Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Mad Men® Collection at Banana Republic

Donna discuses The Mad Men® Collection at Banana Republic

Rated 5 stars
Review Summary: Beautiful Tailoring
Comment: What a beautiful jacket! I'd looked forward to seeing the collection in person but feared it may be too "costumey". This isn't the case as the collection contains wearable 60's inspired peices with a modern edge. This jacket is one of the standout peices. It is beautifully tailored with wonderful detailing at the collar and in the back. The cut accentuates the waist. I've been playing with the collar and have found different ways of waering it which will make it even more versatile. (In the store I was in skinny jeans and ballet flats and it looked great.) The fabric is lighter than expected and very soft. This is a peice that must be tried on as it looks rather ordinary on the hanger, but once it contours to the body it looks amazing! I wear vintage clothing because of it's timelessness and classic lines. I see myself wearing this vintage inspired jacket for years to come.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a Walk on the Wild Side!

Fall Trend: Animal Prints

Animal Prints are a major trend for Fall 2009.
While these wild prints are always available, this season they are prominent, found on everything from dresses and jackets to clutches, and patterned tights.

I've always loved animal prints (in moderation of course) because while the prints don't go with anything, they tend to go with everything. Strange but true. If you have never ventured into the world of animal prints, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Never Go Head to Toe Animal Print. The effect will be more Halloween costume than fashionable. Add solids with your accessories and complimenting pieces.
Women's Apparel: Animal-print cowlneck dress: new arrivals Banana Republic

Don't mix your animal prints. There's no need to look like a walking zoo.

Keep the size of the print in proportion to your own size.
apt. 9 Leopard Scarf, Kohl's

As with any trend, accessories are a great way to participate without breaking the bank, not to mention that trendy accessories may have a longer life, stylishly speaking.

You'll find a menagerie of animal prints at every price point.

It's All About Good Service

One of the best shopping experiences I have had lately was at a kiosk in a Los Angeles mall. I was looking for a pashmina scarf in a specific shade of moss green. I had looked in just about every store that sold scarves to no avail when I stumbled onto the pashmina kiosk as I headed toward the parking lot. The lovely lady manning the business, (I'm sure that she was the owner) greeted me warmly and asked if I was looking for anything special. When I described the color, she immediately pulled out several different scarves in various shades of mossy green. She began to try the pashminas on me. Together we rejected two before finding just the shade for me, a shade slightly brighter that the one I'd envisioned. I remember her saying, "You see this shade compliments your skin tone, while the other lies flat." I was at the kiosk for fifteen to twenty minutes as she assisted me by showing me different colors and teaching me new ways to tie the scarves. There was never any pressure; in fact, the entire experience was very pleasant. She offered to give me a special price on two, but I honestly only needed the one. However, I'll probably be visiting her again around the holidays. She can help me with at least three different Christmas gifts. Spending a little extra time with me, and making me feel special has made me a loyal customer.

For me it's always been service that will bring me back to a store. I've walked out of stores that have been lacking in their customer service, especially when I'm there to spend money. Years ago, I visited a Victoria's Secret to purchase lingerie for my wedding. On a Tuesday afternoon, I was the only customer in a store where five employees were busily chatting amongst themselves as they unpacked new merchandise. Not one of them acknowledged my presence. I left and went into what was then Bullock's where I received some excellent one on one service, and probably spending more than I'd planned. It was years before I set foot in that Victoria's Secret again. Things were very different. I learned that the store had a new manager who made customer service a priority, and I've enjoyed shopping there ever since.

Good service should be a benefit of being a good customer. In this economy, it's difficult to part with hard-earned cash, and businesses should be grateful to get my business. There are so many retailers from which to choose. When I'm talking about good customer service, I'm really talking about the little things. A greeting as I enter a store is always nice but not expected, as I understand that a smaller staff may mean that employees are off assisting other customers. I enjoy working with employees that are warm and personable and take pride in their merchandise. I am always thankful when a store's staff is knowledgeable about fits and sizes. They are not afraid to make suggestions or to offer opinions. I'd rather be told that yes, my butt does look big in those jeans. This is usually said kindly. "Why don't you try our so and so fit? I think it may be more flattering for your body type." A little honesty is better than discovering I'd made a mistake, or worse, having someone else call the mistake to my attention. I love it when an employee will take the initiative to call another store to see if they have an item that out of stock. This extra effort will always keep me coming back.

Over the years, I've found several stores that consistently have, great customer service no matter where you are.

Banana Republic
Ann Taylor Loft
Nine West
Mac Cosmetics
The Gap
The Limited
Goodwill (some of the friendliest)

While good customer service is something that you always hope to experience often,
there's one more thing. Strive to be a good customer. How do you expect to be treated while shopping? With courteousness? In a warm friendly manner? With respect? If so, this is how you should treat hard working sales associates. Contrary to popular belief, many of these associates are earning an hourly wage, not a commission. A little common courtesy and respect may generate excellent service and the most positive shopping experiences.

