Sunday, June 24, 2012

Comparison Shopping

Comparison Shopping

The pants on either end are Old Navy's Perfect Khakis, in khaki and cement; the pants in the middle are LL Bean's Twill Khakis in stone.  I'm trying to figure out which one is the better deal.  They're about the same price; LL Bean is a little more expensive.  The style is slightly different - LL Bean's are straight legs with the Comfort Waist, and Old Navy's are either boot-cut or flares (not sure which).  I should check out the customer feedback for each item, see which one lives up to the hype.  Also, I'm waiting to see how my Old Navy khaki twill capris hold up over the course of the summer.  Of course, I have to actually wear them ... right now they're just sitting in my closet.  I have to shave my legs!  OH THE HORROR!!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Great Closet Clean-Out, Summer 2012 Edition

Well, as you can see from my previous posts, I've been goofing off on Polyvore.  It's tons of fun.  I can combine items and outfits that I already have (like the navy blue pants and jacket and white top in the previous post) with things from Polyvore, or anywhere else, and see how it looks together.  I don't think I'll be going out in that outfit anytime soon (too much PINK!!!) but it was a fun-looking combo.

Anyway, I need a memory card for my camera, so this post will be lacking in photos.  When I get a memory card, I'll take pics and post them.

I got rid of many, many clothes - they didn't fit anymore, or they were worn out or I just had "wardrobe exhaustion" from them.  Consequently, now that it's summer (officially, Happy Solstice everyone!), I have plenty of room in my closet and armoire, so I was able to store more of my summer clothes that I actually use, plus I have additional storage for items that I'll be retiring for the summer, until it's time to take them out again in autumn, like my duvet cover and afghan.

I have enough clothes to see me through the summer, so I've been concentrating on what to get for fall. I learned an important lesson from this last closet clean-out:  Only purchase items you will use.  Last spring, I bought a lot of skirts:  a khaki skirt from Coldwater Creek, which is pretty versatile (if somewhat ugly), a gored denim skirt from LL Bean, and two beautiful skirts from Lane Bryant, one in a "mosaic" print, which was purple, blue and pink (very pretty), and another skirt that had a tropical floral print, with a matching cardigan.  I really loved both skirts, and I wore them on some occasions, but they no longer fit me.  I am disappointed to say that I did not use them to the best of my ability.  I just don't have that many occasions in my life that call for me to dress up.  When I wore them for casual occasions, I felt overdressed and overexposed.  When I wore them for dressy occasions, it was fine, but as I said, I don't have many of those events in my life right now.

Today I took some time to reflect on the kind of occasions for which I may need to dress nicely, and what I could wear that would allow me to be comfortable, function well, and look presentable.

I'm a Board Member for the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  I have three regular events scheduled throughout the year that would call for me to be dressed up, and those are the NAMI Gala Dinner in October, the NAMI Holiday Party in December and the NAMI Jazz Brunch in April.  It's a rare year when I'm able to make it to all three events (I get too tired or I get too sick to attend all the events).  However, each event requires different attire.  The Gala Dinner is a more formal event, as it happens in the evening and is a fundraiser as well as an awards dinner, and as a NAMI Board Member, I have to look professional and respectful of the occasion.  Last year the weather was bad and I wore my navy suit (see previous post) and my new Doc Martens dress boots.  I was also having a sciatica flare-up, so I needed to be comfortable.  Consequently, I didn't dress as glamorously as I could have.  This year I hope it will be different, if the weather and my health cooperate.

The Holiday Party is a bit more relaxed and casual, but it is festive, so a little glamour is called for.  The Jazz Brunch is in spring, and is a daytime occasion.  Also, it's not usually considered a fundraiser, and it's more of a social get-together for people to get to know each other, or to socialize with their families and friends.  There's dancing and live music, and it's in spring, so there's a light and fresh atmosphere at the event.  I wore my "mosaic" skirt to this event in 2011, and I received many compliments, and I have to say I think I looked pretty good, too.  It's definitely an occasion where black or somber, neutral colors look out of place.  It calls for an outfit that's bright and uplifting.

Those occasions pretty much cover anything that I would have to wear for any formal occasion that would happen throughout the year, whether it be a wedding or other social event.  I could change up my outfits that I would wear to a NAMI event to suit any occasion.

I also am a presenter and the coordinator for the NAMI In Our Own Voice program, where people go out and speak to audiences about their experiences living with a psychiatric diagnosis.  So far we've presented at colleges, community centers and health fairs.  My personal feeling is that the attire varies from venue to venue; for colleges it's more acceptable to be casual, but still professional and polished; for community centers and health fairs, where we are presenting to a wider audience, it's better to err on the side of caution and be a bit more dressy, but still comfortable, because I have to be able to get around and be active.

I also sometimes speak to large audiences at conferences, and for that, I definitely need to look professional and polished.  No casual attire here!  When I presented at a college this past October, I wore the navy pantsuit in the last post.  I was also working the conference that day, since I was one of the organizers, so I had to be comfortable.  I wore my Dansko sandals, because I was on my feet most of the day, and those were the most comfortable dress shoes I had.

