Navy Silk Dots Blouse + Wool Bell Mini Skirt


Talbots silk blouse, wool skirt – both from Savers thrift store & DIY altered
 Ann Taylor patent pumps (3 colors), J.Crew Edie bag (7 colors)

Over the past few months, some of you may have noticed a shift in content on this blog. When I first started blogging, I focused largely on finding clothing that fit and flattered, suitable for my career and lifestyle. I ordered and tried on a large volume of items and posted many reviews. This year, due to a number of reasons, that type of content has been giving way to more posts on restyling existing items in my wardrobe.
silkdotswoolbell3For me, this shift first started in the spring with a new job and studying for the CFA. Having little free time meant that I really had to prioritize what to spend free time on, and shopping (& returning things that don’t work out) fell lower and lower on the list.
I know that many readers follow this blog primarily for the item reviews, and thus apologize that there won’t be as many from me going forward. Despite shopping less frequently, I hope to continue my fashion journey by putting more thought into each purchase, in hopes of creating a well-curated wardrobe of versatile pieces that each get sufficient love and wear. Thank you to everyone who is still following along, and especially to those who have been doing so for years!
And now, a few words on today’s post. These items were found at a New Hampshire thrift store. Since thrift store stock is hit or miss, and my DIY alterations are risky, I usually don’t visit unless there is an extra sale (you can sign up for email notifications). Not all items at these stores are “inexpensive,” and not all of them can be salvaged for modern-day wear. However, you can definitely get lucky and score nice pieces that are lower-priced and better-quality than what’s available in retail stores.
I was quickly drawn to this 100% silk blouse with the tags still attached, but it was priced accordingly at $24 before the discount. It was a size 10 and required a complete alteration overhaul in the shoulders, torso, and sleeves. I saw potential for a classic piece (also great for layering), and took the risk. It did not come out perfectly, but I am satisfied with the results. I took step-by-step photos of the alterations and can share if anyone is interested.

This skirt was a beautiful cream 100% wool, but was mid-calf length (easy hem job) plus a size too big in the waist (more difficult alteration job). I got lazy and shrunk it by drying it on high heat. I do not recommend doing this to any wool items that you care about. Out of three attempts to shrink wool in the dryer this year, 1 came out okay and 2 (see J.Crew pants) came out with the wool looking noticeably worn and damaged. You can even see in the above photos that the original skirt was smooth, and the post-dryer skirt is crinkled despite aggressive ironing. The zipper also got warped. The size did shrink down successfully, but at a cost, and I will not be taking this shortcut with smooth wools going forward.

Readers – Have your own (wardrobe) shopping habits and goals shifted over time? If so, how?
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  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Contrary to what most people have said, I am disappointed that there won't be as many item reviews going forward. I look to your reviews to see what items are petite friendly such as H&M; knit peacoat jacket (which I bought), Jcrew's lady day coat, etc. However, I still support the path you're taking. I find a lot of value in the wisdom you impart in regards to fit and proportions. In addition, I really liked your articles on (1) on to look older, (2)streamlining your wardrobe, and (3) building up your work wardrobe.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  2. Still following along dear. I enjoy dressing before as I buy garments and put into tailor and have myself a magazine for inspiration then. Unfortunately I was not blessed to be a good sewer that's why that didn't progress. From there I shift to buying ready to wear dress and trousers as well as skirts. But I think a customize pieces workS well not just like buying new and alter it.It's all in my thoughts right now,thanks that I able to read this post of yours about changes, enlightens me in some point.:)

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  3. Elle wrote:

    Hi! Thanks for your blog posts and reviews. I enjoy your posts a lot since I too am petite. It gives me a new perspective on shopping for fit and quality. Recently, I have decided to do a closet overhaul, editing my closet to reflect a more polished and consistent sense of style. My resolution as of late has been to shop for quality pieces that fit well as well as reflect age appropriateness. Thanks again for your blog posts. It has helped me a lot throughout this year.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  4. Helo from Romania! I've been reading your blog for some time now and I am always glad to learn from your DIYs. Please do post the one for this shirt, I have one 100%silk at home which needs altering and I would really need some tips! On the wardrobe matter, I was an obsessive shopper until last year, when I decided to switch to a more mature wardrobe. In consequence, a lot of my old clothes went out and were replaced with silks, wools, cottons etc. And many of them come from a local thrift market. Since I've discovered this market my clothing budget is high and my wardrobe is full of cheap but high-quality items! Thank you for all your advices, they really help!

