No, I'm not AWOL.  Merely missing-in-action, since there's been a ton of action on another front.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Mr. Darcy and I are launching a product that we think is seriously cool.  We hope you will as well and since we're now only 4 weeks from the launch date, it's been Crunch Time for a while.

The project is something my husband has been marinating for about 20 years.  When he first told me about it while we were dating, I got excited as well.  The right time to pursue it finally came last year and we both committed to making it happen, which meant that several other things (including much loved hobby blogs) had to take a back seat.  That won't always be the case, but bear with me if posts in the coming weeks are still a bit sporadic.

Today, I thought I'd start showcasing my skinny wardrobe.  Since I had to replace almost my entire wardrobe, many folks have asked about what I bought and how I went about it. So here are the nuts and bolts of it all.
L: a.n.a Popover top (I got the coral/pink striped one, but there wasn't a picture) R: Anthropologie Jump Seat shirt
  1. Purge vs Tailor: As I dropped sizes (many sizes!) I pulled from my closet those clothes that didn't fit anymore. I was NOT keeping them in the back "in case I got fat again." I sorted the vast majority of them into the Purge pile. Since I'm a health coach for the program I used to lose weight, I sent all those clothes to various clients who needed those sizes. A little gift to help them on their own weight loss journeys.  I kept only irreplaceable favorites in the Tailor pile.  I also kept a few skirts that I knew would be possible to take in 4 to 6 sizes.
  2. Shopping Lists: I keep two lists: a) missing wardrobe staples that need finding, such as "dark jeans, black pants, fitted navy blazer, cocktail dress, etc." and b) wardrobe items I already have, such as "coral dress, black cardigan, black dress, etc." The second list helps me not to repeat buy and also has notes of things I'm looking for to accessorize.  Thanks to my smartphone technology, when I find an item on the first list, I can easily move it to the second and make quick notes as necessary.
  3. Hunt, don't Hurry: I love the thrill of the chase AND I don't like paying full price if I don't have too. I find great satisfaction in finding a fantastic pair of jeans on sale, or stalking sample sale sites for those awesome won't-find-it-anywhere-else deals & steals.  I hate buying something in a rush and regretting it later.
L: Boden Jersey Top (so flattering!) R: Ann Taylor Loft Cowl Neck top
As I showcase my items I'm grouping them by style, not in the order of how I purchased them.
L & R: LL Bean Double L elbow sleeve rib knit tees
One of my greatest shopping challenges is deprogramming my brain from the dressing-a-large-body rules I had to follow for so many years.  One of the first steps I took was to purchase a couple of things with horizontal stripes.  It was scary! But I love them.  Hadn't worn horizontal stripes in a good 20 years. I pair the above navy stripe tee with a great white wrap skirt I got at a market in Park City. Love it.
I could have also titled this post - Always Check The Measurements!
On the ideeli sample sale site last week were some wrap dresses.  This is the teaser dress that was pictured, the one dress shown before you clicked into the details to see the other patterns and colors available. (The front was shown, I've included the back image.)
Being a modest dresser who wants dresses at least to the knee, if I believed this image to be true to size, I wouldn't have clicked further.  It's far too short. 
But I did click in for details. Observe.
Check out the knees! 
I clipped a smidgeon of the white below the actual image to show you how much of her legs were shown.
A tremendous difference from the original teaser image.  The shoulder-to-hem measurement is actually 41 inches! Much longer than the, oh, 30" shown in the teaser shot.  I also confirmed the measurements with customer service.  For me, I would actually have this dressed hemmed up about 3 to 4 inches, depending on how it hangs, to the middle or top of my knee.

Just a reminder to the wise.  When you're shopping online, ALWAYS check the actual measurements.  I couldn't begin to tell you why they would shorten the polka dot dress so much.  Probably the sexy factor, even though the longer length is more appealing to a much wider clientele.
The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale preview mini-mag hit my mailbox the other day. 
On page 11 was this.
Trina Turk skirt $129
a-line skirt
I always love seeing things that modest dressers have always worn suddenly hailed as the "Newest Shape!" "Newest length!" Yep, it's a knee-length skirt. How refreshingly novel!

