Thrifting 101 Part 23: My favorite books on thrifting and vintage

Aside from shopping, talking about shopping, daydreaming about what I'd buy if I was shopping, and planning road trips revolving around shopping, my favorite activity is reading. I love to read. I love the weight of a book in my hands. I love the way the pages smell - fresh, clean, and sweet, with a hint of glue (if it's a new book;) or slightly dusty, a little musty, with the faint aroma of sunlight and the inside of someone's old purse (if the book is used.)  Without a doubt, my favorite part of the day is sinking into bed with a new book. No matter if it's fiction or non-fiction, a biography or mystery, chick-lit or an encyclopedic volume of Romantic poetry, delving into a new book is a gloriously simple moment of pleasure.

So when it occurred to me that I had yet to write a post regarding my favorite books about thrifting and vintage, I felt kind of ridiculous. I have a steady library I consult when researching a post for my Thrifting 101 series. Some I found used, in Goodwill (how ironic) or Half Priced Books; others I discovered on Amazon; and a few came recommended to me by vintage store owners. Here are my top picks:

 New York Fashion - The Evolution of American Style by Caroline Rennolds Milbank (Hary N. Abrams, 1989)

This is a stunning visual documentary of American fashion. Spanning the early 19th century to the 1980's, this book provides a historical survey of both the garment industry in New York as well as the conditions that influenced designers. It focuses on the great American designers who were the foundation of the early New York fashion scene, including Mainbocher, Norrell and McCardell. Glossy color and black-and-white photos, some spanning a full page, are helpful in comparing fashion eras from one decade to the next. I am fascinated with the historical elements behind fashion, and this book is a great resource if you need an in-depth education of American style.

Shopping for Vintage: The Definitive Guide to Fashion by Funmi Odulate (St. Martins Griffin, New York)

This thick little book covers every major designer and trend from the 1880's onward, including Missoni, Rochas, Karl Lagerfeld and Halston. Descriptions are brief, but do a great job with providing a basic history. Color portraits of signature looks are included. The book also includes tips on collecting vintage and has a huge guide to vintage stores that spans the globe (though I'm not sure how accurate it is, given that this book was published in 2008) However, I would recommend this book as a great beginner's guide if you're interested in learning about designers.

Fashion Since 1900, Second Edition by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye (Thames & Hudson, 2010)  

A pocket-sized book full of great photos that a clear overview up to and including the current period (make sure you buy the second edition).  The tone can be kind of academic, but the writing is clear and concise.

Survey of Historic Costume, Fourth Edition by Phyllis Tortora and Keith Eubank (Fairchild Publications, 1998)

I dug up this massive college textbook on historic costume in Half Price books. For ten bucks, it's a dazzling resource covering the development of every theme in fashion. Not for the faint of heart, this book examines dress from the ancient Middle Easter period (c. 36500-600 B.B) to the New Millennium. If you enjoy reading about history, this is the book to get.

Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970: Identification and Values, Second Edition by Susan Langley (Collector's Book, 2009)

Containing over 200 color photos of existing hats and bonnets, this book explores millinery beginning in the eighteenth century and progressing through the golden age to the 1970s. I've recently become interested in collecting vintage hats, and this book has been a great resource for researching the history and styles of milliners. 

The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta (Fairchild Publishers; 2003)

(From The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, 3rd Edition defines more than 15,000 fashion terms, including apparel, accessories, and their components; historical and textile terms that relate to contemporary fashion; and the language of the fashion business. Fifty-one broad categories, such as activewear, blouses and tops, clothing, construction details, footwear, headwear, jewelry, laces, necklines, shirts, skirts, and waistlines are included. Alphabetical listings make it easy to search for a specific item, and the book helpfully includes pronunciation guides for foreign words.

(Missed any previous parts of my Thrifting 101 series? Up to this point, the series 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, tips for identifying and cleaning thrifted jewelry, advice for storing vintage and thrifted garments, and tips for shopping for vintage online. I also discussed influential periods in fashion - the 1920's through the 1950's; the 1960's; the 1970's; the 1980's; and the 1990's.)
Do you have any books on thrifting, vintage, or fashion that you'd like to recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!

Outfit Post: Sweet summertime - Do you shop more in the summer?

Ah, summer. To many, summer conjures up memories of lazy afternoons on the beach, dipping toes into icy water and picnicking on the shore. For other people, summer symbolizes vacations at Disney World or Sea World or Six Flags, with sticky overpriced ice pops and standing on endless snaking lines. Summer might mean a reprieve from school, a road trip, an opportunity to barbecue every evening or nights spent camping under the stars.

For Texans, summer means one thing: Heat. Oppressive, stifling, melt-your-lipstick-into-a-greasy-puddle heat. Summer in Texas is third degree burns on your hands from touching the steering wheel. It is three showers a day. It is two cans of sunscreen a week because the ONLY thing you can think about doing is going to the pool, which by end of July feels about as refreshing as a hot tub.

