Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fashion on a Budget: Dress up your life

I'm not sure how you all feel about my fashion posts, since this is a finance site more than a fashion one, but am I posting them too frequently? Too infrequently? Is it strange going from reading about Forex to what to wear on a budget? I kind of fancy the finance & fashion angle, but let me know what you think! It'd be great to get feedback.

Anyway, Love and I were at Baja Fresh yesterday (I'm a sucker when it comes to their fish tacos), and I realized after we sat down to munch chips at a table near the salsa counter that more than a few people were looking at me. I wasn't sure why. In fact, I assumed it was because I had salsa on my face or something to that degree. I admit, my love for Mexican food can get a little crazy at times. But after quickly checking with Love that my face was sans salsa, I realized they weren't looking at me per se, they were looking at my clothes. More specifically, my new patent dark brown reptile skin clutch, and sleeveless, full-skirted khaki dress with dark brown belt cinched at the waist (overall very adorable, very 1950s). When I say "they," I obviously mean the women and occasional fashion-forward gay man ... and I realized they were smiling -- they loved the outfit ... and yet they all wore sweat pants and shirts.

Well, the first thing I wanted to do was stand up on the table and rouse the entire restaurant to dance choreographed behind me as I belted out the lyrics to West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" into a salsa ladle (with the line of cashiers singing backup vocals, of course) -- jazz fingers and so on. But then I realized that every single person in that hovel of taco enticement could be dressed just as well. All it takes is a little effort and you, too, can "feel pretty." (Backup dancers not included.) Lots of money or even lots of time are not prerequisites to looking sharp. The best dressed people are the ones who make it look effortless and don't spend a fortune on every outfit.

I understand that sometimes ... many times, in fact ... it's comfier to throw on your nearest tank top and jeans and say "whatever" to the whole masquerade. But I truly believe that your exterior can highly affect your interior. For example, if your apartment or house is always cluttered, and you have problems clearing your mind, your outward clutter may very well be a personification of your psychological state. For that matter, if you're not particularly feeling that great about the weight of your debt, is dressing like your current mental state (i.e., stress) going to help you out of it? Of course not. Granted, simply dressing the part will not solve any debt problems, but it's one small step in becoming the smart, savvy money honey we all know you are. Besides, there's just something about wearing high heels that makes every woman's inner confidence stand out with every stride.

With that in mind, here's a fabulous outfit I pieced together, courtesy of Polyvore (which allows you to create "outfit collages" from different retail sites on the web). This is a very no muss, no fuss outfit that takes a second to throw on but makes you stand out from the crowd in a marvelous way, even when just running errands:

American Eagle sunglasses: $19.50
Target headband: $12.99 handbag: $40
Old Navy dress: $34.50
Target pumps: $24.99
Claire's pearl earrings and necklace: $10 (total)

Not too shabby, huh? And of course the more expensive purchases, like the handbag and sunglasses, can be found cheaper if need be.

The next outfit idea is a great French look for drinks, dinner, or even just out to get coffee on a saturday night with friends:

Forever 21 dress: $27.80
American Eagle sunglasses: $12
Forever 21 neck scarf: $5
Forever 21 clutch and earrings: $12.99 and $4.99, respectively.
Gold-plated Etienne Aigner ring: $24
Sergio Rossi pumps: $200 (Expensive yes, but you can always find a good imitation pair for cheap.) cardigan (optional): $18

Confession: I did buy this herringbone dress last week, and let me tell you, it's fabulous! For being so cheap, it's made remarkably well. I know what you're thinking: This is way too dressy to go out for coffee in, but there's a difference between too dressy and sharply polished. Are you wearing a ball gown to Starbucks? Didn't think so. That would be too dressy. This is sleek, sophisticated and poised.

