Top 5 Picks for Spring 2014

 

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1. Floral blouse

Florals for Spring? I know, how unoriginal. But these are just so pretty, especially in wispy fabrics.

Splurge: L’Agence / Steal: New Look

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2. Pastel blue minimalist skirt

I love these soft blue colors. The simple, streamlined look keeps it modern, not juvenile.

Splurge: T by Alexander Wang / Steal: Dorothy Perkins

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3. Perforated white heels

I still have yet to own a pair of white heels, and the perforated look is a winning combination. The Forever 21 version is slightly edgy and priced perfectly for someone who is prone to spilling tomato sauce, like yours truly.

Splurge: Kate Spade / Steal: Forever 21

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4. Structured frame bag

I’ve learned over the years that the bags I gravitate towards most are either structured or crossbody. These are both.

Splurge: Sophie Hulme / Steal: Halogen

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5. Gold statement necklace

Statement necklaces are here to stay. I’m late in the game, but I might actually be buying one this season. Keep it current by going with gold. I like how the fabric in the Forever 21 version softens the whole look.

Splurge: Henri Bendel / Steal: Forever 21

What do you think of the picks above, and what are you eyeing this Spring? Leave a comment and let me know!

Colored Jeans Collaboration + Nordstrom card giveaway!

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I got off the plane from LA this week expecting more Northern California rain, but instead was greeted warmly by lots of sun. We actually hit the 80s! What better way to welcome hot weather than a pair of neon jeans? Pastels may be in, but neon is just so much more fun.

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Since I have temporarily given up shopping, I’ve been having fun mixing old pieces of my wardrobe together. Everything in this outfit is at least a year old, except for the gorgeous new clutch I was given at the Lucky Fabb conference. If you haven’t heard of Susu before, they make quality leather goods for a fairly reasonable price. This particular clutch is in Saffiano leather, which Michael Kors and Prada sell for so much more.

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As I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing a giveaway with my beautiful blogger friend, Style by Alina. This week we are giving away a $50 Nordstrom gift card to one lucky reader! Nordstrom has been one of my favorite department stores for a long time. Not only do they carry some of my go-to designer labels such as Topshop, but they have free shipping/returns on all online orders. They also have a fantastic return policy. Not sure what to get? Some of my current picks are: this gorgeous Topshop sweaterFrench Connection hobo bag, and JOA floral textured tee.

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Rules: Enter the giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter form. Get an extra entry by providing a #nordstromgiveaway hashtag in your comment. This giveaway is open to all readers and ends on April 18th. Good luck!
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Lucky Fabb Los Angeles: Nicole Richie, Chriselle and Wendy’s Lookbook

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Outfit 1: Leather skirt: Nordstrom (similar here) | Lace top: Express

Outfit 2: Pink skirt: Marc Jacobs | T-shirt: JCrew | Shoes: Nine West

I sat 25 feet away from Nicole Richie this weekend.

I didn’t expect to adore her as much as I did. It wasn’t just the lavender hair or the way she carried herself. She was witty yet authentic. Articulate yet sweet. I loved that she shaved off half her eyebrows when she was 11 (and told her mom, wide-eyed, that they just “fell off” in the shower) and gardens in the morning (wearing sweatpants, a North Face jacket, her husband’s baseball cap and a fanny pack. Chanel, of course).

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Pure Joy

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This week will mark the nine-year anniversary of when Mr. Wonderful and I decided to pursue our friendship as a romance. I had initially rejected him three months before, after a dinner of sushi, because I didn’t want to risk losing his friendship. And yet even after I uttered the words, “I don’t think it would work out between us…let’s just be friends…” I knew he was the one chosen for me.

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Boden Skater Skirt in Emerald

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Happy St. Patty’s Day! Although I don’t usually believe in random luck, I was pleasantly surprised when I won a Boden gift card from Sydney’s Fashion Diary a few months back. When it comes to raffles and sweepstakes, I almost never win—the last time my name was picked in a drawing was probably five years ago.

I had always been curious about Boden. This British retailer has been around since the early 90’s, and launched in the U.S. in 2002. While I’ve always appreciated their simple, classic style, what held my interest is their ethical trade policy. I love that they are trying to put people first, rather than being another fashion brand focused purely on profits and trends.

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ModCloth Houndstooth Dress

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It’s been one week since I decided to stop shopping for 40 days, and along with it I have unsubscribed from all my favorite retailers’ e-mails (goodbye J.Crew, Anthropologie, Gilt…). I’m even staying away from fashion magazines, for fear of seeing something cute that I’d want to buy.

But I’m learning a lesson, too. About how much I already have. While thinking about my next blog post, I realized there were several items I purchased in the last few months that I never even blogged about! Like this houndstooth print dress from ModCloth.

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Black and White with Jen T

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When I first met Jen of the blog Witsicle, we were both surprised by how many things we had in common. Our name! Our height! We’re both Chinese! We love good food! And of course, we have similar fashion styles (which makes sense since we pretty much shop at the same stores). In addition, she is a talented greeting card designer (back in college, I used to make and sell greeting cards as well)! Check out my favorite one here.

Naturally, doing a collaborative blog post was a no-brainer. We quickly decided on the classic combination of black and white. I took a dressier spin on things while she went the casual route. I hope you enjoy the two looks!

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My Favorite Travel Bag

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If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I did not score anything at my local Target during the Philip Lim/Target collaboration last year. I did manage to make an online purchase for one of the large totes, but unsurprisingly received an email the next day that they were out of stock and unable to ship my order.

