Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Foxy Sweater Finally!: ootd

    Sweet success at long last!  After a tireless search for a reasonably priced fox sweater, I found two foxy tops on the same visit to my favorite online thrift store.  The first one I showcased last week in this post, I am so very pleased to present the second (and hopefully final) fox themed top in my wardrobe. 
 
    Like the first top, this one came from ThredUp, but I have to admit I cheated a little to get this one.  I was actually looking through the children's clothes when I saw it.  It was listed as a girls' size 14, which from experience I can tell you is quite similar to a ladies' XS, so I knew it would most likely fit.  I didn't mind taking the risk, because if it didn't fit, I do have two little girls who I knew would love to have it.  
    A word of caution about buying younger sizes, the width is usually equivalent to adult sizes, but the waist (if the item has one) is usually much higher and the length is much shorter.  I don't typically shop in the kids' department, but I know that when it comes to sweaters, a shorter length goes great with skirts.  I took a chance and it panned out.  And, I'm so glad it did, because now my fox sweater search (or maybe obsession) is over and I can move on to the part I really love, which is finding lots of ways to wear it.
    The great thing about this sweater is that it has an eye catching pattern, but is otherwise comprised of neutrals so it feels a little more sophisticated (as sophisticated as animal faces on shirts can be) and I can wear it with lots of things.  Next week I'll be using this top again in a post all about neutrals, but for now I decided to play up the foxy colors with my favorite orange and brown plaid skirt and an orange scarf.

Shop the Look:
Fox Sweater from ThredUp (use this link to save $20 off your first purchase http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5 )
Plaid Skirt from ModCloth
Flats by Seychelles
Jewelry is handmade
Orange scarf was purchased locally but I love this Pumpkin Infinity by PhylPhil



Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Other Favorite Thrift Shop & ootd

    I don't talk a lot about my second favorite online thrift store, probably because it still has a few kinks to work out and I don't use it quite as much.  But, if you're looking for something that's been gone from the shops for a while, it's worth giving PoshMark a try.  
    In the last two years that I've been using this site, I've made 15 purchases. Of those 15 two of them had unresponsive sellers who never shipped my item and one shipped me a damaged item which had to be returned.  Three bad transactions in two years probably doesn't sound that bad, but it's a much higher ratio than anywhere else I shop.  I've learned to first leave a message for the buyer asking if the item is still available before actually buying.  Unresponsive sellers won't answer messages or if they take longer than a few days it puts me on my guard.  
    Apart from this and the fact that they won't ship to me (overseas) directly, there are many perks to shopping there.  One of the benefits is being able to shop one person's closet and create a bundle of items that will all have one low shipping rate as opposed to places like Ebay which charge per item or offer a combined shipping rate that can still be quite high.  Another benefit is the ability to submit offers and receive counter offers.  I have found so many sellers willing to bargain that I always walk away with a good deal or I simply walk away.  And so far all of my items have arrived very quickly, usually within a week of purchasing.
    This week my Expert in Your Field Trip Dress arrived.  I waited for the day it would go on sale at ModCloth and then when it did I was too late and my size sold out.  I should have expected this; it was a gorgeous dress and was marked down to only $35.99.  But, as luck would have it, I found it after all this time (a year, maybe?)  in my size, with the tags still on it for only $28.  I pounced on it and I am so glad I did.  The weight of the fabric makes it the perfect winter dress.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Peachy Keen:ootd

I decided for this post to do something a little more in keeping with Japanese fashion and this is a look I see quite often here: knee length pleated skirts and blousey neutral tops with sensible shoes.  I can see why this look is so popular; it is very feminine and dressy, but still comfortable.  And, just to keep it all from being too sensible, I threw in my peach purse.  What's life without whimsy? 


