Lemonade & Style: A Story about Finding Fashion in the Unlikeliest of Circumstances


The word “lemonade” will never be the same. Thanks in part to Beyoncé’s epic album, the “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” cliché is reaching a whole new generation, and it’s inspiring me to continue to stay positive no matter what lemons roll at my feet. Lately, life overall has been pretty lemon-free, in that I am happy. Life is good. It’s summer. I’m in a wonderfully fulfilling relationship. The most important people around me are well.

However, as a writer, there’s this complicated thing that always happens when I’m actually happy: I can’t write. That’s because I have this unconscious routine of writing best when I’m in desperate need of answers, struck with worries of the heart and soul. While I’m always in search of what’s next for Style Darling Daily, my writing, and my professional life, I’m not necessarily haunted by any lack of progress to the degree where I have to write it all out to come up with a plan to advance my career. When I’m happy personally, I’m much more carefree with other parts of my life. My hard-working nature isn’t any less apparent, but I let inspiration find me like a cinematic meet cute. Inspiration is like an old friend I run into at Starbucks. I know the words are there, but I can’t always find them.

Well, since I’m writing now, there must be something on my mind. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane. With all that’s been going on lately, I’m reminded of my mission as a blogger. I wish to portray what I really wear on the daily (hence my “one stylish day at a time” tag line) and where I invest in my style because after all, I’m a budget shopper who believes in always looking my best out of respect for myself and those around me. I don’t dress just for a picture or to represent myself lolling about in some luxurious life of high fashion and glamour. That’s certainly not the life I live. I mean, I live on Long Island! I support myself financially. These aren’t complaints either, just my reality. Also, I don’t have a fancy camera or nearby scenic locations for spur of the moment photo shoots, nor do I often have backup to set up where and when I can share my daily outfit images. There’s plenty of evidence (with pictures taken in my bathroom or at my parents’ house) of how I’ve styled my summer thus far on Instagram (@styledarlingdaily). In addition, there also aren’t many words that go along with those posts. I know, I know. Writers should be writing.

On the upside, when I don’t have the words to express what’s going on with my style, I let the images (and hashtags) do the talking for me. I share my style inspiration for my two jobs where I can thankfully wear clothing that actually suits my personal style, so there isn’t much distinction in my closet between work and non-work apparel. At most, I pack an extra pair of shoes to switch from power heels to ballet flats for the change in shifts when I have to work both in the same day. Because of these day-to-day experiences (which don’t allow for proper photo shoot scheduling), I’m always seeking great deals on unique pieces that lend a stylish hand in how I express myself amid the chaos that is being a working woman in 2017 (not to mention, a happy one at that)! I digress… we were talking lemonade earlier.

Without getting into the lemon details (because I would never use my blog, writing, or social media to bully or hurt anyone whom I love), I recently found myself in a situation where I was no longer in need of a formal gown. The money I’d spent on the garment could not be refunded, nor was I permitted a store credit to use in the future. The dress itself was lovely, but certainly not a color that flattered my skintone or shape, so keeping it was simply not an option. In order to lemonade the whole thing, I realized I needed to reinvest the dollar amount in something that I would get much more use from, therefore resolving my predicament in the best way possible.

To relieve some of the mystery, I’ll share that I was at a local David’s Bridal, where their staff was very helpful and supportive as I pursued stylish options. However, I was not very impressed by their in-store dress selection to make an exchange. Certainly, there were plenty of beautiful colors, flattering styles, and youthful designs to shop through, but nothing special was speaking to my style blogger soul. One of my jobs is working as a stylist at a dress store, which also contributed to the fact that I wasn’t necessarily in need of a fancy party dress anyway. In a last stitch (pun!) effort, when looking at the rows and rows of pastel, sparkly, and ruffled chiffon, I sorted through my mental wardrobe catalogue to assess my existing dress options, what with three weddings and a Sweet Sixteen all scheduled in the span of a very busy and exciting month this coming fall. Basically, I didn’t want a new dress because I was already well-equipped in that department.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that shoes and accessories were often easier to pique my interest when in a shopping rut just like this. When it’s summer, I will only wear shoes that are comfortable. There are so many factors concerning weather (sweating in a heavy garment or taming my curls in the humidity) that invade my style routine for this hotter season, so I’m more than likely to be seen in flats, sandals, or flip flops on a regular occasion, rather than opting for the super fashionable high heel. Low and behold, David’s Bridal has a pretty amazing selection of footwear that had me in giggles. Generally, my everyday outfit will have some sort of sparkle to it, and if it’s not a statement necklace or big earring, my shoes will shine with studs or sequins. Of course, the selection of shoes at David’s Bridal is so blingy and meant for a bride, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t make these “bridal” shoes a reality for what I like to wear. I was so pleased with the discovery of finding fashion that fit my style in this unlikely place, especially when I’m not in the bridal market.

