My Halloween Costumes Through the Years

I’ve come to enjoy Halloween even more now than I did as a kid because I love thinking of costumes. Creativity is the name of the game, so do your best to stand out for being clever. People will appreciate the effort you put into your costume. So instead of being a cat this year, let’s break the mold a bit. Choose creative over “looking cute”, and don’t even think about buying a stereotypical skimpy costume. (If you are being a cat, at least put a ‘Beanie Baby’ Tag on yourself to make it more interesting)

Here are my costumes starting from a few years ago all the way up to what I’m wearing this year. Some are super easy, and some take a little more effort. Hope you can find some inspiration for yours along the way!

2009 – Taylor Swift at the VMA’s

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2010 – Mouse in a Trap (instructions and more photos here)

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2011 – The State of Michigan & Cash For Gold Sign Holder (super easy)

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2012 – Old Time Newsboy & Polo Player

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2013 – Queen of England & Molly the (best) American Girl Doll

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2014 – WWII Female Army Officer

This is the first year I bought a costume, but I added a vintage medal I had. It was a lot of fun doing hair for this costume and I’m looking forward to wearing it on Halloween.

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The Classic Leather Purse

Leather purses are a timeless piece that only gets better with age, which is exactly why finding a quality vintage bag is both stylish and practical. Many women can own a leather purse for decades and pass them down because they chose a classic, well-made item. I am going to go through my top four brands for finding your own classic leather purse to carry you through both this season and seasons to come.

Dooney & Bourke: I am a big fan of Dooney both vintage and new because of the styles and quality. Their signature “all-weather leather” is so durable, which is why you can easily find authentic, vintage Dooney bags.

Vintage bags can be found in stores, but you may have better luck online. The advantage to buying in store is you can examine the product yourself to see if it is real or a knock-off. This article has some great tips for authenticating the handbag, but I think the best give away is the stitching. Dooney bags have incredible stitching, so if there is any stitching that looks crooked, it’s a knock off. When buying online, check the photos against the tips for authenticating the bag and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I find that Etsy is the best place for vintage Dooney bags and most sellers are pretty up front about the product. il_570xN.669371607_t517

New Dooney bags can be found on their website, or at Macy’s, Norstrom, and Carson’s. I find that Macy’s will sometimes run sales that include Dooney & Bourke, which is the best time to buy them. I have the zip top bag (below) in white for summer, and it’s my favorite purse. I think structured hang bags with a top handle are so timeless and lady-like.

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Coach: This brand can be a little tricky, but it seems that lately they have been coming back to their roots with a more subtle style. I enjoy the understated, classic look as opposed to the giant “C” pattern across the entire purse. My friend has a vintage Coach crossbody, much like the one below, that was her mom’s. I bet she will be able to give it to her future daughter someday as well. Again, Etsy is a great place to find vintage Coach items.

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New Coach purses can be found at their retail stores, Macy’s, and online. I’m not familiar enough with the product to know any tips on when they run sales, but I believe Macy’s is a better bet to find them on sale as opposed to their retail store. This red cross body is gorgeous and you can see the quality just from the photo.

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Fossil: I’m a big fan of Fossil from their watches to leather goods, and am very impressed with their hand bags. They come out with great styles every year that are classic with a little bit of an updated retro look that works really well for their products. If you want to score a Fossil bag very inexpensively, check their outlet store and buy out of season. Many outlets (like J Crew Outlet) will make items at an “outlet quality” for the store, but the Fossil outlet is directly from Fossil retail stores so you’re ensured the same quality they sell at full price. Earlier their summer my mom found two Fossil hand bags 80% that are perfect for fall & winter. Check out these two (here and here) from their current collection:

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Lauren Ralph Lauren: I’m not talking about their high end $2500 Ricky Bag here, I’m talking about the Lauren Ralph Lauren brand. It’s reasonably price, nice quality leather, and has that perfect subtle monogram in gold lettering on it. Ralph Lauren is as classic as you can get, which is why I gravitate towards this brand so much. You can find Lauren Ralph Lauren purses at many places, but you can also find them at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s from time to time. The purses below (here and here) have the equestrian look that will never go out of style.

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Taking Care of Your Leather Boots

Leather boots are a staple for cooler weather and make any outfit look polished. If you buy a higher quality boot in a classic style, you save money over time because you don’t have to keep purchasing it. I have two pairs of leather boots, one black/brown and one cognac, by Bandolino. I’ve been very happy with the quality and they are in great shape for being worn so many times over the years.

