The Happiest Place On Earth Part One: Classics Forward

No, not Disneyland. Stein Mart, of course.

I can't think of a better store to focus on to bridge the Budget and Occasion sections of BODS. I've been shopping here for years and the reasons are simple. Their selection is varied, sophisticated, and fashion forward. Their customer service rivals that of Franklin, Tennessee's Shi by Journeys. Their sales undercut that outlet malls and, in some cases, the discount stores.

A friend of mine had been recommending Stein Mart for quite some time before I actually took her advice and had a look for myself. I had believed their stock to be stuffy and matronly. It was just something I'd heard, but my friend's wardrobe certainly didn't fit that description. Then I started paying attention to who was making the disparaging remarks; they weren't exactly style icons! I was hooked after just one trip.

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These are a few of my most recent finds that will see a lot of use in the coming months and years. The charcoal grey wool coat on the left is a Jessica Simpson lined with leopard print. The fur collar is detachable, adding to its versatility. I apologize for the cropped shot but, rest assured, you will see more of this coat in future posts as the weather goes from cool to freezing. Two of the three pieces on the right, the boots and skirt, are also from Stein Mart. Pencil skirts are in this fall and as they are a classic shape that suits my curves and never go out of style I'm snapping them up when I find those that fit well. This petite sized, fire engine red panel skirt is the perfect length and color for fall and beyond. The knee-high boots are quite a coup for me. Not only are they deep purple suede - my favorite color - they are cut generously enough in the calf for my not-so-skinny legs. I find it extremely difficult to find over-the-calf boots so I was ecstatic to find these.

None of these pieces were on sale, meaning I paid the full Stein Mart price for them. However, "full price" usually means a savings of 30-70% off of retail. Because all three of these pieces will get a considerable amount of wear, not just this fall and winter but for some time, it makes the "per-wear" value worth every penny!

Even though by now I can maneuver ever aisle of the store like an old pro I wouldn't have two of these great garments were it not for the store's most valuable asset; its employees. I want to introduce you to a few very special sales ladies next week.

Your Support System

If there's one thing no Spashionista can do without it's support. The kind that you can always count on to be uplifting. The kind that makes you smile because you know it's always there for you. The kind that's so reassuring you know you can take on the world.

You do know I'm talking about your bra, right?

This is the second item in the "Budget" category of BODS that I will pay full price for if I have to because I think it's one of the most important articles of clothing you wear at any given time. Your bra should not only fit you properly, it should also be pretty enough to make you feel more beautiful for wearing it.

The majority of women give their underpinnings so little thought that they are wearing the wrong size bra, which consequently has the effect of making them look dumpy, lumpy, saggy and baggy. I already look Palsy so I need all the help I can get. If you've been paying attention you will also have noticed that I'm incredibly ample in the bosomage department. What I'm trying to tell you is if I can find beautiful bras that fit perfectly without breaking the bank so can you.

I am as enthusiastic about my lingerie as I am about my shoes with one major difference. Whereas I buy the majority of my shoes in person from Shi by Journeys I buy all of my bras online from Bare Necessities. After an exhaustive search both on and offline I find BN offers the widest variety of styles and sizes that meet my fit and fashion requirements.

First order of business is fit - potentially tricky if you're disabled, but doable. This is the part where all the other "bra fitting" blog posts out there tell you to go get professionally measured. I've been measured twice and they got it wrong (very!) both times. They measured me as a DD when I am, in fact, a G! You are better off doing this yourself or with trusted help, and it's easier to check for fit than it is to measure for it. Here's a great bra fit checklist. The important things to remember that the majority of women get wrong is your bra band shouldn't ride up in the back and needs to fit flush against your sternum. Your shoulder straps should fit comfortably without digging into your skin. Speaking of skin, make sure none of it is spilling out from the bra's cups. Got it?

In my book fashion is just as important as fit. Actually, when you're as well endowed as I am the revelation that you don't have to wear an ugly tank of a bra is purely blissful. Enter Elomi, the brand with styles every busty girl lusts after.

