March 30, 2012

Outfits of the throwaway

I have mostly resolved to venture outside of my office walls and take some better lit (or at least non-fluorescent-lit) outfit photos. But I still have a cache of office outfits that document what I've worn to campus spanning the last few months of time. I didn't post them because most were repeats already blogged in semesters previous and the quality of photos was too poor. Still I wanted to put them together in a post for my own semester-to-semester archival purposes. 

Row one, left to right:
See by Chloé dress, MBMJ captoe pumps
Anthropologie dress and cardigan, Chloé flats
Marc by Marc Jacobs dress, J. Crew cardigan, Jimmy Choo flats

Row two, left to right:
Callixta dress, Missoni Target tights, Aquatalia boots
Marc by Marc Jacobs dress, Old Navy ls tee layered underneath, Chloé flats
J. Crew factory cardigan and cami, Anthro skirt and belt, Miu Miu flats

An unrelated aside: I was so saddened by the death of Adrienne Rich this week. What an amazing, revolutionary mind! I still assign "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" when it suits the curriculum. I was feeling especially weepy and inspired after reading her obit in the Times which included an incredible quote she made upon turning down the National Medal of Arts:

"Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."

I keep thinking of it. So I want to share that food for thought and thank her for her legacy. May she rest in peace and may the rest of us do what we can to enable a more equitable and less hateful world.

March 28, 2012

These days

With the return of cold weather marks an opportunity to squeeze in some of my favorite dresses before they need to be stored away. Although this particular silk See by Chloé number can be worn into spring, it's a touch too short to wear to work without tights. I paired it with flats for a long day of lecturing.

On campus, we're entering the home stretch of the semester and although the end is in sight, my commitments and responsibilities are amping up considerably. April promises to be a busy month and I feeling a bit tired just thinking about my schedule. Currently, I'm drafting a keynote address for the freshman honor society induction ceremony this weekend. Being busy is good for my bank account because I've had no time to browse, let alone shop.

I'm wearing:
See by Chloé dress (from 2009ish?) (similar)
Cece cashmere cardigan from Bluefly (similar though not cashmere)
Spanx tights
Chloé lock flats (similar)
Michael Kors watch
Anthro initial necklace (similar)

*A note on the location: Although it looks like I'm taking photos in the middle of a country road, I assure you that this is on my campus, at an hour when many have already left for the day. And this particular road is currently closed to vehicular traffic during new building construction.  (Other than taking indoor office photos) This being only steps from my office is the easiest, quickest outdoor one for me, complete with a nice little stand on which I can set my camera sans tripod. I'm sure I'll have to relocate once regular car traffic is permitted again. But I still feel quite sheepish about taking photos in public. This is something I don't expect to get over any time soon. Bloggers: do you try to scout private locations for your self photos?

March 27, 2012

Otta Dress Review

anthropologie dress
Anthropologie dress

Oh man. What a mess. So the Otta Dress looked very cool on the hanger, with its interesting color palette and graphic geometric print. It is a silk cotton blend so I was glad to see the natural fiber composition. I grabbed an 8 and it fit? I... don't know if it fit, actually. Maybe a size up would have prevented the tenting happening underneath my bust? Maybe a size down would have meant less fabric up top? Maybe it is just not meant for a bust like mine? Anyway, I am confused about how this one is supposed to fit. It fits on my body technically, I guess. But it looks weird and bunchy. Maybe the proportions were off? Maybe a petite version would have worked better? But this dress was a bad scene on me. I love the print and think it is a cool idea but not for me, obviously. I wish I had more to say about it. I guess the side buttons were very cute and the kind of special detail that brings me back to this store. But there is a reason why I've not bought anything from Anthropologie in 2012. And the fit of this dress exemplifies it.

March 26, 2012

On the straight and curly

I came of age in the '90s, in the wake of "GenX" influenced culture and style. I read avidly, listened to college radio obsessively, and treated that which was popular or "mainstream" with suspicion or even  contempt. I sought role models and mentors who were strong, outspoken, opinionated women, who refused to be defined by their appearances and who inspired me to critique heteronormative, patriarchal paradigms of gender.