What was unexpected, however, was that Target sent me a gift card the week after. For $100!! With their sincere apologies that they had been unable to fulfill my order. Talk about excellent customer service. I reasoned to Mr. Wonderful that now I could buy the taupe crossbody I really wanted on Ebay. For “free”! Along with a year’s supply of laundry detergent and dryer sheets, of course.

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Arizona Photo Shoot with Kenneth Chan Photography

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Happy Friday! One of the best parts about long weekends is that the work week becomes shorter and Friday comes by a lot faster. I hope yours was a good one!

This past weekend Mr. Wonderful and I went to Arizona to visit some dear friends of ours, and I had the chance to have a quick photo shoot with photographer Kenneth Chan. I’m not used to posing for pictures with fancy lights and gear involved, so this was a rare experience but lots of fun.

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3 Steps to Building a Work Uniform

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I’ll be honest. Sometimes I go to work wearing just jeans and a sweatshirt (an embellished one, of course!) because I’d rather sleep in than figure out how all my layers are going to look cute together topped with arm candy. A lot of the outfits on my blog are usually weekend or date-night outfits, simply because I don’t have the capacity to think quickly on a weekday morning.

Over the years, however, I have developed a sort of go-to work uniform. If you don’t have one already, hopefully this gives you some ideas on how you can come up with yours!

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Believe in Love

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day! I have multiple personalities when it comes to this overly commercialized holiday. On the one hand I despise the fact restaurants mark up their menus 200% just because they can. Mr. Wonderful and I have an annual tradition of either cooking for one another or eating out at a taqueria. In fact, for our first Valentine’s Day together we went to a Mexican restaurant. With a coupon. Our bill came out to about $7, and Mr. Wonderful declared that I was the cheapest and most awesome date, ever.

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Top 5 Trends in 2014 I’d (Probably) Never Wear

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I had a teacher in college who always encouraged her students to make authoritative statements. I’m sure my plethora of “I thinks,” “probablys,” and “maybes” drove her crazy. But life is full of unknowns, and I like to leave room for possibility. In fact, the first time Mr. Wonderful asked me out, I replied, “We would never work out.” I would have missed out on my marriage if I had been held to my declarative statement!

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Classy Evening Collaboration with Thida of TeeKay’s Lookbook

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A few months ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Thida of TeeKay’s Lookbook at the Lucky Magazine fashion conference in New York. Though we’re both California girls, our styles are different since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and she is currently in school in Orange County. Check out her blog if you want to see more of her glamorous SoCal vibe (while keeping it all affordable)! And in case you’re wondering, yes, she is as sweet and pretty in person as she seems online. I couldn’t wait to collaborate with her!

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Where Am I Going This Weekend?

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This weekend, I am going…somewhere. I have no idea where. Mr. Wonderful said he was planning a little weekend trip for my birthday, which in itself is a surprise since he’s never done anything like that before. All I’ve been able to figure out so far is that we are going to a place that is: 1) drivable within half a day 2) South of San Francisco 3) somewhat warm and by the ocean 4) near some wineries and 5) has an Anthropologie store so that I can spend my birthday discount coupon (he knows me well).

Any guesses? I am thinking San Luis Obispo…or maybe as far as Santa Barbara. We will see if either of those are right!

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Chambray and Tweed

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Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Since we both had a day off on Monday, Mr. Wonderful and I made plans to take a day trip, or at least go for a hike to enjoy the sunny weather. But as luck would have it, I came down with a cold for the second time in three weeks. So we stayed in, worked on a 1000-piece puzzle, and watched old episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

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10 Things I’ll (Still) Be Wearing This Year

Last month, Shopstyle contacted me and asked if I would be interested in joining their ad campaign. My first reaction was, “Is this a joke? Shopstyle, the fashion search engine I use almost every day? Who, me?” Once I realized it was true, I gave a resounding “YES!!!” Although my photo wasn’t taken by fashion photographer Terry Richardson, it’s exciting to be asked (and paid!) to be part of the same campaign as model Miranda Kerr.

The photo required a theme from our closet, and as I stared blankly at my clothes my eyes drew to what I wear on a constant basis, and what I am excited to wear in the coming months.  It got me thinking, “What did I buy last year that I will definitely still be wearing this year?” Here is what I ended up selecting:

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Black on Black (and my goals for the New Year!)

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Happy New Year! Mr. Wonderful and I just came back from a road trip through Nevada, Utah and Arizona (if you want to check out my trip photos, follow me on Instagram here).

On my last day of work before Christmas, my boss asked if I would be making any New Year resolutions. I told him I seldom made any, as I believe things like being healthy, being generous and being kind should be an everyday value, not some goal to work for and then to cast it aside when life gets busy.

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What I’m NOT Doing For Christmas This Year

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I love Christmas. As a little girl I counted the days until my Dad would put up our tree and I could greet our ornament friends again. Every year I was excited about finding the perfect gift for each of my friends and family members. After I got married I would spend hours designing Christmas cards and planning the details for the annual Christmas party Mr. Wonderful and I throw for our friends.

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Coast to Coast in Pastels

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I recently met Shannon of the blog Upbeat Soles via a bloggers’ link-up, and loved the outfits she put together from stores such as Forever 21 and Marshall’s. It’s hard to believe she started blogging only a couple of months ago! When she suggested that we do a collaborative post together, I was game. We decided to challenge each other by playing with pastels, since neither of us wear light colors very much, and it’s on the fashion forecast for Spring.