For the price of one gown, I was able to take home six pairs of shoes with only spending an additional ten dollars to offset the difference I owed, on top of a Buy One, Get One 50% off sale and coupon discount for the most expensive item. I felt accomplished and that I was making lemonade to benefit my style, shopping savvy, as well as quelling my soul of the recent circumstances that brought me to David’s Bridal in the first place. Furthermore, I rediscovered my love for the sandal. Gladiator flats and those pom pom sandals are all the rage every summer, but neither trend felt quite like me. Typically, I embrace trends that best work for my body type and personal style. I never encourage anyone to do the reverse. What happens is that we start asking ourselves what’s wrong with our bodies just because we don’t fit into some industry mold of what’s current and fashionable. I’d rather be of the mindset that something doesn’t work for me, as opposed to me being unsuccessful with that external force.

I love to wear pieces that best represent the feminine and detailed way I approach fashion. These metallic sandals (here, here, and here) are neutral for any summer ensemble, including a maxi dress or blouse and skirt outfit. Also, the ballet flats (here and here) will be the perfect way to dress up a casual look, while the lacy white pair (here) will definitely serve regular rotation with my floral summer dresses that I can wear either to work or for date night with my boyfriend.  

Upon this shopping win, what came next was a swarm of reminders that bargain buys and surprise fashion finds are happening at so many unlikely stores that we as shoppers and busy women might forget about. A few months ago, my boyfriend and I were at BJ’s in pursuit of a discounted movie ticket package deal when I saw rows and rows of clothing. I’m not a regular BJ’s shopper, so I was shocked to learn that the warehouse store sold more than just fleece jackets or packaged underwear. I scanned the racks to see cute fit-and-flare scuba dresses, classic jersey frocks, and striped maxis, all perfectly priced if one was in need of a proper summer wardrobe update without breaking the bank. I’m always saying that shopping should be easy. While it comes more naturally to some than others (because some know their style and body type so well, while others are more hesitant or uninformed), to conveniently access fashion in an unexpected way is a delight and inspiration to write about.

Since my summer shoe game is all about comfort and function (of course, style never goes by the wayside either), I’m often acquiring my favorite selections at Juniors’ stores where shoes and jewelry are basically the only items available where size isn’t an issue. Juniors’ stores such as Mandee, Charlotte Russe, and Forever 21 all size to fit a younger and mostly slimmer-figured consumer. Although, it is worth mentioning that these retailers have expanded their brands to include stylish options for shoppers of all sizes. However, I’m a most frequent patron of accessories in these stores. Albeit, they don’t always cater to uncommonly smaller or larger shoe sizes, nor are wide sizes always available, but I’m more often than not able to find jewelry, shoes, and other accessories at reasonable prices to build a unique and special collection that works with my everyday style.

During the holidays last year, when I was in pursuit of gifts for coworkers, I sought festive bulk items like ornaments or tea and hot chocolate varieties. I have that “last one picked in gym class” complex (which I basically accept now since I usually never wanted to play in a sport anyway), so I wanted to make sure I extended the joyful spirit of the season to everybody at both of my jobs, an effort that annually proves to be quite the challenge to my budget. However, as I loaded up my cart at a local Big Lots, I found a display for sterling silver jewelry, decked out with chic drop earrings and charm bracelets (all in the vain of modern costume / fashion jewelry) that made my heart sing a song of style. It was such a lovely surprise and while these pieces were all under five dollars, I treated myself and some close friends to a little extra sparkle.

