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?

91 thoughts on “Vintage-inspired: Polka dots, navy bows + rustic gold

  • Reply Ann April 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Love the polka dot dress on you! I've sadly had several failed attempts with different alteration places; some expensive and some not so much. I now wince at the mere thought of having something altered, but at 5ft…well you know how that goes 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous April 26, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Jean, do you think that this dress will shrink if you wash and dry it? I loved the look of this dress when you first posted it that I went to H&M; to try it on, but unfortunately it was much too long for my 4'10" frame. Hemming would be option, but the material and the layers at the bottom the dress may make for an expensive alteration. Just wondering if there was another alternative to more extensive tailoring for this dress.

  • Reply Tracy April 26, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Hi Jean, I am just curious about the bow with your AT pump, it is so so cute with this outfit. Where did you get that, I remember all AP pump I've look at does not has this bow

  • Reply Clara Turbay April 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

    I like so much how you look!

  • Reply Always Maylee April 26, 2012 at 9:51 am

    You look gorgeous in this dress and I think the blazer goes perfectly with it, love the colors. I've had a terrible experience at a dry cleaning tailor before too.. they completely ruined one of my dresses so I vowed never to skimp on tailoring again. I now I have a go-to guy, he's pricey, but he never disappoints!

    So glad to have found your blog! 🙂

    xo, Yi-chia

  • Reply My Style April 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    great blazer! lovely outfit!


  • Reply Janey Moore April 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    You look amazing as always!

  • Reply R.L. April 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Anonymous April 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Do you mean 4/26?

    **1 day sale – ends 3/26: Get free ship at any price + 40% off everything at Ann Taylor w/ APRIL40, including the pumps shown in this post.**

  • Reply Pamela April 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Jean, do u have to use products on ur hair to get it to stay wavy? Thanks!

  • Reply Anonymous April 27, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Lay off the red lipstick, it doesn't look good on you.

  • Reply Joy April 27, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I'd love to see your Valentino-style bow DIY.
    I know how you feel about sketchy tailors.
    I've yet to find one I can trust. I only take pants to a tailor in Chinatown for simple hemming and I try on the clothes behind a curtain. Talk about unconventional… But I take what I can get considering she usually charges me $2-$4 to hem bottoms, depending on how workable the material is. I should really learn how to hem my own clothes.
    Those Petite Fashion Challenges sound fun. I'm considering joining in the next one. (I am 5'2" and proud of it!)

  • Reply Karen (littlepiecefnb) April 27, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Jean, those clips match your dress perfectly! So cute! In regards to your question about tailors, I have taken lined skirts to get taken in and hemmed at places in Chinatown and it's not always perfect but I haven't had anyone completely botch anything up either…yet. haha

  • Reply Alice April 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Loved the dress!

  • Reply Vicky G April 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Jean! Could you share tips on how to shop for jackets? I know about lifting the jacket and stretching your arm in front like The Hulk to check the fit of the torso, but I really need help with the fit on the shoulder. I don't know what is the perfect fit — is the edge of the jacket supposed to sit right above the ends of my shoulder/arm or should it extend a little beyond? These might seem a little common sense, but I live in Singapore and there's not a lot of people wearing jackets so I can't observe 🙂 Thanks in advance!

  • Reply Kate April 28, 2012 at 12:13 am


  • Reply Anonymous April 28, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Strangely i've always thought that sizes in China run extremely small! When I was living there, I had difficulty with the local brands. I usually can fit into US size 6 for stuff from H&M; or Zara (for my height of 5 7 it isn't considered huge), but in China when I shop at the local brands I can wear up to size Large or extra Large. Hence I had the impression that the clothes would fit petite women better! It's surprising to know your side of the shopping woes. I guess the clothes are better for an in between size, perhaps some of height 5 3 and size 4 or something 🙂

  • Reply Melanie April 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I'm so in love with polka dots right now . . .

  • Reply Lynn April 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Long-time reader, first time commenter here! I absolutely love your blog. It's been an incredibly helpful resource as I work on making my wardrobe more "adult."