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Leather and Lace with Red Lipstick

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I have always been a nude lips type of girl. And by “nude” I don’t mean a nude color, but that I slap on chapstick or some sheer gloss in the morning and go. Mostly because I’m too lazy to reapply lip color every time I eat a potato chip or drink a cup of tea. I rarely even wear lipstick on date night. Mr. Wonderful will go in for a smooch and then suddenly stop an inch away from my face and ask, “Are you wearing lipstick?” And if I am, well, too bad for me.

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Review of Isabel Marant and H&M Collaboration

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Isabel Marant has recently become one of my favorite designers (I know, I know, along with nearly every other fashion blogger out there). Parisian chic with LA’s flippant coolness – as my style evolves, I realize I gravitate for things that are feminine with an edge. This means lace, but with leather. Or velvet, with metal hardware. Mr. Wonderful has been asking me if I really need yet another clothing piece (or a pair of shoes) that have spikes all over them.

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Breaktime Deals: Anthropologie Dresses under $100

Just in time for the holiday party season, Anthropologie is having an additional 20% off its already-reduced dresses until Tuesday 11/19. Above are my picks under $100. I just placed an order for the Maeve lace dress (now only $48 from its original $188) so we’ll see if it works out!

Windowpane and Cobalt Lace with Gold Details

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When Mr. Wonderful and I first started dating, I found out his shopping routine consisted of going to Banana Republic twice a year. Being a practical computer engineer, he liked its safe, work-friendly style, which is the very reason I almost never found anything I really liked there. For the longest time all I owned from BR were a few basic sweaters and a handful of tees. Berricle-2

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Up Close and Personal in Cobalt and Gold

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I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop the last two days, trying to think of what my next blog post will be. I wanted to keep it light, and talk about COBALT AND GOLD! And how metallics and jewel tones are in! And show you how I’ve been wearing the leather leggings and gold sweater I bought last year on repeat, even now (I do change the shirt I wear inside. I’m not gross, I promise).

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Lucky Magazine’s FABB Conference Recap (Part 2 of 2)

One of the best things about Day 2 of Lucky Magazine’s FABB Conference was getting to hear Tamara Mellon (previous CCO and Co-Founder of Jimmy Choo) speak about her struggles starting a business, her values in running a company and what it takes to stand out. In case you’re wondering what she’s wearing in these photos, they are legging boots! Yes—leggings AND boots, in one. Great concept…but somehow I don’t think I’ll get them on. I already have enough trouble finding pants that fit my hip and thighs without a gaping waist, never mind having to find pants that are going to fit my feet, too!

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Lucky Magazine’s FABB Conference Recap (Part 1 of 2)

A few days ago, I had the privilege of attending Lucky Magazine’s annual FABB conference in New York City. I had no idea what to expect, but a hundred photos later, let’s just say I’m really glad I went.

The biggest surprise? How nice everyone was, from the Lucky staff to the other bloggers I met. It certainly felt different than the environment I had been in nearly seven years ago when I worked in the fashion industry. I laugh now at the nervousness I felt in my previous post, but a happy surprise is always a welcome event.

There is so much I could share with you, but rather than retell a play-by-play, I thought I would share with you some highlights and my favorite moments, including Eva Mendes’ impromptu head scarf demonstration!

 

     

I know the word “down to earth” is entirely overused when describing celebrities, but quite honestly that phrase characterizes Eva Mendes very well. She was hilarious, enthusiastic and cared about what the audience had to say. The kind of person you’d want to be friends with. I sat 20ft away from the stage and the warmth of her personality was radiating through the room. And that belt? $3.99 from a thrift store. Yup.

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Lovely in a different way, Kate Bosworth was quiet, serious and thoughtful. She was wearing an outfit from her latest collection with Topshop, and I’ll admit that immediately after the conference I went to the SoHo store to hunt for that silver skirt. Unfortunately, they were already out of my size.

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Going to Lucky Magazine’s FABB Conference!

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A couple of months ago, Lucky Magazine contacted me to attend their invite-only FABB (fashion and beauty blog) conference in New York City. About 300 bloggers will be present, and the speakers include Eva Mendes and Kate Bosworth!

I’ll confess to you I’ve been more nervous than excited. Friends have been telling me to “just relax” and “be yourself” but when I think about the caliber of some of the people that will be present, the anxiety starts to kick in. Deep down, I don’t want to just “be myself” because that would mean being someone who people might not find pretty enough, trendy enough, or worthy to be known.

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Notte by Marchesa Pink Chiffon Dress with Faux Fur Jacket

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Before I knew I had a foot fracture and was sentenced to a foot brace last month, Mr. Wonderful and I attended the annual San Francisco Symphony Gala. Though I am not as big of a classical music fan as he is (I fall asleep despite my best intentions), I always enjoy an excuse to dress up.

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I found this Marchesa dress for $80. It still had its $1595 price tag on it, but because there were some holes and rips on the bottom of the dress it was a heavily discounted salvage item at the store. The blessing of being a petite is that the dress was 6 inches too long for me anyway, which meant the holes and rips mattered little once it was altered. A little bit of effort can sometimes save nearly $1500!

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Michael Kors High Tops Paired With a Foot Brace

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Silk Top: JCrew | Skirt: Forever 21 | Leather Jacket: from Jeremy’s | Sunglasses: Prada | Shoes: Michael Kors

Nope, it’s not a joke.

