Perfect 10 Workwear and Shopping Tips

photo (3)I start tomorrow. Thirty-three hours to be exact. I’m temporarily camping out at AB’s, until I move into my month-to-month furnished apartment in Stuytown. The whole moving out process was a little overwhelming—For a while there, I thought I was going to have to knock on neighbors’ doors to find someone to help me move my dresser downstairs. Note to self: Never try to move the week of Christmas; there are so few people around to help! But I managed okay and here I am, galavanting around the city, visiting secret speakeasies and brunch hotspots. Side note: The fried oyster, egg, and bacon sandwich at Penrose is amazing, decadent, delicious. Ask for gruyere cheese.

Foodie/Drinkie talk aside, the real world is here. As a graduation present, AB’s mom got me a generous gift card to Ann Taylor, and I went to work searching for Perfect 10 pieces that are appropriate for the workplace, but still reflect my style (I have a downright love for knit and leggings. Not exactly professional, but I try to integrate comfort and class). In the best twist of fashion fate ever, LOFT happened to be having a 50% off everything sale. So… I made off like a bandit.

LOFTpolyvore

1. Marisa Straight Leg Pants in LOFT Bi-Stretch — 2. Lurex Jacquard Long Sleeve Sweater — 3. Short Blue Stone and Enamel Necklace — 4. Shirred Button Down Blouse — 5. Diamond Jacquard Straight Skirt

Also, a special shout out to these amazingly comfortable flats from Payless, which I also picked up (because everyone needs black flats) and spent the last 24 hours falling in love with.

In the process of moving out, I was able to do even more filtering of my wardrobe and “stuff,” donating a total of five trash bags of goodies to various charities, and throwing away more than two trash bags’ worth. After so much cleansing, I’m a hesitant shopper. I believe in the one-in-one-out rule, so things must be perfect. Here are some helpful hints and shopping tips I learned in Perfect 10 shopping.

Use Retail Me Not. This seems obvious to me, but in case there’s anyone out there that doesn’t know what it is… learn. Similarly, ask store associates (not managers)  if there are any special discounts. When I worked in retail, I was happy to inform people about “secret” family and friends discounts. And student discounts are the best. Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

Know your style. I’ve alluded to this a little bit, but let me explain: Just because I work in an office doesn’t mean I’ll need to wear suits everyday. I would hate it. There are many components to one’s “style.”

Lifestyle. Don’t buy sweats if you work in an office. Don’t buy suits if you work at a gym. The proportion of your wardrobe should be roughly equal to how you spend your week. i.e. If you work 60% of the week, and lounge 10%, then have 60% of your wardrobe work-appropriate and 10% leggings and sweats. This isn’t rocket science, but it does mean that there is a little adjusting necessary during a lifestyle change (say, from student to employee).

Personal style. Even if you work in a conservative office, if you’re not the suit “type,” there are alternatives. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. I know I’m not likely to spend the time ironing my shirts, so I buy the silkier types that need less TLC. Similarly, don’t buy something for one occasion (like a party or holiday); chances are, you’ll never wear it again. And don’t buy something just because it’s “in.” I’ll never wear harem pants, because they aint me. And polo shirts? Lol, no, thanks.

Body style. This point has two parts: your body shape, and your coloring. Knowing both is of dire importance. For example, with my build (read: butt), I know I need to buy bottoms that fit at my natural waist, rather than my hips in order to avoid—ahem—crack. As for coloring, I have very fair skin, with “cool” tones, and dark brown hair—classic winter coloring. So I know that I look best in dark jewel tones, tans, greys, and blacks. If I were to wear, say… yellow, I’d look downright sickly. If you don’t know your coloring, this site has a pretty comprehensive overview (To be more specific, with my green eyes, I’m a clear winter. See the similarities with the colors above?).

Plan your shopping. Much of the Perfect 10 wardrobe relies on planning in order to avoid impulsive, un-researched purchases. In order to perfect the art of Perfect 10 buying, take your time. Write a list of the things you really need, and keep to it. Do some research by reading blogs or online customer reviews. Most importantly, try things on and be honest about whether or not they fit. And lastly, be patient. It can be difficult to walk out of a store without buying something, especially when you need it. But quality costs time, money, and patience.

Return, refund, exchange. I do a lot of my shopping online, which has it’s advantages (online customer reviews, convenience) and disadvantages (paying for shipping, things don’t fit). Many stores will accept online returns. When I accidentally got the wrong size and width in the Payless flats, I called ahead, walked into the closest store, and walked out with the perfect pair. Similarly, I recently saved $100 by “returning” and repurchasing a suit during a sale. Sneaky? Eh, I call it thrifty.

