Dec 16, 2014

The One Styling Piece That'll Fix Every Outfit, Ever


You know the type of girl. The one sitting across the train from you with scuffed boots that look stylish and not like they were dragged out of a dollar bin. With red lips that never seem to fade no matter how many sips of coffee she takes, a beanie that slouches over her bangs just so, and a cocoon coat that doesn't  look like she stole it from dad's closet. And to top it all off? A blanket scarf wrapped all haphazardly but perfectly around her neck. We hate this girl. She's perfect and makes us want to go home and toss our whole closet down the garbage chute and start again from scratch.

But big secret revealed: she's not as amazing as we begrudgingly think she is. She might be even having an off day and wearing her baggiest, comfiest pieces. But do you know why we'll never guess it?

Because she owns a blanket scarf. They. Fix. Everything. Want to wear your baggy sweater and a pair of leggings, but don't want to look like a shmo? No problem, wrap a blanket scarf around your neck and now you look Mary-Kate-Olson-intentionally-sloppy. Or, how the common folk call it: stylish. Don't feel like trying this morning and just keep coming up with a boring black and white dress combo? That's perfectly fine. Slap a blanket scarf on the ensemble and you're now chic in a minimal way. Have a coat you're bored to tears with? Pep it back up with an over-sized blanket scarf in a complementing color. You see? All problems: fixed.  Now why don't you own one yet?


PS: For more scarf layering posts like this one, check out: The One Infinity Scarf That Isn't Like All the OthersHow to Layer Your Maxi Dresses for the ColdHow to Style Sheer Pieces for Fall, and  Tip on How to Style Blanket Scarves: There's More Than One Way!

DRESS: Thrifted (store similar: here | vintage similar: here, herehere)
BLOUSE: American Apparel
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
PURSE: Thrifted (vintage similar: here, here)
SCARF: Marshalls (store similar: here)
HAT: Urban Outfitters (store similar: here)
BELT: Thrifted

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Dec 15, 2014

How We Wore It: 10 Ways to Style Cardigans Right Now

Ever seen a trend, liked it, but weren't necessarily sure if you could style it in a "you" kind of way? "How We Wore It" will show you how different women braved the trend and played with it until they got it to fit in with their styles- and hopefully that'll inspire us to poke a toe out of our comfort zones and try something new, too! Today's trend will be cardigans. Happy creating!


Visit the sources for more styling inspo!: ONE| TWO| THREE| FOUR| FIVE| SIX| SEVEN| EIGHT| NINE| TEN

Dec 13, 2014

What to Wear to A...


Slap on a beanie and grab  friends closest to your apartment and head to the burger bar for crispy curly fries, good beer, bad music, and the occasional fried twinkie. You'll be the cutest one dipping her fries in ranch what with your cozy skirt look. Take one of your bright summer skirts and make it winter appropriate by layering it with a traditional cold-weather hue, like chartreuse or mustard. Add in a suede coat and brown booties to further cement you're not confused over what season it is, and pop on a beanie for good measure. Now, who's buying the second round of drafts? Ugh, Margret never offers. Stinkin' Margret. 

  1. Little Miss Vintage 3 pleated floral skirt
  2. H&M wool blend sweater
  3. Mango leather biker jacket
  4. Mango buckle leather ankle boots
  5. H&M knit hat

You know how you misplaced that file and had zero idea what your boss was going on and on about during that meeting? Well, you hid the frazzlement rather well- I applaud you. But now it's time to shrug on your coat, walk-run to the elevator, and speed dial your best friend, letting him know it's Emergency Manhattan Time. There's nothing a cute bartender and a drink in a fancy glass can't fix. And you're dressed the part what with your casual slash done-up outfit. To achieve the look, bring out the pastels in your winter wardrobe by choosing greys, camels, and blush tones. Pick a plaid skirt in different shades of charcoal, and pair it with an oatmeal colored sweater. Bonus points if the sweater is a bit baggy, to offset the primness of the traditional skirt. Then choose a pair of very modern loafers, pick outerwear in a poppy, almost Spring-like color, and round off the look with a slouchy pom beanie for good measure.

