The Valentine’s Vixen

It’s the day after Valentine’s, and all through the house, there is chocolate and lingerie and it’s strewn all about.

All over the word ladies go crazy for ruffles, silk and lace. They wax and shave, paint there’s nails and buy a brand new shade of red lipstick with a sexy name like, “Vixen”, “Seduction” or “Red Hot”.

But why, for some, does Feb. 14 suddenly inspire  a need to feel sexy? Sure, it’s fun and, for most women,  getting that dolled up is a lot of work for an average evening, but there are many ways to feel sexy any day of the year, not just “Valentine’s Day.”

Brooklyn Shirley, a sales associate at Aren’t We Naughty, says that while the first weeks of February do bring in more customers and new clients, the other 50 weeks of the year are just as profitable for the popular sex shop.

“All our lingerie sells fairly well throughout the year. The panties sell the most; the schoolgirl outfits are always a crowd pleaser any time of year, and we sell stockings like nobody’s business.”

Shirley says she doesn’t wait for Valentine’s day to buy or wear lingerie; she recommends wearing something as small as a bra with some sexy lace ruffles around the cup to make any women feel sexy any time.

“My ideal sexy outfit for any day, would be thigh-high stockings, peep-toe heels and a black or white corset and garter – the whole shebang really. I don’t need Valentine’s day to feel sexy –  no women should.”

~A*

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The Androgynist

Ottawa Winterlude was in full-swing, but when I met Ms. Wallace downtown on Sunday, it wasn’t to go skating.
We had a mission – to find the perfect hoodie.

Anique is a 21-year-old, soon-to-be journalism graduate. But before she heads out to take on the world, she plans to continue her education and expand into the field of communications. And while she may not sport a hoodie and skinny jeans when she lands a fancy job with a big NGO – that’s how she’s most comfortable.

When it comes to her style, Anique strives to find a balance between clothes which are overly masculine or super feminine. Her compromise, as she says, is often found in an ambiguously styled tee with a small girly detail; like a floral print lining, for instance. “That’s my out,” she says.

Her perfect hoodie will be a black or blue zip-up and be simple – no print, no pattern, no graphic.

Let’s see how our search panned out.

~A*

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The Vintage Queen

“I turned 26 this year and I’m trying to re-invent myself,” Mandie tells me as we embark on the days shopping excursion. “This is the first year I’ve really tried to find my sense of style. I’m focusing on single pieces that I can have forever.”

Miss Mandie Brown is a vintage clothing buff and consultant at Herbal Magic in Orleans. Her go-to outfit is a T-shirt, baggy sweater and leggings with “awesome” layers of jewelry. “I live in leggings – and I’ll probably die in leggings,” she jokes.

She loves shirt-dresses and anything flowing. Her favourite combination is black with a nice pastel, and save for the occasional bold piece, she tends to stay away from big prints or patterns.

We’re on route to Ragtime, one of Mandie’s favourite locations for all-things vintage.
“It’s the ultimate accessory store, it’s the place to go in Ottawa,” she says.

But unfortunately, when we arrive at the unmistakeable, purple brick storefront, we discover Ragtime is closed.
No matter, Mandie decides we should torture ourselves a little and head to Holt Renfrew instead.

“Sometimes I shop at Holt Renfrew when there’s a sale, but mostly I just go to admire,” she says. “[When I go] I visualize finding the same styles at Value Village. Why spend $170 on something when I can find the same thing for $6. I love Value Village.”

Mandie in her Oscar de la Renta Tiger-Print Blouse (Polka Dot Blouse and Multi-Strand Pearl Necklace; Value Village)

Mandie has spent somewhere around 10 years accumulating a vast collection of vintage items ranging from clothing and accessories, to pillows and other home decor. She has become skilled at scouring the racks of vintage oases, and has found some rather impressive items; like a Diane Von Furstenberg scarf, a Badgley Mischka camisole and a tiger-print blouse from Oscar de la Renta.

At Holt Renfrew, Mandie chooses two silk Joie blouses, a Robbi & Nikki cotton tank and a Wildfox cotton tee with a Victorian-styled polo print.

100% Cotton, Polo Pony Unisex Tee, Wildfox, from Holt Renfrew, $99

“Oh no… I wish I didn’t come here – I LOVE this, it’s stunning!” she says of one of the Joie “Mikko”  blouse (it’s $185). “I think I might have to come back on pay-day.”

