Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Nicole, you weren't supposed to shop in January!" Hold your horses, and I'll explain!

what i bought january

After I wrote my What I Bought in December post, but before January 1, I went to Old Navy one last time to see if there was anything I needed. I'm glad I went, because this Old Navy sweater has been worn about once a week since I bought it. See? Not actually a January purchase!

Additionally, I did mention that these grey flats (which have been on my wishlist forever) have been back-ordered for a few months and finally became available on January 5. I put in my order on December 31 (I tried to wait for a New Year's sale, but one never showed up), but I technically purchased them before January as well.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may have seen that I did make one purchase this month. I had intended to wait and make this purchase in February, but the way things worked out with the Valentine's feature I'm working on, I realized that I actually needed to take photos before then and therefore needed to make an order ahead of time. Whew! Luckily, I received a gift card from work so that I could get these pretties:

what i bought january2

A little impractical? Sure. Some of the most beautiful and Valentine's-appropriate shoes I've ever seen? Most definitely. I'll talk more in my goals post about whether or not these count against my shopping freeze. Today is all about the budget!

As you may remember, I've decided on a quarterly budget of $500 for this year. The current quarter is between December and February. Last month I spent $314.77 of that $500. Let's see where I am now!

Old Navy Side-Vent Sweater - $18
J.Crew Factory Suede Amelia Flats - $58.50
Molly Ankle Strap Mid Heeled Shoes via ASOS - $38 (purchased with gift card)

Monthly Total: $76.50
Quarterly Budget Spent: $391.27
Quarterly Budget Remaining: $108.73

Do I have plans for that remaining $108? Why, yes, I do! I intend to buy this J.Crew Factory striped breton tee as soon as my freeze is up. I also noticed this month that I kept reaching for a solid-colored skater skirt that doesn't exist in my closet anymore, so that's on my wishlist for February as well. I'm interested in trying this one and this one, so we'll see how that goes.

As always, I'm linking up with Fran and the budgeting bloggers. Be sure to check out what everyone else bought this month! What did you pick up in January?

what i bought in january

old navy smock dress knit scarf1 old navy smock dress knit scarf6 old navy smock dress knit scarf3 old navy smock dress knit scarf7 old navy smock dress knit scarf5 old navy smock dress knit scarf2
dress: Old Navy (current version) // scarf: c/o Interlaced Goods // tights: Loft // booties: old American Eagle (similar) // ring: c/o Limbo Jewelry

photos by Chelsea Laine Francis

I realized recently that y'all haven't seen this Old Navy swing dress in a while, even though I've been wearing it in pretty constant rotation since the last blog sighting. Now that the temps have dropped (finally, sometimes), I pair it with tights, and I honestly like it this way just as much. In fact, I think I'll keep collecting these Old Navy swing dresses as long as Old Navy puts them out because they're stupid comfortable and so flattering. It doesn't get better than that.

Let's talk about flattering for a sec. It's a word I've mentioned before because it's a naughty word in some body positive communities, but one I really appreciate still. For me, it's about feeling my best and feeling like my perceived best features are being highlighted. I'm a girl with a short torso, round shoulders, a full tummy, and long legs. Every day I wear clothes is an opportunity to dress this body in a way that makes me feel happy so I can do the things I love to do: write, snuggle with Contessa, eat ice cream, cheer on my friends, be a great partner to Dago. Flattering is all about self-perception. It's about celebrating the parts you love, not so much hiding parts you don't (though it's okay if that happens in the process. We're all human here!).

When I see myself in this outfit, I know I look good, so I'm going to skip and smile and strut and say hi to strangers. Not because everything is in its right place -- my shoulders are no less round and my stomach is no less full -- but because it's my body and it's the only one I've got.

