Style Graduate

Professional style on a graduate student budget.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Unclaimed luggage

It is remarkable how much luggage is left unclaimed at airports every year. Airlines sell the stuff off, and many buyers snap it up sight unseen. One such buyer is the Unclaimed Baggage Center, which then sells everything at a megastore in Alabama, with a small selection available online. Many items are actually unclaimed cargo, so you can get factory sealed items at steep discounts. Because they sell whatever they get, it can be hit or miss if you need something in particular. But you can still find some great bargains, like iPods and digital cameras. Browse around and see what you can find!

This brand new Kate Spade organizer is $90 off retail.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More fun blogs

Here are some non-fashion blogs, because substance is stylish!
  • is a long-time favorite of mine; I love the weekly essays and the advice column by the fabulous Sarah Bunting. Go read my favorite essay.
  • documents the life of Jazz, who is about to get her graduate degree. It's full of interesting stuff and useful information.
  • is a remarkably powerful blog, written by a woman who recently underwent a stem-cell transplant. We're rooting for you, Debu.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Worth it or not (no. 4)

Both of these pairs of shoes cost right around $70.00. Both are from Macy's. However, one is suitable for wear by a beach bum who sleeps under the rundown boardwalk on a nondescript New Jersey beach, while the other is suitable for wear by a cute master's student on a second date. Which is which? More importantly, which kind of person would you rather be?
If you thought the top one, by Timberland, was more appropriate for people with an actual abode, complete with doors and a mailbox, good job, you've passed the test. If, however, you thought the bottom pair, by Ben Sherman, was suitable footwear for someone with more than one pair of pants, you need to reread your "Style for Dummies" handbook.

Wedding bargains

According to, the average wedding in the U.S. today costs over $26,000. The range, however, is very broad, from $25 for a wedding license and a visit to the courthouse, up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for some exclusive, swanky affairs (which, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, had better have some good food!). C.o.W. lets you search for the average price in your zipcode, which, for Pittsburgh at least, shows that weddings in the university section of town are significantly cheaper ($15,544 in zipcode 15213, as compared to $32,964 in 15217, right next door).

So how do you plan your wedding on a graduate school budget? Many couples choose to do a lot of D.I.Y. projects, hold weddings at unconventional locations, bargain shop, and cut out unnecessary details. And really, just about everything is an unnecessary detail; if, at the end of the day, you are married to your beloved, the wedding was a complete success. Everything else is icing on the wedding cake.

So for the brides, here is a great bargain dress resource: Alycin makes the dresses which are photographed for some of the McCalls bridal patterns; if the pattern is discontinued she often gets the dress back, and then sells it at or below the cost of materials. Selection is limited, and all the dresses are the same size, so if you aren't between a 6 and a 10, they won't fit, although smaller sizes could likely have some of the dresses altered down. But these gowns are hand-made with high quality materials, and they are all under $300, a definite steal. New dresses are added as they come in. The gorgeous ballgown style dress below is $295 + s/h; if I were engaged I would snap it right up.

There are also some wonderful bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, so you can (in theory) outfit the female part of your wedding party in one fell swoop!

Copyright 2004 Alycin Exclusives and the McCalls pattern company

Also check the evening dress sections of department stores; this lovely t-strap gown is only $227.99 at Macy's, and this beautiful strapless gown in ivory is just $194.99

Copyright Macy's

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jewelry sale

Get some funky, one-of-kind pieces from eclectica finch, who is currently holding a buy-one-get-one-free sale. These handmade pieces are made of wood, glass, semiprecious stones, and even corn, living up to the line's name. Best of all, they are very reasonably priced; earrings start at $6.00, and you can get matching sets for as little as $16.00. With the sale, you can do twice as well! My favorite is this gorgeous amythest necklace, made from a vintage piece. It'll run you $25.00.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fun fashion blogs

Here are some fashion blogs I've been enjoying recently; if you have any you think I'd like, put them in the comments!
  • Watch Design - a newer blog featuring all kinds of fashion accessories, but especially timepieces.
  • Godawful Wedding Crap - the name rather says it all, doesn't it?
  • Counterfeit Chic - news about counterfeits and copyright issues in the world of fashion and style.
  • Shoewawa - the good, the bad, and the ugly of the shoe world.
Have fun reading!

