One Year Retrospective - My Favorite Posts

Hope all of you are having a wonderful day!

Today, I'm feeling retrospective and want to share with you my favorite posts from my first year of blogging. 

Here are my Top 15, in no particular order:

#1     Zesty Lemon and Lace
I chose this look because it looks so springy and is fairly versatile.  The tunic over the pants is a unique touch, and I love citrine yellow!

Zesty Lemon and Lace
#2     Ballerina Fantasies
My ballerina and fashion fantasies come to life?  What more can I say?
Ballerina Fantasies
#3     Adventures in Traveling:  Cape Cod, Massachussetts
I chose this post because I loved Provincetown, Massachussetts and because I NEVER thought that I would post a picture of myself in a bathing suit on the internet.  If it weren't for all the amazing and much braver bloggers of all shapes and sizes out there rocking such awesome swimwear, I would have never have had the courage to do this.  I'm learning to be much more unapologetic about my weight.  If people don't like what I've got going on...DON'T LOOK!  :-D
Adventures in Traveling: Cape Cod, Massachussetts

#4    Whimsy for Work
I love citrine. I love bow blouses. I love these black tuxedo pants. I love blazers.  I love mixing prints.  Lots of things I love rolled into one work outfit!
Whimsy for Work
#5     The Dark Side of the Sun
My current favorite outfit, I love everything about this outfit!  And I look HAWT!! ;-D
The Dark Side of the Sun
#6     Mod Squad
I really like mod-inspired prints, and I love this vintage purse necklace!!  Also, fashion for a cause...
Mod Squad
#7     Keep or Return?
I ultimately decided to return this dress because I just wasn't crazy about the print, but I loved how the pictures turned out for this post.  I also love how this dress fit - I really want to find something cut just like it, but in a more agreeable print or solid.  I felt very vintage pin-up, and I liked it! 
Keep or Return
#8     Tuxedo Redux
I love tuxedo-inspired fashion.  A LOT!  I think this watercolor print top is so pretty.  I bought it off eBay about three years ago, and it was too small.  I was so excited when it finally fit. 
Tuxedo Redux
#9     Gaga for Lady Gaga 
I had so much fun with my hair and make-up for a Lady Gaga concert.  It was fun to explore my more creative side and to show a side of my personality that work life (and laziness) do not usually allow me to show.
Gaga for Lady Gaga
#10     Tweed, Leather, and Volume
I love this tweed sweater.  It is like a super stylish Snuggie!!!  My sun belt made a rare appearance.  I love suns so much I have two sun tattoos! 
Tweed, Leather, and Volume
#11     Dress Week:  Coming Up Roses
I love few items of clothing more than a maxi dress.  This is an older one that I don't wear much because I didn't have it hemmed short enough so it requires me to wear some of my highest heels or wedges.  Usually when I wear a maxi dress, I prefer flat sandals for a comfortable casual outfit.  This dress makes me feel super tall though, and I find the overall fit to be very flattering in the usual sense.  I don't understand why some "experts" claim maxi dresses aren't a good choice for petites.  I personally find them elongating.  I also love that this print is different than many of the prints I usually see on maxi dresses.
Dress Week: Coming Up Roses
#12     Day-to-Night Dress Up
This outfit made me feel very chic and pulled together.  I really love this cool architectural web necklace.
Day-to-Night Dress Up

#13     Skirt Week:  Grrrrrrl Power!!
I did not choose this post for the outfit.  I like the outfit, but I don't love it.  The outfit was meant to illustrate my post about how one's various social statuses affect how one is perceived, including what one's clothing "means."
Skirt Week: Grrrrrrl Power!!
#14     The Yin and Yang of Dressing
I wasn't overly thrilled with this particular outfit, my hair, or how the pics turned out, but I love the idea behind this post. 
The Yin and Yang of Dressing
#15     Skirt Week:  Drama Queen
This outfit made me feel glamorous. The pieces are actually quite easy and can be worn much more casually.  I love the floatiness of this look.

Skirt Week: Drama Queen
And an honorable mention!

