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If you haven't read Dr. Nigma Talib's book (Younger Skin Starts in the Gut), reading it will blow your mind, cause you to question your behavior, research the claims in hopes of disproving them, fail, become somewhat depressed, and then finally become motivated to change your behavior. (That is exactly what happened to me when I read it.)

Although I highly suggest reading it in full, Dr. Talib's advice is too amazing to sit on your bookshelf until you find the time so I'm sharing a summary here (and shouting it from the mountaintops, and boring my coworkers with it, and my husband, etc.)

Before we begin, let's start with a little exercise based on the premise of Dr. Talib's book, which is that consumption of sugar, dairy, wine, or gluten causes distinct signs of aging on your face.

Take a look at the below diagram, read the descriptions of each, and then look in the mirror at your own face. Do you have any signs of Wine Face, Dairy Face, Gluten Face or Sugar Face (or all four...)?

Sugar Face Symptoms:
  • Sagging under eyes
  • Widespread blemishes
  • Pustular or cystic acne
  • Thinning skin
  • Dark gray or pasty white hue to the complexion
  • Lines and wrinkles on the upper forehead

Dairy Face Symptoms:
  • Under eye bags
  • Darkness under the eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Widespread acne and blemishes
  • Pale cheeks
  • Concentrated pimples on the chin

Wine Face Symptoms:
  • Lines between the eyebrows
  • Enlarged pores 
  • Reddish cheeks
  • Dehydrated skin
  • Feathery lines across the cheeks
  • Deep nasolabial folds 

Gluten Face Symptoms:
  • Puffy cheeks
  • Jowls
  • Blemishes across forehead
  • Bloated appearance to face
  • Redness or red spots on cheeks
  • Blemishes or dark patches on the chin

Why is this happening?!

In the book, Dr. Talib explains that sugar, dairy, wine (and all alcohol), and gluten are all common causes of inflammation that lead to the symptoms described above.

We are all familiar with acute inflammation, the response your body has to injuries like cuts and bruises. White blood cells rush to the area to repair the damage, resulting in redness, swelling and discomfort.

Dr. Talib suggests that consuming sugar, dairy, wine and gluten cause a similar inflammatory response in our bodies but that it is chronic and long-term, leading to a variety of health issues in addition to the aging face scare tactic that she used to lure me in to reading her book in the first place! Here are some of the reasons why they're so bad in cause you want to fact-check her like I did:

  • Sugar leads to glycation, a process that breaks down the collagen essential for keeping your skin firm and youthful
  • Dairy is extremely difficult for our bodies to digest because we lose the enzymes that process dairy as we age
  • Wine is full of sugar, sulfites, pesticides and alcohol which dehydrates you, causes your liver to work overtime, and disrupts your gut bacteria
  • Gluten causes a leaky gut for many people, which means that things you are supposed to be digesting literally leak out of your digestive tract to who-knows-where in your body

I have Wine Face, and I'm going to fix it

Although I cut gluten and dairy from my diet earlier this year at the insistence of my dermatologist (and with great results), I love wine - in full disclosure, I have a glass or two almost every night. Dr. Talib showed me that as a result of that habit, I may have Wine Face (!!!!) and am likely causing myself to age quickly and paving the way for future health issues. Considering that I am pushing 31 and willing to spend $130 on an ounce of Skinceuticals serum to keep my skin in tip top condition, this is NOT ACCEPTABLE and I decided to do something about it.

Before any of my fellow winos freak out, know that the book advises that moderation can eliminate the issues. Dr. Talib suggests taking four straight days without alcohol each week, and keep it reasonable (no more than three glasses) on the "off" days.

I'm testing her theory by cutting out wine entirely and replacing it with La Croix, Perrier and chamomile tea during the work week. Although the logical part of my mind would love to do a full month without any wine or sugar, the illogical impulsive side of my mind lacks the will power to survive the holiday party circuit under such austere circumstances. (Suggestions welcome.) I'm considering this advance training for 2017 behavior changes...