While I was in Europe, I unknowingly picked up a foot fracture as a souvenir. My right foot had started hurting towards the end of the trip, and I figured it was due to the 8-10 hours of walking Mr. Wonderful and I were doing nearly every day. I’ll be fine once I’m home and get some rest, I thought, thinking it was ironic that I needed rest from a vacation.

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Fall 2013 Trend: Jewel Tones (and a Colored Lace Dress)

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During a trip to the outlets last month, I scored this Tahari colored lace dress for 75% off. The colored lace trend exploded on the runways in the Spring, but since bold jewel tone colors are “in” for the Fall, I figured this dress would continue to work. Indeed, I think it comes quite close to Pantone’s “Vivacious” and “Acai” shades:jeweltone

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Review: Philip Lim for Target Collaboration

I went to bed last night at 11:15pm, but not before checking the status of the Philip Lim for Target collaboration on Target’s website.

It wasn’t live, so I went to bed.

At 7:30am, Mr. Wonderful got up to use the bathroom, which made me sleepily crack open one eye. Then I remembered about the collaboration, so I reached for my iPhone.

“Everything I wanted is already sold out!” I cried, sitting up in alarm.

“You. Are. Crazy.” Mr. Wonderful mumbled from across the hall.

Hurriedly throwing on my clothes from the day before, I headed towards my nearest Target, which is luckily only five minutes away from me. Too late:

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At 8:01, the doors unlocked and the line RUSHED in. WHOOSH. No big deal, I thought to myself, taking my time and walking like a normal human being (ok, I’ll be honest. The only reason I didn’t “whoosh” like everyone else is because I recently hurt my foot).

By the time I made it to the appropriate section at 8:03, this was what I saw:

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Saving a Strapless Dress (and an Exclusive Giveaway!)

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Happy Friday the 13th! I know most fashion bloggers have already transitioned into fall styles, but for me I’m still enjoying the last wave of Indian summer. Last week my neighborhood reached the mid 90’s—that’s the hottest it’s been in years!

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This dress has been in my closet for several years now, and I originally purchased it as an 80% off final sale item on Gilt. One of the painful lessons I’ve learned over the years is to never buy a strapless dress (or really, anything) on final sale. Some women are well endowed, but I am not one of them. Sadly, this dress just wouldn’t stay up on me, but I’ve continued to love the design so it stayed in my closet as sad as a museum artifact.

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Shopping in Europe: Review of & Other Stories (H&M’s new fashion brand)

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Wearing my favorite maxi dress in Europe!

We had been in Copenhagen for a few days when I asked Mr. Wonderful if we could spend an afternoon shopping. I knew shopping wasn’t his favorite past time, but for me, buying a piece of clothing or accessory when I travel is like a useful souvenir. And sometimes I come home with a handful of “useful” souvenirs. :)

After we walked around for two hours I felt disheartened. My hands were empty (except for a half-eaten bag of gummi bears) and Mr. Wonderful’s patience was wearing thin. I had given myself a budget, and everything I liked was rather expensive and hard for me to justify.

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The Reality of Marriage (in Polka Dots and Leather Bow)

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The next best thing to going on vacation is looking back on vacation pictures. Wow we ate that? (pickled herring in five different ways–yes!) And did all that? (a few churches, some funky neighborhoods, two castles, two museums and shopping, too!) We looked like we had fun, I think to myself, as I am once again sipping my Americanized coffee drink at Starbucks. I look happy. Mr. Wonderful looks happy. WE look happy. Even my outfit is happy in its polka dots and perky leather bow.

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Street Style: 10 Tips on How to Pack for a Trip

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“That’s all you’re bringing for a two-week cruise in Europe?” the cab driver asked in astonishment as he loaded my carry-on suitcase into the car. He was clearly impressed. I shrugged modestly (but was secretly flattered).

When Mr. Wonderful and I first started dating, he marveled at how much I could pack into a small suitcase. Then his marveling turned into the oh-so-logical conclusion that the only reason I can pack two weeks worth of outfits into a carry-on suitcase is because my clothes are smaller. That may be true, but over the years I have helped him reduce his packing load, and in this past trip his suitcase was even lighter than mine! (I blame it on my stack of fashion magazines.)

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Here are my ten tips on how to pack for summer (warm weather) travel:

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Review: Issa and Banana Republic Collaboration

I am back from Europe! Mr. Wonderful and I had found a last-minute cruise deal to sail around Scandinavia for 9 days/nights for only $500 each. It was a Godsend, since this summer had been so tough for the both of us. We packed our bags, and had a chance to reset our lives. I can’t wait to share with you some of the photos Mr. Wonderful and I took while on vacation!

While I was away in Europe though, I missed the launch of the Issa and Banana Republic collaboration. I know, I know… why would I care about that while being in Europe? But since Princess Kate introduced the world to Issa in her royal blue dress, I have been stalking Ebay for Issa dresses, hoping there would be one I could afford ($1000 is just a leeetle too much).

I never did find one, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out Banana Republic would be collaborating with one of my newly favorite designers. As soon as we got off the boat and had Internet access again, I went to BR’s website and ordered every Issa dress that was still stocked in a 00P (up to 50% off with various BR promos). Mr. Wonderful did a little flip when he saw I had just made a $600 BR purchase, but then he remembered I return about 90% of what I buy, and calmed down. A little.

The package arrived this week, and though many of you may have checked out the collaboration already, I thought I would share with you some quick iPhone photos and my thoughts in two words:

EVERYTHING FITS.