Loving Myself:  The Path to Self-Acceptance
This post was cleansing to my soul - it was everything I felt about my body or did out of body shame that I had been too embarrassed to share with all but a couple of people.  Putting it out to the public made me feel so much more authentic.  I felt like my secret was out.  I really hope that this post helped somebody, anybody in feeling a little bit better about their own bodies.  Developing self-awareness and an appreciation of the bodies in which we inhabit is a journey that will take many twists and turns, but it's a journey worth taking.
Loving Myself: The Path to Self-Acceptance
In reviewing my first year of posts, I see outfits I love, outfits that make me cringe, and outfits that are just so-so.  I think that's the nature of fashion.  Fashion and style changes, even within a year's time.  Also, if you are a fashion explorer, which I tend to be, you're bound to make some missteps along the way.

I think blogging has given me a better idea about what looks good on my body and what doesn't.  That has helped me to become a better, more consistent shopper in that I am more aware of what brands, cuts and styles look best on me.

That said, I don't always choose the most "flattering" option.  I love fashion and require a certain level of variety in my wardrobe or I become bored too quickly.  For the sake of fashion, fun, personal challenge, or even whim, I will sometimes make choices that do not make me look slimmer and taller - an idea that is relatively taboo in certain parts of the fashion world - especially for a short, chubby girl.

I have a hard time identifying or labeling my personal style.  I tend to be a "I know it when I see it" type of shopper and do not always consistently choose clothing from a certain style category (boho, preppy, edgy, goth, trendy, classic, etc.).

I do know that I always like black (everything seems chicer in black), blazers, layered looks (see blazers), tuxedos (see blazers), interesting textures, patterns and details, and a touch of edginess. 

Blogging has allowed me to explore my style more than I have in years.  After having my daughter five years ago, I gained a lot of weight and had to replace my entire wardrobe.  For several years, my wardrobe was much more basic and classic because I was trying to obtain the essentials and was learning how to dress a differently shaped body.  I was so ready to add more joy and personality to my wardrobe, and over the course of the last year, I have been doing just that.

What type of shopper are you?  Do you have a way of describing your personal style? 

Have you had fluctuations in your weight or changes in your body shape over time?  How has that affecting your shopping habits and clothing choices?

Stay tuned...Later this week, I'll be announcing some changes to my blog that I hope you will enjoy!

If you haven't entered my giveaway for a handmade tutu (adult or child), please hurry and do so...Contest ends August 1, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. CST).  Details here.


One Year and Running Strong!

Wow!  Today marks the one-year anniversary of my blog!!
Skirt:  Handmade
On my blog's 1st birthday, I thought I'd celebrate with a special look that makes me feel like a bit of a cupcake!!
In the first year of writing, I've posted 250 blogs, learned a lot, and had so much fun sharing my love of fashion with you.

I'm so thankful to all of you who have supported my blog, and I'm excited to have "met" so many very awesome people over the last year!

I have some ideas and a few changes for my blog which I hope you will enjoy.  Details coming soon!

Top:  Forenza by The Limited
Shoes:  Target (Available here)
In celebration of my blog's 1st birthday, I'm offering my first giveaway.

One lucky winner will receive their very own tutu skirt!

I had my skirt hand-made by a local crafter, and you can get one made to fit you in the color or colors of your choice (maximum of 2 colors).

Here's how you enter: 

      1)  Leave a comment here on this blog post with the color or
           colors of your choice and a method of contacting you.

      2)  Like my Facebook page ("Style Cassentials") and leave a
           comment on the page with your color/colors of choice.

      3)  Share a link to this post on Facebook or Twitter and leave
           another comment here on the blog stating your method of 


Each method of entry will count as one entry with a possible number of three entries.

Last chance to enter is Thursday, August 1st at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Winner will be chosen at random, and the winner will be announced this Friday, August 2nd.

P.S. Tutu skirt not your style?  You can have one made for that special child in your life instead!

P.P.S.  These skirts are sheer - I am wearing a slip.

Please invite your friends to enter!  The more the merrier!!

For this skirt in another look, see here.

For this top in other looks, see here and here.

Sorry...This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only.  Another giveaway coming soon that's open for everybody!