But don't get me wrong. I hate the winter. A forecast of temperatures hovering around freezing leads me to unleash a string of profanities at Mother Nature, meteorologists, frosted windowpanes and soggy mittens. I spend the majority of winter huddled under down throw blankets, nursing mugs of tea while shivering next to my space heater. I hate gray snowy days. I abhor the time it takes me to heat up my car. I despise the fact that I always, ALWAYS lose one of my gloves during the first cold snap. I become a cranky, irritable, whiny douchecanoe filled with melancholy, reminiscing about days spent outdoors on restaurant patios drinking coffee, people watching, and blissfully bathing in sunlight.

However, if I was forced to admit to one enjoyable thing about winter, it would be dressing for it. Winter clothes are cozy and sensuous. Sometimes, when getting dressed on frigid mornings, I liked to pretend I'm a chic 1960's snow bunny vacationing in Aspen or St Moritz or some other glamorous wintry place. I would wear cozy sheepskin coats and hand knit scarves and adorably fluffy ear muffs with an charming, girlish look on my face. My hunky investment banker boyfriend would whisk me through aspen woods to our enchanted snow-covered cabin, luxuriously appointed in antlers and Ralph Lauren furniture and Native American textiles. He'd light a massive fire and play records while I nibbled on tapas and sipped red wine. It would all be very mountain resort opulence, with sable furs and Scandinavian quilts and four-ply cashmere sweaters and Turkish coffee laced with brandy. And horses. Horses we would ride bareback. Because that's how they do it in the Swiss Alps. Or so I've seen on The Travel Channel.

Despite my penchant for wool and velvet and cashmere, I cannot deny that summer clothes are both less expensive to shop for and much more fun. Tee shirts, simple cotton dresses and flowy maxi skirts are the foundations of my summer wardrobe, and I rarely (if ever) spend more than $30 on a garment. I feel more inclined to wear color and prints in the summer, and stores are more than eager to meet my demands. So Yes! I say, to strappy layered tanks. Yes! to metallic strappy sandals. And YES YES YES I MUST HAVE THAT GIMME GIMME to sunglasses and gauzy tunics and sleeveless blouses and cutoff shorts. There's always something new to buy - a bright pair of denim shorts, a floral skirt, a silk blouse. Furthermore, a stream of sunny, warm days only intensifies the impulse to shop. With layers impeding progress, shopping is infinitely more complicated in the winter, what with down coats, heavy sweaters and scarves to drag around.

The NY Times recently published an article regarding fast summer fashion, with the opinion that lower prices and a larger inventory encourage consumers to spend more on apparel in the warmer months.“People shop and dress differently in the summer,” said Catherine Moellering, the executive vice president of the Tobe Report, a trend forecasting firm. "Dressing is simpler, not as tricky. We all give ourselves a bit of a break.” Furthermore, she added: “The availability of inexpensive, high-turnover, trend-driven fashion encourages people to shop more often, because they know that they’re going to see something different, and that’s what they’re looking for.”

Fashion chains such as H&M, Forever 21, J Crew and Zara have become adept at churning out warm weather fashion, often replenishing inventory weekly or even daily. In summer, fabrics are lighter and less expensive to reproduce in nearly every segment of the marketplace. As a result, shoppers are quicker to open their wallets and buy items from a variety of stores, picking and choosing from different departments.

Now I ask you: Do you tend to shop more in the summer? Which season do you enjoy dressing more for, summer or winter? 

Thrifted Ann Taylor blouse; thrifted Theory skirt; White Mountain sandals; estate sale vintage clutch; Old navy belt; Charming Charlie bracelets

Get the look!

June Giveaway: TIKKR watch winner is...

The winner of the TIKKR watch for my June giveaway is...

 Mel from Doctorly Fashion! List Randomizer:

There were 28 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
Congrats Mel! Send me an email with your address and I'll ship your watch out to you!

Outfit Post - Guilt: Nobody's Fault But My Own

Allow me to being this post with a description of my typical evening routine. I have put my children to bed and returned lingering toys to their rightful home. I change into an ancient oversized tee, remove my jewelry, take out my contacts, wash my face, and turn on my bedside lamp. My Kindle waits patiently on my bedside table. I climb into the warm, welcoming embrace of my bed, pull the covers up to my chin, and settle in for what I hope to be a solid night's sleep.

It starts innocently enough. I have a new book to read. A book which cost twelve bucks for my Kindle. Did I really need to spend money on a new book? I shouldn't have done that. The library is a few miles down the road, and I probably could've borrowed the book for free. We're trying to save money for a family vacation and here I am, sabotaging those plans. And what about the money I spent on thrifting this week? And the money that went towards a new swim suit at Target? That was wrong too. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I feel terrible. I am a terrible, horrible, irresponsible person. I can't do anything right.

Before I know it, it's one am and I'm no closer to falling asleep than I was when I first got into bed.

This is only one example of the guilt I carry around with me. Truthfully, I feel guilty all the time. I feel guilty about that extra slice of pizza I scarfed down at dinner. I feel guilty for skipping a run last night. I feel guilty for not taking my kids to museums more often, for not keeping a perfectly clean house, for spending too much time on the computer, for speeding on the highway. No matter the offense, you can bet my conscious is paying for it.

