I Painted My Nails Brown Today

I painted my nails brown today.

I am not sure if I like them.

But they make me think of chocolate.

And I love chocolate...so maybe I love my nails?

Essie "Hot Coco"
from the Holiday 2010 Collection
still available at Amazon.com To Buy

CC MVP: Red Pencil Skirt

Welcome to Couture Cheapskate's 100th post!

In honor of this most momentous occasion, I am going to feature an item in my closet that always comes through in a style pinch. Without further ado, please meet my MVP, the red pencil skirt.

And the crowd goes wild!
See by Chloe Cotton-Blend Pencil Skirt
$114.75 at theoutnet.com To Buy
(My red pencil skirt actually came from H&M for the mere price of $24.95 but this was the most similar option I could find online.)

One item I feel every women should own is a pencil skirt in a bold color. It doesn't necessarily have to be red (pink, yellow or green would do) but red in many fashion circles is considered the equivalent of black. Except it is more exciting and more impactful. The beauty of the red skirt is it will work with the majority of the tops in your closet but it isn't boring. The color gives you instant style and is easy enough to pull together an outfit in mere minutes.

A couple of my favorite looks? Red pencil skirt with black turtleneck, black blazer, tights and leopard pumps. Another? Red pencil skirt with khaki and black striped sweater. And of course, how could you ever go wrong with a red pencil skirt, white blouse, belt and statement necklace?

So many options, so easy and so stylish.

Additional "red pencil skirt" options: Charlotte Russe ($16.50), Victoria's Secret ($49.50)Talbots ($52.49) and if pencil skirts just are not your thing, you can always go with my second fave, pleated from Urban Outfitters ($49).

CC MVP: Red Pencil Skirt

All you need is a skirt in a bold color and you can just add in your basics and favorite accessories.

Your look will be high-style with minimal effort.

CC Tip:  Pick your bold color skirt in a fabric that you can wear all-year long i.e. synthetic fabrics.  If red is the color you desire, you will see this hue mainly available during summer and fall.


Nice Boots

Like many women of the Midwest, I have found I need multiple kinds of boots for multiple kinds of weather.  Your snow boots do not work as rain boots and vice versa.  So I finally broke down and gave into buying myself a pair of "wellies" because it is the middle of winter and clearly the appropriate time of year to buy a pair of rain boots.

Why did I cave in?  Because I could not resist the red laces.  Clearly I am very weak.

"Verbier" Black Boots by Hunter
$175 at zappos.com To Buy

First of all, let me start by saying I did not pay this much for my boots.  Second, I was not sure if they were that cute or if I was having one of my "I-like-it-because-it-is different" moments.  Third, I was nervous about the platforms.

Three days later and I am feeling pretty confident about this purchase.  At lunch the other day, a gentleman said to me, "nice boots," and although I shouldn't let my opinion be swayed by one stranger's compliment...I was flattered and validated.  And now I feel compelled to pay it forward by paying another stranger a compliment to their outfit.

Plus, the platforms are actually quite comfortable and a non-issue.  Best of all, I love anything with a good story and Hunter is no exception.  I mean British soldiers wearing them during World War I to march through flooded trenches?  Can it get anymore historic?

Surely I can survive marching through the flooded streets and parking lots.  Maybe even a stray garden if I am lucky.  Puddles beware.

So yes perfect stranger, you are right.  These are nice boots.

P.S.  Did you know Paddington the Bear also wore wellies?  And he survived an earthquake.


WANTED: Couture Cheapskates

WANTED: Couture Cheapskates
Apply Here!

Due to my self-imposed shopping ban, I am relying on my fellow CCs to fill this space

Email couturecheapskate@gmail.com any and all finds you come across.  It can be fashion, accessories, home items, kids clothes, cosmetics, recipes...anything that embraces the way of the CC.

The future of Couture Cheapskate relies on you...no pressure.


CC Challenge: 28 Days

The challenge is simple.

No buying clothes for 28 days.

Beginning February 1, 2011, I will attempt to go 28 days without buying 1 article of clothing.