Now why is this a big deal? Because for us flat-chested petite girls, almost everything at BR is too big. Even 00P is most times baggy and unflattering, with cuts and pleats in all the wrong places. As excited and hopeful as I was about the Issa collection, I also expected it to be more of the usual BR sizing. And happily, I was proven wrong. Here is what I ordered:

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A Dress From Day To Night

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When I shop, I usually favor pieces that have versatility. I’ll ask myself questions such as:

Can this take me from day to night?

Can I wear this alone and with a jacket or cardigan?

Can I sit, stand and walk in this outfit?

 

This is such a dress.

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When Ping from All About Fashion Stuff first posted about this dress, its wearability stood out to me. There was no way I could afford the original Stella McCartney number, but I was impressed by Ping’s talented re-creation. Though I rarely win anything (except for a $20 gift certificate to a Hello Kitty store when I was in junior high) I decided to enter Ping’s giveaway anyway.

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Comfortable Risk: White Zara Jersey Blazer

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I know, it’s been awhile since you heard from me. I hope this post finds you well, or even better, flourishing.

My readers, I haven’t been writing because I haven’t had anything positive or useful or uplifting to offer to you. I’ve always challenged people to be upfront about their struggles, to be real, to be authentic, and yet I found it incredibly hard to do so with you this past month. I don’t know why. I guess I was afraid that if I kept going with one heavy post after another, I’d push you away.

So I kept silent. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do but it is what I did.

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This Zara jersey blazer is one of my favorite things in my closet that hardly ever gets worn. It’s as comfortable as a cardigan, but I get a little scared wearing it. For one thing, it’s white, and I love food with tomato sauce. So wearing it out to dinner is a big risk. But blazers also aren’t really my personality. I always feel more polished wearing them, but as much as I enjoy playing that persona for a few hours, inside I feel like a fraud. It’s as if I imagine people are secretly pointing fingers at me, whispering, “She’s really a sweatshirt and jeans type gal.”

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Gold Foil Metallic Sweater and Brocade Trousers

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Today was the first day in two weeks that I actually made an effort to put together an outfit. I’ve been grabbing a top and bottom from my heap of clothes on the ground, and frankly my energy and outlook on life matched my wardrobe efforts. This doesn’t apply to everyone of course, but I know I’m not doing well when I can’t remember the last time I combed my hair or put on a little mascara. A friend came over the other day while I was working from home, took one look at me and asked, “Did you eat yet today?” (it was 4pm).

I couldn’t remember. And then it dawned on me that I had only had three crackers, and not because I was starving myself, but because it didn’t occur to me that I should sit down and have a real meal.

I needed to take care of myself.

Self care is one of those areas that can easily be pooh-poohed, and almost seen as selfish pampering. But really, what good was I to anybody these last two weeks running on almost empty? I was barely able to hold it together emotionally on a day-to-day basis, and because of that, I couldn’t be the wife, daughter and friend I wanted to be.

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Casual Weekend: JCrew Jeweled Sweatshirt with Cognac Suede Shorts

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One of my favorite trends this spring is the embellished sweatshirt. As a girl who could easily lounge in pajamas all day, I am embracing this style wholeheartedly. Why wasn’t this popular when I was in 8th grade and wearing a tired gray sweatshirt with my middle school’s logo emblazoned on it to school every day? This navy version pairs easily with white skinny jeans or black leggings, but I have been feeling limited by those two options. As I stared into my closet yesterday I realized it matched quite well with my cognac suede shorts as well. A perfect way to spend a spring weekend while the weather continues to warm up.

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Being Myself for an Interview

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Is it possible to be stomach-dropping-nervous twice in a week? First it was the anticipation of meeting Derek Lam, and now tomorrow I have an interview with a TV production company.

Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it either. In fact, when this company contacted me a month ago, I was sure it was a scam. It reminded me of the time when I was in sixth grade, and a popular guy at school called me over the phone and asked me out on a date. I was so sure he was playing a prank on me that I burst into tears, accused him of lying and told him it wasn’t nice to play mean jokes. It didn’t matter that he sounded sincere, that he insisted he wasn’t lying, and gave me reasons on what he liked about me. Just the day before another boy had asked me, “Do you know just how ugly you are?” and suddenly, those were all the words that mattered. I was convinced, then, that I would never be wanted. I would never be loved by anyone (except perhaps my own family).

And so when this company wrote an email saying how they found my blog, enjoyed my writing, and would be interested in interviewing me as a candidate for an upcoming TV show, my first thought was, This can’t be for real. Things like this never happen to me. They happen to other people, beautiful people, witty people, but not me. Just as I was about to trash the email, a nudging feeling made me think maybe I should check out their website, do a little research. And that’s when I realized, um, shows featured on PBS and Discovery Channel are pretty legit.

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Meeting Derek Lam at his Neiman Marcus Trunk Show

DL_NMgiddy with excitement!

Yesterday I happened to stumble upon the fact that Derek Lam was going to make a personal appearance at his Neiman Marcus trunk show in Palo Alto. Now I can’t exactly afford most of the things at Neiman’s (except on very, very special occasions), but his collaboration with Kohl’s has been on my calendar for months.

Last night I was plagued with nervous excitement at the anticipation of meeting him. Mr. Wonderful found my hyper nerves a little ridiculous and couldn’t understand what the big deal was about. There are so many fashion designers out there—what’s so special about this one?

