Getting my closet ready for spring + summer

Over the past year or so, my closet has grown slowly, and in fits and starts. Due to a relatively limited “home/beauty” budget – necessary with two people in graduate school and one person only working part-time – I haven’t had much expendable income to spend on clothes. Mainly, that money was spent on necessities, as well as other “me” purchases that took precedence over new shoes – shampoo, haircuts, make-up (damn, it’s expensive to be a woman).

However, with a new job and a relatively looser budget to work with, I’ve been having fun this month making up for months and months of austerity by joyfully picking out all the new pieces that will work into my spring and summer wardrobe. Now, I’m a believer in wearing what you have (over and over and over again), and don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy new clothes like this all too often. I still wear sweaters from high school, mind you. But with the weather turning warmer, and my supply of a short-sleeves and looser clothing coming up a little short, I knew it was time for a refresh.

As you can see, I have a preference for simple pieces in basic colors. My goal, when I shop and plan my wardrobe, is not to create individual outfits, but to build a total closet that can be mixed and matched to create dozens and dozens of outfits. Here’s what I’ll be wearing this spring and summer.

These comfy walk-around shoes:

sketchers

 

I wanted to buy some Toms this year, but noooo, Toms had to go cancel my order at the last minute, making it impossible to buy them for my Disney trip. No matter! These super-awesome “on-the-go” shoes from Sketchers are amazing. (1) They look like Sperry’s but are not $1 million. (2) Whatever they’re made of, they’re waterproof and oilproof, and they don’t smell after you wear them all day with no socks. Score! (3) THEY HAVE YOGA MAT FABRIC IN THE BOTTOM! Suffice it to say, they’re ridiculously comfortable.

This white t-shirt

tee

Because my go-to white t-shirt died a few years ago. I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without one.

This chambray top

chambray

Target for the win. Also, I need all the chambray, please.

These black sandals

born

The only black sandals I’ve had for the past few years are a pair of Born flip-flops. They’re awesome, but they’re not exactly appropriate for the summery days when you need fancier sandals. Enter this pair from Born. I’m picky with strappy sandals but these are just the right amount of straps and height. PLUS, they’re Born so they’re ridiculously comfortable. That definitely came with a higher price tag, but they’re worth it.

This white button-down

jcrew

I wore my old white button-down from the Banana Republic into the ground, and so when I had to retire it for good (sad day), I knew I needed to replace it fast. I wear this kind of shirt all the time. Under things, with skirts, with jeans, by itself, casually, formally. For this purchase, I went straight to a quality store (JCrew) where I knew their button-downs fit me really well. Luckily, I found this guy on clearance for 50 percent off at the outlet. Score.

This black maxi skirt

maxi skirt

I was on the fence about max-anything for a long time. That was until I bought a maxi dress last summer and became obsessed with it (It’s like wearing pajamas all the time.). Now, I’ve moved onto this skirt, and I plan on getting a lot of wear out of it.

These shorts

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I think it’s incredibly weird that the best shorts I’ve found in the past few years have been at Urban Outfitters. While 99 percent of their clothes seem made for 85-lb prepubescent girls, these are the first shorts I’ve found that actually fit my curves, while also covering enough of me to remind everyone that I am an adult. I own two pairs.

These wedges

wedges

OK, not these wedges exactly – these wedges except in canvas, not black. But still, will you look those? Aren’t they awesome? Isn’t it even more awesome that I found them at Forever 21 and they were, like, $25?? I know! Now, I know I am an adult who has since far exceeded my 21st year, and I have stopped shopping at Forever 21 for most of my clothes. However, my last pair of summery heels came from this store and inexpensive or not, they lasted forever, were super cute and comfortable. I didn’t anticipate buying a pair of wedges/heels this summer, but this pair is exactly what I’ve been lusting after on fashion blogs, and so I when I found such an inexpensive pair in my size, it was one those shopping-fate moments. You have to buy them. The universe demands it.

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A winter wardrobe

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I’ve never considered myself an overly fashionable person, nor am I your stereotypical “clothes horse.” If I had extra money, I’d rather be spending it on books, or things for the house, or travel, or an ice cream maker (someday!). That being said, I’ve always paid attention to how I dress, and I do enjoy expressing myself through the way I look, as well as receiving the occasional (very rare) compliment. During my post-college, “adult” years, I’ve worked to build a wardrobe that is balanced, grown-up, fun, and most of all, expressive of who I am: traditional, simple, slightly preppy, a little dressy, with a desire for comfort and warmth (I’m always cold…always).

