Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update: Macy's Men's Fragrance Department

In response to my recent complaint about a rude salesperson in Macy's South Bay Galleria's Men's Fragrance Department, the store manager contacted me and assured me that their entire staff has been briefed on proper, professional sales etiquette. They also identified the person who interacted with my husband and me - a "Fragrance Model" - and spoke with him individually regarding the inappropriateness of his actions.

I definitely appreciate that Macy's made a thorough effort to not only educate the Men's Fragrance Department as a whole, but also to identify and correct the individual Fragrance Model who offended us. I also think it was very kind and thoughtful of the manager to leave all of this information in my voicemail; although I very much wanted to call him back and thank him, Christmas madness has kept me too busy during store hours. I'm not using his name because, as I said, I was unable to talk to him directly and ask permission.

All in all, I'm comfortable with the way things turned out, and I feel very good about the management at the South Bay Galleria's Macy's. I'm glad I spoke up about our discomfort that day; if I had not, I might have carried ill will toward Macy's for a long time and possibly missed out on some great deals. Also, if I hadn't said anything, none of the salespeople would know that there was anything wrong with what happened - it may sound trite, but I hope that this helps to create a better shopping experience for future customers.

How about you, readers? Have you ever written a complaint letter? Did the company make it right?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Deal: Spendy Euro Style at Old Navy

On the left, we have Old Navy's Fishtail Anorak, currently $23.99 plus 20% off online. On the right is upscale UK retailer Toast's Parka in ink blue, currently 155 GBP (about $240).

I'd spied the latter version 3 months ago when introduced to the brand's AW 2011 catalog (pages 23-24) via my very favorite online style forum, YLF. Boy did my britches burn that 1) I'd fallen for yet another brand based outside the US and 2) that cool coat with the rockin' fishtail hem was way out of my league!

Then, by some strange twist of fate, I found myself browsing Old Navy's site - I don't follow Old Navy's offerings closely, because I usually prefer to save money by shopping secondhand - and I was instantly drawn to their own blue fishtail-hem topper. It took me a while to order it, because I couldn't find it in stores to try on for size - but when the Thanksgiving sales started to hit, I pounced (I paid $30). I got it. I wore it. I LOVED it so much I bought it in alabaster, too (to be dyed red).

The coat is lightweight, but well constructed. It feels solid, and the metal zipper, snaps, and thoughtful design elements make it look way more expensive than it is (even at full price, it'd be way cheaper than they'd ask for something similar at Urban Outfitters). I'm 5'4" with a 33-inch chest, and the XS fits in a nice, closely tailored way, hitting just above the knee in the front. I could also see sizing up for a more relaxed vibe. If you have long arms, the sleeves might be short for you. For me, I like how the cuffs of my shirts can peek out.

The similarity my anorak to the Toast parka didn't even hit me until just recently, when I logged on to Toast to see if they had any new stock to wistfully ogle from afar... I was already pleased as punch with my coat, but the fact that I'd basically secured something I'd assumed I could never have - and for about 88% off -  just made my day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Custom Thrift Shop Party!

A good number of people have asked me to take them to the swap meets over the years, but  few have actually enjoyed the experience. It's understandable; it takes a specific personality to enjoy sifting through mounds of unwashed WTFs looking for a few precious gems (if you've ever thrifted with the thrift-averse, you know what I mean). Because of this, when a few of my former coworkers expressed interest in the swap meet, I didn't press it or take the initiative as I'd done in the past. I figured that, if they really wanted to go, they'd hit me up... it never really worked out.

Cut to a couple of months ago: inspiration hit. I knew there were people out there who wanted to shop secondhand but who a) didn't have the time, or b) weren't cut out for the process. I figured I could cut out the time and the process by just doing the shopping myself, picking up a bunch of stuff in their sizes and styles, and inviting them over to choose what they liked. It would be like a custom thrift store, where everything was cute, and everything fit!

I shopped, I bought, I dry-cleaned, I steamed. My friends got to come over and shop with a mirror, fitting room, and snacks. Three wonderful ladies agreed to test drive my hair-brained scheme.

I asked $8 for tops and sweaters, $12 for dresses, $20 for odds and ends that I'd actually paid - gasp! - retail prices for and needed to recoup some of the losses. I aimed for just above Goodwill pricing, to account for transportation costs, cleaning costs, and just a little for time and effort.

Friend #1 left with a cute Ann Taylor wrap dress, vintage periwinkle sweater, and Chaiken ruched wool skirt. Total: $28. Retail comparison: $118 for an AT dress, $436 for a Chaiken skirt.

