Fashion, Travel, Lifestyle, and Opinions on Everything and Nothing.

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Oxford Shoes

I’m fixated on finding the perfect oxford shoe.

I had a beautiful pair, but they had NO padding for the ball of the foot. The two inch stack heel was a versatile height, the capped toe looked finished, the opening was perfect… not too high, not too low… sigh. I tried 3 different insoles, but they weren’t much help and with them in, the toe box was too small. So I let them go, as life is both too short, and too long, for uncomfortable shoes.

At any rate, now I’m on the hunt. I’m seeing a lot of oxford shoes out there, it is inevitable the perfect pair will turn up. I’ve learned from previous such obsessions that it is pointless to buy anything short of my ideal. If I do, I won’t love it, I won’t wear it, and I’ll have wasted my money. Never settle!

Here’s an assortment of oxfords available online right now:

What’s on your shopping list?

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A friend told me today she was keeping a dress she’d ordered online, but ended up not liking in person. She understandably didn’t want to deal with the hassle of returning it. Which made me think. This a situation we’ve all faced. It could be anything; the wrong color item was shipped, the product was damaged, the darn thing doesn’t fit, etc. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to return purchases with which we are unhappy. When we don’t, we’re throwing away our hard earned cash. So let’s decide we won’t waste money. We won’t keep things we don’t really like.


Small things we can do to make returns easier:

  1. Shop from companies with strong customer service who streamline returns (a few of my favorites: Zappos, Piperlime, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret).
  2. Try on items as soon as they arrive and decide if you want to keep them. Open packaging carefully, without damaging it. If the product is not right for any reason, repackage it right away in the original packaging, and fill out the paperwork or print out any return forms needed. Place it by the door or in the car so it’s easy to remember to drop it at the post office or UPS, etc., the next time you’re out and about.
  3. DON’T SETTLE! It’s a waste of money. This one is hard… we see something we can’t resist. We want so badly for it to be as cool as it looked online. But if you don’t honestly love the actual item you received, send that sucker back!


Reputable companies understand returns are part of any business in which goods are sold. They expedite the process, some of them even enclose prepaid return shipping labels. So go for it.

Companies that throw up road blocks to the return process are nothing short of predatory. So again I say, go for it. When speaking to customer service be polite and professional but don’t settle for “no.” Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a supervisor. Or even the supervisor’s supervisor. If you still don’t get any satisfaction, write a firm letter to the president or CEO (usually a matter of public record, Google can help you find out the correct name and address). And never shop with them again!

A friend recently had a customer service problem involving a major communications company. After weeks of getting nowhere, she wrote to the FCC, the State Communication Commission, and the President and CEO of the company. The head of the communication company’s division for the State of California called her a week later, and she now has his direct phone number. She’s getting resolution. This is an extreme example, (hello tangent!), but my point is, as John Wayne is supposed to have said to Barbara Walters, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” (wha?) I mean, keep it simple (see list above) and remember that there is NOTHING wrong with returning unused, unworn items that simply weren’t what we hoped they’d be.

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I recently wrote about wardrobe essentials, the gist was that everyone’s needs and preferences differ.

So here’s my list. Much of it is common to the lists we have all seen. While what works for each of us is as individual as we all are, there are also commonalities (just as we all have as much in common as we are individuals). Contradictory? That’s humanity!

Monty Python's, Life of Brian

Monty Python’s, Life of Brian

I think I was just sidetracked by thoughts of U.S. culture and character, and the human condition.

Anyway, here’s MY top 10 list:

  1. Classic Trench. I could not agree with this list staple more. As Tim Gunn says, “You can wear it to the grocery store or the opera.” I feel so strongly about this that I have a beige one AND a black one. If you’re wardrobe building, I think a light tan is probably the most versatile.

    Trenches, image found here.

    Trenches, image found here.