My wardrobe contains items ranging in price from the inexpensive (Target, Urban Outfitters), and the somewhat pricey (J Crew and Anthropologie). It’s not perfect, and given my current limited monthly “home/beauty” budget, my options for expanding it require a lot of patience. But what I love is that while it has a little bit of everything, I wear all of it, consistently, and I love how it can express all sides of my personality – from the conservative, to the side that watches Cartoon Network (I’ve got a Regular Show t-shirt…be jealous).

Given that  it’s not the biggest wardrobe ever, though, I try to wear all of it – or, as much of it as possible – whenever I can, regardless of the seasons. That means being creative while getting dressed in the morning, not allowing myself to fall into ruts, and lots of experimenting. It also means reinventing what it means to have a “winter” wardrobe. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean I have to get stuck in grays and neutrals; there’s plenty of room for color and fun even on the grayest days.

Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been wearing this winter.

IMG_0940I’ve been loving this shirt dress I picked up from Target for $6. Since it’s nice and form-fitting, when I pair it with black tights and black booties, I fit in quite nicely at my archives internship, where everyone is super fashionable. Also: I wear these booties, like, everyday. Yay for the bootie trend! Anyway, this dress will look just as cute and seasonal during the spring and summer, so double-win.

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This outfit is just going to represent all the cardigan-combos I wear not just in the winter, but all the time. I’m a librarian, and I’m always cold – cardigans are just my jam. I’ve only recently fell back in love with this slightly scratchy wool cardigan from Banana Republic. I’ve had it a few years, but it wasn’t until this year that loose-fitting cardigans returned to style, plus the tan of this cardigan is a great neutral that pairs well with structured button-ups, as well as tank tops (I wore it today with a summer-y blue-and-white striped tank top). Hey look, there’s those skinny jeans I wear all the time, and the knee-high brown boots that I’m constantly wearing if I’m not in my booties. Winter, man. It really limits your footwear.

Also, as per these pictures, I know I desperately need new boots. But I also need a million dollars and pony … we can’t get everything we want, all at once, OK?

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I know this looks like fall, but this outfit actually works quite well with winter. This outfit is a lesson in:

  • Pairing cardigans you always wear (see, yellow boyfriend cardigan) with something new and slightly unexpected
  • Acknowledging that yes, a 28-year-old can get away with wearing an Urban Outfitters dress to work, even if it is a little too short to be worn without tights
  • This makes me feel adorable and sunny and happy, even when it’s 5 degrees outside

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I typically wear this skirt with the top tucked in, and maybe with a yellow-and-green waist belt if it’s spring or summer, but for the winter, I like the look of it flowing out from underneath this long-ish sweater. Fun fact: this is probably the most disproportionate outfit I wear in terms of quality/years owned. This is a very nice Anthropologie skirt. Why is that sweater from American Eagle, then, you ask? Because I’ve had it since high school. But hey, what can I say. When you find a nice cable knit sweater that fits, why broke what aint’ fixed?

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And finally, what I actually look like in the winter. This is the GREATEST SHIRT OF ALL TIME. It’s from LL Bean, it’s a button-up, it looks like flannel, but it’s actually made out of fleece. Aka, whenever I am home, this is what I live in. In fact, this is me, an hour after getting home from work. I am clearly out of work clothes, and am in my “let’s-keep-warm” mode.

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Beauty routine for the normal girl (aka, The Tale of Too Many Products)

Though I stopped reading glossy magazines a long time ago, I’m a pretty big blog reader. And though I consider myself an “intellectual” type of girl, one of my favorite posts to read are those detailing beauty routines for the everyday woman. Man, I can’t get enough of them. I love reading about how various women – women I look up to, and respect – take care of themselves. It’s like getting advice from your girlfriends, and when it comes to certain things (like beauty products), the power of a recommendation can not be understated.