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  5. MizzJ wrote:

    I love this outfit! Very cute and fresh and great for other places besides work. I think this new direction will be interesting. I found the endless item reviews a bit boring myself, but I also see how they could be helpful. I think so long as the post has a balance of detailed content, but aren't super long with tons of images, then I think all is fun to read.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  6. Megan wrote:

    Amazing how thrift store pieces and some sewing skills can turn into such a chic outfit! You inspire me to learn how to sew and tailor my own clothing! I often pass up pieces I love at the thrift store just because they don't fit. Off to the sewing machine I go!

    You are an inspiration to all, Jean! 🙂 <3

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  7. I have been a follower of for a little over a year. I remember I first came here via Wendyslookbook when she recommended to her reader to come over here for official wear styling tips. So i followed along.

    I can't say I will miss the reviews. I live outside of Europe and the Americas and those discount posts and reviews I didn't identify with. that and the fact that I am no petite at 5"7', shrinking and alterations are also a tad foreign.

    Still, you are an inspiration to me for my work wardrobe. Thanks to you I can now were a floral skirt to the office! I look forward to more styling & saving lessons from you. Thank you for your openness.

    With Love from Kenya.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  8. Sabrina wrote:

    When I read that you shrank that skirt the voice in my head started off like this, "Oh my God, she did WHAT? Aahhh nooooo!" – But the skirt still looks lovely! I love seeing your step by step guides to alterations, even though I'm pretty good at sewing (I studied fashion design)… I'm always stunned at what you make of you thrift store finds! You're fab 🙂


    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  9. I love the bag!!!
    kisses from Milan and Prague

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  10. yes u must show ur steps lady! DIYs are fun, but not if we dont see how it can be done, and at least get educated on your new hobby. Great job btw, working with different types of fabrics. I like the evolution of this blog.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  11. SE wrote:

    I love this blog and your style. I'm another one who is very interested in your alterations- my long waist together with small shoulders and torso mean nothing ever seems to fit. After a staggering alterations bill last fall, I'm trying to DIY- but I'm a beginner! So I think your thrift finds and alterations are inspiring!

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  12. Great post Jean! You are one of the FEW sensible fashion bloggers around. Keep it up

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  13. Kellie wrote:

    Thifting also makes it more difficult for people to steal your identity. 😛 Love your outfit as always!

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    I love your style! I initially started following you because I shop at the same stores and your tips work well for my life in corporate America. One of the first times I saw you was on your YouTube channel, and you were wearing a navy blue and white striped dress from Ann Taylor Factory Store that I also own.

    Now I have the same goals as you- I'm buying less but I am looking to curate a quality wardrobe that feels both fun and functional, and I'm looking for new ways to style the clothes I already have. I look forward to sharing this journey with your blog 🙂

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  15. Cynthia wrote:

    Like Jean, my closet is mostly from similar stores – Banana, J.Crew and the like – many are petite friendly or are in petite sizes and they're easy to find. Lately, I'm getting more and more into local/Canadian brands. Going to events more and more often, either to cover as media (most of the time) or just an as an attendee, I have the opportunity to discover new people. And really, as a Toronto-based style/lifestyle blogger, I feel like it's my JOB to wear local! So yes, I have to say that my closet is slowly changing – and for the better, too!

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  16. I love you blog because of its fashion. high end, clothes from the mall , or clothes from the thrifts stores; it's all about making it fit, and looking put together. I appreciate your blog, and whatever you choose to share with us.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  17. Abby wrote:

    I only came to your blog for the first time about 6 months ago and what keeps me coming back are posts like these. I buy second-hand, almost exclusively, for budget reasons, for ethical and environmental reasons, and as I am learning, for stylistic reasons – I like not having what other people are wearing! Keep up the good work! I like your style and your savvy.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  18. Jean, I have been a follower of your blog for years and have loved the shift in content over time. While not a petite gal I have been a loyal follower for the thought, care, and insight you put into your purchases and the similarities we share in the way we shop. Classic, versatile pieces to fill out a well polished wardrobe. I appreciate the focus on vintage clothing as I love that it can be altered to fit nearly any body type (case and point, I shop vintage and am in no way petite). Thank you for your honesty and inspiration in the content you continue to produce.