Me and this swing dress have some work to do, so we'll see you on the flipside!

still swinging

peplum sweater knit beanie1 peplum sweater knit beanie2 peplum sweater knit beanie9 peplum sweater knit beanie8 peplum sweater knit beanie3 peplum sweater knit beanie4 peplum sweater knit beanie7 peplum sweater knit beanie11 peplum sweater knit beanie10
sweater: Loft (currently sold out, similar) // jeans: AG c/o Shopbop // shoes: Loft (similar) // hat: Target // scarf: old Francesca's (similar)

Can you ask for anything more of your winter outfits than cozy cute? When it's cold out, I want to be as warm as possible, while also being as cute as I am in the summer months, just with more clothes on. Cozy cute is best attained with chunky knit layers in pretty colors, shapes, and patterns.

Example A: I've known since last spring that I wanted a peplum sweater for winter. After wearing the heck out of both Loft tank tops (seen here and here) (yeah, I bought the same top in two colors. #noshame) all spring and summer, I had a feeling that a similar style would be my go-to in the cooler months. I searched and searched, not being very impressed with my options, and then I stumbled upon the most gorgeous and perfect sweater on that same darn Loft trip when I picked up these two blouses. The sweater is made of some magical fabric I've never felt before (edit: the tag says poly/spandex blend, but I think it's lying). It's ribbed, sort of, but in a horizontal stripe instead of vertical, which seems to make a bunch of difference in how it fits because I hate all things vertically ribbed just on principle. Anyway, all of this to say that it's super warm and super comfy. The little ruffled peplum bit hits me at exactly the right place along my waist/hips, making it my favorite item to throw on when I'm not feeling so cute. (See, I just want to be cute all the time!)

Add a pom-pom beanie, infinity scarf, and my favorite pair of sneakers, and I couldn't be more cozy as I go about my day. Plus, I look like I'm a person who values cute-over-cozy because the 'fit is so adorable. It's a win-win!

cozy cute

When I was putting together my favorite outfits of 2015 post, I had an a-ha moment about my approach to style and shopping. Everything I purchase falls into one of two categories: staple or statement. I've learned over the years that having a whole closet of statement pieces makes it pretty tough to get dressed every day, and a whole closet of staple pieces can be pretty boring.

When friends ask me to shop with them or take a look at their closet to help put together outfits, I really to try show them how to highlight those super special statement pieces with the staples they already own (or should be stocking up on!).

I wanted to try a thing here where I give a little styling advice using staple items you might own (or have on your wishlist) to make outfits around a really fabulous statement piece.

I guess before we get started, I should define the difference between the two. For me, anyway, a staple item is something you can wear with almost anything else in your closet. It doesn't have to be plain or neutral necessarily, but it's something you wear again and again. Staple pieces are workhoses that help to make outfits from the rest of your clothes. A statement piece, on the other hand, is something that stands out as being special, while also being typically less versatile. Therefore, by pairing the right staples with your statement, you can make a really killer outfit!

This week I was inspired to share an outfit for work and one for play using this J.Crew Factory ikat skirt. Y'all know I'm a sucker for a fun skirt, but I also know they can be a little intimidating for someone just trying to define their personal style or get a grasp on how all the clothes in their closet fit together. I'm hoping this series can be helpful and inspire outfits you love to wear and feel yourself in!

First up, the work look:

jcrew factory ikat skirt 1
Statement Piece: J.Crew Factory ikat skirt

Staple Pieces:
1. White Button Down: J.Crew Favorite Shirt
2. Neutral Flats: J.Crew Factory Suede Amelia Flats
3. Matching Bag: Old Navy Reversible Faux-Leather Tote
4. Delicate Pendant Necklace: Forever 21 Charm Necklace

I can't say that this outfit would be appropriate for all work settings, of course, but there are things here that you can hopefully take into your own office-facing wardrobe! A lot of people would claim that a sharp white button down is a necessity in any woman's closet. I actually don't own one(!!!), and haven't since I was on the speech and debate team in high school. But, it's on my wishlist to add one this year because I finally have enough relevant items in my closet for it to make sense. For me, a white button down is the super-chic and dressed up sister of the chambray shirt; highly versatile, easy to wear, and a quick way to look pulled together.

