Wearing a Statement Dress

ninewestI bought this Nine West dress two years ago for $3.99 from Restyle Consignment store. It was on a clearance rack, and when I tried it on, I just couldn’t believe how cute it was.

It was definitely a statement dress. Big buttons. Solid block color. A hemline with flair. Bold, sassy, fun. And it was only four bucks! I couldn’t wait to wear it.
Well, I guess I could wait, because I did. For two years.

Is it just me, or do dressing rooms have some sort of confidence-building Jedi-mind meld component that convinces me I will have the guts to wear a bold statement dress out in public?

Because every time I tried to reach for it when it sat in my closet at home, I would chicken out and reach for something more familiar and less noticeable. I just never seemed to feel like “Today is a Statement Dress Day.”

And I was never really sure which season was appropriate to wear this dress. The material is a heavy, canvas-type cotton — kind of like khakis or chinos, but a bit heavier. Almost like a tent. So it seems to be a summer/spring material, but I would definitely need to wear leggings or capris with it which means it’s a fall/winter dress.  It was too heavy for spring or summer, and too light for fall or winter. It was an ambiguous-season dress. It drove me nuts.

And so it sat.

Finally, the other day, I decided it was time to try it or toss it. Show it or throw it. Use or lose it.
So I boldly put on the dress, and went to work ready to make a statement. I just hoped statement wouldn’t be, “I am so out of touch with fashion that I thought this dress would be appropriate to wear to work.” I had two positive hits right out of the gate: Two co-workers immediately said “Cute dress!” and “Love it!”. Of course, these comments came after I solicited them. (What do you think of this dress? Is it OK to wear to work?). But they seemed genuine in their responses, so I felt a surge of confidence and went about the day feeling my four-dollar dress was a brilliant investment.
As the day went on, however, my confidence began to slip away. First, no one else complimented the dress. Or even commented on it. To my face, that is. In fact, that horrible beast known as “I think they’re saying bad things about my dress behind my back!” started to creep into my thoughts.  Self-Doubt showed up and told Self-Confidence to hit the road.

To make matters worse, the bathroom mirror where I work was situated so that when I saw the dress in the mirror, I only saw it from the waist up. This gave me a completely unbalanced and distorted view.  All I could see was this over-sized top half and then a huge flair just below the waist, then nothing. If I didn’t know what the bottom half looked like, then it looked like I was wearing a tent. A huge, heavy, canvas tent.
tentdress copySo now my mind was convinced that this dress actually was a tent in another life and I spent the last half of the day counting down the minutes until I could rip this stupid four dollar tent dress off and burn it as I sang campfire songs. By the time 4:45 rolled around, I swear I smelled chocolate and graham crackers. I think my co-workers thought I WAS a tent and started making s’mores.

At 5 p.m., as I was packing up my stuff to leave and thinking about the delicious latte I could have bought with the stinking four dollars this dress cost me, a senior leader popped her head into my office.
“I just had to tell you that is the cutest dress I have ever seen,” she said. “I just love it when you wear such cool things.”

I smiled.

Best four dollars I ever spent.

I got a gig!

Hello all!

I’ve got some exciting news! Are you ready? Because this is big!

I got a gig! A speaking gig, that is!

Yes, I have been asked to speak at the  Clear Lake Art Center restyle Exhibit! The exhibit runs April 6 through April 26, and I’ll be speaking:

Saturday, April 13 from 1 – 2 at the Clear Lake Art Center in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Is that exciting or what?

Here’s more about the event:

The goal of the exhibit is to inspire others to create wearable fashions by restyling and repurposing second-hand clothing.  The event on Saturday, April 13 will open at 1:00 with me speaking, and then artists will exhibit their work from 2 – 3:00 p.m.The goal is to bring attention to, entertain, inspire and educate while assisting in broadcasting the “reStyle” exhibit and provide an informal opportunity for the artists to answer any questions and possibly demonstrate their process.

Apparently they are looking for someone who’s passionate about secondhand clothes to tell some stories and stir up some inspiration. Do you know of anyone that fits that description?

OK, so now I need a favor: If you were going to an event to listen to me speak, what would you want to hear about?

Do you want to hear about how every shopping excursion for me is like a treasure hunt? How every time I walk into a consignment shop or thrift store, I imagine there’s a treasure waiting for me to find it?

Would you like me to show you my favorite treasures, and tell you the story behind each one? Because you know, with me, there’s ALWAYS a story behind my “treasures”.

Like check out this recent find: An Ellen Tracy dress, new with tags that said the dress retailed at $150. I got it for $20! Check out the flower detail! Do you want to hear the story about how I found that only a mile away from my home!