  1. Jessamity wool plaid skirt (only $21!)
  2. Zara cashmere poncho with side slits
  3. J Crew cocoon coat
  4. Belle & Clive fur pompom beanie
  5. Zara fringe flats 

In the mood to just curl up and watch a good movie? Forgo the sweatpants and Netflix cue and instead grab a bottle of cheap wine and head to your coffee shop that's playing classics like Addam's Family and Manhattan. Laugh over Wednesday's death stares as you trade some of your wine with the table next to you for a piece of their tartlet. And what do you wear to an affair like this one? Easy: something fancy but with a casual twist. Give your metallic skirts some air-time by pairing them with cozy and laid-back pieces like tartan sweaters and pompom slippers. To add a touch of polish to the quirky look, add a duster vest in a deep hue to offset the flashiness of the skirt, and a fur hat to give you a touch of winter. Now lean back and try to think of a polite way to ask for a another bite of your neighbor's pastry. 

  1. Height of Vintage liquid gold dress
  2. Topshop windowpane check sweater
  3. Topshop pom-pom velvet slippers
  4. Topshop hybrid slim coat
  5. Topshop fur hat

Sometimes it's nice to forgo the fancy restaurants and the crowded dance floors and just go to a movie with your hunnie. Cuddle up to each other- armrest be damned- and whisper verdicts over previews as you eat popcorn by the handful. To ensure that you're extra snuggly for your date, go for a simple but chic look. A jumpsuit is always comfortable, no matter the occasion, and you can add some interest to the piece by pairing it with a white pussybow blouse. Keep the outfit casual by pairing accessories in neutrals- like olive suede booties and oatmeal colored hats- allowing you to let your outerwear be the statement maker. A soft, plaid number always works for any season, and the neutral tones ensure that it'll match with any look you whip together. Now try not to spill the soft drink that's wedged between you and enjoy the show!

  1. New Old Fashion Vintage plaid coat
  2. H&M strapless jumpsuit
  3. H&M blouse with bow (only $29!)
  4. Topshop classic fedora hat
  5. Topshop Missile Chelsea boot

PS: Want more ideas on what to wear to winter shindigs? Check out this What to Wear to A post with a Moscow Mule Slushy Date, this one with a Wine and Tapas Bar, and this one with a Truffle Making Class 

Dec 12, 2014

6 Outfits to Try This Weekend

Weekends are meant for playing and exploring, and when one does that she needs to dress the part. You can't just wear any old dress to that new underground speakeasy bar. And will pants or a jumpsuit work better to that one book reading you heard about last week? In the spirit of that, here's a new series offering you fun ideas to try out this weekend, as well as suggestions on what to wear to them. 

Chicago readers- these are real events happening this weekend. And everyone outside our area, go find these in your own town! I want to read all about it come Monday :)


  1. Play with contrasts by pairing flannel with an evening skirt and head to the restaurant Table, Donkey, and Stick in Logan Square for their Wine Tuesdays. This is for all you wine enthusiasts (or just people in a chi-chi mood): they let you try otherwise inaccessible wines that are usually impossibly to try, so if you like your reds and whites fancy, be sure not to miss out!
  2. Pair a maxi dress with a tailored velvet blazer and go to Wrigleyville for Comedy Against Humanity, an improv show where the audience has decks of Cards Against Humanity and play with the comics on stage. As Sosh described it: "The show works like the card game: the scene is set by a black card detailing a situation like "What are my parents hiding from me?", and the best answer from the audience's selection of white cards determines how the scene plays out. It's raucous, ridiculous, and perfectly offensive."
  3. Layer a midi skirt over a feminine peter pan collar dress and go to Katherine Anne's Confections in Logan Square for a truffle-making class. Wine is included, so don't worry if your baking attempts usually end up not-so-stellar. The drinks will ease the pain. 
  4. Pair a tartan midi skirt with a vintage beret and head to Rebuilding Exchange's holiday bazaar in Bucktown. It's a fair made up entirely of stores and businesses that repurpose materials to make their goods, giving you a chance to buy eco-friendly gifts for the Christmas tree. Tacos and baked goods will also be involved, so be sure to pencil it in for Friday, December 12th.
  5. Top a plaid skirt with a bowler hat and go to Sauced- Emporium Bar's monthly Night Market on Tuesday, December 16th. Sip on dranks, listen to music, munch on local food, and shop from vendors around the neighborhood- all under the roof of one bar. 
  6. Tuck your cardigan into your skirt and go to the comedy show A Very Merry Mother F@#$% Christmas in Bucktown on Saturday, December 20th. Filled with stand-up, sketches, and songs, this will give you some R-rated humor in an otherwise tinsely, stocking-pinning time. Last chance to get on the naughty list, any one? 

