Wonder Woman: Fierce heroine or infantilizing cosmetics marketing tool?

wonder woman

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was perch on the edge of the tiny bathroom sink of my childhood apartment and watch my mother apply her make-up. My mother was a notorious cosmetics hoarder, and lipsticks, eyeshadows, pencils and blush spilled from the medicine cabinet. In the morning, as she was readying herself for work, my mom would go through the complicated process of "putting on her face." It involved a tedious routine of blending, and brushes, and smudging. Applying her face meant as much as erasing her perceived flaws as accentuating the features she thought were acceptable. There was nothing fun about it. Putting on her face was a utilitarian act.

As a girl I had my very own make-up, from brands like Bonnie Bell and Tinkerbell and Barbie. It was scented like strawberries. I too spent time at the bathroom mirror, painting my lips and experimenting with peel-off nail polish. I wanted to look older, and glamorous, and chic, just like the models on magazines. I subjected my younger cousins to spontaneous make-overs, and we staged complicated photo shoots involving enough make-up to supply a Broadway production of Cats. Make-up was fun, and colorful, and a delightful way to practice at being a grown-up.

Somewhere between my childhood experimenting and growth into an adult, I lost the playful quality which cosmetics used to contain. Now, when I'm in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning, I too "put on my face."My routine includes eyeshadow primer, shadow, liner, mascara, foundation, and blush. I smudge and line and contour, all with the intention of covering flaws and accentuating the features I deem positive.

When the New York Times wrote about the growing market of women purchasing cosmetics featuring cartoon and comic book characters, I was intrigued. MAC, the innovator of such lines, has produced collections inspired by Hello Kitty, Miss Piggy, Wonder Woman and villainous Disney characters such as Cruella De Vil. According to David Gager, the brand's senior vice president and group creative director, cartoon-based collections generally sell very well and tend to become "very coveted and special" to consumers.

There is certainly an element of nostalgia behind the popularity of these cosmetics collections - I have fond memories of watching Wonder Woman on TV during rainy Sunday afternoons. But the cult love behind cartoon-inspired cosmetics might signify more.

Steve Stoute, an advertising executive who helped broker a collaboration between MAC and Lady Gaga said, “I think that anytime you find a way to incorporate the essence and glamour of the beauty business, but also find a way to touch a woman and make her still feel like a girl, is beautiful. It creates a healthy tangent between a little girl and a sophisticated woman.” There is something about these collections that taps into the playful, creative element of cosmetics. A glimpse of Miss Piggy on the case might remind women that cosmetics are not only functional, but also fun. In addition, swiping on a shadow from a Wonder Woman palette could inspire a woman to be sassy, or fearless, or powerful, just like her heroine was.

Some might see these collections as a baffling form of infantilizing women, and products such as Maybelline's Baby Lips lip gloss and Hello Kitty bubble bath certainly hint at it. But marketers are becoming increasingly crafty at injecting products with an emotional element. To some women, items that hint of a more innocent time resonate deeply. A Wonder Woman compact might remind these women of a time when life was simple, and their heroine was a a fictional superhero who was strong and glamorous.

So what do you think of these cartoon-inspired makeup collections? Have you ever bought cosmetics from one of the MAC lines? Are you intrigued by these collections? Do you see make-up application as a chore, or a way to be creative? How much make-up do you wear on a given day?

{Almost daily outfit of the day} Sure footed 1.30.12

Jeffrey Campbell Lita
Forever 21 denim jacket; vintage thrifted Wrangler shirt; Gap legging jeans; Target satchel; Jeffrey Campbell 'Lita' ankle boots; Michael Kors rose gold watch; Buffalo Exchange necklaces

As a child, I was struck with the terrible affliction of having flat feet. This meant not only a need for orthopedic inserts for my shoes, but truly ugly shoes to hold them. These were shoes my mom bought at Buster Brown - sensible, solid things that were the equivalent of wearing a station wagon on my feet and made me feel clumsy and awkward.

Fortunately, as a grown woman, my flat feet are no longer a problem. So I can wear the footwear equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting without hesitation. These Litas are surprising comfortable and made me feel supermodel tall. Six year-old me would have been insanely jealous.


Target neon

On Sundays I Smile - Week in review 1.29.12

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

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Last night I was invited to a charity dinner at III Forks in Dallas in support of the North Texas Food Bank. I'll admit that the thought of digging in to a delicious steak was almost as enticing as supporting such a worthwhile cause. Luckily, my friends Julie and Chastity were there as well, and we spent the night catching up. There was also chocolate cake to, but I ate it before taking a pic. It was that good.

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What does one wear to a charity dinner? Sequins, of course. Loads and loads of sequins. Because if you want to shock a room full of women and inspire outright staring and have your picture taken a lot, nothing less will do.

Also related: I had the tattoo on my neck touched up this week. I was too freaked out to get any pics, but let me just tell you that getting a neck tattoo hurts more than childbirth. Fact. But it looks really great now, so it was worth it.

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I spied this adorable 1970's latch hook wall hanging in the Salvation Army on Thursday and had major grabby hands for it. However, the mocking I was sure it would ensure from my husband kept it from coming home with me. I have a dream of covering my walls with eclectic thrift store art, and this totally would have fit the bill. Maybe someday.

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This is not a photo taken inside a thrift store. No, this is my personal stock of vintage pieces about to be listed on my new Etsy shop. After months of hemming and hawing, I've decided to take the plunge and start selling. Stay tuned for more details!

 Now it's your turn: What are some things that made you smile this week? Grab my button and blog about your Sunday smiles; share your weekly smiles in the comments; or smile just because it makes you feel good.

While I'm petting my sequins and popping Advil to ease the pain of my new ink, catch up on everything from Dress With Courage this week:
I have one giveaway running on my blog right now:
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, think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.

