Vintage-inspired: Polka dots, navy bows + rustic gold

I missed this month’s Petite Fashion Challenge, but please visit Megan’s post to check out all of the participants’ outfits. This month’s theme was “Chic Pin-spiration.” I created a Pinterest account but haven’t used it yet – I’m excited to start after my exam! As we take inspiration from photo sharing sites, however, I think it’s important to remember to credit the original source versus just show the image.
H&M; dot dress (review), Lefties blazer, J.Crew belt (colorful options here)
Ann Taylor patent pumps and necklace, thrift store chain, bow shoe clips from eBay

For those who have asked about getting soft, wavy hair…it can be very simple with no curling iron required! Please see this video from 1:30 – 2:20 where I do a quick demonstration. The only difference is now I usually do two buns in the back (one on each side), and sleep on them (removing the butterfly clip) after my hair is mostly dry. I am relegated to this hairstyle every few months when I’m overdue for a haircut and my hair is so long when straight that it doesn’t look professional.

After assessing this dress and reading all of your opinions (thank you!), I decided to keep it even though it’s not perfect. The spots are fun and I am a fan of the feminine draping. If this dress doesn’t get enough wear, I hope to pass it on during a future closet clean-out. I took up both shoulder straps by an inch, which helped address the low neckline, but didn’t do much for the roominess/length.
dotsandbow3 On a whim, I tried something here that I preached against in this post. This boyfriend-length blazer looked disproportionate with a below-the-knee dress, so I tried to fold up several inches of dress length above the waist belt (see above pic). I went for a vintage grecian-inspired look, but the results were more reminiscent of stomach flab, especially from the back. Going forward, I will be sticking to shorter, cropped jackets for longer dress/skirt hemlines…

I got this jacket for under $25 at “Lefties” in Spain, which supposedly is Zara’s outlet. It is a regular size S and was roomy throughout, but fit in the shoulders (important). When I was in China earlier this year, I brought a suitcase filled with clothing that desperately needed alterations. I remembered there were several “street-side tailors” by my relatives’ homes, but unfortunately everyone was gone for Chinese New Year.

After wandering around unsuccessfully looking for options, I ended up taking a huge risk by going to a dry cleaner. I don’t recommend dry cleaner tailors for anything other than a simple hem, but I was about to leave for the Philippines the next day (Nick was already there and said there were no tailors to be found). Shockingly, there was no area at the cleaners for me to even try on my skirts/pants and get “pinned” to fit (and I was wearing 10 puffy layers in the cold). Imagine me loudly and adamantly protesting as the lady just marked up my clothing by eyeballing/roughly measuring my body.

Lips: Revlon “Ravish me Red” (a juicy red-orange)

After meticulously re-taking all the measurements myself and hounding her about how many years she’s been tailoring (8+) … I warily paid the $18 bill to alter ~7 things. It was $2 USD to take in skirts with lining, and about $5 to completely take in this blazer including side, back, sleeve length, and sleeve width. My aunt warned me not to bargain over the price (even though we bargain everywhere else in China) because she didn’t want the tailor to do a sloppy job. dotsandbow5
The next day, I sprinted to pick up my stuff and rushed right back home to try it on. I was generally pleased with the workmanship, but there were three issues: 2 skirts were taken in too much, and a sleeve lining on this jacket was botched. I picked my battles in the essence of time, ignored the sleeve lining, and bravely asked for re-alterations on the two skirts before jetting off. The same bill would have been about $200 at my Boston tailor. Despite saving 90% on alterations, I do NOT recommend hastily taking beloved clothes to a tailor before doing proper research on their skills (see my old post for some tips), especially if you can’t even try on the garments for a fitting. One skirt is sadly still too butt-hugging on me for work.
I saw these adorable little bows at Madewell which reminded me of a long-lost accessory. I tried these clips once with tan pumps, but wasn’t sold on the look. Now that I have perfectly matching navy shoes, the bows look more integrated. I’d love to DIY some over-sized bow clips next, Valentino style.

Readers – Have you ever taken alterations risks in order to save some $$? What was the outcome and would you do it again?
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  1. Grace wrote:

    So cute!!

    Random question — I've been following your blog and noticed you have impeccable test in fashion. Have you ever thought of a career in fashion? I believe you're in finance. What/where do you work? I am currently in accounting and am deciding if I just take the jump to fashion!

    Thank you 🙂

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  2. Michelle wrote:

    Daring tailor job!! Maybe the "butt-hugging" skirt can be saved for date nights? 🙂

    I absolutely love your necklaces!! And of course those cute clips!