Dec 11, 2014

A Look You Need to Copy Right Now: The French Girl

The French girl. We've all wanted to be her at one point or other. Bitten lips, perfectly messy hair, a simple style that somehow, yet, makes a statement. Words that sound like they belong in intimate corners of smokey cafe bars, and a cloud of delicate perfume clinging to her clothes. Quiet and sophisticated, with the ability to eat a croissant without a mess of crumbs down her shirt. As if she and she alone was helping Hansel and Gretel get back home. 

We've all wanted to be her, and at times it's fun to channel your inner Parisian when flicking through your sweaters and vetoing your skirts. And the key to pull it off is to think simple but classic.

In this look I went for a dark color palette, really playing up my black pieces to let the layering stand out in a non-overwhelming way. I started off with a grey turtleneck and layered a plaid pinafore dress on top. Feeling more school girl than French in the ensemble, I reached for a pleated black midi to mature the look, and then tied on a black peter pan collar to add some interest. Then add a beret, black chelsea boots, and a cross body bag, and you're ready for some macarons and chilled white wine.  Oui oui!


DRESS (worn as vest): Urban Outfitters (vintage similar: here, here, here- only $15!)
TURTLENECK: Banana Republic (store similar: here)
COLLAR: c/o Franceys Corner
SKIRT: Thrifted (store similar: here- only $9! | vintage similar: here- in blackhere- in navy)
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
PURSE: Thrifted (vintage similar: herehere- only $30!)
BERET: c/o Moonchild Vintage (vintage similar: here)

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Dec 10, 2014

Solved: How to Style Ponchos This Winter


Ah, the poncho. The classic winter piece that either evokes images of perfect bedhead waves, chelsea boots, and wide brimmed hats covering down-turned eyes. Or...of gunslingers with sweaty bandannas tied around their necks and a crushed pack of cigarettes in their back pockets. 

I get it, not everyone thinks they can pull off the cape. Or want to pull the look off. But I'm here to let the shy know that you can make this piece work in your wardrobe if you style it a certain way. And that way is minimal and urban. Clean and simple. 


I've actually had this number hanging in my closet for two years before I figured out just what to do with it. Sometimes it's a process of walking around your house (resisting the urge to whip the corners across your face a la Zorro) and figuring out if you're comfortable wearing the outfit in that way. After much trial and error, I discovered that the look felt the most natural after I styled it around an easy, minimal outfit. I'm talking about high waist black pants, collared white blouse, a wide brimmed hat, and nothing else. I let the cape be the eye catcher, and nothing else. Then, I looped a belt around my waist (where only the front was belted, and not the back. The belt went around my pants in the back, and not the cape) and called it a day. 

And what did I end up with? A sleek but cozy winter look. 


PS: For more poncho posts like this, check out: Tip on How to Style Blanket Scarves: There's More Than One Way! and How to Wear Ponchos on a Casual Day Off

TOP: American Apparel
PONCHO: Forever 21 (store similar: here | vintage similar: here, herehere)
PANTS: H&M- only $17!
BELT: Thrifted
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
HAT: Urban Outfitters (store similar: here)
NECKLACE: Urban Outfitters and Cocorrina

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Dec 8, 2014

Don't Neglect Your Button Ups: New Ways to Wear Your Collared Shirts

It's mid-December and you've got your layering game down to a tee. Over-sized sweaters are going on top of short summer dresses, turtlenecks are popped underneath strapless frocks, berets are being perched on top of knit cardigan combos, and plaid shirts balance out their sheer dress partners. You're a natural now, an absolute genius when it comes to making your winter outfits sparkle and fizz...and not murk and muddle and drag you down. about your button up shirts? Other than popping them underneath pinafores and jumpsuits, have you been letting this classic piece have its own time in the spotlight? It's tempting to just tuck it into a skirt or let it hang over a pair of high waist jeans, but there are more interesting way to wear it that you might not have thought of before.


