Month: July 2014

My Bloganista Breakdown

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Let’s get this straight. I’ve been at this blogging game for less than a year and still consider myself to be a newbie. One who is still learning. One who is sometimes struggling. One who, like my fashion sense, is still budding. I know my blog is not the fanciest thing around. Still, it’s my own creation and I’m pretty proud of it.

So, I was a bit surprised and completely honored when I was asked to be a panelist at a recent event for fashion bloggers and aspiring bloggers: The Bloganista Mini-Con organized by Javacia Bowser of See Jane Write. The goal was to offer tips on how to be a fashion blogger/start a fashion blog and also to offer tips on how to dress like one, even if you aren’t one. I may not be a full-fledged fashionista, but I certainly love talking about fashion and how I get dressed on a budget. Plus, I figured I’d surely get tips from other, more seasoned, bloggers about how they have found success.  (To meet the other panelists, click here.)

Before I get into conference details…here’s a look at what I wore! I mean, you have to try to dress to impress when you’re introduced to a group as a “fashion blogger,” right?? I couldn’t go shopping for something new and fabulous, so I made do with what I had. I chose my yellow 3/4 sleeve Banana Republic dress and accessorized with other pops of color: a turquoise necklace from Lotus Boutique and fuschia Guess T-Strap heels from T.J. Maxx. I added my free Banana Republic clutch for a bold, black and white contrast. I love this dress and I loved how it all came together. The look also got me featured as a “Fave of the Week” by fab blogger Sydney Summer on her Facebook page!

fave

 

Now that appearances are out of the way….

Here’s What I Shared:

1. My Sale Shopping Secrets: I’ve mentioned them before, but the biggest takeaway is knowing when to shop. The best retail deals will be found in January (end of fiscal year) and July (the fiscal half) when retailers are trying to quickly get rid of old merchandise, make room for new inventory and boost those profits before posting financial reports.

2. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Social Media: Hit up Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to follow your favorite retailers for unadvertised, non-emailed, pop-up and flash sales. You may be surprised at how many businesses reward their followers with some amazing one-day/last-minute sales!

2. Expanding Your Wardrobe on a Budget: make the most out of what’s already in your closet. Each week, evaluate what you already own and pair two things you’ve never worn together before. Try new combinations of colors or patterns (or both!).

4. Try a Style Challenge: If you ever look in your closet and have no idea where to begin, these challenges can really help you make decisions on what to wear every day.  Here are some I’ve followed in the past: Hilary Rushford from Dean Street Society posts one to her Instagram account/blog once a month. Sandae from Curvy Girl on the Run also has style challenges, although I think she won’t be having one for the month of August. Coast to Coast Central posts a style challenge twice a week. These challenges are tracked on Instagram, but you can always just use the challenges as a personal guideline for help. No Instagram #ootd (outfit of the day) necessary!

Here’s What I Learned (about blogging):

1. If you can make money off your blog, that’s great! But if you don’t that’s ok, too! Unless your entire purpose for starting your blog is to make money, don’t let that consume you or be your driving focus for content. Remember why you are blogging to begin with.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Every panelist and speaker at the Bloganista Mini-Con uses social media (whether it’s Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and/or Facebook) to expand their reach. Brand yourself accordingly. Know that whatever you put on those media outlets is a direct correlation to your blog. Your brand. You.

3. Don’t compare yourself or your blog to anyone else’s. Not only can you set yourself up for disappointment, you’ll end up losing focus on your own product. Yes, some bloggers find overnight success. Others may find a huge following after years of hard work. The main goal is to stay true to yourself, your vision, your content, your mission. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Success will eventually come. There were two great keynote speakers at the Bloganista Mini-Con–both started their blogs with no intention of gaining a mass following or to bankroll a rich and fabulous lifestyle. Alexis Barton with Same Chic Different Day started her blog to fulfill two passions: writing and fashion. It’s not her main source of income, even after years of plugging away. BUT, it has afforded her numerous opportunities which have ended in paying jobs, local TV appearances and speaking engagements. Megan LaRussa Chenoweth started Southern Femme as a tool to share her experiences in New York with family back home in Alabama. She has now parlayed it into a bona fide business.

Being part of the Bloganista Mini-Con was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had as a blogger. I had the chance to meet a growing community of local bloggers. I applaud Javacia for taking the ambitious task of organizing the event. I consider it to have been a wonderful success! Who knows, maybe next year it won’t be “mini” and we’ll be reuniting at a full blown conference! To read her recap of the Bloganista Mini-Con, click here.

Here are just a few more pics from the event I stole from the See Jane Write’s Facebook Page! Hope you don’t mind, Javacia!

As always, thanks so much for reading and thanks for joining me on this journey!

Ready To Shop!

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Are you tired of hearing about my no shopping challenge yet? Well, it’s almost over! I get to start shopping in about a week! I’m so excited, I could do the dance of joy… you know, like Balki and Larry from “Perfect Strangers.”

Please tell me I’m not the only one old enough to remember that sitcom.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I’ve spent the past few months just daydreaming about new additions I want to make to my closet! I’ve had several people ask me what I want to buy when I start shopping again. Well, here are some of the images dancing in my head.

