Friday, May 28, 2010

Boston Proper Clearance: 3 under $30

I get the Boston Proper catalog and often cut something out and save (for someday inspiration) because I usually adore the styling, but the prices are always too high for a skinflint like me. So imagine my surprise when I discovered a few terrific sale items whilst seeking the Prada replacement last post... In addition to those cute ruched pumps, I discovered these three pieces which I just adore (there's a lot more there on sale, but it's not quite my style):

I am (of course) obsessed with the ruffles everywhere and this is no exception. Floral appliques, likewise:

Everyone loves a great LBD and this one is no exception, with uber-flattering faux-wrap ruching on the waistline and a  neckline that can't help but flatter (and leaves plenty of room beneath the straps for a real bra!):

Polyester jersey criss-cross minidress (only size 8) $29.99 ($110 off!)

There are sections for $19.99 and under and $29.99 and under and you can search any category by price, so you could luck out and find something you love that's on final clearance!

Have you ever bought anything from Boston Proper?

Happy shopping!

The Look for Less: Prada Espadrilles (Reader Inquiry)

A lovely reader linked me to these gorgeous espadrilles which she covets but can only dream of due to their (yowza) $650 price tag! o_O

I agree that they're quite delicious, especially the soft suede ruching... yummy! I didn't find a direct knock-off but I have definitely located a few different looks with similar styling.

Nine West's version is sans ankle strap, but it's the best approximation of the ruching in a wedge. Unfortunately it's only on pre-order right now and won't ship until July. If you're into instant gratification like I am, this will not do.

The Prada version shown is actually a dark pink even though it appears grey. Who knew, but they call it Dark Rose. Here's a fabulous pink wedge with ridiculously cute detailing:

I just love that shabby chic flower!

Boston Proper has a reminiscent version in a stiletto instead of an espadrille, currently on super clearance! How can you resist a sale sticker of more than 70% off?? (Sadly, only sizes 6 and 10 left):

I have to include this next pair because while they're neither ruched suede nor greyish pink, I love the color, and what a price (58% off)! They are ankle-strap espadrilles with interesting toe detailing. Related at the very least:

My favorite swap, while not precisely similar, is this wedge from AmiClubWear because they are TEN BUCKS! Woohoo!

How do you like these swaps? Would you ever pay $650 for a pair of shoes?!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tulle Clearance Loveliness

Every once in a while I have to check out Tulle for their sale selection. Usually their beautiful vintage-inspired pieces are out of my budget range, but the seasonal clearance sales are generally fantastic.

Here are some of my favorite items available at the moment in the $20-$30 range (but no doubt not for long). Most are available in sizes S-XL (perplexingly, nearly all of the XS are sold out. I guess a lot of tiny girls like Tulle?):

Cotton microplaid pencil skirt (light orchid or grey)

 Seersucker halter dress (orange sold out; white/sand only)

Linen jumper with pockets (black or yellow)

 Jersey tulip dress (orchid or cobalt)

These last two are just over $30, but their high-quality fabric and detailed construction look to be worth a little extra!

Pleated herringbone skirt (black or cornflower)

Hope you enjoy these picks! If you've ever ordered from Tulle let me know what you thought about the quality and customer service!

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thrifty Weight Loss: Sparkpeople

The diet industry makes billions of dollars a year off of our body insecurities. When we're "on a diet" we tend to waste money on gadgets, classes, supplements, and crazy foods we never end up eating or choke down miserably... Why do we do it to ourselves? So many of us are looking for that "quick fix," that miracle suggestion that will melt off the pounds while still allowing us to sit on our duffs and consume vast quantities of chocolate. Why does it not work? Cruel!

If you are trying to drop some poundage, stop throwing your money away on Weight Watchers (online or in person) and all of those other gimmicks and get thee to Sparkpeople! Because what does work is eating less and moving more, and having support from similarly-minded people. All of this for free is even better, IMO. Sparkpeople is a totally free food and fitness tracking site with hundreds of other great tools like nutrition articles and blogs, and free exercise videos, along with a bazillion different teams (for everything from "Look Good Naked" to "Living with Hypothyroid") and social networking pages. I've been on SP for a few years now and help run a team called The Hen House (Cocks Allowed!) which is a small but super motivational and supportive group of girls. If you take the SP plunge, come on over and join the team! We'd love to have you.