If you're a fellow candidate for Wine Face (or Sugar, Dairy or Gluten Face) and considering making some changes, I'd love any ideas you have on healthy substitutes for wine and chocolate, or cheesecake and French bread. (For the record, I just got hungry typing that...)

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a chance to check out this book!

#1 Getting blinded by the brand
Buying based on brand without considering whether the actual piece would be just as amazing under a lesser-known label is one of the biggest mistakes that I've made in building my wardrobe. Building a brand that has the power to drive mindless purchasing decisions is the ultimate goal of any marketer, but we should have the opposite goal in mind as consumers. 
I purchased a pair of (second hand, but still expensive) Chanel flats that I ended up regretting for a couple of reasons, but mostly because they remind me of my susceptibility to brand names. There are so many other ballet flat options that are just as good in quality, but I bought mine for the logo rather than because they were remarkable and unique. That is fundamentally tacky and sort of hypocritical: tacky in that buying for logo means that I wanted them because I wanted to be associated with the fanciness of that brand, and hypocritical because I am not fancy and write an entire blog about making mindful purchasing decisions.
#2 Falling in love with the deal
Picking up things that I wouldn't be willing to buy if they cost me full retail price is one of the biggest traps I've fallen into, and this past year of cutting back has helped me to recognize this. Any item that we purchase should have a purpose in our wardrobes, yet I've spent so much money on items that aren't great, don't fit in, or are redundant with other things that I already own. It pained me to look at all of the waste I've generated by accumulating things that were a "really great deal" that I mindlessly picked up while shopping for sport. Going forward, I won't enter any retail establishment unless I have done an assessment of my wardrobe, considered the gaps, and made a list and budget.
#3 Not being honest about your lifestyle
My lifestyle is 80% travel, 10% recovering from travel, 5% casual social get-togethers, 2.5% dinner parties, and 2.5% fancy events. My wardrobe should be built with that lifestyle in mind, heavy on the versatile business professional pieces sprinkled with casual items and a select few dressy items to reserve for the 2.5% of my time spent at fancy events or black tie weddings.
I've recognized that the items that get me the most mileage are the ones that I can wear to work, or casually at home. My old habit of impulse-purchasing high heels, fancy skirts and beaded vintage blouses was not supporting my lifestyle needs, nor was my oddly large collection of Madewell chambray shirts.
#4 Forgetting that you have options for better quality and prices
Impulse purchasing a polyester-blend sweater from Topshop for $100 that will look worn and old after the second wash does not serve me or my wardrobe. Teaching myself to think about where I can get a similar style in cashmere or 100% wool (like on my favorite online retailer eBay...) has helped me build a better quality wardrobe overall. (And I've been tossing those cheap, overpriced items all year...)
#5 Losing sight of your purpose
We all have a purpose in our purchasing decisions, whether it is to push the boundaries on your style, fill gaps in your wardrobe, or become more mindful about what you're buying. This mistake is really hard to avoid, even when you're consciously trying to stay focused. Even though I publicly committed to a self-induced challenge to not buy anything for a year save for second-hand, I struggled with this one. And I write this guiltily thinking of those who have joined me (Ivanka...) and hope for your forgiveness.
While traveling for work in the spring, my black heel broke and I was without a substitute or the ability to find a suitable second-hand store. In pure desperation, I dragged my friend Ashley (who is conveniently also a 9.5 shoe size) to Nordstrom, forced her to buy a pair of black heels on her own credit card, wear them for a day, then sell them back to me for $5 less. It was a low moment, and I am ashamed for letting myself get off on a technicality. However, it was a true test of friendship as there are not many people who would accept such outrageous demands. (Thanks, Ash!)
And, I took a lot of liberty with my birthday gifts, all attributed to my husband Wes and his incredible taste in women's clothing and full support of my style choices...
Ok, that's all I have! I'm sure there are many other shopping mistakes that we make, would love to hear your thoughts on any that you've observed in your closets!

