Giveaway: Win business cards from UPrinting!

Today you have a chance to win an important tool in every blogger's arsenal - business cards! How cool is that?

I was recently contacted by UPrinting, online printing that uses vegetable and soy-based inks in their products. UPrinting offers everything from template-based business card printing and custom business cards, to posters, invitations and event tickets. I've never offered a sponsored giveaway before, but was so impressed with the company's products and I'm making this my first!

In this giveaway, you will win:
  • 250 pcs Die Cut Business Cards for one winner!
  • 2 x 3.5" Rounded Corners, 2x2" Rounded Corners, 1.75x3.5" Rounded Corners, 2x3.5" Leaf, 2x3.5 Rounded  one corner, 2x3.5" Half Circle Side, 2x3.5" Oval, 2.5" Circle.
  • 14pt Cardstock Gloss / Matte / High Gloss (UV), or 13pt Cardstock Uncoated,
  • 6 Business Days Turnaround printing.
This giveaway includes free shipping! Die-cut business card templates are available for download. 

Restriction: Limited to US residents 18 years old and above only.
To enter this giveaway, please do the following:
  • Follow me through Google Friend Connect
For bonus entries:
  • Follow me on Twitter @dresscourage;
  • Follow UPrinting on Facebook;
  • Follow UPrinting on Twitter;
  • and tweet the following about the giveaway: I just entered to win @dresscourage @UPrinting business card giveaway! Enter here:
Giveaway ends on October 5th. Please leave a separate entry for each of the above. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win!
    Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by UPrinting, no monetary compensation was given. Please visit for for more details.

    Guest post: Can you take a compliment?

    Today I am guest posting over at Beautifully Invisible about why some women struggle with accepting a compliment, and how to get in the right mindset to do so. I connected with B through Twitter a while back, and was immediately struck by how genuine, articulate and compelling her posts are. She is one of the rare bloggers who takes the time to empower women, and does it with a style and grace I find inspiring. I was truly honored when she asked me to guest post for her blog. Be sure to read through her posts and check her out for yourself. I am sure you will love her as much as I do!

    Follow B through Twitter here.

    Thrifting 101, Part 27: The history of Dr. Martens

    In 1991, I was sixteen years old, solidly entrenched in my prime eye-rolling phase and completely obsessed with Beverly Hills 90210, The Smiths, and Rolling Stone magazine. I wore ripped jeans and crop tops and floral babydoll dresses I'd thrifted from little hole-in-the-wall stores on the Hell's Kitchen section of 9th Avenue in NYC, a neighborhood riddled with hookers, drug dealers are all sorts of fascinating, derelict creatures. It was there that I first spied objects of sartorial lust so desired, so coveted, they eventually brought me to my mother's feet, begging to be purchased. She said they were clunky, ungraceful, and downright ugly. I argued otherwise. We fought. We debated. I attempted to negotiate chores and went so far as to offer a peace treaty with my brother in exchange for the object in question. Finally, she relented. I had wonAnd these were my prize:

    If you are a child of the nineties like I am, or perhaps just infatuated with nineties style, you are well aware that Dr. Martens were the definitive footwear of that era. My friends and I obsessed over them, debating the merits of solid colors over patterns, Mary Janes over oxfords, 8 hole over 14. We cajoled our parents into plunking down $90 for them. We changed out the laces, decided we hated them, and changed them again. Our relatives whined that the shoes were ugly. They made a distinctive clomping noise when you walked. They made your feet look ten times their size. And yet we loved them.

    Dr. Martens, once deemed an "offensive weapon" by U.K police forces back in the early seventies, have firmly made their place into mainstream fashion. When I spied a pair at Urban Outfitters the other day, I knew they deserved a post covering the history of the brand in my Thrifting 101 series.

    Dr. Martens

    Doc Martens had their humble beginnings with Klaus Marten, a doctor in the German army during WWII. After injuring his ankle in a skiing accident, he found that army-issue boots were too uncomfortable on his feet. While recuperating, he designed an improvement to the boot with an air-padded soles and soft leather. It wasn't until after the war that he paired with a university friend, Dr. Herbert Funck, and went into business selling his boots in 1947. Surprisingly, the comfortable, durable shoes were a big hit with housewives, with 80% of sales in the first decade going towards women.

    Sales had grown so much by 1952 that they opened a factory in Munich. In 1959, the company had grown large enough that Märtens and Funck looked at marketing the footwear internationally. British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group bought patent rights to manufacturer the shoes in the United Kingdom. They anglicized the name, slightly re-shaped the heel to make them fit better, added the trademark yellow stitching, and trademarked the soles as AirWair.