Thrifter's Diary

Is it possible to find deals, steals, and quality merchandise at a thrift or charity store? Yes! Check out some of my recent finds.

MIA Fringed High Heeled Boots
Goodwill, Los Feliz CA
Condition: Very Good

I never would have considered buying these amazing boots in my real life, but my thrifting self could not resist them! I love the vintage look and can't wait to wear them with skinny jeans and vintage turquoise jewelry. I love the seventies vibe!

Coming soon... more fall finds and thrifting treasures!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Things I'm Really Liking

1. The Limited. Years ago The Limited was my favorite store. I could always find my wardrobe staples as well as items that were current, on trend and of course reasonably priced. I purchased my very first suit at The Limited. But as time went on my wants and needs changed and The Limited no longer catered to my personal style. That and the fact that so many Limited stores closed. The one nearest to me closed several years ago and I hadn't set foot in a Limited in years. I didn't even know if they still existed.

While visiting Chicago last year I found a Limited (the Oak Brook Mall store) and was pleasantly surprised. The store had been reinvented. There was energy, excellent displays and items that inspired me. I had originally gone into the store to kill time, but ended up shopping and purchasing several items. I especially liked their tops and accessories. Back home in LA, I have to travel thirty-five minutes to the closest Limited, but I don't mind. The customer service in the South Bay Galleria store is stellar! The associates are attentive and knowledgeable about their merchandise. They are not afraid to make suggestions, or to offer honest opinions. While their regular prices are good, The Limited runs great sales and specials.

2. Mac Cosmetics/Mac Stores Mac makes some of the best cosmetics available to consumers. I first was exposed to Mac through professional makeup artists when I was working in the industry. In my opinion MAC makes the best concealer, lipsticks, and glosses.

3. Nine West Shoes/
Nine West Stores.
For years Nine West as offered affordable well-made and fashionable shoes. They have good and frequent sales, and their online store is easy to maneuver. But for me, I love the service I receive at Nine West brick and mortar stores. Their associates are friendly and have great suggestions. They know their stock and are aware of nuances with different styles. (The last pair I bought was a half size smaller than what I usually wear. The associate had told me to try the smaller size first.) They have often helped me locate shoes in other stores and have arranged to have shoes delivered to me when they have been out of my size. Little things yes, but little things that are not done automatically by everyone. These little things keep me coming back.

Test Driving Gap 1969 Premium Jeans

Denim is a wardrobe staple for most American women. Personally I've amassed several pairs of jeans that I rotate depending on my destination or occasion, mood, and the rest of my outfit. I have a lot to choose from, but I do have a favorite pair. I love my Gap Classic Boot cut jeans. This is the style that has always worked best for my body. If I had to get rid of all but one pair of jeans, I'd keep the Gap Boot cuts. They are always comfortable, versatile, and affordable. When I heard that Gap was introducing Gap 1969 Premium Jeans this fall. I was curious. There were new fits and washes of previous styles, and they hailed the line as the best fitting premium jeans in America. That was a pretty big statement in my book , and I was going to have to try these jeans for myself.

Before I continue, let's discuss the term premium denim. My understanding is that premium jeans are made with better quality denim that the wearer can easily feel. The jeans are made with custom construction details and design touches. You pay for these touches, with many premium brands starting at $150.00 a pair. The new Gap Premium jeans start at around $60.00.

I test drove five different styles of the new Gap 1969 Premium Jeans, and here's what I found.
The denim feels amazing! It's soft and comfortable. The fits were very good. All five styles that I tried were perfect through the waist, hips and thighs.

There is style for everybody. My hands down favorite was the Perfect Boot ($69.50). They looked great as they lengthened the legs and lifted the bum. This style will flatter many body types. I especially like the wide waistband. A darker wash will certainly make these jeans appropriate for casual work environments.

A close second for me was the Always Skinny(69.50). Despite my own... generous booty, these jeans made my legs look long and slender. The rear view was also flattering. I found these jeans surprisingly comfortable.

All styles come in a variety of washes. Some styles are available in a distressed option. Many of the styles feature a low rise. Don't let this scare you. The low rise isn't very low. To me it felt comfortable.

A few years ago I purchased a pair of the Gap's Long and Lean Jeans. I prefer the previous incarnation to the new style. The older design made me look both long and lean while the new style (while fitting well) just hung on my body. But remember this was my body with its own specific quirks and idiosyncrasies You'll have to try these new styles for yourself.

If you are in the market for new jeans this season, I'd try the new Gap styles. While they're a little pricier than most Gap jeans of the past, they are certainly affordable and will become a staple of any woman's wardrobe.

Thrifter's Diary

Is it possible to find deals, steals, and quality merchandise at a thrift or charity store? Yes! Check out some of my recent finds.

Coach Handbag
Goodwill: Mid-Wilshire District, Los Angeles CA
Condition: New with tags.

Recently, while visiting an area Goodwill, I saw a small cute, black leather bag in the glass case at the front of the store. The hardware looked solid, sturdy, and familiar, so seeing the Coach logo was no surprise. Seeing the retail store's original tags was. This turned out to be one of Coach's Soho Hobo bags. $39.99 for a brand new bag that retails for around $200.00 was more than fair, especially for a classic bag that with proper care will bring me years of use.