Shop the Look:
Lace top by Anthropologie
Mint skirt purchased second hand
Flats from ModCloth
Purse by Nila Anthony from ShopJeen.com
Necklace is handmade

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Summer Cottage Dress Review

    This dress is striking.  It's unusual and eye catching with its beautiful lace and bold colors.  I love it.  It has a great boho feel, but can also be dressy enough for a wedding or possibly a daring wear-to-work look.  Tone it down with deep blue-violet and indigo, or pale pink and beige.  Or glam it up by accessorizing with chunky jewels, cameos or simple brass and leather pieces; this dress can handle it all and look fab doing it.  
    Summer Cottage has a lace shell and lined bodice with two under layers at the skirt for a little flare.  I would say the dress fits true to size, but is meant to be a little loose.  Not knowing this, I ordered one size up, because I envisioned this as a casual dress and wanted a freer fit.  I don't recommend doing this though.  If I had it to do over, I would have gotten my true size and I think it would have been loose enough.  So, if you have a small bust and want something form fitting, consider sizing down.  Overall, I love this unique dress and more styles with it are coming soon!


Shop the Look:
Tan flats, blue heels, Orchid Mak Cardigan and pink Nila Anthony purse are from ModCloth.com
Black heels are by Nine West
Pink Cardigan is old and from American Eagle Outfitters
Jewelry is handmade by me

Places to buy the dress:
Size 00P for $99 + Shipping

Sizes 00P, 2P, 6P for $109 with free shipping

Size 0P for $85 free shipping

Size 4 for $95.99 + Shipping

Size 4 for 89.99 + free shipping

Size 10 for $99.00 + free shipping

Size 14 for $85.00 + free shipping

Size 14 for $99.00 + free shipping

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Deidre with SugarSnap Boutique

The long awaited day has arrived!  After months of admiring her work, I'm so pleased to present Deidre of SugarSnapBoutique in this week's Artist Spotlight.

Bleu Avenue:  Deidre, thank you so much for joining me.  I absolutely adore your felt bouquets. What drew you to felt as a medium for your creative expressions?

Deidre:  Thank you for having me, I really enjoy what I do. Working with felt is a lot of fun, it’s a such a wonderful material with great characteristics. It doesn’t fray, it can be folded, layered, and shaped very easily and adheres well to itself with many different types of glue and thread. I first started working with felt by selling it to other handmade artists in my etsy supply shop, so taking it to the next level with my own designs was a no brainier.

B:  I agree, I just started working with felt about a year ago, but I instantly loved it.  When I sit down to work on a project, it's so relaxing, but there's no guilt, because I'm being creative and productive as well.  Where do you find your inspiration to create so many different pieces?

D:  I like staying true to myself by not restricting my creativity; if I want to make something I make it.  But, to keep it in the realm of something that will sell, I try to stay on trend. I search blogs and social media to see what is popular in home decor and test my ideas out in felt and see if I can’t put a fresh spin on it. But, my favorite thing to research for inspiration is real plant life.
B:  Your bouquets are absolutely stunning, and you design custom made items!  What has been your favorite custom piece?

D:  Yes! Custom items are the BEST. Honestly so many of my customers have better ideas than I do! Haha! I love custom pieces because it inspires me and pushes me to try something I may not have. My most recent favorite piece is our “Sunflower Garland”. 

B:  You mention in your Etsy shop bio that you weren't really happy with the things you made in the beginning? What was the mantra or motivation that kept you from switching to something else or from giving up completely?

D:  This is a great question  My motivation was that I wanted to prove to myself and others that you don’t have to have that “crafty gene” or even be educated in craft or art to be creative. I told myself that if I just kept making and practicing and testing ideas out that eventually I would get better. 
 
B:  That is fantastic!  I've met so many people who want to be creative but feel they can't because they don't have that "crafty gene."  What advice could you give to someone who is feeling similarly discouraged in their artistic endeavors?

D:
  Don’t quit! Pretty original, I know!  But, it’s the truth. When you hustle and put in the hard work and time you will get somewhere. It might not seem like it on some days but opportunities will come your way. And if you have a bad day, step away from your work place, do something unrelated, maybe even something unrelated to you, like an act of service for someone else. Then came back after a short break and re-commit yourself and you’ll be surprised what a fresh perspective you have.  