    {Almost daily outfit of the day} Coco crunch 1.27.12

    Thrifted J Crew leather jacket; vintage thrifted Pendleton shirt; Gap legging jeans; Frye 'Heath' boots (eBay)
    Allow me, for a moment, to pontificate on cereal.

    Cereal is the world's most perfect food. Think about it. When you don't feel like cooking, cereal is there. When you want something sweet and crunchy, cereal satisfies your craving. And when you need a snack, cereal is ready to nibble straight from the box. A comforting beacon in a world full of complicated choices, a bowl of cereal will never let you down.

    When I was a kid, cereal came in two options. There was the boring, tasteless, unsweetened variety that languished in the back of your pantry and needed to be doctored with a hearty dose of sugar and raisins and maybe even bananas to be palatable. This is where the Rice Crispies, Cheerios, Special K and Shredded Wheat fell. Then there was the sugary stuff. This was the packaged crack you begged your mom to buy, the kind with cartoon characters on the box and marshmallow stars and a toxic level of corn syrup and turned your milk an interesting shade of pink or blue. This was cereal so lethal it gave you instant diabetes and essentially turned you into a hyperactive brat.

    I wasn't allowed to have those delicious bowls of chemical delight. No, I was stuck with Rice Crispies. I hated Rice Crispies, and I was insanely jealous of anyone my age who was allowed to eat the good stuff. I spent many a morning daydreaming about when I would finally be a parent myself, and thus allowed to eat whatever the hell I wanted for breakfast. I intended to stock my pantry with Coco Puffs and Captain Crunch and Trix and my mom wouldn't be able to do a damm thing about it. I would show her.

    So what did I eat his morning, as I huddled in vintage Pendleton wool to chase away the winter chill? A big, hearty bowl of Rice Crispies. Because much like my outfit of oversized shirt, skinny jeans and boots, it's tough to beat the classics.

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    Thrifting 101: Things I Didn't Buy at the Thrift Store


    It spoke to me from the depths of the rack. Tucked in a corner on the top floor of a thrift store was a stunning Victor Costa cocktail dress, created from yards of shockingly pink taffeta. A stiff poof skirt bubbled from the waist. I pulled the dress from the rack and held it to my body. It was nearly perfect, aside from a pull near the waist and a small stain near the back hem. Accented with flirtatious rows of ruffles at the bust, this 1980's dress was made for me. It spoke of youthful fun, of proms and homecoming and staying out past curfew and wearing your boyfriend's class ring around your neck. It was wondrous.

    But I didn't buy it. And despite the damage, I regretted it. And with that, this dress fell into my ever-growing list of thrift scores that got away.

    There are things we leave behind while thrifting that haunt us. Even though they might be damaged beyond repair, priced beyond our budget, altogether impractical, or not in our size, it can be hard to resist the emotional pull these items have on us.

    I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage sequin tops, cocktail dresses and evening gowns. I love that these pieces makes me feel like a pretty pretty princess, even though I lack servants and a mansion and tiaras and all other luxurious trappings princesses have. When I go thrifting, evening wear is the first section I head to and the spot I spend the longest in. I have a hard time resisting sequined jackets and velvet cocktail dresses and well, anything crafted from tulle and taffeta. I've left things behind that make my heart weep white hot tears of sadness. Such as the 1960's allover lace wedding gown with a full crinoline circle skirt I saw in the Goodwill last week for $10. And a black and gold striped v-neck maxi dress from the 70's. And let's not forget the vintage prom dresses I used to see in Urban Outfitters while in high school. Those will haunt me forever. (Did you know Urban Outfitters sold a substantial amount of vintage back in the early 90's? Yup.)

    Thrifting is a complicated process. It is not about dropping into a store and immediately finding what you need. There are no guarantees you will find success. And there's no way of knowing whether you will see any item during a future expedition. It’s a delicate dance of give and take, steadfastness, and  perseverance. And restraint. There are things I see at the thrift store I desperately want, but just don't need. There are also things I could never, ever let myself purchase because of the squick factor - such as lingerie and undergarments - and things you just shouldn't buy, no matter their emotional pull. My friend Sammy posted a great list of things to avoid while thrift store shopping, and I couldn't agree more with her choices. No matter how much you love those running shoes, they won't give you the safest, most optimum stride during your workout.

    Making peace with the thrift scores that got away takes time. I still think about those prom dresses I saw over twenty years ago. That pink Victor Costa will invade my dreams. But in the end, the decision not to purchase them was financial astute. It's far better to save my money for pieces I actually need - staples such as sweaters for winter and sundresses for summer.

    Do you feel an emotional pull towards certain pieces while thrifing? What items do you have a hard time passing up? What are your thrift scores that got away?

    {Almost daily outfit of the day} Pose 1.25.12

    Hunt. Gather. Style blazer
    Hunt. Gather. Style vintage Jordache blazer; thrifted J Crew blouse; thrifted J Brand jeans; Old Navy belt; Dolce Vita wedges; vintage thrifted Coach satchel (win its twin in  my giveaway!)

    I can't recall the names of the first personal style blogs I ever read. I don't remember the first posts I skimmed, or what the outfits contained within them looked like (though I am almost certain they involved Jeffrey Campbell shoes.) But I very vividly remember the bewilderment I felt. Who were these women with their penchant for posing in public? What made them drag their cameras and tripods or boyfriends or best friends out into the woods or parking lots or alleyways or abandoned warehouses to take pictures of themselves? What motivated them to do so? Was this vapid narcissism run amok or a new, revolutionary art form? What the heck was going on, anyway???

    Yesterday I became one of those women. For the first time in the history of my blog, I left the safely guarded confines of my backyard for an alley with an even more interesting brick wall than I usually pose in front of. I ignored the curious looks of passerby. I gathered my strength, smiled widely, posed, and got the hell out of there. It felt curiously great.

    Hunt. Gather. Style blazer 2

    Polka dot jeans, and my relationship with food


    On Sunday, I changed my clothes twelve times.

