Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Review of the Cascade Ruffle Dress

I had mentioned in a recent post how much I have grown to like dresses, particularly strapless jersey varieties. So it should come as no surprise that, upon missing the last several 20 and 30 percent off J.Crew sales, I finally bit the bullet and placed an order during the most recent one, which naturally included another few dresses. I figured, at 30 percent off sale prices, what do I have to lose?

Among the immediate-to-return batch were two Cotton Cady Madeleine Dresses, a cut most unsuited to my body type. I had been hoping to grab one or two more Alexa dresses since catching the first in spring (navy, which I wear constantly), a shape extremely flattering to my hourglass figure. But alas, every time I put one in my cart, it disappeared before I could place the order.

Fortunately, I was able to pounce on the long-watched but never tried Cascade Ruffle Dress which had intrigued me since its debut. It just looked so perfectly slouched in the right places. Not someone normally drawn to slouchy styles, I was enticed by the casual, carefree drape and the muted gray color – a boon for my skin tone. Cascade Ruffle Dress

So, I said, what the heck, it’s only $34.99. Even if it’s not my favorite, I can at least wear it around the house. And so it arrived 2 days later and I shoved it to the corner of the try-on pile underneath a mountain of potential suits and skirts I had hoped would replenish my lately ill-fitting work wardrobe. I had initially tried it on and found the bust to be overwhelmingly tight, with barely enough room to breath – even sans bra. Yet the bodice flowed rather loosely around my hips and body. There was almost a little gap between where it should have hit my bum and where it actually did, leaving a tiny poof. Not so loose that it looked like a sack, but any looser and it might have made me look too voluminous behind.

What to do? This was far from the first strapless dress J.Crew has managed to miss the mark with fit-wise. I mean, what is up with leaving absolutely no room in the bust to breathe, yet leaving entirely too much room in the backside? Who has this body type, exactly? I considered ordering a size up, but then I wondered if the backside would be too loose. Undecided, I slipped it off and left it in a little wrinkled ball, its fate to be determined some other time.

Fast forward 24 hours. Oversleeping this Saturday morning, I was roused no less than 7 times by the cat to find that my husband had already left the house. Unusual as this as, I thought perhaps he had run to the store or, worse, to the historical tour we had bought tickets for the day before that started in about an hour. Jumping into the shower and racing through my grooming rituals, I rushed to find a suitable outfit for the day’s activities: we were scheduled to go on an exclusive tour of some of the hidden spots of George Washington’s vast Mount Vernon Estate, a swell idea that now looked to be in jeopardy if we didn’t leave the house pronto. My husband came back to find me rummaging through the clean pile of clothes on the bed but nothing was jumping out.

The weather had recently taken a most pleasant and unexpected turn for the better; instead of sultry 95-100 degree days with maximum humidity and poor air quality, here we were in the second day of a mild 80-85 degree interlude with low humidity and a nice breeze. Which put me in a dilemma – should I opt for the de rigeur cuffed shorts and tee with sneakers and look like a tourist, or should I represent more graciously in a skirt and blouse? It wasn’t so hot that you could get away with a skimpy tank or tube top, yet I didn’t want to wear too much as there was lots of walking involved across the expansive estate. There was the other slight dilemma of how to hide the fact that I didn’t quite have time to shave my legs…

Since it was sitting there all curled up on the bed, innocuous in its soft gray 100% rayon, I decided to slip on the Cascade Ruffle Dress just to see. To my surprise, it seemed like the perfect outfit to wear on an outdoor tour – I could wear it with espadrilles for comfort and dress it up later with a necklace and cardigan for propriety.

The bust was another issue. Trying to zip it in the back proved somewhat tricky as it kept unzipping itself. My husband finally tightened the top clasp which ended that problem. However, as I coaxed my hair into an unbrushed ponytail and swiped nothing by colored gloss on my makeup-free face (we were now dangerously late), I struggled to inhale the entire ride down to Mount Vernon (which normally takes 20-25 minutes from our house but we managed to fly there in exactly 15 minutes by breaking as many traffic rules as possible).

First of all, there is no room whatsoever for a strapless bra, so don’t even consider it (unless you have a small B or A cup and can sacrifice breathing). But whilst reclining in the drivers seat doing maximum speed on the G.W. Parkway, there is a noticeable lack of flexibility in the upper torso that feels deceptively structured for a jersey dress.