    So glad you decided to keep this dress…looks great on you!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  3. If you do any Valentino clips, please do a tutorial for us! I would love that 🙂

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  4. You look amazing. That lip color is perfect for ya!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  5. newpetite wrote:

    Gorgeous! Love the green and blue pairing here!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  6. Katherine wrote:

    Regarding the tailoring: You are so hilarious.

    I have been seeing navy white polka dot dresses popping up *everywhere* this spring, so you should really keep it, or wear it out if you do decide to part with it.

    I can't see exactly how long the dress is in your review, but it doesn't look bad. And maybe trying a new length would be fun. Heels make almost everything more flattering, too.

    Unless you're adamant about the length. In that case, I never said anything.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  7. The dress is beautiful on you. I like the green blazer against the polka dotted navy blue.

    I had purchased this beautiful seersucker dress by Diane Von Furstenburg on sale from Saks during my pregnancy. I was super excited to score such a fabulous dress at a great price. However, I didn't wear the dress until at a wedding 6 months after I had my baby. The dress was too big on my frame and looked like a sack. I went to my dry cleaner's for alterations. They had hemmed my pants and done alterations on my husband's suits with no problems before. At $6 to take in my dress, I thought it was a great deal. Until I got home and the dress was botched. For $6, I didn't think it was wise to go back and ask it to be re-altered. Oh well, a lesson learned.


    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  8. you look absolutely amazing!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  9. Rosie wrote:

    I agree with Jean. I've never bought any clothing in Asia despite looking. In Asia and Eastern Europe, where I lived for a while, everything is either super-cheap and made of poor quality fabrics or extremely expensive. I felt like there were the polyester garments at the market and mall (throw-away Euro-trashy or grandma style) and the Dior and Cartier shops downtown, but not much in the middle.

    Zara and H&M; have entered the Chinese market, but there's nothing yet that offers the price-quality combination of a Banana Republic or a J Crew. Imported clothes from places like Zara or H&M; are even more expensive there than they are here in the US!

    The other problem is that Asian style is very different from American or Western European style. What high-quality, Asian fashion I do see in the nicer department stores is a little too girly for me. Call me boring, but I being petite I like to stay conservative and far, far away from anything that will make me look even more childish. That said, I do think there are very stylish women in Asia, but dressing that way just isn't "me"!

    I did once get a couple shirts and a suit made my a Chinese tailor. While they fit OK, small details like the lapel size and sleeve width weren't quite up to current fashion made my items look frumpy. I much rather buy a J Crew suit off the rack and alter it. The Chinese tailors are good at copying, but creating womenswear from scratch never turned out well for me and others I know.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  10. i'm glad you kept the dress and are making it work! this look is really great on you and the dots are adorable. i agree about making sure that pinterest pictures has a source too. xox

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  11. Rosie wrote:

    Speaking of your Boston tailor, I've taken several designer dresses to them (ya for Filene's Basement and Nordstrom rack) and they did a spectacular job. Now that I've found them, I don't trust anyone else for anything more than a pants cuff! Those sweet ladies have a good eye. I'm about to pick up my wedding dress from them this week!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    I am eagerly anticipating your post about the Philippines. Will it be anytime soon?

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  13. Ashley wrote:

    I just picked up this blazer and it reminds me of the one you are wearing in the post:

    I haven't been to Express in a while, but I found the one 00 in the store and it fits really well off the rack. The price isn't nearly as good, but the scrunched sleeves and short waist make it petite friendly.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    Ahh, you gotta love Chinese people (which includes me)– either you're "pang" or "tai so" or your knees this or nose that and too many freckles. =) You are beautiful just as you are, so long as you're taking care of yourself, and keeping healthy and happy.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm also surpised that you could not found any pieces that you really like . Maybe for your next visit to Asia , you could do some research and you would amaze how lovely and cheap but good quality you would get and they would perfect fit with you.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    Firstly, I'm not at all petite at 5'8", but I love coming to your website to see your outfits and looks! My sister is very petite and what passes as dresses and pants on her end up being tops and capris on me! We both love your site and find that so many of your tips are great common-sense pointers for everyone who needs to dress professionally. For the figure hugging skirt you mentioned, have you ever tried Spanx? Not that you need it, but Spanx can "rearrange" a person's fleshy parts so that something that was tight isn't anymore. I would recommend any shaper garment in a tube skirt/slip. If you love the skirt, I'd give it a try.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  17. I'm so glad you kept the dress! I really love this combination of green and blue. Honestly, I don't tailor most of my clothes. I mostly only hem pants and that's something I've learned to do myself. I'm still learning about fit from you but I don't know if it's just a preference that I don't tailor a lot of my clothes? I guess I could always try to see the difference!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  18. I never really loved the dress I had altered at my dry cleaners last year. I will use my wedding dress seamstress for all future alterations.

