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?

138 thoughts on “Navy Silk Dots Blouse + Wool Bell Mini Skirt

  • Reply Margot September 24, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Thank you Jean for this post and for being so open about your process for changing direction. I don't remember how I found your blog, and I am not a "small" petite at size 14. I also don't know how to sew (yet). I have however, been reducing my wardrobe in an effort to love each piece I have and wear it. I have been much more careful about the items I bring in and am undergoing a reduction of clothing that does not currently work. I take better care of my clothing since there is less of it.

    I am also considering pieces that I would have thought were too expensive for the type of life I lead, because I can see that having one or two expensive things that I love and use often is better than many cheaper items that I do not love so much.

    I have appreciated seeing all of the items you have reviewed. It has helped me refine what my own particular taste and style is. Thank you.

  • Reply Fer September 25, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Thank you for this post. I am a big fan because of your versatility.

  • Reply Joy September 25, 2012 at 2:29 am

    You're so talented. I wish I could sew like that.
    & this outfit is pretty patriotic. Beautiful!

  • Reply Anonymous September 25, 2012 at 3:39 am

    I love the idea of a curated wardrobe. I have difficulty doing that because I either end up with a very linear similar style of clothing, or a missmash of a little of every style. I would love to hear you share how you curate your wardrobe so that I can get better at it too!

  • Reply Anonymous September 25, 2012 at 3:54 am

    thank you for being more selective about your pieces. the environment will love you for it<3 lol <3 I'm glad to see the content shift.

  • Reply Essence Brown September 25, 2012 at 9:50 am

    My thoughts exactly! I love you blog and I think its awesome its growing right along with you. I too wish to be able to sew, but more importantly I wish to have an eye for these awesome pieces. I would never have thought you could morph those pieces into such wearable staples.

    Congrats on your success!
    Have you ever considered making a video serious of your alterations? I completely understand how busy you are, but a lot of your readers comment on how we wish we could make such lovely items. Maybe you can do a video alterations tutorial. Its not to important figuring we could just search youtube. Thought I'd mention it.

    Love your blog!

  • Reply marigami September 25, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Hello from a french petite following your blog for…well some time.
    Funny cause I am currently in the same process reducing my shopping time and budget to nearly nothing (I mean clothes and shoes shopping) and shopping my closet instead.
    I do have enough clothes for the time being but do need to alter quite a lot to have them fit.
    That is the reason why I really think your blog is inspiring.
    Would you then accept to share with us the photos you took regarding the alterations of the silk shirt: I do have myself a nice silk blouse waiting desperately but I am stuck with the sleeves slimming and shortening so to see how you did would be very helpful for me and others as well. Many thanks in advance.

  • Reply Heather He September 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I love how you tailored that blouse. I would love to see the step-by-step. From your previous posts, I am so glad that you opt for easier alterations that are so beginner-friendly. I have my own sewing machine and all, but it's gotten very few uses.

    Do you have any recommendations for choosing/wearing blouses? I have a small frame and it's often so difficult to wear blouses without appearing boxy and boyish. So jealous that you're able to piece them so effortlessly!

  • Reply Amanda Wilson September 25, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Love your blog and your thriftiness. Please do share the photos from the blouse alterations. It is something I have unsuccessfully attempted in the past.

    I also have another question about belts. How do you manage to keep your belts in place with skirts and dresses that don't have belt loops? Mine are constantly moving around.

  • Reply pretty little things September 25, 2012 at 10:24 am

    gorgeous look – i love anything polka dots! xo

  • Reply Anonymous September 25, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Hi Jean,
    I might have started reading this blog largely because of the reviews (which I do love, because you provide such thorough and honest critique of items, making your opinion truly valuable), but I definitely continue to read it because of you. There is such quality and charm to every blog post that I appreciate just about everything you put out. I love that your blog has evolved with you. =)

  • Reply Lynette September 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I only recently found your blog and I love it precisely because you show how to take thrift store items and re-imagine them to fit you and your style. Please share what you did to alter the blouse. I might have to do the same to a couple of tops that I found at my local Goodwill.

  • Reply fashaddict September 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    i love your blog as well Jean. As Heather said, i also found your blog luckily one day and have been an avid follower since. being a fellow petite, i loved your reviews and also the way you put simple pieces together to create gr8 outfits. i was a tomboy before and everything i wore used to be 2-3 times larger than my body. i have recently become fashion conscious and find your blog to be an inspiration. i wish this had happened to me years ago but still better late than never.

  • Reply joe September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I like this site!
    Please visit my blog
    Top Sites-check if your site is on top! site does not work with IE7 or IE8… firefox,IE9 or chrome recommend)

  • Reply Rach September 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    such a gorgeous look! I would love to see more posts about you DIY alterations and thrifted finds! I'm still trying to learn to shop less often and make better use of the things that I already own.

  • Reply Vi and Ollie September 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I would definitely love to see the step by step process!


  • Reply Penny September 25, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I actually love that your focus is now more about how to make pieces work rather than just buying a bunch of stuff to admire for 5 minutes. Like you, I don't really have time to do a bunch of shopping (and returning), so I've definitely shifted more toward finding the right pieces and making them work, instead of buying a pile of stuff and going through trial and error. This way, I have more money to invest in truly good, high quality things that will last. I'll gladly trade in 5 Forever 21 polyester blouses for a timeless silk blouse, thank you.

  • Reply Anonymous September 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Long time reader, first time commenting. Can you please share how you altered the shirt? You can send photos to my email Absolutely love your blog. I love thrifting and appreciate your evolution of valuing consignment. I have a collection of beautifull thrifted blouses and have been debating on DYI alter or bring to taylor. Your tutorial will be greatly appreciated.