As a teen, I self-identified as a riot grrl, feminist, and punk. I felt as though I was a part of the communities that inhabited those subcultures, even as a sheltered exurbanite who lived with her supportive, encouraging, middle-class parents and precocious, beloved siblings. Although my desire to align with subcultural rebellion was tempered by middle class privileges, a general deference to authority, and my mannerly demeanor, the plight of the outsider spoke to me. The literary narratives I gravitated toward featured outsiders. My favorite films made central the subject of rebellion. And even after I was crowned Homecoming Queen, senior year of high school, I still clung to the notion that in some ways, I too was an outsider (...outside of what, I'm still not entirely sure).

From these perspectives I came to form the beliefs and values I still carry as an adult. And in many ways these ideas continue to inform how I negotiate and perform my identity . I've written about my distrust of the discourses of flattering that insist women be and look as small as they can.  I've shared the stories of how I came to accept aspects of my appearance (like my large Italian nose) even though they've been a source of much self-loathing and critique over the course of my young adult and adult life. I've tried to remind myself and others close to me that despite the tenets of neoliberal/capitalist ideologies, the world does not have to be a perpetual competition/beauty pageant. I've commiserated with "real life" and "blog life" girlfriends about how our processes of self-acceptance aren't linear. And I've talked about how my not-curly-enough-and-yet-not-willing-to-straighten hair has been another source of frustration.

So when I was offered a Hana Salon flat iron to review from Misikko, at first I was reluctant. I've spent far too many hours of my adolescent and post-adolescent life fighting with the natural curl pattern of my hair... using round brushes and blow driers with serums and products, before flat irons became  ubiquitous. Eventually I came to accept my hair and even view the waves as a visual statement that challenged the notion that straight hair was inherently better. And with other women, I seek to find a balance between my hair's texture and professionalism.

Still, options are nice. Despite my penchant for making statements, I still find myself in situations (professional and otherwise) where I might want to have straight hair. So I spoke with my circle of friends (many of who also happen to use the best flat irons) to ask them if it was difficult, if it was damaging, if it was worth it, etc. I also half jokingly asked if using one was "selling out" to the tyranny of a status quo. After reminding me not to overthink everything, they suggested I give it a go.

Very soon afterwards, my Hana arrived. It was packaged carefully and came with a travel case as well as a silicon pad for resting during use plus some bonus items shown above. It was indeed easy to use and I think my hair got pretty straight! I didn't use any serums or straightening aids. I just used the iron. I was a bit nervous to turn it up to be as hot as it can get but I love that there is a temperature setting. Here is the result:

A number of coupon codes float around so be sure to find one that works best for you. But HanaSalon will take 10% off all Hana orders. And I think I can sport straight hair while still being me. Besides, a hair straightener can be used for multiple styles.  They can create straight hair or be used more creatively for curls or other styles. I am excited to experiment with mine. Thanks for reading!

March 23, 2012

Roadrunner, Roadrunner

I've been listening to a lot of albums that I typically reserve for summer and wondering when the cold will come back. In the meanwhile, The Kink Kontroversy, The Velvet Underground Loaded, Modern Lovers (S/T), and Sleater Kinney's Call the Doctor provide my life's current soundtracks. Do you choose the music you listen to based on the time of year/seasons?

I could have titled this post, "this is what it looks like when worlds collide." You see, I wore this to guest lecture for a campus writing course on blogging. It was fun to pay such a visit and share my enthusiasm for blogging with undergraduates. I also pointed out that I'm by no means an expert but I did the best I could to share what I've learned. I hope they enjoyed it because I know I did!

Outfit specs:
Anthropologie rosette dress (called Bold Boutonniere) (Similar here and here)
Anthropologie Cartography Cardigan (Can't find similar options but I love this beautiful but pricey map print scarf)
Miu Miu flats (similar here, here, and here)
MBMJ Softy Max Satchel
Misc. Jewelry from Redraven Studios, Carolee (c/o), Linea Pelle, KJL, Target

March 21, 2012

An oldie but goodie from Tibi

My first ever Net-a-porter purchase was this printed silk Tibi dress. I coveted it all season and eventually found my size still available when their end-of-season sale went on sale (in the pre-Outnet days). I wore it a lot that year but then I put it away and sort of forgot it existed. That was until yesterday. I didn't know how cold it would be went I left campus so I wore tights. I could have gone bare legged and should have worn a less heavy tight. But that is a lesson learned in photographic retrospect. My favorite part about this dress is the accent bodice bib detail. It has big lucite buttons, careful pleating, and a ruffle trim.