    The first Dr. Martens boots came out in the U.K in April 1960, in an eight eyelet, cherry red smooth leather design known as the 1460 (shown above, which is still in production today.) They were popular among workers such a postmen, police officers and factory workers. In the early nineteen seventies, British soccer fans began modifying the boots, removing the leather from the toes and exposing the steel toecaps to intimidate the opposing team's fans. U.K. police forces determined that boots with exposed steel toecaps were “an offensive weapon” and barred them from soccer matches. With fans continuing to use their Dr. Martens to batter fans of opposing teams, police developed a new tactic: they insisted that anyone wearing Dr. Martens remove the laces from the boots, reasoning that loose boots could do less damage. This move was met with fans’ smuggling in spare laces, with some enlisting their girlfriends to sneak the laces into stadiums. The problems became so severe that fans were sometimes forced to remove their boots for the duration of games. Boots could not be reclaimed until opposition fans left the stadium, at which point the barefoot fans would dash to reclaim their boots or, hopefully, a newer pair previously belonging to another. 

    According to Martin Roach, author of the definitive history of DMs, Doctor Martens: The Story of an Icon,  reported to The Guardian that it was not until Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter with the Who, wore them in around 1966 that they became fashionable. Townshend recalls buying DMs because he was tired of the foppish clothes that were so popular during the 1960s. "I was sick of dressing up as a Christmas tree in flowing robes that got in the way of my guitar playing," he says, "so I thought I'd move on to utility wear." The air-cushioned soles helped him bounce around on stage, and wearing the boots, Townshend explained, reminded him of the working-class surroundings in which he had grown up

    By the early 1970s, Dr. Martens were ubiquitous among the rising British punk rock stars. Sid Vicious was among the first punk to wear DM's, and soon it seemed all punk fans were wearing them. Dr. Martens boots were no longer the footwear of the working class; they were the footwear of rebel youth. Dr Martens had been taken up by mods and glam rockers, psychobillies and goths, but it was members of the emerging skinhead movement who would be the most feared wearers. It was because of the actions of some skinheads that the Dr Marten became associated with violence. 

    The irony was that even as violent groups such as the skinheads were wearing the boots, they were also on the feet of the police they were clashing with. 

    By the 2000s, Dr. Martens were sold exclusively under the AirWair name and came in dozens of different styles, including conventional black shoes, sandals and steel-toed boots. In April 2003, under pressure from declining sales, the Dr. Martens company ceased all production in the United Kingdom, and moved their factory to China and Thailand. With this change also came the end of the company's vegan-friendly non-leather products, which were produced since the early 1990s. In 2007, Dr. Martens began producing footwear again in England, in the Cobbs Lane Factory in Wollaston. These products are part of the "Vintage" line, which the company advertises as being made to the original specs. In April 2010, the Dr. Martens 14-Hole black leather boot won two fashion awards at the 2010 Fashion Show in New York City - one for the 'most popular men's footwear in latest fashion' and the other for 'best counter-cultural footwear of the decade.'

    Adult female friendships: They're not so easy.

    Aristotle said that "friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."And while that certainly seems nice, a soul to go thrifting with would be nice too. But sometimes, it seems like even a shopping buddy is hard to find when you're an adult woman.

    Many woman talk about why they find it so hard to make friends. They consider themselves loyal, approachable, sincere and genuine. But for some reason, they struggle with developing the kind of intimacy with other women that we all think should come naturally.

    In kindergarten, I was best friends with a girl named Melissa. Or Danielle...I can't remember which. We climbed trees and had play dates and shared our sandwiches. Then one day we stopped being friends. I have no idea why. Clearly, we're not in touch. In middle school there was Melanie, who was my best friend on and off for a year until she graduated into the cool girls clique, leaving me behind. In high school there was Jennifer, an art major who was my best friend until I decided to date one of her classmates. Then she proceeded to ignore me for the rest of my life.

    It has never been easy for me to make and keep female friends. As I progressed through school I learned that girls who were friends told and kept secrets. To be a friend, you had to know something private and hidden. And too often, your secrets were betrayed. There was boyfriend-stealing, public humiliations, and the horrible gut feeling of finding out on Monday morning that you hadn't been invited to what happened on Saturday night.

    For a long time I saw women as mistrustful, gossipy harpies whose only intention was to undermine me and steal whatever success I'd accomplished. It didn't helped that I was teased mercilessly in my early years of school, and spent my adolescence competing with peers in music conservatory. As far as I was concerned, I was better off being alone. Whether the trouble was with boyfriends, academic or work achievements, or power struggles within our social strata, the most logical choice seemed to be for self-preservation, even if that meant I'd be lonely.

    As I've gotten older, I've allowed myself to trust other women more. And thank goodness for that. The supportive, intimate qualities of female friendships are what makes them so valuable. And there are a slew of health and psychological benefits for having friends. A consistent and loyal social support system lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity and promotes healing. The very nurturing power of female friendship may help explain one of medical science's most enduring mysteries: why women, on average, have lower rates of heart disease and longer life expectancies than men.