B:  That is fantastic advice!  Deidre, thank you so much for joining me and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for you and SugarSnapBoutique

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Nordic Love:ootd

    I decided to re-visit my Scandinavian Inspirations post from last year, and do another yellow/blue combo.  Still love my Lil blue dress and with this cardi, the colors really compliment each other and make a striking statement on gray days like these.  It is one of my favorite winter color combos.






Shop the Look:

Harissa dress by Lil
Mak Cardigan from ModCloth
Charlotte Russe Heels

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Traveling Cupcake Dress in Paprika Plaid: Dress Review & Three Outfits

    All the lovely things I purchased from ModCloth's big sale a couple of weeks ago have finally made their way across the Pacific ocean and to my home.  This is the first dress I'll be reviewing and show you three outfits that came to mind as soon as I saw it.
    This is the Traveling Cupcake Truck Dress in Paprika Plaid and it's original price was $69.99.  For the quality of the dress and the way that it fit, I think that price was about $20 too high, but it was a steal at its sale price of $20.99.  
    I love the print, love the cut.  The fabric is thick, but unlined so it is probably best for autumn wear.  It's very snug around the bodice, but the straps were about 2 inches too long, so I had to pin them and sew them up.  The good news is that the straps were easy to adjust and are removable so I'm able to wear the dress more ways.  
I won't say much about these looks, they're pretty self explanatory.  The weather has been beastly, I guess winter has finally come to our part of Japan.  It's definitely time for lots layering and this is the perfect dress for it.



Shop the look:
Traveling Cupcake Dress in Paprika Plaid
Charter School Cardigan in Rust
Definitive Drama Heel in Brown 
Layer It On Tights in Gray


Friday, January 22, 2016

Anthropologie's 2016 Winter Styles

    We're staying cozy indoors this weekend as we brace ourselves for the first snow of the year.  Looking out at the bare forest and bleak sky puts me in mind of Anthropologie's winter look book. To be fair, I don't hate their new styles.  I actually really like them, but they all feel so...cold, for lack of a better word.  There is an abundance of white, and gray and everything seems to be made of chiffon and lace.  Where are the warm colors and chunky knits?  Seems like it would all be more appropriate for summer wear.  The good news is that maybe by summertime all the things I love will be marked down enough that I can actually afford them.  Here's to hoping!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fox and Found: ootd

    Yes!!! I finally found not one but two foxy tops!  I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been trying to get in on the fox sweater craze but finding the cost a little too high.  But, ThredUp has saved the day with this gorgeous fox print tee by Anthropologie, and believe it or not a sweater as well to be featured in a later post.  I absolutely love this top, received several compliments the very first day I wore it and even though a celebrity has worn one (there's a pic of Taylor Swift out there in this top) it still cost less than $20!  Seriously, you cannot go wrong with them with ThredUp.  I'm totally addicted; I may never buy new clothes again!



If you've never tried ThredUp use this link to save $20 off your first purchase  http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5

Shop Look:
Skirt and Top from ThredUp
Black Soda Flats from Ebay
Textured tights are old
Jewelry is handmade by me

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fashion with a Heart: The Life Saving Dot

    I've been meaning to write this post for months now, but didn't want to start until I felt I could really do it justice.  Then I realized there is already so much great press out there, I should just share and spread the word.
    Fashion gets a bad rap as being a shallow and cruel industry.  But, like anything else, it has people who care and want to make a difference.  That's exactly what happened with The Life Saving Dot.  As I was reading about this miracle accessory, I came across several other projects out there where fashion and service to others go hand in hand.  I decided maybe this should be a regular feature called Fashion with a Heart.  
    The Life Saving Dot is aptly named, since iodine deficiency is at the root of many of the diseases plaguing rural or impoverished women in India.  The solution created by Ali Shabaz of Grey Advertising in Singapore was a stroke of brilliance: Iodine is added to simple, inexpensive bindis (traditional decorative dots worn on forehead)  and the iodine is then absorbed through the skin throughout the day providing up to 12% of a woman's daily requirement.  For more information on The Life Saving Dot, read the article in Time Magazine or watch the YouTube video