When paired with a bright printed skirt and a few neutral accessories, you'll come across as smart and stylish. One of the reasons for that is that none of these pieces compete with each other. The shirt reads as professional and respectable, which gives you room to have a little fun with the skirt. Pale nude flats and tote keep everything toned down, letting the skirt do the talking instead of being a walking conversation through your office. Speaking of your office, be ready for the compliments to roll in! (P.S. If you've been around here for a minute, you may notice that this is basically a copy of this outfit I wore over the summer. It's a formula that works!)

Next up, an outfit for weekend brunch, shopping, and low-key festivities:
  jcrew factory ikat skirt 2
Statement Piece: J.Crew Factory ikat skirt

Staple Pieces:
1. Denim Jacket: Gap 1969 Heritage Denim Jacket
2. Grey Tee: Hanes V-Neck Pocket Tee
3. Neutral Ankle Booties: Sam Edelman Petty Booties
4. Long Pendant Necklace: Ann Taylor Braided Tassel Pendant

If we're being honest, I wish I were wearing this outfit right now. A denim jacket and a grey tee are total workhorses in my closet, both being worn at least twice a week. Luckily for you, they're perfect for dressing down a pretty skirt for when you want to look cute, but not like you tried too hard. 

My taupe booties are 100% my most worn pair of shoes, so if you're thinking of investing in a pair of boots this season, make them this shade. They're quiet and stylish, making them a great punctuation to a cute and casual outfit. I also think that having one long necklace in your collection makes styling anything easier, and this tassel necklace will go with just about anything.

Do you have an approach that you take to shopping and style? Do you have any of these staple items in your own closet?

staples and a statement | j.crew factory ikat skirt

pink blouse green parka1 pink blouse green parka2 pink blouse green parka3 pink blouse green parka5 pink blouse green parka6 pink blouse green parka8 pink blouse green parka9 pink blouse green parka10 pink blouse green parka11
parka: Madewell c/o Shopbop // blouse: Loft // jeans: Gap Factory // booties old American Eagle (similar) // necklace: c/o Andrea Montgomery

One of my most-loved trends of the last year is definitely #botanicalsonblush, so I was just tickled when Chelsea and I went to shoot these photos and found a whole bunch of palm trees to pose with. Chels couldn't get over how quintessentially Austin this scene was -- palm trees and sunshine in the middle of winter -- and I just thought it was incredibly charming to be posing in a fur-trimmed parka with some happy palm leaves.

This Madewell parka is everything. By that, I of course mean that I'm obsessed with it, but I also mean that it's highly functional and has a ton of hidden and extra awesome features. First of all, lots of things can come off of it: the fur trim, as well as a super-effing-warm furry lining, are both secured with buttons and can be removed! The removable lining has been especially great because it's been unseasonably warm here, even for Austin. The coat also has drawstrings (which I apparently pulled too tight right before these photos -- I usually wear the coat a little looser) and side zippers that I've found to be both useful (I can access my pockets!) and cool (ooh, half zips!). I also love that the sleeves have "inner sleeves" with ribbed cuffs to make sure that wind doesn't get all-up-in-there.

I haven't shopped at Madewell much, so I'm unfamiliar with their sizing. I went back and forth on what size to get, but sizes kept selling out, so I jumped on the small when it was in stock. I'm definitely glad I got the small, because I think a medium would have been too big. (If you're loving this coat, but don't see your size, keep an eye out because new sizes seem to come back in stock all the time!)

While I'm really into the pink and green color combo, I'm actually feeling a little regret over this blouse. I tend to shy away from wearing pink because I think I have too much pink in my skin. Something about the lighting in the Loft dressing room was all like 'omg girl you look fab, buy it,' so I did. But now I'm really struggling to wear it. I can't decide if it's the bubble gum shade or something about the shape that I'm not loving on me. I think I'll hang onto it through spring to see if I wear it more then, but if not I'll probably list it on Poshmark (which I still keep meaning to do -- womp womp). Also, a note on sizing, I'm wearing a medium in this blouse (as opposed to the small in yesterday's Loft blouse).