Friend #2 left with an sheer blouse, cashmere Ann Taylor top, Gap wool sheath dress, seasonless wool Escada dress pants, H&M blouse, Garnet Hill burgundy cashmere cardigan, and leather belt. Total: $81. Retail comparison: $228 for short-sleeved Ann Taylor cashmere, $70 for a wool dress at Gap, $595 for Escada dress pants, $30 for an H&M cotton blouse, $148 for a Garnet Hill cashmere cardi.

Friend #3 took home a Free People sweater jacket, BCBG sheath dress, red Italian blazer, French made polka dot pencil skirt, J. Crew pencil skirt, and gray midi skirt. Retail comparison: $100 for a Free People sweater jacket, $300 for a BCBG LBD, $118 for a printed J. Crew pencil skirt. I don't know how to price the Italian and French brands, but they were darn sure more than 8 bucks.

Aside: See that picture at the top left? I don't know what I did to deserve such awesome friends, but my guests also colluded to bring me some early-birthday cookies and mini-cheesecakes made by her cousin. Three words: to die for!  In a world without consequence or calories, I would have devoured the lot in a single sitting. No hyperbole. 

How about you? Do you ever use your thrifty powers for the greater good? If you don't shop for your friends directly, do you help them spot deals online? Do people ask you about thrifty shopping, or are they just not interested?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Retail Review: Macy's Men's Fragrances

Alternate title: Insults: Very Poor Sales Tactics

While out doing a little holiday shopping, my husband and I were recently appalled by the actions of a sales associate in the Men's Fragrance department of the South Bay Galleria Macy's.

We passed through Macy's - hand in hand - on our way to lunch. We had planned to return to the store afterward, as I had a Macy's gift card and also needed to buy Christmas gifts. On our way through, a man promoting a new cologne jumped out in front of us.

"Hey man, buy this new cologne, and the girls will be swarming all over you," he said, following us as we walked.

My first thought: "What? Am I such a troll that my husband needs this miracle tonic to attract a new, better selection of women?" But it's December, and I'm sentimental, so I bit my tongue and simply explained that my husband is allergic (which is true; I've spent years collecting a precious few perfumes that he can tolerate).

"Allergic to what?" The salesman laughed derisively. "Girls?"

Oh. No. A sales associate did not just question my man's sexual orientation, did he? Was I hallucinating? Were we really talking to a guy hawking designer impostor sprays out of his Ford Club Wagon? Nope. It was really Macy's. If you don't buy Cologne X, then you probably like dudes - super classy slogan, eh? -_-

I was fuming and ready to read this guy the riot act, but my husband was hungry and pulled me away. Still, I could not get out of my mind how rude and inappropriate this sales person was, and I just finished writing a complaint to the company.

It is never good business to insult a potential customer's significant other. It is not appropriate to "tempt" a man with some kind of self-professed babe magnet right there in front of his significant other. Even if he did not see our rings, we were clearly holding hands, part of a couple. The sales associate showed blatant disrespect for me and my relationship by assuming that my husband must want women to swarm him if he's out with me.

It is also never good business to insult a potential customer directly - no matter what you're trying to sell. If my husband had not been my husband, and was instead a homosexual friend, this employee's derogatory comment about him being "allergic to girls" would definitely open Macy's up to discrimination or sexual harassment complaints. I don't know who is training the sales staff to insult potential customers, but the practice is inexcusable.

I am currently awaiting a reply from Macy's, and I hope that the company can use this incident to improve its level of service. The main hit to them: I have absolutely no idea which fragrance the SA was trying to sell. The product was completely overshadowed by our bad experience. Now, even if I thought of someone else who might like new cologne (my dad? my cousin? a crazy uncle with overactive sweat glands?) I will definitely not think of the product promoted - and I will definitely steer clear of Macy's.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts on Thrifty Gifts

We're coming up on a season of gift-giving once again, and that always brings a conflict of emotions: we all want to get our loved-ones marvelous gifts, yet we also want to get a good deal, yet we don't want to look too miserly. If you have a large family or circle of friends, it can be especially tough to get everyone something special without breaking the bank. Usually, you solve your budget problems by shopping at thrift stores and such - but is it okay to buy secondhand goods as gifts?