No matter how deep the discount or once-in-a-lifetime the sale, I will refrain from all purchases involving fabric and footwear.

I haven't quite decided if this ban includes home decor, jewelry or cosmetics?

Have no fear!  I will continue to post fashion-related items, they may just not be things I personally own but have researched.  (Read: tried-on but not bought.)  My focus this next 28 days is going to be based on styling what I already own and seeing how many looks I can create without spending a dime.

That sounds pretty Couture Cheapskate to me.

Wish me luck!!!!


Cheap Cure For the Blahs

Last week was one of those weeks that felt a little...how would a sophisticate say it? 

Oh yeah.  Blah. 

I mean I was writing about carrots.

Unfortunately as blah as I was about the weather and lack of new tv shows, I was equally blah about my wardrobe.  For some reason this week nothing apparel-based made me excited or inspired.  And all the new, exciting clothes in stores were just a little too spring-y for the "feels like" negative degree weather outside.

So one of my favorite tricks I use to feel a little more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and less fashionably melancholy is to spend some time perusing the jewelry section of Forever 21.  For less than $20, you can get two fancy pieces that will make you smile.  Maybe even three.

Best yet jewelry knows no season and can be worked into your upcoming Spring collection especially if you pick turquoises and corals.

Cheap Cure For the Blahs

Second tip? Try a sale sweater (like these from the Gap) in a bold color to playfully contrast against the baubles you select. Try coral and navy, magenta and turquoise or more subdued forest green and black. Make the combos really contrast for extra blah prevention.

As much as you will love getting the creative juices flowing, it is equally enjoyable spending a half hour searching for your treasures and spending less than your lunch. Total fashion fulfillment in an otherwise dull time of year.

Bright sweater + bright jewelry + either black pants or jeans = maximum fashion spirit lift.


Egg On My Face

So yesterday the Bear's game did not turn out as we originally planned.  I thought I could will my team to victory through fashion.  Not the case.

Speaking of eggs, I thought I would share one of my new favorite recipes that is super easy and pretty inexpensive. 

Grilled Tuscan Steak with Fried Egg and Goat Cheese

Click here for the recipe by my girl Giada!

Steak and eggs are a favorite in my house whether for breakfast or dinner.  I love this dish because it packs a lot flavor in a short amount of prep/cook time.  The addition of goat cheese and herbs de Provence give this meal a French flare that is hearty yet subtle.  If you cannot find herbs de Provence at your local grocer, try a favorite spice blend of mine, Sunny Paris, a mixture of purple shallots, green peppercorns and chives.

Sunny Paris Seasoning
Penzey's Spices at penzeys.com To Buy

So although I am sad our beloved Bears were not victorious, the silver lining is now I am sharing this decadent yet super simple recipe with you.  And now I can get back to doing the things that are meant to be done on Sundays like watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.  Enjoy!


Bears vs. Packers

I hope by the time you are reading this we are toasting a Bear's victory.  Fingers crossed.

There are two things all Chicagoans take seriously: food and the Bears.

For today's game, I am finding a way to combine both.  For starters we did our usual artichoke dip, chili con queso, bacon wrapped dates and fancy schmancy pigs-in-a-blanket in puff pastry.  The main course is a light yet hearty Chopped Salad with Bacon and Fried Garbanzo Beans...perfect fare if you are sick of the usual football party food by the time playoffs arrive.  Keep the cheese and ranch dressing to the side for anyone realllllly minding their X's and O's when it comes to calories.

That still doesn't answer the question "what to wear."  Right now we are wrestling with the superstition of wearing the same clothes as we wore during last week's victory or breaking out new more team-spirited apparel.  Not to mention is it lazy Sunday at home or out with friends at the local neighborhood bar?  Either way it's cold, but what else is new.

If you are looking for the perfect accent to your orange and blue, try this nail polish my friend has dubbed  "Bear Down Blue" by OPI.

Bears vs. Packers


Little Random Surprises

Today was one of those days that felt good.