    And in another note, I love the combination of navy, white and red above. The patent (blue?) pumps are fabulous as well.

    Posted 9.24.12 Reply
  19. Lucia H. wrote:

    I love your thrifting/alterations stories and I think a lot of people like myself are eager to learn from you! You look really beautiful in all your "thrifted" outfits, and I agree that retailers have been pretty disappointing as of late in both style and quality.

    On an unrelated note, I noticed that you always have very nicely groomed yet also very natural looking eyebrows. I know you have done some makeup tutorials in the past, so it would be great if you filled us in on how you maintain them. Also, are you wearing a nail color in these photos? Your manicure looks beautiful.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  20. Kathy wrote:

    I love your thrift tips Jean! Would love to hear more about your adventures. I would love to experiment too if I had time and a sewing machine. I really love your style and how you can make such timeless pieces

    For me, my shopping has changed dramatically, but I still have bad habits. I love sale shopping for great items, but it can be hit or miss. However, this is better than I used to be. I used to buy trendy tees or clothing that wouldn't last too long. Now I buy pieces that are multifunctional for both work and leisure and would last longer in both style and wear. 🙂 Your blog is my #1 favorite!! Can't wait for your next post! I would love to see your step by step alterations. Maybe I'll try one of these when I go to my parents house and then borrow my mom's sewing machine 🙂

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    Jean, I know there was recent controversy about you and a plagiarizing blogger. Without bringing up any names, I just want to say this post especially the second paragraph shows that what you represent and your approach to style is polar opposites from the copier. And in my mind it can be imitated but never replicated. I read this blog for your careful thoughts behind clothing purchases and for the career and life you have outside of shopping.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  22. Michelle wrote:

    All your recent thrift store finds makes me wish that the Savers on my side of town did not close down! The before picture of that skirt is too funny!

    I see that you are giving your Edie purse a lot of love! 🙂 I have been styling all of my weekend outfits around my Tillary purse lately.

    And no worries about the shift in blog content! As cheesy as this sounds, I stick around because you are a nice person and it is more like I am getting updates on how a friend is doing! 🙂

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  23. Abby wrote:

    Yes, please show your step-by-step of the alterations. I would love to see them, as I have a large pile of clothing at home that I'd like to alter instead of donating or selling on EBay.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  24. Michelle wrote:

    Jean, I LOVE the sewing tutorials, thrifting, and re-mixing in the blog. in the blogosphere of shopaholic-ing, your recent posts have been inspirational and refreshing 🙂

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  25. Very well done for a $!5 budget!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  26. Caroline wrote:

    I appreciate the reviews, but as a non-petite, I follow for your style pairings more. You have such an eye for colors and styles, and I use your outfits for inspirations! So no need to apologize, maybe this will curtail certain bloggers who seem to rip off entire outfits of yours without giving credit.

    Love the blouse!!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  27. Anonymous wrote:

    I started following your blog a while back (can't remember how I found you). I'm not a petite at all (am 5'7"), but I love reading how you style outfits, how you choose your pieces, how to tell if something "fits" and if it is flattering, how to find classic long-lasting pieces, etc. The reviewing and measurement of new pieces is not really relevant for me. I'd love to see a blog post on what the key pieces of your wardrobe are and why. Also maybe what pieces you are still hoping to find. As someone who works in a conservative office but still wants to dress stylishly, I really appreciate your insight and your classic style. Please keep blogging 🙂


    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  28. Sheila wrote:

    Wow great finds and amazing alterations! Inspires me to do the same. 🙂

    xo – Sheila

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  29. Sarah wrote:

    I love that you are so thoughtful about your fashion choices and I am so inspired to see what you can do with alterations! It's nice (especially in this economy) that not every outfit comes straight off the rack or is a full-priced item.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  30. resham wrote:

    My mom had great sewing skills… n she always told me to learn basics… but I never did. Now I regret!! really regret!!

    Moral: Listen to MOMs… they are always right!!!!