Since we moved in early September, I've been wading through boxes and trying to figure out where everything should live. I've spend months in analysis paralysis about which sconces to buy. There are boxes shoved into corners of the garage and guest bedroom and I have no idea what is inside of them. No idea, folks.
Last weekend, we finally got all of our homeless d├ęcor and wayward belongings shoved into a spare room and managed to get the whole place cleaned for a Halloween party. For the first time, this new place finally felt like home and worthy of taking some pictures with my trusty ol' Nikon to document the progress. (I posted them as a tour on my other blog - you can read it here if you're interested and have some thoughts on how to fix entryway woes...)
In other news, I am sitting in a Marriott with a glass of Meiomi in hand planning out my next few weeks of crazy travel, including back-to-back trips to Chapel Hill and Dallas starting on Thursday. I'm sorry that I've neglected this blog, and promise to have some new posts soon! In the meantime, please be comforted that this weekend I will be wearing my circa 2012 leopard jeans to a UNC football game and am as committed as ever to my old clothes and animal print collection.

Although I've been an eBayer forever, my year of cutting back and my growing consciousness of how much we collectively waste has made me even more in love with eBay as a source for building my wardrobe and refining my style. 

Many people are scared of eBay and in some ways that benefits me because I have less competition when bidding on things I love. However, it is my mission to convince you that your style will improve if you start shopping on eBay, combined with some thoughtful planning and training yourself to have the restraint to wait for the right piece. Here are six things that I always buy on eBay, and will likely do so forevermore:

#1 That thing you should have bought and can't stop thinking about 

Reverse buyer's regret is a real thing. I'd be lying if I said I haven't spent time pining over things I passed on, then went back to buy and they were already gone. 

For example, these J.Crew cage heels. They are fabulous and I should have bought them years ago but they sold out before I could make up my mind. Since then, I've stalked them on eBay and when they finally came up in my size I  pounced on them. With the added benefit of being a fraction of the price new, and the time-tested confidence that buying them would not be a mistake.

Think about that thing you passed on, got a substitute that was never quite right. I bet you can find it on eBay with a little patience. My favorite time for searching these things are when I am in situations when I need to occupy my mind / kill time, such as Sunday Night Football events.

#2 Classic designer handbags 

I'll never buy these new because eBay has them aplenty, at practical prices by highly rated sellers who offer authenticity guarantees. Doing my research on the best bags and refining it down to the best choice is the hard part. Right now, I'm  good on the handbag front but when I'm ready to make an upgrade eBay will be where I get it.

#3 Anything by your favorite designer or retailer

There are a few designers that I love to source on eBay. When you already know you love a particular brand, it's pretty fail-safe to buy pieces from those brands on eBay because you're already familiar with sizing, fit and quality. Many of my favorite items from Vince, Isabel Marant and Vanessa Bruno are from eBay.

#4 Foreign brands that are hard to get locally

Transit and COS are two of my favorite European brands that are next to impossible to find in the US, so I hunt them on eBay to cure my need to shop. 

#5 Investment shoes 

You can get better quality and more beautiful shoes for the same price or less than what you're paying for a cheap equivalent on eBay. It's important to try on a few pairs of shoes by a particular brand first to get familiar with your size (especially if it is in IT or EU). I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few sales ladies at Nordstrom who were verrrrrry disappointed to see me walk away from $800 shoes to "think about it" (a.k.a. hunt it on the 'Bay).

#6 Fine jewelry

Just like upping the quality of your bags and shoes, you can have nicer jewelry for what you may be paying retail for cheap costume pieces. Buy confidently from a highly rated seller backed by eBay's customer satisfaction policy (which is similar to Amazon). I've gotten a 14k gold chain and sterling silver garnet earrings for a fraction of what they would cost retail. The garnet earrings were particularly satisfying, because I was almost talked into a pair of overpriced ones while traveling. (I think people are willing to spend a premium when traveling to have the ability to snobbishly declare: "Oh these? I got them in Praaaaague because I am cultured and worldly and fancy.") Rather than spend $275 on a pair to be able to make this statement, I got mine on eBay for like $20. And they remind me of the inspiration I found in Prague, and that I didn't get shaken down by the savvy jeweler next to my Airbnb.