Ninety-six percent of women feel guilty at least once a day, and sometimes as much as four times a day. My guilt attacks tends to come at night, when I have time to ruminate on all the ways in which I've screwed up. Guilt is defined as a feeling of culpability for offenses. When we feel responsible for an action we regret, those feelings translate into guilt. Guilt says "I've done something wrong, or made a mistake" and is often combined with remorse. (Note: Guilt and shame are often confused. Shame says "I am a mistake" and is a toxic, harmful emotion that eats away at your self-esteem. Guilt concerns what you did; shame is a judgment about who you are.)

Guilt serves its purposes sometimes. It helps us know when things are morally amiss in our lives, and can trigger the desire to make amends. But women take guilt to a whole new level. Women feel guilty because we can't be successful career professionals, perfect students, glamorous girlfriends with perfect bodies, style icons, and public servants all at the same time. Instead of noticing the good we do, we let the things we can't do immobilize us until we feel guilty most of the time. Symptoms of this mindset include:
  • Feelings of inferiority. ''Other women pull all this off, why can't I?''
  • Feelings of inadequacy. ''I have no talents, look at so-and-so, she's just so talented, but I can't do anything.''
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. ''Nothing I do really matters, so why try?''
  • Feelings of martyrdom. ''All I do is wait on everyone else – my husband, my spouse, my work clients, my children. I never get any me time and if I do, I just feel guilty for taking it.''
Studies have shown that women beat themselves up daily about their friendships, relationships, work and body shape. Almost half of all women are kept awake at night by guilt. Author Erica Jong has said, "Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I will show you a man."

Susan Carrell, author of Escaping Toxic Guilt, said: "Women feel guilt when they don’t think they are being good enough in their various roles – especially as wife, mother and daughter. That’s because familial, cultural and religious tenets teach women that being “good” is the most important thing. When a woman feels she is not putting another first, she quickly feels like she’s doing something bad, and then guilt rushes in." Women are more likely than men to internalise faults and admit to feeling guilty because “I am stupid", "I am a failure", and "I can't do anything right."

Guilt is a useless, toxic emotion, and serves only to shame us and point out our flaws. The only way around it is to give ourselves permission to be human. That means accepting our mistakes and refusing to allow them to define who we are.

Now it's your turn: Do you struggle with feeling guilty? What are some things you often feel guilty about?  Where do you think your issues with guilt stem from? Has guilt impacted your relationships?

Thrifted silk top; thrifted vintage 1950's skirt; H&M sandals; estate sale clutch; Michael Kors rose gold watch; Charming Charlie and forever 21 bracelets

Get the look:  

Outfit Post: Dressing rooms, crying, and why I'm over it.

I'm not big on crying in public. Don't misunderstand -  I am perfectly comfortable with expressing emotion. I just prefer to save my crying jags for the privacy of my own home. I occasionally tear up while listening to a heart-wrenching song on the radio, or after watching a sentimental television commercial, or during an affectionate moment with one of my children. I've cried while on the phone with a family member, and am quickly reduced to tears after an argument with my husband. And sometimes I cry for no reason at all. I've experienced those hysterical silent sobs where you can't catch your breathe and are gasping for air while your chest heaves and OH MY GOD I THINK I'M GOING TO DIE, LIKE LITERALLY DIE.  I am a lifetime member of the heart-on-sleeve club, and have learned to accept my propensity for tears.

While I consider public crying a no-no, tearing up in dressing rooms is another story. Off the top of my head, I can rattle off six times I've cried in a dressing room:
  • Two weeks ago: Goodwill, Dallas location. J Crew silk babydoll dress. Tag clearly said it was a size zero, but I believed this to be false as the dress had an empire waist, appeared roomy, and J Crew has a propensity towards vanity sizing. Alas, it was accurate. I became a little tearful both in the dressing room AND in my car on the way home.
  • Twenty-five years ago: Bloomingdale's lingerie department. My mother had taken me for my first bra fitting. I stood in the dressing room, quaking with fear and trembling with cold (why are dressing rooms always freezing? Are we meant to lose feeling in our extremities when trying on clothes?) Saleswoman emerges with four innocuous-looking training bras. All of which are too small. Saleswoman's reaction: "Hmmm, I'm usually great at judging sizes. But you're much...larger than other girls your age." My mom sighed indifferently while tears rolled down my cheeks.
  • Thirteen years ago: Macy's bridal salon. Combed through the racks and found a lace ballgown with a sweetheart neckline, simple crepe bodice, and buttons down the back. Knew immediately after trying it on that it was the dress I was meant to have, and openly wept in my plush virginal-white dressing room. (The bridal attendant calmly handed me a box of Kleenex and went onto the next bride. Apparently this sort of thing happens all the time.)
  • Twenty-one months ago, fresh home from a month-long inpatient hospital stay for anorexia, I made the foolish mistake of trying on clothes that swam on me before entering treatment. But this time, everything was too tight. I locked myself in the bathroom for an hour sobbing and gave serious thought to suicide.
  • Six weeks ago, Salvation Army, Plano location. Went thrifting with an extremely petite, younger friend. Pulled on a pair of high-waist vintage denim shorts that were exactly like the pair she looked adorable in. The effect was not the same on me.
  • Eleven years ago, Motherhood Maternity. Am nine months pregnant, swollen to the point where my only options in footwear are flip-flops, and am shopping for a formal maternity dress. Self explanatory.

