Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Casual Challenge: Weeks 3 & 4

July isn't officially over yet, but our "month" of getting to wear denim to work wrapped up this past Friday.  To ensure there was no confusion, we got the memo confirming as much at the end of the week.  Whomp, whomp.

In a weird way, I'm sort of looking forward to resuming my typical work uniform.  Granted, I probably dressed up my jeans more than most of my coworkers did.  While many of them gladly sported t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, and an impressive array of short-sleeved plaid button downs (yes, I work with mostly dudes), I rocked out a few ruffles and heels.  My last-minute investment in a few denim pencil skirts definitely helped lend some polish to all the jeanswear.

Below, I bring you the last half of my casual challenge...

Monday, 7/16:
Um, yeah.  I had a total case of the Mondays.  Forgot to take a pic.

Tuesday, 7/17:

Cardi - J. Crew
Top - from Anthropologie
Skirt - James Jeans
Shoes - again, the Skechers

Wednesday, 7/18:

Cotton shrug - Marc New York
Tunic - Leo & Sage
Jeans - CoH
Jewelry - Karin Jacobson Design

Thursday, 7/19:

Tunic - Kimchi & Blue
Jeans - CoH
Shoes - Cole Haan
Sunglasses - prescription from Target Optical

Friday, 7/20:

Top - Marni for H&M collaboration
Jeans - AG Jeans
Shoes - Gola
Food - courtesy of Get Sauced food truck
Backdrop - the retro-cool IDS Center (I think one of the opening scenes from the Mary Tyler Moore show was shot in here)

Monday, 7/23:

Top - Tory Burch (from a few years back)
Skirt - Halogen

Tuesday, 7/24:

Tunic - The Webster at Target collaboration
Jeans - CoH
Necklace - vintage, from the now-closed Ivy boutique
Shoes - Cole Haan

Wednesday, 7/25:

Top - another Marni for H&M creation
Skirt - Mossimo
Shoes - Chie Mahara
Backdrop - the ill-fated Neiman Marcus :(

Thursday, 7/26:

Tunic - Twelfth Street for Cynthia Vincent (another closet rediscovery!)
Jeans - CoH
Bracelet - gift from a friend
Ring - bought in Tanzania
Shoes - Diane von Furstenberg (coveted these in Vegas and called back a week later to find out they'd gone on sale - yeah!)

And finally, Friday, 7/27:

Top - Hi Panda (bought in Paris)
Jeans (not visible) - CoH

And that's the Month of Denim, AKA my Casual Challenge!

As you can see, I started off kinda schlubby and then got my act together by mid-week.  Some days, it's just a pain to make the effort, right?  Especially when the weather is like the movie Groundhog Day - highs in the mid 90's, maybe a chance of rain.  Every darn day.

Overall,  I did enjoy my self-appointed mission to move beyond my 4-5 summer outfits.  By telling myself to try super hard not to repeat an ensemble, it forced me to get creative and shop my closet, resulting in some great finds that hadn't seen the light of day in a few years.  And the jean skirts, the only purchases made specifically for this month, served as a good base (along with my rotation of jeans) for the multitude of tops and tunics.  I also like to justify the new acquisitions as pieces that'll transition well into Fall.

Speaking of which...  who else can't wait for all those September magazines to arrive in their mailbox?  Of course, Vogue promises to deliver an issue packed with all sorts of things to ooh and ahh over.  I'm sure my InStyle and Lucky will also get a bunch of earmarks.

Which magazines are you snapping up for their annual Fall fashion celebration?  Have you done a bit of "back to school" shopping yourself?  Bookmarked a stunning purse, dress, or pair of shoes?  Or is the summer heat and humidity chasing the very thought of anything wool or tweed right out of your head?

Images - my own

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ugh. Again. Really?!

Guess what today is, my lovely readers?  Why...  it's National Margarita Day!  Yessssssssssss!  My favorite cocktail in the world.  Besides a sazerac, maybe.  My friends all know I adore the tequila-based concoction, even better when there's some mezcal to be had.  Smoky deliciousness.  Worm optional (kidding).

And I'm gonna need a marg tonight, because I'm still pouting from the latest bad news on the regional retail front.