Before you skip off to the swap meet and 99 Cents store to buy all your gifts, consider a few factors:

Are you shopping for someone who would appreciate secondhand stuff?
Some people love thrifted treasures. They love unique items with history behind them, and receiving something that took time and effort to choose will thrill them to no end. But some people think secondhand goods are haunted (don't laugh! one of my mother's friends was from a culture that feels objects are imbued with energy from their owners), and some people simply prefer modern designs to vintage ones. There's no right or wrong about this; it's just about choosing something in line with the recipient's tastes.

Is the secondhand item you're considering truly special? Or is it just cheap?
If I'm planning to buy a secondhand item for someone, it's usually because it strikes me as exceptional in some way. It's the prettiest one of its kind that I've seen. It goes perfectly with a friend's decor. It made me gasp or laugh out loud. It's of amazing quality and I can't believe that anyone ever parted with it and I wish it could be mine mine mine, but it would look so much better on my BFF. It's not simply a used version of a generic item you could find at any Target in America.

How much time do you have to shop?
I usually keep my eyes peeled for gifts at the swap meet all year long - but if December is suddenly upon me and I need to get that gift in the mail NOW, its too late to wade through the rough looking for a diamond. In this case, instead of choosing something in a hurry, without much thought, I'd rather buy a gift card and let the recipient take their time finding the perfect thing.

I've received some truly awesome secondhand items (including a fantastic vintage lion-head door knocker) that I went completely over the moon over - so, yes, believe me when I say that secondhand items can make fantastic gifts. Leave yourself plenty of time to sift through the used wares, keep the gift personal, and pay extra attention to quality, and your secondhand (read: vintage! antique! retro! lol) gift just might seem even more special than a brand-spankin' new one. Because, really, it is the thought that counts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Sell on Ebay

I'm a huge advocate of funding a splurge by reselling unwanted items you already own (i.e. "liquidating assets") - as such, it seems high time that I share a little on how to make that happen.

Before the Sale
1) Sign up for a Paypal account. You used to be able to sell without Paypal, but now it's required.

2) If you don't already have an Ebay account, sign up for one now.

3) Take several good pictures of your items. Show all relevant details/selling points. Do your absolute best to accurately represent the item in color, texture, and scale. You may want to use the macro setting on your camera to show a  pattern or weave better, or you may want to set your item next to a ruler or magazine to show scale.

4) Get listing. The actual listing process is super duper easy: you take a picture of your item and then just click on the "Sell" button over at Ebay, follow the prompts, and fill in the blanks. Ebay has pretty much done away with listing fees, now charging you only if your item sells, so don't be scared to give it a try. The hardest part is truly, honestly, writing up a good description. A good description will make your item sound appealing and - almost more importantly - minimize the potential for refund demands and bad feedback.
Tips for the Description:
  • Size - Don't stop at listing the size on the tag. If you don't have a ruler somewhere in your house, buy one for a buck before you proceed. People will ask you to measure things. If you won't provide measurements, then you have no leg to stand on when a buyer complains that something doesn't fit.
  • Composition - List the fiber content, types of seams used (princess, darts, gussets, exposed, etc.), whether or not it is lined. The more informed the buyer is at time of purchase, the less likely they are to feel surprised or let down upon receipt.
  • Color - All monitors are slightly different, so don't let your pictures speak for themselves. Also avoid using the "Crayola" names for colors, as there is definitely someone out there who will picture "chartreuse" when you say, "citron." I prefer to compare the colors of my listed items to items in the collective consciousness - baby chicks, circus peanuts, Cayenne pepper, broccoli, and so forth.
  • Condition - Be brutally honest. If you can tell it's been used, but still in good condition, say, "You can tell it's been used, but it's still in good condition." If it reeks of cigarette smoke, say so. If anything, play up the faults so that your customers are pleasantly surprised rather than painfully let down. You may take longer to sell your item - or receive a little less for it - but that's much better than giving a refund and dealing with angry people.
5) Set your price.
  1. Open a new window or tab in your browser and log onto Ebay (don't close your current listing window). Do a very general search for the item you want to sell (e.g. Tahari skirt). Leave off anything too specific, like color or size, because you want to make sure you get a good sample to work from. Narrow your search using the check boxes on the left to view only "pre-owned," "new," "new with tags," or "new with defects" items, as relevant.
  2. Click the check box on the left that says, "View Completed Listings." This will pull up a list of all the recent items listed that are similar to the one you'd like to list. Items that sold successfully show as green, while items that failed to sell show in red.
  3. Determine a good listing price for your item based on previous successful sales. It may help you to sort your results by price and set your price within the range that had the most successful sales. I like to price my items on the low end of that range. Don't forget to take Ebay and Paypal fees into account! I am not going to list the fees here, since they are subject to change - better to go straight to the horse's mouth.
  4. Fill in your list price as your "Starting Bid." This should be the lowest amount that you would be willing to accept for your item - don't start your bid at $0.99 unless you'd be happy with a sale for $0.99!
Example of Completed Listings Search       

Screencap of Sort Feature

    Note: Ebay's Selling page contains a tool that is supposed to determine how much your item is worth. I don't trust this tool and much prefer to look at the hard data myself.