Skirt Week: Lady in Waiting

Today's look pairs my cropped bustier with matching skirt for a look that feels much more demure than would seem possible for a crop top.
Skirt and top:  Target
I am such a fan of this trend, and I'm so glad that I didn't let my own insecurities overshadow my love of fashion.  You all give me the courage to try new things.  While a lot of my clothing is more classic, I always love to add a bit of edge and trendiness to my looks.  I want to keep you interested with the occasional new or unexpected offering.
Jacket:  Target Petites (Available here)
Sandals:  Kohl's Kids (Available here)
I've been inspired by fellow bloggers who have rocked this trend so fabulously:



Bracelets:  Torrid and The Limited
I fell in love with this top and skirt set the minute I saw it, but I didn't buy it the first time I tried it on.  When I came back to the store for it, the tops were sold out.  I bought the skirt, but then I made it my mission to find this top.  

I ordered the top from Target's web site. It was on back-order for weeks before being cancelled.  Luckily, I was able to hunt it down on eBay and got it for the bargain price of $3!  Still new with tags - I do love a bargain!

While I don't utilize it as much as I once did, I'm still a big fan of eBay.  I sell my clothes on eBay, and often pick up unique jewelry from the site. It's also a great place to find deals on clothes, like this $3 top!  When shopping for clothes on eBay, I am usually very selective, purchasing almost exclusively brands with which I'm familiar with sizing and quality.

The last time I wore this skirt, I started feeling that it was too long, so I had it hemmed about an inch.  I liked it before, but now it's perfect!

Are you a fan of eBay?  What other e-tailers do you frequent?

For this skirt in other looks, see here and here.
For this top in another look, see here.
For this jacket in other looks, see here, here, here.


Skirt Week: Go, Go Green!

Happy Saturday, everyone!  Hope you're enjoying the weekend!

Today's skirt look is an outfit that I recently wore to work.  I paired a kelly green pencil skirt with a striped blazer, that is quickly becoming a favorite piece in my wardrobe.
Blazer:  Torrid (Available here)
Skirt:  The Limited
Green is my favorite color, so I love this skirt, especially how it pops against the black and white stripes.
Tank:  New York & Company
Tote:  The Limited
Shoes:  Target
Cuff:  New York & Company (Similar here)
That said, the material stretches out during the day, so I lost some of the pencil effect by the time I took these pics.
Earrings:  The Limited (Available here)
What's your favorite style of skirt?

For this skirt in other looks, see here, here, and here.
For this blazer in another look, see here.


Skirt Week: Grrrrrrl Power

Disclaimer:  This blog post features social commentary and is a departure from my usual fashion posts.  My opinions and conclusions may not be the same as yours.  I share my thoughts on the topics that follow out of a need for catharsis as well as a desire to encourage dialogue, both internal and external.  If anything I say offends you, I apologize in advance.  In the name of honest discourse, I stand by what I say here while noting that I am most definitely oversimplifying some of my points for the sake of brevity and the larger perspective. 
Top:  Torrid (Available here)
I have intended to keep my blog fun and lighthearted and not too controversial.  After all, my blog is about fashion.  Fashion is superficial and not to be taken too seriously, right?

In light of recent events, I've been thinking about this question a lot.  Clothes do not just get created or worn in a vacuum - they exist within a social context.  Clothes are used as social cues that tell others who we supposedly are.  In turn, those cues affect how others perceive us and even act towards us.  But the clothes are only part of the story.  The race, gender, age, weight, and other characteristics of the individual wearing an article of clothing affects how that same person is perceived.

Jacket:  Old Navy
As a nation, we've recently been confronted with the morality of laws that allowed George Zimmerman and Ezekiel Gilbert who killed a female escort to walk away free from murder charges.  We've been confronted with our rape culture that leads us to blame rape victims and to see insensitive, unfunny jokes as mainstream entertainment.  I've been thinking a lot about the social context in which these various events occurred.  

Related to these concerns, I have been thinking about the social construction of clothing - the idea that how the clothing someone wears can be seen as rationalization or justification for actions taken towards a person.  Whether it's the idea that someone wearing a hoodie is "dangerous" or the implication that a rape victim wearing a short skirt was "asking for it," clothing certainly isn't superficial or trivial in our society.

What makes many people see a young black male wearing a hoodie as a threat?

What makes many people see a woman's clothing choices as a justification for rape?

Skirt:  Forenza by The Limited (Available here)
I think both questions are answered by looking at systems of inequality and power.  The behaviors, thoughts, and clothing of those with less social, cultural, political, and economic power are more heavily scrutinized.  The qualities (or perceived qualities) of people within these categories are demeaned, ridiculed, and objectified.

