne Vittadini booties (similar), U.O. watch

Being smaller-chested, one style dress that I've come to embrace is the shift mini. However, this cut often toes the line between looking like a big ole (albeit comfy) pillowcase, versus something chic. For me, an ideally-fitting shift should graze over the widest parts of my body (chest and hips) while maintaining straight lines on each side, and follow a slight A-shape from the shoulders down to the hem. A higher hemline helps balance the looser cut, and flat shoes can help balance the shorter length. I initially thought this dress fit passable off-the-rack, then started to notice the pillowcase effect in some photos. After some trial and error, about 1-inch slimmed along each side maintained the shift style for me without being too shapeless.
Striped Shift Dress1
I wore this dress with minimal styling over the weekend, with a sun-sheilding hat, bright bag, and flat strappy sandals. It's too early for boots, but I just snapped a few photos to show how easy it is to transition this for Fall. My shoes in both pairings are usually touted as "no-no's" for petite women, but I can't help but love ankle-strap / ankle-length footwear! Choosing a neutral color and wearing with higher hemlines help mitigate the leg-truncating effect.