Guest Post - Thoughts on travel for Divergent Musings

Yesterday I wrote a guest post for Kate of Divergent Musings. I could say so many great things about Kate, but I'll limited myself to the following: She's an excellent writer, a dedicated blogger, and one of the sweetest people I know. Oh - and a snazzy dresser to boot. (Yes, I just said snazzy. Apparently I'm eighty.) Jump on over to her blog and read my thoughts regarding travel, and what not to pack for a trip!

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Fitness

This week, Fashion Beauty Friend Friday is focused on fitness. As someone with little to no coordination and almost zero athletic ability, I've always been curious about those women who are able to tolerate getting sweaty without having a full-scale nervous breakdown (such as I am accustomed to.) I'm intrigued by these women, these warriors of the gym and running paths, who seem to glide by almost effortlessly in a blissful state of endorphin rush. I'm a little excited to read the other responses to this week's questions.

The Friend Friday group by Modly Chic is a way for fashion bloggers to share more about themselves and join a friendly community of bloggers.  Join the fun by checking out the  Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group. And don't forget to check out Modly Chic - it's such a great blog.


1. Do you keep some kind of fitness routine? Why?

I am the very last person you would consider athletic. Coordination is not my strong suit. Occasionally I fall over when tying my shoes. And I feel awkward and self-conscious at the gym. In the past, I've tried to work around these weaknesses by avoiding team sports. In college I was an equestrian, which provided a surprising good workout. I was also involved on the crew team, filling the role of coxswain in the skull. The cox does absolutely no rowing, exerting themselves by screaming at the team to keep them coordinated. Oh, and the cox steers the boat by pulling gently on a little lever. But I could tell everyone I was on the crew team, and in my head that counted for something.

In the last year, motivated by a desire to become more muscular, I've discovered running.  And I love it. Running makes me feel strong, and powerful, and accomplished. When I run my brain relaxes, and all those little nagging worries are drowned out by the pounding of my feet and rhythm of my breathing. And I've grown to embrace my sweaty body after a run - it's proof that I've conquered a workout. Running is a surprise stress reliever, and that's the biggest reward.

2. Has working out, maybe training for a marathon or something of that nature, helped with your own perception of body image?

When I'm running regularly I definitely feel better about my body. I spent so many years hating how I looked and punishing myself through starvation and purging behaviors. Settling into a workout routine makes me feel more self-confident, and has encouraged me to look at myself in a totally different light. Because of running, I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. I'm physically capable of more than I dreamed. And it feels really good.

3. When you are hitting the gym or just going out for a long walk, what do you wear? Is it about functionality or fashion?

I suppose I take both into account when choosing my workout wear. I really like Nike's Tempo running shorts, and purchased them in bulk at the Nike Factory Store near my house. They're comfortable, lightweight and don't ride up. I also like Old Navy's long sports tanks with a sports bra underneath. I like to coordinate my tanks with my shorts, but I go so far as wearing makeup or doing my hair before working out. I do have one rule regarding athletic apparel, though: It should remain at the gym. Personally, I would never pull on workout clothes to grab something to eat or run errands.

4. Do you feel there is a cultural perception of what you ‘should’ be doing for your own physical fitness?

I'm not entirely sure. Ever since Jane Fonda made aerobics popular back in the eighties, there's been a certain push for women to work out. I don't see anything wrong with that as long as exercising is something you do for you, rather than to impress your friends or fit in with those around you. In addition, working out should always been done in moderation. It should not dominate your life at the sacrifice of relationships and other activities. And, as with most things, it shouldn't be an obsession. I've met women who worked out excessively and developed serious injuries as a result. Balance is key.

5.  Dream big… what would be your ultimate fitness goal?

My goal is simple: I'd like to follow a regular fitness routine that I enjoy. In the past working out has either been something I dreaded or did to excess. Running regularly, and looking forward to my runs, is a simple goal that makes the most sense to me. Perhaps I'll run a 10k someday, or even a half-marathon. But right now I don't feel the need to do so.

My feature in this week's IFB Links a la Mode: Week of April 28th

This week Dress With Courage was featured in IFB's Links A La Mode. IFB is a website for style, fashion and beauty bloggers containing articles, forums, polls and promotional tools. Home to thousands of members, it is an incredible resource for those interested in promoting their blogs, networking with fellow bloggers, and improving their posts. For fashion and style bloggers it's like crack. Not that I've tried it, but like I've seen on Intervention. Anyways, I've learned so much about blogging through IFB and made from pretty wonderful friends through the message boards. If you're a blogger interested in gaining followers, traffic, and ideas for future posts, don't hesitate to become an IFB member. 

This is my ninth (eek!) feature in Links A La Mode, and I'm particularly proud that my post was chosen.  I am so grateful to be included with such talented, stylish, and informative bloggers. Here's the feature with my link:

More than Meets the Eye

Edited by Fajr Muhammad at Stylish Thought

When you visit a fashion blog you often see a stylish blogger posing in a perfectly, put together outfit with gorgeous scenery. What you don’t see is the work that goes into curating and maintaining a fashion blog. This week the theme across IFB was outfit posts: what deems an outfit worthy, what goes into creating a stunning visual post and ultimately the comments (some not so nice) that we receive as style bloggers. Ultimately, blogging is a way to express our love for fashion and personal style but as this week’s links can attest to, there is much more to fashion blogging than meets the eye.

Links à la Mode: April 28th


Thrifting 101, Part 14: Shopping for vintage online

Source: We Heart It

There's little I love as much as shopping for vintage in a thrift store. Whether I spend time digging through bins of clothes, shuffling hungrily through racks, or trolling estate sales for the perfect piece, the joy of uncovering a special garment is hard to beat. I truly enjoy the entire experience - chatting with little old ladies about where they found that beaded sweater in their cart; learning about new shipments from store employees; playing peek-a-boo with small children hiding in the racks. And don't even get me started on the high I get when I finally do uncover a vintage piece. A fruitful excursion sends me swooning and thanking the shopping gods for my bounty.