You can the bib a bit better here.

You can also see my Redraven Studios pendant!

Outfit details:
Tibi dress (old) (another pretty Tibi dress is on sale here)(similar mixed print here)
BP Cardigan
Redraven Studios necklace (c/o)
Swatch watch
Spanx tights
Nine West pumps (similar)

March 19, 2012

Easy weekend outfit

I wore this (and was actually a bit too warm with the cardiwrap) for neighborhood errand running, a trip to Target, and a dog walk. I've been trying to make more of an effort to photograph outfits outdoors. I know it will not be practical for me to do so all the time. But when I can, I plan to try.

March feels a bit less busy than February in some ways. But all of my formerly postponed tasks have been re-prioritized so I am really just as swamped. My on-campus hours have eased up a bit which is nice. Next month brings my birthday, the end of the term, and travel to San Diego. I have never visited this city and will be staying in Little Italy (which feels fitting as a current resident of Pittsburgh's Little Italy) so bring on the restaurant, sight-seeing, and shopping suggestions! I will be there for a conference but hope to also have some fun.

Outfit details: 
Parameter cardiwrap from Piperlime (similar and well priced)
Gap body shirt underneath (via Gabes)
J. Crew matchstick cords
Coach captoe flats (similar)
Anthropologie scarf (via Gabes) (similar)
Cynthia Rowley bag from Zappos (similar and budget similar)

As an aside, I was featured on the Facebook Page of Hanes Hosiery! I have a few pairs of thigh high and control top sheers to giveaway and will be doing so this week. So stay tuned! 

March 18, 2012

Pittsburgh Saks Closing Haul

It's officially over. Unless you're planning to stock up on fur coats, Saks Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh no longer exists as an option for eager consumers. The loss of this store is a brutal blow to the retail landscape of Downtown, removing yet another destination from the neighborhood. I worry about how this will effect the downtown Larrimor's outpost. And Brooks Brothers or even Macys, for example. When there is one less destination available within a cluster of proximate stores, the suburban malls with their free parking and climate control increase their appeal. Of course plenty of downtown workers provide a customer base for what remains.

The silver lining of all of this was the consolidation sale which saw Saks stocked with brands never previously carried and prices difficult to beat in their final days. Even outlet discounts like those found at the nearby Off Fifth were stingy in comparison to the additional 70-90% off.

Since my last update, a few people have emailed and commented asking what I bought. So I figured I would share my closing haul as a part of this epilogue. A proper eulogy would likely include a retrospective of my buys over the years of visits. And while that would fit neatly with the initial intention of this blog (to archive, unpack, and think through my consumer habits), I will spare you. Instead here are my most recent finds.

Three silk blouses from Parker, Nanette Lepore, and Akris. A few T by Alexander Wang shirts from the men's section that were $9 marked down from $74. Also in men's a Rag and Bone pullover for Chris that was $17 marked down from $250. Two holiday ornaments marked $2.50, down from $75/each (who would spend the full retail amount on a single bulb, I do not know). Three Wacoal brassieres that were 70% off plus an additional 10% for buying multiples.

And these two dresses by M Missoni and DKNY, respectively. It seems like a lot of stuff when I put it all together but Chris paid for his own things as well as the above M Missoni wave sweater dress which will be a birthday gift to me (at Missoni for Target prices, no less!). I bought far less than I would have if I was still in the same (admittedly ridiculous) consumer pattern exhibited during the recession clearances of 2008 and 2009.

