Our Five Favorite Fall/Winter Purchases

It is a very interesting exercise to revisit our purchases for fall/winter 2012 to decide, in retrospect, which items have become our favorites. Often these are new additions to our wardrobes, but sometimes a new addition gives us greater appreciation for items we have had for several seasons. Since we have certainly not stopped shopping for this year, we’ll return to this topic in March to see if our January five picks have remained our favorites.

Jeanne’s Five Favorites

JBJ 5 winter favorites collage

  • Calvin Klein Leopard print kitten heels (similar) – With their pointy toes and bright colors, these pumps have quickly become a favorite. And I haven’t even worn them that much! They go with everything – animal print is a neutral this year and also follows the pattern mixing trend – and they are super comfortable.  
  • Thakoon Addition patchwork jacket – I am ashamed to say that I paid full retail for this jacket back in the fall, but it works in so many ways. The colors are bright and a bit unusual – gold, brown, blue and orange – and the styling – with a lower back and higher front  – is on trend. I can wear it open or pin it shut so it meets my criteria on the versatility front.
  • J. Crew brown polka dot Cafe Capris – These were deeply on sale. Because they are a silk/wool combo, they are warm but also have a sheen that makes them suitable for dress up. They are such so darn cute! Also go with the two items above!
  • J. Crew cobalt blue Cafe Capris with black trim – These are just different enough and I love them with many different color combinations. There are a million different ways to wear them and they always look chic.
  • Pinkmink navy blue polka dot blouse with off white polka dots (similar) – This will be a year-round item and I’ve just begun to think about how to wear it. It’s light and airy enough to wear in warm weather and works under sweaters and jackets too.

Kate’s Five Favorites:

Kate 5 winter favorites

  • Anne Klein turquoise suede pumps (similar) – I LOVE these shoes. The color is such a nice pop that I can add to almost any outfit, and I love how the suede shoe contrasts with the patent leather platform and heel. I’ve only worn them a few times yet, but I can envision so many outfits moving forward.
  • J.Crew blue gingham shirt – This is something I had been wanting for a while, and finally bit the bullet. Gingham is such a fresh print that adds character to almost any outfit, and I have worn this shirt a lot, both for work and casually.
  • Loft dash print pants (similar) – These were my first foray into printed pants, and I’m a total convert! It’s also challenging for me to find slim dress pants that are flattering, and I really scored with these.
  • J.Crew leopard print cardigan (similar) – Love this cardigan. J.Crew’s cardigans are cut really nicely, and leopard has become a neutral in my closet. An animal print cardigan is a must for anyone’s wardrobe.
  • Target raspberry cocoon cardigan (very similar) – A spur of the moment purchase that has become a favorite. This cardigan is light and comfortable, and I love the color – a bright berry pink that is different from anything else I have in my wardrobe.

We see some trends here: animal print and other fun patterns, bright colors, and pieces that we think will be closet staples.

What have you bought this season that you really love?


What We Wore: Pattern Mixing

Outfit Post 10 Mixed Patterns

On Jeanne: Jacket: Zara (similar); Sweater: Loehmanns (similar); Pants: J.Crew (similar); Belt: Banana Republic (similar); Shoes: Frye (similar); Bracelets: Banana Republic (similar, similar); Earrings: Gilt (similar); Rings: Bauble Bar (square ring, similar chain ring); Watch: Michael Kors. On Kate: Cardigan: Target (similar); Shirt: Gap (similar); Pants: J.Crew Factory; Booties: Target (similar); Earrings: Target (similar).

Jeanne says:  Kate’s outfit is a great mix of patterns – stripes on the shirt and flowers on the sweater; I would never think of this combination but I love it. The sweater would also look good with a tiny Liberty print or a checked button down. Also love the booties with the cropped pant. I am learning from her to be a little more casual but polished at the same time.

My outfit came together very serendipitously. When I don’t know which patterns to mix, I just take one piece and run it through all the other items in my closet. I would never have picked the leopard print sweater to match the polka dot pants without doing this. The faux shearling jacket doesn’t get much wear because it is boxy, but looks great with the wide belt.

JBJ 12-16-12

Kate says: I’m not so sure about this outfit of mine – it might be a dud. In my head it worked beautifully, but I’m not sure I really liked it in person. The stripes on my shirt are navy, but the cardigan is more in the periwinkle family. I think it’d work better if they were closer in color – this seems to be the rule for pattern mixing.

