Tuesday, September 30, 2014

how i edit instagram pictures

Instagram is my social media of choice. I have always loved taking pictures and documenting whatever is going on around me, so now that it's socially acceptable to take pictures all the time, I'm even more all about it.

While everyone uses IG differently, I like to keep it pretty "snap shots of life" kind of a space, so I rarely post blog pictures, or super staged pictures. I do want it to look nice though, so a couple of editing tricks have made a huge difference in picture quality. Some of it I figured out myself, but I've learned little tips and tricks from Grace [her instagram here], Laura [instagram here], and my good friend Ben (who actually was just made an Instagram suggested user, so he definitely knows what he's doing!). 

So besides the typical pieces of advice (take it in natural light, take several pictures so you have options, don't be super obnoxious when it comes to picture taking), here is how I approach instagram picture editing.

I have a ton of different photo editing apps on my phone, but my top ones are VSCOcam, Snapseed, and Retouch. I also use Diptic (for collage making), Over (puts words over your pictures), Afterlight (for sun flares),  and Instasize (for making wider pictures into a square). Here's the general order of how I edit my pictures: 
  1. This is the original untouched picture. I'm standing against my living room wall because it has the most natural sunlight without having any direct light on me. I took 5 pictures, and this is the one I felt the least dweeby in.
  2. I always use VSCOcam first. It comes with a good sampling of various filters, and over the last few months I've purchased a couple more. I generally try to keep my pictures softer and more mellow, but that's just the look I'm going for - there are so many different options! After choosing a filter, I usually add +1 to the exposure, contrast, and sharpness.
  3. touchRetouch is basically a mini photoshop for your phone. I don't know how to use photoshop in real life at all, but this makes fixing little things super easy. I used the brush here to cover up a blemish that concealer just won't cover up in real life. I don't like when people make their pictures look completely unnatural, but I also don't want to give you a close up of a zit. It also has a stamp tool that I am still slowly figuring out how to use.
  4. Snapseed is an app I use to brighten certain parts of the picture. You can choose any color in the picture, then have it it change all the parts of the picture that are that color. Here I just chose to make the white a little brighter, and the stripes a little darker. It almost looks a little blown out on a big computer screen, but I think it helps a lot with tiny iPhone screens.
All of that takes me maybe 3-4 minutes, but I think it makes the picture that much better. Plus it's fun! Here's the whole process in GIF form:

Here are a couple more examples of edited pictures:

I'd love to hear how you edit your pictures, or what tips and tricks you've learned along the way!

For more instagram tips:

Looking for new people to follow? I love these, these, and these guys!

P.S. In the first picture I'm wearing my favorite striped tee + newest eBay purchase

Monday, September 29, 2014

head to toe

I typically try not to wear one brand head to toe (for no real reason though- anyone else like that?), but sometimes it just happens. I was itching to wear my new skirt, and this shirt was laying right on top of my "to steam" pile, so the outfit just kind of made itself.

Sometimes laziness and procrastination pays off...when it comes to choosing outfits anyway ;)
Also, speaking of J.Crew, they are currently offering 30% off (40% if you are a card holder) sale items. This pleated dress comes in three beautiful colors and is currently a steal at $35, the pinstripe vest is a fun alternative to the more popular herringbone version (and also cheaper!), and if you've been looking for a french-inspired graphic tee, this one is under $20 and tout too (haha) cute.
Shirt: J.Crew [exact factory version - I'll take a grey please!]
Skirt: J.Crew Factory [exact on sale]
Shoes: J.Crew Factory [exact on sale]
Belt: Everlane [exact]
Watch: Michael Kors [save || splurge]
Glasses: Warby Parker [exact]
Bag: Kate Spade [save || splurge]

Saturday, September 27, 2014

shop the bop

Sweater ||  Watch || Shoes || Jeans

For the next couple of months, I'll be partnering with Shopbop to show of their wide range of apparel, both the affordable and higher end pieces they offer. I'm truly excited about this because of a little bit of hometown pride - the only brick and mortar Shopbop is in downtown Madison, Wisconsin! So I'll be given the opportunity to pick out a few things, and incorporate them into my daily life. I'm using this as a time to add a few things to my closet that will get worn for years to come. I'm thinking the following:

  • A nice thick sweater  (check out their full range of knits here) to ring in the incoming 6 month long winter. A classic like the one above, from their Bop Basics line, is a true classic, and looks so comfy.
  • I'd also like to try some higher end denim that will last for years - I've loved my Joe's Jeans for years, but I've heard so many great things about 7 for all Mankind that they may have to be the next pair to be added. A classic dark wash with midrise should be a style that has some staying power!
  • I've wanted a rose gold watch forever, and ShopBop has quite the collection currently available. I feel in love the Michael Kors version above because of the beautiful metal mixed with the bright white face and classic type. 
  • Lastly, shoes! The herringbone flats are super fun and probably pretty versatile, but I'm leaning towards finding either the perfect black or red pair of ballet flats. A girl can dream about those Ferragamos, right? 
I can't wait to show you guys more about what I add, and how they remain staples in my closet for years to come. A big thank you to Shopbop for this amazing opportunity!