Velvet Betsy Johnson Jacket
Goodwill, Los Feliz, CA
Condition: New

This long double-breasted jacket is very Rock-n-Roll. GW has allowed me to become trendy affordably!
Coming soon...Even More things I'm Liking, and of couse more of the Thrifter's Diary. Shop Smart!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shop Doc...I'm back!

A funny thing happened to me about a year ago. I was at one of my favorite malls looking at the new fall merchandise, something that I've always looked forward to doing since I was twelve. Instead of being inspired I found myself confused and frustrated. Not too many of the new clothes spoke to me, in fact I had the feeling that I'd seen many of them before. For the first time in years I found many items overpriced, a major concern for many in the economic environment. As I looked at several garments I wasn't impressed with the workmanship or fabrics. Where were the design details that had been an important part of some better lines of mass produced clothing?

Bored I returned home. I 'd always joked that shopping was my favorite activity and something in that I'd always excelled . If I was getting frustrated shopping, I had the feeling that many other women were as well. I decided that I was going to rethink my shopping habits and expand my options. You see I wanted to maintain my current style (that I've always described as modern American Classic), and reduce my clothing budget. I was going to make sure that I shopped my closet on a regular basis, and no longer looked to the major retailers as my only source for fashion. I've started to revisit stores from my past, which has provided for some very nice surprises. I've now added vintage boutiques and yes, even thrift stores to my regular shopping rounds. The added bonus here is that recycling is good for the environment.

The result of my past year of rethinking fashion, shopping, and my own personal style has been a revelation. I'm dressing much better for less and enjoying the process more than I have in years. I guess that shaking things up from time to time can be a very good thing.

This fall in Shop Doc I'll be exploring some of the things I've learned over the past several months. Keep an open mind, and please use what you can.

Thrifting: The One I Never, Ever Thought I'd Write.

Shopping at thrift and charity stores is a, great way to supplement your wardrobe. There. I said it, and I'm still in partial disbelief, but I'm standing by that statement, even while many pros in the fashion industry would bitterly disagree with me.

I know that many of you have been enjoying the joys of thrifting for years while I personally never saw the appeal. For me, thrifting is a brand new wonderful thing. Part of me wants to yell, "Why didn't anybody tell me about this?" Today I'll proudly admit that thrift and charity stores have become a regular part of my shopping routine.

Thrifting is fun, especially if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt. You never know what treasures you'll find. In addition, in this economy, just that fact that your dollars will go so much further in these stores makes the entire thrifting concept especially appealing.

So why am I only now jumping onto the thrifting bandwagon? I'd tried it a few times, years ago, and never had any luck. In high school, my sister would make frequent trips to an area thrift store and come out with vintage cashmere sweaters and great costume jewelry. Totally jealous I'd go in hopeful and come out sneezing from the dusty store with nothing to show for it. I found that the stores I visited were cluttered, disorganized, musty, and frankly depressing. I adopted the school of thinking that these stores were for people who couldn't afford anything better and saw no need to visit these stores myself.

Recently two friends urged me to try thrifting again. I refused them initially but finally agreed that I had nothing to lose and promised that I'd keep an open mind. At the least, we'd have a good lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. A week before this thrifting trip, NBC's Today Show aired a piece on thrifting's new popularity and ended the piece with a fashion show of items found in thrift stores. I remember that one model was wearing a pair of 7 For All Mankind Jeans. Was the media spinning thrifting to make their story more positive? I was still skeptical. Fine, I'd go but honestly, I never expected to find anything wearable.

Thrift and charity stores have changed for the better. I had expected to see piles of disorganized clothing. Instead, found a pleasant well-lit shopping environment. Items were hung on racks and organized by type and color. Most of these stores have dressing rooms and play upbeat music like any mall store. The stores I frequent are anything but depressing.

The merchandise itself runs the gamut from well worn to new and unused. (Surprise!) Every once in awhile you'll find a great vintage piece. I've learned that many organizations will sort out the good vintage pieces to sell to vintage dealers, but every once in awhile something slips through. Most stores have a glass case in the front where you'll find smaller and sometimes pricier items (I saw a pair of beautiful Valentino sling backs on a recent trip).

Is it possible to find bargains that might only be described as ridiculous and or amazing while thrifting? Yes! A year ago, I wouldn't have believed this myself, but I've found some great pieces. I've found some beautiful blazers and coats on some of my recent thrifting trips. I couldn't believe my luck when I found a brand new black leather messenger's bag from Bloomingdale's at a Goodwill for $7.99. I found a pair of long black Italian kid gloves at a charity shop for $3.00. The possibilities are endless. I've had some fantastic luck, and am no longer disappointed when I leave a store empty handed. There's always next time.

A new feature to the Shop Doc Blog will be my Thrifter's Diary where I'll highlight great finds, simply to prove that it is possible to find real bargains and sometimes unexpected treasures. Bragging rights are a benefit of thrifting should you chose to exercise them.