Oh, the complexities of being a woman. If we're not thinking about clothes, or buying clothes, or thinking about clothes we want to buy, or trying on clothes, or wishing we fit into our old clothes, we might be crying. Crying because our ex-boyfriend is dating our former best friend; crying because got a bad grade on a paper; crying because we skipped a workout and feel badly about ourselves; crying because we're watching the Notebook and who doesn't cry while watching the Notebook; or crying because those adorable shoes at Anthropologie have not gone on sale yet and WTF Anthropologie???

Women cry, on average, four times as often as men - according to University of Minnesota neurologist William Frey, an average of 5.3 times per month, compared with 1.4 times for men. This isn't just a function of cultural training. Women actually produce far more prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production that also controls the neurotransmitter receptors in our tear glands. Women’s tear ducts are also anatomically different from male tear ducts, resulting in a larger volume of tears. A propensity to cry is, in part, biologically driven.

I'm hopeful that my days of crying in dressing rooms are on the wane. As I become more accepting of my body, I realize that there are silhouettes that just aren't going to work for me, and that's okay. I will never be a size zero, and that's fine as well. From now on, I'll save the tears for sappy movies and sad songs and heart-tugging moments with my kids. I may occasionally cry at the airport, or the cash register. But crying in a dressing room? Over it.

Have you ever cried in a dressing room? What caused it? Can you remember other times that you've cried in public? Do you consider yourself a crier, or are you more inclined to choking back tears and holding things in?

Target tanks; thrifted vintage skirts; Gap sandals; Forever 21 necklaces; Charming Charlie bracelets; Michael Kors rose gold watch

Like this look? Find similar pieces here here, here, here, here, here, and here.

On Sundays I Smile - Week in review June 26th

On Sundays I review the past week and I Smile. I share these moments with you.

This is my daughter, self-declared tomboy and hater of all things pink and girly. Becky recoils at the mere thought of dolls, makeup, clothes shopping, and ballerinas. She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, is stubborn as a mule, and could argue with a doorknob. While she abhors most things smacking of feminine ritual, she's surprisingly particular when it comes to getting her hair cut. Here were her specifications on this day: "I want you to cut exactly one and a half inches, not any more than that because then it'll be too short. I want my bangs swept to the side, not hanging straight across because then they'll get in my face and that's totally annoying."

Every day, I try and take a moment to appreciate the simple things God puts before me. When I went thrifting in Sherman earlier this week I came across this charming little coffee shop. Featuring exposed brink, chipped vintage furniture and a display case straight out of the 1950's, it was homey and rustic. And the barista made me the best darned cinnamon latte I've ever had.

Thrifting in Sherman is generally limited to Western-wear. You'll find things like roper boots and tee shirts emblazoned with the Texas flag and fringed, bedazzled ANYTHING and silhouettes constructed entirely out of camo. However, the Goodwill display case held this 1930's evening bag. Priced at $15, it was expensive by Goodwill standards. But when I discovered it contained the original coin purse, a vintage comb, and the slightest scent of gardenia perfume, I was sold.

Yesterday the family and I took a road trip out to Edum, Texas to pick blueberries. The weather was perfect - slightly cloudy with a breeze - and we spent two hours filling up our pails. Picking blueberries is an exercise in both dexterity and self-control. I was tempted to shove handfuls of blueberries into my mouth and Veruca Salt myself into oblivion. But we all know how well that turned out for Veruca.

After our blueberry orgy, we were starving, and drove into Edum for lunch. Edum is literally a two-block town, containing a post/telegraph office, two country restaurants, a gas station and a handful of dilapidated houses. All I wanted to do was submerge my face into basket of fried pickles, Texas' answer to healthy fare. Trust me when I say that you have not lived until you've eaten a fried pickle. There, I said it.

Now it's your turn: What are some things that made you smile this week? Grab my button (created by Kate of Divergent Musings - HUGE THANKS to Kate!) and blog about your Sunday smiles; share your weekly smiles in the comments; or smile just because it makes you feels good.

While I'm making blueberry panckakes and blueberry muffins and blueberry crumble and blueberry smoothies, catch up on my posts on Dress With Courage from the past week:

I had four major blogging accomplishments this week:

Thank you for supporting me by following my blog, continuing to leave thoughtful and introspective comments, and dropping by every day. I am so appreciative that you all are here. Oh - don't forget to enter my giveaway for a TIKKR watch and extra band! The drawing will be held this afternoon.

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please think about following me through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter (I'm quite witty on the Twitter, I promise), or becoming a Facebook fan.

My feature in this week's IFB Links a la Mode: Week of June 25th

Much to my delight, Dress With Courage was featured in this week's IFB 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. I am so proud to be grouped with this week's Links a la Mode featured bloggers. Make sure to check out their posts!

The Beauty of Bloggers

Edited by: Fajr of Stylish Thought

Once a month, I pour through the links that the amazing members of IFB submit. Typically, I sit late Wednesday night after a long day and read through the thoughtful, helpful, stylish and beautiful posts that you guys submit. It is in these moments that I am truly in awe of how talented and gracious this community is. Full of spirited bloggers that discuss everything from the latest neon trend to the body pressures of fashion blogging. We are a diverse and dynamic group, connected through our mutual love of style and tireless support and encouragement of one another.
This week’s links are a testament to the beauty of blogging. Through eloquent prose, enigmatic portraits and style lessons from a mother to her daughter, IFB is rich with love and of course great style.