2012 was only a few days old when it was announced that Bloomingdale's planned to close their Twin Cities' location.  While I wasn't a big fan of that particular store (low ceilings, odd maze-like layout), I still bemoaned the loss of the large department chain because of its selection and symbolism.  The former in that it offered many brands that I liked; the latter as it showed this metro did, in fact, have good shopping.  I think many people assume the Midwest, with the exception of Chicago, is a retailing abyss.  And it's not.  It's so not!  But with the semi-recent closure of Marshall Field's and many fabulous, independent boutiques such as Ivy, Lava Lounge, and Josie Wert, things had been pointing in a troublesome direction.

While the suburbs still thrived (hello, Mall of America), good shopping within Minneapolis itself was starting to look like an endangered species.

"Well," I sighed, "at least we still have Neiman Marcus."

Yeah.  Not so much.  Just six months after the Bloomie's axe fell, I've now learned that pretty much the last upscale store within the city limits is meeting its demise.  You can read about it here.

I know the store is small.  And I know it has an eerie emptiness to it at most hours of the day.  Sales people drift around the floor like lonely apparitions, hoping for a customer to assist.  And yeah, I know we all like to call it "Needless Mark-up" with a sneer.  Still, it's nice to know the place exists.  A plush little oasis for people who can and will buy Jimmy Choo heels and Prada handbags.  Also, let's not forget Last Call on the top floor, where sale prices are waiting to be discovered.

It bums me out to know Minneapolis doesn't have much left for women with a penchant for higher end labels.  Oddly, men have a better selection these days, with Len Druskin Man and MartinPatrick3 in the vicinity.  Now I have to hoof it to Edina or some other suburb to get what the city shouldn't have to lose.  In fact, I was enough of a sad panda to post my dismay on Neiman's Facebook page.  They replied with the same statement released to the media:

Meh.  I know it was an economic decision, but it still, quite frankly, stinks.

Has your city also witnessed the closing of higher-end stores?  Do you care?  Maybe you're a die-hard mallrat who prefers the ability to park and get out, without having to deal with spendy parking fees, city gridlock, and other urban ickies.  Or maybe, like me, you live in the city and love being able to pop into a shop on the way home from work.  Perhaps you're both?  Live in the 'burbs but enjoy a special occasion of shopping in the city?  When I lived in Chicago, my walking commute often took me right down the Mag Mile.  Gotta love having everything from Banana Republic to, yes, Neiman Marcus as your on-the-way-home scenery.  Beats sitting in traffic on the Kennedy Expressway any day.

Returning to the soon-to-shutter store, have you scored a great deal at one of Neiman's sales?  I did earlier this year.  I got a couple pairs of shoes, including one luxury brand, at a cool 70% off.  Here they are:

Yep, I now own a pair of Manolos.  Just like Carrie Bradshaw.  Sort of.  And a great pair of blood red Tory Burch flats, which have already been worn quite a bit.  Now that I've shared, you tell me what your favorite Neiman's purchase has been, whether you prefer city or suburban shopping (or maybe online, depending on where you live), and if you're a local Twin Citian, do you also feel like retail is taking a turn for the worse lately?  I know we're getting an H&M store in Calhoun Square this fall, but it just ain't the same.

Now, off to mix up that margarita...

#1 - screenshot from Neiman Marcus's Facebook page
#2 - my own

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Casual Challenge: Weeks 1 & 2


It’s been a crazy week.  DH recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and I’ve spent the last few days orchestrating, executing, and enjoying his multiple parties (hey, go big or go home, right?).  Additionally, I hit the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale on its opening morning for those with “private access,” which really means people with a Nordstrom card.  I'll share that day of sheer madness in an upcoming entry.