I reacquainted with an old friend, paid a visit to a BFF and still had time to make a new pal along the way.  Of course I am talking about food and make-up -- two of the things that give me the most joy in life.

Bobbi Brown Metallic Long-Wear Cream Shadow
"Antique Gold" $22 at department stores and bobbibrown.com To Buy

There is a good chance I may have bought this eye shadow a year ago and within that time I probably wore it less than 5 times.  And I don't understand why?  It's beautiful.  The word gold is slightly misleading because it is actually more of a pewter but very soft with a subtle hint of sparkle.  Definitely more sheer and muted than it looks in the pot.  Bobbi describes it as a "deep gold sparkle."  Looks striking with black eyeliner.  Despite being a beautiful shade, 12 hours later, it still is crease-free.  Perfect because it is a shade that can be worn day or night or day to night.  For a better look at the color, click on the link above.

Macy's Cupcakes

One of the best kept secrets at Macy's is their cupcakes.  They are delicious.  Today my Mom met me for lunch and our tradition is to split a Macy's cupcake for dessert.  We are most definitely frosting aficionados and both agree the best part of this cupcake is the buttercream frosting.  Their frosting is better than any other bakery I have ever tasted.  Almost as good as homemade.  Today the cupcake was even decorated with mini footballs and blue and orange sprinkles.  How very Bears playoff game.

Embasa Carrots
Available in your grocery store's ethnic foods aisle

The burrito place down the street from us makes a burrito with marinated spicy carrots inside...it sounds weird but is seriously so tasty.  So tonight when it was taco night at Casa Cheapskate, we added these carrots to our tacos and had a fiesta.  Whenever I add carrots to something, I like how it makes the dish a little more sweet and the crunch is definitely an improvement over Shreds lettuce.  It's not too spicy and the marinade adds a little acid for an even more intense flavor profile.  That's Top Chef lingo.  We were so impressed how these carrots really took our tacos to the next level.

I am aware these are random notes to share but this is my day -- one little pleasant surprise after another -- just like I like it!


Celebrity Inspiration: Red Dress and Nude Pumps

One of my favorite red carpet walkers (but not necessarily actresses) is Cameron Diaz.  Her style is simple, a little sporty and a lot sophisticated.  I am always impressed how she can work her basics and make her look stand-out chic.  In a world of envelope-pushers trying to make a Best Dressed list, Cammie D. rarely misses the fashion mark.

I am inspired by Cameron's red dress and nude pump combo.  Most of us, I am assuming, are not walking a red carpet at a movie premiere anytime soon so how do we take this combo and work it into our everyday life?  I would start with a red dress of any sort.

Drape-Neck Belted Sweater Dress
$19.99 at express.com To Buy

I am adamant every woman should own a red dress.  I think it is powerful, sexy if it needs to be but shockingly basic.  I picked this sweater dress (besides you know I love it) because it represents how you can be inspired by a celebrity look using the everyday pieces you have in your wardrobe.  Of course there are 1 million red cocktail dress options if that would be the route you prefer.

As far as nude shoes go, I have been dreaming about this pair since I spotted them at the Nine West sale.  I like the suede and patent combo because it is more of a winter fabric.  Textured fabrics, like suede and patent, always make footwear appear more luxe.  Plus with suede, there is not that "is it skin or isn't it" confusion like with plain nude leather.

"Paul" by Nine West
$34.99 at ninewest.com To Buy

I feel like I hear some of you wondering what to do about hosiery.  Break out your leggings.  If you don't like how the nude looks with leggings, I think you know where I am going...leopard print pumps.

"Jessica" by Jessica Simpson
$79 at piperlime.com To Buy

Naturally I think the follow-up question would be is there really anything better than a red and leopard print combo?  And I digress.  All I am saying is this may be the option us Midwestern ladies choose until our weather catches up with sunny LA and we can break out our nude footwear.

Complete your look with some easy gold jewelry because when wearing a red dress, you don't need much.  Simple gold hoops will do.