For those of you who are new to thrifting, here are a few things to keep in mind.

To thrift effectively give yourself plenty of time. Be patient and go through everything carefully.

Upon entering the store grab a cart or a basket (when available). Once you find an item that interest you, put it in your cart. There is so much. You don't want to lose, or worse have somebody pick something up that may have been perfect for you.

Once you find an item that you like, examine it carefully. Look for flaws. While a button or a rip on a seam can be an easy fix, a tear across the front of the garment cannot. Look for stains, discolorations, insect holes, and don't forget to check for odors. Smoke, for example, lingers forever.

Wear things that are easy to slip on and off as you would for any shopping trip. If you plan to shop for shoes, bring footies.

Once you've purchased an item, have it cleaned immediately. This can mean dry cleaning, or hand and machine washing. While many places will clean their merchandise before it goes on the selling floor, you don't know how long it has been there or how many people have tried items on before you. You'll also want to do this to avoid any insect problems.

The world's best bargain is worthless if you're not going to use it. Know when to just say no.

Make that that an item fits. Really fits. Sorry. There is no way that your size 8 foot is going to fit into the size 6 Valentino sling backs. Leave them be.

See the possibilities. A trip to the tailor could make a so-so piece spectacular. Minor alterations like shoulder pad removal, hemming, moving buttons or nipping in at the waist can make all the difference in the world. However, don't let a huge tailoring job offset the bargain. In this case it's better to leave the item there.

Sometimes you'll leave empty handed. Accept this possibility.

Have Fun!

Am I suggesting doing all of your shopping at thrift stores? No. Nevertheless, don't be afraid to supplement your clothing and accessories wardrobes here. A good discriminating eye can reveal hidden treasures, and certainly stretch your wardrobe dollars. Good Luck!

Thrifter's Diary

Can you really find bargains, deals, and steals at a thrift store? Yes. Remember that patience, persistence and a good eye are necessary to sift through the large amount of merchandise. I've done well in the short time I've been doing this. Here are some of my recent finds.

Cashmere Overcoat
(Vintage 1960's/early1970's)
Goodwill, Los Feliz CA
Condition: Excellent
It's evident that this coat's previous owner took excellent care of this beautiful coat. Every button is intact and the lining is immaculate.

This coat's classic A-Line styling and neutral camel color will insure years of wear to come. frankly I can't wait for winter.

Silk Batik Print Scarf
Discovery Shop
(Benefits the American Cancer Society)
Toluca Lake, CA
Condition: Very Good

7 For All Mankind Boot Cut Jeans
Out of the Closet Thrift Store
Hollywood , CA
Condition: Very Good

Sure I love the look and feel of premium denim, but I can't justify the premium price. So when I found this great pair of 7's, in my size, I had to try them on. They were a perfect fit though they seemed rather short. Upon closer inspection I saw that a four inch hem had been put into these jeans, something that I easily removed. The original manufacture’s hem was still in place. After a quick cold water wash and ironing, I wore them out that night with strappy sandals. (My husband loved the fit asking me if they were new. He actually noticed!) $16.99 + minimal effort=a great look and a great score!

Shop Doc: Coming soon...

Things I'm Really Liking Now, and the Thrifter's Diaries continue.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Favorite 2008 Spring Updates (Click here for the Shop Doc Podcast)

Okay. I've been reading magazines and searching the stores since January looking for the perfect items that will update 2008 wardrobes. There are a lot of great items available so the process of choosing a few pieces to update and expand a wardrobe can be overwhelming. Trust me, it doesn't have to be.

Before you hit the malls and boutiques you might want to go through your clean out your closet, pitching items that are no longer current, anything that cannot be repaired, items that haven’t been worn in the last year, and items that no longer fit your lifestyle. Cleaning out your closet will serve several purposes:

This will allow you to reorganize. That will only save you time and effort when getting dressed.

You'll reacquaint yourself with your wardrobe and clothing pieces that you've forgotten.
You'll be throwing out some items, and then donating others to charity. Either way you'll create more room in your closet.

You'll be able to see where the holes are in your wardrobe.

When I recently cleaned out my closet I discovered an amazing pair of shoes that I'd forgotten about. I'd purchased several items in orange last year that will fit into this season's colorful trend. I also rediscovered not one but two safari style jackets that fit into another of this season's trends. I'll also confess that I no longer face the avalanche awaiting me as I attempted to get items out of the back of my closet.

After you've finished sorting through your own closet, you should see what you’d need to bring your wardrobe up to 2008 spring standards. I honestly believe that most of us only need a few things to get current. Remember you should already have basic pieces that make up the foundation of your wardrobe. Consider your basics when assessing your own wardrobe situation.

I've made a few notes on items and trends that are considered trends for Spring 2008. I'm assuming that many of you already own several of these items already. I'll make mention of some items that just aren't you. But then I may give you some ideas that you think will fit in not only with your current wardrobe, but also with your personality and lifestyle. Who knows, you may even think out of your comfort zone? Style means looking good your way, so take what you can, and tuck the rest away. Here’s my list for some of the most versatile updates to your 2008 Spring wardrobe.