    It was one of those days where nothing seemed to go right. My husband and I had argued about something trivial. The house was a mess. I had a long list of emails to catch up on. And I suffered a humiliating fall in front of my kids while playing tennis. Earlier in the week,  I had bought a pair of jeans from Urban Outfitters, a store whose clothes seem better suited for long-limbed gangly teenagers than a middle aged mom such as myself. They were slim cut with a playful polka dot print and ended right at my ankles. I wanted these jeans to work for me. I wanted them to make me look laid-back and relaxed and youthful. I wanted them to turn me into the wistful models in the Urban Outfitters catalog, with their long straight hair and penchant for standing on cliffs in the middle of the desert staring out blankly at nothing.

    I slid the jeans on and paired them with a selection of tee shirts and button-downs and thin knit sweaters. Nothing worked. The jeans constricted around my stomach and thighs. I felt myself becoming anxious. I changed and changed again, until clothes piled in a depressing heap on my bed. I felt fat. I know fat is not a feeling, but that was all I could think about. I was old and fat.

    I had eaten a big meal out with my husband the night before, a meal I couldn't stop thinking it. The food was luscious - the kind that features butter as both a main ingredient and a garnish, and I felt guilty about eating it. I felt like the jeans were punishing me for it. It was hard for me to even decide if I'd liked what I'd eaten because the meal was so indulgent. I couldn't separate the guilty feelings I had from eating foods I classified as "bad" with whether I had even liked them in the first place. The jeans only made my confusion more pronounced.

    There is so much discomfort about food and what normal eating is. We worry about our weight and qualify foods into "good" or "bad" types. We count calories and carefully monitor what we do and do not eat. We might shun foods that are actually good for us in an effort to avoid weight gain. Whether we count points, calories or fat grams or keep a food journal or observe and restrict ourselves in other ways, the message is the same: Following the rules is more important that actually tasting or even enjoying what we're eating. So it's no surprise that we lose touch with our bodies, and get iffy about signs that we're even hungry or full, and feel guilty when we do eat. Sometimes, once a meal is over, we often don't realize how much we ate. At the end of the day we might even struggle to recall what we put in our bodies.

    Yesterday I came across an article which quoted Ellyn Satter, a renowned eating and feeding expert and a registered dietician and therapist. I love Satter’s definition of normal eating:
    Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
    In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
    I worry about enjoying eating. Especially during times like now when I find myself trying more foods I've previously been uncomfortable with. I feel ashamed that I like to eat, and wish that food was just neutral to me. But enjoying food, as Satter writes on her website, is healthy.
    Eating is supposed to be enjoyable. For too many of us, eating represents trouble. We feel guilty if we eat what we ”shouldn’t” and deprived if we eat what we ”should.” We eat more than we think we should, and we worry about weight. Surveys show that when the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.
    I don't have a very refined palette, but honestly, I adore food. I love the memories certain foods have for me - latkes at Hanukkah and cookies during Christmas; a particularly memorable piece of strawberry creme cake devoured during my 26th birthday while living in Brooklyn; the sushi my husband and I ate during one of our first dates. But of course, because I’m a woman, and because I’m a woman who grew up in an era of food awareness, in a household that reinforced dieting, I can't love food without reservation.

    What's your relationship with food? How often do you feel guilty after eating? Do you categorize foods as "good" or "bad"? Do you ever feel confused about what normal eating is?

    {Almost daily outfit of the day} Members only 1.23.12

    Vintage thrifted suede Member's Only jacket; vintage thrifted suede skirt; thrifted J Crew long sleeved tee; American Apparel tights; vintage Frye boots (eBay); thrifted Michael Kors rose gold watch

    Today, I am a Member.

    The Members Only jacket was one of those strange little pieces of 1980's fashion iconography that was beloved by both cultural icons and basement-dwelling Dungeons and Dragons geeks. Joined by such bizarre creations as neon leggings and boxy blazers, it's part of a select group of vintage clothing that has inexplicably become embraced by today's hipster. I blame the knit cuffs and epaulets, which help the wearer channel their inner rebel while respecting their sartorially challenged nature.

    When I thrifted this jacket a year ago, I wondered about the person who originally owned it. Did they wear it with peg-legged jeans while engaged in competitive role playing games? Did the jacket encourage them to imagine they were Michael J Fox, out for a martini at some garish neon-accented bar? Maybe they wore it to a Hall and Oates concert and bragged to their friends that it was genuine suede, and thus rare and expensive. Who knows.

    On Sundays I Smile - Week in review 1.22.12

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

    One of my favorite places in Dallas to hang out is The Pearl Cup. With excellent coffee and a laid back atmosphere, it's the kind of place where people from all walks of life hang out. At the Pearl Cup, you'll find theology students, soccer moms, hipsters with their bicycles, SMU students, writers, businessmen, and designers sitting at communal tables working on their laptops and sipping on Dallas' best lattes. Sometimes they argue with each other using words I haven't heard since I studied for the verbal portion of the SAT's. It's fascinating and wondrous.

    This is not a photo of the inside of my closet (though I wish it was.) This is a rack of vintage sequin blouses from one of my favorite stores in Austin. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry tears of joy when I came across this display of gaudy eighties glamour. Thankfully, I hit the sequin motherload at thrift stores here in Dallas this week, keeping most of my money in my wallet.

    Although I spend much of the week making the 30 minute drive down to Dallas, I decided to take a day exploring the town square in my own neighborhood. Downtown McKinney is home to antique malls and interesting little shops containing old furniture and books and things like preserved artichokes, which made me sneeze.

    Just in case any of you think I'm the kind of mom who runs her home Martha Stuart style, meticulously cleaning and organizing and cataloging with the militant energy of a professional, I present to you a photo of my boys taken just this morning. Their room looks like a bomb went off. A bomb composed of Legos and Transformers and books and tee shirts which they insist on changing into and out of multiple times a day. They are quite pleased with themselves.

    And finally, the weirdest, grossest thing I've ever come across in a thrift store: A used bed pan. Some things just can't be unseen.

