Thursday 27 September 2012

Sisterhood of the Traveling Clothes

I have mentioned my favourite Megan a few times.  She is in good company with other awesome Megans (like Everyday Mom Style and the Frugalista Diaries) but is the only one that I get to actually hang out with and play dress up!  And that's what we did today!

Megan has an adorable four-month-old baby girl and is going through the familiar struggles of dressing while everything is in transition.  Excellent blogs such as Ain't No Mom Jeans have loads of informative posts for dressing a post-partum figure with style!  But Megan had a specific agenda: she wanted to see if some recently-acquired second-hand pieces could expand her transition wardrobe and add a dose of novelty and variety without costing a penny!  Here is what we came up with in the brief time we had between attending to four children and preparing lunch...
This sleeveless button-up doesn't fit perfectly (yet) when buttoned, but it makes an interesting addition to a simple sweater.  Adding the belt gives nice definition to this curvy hourglass and gives three elements to the look!  Though it can be tricky to nurse around a belt, Megan says it is well worth it to add shape to otherwise "forgiving" pieces such as this red blouse...
There is a fine line between "forgiving" and "baggy/dumpy," the latter of which just ends up making us look and feel worse!  The two overlays on this top along with the deep red colour give it a baroque feel, and we concluded that you could easily change the look with belts/scarves!  
Scarves serve double-duty as a nursing cover! 

Same goes for these other pretty tops with vibrant colours...
Worn with or without belts...
I love this gray belt with everything!  Varying the position of the belt changes the look!

We all know that cardis are an essential layering piece, but Megan is also a fan of the swing-coat!  They suit her petite frame and still give some coverage while nursing.
Er, perhaps a scarf or accessory in a different colour would be 
good to add to this duo, just till Halloween is over!
This soft corduroy swing coat might be my favourite piece of the bunch! 
So much potential!
 Brown on brown layering and this pretty ruffle camouflage problem areas but still add texture and interest! 
This black swing coat that can be worn indoors or out!  
A great alternative to the typical black cardi!
See what I mean! 
Layering is not only stylish, it can help smooth a muffin top or control the middle zone! 
Megan got these ankle boots from VV Boutique on Fashion's Night Out!  We rolled her skinnies to show them off!  Another great example of a little attention to detail to make a big impact on your look!

It is easy for moms on maternity leave to ... acquiesce!  I should know!!  I like here how Megan paired a light sheer tunic with comfy capri leggings to take her at-home look up a notch!
The next red/white/black top was quite long, so the belt came to the rescue again!  We thought adding a cardi or swing coat would help to tone down the print, though an advantage to bold prints is the spit-up-camouflage-quotient.  
Now that I see it here, I wonder if it might like to go on a layering date with Red above...!?  
The collar and hem would peek out and might look cute!  
Would also look nice with those gray leggings, Momma!  Try it out and let us know!

Last but not least, the simple button-down top!
The obvious benefit of this style is easy access for nursing without exposing any back or belly!  The side benefit is the endless styling options...
 Imagine my delight to discover that Megan at Everyday Mom Style just posted about this exact look:
Great moms think alike!

Believe it or not, Megan and I did all that in just over an hour.  Yep, we're rock stars.  And we barely got started!  There are so many ways to style these pieces - I like the other Megan's advice to consider 5 different ways you could wear a piece before buying it.  I think this should apply to second-hand and VV Boutique pieces too - if you can't wear it in a few different ways, you'll get bored quickly and it will end up taking up valuable closet property! 

I concluded that it's almost easier to dress for work because then you know what's expected and what to anticipate.  When you're focusing on staying home with the kids and all that entails, it is harder to take (or justify) the time and effort to put yourself together.  Megan and I say to you: it's worth it!  These pieces were second-hand from a friend and have found a wonderful new home!  So, reach out to your friends and score some hand-me-downs for yourself for a change!  Have some fun styling you!

Oh, and Megan says, buy bags!  Stylish bags that can double as a diaper bag will add interest to any ensemble and get tons of wear before, during and after the post-partum period!  AND, they make an excellent place to start for VV Boutique newcomers!

Thanks Megan for a fun morning, for being VV Boutique's first ever guest model and for showing us all that second-hand stylin for a post-partum figure is not only possible, it's AWESOME! 