Thus, reading about others’ beauty routines makes me think a whole lot about mine. Because – though I prefer Tolstoy to eyelash curlers – I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about the products I use. I mean, call me a girl, but it’s so hard to pin down JUST the right products, and just the right routine, that help you feel beautiful now, while also ensuring that you’ll continue to be fabulous in the future. Amirite, ladies?

One trend that I love is minimalism in beauty products. I read about a lot of beautiful, successful women – many of them in the beauty, fashion, or design industry – who use only a handful of carefully chosen beauty products in their day-to-day routine. And every picture of them comes out looking like a JCrew ad – so, there’s that. Unfortunately, this usually results in me discovering that these products cost about a bajillion dollars and would never, ever, fit into my budget. Sigh.

Still, though my budget is less Sephora and more drugstore, I have also landed on a routine that consistently makes me feel beautiful, soft, and clean. They work with my fickle skin, they have a track record of success, they’re easily obtainable, and I’m not breaking the bank. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of them. But, in line with my 2015 resolutions, I hope to whittle down this list and simplify this routine as much as possible, while also maintaining the kind of personal care that is important to me.

Because how I take care of myself is (and should be) important. Our bodies are a reflection of ourselves, and one should take care of it. That being said, here are the concerns that are important to me:

  • I have dry skin that’s (duh) even worse in the winter. And there’s nothing that I HATE more than dry skin, thus, lotions that work are very important.
  • I have very fair skin that’s prone to sunburn, and with a history of melanoma in my family, I’m very concerned about sun damage.
  • I’m not overly concerned about “all natural” products because I’m a) not a hippie, and b) I understand that chemicals are part of everything (including, for example, nature). Do I want to do things that are obviously bad for me? Of course not. But is Neutrogena going to give me cancer? Probably not. I believe it’s better to simply reduce the products you use across the board, instead of agonizing over whether an added “fragrance” is going to significantly harm you.

Things that I want to change:

  • The sheer number of products I use. I blame this on the fact that, for many years, I’ve received countless gift packages from Bath & Body Works, and so I have about 10,000 scented lotions. I’m slowly making my way through it all,  however, to do that, I use a variety of products on a daily and weekly basis. Do they work? Of course! Would I rather have a simplified version of this routine? Yes.
  • My reliance on Bath & Body Works. I have a lot of these products, and because I’ve always had them, I’m hooked. Now, I’m almost 30, and so I think it’s about time to stop shopping for lotion like I’m 13.
  • I’ve never tried face masks, but now that I’m approaching 30, I’m super paranoid about taking care of my skin. Trying to decide which kind of masks are best, whether to go the homemade or store-bought route, etc.

But now, on to my routine.

Face

photo 1

From left to right:

Day Moisturizer
Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture
With SPF 35, this is a great all-day moisturizer. It’s a tad heavier going on than I would like, but it absorbs quick enough and smells lightly of sunscreen.

Regular Night Moisturizer
Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer
This stuff is very light, and contains no SPF protection, so it’s no use as a day cream. However, it has just a LITTLE (0.5%) bit of salicylic acid acne medication in it, which means it actively fights blemishes while it moisturizes. My sensitive skin doesn’t like too much salicylic acid in my cleansers, but this is just enough not to bother me, and when I use it on a regular basis, I break out significantly less.

Evening Skin Cleanser
St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot
Scrub
I read once that men’s skin is sometimes clearer than a woman’s because of regular shaving, aka, exfoliating. I try to use this scrub every night before bed as a make-up remover and regular exfoliant, though I’m the first to admit this is not always the case. Instead, I typically use it 3-4 nights a week and use make-up removing cloths in the interim. This has 100% natural exfoliants, and it makes my skin feel great afterward.

Morning Skin Cleanser
Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
This is actually supposed to be a make-up remover, but I use in the shower in the morning as a gentle cleanser. Plus, it doesn’t dry my skin out too much, which is nice in the morning.

Occasional Night Moisturizer
Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
The only reason this is “organic” is because J originally bought this coconut oil to cook with, but I commandeered it for the bathroom a few months back. I find that coconut oil, despite its many lauded benefits, is a tad too oily on my skin for regular use, and can make me break out. But I still like using it as a night moisturizer once or twice a week, especially in the winter, because I feel like it really gets in there and moisturizes well. Plus, it’s natural, so there you go.