On the other hand, as soon as we arrived and started running the remaining half mile or so to the meeting place, I noticed just how lightweight and breezy the rest of the bodice was. Which was reinforced every time we struggled up one of the many hills or strolled through the various agricultural sections of the estate in the hot afternoon sun. Every time the breeze came around, the dress fluttered ever so gently. The material is very thin, yet the cleverly placed folds hide not only a panty line (because I also didn’t have time to look for a thong) but also deflect attention from a full tummy post-lunch (apres 3 courses).

The verdict? You decide. Here it is IRL.

 Me in Cascade Ruffle Dress 1

And with DH:

Me and DH in Cascade Ruffle Dress

Here it is as I prepare to enjoy a late lunch:

Cascade Ruffle Dress pre-lunch

One nice surprise is that the bust did stretch somewhat. Since the material is thin, perhaps it does adjust to your body somewhat. After we finished our tour and delicious southern-themed lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, we made a detour for our favorite pastry shop where we stopped for coffee and sweets. Even now as I write this, digesting the 3-course lunch and beverages, I am surprisingly comfortable in the breathing and stomach area.

Here is the Polyvore set:


My vote? I give this dress a thumbs-up for ease of movement, versatility, and drape. If you can stretch out the bust area in advance, you might be more comfortable. For $34.99, it’s a must-buy!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

DC JCAs Gather for Drinks, Dessert, and Light Shopping

Our favorite cruise director, Rosa in DC, put together another fabulous evening of cocktails, dining, and shopping at the Tysons Corner J.Crew. The theme: bargain finds of the season. The ladies began the evening at the always delicious Daily Grill in Tysons Galleria where we munched on hot and cold happy hour specials. The Gazpacho was very refreshing as was the Mojito I enjoyed, courtesy of a desire to chill out after a week spent in the 90s.

After discussing the merits of the fall Look Book, the recent finds at Crewlets and the almighty distribution center in Lynchburg, and regular in-store shopping events, the girls made their way to the B & M J.Crew with what seemed like one goal in mind: to clean out the extensive sale section. The good news? No one seemed to go overboard, potentially in anticipation of pre-fall shopping. But more than a few summer sundresses flew off the racks, as well as ruffled flouncy skirts. Clearly, summer is still in session and there are plenty of opportunities left to wear these frocks.

Afterwards – and possibly fueled by a need to re-energize – a few of us hopped over to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert and wine. Yours truly could not resist a White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cheesecake with extra dollops of whipped cream, a treat justified by eating a very light dinner.

Below a photo recap of the lucky ladies, post-shopping. Left to right: Slastena, fshnonmymind, Summerilla, Rosa in DC, and 3-Penny Princess. Also in attendance were Cleo26, Heidi G with her lovely daughter E, and kater.

July 2010 JCA Drinks and Shopping 1

And a close-up:

July 2010 JCA Drinks and Shopping 2

Here is my Polyvore of what I wore:


Can’t wait to do it again! Thanks Rosa, for another fabulous gathering.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy 4th of July and Summer Essentials

Okay, so I’m not completely back as far as regularity of posts. But at least I’m enjoying weekends again, and something else I’ve missed -- shopping! Lately, I can’t seem to get enough of 3 items: summer dresses, boatneck tees, and all things nautical.

Dresses have been the biggest surprise and addition to my wardrobe as I finally realized (maybe later than all of you) just how easy they make summer dressing. Classic shifts with a defined waist are very flattering to my body type, so these have been a worthwhile investment as they go from office to happy hour to summer functions – and well into fall and spring with a cardigan.

But the real surprise is the sudden invasion of strapless dresses and halters – not so long ago completely shunned from my closet. Granted, this is not a practical work solution as I frequently need to lose the jacket/cardigan when spending time outside with clients and feel, well, inappropriate bearing so much skin. As soon as a whiff of weekend enters, however, all I want to do is pull on a strapless number and head out for dinner, drinks, brunch, or just to the store.

I’m not sure what caused this transformation in taste or the sudden desire to go strapless, but I like the effect. I feel less restrained somehow and more summery. Maybe it’s a subconscious desire to show off an unusual duration of color on my arms, shoulders, and back, unusual in both its perseverance and its arrival in the first place. While I normally content myself with brief episodes of sun during a weekend here or there spent outdoors, I was fortunate to get a head start on summer sun in early May, further enhanced by a good deal of subsequent walking through the city with clients during sunny hours. This has resulted in the persistence of a sunkissed glow and a splattering of freckles that have taken up permanent residence across my back, shoulders, and chest.