I guess part of it is because Derek Lam is Chinese-American and a Bay Area native. If you don’t understand what that means, here’s the translation: most people I know who belong in that population (yours truly included) are either doctors, lawyers or engineers (yours truly NOT included, but did try, and failed miserably). Growing up in a household where creativity was often frowned upon, I admire people who take risks and pursue their passion. What’s not to love about that?

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Developing Personal Style (a guest post)

I’m so excited to bring you a guest post today by my lovely friend Reina! She and I only met last year, but became fast friends over our shared faith and love for beautiful and creative things. We love to get together and talk about fashion, life and everything in between over a glass of wine and a good jigsaw puzzle (yes, you read that right… a jigsaw puzzle). She was the one who patiently taught me how to curl my hair. I am so thankful for her friendship and love hearing her take on things. I hope you enjoy this post!
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When Jen asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I became a little white knuckled with nerves. My friends who have seen me (and STILL see me) rock some amazingly terrible outfits, would have warned her that this was probably a bad idea. However, I just thought to write about what immediately came to mind when I think about fashion, which was personal style.

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Styling a Black and Gold Pouf Skirt

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On a recent visit to New York City, a friend of mine suggested that I visit Think Closet in SoHo. What a gem! Most of their clothes seem to be made in Korea, which means their size S fit my petite frame (size XXS at JCrew and Banana Republic) like a glove. Their sales rack in particular was a treasure trove, with many items marked down by up to 80%. I had been toying with the idea of buying a pouf skirt for awhile, and at $37 (orig $160) this one seemed like a risk worth taking. I love the subtle glimmer of the gold threading, and the stiff fabric helps the skirt keep its shape.

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5 Tips for Curling Hair

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There is something that annoys me about most “top” fashion blogs (and keep in mind, it’s probably my jealousy speaking), and it is that everyone’s hair is always perfectly in place. Every strand, every curl, is perfect, and I have no idea how they do it. Even their “messy” styles just look…perfect. Ugh.

Poor Mr. Wonderful or Mr. Brian Lee will take a snapshot, show it to me in the viewfinder and I’ll shake my head.

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Shabby Apple Giveaway

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I am super excited to host a Shabby Apple giveaway! When they first asked if I would like to give a $35 gift certificate to one of my readers, I thought, who wouldn’t?? I love their cute vintage style yet still modest clothing. AND they have size XXS for us petites!

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All you have to do is:

1)   “Like” Life Unrefined on Facebook if you haven’t done so already

and

2)   Leave a comment below on what you would purchase if you won (my pick would be this dress, this skirt or this blouse).

Extra entries (+1 each)

1)   Follow Life Unrefined on Twitter.

2)   Tweet the giveaway, and provide the link in a comment below.

3)   Share this giveaway on your blog, and provide the link in a comment below.

Good luck!

The giveaway runs until March 29, 11:59pm PST. One winner will be randomly drawn from the entries on March 30. Once announced, the winner will then have 48 hours to provide their e-mail address to me or another winner will be drawn.

 

Taking a Risk: Brocade Skinny Jeans & White Blouse

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This week the weather forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area is in the 70s! I’m so excited for the warm weather, and the season of lighter clothing. I can’t wait to discard the heavy layers and say sayonara to my peacoats until next year.

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I don’t make resolutions (they always seem to fail on me), but one of my intentions for this year is to be brave enough to take fashion risks. Over the last few years I have realized that some of the most rewarding decisions in my life have stemmed from taking a risk. Willingly stepping into discomfort is never anyone’s first inclination, but I try to encourage the people around me to always give things a try (without being annoyingly pushy, of course).  As one of my friends would say, “Just say yes to life!”

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Casual Winter: Burberry puffer jacket and neon sweater

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I was returning an item at Saks last winter when the SA gave me a once-over and with a “Hold on,” hurried to the back of a stock room. Puzzled, I waited patiently until she came back, holding a Burberry Kids puffer jacket in size 14.

“Try it, it’s the last one, I think it’ll fit you well,” she insisted, even though I explained I already had something similar by North Face.

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Avoiding Final Sales

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My favorite time to shop is around the end of January and early February, when stores begin their desperate twice, thrice markdowns trying to get rid of inventory to make space for the Spring merchandise. Of course this means sorting through a lot of items that come in ugly colors and prints or odd sizes. It also means being extra careful to look for damage. The blazer you’ve been wanting is right here, in your size, at 80% off? Oh wait, there’s a funny stain right on the front lapel. Sometimes it really is too good to be true.

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A Red Dress for Valentine’s Day

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There was a time when I shied away from wearing anything that might potentially make people notice me. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to choose what I wanted to wear, so my clothes were often times funny and strange. It wasn’t until high school that I owned my first pair of jeans. By the time I could make my own clothing purchases, I stuck with three colors: Black, white, and blue. In other words, the more I could blend in and disappear so my peers could leave me alone, the better.

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Prabal Gurung for Target Collaboration

Yesterday @TargetStyle and I had a Twitter conversation about the Prabal Gurung collaboration that went on sale this morning. Mostly I was interested in knowing when the black and white wedges that were available online only were going to be live…I didn’t want to miss out! I ended up ordering a bunch of other things as well, and could have slept in this morning, but curiosity got the better of me…

I ended up strolling in my local Target at 8:45am to little pandemonium, and took a quick peek around. A lot of the small sizes of what I ordered were already gone, so I thought it would be fun to try on what I didn’t order online. Here’s a quick look!

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Prabal Gurung for Target Sleeveless Blouse in First Date Print

 

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Life Unrefined now on Twitter (and there’s a giveaway!)