    6) Set your selling parameters. As you go through your listing you will have the options to specify who (if anyone) to exclude from your listing (e.g. buyers with very bad feedback, international buyers, etc.), what kind of shipping you will provide, your return policy, which Paypal account you'd like to receive the payment, shipping price, and handling time.

    Selling suggestions...

    For busy people:
    • Go ahead and exclude International buyers. International shipping requires you to physically stand in line and fill out a customs form during operating, whereas domestic shipping can be printed online and simply dropped off at the post - no waiting. Many post offices also open up their PO Box and drop box area before operating hours, allowing you to make a quick run in the morning before work.
    • Do NOT offer local pickup - local pickup means that you will have to coordinate a rendezvous with the buyer, rather than dropping by the post office at your convenience.
    For everyone:
    •  Give yourself a little more handling time than you think you need, just in case an emergency or illness comes up. As long as you ship your item within your stated handling time, buyers cannot give you low ratings for shipping (event though they can give negative overall feedback at their discretion - more on this below).
    • I recommend stating a No Returns policy, unless you really want to run a business here. If you're just cleaning out your closet, set the expectation with the buyer that you won't expect returns - otherwise you will have to deal with buyers who didn't bother to read measurements and just wanted to try things on. Also, Ebay and Paypal's policys pretty much force you to accept returns, anyway, in the event that the buyer is seriously unhappy, so there is no need to offer returns on your page to cover possible errors on your part. You can always make an exception, but the expectation of no returns will save you time and hassle.
    • If anyone sends you messages that are insulting (Would you accept 1/24th your asking price for the item? In the form of a post-dated, out-of-state check?), demanding or belligerent (THIS IS RIDICULOUS I LIVE VERY CLOSE TO THE AREA SO WHY CAN'T I DO LOCAL PICKUP???!! GET OVER YOURSELF I DON'T WANT TO KIDNAP YOU OR ANYTHING!), or just plain indecipherable, I would block their user ID immediately. Poor communication can easily turn into unhappiness on both ends - and negative feedback on yours.
    Example of Buyer Requirements and No-Returns Policy

    Screencap of Shipping & Handling Options with NO LOCAL PICKUP, NO INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING, and 3 DAYS HANDLING specified

       After the Sale
      1) Do not ship until you have received a cleared payment. A clear payment is demarkated under My Ebay> Selling by a highlighted dollar sign icon. You can also log into Paypal to view cleare payments.

      Example of highlighted icons - a GRAY dollar sign means you have NOT received payment

      2) Never agree to ship to any address other than the address the buyer indicated on the payment. Paypal and Ebay will NOT recognize the item as delivered unless the desination address and payment addresses match - if they do not, then the buyer can claim that the package was never received and basically get the item for free (definitely not always the goal, but a few dishonest people ruined it for everyone). Offer to refund the payment and send a new invoice so that the buyer can fill in the corrected shipping address. If they get upset about this, it may be better to simply cancel the transaction and refund the payment anyway. You can verify the address by clicking on your listing, then clicking on the View Order Details link.

      Options Menu that appears in a sold item listing

      3) Make sure you pack your item so it will not be damaged in transit. Use sturdy boxes, sufficient padding, and maybe slip the item into a plastic bag in case of rain.

      4) If shipping with USPS, always buy delivery confirmation! Tracking is a bonus for the buyers, but the real value is that you have documented proof that your item was delivered to the address your buyer indicated.

      5) Shipping companies don't always scan every package at every stop, especially during high volume periods (e.g. the holiday season). If a buyer asks you why the package isn't tracking, just let them know this and ask them to be patient. I've had plenty of tracking issues, but nothing has gone missing yet (knock on wood).

      In the Event of Conflict
      If the buyer claims that they have not received their item, the first thing you should do is check the tracking information to verify that that claim. Under My Ebay> Selling, scroll down to the Sold section and click on the tracking number for the item in question. A tracking window will pop up with delivery information.

      Example of tracking information screen.