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

    While I'm picking Legos out of the carpet, catch up on everything from Dress With Courage this week:

    This week Sal of Already Pretty - my own blog mentor - was kind enough to feature my post on nudity in her Lovely Links of the week. Big thanks to Sal for the mention!

    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, think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.

    Giveaway time: Win a vintage Coach Willis satchel!

    Sometimes lightning strikes twice.

    Back in the spring, I came across a vintage Coach Willis satchel while thrifting in a Goodwill. Priced at less than twenty bucks, I bought it immediately. I've used that bag more than any other in my wardrobe, and considered it a true blessing from the thrifting gods.

    Yesterday I went on another thrifting excursion, this time to a different store, and what did I come across? The exact same vintage Coach satchel, looking all lonely and abandoned behind the register.

    I couldn't very well just leave it there. So I decided it would make a fantastic giveaway here on the blog.

    coach satchel

    This bag is exactly like the classic Coach Willis satchel here on the Coach website, though it does not have an adjustable shoulder strap. And it won't cost you $298. It has faded into a very rich brown and is in excellent vintage condition, with just a bit of darkening on the top handle and strap. There's also a pen mark on the inside flap, though it is not noticeable at all. I've given the bag a thorough cleaning and it really is gorgeous!

    To enter to win this vintage Coach bag, simply do the following:
    • Follow me through Google Friend Connect (button is a bit down on my right sidebar.)
    For additional bonus entries:
    • Follow me on Twitter;
    • and tweet the following about the giveaway: I just entered to win a #vintage @Coach Willis satchel from @dresscourage. You have a chance to win too! http://tinyurl.com/7ojpem5
    That's it! Please leave a separate comment with each entry, including your email address so I can contact you if you win. US residents only. Giveaway ends on February 3rd. Winner will be drawn using Random.org.

    This giveaway is sponsored by me. Coach has no idea who I am. I could fall off the face of the Earth tomorrow and Coach would never know.

    Thrifting 101: How To Thrift For Shoes

    Do you have an issue buying shoes from a thrift store?

    I've struggled with the squick factor regarding thrifting shoes. The thought that thrifted footwear was once home to someone else's sweaty, possibly smelly feet once is a hard one to negotiate. However, in the end, wearing shoes purchased from a thrift store is no different than wearing anything else I've thrifted. With a thorough cleaning and sanitizing, thrifted or vintage shoes are just as economically smart as any other item gleamed from the thrift store.

    Thrifting for shoes can be quite difficult. Most of the footwear I come across during thrift store excursions has seen better days. From torn leather to worn soles to missing clasps and scuffed heels, searching for, and finding, a wearable and stylish pair of shoes can be an arduous task. However, few things beat the thrill of finding a great pair of Ferragamo or Prada pumps for a fraction of their retail price.

    thrift shoes

    (A random selection of shoes seen at my local Salvation Army. Yes, those are vintage Prada and Ferragamo heels, both priced at $15. Yes, I hyperventilated a little.)

    If you're ready to consider wearing thrifted footwear, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

    • Come prepared: This one might seem obvious, but bring a pair of socks with you every time you go thrifting just in case you see a pair of shoes that interest you. Besides avoiding direct contact with an unsanitized pair of shoes, you'll get a more accurate idea of how they'll fit.
    • Quality: Before trying on a pair of shoes, give them a once-over for cracked leather, splitting heels, stains on suede and discolored fabric. Woven leather shoes are also prone to fraying. I suggest looking on the inside of the shoes as well, as torn or missing insoles can make them unbearably uncomfortable to wear, no mater how intact the outside of the shoe might be.
    • Dig deeper: Examine the stitching and the buckles/holes on straps. Loose stitching can be easily fixed, but stretched out stitching or torn holes can’t. A missing buckle might be hard to fix too, especially if the strap is an odd size or the buckle a specially made one.
    • Heel strength: There's no point in buying a pair of shoes if the heel is weak or splitting. Bend the heel back gently and check to make sure it isn't wobbly or flimsy. However, if you've fallen in love with a pair of shoes with broken heels and you're willing to cover the extra expense, heels can be replaced. 
    • Do the shoes fit? Never, ever buy a pair of thrifted shoes without trying them on. Vintage shoes are often much more narrow that today's versions.

    If you've found a great pair of shoes at a thrift store and are ready to take them home, here's a simple way to sanitize them:

    • Wipe the inside of the shoe down with rubbing alcohol or bleach. If using bleach, mix 1/4 cup with water and using a spray bottle, spritz the solution on the inside of the shoe. Be sure the liquid doesn’t come in contact with the outside of the shoe, the bleach can ruin the material. Air the shoes out over night. If there are insoles, you definitely want to replace them. 

        And in the naked light I saw: Nudity, shame and celebrity


        I have never, ever enjoyed being naked. Not as a child, and certainly not as an adult. I did not grow up in a naked house. My parents were firm believers in sheathing our naked bits in layers of clothing, preferably made from wool. I don't walk around my house naked. I don't go to sleep naked. I don't wash the dishes, or so any sort of housework, naked. I don't soak for hours in the tub or read books naked in front of my fireplace or go to nudist beaches. And I cannot relate to those inane magazine spreads featuring naked models just lounging around, looking simultaneously bored and glamorous. Those are the worst.

        So you can imagine my confusion when I, chronic avoider of nakedness, gave birth to three children who adore nothing more than being au natural. My children are the nudist version of Hansel and Gretel, shedding clothes around the house the moment they arrive home from school. They strut from room to room, bare stomachs jutting out in front of them, without a care in the world. Warm, rainy weather brings not the opportunity to huddle inside watching cartoons, but the chance to scamper outside in rainboots and their birthday suits. Their bodies are an endless source of fascination, and their lumps, smells and sounds are debated with the same intensity as the Nurenburg trials.