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Litmus Jeans and a Whole30 (ish) Review

This morning, I had a hard time deciding what to wear.  I put on a dress, thinking I could squeeze one more wear before the true autumn weather hits, but it felt all wrong.  So I changed my ensemble.
Wool cardigan $7 VV Boutique
Green tank second-hand from my Thrifter Sister
Gold double-strand necklace $4 VV Boutique
Gap Long 'n Lean sepia-wash jeans circa 2004

Not only did I feel super comfortable in this ensemble, I also got to wear my favourite colour next to stripes (well, and gray) - green, wear some of the "new" VV Boutique/second-hand pieces that have been hanging around patiently for their turn...
I love the pretty knit pattern in this sweater and the ladylike 3/4 sleeves.
The gold Accessorize bracelet circa 2007 and 
earrings from my closet complimented my VV Boutique necklace!

And I passed my litmus test.  I assume we all have that pair of jeans that we keep for years and periodically slip into to gauge where we are at, size-wise!  My litmus jeans are these Gap Long 'n Lean size 10s that I got way back before kids.  I can't really remember when I got them.  I just know they aren't very worn because they haven't fit very much of the time!!  Today, they fit.
Photography by my awesome 4 year old!

Whole30 24 in Review 

I have been doing the Whole30 program since September 4th (after camping in the freezing cold till Labour Day) and I will wrap it up on the 28th when I head out for a retreat with just me and my man.  Since I have no intention of restricting my diet in any way on the first kid-free weekend since 2005, that makes 24 days of whole foods.

A little about my process:
  • I first came across Whole30 just before the end of August when I read a tweet by LoveBrownSugar.  I read through her post, clicked over to the Whole9 site and read that, delighted myself with ideas of doing Whole 30 in "30 days has September...," and decided to give it a try.  Quick, uncomplicated decision-making!  After a stressful summer, I had gained back some of the weight I lost through Weight Watchers and was having some difficulties sleeping.  I read that Whole30 could help with energy level, sleep and a bazillion other things and thought it was worth a try.  I like to have a framework, I am more of an abstainer than moderator and I like novelty, so it seemed like a good fit.
  • I did not sign up for any extra support or services and I did not buy the book It Starts with Food though I'm sure it would be well worth the time and cost to do so.  I was able to use the free resources to get enough info to follow the program as well as I wanted.  
  • What I mean by that last statement is: I could follow the program generally, but to eat the crazy meat on their shopping list, or ensure everything was organic and farm-raised no hormones etc., well, that's a recipe for feeling like a mother failure.  I have to drive a half hour or more just to get to an organic store!  It’s a balance, so you just do your best and be content in that.  I decided from the beginning that whatever I did, it would be enough.
  • That being said, I ate mostly fruit, farmer's market veggies, beef from my in-law's beef farm, other meat.  Eggs were my BFF's.  I ate whole avocados, nuts and olive oil with abandon and enjoyed not counting any points or calories (though that has worked for me in the past and is a totally valid strategy).  I did not snack much because my snack preferences tend not to be vegetables.  And I'm too lazy to get up and fix myself something whole foods-ish.    
  • I took ginormous lunches to work.  Ya need a big lunch kit to house all that whole food. 
  • I did not eat out during these 24 days except to celebrate FNO!
  • It was a challenge to learn to drink coffee black and I have certainly upped my coffee game as a result!  I now use a French Press to brew locally roasted beans (though I cannot wait to have a pumpkin spice latte!!).  I whipped up chilled coconut milk with cinnamon and vanilla bean for my coffee and that was delish! 
  • I have always liked straight-up club soda to drink and thank God it was allowed on Whole30. 
  • This is the longest I've gone without wine since being pregnant.
  • I am already in the habit of planning meals and grocery shopping, so that helped with planning Whole30 meals for me and my family.
  • For the most part, my family ate what I ate with minor substitutions (sweet potatoes for potatoes, a bed of spinach instead of a bed of rice, spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti, etc.).  
  • I did not use supplements or work out.  I just don't do those things.  I do a lot, but not that. 
  • I told my peeps about my whole food cleanse to get their support and encouragement, and I prayed.  That I do.         
 The outcomes:
  • First, confession.  I slipped up (aka cheated, since the Whole9 folks rightly assert that you don’t just slip onto a donut – it’s always a choice what you put in your bouche) 3 times: once I had some BBQ sauce on a steak, once I had dry ribs and I’m pretty sure there were sulfites or something forbidden in them, and I had stir fry sauce this past Sunday.  
  • I did not weigh myself before I started so I can’t say how much I lost.  I try to avoid weighing myself generally because I can tell when I feel good and when my clothes fit me well.  I don't need a scale to tell me what my brain already knows, and that scale will just mess with ya.  My estimate would be that I lost about 5lbs and got back down to where I was. Ish.   
  • I haven't miraculously turned into Heidi Klum.  I still have baby belly and stretchmarks but I'm okay with that.  Let's face it, until I, er, exercise, I am just thankful it's as good as it is!
  • I am sleeping better, but that may be due to several factors (I'm over the September transition, my husband has a job, I'm busier during the day, therapy, etc.).
  • My energy level has been great!  Like most moms, I am busy!  I get up early, go to bed late, juggle lots of roles, yet I haven't felt fatigued.  Before, I would rely on carby foods for energy and I notice that does not seem to be necessary with Whole30.  
  • I haven't been hungry or craving foods.  Sure, I want chocolate, but I'm not scavenging my pantry like I might otherwise, and I'm finding it fairly easy to resist work snacks and other temptations.  I enjoy whole foods anyway, so I haven't been missing the grains and such (well I've been able to live without them but I am looking forward to them).
  • I haven't noticed a significant difference in my skin or allergies.
  • There are a ton of great resources on line for Whole30.  I particularly enjoyed reading Grit & Glamour's experience with Whole30.    
  • Bottom line: this has been an excellent exercise in discipline and I am pleased all round with how I feel and how I did.  It was a good reminder that I can change!  I can tune into my body and make good choices!  Though I won't continue with the restrictions for the rest of my life, I am likely to make whole food choices more often and may do another 30ish day cleanse whenever I need a bit of maintenance.  For me, food is for nourishment and pleasure and I don't want to over think it or focus on it too much.  I do want to enjoy my blessings and live a full joyful life!  
Whole30 helped me get into my litmus jeans and some size 8 pants from VV Boutique, and helped me have a great September!  It definitely gets the VV Boutique Style seal of approval!