My favorite things about Sparkpeople are

-In-depth nutrition charts showing all vitamins and macronutrients - Sparkpeople is about creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, not just weight loss, so they give reasonable, healthful ranges (no set number so you can vary your calorie intake and exercise day by day which is best to "confuse" your body into weight loss, anyhow) and the reports tell you when you're short on anything, so you can try to make different choices. They'll even give you full meal plans and create a grocery list for you if you prefer! Or you can make your own selections if you like a bit more control.

-Truly dedicated and fantastic support from people I have never met but feel like I know so well. Seriously, my team is the first place I go when I get to work in the morning-- I always check in on them before I do anything else :)

-FREE! Fantastic, yes? The ads are a bit annoying occasionally but I'm happy to click on them to keep the site free, as they plan to always do.

-Motivational pages: You can browse homepages of other folks who have been voted "motivators" due to their great loss, fitness achievements, or in general. When you're feeling like "I don't know if I can do this," check out awesome before/afters like Killette's, Blondie510's, or Jawjie's. Their incredible transformations are so inspiring! I mean, UNREASONABLE, right?:

You go & rock on with your bad self, girl!

So, what are you waiting for? Happy sparking!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Affordable and Adorable Summer Dresses

I mentioned last post that I can't stand the trends for summer and I'll be sticking to cute dresses, thank you. Here are some of my favorite affordable options!

Click the picture for the Polyvore set with bigger pictures and links to purchase. Most of these are on super clearance, so act fast! They are from Asos, Body Central, AmiClubWear, Charlotte Russe and Alloy-- all great sources for super-cheap cuteness!

Best Dresses Under $30 by WickedThrifty featuring ASOS dresses

I think the two printed versions (orange floral and watercolor pastel) are just gorgeous patterns, something I have an extremely hard time finding. The ruffly &ruched body-conscious ones are stunning-- perhaps not on me with extra lumps and bumps, but for you streamlined gals... The cobalt ruffled one would be terrific for a thicker waist as the belt creates a waistline while the side ruffles are excellent camouflage (I dare you to try to spell that without looking it up!). The under-bust band and a-line shape of the black and purple are great for any body type.

I should probably check out Forever21 at some point (I think I'm a little overwhelmed). And I do occasionally luck out with a perfect find at Goodwill. What is your go-to source for inexpensive, flirty summer dresses?

Happy Shopping!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Worst of Summer 2010

Dudes. Ack. The trends for Summer 2010 are so friggin' hideous! I didn't think we could get worse than double denim, acid wash, boots with cut-out toes and shoulder pads, but have a look at what the ubiquitous "they" are touting for the warmer months!

Short shorts aka hot pants

Show me a woman over 14 (who isn't paid to be thin) and I'll show you a woman who should probably not be wearing hot pants. Some of these "short shorts" really look like knickers. None of us are Lady Freakadeaky Mind Control so honestly, put some actual bottoms on.

Can you see my camel toe? No?! What if I hiked these a little bit higher? Now?

Rompers, "playsuits", even blasted OVERALLS!

Those of us who grew up in the 90s remember with possible horror and deep regret the overall trend (how about only one-shoulder-strap done up?) Can you believe Ralph Lauren is showing them again? Augh. If you're not farming, skip it, for the love of all that's holy. Thankfully, fashionising says "while we saw denim overalls on the Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer 2010 catwalk, this was really an exception." Phew!

Hey, even though we've never seen a farm or dirt we can pretend to be down-to-earth!

Similarly, though, while a select few ladies may look cute in a one-piece jumpsuit or shorts set thing, the rest of us will look dumpy, ridiculous or pathetic. Seriously. There is a reason they're called "playsuits" and "rompers." They are for playing and romping; i.e. for children.

Patterned pants

Any of you pear-shaped girls learned long ago that the best way to emphasize thick thighs or a wide booty is to swath them in a great big, loud pattern. If you love prints, try a floaty skirt instead- so much more flattering- and watch that the pattern doesn't get too gigantic or you'll look like someone's curtains. Not in a good way.

Apparently the psychotic, trashy Florida grandma look is pretty hot these days.

"Boyfriend" blazers

This trend takes the ultimate figure-flattering piece and completely ruins it. I mean, wtf? The whole point of wearing a blazer is so you get that "locked and loaded" emphasis on the hourglass figure. If you make it baggy and boxy and too big and roll up the damn sleeves at the waist (creating a wider horizontal line), you're just making yourself look thicker. Does anyone want to look thicker?