But I still feel indulgent and even a little gluttonous. I have long needed to beef up my sleeved blouse arsenal for both casual and professional ensembles. Although the DKNY dress is not necessarily my usual style, it was such a soft wool, it looks quite flattering on, it was marked down to $24, and seems perfect for more conservative professional occasions. I think its career functionality will prove itself swiftly as I will treat it as a suit alternative. My shopping in the coming months will slow as I tend to buy less from spring and summer collections. And thanks to Anthropologie's new directions, none of my pennies have gone there in 2012. All of this is to say that I am certain my shopping habits will recalibrate accordingly after the above (albeit discount) splurges. Thanks for reading! If you are local, I'd love to head about your purchases!

March 16, 2012

In like a lamb...

I am not a fan of this very early spring weather. My distrust likely makes me sound joyless to some. But my love for cold weather has been documented extensively. Although this early spring with its unseasonably warm weather and already-bloomed crocuses might be welcomed by a vocal majority, it just makes me nervous about bugs, crop problems, and the insufferably hot summer that await us. March came in like a lamb and that is not my preference.

Cynthia agrees and is located further south than me. I worry about this lamblike early March, and the fairly lamblike February especially because my very old, radiator-heated home lacks central air conditioning. It doesn't even have the ducts necessary to install such a thing. And its older slidey windows mean that finding energy-efficient window a/c units becomes even more costly. The other thing I dislike about window a/c units is the effective loss of the practical use of that window for the rest of the season. Already, I see people in sandals and shorts and sundresses with bare legs and while they look adorable and everyone is smiling, something about it just feels wrong. The Pittsburgh and SWPA of my childhood had snow regularly into April. This year there was barely any snow at all. Good for my commute. But bad for my sense of seasonal equilibrium.

Outfit details (worn on a colder day):
MBMJ coat
Silk skull scarf from ebay tied with the coat scarf ties (McQueen or not McQueen)
Tory Burch Revas
Kors watch and misc bamboo enamel bracelets (though mine were cheaper and from Target)

March 14, 2012

Consumed by creative layering

Chloé Van Gogh print dress
Halftee layered underneath (c/o)
Kate Spade belt (from another dress)
Jewelry: Target, Michael Kors, Hiptique

Although this isn't uniformly the case, a lot of my favorite dresses can transition from season to season with the help of creative layers. And among those favorites that can only be worn during cold weather months, the fabrics all claim to require dry cleaning. As a not-so-secret dirtbag and frequent monogamous dresser, I tend to use layers to enable longer periods of wear between cleanings. This saves me money and time which is frankly even more valuable at the moment. It's helpful to avoid the inconveniences of frequent drop off and pick up errands.

My layering strategies thus far have had mixed results. I've tried slips, which help make more opaque otherwise sheer pieces and when exposed can add length or dimension to an ensemble. I've tried cotton shirts which create a machine-washable barrier between me and the dry-clean-only fabrics. And I've tried tops with slips which provide a lot of coverage but add a lot of bulk. Added bulk is annoying and it becomes an issue especially when I try to layer underneath garments with thinner fabrics (like silks). Rather than harboring anxieties over "panty lines," I am left to worry about layering lines.

I was recently approached by folks from Halftee about reviewing one of their pieces and I am happy to report that this very reasonably priced invention helps solve the bulky layering lines problem. The Halftee in my estimation is a washable cotton slip for the upper body. Its name is apt as it is a half t-shirt that can be layered underneath clothing to provide a barrier between you and your more delicate, dry-clean-only clothes. Some women also might use the piece to make more modest and covered their garments that otherwise expose décolletage, shoulders, or even upper arms. The nice thing about the Halftee is that it stops underneath the bustline, so you avoid bulk through the midsection and hips. I found them to be comfortable, stretchy, and average in fit. I took a size medium in the 3/4 length sleeve version. My only issue was that when I layered underneath dresses with deeper neckline plunges, the Halftee came up higher than I'd like. It wasn't an issue with the above ensemble and I imagine this is a good thing for those who buy it for modesty enabling. But for me, I do like the option of a deeper scooped neckline. Hopefully they'll release one eventually!

The Halftees are offered in a few colors, styles, and fabrics with different sleeve lengths. And readers of Consume or Consumed can use the exclusive coupon code "consume10%" to can save 10% off the entire website!