The whole point is to mix and match your pieces to save money, so if you wanted to wear this dress during the day, match it with a shirt underneath to give it a conservative edge: pumps: $22.99
Forever 21 necklace: $5.80
Forever 21 headband: $2.80
American Eagle sunglasses: $12.99
Target Isaac Mizrahi wrap trench coat: $22.49

As I said earlier, cheaper substitutes can be found for many of the accessory pieces.



Anonymous said...

I like both the finance and fashion posts. And I couldn't agree more with you that it is all interrelated - our financial state, our psycholgical state, or physical state, etc. Love the outfits, too!

Anonymous said...

I like frugal fashion ideas. Although I'm a tad bitter because no Forever 21 clothes fit me. Pout pout. Stupid bust. I recently found out that I was wearing the wrong bra size (guess I'm one of those 8 in 10 who do) so no Victoria Secret either. Double pout pout.

Annyywaaay, so long as you are sure to include the odd Old Navy item (at least they have a wide range of sizes) I'll be a happy gal. I love clothes but my budget doesn't. Guess Marshall's is my future for awhile, not that that's a bad fate. I love my $15 Kenneth Cole Reaction brilliant blue shirt, my $30 BCBG dress.

If you're worried about doing too much fashion, why not make it into a standard certain-day feature? Like once or twice a week?

Of course, sometimes fashion is all about inspiration (Baja customers obliging, obviously) so I think sprinkling them in is fine too.

Given your banner graphic, I think fashion very much goes with your style blog. You say it's about living well, now and later. And in a town like DC you can't really afford to be underdressed at work.
Sure, you know about finance. But part of most women's finance (like it or not) is fashion. We want to look fabulous without spending hundreds of dollars on jeans.

It's like I always tell Tim (in regards to either food or shopping) : I want to eat/buy it. I just don't want to HAVE eaten/bought it.

I really do have to check out Old Navy soon. Those dresses are so adorable this year it's actually becoming physically painful. Although things that look good on a hangar sometimes look very different on a busty gal.

Also, you're totally right about fashion affecting your sense of self. Exactly like clutter. If the house is too cluttered, I can't think well. Granted, I'm home all day, so it's extra important.

That said, I will often throw on some shorts and a random top to run to the grocery store. But if I'm going anywhere, it's rare enough that I always make sure I look nice. It makes me feel better. And Tim gets a hot wife on his arm. So it's win-win.

And by the way, you *totally* should have lead the sing-along with ladle. I'm a tad disappointed in you. Tsk tsk.

Budget Mama said...

LOL-re your 'I feel pretty' song and dance.

I like both finance and fashion. I'm struggling in the fashion department so reading (and seeing) the outfits on your posts helps to jump start some sort of fashion sense for me.

I like the frugal finds--that black trench coat from Target is cute.

Emilita said...

I for one really like your combination of fashion and finance. It's a great pairing to me -- a young, female professional who loves style and wants to learn more about how to manage her financial future.

I enjoy how you effortlessly link the subjects together while still providing depth; I think it's evidence of your command of both topics. Plus, your writing is thorough yes accessible, even to non-experts.

I think you've found a niche with a lot of potential demand and not a lot of competition (at least that I've seen). I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago but will continue because I find your writing fun, interesting and informative.

Thanks for posting Polyvore, I'll have to try that site out. (And I'm totally going to bet you were in a Baja downtown, since I've definitely seen that crowd there, lol.)

Crystal said...

Thanks for the feedback, ladies! I'll keep on keepin' on then, since you guys are right that fashion and finance are interrelated for us girls. Remind me next time and I'll let you all be my backup dancers. :P

Anonymous said...

No worries about too much fashion. I was just browsing through a bunch of PF blogs and as SOON AS I SAW THE PICTURES OF CLOTHES, I knew you were a PF blogger after me own heart. Sniff sniff. Will subscribe and look forward to your updates!

Anonymous said...

Bookmarked this. Sometimes non-standard due to you looking for sharing. Positively worth my time.

Anonymous said...

This is a great article as they all are. I bring into the world been wondering about this as some measure now. Its great to note down this info. You are fete and balanced.

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