Links à la Mode: June 16th


Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Seeing the world through a blogger's lens

This week's Fashion Beauty Friend Friday questions were suggested by Suze of Miss Vinyl Ahoy. They focus on the ways being a fashion blogger has influenced your personal style. As I just passed my six month blogiversary I've spent a bit of time reflecting on the ways in which blogging has changed me, both in regards to my personal style and the way I view fashion and trends. I really enjoyed this week's questions and look forward to reading everyone's responses on Modly Chic.

1.      Since you began blogging, do you notice a change in the types of things you gravitate towards while shopping?

Not only has my style changed since I began blogging, but the environment in which I shop in has changed too. For awhile, I stuck to mall and discount stores for my clothes and accessories, tending towards a slightly conservative look in a muted palette. Blogging has changed all of that. It encouraged me to revisit my love for thrift stores and look for clothes that are unique. I also have a renewed interest in being creative when getting dressed, pairing items together than I would have avoided in the past. There's also the fact that I give thought to how garments will look when photographed, leading me to chose interesting patterns and bold colors. Blogging has led me to be much more courageous and individual in my clothing choices, and I'm so thankful for it.

2.      Do you find, as a fashion blogger, that you dress differently from your family and friends? Do they comment on that?

I've almost always dressed differently than my family. In high school I bought most of my clothes secondhand, and enjoyed the contrast between my family's conservative tastes and my shabby vintage clothes. I dyed my hair and wore ripped jeans and super short skirts and Doc Martins. They preferred designer clothes with recognizable labels and logos, but were supportive of my taste.

In my late twenties, after I gave birth to my children, I felt pressure to dress more conservatively and went through a phase where I turned towards designer clothes. I have a closet full of high-end jeans, expensive handbags and shoes...all that I never wear. Truthfully, when I wore these items, I never quite felt like I was expressing who I was. I was dressing to fit in and be accepted, and wore what I thought I was supposed to given my role as suburban mom. When I returned to thrifting I immediately felt much more like me. Now, my tattoos have been an adjustment for my family to accept, but over time they've learned to look past them.

3.      What’s the weirdest fashion that you secretly like, even if you aren’t bold enough to wear it?

I have always, always wanted pink hair. I daydream of pink streaks and have coveted brightly colored hair for as long as I can remember. I just can't seem to bring myself to get it done. Because of my age (about to turn 37!) I worry I'll look ridiculous. I worry about how it would look again my red pixie. And I end up talking myself out of it. But there will always be a part of me that covets pink hair.

4.      Looking at current trends – what would you like to try but need to build up the courage to do?

I honesty can't think of anything I feel the need to build up courage to try. I conquered my fear of maxi skirts and bold color blocking this season, and those were the only fashion goals I had. I'm just going to enjoy giving my own interpretation to trends and wearing clothes I feel pretty and comfortable in.

5.      Toot someone’s horn – what fashion blogger out there inspires you with her bold fashion choices? 

Erin immediately comes to mind - I have always admired her fearless, completely individual take on fashion. She's really encouraged me to break out of the box.

Thrifting 101, Part 22: A love-fest for pleated skirts

On Tuesday I decided to take a little road trip to Sherman, Texas for a bit of thrifting. Sherman is a small, quiet city located north of Dallas, the kind of place famous for it's high school football team. In Sherman you're likely to see an abundance of the following: Ford F150 pickup trucks, discount tobacco shops, barbecue joints, and grizzled old men in Wranglers and dusty cowboy hats. Accents are thick, food is chicken-fried, and country music is pumped in at the gas station. It isn't exactly the fashion capitol of the world, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in charm.

In my experience, it is exactly this kind of town that offers the best thrifting. Why? Well, the shops aren't picked over, store employees are exceedingly polite, and the merchandise is extremely representative of the town. In Sherman's Salvation Army, for example, you'll find fringed Western shirts, snap-front denim jackets, well-worn cowboy boots, Aztec and Indian print blouses, and a wide array of belt buckles, roper boots and high-waisted jeans. Sherman is where Western wear comes to die, and I swoop in to revive it.

It is also in Sherman that I've discovered my love for pleated skirts. These polyester, chiffon, or silk beauties, often made by Espirit, The Limited or Jordache, are the kind worn by teenage girls in the 1980's, high school princesses who kept their homework in Trapper Keepers and collected Lisa Frank stickers. Every time I thrift one of these pleated skirt I imagine the life these girls led, with their teased Aqua Net hairdos and licit Camel Lights. They had part-time jobs at the Piggly Wiggly (yes, there's one left in Sherman) and decorated their bedroom walls with posters of Kirk Cameron. They attended church every Sunday morning and watched Who's The Boss and had boyfriends named Justin and Bart. They read romance novels and held parties in their basements, where they drank warm beer provided by some friend's brother. They were young and carefree.