Speaking of a little extra sparkle… that’s all that any Style Darling really needs. It doesn’t have to be the holiday season or literal sparkle in the form of jewelry either. Sparkle and lemonade are basically the same metaphors to me: doing one’s best and making the best out of a negative. That’s all that really matters. If the solution results in six pairs of shoes, or a stylish bargain buy that represents who you are as a strong, kind, mindful, creative, beautiful individual, then any lemons along the way are worth their trouble.

Here’s a video of a live performance of “Silver Lining” by one of my favorite country singers, Kacey Musgraves. The silver lining, lemonade, or sparkle aren’t always obvious during an unfortunate circumstance, but I always have faith that I’ll find that positivity. Happy Styling!

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Inside A Style Blogger’s Closet: Busy Work Day Look, Mixing Structure, Texture, & Pattern!


Some might say that I get a little overdressed for my office job, that will remain nameless, but I think of it as a chance everyday to explore my professional attire & get multiple uses out of clothing that can be worn on casual days too!

On a not-so-special Tuesday, I put together this outfit b/c I was finally ready to rip off the price tag from the skirt, which I bought back in July (with the purchase of this skirt).  There are a few tiered layers to the skirt by Worthington from JC Penney & it is lined underneath, making it a not-so-summer-ready skirt.  However, as the seasons have been changing, I broke out some of my heavier pieces & saw that my $4.97 (yes, that’s how much I got the skirt for!) was going to waste since I hadn’t worn it yet.  According to the original tag, the skirt was first marked up to $60.00, which seems like much too much. Not to mention when I first bought the skirt, it was nug & now that I’m down a total of 12lbs for the 2011 calendar year, it sits just where its supposed to!

Since the skirt plays with three-dimensional structure, as you can see by the tiers, I broke out my asymmetrical black tee from New York & Company, which I’m pretty sure that I bought for under $10 (with the help of one of my favorite Style Darlings, Laurie).  The belt ($16.99) was a purchase earlier in the summer & polka-dotted tights were from last year, both from Target.  I know there’s a lot going on in the pattern & shape of the skirt, but I think when you have something as bold as this, it’s okay to put another pattern with it.  The skirt has a pointillism-inspired look, so the polka dots aren’t too far off.  Plus, they’re small enough not to take away from the overall look.  And who doesn’t love a good textured tight?

In addition, as a loyal Target shopper, I picked up the flyaway cardigan ($19.99) after urging my bestie Rosie (see the blog I dedicated to her here) to buy one. I don’t know why I didn’t hop on that right away since I’ve been wearing the cotton cardigan several times throughout the season now.

I don’t remember where I got the necklace, but I’d take a guess at somewhere like Mandee, Wet Seal, or Forever 21 since I don’t usually spend a lot on my fashion jewelry.  Of course, I can’t forget the shoes… I have these in a beige / gold also!  I love the four-inch heel & the silver lining around the cut-outs.  They lasted me throughout my eight-hour work day & are just so comfortable, but these are no longer available @Payless, since they were from (about) two seasons ago.  Unless it’s a shoe style emergency, I never buy anything from Payless without a coupon or when they’re having a BOGO 50% off sale & neither should you!

As always, I’m happy to share my style stories, now that I’m finally getting pictures up here on Style Darling.  I even told a customer who came into the office today how much my skirt cost when she remarked on how well-dressed I was & she snickered at me, “You know, you shouldn’t tell people that,” referring to the cheap bargain in which I so proudly announced.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a great deal, but it is nice to feel like you look like you’re wearing luxury pieces, especially when I’ve become invested in all the pieces that express my style to a tee!

Check out my previous Inside A Style Blogger’s Closet posts featuring my closet– literally- & a cute summer dress ($8.74) styled for fall! Happy Styling!

Luxury Look-Alikes For Less: Super Strappy Black Gladiator Sandals from Barneys Vs. Mandee!


If you’re looking for some super sexy strappy black gladiator sandals for a cocktail dress or your favorite little black dress, then check these out!  However, I was soooo enchanted by a pair from Barney’s, but couldn’t get past the $675.00 price tag.  Naturally this is b/c the brand of the ‘Zaira’ is Loeffler Randall, which is also available @Zappos, Neiman Marcus, Singer 22, & Nordstrom.

However, as a Style Darling on a budget, check out Mandee for these four-inch strappy cone heel sandals.  They only cost $15.00 & while the two pairs of sandals are not identical, they’re pretty close in concept.  Think about how much you buy for $675 & why in the world would you want to spend that much on one pair of shoes (unless of course money was not an issue)?