As I admonished you in this post about midi skirts, get 'em while the gettin's good!
It's much easier to shop for items when they're a hot ticket in style "trends."  When the rest of the fashion world is going gaga over mini skirts, knee length won't be as prevalent in the stores.  I may get this skirt. I really like the slightly a-line shape and the slightly 60's mod styling.  In a sturdy stretch ponte knit it'll last for-absolutely-ever.

Remember, the Nordstrom Anniversary sale is NEW fall season items at sweet sale prices. Here are a few other things I'm digging from the preview.
McGinn boucle' jacket $229
Fantastic blazer. And I swoon for anything that smacks of Chanel (at a price I can afford.)
Vince Camuto boot $159
Gorgeous brown tall boots.  Because as I mentioned last year... the boots zip!!
Mackage wool coat $389
Because I shrunk out of all my coats last year and I love the asymmetrical closure and cool leather and knit sleeve details.
But I want it in black.
I frequently encourage you to cast a wide search net when you're hunting for items to round-out your wardrobe.  I certainly have my favorite stores, but I peruse lots of other places for new and interesting pieces. Shopping only from one or two places can often result in a wardrobe in a rut. So today, I'm reviewing the top 4 sample sale sites that you should definitely be checking out.
To join any or all of the sites (each is free) click on any logo below.

You might be asking - what in the heck is a sample sale site? Have you ever heard of designer sample sales in New York and L.A.? Did you see "Confessions of a Shopaholic?" The scene where all the women are let into the before-unknown warehouse location and duke it out for the few samples of highly coveted items? That was fairly accurate, and  these internet sale sites are the same concept, minus the fisticuffs. 
  • In general has the lowest price point and least exclusive designers
  • Usually has the most daily sales for a great variety
  • Feature Sales- Women's, Men, Kids, Home, Experiences and the just-launched Travel section

Featured today on ideeli...
Bass Loves Rachel Antonoff cream/pink saddle oxford heels for $65 instead of $109
  • Mid-range price points, lowest number of daily sales
  • Great mix of high end with mid-level brands
  • Sales feature - Women, Men, Home, Travel, and Local Picks for Boston, NY, Philadelphia, Seattle

Featured today on Rue La La...
Robert Rodriguez orange pintuck skirt for $69.90 instead of $242.
  • Best offering of beauty items for women and toys for children
  • Next to highest price points and designer offerings
  • Sales feature - Women, Beauty, Home, Kids, Men, Getaways

Featured today on Hautelook...
M by Marcus printed silk roll-sleeve blouse for $49 instead of $198.
  • The original luxury sample sale site
  • Usually has the highest price points and most exclusive designers
  • Great for investment, own-it-forever items
  • Sale Sections- Women, Men, Home, Children, Gifts, Jetsetter, City, Taste