Ann Taylor Plum Halter Dress

My husband seems to be enjoying the dress infestation as well, remarking often that he always thought I looked good in dresses. Which I must confess to using to my advantage as I’ve snuck in more than a few dresses in recent months, like the plum halter knit dress above from Ann Taylor. The color is genius on me and it looks divine with both silver and gold accessories as well as pearls and ivory. I’m also loving the comfy Pique Strapless dress from the J.Crew outlet shown in the top photo (special thanks to jadorethesestores at blogspot for modeling the dress in the photo which I borrowed since this style came out a couple of years ago).

Perhaps another product of my pre-summer excursion to the Florida shores has been a re-discovery of all things nautical, which you may have noticed in my previous post. I say re-discovery because, let’s be honest, nautical has been around for centuries and reappears in stores like clockwork each February as a harbinger of summer to come (or, more likely, a getaway to some resort destination).

While navy has been prevalent in my wardrobe, well, forever – navy is my black, after all – the specific manifestation of navy in nautical themes has injected a beachy feel into my ensembles. Navy stripes, gold buttons, and accents like ropes and anchors seem so fresh right now. Like a waft of cool ocean breeze penetrating the humid swamp-spawned summers that Washington D.C. is known for. Particularly when paired with white and punctuated by bold splashes of reds, corals, and hot pinks.

I was especially inspired by the adorable First Mate blazer I picked up from Anthropologie on sale for about $40 (originally retailed for $128) upon my return from Florida in May. This cheeky jacket comes in a dark navy twill and is embroidered with a red and white grosgrain belt and finished with a gold-toned life preserver clasp. The sleeves come with 3 gold buttons and the lapel are adorned with both a starfish and a seashell brooch (I generally leave off the seashell one). Initially I had a little trouble figuring out how to wear it to work since it's a bit unconventional and is slightly more casual than it appears online. I first paired it with a crisp white skirt and white shell, not wanting to upstage the unique details. Then I discovered that shades of red/rhubarb looked really sharp against it and it also played well with certain carnation and salmon-shade pinks. It looks just as smart on a pencil skirt as it does with jeans and a tank.

Somewhat related to the need for nautical – and possibly an urge to suddenly expose my collarbone – is a newfound obsession with boatneck tees. It started with last spring’s J.Crew Baby Stripe Navy on White tee, which I wore whenever possible. Wanting something that could span the seasons with three-quarter sleeves and a slimming fit, I set out to obtain more.

The first 3 Perfect-fit Boatneck Tees of this year arrived during a large pre-vacation order, which I justified in two ways: we never go on vacation, and I purchased several items for hubby. Both had the unexpected effect of appeasing him (usually these ploys don’t work as he has long since wised up to my tactics). I wanted to hate them, really, I did, but as soon as they came out of the box, I fell in love with all the colors I ordered: Vintage Orange (predictable), Pale Buff (a favorite for the past year), and a fresh new shade called Light Flamingo.

As I soon saw how flattering the boatneck shape is to my bustline (my bust is wide and expansive rather than centered and cleavage-forming, so to speak), I couldn’t get enough boatnecks in enough colors. So naturally, when I came across the newest incarnations, the Perfect-fit Stripe Boatneck Tee in white on navy and gray on white, I had to have them. I also had the good fortune of plucking a Ralph Lauren ivory boatneck tee with thin gold stripes and smart nautical buttons along the collarbone from the sale rack at Marshall’s (I swear I just went in to buy soap).

Now, the fit of a flattering boatneck is tricky. I prefer mine long and lean. Fairly close to the body rather than loose and flowy is ideal. On the other hand, a boatneck that’s too fitted at the bust creates a ring of boobage that’s not terribly flattering, sometimes in conjunction with a potbelly following meals. So getting it to cling in the right places is key.

I find that – as with the rest of the Perfect Fit kingdom (and some painter/ringspun varieties) – sizing up does the trick. While I wear the smallest size possible in blouses (which always seem to run big except for the slim-fit button-down shirts), I almost always do best with a Small rather than X-Small in tees. This has been my experience with polos over the years as well. Now, this could be a result of my aforementioned expansive-shaped bust, but if you have more of the cleavage-producing variety, I would imagine that sizing up is equally important if you’re self-conscious. Plus, even with the best laundry habits, it’s rare that something made of cotton doesn’t eventually shrink, even just a little.