Happy shopping Ten-ers! And special thanks again to AB’s mom and her generosity. I can’t wait to style it up at work—eek!

Minimalism vs. Perfect 10

81v-vnEQ-oL._SL1500_I mentioned yesterday that I was whizzing through Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist. Don’t stress—it’s really short, and if you can’t splurge on the 99 cent Kindle download, just head to her blog and get a taste for her minimalism taste and philosophy.

I’ll try to summarize: Minimalism (and “minsumerism,” being a minimalist and conscientious consumer) is a means of “sticking it to the man,” by acknowledging that not only does one not need much of their “stuff,” but they don’t even want it. As consumers, we’re bombarded with advertisements and ever-changing trends that tell us that we need something new. Minimalism says, “No I don’t, thank you very much,” and advocates that we only consume what we truly need.

A brief story of mine: Recently, I really, really wanted this cute elephant pillow from Francesca’s (because elephants are pretty darn cool). And so I bought it for myself. But only a few months later, I donated it. Turns out I guess I didn’t want it as much as I thought. And it wasn’t sophisticated enough to go with my decor. Wasteful?

Jay’s take on things: Minsumerism has many benefits—Less stuff means less stress, because you don’t have to worry about insuring, maintaining, and monitoring all of it. It also means more freedom, because you aren’t grounded to your “stuff.” There’s less pressure to keep up with the trends (because you don’t know or don’t care about them), and you subsequently save time and money that would otherwise be spent acquiring aforementioned “stuff.” On a grander scale, less stuff means a greener planet (none of those icky CO2 emissions from transporting stuff from China, and a more ethical one, because minimalists make conscientious purchases and by not harboring so much crap, the world’s wealth is distributed a little (teensy bit) more evenly. Oh, and it makes you happy. Not a bad argument.

A brief story of Jay’s: When Mr. and Mrs. Jay’s house was broken into, they had so little “stuff” that the burglar walked away with a portable CD player, an empty purse, a lipstick, and a ziplock bag of Canadian coins worth a couple of dollars. Nice job, dude. She writes that the only things really worth stealing—iPods, cell phones, cash, and wedding rings—were always on her and her husband. There was literally nothing to steal.

My take on all this: There’s a lot I agree with about Jay’s minimalist philosophy—weeding out the stuff I neither want nor need; keeping with classy, timeless pieces that don’t necessarily follow “trends;” and I think the idea of being a conscientious consumer is a very eloquent thing—I think that evaluating a potential purchase’s score 1-10 factors in a lot of different concerns, and I don’t see why ethics shouldn’t be up there with quality.

But there’s a lot about Jay’s philosophy that’s doesn’t necessarily jive with my Perfect 10 ideals. Perfect 10 is about quality and lasting style, about recognizing and reflecting one’s personal style, not whatever the media decides to endorse that week. Perfect 10 is about identity and quality, but perhaps it is not necessarily about minimalism, at least the pseudo-Buddhist kind of minimalism that Jay espouses. I don’t want to always feel like I’m living in a barren hotel room.

Jay advocates that we only acquire what we need, and I think that having some of the things we want is just as important, if they are in fact things that we want. And distinguishing between the want-it-nows and want-it-for-keeps takes time and clarity. Some creature comforts are okay, but within reason.

Perhaps it’s a taste thing, because while I appreciate a clutter-free space, the bare, white rooms that Jay posts pictures of are not comforting to me. Having moved so much, I want a place that I can return to that feels like it reflects my style, tastes, and interests. I want warmth and a big, fluffy comforter. I want real furniture, not IKEA. And that’s okay.

The takeaway: Even if our ideals don’t mix entirely, there’s still much to be gained from learning about the minimalist philosophy and lifestyle. It’s important to get rid of clutter, rather than just organize it. One of the most useful takeaways was a philosophy that my mom has always touted, as well: don’t purchase anything that does only one task (that means you, toaster).And I do agree that less stuff means more money in one’s pockets. But I also think that there is some sense of zen and comfort and happiness that comes from a true 10 purchase. Plus, I just can’t bring myself to adopt her style. Too hippie chic for someone working in PR.

TED Talk Tuesday: Less Stuff

Today, I felt inspired. Which is kind of funny—really—because today, I woke up, ate breakfast, watched copious amounts of Netflix while it snowed outside, and then sat on a bus for seven laborious hours. Nothing particularly mind-blowing about all that. Except I’m lying.