    "Women are much more social in the way they cope with stress," says Shelley E. Taylor, author of "The Tending Instinct" (Owl Books) and a social neuroscientist at UCLA. "Men are more likely to deal with stress with a 'fight or flight' reaction--with aggression or withdrawal." But aggression and withdrawal take a physiological toll, and friendship brings comfort that mitigates the ill effects of stress, Taylor says. That difference alone, she adds, "contributes to the gender difference in longevity."

    I might always struggle with navigating female friendships, despite the benefits the relationships contain. I have a low threshold with feeling left out. I don't forgive easily. I become a tad bit competitive when I suspect that one of my closest friends is becoming equally close with someone else. I often wonder if I'm the only woman who wrestles with this. It seems like such a natural thing for some people. I am 37 years old, a mother of three, have had hundreds of different friends over my lifetime, and yet I am still not sure what female friendship looks like.

    Is it talking to someone every day about work and what went on sale at Anthropologie?
    Is it waiting a year to call someone but when you do it's as if no time has passed?
    Is it feeling sorry about what you've said and wishing things could be taken back?
    Is it feeling left out because you wasn't invited?
    Is it sitting on the couch with a girlfriend watching Project Runway and eating popcorn and not having to carry a conversation?
    Is it feeling jealous that your friend is friends with someone else?

    I suppose the answer to all of these is yes. And as a black-and-white thinker, wrapping my head around such a complex picture of female friendship isn't so easy. In addition, as a friend, I have a tendency to be loud. I talk over people in my quest to show empathy and understanding. I overshare. I interrupt. I overEVERYTHING. I don't call enough. And I've heard from more than one person that the tattoo on my neck can be off putting.

    But I can be a good friend, I think. I'm going to try harder. Being lonely stinks.

    Do you have a lot of friends? Do you have just one or two that you confide in? Have you every struggled to navigate the somewhat complicated web of female friendships? Does making friends come naturally to you?

    In case you missed it:

    Shopping studies, and what they miss

    I went to The Dallas Flea this past weekend. I'm not adequately able to put into words how excited I was for this event, but if it helps, I woke up at seven a.m on a Saturday to go. Flea markets are my Mecca. I love browsing booths hawking overpriced vintage clothes, re-purposed artifacts extracted from someone's backyard, and little girl hair ribbons that resemble plumage from an exotic bird. I quite happily spend hours wandering from booth to booth. Miraculously, my feet never hurt. I am unperturbed by dust and musty smells. And I sort of collapse into some bizarre time continuum where the clock seems to stop. It's not unusual for me to be shocked that I've spent four hours browsing and have not bought a single thing.

    A OnePoll survey of 2,000 women showed that 63-year-old woman will spend three years of her life shopping, the Daily Mail reports. Each year, women spend 100 hours and 48 minutes in fashion and beauty stores. And add that to the 94 hours and 55 minutes the average woman passes in the grocery store. Then there's the 49 hours' worth of window shopping, 40 hours trying on shoes (shouldn't this be lumped into fashion?), 36 hours picking out gifts, 31 hours browsing books, 29 hours checking out accessories, and 17 hours getting toiletries.

    Studies on shopping behavior always fascinate me. The effort taken to quantify the shopping experience through polls on time spent in stores, behavior engaged in while shopping, and mood  shoppers were in while considering purchases seems a daunting, fruitless task. I know from comments in my own blog posts that women approach shopping in entirely different ways. Some relish the chance to hunt down specific items. Others would rather have have a root canal than enter a store. Shopping is a personal experience, influenced by our individual budgets, learned behavior, social norms and regional location.

    My love of shopping is primarily born from early observations during trips with my mother.  She was a champion shopper who stalked store credit cards with a ferociousness usually reserved for mother lions guarding their cubs. She thought nothing of trailing shop employees into back rooms. An afternoon traipsing through the mall in search of a pair of navy blue velvet pumps (just one example of a particularly memorable excursion) got her blood pumping, much in a way a marathoner feels before the start of a race. We often had our most intimate conversations while shopping, which reinforced the bonding behavior such activity often entails.

    The shopping gene is dominate through the maternal bloodline of my family. My mother's mother was a passionate shopper, as are my aunt and female cousins. When I needed a prom dress, wedding gown, first bra, maternity clothes, or shoes for my first day of school, they were there. It seems a distinctively feminine activity to bond while shopping, something exclusive to women alone. In the book Why We Buy, author Paco Underhill elaborates:
    This much is certain: shopping was what got the housewife out of the house. It was (and, in many parts of the world, remains) women’s main realm of public life. Shopping gave women a good excuse to sally forth, sometimes even in blissful solitude, beyond the clutches of family. It was the first form of women’s liberation, affording an activity that lent itself to socializing with other adults, clerks and store owners and fellow shoppers.