    I just wanted to share a shopping tip with XP readers. I picked up 3 pairs of Skinny Mini-Flares at Old Navy today. They fit like a dream! I'm normally 23-24 in denim and the 0reg fit me perfectly, so these definitely run small compared to typical ON sizing. I'm 5'4 and the regular length is maybe 2'' too long on me, but that's ok because they were on clearance at my store for $12!

    They don't look super cute on the model online, but trust me, they're fantastic in person!;=1&pid;=864814&scid;=864814042

  • Reply yunjeong April 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Hey! I am having a trip to Boston for my boyfriend's little sister's graduation ceremony at Northeastern this weekend!

    I was wondering if you could possibly recommend some places for me to visit during my 3 day stay?

  • Reply Anonymous April 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I wish you had a PINTEREST account, where we could follow you there, and you would post a pic from each outfit you have made. I LOVE reading your blog, even though I'm not a petite, and I'm quite the opposite and suffer as equally in finding suitable clothes.

    I love blogs for reading and surfing through old pages if you have the time to – but, I like that for the ease of viewing outfits and getting inspirations even if you did not have the time to go through old blog archives.

    Do you have a pinterest account for us to follow you?

    By the way, your an A+ blogger all the way 😉 keep it up, LOOOOOVE you and your blog and you have such high taste ;-D

  • Reply SewPetiteGal May 1, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I'm curious too! My hair falls out of everything, and since your hair seems similarly thick, I'm hoping you have a good product to recommend 🙂

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Hi there – I am definitely looking for a pair of Spanx! I just can't figure out which pair to get yet … such as the tube skirt you mentioned, or in bike short form.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    It's the same lovely color! It does look petite-friendly for the exact reasons you mentioned…good find!

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Hi there – unfortunately, I haven't even gone through the photos yet! I will DEFINITELY be posting after June (my exam)…it was such a wonderful time that I can't wait to share.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Rosie! Glad you've been having good experiences with Hemmingway! I haven't seen the ladies there in a long, long time ever since I've been attempting my own alterations. I miss them!

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Thank you for your input, Katherine! It's about 2 inches below-the-knee…which is not bad. The length is nice and demure in my opinion, just can't be worn with longer jackets.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Hi Grace – thank you for your comment, however I'm definitely not cut out for a career in fashion! THis is just a hobby and I prefer to work with numbers (I work in business valuation). If you're not passionate about what you're doing in the accounting field and have more confidence in your abilities in fashion, then you should seriously consider taking a leap of faith and make the change.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Hi there – I don't think this material will shrink at all, but I could be wrong! I've never had anything in this slinky-like material shrink. If you do wash/dry it, please let me know the outcome!

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Tracy – the pumps are their basic perfect pump, and I added shoe clips with bows on them as decor.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Thank you for the catch! : )

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Hi ladies – unfortunately, I don't have any recommendations! I don't use product, and my shampoo is embarrassingly a 2-in-1. Because I sleep in the bun these days, it tends to stay because it's been "pressed" like that for several hours.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Joy – definitely join in on the next one!

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm
  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Lynn! It looks like ON's denim is definitely running smaller this year. Their rockstar jeggings are like a second skin on me…almost too tight!

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Hi there – thank you so much for your comment! I can't wait to spend more time "pinning." My account is at:

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    There is so much! Newbury street is the place to shop and enjoy brunch, and the North End is wonderful for Italian dinners plus pastries afterwards. There's also some great seafood at the North End (love Neptune Oyster), but the waits are long. Faneuil Hall is a good tourist place to visit if you haven't been … there's plenty of places to eat and shop there, but make sure you don't wear heels!

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl May 1, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I've experienced similar with certain Korean brands. For example, the tweed jackets from Uniqueen in size S fit like a US XXS, at least. I think in general, clothes in Asia probably do run smaller than mainstream Western brands.

  • Reply Anonymous May 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I ran to H&M; after seeing this post to buy the dress, but I found the material of the dress looked a little cheap on me. You never cease to amaze me, making everything look much more expensive, LOVE LOVE <3

  • Reply Vicky G May 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I haven't seen this! Thank you so much! 🙂

  • Reply Vicky G May 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I haven't seen this! Thank you so much! 🙂

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