Those are my requirements for my wardrobe throughout the year:  It has to be professional, polished, and comfortable, and be able to go from glamorous and formal to casual and approachable, but still authoritative.  I prefer pantsuits, if only because I don't have to worry about revealing anything untoward while I'm moving around and being active, but for occasions like the Gala Dinner, the Holiday Party and the Jazz Brunch, I'd like to be able to wear dresses or skirts.  However, the weather in NYC is a factor.  It can sometimes be rainy, cold or snowing, so it would be best to have a backup plan in case I can't wear the outfit I have planned.

Now that I know what I need to wear to most occasions throughout the year, I can plan my wardrobe for fall and spring accordingly.

Do you know what events you're looking forward to in the coming fall season, and what you'll need to wear?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lotsa Links!

I still haven't figured out what my blogging topic schedule is going to be, but I figured I'd post some timely links that you might find helpful.

Living in Staten Island, home of the world's largest manmade object, which can be seen from space (no lie!) a/k/a The Fresh Kills Landfill, I've been a practitioner of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle since they first started doing it in NYC.  Now we have OROE and GrowNYC, and the Council on the Environment in NYC, which are agencies involved in recycling and reusing items that would otherwise be headed for the trash.  Even though the Fresh Kills Landfill has been closed, disposal of trash remains a concern (if you've ever gone for a week without your trash or recycling being picked up, you know what I'm talking about!), and the more items we can keep out of the landfills, or off those barges that tote trash all over the world, or out of our oceans and waterways, the better it is for all of us.

So here's the link for GrowNYC, the center for recycling, etc., in NYC:  GrowNYC.

Here's the link to the Environmental Protection Agency's recycling page:  EPA.

You can find out from the EPA how to compost, where to dispose of your electronics, and where there are recycling drop-off centers in your area, if you do not have a municipal recycling program.  If you do have a municipal recycling program, contact your local hotline (in NYC it's 311) or the agency that handles the recycling to find out about recycling events in your area.  They may have an e-mail list or a Facebook page that allows you to receive updates about events and practices underway in your community.

To continue the environmental theme, Missus Smarty Pants, Leslie Gonzales, recommended this website a few weeks ago to her readers, and I'm reposting it here.  You need to register your e-mail and get a password to login to derive the full benefit of the website, but you can use it without it.  They do have a neat function where you can build your own database of products.

It's the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

They have a database of over 74,000 personal care, hygiene and cosmetic products for women, men and children that you can research for safety.  It's a very detailed database, with lots of information.

Another great website with information on cosmetic products for women and men is Beautypedia, Paula Begoun's database of products, from drugstore items to high-end products, and specialty store brands, like The Body Shop and Kiehl's.  Paula Begoun and her team are known as The Cosmetics Cops, and they work tirelessly, researching whether products do what they are advertised to do, how well they live up to the hype, and what you can actually expect from your beauty products.  Beautypedia is an encyclopedia of cosmetic products listed by brand, with ratings from Paula and her team.  You can look up your favorite products on the website and find out whether they performed in research tests up to a high standard, and whether they are worth the money you spend on them.

Used in tandem with the above-mentioned Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, you should be able to find products that are worth the money, that will do what they say they will, and that will meet your expectations, while using safe and effective ingredients.

In keeping with my focus on finances, and also because she has a lot of ways you can DIY and make your own products on the cheap at home, I recommend The Budget Fashionista.  She has comprehensive articles on budgeting, finances, credit cards, debit cards, secured credit cards and my personal favorite, "How the Budget Fashionista Got Out of Debt."  She also has articles about shopping sales, including sample sales, and she keeps tabs on the hot trends, and how to get them for less.  Great website, can't say enough good things about it!

While reading "How the Budget Fashionista Got Out of Debt," one of the comments mentioned Out of the Dark, a budgeting website.  I had been using LearnVest, which I acknowledge is all kinds of hip and cool, but it didn't do what I wanted it to, what it was, I can't even remember, I'm sure it seemed important at the time.  Anyway, I don't have LearnVest anymore, I'm using Out of the Dark, but I'm still getting the hang of it.  It's a little more DIY than LearnVest, but it does certain things better, simply because you're the one who has control over the information.  So, as long as you're honest about where your money is going, and how often it's going there (late-night runs to the corner deli or the nearest hip coffee bar, anyone?), you should be able to keep track of your finances pretty well.  I'll be reporting on my financial progress from time to time, so look for updates.  That reminds me, I have to do an OOTD update ... but first things first ... it's dinner-time!

Before I go, though, here are two really great websites that deserve a mention, having to do with household organization (a favorite topic of mine):

My niece Rose introduced me to this website, via her Pinterest board:  Home Storage Solutions.  They have a great challenge, you can jump in wherever you want, and it's called the "52-Week Challenge to a More Organized Home."  They come up with some handy tips and good practices to get into.