However, I doubt I would enjoy thrifting as much as I do if I had limited time to shop. Considering that the average time I spend in a store stretches to over an hour, feeling rushed would result in nothing but frustration. I believe there are many people who are unable to really enjoy thrifting because of time constraints. It takes real patience, and a generous amount of time, to dig out the perfect garment. In addition, thrift shopping is best accomplished during the day, specifically first thing in the morning when employees put new merchandise on the floor. Because few of us can afford to miss a day of work, we might lose out on landing the best pieces. There are also concerns of allergic reactions to dust and grime, physical discomforts due to extended periods on your feet, and the frustration of not finding what you're looking for even after spending hours hunting (which happens to me all the time, and I'm kind of an expert.)

Thanks to the internet, finding vintage pieces is possible without dealing with long lines, time constraints, and allergy attacks. With the abundance of sellers on Etsy, eBay, and through independent websites, it's possible to locate exactly what you're looking for without ever setting foot in a store. For this week's installment of Thrifting 101, I'm going to examine online shopping for vintage garments.

(Missed any previous posts in my Thrifting 101 series? Up to this point, Thrifting 101 has focused on tips for newbies and those dealing with the squick factor, advice regarding how to shop at a thrift store, thrifting for the clothing snob, recommendations for finding the best thrift and consignment stores, tips for determining what days are the best for thrifting, a post where I explained my love for thrifting, advice regarding thrift store etiquette, tips for cleaning vintage leather, a post of my favorite thrifting and vintage blogstips for identifying and cleaning thrifted jewelry, and advice for storing vintage and thrifted garments.)

Before delving into the world of online vintage shopping, it's important to know your keywords. For those new to browsing vintage online this may take a little research. If you don't know the exact vintage terms (such a eyelet high-waisted dress or boho 70's Indian batik sundress) then just use the basic generic terms: “vintage dress”. While this will result in more choices then you can possibly examine, you'll eventually be able to narrow your search down to 50's cocktail dress with shelf bust or 70's crochet mini dress with scarf hem. If you're looking for a particular color or label, using those keywords will greatly narrow your search field while shopping for vintage clothes online.

Once you've found the item you're looking for, here's a list of things to check before placing your online order for vintage clothing and accessories:
  • What is the store's return policy? If one is not clearly given, email and ask! A return policy is a must given the tricky nature of vintage clothes sizing (more on that in a bit.) Any reputable seller will graciously accept returns.  
  • What type of online payments do they accept? If the shop doesn't accept credit cards, find one that does. Credit cards are a good source of protection if you have the unfortunate experience of dealing with someone that is not playing fair. Do they accept Paypal? I prefer to pay through Paypal when purchasing online - it's safe, reliable, and 100% guaranteed against unauthorized payments from your account.
  • Check for feedback. Often, online stores will have a feedback or comments page. Reading feedback from previous customers can provide valuable information about the seller and their service.
  • How does the shop describe their stock?  Many sellers have a rating system by which they specify the condition of their merchandise. Most sellers use the following system: Mint: An item is as perfect and pristine as when it was originally made and shows no sign of wear (mint condition is rare for vintage clothing). Near mint: An item shows only the slightest signs of wear. Excellent: An item shows typical signs of wear due to occasional use. Very good: An item is considered wearable but has some surface flaws (staining or soiling, for example). Good: An item is wearable but cannot be returned to excellent condition even if repairs are made. Be certain to check with the seller for an exact description of the piece you are interested in.
  • Is the item from a smoke-free home? Cigarette smoke is one of the most difficult smells to remove, and is often truly impossible to get out (especially from leather - this is important when considering coats and accessories such as handbags.) Do not purchase vintage items from a seller who lives with a smoker, or whose items were acquired from a smoker. If the seller is at all vague about responding to your questions regarding smoke-free garments, move on.
If you've ever shopped for vintage, you know that sizes of yesteryear don't always correspond with those of modern sized pieces. Unfortunately for the online vintage shopper, this can pose somewhat of a problem.  The best way to determine whether an item will fit without trying it on is to measure yourself with an old-fashioned tape measure, and use those numbers to determine whether an item is right for your body. Here are some measurement guidelines your seller might use, based on specific garment:

Blouses, Tops, Coats, and Shirts:
  1. Arm length is measured from shoulder seam to wrist hem.
  2. Bust/chest measured from underarm, across the chest to the other underarm, then measurement is doubled.
  3. Length is measured from shoulder to hem, or straight down the back not including collar.
  4. Waist is measured across where a normal waist would fall and then doubled.
  5. Back is measured from shoulder seam across to other shoulder seam.
Skirts and Dresses:
  1. Dress length is measured from shoulder to hem.
  2. Waist is measured across where an average waist falls, then doubled.
  3. Skirt length is measured from waistband to hem.
  4. Hips are measured across where an average hip falls, then doubled.
  5. Front waist is measured from the base of the throat to the natural waist. (This helps to determine whether that cute 1950's dress is actually going to sit at your waistline or be above and short-waist you.)
  1. Inseam is measured from crotch down along inside of leg to hem.
  2. Waist is measured across natural waist then doubled.
  3. Rise is measured from the waist, down to the crotch.

Shoes are measured lengthwise across the top of the shoe from the heel to the toe, and the width is measured across the sole at the ball of the foot. 

Have you shopped online for vintage? How has the experience differed from purchasing in-store? Do you prefer to shop in-store or online? Got any favorite sellers to recommend? Do you have an online vintage shop? Leave a comment and let us know!