March 10, 2012

The Final Countdown (of Pittsburgh Saks Closing)

(photo from the aftermath of the Saks 2008 recession clearance)

You have one week left to pay Pittsburgh's Saks Fifth Avenue a visit before the doors are shuttered for good. I was able to stop by this week and can report that prices are now pretty incredible. But what remains is very picked through. You take an additional 70-90% off the lowest marked tags. Other than the fixtures that are for sale, everything is contained on the first floor.

In women's: There is an entire La Vie section (beautiful pieces for professionals who want to still look unique and feminine) with racks priced between $25 and $35 per piece. It is located in the space formerly occupied by women's handbags and scarves. In the women's contemporary space, you will find furs to the left and dresses to the right with other clothing pieces (suiting, tops, sweaters, outerwear, and pants) in between. Take 80% off dresses (and if you buy three, you get an additional 10% off). 80% off outerwear 70% off sweaters, pants, tops, and skirts. 70% off bras (and if you buy three, you get another 10% off). You get the idea... Men's stuff can be found where women's shoes once sat. Bras and intimates are where the Prada handbags and wallets were once located. There are still plenty of pretty items left but you have to dig. Lots of Escada if that's your thing. Some very pretty dress options in plus sizes (which are across from La Vie). A few evening gowns remain. But stuff is moving quickly as you can imagine.

The See by Chloé sweater dress is gone sadly (and I wasn't the person who scored it), but the other See by Chloé dress I tried is still there for about $50.

Some tips if you go: dressing rooms are mostly communal (all communal in men's and half communal in women's) so dress accordingly. I wore a slip so that I could still change swiftly with some amount of modesty, knowing that the communal room had a shorter wait. You can bring a maximum of 8 things into the dressing rooms. It's funny how swiftly the Pittsburgh Saks has come to feel like Gabriel Brothers in both of the above regards...

If you are shopping for a specific type of item (a blazer or a dress for example), check the entire section and the dressing room return racks. Things are not as organized as they once were during the regular rotation of Saks' end-of-season sales so even though you might not be a size 6, some 8s, 10s, and 4s could be in the size 6 section. Don't fixate on the numbers during the hunt. Be thorough and patient.

And be kind to your fellow deal hunter. These scenarios have a dehumanizing and decivilizing effect on many of us (as indicated by the annual Black Friday trampling stories we read across the US). At the end of the day, it's just stuff. There will always be another deal, another dress, another opportunity to consume. But being a jerk can have a lasting impact on your fellow shopper's outlook. Being kind can too, but in a positive way.

Everything is "Final Sale" so beware of the disorienting effect that sale goggles can exert upon otherwise sensible brains. And check price tags if multiple items of your desired garment exist in the additional % off sections! I paid different prices for two of the same T by Alexander Wang t-shirts in men's (bought as undershirts for Chris) because I wasn't careful during the transaction and I didn't check both tags. It was a difference of only a few dollars so it isn't a big deal. But let my mistake make other dealhunters more thorough. :)

I am not sure if another cut will be taken next Thursday, when only two days will remain. I regret not going earlier on this Thursday just to see what was still available when those deeper cuts were made. I also can't help but regret not scoring the stripey sweater dress before someone else nabbed it. Sure it was itchy but for 80% off, I'd deal. Anyway, I hope this update is useful. If you score anything great, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Redraven Giveaway Winner!

There were 81 eligible entries for the Redraven Studios Giveaway. Congratulations to Shana H who authored comment number 15, which was drawn to win the $25 gift certificate! Shana, please email me at jesspgh at gmail dot com to claim your prize!

Thank you to Amy of Redraven Studios for generously providing the gift card for this giveaway and to all the contestants for entering! I will be hosting another giveaway soon so stay tuned.

March 08, 2012

If it was socially acceptable...

Sweater dress from Bluefly (similar here, here, and here)
Missoni for Target tights
Aquatalia boots (zip version here)
Kate Spade tote (this season's equiv: here, here, and on sale here)
MBMJ jacket

(If money was no object) I would swath myself in cashmere knits on every chilly day. And not just cashmere sweater dresses like the one above. If the price was right I would totally buy some lounging pants and a zip hoodie. I'd wear a soft, drapey swobe. As I get older I notice that when I'm relaxing at home or in recovery mode I just want to be comfortable. And when I wore the above outfit to campus, I chose it because I was recovering from the flu. A 24 hour bug hit me like a ton of bricks over the weekend. My immune system is usually pretty strong. I don't get sick that often. And this is a good thing.