pink, palm trees, and a parka

long cardigan zella leggings2 long cardigan zella leggings3 long cardigan zella leggings9 long cardigan zella leggings5 long cardigan zella leggings4 long cardigan zella leggings5 long cardigan zella leggings10 long cardigan zella leggings11 long cardigan zella leggings12
cardigan: Old Navy // blouse: Loft // leggings: Zella via Nordstrom // boots: Chinese Laundry // purse: vintage Coach via Pieceology Vintage // Texas necklace: Dogeared // bar necklace: gift Betsy Farmer Designs

I don't necessarily get lots of "outfit requests," but I do always keep in mind when someone mentions wanting to see how I style something. I've recently had a request to show how I wear leggings as pants and how I've been wearing the duster-style cardigan I picked up from Old Navy in November. Luckily for everyone involved, the two pieces are basically meant to be worn together!

I wore this outfit during the day portion of my bestie's bachelorette weekend, and it was perfect for an early BBQ brunch and wine tasting in the Hill Country. I got this Loft blouse just before Christmas and it's been in constant rotation since. It's extremely flattering in shape, and the color is so rich. Plus, it's the perfect length to wear with leggings and not feel like I'm putting it all out there.

That said, here are a few tips for wearing leggings as pants:

1. A long-line top like this flowy blouse or sweater is great because it provides some coverage without totally cutting up your proportions. I personally worry less about covering the whole booty, because why mask the greatness???, and instead focus on wearing something that isn't too tight around my hips. This helps the whole outfit look more natural and less 'hey, did you notice that I'm wearing leggings?'

2. The leggings you choose are even more important than what you wear them with. After reading too many rave reviews from bloggers about these Zella leggings, I finally made my way to the mall on Christmas eve eve to grab a pair to wear during the holiday. They are by far the most substantial I've worn. Rather than being a thick ponte-type fabric, Zella leggings are intended for exercise (though this pair is appropriately-named the Live-In Legging), and made from something called Zeltek Ultimate Stretch fabric. What I love most about these leggings is that they don't sag in the knees! All of these factors make them a great pair to wear in public because they hold everything in, they don't risk being translucent, and fit all day long.

3. The third thing that I think makes a difference in leggings is length and how they fit at the ankle. You can't see here (but will be able to in an upcoming post), but these leggings fit all the way down to the bottom of my ankle. A pair of leggings that stop mid-calf or capri length aren't ideal unless you're wearing them with tall boots, like I am here. I've also been wearing these leggings with my fringe ankle boots and with flats or sneakers, so the length makes them way more versatile. The leggings also don't fit too tightly around the ankle (like thinner pairs often do), so they look more natural as pants.

4. As far as styling leggings, rather than just wearing them, I definitely recommend layers! Throwing on a shawl cardigan, a cute vest, or a longer blouse under a sweater are all good ways to dress up the outfit, making the leggings a comfy afterthought.

A note on sizing. The saleslady at Nordstrom insisted that I would want to size down in the Zellas, at least one, if not, two sizes. I personally did not find them to run big at all, and I am wearing a medium that I am perfectly happy with. I actually don't think I would have been able to get a small on, so there's that. For the Loft blouse, I got a small because the top runs pretty big/oversized. I'm usually in between sizes in tops there, but the medium make me look like I was a kid playing dress in my mom's clothes.

I'm curious; do you wear leggings as pants in public? If so, what's your go-to outfit equation?

P.S. This post is not sponsored by Zella (hit me up though!); I just really love these leggings. 

layers and leggings

Last year, I set lofty reading goals. I made a whole reading list and decided I was going to start reviewing books here on the blog. Decidedly, it was all too much and I totally failed if you see things that way (I don't). I read 3.5 of the books on my list and 1 book not on my list. I reviewed 2 of them on the blog. I never even bought five of the books.

This year, I'm doing things differently. I'm only interested in reading books that I'm so excited about that I want to buy them all right now and read them tomorrow. I can't wait to be someone who has read these books because I know I'm going to enjoy them. There's nothing too much deeper than that here. I like to read for enjoyment, and I don't like feeling guilty about not reading or not enjoying something.