Take the Cammie D. Challenge...see if you can spot her in a fashion disaster. I know there were a few awards gowns awhile back that were critically panned but I happened to love them.  Her sense of style is one an everyday women can emulate in her own wardrobe. 

Now if I could just be equally inspired by her work-out routine.  Check out that arm tonage.


On the Sale Rack: Nine West

Sorry for the late notice but I believe the saying goes better late than never....

Nine West is having a phenomenal sale this weekend and if you have been waiting for a shoe stock-up, now is the time.

Here is the deal:

  • An additional 30% off select markdown shoes
  • Buy 2 pairs of footwear, take an additional 15% off
  • Buy 3+ pairs of footwear, take an additional 20% off
  • Free standard shipping

Limited time only! Ends Monday, January 17th at midnight!

I bought 4 pairs of shoes for $75...and not just crazy leftovers but some tried and true basics. One pair even in my favorite fabric...hello ponyhair.

Note the two pairs below with feathers and chiffon. How Black Swan.

Visit the website or click on the images below to view Nine West sale merchandise.

On the Sale Rack: Nine West


Invasion of the Nautical Stripes

The second week in January can only mean one thing...invasion of the nautical stripes!

They're everywhere!

And I haven't even seen one yacht which leads me to believe this always-around Spring trend is more for show than actual boating.  Which seems odd to me because isn't one of the Fashion Commandments thou shall not wear horizontal stripes?  Maybe there are different rules at sea.

I guess it's not the stripes I have the problem with, it's just the lack of variety in fashion this time of year.

As you can see below, too much nautical stripe is overwhelming.  You get one piece sailor...keep all the rest simple.  If one is all I get, I am going with a nautical stripe dress because I think this is the kind of lady who yachts I would be.  And no sailor jeans with any striped top...that would get you sent back to shore.

Tune in next week when I reveal my new favorite way to style stripes.

Invasion of the Nautical Stripes


Wishing For A Winter Wonderland

I have to admit I am slightly jealous of all those people in the Northeast who are enjoying an unusually snowy winter. Since the temps have dropped, we have only had 1 or 2 good snows and I have had no excuse to stay home and be cozy. I feel a lot less guilty sitting on the couch watching bad tv and online shopping when I am snowed in then when it is sunny and 70.

My Winter Wonderland vision revolves around two things: Woodlawn Cameo Mugs from Rosanna, Inc. and Fair Isle sweaters.

Woodlawn Cameo mugs and plates
$40 for 4 each at rosannainc.com To Buy

These dishes could be the cutest things I have ever seen.  Visit the Rosanna website and you will fall in love with 1, 2, 3 or more collections.  The Rococo Noir serveware is in my opinion, to die for.  Totally could serve my cupcakes on a cozy snow day.

Winter Wonderland Sweater Cardigan
$32.80 at forever21.com To Buy

I love this cardigan with it's little hood and pom poms.  Perfect for lounging on the couch with a pair of leggings, a Woodland cameo mug and knit boots.  Enter Pretty Little Liars season 1 marathon here.  If this sweater is not your cameo cup o' tea, pay a visit to any and all retailers this weekend to buy their version of the Fair Isle sweater.  You will have the perfect outfit...now all we need is the snow.

The below outfits are from Forever 21, but check out JC Penney and Eddie Bauer for more options.

Wishing For A Winter Wonderland

The only benefit to avoiding the Winter Wonderland?  I currently do not own snow boots and cannot get motivated to buy them because naturally I prefer fashion to function.  This is the pair I am considering but if it snows, I do not plan on leaving the couch.


Some Days Are Better Than Others

Today was just not Couture Cheapskate's day...despite her best efforts.

It started with a shaving cut that bled way too much, a case of my favorite tights gone missing and an outfit with my new favorite sweater that just didn't come together at the last minute hence making me late for work and leaving me with a general sense of being off.

But don't hold the outfit against my new sweater, it wasn't her fault.

