Archive for November, 2013

Uncomplicated Style with J. Jill, and the Worst Photographer Ever

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

I’m obsessed with easy fashion because for years, I was certain it existed but somehow eluded me, like Paris Hilton’s intellect. I mean, “easy fashion” surely couldn’t be an urban myth, yet why couldn’t I grasp it? It’s supposed to be simple and uncomplicated. Still, I get confused. I’m not sure what goes with what or how to mix and match and number one – not wear the same thing all the time because a stylish friend once put an outfit together for me and it’s reached uniform status.

 

I’ve done a lot of research on the subject and I’m not kidding. I’ve since learned that there are neutrals – gray, brown, olive, black, and navy – that can be worn with virtually any color. I’ve discovered that black doesn’t always have to go with black accessories, that denim is not my only go-to pant, and that brown and black together isn’t violating some kind of fashion code (in fact, it can be downright cutting edge).

 

Since I’ve worked to grasp some fashion basics, I’m a little better with putting outfits together. I even wore gray skinnies with a denim shirt and tan booties the other day. TAN BOOTIES. With gray. It can be done. (But you probably already knew that.)

 

In the spirit of paying forward what I’ve learned about uncomplicated style, I share with you what I now know (based on hundreds of hours of poring over fashion websites and a lot of error in my trial):

 

1) Buy pieces that can be worn with at least three other things.

I absorbed this little tidbit over and over before I actually implemented it. For many moons, I bought things I loved but could only wear with one shirt or pair of pants. However, I also learned that I probably could wear what I bought with more than one thing if I used a little imagination. For instance, print pants can also be worn with print shirts (if one of the prints is more subtle than the other, like pinstripes with florals). If you buy an item you can envision with at least three other pieces in your closet, you are the queen of mix and match.

 

2) Do not underestimate the power of accessories.

I never spent my money on accessories. I went for the “bigger” thing (in surface area) like shirts and dresses. Smaller pieces such as earrings and belts seemed a waste of cash. Then, it sunk in: entire outfits can change by adding the right necklace, belt, and/or scarf. The other day, my friend wore an emerald green tunic with tribal-print inserts on the sleeves, a medallion, and a faux fur vest. And it was amazing. Still cool when she took off the vest, but exponentially SHAZAM when she kept it on. Also, the fur vest-less look was dressier, and the be-furred-vest look was funkier. Different vibes, same pieces.

 

3) Buy quality basics that can be dressed up and down.

I buy inexpensive, trendy stuff to punch up outfits, but I want my basics (the black pants, the sweater coat, the boots) to be quality because I’m going to wear them a lot and they provide the canvas for the rest of the stuff I put on my body. I need the fit, fabric, and function to be top notch because they’re the foundation. Also, quality basics do double duty: they can be dressy or casual depending on the accessories. This means they need to last extra long and be in timeless styles and materials.

 

4) Get some pieces that can be worn in a variety of styles (i.e. belted, untucked, layered).

This tip is a combination of the three before it. The key to easy style is to complicate it – in a simple way. Let’s say you buy a shirt that can be worn with a minimum of three other pieces in your closet. Then, let’s say you can change the look of those three outfits by donning a necklace, layering a jacket over it, and/or wearing a fur vest. THEN let’s imagine you can also belt that shirt, untuck it (or half-tuck it – still not sure about that trend), and wear a tank under it. Those are like 12 different looks (someone else do the math) for one shirt. And that’s super-maximum-velocity-turbo-uncomplicated style.

 

5) Look other places for pieces.

Like you, I have my “shops.” And at the same time, I’ve found the most wonderful things at stores I never imagined would have what I want or need. I recently shopped J. Jill for this post and I didn’t know what to expect because J. Jill was one of those places I didn’t have in my usual suspects lineup, but I found my quality basics there in spades and I never would have figured that out if I hadn’t stepped outside my “zone.”

 

So here’s where the rubber meets the road. When I took a look at the J.Jill site for the purposes of this piece, I focused on its Pure Jill line because it included a line of neutral colored basics that met all my prerequisites above. I found the following essentials:

 

  • Kimono Sweater
  • Tee
  • Pants
  • Flats

 

If you’ve at all been following my expert advice (I can hear you!), you’ll know that those pieces above are a) mix and matchable b) can be dressed up or down c) changed with accessories; and d) worn with several other things in your closet.

 

I bought the Pure Jill Ribbed Kimono Sweater because it was super quality, a neutral color, and styled on the website so I could get more ideas on how to wear it (but I already knew! said the defensive still-learning fashion neophyte). Also, there’s an online stylist you can chat with as you’re making purchase decisions (said the REAL experts).

 

So here’s what I did. I got the sweater and attempted to show you how to mix it up with accessories. Except that my pictures are horrible and so are my thighs. But I will forge on.

 

This is the sweater with “skinnies” and my tan booties:

 

 

And then here’s how I “accessorized” with a scarf. You see the funky difference, right?

 

 

 

 

 

This same sweater can be worn with leggings and skirts and all manner of three-items-in-your-closet. And don’t forget to accessorize.