Outfit Post: Shoulding all over myself

Over the past week, I've been having more difficulty deciding how to dress in the morning. I find myself standing in front of my closet, genuinely and thoroughly perplexed. Often I feel I truly have nothing to wear. I throw on outfit after outfit, my anxiety increasing with each article of clothing that I pull on. Rejected pieces puddle on the closet floor. With each passing minute I feel more and more pressure to find the "perfect"look, and more critical about my appearance and my body. Confusing this is the knowledge that I'm a fashion writer and style blogger...shouldn't I be able to dress myself without throwing a tantrum? Shouldn't this be simple, and fun, and my happy time? I've been photographing myself every day for nearly five months. Shouldn't I be over my body anxieties?

Between blogging, doing research, taking care of the house, staying in touch with friends, paying bills, running errands, planning meals, helping my kids with homework and shuffling them to school and taekwando,  I often feel like a circus juggler. I'm trying desperately not only to keep all the balls in the air, but also keep track of where each ball is. Despite the metaphorical nature of my juggling it is nonetheless stressful, and it's no wonder I feel overwhelmed.

The years of abuse from the anorexia combined with the unstoppable forces of aging have played no small role. My body simply won't let me push it that hard.  It loses concentration while doing research for a post.  It finds a way to zone out. And it throws out warning blips in the form of anxiety attacks. I think back to my college days, when I carried a full course-load while working two jobs and writing for my college newspaper. I lived on four hours of sleep and endless mugs of black coffee. Sure, I was miserable and depressed, but I can't help but feel jealous of the old Elissa who got so much done. And then I feel lazy in comparison.

When I find myself becoming overwhelmed and anxious, I believe the problem boils down to one word:
Should. I seem to have internal rules about "appropriate" ways to feel, behave and dress. I should be working on my next blog post. I shouldn't have trouble with body anxiety. I shouldn't wear that short skirt. I should tie my belt exactly like my favorite bloggers. The problem is that the word should implies judgment. It communicates that what I'm doing is inherently incorrect, and that there are absolute rights and wrongs. Thinking within the parameters of the should's create some very narrow minded black and white thinking. It's no shock I feel so out of balance.

So the next time I stand in front of my closet, wondering what to wear and only seeing the shouldn't, I'm going to challenge myself to dress as I want, and feel what I feel. If dressing gets too complicated, I'll give myself permission to throw on jeans and call it a day. If I'm having anxiety about my body, I'll check in with my husband and ask for his support. And if blogging seems to be too much, I'll take a break.

Have you had mornings where you felt you had nothing to wear (despite a full closet?) Why do you think this happens? Do you struggle with managing the should's? Can you explain how you deal with this? 

Thrifted vintage Oscar de La Renta silk blouse; thrifted vintage skirt; J Crew ballet flats (eBay); Marc Jacobs bag (consignment store); Forever 21 rhinestone bracelet; TIKKR watch

Outfit Post: Patricia Field and Kotex want to celebrate your magical lady bits

Earlier this month, U by Kotex launched a collaborative contest with costume designer Patricia Field, inviting people to redesign the maxi pad. "Girls have choices in all aspects of their lives, so why should they settle for boring and institutional feminine care products?" said the company in a statement. For every design submitted, Kotex will donate $1 to Girls For A Change—a non-profit organization empowering girls to create and lead social change within their communities. According to Ad Age, contest winners will work with Field to design new and wild maxi pads, and attend Fashion Week in New York City in September.

Confession: Other than the word panties, my least-favorite word in the English language is vagina. I don't know why - I have one, so therefore shouldn't I be comfortable with the word for it? My issues with the vagina probably have to do with the general discomfort I have regarding my body, femininity and related sexuality. Thankfully, I do realize that I'm far from the only person on this planet with issues regarding the word vagina, which probably explains why there are so many alternatives to it, raunchy as they might be.

It might also explain why commercials and print advertising for products related to female anatomy, and that time of the month, are so archaic. Traditional ads are rich in mysterious ecstasy - women in flouncy skirts, twirling in fields or riding carefree on bicycles; clusters of attractive, young women bonding over their brand of tampon. It's absurd, especially considering that ads describing erectile dysfunction are shown during the five o'clock news. If we can talk so openly and frankly about the penis, why can't we do so about the va-jayjay?

Menstruation has always been marketed as a very personal thing, a magical moment when a woman's uterus whispers sweet nothings captured by a special, pillowy product. (My uterus has never whispered anything to me. It yells and then shanks me with a rusty blade.) Or so the average period-products commercial would have you believe. Which is why I just about lost it after seeing Kotex's newest ad campaign. The first ads were meta-parodies of traditional campaigns for female products, similar to those hilarious Old Spice ads. The more recent ones, which rely on hidden camera, man-on-the-street encounters, indicate that there is plenty of cultural taboo and awkwardness regarding lady bits. In one, a girl stands outside a drugstore and asks random guys to buy tampons for her. In another clip, a guy shops for tampons for his girlfriend, eliciting the all-too-apt response, "It's a man's world" (this time in reference to cardboard applicators.)

Kotex Rorschach test
Lady bits; hole; hoo-hah; down-there...anything but vagina.

Kotex man on the street
(IS SHE TALL?!? Love it. Get that man a cigar.)

As Adweek columnist Barbara Lippert writes with reference to the campaign,
"It's interesting that in our hyper-sexualized, girls-gone-wild culture, where characters on sitcoms like Two and a Half Men joke about "nailing" women and commercials airing during the family hour regularly mention four-hour erections, there's still one backwater of weird prudery: the subject of menstruation and the vaginal healthcare that goes with it.
Who knew that you could talk about vaginas and be funny and not insulting? Now we need even more honesty and directness. Women's bodies and sexuality do not have to be embarrassing or *hidden.* (Or talked about in titillating, colloquial terms for the benefit of men.) Though Kotex is surely motivated by a desire to sell more products, I really like that they're encouraging women like me to become more comfortable with their bodies, especially the magical lady parts. Yay vagina!

