Trying Stitch Fix

I’ve always been super curious about what it would be like to have a personal stylist. In my head, it’s like having a sister/best friend who gets you and so knows your style instinctively and yet would push you to take a few risks, steer you away from yet another little black dress and sensible black pumps, and of course knows all the best places to shop. Clearly, this is fantasy though because not only do I not have a sister (though my mom is pretty great!), but well, stylists cost money. Money that must be spent on little league and giant supplies of toilet paper (seriously, Amazon subscription services have resulted in an insane collection of toilet paper in our garage) and also actual clothes.

But! I heard about this new monthly subscription service (why, yes, I am a sucker for things delivered via mail!) called Stitch Fix via a facebook friend, and I was intrigued. (FYI, I have not in any way been compensated for this post/review nor was I asked to either try or post/review by anybody. I just felt like it. So there.) I filled out this extensive questionnaire, included a link to my fashion pinterest board (and this blog), and waited for the Stitch Fix stylists to work their magic.

My first “fix” came today, and while it was super fun to get a package of clothing picked out just for meeeeee, I was pretty disappointed with the contents of said package. To wit:

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The “Kristi Lace Detailed Striped Dress” ($78) is something I might have worn in college. Maybe. The cut was just really young. (And now I just feel old. *le sigh*) Also those weird black mesh things on the side are, I suppose, intended to make one appear thinner. But instead, the whole thing seemed fragmented. The lines are just off. The dresses I wear now are much more tailored and structured.

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This is the “Eloise Lattice Detailed Silk Blouse” ($88), and is a pretty well priced for a 100% silk blouse (the liner, however, is poly/spandex), but it’s just not my style, cut, or color. (It sounds like I just got my hair did.) (Oh btw, sorry about the horrible iPhone pictures!) (Also, my space heater in the background!) (And endless parentheticals!)

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This Kelly green cardigan (“Jaclynn 3/4 Sleeve Button-Up Cardigan” ($38)) was actually pretty nice if slightly boring, but it was too tight. If it fit a bit better, I probably would have kept it though.

The last clothing item was a pair of black jeggings (“Rizzo Skinny Ponte Pants” ($88)), which I’m wearing in all of the above pictures. I’m not a huge fan of jeggings in concept (fake pockets frustrate me. I want pockets that I can actually stick my hands in!), but these are super comfy. Like stupendously comfy. So maybe I’m missing out on a good thing with this jegging thing. Especially post-two-babies body. Elastic waists are just so lovely! So even though I’m kind of horrified at the idea of spending almost $90 on a pair of pants that have FAKE POCKETS, I may have to keep these. They also look pretty awesome on, and are convincing enough as skinny jeans that I could wear them to work and class. And they’re moderately high-waisted, which is a super duper important thing for me nowadays. I am so not cool with sitting down and having my students see my undies. Just. No. (Also, again, I am old.)

There were also a pair of earrings in the package (Eliza Druzy Stud Earrings ($55)) which I didn’t bother to take a picture of because they were a) totally not my style and b) I’m not spending $55 on earrings. Unless they’re perfect. I’m kind of picky about jewelry, unless it’s like $5 from Forever 21. Which I can’t buy anymore because it gives me a rash. Boo.

I did like how my stylist included a cute little personal note about her selections as well as nifty, perforated cards for each item with styling suggestions.

So, overall, nice idea, but I think I’ll stick to doing my own shopping. I’m pretty picky, and I know when I like something and when I don’t. So I guess I’m happy being my own stylist after all.

Maxi Pleated Skirt

I feel like I’ve been looking for this exact skirt my whole life, and I finally found it this past weekend.

I spent the weekend with my girlfriends in Santa Monica. We’ve been putting a little bit of money in a pot each time we meet in the hopes that at the end of a year we would have enough to pay for the six of us to spend the weekend together at a hotel. I’m so glad we did because our weekend together was so much fun!

After some shopping on the Promenade, we had dinner at Musha on Wilshire Boulevard. It was seriously, seriously good. You need to go there. Order the lobster roll, yellowtail sashimi, and the risotto. (I’m salivating just remembering how good it was!)

I spotted this skirt at Zara on the Promenade while we were making our way to dinner. I’ve wanted a skirt like this forever, and I knew when I saw it in the store that it was perfect.