1. Denim Cut offs/shorts, preferably distressed: I toyed with the idea of following Lauren Conrad’s tutorial for DIY Cut Off Shorts, but honestly, I didn’t want to risk ruining my only pair of old Levi’s! Plus, all of my jeans have some sort of spandex and the tutorial recommends stretch-free jeans. So, I’ll either head to a local thrift store and attempt a DIY or see if I can snag a super cheap pair at a cheapy store.

These from H&M are exactly what I want, even though they are cuffed and not raw-edged, I love the looser fit and distressing, of course. But, whatever I get, will definitely be less than the $24.95 for these below. I just can’t see myself paying more than $10 for a pair of raggedy old shorts…even if they are new!

distressed shorts $24.95
H&M distressed shorts $24.95

 

2. Booties: to wear with the cutoffs (duh!) and my $6 kimoni I got from Forever 21 last year. I also hope to pair them with a romper I have. This is all very boho chic–which isn’t necessarily my style, but I like to dabble in other trends outside of my comfort zone, so I’m excited to branch out a little with this one. I want my ankle boot to transition to fall, so I fell in love with this unique pair from H&M marked down from $69.99 to $35.

H&M open heel suede booties $35
H&M open heel suede booties $35

 

3. Soft/drapey/loose/harem pant: call them what you want. I call them the most comfortable things EVER! It’s the only time you can probably get away with wearing an elastic waistband without being a card-carrying member of the AARP. Who doesn’t want to wear something that feels like pj’s while at work? I hope this trend lives on FOREVER!! I have a pair of black/white printed ones already. So, I’d like some in a color next–kind of like these, also from H&M, for $24.95.

H&M loose pants $24.95
H&M loose pants $24.95

 

4. Jumpsuit: I’ve mentioned in a previous post this is one of the things I want to add to my wardrobe. The challenge will be finding a long, wide leg, work-appropriate version that will be within my budget. I did come across a website for tall women, called Alloy Apparel and Accessories, where I found the jumpsuit below, but the $50 price tag is a little more than I want to pay right now. I may cave though depending on how bad I want it!

Alloy Elan Crepe Jumper $49.95
Alloy Elan Crepe Jumper $49.95

5. Midi-skirt: honestly, I’m not even sure how this would look on me. I have yet to try one on! But it’s so freaking popular right now, I feel like I need it in my closet. I have taken a maxi skirt, hiked it up to my chest and created a faux midi. I think it could grow on me. I will always love a classic pencil skirt, but I’m willing to experiment, especially for a skirt like the one below. I love the color, plus it has pockets! Gimme!!

H&M Crinkle Skirt $34.95
H&M Crinkle Skirt $34.95

6. Bling: I could always use more of it! Since becoming an avid Instagram-er, I have discovered how much of a difference accessories can make to an outfit. I love all of the colors in this beaded necklace from H&M. It wouldn’t hurt to add some new statement earrings and stackable bracelets to my jewelry armoire as well.

H&M beaded necklace
H&M beaded necklace $19.95

 

I have my eye on so many other things, but this list should tide me over for now. I’m sure I will come across an eyeful once I finally venture into stores that don’t include a “T” after the size or bears on the logos!

Can’t wait to share my new shopping adventures with you!!

Thanks for reading!

Fall’s Most Wanted

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I haven’t even really been able to update my wardrobe with new summer duds because of my no shopping challenge (which is almost over, Hallelujah!), but I’m already getting mentally prepared for the fall!

One reason why: I was recently invited to attend a ’14 Fall Fashion Preview at Belk, led by the VP of Trend and Fashion Direction, Arlene Goldstein. I was happy to see a lot of trends sticking around from last year (that’s less spending I have to do!)!

Here’s a little collage from the event, featuring Ms. Goldstein herself and super popular beauty bloggers, eleventhgorgeous.

Fall Fashion Preview
top L–Arlene Goldstein and me, top R–eleventhgorgeous and me, bottom L–fall style concept examples, bottom C–swag bag contents!, bottom R–hors d’oeuvres

Before I reveal the “most wanted” list, here’s a quick Belk back story. If you’re not familiar, Belk is a regional department store, based in the south with the slogan, “Modern. Southern. Style.” While it’s geared toward southern shoppers, their inventory is hardly exclusive to Southerners. After all, they were the sponsors for the Project Runway accessory wall for Season 12 (my inside scoop reveals they will not be the sponsors for the next season).

So, even though this list is coming from a Southern-based store, it certainly applies to all fashion lovers from all walks of life. This list is practical for every day wear. I’ll be doing another post with hottest looks from the runways in the near future.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. All of the following items are straight from the Belk website.

The 10 Most Wanted for Women (starting with my personal favorites):
1. Soft Pant – I absolutely love this trend. They can come in a wide range of fits and patterns–from softly structured to athletic inspired. I snatched a pair before my no shopping challenge and could live in them. They are so comfortable, effortless, yet utterly chic! Pair with a slouchy top for an easy feel or blazer/button down for a more work-appropriate look.