What do you think of the Patricia Field and Kotex collaboration? Would pretty pads and honest talk about the vagina help you feel more comfortable about your body, and about that time of the month? Would you consider purchasing Patricia Field's redesigned pads? And am I the only one with issues about the vagina?

Forever 21 lace jacket; thrifted Ann Taylor chambray shirt; thrifted Old Navy striped tee; thrifted Talbots skirt; Miz Mooz wedges; Forever 21 rhinestone bracelet and earrings

Outfit Post: Cocktails in stores - yay or nay?

I have a little Wednesday night ritual. I change out of my clothes into an ancient pair of Anthropologie pajama pants and a Michael Stars tank, pour a double shot of Makers Mark whiskey, and cocoon into a fluffy throw blanket on the couch. Then I turn on the teevee, turn off the lights, and watch Modern Family, Cougar Town and In The Middle while cackling with delight. Then I'll flick to TBS and catch my super secret husband Timothy Olyphant on Justified.  Occasionally, when these shows are repeats, I bring my shot of whiskey over to my laptop and engage in a little online window shopping. By ten p.m I feel relaxed, slightly sedated, and ready for a good night's sleep.

I was never much of a drinker. In high school and college I avoided alcohol like the plague, and waited until my twenty-first birthday to have my first drink (yes, really.) I was exceedingly proud of my ability to abstain at parties while my friends got inebriated. I suppose I was afraid of losing control. And throwing up. But now that I'm older, and more mature, I enjoy a shot of whiskey every now and then. And there's something to be said for the simple pleasure of sipping on a beer while sitting on a restaurant patio during a warm spring night.

Last week, the NY Times ran an article about a new trend developing in New York City stores. A collection of independent men's boutiques have started serving alcohol to shoppers, often tying in the type of drink served to the apparel being sold. Traditional men's lifestyle brands have long offered customers a glass of scotch while being fitted for a suit, a rite of passage for men stepping up into the business world. “It feels like a social experience, very James Bond or 1960s Playboy, but I guess it’s also kind of like Vegas — the more you drink you more you spend,” said Joey Rubenstein, an Internet entrepreneur, as he waited for the clerk to bring out his Hugo Boss sport coat. 

In hip New York City neighborhoods, several men’s wear stores are now lubricating the shopping experience with everything from microbrews to specially made cocktails. While few stores advertise the perk, some shoppers are now stopping in to stores for a drink before continuing on with evening activities, with shopping as an afterthought. And often, the store employees drink with the customers. “We’re not trying to get them drunk, we’ll have one with them,” said Karim Manuel Fresno, general manager at Groupe Seize sur Vingt. “We’re not just selling the clothes, we’re selling the experience. We promote the lifestyle.” 

Reading this article got me thinking about how my shopping experience would change if I was offered a drink while browsing the racks. There's no doubt that sipping on a cocktail puts customers at ease. At high-end stores that cater to women, customers have long been served champagne to reinforce the note of luxury which high-end merchandise symbolizes. Being served a drink encourages customers to remain in the store for an extended period of time, increasing the likelihood that they'd make a purchase. I can certainly see how shopping while tipsy would lead to more money spent, and possible buyer's remorse when the buzz wears off. And bonding with a store employee over a cocktail might encourage a more intimate shopping experience. 

How do you feel about being served while shopping? Would in-store cocktails encourage you to visit, and make a purchase, at a store? Have you ever sipped on a drink while browsing? Or do you believe this trend is going a bit too far? 

Market Publique vintage blazer; Anthropologie ruffled top; Gap cami; Citizens of Humanity jeans; vintage Coach satchel; Mia clogs;  Forever 21 bracelet; Forever 21 rhinestone earrings

Week in Review: April 24th (with a little love thrown to Texas)

As a former NYC resident, there are a lot of things that make me nostalgic for life in the city. I fondly remember leaving my apartment in the morning, strolling around the corner, and grabbing a cup of coffee and the New York Times. I loved taking the subway to wherever I needed to go and not having to worry about sitting in traffic or where I was going to park my car. And let's not even talk about the plethora of shopping...there aren't adequate words to communicate my nostalgia for that.

But there are just as many things I love about living in Texas. Summer days are sweltering, and there might not be a decent bagel available anywhere within state lines, but the culture can't be beat. Only in Texas do you see old men remove their hats and openly weep when the National Anthem plays at a ball game. Only in Texas can you wear cowboy boots and overalls in public, and not have people think you're dressed for a costume party. Only in Texas do you mark the arrival of spring with a photo session in a bluebonnet field. Only in Texas can you engage in deathly debates over whether the plural of "y'all" is "all y'all" or "y'alls." And only in Texas can you indulge in Frito Pie, and picked jalapenos in breakfast burritos, and beef ribs. Yes, I know you can purchase these meals around the country, but they taste best here. Trust.

Much like New Yorkers, Texans are a distinctive breed. They are a proud, hardy folk, the type who fly the American flag year-round and wave to their neighbors when they fetch the mail. They're direct, and have no qualms about telling you exactly how they feel. And once they befriend you, they're friends for life.

Yesterday I was invited by Tina of T Minus, T Plus to her family ranch out in Bowie. Bowie is a rural community dominated by taxidermy shops and outposts selling tractors and hitches to haul your prize-winning cutting horses. Shopping is limited to the local Wal-Mart. Tina's parents own over 200 acres of land and raise longhorn cattle, goats, chickens and horses.  I spent most of my time oooh-ing and aaah-ing and taking picture of livestock and basically acting like a tourist.

While I'm scraping the mud off my boots, here's what went down on Dress With Courage this week:
I'd also like to take a moment and welcome all my new followers.

Thank you for your continued support and thoughtful comments. Y'all are like totally awesomesauce and I hope you stick around.

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, consider becoming a follower through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter, or becoming a Facebook fan. It would be like a massive virtual ((((group hug)))).