    The use of shopping as a social activity seems unchanged, however. Women still like to shop with friends, egging each other on and rescuing each other from ill-advised purchases. I don’t think we’ll ever see two men set off on a day of hunting for the perfect bathing suit… When two women shop together, they often spend more time and money than women alone. They certainly can outshop and outspend women saddled with male companions. Two women in a store can be a shopping machine and wise retailers do whatever they can to encourage this behavior — promotions such as being-a-friend-get-a-discount, or seating areas just outside dressing rooms, to allow for more relaxed try-ons… Stores with cafes on the premises allow women to shop, then take a break, without ever leaving sight of the selling floor.
    What so many studies on shopping seem to discount or even ignore is the intimacy this activity creates. Whether we love it or hate it, almost all of us have some memory of shopping with friends, a family member, boyfriend or spouse. What happens during all that time spent in stores or while window-shopping is what I find so interesting. 

    Do you have any associated memories about shopping? Are you an avid shopper, or do you avoid stores at all costs? Has shopping reinforced the relationships you have with friends or family? Do you see shopping as a social activity, or one that serves a utilitarian purpose? Do you prefer to shop alone, or with someone else?

    On Sundays I Smile - Week in review September 25th

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

    I realized this week that I had taken a kind of disgusting amount of photos at Austin City Limits, and I hadn't come close to sharing them all here. I yearned to avoid being that horrible relative who drags out their photos from some boring family vacation to, like, Yellowstone National Park, and forces you to see each and every one of them while yammering ON AND ON AND ON and OH MY GOD, WILL THIS EVER END I'VE WATCHED EPISODES OF WILD AMERICA THAT WERE LESS BORING.

    Anyway, here are a few choice selections from my ACL experience. Use your imagination and add the feel of of 95+ degree temperatures, the smell of sweaty youngsters who purposely ignored the need for deodorant and soap, and the whiff of a faint cloud of cigarette and other illegal variety of smoke.

    This was the bicycle parking area. I have to admit, I was extremely impressed with the sheer number of people who rode their bikes to ACL.

    TOMS station, where you could get your newly purchased shoes painted. The hipsters were downright squee for this.

    My super secret husband Ray Lamontagne was essentially the reason I went to ACL. If you enjoy husky, smokey, bluegrass and blues influenced music, you NEED to check out his latest album God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise (which won a Grammy, I might add.)
    I would also like to add that Ray and I have no relation and I am not being rewarded in any way for endorsing this album. Ray had no idea who I am. Although he should.

    What else did I do at ACL? Drink. And eat. But mostly drink. Understand that I only drink for medicinal purposes, stop looking at me that way, because I am a lady and ladies don't do things like become inebriated. This lovely bloody mary with bacon-infused vodka served in a mason jar was consumed more as a meal than gateway drug to intoxication. I swear. Uh, right.

    And finally, to close out this post, I present to you this lovely warning sign in our hotel room lobby. This sign provides a perfect indication of the madness that is 6th Street in downtown Austin. Lined with bars, tiny restaurants, tourist shops, more bars, food carts, and yet more bars, a night on 6th street is like Mardi Gras, New Year's Eve in Times Square, and Carnival all rolled into one.

    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 reminiscing, here's what happened on Dress With Courage this week:
    (I realized today that I hadn't included a single outfit of the day post this week. Have you missed them? Would you like me to bring them back?  Let me know your thoughts.)

    I had three big blogger accomplishments this week. All left me stunned and grateful:
    As always, 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 are here.

    If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please think about following me through Google Friend Connect, tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage), and following me through Bloglovin'. I also have a new Facebook page - come say hi!

    My feature in this week's IFB Links a la Mode: Week of September 22nd

    This week Dress With Courage was selected to be 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. 

    I am incredibly honored to be included with such a talented group of bloggers. Be sure to check out the other posts.

    What’s Old is New… Again.

    Edited By: Jessica Thorpe

    The saying, “what comes around, goes around” has been proven throughout the history of fashion.  Stylish peeps the world over have been stimulated by trends of decades passed time and time again. This weeks Links A La Mode is influenced by your interpretation of fashion fads and trends interpreted to suit our modern world.

    The funky 70′s boho glam look is in full effect with flowing skirts, high waist lines and chunky platforms. Another trend making a loud avant garde blip on my radar is the classic ladylike look of the 50′s and 60′s. Women are embracing their curves and enhancing them with shape flattering silhouettes. Lastly, current fashion do’s that continue to inspire me are clever use of sheer, crochet, macrame and lace fabrics. And last but not least, retro accessories are back in a huge way; statement bangles, fanny packs and cat eye shades are loud on the fashion forefront.


    SPONSOR: Jackets at Shopbop’s ShoptalkNightcap, IRO, Smythe, Doma, Alberta Ferretti, Smythe, IRO, Gryphon, Veda Jackets, LAMB, Nation LTD, Duvetica, Kaelen, Surface to Air.

    Giveaway: I picked up some Missoni For Target - for you!

