Posts Categorized: tutorial

How to Switch Handbags Quickly and Easily

Not so long ago, I owned one handbag. ONE. It was a black hobo with two external pockets, and I used it for everything. But when I began to want my bag to align more closely with my outfit, I realized that one slouchy black leather hobo didn’t actually feel right with everything I wore. And now, several years later, I’ve got a lovely collection of bags. I would say that I generally swap bags every day or every other day, even on the weekend. My bag choices are similar to my other accessory choices: I want them to feel harmonious with my chosen clothes. And that means the one-bag-fits-all philosophy no longer works for me.

I’ve gotten loads of questions over the years about how I swap bags so frequently without leaving items in various unused bags, wasting gobs of time in transferring items, or just getting frustrated and fed up with the process. I’ve tried to answer them individually, but now I’m going to answer them generally and visually. And the answer I’ll give? Compartmentalization.

how to switch handbags

This is what you’ll find inside any bag I carry every day of my life. OK, in the dead of winter there might be gloves/mittens and sometimes I’ll shove a book in there. But this is the bulk of it. Eight items: Sunglass case, wallet, makeup bag, checkbook (I’m old-fashioned) handkerchief (I’m allergic), phone, keys, miscellany pouch. All of them easy to grab and transfer. When switching, I’ll dump everything on the bed, put the previous bag away and pick my new one, pop everything inside and go. Usually takes three minutes or less.

makeup bag

The black bag is my LeSportsac makeup bag and there are probably five or six glosses and balms floating around in there, but I also keep a Tide pen, Band-Aids, fashion tape, a pill case, a foldable brush/comb combo, anti-shine powder, nail clippers (no lie), and lots of other stuff. I may not have kids, but I’m as prepared as many moms for everyday personal emergencies. This little makeup bag came with a larger handbag, and it is one of my most valuable possessions. I have had bottles of hand lotion and cheek stain burst in there dozens of times, and the inner coating has prevented any leakage. I LOVE YOU, INDESTRUCTIBLE MAKEUP BAG.

compartmentalized handbag

The polka-dotted pouch is my real secret weapon. Inside is my gum, tissues (sometimes you need something disposable for your nose issues, ya feel me?), business card holder (I didn’t mean to match my phone case and card holder, it just happened), and ANOTHER pouch that holds the various loyalty/rewards cards that would otherwise bulk up my wallet. Many items, one pouch. Mine is Cath Kidston and the smaller one hails from Etsy. I recommend oilcloth or other coated materials that are water repellent. Not that it’s wet inside most handbags, but just makes them less likely to get gunked up quickly.

And there you have it: My not-so-secret secret to swapping bags on a near-daily basis. Could this system work for you?

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Reader Request: When to Cuff Jeans

cuffing jeans

left | right

Reader Andrea e-mailed me this question:

I wondered if you would do a blog post about when and when not to cuff jeans. I think doing so would add a little something to my limited casual wardrobe. But I can’t figure out what where to use it. Or maybe it is to be done with a certain jean style. I feel like I’m missing something with this look.

I am late to the cuffing game myself, but have really enjoyed playing around with this styling trick over the past few months. One thing that I think makes cuffing tricky is that it looks great when it’s a little messy … but artfully messy can actually be harder to re-create than neat. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my own tinkerings:

Skinnies, straight-legs, or boyfriends

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You want the cuff to be fairly small and close to your ankle/calf, so anything that flares out toward the hem like a bootcut or has a wide leg like a trouser cut won’t work. Boyfriend jeans are cuffed more often than not, but you’ll notice that although the jean is loose-fitting the leg tapers and the cuff is fairly close.

Why we cuff

bad jeans cuffs

left | right

Here are two cases in which I think cuffing would actually improve the overall look. Tucking even the skinniest of skinny jeans into ankle boots looks a bit odd, and can cause uncomfortable scrunching. Skinny jeans that haven’t been hemmed to ankle length will bunch and pool at the ankle – cuffing eliminates this problem.