Friday, September 26, 2014

september budget

1. Ann Taylor Top: originally $50, on sale for $25
2. Old Navy Sweater Dress: originally $40, on sale for $28
3. J.Crew Chambray: originally $78, on sale for $55
4. J.Crew Factory Skirt: originally $90, on sale for $35
5. Banana Republic Shirt [seen here]: originally $65, on sale for $40
6. Pearl earrings: $6

September budget: $189

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

the biggest cliche of all

DSC02775 Happy official second day of fall! This is my favorite week of the whole year - it was my birthday on Sunday (so much celebrating was done while I was in the library all day), the weather is starting to cool down, and all of the TV shows are coming back! I tend to always be a few weeks behind, but then if I get a few free hours, I get to binge watch Modern Family in one full swoop. That, and Grey's, Scandal, and The Mindy Project :)

And going along with fall, FALL CLOTHES. I recently ordered this sweater dress from Old Navy because 1. it reminds me so much of a Madewell dress and 2. it looks so comfy. I ordered it during a recent 30% sale as a "try-on filler" while I ordered this coat, and it turns out I love the dress and unfortunately don't love the coat on me. I'll do a more thorough review on Friday during my budget post but the current 25% off sale ends today in case anyone had their eye on it and wanted to grab it for a steal. (the reviews say it runs a bit short, so I ordered it in a tall, and it hits me right at the knee). If you're looking for anything else to fill your basket, I would suggest this buffalo plaid button up - perfect for those cooler days coming our way!

Blazer: Banana Republic [exact]
Blouse: J.Crew 
Pants: The Limited [similar]
Shoes: Target [exact]
Watch: Bocci 
Ring: DIY [tutorial here]
Bag: Kate Spade [save || splurge]

Monday, September 22, 2014

infinity scarves are so out


I read an article the other day discussing what trends are no longer "in". I generally don't think that I'm too trendy of a dresser - I never got into wedge sneakers, shredded tops, sheer maxi skirts, and so on. But apparently infinity scarves are no longer in, and to that I say ...infinity scarves were a trend?

Next you're going to tell me that ballet flats are no longer cool to wear either, and trench coats are so last year.

So I wore my favorite infinity scarf in protest, because the people who decide what is in/out are going to have to pry them from my cold dead hands before I stop wearing them.

On the topic of scarves though, I was looking at pinterest recently and found this pin of Blair. I had one of those "I NEED" moments about her scarf - it just looks like the perfect, soft, warm scarf that can be worn with just about anything. I was fairly disappointed when hers was no longer available, but it seems that Calypso came out with a similar style this year. I still haven't decided on what I would like to spend my saved up birthday money on, and while I was thinking possibly getting ankle boots, I almost think that in the long run, a scarf (while stupid crazy expensive) may be something I will still own in years from now, rather than a more trendy ankle boot that is also likely to wear out quicker. Thoughts? I always use my birthday money as an excuse to get something I wouldn't usually spend that much money on, but is a outrageously expensive scarf just too absurd?

Blouse: H&M 
Scarf: H&M [inexpensive similar]
Pants: The Limited [exact]
Watch: Michael Kors [exact]
Shoes: Madewell [exact]
Tote: Madewell [exact]
Glasses: Warby Parker [exact]
Belt: Gap
madewell sidewalk skimmer calf hair
via instagram
P.S. don't forget to link up tomorrow for our Blogger Bloopers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

dr. brandt's laser fx review


I've always had a mild obsession with skincare products - I feel like I've been looking for that miracle product for as long as I can remember (my first love was st. ive's apricot scrub when I was in 7th grade - I thought it was magic). I've never had really horrible skin, but through the years I've had various concerns. While I'm no longer dealing with that many break-outs except for ones in what I call my study zone (where I rest my head on my left hand while reading), I'm still dealing with the residuals marks from over the years. I also turn 27 this weekend, so I'm slowly starting to notice a few more wrinkles here and there. While I've always tried to be very good about taking care of my skin (washing it every night, sunscreen when I go outside), I was really starting to think about how I need to have a more thorough approach to getting the skin I want. All of this is to say that I was very excited to be given the chance to try out Dr. Brandt's newest skin care line Laser Fix, a brand I've been asking for samples of for years every time I go to Sephora.