      Most of the time, I'd rather offer to refund a few dollars to make the buyer happy - even if I don't necessarily agree with them. I'm not selling super high-dollar items, so I'd rather spend a couple bucks to avoid bad feedback. Paypal hardly ever sides with sellers, so it is in your interest to make the buyer happy. Do this through Paypal.

      If someone is being particularly nasty or unreasonable (e.g. demanding a refund while refusing to return the item or complaining about an issue that was clearly listed in your description), I ask them to please file a claim with Ebay to initiate the refund process. This might seem counter-intuative, since now Ebay basically has to help satisfy your customer, but this is the only way you can combat the bogus refund demands that have started to plague Ebay. Ebay might still side with the buyer, but at least Ebay will have a record of the dispute and the ability to track buyers who ask for an inordinate amount of refunds.

      In the above case, I would definitely also block the buyer as well, so that they cannot cause any further stress by buying another item from you.

      ...And there you have it! Whew! I promise, it is not as complicated as it seems once you get started and get in the swing of things - especially since Ebay auto-fills most of your selling preferences (return policy, buyer requirements, etc.) after the first time. Now that Ebay only charges its fees when and if your item sells, moreover, it's a pretty risk-free venture. Now, get out there and fund some new purchases by selling unwanted stuff... and if you maybe-sorta-kinda pass on those unused gifts from holidays past, I promise I won't tell. ;)

      Sunday, November 20, 2011

      $1 Dry Shampoo :D

      Step one: Get thee to a Dollar Store.

      Step two: Buy a shaker of baby powder (make sure you get one with cornstarch in it).

      Step three: Scurry back home and apply baby powder to your greasy bangs/roots.

      Step four: Brush the powder through hair until you no longer have white, powdery bangs/roots.

      Step five: Party!

      Second-day bangs: weighed-down, threatening to go stringy by about 10am

      Baby powder applied to bangs

      Initial brush-through

      Baby powder applied to roots

      Second brush-through - bangs are way less heavy! Continue brushing until all powder is gone.

      Note: I did try Suave's dry shampoo as an alternative that might cut down on brushing time (I'm laaaaaazy), but that stuff smells terrible! It reminds me of when I first started using deodorant and chose a really cheap, terrible, tropical-pineapple-scented deal that mixed with the BO instead of preventing it. Yak. The baby powder is much better.

      Thursday, November 10, 2011

      The 40-Cents/Week Custom-Blend Oil Cleanser

      Cleansing oils really seem to be taking the beauty industry by storm recently. Every time I look at my blog roll, it seems like I see that another beauty line has introduced their own version. The concept, based on the idea that the oils (lipids) on your face are lipid-soluble rather than water-soluble and should, therefore, be dissolved easily and gently with other oils, is really attractive - who wants to put harsh chemicals on their face if they don't have to? The prices of these cleansing oils, however, all look painfully expensive: Shiseido - $25, L'Occitane - $22, Shu Uemura - $34.

      But never fear! The Oil Cleasning Method has been around a lot longer than the cleansing oil fad, and it can be implemented on the super duper cheap. All you need is 2-3 ingredients, all found at your local grocery/drug store.
      • Castor Oil - $5
      • Vegetable oil of choice (popular ones include EVOO - $6, sunflower Seed Oil - $8)
      • Tea Tree Oil (optional) - $8
      All you do is mix the oils, massage them into your face, steam your face with a washcloth, and wipe the oils away (longer explanation here). The vegetable oil helps penetrate your pores, the castor oil adheres to the excess oil in your skin, the Tea Tree Oil helps kill bacteria, the steam makes your face sweat, and the sweat pushes the oil back out of your pores. The result: bye-bye clogged pores!

      The ratio of oils will vary by individual, but this is a good starting point (from the link above):
      • Oily Skin: Try a blend of 30% Castor Oil to 70% Sunflower Seed Oil.
      • Balanced Skin: Try a blend of 20% Castor Oil to 80% Sunflower Seed Oil.
      • Dry Skin: Try a blend of 10% Castor Oil to 90% Sunflower Seed Oil.
      I used to pre-measure my oils and keep them in a special bottle I found at the 99 Cents Only store, but I found it messy and restrictive - some days, my face was more oily, and some days it was more dry. Now, I just dribble out the droplets that I need onto a flat cotton pad (I worked it out to a quarter size of Castor oil, four drops of Camellia Oil (my vegetable oil of choice), and one drop of Tea Tree Oil for a normal day). This way, I don't have to bother transferring the oils to a new bottle or anything, and I can add or subtract from the formula based on current needs.