Instead if just watching Netflix, I happened upon some incredible TED talks about how to improve your life, career, wellbeing, memory—even shoe-tying skills. Then, while wasting away on the bus (my last trip to Boston in a long while—eek!) I read the majority of Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist. The short book reads like a collection of blog posts (edit: methinks it is a collection of blog posts) on the minimalist lifestyle and its many applications. I’ll get to that later…

Something about being bombarded by all this inspiration, all these awesome new ideas and applications of my Perfect 10 philosophy, was overwhelming. In a good way. When I move to Manhattan in the next two weeks (double eek!), I’m moving into a furnished room. So I’ll be bringing only my clothes, shoes, and the absolute necessities (like my teddy bear, so shoot me). It got me thinking… I’ll be paying to store all this other stuff in the meantime. Do I really need it?

And so on that note, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite TED talks, one not included in the Netflix collection, but nonetheless life-changing: short, sweet, and to the point. And oh, so appropriate for little Miss Lives-out-of-a-suitcase over here (Hi, that’s me).

True Life: I am Life Bulimic

As my friend so kindly put it, I’m life bulimic. The past couple of days, I’ve been working to scour through every last belonging. What has little or no emotional significance I’m donating. Or just plain chucking. Ozone layer be damned, sometimes it just feels better to throw things in the trash. Hard.

A lot of it has to do with moving. What I can’t fit into two suitcases I have to either store or purge.

I get in this mode almost predictably every spring; it’s my extreme version of “Spring Cleaning.” Last year, I called it my Perfect 10 Concept. And while the same rules apply, this is different. This is determined, cold-hearted war. I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade. I’m life bulimic.

To veer slightly off-subject… I’m so tired. My mom jokes that I have one mode: Go Mode. The problem is that I’ve been in Go Mode since, umm, August 2010. I had a week long brain break when I escaped to the Bahamas in May last year. But other than that, I’ve been running on empty for almost two straight years. I’m tired, burnt out, and it’s definitely not helping my whole mental health (or lack thereof) sitch.

My mom caught this from 3,000 miles away, and kindly booked me a flight home for July. She’s informed me that while I am home, I am to sleep on my beloved red couch, play with my puppy, and eat home food (think Mexican food, and my dad’s biscuits and gravy). I’m going to plan Paris explorations, rediscover my running legs, and bathe in Vitamin D.

Tangent aside, my purging isn’t just about clothes and belongings. It’s throwing away letters and gifts from high school boyfriends. It’s shedding my responsibilities with WOOF and other clubs. Even getting rid of books, old magazines, business cards. It’s throwing away half of my nail polish, old beat up (Sharpie’d in) flats, and threadbare towels. Even cleaning out my computer files. It’s about clarity, zen. I imagine this airy, white room. That’s what I want my inside to feel like. That’s what I want my everything to be.

For someone who claims to be a “gypsy soul,” I sure have a lot of baggage. And just general shit. Better to purge the 1-9.9s. I’m buying a lot of trash bags. And probably mints, too.

Wardrobe Essentials: Ten “Perfect 10” Pieces for Paris

The most recent issue of Matchbook Magazine (a recent obsession) boasts a great article about riding boots. I’ve actually been on the hunt for black leather riding boots for more than a year, and just last night found a pair of Anne Klein black riding boots that I’ve been lusting after.

Having submitted my application to study in Paris, I’m already thinking about what I need to bring. Parisian style is timeless, minimalist and practical (except for heels on cobblestones), so I thought I’d write about the 10 essentials that I’ll be bringing (even though I’m only bringing one suitcase!). I also haven’t written about my “Perfect 10” in a while, so I thought I’d pay homage to that.

Thus, ladies, the Perfect 10 essentials for my Paris wardrobe:

Crasslee boots, Anne Klein

1. Leather riding boots [CHECK!]. Let’s start with a New England classic. And no, I’m not talking about a North Face jacket. Classic leather riding boots are timeless and should last for years. My mom, who’s in her late 40s just tossed a pair of leather boots she bought in college. They’ve been loved and dyed and resoled, but black leather boots will never go out of style. I’ve been looking for the perfect pair for months, and finally found one that is high quality, reasonably priced, and doesn’t have excessive frills. But if plain black seems a little too boring, I also love a dark brown, which is equally versatile. Or try another kind of boot: I know I love my cowboy boots!

 

 

Reva flats, Tory Burch

2. Not-so-boring flats. The ballet flat is not only comfortable, but it’s a chic, polished alternative to sneakers. Anything with a rubberized sole will be sturdier. Also, this might just be me, but I Febreze the crap out of my flats because my feet sweat buckets in them and I don’t wear socks or anything. Though I’m a huge fan of plain black flats (like black Tory Burch ones that are both sporty and pretty), I feel the tres Parisienne trend is colored or embellished flats. I love red or green ones because they add a punch of unexpected, fun color. Plus, red and denim go incredibly well together.

 

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