Even if your boots are in excellent condition, it doesn’t hurt to give them a nice cleaning and polish once a year. Sometimes leather can dry out a bit, especially after being in storage, so cleaning and polishing is a great idea for keeping the quality up for years to come. Dean from  Proper Kid Problems did a great blog post on refurbishing his moccasins, and it inspired me to polish my leather goods.

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First things first, you can only polish real leather boots. You can usually tell by the look, feel, and smell of the leather, but if you’re not sure, try looking up the brand and see what it tells you. If it says “leather upper” that means the boot is leather except for the sole, which is a good thing since they won’t wear out quickly and can be worn in wet weather conditions.

Next you need the proper supplies:

Cloth/Rag for initial cleaning

Saddle Soap – can find at most grocery / convenience stores. I like the Kiwi brand.

Cloth that has no texture – the Kiwi Shoe Shine Cloth is perfect for the job.

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Step One: Clean the boot with a damp cloth getting off all dirt and debris. If your boots are really dirty, you may need to use a brush to finish the job.

Step Two: After the boots are fairly dry (I waited around 15 minutes), you’ll want to dampen the shoe shine cloth and create a lather with the saddle soap. You’ll want to rub it in evenly on all of the exposed leather parts. You don’t want to scrub very hard, just lightly go over the boot with the soap and cloth.

Step Three: Your boot should be darker from the saddle soap, but will go back to its original color after air drying. I left mine over night.

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Part 2

Waterproofing your boots. This is optional after cleaning and preserving your boots with saddle soap, but if you plan on wearing them in damp/rain/snowy weather, I highly recommend it.  I wear my boots all Fall and Winter, which makes them susceptible to salt and water stains. Waterproofing will help guard your boots against the wear and tear that cold and wet weather brings and help them last longer.

Supplies:

Cloth with no texture – Kiwi Shoe Shine cloth comes in a two-pack so I used the extra one for this step.

Waterproof wax or *spray – Kiwi Brand (shown), Beeswax Formula, or Kiwi Waterproof Spray

* The Clark’s Spray I found in-store

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Step One: You’ll want to test whichever method you are using (wax or spray) on the boot in a small area before covering more of the leather to see how it reacts. I put a small amount on the inside to see if it altered the color of my boot. After seeing that it did not after it had dried, I proceeded to waterproof my boots.

Step Two: I took the cloth and got some wax on it and started rubbing it onto the leather. It does leave it looking slightly waxy at first, so I decided to only do the bottom portion of my boot where it is most vulnerable to salt stains.

Step Three: After I let it dry, I used the waterproofing spray to finish the job. You can use either just the wax or just the spray, but you’ll need two coats as recommended. I decided to use one of each for no particular reason except I had both and wanted to try it.

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I should have taken before and after pictures, but I did it mainly at night and didn’t have the best lighting. The difference may be subtle since my boots were both in fairly good condition, but I can see a big improvement as the process helped hydrate my boots making them look brand-new again. I also feel better wearing them this winter knowing they are better protected against the elements than they were previously. Remember – taking good care of what you already own will help it last for years to come.

Mouse Trap Costume

This is my favorite Halloween costume of mine – a mouse in a trap. I came up with it and there weren’t a lot of costumes like it at the time. It’s 100% DIY / home-made and I’m very proud of it!

Some websites have picked it up for their blog or a contest, such as PopSugar, Brit+Co, & United Colors of Benetton. You can also find it on Pinterest, Tumblr, and some random Brazilian websites for some reason. I read one blog where they gave a tutorial on how to make my costume and although they gave it good chance, they ended up being a little bit off with the instructions.  Thus why today I’m going to do my own tutorial on how to make my mouse costume.

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Costume: This was the easy part. I bought mouse ears from a Halloween store and spray painted them gray. I also bought a gray shirt, sweatpants, gloves, and slippers all from Target. The cheese is a Green Bay Packers Cheese Head, which was the perfect size for a life-sized mouse.

Mouse Trap:

Step 1: Hand over this job to your dad and give him the picture for reference.

Kidding! But seriously, my dad made the trap. He is super handy and took what I had in mind and made it into a reality. I did get the trap out over the weekend and took a look at it and asked him how he made it.

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The box measures 28″w x 41″h x 3½”d. The metal pipe is a 3/4” in diameter electrical conduit  (this is where it gets complicated, not too late to hand this job over to your dad), and it is bent with a conduit bender. The pipe does go through the back of the box and is connected to the bent pipe with 90° fittings.