      I used to struggle mightily with cystic acne, and I used to dry my skin out with ridiculous amounts of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Oil Cleansing has not only managed the cysts wonderfully, but it also keeps my skin so much more moisturized that the wrinkles that once threatened (at the ripe old age of 19 - yikes!) have gone away. Double awesome.

      The best part? These three bottles of oils will last me the whole year, provided that I don't contaminate them (by putting my fingers on the dispensers, leaving them open to the air, etc). That means I spend a grand total of $21 for the hear on cleanser - a whopping $0.40 per week. Now that's a deal!

      Monday, November 7, 2011

      Using the Golden Mean and the Camera to Adjust Proportions

      One of my favorite posts of all time is Imogen of Inside Out Style's take on the Golden Mean/Fibonacci Numbers in relation to outfits. I've no head for the math, but the gist of it is that the human eye naturally finds certain ratios visually appealing -- and, as Imogen writes, "[g]iven that we find things that use this ratio so aesthetically pleasing (fern fronds, snail shells, snow flakes) it has also been found that when we dress in this ratio we are also more fabulous."

      The ratios:
      8:13 etc.
      Now, here's where I would sometimes get hung up: if I'm human, and if humans naturally find these ratios most appealing, and if my goal is to dress in the most appealing way possible, then shouldn't I gravitate toward these ratios in the first place? Totally. But haven't we all experienced the dreaded, in-store skinny mirror? They're basically toned-down fun-house mirrors, and most of our in-home mirrors are just as misleading (if not as flattering). If you don't have the cash to invest in a macho mirror supreme, you can get a more accurate image - and more accurately adjust your outfit ratios - by using your camera. Get a slightly-zoomed, straight on, mid-height shot with the camera, as crazy camera angles will distort your body, too.

      Here's the outfit I started out with this morning. Because of the high neck and long body of the sweater, my belt placement, and the contrast of the skirt, I've created some very distinct horizontal lines. My bust looks unnaturally large compared to my rise, my rise looks unnaturally long compared to my legs, and my legs look quite stumpy despite my high heels. My legs (from toes to bottom line) look to have a 1:1 ratio with the rest of me (bottom line to top of head). 1:1 is not a Fibonacci number - no good!

      This looks much better - my bottom half is noticeably longer than my top half, closer to falling in line with the golden ratios. But now something still feels off with my torso. The widening effect of the turtleneck, combined with my on-the-fuller-side bust and on-the-fuller-side-waistline, makes for a big, 1x1-squarish expanse of neck/shoulder/boob.

       Here's what I ended up with. The high waist line makes my legs look noticeably longer than the torso, and the diagonal lines of the blazer fool the eye into thinking that my shoulder-waist and waist-hip ratios are more exaggerated and less squarish. 

      Oh! And I totally lied yesterday when I said I have no new swap meet finds to share - it'd just been so long that I'd forgotten about this $5 map-print bag and this $1 Zara turtleneck. Blazer is an old $1 swap favorite, tights from 99 Cents Only, boots from Ebay ages ago, necklace was a gift. 

      To tie this all back into One-Dollar Wonderland, the point of my story is that it doesn't matter how cheap or expensive your clothes are. As long as you have a fairly accurate self-image (brought to you by way of a quality mirror or via quality camera work), you can always flatter your figure by manipulating the relative proportions created by the lines of your garments.

      Sunday, November 6, 2011

      Faux Shearling from Forever 21!

      Howdy, hep cats! Long time no blog!

      I just recently started a new job, so I've been super busy getting all my ducks in a row and brainstorming on how I will adjust to a new, more relaxed dress code. I also just got sick, and it's been raining a bit here, so my swap meet foraging has been heftily hampered. Ergo, no new $1 finds right now.

      Action shot from shopping trip.

      Styled for cold night out to Korean BBQ
      However, I thought I'd share this fantabulous deal of a Forever 21 jacket with you (second pic lightened to show more detail)! It is black-on-black faux shearling, and something about both the color and fabrication makes it look way more expensive and convincing than a lot of the faux goods currently out there. When I tried it on, one of my shopping buddies popped the collar, and I instantly saw Burberry Aviator - as they say on icanhascheezburger, "What has been seen cannot be unseen." My shopping buddies would not let me leave without it.

      Burberry shearling aviator.

      Mine doesn't seem to be current stock on the F21 website, but your local store might still have it. They also have other faux shearling options that look mighty cute, so I'd take a look if you've been hunting for something like this. I paid $37.80. :)

      Tuesday, October 11, 2011

      Appearance on 40+ Style!