 

If I bought more from J. Jill, this is what it would be:

 

(in order:)
Pure Jill Marled Topper

Pure Jill Suede Slouch Boots

Ankle-Length Leggings

Woven Trim Short Boots

 

 

Just FYI. Oh! And fun fact: my birthday is in 10 days. But that’s so not even related to this post pretty much.
Meanwhile, here’s a little something special from J. Jill:

 

30% off a single full-priced item from 11/5-11/24 using code: JJSTYLE (use when ordering). Offer valid through November 24, 2013, on a single full-priced, in-stock item, excluding markdowns. Discount taken at the time of purchase in stores (outlets excluded), at JJILL.COM or via catalog. For retail store purchases, this code must be mentioned. Limit one coupon per person for one-time use only. Full-priced UGG® brand styles excluded. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer, except the J.Jill credit card discount. Discount not valid on previous purchases or gift card purchases and is exclusive of sales tax and shipping fees. No cash value).

 

Look, in all honesty, I’m still getting the fashion thing down, but I think I’ve embraced that it’s about keeping a few tips in mind while you naturally gravitate to what turns you on. Because if what you wear doesn’t reflect YOU, there’s no point in wearing it.

 

This was a sponsored post on behalf of The Motherhood and J. Jill. All opinions are my own. Unfortunately?)

PROMPTuesday #228: The Job Interview

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

 

The human resources manager tried to warn me in a roundabout, politically correct fashion that the woman who was about to interview me for a public relations position was structured and by the book. I took the news with a grain of salt because by that time, I’d been interviewing for two months and run the gamut from speaking with everyone from sexual harassers to inept company owners to an entire college board. Besides, I tended to adapt well to different personalities and wasn’t too worried about this particular one.

 

That thought became the pride before the fall. I knew it was going to be a tough interview the second I spotted her walking toward me in the lobby. Thin and purposeful, wearing a smooth, hair sprayed bob, pink sparkly lipstick that collected in the corners of her mouth, a skirt to the knees, buttoned-up blouse, panty hose and low-heeled navy pumps, she strode over to me, stuck her hand out, and led to me to the conference room without a smile. We sat and talked for a brief moment before she pushed a series of papers my way along with a couple of sharpened pencils, and asked me to complete a grammar test and writing exercise, and edit the provided press release.

 

It struck me how basic the tests were, and not because I was a grammarian or exceptionally good writer, but because these tests had obviously been ripped from a textbook. Still, I found the pencils charming, because it was 2002 and I hadn’t properly used one for years. I finished the work and waited.

 

She popped her head into the room and directed me to hand her the tests. I did, and the door closed again. Several minutes later, she re-entered the conference room and took a seat. She tried to smile, but it came out a grimace born from years of not knowing how to relax or properly interact with people. She sternly asked me the types of questions neophyte interviewers ask (what’s your greatest weakness? where do you see yourself in five years?) and didn’t really seem to assimilate the answers beyond this was a routine and she must follow it to the letter. But then, the rest of the interview followed in quick suit: “tell me how you’d develop a PR campaign for our company” “we need eight press releases a month and two articles placed – can you do that?” and “how are you with working late?” The whole time I knew she was analyzing my internal reactions and tangentially – didn’t let people in easily. I fast forwarded my brain to actually working with her and realized it would be a daily struggle to meet her expectations, which seemed misaligned with business reality.

 

After the interview she attempted to converse, but the interaction was stilted and fumbling. Her laughs sounded staccato like rocks hitting the pavement and she never fully opened her mouth, even though I suspected she would like to at some point. It just showed too much emotion to laugh wide, I guess.

 

My heart went out to her, and I think her sense of that got me to the next stage.

 

She finished the interview with, “Just so you know, the CEO is a tough cookie.”

 

I chose to believe that one and spent a week preparing for another challenging personality. In the interim, I met with all the company principals. Most of these supporting interviews were spent in their offices, awkwardly and standardly, but I didn’t let myself relax. The CEO was tougher. The other tough one told me.

 

When at last the day came to meet with the company’s owner, I wore a white blouse, which turned out to be a poor, sweaty choice. I swore that my moist shirt was a bad sign and I literally shook in my seat with fear and being tired of interviewing and survival instinct. I needed this job.

 

I waited in a bigger conference room than the one I’d initially waited in and shrunk in the leather seat. This whole process had taken weeks of preparation and unnatural amounts of nerves. The door opened. A short, dark-haired man walked in and didn’t even shake my hand.

 

“So,” he began in a British accent. “I hear you’re a writer.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What have you written?”

 

“Well, lots of press releases, and bios and sales copy and…”

 

“No,” he interrupted. “What have you written?” The emphasis went on the last word.

 

“Um. I’m writing a book about witches and magic and…”

 

He stopped me again. “Send it to me.”

 

Those words marked the end of the interview.

 

I left dumbfounded, emailed him my creative work in progress, and accepted the public relations position the next day.

 

********

 

What was your strangest job interview?

 

Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.