For today’s post, I owe you a round-up of the last 2 weeks of my Casual Challenge.  It's a happy mix of current clothes, some treasures I dug out from the back of the closet, and the 3 skirts I bought especially for the month of denim, mostly because July is turning into a roaster, and pants don't do well with a 105 degree heat index.  With the exception of one day where I forgot to document (I'll repost when my memory returns), here's my summary, so far:

Monday, 7/2:
T-shirt - from a shop in Paris
Skirt - Merona from Target

Tuesday, 7/3:
Top - J. Crew
Skirt - James jeans (haven't worn in years, great to rediscover)

Wednesday, 7/4:
Holiday bonus random super-awkward-pose non-denim photo!
T-shirt - YES!  I finally got my Swan Kick shirt!  Designed by Chow Hon Lam and printed by Threadless, it reminds me of my semi-recent amateur forays into ballet and kickboxing.  Both of which I have not done in awhile, and both of which I miss.
Skirt - 10+ year old J. Crew cargo skirt.
(Really, this is the weirdest angle ever for a picture, but it's the only one I had with the beloved tee.)

Thursday, 7/5:
This is the day I forgot to take a picture or pester someone else to take a picture.  I've also had a total brainfart and can't remember what I wore...

Friday, 7/6:
Top - J. Crew
Jeans - CoH
Shoes - beat to heck Skechers

Monday, 7/9:
Top - J. Crew
Skirt - Halogen from Nordstrom (CC purchase)
Shoes - Rachel Zoe

Tuesday, 7/10:
Cardigan - J. Crew
Necklace & ring - Karin Jacobson Design
Top - Trina Turk
Cami - Banana Republic
Jeans - CoH
Shoes - same ol' Skechers

Wednesday, 7/11:
Top - Theory
Necklace - vintage
Jeans - CoH
Bracelet - Karin Jacobson Design
Shoes - Blay, a closet rediscovery, bought these at the now-closed Chicago boutique, Etré, where I briefly worked, also nearly 10 years ago.

Thursday, 7/12:
Top - Sweet Pea
Skirt - Hudson (CC purchase)
Shoes - Rachel Zoe

Friday, 7/13:
Top - Marc by Marc Jacobs
Bracelet & ring - Karin Jacobson Design
Jeans - CoH
Shoes - loving the dug up Blays
Backdrop - the most excellent Pat's Tap

As you've probably noticed, I love J. Crew for cute work staples and swear by Citizens of Humanity jeans.  Since my workplace prefers "no bare shoulders," the sleeveless outfits were accompanied by some neutral cardigan (like the cream one pictured above), thus rendering them a little less cute but decidedly more appropriate for corporate life.  I also just realized this is about the closest I've come to a typical fashion blog, where outfits are paraded and indexed.  Not usually my style, but maybe it should be on occasion?  What do you think?  

Images:  my own
Backdrops:  home, work, and various restaurants/pubs

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Cloffice

A few months ago, my husband and I underwent a rite of passage with which many of you are already acquainted – we bought a house.  After years of apartment living, we have joined the ranks of you homeowners and now do things that, say, 6 months ago, were unheard of in our vocabulary.  Our typical weekend activities of hitting the latest restaurants, sampling the newest cocktails, and hanging out with friends have now widened to include, you know, trying to figure out what’s a weed and what’s an actual plant (they should make a reality TV show out of this, seriously).

In general, the house is in fabulous shape, and there’s not a lotta “fixin’ up” needing to be done.  However, there’s one major project that has become apparent to me.  Hubby and I have each taken over a spare bedroom, and I’ve christened my own space as “Project Cloffice!”  It kinda needs an exclamation point, when you think about what a process this is going to become.  Also, it’s just fun to say, “Project Cloffice!” with the same urgency and enthusiasm as, "To the batcave!" or, "The plane!  The plane!"  Or not.

And what exactly is a Cloffice?  Why, it’s a closet + office!  Someplace where I can show off a few of my favorite things (Botkier shoes, funky blue felt dress, miniature Lobster Shoe I got at the Alexander McQueen retrospective last summer at the Met), as well as operating as an office, where I can blog from behind the piles of my now-vintage 80’s catalog collection.

It’s ridiculous how giddy I feel when faced with the “task” of creating a new space.  I’ve already scanned the interwebz for all kinds of ideas, scooping up great images and putting them on one of my Pinterest pages (yep, called, “Cloffice Ideas”).  I want the room to feel cozy, not so much like a typical office environment.  Since I may do some outfit assembling in here, I’ll want a staging area, too.  Basically, I want to stick my books, magazines, and such into a chic dressing room. 