We live in a society in which women, racial minorities, youth, and overweight people (and the various intersections of these groups) are continually devalued and demeaned.  The political and legal systems often work against these groups rather than work to protect them.  Popular culture creates and perpetuates fear, hatred, and disregard.  For example, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and accompanying video feature women writhing around in varying states of mostly undress, while he, T.I. and Pharrell Williams both ignore them (they are “less than”, after all) and molest them while singing about the glories of their penises (and how they "know you want it").

This disregard for women happens at all levels of society.  What message is being sent to women and girls (and men and boys) when tampons and maxi-pads are banned from the Texas statehouse while concealed guns are allowed?

It’s my nature to obsess, deconstruct, reconstruct, and synthesize these seemingly unconnected social events.  All my life I have looked for answers to understand social inequality and to better understand my own feelings of insecurity or inadequacy that I knew had at least some root in the fact that I was a white woman in this culture.  To this end, I spent two decades of my life studying and teaching sociology.

In particular, I spent the last 15 years of my life studying body image and the media's role in promoting an unrealistic, unhealthy body type.  I've spent the last decade studying how women's and men's bodies are given meaning, labeled, and socially constructed by the culture and through the media.  Through my studies and original research, I know how so many of the ideas we have about women's bodies, white bodies, black bodies, men's bodies, etc. are complete bullshit.

Yet I believed.  

I bought the myths. I accepted the notion that my body was inferior and unworthy if it did not meet a societal ideal that I knew was created by the media and corporations making profits by promoting racialized sexism.  

As a slender woman in my early 20s, I accepted constant sexual harassment as the norm.  I was harassed on a daily basis to the point that I began to look to it for validation even though I often felt objectified and degraded by it.  When I started gaining weight, I found that I got much less sexual attention from strangers.  For a while, I was upset by this.  I had defined myself by others’ view of me.  I let my outer appearance (and others' judgment of it) define me.  

I accepted that I was less by being more.  I accepted that certain clothing just wasn't meant for me.  For a while, I accepted that I was not supposed to feel stylish, confident, competent, or sexy in this body.  I also accepted that I was freer from the sexual gaze than I was during my thinner days even though this probably was not very true.

I'm done buying into these false ideas.  I'm done accepting. I'll wear whatever I want to wear!  I'll feel whatever I want to feel...DAMMIT!

Satchel:  The Limited (old)
On very personal note, my fiancé was in a head-on motorcycle collision with a drunk driver during the 4th of July weekend.  All logic says he should have died; physics allowed him to walk away with relatively minor, though still not completely determined, injuries.  As I rushed to the hospital where he was taken by ambulance, I felt powerless to help him, but I also felt powerless walking the two blocks from the parking garage to the emergency room. 

Despite my conservative outfit and sensible shoes, I feared violence in the parking garage and on the street.  Here I was, a woman in the middle of the night. Alone. Defenseless.  My clothes had nothing to do with this socially ingrained fear, a fear that operates to force women to self-police their own choices and actions.  My clothes had little to no bearing on the likelihood that I could have been attacked and raped.

I was unscathed during that short walk, but seeing my fiance's injuries and knowing the potential of what could have been has given me a strong dose of reality.  Life can get cut short or change radically in a moment’s time because of someone else’s poor decisions and misguided perceptions. 

Trayvon Martin’s life was cut short. The lives of countless people have been affected by George Zimmerman’s decisions and the inequalities and biases that shape our legal and justice systems.  

The life of Lenora Ivie Frago, a 23-year-old mother and Craigslist escort, was ended by a bullet.  The lives of her friends and family and the lives of women everywhere have been affected by the belief of Ezekiel Gilbert and the jury who tried him that her life was less than valuable than the $150 he allegedly paid her illegal sexual services. 

I am angry that my fear of being attacked distracted me from my concern over my fiancé.  I am angry that inequality permeates so many facets of our society.  I am angry that I have allowed social norms and media culture to control how I feel about me.

I am tired of being afraid.  This fear is irrational.  If you are a racial or sexual minority in this culture, you are automatically in a catch-22.  There is no right way to act.  Had he been wearing khakis and a polo, Trayvon Martin would no more likely be alive nor his killer behind bars. 