Mom’s outfit definitely follows this rule – every element is in the brown/beige color family, so they meld together really well. She also does a great job of sneaking patterns in as bottom layers – as also seen here. I probably would not have belted the jacket, just because it is so boxy and cropped – more likely, I would have worn the jacket open and belted the shirt underneath.

Kate 12-17-12 1


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The Lowdown on Shapewear

OK, so here is the issue. Many of us of all ages could benefit from a little shapewear, but in our family there is a big difference of opinion on the subject. It may just be generational:  Jeanne grew up when nice young ladies were encouraged to wear girdles and this went on until we threw off the “shackles” and started wearing bell bottoms and tie dye in the 70’s. Kate, on the other hand, never really wore actual compressive “foundation garments” in her life and sees no real reason to start.

But it’s a new fashion age and shapewear is definitely a part of it. Haven’t we heard enough about celebrities wearing multiple Spanx to look good in their evening wear? In the last ten years, the shapewear industry has exploded and today one could pretty much wear shapewear 24 hours a day – under street clothes and evening wear and built into tops, pants, pencil skirts, leggings, activewear, etc.

Here are some basic guidelines for those of you who want to try shapewear out.

  • Shapewear exists for every figure need: light smoothing, moderate firming, and heavy duty extra firm compression. Buy for what you need and no more. For example, Jeanne doesn’t need heavy duty compression, but she does want a smooth line through her torso and thighs for jersey and other form-fitting dresses. So she looks for lighter “hold” as in these examples:

shapewear slip         shapewear short

  • There is no way to know how shapewear will work for you unless you go to the lingerie department of a store and try them on. It was hard for Jeanne who shops online to do this, but she succumbed and is glad she did. If you have certain dresses or other apparel you want to wear with shapewear, take them with you to the store so you can be sure the item you purchase will work. If you shop with a friend, ask for an objective opinion on how different pieces of shapewear work for you; otherwise, ask the salesperson to give you an honest evaluation. And don’t just try the name brands; there are many good shapewear manufacturers today and a wide variety of price points.
  • At the same time, make sure the shapewear is really comfortable for you. It defeats the purpose to look two sizes smaller and have an excruciating stomach ache at the same time. What’s the fun in that? Jeanne tells a great story about wearing a shapewear slip one day and developing a pinched nerve in her neck/shoulder because the slip’s straps were too tight!
  • Stylewatch magazine says that the majority of their readers want shapewear to flatten their tummies. We personally think the best solution for this (and most general shapewear needs) is the slip design since it’s the only item that creates one slim line from the back through the thighs. Shapewear briefs and other “bottoms” are OK, but frankly may create bulges above and below.

Younger fashionistas may scorn the need for shapewear, but let’s face it: none of us have perfectly smooth body lines and most of us want to wear fitted sweater dresses, pencil skirts and other figure-hugging silhouettes. Carefully chosen shapewear can make every one of us look just a little more perfect – without any plastic surgery!

What is your opinion on shapewear? What has worked for you?

TMTAO: Too Many Trends At Once

There are so many trends out there right now: animal prints, color blocking, pastels, polka dots, stripes, leather, pattern mixing… It can be confusing to know when more than one trend (a la pattern mixing) is stylish and when it is too much. Sometimes you just know….

Let’s look at some pieces that might have some redeeming elements but in the end are just too much – what we are calling TMTAO (too many trends at once).

forever 21 sequin camo dress

Camo + sequins: Eternally cute, simple t-shirt dress. Totally over-trended with the baseball shirt details and camp print done in sequins. TMTAO.

saks wolford tights

Patterned tights + studs + leather: Sort of bondage leather-like crisscrosses on the nude stockings and then brass studs on top of that. We are all for eye-catching patterned tights, but this is WAY over the top.

urban outfitters camo fur jacket

Safari + camo + faux fur: Safari jackets like this are in and, yeah, maybe they’re ok in a subtle camo print. But this print isn’t subtle and the fur trim simply looks like a bedraggled trophy from the wearer’s last hunting trip. TMTAO to the power of ten.


Bootie + metallics + cutouts: Gold suede combined with gold glitter, an open toe, a “shootie” design plus a platform and at least a four inch heel. There is nothing more to be said.


Animal print + cap toe + smoking slipper: Why do so many of these TMTAO examples have animal print involved? Here we have trendy smoking loafers in animal print – good so far – then overdone with both a silver metal toe cap AND red piping. Too, too much.

Do you think you have ever gone “over the line” on TMTAO? Here’s a short tutorial on how to avoid this dreaded syndrome.