The ideal couch

Norwalk Furniture lets you order custom couches (and chairs and ottomans); you get the choose the overall shape, the arm, back and base details, and the fabric; you can even send them your own fabric if you don't like any of their choices (although they have over 1000 options). Prices start around $1,100, which for the exact couch you want is quite a steal! Go ahead and start designing!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

More modest clothes: bottoms

As one of my commentors pointed out, it's not just hard to find stylish, modest dresses, but everyday clothes as well. As a graduate student, you don't want to dress provocatively, but you still want to be comfortable. Complicating the issue is that most of us dont wear business attire, so we have to find appropriate casual clothes, without being boring. Here are some general guidelines for the lab or office:

  • no short shorts
  • no halter or tube tops
  • no spaghetti straps
  • no deep v-necks
  • nothing tight or clingy
  • no midriff baring tops
You might think this leaves you with few options besides t-shirts and jeans, but this isn't so! Take a look at these pieces from Gap (which is currently having its summer sale) and see. For bottoms, go for interesting or unusual colors and patterns, instead of wearing regular blue jeans every day. For summer, you can wear cropped pants or bermuda shorts to stay cool without showing too much skin. Skirts that hit at the knee or below are also great options.

Remember that modest doesn't mean shapeless; if your clothes are well cut, a good figure will show through without clingy or tight pieces.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Modest Clothing

Many women don't like the fact that it is hard to get stylish dresses with sleeves, or that cover the whole back. It can be hard to find these clothes, especially in the spring and summer with so many halter dresses and spaghetti straps dominating the clothing racks.

Here are two websites that sell modest clothing. One of them provides really cute dresses that fall below the knee and cover the shoulder. The other is a very scary site; I recommend not viewing it too close to bedtime, lest you suffer from nightmares.

Mikarose has a small selection of dresses, but they are all lovely. You can probably find some similar pieces at Macy's. I especially like this dress, and would love to wear it swing dancing!

Lydia of Purple sells "Modest Apparel Clothing sewn by a truly modest Christian Seamstress", including denim bathing costumes. This site is doing a great job promoting the myth that modest = ugly, and a somewhat less successful job marrying off young women. Frighteningly, the authors of the website offer a website design service.

Stick with Mikarose, folks.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Worth it or not (no. 3)

Having done two previous posts about clothes, I feel it is only proper that I should pay some attention to shoes as well. Which of these pairs of high heels is worth thirty-some dollars, and which is only worth thirty-some dollars to a blind drag queen?

The top pair is $39.95 at, and while rabbits feet are supposed to be lucky, somehow I don't think these will bring you any good fortune. For some reason, Zappos is not planning on restocking these beauties.

The bottom pair is $34.99 at Ann Taylor Loft; unlike the furry monstrosities above, these lovely ones are perfect for going out at night.

Friday, June 09, 2006

More graduation gifts.

The almost-graduate Jazz likes my picks for graduation presents, but says graduates would prefer cash. Thinking ahead to my own not-too-distant graduation (with only that pesky doctoral thesis standing in front of it) I see the wisdom in this. But there's not too much style involved in giving a fistful of greenbacks, is there?

Fortunately there can be. You can give a memorable, fashionable gift of cash with very little effort on your part. You'll need to give a token gift as well, and package everything beautifully, but it's not so hard.

Start with a lovely, personalized card. American Greetings has some wonderful choices, or you can make your own using quality paper from Crane's. Write a meaningful, but not overly sentimental, message, expressing your pride and pleasure in the graduate's acheivements. Add a small gift; a pen or a pen and pencil set makes a good choice, a cheaper option is a good bar of chocolate.