Hands

photo 2

From right to left:

Occasional Hand Treatment
True Blue Spa 60 Second Manicure Hand Scrub
This is one of those Bath & Body products that I just have, so I feel I need to use it. It is great though. About once a week, I take a glob of this and rub it all over my hands, especially in my cuticles. It helps to slough away that gross, dead skin that builds up on your hands, which is great.

Regular Hand Lotion
True Blue Spa Super Soft Hand Lotion
As I mentioned, dry skin is a huge pet peeve of mine, ESPECIALLY dry hands. I pride myself on my soft hands, and THIS is how I get it. This lotion is specifically for hands, and it’s great: it absorbs quickly enough not to leave your hands feeling greasy, but it really works and keeps your hands soft all day. This is a B&BW product that I’ll be using for a long, long time. Love it.

Occasional Hand Lotion
Avon Silicone Glove
This was a Christmas gift, and it’s an Avon product, which means it’s nice and I might as well use it. Since the tube is so small, I only use it after the hand scrub, in the evenings.

Body

photo 3

From left to right:

Regular Upper Body Lotion:
Bath & Body Works lotion
This is what I’m referring to when I talk about the 10,000 body lotions from B&BW. This “Winter Candy Apple” is just the bottle I’m currently working on (not meant to be seasonal, I’ve been using it since the summer). I find that B&BW body lotions aren’t thick enough for most of my body moisturizing needs, so I use it only on my arms and shoulders, which don’t dry out as badly. Plus, the light scent (whatever it is) is nice.

Regular Lower Body Lotion:
St. Ives Naturally Soothing Body Lotion
This is another one of those products that now that I found it, I’m sticking with it forever. Besides my hands and my face, some of my driest skin is found on my legs and lower body, and when that skin is dry, it’s just uncomfortable. I need something that really works in this department, and I’m very impressed with this St. Ives product with shea butter. It’s not too expensive, plus J uses it all the time. This could replace my upper body lotion once (or if) I ever run out of B&BW products.

Rough Spot Treatment
True Blue Spa Intense Moisture Cream
This stuff is great, and (even better) lasts forever. I use a dab of it on my elbows everyday (resulting in elbows that are never dry and crusty…gross), and on rough spots when they appear.

Feet

photo 4

From left to right:

Lotion
True Blue Spa Super Rich Foot Cream
I use all of my foot products sparingly (once or twice a week) in order to make them last longer, and I use this moisturizer on the top of my feet whenever I use the accompanying scrub and cracked heel treatment. It’s very rich, and if you put on a pair of thick, fuzzy socks afterward, and complete the treatment on a regular basis, there’s no need for pedicures.

Lotion
True Blue Spa Cracked Heel Treatment
Pretty self-explanatory. Like the foot cream, except it’s made for the bottom of your feet. Makes them tingle a little, but it does the trick.

Scrub
True Blue Spa Foot Scrub
This is in our shower, and it’s there I use it once or twice a week, followed up with the above-mentioned lotions. Easy peasy, and like I said, removes the need for a pedicure.

Other

Not pictured, by equally important, are my shower products. I’m a brand whore who’s been stuck on Dove shampoo and conditioner for years now, and I don’t anticipate changing (I love the way it smells and makes my hair feel). I’m also a big fan of Dove’s body wash, preferably the ultra-moisturizing kind with shea butter built in. I tried the store brand of this body wash awhile back, and regardless of how it worked, it smelled horrible. Suffice it to say, pricey though it may be, I’m sticking with Dove products for the time being. Plus, being relatively gender-neutral and not flowery smelling, J’s able to use all three products, which cuts down on the number of products in our shower that smell like pine trees.

Picking just the right pieces for my fall wardrobe

As I’ve mentioned before, J and I have been on a pretty strict spending budget for quite some time now. It’s been going very well, and I plan on writing a post sometime talking about the challenges and successes of budget life. One arena that I’ve had to cut back on, though, was spending on home items/clothes/make-up, etc. It’s been tough, and involves long-range planning and saving, as well as thinking about what items I REALLY want, since I only have a limited amount to spend.

I didn’t buy many clothes over the summer, because I didn’t need to (working in air conditioning eliminates the need for a lot of warm-weather clothes, plus this was a pretty cool Michigan summer). A $20 maxi dress from Marshalls pretty much had me covered for new clothes, and it was great.

