Tag : zara

How to Build a Quality Work Wardrobe on Budget

When I graduated from college and started working, the most exciting part was actually building my work wardrobe. Of course it is never-ending and I still add to it from time to time. But if I had known then what I know now, my closet would only be filled with affordable, high quality, long-lasting pieces and I wouldn’t have spent as much money stumbling along the way.

I wished that there had been a quick and dirty list of everything I needed to get started. Of course this is not a one stop shop, but it is definitely a good foundation for a work wardrobe on budget.

My Wardrobe Selections – Basics133039766

The List

1. Crisp White Button Down Shirt
2. Blouse
3. Sheath Dress
4. Trouser
5. Pencil Skirt
6. Clean Cut Blazer
7. Cardigan
8. Trench Coat
9. Leather Pumps
10. Flats
11. Camisole/ Long sleeve
12. Pantyhose/ Leggings
13. Leather Belt
14. Quality Bag
15. Scarf/ Accessories

The Basics:

1. Crisp White Button-Down Shirt: This is the staple of any work wardrobe. Everyone should have at least one if not more. It is versatile and goes with any skirts or pants, for layering or stand-alone, for formal or business casual occasions. Choose a good quality material and non-iron to save headaches later on.  Personally I only own two crisp white button-down with the rest along the silky blousy type.

My pick: Ann Taylor Petite Perfect Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt (Similar herehere )
Advanced Option: Everlane Silk Round Collar Blouse (similar here )f7f22b5b_944b

2. Blouse: Start with colors that you know work with your skin tone (if you don’t trust your own judgment, ask your friends): neutral, monochrome colors are great starters. Don’t add patterns yet as they are memorable and harder to pass as a “different” blouse. Choose effortless slip-on shells with simple and feminine silhouette and neckline. Stick with material that are soft, but does not wrinkle easily.

My pick: Ann Taylor Crepe Cowl Neck Shell (white worn here, here and here :: good alternative here )
Advanced Option: Try a blouse with bow or other embellishmentsUntitledd

3. Sheath Dress: Instead of the LBD that many people recommended, I choose to go with a sheath dress with solid, neutral hue or simple pattern. It should fit your form without being too snug. Go for one that you can transfer from day wear to night wear. And one that can go from spring to winter with the right accessories. Needless to say, it should be versatile. I opted for pattern, but you get the idea; neutrals and solids are your best friends.

My pick: Ann Taylor Graphic Sketch Sleeveless Dress (alternative here or here, here, here)
Advanced Option: Try a different cut, a different hue
(J.Crew Origami Sheath Dress)imageService

4. Dark/Neutral Trouser: Pick a high-quality straight legged pants that fit comfortably. Look out for pleats because they will accentuate the wrong areas. Wear your pants one inch above ground or hit mid heel. If you prefer wearing flats, you will not magically start preferring heels. Nothing is worse than dragging your hem across the office or pants that scream “short!” Don’t forget, the tailor is your best friend.

My pick: Express Stretch Tab Waist Slim Flare Columnist Pants (15% off with code 9233 additional to buy 1 get 1 $39.90 till 7/31)
Advanced: Whites or neutrals. Nothing too crazy
(Express Stretch Tab Waist Slim Flare Columnist Pants)d

5. Dark Pencil Skirt: Whether it is pencil skirt or A-line, be sure to select a skirt that is knee length and fits your figure. More than one inch above your knee is not considered to be office appropriate. Also make sure your skirt hits the waist at the right place. One fitting too low would risk making you look old and wide-hipped. Once you settled on a figure-flattering skirt, it can be paired with so many items in your closet that will effortlessly transition you from season to season. Aside from AT, I also love the No. 2 Pencil Skirts from J. Crew (40% off with code SHOPMORE).

My pick: Ann Taylor All-Season Seamed High Waist Pencil Skirt (similar here, here )
Advanced: Neutral, natural hue with different cut (Zara Tulip Skirt worn here, here)imageService


6. Clean-Cut Blazer: The perfect blazer is key to making your wardrobe work. With the right piece, you can pair it with virtually everything you have: dresses, skirts, pants, and jeans. Choose a blazer in a conservative color, black, navy, or grey, that is versatile and fits comfortably.

Pointers to a perfect fitting blazer: 
1. Seam should fall right on your shoulder blade
2. Sleeves should be at where your thumb joins your wrist
3. Length and fit depends on your style.

My pick: Mango Double-Breasted Crepe Blazer (worn here)
Others: Try Zara, J.Crew, Ann Taylor for some great blazers


7. Cardigan: Cardigans are one of my favorite pieces. It can be worn all seasons for layering over tops, dresses, and any other outfit. The basic colors are black, grey, and navy. Choose one to start with and add other pops of color later on. It’s just such a convenient item to have in your purse and be able to pull one out for a cold air-conditioned place or even to cover stains.

My pick: J Crew Factory Clare Cardigan (worn herehere, here, here)
Advanced: Try a bright color or a different cut
(J.Crew Candace Cardigan worn here, here)14041_BL8133

8. Trench Coat: Perfect for wearing three seasons a year, a beige trench coat is a coat worth investing. Look for the classic trench that never goes out of style. Instead of going for a Burberry that is known for their trench coat, consider more affordable options such as Zara, The Gap, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. The coat should fit in the shoulders with a style and length that suits you.