Adorable flower detail. Red carpet, here I come!
Ellen Tracy dress: $20.00 (New with tags – retail $150). Ignore the shoes. I know I can do better!

Or would you like to hear about how when someone compliments something I’m wearing, I have this overwhelming need to tell them I bought it at Goodwill for less than $5.00? How I don’t know if this admission is “Thrift Pride”,  where I need to brag about my superior shopping skills or “Catholic Guilt” where I need to confess that the outfit they think is so fashionable didn’t cost me as much as they think it might have.

Or do you want tips, or step-by-step instructions on how to be a successful secondhand shopper? If this is the case, you (and future audiences) might be disappointed because there is no rhyme or reason to my shopping. Well, now that I think about it, I do have a few tricks to the trade. Try everything on, for one. But for me, shopping is just so second nature, instinctual, habitual, addictive …..The point is, most of the time when I enter a store I’m on auto-pilot (a few times I think I’ve had an outer-body experience!) so I’m not sure if my semi-conscious state is transferrable or trainable.

Would you want to hear where I get my inspiration from, where do I shop, where do I keep all my clothes, where do I hide them from my boyfriend because he’s getting annoyed with the ever-shrinking closet space?

So I’d love to hear what kinds of things you’d be interested in hearing from me! And if you’re from the area, I’d love it if you came to see me! This is very exciting, and I owe it all to the support, encouragement and love from all of you!

And until April 13, here’s the song I’m going to be singing:

I Got a Gig, by Hayes Carll

My Accidental Friend

I read an article the other day that outlined ways to fit exercise into our busy lives. It hit home with me because it addressed one of the main excuses I use to not exercise: I don’t have enough time. Family, work, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills—everything seems to keep me from exercising.

One suggestion from the article was to get an exercise partner, saying that people who exercise with someone are seven times more likely to stick with a routine than those who go it alone.

This has held true for me, but for a different reason than I think the article intended. Yes, I am less likely to wimp out and eat bonbons on the sofa if I’ve made arrangements to exercise with someone.  But more importantly, finding someone to exercise with has created the most unlikely friendship I never imagined would happen.

Enter Charlotte

I met my friend Charlotte four years ago through a mutual friend I meet for dinner every week. One evening she brought Charlotte. My life has never been the same since.

I immediately didn’t like Charlotte. She was a high-energy, dramatic, larger-than-life type of person. The type who monopolizes conversations and begins most sentences with “I”.

And at that time, our worlds were so different.  She was the vice president of marketing at a large international corporation; I was a communications coordinator at a small mom-and-pop non-profit organization.

She was a world-traveler and told stories of business trips to Prague and Argentina and had lived in Japan. I’ve been to Mexico once.

She wore Prada, Gucci and real Louboutins.  I shop at Goodwill.

She seemed to have it all and know it all.

Nothing in common

“I will never be friends with this woman,” I thought to myself. “We have nothing in common.” Then Charlotte said something that caught my attention.

“I’m training for Dam to Dam,” she said.

Huh? I thought. I had actually been training for Dam to Dam as well, but I was finding it hard to keep motivated. Like I said, seemingly more important things kept getting in the way. Toddlers and Tiaras, for one.

I really wanted to run this race. And there Charlotte was, talking about how great her training was going. I thought maybe if I ran with her, some of her motivation would rub off on me. So when she stopped talking to take a drink of water, I swallowed hard and went for it.

“I’m training for Dam to Dam, too,” I squeaked. “Would you like a running partner?”

She looked at me like I had two heads. Uh oh, I thought.

“Sure,” she said. “Email me.” She pulled out her business card, handed it to me and went on to talk about meeting the Dali Lama or someone else real important.

That brief conversation changed my life.

Four years later

Today, aside from my boyfriend, Charlotte is my best friend. We ran Dam to Dam together that year and the following two years, and went on to run three full marathons together. We’re currently training for a fourth marathon.

Yes, we are still two very different people.

She’s competitive; I’m a people-pleaser. For example, if runners are coming up on the trail behind us, she speeds up. I stop and let them pass. She wears a $450 GPS system to track and record her time, distance, calories burned, etc. I carry an MP3 player I bought for $19.99 at WalMart. When we run marathons, she tries to beat her personal time. I stop along the way to take pictures and post them on Facebook.

But the beauty of our relationship is our differences. We joke that when we met, we were on extreme opposites on the bell curve: I was passive, she was aggressive. But slowly, through years of running together, sharing our problems, insecurities, frustrations and disappointments (you’d be surprised at the things you discuss by the time you hit mile 18), we’ve each worked toward the center of the curve to become happy, healthy adult women.

