Dressing Well on a Budget, Part 1

This is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I firmly believe that, regardless of how much money you have or make, you can wear things that make you look and feel good. Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money for things like new clothes, make up, etc. We had a clothing budget of about $100 per child, so we went shopping at Wal Mart at the beginning of every school year. Additionally, I had two younger brothers and a tomboy mother, so clothes shopping wasn’t at the top of anyone’s (but mine) “fun things to do” list. As a lover of fashion, I hated this, but learned to adapt.  These are the tricks I learned when I was younger, along with some tips I’ve learned since.

1. If you don’t have a lot of money, buy simple pieces.

In middle and high school, you could almost always find me wearing white tennis shoes. They can be found in any Wal Mart shoe department, sale for about $10, and can match almost any casual outfit. I applied these three things to practically every piece of clothing I owned: could be bought at Wal Mart, was inexpensive, and matched several other things. Thus, I had bootcut jeans, plain t-shirts, diamond or pearl stud earrings, and those cheap sweatsuits with coordinating tops and bottoms (ugh, forget I mentioned the sweatsuits!).

Though I spend a lot more on clothes now (and shop much more frequently), my style has remained fairly simple. Think little black dresses, gray work slacks, simpler blouses with little pattern, and shoes that can go with many outfits.  It’s hard to say whether my childhood influenced my current style or I just veer towards classic pieces, but I like what I like.

2. Know where to shop.

And by “know where to shop” I mean: know which stores/designers have clothes that make you look and feel your best. Know what silhouettes, pant lengths, and patterns work best for your body and your life. Know who has the best deals. Although I buy clothing from many different stores, here are the ones I most frequent:

Payless for shoes. Not all Payless shoes are created equal, but I find that the Dexter and Dexflex brand are the most comfortable and hold up the best. I have nude wedges, navy pumps, black flats and everything in between (some of them I’ve had for years!). 

New York and Company for work clothing. New York and Company has two “styles” of business casual/professional clothing: Crosby Street and 7th Avenue. Crosby St. is for body shapes that are more “straight up and down” while 7th Ave is better for people with curvier shapes (similar to The Limited’s Drew and Cassidy lines). NY&Co often has great deals on clothing and they usually have a wide selection of pieces.

TJ Maxx for designers.  I worked at a Marshall’s for two years, so I know this company’s selection well. At TJ Maxx, I look for Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Tahari, and Michael Kors pieces. TJ Maxx is where I purchase winter boots, summer party dresses and nicer handbags. (Unfortunately, they never have sales, but they do clearance pieces.)

3. Know HOW to Shop.

This is a tip I wish someone had taught my mother when I was a kid. You don’t have to avoid the mall or nicer stores just because of your budget–you just have to know how to shop, and when. For example, Payless recently had a BOGO sale. I bought a pair of black flats, nude pumps, black wedges, and a fun, cobalt blue summer bag for under $70–many people spend that much on just ONE pair of shoes or a bag!

Another great store for sales is New York and Company. Almost every week, NY&Co has a “special” sale. The sale is typically $60 off $150 or (the best) $100 off $200. All you need is a coupon code you get online. (By the way, retailmenot.com should become your best friend. You can type anything from “Pizza Hut coupon code” to “New York and Company coupon code” and find great deals, sales, and coupons.) A couple of months ago, for example, I shopped online and nyandcompany.com and got five work dresses and a skirt for less than $140! If you’re like me and live in summer dresses, this is a great way to do business. Also, they have a good selection of basic (and some not so basic) pants and jackets as suit separates that are also part of these sales. 

These are some of the things I have gotten from NY&Co:


Other stores that have sales and coupons like this include: Ann Taylor LOFT (sometimes), The Limited, and Old Navy/the Gap. 

I didn’t realize how much I had to say on this topic, so I’m going to make it a summer series–I’ll finish part 2 for feminine clothes next week, then move on to more masculine clothing stores.

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5 Things They Don’t Teach You About Work in College

Originally posted on Campus To Career:


Getting a first job is something that’s a milestone for every person. Whether you’re a college graduate or started working after high school, a first job is something that is nerve-wracking and unforgettable at the same time. Not only that, this is your first experience into a world that’s totally different from school. Your assignments and exams will be replaced with tasks and deadlines, bosses are the counterparts of your school teachers, and your peers will be equivalent to people of different ages and work status. It’s a change of scenery from the campus scene that you’ve gotten used to over the past years.