To my fellow eBay lovers: what is missing from this list? 

To my hesitant, future eBay loving readers: what's holding you back?

(Special thanks to Becky Howe for the photo of me staring at my cage heels in wonderment.)

The book rumored to have inspired Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard to start his own venture was Charles Haanel's The Master Key System, a series of lessons originally published in 1912 that prescribe a way of thinking  that drives successful outcomes through a focus on harmonious principles, and the ability to concentrate. It is hands-down the best book I've read in years, and has reframed how I think about creative power, positive thinking, time efficiency, health, mental ability and capacity to concentrate.

For those of you not addicted to self-help books yet intrigued by mind control tactics, below is a summary of the takeaways for your reading pleasure slash consideration for improving your own life:

#1 Almost everything about you and your life is a direct product of your thoughts

Your past reactions to external situations, responses to other people, choices on what to put in your body, and control over your mind has led you to your current body and health, lifestyle, relationships, career and overall happiness.

This is a simple concept, but a hard one to accept. However, it sank in for me when I thought about the most challenging times I've had in my life and realized how I'd mostly created them myself by dwelling in a negative mindset, allowing impulses to become actions and ultimately bad choices. It's so much easier to blame external forces, rather than considering how much control I truly have over every aspect of my life.

On the flip side, the most wonderful experiences I've had resulted from positive thoughts, enabling my desires to become actions and ultimately the exactly right choices that led me to my goals.

#2 Your ability to think about HOW you think is the secret to greatness

And the secret to abundant possibility. Taking time to consider why you're thinking in a certain way enables you to adjust your thought pattern. Positive thoughts lead to productivity, and you have the power to program your mind to focus only on those positive, productive thoughts and learn to tune out negative, unproductive thoughts regardless of what internal or external factors trigger them. However, it takes discipline to think about your own mind objectively, which is why most people haven't mastered control of their minds.

Practicing on my own mind, I realized that many of my negative thoughts stem from insecurities and fear. Thinking logically about how my negative thought patterns were unproductive has helped me tremendously. I've started to recognize when they're simmering and have learned to shut them down quickly to pave the way for productive thoughts.

#3 All thought is creative, and every single thought produces some kind of reaction or action

Haanel gives the great example of how thoughts can trigger physical reactions on our bodies. Laughter, tears, and chills are examples we're all familiar with, and can agree that our own thoughts produce these reactions. He takes it a step further with examples of how our thoughts can influence health, that prolonged negative thinking produces actions and reactions that stress our bodies and can lead to disease. Although this isn't a secret (doctors have linked common diseases to lifestyle choices, which of course are driven by thoughts), it's sort of astonishing to think that your body has a physical reaction to your thoughts.

So if we're in agreement that our thoughts can influence our bodies, it's also logical that our thoughts can influence our external environment. For me, I think about how my thoughts led me to walk into an open house all the way to selecting paint colors and filling it with my things. Having a vision in my mind, combined with the positive conviction that my vision would become reality, created a home that I now love out of an ugly-with-good-bones house. We can all think of examples where we've had a vision that we turned to reality out of pure excitement. Haanel suggests that training our minds to apply vision and concentration towards whatever we desire will lead to successful outcomes.

#4 The fastest way to fail to allow negative thoughts to take hold in your mind

If all thought is creative, then negative thought will create negative experiences and repeated, prolonged negative thought will drive you backwards. This is sort of common sense, but something that I never really actively considered. Thinking back to the times in my life when I allowed negative thinking to take hold, I realized that it manifested problems in almost everything about me. The condition of my skin, propensity to get sick, likelihood of a failed date, willingness to engage in an argument, etc. were directly related to my mindset.

Thoughts stemming in anger, jealously, self-pity, helplessness, fear and other negative emotions hold us back, and we have the power to consciously choose to let those thoughts go - and, more importantly - never let them take hold from the start.