Giveaway from The Vintage Martini, D Magazine's Best Vintage Store

Last week, to celebrate reaching 150 followers through Google Friend Connect,  I announced a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate to Vintage Martini, a vintage and consignment store here in Carrollton, Texas.

The winner of the drawing is…


Congratulations on the drawing! It was completed on Saturday, 23 April 2011 at 02:08:18 UTC through The winner was drawn from a list of 10 entrants using true randomness, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs. (I tried to capture a screen shot of the drawing, but my computer was being cranky.)

Congrats Juanette! Send me an email with your address and I'll put the GC in the mail. Hope you have fun shopping at Vintage Martini!

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Inspiration

This week, Fashion Beauty Friend Friday is focusing on inspiration. Whether you find inspiration in music, friends, books, art, or where you live, there's no shortage of opportunities to spark creativity. I'm excited to learn how other bloggers find their inspiration and looking forward to reading posts about the topic!

The Friend Friday group by Modly Chic is a way for fashion bloggers to share more about themselves and join a friendly community of bloggers.  Join the fun by checking out the  Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group. And don't forget to check out Modly Chic - it's such a great blog.

1. Which celebrity (celebrities) do you look to for fashion inspiration?

I find inspiration in a number of celebrities, all of whom have a very distinctive sense of personal style. I really love Rachel Zoe's seventies clothes and accessories. She's encouraged me to consider flared jeans, oversized blazers, faux fur, large framed sunglasses and loads of jewelry. I admire Dita Von Teese's ability to blend vintage clothing with modern touches. She always looks absolutely gorgeous, and her vintage dress and hat collections are pure genius. Cate Blanchett continues to to inspire me with her brave approach towards fashion - she wears pieces straight off the runway and on her, they make sense. And Christina Hendricks' red hair inspired me to color my own!

2. When it comes to your own personal style, what inspires you?

I'm inspired by so many things - fashion history, books,  friends, music, the state I live in (go Texas!) and pop culture.  As a lover of vintage and thrifted pieces, I especially appreciate clothing from a historical perspective. Particular decades in fashion always inspire me, but especially the feminine silhouettes of the fifties, colorful and exuberant fashions of the eighties, and 1970's disco glam. I almost always have my nose in a book about fashion, designers, vintage clothing, or accessories. Of course, I'm incredibly inspired by other fashion bloggers as well. I often scroll through my blogroll to help me figure out how to wear a particular item. Reading blogs has really helped me define my own sense of personal style.

3. How do you hope to inspire your readers?

Since I started my blog, my mission has always been to encourage women to dress with courage and shop where they feel comfortable. That translates into wearing what you want, not what you think you should because of your age/background/geographical location. Dressing with courage also means shopping where you wish, may it be at thrift stores, vintage boutiques, and every place in between. So many women hold themselves back from really exploring fashion because they think they shouldn't wear skinny jeans, or elaborate outfits, or lots of accessories. I encourage my readers to really embrace their own individual sense of style. And as a woman in my thirties with three kids, I prove that age has nothing to do with how one should dress. I wear what I want, and shop where I want.

4. Outside the realm of fashion, who/what inspires you?

I'm inspired by the people I encounter while exploring Dallas. It's amazing who you can meet, and what you can learn, just by introducing yourself and being friendly. Since I've started devoting more time to thrifting and vintage, I've meet some wonderful shop owners who have taught me more about developing my own sense of personal style,  and collecting vintage clothing. And they're so much fun to hang out with! I get a lot of my writing inspiration from whatever book I happen to be reading at the moment, though I especially love David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley, and Augusten Burroughs. If it's snarky, sarcastic, and makes me laugh, I'm all over it.

5. And since Idol is ending… Which songs inspire you? 

Oh gosh...this one is tough. Different music inspires me during different times. When I'm getting ready for a night out, I listen to a lot of Jay-Z, Eminem, Nicki Minaj,  Beyonce, and The Black Keys. While blogging, I like quieter music from Greg Laswell, The Civil Wars, Ray LaMontagne, Regina Spektor, and Iron & Wine. And every now and then I break out some Elton John, Brittney Spears, Morrissey, Led Zeppelin, Jem, The Rolling Stones, and Lady Gaga.

(Now I ask you- what are you inspirations? What celebrities do you look towards for inspiration? And what music gets you going?)

Thrifting 101, Part 13: Storing thrifted and vintage items

When I was living in New York City, one of my favorite things to do was stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visit the vintage clothing collections. There was nothing I loved more than viewing a garment made decades ago. Victorian bustled skirts paired with high-necks and puffed sleeve jackets made me swoon. Twenties drop-waist silk dresses seemed to roar with the sound of big band jazz. Each garment transported me back to a time when textiles were hand-crafted, cherished and treated as heirlooms.

This week I made an excursion to visit Woodland Farms Vintage, a vintage shop located here in Dallas. From Civil War-era stockings to 1930's  dresses made from handcrafted Battenburg lace, each piece in the shop was more incredible than the last. I couldn't help but recall my Met visits as I examined tiny hand stitching on white linen nightgowns from the Victorian era. I gasped over the collection of sumptuous vintage furs. And I nearly passed out from the display of vintage hats.

Between perusing the racks of 1950's silk day dresses and alligator purses, Janet, the owner of the shop (and mother to Ken of Vintage Martini, who's sponsoring tomorrow's giveaway!) shared some tips regarding storing and caring for vintage clothes. With nearly 40 years of experience curating one-of-a-kind garments spanning over a hundred years, Janet is an expert in all things vintage. I learned so much about caring for my own thrifted and vintage pieces.

(Missed any previous posts in my Thrifting 101 series? Up to this point, Thrifting 101 has focused on tips for newbies and those dealing with the squick factor, advice regarding how to shop at a thrift store, thrifting for the clothing snob, recommendations for finding the best thrift and consignment stores, tips for determining what days are the best for thrifting, a post where I explained my love for thrifting, advice regarding thrift store etiquette, tips for cleaning vintage leather, a post of my favorite thrifting and vintage blogs, and tips for identifying and cleaning thrifted jewelry.)