High grades and great student performance are equally important. But then, school doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about life after graduation. Here are 5 examples of things they didn’t teach you in college about “the real world”.

1. How to handle your salary

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No Guilt July

I. Am. An. Addict.

Hello, my name is Candace and I’m a guilt-aholic. I can’t pinpoint when it started, or why, but for years now, I’ve felt guilt over tons of things. Guilty for eating ice cream, guilty for not being one of those super laid back women who don’t care about eating ice cream, guilty about not seeing my nephews and nieces enough, guilty for having nice things, guilty for not being a better friend, daughter, sister, professional, student, girlfriend…It’s not uncommon for me to wake up at 3am and fret about the time ten years ago when I jokingly left my little brother in a Wal-Mart parking lot for three minutes. (He was 14, not 4, fyi.) I feel guilty for the things I’ve accomplished and the things I wanted to accomplish, but never did.

For years, I’ve tried to let go of my addiction. I’ve seen therapists, read articles, and talked to friends about letting go of the guilt I feel. Recently, however, I’ve realized that a big (twisted?) part of me needs to feel guilty.  If I can only visit my family for three days instead of four, I must spend the entire 7 hour drive home feeling guilty over it–if I don’t, they might think I’ve changed, forgotten them, or love them less. I’ve denied myself vacation days, cute tops, ice cream cones, an afternoon nap, and all manner of things that make me happy because I feel guilty for doing nice things for myself. If there are people I care about going through a hard time, how dare I have a sliver of happiness?

So, towards the end of June I decided to institute “No Guilt July.” Instead of forbidding myself from doing or having something that will make me happy, or buying myself something nice and spending an hour feeling guilty about it, I refuse to feel guilty.  Of course, there are times when guilt is necessary–sometimes we hurt others or make poor choices and guilt reminds us to make amends, forgive ourselves, or do it better next time.  That’s not the kind of guilt I’m talking about.  I’m talking about happiness-sucking guilt that paralyzes us into feeling like we are responsible for everything bad in the world and by denying ourselves anything good, we’re fixing the world’s problems. But you know what? Sometimes, it’s NOT my problem.  Sometimes people get themselves into messes and denying myself an afternoon with a friend or a Starbucks coffee isn’t going to make anything better. 

So how does “No Guilt July” work? Simple. I do what makes me happy, what makes me feel good and I take care of myself-and I refuse to feel guilty about it. Limiting my guilt free life to a month helps alleviate the guilt of not feeling guilty–if that makes any sense. (Though I’m hoping this will continue onto Guilt Free August!) When I begin to feel guilty for spending a day off watching Game of Thrones, I snap back to reality–it’s No Guilt July and I’m commanded to let my guilt go.  So far, it’s working pretty well for me.  I’m learning the difference between what I’m responsible for and not and I’m allowing myself to enjoy life’s little pleasures. 

I think that a lot of women–a lot of people–experience these crushing feelings of guilt. Guilt over having a better job than someone, guilt over being happy, guilt over eating something “bad,” guilt over doing better in life than some of their loved ones. And for me, these feelings have become paralyzing. Even when I let go and spend the money on a Saturday at the movies, I feel awful later and beat myself up over not spending the money on something better, or more helpful.  If you ever feel this way, it’s not too late to participate in No Guilt July with me.  And when you feel guilty about No Guilt July, just remember–Candace told you to do it.

My puppy, Page.  A guilt free pleasure.

My puppy, Page. A guilt free pleasure.

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This Makeup Tip May Change Your Life!

Last week, I took advantage of the long holiday to continue furthering my life’s purpose: finding the perfect concealer.  For those who haven’t read my previous beauty posts, I am afflicted with horrible dark circles.  I’ve researched any and every method of ridding myself of the dark circles (or at least temporarily covering them up). I’ve read blogs and websites where the authors insist they have horrible dark circles–only to realize they don’t hold a candle to mine.  Without any form of concealer + foundation, I look incredibly sick–like I should be hospitalized.  I have fair, yellow based skin and the dark circles only add to the look of illness.

So, I entered Ulta hoping to find a concealer miracle.  I’ve tried everything from Smashbox to Loreal to Benefit to Laura Mercier to Maybelline and haven’t found anything that truly covers the circles, doesn’t crease, and stays on all day (if you have any advice, I’d appreciate it!).  The makeup artist sat me down to give me this piece of advice:

Take red lipstick and blend it–very, very well–over your dark circles to counteract their bluish base.