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Exciting news!! Life Unrefined is now on Twitter, and to celebrate I'm doing a giveaway! With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to give away a beautiful pair of new Gorjana Gatsby heart-shaped earrings (retails for $36). They are 0.31 inches in diameter and have a post back closure. They are sterling silver, as pictured below:

Giveaway entry rules: 1) Must be following Life Unrefined on Twitter 2) From your Twitter account, send this message: Enter to win new sterling silver heart earrings! RT+FLW @LifeUnrefined #fashionblog by 2/14 for a chance to win! http://tinyurl.com/gorjana-earrings

 Good luck!!

  *Contest open to US and Canada residents only. A winner will be selected at random on Feb 14, 2013. This giveaway is not sponsored by Gorjana.

Dancing Polka Dot Sequins

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Some of my friends have observed how I’ve been wearing more sequins as of late. I suppose it’s because it makes getting dressed a little simpler (sequins=less accessories) but there is also an element of eye-catching movement that makes those small, shiny disks seem so gosh-darn appealing. It’s as if the sparkles start to dance even if all you’re doing is putting dishes away. Combine sequins with polka dots (and more polka dots) and you’ve got the equivalent of a mini disco party happening on your outfit.

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Finding a Good Value (Part 2)

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To understand a good value vs. a good bargain, visit: Finding a Good Value (Part 1).

Over the years, I have learned that a good value can outweigh a good bargain. Good values can be found anywhere–from fast fashion stores like Forever 21 to bargain stores such as TJ Maxx to high end department stores like Neiman Marcus. Here are five practical tips that my mother has taught me to employ whenever and wherever I shop:

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Finding a Good Value (Part 1)

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It used to be that my idea of a good bargain was something that was at least 80% off and under $10.  My first job out of college was working for a jewelry designer that would sell jewelry to celebrities for thousands of dollars, but I was making so little that I qualified for low-income housing. Dinners often consisted of $1 Safeway frozen meals so I could pay the rent. Thus my wardrobe was filled with $3 tops and $10 jeans, often from places such as Old Navy and Forever 21. I prided myself in my frugality. When Mr. Wonderful and I first started dating, I owned fewer shoes than he did.

And yet I noticed that the nicer designer pieces my parents would occasionally buy for me on Christmas or my birthday tended to last a lot longer than what I purchased for myself. One year my mom gave me a Prada bag that I initially rejected because I was too scared to touch it. Then I started using it day after day, through sun and snow. I’d toss it on the floor, on the grass, on the sidewalk. I even accidentally keyed it a few times. It maintained its pristine condition for ten years until the leather on the bottom began to peel. Meanwhile, a bag I had spent a whole $16 on at Payless Shoes Source had a broken strap after a few months.

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Hot Pink and Blue Chevron Stripes

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Mr. Wonderful and I took a much-needed trip to Hawaii during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. How we loved the warm weather on the Big Island! On one of the days, we visited the lush Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, and I discovered one of the most unusual and breathtaking orchids I have ever seen. Its intricate beauty reminded me that life is not a mistake. There are experiences that don’t work out, yes, but there is so much to be gained if you make it through, one moment at a time.

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Stripes and Floral: Do They Belong?

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Do mixed prints really work together? That’s what I wondered to myself this morning as I stared into my closet. As a teenager I was told I wore strange clothing combinations, wearing fabrics or colors that don’t match, that don’t belong.

And it just seems so much easier to play it safe. To not take risks. Wear head to toe black. Climb the corporate ladder. Make lots of money. Buy a house. Buy a bigger house. Following your dream is ok–as long as it makes sense to everyone else. Because that’s what people do, and that’s what you’re supposed to do.

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What to Wear to a Winter Wedding

My early 20s would have been a lot easier if there had been a fashion handbook on what to wear and not to wear to certain events. Take weddings, for example. No one ever told me to not wear white/ivory (unless Kate Middleton asks you to), and to find out what the bridesmaids’ dress color is so you don’t look like you’re part of the wedding party. Even black is a controversial color for women (since that’s what you wear to funerals), though I personally think it’s fine as long as there are colorful accents. Now this may all seem like obvious pointers to you, but I had to learn from my naive mistakes after the fact, usually by overhearing not-so-discreet women commenting on my fashion faux-pas in the bathroom.

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Petite Fashion Challenge #22

Hosted by A Preponderance of Fashion, this month’s petite fashion challenge is–what to wear while shopping in cold weather?

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In my opinion, here are the five key pieces for ladies while shopping in cold weather:

1. Flats. As a model once told me, your shoes are the most important part of your outfit because they will determine how comfortable you will be for the rest of the day. If you plan on shopping for more than a few hours, find the most comfortable but still stylish flats you own, and build your outfit from there.

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Christmas Gratitude

Merry Christmas! I hope your day is filled with joy and spent with loved ones. This past week I coordinated a wedding for a dear friend of mine. Not only was it the union between two best friends and soul mates, but a tribute to the bride’s brother for his ongoing fight against cancer. I’m normally not the type to tear up during weddings, but as I observed her brother sitting in his groomsman chair (he was too weak to stand for the duration of the ceremony), his eyes filled with tears of love

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Weekend Casual

When the shorts-in-winter trend first gained popularity a few years back, I was reluctant to jump on the bandwagon (I’m usually a late adopter to things). Even though we don’t have snow here in Northern California, the weather can fluctuate up to 20 degrees a day and I can’t stand being cold. Plus the concept  just didn’t look right to me. Skirts with tights? Of course. Shorts with tights? Not so much.