#5 We are all connected to a greater mind

There's a passage in the book about the concept of a "Universal Mind" - it's not religious, or philosophical, or scientific - it's just a suggestion that there is a common, universal set of intelligent principles that guide the human progress and are rooted in positive, productive thought. Haanel argues that every successful human being to walk the Earth has in some form or another subscribed to these principles in order to drive their development.

I read this while sitting in the Starbucks at O'Hare, and had this odd realization that the concept of Starbucks started in a human mind and inspired thoughts in other human minds and then exploded into a reality that touches millions of people every hour of every day (and also started a global pumpkin spice trend that sort of scares me). Same thing goes for the concept of communicating via telephony, traveling through the air in a metal tube, selling products via the internet, conducting business on personal computers, breaking a host of colonies free from Great Britain to start America, etc.

In summary, our capacity to align all of our thoughts to positive, intelligent principles and develop a vision on which to concentrate our thoughts is the "master key" to all success. 

Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you'll pick up this book if you're intrigued to learn more on the theory behind these principles. I'm off to go practice mind control, would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!

For some reason, weddings make me overthink my outfits. I think it's the feeling of someone else's judgmental aunt sizing me up in front of the shrimp platter that leads to self-doubt and paranoia over dress code references on invitations. It shouldn't be that way, but it's part of the wedding tradition, right up there with picking China patterns and listening to the maid of honor talk about the couple-in-question as if no one in the room has ever experienced love before.

Over the past several years, I've been to enough weddings to realize that there are some basic formulas to hitting the dress code expectations while still being true to your own style. I've also realized there are really only three types of wedding dress codes, or three "levels" of dressiness with the most stringent being black tie, then formal, and finally cocktail which I designate as "anywhere you would have a cocktail" which could include anything from a boat to a tailgate. 

Here are the formulas that I've employed in dressing for each of those levels of wedding dressiness this year using things already in my closet.

#1 What to wear to a black tie wedding

The above photo is what I wore to my friend Alyssa's black tie wedding in NYC. It's a simple black ballgown skirt with a silk / cotton blend blouse and nude heels, a combination that I landed on by considering the question "What would Jenna Lyons wear?" while perusing my closet. 

Jenna would not wear Rent the Runway. Instead, she would wear something undeniably fancy, with an unexpectedly understated piece, in simple colors. Black tie doesn't necessitate a gown or a full-length skirt, but it does require a key element of your outfit to be fancy enough to not be upstaged by your date's cumber bun. What, might you ask, are pieces that compete with cumber buns? Think ball gown skirts, feathered dresses, beaded blouses, tailored tuxedo pants, and anything taffeta. If you've got that key piece, the other elements can be simple and even unexpected to keep the look true to your style. 

#2 What to wear to a formal wedding

This is my favorite type of wedding dress code, because it still requires you to be fancy but with less stringent guidelines than black tie. Meaning, it's more fun! With a formal dress code, I can find ways to make my cage heels appropriate such as pairing them with a vintage red silk dress I picked up for $10 at my local Logan Square thrift store (there used to be a gold metal seashell sewn on the bodice, and chopping it off with a pair of nail scissors was the only "tailoring" necessary). 

When dressing for a formal wedding, I think of what fabulous people wear to an art gallery opening and dress accordingly. You want to look classy, with a twist. Look for items that keep your shoulders or knees covered, and add spice with accessories.

#3 What to wear to a cocktail wedding

A cocktail dress code is more casual, and the perfect opportunity to wear a matchy-matchy silk pantsuit like the one below. Or, that amazing embroidered pencil skirt that's been sitting in the back of your closet for four years because you're not sure how to style it. Or, that basic little black dress you've had forever with a pair of bold shoes. Shorter hemlines, bare shoulders, fancy flats and other indicators of comfort fair game. I like to imagine what flappers of West Egg wore to Gatsby's parties and dress accordingly.