Sunday 23 September 2012

Having it All in Fall

These beautiful fall days are a lovely transition into cooler weather but can be a bit tricky to dress.  When I leave in the morning, it is chilly and by the afternoon, I'm ready for shorts and a tank top.  Yet my cozy pieces are calling to me...  So today I thought I would try to have it all.  My light and airy lace tie top, a casual but cool denim skirt and my favourite mustard grandpa sweater that I bought last fall.
Lace tie top $3 VV Boutique
Gap denim skirt circa 2004
O'Neill grandpa sweater $70ish C'est Sera
Accessorize ballet flats circa 2007

I know, I know.  Grandpa sweaters are not "chic" but don't you just want to snuggle when you see it?  Or curl up with a good book and a hot cup of coffee?  
Besides, I've been carrying around this photo from Tres Awesome as inspiration and just waiting for the right day...
Thank you Tres Awesome for the inspiration!  I've also been wanting to wear this fuchsia belt for a while.  I've embraced gold as a viable accessories option (having been staunchly silver oriented for years) and liked how the gold, the jewel colours, the denim, the sweater all have a fall vibe.
 Fuchsia belt $4 VV Boutique
Bracelets from my closet
 My photographer is getting crazy and wanted the ties out for variety.
It was so warm in the sun!
Just me being all casual holding my sweater like I always do.
Last but not least, my beautiful late blooming sunflowers on this sunny Sunday afternoon!
 Originally photographed coming straight out of my head.  Sigh.  
We're working on our mad modelling/photography skills.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Nightmare at VV Boutique (AKA Shopping for Pants)

Last Tuesday night, I went shopping for pants, specifically, work pants.  For me, that is a broad definition.  I could wear anything from jeans to suits to work, depending on my tasks for the day.  (Though I did hear that one site has banned coloured denim!!  As if that is the most offensive thing people wear.  Ahem yoga pants, cough cough.)  I thought there was a 30% off sale but if I could read, I would have known it was 30% off if you spent $30 on Halloween items.  Now, I know Value Village is the source for Halloween costumes, but that was not my mission; I needed work pants, so discount or not, I wasn't leaving without some.

Is shopping for pants a nightmare for everyone, or just me?  I managed to convince the Thrifting Guru to come with me even though she has sworn time and again that she won't go pants shopping with me anymore.  It's that bad.  I'm hard to fit, too lazy cheap busy to tailor and, basically, a true Fussypants.  It's not you VV Boutique, it's me, all me.  So, after that preamble, you are about to see one of the three pairs I purchased after trying on 67 pairs: the skinny cargo.   
     Ann Taylor skinny cargos $6 VV Boutique

These have been on my wish list since M at Ain't No Mom Jeans has been going on and on about her J Brand Houlihans since 2010!!!  I had never even heard of J Brand or Houlihans but was quickly educated!  Obviously mine aren't quite the same, but I think these have the same vibe and I fell in love instantly.   
Skinny legs, side pockets and ankle zips = VV Boutique Houlihans!