Another favorite website of mine is FlyLady.  Through FlyLady I found the awesome, afore-mentioned, Missus Smarty Pants, a phenomenal cyber-stylist who features great articles every week.  She also has a blog on Blogger (see my Followers, she's missusmsp, click, and you're there!) and she's also on Facebook.  FlyLady is also on Facebook, and through her website, you can sign up for free daily e-mails on household organization.  Full disclosure:  I purchased a Control Journal through the FlyLady's website, and I'm also a member of MissusSmartyPants online style service.  But I also really think they're worth your time to investigate.

And now I really must make dinner!  Au revoir, mes amies!

I guess this will be my first Lotsa Links Thursday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Great Closet Clean-Out, and Consignment Shops

I recently cleaned out my closet.  I gave away some clothes to my roommate, and some to a friend, and the rest that were not suitable for the consignment shop (too much wear, too old) I'm donating to Vietnam Veterans of America, and they're picking them up tomorrow.

The lady from the consignment shop, Barbara, was nice enough to come by this morning and pick up the items that I set aside for the consignment shop.  She was a very nice lady, and the name of her shop is Ivy & Lace.  They don't have a Facebook page or website, but they're at 1772 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island, NY  10305, at the intersection of Hylan Blvd. and Seaview Ave. (near Goodfella's Pizzeria), so if you're on the Island and you want to check them out, stop in.  They're in Valentina's Intimate Apparel Shop, downstairs.  She was nice enough to pick up the items, because otherwise I would've had to lug them all the way over there on public transit, and that would've been hard.

The way this consignment shop works, is that they take your little-used, current style clothes, with no stains or  damage, and they sell them.  They get 60% of the profit, and you get 40% of the profit, if the clothes sell in a 90-day period.  After the 90-day period, you can ask for your clothes back, or they keep them and sell them, but you no longer get any profit from them.  This shop tends to keep a small inventory, because she wants things to move quickly.  She took 11 items from me:  two 3-piece suits (skirt, pants, jacket), a skirt and cardigan set, a skirt, and 2 pair of dark-rinse jeans.  I threw the dark-rinse jeans in there, because they're a basic item, and they will probably move quickly, and she agreed.  She said the clothes were really nice (which they are; they just don't fit me anymore, grr!) but she didn't say whether she thought they would sell or not, which is understandable, because she didn't want to make promises she couldn't keep.

Anyway, I signed the three-month contract.  Hopefully, my clothes will sell in the 90-day period, and I will have a little profit, depending on how much she sells them for.  She had someone in her shop yesterday who was interested in plus-size clothes, and she told her she would be getting some in soon, which is probably one reason why she was happy to pick up my items today, so I'm hoping it will work out well for both of us, and for the customer.

My roommate used to work in a thrift shop (which is not the same as a consignment shop), and she said they were always getting women in who were looking for plus-size clothing, but the manager of the store had an attitude about larger-sized women, and she was very hostile towards the customers, and didn't keep the inventory on display, or neatly organized, so, I guess she hurt herself, because the customers probably didn't buy from her.  Her loss!  I'll be sure to take a look at Ivy & Lace when I'm in the neighborhood, to see how my items are displayed, and how she keeps her inventory.  I have to say, though, out of all the places I called, she was the one person who didn't have a negative attitude toward plus-size customers and merchandise.  Some of those people were downright rude, and I was very happy to come across someone who treated me with respect, and actually wanted what I had to sell!

In other news, since I have an abundance of empty space in my closet and armoire now, thanks to The Great Closet Clean-Out, I naturally purchased some more items, summer items, from Old Navy, which you saw displayed in my latest Polyvore sets.  I bought two pair of twill capris, one in black, one in khaki, and the white double-ruffle tank top, and two pair of flip flops, one in aqua and one in a pink color called "cyclamen."  All for under $60!  Unfortunately, I had to put it on a credit card, which is a tale for another blog post, having to do with credit, debt, and money management, or lack thereof.  Actually, my roommate said I did pretty well, because I needed the items, I got a good bargain, and at least I'll have something to show for it, which is more than can be said for my recent spending spree.

I'm happy to report that once the Old Navy items arrive and, provided they fit, I will be all set for summer.  My next mission is to get a pair of New Balance sneakers.  I have a pair of Chaco sandals, and a pair of Dansko sandals (something like the style of sandal I have in my Polyvore sets), and I have, not just one, but TWO wonderful sun hats to choose from, including the LL Bean style in my Polyvore sets.  The other style I bought from Amazon last year, and I haven't been able to find it again, but it's actually a man's Panama-style straw fedora, and it's held up very well.  I would say it was a very good purchase, especially considering the straw hat I bought before that, from Land's End, shredded on the first wearing.  I returned it, of course.

So that's the low-down on consignment shops, and the 411 on my summer wardrobe.  Au revoir, until next time!