Does this girl even have a waist?

Personally, I don't give a flying nun whether or not I'm "on-trend" for the season and I certainly won't be subscribing to these suggestions. I'd prefer to spend the summer in cute dresses like this incredible beauty InStyle suggests, by Elizabeth and James, which I could never afford in a million years but still covet...

So the next post will be on cute summer dresses that are affordable!

Happy summer!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Getting Rid of Excess Crap

This past Saturday was "the big move"-- my fiance brought most of his (fully-furnished) apartment to my (already-too-cluttered) condo! This has meant a furious couple of days of CULLING my crap RUTHLESSLY. (Perhaps I should have started earlier... um... in addition to being cheap I'm also a terrible procrastinator!)

My place was originally furnished through family hand-me-downs (some heirlooms, some just extra junk!) and street finds. Many of my things I can't just get rid of because my mother would absolutely murder me (not that she has the space to store them either, sigh). So those, we work around. The others, though, to the curb they go! And as far as clothes, I am applying the "do I really LOVE this?" rule. It's amazing how many things can be pitched if love is the criterion, not just "like" or "think I might wear someday." I bagged up and brought at least 20 full bags to the garage for charity pickup (I have neither the time nor energy to attempt making any money off of any of it).

Er, pardon my thumb in the corner there but WHOA! Look at all that crap.

For smaller amounts of crap, I recommend dropping off at your local Goodwill (make sure to get a receipt for taxes!) or one of those drop-boxes in parking lots (no tax write-off there, though). If you've got a lot of crap and no car, like me, you can contact any of several charities who will come right to your house and grab it to sell in their thrift stores, leaving a blank receipt for you to enter your estimated fair market value, so you can save some dough and do good at the same time:

Vietnam Veterans of America
AmVets (pickup only available in certain states)
Salvation Army (OK, kind of a freaky religious cult but whatever floats your boat)
Big Brother Big Sister (no furniture though)
Lupus Foundation
Brides against Breast Cancer (donate your dust-gathering gown for a good cause! This one's by mail)

These are just a few examples; you can probably find another service for a pet cause of your own with some simple googling.

Other options are craigslist, if you actually want to make a few dollars and you have the patience to email back and forth and wait for people to show up (not I!) and freecycle, and of course the classic "leave-it-on-the-curb-until-some-enterprising-person-makes-off-with-it." Or maybe you could host a swap with your friends! Or a yard/tag/garage sale (depending on which area of the country you live in-- aren't regional colloqiualisms fascinating??) if you have the fortitude.

I realized in this process that I really need to stop buying things that are "almost" perfect. I mean, I knew that, but honestly, so much wasted money is represented in these bags: no matter how inexpensive any given item is, I didn't need any of them and they were never really worth my time or the expenditure. No more of that!

What's your favorite way to get rid of stuff you don't use anymore?

Happy culling!

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Farmer's Market Time!

I am so excited because my local farmer's market, in Central Square Cambridge, opens this coming Monday! It runs every Monday from May 24 through November 22nd in the Harvest Co-Op parking lot. Every year there are an amazing variety of fruit-and-vegetable farms, bakers, grass-fed meat producers, and luscious flowers.

Gorgeous variety at the Central Square Farmer's Market, by Tiny Urban Kitchen

If you live in Massachusetts, you can find your own nearest market at and if you live elsewhere, you can search on Local Harvest. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, give one a try! It is so important, more than ever, to support our local farms before they disappear, and to keep your money out of the hands of the huge food conglomerates who care more about production quantity than safety and quality. Have you seen Food, Inc. or read any of Michael Pollan's books and articles? Some of the most important journalism of our time.

New studies have shown that there is a definite link between ADHD and pesticides, and who knows how many of the increased number of cancer diagnoses are related as well... Given this recent revelation, most advice stresses washing "conventional" (non-organic) produce thoroughly. Unfortunately, a good number of the vegetables and fruits we eat are so high in water content that the pesticides on the outside almost always penetrate through the entire fruit. For "the dirty dozen" - the most notoriously contaminated foods- it is imperative to choose organic. Unfortunately Dole and other large companies have started their own organic production in countries where who knows what that designation really means, so the word begins to carry less and less weight. What you can almost always be sure of if you buy from local, small farms is that they use best practices even if they're not certified organic. It's expensive and wasteful to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, when a good biodynamic farm requires none of it-- it's a perfect, closed system and it's the natural, truly "conventional" (as in throughout all of history except WWII until now) way to grow food. No scary chemicals, no petroleum-based fertilizers. If a farm stand doesn't have signs saying "no pesticides" then ask!