TRENCH COAT I'm sure that many of you already own a good trench coat, primarily because you need a coat to transition you from winter to spring and summer. If you don't already own one remember that classic kakhi will transcend the seasons as it's always in. The 2008 trend is to go for bright colors in your trench. If you already own a good basic trench, you might want to consider adding a second one in a bright color, and a different length for variety.

SAFARI LOOKS This may be one of the easiest trends to incorporate into your current wardrobe.
While kakhi is where most of minds go when we think of a color related to the safari trend, the color palette is much more expansive. Think the colors of the desert like muted blues, greens, oranges, and purples. This certainly gives you more to work with. Think of adding these pieces with the traditional kakhi. Do you own a pair of cargo pants or kakhis? Then you already have two pieces that fit right into trend. I've seen safari style jackets all over this season. You can go for something very tailored that's office appropriate, or something much more casual and unstructured for weekend wear. Though honestly, the safari jacket is so utilitarian, that unless you work in the most conservative environments, even a very casual style can be dressed up to be work appropriate. In addition to the safari jacket, you'll also see several cargo and trench style shirtdresses. In traditional kakhi these items are not only on trend for this season, but can also be considered a classic piece for seasons to come.

ORANGE Yes bright orange Orange! Surprisingly this is a color that works on most complexions. If bright orange is too scary for you, you might consider a softer shade of orange like cantaloupe or "sherbet" orange. And I'm not talking about investing in major pieces (though I'm lusting after the bright orange textured cotton jacket at Banana republic), try adding an orange sweater or tee shirt. Imagine how either of these would brighten up a traditional kakhi safari jacket. If orange is still scaring you, think accessories like the crinkled cotton scarves that can be found all over. Or try a strand of bright inexpensive orange beads. Merely the addition of a minimal amount of bright orange will bring you current.

BLACK & WHITE For me black and white is a classic, especially in the springtime. The combination is always crisp, clean, polished and appropriate. What makes the combination new for this spring are the geometric prints. You'll find them on dresses, skirts, and tops. These prints are fairly easy to incorporate into your existing wardrobe, especially with your basic black and white pieces. Think out of the box and don't be afraid to mix them with other neutrals like kakhi, and adding a touch of color can add just the right accent.

TRIBAL INSPIRED Tribal prints were all over runways this spring. I've seen these prints on a number of items, both clothing pieces and accessories. As with any other type of print, make sure that it doesn't overwhelm you. These prints mix beautifully with neutrals. Quite by accident I went shopping outside of the traditional retail box. I was walking down Hollywood Blvd. and passed an African Import shop that I hadn't been into in years. The authentic jewelry and clothing items spoke to me, and prompted me to explore other importers of African merchandise here in the Los Angeles area. I've found some incredibly beautiful and unique items. While there are several items available in your traditional clothing stores, you may want to explore African importers in your area for the real deal.

There are several other trends this season (Ombre or shades of color, color blocked dresses, painterly prints, and ruffles, just to name a few), I've concentrated on the trends that I feel are the easiest to combine with your existing wardrobe. Before hitting the stores, make sure that you make yourself a budget so as not to overspend. For the trendiest items (a tribal print top for example,) you may choose to spend less, while spending more on classic pieces (like a classic trench coat).

To guide you, make yourself a "look book " of items and styles that you like to guide you as you shop. I always enjoy making a seasonal "wish list". This is fun, and will help keep me focused once I do start shopping. Below is my own wish list for this spring. It's pretty short and sweet.
As I always say, do your homework, set a budget and stick to it, and most of all have fun. Best wishes for a very stylish Spring 2008!

My Spring Wish List

After going through my closet recently I discovered several items that were perfectly on trend for spring 2008; not one but two safari jackets (different fabrics, colors and styles), and several tops in bright orange (most purchased last season) and hardly worn. As much as I love the idea of a brightly colored trench coat, I already own two, one full length and one 3/4 coat. I just can't justify buying another. So my wish list this spring is short and sweet.

1. Banana Republic's
Cotton Textured Jacket in
Marvell Orange.
I've loved this jacket since the first time I saw it. It's tailored beautifully. I adore the orange, however, I’m wondering if it's too orange. It's incredibly bright in person. While I can wear bright orange, I'm questioning whether or not it's too bright for me. The jacket also comes in black (in larger stores) and cream. I'm seriously considering the black that will transcend the season, and can be used as a transitioning piece as we head into fall. I'm wondering if this color look dated, and or faded next season. I see the jacket in black in my future, and will consider the Marvell Orange as well when the item goes on sale. We'll see.

(Yes, I did eventually get it in black and am enjoying it.)

2. Liz Claiborne's
Jacksen Sling back Pump in
Black & Cream (Leopard Print
I'd selected another platform sling back, but again after exploring my closet, I discovered that I had a few pairs of shoe in the color I was considering. These I found by accident. They're out of my usual norm that will bump up my personal style a few notches. This is a sexy shoe whether it's worn with jeans or a LBD. By the way, leopard goes with nothing, so it goes with everything!