If you know of any Fashion with a Heart projects, feel free to contact me or share the info in the comments section below.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hello Dottie! :ootd

    ThredUp was positively inundated with Anthropologie dresses in December and now my closet is practically bursting with these gorgeous styles and each one only cost me about $20.  (If you're new to ThredUp use this link to sign up and save $20 off your first order http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5  )    This one is called Dropped Dots and like the others it cost me all of $20, which is a tiny price to pay for its classy 40's style and perfect cut.  
    The shell is a linen material and although it looks black and white, it is actually navy blue and ivory. The curved in bodice helps to accentuate the narrowest part of the waist and little bit of flare in the skirt is great for balancing a curvy figure.  I also love that the skirt hits just above the knee, which I think is the perfect length. 
    For the outfits for this dress I wanted to play with the "red,white, and blue" theme.  Since it already has (navy) blue and (ivory) white, I decided to make my red a burgundy shade and make it a little fun with this floral embroidered cardi that I've had for ages.  Then in the second outfit I went more neutral with pearls, black heels and the only red being the accent on the purse.



Shop the Look:
Dropped Dots dress from ThredUp.com
others available on Poshmark
Size 0 for $55
Size 0 for $60 
Size 2 for $158
Size 4 for $40
Size 6 for $54

Envelope Purse and Burgundy Heels from ModCloth.com
Floral Cardigan and Black heels are old
Layered Pear Necklace is from Forever21.com

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Tamar Nahir Yanai

    My brother's and my childhood summers were spent in wild freedom, roaming woods and fields, climbing trees, catching fireflies, no shoes, hair in tangles, and "bath" was a four letter word.  But, there always came a time when the heat chased us indoors and we succumbed to boredom.  One particular summer my sweet little grandma (not the one who sent bird sweaters) was busy at her embroidery making a quilt for someone.  Since what she was doing seemed far more interesting than anything on t.v., we asked her to teach us.  And she did for the rest of the summer and for years after that she was always willing to let us pick through her Aunt Martha's patterns and scrap fabric and then guide us to making a completed piece.  
    My grandmother has been gone for almost twenty years now, but I still love to embroider and every time I pick up my needle I think of her.  I was searching for patterns for my girls to work on during these long winter days when I came across the work of Tamar Nahir Yanai.  The sweet innocence of her illustrations and embroidery patterns took me right back to those carefree summers.  I am so pleased to share her work with you and get to know a little about her.
Bleu Avenue:  Thank you so much for joining me to talk about your work.  How long have you been doing embroidery and how did you first become interested in it?
Tamar Nahir Yanai:  I started embroidering 4 years ago. During that time I received requests from my customers who liked my illustrations and wanted to embroider them.  I remembered how I loved watching my grandmother embroidering and how I loved embroidering with her so I had to try again.  I fell in love all over again with the embroidering art.
B:  From where do draw inspiration for your designs?
TNY: Most of my drawings come from observing the nature around me.  Leaves and branches that I love to collect.  When my daughters were little I enjoyed drawing them.  You can say that the inspiration is everywhere, you just have to 'catch' it.  It can be the simplest things around us.
B:  I love that and I completely agree.  Inspiration is all around us if only we take the time to look.  What is your favorite design that you have made and why?
TNY:  It's very hard to pick, but I would say its the 'Happy Thoughts' design.  I think I prefer it because of the feedback I'm receiving from customers. Women have bought the 'Happy Thoughts' design for best friends who experience some rough personal time, or for a relative that is in a hospital.  They all wanted to give a present that is crafty and optimistic.  I'm moved by the thought that my drawings can have an affect like that between family and friends. 
B:  I love that you offer complete kits for creating your designs instead of just the PDF pattern like a lot of other shops. What made you decide to do this?
TNY:  Great question!  When I've started I sold only PDF files.  After a while I understood that since part of my designs include small and delicate details it can be a bit hard for some of the customers to transfer those items to fabric.  I had to find an option of printing directly on fabric and once this attempt worked the enthusiasm was great !  My goal is giving my customers who love to embroider all the tools to start embroidering.  They'll only need to open the embroidery kit and start embroidering without delays or limitations.
B:  You and I have memories of our grandmothers tied to embroidering. What is your best memory or favorite experience of doing embroidery or since opening your shop?
TNY:   I can say that every new order excites me. It's amazing and so not obvious that women from around the world visit my shop and order embroidery kits.  In our digital and advanced technological world the art of embroidering can be just a great relaxing break.  I'm so happy that a craft that I'm so connected to succeeds to reach and excite more women around the world.  That is one of the reasons I love to teach in embroidery workshops. During the workshops I see the joy the embroidery brings to women and that is the most satisfying for me as an artist.
 B:  Beautifully said and thank you so much for talking with me today.  I can't wait to see what marvelous things you create next!
See more of Tamar Nahir Yanai's work at TamarNahirYanai.etsy.com
 