When I look for shoes, it’s all about getting the most for my money.  As a regular on the Mandee website & in their stores, I’ve found their shoe selection very reliable in comfort & style.  Not to mention all the discount rewards you can earn just for having the store’s credit card! Check out previous Luxury Look-Alikes for Less posts for more great affordable & stylish finds! Happy Styling!

Quickie Darling Deal & Steal: Gingham Dresses & Endless Belt Possibilities!


Part of  my recent shopping spree weekend, I started it all off with the purchase of this navy gingham dress by Merona at my local Target.  I’d passed the dress about five or six times before I finally settled on it without even trying it on.  As happy as I was about the purchase, knowing the classic, cook summer vibe of the gingham pattern, making me feel all Charlotte York / preppy inside, it just didn’t sit right on me, belt tied to perfection & all.  Before I could huff & puff to stuff it back into the bag, my very thoughtful boyfriend reminded me that I could always add a different belt.

I immediately thought of something in basket weave to wear with white sandals, but he recommended something red (to appease his pinup persuasion).  So while I was out & about, I found a very similarly looking belt, perhaps a combination of the second & third belt shown here, @Mandee for less than $9 on clearance, using a 25% off coupon!  However it is not available on the website anymore, but I’m sure one of these days, with the right lighting, I’ll actually start posting pictures of the items I have.

As for the red gingham dress, it’s now been on my mind too.  I love the delicate floral detail at the neck.  It would make for a sweet summer look both at work & for weekend backyard barbecues.  Any one of these five belts could be switched between both dresses.

First we have a floral grommet belt by Fossil, also available in black & yellow, but those images could not be acquired either (darnit)!  Next is a very summertime straw-designed, white-accented belt which would even work over a floral printed dress or any shirtdress of your choosing.  I’m not one to usually gravitate towards camel or cognac hues, but this fish tail belt is an irresistible find for $5.80!  If you thought $5.80 was great, then consider the skinny blue belt for $2.50, both available @Forever 21.  This style also comes in plum & grey.  Lastly, we have the red buckle stretch belt that without-a-doubt calls for some sort of halter dress, but would also look smashing with these gingham designs. Happy Styling!

Quickie Darling Deal & Steal: Our Top Picks for Maternity Styles!


I can’t even count on both hands how many women I know who are pregnant or have just popped out their bundle of joy.  While I can’t necessarily share in their journey through motherhood, I can however offer some awesome style suggestions if you’re an expectant mom-on-the-go & on a budget.  You only have nine months of growth, so making a huge investment in maternity clothes could hurt your bank account.  Don’t forget that the easiest way to get the most out of a maternity wardrobe is to swap stylish pieces with friends who no longer need them.  We can look to the baby boom in Hollywood for some inspiration, especially from famous moms like Gisele Bundchen, Ali Larter, Heidi Klum, & Christina Applegate, courtesy of In Style.

I’ve found a variety of cute pieces that can be mixed & matched for many different occasions during your months of pre-motherhood, which include versatile slim leg jeans, a delicate floral blouse, a loose-fitting cream trapeze cardigan, a darling blue belted wrap dress, a casual pair of cargo pants, & a black pleated dress as your go-to LBD for any special events that you may be attending.  If you’ve got basics like these that you like to wear, but want to help jazz them up, try out this braided sandal to keep your feet comfy this spring & summer, yet still chic in a metallic hue.  Or if you’re a real daredevil fashionista, get some neutral wedges for any outdoors affair this season.  During this time, accessories are the best way to show off your style, especially since (for the most part) they’re items that you already have.  For a solid color dress (like the LBD shown), try out a tribal necklace to bring out the wild yet sophisticated side of you.  Since the body is changing, add an elastic beaded bracelet, unless of course it’s too tight, but this pop of color looks so fun against natural colors & can help bright out other flattering shades in printed pieces.  Earrings are the best way to draw attention to your glowing face, so have fun with everything from red stud earrings to shell drop earrings for both casual & dressy days.  Happy Styling!

The $100 Challenge: Get 5 Dresses for Under $100!