My pleated skirts are knee length or just above, all with elastic waists. They are comfortable and versatile and extremely easy to care for. I bought all of my pleated skirts for under $6 at The Goodwill and Salvation Army, and am certain that your favorite thrift stores has them too. Here are some tips for finding your perfect pleated skirt:

  • Skirts with pleats that begin at the waist are much more flattering than those that flow from the hip. If you have any kind of booty, a drop-waisted pleated skirt will only emphasis it.
  • Thin pleats are easier to work with than thick ones. A knife-pleated skirt is slimming and elegant, and looks great paired with a flowing blouse or casual tank.
  • When caring for pleated skirts, wash them in cold water and hang them to dry. Throwing them in the dryer could ruin the crispness of the pleats.
  • If you're petite like I am, look for shorter silhouettes. A pleated maxi skirt will likely overwhelm your figure and made you look wider.
  • If you see a pleated skirt while thrifting, and it isn't in your size, try it on. The elastic waist allows for a more forgiving fit.

My favorite thrifted pleated skirt. Price? $3

(Missed any previous parts of my Thrifting 101 series? Up to this point, the series 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, tips for identifying and cleaning thrifted jewelry, advice for storing vintage and thrifted garments, and tips for shopping for vintage online. I also discussed influential periods in fashion - the 1920's through the 1950's; the 1960's; the 1970's; the 1980's; and the 1990's.)

Outfit Post: Physical activity, body image, and an act of courage

Here's a sobering statistic I came across while researching a post: Apparently, around 1 in 4 women in the US have avoided engaging in a physical activity or sport because they feel badly about the way they look. ( Dove, Beyond Stereotypes: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs)

I have never been a huge fan of the gym. It's true that there have been brief periods in my life where I've held a membership. My gym phases were largely characterized by the purchase of tourniquet-like sports bras, the strict avoidance of group classes, and some rather comical displays of athletic prowess (I am the girl who has fallen off the treadmill in public. Believe it.) Between my embarrassment over sweating profusely in public and propensity for hiding in the locker room, fumbling with my iPod and avoiding eye contact, it's no shock that just walking into a gym makes me uncomfortable.

However, it was during my flirtation as a gym member last summer that I discovered running. Imagine my shock when I, chronic exercise-avoider and couch surfer, learned that I loved to run. I felt accomplished after pounding out three miles. I was proud of the new athletic shape my body took. I loved reading about endurance tips and energy gels in Runner's World. Hell, I even loved that I had a legitimate reason to read Runner's World.

But running at the gym was an adventure in both physical sport and emotional distress. Because while I was on the treadmill, sweat pouring down my temples, all I could concentrate on what what I believed other gym goers could see. Where they watching my ass jiggle on the treadmill? Could they see the perspiration dripping down my back? Was I flabbier/fatter/less toned than the woman next to me? Wow, she's going so much faster than I am. I suck at running. I must look ridiculous. Why am I doing this? Oh, great, there's that super fit mom I know parading around the gym in a teeny tiny sports bra and teeny tiny shorts. She has zero percent body fat and probably runs a marathon without so much as a glimmer of sweat on her perfect brow before going to her daily pilates class. Why can't I look like that? I hate my thighs. OH MY GOD WHY AM I DOING THIS I AM A WHALE STOP LOOKING AT ME AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

With every pound pound pound of my feet on the treadmill a litany of negative thoughts tore through my head. Thighs thighs thighs, fat fat fat, jiggle jiggle jiggle.

Negative body image can have a huge impact on exercise. We all know how important it is to be active - the merits of physical activity include strengthened muscles, stronger bones, decreased stress and better sleep. But it's no surprise that so many women feel uneasy in an environment where bodies are seemingly on display. Whether the discomfort comes from working out in front of men, the fear that they're being compared to other women, or the disdain to be seen perspiring and red-faced, it's there, and interferes in efforts to get healthy and stay active.

Now I ask you: have you every avoided exercise because of negative body image? Do you avoid working out in public because you feel badly about how you look? Do you have any advice for those who struggle with balancing negative body image and exercising?

(And now, in an act of courage, I present to you a pic of me after a workout. With undeniable proof of how good I feel after a run, despite fighting negative body thoughts.)

Outfit Post: Winner takes all - Women and competition

Yesterday I read Beautifully Invisible's post about why women are (at times) their worst enemy. Her words regarding body shaming, labeling, and the pervasive "us versus them" mentality shook me to my core. Today I'm going to talk about a related issue that is common with every single woman out there. Whether you feel it, or someone feels it against you, no one can deny that it exists.

Competition amongst us.

Age has no bearing. It doesn't matter if you're a little girl ("She has four Barbies; I have to get six") or older woman ("She just got Botox and has a smoother forehead; I have to get a face-lift and look younger than she does.") Or perhaps, "Her blog has more followers than mine does", "She always looks perfect",  "She's so skinny, I could never look like that",   "She gets invited to more events than I do" , "She has more sponsors than I do", "Gosh, I wish I could...."

Gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash interviewed 500 women in the United States on their views regarding competition. Here are some highlights:

90 percent admit they are (or have been) envious and jealous of other women in their lives.
65 percent say they feel that way about their sister or best friend.
80 percent say they have been victims of  another woman’s envy or jealousy.
And 90 percent of women say the toughest workplace competition comes from women, not men.