    Last Tuesday morning I woke eager over the coming of Missoni for Target, The Most Important Collaboration Of All Time. I have always had a soft spot for Missoni. I love their colorful, cheery knits, and their unique geometric patterns. However, there was absolutely zero chance I would ever be able to afford any pieces from Missoni. Until now.

    There was a small line outside the Target I visited. I heard that other stores had lines up to 200 people deep. But up here in the 'burbs, it was quiet. Nonetheless, there was a bit of a stampede once we got into the store. People were running down the aisles, grabbing everything they could, with no thought as to whether it was actually their size or not. I managed to snag the few things I was looking for - cardigans, two storage boxes, an infinity scarf, tights and socks. 

    The clothes were soft, substantially knit, and considerably well-made for a Target line. I was impressed with the construction - seams were tightly stitched. However, I found the shoes disappointing - the flats seemed cheap and shoddy, and the application of the print on the rain boots looked ready to peel right off.

    By the time I left, all of the clothes and accessories were gone. Some of the housewares remained, though.

    My gracious husband was traveling back to Dallas from Tulsa, and he stopped at two Targets on his way down and snagged some hard to find items for a giveaway for YOU! All of these items are sold out and impossible to find, unless you're willing to shell out serious cash on eBay, where prices on Missoni For Target pieces are up to 10 times their original price.

    In this giveaway, you'll win accessories to get you ready for the fall:
    • A pair of gloves in a size M/L (which will fit any adult woman)
    • A beenie in size M/L (again, will fit everyone)
    • and a scarf!
    To win, simply do the following:
    • Follow me on Google Friend Connect;
    • and leave a comment with your email address (so I can contact you if you've won.)
    For extra entries:
    • Follow me on Twitter;
    • add my blog to your blog roll;
    • and tweet the following about the giveaway: I just entered @dresscourage Missoni for Target giveaway at You can win too!
    That's it! Giveaway will end on October 7th! Good luck and thanks for entering!

    This giveaway is not affiliated with or provided by Target. Target has no idea who I am. I could disappear forever and Target would never know.  I have no relationship with them aside from a slight obsession with their skinny ribbed white tanks. 

    Thrifting 101, Part 26: Designer Profile of Victor Costa

    Some clothes just make you happy. Their polka dots or ruffles or sunny bright color or gleaming metal studs pull you away from whatever competing garment you were examining in a store. These happy clothes lead you to weave fantasies in which they are the star. In them, you envision yourself impressing friends, or twirling at a party, or wearing to a picnic, or eating chocolate chip ice cream. There is no depression, there is no gloom, there is no maudlin sad ill-fitting silhouette. No, these clothes are joyful. They make you smile. And they feed your soul.

    Such is the case with the following dress:

    In Elissa land, this is the Perfect Dress. It is pink. It is strapless. It is 1950's inspired. It has polka dots and a giant bow. And it is vintage. I came across this dress at the Goodwill, crammed in between two rather sad and lonely looking polyester house coats. I knew right away that this dress and I were meant to be. Flouncy, girlish, charming and fun, I plunked down $4 for it and hauled it home, grinning all the way.

    Thanks to my research on vintage, I was able to identify the designer immediately. He's one of my favorites, a scoundrel well known in the vintage world for creating copycat clothes inspired by Christian Dior, Scassi, Lacroix, and Yves Saint Laurent, among others. So who is the designer? This week, in part 26 of Thrifting 101, I'll introduce you to Victor Costa.

    Victor Costa

    Victor Costa comes from humble beginnings in Houston's Fifth Ward. The middle child of a metalworker born in Sicily and his American wife, he lived with his family in three rooms behind his grandparents' grocery store. Victor got his first taste of fashion when he designed paper doll dresses at age 10 and sold them to his classmates for two cents apiece. Costa received his first sewing machine at the budding age of 11, beginning his storied career in fashion.

    He went on to study at the Pratt Institute, New York, and later spent a year at the École of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. At this time in the Paris fashion world, Christian Dior reigned, and Costa was deeply influenced by the 1950's sense of style and formality.

    While Costa worked in Paris, New York's Seventh Avenue fashion business was built on copying Paris designs. Buyers and designers alike would flock to Paris to buy a model to "knock-off" or reinterpret. The years after World War II saw an escalation of Paris couture show photographs being published in newspapers, but with a significant lag time. When Costa returned from Paris to New York in 1958, he began working his way into the industry by selling his European-inspired sketches to established designers such as Oleg Cassini, Ceil Chapman, and others. He soon began creating bridal gowns for fashion house Murray Hamburger, and learned the value of detail when his one-of-a-kind hand-made crushed roses, which he attached to the back of his bridesmaids dresses, helped the dresses sell by the thousands.

    Costa, who had a photographic memory and a quick hand at sketching, was able to translate what he saw on the Paris runways into successful designs for the Suzy Perette company during the 1960s. In interviews given during the nineteen eighties, he mentioned his early employment as "Going to Paris and picking a dress out of a collection and developing the equivalent of a Ford automobile. Those were the eyes I developed."