Cotton Cable Boatneck Sweater
$39 at victoriassecret.com To Buy

The problem was my go-to accordion pleat skirt has now been gone to a few too many times resulting in less crisp pleats and some stretching.  This skirt in its heyday and my still-fashionable 5 years later platform wedge boots, total perfection.  Today not so much...ending with the old stand-by pleated skirt in the donation bag.  It was time folks.

But!  If you are feeling a sense of discouragement towards this sweater...don't!  My sister-in-law received this sweater from me for Christmas and wore it with skinny jeans and cute plaid pumps.  Super cute.  Check out the tutu-inspired skirt below for another playful option.

This is why I love this sweater, you can dress it up with your favorite skirt or keep it casual with jeans.  Mix and match your different footwear for a different vibe.

Want to see how to transition this sweater for Spring?  Check out Sienna Miller.

So although today was not the fashion win I was striving for, I am confident this sweater will be on a permanent rotation in my wardrobe with its so cute pom poms and versatility.

Tomorrow is another fashion opportunity!

Now if I could just find those tights...

Some Days Are Better Than Others


On the Sale Rack: Express and Piperlime

It has been documented (here, here and oh yeah, here too) that Express and Piperlime were two of my go-to places this Fall for easy, modern pieces at an affordable price.  For those of you who showed a bit of restraint, you are in luck!  Now you can pick-up a few pieces for almost a quarter of the cost...lucky ducks!

On the Sale Rack: Express and Piperlime

I have held off adding this sweater dress to my wardrobe but am certain it will be mine shortly seeing how I wore my last sweater dress to pieces.  It is the perfect basic to highlight my statement jewelry, bold bags, wide belts and sturdy boots.  In fact it is so perfect, I may take advantage of the sale and buy the navy too!

Here are a few things mentioned over the last season on Couture Cheapskate…and a few things not mentioned. Take advantage of an extra 20% off clearance items for an even deeper discount at Express and up to 50% off at the Piperlime Lime Tag Sale.

What CC loves best about most of these sale selections? They will go the distance into your Spring wardrobe.

Oh!  And did I mention the All-In-One Jacket is now half-price?

On the Sale Rack: Express and Piperlime Part II by couturecheapskate1 featuring art deco earrings

CC Tip:  To view the details of any of these pieces, click on the link below the image for prices and how-to-buy.


CC New Year's Resolution #2

CC New Year's Resolution #2:  I resolve to be more patient.

You see this year CC is going to being trying new things and she needs patience while she teaches herself new programs and technology.  And she needs patience from you as she works out the bugs in efforts to bring you a more stylish and easy-to-read Couture Cheapskate.

(Okay...that's enough talking in the third person.)

But case in point....my first actual photo directly from my own camera.

(I know it is a little blurry but I am still Annie L-in-training!)

You may be asking yourself, what is this and why is it CC?  Well, if you had been reading your Couture Cheapskate over the weekend, you may have seen this silver mosaic votive as part of my New Year's Long Weekend Ideas post.  Here it is burning brightly in-person in my entryway.

Why I am sharing this with you today is a few reasons:
  • A few CCs were discussing awhile back and apparently some people enjoy candles because they like to see the actual flame.  The mixture of silver and clear glass allows for an elegant and slightly distorted view of the flame.
  • Sometimes people worry about ruining their decorative candleholders when the candle melts into the inside.  In this case, I have dropped a 3 oz. Kringle Frosted Cake Candle Jar into the votive to keep the messy wax clean and contained.
  • If you can't find a candle in a jar that fits nicely inside your candleholder, add a teeny tiny bit of water to the holder before placing the candle inside.  When the candle is done burning and the wax is hard, you can pop the leftover wax right out.

(Professional, yet not as "raw" as my original shot)

If some of you are still asking why is this CC?  Because you get the elegant glow for $2.50 and will not have to be buying a new candleholder or jarred candle every time you want to stare at the flame.  A beautiful candleholder that probably costs less than the candle burning inside of it.  If you want a variety of sizes, there are additional options all less than $12.50 each.

Please let me know if you think I should enter any amateur photography contests.  I will call this submission "Candle by Door."

Thanks for your patience.  I hear it is quite the stylish virtue.