  • First of all, we recognize that there is a trend today to wear outfits that are in themselves over done and, because of that, ironic and hipster. They’re meant to say “I know all these things don’t go together but I’m doing it anyway.” These tips are not for those people!
  • Count the trends you are planning to wear at any given time. Decide on one trend you want to highlight – such as an animal print or a high-low hem or a brilliant, stylish color. Then plan your outfit around this trend. In this way, you will put the trend center-stage and you’ll look much more sophisticated.
  • In general, for a single clothing item, a single trend will appear much more fashionable and stylish than multiples all at once. And more approving looks will be yours.
  • Our ability to wear certain trends is definitely related to our respective ages. Jeanne will tell you that she has no business wearing bright leopard skinny jeans, 4″ platforms, or 4″ chandelier earrings. She should wear the animal print trend but not in really bright colors or combined with skinny jeans.
  • When in doubt, ask a friend to apply the TMTAO standard to your outfit and save your peplum top for a day when you are not wearing a high-low skirt. You get the picture.

Tell us – have you fallen victim to TMTAO? How do you avoid it?


What We Wore: Dusty Rose

Outfit Post 9 Dusty Rose

On Jeanne: Cardigan: J.Crew (similar); Pants: J.Crew (ON SALE!); Blouse: Banana Republic (similar); Shoes: J.Crew (similar); Necklace: Anthropologie (similar). On Kate: Blouse: Loft (similar); Skirt: J.Crew Factory (same style, similar color); Belt: J.Crew (similar); Boots: Bandolino (similar); Tights: Hue

Jeanne Says: My outfit is a real mix of textures, colors and prints. These pink pants make me very happy because the color is a bit unexpected and a great neutral. The bright shoes make the outfit pop. Every item in this outfit was bought on sale online – my preferred way to shop!

I love this little outfit on Kate – such a darling miniskirt that I could, of course, never wear. She has mixed it creatively with leopard print and then casually tossed on a belt, tights, and boots. She rolls her eyes, but I’ve always thought she looked wonderful in soft pink! I’d love this skirt with so many things – black turtleneck and tights, another bright color – blue, green, purple, whatever. I see dusty rose as a color that goes with EVERYTHING.

Kate 11-20-12 1

Kate says: I have this skirt in both this dusty rose wool and in an off white linen. It is such a great style, with the comfortable elastic paper-bag style waist, and is just long enough for me to pull off in my business-casual work environment. I’ll admit – I got a lot of compliments on this outfit.

I love mom’s pants and her idea to pair them with blue shoes. I’d be inclined to treat the pink pants as a color, so I find it so interesting that she treats them as a neutral! This is also another example of her courage in mixing patterns and textures. The blouse and cardigan go very nicely together, but you might not expect so looking at them individually.

JBJ 12-3-12 JBJ 12-3-12 2


Stylish Winter Must-Haves

We live in very different climate and experience very different winters – Jeanne deals with the constant rain and gloom of Seattle, while Kate bundles up for the (sometimes) chilly weather in DC. Although the weather and severity of winters varies, we both rely on some key items to keep us warm/dry/etc. The tricky part is making all those layers look stylish!

Kate winter accessories

Kate says: The look on the left above is for cool weather and/or rain (in the 50s). This J.Crew coat is a few years old but is still my favorite – I love the color and the cut. My GAP hat (similar) (one of my fashion risks this fall!) adds a little warmth and keeps the rain off my face, and my GAP scarf (similar) is the coziest I’ve ever had. I love the little pop of pink it adds!

On the right we have my colder weather gear (30s-40s). This J.Crew coat is lined with Thinsulate so it’s considerably warmer than the other, and I get lots of compliments on the color. The hat I ordered from REI (similar) last winter – the key to comfortable wool beanies is a fleece liner to prevent itching. Finally, my fingerless gloves/mittens were a Christmas present. Since I commute on the bus and often have to wait outside, they keep my hands warm while letting me do other things (like use my phone or read a book).

Jeanne says: My weather in Seattle can really vary from warmer and rainy to cold and snowy. Because of this, I need to have several different levels of warmth ready to go! This requires a multitude of coats for fashionistas – raincoat, light wool coat, light down coat, and heavy down coat – to be toasty but not too hot or cold. This is how I dress in different situations:

JBJ winter accessories 1

  • Just rainy and generally yucky (50 degrees plus): my new Jane Post slicker works well and looks chic, but I still need a warm scarf and umbrella!
  • Gray and threatening or sunny (40 to 49 degrees): A simple unlined coat (similar) works here; I love the 3/4 sleeves and the bright color for gloomy days

JBJ winter accessories 2

  • 30 degrees in the morning and no higher than high 30s during the day: At these temps, I move into light down (similar – super cute colors!) and wear it with pops of color like the infinity scarf Kate made for me and my hot pink wool gloves.
  • Freezing and below (snow or just bitter cold): Onto my heaviest down coat and a big wrap that I can wear as a scarf, a shawl or a muffler. Now I need to keep my feet warm and dry with my Merrell boots and some bright rolled down socks.

