Category Archives: personal shopping

asked and answered: a style smorgasbord

{What? That’s totally how you spell “smorgasbord”. I Googled it.}

Good morning, friends! It’s time for another installment of “Asked and Answered,” and this one’s a doozie. One of you lovely readers sent me a whole pile of excellent questions – I think she’d been saving them up! – so I thought I’d knock them out all at once.  So, from the very stylish Alexis, here we go:

How do you keep up with tracking all of the fashion trends. From blogs to catalogs to fashion shows and new designers, how do you keep your research in check without staying up 24/7?

I used to be more obsessed with trends than I am now. If lace was in, I *had* to get a lace tee, stat. But I think the more time I spend learning about fashion, the more I realize that trends are boring. The last thing I want to be wearing is exactly what everyone else is wearing. Stepping out of the box is much more fun. Plus, keeping track of which heel height is en vogue at the moment is a full time job in itself.

So, rather than trends, I keep track of style. I avoid street style blogs like the plague (serious information overload), but I follow a couple of style blogs that are comfortable (Atlantic-Pacific and Garance Doré), and a couple that push my comfort zone a bit (Man Repeller and Le Fashion). I save looks I love in Pinterest, so I can go back for reference. When I see a look in a magazine that I love, I pin it up on an inspiration board in my dining room office (more on that later). Every so often, I take a look through – and trends just kind of emerge. Or at least, trends that I love. The rest falls away. Right now on my boards, it’s all about printed pants, flat loafers and the ’20s.

If you really want to get serious about tracking what’s hot, Vogue Collections is my secret weapon. It comes out after the runway shows every season, and gives me a reference of every single look from every major collection shown at Fashion Week – right down to the accessories. I love to spend some time looking through and deciding for myself what the trends are, and what to do with them. For instance, peplums. Huge for spring, but I’ll be ignoring them entirely. Unless you’re built like a boy, it’s a terrible idea.

There are so many flash sale sites these days. If you could only subscribe to one, what would it be?

Gilt. Hands down. Best customer service, best return policies, best brands. MyHabit would be my second choice. And honestly, I’ve unsubscribed to everything else. It’s just sensory overload, and I end up buying piles of things I don’t need and can’t return.

Overall, I really don’t like online shopping (returning is SUCH a pain) but shopping isn’t great where I live and I don’t have a lot of time. Any tips for becoming a better online shopper?

Yes! I am a chronic returner (ask anyone who knows me), but I’ve gotten better at knowing the good from the bad. A few things I’ve learned:

  1. Check the measurements. And believe them. If the measurements say the pants have an 8″ rise, but you know you’re better off in a 9″, don’t convince yourself they look like they hit the model in the right spot, so they’ll probably be great.
  2. Speaking of measurements, if they don’t offer, ask. I’ve been known to call online retailers and ask them to pull an item off the shelf and measure it for me. I’ve never been told no – and I’ve saved myself plenty of heartache. Sure, it makes you kind of a difficult customer – but then, so does returning 3/4 of what you buy.
  3. Take a closer look. Use those zoom features, check out the details closely, and make sure your sale goggles are nowhere to be found. Is that blouse tucked in, or is there an elastic waist situation going on? Is that a zipper on the ankle of those pants? Does the fabric look stiff or relaxed? Is the whiskering on that denim going to drive you crazy? If an item is black, look at the same piece in a lighter color if it’s available, so you can really see the details.
  4. Get to know your favorite brands, and be loyal. I have brands I’ll buy from sample sale sites because I know how their pieces fit. And others that I won’t. And I’m very, very conscious of the difference. If you don’t know the brand, it might be better to try in person first.
  5. Google. Look around for other sites selling the same piece – both for pricing purposes and to get better images. A lot of smaller boutiques don’t have the budget for big photo shoots, so their images might be awful. Rely on the big box stores for the best pictures, then go back to that little boutique’s site to buy.
  6. Check return policies. Thoroughly. If I can’t return something, I think very, very seriously before clicking “Buy”, no matter how good the deal is.

Got a question? Tell me all about it! editor{at}shoppingsmycardio{dot}com.