I received all three products for the line, each specified for a different concern:

  • Bright Serum: This is far dark spots and uneven skin tone, something that I would say is my main concern currently. It contains hyaluronic acid to help plump the skin and even it out.  I've been using this every morning before putting on my moisturizer and makeup. 
  • Perfect Serum: This serum is made for diminishing wrinkles and lines. I use this one at night before using my Kiehl's Midnight Recovery oil. It recently won Cosmo's Best Anti-Aging award!
  • Lift Serum: This is designed to firm your skin, and improving your skin's elasticity. I'm saving this one for when I get through the other two bottles. 
I've been using these products for two weeks, and I personally can see that it's helping me. I don't think that it's something that really shows up in pictures yet (which is why there are none of my stunning makeup-less face), but I'm planning on using these products until they run out. If the results continue to improve like they are currently, I can definitely see myself purchasing another bottle. I feel like the bottles themselves will last quite a long time, since you only have to use a little bit to cover all of your skin.  As of now, I'm using less make up, and feeling better about the upcoming birthday since I have possible new miracle products on my side ;)


A big thank you to Dr. Brandt for sponsoring this post. I can't wait to see how much this helps improve my skin concerns!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

do the peg bundy

DSC02570 I love leopard print, but in very small doses.

Belts? cute.

Shoes? yes please. 

Clutches? adorable.

But leopard print in giant doses always feels very Peg Bundy to me, so even though this shirt is actually a bunch of poppy flowers, it looks like a leopard print from far away. I tried to tone that down by wearing it with other neutrals (no red shoes this time!) but I'm always unsure about it. Maybe if I ever find that perfect maroon pencil skirt (which thanks to Barks and Baking, this J.Crew Factory version, currently on sale, is now heading my way!) it'll feel less Peg and more Fran. 

Or I'll just embrace the Peg. All I need is a little more hair teasing and a better push-up bra. 

Skirt: thrifted
Belt: Gap
Shoes: Banana Republic - currently on sale
Watch: Michael Kors
So if you're like me and like leopard in small doses, here are a few leopard calf-hair shoes currently out there. I own the Madewell version (found on major sale last year) that I love - it's the perfect way of adding just a little bit of sass to an outfit ;)

Friday, September 12, 2014

lub dub

white blouse, blue pants, cognac accessories
Life has been a little hectic lately.

We officially finished the GI system on Monday - it's been my favorite so far so I'm sad to see it go. I missed getting an A by 3 points (out of almost 400) so I'm fairly disappointed that I was so.close, but didn't quite get there. They say grades don't "matter" in the grand scheme of things, but when you spend so much time working towards it and fall just short, it's always kind of a bummer.

But now we have started cardio...and it's going to be ridiculous the next few weeks. We have a test every week (always on Mondays too, because who needs even half a day off?), with a sprinkling of random tests and practicals all over the place. I'm already dreading all of it.

At least by the end of it I'll know what all the squiggly lines on an EKG mean though - Tracy already informed me that flat line is dead, so at least I'm off to a good start ;)
Blouse: ASOS [similar]
Pants: The Limited [same style - the green is so pretty!]
Necklace: Forever 21 [cute stone similar]
Bag: Madewell [exact]
Shoes:  Banana Republic [exact]
Watch: Michael Kors [save || exact]
On a side note, if you've been eyeing the Madewell Transport Tote, but don't to spend the money on it, this tote from Forever 21 looks very similar in size + shape for a fraction of the cost!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I've been looking for a dark tweed skirt for the better part of the last year. Who know something so simple was seemingly so hard to find? I thought I finally found "the one" when I found this skirt from Ann Taylor. It was everything I was looking for - (what I thought was) black, thicker, long enough. I waited and waited for it to be included in a sale, and so when the Labor Day sales finally included it, I quickly ordered it (along with this simple but flattering striped top). It arrived, and I spent the better part of twenty minutes trying to convince myself that I loved it. While dark, it turns out it's actually navy, and while I like navy, I know that especially come tights time, I wouldn't wear it because I have a navy/black aversion. I also found the fit a bit off - it was too tight in my thighs but too loose around the waist. I still tried to convince myself that I liked it (and I got it for such a good deal!) to the point that we took pictures of it - you can see it here. It wasn't until I saw the pictures that I really was like "yeahhhhhhnooooooo" - you can't completely tell in that picture, but it hardcore pulls across my thighs.

So back it goes, and the search continues. I did see this beautiful (black!) skirt at Banana Republic, but it's one of those "BR picks" which I'm pretty sure is just BR's way of not putting all their good clothes on sale. They sometimes have their "picks" go on sale though, so I'll just have to wait for that to happen.