        As far as my children are concerned, clothes are confining, itchy, suffocating instruments of torment better left to uptight adults like myself. Clothes squeeze their necks and leave marks on their skin. Clothes make them sweaty. No matter what they're made from, clothes will never feel as good as being naked does.

        The other day I came across the following quote from Carey Mulligan, the pixie-like actress from An Education (one of my favorite movies):
        "I tend to clamp up on camera, but this meant working with no inhibitions. I mean, I don't wear a bikini on the beach. I walk around my house in pyjamas. I haven't seen myself naked in the mirror for probably a decade. I'm very prudish."
        I like to think that actresses spend hours starring at their naked reflections in the mirror, transfixed by their own glistening perfection. They pay obscene sums to personal trainers and get spray-tanned and spend long, luxurious hours under the strong hands of a masseuse at an exotic spa somewhere in Bali. It's challenging for me to wrap my head around the concept that tiny framed Carey Mulligan, she of the pixie cut and poreless skin, purposely avoids seeing her nude self. I wonder if her prudishness is a cover for body insecurity. I wonder if she feels ashamed with how she looks. And I wonder if she always has. Did she wander around naked as a child and stomp around nude in the rain? Did she shed her clothes like a snake slithering from its skin after a day at school? Did her body ever fascinate and entertain, rather than admonish and scold?

        I wonder if I will ever be comfortable being naked. Perhaps I'm just not a naked person. But it would be nice not to avert my eyes when faced with my own nude reflection. Claiming my nakedness would reaffirm my commitment towards self-acceptance, flaws and all. It would help destroy those irrational thoughts of having to be being perfect or looking as I "should."  It would force me to examine who I am without my protective layers of wool and cotton, cable knit and denim. And it would bring me closer to the pure delight of living in my body and embracing what it is to be me.

        Now I ask you: How comfortable are you with being naked? Do you enjoy spending time in the nude when you're at home? Does your naked body make you feel self-conscious, whether you're alone or with a significant other? Has being naked ever interfered between intimate moments with your spouse or boyfriend?

        Blog Mentors: Why they're important, and how to find the right one for you

        I'll be the first to admit that when I started blogging, I had little idea what I was doing. I was an avid blog reader but unaware of ways to improve my photos, decipher my blog stats, and methods to elevate my content. I knew little about sponsor relationships and even less about the blogging community. Fortunately, I was able to connect with bloggers who provided much-needed guidance. These smart, stylish women helped me learn to focus less on my page views and more on my content. They gave me a shoulder to lean on when I faced negative comments. They featured my posts and mentioned me in weekly link roundups. And they encouraged me to use social media to reach out to the blogging community for help when I needed it.

        In the best case scenario, a blogging mentor is someone with whom you develop a relationship with and rely on for friendship, guidance and growth. A mentor serves as an adviser, sharing his or her experiences and insights. A mentor guides your growth by answering questions and serving as a role model. And a mentor helps shape your thoughts by giving you access to their thoughts.

        We all have mentors on our journey through life. Your parents were no doubt your first mentors. A respected teacher might have filled the role for a time. Employers, co-workers, and friends have probably mentored you through the years.

        There are a number of key reasons why having a blog mentor is so important:

        • Encouragement: When you're facing writer's block, have confusion how to approach a post topic, or just feel discouraged and anxious, a blogging mentor can help you get through it. Confiding in someone who understands the tricky, often overwhelming world of blogging can help you find perspective and support you through challenges.
        • Constructive criticism: Do you need a better layout? Could your photos use improvement? Is your content boring and lackluster? Could you use improvement connecting with your readers? Your blog mentor will tell you the truth on these matters. Constructive criticism is invaluable when it comes to growth. It's important to note that this criticism is not meant to hurt. Your blog mentor is just trying to help you grow professionally.
        • Expertise: Ideally, your mentor is someone with considerable experience as a blogger and has paid their dues and earned the right to give advice. They've faced challenges and fought through them with grace and intelligence, and learned valuable lessons along the way. 

        Finding a blog mentor needn't be complicated.  There are a number of ways to go about striking up a relationship with a blogger you admire and want to learn from:

        • Use social media: Twitter and Facebook are invaluable outlets of communication. Got a quick question? Want to strike up a dialogue? Follow your favorite blogger on Twitter and fan their Facebook page. Comment on their tweets and posts, and follow up with insightful, intelligent remarks. 
        • Attend blog conferences: Conferences such as the Texas Style Council Conference, IFB's Evolving Influence Conference, and Lucky FABB are great opportunities to meet and mingle with blog mentors. Influential bloggers attend these conferences to share what they've learned, and they want to meet you! Hand out your business cards and follow up when the conference is through.
        • Send an email: Most of my own contact with mentors began with a simple email. Whether you have a quick question, or are looking to tackle a larger problem, email is an easy route towards establishing a relationship with a blog mentor.

        You probably already have a blog mentor without even realizing it. Your blogging mentors are the people who write the blogs you most enjoy and find the most useful. They share their knowledge in the words they write and offer advice on how to blog better or how to dress better or how to lead a more productive life. Spend time understanding them beyond the words they write. Look for the indirect advice they impart. Pay attention to what they do instead of only what they say. Deconstruct the blog and figure out why you like it. Is it the writing? Is it the layout? The ideas? When one of your blogging mentors offers advice that resonates with you, take time to observe how they apply it on their blogs. Keep it in your mind while reading their posts, and when you notice them putting their own advice to use study what they did, how they did it, and why it works.

        Do you have any blogging mentors? Do you look beyond their posts for insight? Who are some of the bloggers who influence you most?