      I am happy to be catching up on my thank-you posts this week after so much craziness surrounding my upcoming job change!

      I'm super excited to share that the fabulous Sylvia of 40+ Style was kind enough to include me in her recent post discussing individual style statements. I contributed a very short blurb outlining my personal style and the specific elements that help achieve it. This topic is very close to my heart, as it really helped make fashion click for me. Sometimes, even if you dress in the most fashionable outfit, you won't feel your best if you don't feel like yourself. Thanks, Sylvia, for addressing this important topic - and for allowing me to be a part of it. :D

      If you don't already follow 40+ Style, please take a moment to click over and explore a really well-done blog that covers everything from clothes to hair to beauty issues. Although the blog is geared towared women over 40, a lot of the content is relevant to women of any age who want to look and feel their best!

      Monday, October 10, 2011

      Guest Post on Inside Out Style!

      I can't tell you how positively elated I was when Imogen Lamport offered me the chance to write a guest post for her blog, Inside Out Style! Inside Out Style is one of my favorite fashion sites in general and, as far as I'm concerned, it is the place to go for in-depth articles on body type and proportions. While these topics can sometimes seem a bit fuzzy/touchy-feely/ephemeral - as in, that dreaded feeling that you either get it or you never will - Imogen lays things out with clear, easily-reproduced diagrams, pictures, and self-tests.

      It's clear that I respect and admire my blogging sunbae so, if you don't already follow Inside Out Style, I'd be thrilled if you would pop over and check out my post in the Stylish Thoughts series - before continuing on to the rest of Imogen's wonderful site, of course!

      Friday, October 7, 2011

      E.L.F. Makeup - Before and After Review

      Hello again! After my last post, lovely reader Laura asked about the coverage and color accuracy of the E.L.F. mineral products. My reply became very long-winded, so I thought I'd bite the bullet and turn it into a real makeup review. 

      Before we begin, let me tell you: I am no makeup guru. Left to its own devices and deprived of its daily dose of zinc and malic/mandelic acid serum, it's sensitive, prone to cystic acne, and pretty darn oily. Add to that the fact that I refuse to spend much on my makeup, and just I can't have too much stuff on my face. I also lack the patience required to apply said stuff in anything resembling a professional - or even practiced - manner. There won't be a super-drastic change.

      With that out of the way, behold: my large-scale, bangs-free, nekkid face! This photo is complete with pock marks and dark spots from where I have recently been picking at my pores (I do this when I am stressed out, and job hunting has recently left me pretty stressed). Keep in mind that the pock marks are actually indentations in my skin, and they can never fully be erased by makeup. Also note how my face is naturally a different color than my neck and shoulders - it's not that I'm too dumb to match my makeup to my skin, I swear!

       Next, we have the concealer-application shot. I use the warm shade, and I'd say the promo shot on the E.L.F. site is accurate (though I know some monitors may project the colors differently).

      Aaaand, here I am with the concealer blended in. The spots on my nose and chin are less prominent. :)

      Here we have a real-life shot of the the Mineral Foundation in the warm shade (for medium skin with neutral undertones, which I chose because I definitely don't have warm undertones). Clicking back and forth between these pictures, I'd say that the foundation is the teensiest smidge darker than the promo shot, and I don't know what's up with that gray-beige smudge that's supposed to show you how the product looks when blended...

      Here is my face post-foundation.  Check out how asymmetrical my eyes are - this is why I wear bangs. :)

      Next up: the All Over Color Stick in Lilac Petal (left) and Pink Lemonade (right) as well as the Mineral Blush in Rose (below). The color sticks go on much more silvery than the promo shots, and the blush is more pink than its peachy promo pic would let on. I left the blush out of my previous review, because I prefer the look of my 99 Cents Only store blush, but this stuff is good, too.

      Here, I've applied blush, Lilac Petal to my cheeks, and Pink Lemonade to my eyelids, using the color stick as a highlighter. I usually only do this for special occasions. I tried to get a shot that showed how the shimmer in the color sticks. I've also applied LipSense lip color in Roseberry (not $1 or particularly cheap, but I bought some for my wedding, and I like how it looks under the color sticks).

      And finally, here's the full effect with the Pink Lemonade Color Stick over my lip color. Pock marks are still visible, but the acne spots are covered.

      Before and after. 

      The shots above are all done with flash; for an idea of how this all looks in natural light (and to allow me a moment to indulge my inner bridezilla), check out a couple of photos from our kooky wedding photo session, shot by my super-talented father. :)

      I am out of my Mineral Booster in Sheer, so I could not apply any above, but I did use a light dusting of that over everything for the pictures below. I Photoshopped these myself, and I did not feel the need to retouch my face - hooray for makeup! It was cheap and saved me retouching fees!