    OK, you did an amazing job! Love all the posts, though i don't comment often.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  31. eliz wrote:

    I have been finding myself thrifting or going to stores I would never go to like Marshall's or even Target for clothes…mostly because I am on a tight shopping budget since saving for a house is my #1 priority. I really dislike having to spend so much money on regular priced items and then taking them for alterations…so I like this idea of thrifting items that will need alterations but in the end they are still more affordable.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  32. Grace wrote:

    I LOVE your blog! I found it because I was looking for diy tips. Before that, I never read fashion blogs. Now that I have, I particularly like yours because it's more about what looks good on, rather than how to look like someone else. I love a timeless look, and many fashion blogs are about what's hot right now, regardless of quality or if it suits your body.

    There are so many reasons to have a well curated wardrobe. I live in an older house with the tiniest closets ever. My husband and I share a closet that is one normal door-width wide. Keeping our kids' clothes straight is a job enough, much less trying to find something for ourselves. Good clothes last so much longer, and will have more sentimental value because of that. Those are just practical reasons, not to mention the environmental and economic reasons. I still love shopping and getting new things, but I'm so much more conscientious, as you are.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  33. I love your alternation I have started tips and DIY section on my blog. I am going to post under $3.00 skirt to soon. Hopefully you will be able to see what I do with it. From one petite to another!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  34. Anonymous wrote:

    I honestly love that your blog has evolved from being more than a "buying a bunch of things and showing it off" blog to one that gives us insight on how to have a better overall wardrobe. I've always admired your eye for things that I never would've considered.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  35. Anonymous wrote:

    Yes yes please share how you altered the blouse and skirt! I love your visual teaching style and i actually like the more diy direction of your blog! Thank you!!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    I realized that I was too focused on getting a good deal on clothes while ignoring that I made compromises on them when I could have used that $$ on something more expensive and that I loved. For example, last year during one of BR's sales, I kept 3 merino cardigans which was a great fit but they were black which is a lint magnet. I was attracted to the fantastic price while ignoring that I don't really care for black. Plus that purchase meant that I now had 6 black cardigans and 2 grey ones, when I favored the grey ones more. Now I have a personal rule of not buying anymore black clothes as well being more conscious of whether I really like the article of clothing or if I like the price more.

    Another revelation of mine was that I bought clothes that were snug and that would be a problem if they shrunk in the wash, which happened with a AT top (that I bought 7 of). I presume I was too caught up in my excitement of finding clothes that fit my petite frame. So now, I keep mind that I should be buying clothes that has some room. -Annie

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  37. OohLookBel wrote:

    It's wonderful that you have a strategic direction for your blog – and you're not afraid to change it. Love your alterations posts, too, because there comes a time when we all realise that we have too much 'stuff' and it's time to trim down (figuratively and literally!).

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  38. C wrote:

    I've been discouraged to alter silk. What are the differences when sewing silk vs cotton or poly?

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  39. Unknown wrote:


    I started following your blog a few months back and absolutely love it! Actually, you have inspired me to look into taking sewing classes. Having said that, I noticed in this post that you mentioned having step-by-step photos for altering the blouse. Can you please respond to this with how I can have them?

    I'd really appreciate it!

    Again, your blog is very inspiring !! Keep up the great work 🙂

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  40. C wrote:

    Hi Jean, I would love to see how you altered the shoulders of the top! I recently altered a blouse by slimming the sides but it didn't quite fit right because the shoulder and collar area was made for someone larger than me! What would be an easy fix for this?

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  41. Jackie wrote:

    Jean, please keep blogging! I'm actually really loving seeing your posts on restyling existing pieces and thrift store finds. You make them look so good showing that you CAN re-purpose and style older pieces and still be fashion-forward.

    Many young women have had to change their shopping habits, I'm sure; I know I have! Back in 2007 (ish) I went shopping maybe twice a week and didn't even really look at the price tag! Now I'm blessed to go shop for myself twice a month…maybe and I have to think very carefully about what I buy and how much I spend. That can totally suck but I'm really thankful that I've learned how to budget and restyle and sew (somewhat). Now I can be happy (and build plenty of outfits) with less.