  2. Black and Nude Pumps. Between the two, you have a heel to wear with anything. And remember never to settle for uncomfortable shoes, regardless how beautiful they are. There are swoon worthy shoes that also feel good on your feet. If you don’t believe me, check out Corso Como.
  3. Equestrian boots. Yes they are very popular at the moment. That happens every few years. They’re classics and never out of style. I agree with Wendy‘s recommendation, here, that the best option for this staple is a very simple clean boot without a heel or embellishments like buckles and straps.
  4. Flip Flops. My old favorites were a muted silver pair from J. Crew and the sole is almost completely worn through. The new favs are a Roxy black and white chevron pair from Ross for 9 dollars. I live in flips in hot weather. I know, some of you wouldn’t be caught dead in them. That’s why we all have to make our own lists!

    Boots, Flips, and Pumps. All available on Zappos.

    Boots, Flips, and Pumps. All available on Zappos.

  5. T-shirts. I like to have three specific kinds, as they work in layers differently and give me more options. V-necks- American Eagle’s are good. Crew necks- can’t go wrong with the ones from Gap. And Boat necks- J. Crew’s are great, and the elbow length sleeve gives them a grown up feel and makes it easy to dress them up. All of them go on sale semi-regularly so no need to break the bank.
  6. Tank Tops. I am the queen of the cami. And since I’m cheap, most of mine are from H&M. I have a dozen colors and layer them almost daily.
  7. Denim. There’s so much to say about the ubiquitous jean. It’s great to have a solid dark wash since they can often work as trousers. And I believe we should all have a comfy relaxed weekend pair too. More on shopping for denim here.Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 3.07.04 PM
  8. Skirt or Slacks. This is a personal one. Are you a skirt person? Never? Either way is okay. I have both. I have a skimming but swingy tropical print skirt that has accompanied me to many and island, and the dependable pencil skirt serves all other purposes. For slacks I have a great pair of Kenneth Cole’s that have been a stand by for about 8 years now. I bought them long enough to wear with tall heels and they never let me down.
  9. Cardigan. They say “cotton is rotten” when it comes to running gear, and I have adopted this for sweaters as well. Maybe it’s just me, but my cotton sweaters stretch out of shape after one wearing, fade more quickly, and tend to show wear earlier than some other materials. I’m a big fan of wool: merino, cashmere, whatever. Wool/silk blends have worked well for me in the past, maybe with a little nylon or spandex thrown in. They’re perfect for layering, toning down a saucy top, or adding a pop of color to a work dress.

    The wonderful world of cardis. The above are all available at Nordstrom.

    The wonderful world of cardis. The above are all available at Nordstrom.

  10. LBD. There are innumerable Little Black Dress options out there, and the price ranges vary wildly. I have a few. One is more conservative and would be appropriate for a business setting or funeral (gotta be real, we’ll all attend these at one point or another and I think it’s only respectful to look presentable). Another is, well, saucy. Enough said.
A range of LBDs, all available at piperlime.

A range of LBDs, all available at piperlime.

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BASICS: Different for Everyone

Clearly it’s important to build your wardrobe foundation. We hear about it all the time, right? Everyone and their dog has a list of “Must Have Wardrobe Basics.” It seems obvious. Having simple pieces that are neutral (versatile) and can be dressed up or down, well that’s just common sense.

Surely we all need black and nude pumps. Don't we?

Surely we all need a pair of black pumps and nude pumps. Don’t we?

But I firmly believe everyone’s necessary basics differ. I did some research when I started thinking about this topic and one list I found recommended a 3 piece suit. I have never in my life had occasion to wear a 3 piece suit. Not once. Some women wear them every day. And almost every list I found also recommended a “crisp white blouse.” I’ve been reading that one for years, so a few years ago I bought one. I’ve worn it twice. It’s just not me, I’m not comfortable in it–I wasted my money. I used to read these lists like they were instruction manuals… now I read them critically and have fun deciding which pieces fit my needs and style. I’m sure everyone realizes that ALL advice should be taken with a grain of salt. This is especially true for fashion advice (including this post). One size does NOT fit all. And breaking the rules is just as important as knowing what they are.

I absolutely love Michelle Obama’s style, but I’m pretty sure her wardrobe requirements differ from mine!