Seeing Stars

Last year 2 of my major why-didn't-I-buy-it-when-I-first-saw-it? moments both involved stars.*  Literally. 

Ever since then, my longing for these two missed items has been insatiable. Then when I saw Carey Mulligan wearing this dress by Christopher Kane at the Toronto Film Festival, I knew my quest for something intergalactic was back on. 

And though I could never replace the perfection those 2 items held in my heart, my determination led me to this tunic by MM Couture.
MM Couture by Miss Me Star-Print Tunic
$98 at dillards.com To Buy

Much to my horror when after a month of indulging in all things sweet...and savory...the muffin top had reared its ugly head. When I had but mere minutes to change between work and dinner earlier this week, this tunic did the trick by hiding my holiday bloat and giving me some room to breathe while still looking fashionable.

Add a couple basics from my existing wardrobe and a perfect outfit for dinner with a friend:

Seeing Stars

This tunic is a key CC dressing piece: easy to throw on when crunched for time and works back to most of the basics already in your closet.  And let's be honest, best of all it hides the MT (muffin top). I call that out of this world.

You know I can't resist an easy cliché.

*For those of you who care, it was a star-print strapless dress and vintage gold chain with stars.


Everything's Coming Up Oranges

Call it too much college football (Orange Bowl on tonight) or maybe I am getting excited for Spring's hot color (coral) but I can't seem to get my mind off the color orange.  Since I don't think orange is such a great color on me, I am going to focus on adding orange into my life through accessories.  And by consuming lots of my new favorite beverage: San Pellegrino Aranciata.

Everything's Coming Up Oranges

My Long Weekend Uniform

Sometimes I like to point out how proud of myself I am that I created the perfect weekend outfit, only to realize how gross it probably is that I wore the same said perfect weekend outfit for 2 days in a row.

It all started with this gourge scarf my husband bought me for Christmas. How did he know?

Woven Metallic Blend Scarf
$8.80 at Forever21 and forever21.com To Buy

Add my favorite $16 jeggings, grey tee, black cardi, riding boots and a few accessories and you have the perfect outfit for finding your new favorite grocery store, your new favorite candy and eating your soup with scissors.

I swear I didn't wear it past day 3.

My Long Weeken Uniform


CC New Year's Resolution #1

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you celebrated in style and were fabulous!

Generally I do not make any New Year's resolutions because I am a realist, I never follow-through.  However, this year I feel guilty because I feel like I have done you, readers, a disservice.

I resolve to communicate my wallet-friendly fashion finds on a more timely basis.

I can count far too many items that quite frankly were homeruns and due to my "saving-for-an-uninspired moment" strategy, I never had the chance to share with you.  I'm sorry.  Don't hate me.

So to show you how committed I am to resolving this issue in the New Year, let me share with you the Old Navy Women's Beaded Button-Front Cardigan.

Women's Beaded Button-Front Cardigan
$19.99 sold only at oldnavy.com To Buy

I am a big online shopper from a convenience factor.  Fine.  I am a big shopper.  Period.  But one of my cardinal rules is I will not buy anything online from Old Navy because I feel like their merchandise can look so different in-person.  Well one 25% off coupon and free shipping offer later, I made an exception for this sweater.

Originally I bought it for my Mom in green (no longer available) for Christmas, but gave it to her a little early so she could wear it for the holidays.  Two words: Big Hit.  Tons of compliments later, most people could not believe it came from the OLD and not some more upscale shop.

I too have it but in blue.  I think this sweater is a perfect office option and when you maybe want to look a little more conservative than usual.  I have not worn mine yet to run the workplace test to see if my co-workers love as well but I will let you know the outcome!

Old Navy Beaded Button-Front Cardigan

One thing of note...the beads in the image make it seems as if the beads will be the same color as the sweater.  Not true.  The beads are a clear color but still look nice and blend in.  No worries.

I am leaving my New Year's Resolution list open-ended because I may still need to add some more. 


But one thing is for sure, untimely CC posts are so 2010.