My pick: Ann Taylor Iris Trench (worn here)
Advanced: The ultimate trench coat is probably Burberry



9. Black Leather Pumps: Black pumps go with everything and do not stain easily. They can easily transition you from day to night. Fit and comfort are the two most important elements when it comes to your staple heels. It is unrealistic to need to “break in” your shoes. Preferably invest in a pair of leather pumps so it breathes and conforms to your feet. I’ve purchased many many pairs of pumps and Brooks Brothers heels are the ones i kept going back for. These beauties are so comfortable even after wearing for long hours. Recently, there have been issues with it as discussed in past post. My alternative now is AT pumps which are classy and comfy and affordable.

My pick: Brooks Brothers Classic Calfskin Leather Pumps
Advanced: Ann Taylor Evie Peeptoe Pumps (worn here)dddd

10. Black Leather Flats: It’s good to have a pair in your office when you need to walk around a lot and don’t need to be imposing. A nice pair of black leather flats will let you relax and spare the horror of others by going barefoot. I would recommend leather flats for the same reason as pumps. 

My pick: Ann Taylor Laddy Quilted Leather Ballet Flats
Advanced: Try flats with demure embellishments (Tory Burch)ddddd


11. Camisole: These can be the ones found in your closet. A white and a black camisoles are musts.

12. Legging: I prefer the none see-through ones that are supple and not prone to snags. Purchase slightly better quality ones to avoid awkward moments when your legging snags in office.

13. Skinny Leather Belt: A simple belt can make you look even more put together. It will accent your whole look when belted with trousers or it can make you look more sophisticated over a cardigan and skirt. Opt for a leather belt so it lasts. AT leather belts can be around $10-15 when on sale.


14. Medium-Sized Leather Handbag: It should be a perfect everywhere bag whether going to work, to lunch, to dinner, or go shopping. It should be large enough to hold whatever you need during the day, but not so large that it makes you look out of proportion or if it makes you look awkward running with it. And always go for leather because it lasts years after purchase and color will not become dull after years of use.
(Ann Taylor Gallery Tote & Zara Mini City Bag)t

15. Statement Scarf/Necklace: I was never a big scarf person, but it accents your basic t-shirt, trench and LBD.
My Pick: Ann Taylor Striped Silk Square Scarf
Advanced: J.Crew Necklacesq

With extra 60% off sales every so often and 50% off full price items, Ann Taylor is a great place to pick up some great deals. (60% off with code SAVE60 till midnight 7/7/2014)
Zara has summer sale in June and winter sale in late December, great time to pick up some essentials as well.
Sign up for store newsletters and you’ll know exactly when the sales are.

Here’s a guide I find useful for wardrobe essentials. It analyzes whether to splurge or to save.

And here are some blogs that I find inspirations for work outfits: Jean from Extra Petite, Mary from the Classy Cubicle, and The New Professional for some bits and tips

Thanks for reading and let me know if this has been helpful!

Categories: Style, Wardrobe Tips

Fashion | Love is in Full Swing: Affordable and Classy Finds

As more and more spring collections debut, I’ve been seeing more and more full skirts, fluted or swinging hems. This trend away from the tighter fitting pencil skirts is a blessing for fuller bottom gals as this cut hides your curves in the most flattering way. PhotoGrid_1396116850325Seems to me AT Loft is having a comeback with their design because I’ve been wanting a nude swing skirt for awhile and Ann Taylor Loft’s Crepe Fluted Skirt seems to fit exactly what I am looking for. I’ve set my eyes on another one of their skirts and I’m hopeful while waiting to receive them in the mail.

1. Zara Pink Skirt $59.50
2. Ann Taylor Loft Seamed Flounce Skirt (Aqua Stream) $59.50
3. Ann Taylor Loft Vintage Crepe Fluted Skirt (Shimmer Peach) $69.50 (similar here)

And this of course also applies to dresses, which is trickier to maneuver with curve hugging materials. However, a trick to remember is that a stiff material and a good cut can cure all ills.

PhotoGrid_13961169743011. Ann Taylor Tweed Flounce Dress $149
2. Ann Taylor Loft Doubleweave Flounce Dress $98
3. Ann Taylor Loft Vintage Crepe Skirt Dress $79.50

Sale Alert: Ann Taylor Loft has 40% off friends and family sales going on (Promotional Code: Friends2), Ann Taylor has 40% off all top and additional 40% on sales

Categories: Style

Reviews | Zara Picks: Spring 2014

If you’ve been following my posts (here, here and here), you would know that Zara is one of my favorite brands. It had always been on trend, reasonable price, and durable quality. However, this season, I set my eyes on two dresses and they’ve both returned as disappointments. PhotoGrid_1395764037743When I was browsing the “new this week”, these two dresses caught my attention immediately. The bold print on the left is perfect for summer and that subtle neutral/ivory colorblock is on the dot for spring.


