Style Graduate

Professional style on a graduate student budget.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Carnival of Couture!

The fantabulous Sense of Soot says that for this Carnival "The Topic is Torturous Fashion, and not the kind you tried, hated, and discarded. Oh no, we're going deeper into the dark corners than that, my dumplings. There is something you have owned, a style you have loved with a masochism unparalleled."

Well I have never been as stylish as some of those around me, and so have rarely sacrificed my comfort for looks, preferring a less sleek look over a paingully gorgeous one. My one masochistic fashion favorite was a beautiful pair of gray ankle boots I got at DSW for what I thought was an incredible price. And for a month they were wonderful boots: comfortable, stylish, supportive, and waterproof. Sadly, after the brief honeymoon was over, the inside of one boot started disintegrating, revealing the hard and sharp leather piece supporting the heel. Every time I wore them my right sock was ripped, and I blistered my heel. I persevered, bolstered by Band-Aids, but after a few more months, I could not take it. I threw them out.

Today I wear Kenneth Cole Reaction boots, like this lovely pair, which I have in black leather. Comfort has prevailed.

(At left: comfortable, non-masochistic boots!)

One more for the home!

Color belongs in the air, not just on the wall. Stained glass windows might seem way out of a student's price range, but they can be very affordable. Check antique stores, which regularly carry stained glass pieces, or look for a local stained glass artist. I have bought beautiful windows from Glenn Greene, a Pittsburgh, PA, artist. Local artists often will do custom pieces or even offer classes, so if you can't find what you want, ask. If you don't want a full window, go for a hanging 12" x 12" framed piece.

Then head to Ikea, and buy glass vases in coordinating colors. Put these on windowsills in rooms without stained glass windows, and you'll maintain the feeling throughout the apartment. This vase comes in several different colors, and is only $0.99. For a more artistic shape, go for this mouthblown vase ($4.99). Flowers optional.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More home decor!

Today's one-of-a-kind piece is a hand-cut silhouette by Karl Johnson. Get a lovely silhouette of yourself or a loved one, or even a pet. Prices range from $25 for a 5" x 7", up to $75 for a larger-than-life 11" x 14". Put your new artwork in a modern frame to keep from an excessively old-fashioned look. Try this sleek black frame ($9.99) from Ikea to make a strong statement, or go for something smaller and more minimalist to let the piece be a highlight, but not the focal point of a room. (Photo copyright karl Johnson.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Home decor: all this week!

Ikea is, and always will be, the student standard for furniture, kitchen wares and home decor. And they do have some lovely things, but it is important not to turn your apartment into an Ikea showroom; instead, showcase your individual style with one-of-a-kind pieces. This week I'll be showing pairings of great Ikea items with complementary hand-made pieces. Let's start with some retro-spotted spice jars from Serajay Designs, available in green & yellow or blue & white, and only $10 for a set. (Photo copyright Serajay Designs.)

Let's match these with some textiles: the Lisbet tablecloth (or table runner ($6.99), or placemats ($1.99); but these are alternatives, you don't need to pile them all on together) from Ikea, just $14.99.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Carnivale of the Couture!

Final fashion wants to know what my favorite fresh-out-of-the-dryer outfit is. This is a difficult question, because I am pretty uniformly delighted to wear anything straight out of the dryer. But I think there are probably two outfits that top the list, and the first is my pair of wonderfully soft and cuddly fleece pajamas. There is nothing better than pulling on warm pajamas and hopping into bed with a good book! With the approach of summer, I will have to trade in my thick fleece for something lighter, and the plan right now is to go with this cotton poplin top ($24) and pants ($22) from Lands' End.

My second outfit is a lovely pair of bootleg jeans with black paisley embroidery accents (which make for a clean and classic but striking look) worn with my new favorite sweater, a 3/4-sleeve beauty from Ann Taylor Loft (currently on sale for only $14.99). I pull on a toasty-warm pair of knee socks and complete the outfit with my black wedge-heel boots.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Style Graduate's favorite fashion blogs!

I love to read fashion blogs; they keep me abreast of trends and let me look at all kinds of lovely shoes, clothes, bags, and complete looks. I can't afford many of the items they showcase, but I can dream of days when I will have a salary, and not just a stipend. Here are some of the best:

Enjoy reading them!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

KangaROOS for comfy feet.

Don't make the mistake of wearing athletic sneakers for non-ahtletic purposes; you will only wear them out more quickly and look significantly less stylish. They will make your pants fall funny and your feet look big if you wear them with regular clothes. Instead, go for a "fashion sneaker" (I think the Manolo might cry if he heard me say that!). My favorite fashion sneakers are KangaROOS, which I buy from There are always some cute ones on sale; here are two options, both under $40 (with free shippping!): a retro-style sneaker in suede, and a more contemporary strap-closure shoe.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stock up at the Gap sale!

Gap is running a spring sale right now; stock up on basics like tees, jeans, pants, and business-ready attire. My favorite picks are this pair of women's wool slacks, a steal at $29.99, and these snazzy men's pinstripe pants, $34.99.

Lots of graduate students have little ones; protect them from the sun with a cool dinosaur hat ($7.99), sure to please your child and your wallet.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Designer diving duds (with a pic for the dudes!)

A well-made swimsuit is well worth the investment, but you don't have to break the bank to get quality. offers steeply discounted designer clothes, and their swimwear selection is great. A basic black bikini or pair of trunks will hold you in good stead for years.

Designer diving duds

A well-made swimsuit is well worth the investment, but you don't have to break the bank to get quality. offers steeply discounted designer clothes, and their swimwear selection is great. A basic black bikini or pair of trunks will hold you in good stead for years.

Ann Taylor Loft on sale

Need a dress to wear with the sandals you just bought? Try one of these from Ann Taylor Loft (the less-expensive cousin to Ann Taylor). My favorite is this lovely floral print dress with beautiful bodice details, for only $49.99. (On the website you can view a non-pixellated image, and zoom in to see details.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Head over to for some witty t-shirts; couples can buy matching "my boyfriend"/"my girlfriend" t-shirts and be gratuitiously cute, while fans of Ikea can show some Scandanavian pride with Swedish mafia shirts. Anything to boost your confidence during that meeting with your advisor!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fab footwear!

Spring is here (for most of North America, anyway) and that means it is time to break out the sandals. Plastic flip-flops are easy, but they don't look particularly fashionable, nor do they set you apart from the crowd. Old Navy has some charming slip on sandals for ladies: espadrille slides, mules, and some strappy, shiny numbers. Guys should try these imitation Birkenstocks, or an upscale leather flip-flop. All are under $25, with only $5 shipping on the whole order.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Procrastinate in style! While endlessly searching random websites can be a moderately satisfying way to keep from doing that key experiment, or reading those papers you really should read, there are better ways to waste your time. Try some of these awesome comics instead:
  • Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD comics) - yes, someone understands your pain.
  • Dinosaur Comics - who doesn't like insanely witty dinosaurs?
  • Natalie Dee - miscellaneous crackpottery never goes out of style!

It is hard to look stylish while doing laundry, but some manage it. In addition to wearing appropriate clothes (and I do realize that options may be limited), it is important to not carry around a sloppy, broken, plastic laundry basket overflowing with unmentionables and dirty socks. Try a customizable laundry bag from Courtney Courtney, and lug your duds with flair. If a bag doesn't do it for you, try a rolling laundry hamper. Whitney Designs has one with three compartments, or, for the sorting-challenged, just one. Both are available from Amazon, and shipping is free in the U.S. if you fill up your order with two books everyone (especially a graduate student) needs.

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