If you are overweight in this culture, there is no "right" way to dress.

These recent life lessons have left me with a greater resolve to live my life on my own terms, to live honestly and with purpose.  I don't want other people to control my life.

Letting fear of judgment, fear of sexual assault or any other social-related fear control my sartorial choices has started to feel more and more ridiculous to me. 

I have body insecurities.  I will continue to slide and feel envy of other women whose bodies seem better than mine, whose fashion seems better than mine.  I will slip.  I will have bad days in which I want nothing more than to hide myself from the world.  I will have days where the insecure girl in me will take over.

But this girl is grown up, and this woman knows what the insecure girl didn't - that nobody's opinion matters if you can't love yourself and that unfortunately, people will judge you no matter what you do.

It's your life - live it to the fullest and on your terms.  This is not easy, and people won't always react kindly.  Unfortunately, some will react violently, but living in fear is not living.  Living life on your own terms is the best revenge to societal injustice, and it's the only way to live.  
Shoes:  Target
The claws are out, and this cat is ready to pounce.

For more on how race and gender affects societal privilege, see this great discussion.

For this skirt in other looks, see here and here.


Skirt Week: Cabana Coral

Happy Thursday!
Skirt:  The Limited (Available here)
Tee:  The Limited (Available here)
Today's casual look makes me long for the beach.  It's perfect with a floppy hat for a cantina brunch or for sipping daquiris under a cabana.

I wish I had this outfit during my trip to the Cape, but this outfit works well as a casual summer outfit in the city as well!

Necklace:  The Limited (Sold out on-line; Similar here)
Bracelet:  The Limited (Available here)
The hooded sandals give the draped jersey skirt a little bit of an urban edge that made it perfect for a casual after-work dinner last night.
Sandals:  Target (old)
This skirt fits me longer than it was intended, but I liked the midi-length and decided not to have it altered.

This outfit is not the most flattering in the usual sense of the word. It accentuates my shortness, for example.  I'm okay with that!  There's plenty of tall people in the world - why not embrace petiteness?

See more discussion of the notion of "flattering" here.

What does "flattering" mean to you in regards to fashion?


Skirt Week: Drama Queen

Hi everyone!  Today kicks off Skirt Week, and I'm super excited about this first look.
Skirt: The Limited (Available here)
Clutch:  Jason Wu for Target (Available on eBay here)
Tank:  Torrid (Available here)
I fell in love with this skirt from The Limited the second I saw it and just knew I had to make it mine!  The mini with sheer overlay is a clever and sexy way to show off the legs while still having some coverage.
Shoes:  Target
I hear a lot of petites say that they can't wear maxi skirts because they are too long.  Well, this one was definitely too long, but hemming is generally one of the easiest and least expensive tailoring options.  At 4'9", I have virtually all of my pants and skirts hemmed, even petites sizes.

I had both layers of the skirt hemmed to get the right fit, and I couldn't be happier with the result.
Jade ring:  Vintage (Similar here)
I have some ideas for how to style this skirt for early fall, but after playing dress up for a bit, I came up with this dramatic summer evening look.

I love how these separates create the look of a dress. 
The bold beaded chainlink necklace adds to the drama and really works with this simple color palette and easy, flowy pieces.
Necklace:  Target
Do you like the trend of sheer maxi skirts layered over minis?

For this top in another look, see here.


Dress Week: Coming Up Roses

Today, I conclude Dress Week with an ikat rose print maxi dress.
Dress:  Target (old)
Paired with wedge sandals, this dress has a relaxed and laid-back vibe that's perfect for summer.  The floor-length of this dress gives it an easy sophistication that feels casual but a little glam.

I would wear this to an outdoor party, to a casual dinner, or even to go shopping.

Cardigan:  Converse One Star for Target (old)
Clutch:  Vintage (eBay)
For cooler evenings or air-conditioned buildngs, this moto-style cardigan is a perfect lightweight touch.  I bought this cardigan last summer and it continues to be one of the favorite pieces in my wardrobe.
Bracelets:  Target, Claire's Express
Earrings:  Target
Shoes:  Target (Similar here)
Do you like maxi dresses?  Where would you wear one like this?

For this cardigan in other looks, see here, here, and here.