That said, here are 4 books I'd love to read in 2016:

furiously happy
1. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

If reading Jenny Lawson's first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, opened my heart to laughter in the face of mental illness, seeing her speak in person at Texas Style Council made it grow at least three sizes. I am so excited to finally sit down with Furiously Happy and laugh until I cry until I'm laughing again. She just does it like no one else can.

To sum up the synopsis: hilarious and maybe ridiculous encouragement to embrace every part of ourselves and our lives, no matter how effed or "crazy," because what if we stop just living and being just and start being happier than we think we're allowed to be.

big girl
2. Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller

I'm a Kelsey Miller fangirl. I discovered her on Refinery29, where she writes a column called The Anti-Diet Project. One of her articles inspired my intuitive eating, and it sounds like this book is going to do more of the same. I find her super empowering, which is pretty cool because a lot of food-and-body-image-related books and writers are triggering to me. I've actually already pre-ordered this book and it should be in my mailbox right now, and cannot wait to devour it, so to speak.

To sum up the synopsis: A woman with lifelong distorted body image and disordered eating habits begins a journey to sanity and self-security through intuitive eating.

how to weep in public
3. How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from One Who Knows by Jacqueline Novak

As I was looking for 2016 releases, I stumbled upon this title and knew immediately I wanted to read it. I mentioned yesterday that one of my favorite things to talk about is my feelings, but if we're being honest, I really like to talk about depression. There's unnecessary stigma around it and I think having conversations about it makes us all that much less alone in something that is already entirely isolating. So, yeah. I'm going to read a book about depression and I'm going to like it.

To sum up the synopsis: Silly, satirical, and probably all-too-true advice for when nothing else seems to be working, from someone who "gets" it.

why not me
4. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I know that my book picks aren't always for everyone, but I do like to read what everyone else is reading sometimes. Case in point? Anything Mindy Kaling puts out. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is one of the funniest books I've read, and from everything I've heard, I'm going to love Why Not Me? even more.

To sum up the synopsis: A woman tries to find her place in the world, while also searching for happiness. Spoiler alert: we deserve both!

What's on your reading list this year?

4 books i'd love to read in 2016

pizza pin denim jacket2 pizza pin denim jacket1 pizza pin denim jacket3 pizza pin denim jacket9 pizza pin denim jacket10 pizza pin denim jacket12 pizza pin denim jacket8 pizza pin denim jacket6 pizza pin denim jacket5
jacket: vintage via Monkies Vintage & Thrift // dress: BB Dakota c/o Shopbop // booties: Madden Girl (on super sale!) // purse: vintage Coach via Pieceology Vintage // bandana: vintage // pizza pin: jesiiii // deer pin: gift Lisa Chow x Tiny Deer Studio

Am I the only one who can't stand small talk? Actually, more accurately, I can't do small talk. I'm exceptionally bad at it, and it makes me super uncomfortable. Things I like to talk about: pop culture, the Internet, and my feelings. Things people ask about: what have you been up to? The real answer to that is always "blogging. A lot." Not necessarily because I don't do other things, but because I blog 40 hours a week for work, plus about 10-15 hours for writes like a girl. It's a boring answer that is also not something many people "get," so instead I usually mumble about binge-watching Netflix and staying on top of email. Not any more interesting, but at least it's relatable, right? But then where does the conversation go from there?

My best solution for small talk? A wearable conversation starter. The less I have to talk about my day-to-day, the easier it is for me to open up. We are not defined by our nine-to-fives! Wearing a bold scarf or fun brooch is a great way to show your personality and start a conversation about who you are instead of what you do. I can't go anywhere wearing my Love At First Slice pin and not get compliments that turn into fun conversations with strangers. Who needs small talk when you can have surprise new-friend grocery store line chat?

What's your best way to deal with small talk? I'm so interested in your tips!

P.S. apparently this is the week of wearing my usual headscarves as neck scarves. This outfit was inspired by April and her badass bandanas!

conversation starter

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