I wore it to work today, and my teaching partner commented on how fun it looked to walk in. And it is! I love how it swishes when I walk and how the wind plays with the fabric. I do have to be careful not to step on the hem when I’m walking up and down stairs, but that’s fun in a way as well. I’m not used to wearing long skirts, and there’s something nostalgic and romantic about the total impracticality of daintily holding up one’s skirt as you climb or descend a set of stairs. It makes me feel so very lovely.

I love this cloche hat too. I used to never feel comfortable wearing hats, but when I cut my hair super short a couple of years ago, I started experimenting with hats and other hair accessories. As it turns out, I really do like hats.

This one is made out of jute with a black grosgrain ribbon. While I love the vintage shape of the hat, I feel like the wide stripe gives it a more modern feel too. Still, I feel like this whole outfit has a very 1920s vibe, which is definitely a good thing in my book.

And I think this is one of the first outfits I’ve posted on this blog where I haven’t worn black as the dominant color, but just as an accent. I’m kind of proud of myself! My friend was telling me this weekend about how she’s trying to step out of wearing so much black by incorporating more grey into her wardrobe, which I thought was pretty funny, but it’s true! Black always looks good!

Isn’t the skirt just so pretty?? *sigh*

Shirt: Zara peter pan collared blouse
Sweater: Rag & Bone sweatshirt (hand-me-down from my mama)
Jacket: Madewell (also worn here and here)
Skirt: Zara pleated maxi skirt
Shoes: J.Crew
Hat: Anthropologie cloche hat (old)
Accessories: Mikimoto pearls (hand-me-down from my mother-in-law), field guided canvas bag
Nail Polish: essie licorice and deborah lippmann shake your groove thing
Lipstick: NARS Jungle Red lip liner and Red Lizard lipstick

Ode to Books

I am immersed in books. At work, I help students with reading comprehension, I facilitate discussions about literature, and then I help students write about the books they’ve read. At school, I read and research and write about literature. At home, I read to my children and listen to my six-year-old as he reads aloud. When I volunteer in his classroom, I am often asked to help his classmates as they struggle through phonics readers. In the playground, I bring picture books and read to the children who want a break from more active play.

And I love it, all of it. If someone had told me when I was a kid that this would be my life when I grew up, I would have been utterly content.

After all, I was the otherwise obedient child who read under my covers at night by the dim light of my nightlight and then swiftly pretended to be asleep when my mama would come to check on me. I was the child who preferred reading to playing, to watching television, to playing video games, to practically everything. I was the child for whom books was the ultimate pleasure, a world where I could see and experience all things and all places and all times.

I’m still quite romantic about books. I still believe in the transcendent power of stories.

I also just really, really love books. I love the smell of books – the crisp smell of new paper and the musty smell of old tomes. I love how a book feels in my hand, I love the texture of the paper as I turn a page. I love the experience of curling up with a book in a comfy place. It is probably unsurprising, therefore, that as much as I embrace and often prefer the digital versions of newspapers and even magazines, I don’t like e-readers. They aren’t bad per se, but my attachment to the experience of reading actual books and to books as objects in and of themselves makes reading e-books a comparatively cold experience.


(I’m actually not a huge fan of Gertrude Stein. I think her work is fascinating and important, but it doesn’t move me. Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels have been on my reading list for a long time, but I’m determined to read them this summer. Then again, my summer reading list seems to add a few titles every other day, and Gaskell’s novels have been on the list since last summer.)

(Mostly, I picked these books because they matched my outfit!)

Sweater: vintage Philippe Adec silk and cashmere red sweater (hand-me-down from my mama)
Jacket: Marc Jacobs (old)
Shirt: J.Crew
Shorts: Q40 glam leather shorts (also worn here and here)
Tights: J.Crew
Shoes: J.Crew
Accessories: Chanel sunglasses (hand-me-down from my mama), Forever 21 headband and teal earring (worn as brooch), Herkimer diamond earrings from Principessa (gift from Yubo)
Nail Polish: essie turqoise and caicos
Lipstick: NARS Jungle Red lip liner and Red Lizard lipstick
Books: teal giraffe notebook by Florence Balducci for Anthropologie (gift), Selected Writings of Gertrude SteinThe Cranford Chronicles by Elizabeth Gaskell

Blue Bow Belt

I was up for a good chunk of last night with my youngest son who came down with stomach flu yesterday so I had a hard time waking up this morning. I finally dragged myself out of bed about 10 minutes before I usually leave the house for work so I had barely enough time to throw on some clothes and dash out the door. I did my makeup in the car (does it make it better if I tell you I save my eye makeup for red lights?) and, to my dismay, I got a parking ticket at school today because in the rush this morning I had forgotten to switch my pass from my husband’s car, which I drove yesterday, to my car.