Featured today on Gilt...
Pink Tartan stretch silk knit wrap dress for $159 instead of $395. Yowza!
A few other tidbits about these sample sites -
  1. They're a great way to branch out and discover new brands and styles, all on easy to navigate, secure sites
  2. You get incredible bang for your buck.  If you're going to buy a skirt, why not get the best you can, for less? I'd much rather wait for a great designer skirt to pop up on these sales than settle for lesser quality or style at the same price.
  3. There are new sales daily, usually starting at noon Eastern time. Hot designers and items go fast, watch out for those virtual fisticuffs!
  4. There are smartphone apps for each site, making giving the sales a quick glance at your convenience more than easy. You can also get email reminders about what sales will be featured that day.
  5. With so many different looks and designers in one place, they're a great way to grab a little outfit inspiration, even if you're not looking to buy anything new.
click to check out the article!
Be still, my heart!  That's SO worth a ticket across the pond!!
You probably didn't need to be reminded but just in case... the fabulous Nordstrom Anniversary sale started on Friday!!  And ends August 2.
Click the pic and head on over!  This sale is so wonderful. 
It's true sale prices on NEW fall clothing. 
Here are a few things I'm drooling over. 
It's $170 off the regular price still out of my budget range.
Elie Tahari
So cute and very similar to the red bow-neck dress Emma Pilsbury wore on Glee this season. (Love her wardrobe!)
Maggy London - $78
I saw both this and the gold version in the store and was really drawn to it.  The sequins are very matte, which is cool.  It's my favorite sleeve length and I'd love this for date night!
flounce tbd - $89
This one, because I lust after wrap dresses with elbow-length sleeves and not-too-low/not-too-high necklines!!
Karen Kane - $78
Because I really love what the curved lines of this scuba inspired leather jacket will do for a midsection!
Bernardo - $179
A sweet ruffled cardi in a lovely pale peachy/pink that is sadly already sold out!
Frenchi - $28
So go have yourself some fun!  And keep in mind this little shopping tip - the new item must either Fill A Hole in your wardrobe or Replace something worn or ill-fitting.
I had a wonderful Christmas and we're still enjoying my husband's vacation time.  I hope your holiday was peaceful and joyful as well. I figured it was time for another post and I tried to kick my brain into a creative gear. 
Nothing happened. I thought, "But I want to post something profound and perfect."  Bupkis. 
Could it be that my 2 year old not sleeping in her travel bed AT ALL during this vacation has sapped me of all my zest for style?  Maybe.  I'm pretty sapped. 
Nothing percolated to the top of my conscience.   
Finally, when I couldn't come up with something "profound and perfect", I was inspired by my mother.  We were going through her closet.  She recently lost some weight and many things no longer fit her so we were clearing those items out and reorganizing her closet.  Pretty much heaven for me.  It's one of my favorite pastimes. 
During the shifting, shuffling, trying on and rehanging, I reminded her several times of the two cardinal criteria she is to apply to any future shopping trips:
  1. Fill A Hole
  2. Replace
Does this item fill a hole in my wardrobe or replace a worn out/ill fitting item? 
If the answer to those questions is no - she doesn't need it right now.  And the topic for this post was born.  Many of us were probably given cash/gift cards for Christmas that we are about to start shopping with.  Maybe for clothes. 
As we did with my mothers closet today, a smart way for you to go about any future shopping is to take a serious inventory of everything you have and make a little list of the holes in your wardrobe you would like to fill.  Take it with you when you shop. 
Just as a grocery list helps you focus your efforts and save money when shopping for food (avoiding those unnecessary impulse buys) a style list helps do the same when you're clothing shopping.  You probably won't need a list to spot the items similar to the ones you love to wear right now.  But if you already have five white t-shirts hanging in your closet... you don't need another one.  If you have one black t-shirt that is faded and pilled... replace it.  And by replace I mean REPLACE.  When you get home, you throw out (or donate) the old item. 
An overstuffed wardrobe does not a great wardrobe make
I hope this little tip is useful and makes your shopping trips this year more successful, culminating in better style and happier dressing. 
And let's all repeat it again, just for good measure -
1.  Fill A Hole
2.  Replace
I've said before that fall is a great time to find modest items that work for spring and I was recently asked for a few examples.  So here are just a very few examples of what you can find.  And remember, these clothes appeal to our frugal sides as well since you can wear them any season!

Banana Republic
Sheath dresses - with sleeves!!

Sheath dresses are universally flattering.  But shop for one in spring or summer and nearly all the styles have straps instead of sleeves. 
  • Wear it now: with boots, fun patterned tights, sweaters, even a thin long-sleeved turtleneck underneath.
  • Wear it later: without the hosiery and layers, add cute jewelry and a bright bag.

White shirts - that you can't see through!!

A white button-down shirt that fits you great is a wardrobe essential.  Spring and summer options tend to be very thin "summer weight" cotton.  Shop for one now and you'll score thicker material.
  • Wear it now: with anything!  Use it to showcase a great scarf or sweater.
  • Wear it later: with anything!  It's the perfect counterpoint to summer skirts and bright accessories.