I’ve taught her to be a better listener; she’s made me a stronger leader. She encouraged me to start this blog; I let her cry on my shoulder when her dog died. She’s softer; I’m tougher.

So what started with a chance meeting with a stranger I really didn’t want to get to know has blossomed into a lifelong friendship. And it all began with a simple question: Would you like a partner? Charlotte once admitted that the reason she had looked at me so strangely when I asked that question is because no one had ever reached out to her in such a kind manner.

A good friend once told me that if he meets someone he doesn’t like at first, it’s because he hasn’t taken the time to get to know that person. My experience with Charlotte has led me to agree with him.

Click here to see the story of our first marathon.

And here we are after the Twin Cities marathon in October 2010. Charlotte beat her personal time by 15 minutes. I beat my personal record of number of pictures posted to Facebook while running a marathon (15)

For example, here’s me hitting the wall at Mile 20:

So there’s the story of my Accidental Friendship.

Have you experienced an unlikely friendship that changed your life?  Or have you taken a chance and reached out to someone you don’t know well—only to be pleasantly surprised by the connection?  I’d love to hear about it in the Comments.

Good-bye old friend…

I was very saddened to learn that one of my favorite consignment stores, Fashion Junction in Beaverdale is closing. This statement is on their website:

Fashion Junction Clothing and Interiors will be closing on December 31, 2011.  I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers for a terrific 20 years.

After my mother’s untimely and unimaginable death this year, I have decided I need to spend more time with my family.  Thus, I felt it was necessary to close one of my operations. “

My heart goes out to the owner, and Des Moines is losing a first-class consignment store. If I said that 30% of my current wardrobe came fromt Fashion Junction, I probably wouldn’t be exaggerating.

I suppose if there were a bright spot to this loss, it’s that a large amount of the current inventory is 35 – 50% off.  I stopped in the other night and found this Kenneth Cole skirt and top set for 1/2 off for $10:

OK, it’s not the best ensemble that I’ve thrown together, I know.  It’s sleeveless, so I had to wear something over it. I found this shrug at Target for $20, and absolutely love it. And check out the shoes: Madden Girl at Famous Footwear for $27. I had to replace the “nun shoes” with something, and these seem to be a bit more current, don’t you think?

As for the Kenneth Cole ensemble, I love the print, but I’m hesitant about the length. Any suggestions?

Enough of me – this post was really one meant to pay homage to the exit of what feels to me like a dear friend. Good-bye, Fashion Junction. You may be gone, but your memory will always live on in my closet.

I mean that about “always”, because I rarely throw clothes out!

If your in Des Moines, please do me a favor and stop into FJ to make a farewell purchase. Think of it as buying a piece of Beaverdale history.

Geez, the things I come up with to justify shopping!

Wait, there’s more!

Hello all! On my last posts, I wrote about the an incredible outfit I found at Restyle Consignment store for only $45.90. Of course, knowing me as well as you do, you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that I didn’t leave the store that day only spending $45.90 + tax.

The total bill was actually $74.15. You see, I picked up 2 additional items.

First, I found these AWESOME Sofft boots for only $19.99. These boots are in great condition, and they usually cost over $150 bucks!! And I had been looking for quality tall brown boots, because most of my old ones were falling apart. Total awesome score.

And speaking of great boot scores that you can find at Restyle, I have updated The Complete Des Moines-area Secondhand Store Directory with review of their shoe selection. Click here to read about other available brands you can find there.

Now back to my total purchase that day.  The Ann Taylor Loft sweater I wore with that $45.90 outfit wasn’t my first choice that day.

I had originally found a Talbots black sweater jacket (also for $16.99) and was good to go. But then I tried on the Ann Taylor one, just for kicks, a woman in the store noticed it and told me how great it looked. So I had no choice but to get the AT one. As I have always said, when I’m shopping, anytime I receive an unsolicited compliment from a complete stranger when I’m trying something on completely takes away any choice as to whether or not I’m going to purchase that item. It’s a done deal. Sold.

Does the fact that I ALWAYS leave the dressing room when I’m trying something on, and prance around the store, hoping to get feedback from complete strangers constitute the compliment as being “unsolicited”?

Well, it does in my book.

But back to the outfit.  So I knew I had to get the Ann Taylor one, but I still loved the Talbot’s one.  What’s a shopaholic to do when she’s found two cute jackets for the same price and can’t decide which to get?

OK, no more rhetorical questions. You know the answer.

So let me ask you something that’s not rhetorical – here are the two outfits – which do you like better?