  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bird Watching: ootd

    I don't know why, but everywhere I looked this past fall/winter someone was wearing or selling a fox sweater.  Or, occasionally a dog sweater.  I don't know why fox sweaters were such a fad, I think it had something to do with people on t.v. wearing them.  Whatever the case, I really liked them and started to look for my own.  Sadly, as I've mentioned in other posts, as soon as someone famous wears something the price goes through the roof.  
    So, I couldn't really afford a fox sweater this year...maybe I'll get one next year when they're out of style, but I did find this weird and wonderful bird sweater. It instantly made me think of something my grandmother would've sent my brother for Christmas when we were kids; the kind of thing that made him fear her gifts and question her love. It is the epitome of ugly sweaters and childhood holiday dread all rolled into one, so of course I had to have it.  I love my ugly giant bird sweater and I shall wear it as often as possible.  And, who knows, maybe I'll start a new trend.

Shop the Look:
Talbot's Bird Sweater from ThredUp  If you've never tried ThredUp, use this link to sign up and save $20 off your first order  http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5
Summer School Cool Dress from ModCloth
Camera purse is second hand
Seychelles flats are second hand, but I really like these quilted flats from Kohls
I handmade my bird earrings and ring, but these earrings from ShadedRose are an exact match
My pearl ring is vintage and here is one almost like it from FoundintheGround

Friday, January 15, 2016

Comfort & Style


    Why is that so many people think that style and comfort are opposites?  Why can't you look great and feel comfortable at the same time?  I think you can, even when you're running late and yes, even when you're sticking to a budget.  It's time to ditch those shot out sneakers and baggy hoodies, because there is a better way.
    If you're one of those people who is always in a rush and need a style time saver, consider the idea of a uniform!  I had a friend once who was all around stunning, a beautiful heart and a great attitude with the looks to match.  I didn't know real people could be so beautiful and she always looked like a million bucks even when I knew she didn't feel that way.  She could be running 30 minutes late, with a cranky toddler and greasy hair and she still looked nicer than I did.
    I decided to watch and learn from her, and her secret was simply this:  She had a "uniform."  It was a standard go-to look that took no thought and always looked good.  I decided to give it a try.  So, on a quiet day, I assembled an outfit that was simple but stylish and made that outfit or some variation of it my uniform.  It worked like a charm, and I want to show you the basic pieces that always look polished but are still super comfortable.







  • Instead of a shapeless tee opt for a more fitted top (it can still be cotton).  Having a nice print (no, a graphic tee is not the same as a print) or a boat-neck adds a little class as well.
  • Unless you're going for a jog, ditch the hoodie and try a blazer instead.  Lots of blazers are now made of knit fabric, so they feel almost like a hoodie, but with so much more class.
  •  Take the time to find some jeans that fit your body.  It's worth it!  A great pair of jeans can look nice and be comfortable.  Don't be afraid to get something with a little color.  You'll be surprised how they can perk up an outfit.  
  • If your outing doesn't include walking all day or running a marathon, leave those sneakers at home and try a sparkly jeweled flat.

And lest you think you can't possibly look fab on a budget, check out the prices of the items I chose here:


Ok, I know the pants cost a bit much, but sometimes it's worth it to pay $100 for the kind of jeans that make you feel like a million bucks!