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I attached the box to myself with a small drawstring backpack that was inside the box but the straps went through the outside as shown in the picture.

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The rest of the details are just red paint for the mouse trap details and brown paint to make it look like real wood.

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Closet Changeover Tips

If you’re like me, you store your off-season clothes until the weather changes. Not only does this maximize space in your closet, but it helps preserve the clothes while keeping your closet more organized. Changing over your closet may be a process you dread, which is why I recommend the following article from Apartment Therapy:

How to Do a Closet Inventory (And Why You Should)

The article has great tips on taking inventory while you changeover your closet. Basically, it all comes down to keeping the items you actually wear and donating the ones you don’t love. Also, it encourages you to keep a tally on the types of clothing you have so that you can make more informed purchases in the future. For example, maybe you have a ton of sweaters but could use a few more pairs of versatile pants.

In addition to the article, here are a few tips of my own that I hope are helpful:

1. A closet changeover is a process, you don’t have to do it all at once. I take great care of my clothes when putting them in off-season storage, so the process can be overwhelming if I don’t do it in steps. For example, I wipe down all my shoes with a baby wipe before storing them until next summer to keep them clean while they’re not being used. This can take some time, so I will schedule time to get it out of the way.

2. Have a system that works. I use a clear plastic bin for my off-season shoes and find that it is the easiest way to store them. For my clothes I use garment storage bags from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. They’re inexpensive, keep the dust out, and are compact enough to store under your bed or in a closet.

3. Only keep what you love. Much like what the article talks about, it’s very important to only keep items that actually fit you and that you like. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned how important it is to only keep and buy items you’ll wear for years to come. I no longer buy something just because it’s a good price, it has to fit me well and I have to need it. If you haven’t worn something all season, you probably don’t like it as much as you thought. Make a pile of those clothes and donate them to Good Will.

4. Do a cost analysis of “keeping over parting” with an item. If the item is quality but doesn’t fit right, it may be more reasonable to just get it tailored verses replacing it. Last year I had several pairs of pants that fit me well everywhere but were a tad too long. Before I went out and bought new pants, I decided it was significantly cheaper just to have them tailored. Keep this in mind when deciding what to keep and what to donate.

5. This is a good opportunity to create a closet organization system tailored to you. I’d love to give you the perfect guide to a well kept closet, but it changes from person to person. Some people may tell you to color code, but I don’t think it’s necessary (and also it makes me feel guilty for having so much blue, which I keep in mind when taking inventory). I hang items by type – dresses, skirts, blouses, button downs, polos, etc., and I fold clothes in drawers specific to that item – pants, jeans, sweaters, workout clothes, etc. It may take time, but figuring out what works best for you will help keep an organized closet for years to come.

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Hanging Delicate Sweaters Hack

The very best way to take care of your sweaters is to keep them folded, however, depending on your closet and drawer space situation this may prove to be difficult at times. I keep many of my sweaters folded, but I like hanging some of them up for the sheer purpose of being able to see them all at once (and not forget to wear one).

Some sweaters are more delicate than others, and it’s no fun to have the little dents that hangers leave on the shoulders of a sweater. I am going to share with you a trick that my mom taught me to “safely” hang up your sweaters.

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1. Start with the sweater flat on a surface.

2. Fold the sweater from sleeve to sleeves, directly in half symmetrically.

3. Flip it around so that it looks like the letter V.

4. Place your hanger directly on top with the hook at the center of the V.

5. One half goes over the hanger.

6. Other half goes over the first half.

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You are ready to hang up your sweater. Does it look funny? Yep! But your shoulders won’t look funny when you put it on.

If you do happen to have sweaters with previous hanger marks on the shoulders, take a damp cloth of warm water and rub the dents, blow dry, rub, blow dry, etc. until the sweater fibers tighten up.

 

Duck, Duck, Boots

This mallard shirt from Talbots is a great find (tipped off by @tierdear), and a piece I will have for years to come. I love a good blue oxford cloth button down, and the duck motif on it made me love it even more. It’s currently on sale, but I think if you watch it long enough you’d be able to pick it up at an even lower price.

The duck boots are from Sperry Top-Sider and are extremely comfortable. I love the green rubber / brown leather combo, and there’s a zipper on the side of the boot that make them rather easy to slip into when you’re running out the door.

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