And that is to layer it on top of lace. Take one or two crochet/ lace numbers from your summer days and button one of your collared blouses on top of the combination. Tie the shirt into a knot at the hem to give it a crop top effect, and let the juxtaposition of the cozy blouse and the delicate lace move this look into a nice outfit into an ah-mazing one. Then, add a fur collar or a chunky infinity scarf on top to both polish off the look and round out the winter mood. 

What do you think- would you try this? This southwestern top is actually a super old piece in my closet, and I was just about to toss it before I thought of pairing it this way. Since I'm not overly attached to it, I was thinking of also hemming it into a longer crop top (where the bottom will hit just an inch bellow my belly button) so I don't have to mess around with knotting it. I think it'll help it look a tad more polished/ less busy that way, too!



SHIRT: Thrifted (vintage similar: here)
LACE TOPS: Urban Outfitters (store similar: here (only $14!)here (only $20!) | vintage similar: here)
JEANS: American Apparel
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
HAT: Urban Outfitters (store similar: here)
PURSE: Thrifted (vintage similar: herehere- only $30!)
FUR COLLAR: c/o New Old Fashion Vintage (vintage similar: here)

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Dec 5, 2014

6 Outfits to Try This Weekend

Weekends are meant for playing and exploring, and when one does that she needs to dress the part. You can't just wear any old dress to that new underground speakeasy bar. And will pants or a jumpsuit work better to that one book reading you heard about last week? In the spirit of that, here's a new series offering you fun ideas to try out this weekend, as well as suggestions on what to wear to them. 

Chicago readers- these are real events happening this weekend. And everyone outside our area, go find these in your own town! I want to read all about it come Monday :)


  1. Pair a summer dress with a turtleneck and cargo jacket and head to Columbia College on Saturday, December 6th for a Pop Up Book Expo. Discover new books and finally get those that you've been meaning to read, listen in on interesting panels, and meet and talk with bonafide authors. Also, according to Chicago Mag: "Don’t miss the hilarious memoirist Rachel DeWoskin, who is giving a talk about her book Foreign Babes in Beijing, currently being adapted for HBO." Sounds like fun times!
  2. Match velvet with denim for a classic dark-bohemian look and support local businesses by going to Bridgeport's Renegade Craft Fair, which starts this Saturday, December 6th. Forget malls and instead mingle with the shop owners themselves, picking out quirky, from-the-heart Christmas gifts for your people. 
  3. Combine a sheer dress with some fall staples like plaid and knits and go to a waffles and rap concert at the Empty Bottle on Saturday, December 6th. Just like it sounds, you get to listen to local talent while munching on waffles and fried chicken into the early morning. Every concert needs to be like this. 
  4. Play with deep jewel tones and head to Lakeview to participate in Dinner with a Side of Murder this Saturday, December 6th.  One minute you're eating tasty lamb chops and the next- boom- you're being interviewed by detectives because of the murder that happened right under your nose. Spend the night requesting seconds for deserts and piecing together evidence, trying to find the culprit before the check comes to the table. 
  5. Mix prints by pairing a striped cardi with a floral midi and head to the Wicker Park bar Barley & Brass, a bar full of cozy leather seats and drinks with names like "Not a Basic Bitch", "Bitter Blonde", and "Basil Jalapeno Cobbler"...I'm especially curious to see how that last one will taste. 
  6. Style a denim jacket with a ribboned bow around the collar and head to the Hideout this Saturday, December 6th for an afternoon of free pancakes, not-free Bloody Marys and comics practicing their sets. But it's not just maple syrup and jokes at the bar- no, that'd be too easy. In between sets there are game show type of questions, the occasional puppet show, and a pie fight or two. Just what you'd expect from a bar that's open at 3 PM.

Dec 4, 2014


While most of us are taking in the changing leaves, the cozy fireplaces, and the pumpkin flavored everything, we're also trying not to struggle with dressing in interesting ways and keeping warm at the same time. Two things can go wrong when brisk winds are involved: you can dress cute and go freeze your butt off, or you can dress warm and look like a bag lady.  I always feel like I need a constant flow of inspiration to not go into lazy mode when dressing for the cold, so to help both of us out I made another Layering 101: Fall Edition! Which is your favorite tip, and which one caught your eye the most? Let me know in the comments below!


Which was your favorite tip? 

© Messages on a Napkin.Maira Gall.