2. Longer Skirts – Anyone who knows me knows I love a great mini skirt. But, I can still appreciate this ever-exploding trend of below-the-knee hemlines. Now, just because the hem drops, doesn’t mean sexy falls off the radar as you can see in the lace number below. But the most on-trend silhouette is fuller and more voluminous. I have created this look recently, by hiking up a maxi skirt to give me that midi-length. It will do for now until I can shop again. It looks best with fitted tops (maybe even a crop top if you dare!) to balance out the fullness on bottom.

3. Statement Neck – If you think bling is designated for evenings out, think again. Statement necklaces are not falling off the radar anytime soon. Wear with any and everything! To keep it current, go for mixed metals. For an ultra-cool, not trying-to-hard look, pair with loose fitting simple T, blazer, distressed jeans and killer heels!

4.Fashion Sweatshirt – we’re not talking about your old high school gym gear. The must-have sweatshirt is embellished, cropped, graphic and/or printed. Pair with (#1 listed) structured soft pants and heels for a fun juxtaposition!

5. Over-the-knee boots – Step out with ferocity in these. I obsessed over these last fall and they are still blazing this fall! Don’t be afraid of looking like Pretty Woman. Pair with jeans to keep it low-key or a fit and flare skirt to bring edge to the flirty silhouette.

6. Novelty Vest – A bandwagon I have yet to jump on, but that doesn’t make it any less important of a fashion statement. Fur vests, moto vests, quilted vests, sleeveless blazers–all get a thumb’s up. I am personally still undecided about the trend for myself (partly because I’m not a big fan of “fur”). Go ahead, discredit me as a fashion source. But, must I remind you, I never claimed to be a fashionista! Pairings depend on the style of vest you choose: fur goes well with jeans and boots to trousers and booties, quilted vests are better suited for the weekend and sleeveless blazers are perfect for the office (pair with a longer skirt for extra style points!).

7. Creative Cardigan – If the classic twinset look suits you just fine, try branching out! Cardigans come in so many shapes and silhouettes, there’s something for everyone. I personally love super thick knits or a looser dolman sleeve. Wear with anything! Have fun with layers and textures!

8. Tunic Top – Ever the Fall staple, tunics are so comfy and easy paired with leggings or your fave skinnies.For a more updated look, find one with some asymmetry to it!

9. Midi Length Sheath – The knee-length sheath is a no-brainer. The midi puts you on the map! It looks so chic with a hot pair of heels!

10. Satchel – With its simple shape and subtle details, this classic bag captures an “of the moment” fashion vibe. Perfect to add a pop of color or classic finish to any look.

 

I love fall weather! I think it allows you to maximize your wardrobe more than any other season! But for now…I’ll be perusing the summer clearance racks first! So I’ll admire all of the new fall merchandise from afar!

For more on Belk’s fall trend report, click here.

What are your favorite fall must haves? Do you already have a head start on the season?

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Shopping Spree for Free

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I mentioned in a recent blog post, I had $50 in Banana Republic rewards that were set to expire on July 31st–just one day before my “6 month no shopping challenge” ends. I did not let them go to waste! And let me tell you. I even surprised myself at the amazing deals I got! I am really bursting with excitement for two reasons.

1. I knocked off a couple of coveted items from my wish list (that I will soon be posting).

2. I blew my own mind with the deals I got!!

Let me cut to the chase. I got nearly $400 in merchandise for….wait for it… wait for it…. ok, no more waiting… FREE!! Yes. I’ll repeat: nearly $400 in merchandise for FREE! Full disclosure here, it was really $388 in merchandise, but $400 sounds so much better…and what’s $12, right?!

Here’s how: Clearance items + coupon code + $90 Banana Republic rewards=$0 balance. (I still have $30 in unused rewards, mind you. But they don’t expire until later this year, so I’m going to exercise patience and use them post-challenge.)

Now, let me share what I bought.

I have been wanting some kind of animal print shoe for some time now. I was just perusing Piperlime.com, trying to see what might catch my eye…. And I saw them. Schutz Irma animal print, ankle-strap pumps. I am flipping. They retail for $200. They were marked down to $69.99 And I found a 25% coupon code online.

schutz-Irma

I’ve also wanted more statement jewelry. While I did some jewelry stocking before my challenge, I still didn’t have a nice, blingy piece. So, I saw this statement Egyptian collar by Sabine on clearance and had to have it! Retail $98. Marked down to $29.97. And the additional 25%.

Sabine - Egyptian collar

And, why not throw in some tan gladiators for good measure. Only because I needed to use up my full $90 in rewards, so I was just searching items that would help me maximize my “dollar.” I also realized I don’t own any brown flat sandals, so all the more reason to add them to my shopping list. These Report gladiator sandals retail for $90. Marked down to $14.97!! and then the additional 25%.

Report - Luckie

And there’s good news for you!! A 30% discount is now available until July 9, 2:59 ET with discount code EXTRASALE. And if you’re making a purchase after that time, you can still save 20% by using the code SUMMER20, which is good until July 13th!
Also, I have to throw this in as a bonus: J.Crew has additional 40% sale online and in store with code SHOPMORE.
Hope you’re able to score some great deals as well! Happy bargain shopping!!