  • Reply Mary-Irene September 26, 2012 at 6:54 am

    That's a good point!

  • Reply Anonymous September 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Thank you for being so inspirational! Being a stay at home mom who used to pound the concrete jungle and spend thousands of dollars on clothing a year is no longer acceptable today. I am a constant fixture at thrift stores in our area so you bring breath fresh air to thrifting. You have transformed so many readers views on how to look at something differently and most importantly showing us how to make an ordinary item extraordinary. I will Definately be checking in to see all the new re-designing you do. Great job!

  • Reply Rania September 26, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Very nice style!!! I always wondered how could people buy a complete outfit for less than a shirts price, I spend a lot of money on clothing, and its p***es me off, because every time I try to save a bit of money, I end up buying a new dress for a party… Maybe because I am not very good at combining different styles … Your blog is of a big help… thank you

  • Reply shannanenjoyslife September 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I can't remember how I found your blog, but I love it no matter what you feature. I am larger than you so the product reviews do not necessarily help me. I love the pictures, and the emphasis on fit and quality. I find that inspirational. Keep up the good work and know I will be reading regardless.

  • Reply SewPetiteGal September 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I was in awe of your blog when I first found it a little over 2 years ago. I remember immediately combing through your archives on that very day. I loved it back then and I love it now! Thanks for allowing us to follow along on your style journey. I look forward to every post of yours 🙂

  • Reply this is lemonade September 27, 2012 at 5:46 am

    I'm actually growing to love your blog these days for the precise reason that it has evolved. There are so many blogs out there that show reviews and brands that are lovely to look at but aren't so relevant to me. I enjoyed looking at many of them when I first started reading, but I guess I'm enjoying watching the innovative progression in yours! Especially as the fashion scene in UK is very different to the most parts of North America perhaps.
    So please do keep up the sewing side of things when you have time. You have an inspiring way of remaking things as you've done with the wool skirt. I enjoy getting ideas from seeing your remodelling of items that I would simply have bypassed in a shop! Thanks for sharing all your ideas 🙂

  • Reply thehungryartist September 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I love that you alter things — it is a completely mind blowing thought that such a thing is possible. It is hard for me to find clothes that fit, and I LOVE this part of your blog, and I'm so happy to read that you are going to focus more on it!! You are so inspirational! And it is true — you can be so much more unique when you do things this way instead of just buying whatever you can find anywhere!

  • Reply Rhobi September 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Hi Jean:

    First-time commenter but have been following you for a while.

    I love that you blog takes an honest approach to dressing up. A lot of blogs I come across focus a lot on acquiring the next trend piece or new item currently in stores. While this is fine, it is a bit discouraging because for me as the end-recepient, I feel like "I can't keep up" or "this is what needs to happen to be deemed stylish". Being a busy working parent who lives on a budget, my wardrobe choices have drastically changed over time. I mainly focus on buying versatile classic pieces in the best quality I can afford. I have a very limited wardrobe space, and I am constantly critical of my purchases, think about its longevity and quality of the item. I do have a blog, which is my own personal creative outlet outside my familial responsibilities. And, I mainly focus on recreating inspiring looks with what I have, and that works for my lifestyle. I have learned a lot from you, despite the fact that I am not petite in the least.

    Thank you for your ongoing inspiration

  • Reply Anonymous September 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    What do you do to your hair? It is always so gorgeously wavy!

  • Reply Berty Morales September 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    You look so chic and what an amazing job on the alternations. I wish I have that kind of talent, seriously! Amazing and love the photos.

  • Reply Amanda September 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I thrift a lot and your blog has now become very useful to me so glad you are posting more about thrift items.

  • Reply Jessica @ Here(and)Now October 1, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I would like to get more into thrifting, and hope that I can use inspiration from your site to get savvy with my sewing machine to better alter items to my frame. Putting more thought into what I buy has led me to buy less items, but that are of a higher quality and therefore price tag… but I hope it ultimately leads to a polished and cohesive wardrobe that will carry me through the transitions during the second half of my 20s.
    I love your blog, and enjoy all the content

  • Reply Helen October 1, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Hi Jean–

    I think it's admirable that you're evolving from the savvy shopper/consumer to a creative producer. You've also taken to heart the concept of opportunity cost, and how your time has become increasingly valuable (post-cfa, new job, better sewing skills). These are huge personal developments, and you should be proud! Keep up the ambition and inspire us all.

    Let us know when you launch your own line of clothes. 🙂

  • Reply Jessica Buurman October 1, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Great outfit.Love your dotted blouse and bag.

  • Reply The_Leather_Skirt_Blog October 1, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Love. Love. Love.

    Polka dots rock & this skirt is adorable.

  • Reply Bromeliad October 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I'm a fairly new follower, and I love your refashions. It's good for the wallet and the planet, and it's great seeing someone with your sense of style tackling the sometimes iffy world of thrifting and refashioning.

  • Reply michael kors coffee mongram tote October 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Like other designers, MK is always giving back and after the tragic earthquake in Japan, Michael decided to help.michael kors coffee mongram tote

  • Reply Sofia Donatelli October 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Love this look so elegant and chic!


  • Reply Laura April 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I just stumbled across your blog from a mention in a Huffington Post article and am in love! Being petite myself (5'1), I am always struggling with how to dress more chic and look my age (30)! Loving all the outfits and links…I just hate when I find something I like and they no longer carry it. Happens to me on Polyvore all the time too 🙂

  • Reply wishyouwerehere photo April 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    I really like the idea of this new type of content. You're saving the environment by restyling what you have already.

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