      Thursday, October 6, 2011

      One Dollar Makeup: www.eyeslipsface.com

      I've been using eyes lips face makeup - better known as E.L.F - for about three years. Now, I don't wear that much makeup, but that makes me even more loathe to shell out big bucks for it. Here are a few of my favorite, tried-and-true products! I love how E.L.F offers different price ranges within the same brand and posts lots of customer reviews.

        I know: I'm leading with products that cost more than $1! Bait and switch! Bait and switch! Sorry, the $1 stuff is coming, but I had to mention the mineral powder - my oily, shiny skin loves it. I don't use this stuff every day, but I bust out the mineral foundation, concealer, and booster when I know I'll be photographed (family events, holidays, birthday parties). If there's anything I hate, it's photo-documentation of a bad skin day. -_-

      I also use the blushing brush and eyeshadow brush. I've bought other brushes and brush sets at the 99 Cents Only store in the past, and those have fallen apart after only a few uses. The E.L.F brushes stand up to their tasks, and they're so cheap I feel better about replacing them more frequently - so they are really a great investment in sanitation as well as beautification. :)

      Rounding out the set, we have the All Over Color Stick. The color stick is a bit more metallic than it looks on the website, but I love it. My lips are unevenly pigmented, so a little shimmer is nice to obscure that. I use this product over my lip color, on my cheeks as a highlighter, and as an eyeshadow - three products for $1 is phenomenal! A little goes a long way, too, so it lasts forever. 

      The only downside to E.L.F. is shipping - about $6 for your lot normally, but they have pretty regular shipping promotions. At the moment, shipping is just $2 if you spend over $15. 

      I have sensitive skin, and I have never had a problem with these products making me break out or itch. I don't know how my sensitivity may compare to yours, but I usually cannot wear mascara or eyeshadow, even by Clinique and other hypoallergenic brands.

      Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      "I don't rely on mirrors, so I always take polaroids."

      Buying stuff for a buck can be difficult sometimes. You can't try things on at the swap meet. You can't return them. You can't exchange them if they don't fall in nicely with the rest of your wardrobe. Sometimes, you just have to eat a loss - and that's fine, as a couple of dollars is an acceptable loss. Still, no one likes to lose money, so it sets my mind a little more at ease about things if I make a true, concerted effort to incorporate an item before I say goodbye.

      Take, for example, this vintage, faux Missoni top (Yes, folks have been knocking off Missoni since before I was born!), which I'd bought months ago but couldn't figure out how to style. I thought I'd give it a shot last night, and this is the first outfit I came up with:

      Ann Taylor Jacket, $1 - Mock Missoni Top, $1 - Patent Belt, $1 - J. Crew Cords, $40? at J. Crew Outlet - Pumps, $40 at Ross - Makowsky Bag, even exchange after reselling my previous green bag.

      Ok, aside from my horribly flat, lifeless hairdo here, as soon as I saw this picture, I knew I wasn't thrilled. That's the jacket I usually wear with dresses, so it's too cropped for these pants. I also don't feel good with the top buttoned up all the way. And there's just too much black going on. If I had worn this out to work, I would have caught site of myself in the mirror at lunch, cringed, and dumped my poor Mock Missoni into the donate pile as soon as I arrived home.

      Cher was right; cameras are much more reliable tools than mirrors. The camera helped me edit and re-edit this outfit until I was happy to keep my top.

      Same outfit as above, but with a $3 necklace in an attempt to lower neckline.

      Same outfit as original, but with shirt collar unbuttoned.

      Swapped in: Tweedy Jacket, $1 - Carlos Santana Pumps, $40 at Ross - Cettu Bag, $10 at Swap Meet - Boys Over Flowers Star Necklace (replica of the necklace from one of my favorite Korean Dramas!), $4 off Ebay

      Same outfit as above, but with hair down - much better!

      These are the two outfits I was finally happy with - I would wear the un-tucked version on Fridays, and I plan to wear the tucked-and-belted version today:

      Same outfit as above, but with original bag.

      Same outfit as above, but with shirt tucked in and $2 belt added.
      See, it wasn't poor Mock Missoni's fault the outfit wasn't working - it was mine! I had it buttoned totally wrong, and I had it paired with too many dark colors.

      Thank you for saving this fun top, Mr. Camera. You can never die, okay? Okay. It's a deal. No take-backs.