They were super comfortable and I envision wearing them a hundred ways!  Today I paired them with three other "thrifted" pieces.
Gap merino wool navy cardi, second-hand from my favourite Megan
Bangles, second hand from my Sister Thrifter
Wood bead necklace $3 VV Boutique

I looooovvvveee this necklace.  It is so interesting and unique, exactly the kind of little thing to make a big difference!
Sheer shell top $16 Forever XXI

I felt awesome in this ensemble today!  
 Green pointy flats circa 2007

My nightmare resulted in a J Brand Houlihan-ish dream come true thanks to VV Boutique!  It was all worth it in the end!  

Monday 17 September 2012

Peplum Spectrum

I have said it before and I will say it again: I am blessed with awesome friends.  The kind of friends that hear about my little project, understand and respect my "rules" and then give me clothes because that classifies as second-hand.  And that is how I came to have a 100% free 100% silk Banana Republic silk peplum top.   
I have been gobbling up the peplum posts including this one yesterday from Real Girl GlamI think "peplum" is on a spectrum.  (These are words from day job spilling into my hobby.)  Long, short, belted, on shirts, on dresses - peplums are every way, everywhere.  I'm old enough to stay away from the 80's looking peplum (for now at least, considering I once said I'd never wear jeggings) but I still wanted to partake of this trend and have been keeping my eye out for one at VV Boutique.  No luck.  Then, my favourite Megan offered this one - with feminine ruffles and a non-80s peplum vibe.
My work schedule today involved straight-up consultation instead of the usual paint, floor time and boogers, which meant that I could wear a silk blouse without it being a disposable silk blouse!   
Hundred-year-old boring brown pants from Winners 
Leather slingbacks from Korea circa 1997

I have mentioned on Twitter that I have a serious pants crisis.  My work pants are bad and believe it or not, these are the best of the bunch.  However, they are wide-legged and drapey so I decided they were "classic".  There is a 30% off sale at VV Boutique tomorrow so I plan to go hunting after dinner.

I thought of this scarf when I read Everyday Mom Style's "10 Fall Trends."  It is a bulky, patterned yet neutral-ish scarf!  Aren't I trendy?
Scarf $5 H&M
Gap denim jacket circa 2002
Bracelets from my closet

I also note that pairing a casual denim jacket with polished pieces looks chic. 

Okay, I admit that's total baloney.  I just didn't have another jacket that would work, so denim it was.  But I acted chic and that's all that counts.

Thank you Megan and Megan's mom (the peplum is actually third-hand!) for your generosity - that is true style!

Sunday 16 September 2012

My Head was Too Big for This Top

The alternate title for this post would be: "My Boobs were Too Big for this Top"  But I was afraid of being found on search engines by the term "boobs."  I don't even know if that would happen, but just in case...

This is the other top I bought way back when I purchased my beloved chambray.  I didn't try it on but it was so unique and in great shape, so it had to come home with me.
$5 VV Boutique
Those little leaves are raised!

Now, back when I started this endeavour, I decided that I wouldn't be prone to pesky things like alterations or dry-cleaning.  Too much of that and the pieces are not the bargains I'm after.  However, I did succumb and get the neckline extended on this (alterations $13) so I could get it over my head and at least give it a chance!  I think it worked out! 
What doesn't look good with J Brand denim?

I've been doing the Whole30 thang so it's a little less snug in the chest (my bras still fit and they help with the fit of this top!) but it is a tunic style so meant flow away from the girls on down.  It is sheer with a built-in shell, and I added a blue tank underneath for another layer.  Then, it was chilly and I was neglecting the Rule of 3, so I added pretty earrings...
 Gift from my sis...
And of course a scarf...   
Handmedown from the same sis!
 Rule of 3 fulfilled!

I slipped into my neutral platform wedge Skechers loafers...
 and enjoyed a surprisingly comfortable outfit on a surprisingly relaxing day.  
If I saw this top at Winners for $18, I would buy it for the pretty colours, unique pattern and texture.  I love that VV Boutique offers brand name and designer finds, as well as these no-name vintage pieces in great shape.  I am willing to bet no one else has this top, and it sure is nice to feel like one-of-a-kind!