    And I'm almost finished with my "Wardrobe List" (items I'd like that I don't yet have)!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  42. I love seeing your posts with thrifted and/or DIY'd items! I'm happy that you'll be doing more going forward because some of the brands reviewed aren't available everywhere. : ) With that said, I'd love to see your step-by-step (for ALL future DIY posts too) and use it as a learning tool! I'm bad at hemming jeans/pants, but I do have good experience taking in waists and slimming my skirts. I've been doing this lately, after coming across a couple of skirts that I loved, but had no smaller sizes.

    You took a big risk with the wool skirt, but at least it was only $3! I think I just got lucky with shrinking my BR silk blouse a couple of months ago.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  43. Taima wrote:

    The fact that you are working towards having a well curated wardrobe is what keeps me coming back. That is likewise my goal and it is easy to get caught up with shopping at the same retailers only to discover that your wardrobe looks more like a uniform and less like a representation of your personal style. I am likewise petite so I appreciate the alterations and it has inspired me to do the same.

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  44. Christina wrote:

    I started reading mostly because of the very indepth before and after views of what is flattering and what is appropriate for work. I didn't really benefit from the size reviews as Im not as tiny but the tips on resizing sleeves, collars and waistbands were invaluble. I would definitely love to see a step by step DIY on the shirt, I have a lot from my mom, 80's style, that I would love to update and wear with more tha pencil skirts! Keep up the blogging, I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying your new direction!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  45. Michelle wrote:

    Oh my god I am so glad you are finally formally not-recommending shrinking wool items in the dryer. As a fiber nerd myself (and a woolhead in particular) it hurts my soul every time I see a blogger do this. Wool fulls (aka "felting") both lengthwise and widthwise, so it's no surprise to me that any items such as zippers would end up warped and puckering — the e.g. 6 inches of fabric it was attached to before are now only 5, so there's too much zipper and no place to go!

    Besides that, you compromise drastically on the fabric quality — when wool is fulled under heat and moisture, the scales on the wool fiber shaft open up, lock against their neighbours, and close up again like tight claws, so that the overall item loses a great deal of elasticity and drape, and also a lot of its sheen. You've noticed this yourself! Many lovely winter items are made out of fulled/boiled wool, but there the effect is intentional, and controlled for from the start. Trying to full an perfectly lovely item of clothing that wasn't designed to be treated that way is just – heartbreaking.

    Yay for alterations that involve measuring and cutting, and beautiful wool fabric which will remain as lovely to the touch as the day the garment was made! 🙂

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  46. Amy wrote:

    Navy, cream, and red are my go to colour combinations. You look absolutely impeccable here. (:

    I have been following you for ~1 year now but this is probably the first time I'm posting with my blogspot/google name on. I think just watching you style the items you buy is very inspirational and your method of shopping meticulously has definitely influenced me to be more choosy rather than just buying everything that "fits" as you have stated.

    I'm still a high school student so I have no idea what it is that attracts me to your blog but I always look forward to a new post from you and this blog is definitely one of my favourite reads. I've always wanted to start a blog for myself but I get a little bit bashful at the thought haha.

    But I've digressed. I will definitely support whatever you do from here on out and I'm excited to see the posts that come!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  47. You have been wearing the Eddie bag a lot recently, and it makes me want to invest in a red handbag as well! I've been following your blog for the past two years, and I love every one of your posts. I admit, my favourite are the item reviews (since Canada share many stores with US), however I mainly follow your blog for the quality content and photographs. I love how a drabby shirt and oversized skirt became such a chic ensemble! It makes me want to pick up sewing!

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  48. I'd be interested in seeing the modifications you did on the blouse here. As a newer visitor, it's the modifications that I find most interesting (that and the potential for seeing new outfit combinations that are slightly outside my own personal style but that I still find appealing). Just thought you might appreciate the feedback 🙂

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  49. I don't remember how I found your blog, but it was within the past year. I subscribed precisely because I loved seeing your clothing alterations and meticulous evaluations of fit. Your approach to fashion has given me a new appreciation for fit, quality, and potential. To date, I haven't found another blogger who is so dedicated to pointing out why certain clothing items don't work, and even showing how they can be improved.

    (Living in a different country means I don't really benefit from product reviews, anyway!)

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply
  50. Jen wrote:

    Great outfit. I love the classic combination of red, white and navy. <3

    Sexy Little Things

    Posted 9.23.12 Reply

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