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Leather Leggings

For the past two years, I’ve been wearing leggings during the winter with nearly everything–dresses, skirts, tunics, and even under jeans as an extra layer of warmth when the temperature really drops. Not only are they comfortable and keep you from freezing, but they are just so multi-purpose. Last year Neiman Marcus had a $50 off anything promotion, so I excitedly upgraded my Target leggings to the $55 Splendid ones (which I then paid $5 for) and dragged Mr. Wonderful with me so he could buy me a second pair as well.

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Mustard Skirt with Sequins and Fur

I’m loving the mustard color this season. Mostly because it means I can pull out the Rodarte for Target skirt I purchased back in 2009 and be on trend with something old instead of constantly buying something new. Unfortunately, often times Mr. Wonderful thinks an item of clothing he hasn’t seen in awhile IS new, and I have to remind him that no, I had it all along, I’m not going crazy with my money, it’s just the first time I’ve worn it all year. And then he’ll change the subject and ask why the tulle only covers the skirt half way.

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Target and Neiman Marcus Collaboration Review

When Target first announced its holiday collaboration with Neiman Marcus, I thought maybe this one will be better than the others. But while most of the styles were satisfactory, the price points definitely were not. A Marc Jacobs scarf for $70? I’ve seen a few on sale in department stores for less, at likely a better quality. So when Mr. Wonderful finally woke up from sleeping in today, he was surprised to find me at the dining table eating my breakfast. Slowly. You mean you didn’t wake up early to go to Target this morning?

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Colors of Courage

Sometimes I buy a piece of clothing or accessory not because it is trendy or because it makes me look slim, but because it evokes a past memory that I hope to remember.

Earlier this year I found a silk skirt marked down at one of my favorite stores. It was over 80% off because it was a “last season” item, but to me it was a postcard in time. The vibrant colors remind me of my summer in Africa last year, the three months I spent in Sierra Leone.

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Published in InStyle

I was browsing the December issue of InStyle magazine this past weekend when I saw my photo on page 70! It was a wonderfully sweet surprise. I had submitted a photo to the editor awhile back but never received a confirmation that it was going to be published, so this was unexpected. I know this may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but to this girl, it means a lot. Even starting this website has been nerve wracking.

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The Cashmere Affair

Sweater: Uniqlo | Skirt: H&M | Heels: Kate Spade | Necklace: JewelIQ | Ring: Gorjana & Griffin

There are some mornings you just don’t want to get out of bed.  The sheets are warm, the covers are soft, and as your body lies there in cozy stupor you think, ten more minutes. Who needs to eat breakfast anyway?

Ten minutes pass. Your alarm shrieks, “Snooze or get up, make up your mind!” As you lay in paralysis you think, I wish I could wear a Snuggie to work.

Enter the power of a cashmere sweater.

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New York City in Brocade and Fur

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Dress: Anthropologie | Faux fur vest: Joe Fresh | Top: Vince | Tights: JCrew Factory | Shoes: Cole Haan

Hello from New York City! I am tagging along with Mr. Wonderful on a business trip so that I can visit this glorious city for a couple of days. Even though I’m a California girl, New York City always feels like home to me.

I found this dress on the sales rack at Anthropologie and loved the untraditional brocade fabric. The tag in fact called it a “leopard print” which inspired me to pair it with a furry black vest.

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Fall 2012: Oxblood and Peplum

Top: Topshop | Scarf: H&M | Belt: Jcrew | Boots: Cole Haan

Look through any fashion magazine this Fall and you will eventually see the word “Oxblood.” At first I found the word slightly morbid. Used to describe a deep reddish-brown color with a tinge of purple, I would have preferred “Black Cherry.”

Though the editors and designers would like you to believe Oxblood is a fresh, new color for Fall 2012, it was actually a color often used for painting in Colonial times. Found in the forums of oldhouseweb.com:

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Zara Lime Studded Blazer

Tweed jacket: Zara | Jeggings: American Eagle Outfitters | Bow Sequin Tank: Walmart | Bag: Gucci | Shoes: Stuart Weitzman

I scored this neon blazer during Zara’s summer sale and have been debating on whether or not to keep it. After purchasing it three times and returning it twice, I finally decided it was a relationship worth investing in. I love the studded details and the fuzzy lime green bits.

Mr. Wonderful calls it a “bright carpet” but I think it’s fun. And isn’t that what fashion is all about?

Is there an item that someone makes fun of but you absolutely love?

 

Adieu to Summer

Black tank: Banana Republic | Sheer Top: Anthropologie | Shorts: JCrew | Sandals: Agnes B | Shades: Ray-Ban

While most fashion bloggers eagerly embrace Fall with its coats and boots, I mourn the heat. Summers are short-lived in Northern California and if you live near San Francisco it rarely gets warm enough to wear shorts. Want to go surfing around here? Bring a wetsuit. One of my friends from Hawaii once asked why no one got into the water in California.

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Summer Memory

Dress: Forever 21  | Shoes: Louboutin | Necklace: Forever 21 | Bag: Mulberry for Target

Have you ever made a $50+ purchase at forever21.com (to get free shipping) and end up having to return it all for store credit to avoid return shipping costs?

…and then never seem to find anything you like?

Me too.

Luckily, I found this dress at my local Forever 21 over the summer and it has been one of my favorite finds. I’ve been into Mariner stripes and thought the thick cotton material was worth much more than its $17.80 price tag.

What was your favorite find this summer?

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