Anyway, I’m excited to see more boatneck sweaters and hope this is a trend that continues. As for dresses, I fully intend to populate my closet with more and get as much wear out of them as possible into the fall.

I wish you all a happy and fun 4th of July and a swell rest of the summer!

P.S. I should probably add that I have yet to find anyone who does boatneck/bateau better than J.Crew. I grudgingly accept this because I’ve tried less pricey alternatives (and also more pricey ones) but always come back to the crew. It’s that perfect balance of long and lean that I just can’t find anywhere else. So I’ll keep buying them if they keep making them!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Riverside Brunch and Shopping with JCAs

On this lovely pre-summer weekend, a small contingency of D.C. Aficionadas gathered for a picturesque Sunday brunch, thanks to the planning efforts of Rosa in DC. The ladies sipped marvelous mimosas and enjoyed a divine seafood-themed menu while overlooking the scenic Potomac River at Old Town Alexandria’s famed Chart House restaurant. Present were Cleo26, Drewablank, kater, Rosa in DC (the organizer), and myself.

After our delish dining experience -- during which much discussion was made about the good old days of 2007-2008 in J.Crew’s history and the questionable trends that seem to be overtaking its future – we strolled through historic Old Town to my favorite consignment boutique, Mint Condition. Among the finds there were a navy metallic Mica mini (lucky for Rosa in DC), a dramatic Missoni-esque wrap dress that sizzled on Drewablank, and a sharp red Francie skirt that we convinced Cleo26 to take home (which we know she’ll thank us for).

Here we are on the waterfront just outside the Chart House restaurant post-brunch. Left to right: Cleo26, Drewablank, Rosa in DC, and 3-Penny Princess (kater is taking the photo).

Chart House Brunch

And here’s a close-up:

Chart House Brunch - close up

In case you’re wondering what I’m wearing, here’s the Polyvore set. I can’t find a photo of this exact top from a few years ago, but it’s close enough.

What a fabulous way to spend the day before Memorial Day, as we gear up for the summer BBQ season and vacations. Thank you, Rosa, for the wonderful idea. And thank you, ladies, for making it a lovely afternoon! Happy Memorial Day to everyone and happy summer!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Retreat in the Sunshine State and Welcoming Summer

After being buried in a year’s worth of hard work and crazy hours, the hubby and I decided to take a well-deserved vacay from the hustle and bustle of D.C. and relax in the Sunshine State a couple of weeks ago. And boy was our timing impeccable! For probably the first time ever, we took a 9-day trip and managed to enjoy all 9 beautiful, sunny, warm, and perfect days.

Every single day in Florida was in the high 80s with no humidity, no rain, and no ominous clouds. The beach was idyllic, the water was calm and blue-green, and the breeze was just right. Which we learned was in stark contrast to the chilly, rainy, and dark weather that we left all our friends in. Unfortunately, we also returned to some of it, but at least I had a decent tan to show for our 9 days. So now, I can finally wear short shorts and summer dresses without making people wince.

Here are some recaps:

Florida Beach Vista

Need I say more?Walking the Dog with Alligators

Why you shouldn’t feed the gators:

Baby Gator

This little one was swimming right in the pond near the house.

Shopping in St. Armand's Circle 

Shopping (of course) on the picturesque St. Armand’s Circle.

Visiting the Ringling Museum

Squeezing in a little culture at the Ringling Museum, which has an impressive collection of European paintings from the last millennium.

Hanging Out with Auntie

The last picture is of me with my aunt, who unexpectedly visited while we were down there. What a wonderful treat!

Here are some more sets inspired by the laid-back beach lifestyle that we would all like to enjoy but can only dream about:

I’d like to point out that J.Crew still loves me enough to send me gifts from time to time, like the cute tote bag above which I took to the beach every day.


Not wanting to leave it all behind completely, I’m hoping to channel a slightly more “resort” vibe in my work wear this summer:

I can’t think of a better way to welcome the summer season and embrace another year of business success. Here’s to happy upcoming Memorial Day holiday for all of you and a fabulous start to summer!