Cuffs that aren’t quite right

cuffsthatdontwork

left | middleright

Now, listen: The Cuff Police don’t exist. If you can’t get your cuffs to fall just so, that’s completely fine. The likelihood of anyone doing a trend-focused ankle check is slim to none. But just in case you’ve been trying to cuff and can’t figure out what’s off, here are a couple of examples that don’t quite hit the mark.

To my eye, the pair on the left has been cuffed just a wee bit too high. You want to show the curve of your ankle, but don’t need to get up into calf territory. In the middle, the messiness of the cuff is fine but they look mighty bulky. This is an issue that I have with some of my jeans: Ideally you want the cuff to be narrow and relatively flat. This means that cuffing jeans hemmed long will backfire, and cuffing ankle-length jeans will work better. And on the right, you have a super tall cuff – this is a fringe trend now and may eventually become the norm. But it still looks a little funky to most folks.

Cuffs with ankle boots

ankle boots cuffed jeans

left | right

NOW we’re talking. Personally, this is my favorite look for cuffing – with ankle boots or other ankle-height shoes. Let just a sliver of ankle peek out between where the cuff ends and the shoe begins. My ankles get weirdly cold, so I will sometimes do black booties, black/gray striped socks, and cuffed jeans. You want to see where the ankle curves in, but you can still see that with a close-fitting sock in the mix.

Cuffs with heels and flats

cuffed jeans with heels

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Cuffed jeans and pants can also look chic and fun with low-vamp shoes like pumps and or ballet flats. Again, remember to cuff just above where your ankle curves, no higher. This is especially important since you’re exposing more of the foot with a low vamp, and if your cuff is high it will give the impression of crops or floods. Cuffing with this style of shoe is helpful if you’ve got a pair of skinnies that pools at the ankle, as mentioned above.

Cuffs with sneakers

cuffed jeans with sneakers

left | right

And finally, sneaks – a great match for cuffed jeans. Cuffing creates an instantly casual look, and sneakers are naturally casual so they play well together. In this case, I’d avoid socks. You want a bit of bare ankle peeking out between the high vamp of the shoe and the cuff of the jean. Slip-on sneakers work just as well.

So which shoe styles won’t work with cuffs? Mary Janes look awkward because between the vamp, strap, and cuff, your foot is cut into three pieces. Mules are a bit odd for similar reasons, especially heeled ones. And, of course, anything that reaches above the ankle like a tall boot won’t look quite right, though I’ve seen people experimenting with tall-shaft ankle boots tucked under cuffs.

Kind of a lot, right? Again, these are not rules, merely guidelines. And they’re MY guidelines, so you may hear completely different advice from other folks. In fact I sent Andrea to this post which has some overlap, but also shows a cuff that’s much wider than I’d wear or recommend. This styling trick is very fluid, so don’t be afraid to play. If you find that a higher or lower cuff looks better to your eye, go for it. If you like the look of a thicker cuff, go for that, too. Do whatever feels and looks best to you.

Anyone else playing around with cuffs these days? Where do you like yours to fall? Are you more apt to cuff skinnies, straight legs, or boyfriends? All of the above? Other tips to share?

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Reader Request: Modernizing the Denim Skirt

modernizing the denim skirt

Reader Courtney had this request:

For years, jeans skirts have been a wardrobe staple for me, always just above the knee, dark and pencil shaped. I have a pretty casual work environment, so they have been a 4 season staple. I wear them with t-shirts and flip-flops, with nice sweaters and heeled boots, and everything in between. My most recent one was due to be replaced a few months ago, and as I began looking for one I realized not only could I not find what I was looking for, no one is wearing them anymore! Most of my favorite fashion bloggers don’t wear them, nor do any of the stylish ladies I see on the street, and the only stores that carry them are frumpy looking to my eye. So I’m guessing that my wardrobe staple has fallen out of style. What do you recommend I replace it with, and how can I be more aware in the future of when a staple-for-me is becoming dowdy?