When thinking about what you need, logic dictates starting by evaluating what you have. Pull it all out. ALL of it. Empty the drawers!  While you’re in there, cull out the weak pieces. If it’s worn past “cool” and more on the “decaying” end of the spectrum, let it go. If you have clothes that you pull at all day because you don’t like the fit, get rid of them. Life is both too short and too long to spend time feeling ill at ease because what you’re wearing isn’t flattering. There IS clothing out there that will flatter you, regardless of your body type. I’m not saying it’s easy to find great things if you’re 4’10” or 6’3”, but it can be done (we should all have a line on a great tailor), and it’s imperative that we not settle for less than a really comfortable fit. One of my sisters calls this “spiritual shopping” and swears she never buys anything unless, when she tries it on, she looks in the fitting room mirror and thinks she looks fantastic. Pure genius.


Purging is necessary since we buy clothes over years and years. Periodically, we have to take stock of how we’d like to present ourselves and how we are actually presenting ourselves. It’s a good time to evaluate your wardrobe from the perspective of work needs, social habits, and general lifestyle. Also consider the lifestyle you want. Integrate that with your budget, plan which items pack the biggest punch for your dollar, and which items can be added over time…

So once you’ve seen what you have, and thought about your priorities, it’s a good time to peruse a few essentials lists:

  • I really like Tim Gunn. He’s insightful and sweet, but can definitely break it down when necessary. This video discusses the importance of fit and proportion, and here is the simplest of his lists that I’ve found.
  • A Girl, A Style‘s list, here, is thoughtful and interesting.
  • I didn’t think Oprah’s list was especially inspired, but I did agree we need to toss the ratty sweatpants. There are soft cozy pjs out there that are also attractive. Loungewear can look as good as if feels. I really like these pjs from Victoria’s secret, and the Gap Pure Body collection.
  • This is a fun video, with a great perspective on basics and statement pieces. Don’t forget there are amazing deals to be had at TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls. I have gorgeous bags and shoes from all 3 of them.
  • Glamour has a bunch of different essentials lists, it’s fun to check out the different angles they take.
  • Great ideas are often found in unexpected places. I am not a parent- but when researching basics and fashion advice, I found a GREAT posting on a site called Single Moms Ask Sara. I don’t agree with everything she wrote, but I agree with a lot of it, and loved how she talked about teaching her kids how to think of clothing. (Cliff Notes: If it doesn’t fit, it’s the fault of the clothing, not the person).
I've been dying for a fluffy tulle skirt for ages...

I’ve been dying for a fluffy tulle skirt for ages… if I wear it enough can I claim it’s essential?

Well, I had more to say about this topic than I realized! I’ll leave my Basics List for another day.

What 5 items do you think every woman should have (and by that I really mean what 5 items do you think YOU should have)?

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I spent a few days in Vancouver over President’s Day weekend. My exposure to the area ended up being limited by a nasty virus, but I recovered in time to see a bit of the city. And it’s GORGEOUS. It reminds me of home (the San Francisco Bay Area) in a number of ways… the temperate climate, the bay, proximity to mountains, foodie culture with abundant amazing restaurants, friendly locals, great local shops, expensive everything (it’s a bit remote and hard to ship goods in), and the high demand and high price of housing since it’s bounded by one thing or another on all sides- so there’s no where to expand but so many people want to live here…

Image harvested from the interwebs.

Hubs has to visit every 6 months or so for work and I’m hoping to be able to accompany him next time too, and see more of the area. We stayed a couple days at the Four Seasons, which was all I’d hoped, but I didn’t get to take full advantage due to illness. Then we spent a couple days at a VRBO, which was not super-fantastic, but I’m sure there’s a range from amazing to disappointing and we just hit the wrong end of the scale this time.

More fruit of the webs, found here.

We visited the Vancouver Art Gallery, and wandered into a wonderful guided tour. I especially enjoyed the work of Emily Carr and Charles John Collings. My favorite private gallery was the Howe Street Gallery downtown. They had an eclectic mix of art, and the gentleman working there was so welcoming and lovely. He gave us interesting background about several of the artists, and escorted us to the brand new second floor space they’re just opening. 