That wasn’t going to fly in the fall. I mean, it’s fall! It’s back to school shopping season! Plus, there’s nothing like unearthing all my sweaters and taking a closer look at my boots to realize that things are feeling/looking a little shabby.

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about “capsule wardrobes” for the different seasons, but I don’t think that’s for me. I get the whole cutting down on your possessions, and getting rid of clothes you don’t actually wear. But I already do that (when one item of clothing comes in, another is sent to the donate bag), and I know that I wear the hell out of my clothes and shoes. Plus, I read one account of creating a capsule wardrobe for fall that cost north of $1,000 (!). The girl reasoned that that was only $330 a month, which isn’t THAT bad. Girl, I have $100 a month to spend on clothes, salon visits, make-up, home decor items, cleaning supplies…I can’t afford buying a new capsule wardrobe, no matter how “freeing” the experience is.

So, I’ve had to think long and hard on what I really wanted – and needed – this fall. Here’s what I’ve bought so far:

Belts

I NEEDED belts, badly. One of my belts broke recently due to overuse, and another just disappeared, and so I had one left that I was wearing almost everyday (pants don’t fit me well). I picked up two belts from Target: a black one and this leopard-print one that makes me feel very stylish.

belt

Cardigan

I bought this unexpectedly for myself during my birthday weekend, and surprisingly it still fit into my monthly budget, so, go me! I love these boyfriend sweaters from Target (I’ve got others in red and yellow), and I’ve been wanting a navy blue cardi for some time. It’s so cliche to work in a library and wear cardigans all the time, but what can I say? They’re awesome.

This cardigan, only in navy.

This cardigan, only in navy.

Boots

So this was kind of a cheat from the budget, because my in-laws graciously gifted me with a $75 gift card to DSW for my birthday. But that’s awesome because I was able to pick out a new pair of black boots for the winter without worrying about somehow fitting it into a $100 budget (which would basically be impossible). Ankle boots seem to be the thing, and I already have knee-high boots in black and brown, so I went for these Madden Girls. They’re very comfortable and awesome.

booties

Other

No pictures are needed, but I’ve also picked up a new pair of black leggings/tights, and four new pairs of boot socks with the extra money from my DSW card.

Sweater

Not yet purchased, however, is a new sweater, and it’s here that I’m running into a roadblock. What kind of sweater do I want? All I know is that I DO need at least one new sweater. I’m still wearing sweaters from my undergraduate days – dare I even say high school? That can’t be possible, though there is an old picture of me wearing a sweater I still currently own/wear…and I’m wearing contacts. I only wore contacts in high school. Lord help me.

I’m thinking I’ve reached critical mass when it comes to cardigans (besides the boyfriend cardigans, I own…four others? Yikes!), so I need something more traditionally “sweater-y”. A lot of my Pinterest likes are (not surprising) cardigans, which isn’t a big help. I don’t even know where to begin, though; I’m used to my sweaters fitting snugly, but that doesn’t seem to be the trend this year. *Sigh* I guess I can do some more window-shopping, even though the budget totally sucks the fun and spontaneity out of it. All I know is that sweaters = warmth, and last winter = very cold. I don’t want to be that cold this year.

Other wants

Oh, the things I want but will probably have to wait for…

  • New jeans, preferably straight leg and slightly distressed
  • New black pants (some black skinnies I bought last year from the Gap have stretched into a major disappointment)
  • A puffy vest (this desire comes around every fall, but I know that once I buy one, it’ll won’t be cool anymore)
  • New knee-high black boots (the polar vortex hit my current ones pretty badly)

 

 

Plan for spring: look like an orange

I heart my new skirt from Anthropologie. Don’t you just love when you see something lovely in the display window, then walk inside and discover it’s on the clearance rack?

Fact: It is very hard to resist shopping for spring skirts on a beautiful and sunny 70-degree day in March when I’m so tired of winter, I could scream. Even if it’s 3 p.m. on a Wednesday and I “technically” should be working.

Why I need purple pants

Courtesy of What I Wore

Ugh, if only the pair I tried on at Anthropologie weren’t $200. Seriously, $200 pants.

On a different note, I have been seriously delinquent with blogging. I have about five posts knocking around my head but I have had utterly no inspiration to sit down and write. Call it journalism disease.