Several years ago I listed a denim jacket as one of my wardrobe staples and many readers raised eyebrows. But I stuck to my guns. Denim jackets have risen, fallen, and risen in popularity since back then and I’m sure they’ll continue to ride that roller coaster more or less forever. But I love them and will wear them throughout.

Denim skirts may not be trendy right now, but the kind that Courtney is describing – an unembellished, dark wash, pencil-style denim skirt – is something I think of as a “fluctuating staple.” The magazines aren’t touting it as the next big thing and that means it may not be readily available in mall stores everywhere, but it has classic design and versatility going for it. And that means it’s also got staying power. It will fall back into favor, and out of favor, and back in. I hope you’ll feel free to wear it throughout, if you love it and it suits your style.

I own the a-line denim skirt shown above – a Nic + Zoe skirt that is now sold out – and it took me an age to find it. Many full and a-line denim skirts are stiff, overly embellished, or costume-y so they are much harder to find in a classic dark wash and a cut that works with a variety of outfits instead of just casual/Western ones. Other denim skirts that don’t have classic design and versatility going for them? Denim maxis, distressed or heavily sanded, micro minis, and super light washes. If, like Courtney, you want a denim skirt that will look modern and classy for years to come, a dark wash pencil is the perfect choice. Dark wash a-line runs a close second.

Where can I buy a great denim skirt?

A few denim-focused mall brands like Gap will stock them in spring and summer, but they’ll be a little trickier to find in fall and winter. Here’s where I’d look right now:

  • Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ) – Definitely my top pick, as their skirts are high quality, classic in design, and available in a few petite and plus sizes. Also check for this brand at Macy’s, Zappos, and 6pm.
  • Boden – Nearly always in stock in a few styles, and virtually always classic, dark-wash.
  • Nordstrom – There will be an awful lot of very short, distressed, juniors-focused options, but some great classics, too. Nordstrom stocks denim skirts almost year-round.
  • Zappos and 6pm – A great resource as you’ll have a shot at past-season skirts from various brands.

What should I wear with it?

Naturally, the answer this question will vary depending on your personal style, figure flattery priorities, lifestyle, work and workplace, and place of residence. So consider these merely loose guidelines to be used as they best apply to you as an individual.

To dress up a dark wash denim skirt, try cardigans and pullover sweaters, printed blouses and button-front shirts, and knit tops. Super structured and traditionally conservative tops like blazers and solid button-fronts may clash somewhat with the laid-back vibe of a denim skirt. You can also go for edgy accents like leather jackets, chunky jewelry, or graphic tees. Anything that leans in a super Western direction – a chambray shirt or jacket, snap-front shirts, and even some ditsy florals – may edge you over into the costume-y direction if you don’t actually live out West. Which definitely can be fun, but won’t feel classic in most cases.

If your top is long, try tucking and belting. Shorter tops will look great untucked and may feel more natural with a denim skirt. If you’re doing a cardigan, try tucking and belting your inner layer. In terms of top shape, base your decisions on your skirt’s shape: A denim pencil skirt is just like any other pencil skirt – slim-fitting – which means you can do a looser top and still create balance within your outfit. A-lines have more natural volume, so a more fitted top will help show your figure’s true shape.

How about shoes?

Again, this will vary quite a bit depending on YOU, but aside from monster snowboots and gym shoes nearly anything can work. Heels can make a denim skirt feel sexy, low-top fashion sneaks (think Chuck Taylors) will look cool and funky, ballet flats will be classic, sandals will be wonderfully summery. Tall boots can be a bit tricky – especially cowgirl-style boots if you want to keep your look neutral – but they can work, too, especially in rich browns. Pick a shoe that works with your style and activity level.

Anyone else out there a fan of denim skirts? Do you favor pencil style, a-line, mini, something else altogether? How do you style yours? Any other tips you’d share with Courtney and the rest of us?

Images courtesy Zappos

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