    Costa worked for Perette, copying European designs and translating them for the American market from 1965 to 1973. In 1973  he moved to Dallas, bought a dress business, and quickly reestablished ties to New York's Seventh Avenue. He traveled to Europe frequently to attend the haute couture and prêt-á-porter fashion shows, and his masterful talent and ability to comprehend couture and ready-to-wear fashions became his trademark. Never content with only a quick sketch or photography, Costa often purchased the original couture design to study the construction and fabric. He chose many fabrics in Europe and the U.S., but preferred to do construction at his Dallas-based company.

    By the early 1980's Costa became well knows as the the undisputed king of the fashion knock-off. He unabashedly pilfered the opulent $5,000 to $15,000 designs of top designers and translated them into inexpensive  duplicates. The $5,000 to $15,000 designs of top couturiers became dresses sold by Costa for $250 to $800.

    Unsurprisingly, Costa became reviled by designers for his knock-off dresses."It's ridiculous; he copies exactly," sniffed the press relations director for Emanuel Ungaro, who refused to comment himself. "We don't want to give Costa any publicity," says the aide.

    Costa's designs appeared regularly on such shows as Falcon Crest, Moonlighting and Dynasty and also found their way into movies. His garments were distributed to more than 450 specialty and department stores including Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, and Lord and Taylor. "I don't want to put down anyone who spends thousands on clothes,"  actress and former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, a longtime Costa customer, told People Magazine in 1988.  "But if I'm going to spend $7,000, I'm going to buy land."

    Business problems, including a lawsuit by a former employee and embezzlement by an officer in the company, forced Costa to close his Dallas-based company in 1995. He has, however, continued to offer his designs with the backing of several companies. He updated his line of suits and dresses offered in 2000 by including bare dresses and glitzy evening pants, and his attention to clothing construction now takes him to China to work with beaders and embroidery artisans. In May of this year, Costa designed a line of pieces to be sold exclusively on ShopNBC.

    (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, and my favorite books on thrifting and vintage. For other parts, please do a search for Thrifting 101! )

    The sacrifice of beauty

    Stop what you're doing for a moment, and consider everything that can happen in a year. You might land a new job, achieve a promotion, get engaged or married, make new friends, move to a dream location or perhaps get a new pet. You might finally grow your hair out of that awkward I-got-a-pixie-cut-that-I-immediately-regretted incident. Maybe you'll resolve a conflict that's been dragging out.

    In any case, twelve months can bring many things, good and bad. It's the possibility of greatness that we all look forward to, the idea that things will probably get better, that we can grow and change into the people we dream of being. These thoughts immediately came to my mind when I came across a study which concluded that among women18 to 65 at British universities,
    some 16% said they would swap one year of their life for their ideal body and 10% were willing to trade between two and five years. In addition, almost one in three would be willing to die younger in exchange for the ‘ideal’ figure. The finding is all the more shocking because almost all of those polled were in the normal weight range – or even underweight.

    According to the study conducted by eating disorder charity the Succeed Foundation, 2% of women polled were willing to forgo up to a  decade, and 1% saying they'd give up at least 21 years younger in exchange for a slimmer shape. Overall, 30% of the 320 women questioned said they would be willing to make a trade. But it wasn't just years women were willing to sacrifice. Seven per cent would give up spending time with their family, 9% their friends and 7% would give up their health to achieve their 'ideal' shape.

    In the 19th century, women used whitening agents with lead oxide to appear striking. In ancient China, the four-inch bound "lotus foot" was considered the sign of perfect beauty. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the wealthy used belladonna eye drops to dilate their pupils, generating an "attractive" doe-like appearance. Today, some women are undergoing cosmetic limb-lengthening surgery, an extraordinarily painful procedure costing upwards of $200,000. Limb lengthening involves surgically breaking the shin and femur bones, and gradually pulling them apart over the course of a year with a gruesome system of metal rods and pins. Patients are confined to a wheelchair, undergo intensive physical therapy, and risk bone infection, avascular necrosis (bone death) and destruction of cartilage. Just 40% of patients achieve desired results: a mere two to three inches gained in height.

    Sacrifice and beauty seem to go hand in hand. Whether we're pouring hot wax onto our neither regions to remove hair, or starving ourselves to lose a few pounds, or pushing ourselves to exhaustion at the gym, the unspoken message is that we must sacrifice to achieve our physical ideal, whatever that is. How we chose to sacrifice depends on many things - the specific cultural norms of our geographic location; our ethnicity; even our religious beliefs. Beauty standards are striated even within the same socioeconomic class and geographic location. Because of these concurrent concepts of attractiveness, our cultural criteria for good looks is nearly impossible to define. As a result, how we determine the value of sacrifice for beauty can widely differ.