Although there are many benefits to working as a professor, I rarely find myself willing to cancel committee meetings, classes, or (as was the case on this day) interviews unless I am so ill I cannot move. If I can get out of bed, if I have (enough of) a voice, if I am not grossly contagious, and if I can drive to campus without putting anyone in danger, I will usually power through. I was feeling pretty exhausted on this day, as I was still in recovery mode. I was confident that I wouldn't be getting anyone else ill. I kept a safe distance, used a lot of anti-bacterial gel, and opened windows to ventilate when I was in closed quarters. I simply could not reschedule my agenda for that day. So I needed to be comfortable but look passably professional. I think it worked out well enough.

Don't forget to enter the Redraven Studios giveaway! You have until tonight.

March 07, 2012

Nude Pantyhose for Day?

Kate Spade Nellie dress
Anthropologie belt
MBMJ bag and shoes
With and without nude pantyhose (c/o Hanes)

Yesterday I posted a photo that included sheer pantyhose by Hanes Hosiery. I didn't mention that I was wearing them because I was curious as to whether they'd go unnoticed. The other week, a representative from Hanes contacted me to ask if I would style an outfit with and without their nude sheers. I obliged because as longer-term readers know I suffer from acute tights dependency. In other words, come warm weather, I cling to my hosiery like glue. I fear the exposure. I want the coverage. And I hate lacking the buffer to prevent "chub rub." I envy those women who welcome bare legged season without hesitation. Bike shorts notwithstanding, I am not among them.

Although I never wear sheer or nude pantyhose, my opaque tights and fishnets are beloved. So I accepted the challenge from Hanes because it offered a potential middle ground. I also know that many professional women have to wear pantyhose as part of their office dress codes. So while I found it difficult to not associate a particular dated look with nude pantyhose, I realize that for plenty of career women of all ages, they are requisite.

I remember wearing nude hose in middle school. I remember wearing them in high school. I remember their ubiquity in the 80s and 90s. I also remember them feeling uncomfortable compared to tights. They squeezed more and they ripped more. But outside of the confines of stricter corporate dress codes, I can't recall seeing many women my age sporting sheer hose today. Terra of Stylish White Female (who also styled an outfit with and without) reminded me that Kate Middleton wears them often. Other than within conservative, professional contexts I don't see them being worn among my non-royal circle of similarly-aged peers.

Some thoughts: it is good that Hanes Hosiery Sheers come in full length or thigh high. Although I tried a pair of regular full length pantyhose, I think the thigh highs offer women who don't fear the exposure or the "chub rub" a useful alternative to feeling confined. The sheers really are quite sheer. So they offer some coverage while still allowing the leg to be seen. I did think they had a bit of a shimmer to them which some women might dislike. I imagine the intent was to mimic the shine of recently shaved and moisturized legs. I would follow their size chart accordingly and size up as recommended if you are on the cusp. The control top was definitely more confining and squeezy than my beloved tights. But they felt comfortable on the legs.

March 06, 2012

Baubles that Benefit

Charm bracelet c/o CAROLEE

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of jewelry designer, CAROLEE released a line of commemorative pieces called the Legacy Collection. It includes numerous items such as the travel-themed charm bracelet pictured above. The sale of each Legacy Collection piece benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. To mark the occasion, the brand also launched a Student Design Competition and scholarship. As an educator who came from a family of teachers, I was honored when CAROLEE contacted me about publicizing their efforts to present aspiring young designers with this wonderful opportunity.

Their university partner is the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.). The competition spans 20 weeks (which exceeds the typical college semester) so it requires a great deal of dedication on behalf the participants. There will be four lucky winners whose designs will be launched for sale in department stores worldwide. The judges are executives from F.I.T. and CAROLEE. You can watch episodes of the competition on the CAROLEE Tumblr, Facebook or Youtube Channel. And you can purchase commemorative jewelry pieces from the Legacy Collection at Macys, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdales, Dillards, and other department stores.


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