I own all of these bras and I don't mind at all if my décolletage offers a passing peek at them. These are but a sample of Bare Necessities' 1108 styles. I've tried other, less pricey brands but for me Elomi never disappoints. Fortunately BN offers inexpensive or occasional free returns. They always have some kind of sale going on as well and if you're a more common size you can almost always find a bargain. Alas, Elomi is one of those brands that only goes on sale several times a year but when it does I pounce and buy several more. I never buy the matching panties unless they are a cut that will flatter me and they are on sale; no exceptions. It's too easy to find inexpensive coordinating bottoms at places like TJ Maxx. So, like my shoes, I will pay retail for my brassieres if I have to - but I seldom do.

What about you?

Give A Girl The Right Pair Of Shoes...

and she can conquer the world.I have those shoes. I decided to start the budget section of BODS with the things that I will, on occasion, pay full price for. It's ironic that a Palsy who has trouble walking should be so obsessed, so consumed by shoes. But I am, and always have been. Even as a child with short, wide feet that were very difficult to fit I had double-buckle-t-strap Buster Browns just like the red ones in the picture.

    

In high school I was a mere 4'8" and a size 5 shoe. Platforms were all the rage so I wore them enthusiastically. Back then, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the elevation was less pronounced than it is in the newer styles so I could easily manage a 4" heel with a 1.5" platform. I even wore black patent leather platforms with my Catholic school uniform!

    

As I've gotten older the heels have begrudgingly gotten lower. My feet, which used to cooperate willingly with being shoved into constricting or delicately constructed footwear, are starting to betray me. They are prone to curling up if the shoe reveals too much toe cleavage and they occasionally swell past the point of comfort in anything but a sensible shoe.

But I'm not ready to be a sensible girl. Not yet; not entirely. Good thing I don't have to.

         

These shots are of my closet - at least, part of my closet. As you can see Mr Spashionista was good enough to add two additional shelves during the post-flood house rebuild (a topic for another day). As you can see over the years I have amassed a small hoard modest collection of shoes, even some that aren't pictured, and I wear all of them. My winter boots and high heels are at present on the top shelves. My flats and summer shoes occupy the bottom shelf and floor.

There are some great bargains here. The Lucky brand clogs, Vera Wang grey pointy flats, Anne Klein black rosebuds, Hot Topic black and pink Mary Janes and purple Converse hightops all had for a grand total of $85. All of my high heels were likewise purchased on sale or from thrift stores.

But this post isn't about the bargains. It's about the shoes I will pay full price for, and why.

It always boils down to a boy, doesn't it?

I look ultra-Spazzy in this picture - but don't look at me - look at my wonderful friend. His name is Matthew Bretherick and he is the only reason I would ever pay full price for a pair of shoes. I own 16 pairs of shoes and boots that are in some manner connected to him, and I paid retail for some of them.

Intrigued? You'll have to wait for the next installment. Matty is too important to be relegated to a footnote (pun intended) on a single post.

In Fashion It's All About The BODS

No, it's not what you think.

BODS is the acronym every Spashionista needs to remember. It stands for budget, occasion, disability, and shape, and it's the encapsulation of everything you need to know to have the ultimate wardrobe that works exclusively for you.

Budget - This much-maligned term should be approached from a positive point of view instead of from a place of limitation. While it's true that our money seems to buy less with each passing day there's no reason why, regardless of our income, we shouldn't always try to get the best value for the lowest price. This is especially true for the majority of the disabled for whom disposable income and transportation can be hard to come by.

Occasion - Your wardrobe should be appropriate for the places you go, the people you're with, and the events in which you're participating. If you work in an office you won't last long if you wear sweats or a tube top. On the other end of the spectrum you'll seem oddly out of place if you wear an formal dress to a sporting event.

Disability - Those of us with a physical handicap have to take this into account with every article of clothing we wear. If you're on crutches chances are good you can't walk on 4" heels - whereas if you're in a wheelchair these may be quite doable. You may want to rethink a very short skirt if you're spastic because you may inadvertently show off more than you intended. Get the picture?

Shape - Here's where your body type comes into play. Take a little time to figure out what your true shape and size are. Every body type has it's blessings and it's curses. If you're smart you'll quickly learn how to maximize the former while minimizing the latter.

That's the synopsis of BODS. Next time I'll start what will be a series of posts focusing on clothing options from full-price to a fraction of retail.

BODS