    There's also the ways in which we emotionally sacrifice for attractiveness. In my past, I've given up relationships with friends (to avoid eating with them,)  recreational activities (particularly those involving the need to wear a swim suit,) and intimacy within my relationships (such as the avoidance of sex due to low body image.) My battle with anorexia led me to prioritize losing weight over academic achievement, relationships, and nearly everything else.

    I believe it's important for us to be aware of the sacrifices we make to attain beauty. Most of them are done with little thought, as they're so integrated into the norms of our subcultures. But without mindfulness, we might end up making sacrifices that deeply subtract from the joy and happiness we deserve to have.

    Now I ask you: What sacrifices do you make for beauty? How would you define the cultural standard of beauty where you live? (Some locals value tanning, Botox, teeth whitening; others a more athletic standard; still more a curvaceous silhouette.) Do you give much thought as to the things you give up to attain attractiveness? Would you trade a year (or more) of your life for a slimmer, more 'ideal' shape? Are you surprised by the results of this study?

    Austin City Limits: A fashion survival guide

    Sad fact: I'm 3201834 years old (okay, 37), but until this past weekend I had never attended an outdoor music festival. It's been hard for me, as an old, to see the appeal of standing in a smoke-filled space crammed with twenty year-old hipsters and the pound pound pound of bass and the screaming screeching of a band and the sweet waft of something...herbaceous hanging in the air. I don't like crowds. And I am not such a fan of the outdoors. Which is why I've kept a healthy distance from Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair and Bonnaroo and Coachella and Ozzfest. Especially Ozzfest.

    This weekend, though, I joined my husband and thousands of young, energetic music fans at Austin City Limits. I didn't quite know what to expect. I knew it'd be hot. I knew there'd be crowds. I knew to bring sunscreen and flat shoes and an open mind. So I took a deep breathe and jumped right in.

    Forever 21 cropped tee; vintage lace skirt; ancient Gap sandals; Urban Outfitters sunglasses; Buffalo Exchange cowhide bag

    This was my first day at ACL outfit. Two songs in, and it quickly became obvious that I was woefully overdressed. In all fairness, I was warned by friends that ACL lacked any sort of standards, resulting in ensembles that gave new meaning to the term 'casual.' Consider the following completely random photo of a group of fellow concert goers:

    This is what 99% of the female population at ACL was wearing. So for the second day, I toned things down. Way down.

    Forever 21 tanks; vintage Levis cutoffs; Gap sandals; Buffalo Exchange necklaces; TIKKR watch
    Believe it or not, I still had not perfected my outfit. Because I was not prescribing to the super secret as-yet-unpublished Austin City Limits Fashion Guide for Men and Women. Lucky for you, I will now share the unspoken uniform for ACL attendees, which I recreated upon arriving home.

    Based on my own astute observation, female attendees of ACL wore a minimum of nine of the following items:
    • Fraying denim cutoff shorts (bonus points if your shorts are so short that they show a glimpse of butt cheek.)
    • Lace top, or
    • plaid western shirt (bonus points for vintage.)
    • String or strapless bikini top.
    • Friendship bracelets.
    • Ray-Ban sunglasses.
    • Turquoise jewelry.
    • Cowboy boots (bonus points for vintage.)
    • Sneakers. 
    • Crossbody bag (extra bonus points if made from the hide of an identifiable animal.)
    • Fedora.
    • Absence of make-up.
    Men had their own distinctive look:
    • Bared, unshaven chest.
    • Skinny jeans.
    • Cutoff jorts.
    • Lumberjack mustache (bonus points if paired with muttonchop sideburns.)
    • Beard.
    • Tee shirt with a mustache or beard. 
    • Super short, scruffy unwashed hair; or
    • thick uncombed hair accompanied by a ponytail.
    • Bandana.
    • Ironic political artifact. 
    Case in point:

    Unisex items include:

    • Clothing or accessories made from hemp.
    • Camelbak portable hydration pack.
    • Tattoos (bonus points for full sleeves and/or back piece.)
    • Toms.
    • Fanny pack.
    • Leather cuffs.
    • DSLR camera.
    • Cowboy hat.
    • Cigarettes.
    • Marijuana pipe.
    Deodorant and soap are purely optional.

    All in all, I had a fantastic time at ACL. Sure, it was so hot that my eyeballs were sweating. True, it also rained some of the day on Saturday (resulting in a collective stink reminiscent of body odor, decaying compost and cigarette smoke.) And there was a noticeable population enjoying recreational drugs and cigarettes, despite the somewhat laughable smoking ban at the festival. But the music was great; the atmosphere relaxed; and the attendees exceedingly polite and friendly. 

    Have you been to an outdoor music festival?  Ever attended ACL? Have you noticed any trends at concerts?

    {Monday} Guest Post: Erin from Pretty, Polished, Perfect on music as style inspiration

    Today I'm in Austin, recovering from my weekend at Austin City Limits. ACL is an outdoor music festival attended by every hipster and dirty hippie hobo within a 1000 mile radius. You see (and smell) a lot of very interesting things at ACL, and it's going to take a day or so for me to process all I experienced there. In the meantime, enjoy a guest post from Erin, one of my most loyal readers and commenters (and a pretty snazzy dresser at that.) 