Put everything in a classy gift box, and you're done! You've given the graduate everything they want, and more.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Worth it or not (no. 2)

Another bebe vs. Bluefly matchup. Which of these is worth almost $80 for just one piece of clothing? The $79 silk blend blouse on top, or the $75 wine colored jersey on the bottom?

If you voted for the culotte jumpsuit, you clearly haven't learned your lesson: jumpsuits are never acceptable. Go to your room! But if you picked the lovely feminine blouse, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. For extra credit, you can buy the blouse for me; I'm a size

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cooking and serving has a great clearance section. I love this set of copper-bottomed mixing bowls; they're great for mixing up cakes, cookies, or breads, and pretty enough to serve salads in. They're half-off too, only $14.99.

A more specialized item is this sushi set with service for four. It's ceramic and dishwasher safe, and you can use it as regular tableware too. This also is $14.99 and 50% off.

For wine and cheese parties, pull out this cheese board and cheese knives; storage for the knives is built into the lower section of the board. This is $30.00 at

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Carnivale Between My Peers

The lovely Rebecca is hosting the Carnivale of the Couture this week, and she wants to know "Suppose you stepped off a plane in your neighborhood, city, or country. Could you tell you were home by how people were dressed? Is there a Regional Casual Uniform? What do people (and you may narrow down to a specific segment of the population if you like) wear when they are going out, during the day, going to be seen, but not needing to dress up?"

The short answer is resoundingly affirmative; you can indeed tell where you. Let me take you on a tour from the airport to my apartment. Pittsburgh International Airport is a major hub, so the terminals are teeming with people from all over, dressed in all different styles. Even those returning home to Pittsburgh are hard to identify, since so many people dress differently to travel than in their day-to-day lives. You would be hard-pressed to figure out where you were just using your highly-tuned sartorial sense. However, as you start driving towards my home, things change. You head down the highway and through a mountain, emerging to view a beautiful skyline just beyond the river. Head over the bridge to downtown, and you'll see: youths in baggy jeans, financial workers in business suits, shoppers in high-end jeans and fancy sweaters. But mostly you will see regular people, dressed casually, and even sloppily by the standards of other Eastern cities. The single most common element, however, is Steelers gear. That is because Pittsburgh is not just a city, it is a nation: Steeler nation. T-shirts, sweatshirts, jerseys, hats, polo shirts, ties, and jackets everywhere are black and gold, emblazoned with the Steeler's hypocycloid logo. There is no doubt that you are in the home city of the current Super Bowl champions.

Head through downtown to Oakland, and the scene changes a bit. You'll see lots of students in jeans and t-shirts, many celebrating Pitt or CMU. In the summer, a lot of the college women wear skirts or dresses, but the guys won't dress up as much. Oakland is very much a student part of town, and it shows.

When you arrive at my apartment building, you'll see old people. Lots of them. My building is mostly peopled by those old enough to be my grandparents. Unfortunately, not many of them are as stylish as my grandparents were. Lavender pantsuits and pastel patchwork sweaters are the rage among the blue-haired women, while the balding men prefer suspenders clipped to slacks dating from the 1980s, over shirts that would be vintage if young hipsters wore them, but on these men are simply old and worn. Despite this geriatric lack of fashion, however, they are all very nice people. When I see those patchwork sweaters and support hose, I know I'm home.

Unfortunately, not all scantily clad Steelers fans are hot.

Worth it or not?

A great outfit is sometimes worth going a little bit out of your normal price range. Sometimes, however, you'll run across an outfit that isn't worth it at twice the price. Let's compare two outfits with the same price, and see which goes into which category.

The one on top is $179 at

The bottom one is by Catherine Malandrino, and is $165.99 at
So which one is worth the price? If you guessed the lovely lavender frock, give yourself a cookie. If you picked the "glamour satin jumpsuit", however, you'll have to stand in the corner and think about your fashion choices.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Warm Wood

Give your living room or entry way a clean edge with this mission-style bench, a steal at $99.95, which is 65% off. If you'd like a modern look, try this pedestal table in one of four colors (I love the chestnut). It's $69.99 (51% off) and shipping from is only $2.95 per order.