    When I was in Kerala, India there were seamstresses everywhere! I was confused at the process of purchasing clothing, my future sister-in-law had to show me that a lady chooses a large prestitched top in the fabric she likes, then the person with the sewing machine out back measures her and in fifteen minutes – a custom fitted churidar or tunic! I really admired that a lady could buy a sewing machine and have a income for her family. I am very pro women-owned businesses!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  19. Alexis wrote:

    Very cute, as usual. My MIL is a seamstress so I get all of my alterations done for free!!! I always joke that out of all the women her son could marry, he had to choose a super-petite one who needs alterations done on almost everything! She is fabulous though, I am very lucky 🙂

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  20. I have never had to take anything elsewhere for alterations because….lucky for me my mom is a seamstress! She does all of the magic for me free of charge 🙂 So sorry to hear a few pieces were botched…

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  21. Lol! I should clarify, we were staying in his aunt's beach hut and there literally were no tailors around. Just fisherman, chickens, a cow, a pig, and dogs.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  22. Emily wrote:

    This outfit is total perfection. Love the dress and the styling!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  23. Hi there – I completely agree! A slimming, boyfriend-length blazer can look great with slim jeans, shorts, or a mini skirt/dress : )

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  24. You look gorgeous. I love the blue and green color pairings! I definitely take my clothes for alterations when I go back home to Thailand once or twice a year. Like you said, it's so much cheaper and you can find these roadside tailors everywhere…you just have to find one that you know does a good job! 🙂

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  25. In all honesty, during my several trips to China (Canton, Beijing, Shanghai…), I have never found such wonderful things. Also, just because goods are manufactured in China for export to foreign companies doesn't mean similar items can be found for sale there (for less). My relatives take me everywhere from small boutiques, to street-side vendors, to the pricey malls…yet I've never found:

    – Tailored work clothing (blazers, pencil skirts, suits – mostly what I brought back to get altered) that came close to fitting off the rack. Although Asian women are built shorter in general than their Western counterparts, the majority of clothes there don't necessarily fit narrower. Everything I tried on from "officewear" stores fit bigger than say, an Ann Taylor or Banana Republic 00p/xxsp. To my dismay, I even got several comments from strangers in China (and the tailor) about how scrawny and short my build was.

    – Clothing of good quality that cost less than the items I buy in the States (after sales & discounts). The economy is changing there and prices go up substantially each time I go back. I tried on so many low-quality items from "boutiques" that were priced at $50-$100+ USD (after the yuan>USD conversion). I rarely if ever spend that much on one piece of clothing here. A look in my relatives' closets show much clothing that is pilled or faded – a testament to the quality of many of the garments. Also, most of them don't have material composition tags as it's not required, so you have no idea what it's made of. My relatives were very impressed by the stuff I brought back…and it was nothing special.

    There is an option to get custom clothing if you're there for an extended period of time. I've heard many success stories in regards to this. I have gotten dresses custom tailored before, but unfortunately was not pleased with the outcome. Perhaps I've just had bad luck.

    The fact that you've found classic, well-made pieces you love give me comfort that there's good options there for those who have sufficient time to explore the options.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  26. Hi Natasha – anyone can participate! If you're on Twitter, we usually tweet about it several weeks before hand. The next blogger scheduled to host a challenge is Petite on a Penny. After you've participated in a few, you're welcome to host as well, if you'd like!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  27. i love that necklace!!!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  28. uniqlos wrote:

    SMH Nick, we have tailors in the Philippines! LOL.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  29. If you're not on Pinterest already, you may want to reconsider joining – it is addictive!!!! I am a full-on addict and admit to it being such a time sucker, haha!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  30. Kimberly wrote:

    I love the teal and navy – so glad you decided to keep the dress…it looks fab on you! Yes, I went to a tailor's in town that was cheaper when we first moved to NY, hoping to save a little and they completely ruined one of my favorite J. Crew silk tops – I was so upset…I refused to pay them for the work and never took my things there again. Lesson learned! 🙁

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  31. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    What a pretty outfit. These analogous colours of your outfit work well together. The navy bows seem to accentuate the colour of your pumps. I like how there is a puff in your bow clips to give it dimension.