She did this for my eyes and it wasn’t the miracle I’d hoped for, but it did help brighten my eye area.  I think that the reason it didn’t work as well for me is because my circles have a predominantly brown-ish base, so it only helped in the blue areas.

I bought a couple of new products and some of my old standbys, hoping something would be different this time.  These are the products I got:


This product does a decent job of covering my circles, but has too much of a pink base for my skin.  Also, it creases.



I bought Smashbox BB cream for eyes and returned it within a few days.  If you have very light dark circles, this might do the trick.  But it was child’s play for me.  On the plus side, it doesn’t crease!


This Smashbox concealer is one I found in the bottom of my makeup case.  It does a decent job (I’d give it 3/5 stars) but it does crease.  Also, the coverage isn’t long lasting.

What beauty products are your holy grail?

Until next time, you’ll find me in the makeup aisle, searching for my perfect concealer…

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How To Win At Professional Networking Every Time

Originally posted on the leadership focus:

Some interesting ideas here. The author states that even though with networking “80% is showing up”, it’s the other 20% that counts. What do you think? And, what have you found works best for you?u3people

How To Win At Professional Networking Every Time.

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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Job Interviews

Readers often find The Proactive Professional by doing internet searches regarding questions they have about the job interview process.  I have compiled a list of these Frequently Asked (and Searched) Questions and answered them here:

  1. Can you wear heels higher than two inches for a job interview?
    1. You *can* but that probably doesn’t mean you should.  I suggest wearing 2-21/2 inch heels—three inches at the most—for job interviews.  I’ve participated in plenty of interviews where the candidate didn’t realize how much walking would be involved and was practically tripping in her shoes.
  2. Are capri pants professional enough for a job interview?
    1. It depends.  If you’re applying for a job in the service industry or an artistic field, capris should be fine—provided you wear them with a nice blouse and dress shoes.  If you’re applying for a position in business or a more conservative office, wear a pencil skirt or lightweight dress pants.
  3. Is it okay to wear a sleeveless dress to an interview?
    1. I suggest pairing a sleeveless dress with a nice cardigan or blazer for a job interview.  I suggest this for a couple of reasons—one, offices are often unreasonably air conditioned during the summer and you don’t want to be uncomfortable, and two, as with capri pants, more conservative/traditional fields may not approve of sleeveless clothing.  (My job interview motto is always “Better safe than sorry!”)
  4. What do I do if the interviewer says dress “comfortably, but professionally”?
    1. I suggest wearing clothing that allows you to move freely—i.e., clothing that allows you to comfortably sit, stand, bend, climb stairs, etc.—but isn’t casual.  A sleeveless dress that comes to the knees with a nice cardigan, a pencil skirt with a long sleeve blouse, dress pants with a short sleeve blouse, etc.
  5. What is the worst thing to wear to a job interview?
    1. Anything that calls attention to you in a negative way.  I am a major proponent of being who you are and celebrating yourself, but the job interview is a time to showcase your skills and experiences as a professional.  It is not the right time to highlight your clubbing make up or your fashionista wardrobe.  These are a few things I would make “non grata” for a job interview:

Halter tops, strappy sandals, heels above three inches, see through clothing, leggings worn as pants, visible bra straps, major smokey eye, bright red lipstick, more than a very light spraying of perfume, patterned tights, more than 2-3 pieces of jewelry—especially long, dangly jewelry, shorts, skirts more than an inch above the knee, blue jeans.

Let me make this clear: these rules do NOT apply to every job.  When I was 20, I applied for a position at a convenience store in a nice pair of dark blue jeans and a dressy top.  As a candidate for a graduate assistant position at a university LGBT center, I wore gray slacks and a short sleeve blouse.  For my first professional position after graduate school, I wore a navy blue Anne Klein skirt suit with nude pumps and a cream colored camisole.  These aren’t hard and fast rules for every position at every stage of your life, but they are a good foundation for dressing for job interview success.


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Personality Types of Orange is the New Black Characters

With the recent premiere of season two of Orange is the New Black (Netflix), I’ve had requests for the MBTI types of the OITNB characters.  Afterellen.com created a great diagram detailing the MBTI types of the characters.  I’m not quite sure I agree with some of the MBTI types listed for certain characters (example: Is Alex really “Judging” which implies that she prefers things to be planned and orderly? I’m not so sure…) but it is a good reference.  Enjoy!




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