          {Almost daily outfit of the day} Ode to a vintage sequin jacket 1.16.12

          Buffalo Exchange vintage sequin jacket: thrifted J Brand jeans; thrifted Gap long-sleeved tee; Dolce Vita ankle boots; Bloom clutch

          Dear vintage sequin jacket,

          We met innocently enough. It was an unusually warm January day, leading a girl to dream of picnics and leisurely strolls through the park. I was wandering through Buffalo Exchange, browsing through racks of mini dresses, sheer metallic blouses, silk tunics, plush vintage furs and crushed velvet overalls when my hand brushed against your embellished sleeve. You winked at me knowingly, sequins reflecting the bright overhead light.You knew I would have a difficult time resisting you. I examined your rows of white bugle beads and tiny embroidered sequin flowers. I was entranced by your delicate lavender and pale green beading against white silk. We considered each other. I asked myself if I really needed another vintage sequin jacket. Were you worth $16? Did I even have room for you in my nearly overflowing closet? And what in the world was I going to wear you with?

          So here we are together, vintage sequin jacket. I'm pleased with how you elevate an ordinary Gap long sleeved tee to something special. I'm glad you are in my life. I can't quit you, vintage sequin jacket. We were meant to be.

          On Sundays I Smile - Week in review January 15th

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


          I'm spending this weekend in Austin, visiting with Grechen and planning the Texas Style Council Conference with Indiana. On my first night here, I walked down to 6th Street for a shot of whiskey and blues in a a tiny dark bar. There was also the best guacamole I've ever eaten, a barrage of stoned hipsters playing banjoes on the sidewalk, and a near-collision with a drunk girl who almost threw up on me - a totally average night on 6th Street, I was told.

          While here in Austin I had the opportunity to meet Theresa of Tess Dress. I've never meet with a designer before and I really enjoyed taking a behind-the-scenes tour of her studio, seeing sketches of her spring line, and talking about our shared love of vintage clothing. Theresa was knowledgeable and a real joy to meet. I'm looking forward to working with her in the future!

          Yesterday my friend Grechen took me to one of her favorite stores, Moss. Moss is an upscale consignment store, offering things like Christian Louboutain shoes and Prada bags and Moschino sequin and lace encrusted blazers and this absolutely amazeballs Chanel bolero that, at $1250, was a teensy bit out of my budget.

          Also spied in Austin: Neon trimmed bags from Theyskens Theory at Barneys. Do want.

          This week in thrifting, I hit the sequin motherload. While I was entranced by the floor-grazing pink sequin evening gown shown above, I decided to leave it behind, as I participate in few occasions that call for a floor-grazing pink sequin evening gown. It was pretty fantastic though.

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

          As I'm scrubbing paint of my dining room table, catch up on everything from Dress With Courage this week:
          This week my post on my perfect weight was included in The Beheld's Beauty Blogophere of the week. Big thanks to Autum for the feature!

          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, think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.

          {Almost daily outfit of the day} The bee's knees 1.13.12

          Gap sweater; Target long-sleeve tee; thrifted vintage wrap skirt; We Love Colors tights; Urban Outfitters ankle wedges

          Bees are scary. Bees are almost as scary as a zombie apocalypse, or runs in your tights, or spending an entire day with a piece of lettuce stuck in your teeth without anyone telling you. Bees divebomb picnics and chase terriified children through parks and generally make summer outdoor activities miserable. I was stung by a bee when I was five. I had innocently plucked a flower from the garden in my backyard and suffered a sting on my palm. It hurt. It hurt like the white-hot flame of a thousand suns. Or at least I remember it that way. That bee sting left me forever wary of both insects and gardening, two things that seemed perfectly innocent prior to the assault. 

          Worn together, yellow and black make my post traumatic stress disorder twitch. Nevertheless, this sweater is one of my favorites. 

          Thrifting 101: Thrifting For Resale with Beth of {Parsimonia} Secondhand With Style

          I thrift to save money. I thrift for fun. I thrift to archive little pieces of fashion history to pass down to my daughter. I thrift for my husband, my children, my friends. I thrift when I'm bored, when I'm happy, when I'm feeling a little blue and need a little pick-me-up. But I do not thrift for resale - not yet, anyway. Despite the exploding popularity of websites, Etsy shops and Ebayers devoted to selling thrifted vintage clothing, accessories and housewares, I've felt intimidated to thrift with the express purpose of resale.

          However, in recent weeks I've grown intrigued with the idea of thrifting for resale, so I decided to turn to an experienced vintage store owner for advice. My friend Beth of the blog {Parsimonia} Secondhand With Style has been thrifting for resale for years, and recently launched a new website devoted to selling vintage clothing, accessories and home decor. I asked her to give some advice to my readers intrigued by the idea of thrifting for resale.

          Beth Styles 1

          1. When did you start thrifting for resale? What made you decide to do so?

          It was kind of providential, actually. I was still in Los Angeles, newly married (as in less than a month) and had recently been laid off from my job (as in the day I got back from my honeymoon...I know, right?). I have a degree in journalism and had been working in publishing, but there wasn't much available at that time. I hadn't really planned on being a stay-at-home wife, so I was going a bit stir crazy. Then one night my husband and I were talking and he asked me one question: "If there's something you could do the rest of your life and be happy, what would it be?" My immediate answer was "thrift." It's something I've been doing since I was about 12, and I never tire of it. I especially love vintage items, and had already been accumulating and learning about them for a couple years at that point. So we set aside a small amount of start-up money for me to build up inventory, and eventually I launched an Etsy store, followed by my own site this past November, then hopefully a brick-and-mortar store somewhere in St. Louis in a couple years.

          2. What do you look for when considering an item? Do you buy by season, brand, and /or silhouette?

          Okay...I'm going to break this answer into a couple sections, and hopefully not ruffle any feathers. :)

          First, I feel there are two kinds of resellers: the pragmatic kind who follow the latest trends to a T and only look for those items to resell. They don't really think about their store's "style" or anything, they just see a rise in demand and try to become a supplier. As such, they tend to buy things at higher price (it's a relative since everyone has a different idea of "high," but for me it's above thrift store prices!) and as a result, their stores are usually fairly expensive. Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this philosophy, especially if you're reselling full time. Everyone has to make a living.