100% Cotton tank with Lace Overlay, Robbi&Nikki, from Holt Renfrew, $195

After vowing to return for her beloved blouse, we head back to the car.

Mandie was going give me a brief tutorial of her hunting methods at Value Village, but we’re running out of time. Instead, we go by her apartment where she introduces me to her many bins of fantastic finds.

There, the tables turn as I pillage her collection and begin stacking up a pile of my own must-haves; her apartment has become my fitting room.

Mandie with just two of her many treasure bins.

Mandie will be heading overseas in a few months to live, work and travel. Although she always wanted to open her own boutique, this dream will have to wait. For now, since she can’t possible bring her entire collection with her (and will undoubtedly accumulate more over the course of her travels) she plans to sell off her stockpile to other vintage collectors and retailers in the area – and luckily, that includes me.

~A*

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Mandie’s Look:

Cotton Sweater, Suzy Shier, $25; Black Blouse, vintage, Value Village, $4.99; White Camisole, vintage, $20; Black Cotton Leggings, Fairweather, $5; Necklace, Vintage, Ragtime, $20

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The Romantic

It’s a sunny Sunday morning when the lovely Mrs. Stephanie Earle picks me up for our shopping adventure. Stephanie is a 27-year-old massage therapist and personal trainer (she’s starting an outdoor boot camp this summer for anyone looking to get fit and fabulous for the beach this year.) The day’s mission: finding the perfect blazer.

“It’s good to have one really good quality blazer,” she says, “something with a really good shape.”  Stephanie’s ideal find will have three-quarter length sleeves, a tailored collar, silk cuffs and come low to cover her bum (that way she can wear it with jeans or leggings.)

She tells me her style has somewhat of a split personality. “The way I dress at work is so different. I have to wear black pants and I need to be comfortable, so I usually wear sneakers and Lululemon pants, because they’re really well-made and you can wash them all the time without losing the quality; and I can’t really wear any accessories or jewelry, so I’ll wear a T-shirt with a fun print or a bright colour.”

But when she’s not mending muscles, she likes have a little more fun with her wardrobe. “I like to express myself more [when I’m not working]. I wear a lot of black and usually stick with greys, beiges or whites and save the bright colours for my accessories; like a bright pink purse.”

Stephanie thinks practicality, comfort and femininity when it comes to her style. She gravitates towards natural fabrics, like drapey cottons that are flowing and romantic, and  loves  anything with lace or a light girlish ruffle. She’s even found a way to incorporate this fanciful nature into her athletic gear; when we’re in Lululemon (a store in which she gets very excited) she points to a  spandex workout tank with ruffles along the back. “I have that one, isn’t it gorgeous?!”

After perusing some stores, we find ourselves in GAP after Stephanie spots a classic black blazer in the display window. She gathers an armful of items; two black blazers – one classic, the other double-breasted; a dusty-rose coloured T-shirt with gold button details, and some workout gear, and we head to the fitting room.

First she tries the  little black spandex skirt with built-in undies and a matching top. Then she tries the t-shirt with the blazers. “Both are nice,” she says. “But I love the first one, I could wear it with anything!”

This GAP double-breasted stretch blazer is exactly what she's been looking for.

But then she hangs it back on the hook. And as we head out of the fitting room she turns to the blazer one last time and sighs. “Too bad I can’t afford you.”

Both blazers are almost exactly what she’s looking for; but it’s been less than three months since her wedding, and she and her husband just bought a new house. She has stayed strong; fighting temptation around every corner. Although this is her “investment piece”, she has promised her husband that she will only look this time. And look she has. “I’ve been good today,” she says as we pull out of the parking garage. “I just won’t tell Kevin I payed $20 for parking.”

"Goodbye blazer, too bad I can't afford you right now."

I think Stephanie’s style is less of a split personality, but more of a balanced partnership. She loves extravagant things, but is also somewhat realistic. She is fit and strong, but also soft and feminine. Her ruffled work-out garb is a perfect example. And the fact that she stuck by her promise to her husband and didn’t buy that perfect blazer – well hey, that’s totally romantic.