Storage and Care

The greatest danger to all clothing and accessories is light, both artificial and ultraviolet (daylight.) Over time, light causes fading in the colors of the fibers and eventually damages the fibers themselves. Other enemies of textiles are dirt, dampness, insects, and excessive heat. Before storing, make sure that clothing is as clean as possible. If the garments have a musty smell, air them outdoors away from direct sunlight. To remove dust, gently vacuum the garment on low speed through a pair of pantyhose, holding the vacuum attachment  above the textile.

For long-term storage, find a space that is dry and dark with a cool, even temperature. The air should be clean with good circulation. This usually means an interior room in the living area of your home, such as a closet, rather than the basement or attic.

  • Hats, shoes and handbags can be stored on a top shelf of a closet.  If the garment is sturdy at the shoulder area, it can be stored on a padded hanger.

  • Dresses with sheer or lacy fabrics; heavily embroidered or beaded dresses; dresses with bias-cut sections or with trains; and heavy skirts should be stored horizontally in storage boxes such as these, available at The Container Store, and lined in unbleached cotton muslin or acid-free tissue paper. You can also use archival quality storage boxes (products that are permanent, durable, and/or chemically stable) for extra security, but it isn't a necessary expense. Smaller, lighter items such a cashmere cardigans, scarves, gloves and lace skirts may be stored, unfolded, on top of each other. Take care that the total weight on the bottom layer in the box is not excessive. Keep on hand plenty of acid-free tissue paper for packing between layers. Tissue can be ordered in bulk from eBay. Multiple layers of tissue sandwiched between garments can do wonders protecting against deterioration.

Janet's labeled storage boxes of feathered textiles, beaded dresses, lace skirts and silk scarves.

  • Fragile tulle skirts and dresses should be hung inside out and folded at the waist on pant hangers. This will protect the tulle from accidentally being torn by another garment or from a hanger. This tip is good advice for all tulle garments, whether vintage or not.

    • While it's tempting to display vintage hats on a wall or rack, it's smarter to store them in a closet or hatbox stuffed with acid-free tissue paper. Hats are especially susceptible to fading from sunlight, and are often made from delicate fabrics such as organza, silk and feathers. Extra effort taken towards caring for vintage hats will go a long way towards protecting them from deterioration. Removable hat feathers can be stored flat in archival boxes.

    • Vintage dresses should be hung in fabric garment bags. Never store vintage clothing in plastic bags. Natural fabrics expand and contract depending on temperature, and plastic bags trap air and prevent garments from breathing.

    • Storing vintage handbags is simple: Stuff acid-free tissue paper inside the bag, place the bag in its original dust bag or into a cotton pillow case, then store the bag in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight.

      • Vintage furs require extra care. Have your furs cleaned yearly by a furrier, not a dry cleaner. Fur coats should also receive a conditioning and glaze to keep the fur shiny and soft. Never store fur in a plastic bag, never comb or brush fur, and avoid hanging it in a bright place. 
      Cleaned, conditioned, and glazed vintage furs.

      Have any tips regarding storing and caring for vintage and thrifted items? Have these tips helped you reconsider how you store your vintage items? Leave a comment and let us know!

      Outfit Post: Haters Gonna Hate - Dealing with negative comments

      Yesterday was a lovely day. I hopped out of bed bright and early, caught an ex-boyfriend on Fox News, interviewed a vintage shop owner (where I scored a dreamy pair of 1960's cat-eye glasses) and had a spontaneous lunch with the husband at a fantastic restaurant I'd never been to. The weather was perfect, there was no traffic on the roads, and to top it off, I was having an exceptionally good hair day.

      And then I arrived home to a hurtful comment on my blog.

      I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. I am well aware that exposing myself on a public forum makes me vulnerable to personal attacks. As a avid blog reader, I've heard the stories regarding hostile and nasty comments and knew I would eventually be at the receiving end. If you blog, the crazies will come. No matter how well-researched your posts are, how stylish your outfit is, and how witty you try to be, they'll be someone who believes they have a right to judge you or is looking to attack. But that rationale doesn't make it hurt any less. The comment in question was about my body, and it really stung, especially since I'm in recovery from anorexia.

      After moping, pouting, and generally acting like a big baby, I picked myself off the floor and spent the night thinking about the best approach towards handling negative comments. As my blog grows, I am certain there will be more hostility as a result. It's unfortunate, and sad, but ultimately I am responsible for how I choose to react towards it. I believe that the way I respond to negative comments defines the person that I am. So here's my best advice for facing criticism and handling negative comments:

      Resist the urge to respond immediately: After reading the comment I felt hurt, confused, and defensive. Was the commenter right? Who were they to criticize how I chose to dress, and my personal appearance? My fingers felt itchy with the urge to pound out a snarky response. Instead I took a deep breath, closed my laptop, and put on some music to distract myself. Responding, especially while in the throes of emotion, would only make things worse and potentially cause me to behave in a way I'd regret.

      Put yourself in their shoes: Giving the benefit of the doubt to a negative commenter can be extremely difficult. But it might help you gain some perspective. Perhaps the poster is going through a break-up, has suffered a loss or is struggling with financial difficulties. Their rude behavior is much more about their personal issues than it is about you. A good rule of thumb is that nasty or negative comments are never about you or what you’ve written. They are always about the person who wrote them. Even if people disagree with what you’ve said, most of them can do it in a sane & respectful fashion. Those who can't are obviously struggling with issues deeper than what you've written or how you look.