It can be more expensive to buy organic, of course, especially at natural foods stores like Whole Foods, but the seasonal bounty at a farmer's market almost always costs less than produce which has been trucked thousands of miles and passed through the expense-adding processes of marketing and middlemen. To further stretch your budget and survive through the winter when the less temperate areas close up production, think about learning to can or using a deep freeze!
If you are intimidated by the variety of strange veggies you encounter, pick up a book like How to Pick a Peach or Farmer's Market Cooking and start experimenting!

Happy produce shopping!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Adhering Badly to the No-Shopping Statute

I am supposed to be saving to remodel my condo and throw a fun wedding reception. So why can I not I keep myself out of the stores!? Mother's Day was spent at the mall, because the winds were too high and dangerous for the original plan of a lovely walk in the historic, amazingly-landscaped Mt. Auburn Cemetery (tree limbs crashing down on my head are not my idea of a relaxing afternoon). I did spend far more than I should have but a) my tax return just came and b) I am practicing the one-in, two-or-three-out rule and paring my wardrobe down to a smaller number of items I adore rather than many that are just OK. A rundown of my spree (pardon the cell phone pics):

EXPRESS: (This is one store where I head straight for the clearance rack and pause only to fondle the expensive loveliness on the regular displays). In place of two black skirts that were never quite perfectly flattering (one from Raspberry Beret, one unknown), I purchased a sleek, structured pencil skirt in a soft, stretchy light black denim fabric, half off, for $29.99. I also snagged a cute watercolor-print cardigan there for $19.99.

(With previously owned light blue cami)

OLD NAVY: I suppose I didn't need another pair of jeans, but most of the ones that currently fit me are of too light a wash in which to leave the house (I'd rather not talk about the stacks of Rubbermaid containers with sizes 8, 10, etc. inside which taunt me from my basement storage). So, being sadly unable to find my length on the sale rack, sprang for the full-cost "Sweetheart" cut jeans in a nice dark wash for $29.50. They'll work with anything, obviously, but I'm a big fan of how they look with the new sweater (more on the shoes shortly!):

I also snagged a cobalt blue henley tee because I somehow have, like, no blue clothes. What?! I love blue! How did this happen?! Oh, right, I was busy being drawn to purple, pink and turquoise... Here are the jeans with it, and my new flower clip from Etsy, and my Rampage jeweled ballet flats (a year or two old).

FAMOUS FOOTWEAR: My 20% off rewards coupon came in the mail recently, so I scurried to the clearance section and scored these incredible Madden Girl platform peep-toes for about $16 (also pictured above):

I can now give away all of my other purple pumps, and die happy.

...and it's espadrille season again so I also bought some cushy Naturalizer wedge ones in a pretty metallic-and-bright stripe pattern with a bow, $27. They go quite nicely with that blue henley and a floaty crepe skirt I found at Goodwill a while back:

MARSHALLS: Just one minor purchase here- a $15 leopard pencil skirt in stretch twill:

(with previously owned black short-sleeved sweater)

Leopard is hot again for fall, according to the powers that be (I've seen mentions of mixed leopard, too- as in two or more mismatched pieces?). It's bombshell, it's punk rock, and it's classic all at the same time, and never really goes "out" per se (I certainly wouldn't buy it just because it's "in"). Some people don't think of animal print as a neutral, but it can be; paired with just about any color, it works, unlike most patterns. Witness:

(with aubergine silk button-down by Dana Buchman, Goodwill Fall '09)

(with hot pink sateen Talbots blazer, Goodwill Winter '10)

(with teal silk ruffle-front Victoria's Secret blouse, Winter '10)

(Oh, and those cute little flats are canvas, American Eagle from Payless, $12.99 last week)

I definitely have a shopping problem. But I'm trying to tame it and only buy things I adore and those that fill holes in my wardrobe while getting rid of plenty of the old stuff that doesn't follow those rules-- the duplicates, the too-revealing-for-work, and the just-not-flattering are gone! Have you endeavored to make any changes in your closet recently?