One of the biggest hurdles is shelving.  I want some sleek shelves for all my books and CDs.  Um, OK, maybe I really want them for my, er, shoes.  I need something tall, relatively thin, minimal-looking, and ideally not requiring wall attachment.  You’d be surprised at how hard it is to find anything remotely floating my boat.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just going to have to build the dang thing myself.  Armed with an architecture degree, the accompanying mindset that says, “Hey, I can make that!” even when it’s delusional to say so, a full woodshop at my in-laws’ homes, and 2 junior high woodworking classes, I have just enough to be dangerous.  As for a random thought of the day:  Who decided it was a good idea to let a bunch of 12 year-olds get their paws on a drill press, let alone near the table saw?

Other challenges include keeping things movable (if we ever have a kid, this room will probably become the nursery), figuring out the floorplan, and, of course, finding the right furniture. 

Direct from my Pinterest board, here are some retail images that have motivated me to start cleaning, purging, and making space for new stuff:

The bookshelves in white are the perfect backdrop for my shoes - clean and simple.  Not a fan of paying $400 for engineered wood, however.  $1200 if you go with this set up - pretty, but ouch!

After weirdly admiring the Benno CD tower for years, I finally bought this on a very rare trip to IKEA:

A comfy chair in a lively red color makes a nice statement in a room of neutrals.

What a great idea - from Lucky magazine...

To see additional lovely image inspiration from my Cloffice board on Pinterest, you can click here (some of the photos come from blogs, and I want to make sure I'm not stepping on any image right's toes).  You can spy the now discontinued IKEA Lack bookcase that I've wanted forever, as well as some great closets belonging to some lucky people.

I'll keep you posted as this deceptively simple project unfolds.  Have you tackled a similar room re-design?  Did you bite off more than you could chew?  And hey - maybe you know where I can get some great shelves???  

Wish me luck as I head into the forest of Project Cloffice!  Also...  photos from The Casual Challenge:  Week One, are upcoming...

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#4 - photo from my Lucky magazine

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Casual Challenge

Happy July 1st!

The beginning of the second half of the year signifies that we're officially in the midst of summer.  Much of the States is roasting in a heat wave, and that includes us.  While we are not seeing triple-digit degrees, The Weather Channel's 5-day outlook is all "92, 95, 99, 97..."

On top of that, my workplace has announced July as "Casual Month."  This means our Casual Friday dress code (jeans are allowed) applies for 4 weeks.  Yeah, I know, I should be jumping for joy, knowing that I can ditch the skirts and "regular" work uniform for a whole 19 days of cubicle life.  However, I'm sure you also know what it feels like to have denim sticking to your legs in summer humidity and heat.  It's like shoving your gams in a fashion oven.  Add some random mosquitoes that sneak their way inside the hem and up you leg, and you've got yourself a big NO THANKS.

So, I've been on the last-minute quest for denim skirts.  I can't wear A-line very well, maxis are not my style, and minis aren't an option (at least for me, I've seen other gals at my company sporting them - all I have to wonder is, what happens when you sit down??!!).  This makes the knee-length pencil skirt my wardrobe BFF.  After hitting various websites and a few stores, I've got these on order...

A simple, work-appropriate dark wash option from Nordstrom:

This white denim skirt is perfect for summer:

Mixing it up with a floral pattern:

An affordable classic:

A chambray top is another way to incorporate denim (and give me flashbacks of high school):

I have yet to hit places like The Gap, Banana Republic, and other mall staples.  One of the biggest issues I have with jeans skirts is the *fit*.  I'm not sure about you, but many of the ones I've tried on do this weird fit and flare thing, where it hugs my middle, bows in to my thighs, and then shoots off like a rocket at the knee.  Thus giving me a less than flattering silhouette, eh?  The experimenting with cut, fabric, and rise never seems to end.

Do you also wrestle with denim skirts?  Any you consider your Old Faithful?  Is there a brand you swear by?  Do tell.  Depending on how the 4 options I've posted fit, I might be on a crazy mission over the next few days to get me set for a month of blues during a red-hot summer.


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#4 - (via
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