So yes, wrong side of bed today and all that.

Still, I absolutely love my job; it’s hands-down the most rewarding and enjoyable job I’ve ever had so this morning wasn’t a complete wash in the least. I started one-on-one conferencing with my students on their papers this morning as well, and that’s one of my favorite parts of teaching writing. You can do so much with a student one-on-one that just isn’t possible in a large group.

Except for brief periods where I wanted to be a ballerina (tutus! need I say more?), a singer (I have had a longtime and ongoing infatuation with female singer-songwriters), and a lawyer (like my mama!), I’ve really always wanted to be a teacher. I adored nearly all my teachers growing up, and the idealist in me has always wanted to do something that made a difference in the world for good. In my last year of college I was actually applying to teaching credential/education MA programs with the goal of becoming a high school English teacher, but the birth of my first child sort of derailed those plans. In the past several years, I’ve tried a few other careers, but nothing seemed to fit. So it makes me really happy now to be doing something that I not only believe in, but I really, really enjoy.

Since I was in such a rush this morning, I wasn’t really thinking about anything in particular when I threw my outfit together this morning, but I like how it ended up. I nearly always try to buy clothes that I know I can mix and match with other items in my closet. You know those magazine articles that show how you can wear one shirt 5 different ways? That’s how I think when I shop. If I can’t imagine several ways an item can be worn then it really has no business in my closet to begin with.

I’ve never really worn belts before this year so I’m hesitant to buy them because I’m not always sure how or what to wear them with. This little blue bow belt was an impulse buy last year during one of Nordstom’s big annual sales, and I almost regretted buying it after it hung in my closet unworn for months afterward. Lately, though, I think I’m getting the hang of this whole belt thing.

I think belts and other accessories are great ways to incorporate trends without a big commitment. For instance, neon colors are really big right now, but no matter how much I love these uber-popular neon bags from The Cambridge Satchel Company, I can’t afford to spend that much on something that I’m not ready to commit to wearing for the next 10 years at least. But this neon yellow belt from J.Crew? I think I could splurge on that (maybe next month though?), and I know I could wear it a ton of different ways. And then the canvas bag I’m wearing from fieldguided is a nice little nod to neon without being totally overwhelming or breaking the bank.

I’ve talked about this before, I think, but that’s part of why I really like nail polish as well. Not only is nail polish just plain fun, but it’s an easy, low-commitment way of incorporating bright and silly colors. I don’t like manicures (I know, I’m weird) so I buy my own polish and paint my nails myself. It’s not always never super perfect, but I feel better about buying one new nail polish color a month than I would about getting a manicure every few weeks.

My mama, however, is always a little appalled by my nail color choices, I think. I admit that perhaps I take a little teeny bit of pleasure in her mildly disapproving “tsk tsks” though. Maybe in another ten years I’ll have completely grown out of this little bit of post-teenage rebellion.

And then on the opposite spectrum are my pearls, a wedding gift from my grandmother, that I know I’ll be wearing when my own grandchildren are getting married. My grandmother originally bought me a very, very long string of freshwater pearls, which she then had split into two lengths – the long one I’m wearing now with a pearl shortener clasp (also a gift from my grandmother) that makes it a few inches shorter than it would be otherwise – and a choker length necklace that I wore on my wedding day. As a set I can wear them so many different ways.