Don't get me wrong - there are some positives to being competitive. Competition drives us to be better. It encourages creativity. It pushes us to keep improving. It can give us a chance to collaborate and create something better.

Unfortunately, competition between women is rarely displayed in a healthy, positive way. Women are conditioned to be peacemakers, to get along with others and avoid conflict. We are taught that anger, hostility, and jealousy are emotions to be avoided and even feared. Competition is best left to the boys, we're told, with their sports and career climbing and quest for the most attractive partner (which is partially responsible for the higher male mortality rate.) A study by Stanford University economist and guest presenter Muriel Niederle shows that women actively look for ways to avoid conflict and competition, even when they know they deserve to win. So we learn to inhibit and repress our competitive urges. Over time, these feelings build up. What could have been healthy competition becomes a secret feeling of envy and desire for the other to fail - often laced with guilt and shame.

Ultimately, competition results in a feeling of inadequacy. You feel inferior because you don't measure up, and that leads to resentment, anger, and bitterness. When you get into the rut of comparing and competing, you lose who you really are. Even worse, competition pits us against one another. It forces us to each each other as enemies and sabotages intimacy and trust.

One only glance at my history to see the battle I've had with competition. My twenty-year struggle with anorexia and bulimia was largely about competition - to be the thinnest, the "most perfect" anorexic, the most in control over what I ate (and didn't eat.) As long as I was losing weight, I felt powerful over other women. In my starved brain, being the thinnest made me the best. It meant I had won.

I can’t help but wonder if  women are competitive in the blogging and career worlds because they believe the rewards are limited - that there is a maximum amount of success available. That simply isn’t true. There is enough pie for all of us to get a piece, and there’s no need for us to guard our piece viciously, snapping at anyone who comes near it. We all have something of value to offer. Your competition should be your own goals, your own mission, your own values, and what you hope to accomplish. All you can do is try, work hard, and be the best you can be.

I have learned the hard way that you cannot control what successes others find, and you shouldn’t want to. Be happy when others find success. Sure, you can have that blinking moment of jealousy, but let it roll right over you and smile. Know that if another blogger’s found it, that simply means you can to.

Don't judge. Don't compare. Don't belittle people's lives or feelings. When someone acts ugly out of jealousy, it really hurts. It damages relationships, lives, and spirit. And you know that beauty everyone has? When jealousy comes out, the beauty goes away.

What are your thoughts on competition between women? Do you believe we can find a healthy way to be competitive with each other without becoming mean or passive-aggressive? Do you look for ways to avoid competition with other women? Has competition ever affected your relationships with female friends? 

Thrifted Michael Stars top; thrifted vintage skirt; White Mountain sandals; Forever 21 necklace; estate sale clutch; TIKKR watch

Outfit Post: Magical weight-loss leggings are just screwing with you

If you are a child of the eighties like I am, you might remember a delightfully fun winter clothing accessory called Freaky Freezies. These "gloves of the future!" changed color in cold weather to reveal designs and patterns - elementary things like rainbows and race cars and the solar system. I have fond memories of tugging them on after a morning watching The Smurfs and eating Captain Crunch, bundling up for a day of cavorting in the snow. In my little social circle, wearing Freaky Freezies elevated me from "that shy girl who, like, waves her hand frantically in class to be called on, you know her, she's so annoying" to someone close to cool. At the time, Freaky Freezies were the closest thing to high-tech one could get. But then again, these were the days before the Internet, cell phones, and cable television.

Last week, “Good Morning America” showed a hysterically skeptical segment on leggings that are laced with caffeine, supposedly to help slim down your thighs. Lytess, the makers of these magical leggings, claim that wearing them for three weeks will take two inches off your hips, and one inch off your thighs. Becky Worley, the correspondent in the ABC segment, held them up to her nose and said: “They don’t smell like coffee. They actually smell a little fruity.”

Manipulating technology to create functional clothing is nothing new. Spandex, invented in 1959, revolutionized the clothing world, and is currently found in pants, wetsuits, bathing suits, underwear, hosiery, activewear and shapewear. Athletes who need form-fitting clothes that do not constrict their movements rely on this material. Uniquo recently introduced clothing with "wearable sunscreen" which supposedly blocks UV light. And Eastern Mountain Sports offers polo shirts made of a polyester fabric that wicks away perspiration, dries quickly, resists odor and has a UPF factor of 30+.

"Functional" fashion has become something of a buzzword in the apparel industry in recent years, partly the result of marketing aimed at keeping consumers engaged with clothing that is designed to be disposable. It is also the result of a need to justify higher prices caused by the rising cost of raw materials like cotton and wool.

It was only a matter of time before marketers realized the potential profits to be gained by utilizing technology to create garments suggesting weight loss. The makers of "toning shoes" claim they can help give wearers more shapely butts, legs and abs, often without the need for gym workouts. This footwear - which often has a rounded sole like a rocking chair, to stretch the wearer's leg muscles with each stride - represent the fastest-growing segment of the $17 billion-a-year athletic footwear industry. It's a market driven by a customer base that is 90% women, according to sneaker analyst Matt Powell of SportsOneSource. However, claims that toning shoes can significantly contribute to a person's fitness are "utter nonsense," says Barbara de Lateur, distinguished service professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine in Baltimore.