3. Ann Taylor Loft's
Kakhi Trench Style Shirtdress
I'd considered another Kakhi shirtdress from another designer, a dress almost identical to the Ann Taylor Loft dress. There were subtle differences, but it was basically the same dress. What swayed me to the Ann Taylor Loft dress was the price as their dress (when I found it) was on sale for a third of the price as the designer dress. This is one piece I've already purchased...and it looks better on. The neutral color and classic styling will make it a "go to" piece this spring.

4. Tribal Inspired Print Tops and or Accessories
While I don't have anything specific in mind I know I'll have no trouble finding something to my liking. In addition to looking in my favorite stores, I'll be looking in African Import Stores.

(I just found a wonderful straw tribal inspired clutch at Cost Plus World Markets!)

5. Rikki #2 Pleated Tote (Red)
When I've considered tote bags in the past, I always end up buying a black bag. Now that I need a new tote, I'd like to have a little more fun. Red is the new neutral that goes with almost everything. The bag is not too large (and with my small frame that's a plus).

I've done my research. One good thing about not shopping right when the new season's styles come into the stores, is taking advantage of sales four to six weeks later. I'm pleased that my picks for this season will take me beyond this spring, and help me transition into fall. Who says smart shopping can't be fun?

Check out the Shop Doc Podcast. I'll be discussing how not to become a fashion victim and spring trends in makeup.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Red Shoes (They're not just for bad girls anymore!) CLICK PODCAST

My mother is one of the best-dressed women I know. Not only did she teach me the fundamentals of style (style is what you make it), she taught me to dress for my body type. Mom taught me how to shop smartly, not only looking for price, but also for quality in fabrics, details and tailoring. Mom always looked great (and still does), so what reasons did I have not to follow her advice to the letter?

When I was very young, five or six maybe, (fashion training began early for me), I remember mom telling me that she’d heard a fashion expert say that "a lady never needs a pair of red shoes." According to this expert, red shoes were unnecessary. A few years later I remembered this, but not the reason, so I asked. "Mom, why don't we need red shoes?" Mom gave me one of those looks. "Because red shoes are unladylike. They are worn only by small children, clowns and prostitutes." At age seven or eight I didn't want to be thought of as a small child, I was afraid of clowns, and while I didn't know what a prostitute was or why they were so scandalous, I was sure that I wasn't one of them either. Mom knew everything about fashion, so she had to be right. I never gave red shoes another thought, except when I saw a woman wearing them. When I was really young I just assumed that these women were prostitutes. As I got older I just thought that these red heeled women had no fashion sense.

Some things are just ingrained in us: traditions, values, morals, and in my case, the strong belief that a lady never wears red shoes. This shouldn't be surprising, as red shoes have gotten a bad rap for years.

We can go back to 1845 and the publication of the Hans Christan Andersen story, The Red Shoes. In this story a young girl, Karen, becomes obsessed with a pair of red shoes only to have them have a horrific effect on her life. Early in the story Andersen describes a princess as our heroine sees her. "She wore neither train nor a golden crown, but beautiful red morocco shoes. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes!" (I guess Hans realized this fact.) Later young Karen acquires a pair of red shoes for herself. "Amongst the shoes stood a pair of red ones, like the princess had worn. How beautiful they were!" (Hmmm. Perhaps Mr. Andersen once longed for a pair of red shoes himself.) Karen makes the mistake of wearing her new red shoes to church the following Sunday and is reprimanded severely. The next Sunday however, "Karen looked first at the black shoes, then at the red ones; looked at the red ones again, and put them on." This act of defiance turns the entire village against her. When Karen danced in her red shoes it was as if they were possessed by the devil himself as the shoes had a mind of their own forcing poor Karen to dance uncontrollably. As she forcibly dances past the church she sees an angel with a sword guarding the entrance to the sanctuary. He condemns her "Dance you shall," said he, "dance in your red shoes till you are pale and cold, till your skin shrivels up and you are a skeleton! Dance you shall from door to door, and where proud and wicked children live. You shall knock, so that they may hear you and fear you! Dance you shall, dance!" (Scary and a bit heavy handed in my opinion. All of this gloom and doom over one little pair of red flats!) Exhausted she pleads to the village executioner to cut off her feet with the red shoes, since by now they have grown to her feet. As she confesses her sin (?), he obliges cutting off her feet. The shoes dance away with the little feet deep into the woods. I think the ballet has a happier ending as Karen keeps her feet but dances herself to death. All of this because poor Karen dared to make a strong fashion statement. And to think my mother missed reading me this charming uplifting story! Instead of trying to rationalize why a lady never wears red shoes, she just could have scared the hell out of me by reading me this piece of classic literature.