      Refrain from confrontation: Defending yourself in these matters can be tricky business. You don’t want to present yourself in a bad light with your readers, and stooping to someone else’s level rarely gets you anywhere. When I first read the comment I felt as if I had to defend myself, and was hungry to have the last word. However, doing so would likely have resulted in more inflammatory comments and emails. Engaging in these actions would have been nothing more than a waste of time and energy, and only distract me from the positive things I'm trying to do with my blog.

      Delete, delete, delete: Seeing as the comment provided no constructive criticism or positive benefit, I chose to delete it. Rendering it into digital oblivion felt really good. Some bloggers might have approved the comment as a way of garnering support from followers. Others might have taken the opportunity to privately respond to the poster. Personally, I don't believe initiating a potentially tricky line of communication is worth it. Depending on your blogging software, you might be able to block the poster from ever commenting again.

      Live and learn:  Receiving negative or rude comments is a part of blogging. There will always be some troublemakers who have nothing better to do than start - and fan - the flames. Develop a thick skin, don’t stoop to their level, and conduct yourself in a professional, respectful tone.

      What has your experience been with receiving negative comments? How did you chose to respond? Do you have any other advice for handling negative comments?

      Forever 21 linen shirt; TJ Maxx white tee; AG Adriano Goldschmied boyfriend jeans; Gap sandals; thrifted vintage clutch; Gap Outlet belt; Urban Outfitters necklace; eBay bracelets

      Outfit Post: My name is Elissa, and I am a changing room rageaholic

      There are so many things that are great about shopping. Inhaling the sweet scent of leather in in the Fossil store? Great. Finding the perfect pair of wedges that make your feet simultaneously comfortable and stylish? Happy happy joy joy. Lounging at the MAC counter chatting with all the adorbz make-up artists in an attempt to figure out how on God's green earth one is supposed to wear Lady Gaga's lipstick which, I'm sorry, looks like foundation, and why would one make the CHOICE to slather foundation on their LIPS? That too is so, so great (if slightly mystifying. Apparently we are supposed to line our lips in magenta or fuchsia lip liner as an "interesting contrast." I have no desire to look like Krusty the Clown, so no thanx.)

      There is one little itty bitty thing that I do not like about shopping. And that's trying things on. Just the thought of taking my clothes off makes me shake my tiny ineffectual fists into the air and shout WHY GOD, WHY????? I am not the most thoughtful person when planning a shopping excursion. I do not engage in sensible tactics like wearing dresses and other articles that are easily slip-off-able. No. I am the girl in a tank layered under a button-down which is layered under a cardigan that's layered over oppressively skinny jeans that are off course paired with tall boots and knee-high socks. I am that girl. Which, as a style blogger and fashion writer, is redonk.

      I wear this suit of armor as a psychological tactic. See, I hate being nekkid, and I REALLY hate being nekkid in a dressing room. It's too small, and the lighting is horrid, and I am convinced trick funhouse mirrors are involved, and the door never seems to lock securely if there's a door at all, because sometimes there's just a filmy curtain separating me from the general public and I'm naked and what if some intrusive dressing room lady tries to come in and "help" and OM GOD BLOODTHIRSTY BARGAIN SHOPPING ZOMBIES COULD ATTACK ME AND HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I'M NAKED??? So I wear lots and lots of clothes as a way of psyching myself out of trying things on. See? I is a smart. Or not. Because inevitably when I get home and do try everything on I find that only 14% of what I purchased actually fits. Which means I have to go back to the store, and return stuff. /fail

      So I was all together unsurprised when I learned from a survey that many women experience something called "changing room rage," wherein store fitting rooms leave them frustrated and cranky. You don't say.

      Sky News reports that a survey found 48% of respondents felt frustration in fitting rooms, while 58% suffered disappointment. Half said they tried on clothes at home to avoid the problem, while 75% said they avoided trying them on at all. All of these are apparently symptoms of "changing room rage" or CRR, which can allegedly "lead to shoppers snapping at retail assistants, storming out of stores and even losing self-confidence."

      It should be noted that this survey was conducted on behalf of, an online clothing company, so it seems obvious that they have a vested interest in attracting customers who do not like shopping in stores. And, call me crazy, but I don't see how it's possible that half the women tried clothes on at home, while three-quarters avoided trying on clothes AT ALL. That is the definition of a WTF, if you ask me. 

      But still. Is it really that much of a shock that women hate dressing rooms? You wait in line for a long time to enter a tiny enclosed space with bad lighting, where you try on clothes that probably don't fit (either due to sizing inconsistency, or the narrow range of sizes many stores carry.) It's as if you have stepped into a dark netherworld dungeon where torture in the form of ill-fitting pants awaits you.

      Personally, I found this survey kind of comforting, and a wave of solidarity washed over me after realizing I AM NOT ALONE. We rage-aholics really need to unite. Much like the suffragettes before us, we should be marching in picket lines, only this time demanding flattering lighting and comfy leather chairs for our friends to recline while we change and doors, doors that shut tightly and extend to the floor so no one can see our feet, and as long as we're asking for stuff a glass of chardonnay would be lovely too thanks for offering.

      How do you feel about dressing rooms, and trying on before buying? Do you typically purchase things without trying them on first? Do you shop online as a way of avoiding stores and dressing rooms?

      Forever 21 peasant blouse; Gap Outlet cargos; Mis Mooz wedges; thrifted vintage Coach satchel; Plato's Closet braided leather cuff; Dolly Python stamped leather cuff; World Market catholic saints bracelet; geode bracelet

      Outfit post - Tattoos: Fashion statement or sexual device?

      First it was Ari Marcopoulos’s short film “No Way Back” for Yves Saint Laurent men’s spring/summer ‘11 collection, featuring famed tattoo artist Mark Mahoney.  Then it was tattooist-to-the-fashion-elite Scott Campbell’s SS’11 collaboration with Louis Vuitton.