    Hello!  I'm Erin from Pretty, Polished, Perfect. 

    In honor of Elissa's attending the Austin City Limits Music Festival, I thought I would share with you a post inspired by my own great love of music:

    My tribute to the Beatles' album cover, Abbey Road. 

    You know, if the band had consisted of only one member: a female (a mother, no less!) in her 30s, walking in the suburbs. I least I got the pants right. And the crosswalk. Maybe even my hands in my pockets...

    Please pardon my 'fro, it's been a bit humid here in Kansas City (and I am so relieved to hear about the rain in Texas - if anyone needed it, they certainly did!) 

    Top: Old Navy (on clearance for $6.99!!)
    Belt: DIY grosgrain ribbon
    Pants: Old Navy
    Shoes: Daisy Fuentes (via ten years ago.)

    What's your favorite album cover?

    Thanks for the opportunity to guest post with you!

    Erin B.

    On Sundays I Smile - Week in review September 18th (NYC Edition)

    On Sundays I take a moment to review the past week and I Smile. I share these moments with you.

    I took about 8271849920 photos while in New York. They are clogging up the photo file in my computer and sitting idly in my phone and sitting longingly in my camera, waiting breathlessly to be uploaded. So I figured I'd take today and share a few choice favorites with you.

    The hotel I stayed in during my IFB trip was located directly in Times Square, which made me, a native New Yorker, feel like a pathetically uncool tourist. Despite the presence of $10 bagels and streets that smelled like urine and people wandering around in fanny packs and sandals with socks, staying there had benefits. I was within walking distance of 6 subway lines; the flagship Forever 21 store was directly across from my hotel; and I was a mere eight blocks from my favorite restaurant, the Carnegie Deli.

    Oh, Carnegie Deli! My tender flesh craves your meaty pastrami sandwiches, your delicately fluffy matzoh ball soup, your mouth puckering sour pickles. Sure, your waitresses might be surly (mine admonished me for not ordering quickly enough, and for my innocent request of half a sandwich. Shame on me.) But I adore you none the less.

    Ah, Fashion Night Out in NYC. Anna Wintour's charity for poor underprivileged shops like Stella McCartney and Scoop, was chaotic pandemonium. DJ's spun tunes outside, and stores served champagne, and bridge and tunnel girls wobbled through cobblestones streets in impossibly high heels, and shops sold ridiculously overpriced canvas tote bags for like $50 and OH MY GOD there were so many people, it was like a sexual experience just crossing the street. I thought I was going to die. Like, literally die right there in the mad crush of people, a NYC death where no one would even notice I was dead until four days later when my trampled body was discovered bobbing lifelessly in the East River.

    When I visit NYC, the number one thing on my must-see list is a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'm not an artist. I'm not a sculptor. I can't draw and I can't paint and I certainly can't manipulate materials into something wondrous and fascinating. But the Met inspires me. I wander through it's expansive halls, examining medieval art and stained glass and Egyptian tombs and essentially anything over 500 years old. It feeds my soul.

    I also spent a bit of time on the Upper West Side, visiting with my oldest friend in the world, a woman who has known me since the first grade. Do you have a friend like that? While visiting, I dropped into the Columbus Avenue Flea Market, a treasure trove of fascinating crap.

    I have a thing for old glass bottles, particularly those that once held medicine and perfume. The guy selling these told me he found them in demolition sites around the city. I am going to assume he sneaked into these sites illegally, as he looked the type - somewhat menacing, with a hint of decay and dust on his worn pointed shoes.

    Furs and lingerie from the twenties.

    There was also this charming, rather insane little bow-tied man selling vintage toasters. Toasters that he meticulously cleaned and polished and researched and was asking upwards of $500 for. To him I say: Rock on, little toaster man. Rock on.


    Here's the thing: There are just so many ways to do New York City, because there are an infinite number of New York Cities to do. You can do the Upper West Side, with strollers jostling for space with doormen and ladies in furs and Starbucks on every corner and bagel shops spewing the most delicious smells you can imagine. Or you can do the Lower East Side, with tattooed grungy hipsters and crumbling tenements and dank little pubs. Or there's always midtown, with it's hustle and bustle and taxis careening at every corner. And there's the Upper East Side, with women in Tory Burch and museums and glass fronted shops boasting Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

    There is no ideal New York. There's no Friends set with chatty doe-eyed wise cracking twenty-somethings languishing on comfy sofas in cheerful coffee shops. Or maybe there are, I don't know. But five days is not nearly enough to experience it. So if you ever get a chance to go, relax, have fun, and experience all the little New York's that you can. Life is too short not to eat pastrami. 

    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 reminiscing, here's what happened on Dress With Courage this week:

    As always, 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 are here.

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