    Bela Anzu

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  32. a rose wrote:

    Jean, I love the color combo here. IMO, boyfriend-length blazers with fitted torso will work very well for petite ladies when they are paired with jeans and and shorts.

    I, myself, used to be an anti-fan for boyfriend blazers until seeing a 5-feet friend pulling off her bf blazer with shorts (and nude/black heels heels always help!).

    Overall, I love the fact that you dare to take the risks, put your experimenting pics in public to share/show us the results of those experiments. Thank you for that!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  33. i love this outfit! i especially love the colors together.

    A Petite Treat

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  34. faye lu wrote:

    love the clash of dark blue and bright green – surprisingly works so well together. you look amazing in the pics jean x

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  35. Isabel wrote:

    you look amazing. the dress is incredible on you!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm always rather surprised that your closet isn't chock full of cute Asian fashions that no one else in the US can get to so easily. Do you only visit family in Asia during lunar new year? I lived and worked in central, southern China over five years ago, and I thought it would have been close to the middle of nowhere, and it pretty much was, but I ran across a handful of adorable boutiques in my frequent meanderings around the province capital, and to this day, I still have in my closet some of the most incredibly classic, feminine pieces, cut to petite, Asian proportions, and well made, too (and believe me, I know how discerning you have to be in the Asian marketplace!). I always thought there was something wrong with my torso proportions until I shopped in Asia. It seems so horribly ironic that you were probably taking back goods manufactured in China for the typical American and having them altered to fit petite, Asian you when there are so many wonderful things to purchase for your build right there in Asia at prices below what you pay to buy in America on sale and then have altered.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  37. nikolia wrote:

    hi ..
    I love the pairing with the green blazer.great shoes ..
    look very stylish!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  38. LAURA wrote:

    what?! all your ~7ish alternations only costed 18$??! that is sooo cheap compared to over here in Australia. I think i paid just under 20$ just to shorten some work trousers *smh* 🙁

    really nice outfit! love the blue outfit-orange lips theme <3

    Laura x

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  39. Kat wrote:

    I think this outfit is great! I love the green and navy together. But you're right, if the blazer were just a tad shorter, I think it would be "better". And I also know what you mean about taking alteration jobs to the cleaners. I was charged $25 to take in some sleeves on a chiffon blouse (that I paid $10 for in HK)… my shirt just cost me almost $40. And I am still not that fond of the outcome. That's the last time I'm doing that. Except I also can't sew. Sigh.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  40. Annette wrote:

    Glad you kept the dress – it is so cute on you. I love the pairing with the green blazer.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  41. Suzie Q wrote:

    I love the color of the blazer with the navy blue dress. Love your necklaces paired together! Your hair looks so lovely with the soft waves.

    Suzie Q
    Style Cue by Suzie Q

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  42. Mary Ann wrote:

    I love the bow clips – probably the cutest detail of your outfit today! I had a very similar pair of vintage navy heels with bow detail, but sadly, the bunny chewed on one of the bows and I sent them off to Goodwill (they were a bit too big, anyway). As for tailoring, I always do it myself and I'm glad I know how because it certainly saves me a lot of money! 😉

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  43. I love the shoe clips (changes the look of the shoe) and also your beachy waves in this post. 🙂

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  44. Pia wrote:

    cute outfit!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  45. Anonymous wrote:

    love love love the shoes with clipon bow, thanks for the tip!

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  46. AUBS* wrote:

    envy of your growing shoe collection. a navy patent pump…how beautiful.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  47. Jackie wrote:

    Yay! Such a nice dress! And CUTE!

    I've done some alterations myself in order to save $$ and had it not turn out so well, but my tailor in SC was really very good and reasonably priced. I STILL haven't got a tailor here in PA because I haven't been buying as much but when I do get one I *won't* be skimping on the on quality just to save some cash.

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  48. i love your style so much 🙂

    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  49. jen wrote:

    you look great as always jean! i made some leather bow clips not too long ago for some more casual flats :] i hope you make some and post them! i'd love to see :]


    Posted 4.25.12 Reply
  50. You kept the dress!
    Oh good! It really does look phenomenal on you.

    Jean, if we/one/me wants to participate in Petite Challenges, how do we do it? How do we get on the mailing list or whatever the case may be?

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

    Posted 4.24.12 Reply

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