~A*

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Stephanie’s Look:

Scarf, JACOB, $10 (was $20); Stretch Cotton Dress, Mexx, gift; High-Waisted Pleather Leggings, Wolford, from Aritzia, $65; Suede Booties, Spring, $30 (were $70)

Wool POLINA Coat, Soia&Kyo, from Allegro, $253 (was $399)

Bag: Madison dotted op convertible hobo, Coach, $278

Check out more of Stephanie’s fabulous finds below!

"This shirt is an awesome deal!" Mauve shirt-dress with ruching and snap details, RW&CO, $10 (was $40)

Although she really enjoyed the dress, it was just a little too big in the arms.

I love these! They're workout skirts but they have these little built-in underwear shorts. I don't think I'd wear this to the gym, but outside running, for sure!"

GAPBody Nylon and Spandex Ruched Active Skirt ($39.50) and Active Tank ($39.50)

A nice colour and not too bright for everyday wear (Dolman Hardware T, Cotton, GAP, $19.95)

"I LOVE this blazer, it fits so well and I can wear it with anything!" (poly-spandex, double-breasted blazer, GAP, $108)

"I like this one, but there's only two left and one is too big and the other's too small." ( Wool blazer, JACOB, $70 was $150)

Long Flared Cotton and Angora skirt, ZARA, $19.99 (was $69.90)

Canvas Trench Coat, ZARA, $39.99 (was $109)

"I had to try this. When I was younger, I used to always wear leggings and big sweaters with cats on them." Fine Knit Animal Jersey with Peter Pan collar, ZARA $15.99 (was $39)

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A few things you should know

I love shopping. It’s a flaw, it really is. The term “shopoholic” is a just title for people who, like me, have a addiction to acquiring lots of, lets say, pretty things.

Often,  we “shopoholics” don’t actually have money for most of the pretty things that we absolutely must buy. Yet, we convince ourselves that we need them (and yes, there are many, many things that I absolutely “need” – like every pretty dress or pair of shoes I see, or, ghasp, sigh, that fabulous bag!).

This devastating ability to find necessity in almost anything is a trademark talent of mine. There are a number of common, um, excuses we’ll call them, which I, and most shopping addicts use regularly. I expect we will encounter many of these over the course of this blog, which will follow a number of stylish woman on their shopping expeditions, and provide some insight into how they create, and achieve, their characteristic look.

So, I thought I should begin  by providing a brief, but thorough, introduction to the most common of these excuses.

First, there is the ever-popular “investment” defense; This is anything that you”really, really need,” but is way beyond your price range. For example; a pair $250 jeans, or, a $500 clutch – these are items that will “last forever.” So as long as you don’t gain any weight, or need to carry more than a blackberry and lip gloss at any give time, both those things are, indeed, a very “good investment purchase.”

Another good justification that I use often, is the “replacement piece.” This is anything that we already own, in one form or another. Like an everything cardigan, or a pair of black jeans that just aren’t as nice as the newer, prettier ones you saw. So using the everything cardigan and the jeans as an example; your cardigan may have a pull, or a missing button (which you could easily sew on but choose not to) and the new one with the flower that you love from the spring collection would be a “perfect replacement” for your old one (which you swear you’ll throw out, but you won’t). Or, your jeans have a small rip in the leg (which totally looks awesome, but that’s not conducive the excuse you’re trying to create for yourself [or for your husband, boyfriend, mother etc] ) or, they’ve faded and are now a completely different style of pant because they have become far more casual. Therefore, those new jeans, the ones that just came out; the ones that make your ass look fantastic and were totally made for you, well those would be the “perfect replacement” for those old faded ones.

My personal favourite, the excuse which I catch myself using most, is “THE missing piece” defense. This one’s fairly straight forward, and it’s the easiest to use because it doesn’t involve quick and creative mind manipulation. This justification is simply, “I love this! It’s perfect! AND I don’t have one, so I MUST need it, otherwise my wardrobe will never be complete.”

Do you see how this works now? There is a way to justify buying anything you want by simply convincing yourself that it’s something you need. Whether you need it because it’s an “investment piece”, a “replacement piece”, or “THE missing piece”, you can always find an excuse.

This dangerous skill has run many a women deep into debt. Thankfully, I do not own a credit card (which I intentionally did to prevent my inevitable undoing). I have, however, sacrificed a meal or two for something pretty that I completely, and absolutely needed. But it’s OK, it was investment.

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