The Vancouver Aquarium was really nice too. It’s a good size, and the Beluga whales and Sea Otters were my favorite new friends. No surprise there, Beluga smiles melt my knees and I’ve had a thing for Sea Otters since I was a kid… but then who hasn’t, right?


I did some shopping in the Gastown neighborhood, as well as downtown. For obvious reasons, when traveling I tend to avoid chain stores that are common where I live. Le Chateau is a local chain that reminds me of a cross between The Limited and Express, and I picked up a fantastic LBD with great detailing there. I also hit the consignment shops (one of my favorite things to do while out of town) and found an amazing Scottish Cashmere sweater in cream, with a beige and salmon argyle pattern. It’s a large mens and looks great with leggings and boots. It’s downy soft and feels like a big, warm, cozy, grandpa hug… score!


Gastown photo via the Vancouver Courier, here.

Next time I visit Vancouver (I can’t wait!), the plan is to visit Granville Island, Stanley Park, the Museum of Anthropology, Yaletown, back to Gastown, and whatever else I can fit in. There will definitely be another meal at L’Abattoir, too! It was hands down the best of many fine meals we had while in town.

Have you been to Vancouver? What was your favorite part?

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Spring Dresses

The spring dresses are in stores and it’s time to start thinking about warmer weather (OK, maybe I’m a little early, but I’m excited).

These would be appropriate for work, and would transition well to evening with just a little lipstick, jewelry, and some hot pumps:

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 4.07.22 PM

  1. Conference in Rio Dress. The white and orange make me smile! I can’t decide between gold or turquoise heels and accessories, what do you think?
  2. Cap Sleeve Stripe Mini Dress by Calvin Klein. Simple and classic, throw a blazer over it for work day, remove it for cocktail hour. And it pulls in the uber-popular nautical trend. Hello Sailor!
  3. Desert Dress by Nanette Lepore. The fine striping is difficult to see in this photo, but it’s got great seaming and contouring. I’m still not completely sold on the peplum trend though, how about you?
  4. Cora Dress by Kate Spade. I’m thinking black, gold, or red accessories… but you could easily take this in any direction. What a fantastically versatile piece.

These would be great summer beachy date dresses:

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 4.04.28 PM

  1. Stripe Maxi Dress  by Splendid. I’m not usually into stripes or hi-low, but these stripes are arranged in the MOST flattering way possible, and the whole thing just works.
  2. Maritza Print Shift Dress by Collective Concepts. This makes me think of warm breezes under shade trees with a glass of sangria in hand.
  3. Shirred Tee Dress by Monrow. Could this dress look any more comfortable? The length is perfect and it would be so easily dressed up or down. Great for travel!
  4. Tank Maxi Dress by LA Made. There’s a keyhole in the back too, and slits on both sides. Beach elegant.

Have you started shopping for spring?

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Good Stuff From Unexpected Places

I heard a great quote somewhere a few years ago, the details are hazy, but the gist was that there are great pieces to be found in places we wouldn’t normally shop. I loved the idea, so started keeping my eyes open. A fantastic pair of earrings here, great sweater there… it was true! And it helped expand my wardrobe into different styles. It felt great to be diversifying and I felt my stye matured. As I mentioned here, for years I’d stuck with the same cuts and colors when shopping. I think it’s a pretty common habit. But it’s so fun to branch out!

My favorite off-habit purchase was a wild silly dress from Cache. Cache is great, it just doesn’t fit my aesthetic. But this dress fit me perfectly, the colors were crazy, it was sexy, and just an absolute hoot! I loved that dress. Sadly I can’t share photos of it as it disappeared on a Vegas trip years ago. Don’t ask, I’m not allowed to tell.

Anyway, when a Pendleton circular showed up in my mailbox, I leafed through it before recycling to check for finds… here are my favorites:

What are your favorite unexpected fashion finds?