Dorothy in the 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz had her own problems with a pair of red shoes. First off, these shoes were taken off the feet of a dead woman, a "Wicked Witch " no less. A second witch desperately wants them and is willing to kill Dorothy (and her little dog too) for them. A third supposedly good witch tells Dorothy not to take off the shoes, as they must be very powerful. Dorothy must have been too naive to comprehend their power, as she never learns what powers they truly possess. It's obvious, Dorothy Gale, an innocent farm girl from Kansas with little to no fashion sense falls in with a bad crowd and is corrupted, all over a pair of red pumps. No wonder this movie gave me nightmares as a child.

You don't have to go back as far as the 1800's or the 1930's. Remember the fairly recent Showtime series Red Shoe Diaries. The title alone suggest something steamy...something scandalous...something naughty, all because of a reference to red shoes.

Imagine my surprise recently when I started noticing women in red shoes and thinking that they were chic, stylish, and even powerful. Then women that I admired started turning up in red shoes. I saw style guru Stacy London (of TLC's What Not to Wear) on Oprah one day. She was wearing a pair of skinny jeans, then, a new silhouette that many American women were slow to accept, and a pair of killer red heels. She looked amazing. For the first time in my life I found myself wanting a pair of red shoes. I'd keep this desire hidden from my mother, as my desire for red shoes would have killed her. After that I began to see women from all walks of life wearing red shoes. I'd heard Stacy London say that a pair of red shoes could really "pop" an outfit.

But old habits die-hard as it took me a year to finally purchase a pair. I started off small with a pair of inexpensive suede sling backs...and I still considered buying them in black instead. I wore them that very night thinking "now is as good a time as any." Nobody talked behind my back, gave me dirty looks or propositioned me. I was at a casual event and liked the way that my little red heels gave an extra little punch to my jeans and long black cardigan. This touch of color made my outfit "current." I was surprised that I felt no guilt, shame, or tartness. Old perceptions die-hard.

This past summer I bought a pair of casual red flats that I ended up living in. They seemed to go with everything. I purchased the same pair in black, which while worn got less use. Feeling brave at the beginning of the fall season, I took the plunge and bought a pair of red patent leather peep toe pumps. A friend had purchased the same pair and she'd worn them to work with grays and black. This little pop of color made her outfits smart and modern. I figured I could do the same. The very next week I got a pair of deep red patent leather flats that I'm wearing several times a week. Not only are they fun, but they are some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn... and that was a bonus! I guess I'm over my phobia of red shoes, or should I say the negative perception of a woman in red shoes. Red shoes can be very ladylike. The look is what you make it. Own it.

I'm heading home for the holidays in December. Dare I bring a pair of red shoes with me? I've changed my thinking. Is it possible that mom can now see this one little fashion choice in a new light, or will she still be seeing red?

Check out the Shop Doc Podcast.

In this show we'll explore one of my favorite ways to up your style quotient, Vintage clothing and accessories! By reaching back to past eras you'll instantly add unique touches to your current style and further express your personality. My special guest is actress and vintage aficionado, Beverly Mikins.

Friday, February 1, 2008

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Accessory Basics (Click here for Shop Doc Podcast)

I think I was about twelve years old and starting to develop my own fashion/style personality.I'd been reading Seventeen and Teen magazines for well over a year and was convinced that my preteen wardrobe needed some necessary upgrades. My own closet seemed bare and immature. I wore a uniform to school so my mother didn't feel that I needed too many clothes. I had a few dresses for church and special occasions and some casual knock about things for the weekends. (No jeans as my mother thought they were inappropriate for "nice" girls.) I had saved a little of my own money from Christmas, birthdays and allowance and was headed downtown to Shillito's, at the time Cincinnati's leading department store. I knew that I couldn't buy a whole new wardrobe, but I could certainly afford to buy myself a great pair of dress shoes to finally replace my little girl patent leathers. With my mother right behind me I ran into the shoe department looking for the perfect shoe befitting an almost teenager. I saw it immediately; a patent ivory colored heel with a small bow. In my eyes it was chic, simple and exactly what I was looking for. My mother had already started to talk to a sales person when I asked to please see my perfect shoe in my size. To my surprise they both said no. My mother said, "That heel? Absolutely not. It's far too mature for you."

"Oh no that shoe is too much for you." This saleswoman was about to lose a sale. By this time my mother had another shoe in her hand.

"Look at this one. It's some sort of snakeskin. It's cute...and very stylish." To my horror she was holding a snakeskin version of the same patent leather Mary Jane that I'd worn since I was two.

Despite my pleas to at least try on the shoe that I really wanted, I was told no ("Just look at that heel!" It was probably an inch and a half at the most.) I begrudgingly left with the shoe that had been selected for me, and worse yet paid with my own money. This was a disastrous shopping trip.

Years later when I was in charge of my own style destiny, I had no idea where to start as far as accessories were concerned. At age twelve I only wanted one pair of semi grown up shoes. Now there were just too many choices. I knew that I needed items that would work with my minuscule wardrobe for everyday life plus all other the other occasions that I'd encounter. A stylist on one of my very first jobs helped me to assemble a basic accessory collection that I still swear by. Sure I've added more pieces since then, but these seven basics are the foundation of my accessory wardrobe, which incidentally work with the 5 basic pieces of my wardrobe. Again my advice is to purchase the best quality items that you can comfortably afford now knowing that you can always upgrade later. There's absolutely no reason to ever go into debt over fashion. Today your options in terms of pricing and styling are endless!