Ann Taylor Loft tied sweater ($16.99)
Talbots sweater jacket

We have a winner!

Hello gang, and thank you to all who participated in the “Guess the cost – win a prize!” contest.  We do have a winner who was only $1.95 off!

(If you’re new to this blog, I ran a contest last week to have readers guess the cost of this great outfit I snagged at Restyle Consignment Store. I am in the process of building The Complete Des Moines-area Secondhand Store Directory, and unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – as I’m researching the products and prices, I’m finding that it’s hard to leave the stores empty-handed!)

So anyways, let’s get back to the contest so I can reveal the winner.

Price Breakdown:

Sweater: Ann Taylor Loft – $16.99

White Long-sleeve t-shirt: Mossimo – $4.99

Skirt: White House Black Market – $7.99 (what a bargain!)

Shoes: A2 (Aerosoles) – $10.99

Necklace: $4.94 (another great bargain!!)

Total Cost: $45.90

So our winner is –


drum roll, please…………………


Tracina from the You Look Fab Forum, who guessed $43.95! She was only $1.95 off!

Congratulations Tracina! We had guesses ranging from $17 to $74, so coming in less than two bucks is pretty amazing. Tracina, I know you’re a savvy secondhand shopper, because you mentioned in your comment that you frequent Goodwill for truly great bargains, but you knew that consignment shops are a bit more. Your intuitiveness was spot on!

I will be contacting you to get your address so I can ship you this adorable Christmas tree pin, handmade from paper by my sister, who incidentally, came up with the idea of the contest. Thank you, sis, and I’m sure Tracina will love your pin.

(Although she didn’t ask me to, I feel like I should put a plug in for my sister’s business, since she did donate the prize. So here it goes: If you’d like to see more “Pinables” – handmade jewelry from recycled paper – click here for the website.)

OK, there’s my plug, now back to me!

I’ve been slowly updating The Complete Des Moines-area Secondhand Store Directory. Click here to see how far I’ve come with Restyle Consignment. I’ll keep you updated as I add things.  I appreciate any feedback – one woman even clued me into a store I yet need to add (The Classy Closet in Altoona and Beaverdale). I can’t wait to go visit it!

Well, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed the contest and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.  I’m brining  a turkey for the first time, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t be too salty. I didn’t use kosher salt, and now I’m worried.  Has anyone had any experience – good or bad – with brining a turkey?

Guess the cost, win a prize!

Hello all!

As I begin to build The (not-even-close-to-being)  Complete Des Moines-area Secondhand Store Directory, I’m realizing there is going to be some collateral damage…..to my pocketbook. Because when I say “Complete”, Miss Literal here really means complete – I plan on having everything you’re going to want to know about every single secondhand store in Des Moines and eventually Iowa, then THE WORLD!

OK, I’m not that ambitious, but the point is, I want it to be comprehensive and thorough. Which means I need to do a lot of research. Which means I have to go to the stores quite a bit. Which means I’m going to be in the lion’s den, surrounded by beautiful clothes.

And there’s an old saying, “If you hang around a barber shop long enough, you’re going to eventually get a haircut.”

So as I said, hanging out in these stores is most likely going to lead to some purchases.

For instance, the first store I’m going to review is Restyle, on Hickman, in Sherwood Forest. Last week I was there 5 or 6 times, taking pictures, video taping, interviewing, studying the brands and prices. And piece by piece, buying stuff.

It started with a White House Black Market polka dot skirt on my first trip, then a necklace on my second, then the shoes…until I finally ended up with this entire outfit:

Sweater: Ann Taylor Loft

White Long-sleeve t-shirt: Mossimo

Skirt: White House Black Market

Shoes: A2 (Aerosoles)

Necklace: not sure of brand, but isn’t it gorgeous??

(My face is red in this picture because now 12-year-old Sophie was making me laugh!)

But is that an awesome outfit or what?  And even though I complained about denting my pocketbook, the best part about this outfit is that the total cost is………………………

Wait! The title of the post is “Guess the cost, win a prize!” So here’s the fun part: I want YOU to guess what you think the total cost for this outfit is, and whoever comes the closest wins this adorable Christmas-tree pin, handmade from paper by my fabulous sister:

You can leave your guess as a comment on this blog, or if you’re reading this via Facebook, you can leave a guess there.

And if you’re a man reading this blog, this pin would be a fabulous Christmas gift for the lady in your life, so please join in on the fun too!

I’m looking for the total price of the five items I mentioned: skirt, sweater, t-shirt, necklace and shoes. Don’t include the tights or undergarments.

This contest will run until 10 pm. Monday night. One guess per person please.

Have fun!!!