Until tights time rolls around though, my pink tweed skirt will serve me well, even if I always go a little matchy matchy with it :)
DSC02439pearl bib necklace striped shirt
Top: Loft [pricey similar]
Skirt: Banana Republic [save | splurge]
Necklace: Forever 21 [really dang cute similar]
Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington [exact]
Ring: DIY [tutorial here]
Shoes: J.Crew Factory [exact]
asymmetrical pearl ring

Monday, September 8, 2014

the classics? [+ 9th&Elm giveaway]

Banana Republic Soft Wash Oxford ShirtAs I was trying to write this post, I initially was going to talk about how I tend to wear a lot of "classics" but I don't really know how define my style. So while I was trying to come up with a definition of what my style is (a very good use of my time, I promise), I realized that I already wrote a really similar post 1.5 years ago about this...and it turns out I was wearing a very similar outfit. 

So does that mean that nothing has really changed in the last 18 months, and that this is just my style? Button-ups, slim pants, cap toed flats - I suppose they're called classics for a reason. So maybe slightly boring, but at least I'm consistent ;)DSC02163
glitter monogram necklace
Shirt: Banana Republic [exact]
Pants: The Limited [exact]
Necklace: c/o 9th & Elm [exact]
Shoes: Target [even cuter similar]
Bag: Kate Spade [save | splurge]
Watch: Michael Kors [exact]
...and nothing completes defining your style like a piece of jewerly with your monogram on it. I've received several pieces through 9th & Elm now, and I've always enjoyed wearing them. It's a fun way to add a little something customized or hand-made and independent into your outfits. If you'd love to own your own personalized piece of jewelry, or any of the other great products on their site, you can either sign up here, or enter the giveaway for a $30 credit! US residents only please. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 5, 2014

staples on sale: madewell post-labor day whites

white blouse  | jeans | eyelet dress

I love Madewell - I love how sleek everything looks, how nothing is ever too crazy or weird, and how well my items from there have held up over the years. I only own a few items [including my tote, anchor belt, and slingback sandals] that were all purchased on sale, but they still look like new (or like a very loved new). Their current 30% off sale items (using code TOPITOFF) is a good one because includes a mix of summer staples, and pieces you can wear all year long. Here are three of my favorites:

Essential White Shirt: I've never believed in the whole "30 pieces every woman should own" schtick because my life as a student is different than a stay-at-home mom which is different than the business woman on Wall Street. But if you have a semi-typical office job, a white button-down can go far - with sleek pants, a fun skirt, even layered under a dress. This one is cotton, thin enough to wear under a sweater once it cools down, but sleek enough to wear on its own too.

Skinny Skinny Jeans: I own these in the normal length, and they are my favorite pair of jeans. I save them for nights out or trips out of town because I don't want to wash them too often or wear holes into the thighs like I have with all my other denim ever (from $30 AE jeans to $160 Joe's). These ones on sale are in the "tall" length, so if you are particularly leggy, these would be great for you. I would double cuff them like all the cool girls are doing now, or get these in the regular length with a little zipper on the side.

Eyelet Dress: The "no white after Labor Day" is not a rule I particulary follow, so I think it's time we all threw that "rule" out the window.  While this white dress would be beautiful in the summer time too, wouldn't it be adorable with some cognac boots and a burgundy or mustard cardigan? It's currently under $30 with all sizes available!

P.S. J.Crew currently is offering 25% off fall staples - I finally ordered the chambray shirt!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

birds of a feather

patterned dress with simple accessories
DSC02317This dress is one of my favorites in my closet for many reasons - it has little feather polka dots on it, it has long sleeves, it's super flattering, and it was once upon a time a "first date" dress. I don't think I've worn it once on the blog because I always wear it the same - with a belt and similar shoes. Maybe one of these days I'll get adventorous and wear a blazer over it or something (hold me back, it's getting crazy up in here), but for now I'm not going to mess with a good thing. 

Until it's -20 here. Then all bets are off, and all scarves are on.

And speaking of cold weather (NOT YET, PENNSYLVANIA), I'm still debating which booties I'd like to try. I want something that is a bit more appropriate for school, and something I can wear with black tights (stockings?) with skirts/dresses this fall and winter. I mentioned I was looking at these Vince Camuto booties (the reviews are all raving about them!), but noticed this very similar pair from Geox that has a bit of a thicker heel. I don't really have a commute so I'm not too worried about walking in a bit of snow, but I also don't want to wobble the 30 feet of walking from my parked car into school. Any suggestions/input? Like I said, totally bootie newbie here ;)
J.Crew Factory Sylvia Wedges
Shoes: J.Crew Factory [exact on sale]
Earrings: Tiffany & Co. [exact]
Bag: Kate Spade [save | splurge]