          The second kind of reseller takes a bit of an opposite approach. They have a vague idea of what's popular right now, but it's not the only thing that drives their inventory. They integrate their own style into things and bring a bit more creativity to the process, staying true to their own style eye and hoping to develop a demand for their curating abilities, in a sense. (Gee, can you tell which one I'm trying to be?) :)

          All that said, my first rule of anything I put in my store is if I wouldn't wear it/use it myself, then it doesn't make the cut. I don't really read any fashion/style blogs (except this one!), and I'm the first to admit I can't name more than five high-end designers (if that); instead, I've learned to trust my instincts and what I'm drawn to. For the most part it pays off, although sometimes I look at something a couple weeks after I buy it and say, "What was I thinking?" But it's a learning process. Over time and with more experience, you develop your eye for items and hone your store's style, which I think is the beauty of reselling. In my ideal resale world, each store would have some broad similarities, but shine on their own in the details and really showcase the owner's eye. I love walking into a store where you can tell something about the owner based on the merchandise.

          Now, all of that said, there are some practical guidelines I follow. I shop for every season all the time for a couple reasons: 1) If you ship internationally, that means when it's winter here, it's summer somewhere else, and 2) Summer stuff is usually on sale (or priced lower) during the winter, and vice verse, so you'll often see me picking up coats in the summer and sleeveless dresses in the winter.

          As far as brands, I don't really pay attention to them and usually don't know I've stumbled across a good one until I'm researching it at home. Sometimes I'll remember that certain brands are selling well (like Pendleton right now), but it doesn't really drive what I decide to buy.

          As for silhouettes, I tend to stay away from that skirt/dress length that falls between the knees and ankles because it's not really flattering on anyone. Long sleeves are also challenging because a lot of them take away from an otherwise beautiful dress. A couple times I've bought them anyway and then took the sleeves off at home, but those dresses are usually for me; my sewing skills aren't good enough to alter for resale, but maybe someday! :) Overall, I just try and stay away from anything that looks frumpy and doesn't have any interesting or defined lines.

          3. What items sell best in your shop? What doesn't?

          For me, dresses sell best, which, as a woman, I can understand. They're an outfit in and of themselves and are fairly simple (and inexpensive) to have altered. The worst is shoes...they're something that's so important to try on. As such, I only pick up ones I think are especially cute.

          4. Any items you recommend thrifters avoid when considering resale?

          If you don't think you'll have the time or the know-how to clean or fix things, don't get clothing or linens that have stains or tears, because eventually you'll end up with a pile of merchandise that's just sitting there. (I speak from experience here.) Also, if you're reselling vintage, don't just buy something because it is vintage. As someone who also shops at vintage stores, it's so unappealing to see a store stuffed to the brim with anything that's old, especially when you see a lot of styles that are just never

          5. How do you decide what to price an item?

          Research, research, research. See what similar items are selling for on other online marketplaces, then decide what to price yours based on comparable quality and condition.

          6. Any final tips for those thinking about thrifting for resale?

          One time I asked a friend of mine who is really good at photography why she didn't try to make a living doing it, and she said it wouldn't be fun anymore, that she wouldn't enjoy it. If thrifting is something you absolutely love to do, will you still love it if it becomes your business? And will you still love it if your business flops? It's important to ask those questions, because passion is what gets you through the monotony.

          Have you thought about thrifting for resale? Do you currently thrift for clothing, accessories or home decor and sell it on Etsy, Ebay, your blog, or a stand-alone website? Got any advice you'd like to share? 

          The issue of my perfect weight.

          In October, while I was in New York, I took the train out to Long Island to visit family I hadn't seen in nearly two years. My stomach was in knots. The relatives I'd planned to meet had never seen my tattoos, my red hair, my nose piercing (which I'll admit is tiny, but significant) and I was unsure how they would react. And there was also the matter of my weight - as a byproduct of recovery from my eating disorder, I'd gained about 35 pounds since our last visit. In the days preceding our reunion I played out various scenarios of how the day might go. I girding myself against possible shock or hostility or long, uncomfortable pauses. I was anxious. I couldn't sleep. I talked to my husband about it.

          "Why do you do this to yourself?" he asked.
          "Because," I said, but then I realized I had no idea. I was an accomplished woman, with three beautiful children, a successful blog, a blossoming freelance writing career and a book to publish. My anxiety made no rational sense.  These people were my family, and they loved me. I was being ridiculous.

          When I arrived at my family's house, there were hugs and kisses and no mention of any of the things I was worried about. Well, not at first.

          "Well," said my relative. "You look great. Really. You're at your perfect weight. This is your perfect weight."

          The rest of the visit went by in a blur. Through our afternoon of lunch and shopping and coffee and chatter, I felt increasingly flummoxed. The words "perfect weight" hung over me like one of those thought bubbles in a cartoon. What did they mean? Was I at my perfect weight? Was this the way I was destined to look? That morning I'd spent fifteen minutes in front of the full-length mirror in my hotel room, examining the way my thighs looked in my suede skirt. They didn't seem perfect to me. Neither did my stomach, or my knees, or the backs of my arms. As a matter of fact, I was pretty dissatisfied with my body in general. It jiggled and took up too much space. If this was my perfect weight, I wanted no part of it at all. No sir.

          Sometimes I feel like there's an invisible scale that follows me around. It sits next to me when I eat, staring pointedly at the pat of butter on my bread roll. It lurks in the corner while I'm running on my treadmill. I open the door to my pantry and the invisible scale glares at me from a shelf, dictating what I should and should not eat. And worst of all, it regularly reminds me of my lowest weight, the number I was when I was sick and starving.

          That damm scale.
          My damm weight.

          I don't want to be the kind of woman who thinks about their weight all the time. Truthfully, I don't really give a damm what my perfect weight is. I invest a lot of energy in not thinking about my weight, and only perseverate on it when someone else (like my doctor, or husband...or relative) brings it up. I'd much rather spend my time concentrating on writing, or hiking with my kids, or thrifting, or reading a good book.