Here are a few winter coat options we recommend at different price points:

dkny hooded raincoatlaundry cinched waist jacketbernardo down walking jacketlands end heathered down coat

How do you handle our changing climate during the winter?  What are the best solutions you have found?


*This post was written for IFB Project #178.

Style Resolutions for 2013

The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about the goals we want to achieve regarding style, wardrobe and appearance. Jeanne has a big year of change ahead and that requires some careful thought about her personal style. So here goes with a few resolutions that can apply to almost anyone looking ahead to 2013:

  • Resolution #1: Choose quality over quantity. It is easy to be seduced into buying the latest trend especially when we see it at an unbeatable price. But I’ve learned over time that this is often short-sighted and my closet is proof of that. I have many things that looked really cute at the beginning but after a few wearings they begin to show exactly how cheap they are – split seams, sweater pulls and pills, massive shrinking, whatever it happens to be. The truth is that none of us need three or four peplum tops or dark wash skinny jeans; what we do need is one top and one pair of jeans that are high quality that we can wear for a long time – or at least until the trend has passed. This year I plan to learn this lesson once and for all.
  • Resolution #2:  Add Emerald Green to My Wardrobe. This color has turned out to be the Pantone Color of 2013 but before this was announced I noticed that I really had nothing green in my wardrobe. I have lots of pinks, yellows, cobalt blue and so on, but emerald green seems so fresh right now.

Pantone color of the year

So I’ll be looking for one or two high quality pieces to add to my wardrobe this year. Green looks sharp with every other trendy color: hot pink, navy, black and white, yellows, etc.  Here are a few fabulous examples:

emerald ruched dressloft crepe dressgreen pumptory burch blouse

  • Resolution #3: Pass Along Things I Do Not Wear. If I truly haven’t worn something for six months, then I resolve to pass those items along – whether it is to a friend or family member or to Goodwill or Dress for Success.
  • Resolution # 4:  Adapt my work wardrobe to retirement dressing. Yes, I am officially retiring from my career in June and I have a big task ahead – to adapt my “dressy” work clothes to a more casual lifestyle. There are several dimensions to this: first of all (horrors!), I don’t need as many clothes and this will help me address Resolution #1. Secondly, it is easy to simply drift into wearing workout clothes and leggings when one doesn’t have to go to work. I am resolved to dressing everyday with intention and style. Thirdly, I need to be strong enough to really clean out my closet at this point in my life. Others can use the dressy work items I won’t be using much anymore; I resolve to clean out my closet and visit Goodwill until I’ve pared down my wardrobe.

There you have it. Four good goals for 2013 and they really apply to nearly everyone. We can all benefit from a high quality, tightly edited and fashionable wardrobe that is suited to our lifestyle.

What are your style goals for 2013?


Closet Staples: The Ever Faithful Black Pants

Who can argue with black pants? Perfect for packing, perfect to go with lots of different tops, perfect for dress-up evenings, and perfect for most body types. What else is there to know?

Here are a few style tips that we will demonstrate in today’s outfits.

  • First of all, keep the style of your black pants up to date. You’ll be wearing them a lot and they will either give your outfit a stylish edge and make you look, despite your efforts, out of date.
  • Next, pick the fabric of your black pants with care for several reasons:
    • There are many different shades of black. Make sure the ones you buy match other blacks in your closet.
    • Black pants pick up lint. We all know this, but some fabrics are worse than others. Cotton is tough as well as some synthetic blends. The good news about a wool blend is that you’ll have lint but it is easier to remove. Before you make your purchase, experiment with other light-colored items in the store to see about “lintiness”.
  • Black pants may be dark and therefore forgiving in terms of our figure flaws, but it is still important to be a tough critic of your look before you go out. You may need Spanx or you may just need to iron your pants very well.
  • Make sure they are the right length. If there was ever a time to buy two pairs of identical pants and hem each for a different heel height, this is it!
  • Finally, cut is very important. You want to make sure the cut of your black pants is both stylish and timeless so your investment will last more than one season. Here are the cuts we recommend:
    • Cropped and slim (sometimes called pencil or matchstick pants): this cut is flattering on most, depending on how skinny you go, and also is very in right now.
    • Slim and full length: again, very flattering and super stylish. This cut looks great with both flats and heels.
    • Bootcut or slight flare: this style is perennially stylish and looks great with heels. Be careful though – a bootcut with flats can make your legs look shorter.