I think the most difficult variations on these three levels of wedding attire are seasonal: what to wear to a black tie wedding in winter is a harder question (with the answer always including "add a fur stole"), as are the variations tied to the odd disclaimers added to cocktail attire wedding invitations intended to control weird relatives (such as "no jeans" which should be obvious to all invitees but then seeds doubt in your mind as you imagine your silk pantsuit dancing to Stevie Wonder, completely out of place in a sea of bedazzled Wrangler jeans).

Any thoughts on wedding attire rules that I've missed? And tips on dressing for winter weddings? I'd love to hear your thoughts on what to wear to a wedding while still honoring your personal style.

Vintage stores have kept me from dropping out of my challenge to not buy anything new for a year, and it is about time that I wrote an ode to my undying love of everything vintage. Whether you're currently an aficionado of legitimate grandma clothing or not, I guarantee you that spending 25 minutes browsing through the racks of a great vintage shop will lead you to some great discoveries (and soul searching about what's in your closet that would pass the test of time in the same way).

Without further ado, here are my top five things to hunt for on your next vintage shopping spree:

#1 Statement jewelry

Although I wear the same simple gold and silver fine jewelry almost every day, occasionally mixing it up with statement pieces is something that I love to do - and nearly all of my statement jewelry is vintage because it's affordable, unique and timeless. Every time I browse through a display of vintage jewelry, I'm amazed at how the same trends reappear decade after decade.

The key is to look for pieces that are a little offbeat, but still look and feel like a quality item. Avoid plastic pieces and tarnished metals and instead hunt for enamel, Lucite, glass, and natural materials like amber, stone and even bone.

When I was in Prague, I found an amazing carved bone bead necklace for $60 that became the perfect piece to wear with a simple long maxi skirt or spice up a tee shirt and pair of jeans. 

#2 Silk scarves

There's a store in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago (called Una Mae's for local readers) that is my secret source of silk scarves: they have a $5 bin that has fed my collection for a few years now and I get more use out of a silk scarf than most things in my closet: I use them for a wide range of purposes including spicing up a basic black crew neck, to tying my hair back, packing statement jewelry into pretty rolls in my suitcase, and tying around my wrist or to my tote to add a little je ne sais quoi!

Key is to look for 100% silk in crisp colors, without fading or stains. Avoid polyester - they don't look nearly as nice when tied, and they snag!

#3 Leather and fur pieces

There is no better source for affordable, sustainable 100% leather and natural fur than your local purveyor of vintage clothing. My absolute favorite leather pencil skirt is vintage, and it is one of the top pieces in my fall and winter wardrobe. (And, it was less than $20.) For years, I've lusted for a shearling fall coat but couldn't bring myself to spend $2,000 on one. This summer, I found the perfect one at my local vintage shop in Logan Square… for $19. That's right, folks, a 100% suede and shearling coat for literally 1% of the cost to buy it new. (OK, and $30 to have it professionally cleaned, if I'm being honest.)

#4 Quality blazers

Nothing irritates me more than a cheap blazer. There is just no need to own a cheap, polyester, ill-fitting and overpriced blazer when there are literally oodles of 100% wool, silk, and linen ones with beautiful pearl and tortoise buttons just waiting to be discovered on the racks of a treasure trove of old used clothing.

My absolute favorite blazer is a black wool and silk blend that surely cost some cute grandma a lot of money back in the day, but with a little spare cash and some tailoring it is like my second skin for work. Definitely competes with my run-of-the-mill collection of Brooks Brothers suit blazers.

#5 Boots

My addiction to all things vintage started in college, back at the BEST of the BEST vintage stores in Champaign, IL (shout out to Ivanka and call to action in making sure this place still exists…) called Dandelion Vintage. There, I found the most amazing pair of eel skin cowboy boots that are still my favorite nearly 9 years later and earn me compliments from fashionistas and respect from cowboys everywhere. The fact that I bought them on my college budget says all there needs to be said.

Again, looking for leather and quality construction is the key.

Ok, that's all I have for you this week. Would love to hear about any of your top vintage finds and anything that's missing from this list!

(Special thanks to Becky Howe for these fascinating photos of me perusing old clothing...)