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the big exciting announcement: shoppingsmycardio’s at your beck and call

after getting more than a few requests, and helping some of you out behind the scenes, i’m finally ready to go public. starting today, shoppingsmycardio will be offering personalized, one-on-one shopping help to all of you readers!

now, we all know how i love those reader questions, and i’ll still be answering each and every one of those. but sometimes, you just need a little more help than i can provide in a semi-witty snippet on a blog.

so now, when you have a shopping, gifting, fashion, beauty, or semi-related-to-the-topics-covered-here dilemma, you’ll immediately know where to turn!

much as i hate to admit it, i do have a sort of weird knack for finding gifts for others. sure, i wish that maybe the talent was for quantum physics, or something slightly more lucrative, but what can you do.

times i’m thinking it would be ideal to drop me a line and get some assistance:

* you have to buy a christmas/hanukkah/winter solstice gift for your mom/brother/boss, who already owns everything on the planet, has no hobbies, and never gets excited about any gift they ever receive. or maybe you just hate holiday shopping altogether, and want to hand someone your list and be done with it already.

* you have this holiday party to go to, are sick to death of LBDs, but need to look completly amazing nonetheless.

* the new spring lines are coming out (not until january…everyone…stay calm), you can’t possibly buy everything, and you have no idea where to start.

* you just found this great suit, but you need the perfect blouse/necklace/shoes/handbag to top it off.

* you landed a fabulous new job, but have no idea where to begin when it comes to putting together the work wardrobe that will guarantee you that corner office with a view.

…okay, you get the idea.

so. when you find yourself in one of these situations, all you’d do is drop me an email at [email protected]. i’ll ask you a few questions, i’ll explain how it all works, and before you know it, your friends and coworkers are begging to borrow every outfit you wear, your closet is a masterpiece of coordination, and your mom/brother/significant other is unwrapping a gift on kwanzaa morning (do you open presents in the morning on kwanzaa?), and squealing “you are amazing! this is exactly what i’ve wanted my entire life, but no one ever knew until now. you are a dream come true!”

give it a shot. pricing is going to be really reasonable – maybe even downright cheap, especially for those trying out the service for the first time. plus, i’m thinking referral bonuses are in order for those of you that spread the word to friends, family, neighbors, total strangers on the street…what have you. so, in theory, you could just use and abuse me practically for free, if you play your cards right. how can you pass up an opportunity like that??

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asked and answered: costuming a costumer

sigh…i just love getting emails and questions from you all more than i can even begin to tell you. it gives me a sense of purpose in a complicated world. (okay, that’s pushing it – but it definitely gives me the warm fuzzies!) anyway, as i was saying. reader mail = awesome. liz sent in this lovely question a few days ago:

Hi, I just discovered your blog and I think it’s fabulous. I was wondering if you could help me with a tricky fashion issue. I attend classes all day and after that I manage the costumes for my school’s theatrical productions. I would be perfectly happy in jeans and a t-shirt, but many of the older people I’m supposedly in charge of don’t take me seriously when I dress that way. I need clothes that are comfortable to work in and low key but also show that I can be taken seriously. Any ideas? – Liz

definitely! (and what a fun job, by the way!) given your line of work, i’m guessing you spend a lot of time moving around, particularly bending, squatting, and all of those other uncomfy things. so, i’m not going to suggest any skirts or dresses for you, despite my general affection for them – if you have a job in which you’re occasionally going to need to plop down on the floor to fix a hem last-minute, you probably don’t want to be doing it in a miniskirt.

i’m also sort of assuming that if you’re a professional costume designer, you probably want your clothes to be creative and fun – not the basic black/white/tan wardrobe that’s incredibly easy but incredibly dull.

when i want to look professional, but i still want to be comfortable, i head for layers every time. a t-shirt might not look professional, but put a contrasting tank under it, top it with a great sweater or jacket and a scarf, and suddenly you’re looking completely professional…but you’re still wearing that comfy t-shirt.