Shirt: Mikkat Market (also worn here)
Dress: laurie b. cashmere and tulle shift, worn as skirt (also worn here)
Tights: J.Crew
Shoes: J.Crew
Bag: fieldguided
Accessories: Nordstrom blue leather skinny bow belt (similar at Forever 21), Forever 21 bow hair clip (old), pearls (gift from grandmother) worn with pearl shortener clasp (similar here), Herkimer diamond earrings from Principessa (gift from Yubo)
Nail Polish: essie turqoise and caicos
Lipstick: NARS Dragon Girl Velvet Matte Lip Pencil

Blood Orange Pleats

We’ve been eating a lot of blood oranges lately and they leave these shockingly bright red-orange stains on everything. This skirt reminds me of them.

I go through phases with color – sometimes I wear a lot of bright, flashy colors – yellows and reds and hot pinks and greens. Other times, I feel drawn toward more muted colors – dark plum purples and navy blues and tans. But I am, at heart, a black is best kind of gal. My mama has great style, but it’s subtle. Her closet is a sea of blacks, browns, navy blues, and crisp white blouses. She has an eye for details and appreciates really beautiful design. My grandmother, on the other hand, has a very theatrical style – she has entire matching outfits of bright purples, pinks, leopard-prints. She comes from the era of bright lipsticks, perfectly coiffed hair, and matching shoes and handbags. My grandmother, even at 90, always makes an entrance in her bright colors and high heels.

So any color I incorporate into my wardrobe feels like a grand gesture, a nod toward the fun of theatrical dressing, of play. Black comes naturally to me; it’s timeless and dependable and always chic. But when I wear bright colors I feel like I’m dressing for adventure.

And I like that.

I guess this is all to say that when I wear color, I usually pair it with a neutral, like black. I like the juxtaposition and I feel like that one bright burst of color makes more of an impression.

For me, fashion is about wearing clothes that makes you feel beautiful, that makes you feel like the best version of you, that are fun, playful, irreverent, and interesting.

As a literary scholar, I tend to see stories in everything, and clothing is no exception. My clothes tell a story – about me and about the people that influence me. They’re just as much about where I come from as they are about who I want to be.

Shirt: Mikkat Market (similar shirt in blue)
Skirt: BCBG Max Azria pleated chiffon skirt
Shoes: J.Crew
Bag: J.Crew, worn as clutch
Accessories: vintage Gaultier sunglasses (used to be my mama’s), louloudo pouch necklace
Nail Polish: essie watermelon
Lipstick: NARS Heat Wave

First Day of Spring 2012

It’s raining here today and like any good Angeleno, I have no idea what to do with myself when it’s raining. Is it even possible to take pictures outside when it’s raining? It must be, but I really have no idea!

On the bright side, I got to use my rainbow umbrella today, which I love to pieces, but would have looked weird in my indoor pictures. Also, apparently it’s bad luck to open an umbrella inside? So instead you have me posing awkwardly next to our piano. It’s a gorgeous piano though, is it not?

All this to say, I usually dislike indoor outfit shots and mine are no exception. Our house photographs horribly; the lighting is poor, the carpet is dark (ick), and a large portion of the house is wood-paneled (1960s ftw!). So this, my friends, was the best I could do under such horribly difficult circumstances.

Woe is me, right?

On the bright side, today was the first day of classes for the spring 2012 semester, and I attended a seminar class that is part of a college composition teacher training program I was accepted into right before we broke for the holidays last year. Next fall, my cohort and I will teach our own freshman composition classes. Since we’ll be spending quite a lot of time together over the next couple years, it’s quite fortunate that everybody in my cohort seem like genuinely nice people with sharp minds who are serious about learning to teach composition well.

After class, I went to dinner with a couple of women in my cohort that I knew from previous classes. We ate tacos and talked about theory, literature, and film (I admit, the conversation was a tad heavy on Colin Firth swooning) and laughed a lot. It was so fun! It’s so nice to make friends with people that share your interests (Colin Firth and otherwise).

My outfit was inspired in part by these images of Peony Lim and Alexa Chung, who are quite unreachable in their loveliness. And my silly necklace is just a fun, irreverent nod to my nerdy enthusiasm for the resumption of classes.

Sweater: Saks Fifth Avenue cashmere (hand-me-down from my mama)
Shirt: Anthropologie tunic
Skirt: Zara
Tights: J.Crew
Shoes: J.Crew
Accessories: Forever 21 reader pendant necklace and pearl earrings (gift)
Nail Polish: essie watermelon