      Tattoo art and fashion have never been more linked. Chanel – as well as Rodarte and John Paul Gaultier – sent models parading down their spring ‘10 runway adorned with delicate temporary tattoos; Chanel’s are now sold for $75.00 per sheet. Marc Jacobs enlisted Campbell again to apply temporary work on his models for the men’s SS’11 Louis Vuitton show. And mass retailers including Topshop have released temporary tattoos as well.

      We all know that high fashion houses have done things like brand a trash bag, call it a trend, and have a waiting list before you say, “Omigod, that trash bag is $2,000?” For many aficionados, tattoos are not a passing trend, but high-end services like Jones’ have dragged tattooing out from under its slightly subversive rock and made it even more mainstream-friendly.

      A few months ago, in the NY Times Opinion section, Steven D. Levitt at Freakonomics asked (and answers) the debate of why people get tattooed. He zeroed in on the one motivation he believes we possess to get inked (and do everything else): Sex. After rejecting the idea that "intrinsic beauty" isn't the reason most people get tattoos, Levitt suggests that it is the permanence itself which swayed 40% of people aged 26-40 to decorate their skin. The irreversibility of tattoos provides evidence of our commitment to a group, a person, or even an abstract concept. They are signals to the outside world - but, Levitt asks, "who are tattoo-getters trying to signal to?" His answer? Potential mates.

      Levitt makes the assumption that tattoos are far more outwardly-directed than inward. He believes that, if it is visible to the public, it must be intended for public consumption. He seems to fall into the trap of equating tattoos with a specific attitude - one along the lines of the tattoo as a signal to the outside world that one is impulsive and likes risks. These are traits some consider attractive in the opposite sex.  He never uses the word slutty but the implication is there, especially when you consider his broader, sex-based argument.

      Personally speaking, none of my 10 tattoos were birthed from a desire to attract men. I like the idea that tattoos are becoming more linked with fashion. I can't speak for every tattooed 26-40 year-old, but I can say this: Most of the people I know with tattoos get them for one of three reasons. Either A) They simply like how it looks; B) It is symbolic; and C) They want to be part of the inked tribe (and of course there is D: All of the above). For those of us with ink, it is usually more complicated than just signaling to the public that we are risk taking maverick-y oversexed types. And when a full 40% of American adults have submitted their skin to be permanently marked, maybe we need to stop thinking of tattoos as an outsider thing (or reduce them to base symbols of hypersexuality) and realize that they are really quite normal.

      Do you have any tattoos? What was your motivation for getting them? What are your thoughts regarding Levitt's opinions regarding tattoos? And how do you feel about tattoos as fashion statements? Do you think they enhance or distract from a fashionable look?

      Vintage thrifted sequin top; Current/Elliot tie-dye jeans; Jessica Simpson pumps; Forever 21 rhinestone bracelets; Forever 21 cross earring; TIKKR watch; Frye clutch

      Week in Review: April 11th (and a blogging break FAILapotamus)

      In case you didn't notice, on Saturday I decided to take my first day off of blogging since I started back in mid-December. For someone who struggles with massive OCD issues, this was a Big Deal. I thought long and hard about taking a break. I worried that by not posting, I'd communicate the message that I wasn't passionate about blogging. I struggled with concerns that missing a day would cause my followers to leave and ZOMG WHAT WOULD I DO THEN, I'D BE A FAILURE AND A SHAM AND HUMILIATED.

      And, to be perfectly honest, just the thought of missing a day of blogging made me feel off-kilter and twitchy. I like routine, and schedules, and predictability. When something doesn't go as planned I am not the type of girl to shrug her shoulders in a cute, nonchalant way, and move on as if nothing had changed. No. I am a quivering anxious mess AND a snappish whiny douchecanoe whom NO ONE can stand to be around. 

      Basically, if my plans change, or I whimsically decide to "mix things up" and try something new everything becomes magnified in respect to how I feel about it. So let's say yesterday I decided to invite a couple of blogger friends (we'll call them Tina of T Minus, T Plus and Erin of Work With What You've Got) over for dinner but had no idea what to make and the husband suggested we grill chicken and veggie kebabs which we've never made before and what if we screw them up and serve tasteless dried-up food and I will die, like literally DIE if this doesn't go off perfectly and BY THE WAY HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I TOOK THE DAY OFF FROM BLOGGING? So I became increasingly whiny and overwhelmed and twitchy and gave myself heartburn (which trying new things leads to because, apparently, I'm eighty.) This led me to make the not-at-all rational decision to
      guzzle whiskey (which I ONLY use for  medicinal purposes, don't look at me like that) to numb my anxiety. And I got a bit tipsy. And of course dinner turned out pretty well, and everyone had a great time, and I was left leafing through the phone book looking for a support group.

      Le sigh.

      This morning I emerged from my little cocoon of anxiety and everything is fine. Yes, I will never be one of those girls who float through life effortlessly, burp Lisa Frank rainbows and leave a trail of glitter wherever she goes. I'm trying to be healthier, and set boundaries, and give myself a break. Which are all things one needs to do in order to be considered a functional adult. Amirite?

      So from now on, I'm taking Saturdays off from blogging. There, I said it. For realsies. I hope y'all will understand. And this post is probably the most insane thing I've ever written because it is all BLAH BLAH ANXIETY BLAH STRESSY TIME BLAH BLAH I WILL DIE BLAH BLAH BLAH WHISKEY BLAH POOR LITTLE OLD ME.

      And really, no one needs to hear that.

      Here's what went down on Dress With Courage this week:

      I'd also like to take a moment and welcome all my new followers.

      Thank you for your continued support and thoughtful comments. Y'all are like totally awesomesauce and I hope you stick around. There's a lot more hot mess (with the occasional burst of intelligent, through-provoking posts) where this came from.

      If you're visiting my blog for the first time, consider becoming a follower through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter, or becoming a Facebook fan. It would be like a massive virtual ((((group hug)))).