So what's the verdict on caffeine leggings and weight loss? (SPOILER ALERT!) Zero scientific data exists to support the idea that caffeine rubbed against your skin will hep you slim down. Your body can't spot-reduce the areas of your body that the leggings are touching, and you can't even get those kind of results from frequent exercise. Lytess, the company behind the magic leggings, still claims "you can lose inches," but don't say that they'll assist with any actual weight loss — just "temporary size reduction and smoother skin."

Companies attempting to profit from the insecurities of women are nothing new - think of every quick-fix diet pill, diet program, and exercise equipment sold via infomercial. But the merge of technology and apparel to manipulate women seems to be a growing trend. Would you be intrigued to purchase a garment that purportedly encouraged weight loss?  Have you ever tried any fashion, beauty, or fitness products that turned out to be a scam? Or even better - have you tried any that you are convinced really work?

Vintage thrifted silk blouse; thrifted H&M skirt; H&M sandals; vintage estate sale clutch; Charming Charlie bracelets; Michael Kors watch

On Sundays I Smile - Week in Review June 19th

On Sundays I review the past week and I Smile. I share these moments with you.

Okay, sun. You're hot. I get it. Now calm the hell down

It was so hot this week that the only reasonable thing I could think to do was take the kids swimming. A lot. To tell you the truth, I fear these Sundays I Smile posts will become kind of repetitious, because there's only so much I can do over the summer, being that I have to keep my brood entertained because school is out. We're only two weeks into vacation and I'm already loosing my mind. And there's a mile-long stretch of days to go. And have I mentioned that I'm losing my mind???


Here is yet another pic of one of my kids in the pool. Take note of the fact that he's imitating my standard skinny arm outfit of the day pose, though with a double-arm version of his own. Quick learner, that one.

Aside from swimming and broiling in the heat and developing a pretty decent tan, I swung by Half Price Books this week.

Half Price Books is one of my favorite places to hang out. Unlike Barnes and Noble with it's measly amount of armchairs, there's a wide selection of furniture to waste time in. The store also boasts epic hobo hipster people watching, great coffee, and what has to be the widest, most varied selection of books anywhere.

It is only in Half Price Books that you can stumble on a hardcover concerning knitting punk rock garments. This slim little volume makes me want to become a crafter.

Now this is not a photo taken in the bookstore. This is the garish interior of my local nail salon. Boasting over 40 pedicure chairs, crystal chandeliers, statues of Buddha crafted out of metal, an enormous stone fountain and 10 wide-screen TV's which are always tuned to HGTV or The Food Network, this salon perfectly encapsulates suburban life in Texas, y'all.

Much like kryptonite is to Superman, Pei Wei's chicken pad Thai is to my diet plan.  I find myself on the phone ordering this delectable entree once a week. My addiction is so strong that the employees know my name when I come to pick up my order. Does that embarrass me? Hell to the no. 

As I'm wolfing down my leftover pad Thai for breakfast, catch up on my posts from the past week:

I also had two big blogger accomplishments this week:

Even more flattering is the fact that ten more of you took the time and interest to follow me through Google Friend Connect this week. I cannot express how much I appreciate your support. Thank you for following me, and for contributing such thought-provoking comments to my posts. 

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a TIKKR watch and extra band!

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please think about following me through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter (I'm quite witty on the Twitter, I promise), or becoming a Facebook fan.


Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Summer recipes (from a non-foodie)

This week's Fashion Beauty Friend Friday had the following "assignment:" Share the recipe to your favorite seasonal dish.. the one you love to make and love to eat this time of the year.

I'll be honest - I'm not much of a foodie. I tend to rely on a rotation of ten recipes when I have to cook dinner. I've been making these same recipes since I got married twelve years ago, and I have little desire to experiment and break out a new cookbook. Cooking just isn't my thing. (Shopping, on the other hand, I am quite quite comfortable with.) And I hate cooking in the summer. It's too hot to be standing over the stove and there's nothing more icky than sweating while cooking and all I want to do is prepare a nice simple dinner out of watermelon and bowl of Captain Crunch which I KNOW will destroy the roof of my mouth but I don't care, it's delicious.

Being that I am adult (most of the time) and have four other people in my family to cook for, cereal for dinner just isn't an option.  Though I have been know on occasion to eat it straight out of the box with a glass of milk for dinner while standing in the kitchen perusing fashion magazines. Don't look at me like that. Anyway, come summertime, I crave fruit and vegetables and salads, foods that are seasonal and fresh. Last summer I discovered a simple orzo salad recipe which satisfies both my appetite and need to keep things simple. Best of all, I can prepare it and make enough to last in the fridge for a few days, avoiding the need to cook altogether. And it's great for entertaining.

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo Salad

  • Kosher salt
  • Good olive oil
  • 3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion
  • 3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don't overcook!

Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight.

(If you aren't a fan of shrimp, you can substitute three grilled chicken breasts marinated in lemon juice. Or grilled tofu, if you're vegetarian.)