wide-legged pants are finally back in style, which is fabulous, because they’re incredibly comfortable and easy to move in. add to that the fact that higher waists are back as well (meaning you won’t be showing any posterior cleavage when you have to bend over to check the hem on a skirt), and you have a formula that’s actually pretty perfect for your needs. i love these gorgeous velvet trousers at boden – the texture is incredible, and perfect for fall. my vote goes to the grey color, which is everywhere this season. (tip: apparently, british women are shorter than american women – so, when shopping at boden, if you need more than a 31″ inseam, order the long).

i’m also completely in love with these
helmut lang trousers
. the cream muslin insert at the waist will give you amazing definition (which you’ll actually want, since these hit at your natural waist, not at the top of your hips, where most of us start to widen out), and the cut is just fantastic (not to mention the price!). these are definitely a good ‘investment’ piece – i literally can’t imagine these ever being less than stylish.

for tees that i want to pass as career wear, i tend to spend a little more than i would on weekend gear. i’m looking for pieces that won’t stretch out and become shapeless as the day wears on, won’t pill in the wash, and that are designed to be flattering. tall order for a t-shirt, i know. but take, for example, this long sleeve v-neck tee by nation ltd. yeah, it’s $60. but you throw that on with those helmut lang trousers and a gorgeous necklace, and you’ll be turning heads all day long. but, since i know we all have to pick and choose our splurges, i’d also suggest checking out american apparel – their cotton tends to be longer-lasting than most, and while it won’t be that butter-soft version you’ll get from higher-end brands, they’re cut very well for the price. check out their 3/4 sleeve boat neck tee, and their sheer rib tee, which would be perfect for layering.

to top it all off, you’re going to need something fun and eye-catching that still says “yes, i’m in charge here.” i, for one, am so thrilled that long cardigans (formerly known as “sweater coats”) are finally back – they’re a fabulous substitute for a blazer, they cover our bums when we’re not feeling particularly showy, and they keep us warm. why these are ever unpopular is honestly beyond me. i adore this version by nanette lepore – it has the perfect mix of style and substance – the cut keeps it professional, but the purple detailing really makes it unique, which should be ideal for your line of work.

jackets are also huge this fall, and i adore this cropped version from twelve by twelve (a grown-up version of forever 21). it has all the style of a piece ten times the price, but at $39, you’ll have plenty left over to splurge elsewhere. the catch with these jackets is they only work if you’re on the thin side. they’re going to emphasize the waist, lower tummy area…so if that part of you is more or less flat, this is going to look fantastic. but if you’re like me, and you were oh-so-grateful for those tunic tops that were all the rage last year, just skip this recommendation entirely. layer a longer, slim-fitting top in a contrasting color underneath, and you’ll be looking sharp in no time.

i also love this cardigan by elizabeth gillett, which is a variation on the swing jackets you’re seeing everywhere this fall. i love it because the color is fantastic (and much more neutral than you think it would be), and the styling is more classic, which means (a) it’s more universally flattering, and (b) it’ll be in style much longer.

last but not least, accessories are really going to make these layered looks into something fabulous and professional. statement jewelry is oh-so-hot right now, which means your options are practically endless. and this is really the place you can save your pennies – there are some amazing accessories out there for next-to-nothing. check out this gorgeous retro links necklace. picture it with a black turtleneck and black slacks (another no-thought-required career-worthy ensemble). stunning, right? it’s $6 at forever 21. really! if you want something a little more understated, check out the scattered locket necklace at j.crew, which i really love – it would be gorgeous over just about anything.

you might also consider picking up one or two inexpensive silk scarves & trying that look out. it’s not for everyone, but if you can manage the “effortless, tossed on” scarf look, it’s a great way to add color and sophistication to that t-shirt and trousers look we’ve been talking about. best place to start is probably ebay, actually – i love the silk scarves by missoni and vera, and you can pick up vintage versions for next to nothing on ebay. if you need help on how to pull the look together, here are a couple of places to get ideas.

now, for shoes. if you want comfort, you probably want flats. i really do think the place to splurge in your case is on a jacket and a fabulous pair of slacks, so i’m going to suggest these gorgeous little gold ballet flats , which are just $40 at gap – so you won’t mind if you get them scuffed up running around a theater. plus, they’ll go with darn near anything.

whew! i’m exhausted! but your work is just beginning 🙂 liz, thanks so much for the question…i hope some of these ideas hit home for you!

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