          I understand that my relative meant well. I know they never intended to send me into a spiral of self-doubt. Ultimately, it's up to me to process comments about my body in a healthy, rational way. There will always be people who take it upon themselves to comment on my body, well-meaning or not, and that invasion is much more concerning than whatever my "perfect weight" is. I'm not sure when it became acceptable for anyone to comment on another person's weight, or body shape, or other attribute of appearance. Increasingly, it seems our bodies are not our own. Whether it's relatives, or the media, or self-help books telling us how we should look, the message is the same: As women, we exist for public display.

          This morning I ate Greek yogurt with granola and bananas for breakfast. It was delicious. And I didn't think about my perfect weight once.

          Men are from Sears; Women are from the mall: Stockpiling, shopping, and gender

          I went shopping with my husband the other day. This was a rare occurrence, the sort of thing that happens with the same frequency as the passing of Halley's Comet. He needed jeans and casual shirts to replace the fraying college sweatshirt he insists on dragging out during weekends, so to the Gap Outlet we went.

          Once we arrived, I meandered over to a tantalizing display of cable-knit sweaters while he strode purposefully towards the men's wear. A mere ten minutes later he had finished, and victoriously marched towards the register with an armload of identical crewnecks in multiple colors and a single pair of jeans. I, on the other hand, was still considering a red cardigan, black tights, leopard ballet flats, a gold belt, grey jeans, two long-sleeved tees and a pile of socks.

          Back in December, the New York Times examined the shopping habits of men, and came to the conclusion that men stockpile and women shop. The article profiled sixteen men, some of whom are employed in the fashion industry as designers, style bloggers and magazine editors, and described their buying habits. Designer Billy Reid confessed to buying "three or four" pairs of identical Levis at a time. Gabe Schulman, contributor to Thestyleblogger, explained that he loved the cut of a particular pair of pants so much that he bought four identical pairs. And tattoo artist Scott Campbell told of his infatuation with plain old black Gold Toe socks, of which he purchases in bulk.

          When I shop, I'm perfectly content to meander through sprawling displays or detour through the shoe department. I give little thought to stopping at a cosmetics counter for a quick spray of perfume before, maybe, making a purchase. In contrast, Wharton Business School research has discovered that men regard shopping as a mission and are much less inclined to browse and wander. In general, men intend to buy a targeted item and flee the store as quickly as possible.

          In a study titled, "Men Buy, Women Shop," researchers at Wharton's Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm, found that men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the shopping experience than women are - such as the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line. However, Women place more value on the attention of customer sales associates, and whether associates are readily available to help when needed.

          One female shopper between the ages of 18 and 35 told the researchers: "I love shopping. I love shopping even when I have a deadline. I just love shopping." Compare that to this response from a male in the same age group who described how men approach retailing: "We're going to this store and we buy it and we leave because we want to do something else."

          I believe most men shop like they're smartbombs dropped from F-22's. They're tactical. They have lists. If they walk into a mall, they usually know exactly where they're going and what they're buying. They are concerned with durability and comfort because if the item lasts, they can shop less often. These men generally don't pay attention to what's trendy. They don't go from store to store to store. They don't wander aimlessly. They want to get in, buy what they need, and get out.That's it.

          This utilitarian shopping philosophy easily explains the tendency of some men to stockpile favorite pieces. However, I also know women who dread going shopping, and negotiate the need for new clothes with both online ordering and purchasing multiple pieces of the same item in different colors. The tricky fit of certain pieces, such as jeans and undergarments, may also encourage a shopper of either gender to stockpile. My own stockpile of J Brand jeans is a testament to my preference towards their fit.

          The Times article led me to wonder if gender differences in shopping habits really are as concrete as the piece suggests. Do you consider yourself a stockpiler when it comes to shopping? Do you prefer to wander and browse, or are you focused on buying what you need and leaving when finished?

          {Almost daily outfit of the day} English heart 1.9.12

          Vintage thrifted blazer; thrifted cashmere sweater; thrifted J Brand jeans; vintage mink stole; Dolce Vita wedges; Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag

          I've never been to London. I've never explored an English castle or climbed into a crumbling 16th century turret. I've never ridden through the countryside on horseback, wind whipping my hair. I haven't taken afternoon tea in  Kensington's Milestone Hotel. I've never sat in a dark pub drinking Guinness (or whatever the English like to drink) while watching a rousing football match on the telly. I've yet to slink through London's snug streets at night, feet striding on weathered cobblestone. I've never caught a bus in Trafalger Square.  And I've never, ever eaten fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and doused in vinegar - the proper English way. Not even once. 

          But I did borrow a bit of dress from the English today with my tweed blazer and elbow patches. My outfit might be accessorized by a New York accent, but my inner Londoner is quite happy, mates.

          On Sundays I Smile - Week in review 1.8.12

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

          I went to a new-to-me antique mall this week, where I spent an hour wandering around and experiencing severe grabby hands for most of the things I saw. The antique mall makes me want to live Mrs Havisham-style inside a house filled with all sorts of intriguing ephemera - things like teacups and stacks of dusty books and silver that needs polishing and fading lace curtains on the windows and chipped primitive furniture.

          Found in the thrift store this week: A 1950's peach satin gown and matching overcoat with lace detailing on the sleeves. I imagine the woman who owned this set paired it with a bouffant and long white opera gloves and wore it to a a wedding, where she danced to Perry Como and drank Manhattans.

          When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was crack open a case of watercolors and paint. I wasn't especially talented, but I loved mixing the colors and creating composition of fairies and rainbows and other childish subjects. I'm happy to have passed my love of painting down to my kids, although they prefer to paint robots and Pokemon battles.

          On Wednesday morning my day started with a pink sunrise, and my 6 am wake-up time felt a little bit less painful.

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

          As I'm scrubbing paint of my dining room table, catch u on everything from Dress With Courage 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 are here.

          If you're visiting my blog for the first time, think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.