The Magnificent Seven consist of:

3 pairs of shoes (heels, flats and casual athletic type shoe)

2 handbags (everyday bag, and a clutch)

1 reliable watch

1 pair of gold hoops

Does this sound too simple? It is. Remember that you’re going to interpret these items to fit your own specific needs and lifestyle. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Shoes: (heels, flats & athletic)

Heels (classic pump)
There are so many heel heights to choose from; demure kitten heels to sky-high stilettos. What do you feel comfortable wearing? When shopping remember that your basic heel should work with your trousers, your Little Black Dress and possibly your jeans, especially if you're dressing your jeans up. Avoid going too high. Walking in heels should feel like the most natural thing in the world

Kailey Patent Pumps: Payless, $19.99

I know that so many women were thrilled to see flats return to the fashion scene a few years back. The good news is that they are here to stay. With so many styles who says you can't be both stylish and comfortable? When buying consider your foot. Can you wear something totally flat, or do you need something that's constructed a little better to give you more support and keep your foot from slipping out. These will be points to consider especially if you have flat feet (little to no arch).
Nine West Mae, Boutique 9


Casual Athletic Inspired
I have always had a good pair of athletic type shoes to comfortably get me through a full day of errands, casual activities, and through some of the country's biggest and busiest airports. (Try running for a flight in heels.) There's a style and color to suit everyone. Your casual athletic type shoe will probably not be suited for actual athletic activity, as you'll want to stay with a simpler style with sleek styling. Both Keds and Sketchers have great selections.
Keds Hampton Sport Classic Sneaker: $39.99


Your basic accessory wardrobe will include an everyday handbag and a smaller clutch.

An everyday handbag is such a personal item. Before you consider purchasing one, consider your needs. Do you carry a lot or are you one of those women who is perfectly comfortable carrying keys, a wallet and cell phone? You'll definitely want to consider your size, as your handbag should compliment your figure. I know larger bags are in style this season, but if you are petite, a larger style could overwhelm you. You'll look and probably feel awkward.

Here are a few other questions to ask yourself before buying:

Does it have all of the compartments you'll need?

Is the bag open at the top or does it have complete closure?

Is it leather or leather-like? Leather when cared for properly will last for a long time, while some man made materials won't last as long and will show wear easily.

Do you treat your bags gently or do you use and abuse?

As I gotten older I've looked at handbags as investment pieces that I'll use for a very long time. I'm willing to pay a little more for quality. I'm not talking about the hot designer "It" bag that can cost a house payment. I know women who have finally broken down and purchased the bag of the moment, only to be disappointed a short time later when they realized the bag was going out of style. Sure if you can afford the bag of the moment, more power to you, but if not stay with a well made style that will transcend the seasons at a price point you can afford. Online Store
Laurie Shoulder Bag: $52.00


Your clutch is a smaller handle less bag that will work for dressier functions, and in the evening in place of a traditional evening bag. Today many clutches come with a detachable shoulder strap or chain that gives you two bags in one. When selecting a clutch you can select a dressier material. My first clutch was made from the softest black suede that dressed up everything I owned.
Merona® Satin Clutch - Gray : Target


Gold Hoops
As several stylists have told me, a basic pair of gold (or gold tone) hoops work with just about everything. Put them on with your jeans, suit, or your LBD. Hoops can be both elegant and Bohemian.
Betsey Johnson Large Diamond-Cut Hoop Earrings
Dillard's $40.00

A Reliable (and stylish) Watch
A watch these days can be both practical and fashionable. The bottom line is whether or not you can read the time at a glance. Your watch is an extension of your fashion personality, so if you haven't found the perfect watch already, trust that's it's out there. You may consider traditional styles, or go for enlarged faces, bracelet styles, or cuffs. Don't forget to stay within your budget. For two years my basic watch was a simple silver toned Timex that I purchased from a drugstore for less than twenty dollars.
FOSSIL - watches, handbags, accessories, and apparel -

Brown Hologram, $65.00

Again these seven items form the foundation of your accessory wardrobe. You probably own several accessories already, or if you're starting from scratch start with these basics and plan on adding on as time, necessity and your budget permit. You may want to expand your basic accessory wardrobe to include:

A Strand of Pearls
Silk scarves
Patterned and or Textured Tights
A Leather Tote
Gold and Silver Chains
Leather Boots
Antique or Vintage Broaches and Earrings

Your accessories will expand your wardrobe and allow you to further express your personality. Adding a few well-chosen details will take your overall look to the next level, setting you apart from the crowd.

Check out the current Shop Doc Podcast.

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Accessorizing is what sets us apart from the animals. The Magnificent Seven are the essential accessories that every woman needs to make the most out of her wardrobe.

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