PhotoGrid_1395765394651When worn, even with my petite frame of 5’4″ , it looked proportional even if it became an above knee dress instead of a mini on the taller model. The orange patches looked washed out on the model, but it is actually a fuller color.

PhotoGrid_1395765436298The back has a gaping hole held together by a weirdly designed button feature. It wasn’t shown on the model with her long hair, but it bothered me.

PhotoGrid_1395765888228Like: I love the bold print and the breathable cotton fabric. The silhouette looked flattering on my frame. It has pockets even though it is just a patch of cloth sewn on the dress.

Dislike: The dress is not lined. It felt very flimsy. Someone described it as a table linen upon touching it. The execution was rough and the stitches were coming off. If it were half the price, I might have considered purchasing it.

Verdict: I love the print, knew it would turn heads, but for the quality, I’d save it for something else. So back it goes.


PhotoGrid_1395765553359It looked like a beautiful dress and I wished with all my heart that it would be so when I received my package. When I touched the fabric, it dawned on me that with the rising material and labor costs, the quality can only go downhill. The fabric is not the thick and supple like the past structured dresses I’ve purchased from Zara.
PhotoGrid_1395765594283 I would give it full score for the design, but none for execution. The color is lovely, but the flimsy fabric allowed for unwanted folds and shadows, which is not flattering.

If you were excited that there were pockets, you would be exasperated when you see the lining.  It not only covers half of the dress, but the pocket area just look sad. And when I tried on the dress, the cheap polyester lining clung to my skin in a very uncomfortable way.PhotoGrid_1395765674470There is also an odd security like round impression on the side of the dress that I’ve never noticed. I suspect it was to prevent items been stolen from the factory and reproduced elsewhere.

Like: Love the color, love the design and idea, love that there are two pockets with the colorblock pattern

Dislike: The fabric is thin and not soft. It does not hug your curve, but instead bulges here and there in an unacceptable manner. The lining is cheap and uncomfortable and it is only half-lined.

Verdict: I really wished this dress would be better because I really like the design being so classy and elegant, but alas, for a made in China dress with hole on the side from the security tag, this is a heart sinking pass.


Categories: Reviews

My Encounter with Zara: on Special Prices


The first time I learned about the brand Zara was in 2007 as a college freshman. I was walking around in Union Square in San Francisco when I stumbled into the store that I would later spend too much money in.

Everyone knows Zara as a quality fast-fashion brand enough to know that if you like something and don’t buy it right now, it might not be there in a week. Which was what I did. I do not regularly splurge on dispensable items and felt guilty swiping for the $99 wool coat, but thinking about it, with a 80% wool shell and heavy fabric, I would not be able to get such a good deal now even in Zara.

In the past six years of heavy usage, it held up pretty decent for the first 5 years. Nothing is breaking apart, but I do feel the shell thinning. I would keep it anyhow just for sentimental reasons.

Since then, I have purchased many items from Zara especially blazers, dresses, and some coats. Most of the time during the two sales season in late December and late June, but some of the it-items, I did buy at regular price. The only comfort comes from knowing the pieces you purchased are taken off the site within a week or no longer there in store the next time you visit because that tells you they will never go on sale (maybe I’m just trying to justify my splurge here).


I gave into temptation in 2012 for this Gathered Shoulder Blazer from Zara. It looked so put together and chic on me and I had to have it despite the $99.90 price tag, which really isn’t too high considering the quality and how much I would get to wear it.

Even though that season, I visited at the beginning of sales season and saw the exact same blazer for only $69.99 in my size. I was annoyed, but I had already worn it often enough to justify my purchase.

To my surprise, Zara brought the same design back and introduced it in the original navy and black for a season, the following season in red, and then kept bringing in back and I still see it this season in Spring 2014 in baby blue and bright yellow.

The price had fluctuated from $99.90 to $119.90 to $89.90 to the $69.90 now. I originally thought that it was just a pricing strategy, but when I purchased a black gathered shoulder blazer last season for $39.99 on sale, the quality was so horrid that I sent it back even at that low price.

The cut is the same, but the lining was low quality and the fabric is itchy. These I will not tolerate even at that price. This season, I have not gone into store to try out the baby blue and the yellow. I can guarantee you that the cut is fabulous, but it is up to you to decide what quality you expect in a blazer. That’s my take.



In recent seasons, there is a new “special prices” category under women. It used to be a phantom category that comes and go, but it looks like it is here to stay starting this season.

If you haven’t noticed this section and you love a good deal, you should check it out. It sounds cheesy to say this, but the prices are truly special. They are reduced by 40-60% from the regular price during regular season and it is updated sporadically. With that said, you got to be fast to snatch the real steals.


One thing to note, these special promotion runs out fast, if not faster than the sales season. You never know when Zara renews the Special Prices page, but when it does, those items run out within the day if not the morning. I’ve been able to get the jacket and pants in my size purchasing at 7am. The coat I was only able to get it in my sister’s size because I saw it around early afternoon. With that said, check out the special prices section, you never know what you would find.

Even though Zara’s quality has been slowly going downhill while price continued to climb, but you can still manage to get some good steals here or there.

Categories: Style