Happy outfit-planning!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Favorite Splurge: Victoria's Secret

Once in a great while, I do like to see what the Vicky's online clearance has for me. Occasionally I'll score a terrific skirt for about $30 or sweaters and tops for less than $20, which is excellent. I seldom step outside the maximum $30 range, but I do make exceptions for things like really high-quality boots or gorgeous dresses. Witness (and feel free to imitate, should you love) my latest mini-spree:

They have 14-hole Docs for $100! In patent- pewter or black. I chose the black even though the pewter is fabulous... for nostalgia's sake, perhaps; my ex-husband and then-fiance ruined mine on purpose when I was 17 because he hated them. They had taken me up and down the country and through some of the most interesting years of my life, so I was rather more than irked. This did not bode well for the rest of the relationship, either. Anyway, I digress! Next up:

One of those crazy convertible dresses that you're supposed to be able to style in a zillion different ways... in my favorite shade of aubergine. Asymmetrical hem, jersey material, sashes you can make into a halter, cap sleeves, straps, etc.; it's sort of like buying a whole bunch of dresses, right? So I figured that sort of justified the exorbitant-for-me price of $50. Especially down from $108! It comes with styling tips-- I just hope I can master them.

I've been coveting a cobalt ruffly top for months (how is it that I managed to leave out one of my very favorite colors from my wardrobe until now?) and hope this little tank (also in lots of other colors) fits the bill until I can find a satin one or something dressier.

I also snagged a yoga bodysuit (? Yeah we'll see- it was cheap and purple so why not) and some clearance mini-bottles of my favorite new scent (which goes against all of my principles about natural cosmetics with no parabens but ack, I love it so... "nectarine, amber and cattelaya orchid..." oh my. I forced my man to buy me the large bottle for V-day but the minis are too adorable and great for the purse (they stay closed). Let's hope his sweetness doesn't read this because I'm supposed to be saving every penny toward the house remodel and a few for the eventual wedding. Sometimes a girl needs things though, you know? Especially when the tax refund has just come.

If you didn't know Vicky's was about far more than lingerie, you're missing out. A good half of my wardrobe comes from them. Great jeans, adorable tops and so much more... get thee to the clearance section! If you're already on board, what have been some of your favorite finds?

Happy shopping :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flowers in her hair - Floral clips for any budget

I've been completely enamored of flowers in the hair since... well, probably since the first time I saw Niecy Nash on Clean House many years ago. STOP THE FOOLISHNESS AND MAYHEM! She's just gorgeous and amazing and I frankly don't give a damn if they're too popular now or too "young"-- I think she sparked a fantastic trend. The look is sort of forties-pinup or sexy Spanish mamacita; I believe just about anyone can pull it off with almost as much panache!

Some of the most beautiful clips available are also astronomically priced, especially the larger handmade gorgeousness on Etsy. Thankfully there are still some stunning examples on the lower-end range. Check out my Treasury East of the best options from under $1 to $16:

There are hundreds of hair flower sellers, of course, at all different price ranges and levels of embellishment. I like variety, so I've purchased a good number of affordable, everyday accessories. I do, of course, like to daydream about owning some of my absolute favorites (if money were no issue; these are all $30+):

Mandizzle is featured frequently in treasuries and the front page-- due equally, I am sure, to her beautiful creations and... er... rather pleasing visage:

I just want to eat her right up. Yes, please.

EverydayFairytale designs by Gwen Paja are covet-worthy, from her jewelry and gorgeous ruffle-embellished tops to classic bridal hair accessories, which she models her gorgeous self, too:

WhichGoose carries clips, crowns, tiaras, combs and just about anything else a nontraditional bride could ever want. I particularly love the vine crowns and the ethereal photography:

I can't wait to see some new items from Perch52's shop (she assures me more are coming soon!) because this incredible velvet rose comb sold, rather tragically not to me, and I haven't seen anything else quite like it

Have you embraced this trend or are you over it? If you love it, do you stay inexpensive/ mass-produced with CVS and Old Navy cheapies, or have you bought handmade? Have you tried making your own? I've been experimenting a bit with combining different colors of silk flowers with complementary beads and feathers-- it's so much fun and fabulous for someone like me who loves matchy-matchy!

Some other good online resources are (great selection but very much mass-produced, it seems) and amiclubwear. I get compliments on the grey feather fascinator I ordered from them every single time I wear it, and it was about $11.

Happy hair accessory shopping!


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