JBJ 12-20-12 1JBJ 11-13-12 2

Ankle pants: Cynthia Steffe (similar)

Jeanne says: Black for me is kind of like an empty canvas and usually the backdrop for a great jacket or sweater. Since I’m all about ankle pants this year, these are the black pants you’ll see me wearing. Interesting note: if your black pants are ankle length, they go with heels and flats – no need to buy two pairs to hem at different lengths!black pants collage

Black jeans: DL1961; Bootcut pants: Gap; Ankle pants: J.Crew Factory

Kate says: I like to have a variety of black pants, although I’ll agree with Mom that I’m mostly wearing ankle pants this year. In the far left photo above, I’m actually wearing black jeans, which have been one of my most-worn wardrobe additions. I can dress them down like normal jeans, or dress them up for work or going out.

What are your favorite pairs of black pants? How do you wear them?

What We Wore: Dots and Stripes

On Kate: Shirt: Old Navy (similar), Skirt: H&M (similar), Scarf: Etsy (similar), Boots: Bandolino (similar), Tights: Hue
On Jeanne: Shirt: Minkpink (similar), Skirt: Bailey 44 (similar), Jacket: Loehmanns years ago (similar), Belt: old (similar), Boots: Corso Como (similar), Earrings: Gilt (similar), Watch: Michael Kors

Kate says: It’s so interesting how our outfits are almost identical in theory – but look so different because we’ve each put our own spin on the polka dots and stripes combo. My skirt was a great find at H&M – I get compliments on it every time I wear it. I actually would have preferred to wear a scarf in a different color, but this was a classic rushing-out-the-door-grab-the-first-thing-that-works situation.

Mom’s outfit is much sleeker looking, and flatters her figure nicely. These outfits also highlight how different our body types are. Mom’s body-hugging jersey skirt would look terrible on me, but the fuller skirt would probably swallow her up. I also like her addition of the leather jacket to break up the patterns and add some edge.

Jeanne says:  My outfit came together beautifully, but almost accidentally.  My striped skirt has beige in it and the polka dots on the blouse are the same beige.  Finishing the whole thing off with my VERY cheap leather jacket, boots and a belt brought the outfit together.  I’ve had expensive leather jackets in the past – in different colors and styles – but I love this slightly distressed jacket so much more.

Kate’s outfit is more playful.  She has thrown a variety of blue hues together and they look great.  Her shirt shows off one of her best figure features – her narrow midriff – and the dark skirt minimizes the curve of her hips. I would have been paranoid because my blues didn’t match (the old matchy-match thing again!), but maybe I’ll try the blue shades idea myself in the weeks to come.

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What We Wore: Statement Necklaces

On Kate: Dress: old (similar), Turtleneck: J.Crew Factory, Necklace: Target (similar), Belt: J.Crew (similar), Flats: J.Crew (cute!), Tights: Hue
On Jeanne: Dress: Eileen Fisher (similar), Jacket: Splendid (similar), Necklaces: Bauble Bar (similar) and Piperlime (similar), Shoes: J.Crew (similar), Tights: old (similar), Bracelets: JewelMint (similar), Watch: Michael Kors

Kate says: This is a lot more black than I usually will wear, but I wanted to try layering the turtleneck under this jersey dress I’ve had for ages. Of course, I had to add some turquoise and leopard print to liven things up! Honestly, I still walked around all day feeling very “dark”.

Mom nicely balances her black outfit with neon accessories. I also like her gray tights and blue shoes – they are dark, but add some nice tonal layering.

Jeanne says:  I’m feeling a little dark in my outfit too. SO I tried to brighten it up with the blue pumps and a few necklaces. I am all for wearing several necklaces of the same length to mix colors and designs. This technique also gives me more “looks” overall in my wardrobe. The pumps are new from J. Crew and will brighten things up through the long winter here in Seattle.

I like Kate in black actually. I am reminded that she always said (when she was younger) that she’d NEVER wear turtlenecks. It’s one of the small victories for moms when our daughters start wearing items they always shunned, right? Kate is mixing a lot of textures with her necklace, belt and shoes and I think her look is super cute.

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