Lightweight tops - with sleeves!!

Fall isn't all about heavier fabrics and thicker knits.  You can find lightweight items and more styles with sleeves.
  • Wear it now: as a nice thin layer to thicker sweaters and coats.
  • Wear it later: as the perfect, floaty spring and summer top.

Victoria's Secret
Dresses - with longer hemlines!!

Fall is the perfect time to find dresses that hit at the knee.  This is a great wrap dress in a color that works with boots in fall and sandals in summer.  Personally, I would shorten those sleeves to elbow length.  Easy to do and more appropriate for all seasons.
  • Wear it now: with boots, a cute hat and scarf.
  • Wear it later: with statement making sandals and a ponytail.

Victoria's Secret
Another good dress option.  All it needs is a camisole!

Victoria's Secret
And one more for good measure.  Especially nice for showing off (or creating!) a small waist. 

Again, just add a camisole.  I'd also shorten the sleeves to just above the elbow.

I've been getting some questions about "invite only" shopping sites.  Mainly, "What are they?" They're a fairly recent addition to the shopping world, essentially extensions of the age-old "secret sample sales" that happen in fashion districts in New York and LA (Milan, London, Paris, etc.)

The websites offer a variety of designer (both big name and up-and-coming) clothing, shoes and accessories.  A couple of them offer men's and children's clothing, and some, like Rue La La and Hautelook, even offer perfume, makeup (like Stila!) and home decor sales. 

Items are usually offered at better than 50% off.  I'm currently stalking ideeli for a particular pair of 85% off heels to pop up in my size.  Another nice aspect is these are not super-model sizes.  There's usually a broad range, instead of just 0's and 2's.  These are good sites for scoring deals on those investment items. 

Want a tiny taste of what's available today?  How about the fabulous wrap dress below from Gomatta Girls for $45 instead of $395?!?  Also comes in black, white, and a pale blue floral.
Or either of these two Anne Klein dresses from ideeli for $92 instead of $168!  Love them!
To get free access to any or all of the sites, simply click on the logos or links below.





And remember - moderation in all things.  Don't get sucked into obsessively checking the sites everyday.  This is just another way of casting a wide search net when fishing for wardrobe additions.  All the sites give you the option to sign-up for email alerts or their RSS feeds.  The email will preview what's going on or coming up and you can decide if it's something you want to check out or not.  Enjoy!
One of the perils of online shopping is the inability to try things on.  You're just not sure whether the item will fit you or not.  As I've mentioned before, knowing your measurements will alleviate much of that fear.  Never trust sizes - they're never the same between designers and stores.  But it's very rare to find a shopping site without a Size Guide.  Clicking on this handy little link will give you a chart (like the one pictured here from Banana Republic) outlining the basic measurements associated with that item.  There are usually specific size charts for jackets/outerwear, blouses, dresses/skirts, jeans/trousers as well as for regular, tall, petite, and plus.

Now, it's easy to measure your own bust, waist and hips in front of a mirror.  But any kind of length measurement without help is much harder.  Bending over to look at the tape measure obviously doesn't work.  Pressing the tape along your body almost always results in a wrong number.  But here's a little trick to determine if the length of an item will suit you or not.

Grab a flexible tape measure (these are dirt cheap at fabric stores!) and a small metal binder clip.

Fasten the binder clip onto the tape measure so that the little arms are directly over the desired measurement.  Now head to your full-length mirror! 

Say you want to know where a skirt that measures "21" from natural waist" will hit you.  At the knee?  Above the knee?  Just hold the 0 end at your natural waist and let the tape measure hang.  The binder clip provides just enough weight for the tape to hang straight and the little arms show you right where the 21" will be.  And because the tape is hanging, like the skirt will, you get an accurate measurement over your stomach and hips. 

This works with dresses and pants as well.  Try it and take advantage of that free-shipping a little more confidently!