I’m always looking for a bargain, so when I thought of The $100 Challenge for the blog here, I was super psyched to find all the ways that one can wear an outfit by budgeting, but not sacrificing style.  And who doesn’t love a dress??  So yeah, this isn’t entirely an outfit, but here were have 5 dresses ranging in price from $11.99 – $24.46, yet if buying all five, for example, you’d only be spending a total of $98.03!

If you frequent stores like Forever 21, you know all about the best sales & when they have items marked down between seasons.  Not to mention their ridiculously affordable prices on shoes, cardigans, & jewelry.  As for New York & Company, you get a discount most of the time just for having a credit card & can earn tons of coupons.  They sometimes even have sales of the whole store being marked down up to 50% off.  I love Mandee‘s coupons & my Mandee credit card b/c you spend so little & get so much, like this adorable animal print dress.  It’s not just a junior’s store- they sell accessories by brands like Steve Madden, XOXO, & Nine West.  @Kohls, there is always an abundance of sales & they give you lots of benefits for having a credit card as well. I love looking at the latest styles by Simply Vera by Vera Wang & LC by Lauren Conrad. The best feeling is when you’re walking out of the store & look down at your reciept to see that you saved more than you spent.  And then there’s Old Navy that’s always having some kind of special, & you get points for having the store’s credit card during each purchase, which you can also use at their sister stores like Gap, Piperlime, Banana Republic, & Athleta. Other stores that I looked at for this blog were H&M, Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe, GOjane, Target, & WalMart.  Happy Styling!

The Stylish Five: Accessorize @Mandee ($10 & Under)!


@Mandee, some of their least expensive sale items are up to 50% off!  Not to mention that these accessories are awesome investments for this season & even for next year when fall & winter come back around!  Also, while the store is primarily suited for Juniors’, a Style Darling of any age can find timeless accessories for day, evening, or weekend here.  For your next date night, try out these dangly earrings with your LBD. A rich, luxe burgundy clutch like this is very chic with a neutral dress & metallic heels.  Even a snakeskin-inspired belt would fit nicely over tunic top.  Get warm in these fur-lined boots for chilly days in a shawl sweater & jeggings.  Ribbed tights in a a deep brown make for a preppy accent to a babydoll dress & knee boots.

Luxury Look-Alikes For Less: Cynthia Vincent @Bloomingdales Vs. Wedges from Mandee!


 

 

One of my favorite spring shoes is a wedge, perfect for elongating the legline, while also giving that extra support to my foot.  Part of the beauty of springtime is the variety of outfits that you can wear with a wedge like this, including a button-down & pair of chino shorts, a mini skirt with a blouse, a casual romper, & even a grafitti-inspired dress.  Scroll your mouse over these shoes to see which is $350.00 by Cynthia Vincent, sold @Bloomingdale’s & which is an affordable $32.00 @Mandee.  Regardless of cost, both sites offer free emails to receive excellent discounts & news on all the latest sales!  Happy Styling!

The $100 Challenge: $100 worth of shoes!


Usually my $100 Challenge features an entire look that totals just under $100 before taxes, but this time I decided to collect $100 worth of my favorite shoes.  These are either marked down on sale or regular priced at some of my favorite affordable stores.  Since my site-wide overhaul of old blogs, I haven’t returned to this category (with the exception of a friend’s super stylish find in A True Style Darling’s Uniform). Who knew that finding up to seven pairs of shoes would total $98.94!  These styles that can be worn on & off throughout the year can be found at Payless, Charlotte Russe, Old Navy, Forever 21, Mandee, & Wet Seal. Can you come up with more stylish shoes than these seven for a total up to $100?  Of course, you can invest that money in just one item from a higher-end brand name like Nine West, Aldo, or Steve Madden, but sometimes finding a unique item like one of these is a fun way to avoid too much of a splurge. 

 

 

Furry boots like these are perfect for next winter with some skinny jeans & a leather jacket.  Flowered flats are adorable for leggings & an embellished blouse.  The black ankle strap heels are a lovely way to finish off a floral sheath dress.  These gladiator flats are vacation must-haves with a pair of navy bermuda shorts & a graphic tee.  These sexy zippered pointed toe pumps are sleek for work in a pencil skirt & button-down shirt.  For a flirty cocktail look, these purple sandals are a bright pop of color against a little black dress.  Lastly, these silver glitter flip-flops are beach-friendly with a zebra print swimsuit. Happy Styling!