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Look fashionable for less

Become a Fabric Expert

Your best bet is a natural fiber. "If it’s not from the earth or from an animal think silk, cotton, and wool the material often looks inferior," says Beth Amason, a fabric coordinator for New York City clothing manufacturer Vandale Industries who has sourced materials for Anthropologie and Topshop. Still, not all finer fabrics are necessarily fine; make sure the material is soft and smooth and has a nice luster. To test the resilience of silks and knits, pull the fabric across its width and lengthwise. Lesser quality materials will sag, an effect that will get more pronounced after multiple wearings, says Amason.

But don’t rule out all synthetics. Textile manufacturing has improved dramatically since the 1970s, the era of leisure suits it’s now possible to find polyester, nylon, and rayon that resemble natural fibers. Polyester versions of satin and chiffon can be especially luxurious, as long as they’re not too shiny or stiff. When it comes to blends of natural and man made fibers, like silk and nylon, check the tag, which lists the proportions of each. "Make sure that there’s a higher percentage of the natural fiber," says Amason.

Real Simple: 22 creative gifts for women

Choose Your Color (and Pattern) Carefully

Wear one neutral head to toe. Going monochromatic can instantly elevate a look, according to New York City based celebrity stylist Amanda Sanders, who says black, ivory, taupe, and gray are particularly sophisticated. The shades don’t have to match exactly unless you’re pairing black with black, in which case mismatched shades cheapen the outfit, says Samantha von Sperling, a stylist and the director of Polished Social Image Consultants, a wardrobe advising service in New York City.

Expand your palette with deep tones. Go for burgundy, eggplant, or indigo instead of pastels and brights.

Stick to classic prints. Opt for simple, uniform patterns stripes, polka dots, plaids, or color blocking which are nearly impossible to mess up. Splashy florals and abstract designs have the potential to look like projects from an amateur art class.

Be Picky About Embellishments

Subtle is safest. Zippers, small sequins, and beading with a
wholesale Michael Kors handbags outlet matte finish usually pass for good quality even when made inexpensively.

Another flourish that looks fancy, not tacky: "Fabric manipulation pleating, ruching, draping is a designer touch that can be done well with synthetics," says Rachel Roy, a designer of both upscale and affordable fashion lines. Unless you’ve dropped big coin on the garment, fake gem embellishments tend to look like something plucked out of a gum ball machine particularly if they’re plastic. The same holds for shiny buttons, large sequins, and lots of logos, which are meant to advertise luxury but tend to have the opposite effect.

Real Simple:
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Construction Is Key

Turn a potential buy inside out. That’s where you’ll most likely find loose or jumbled threads (commonly at the hemline) and seams that aren’t perfectly straight, says Christian Siriano, who designs a
replica Michael Kors handbags line of shoes and bags for Payless. Also, make sure that the lining doesn’t look bubbly or hang lower than the hem of the garment.

Check the high stress points. Clothing that has been tried on over and over again may be damaged before it leaves the store. Inspect each item for holes in the underarms,
cheap Michael Kors handbags outlet a stretched neckline, torn tops of pleats, pulled seams at the waistband, or threads dangling from buttons and buttonholes.

You Can’t Go Wrong With Simple Shapes

Think clean lines. A lines, shirtdresses, wrap styles, sheath dresses, and straight leg pants always look polished. Generally, the more complicated the design, the greater the margin for error in the execution. If you have to choose between a sleek pencil cut or something with a more elaborate structure, such as a tulip skirt or a trendy jumpsuit, "go for the basic silhouette every time," says
Michael Kors handbag outlet Von Sperling. Even if, say,
fake Michael Kors military is all over the runways, buyer beware: "Things like epaulets and too many pockets can get very gaudy very fast," warns Feldon.

Fit Is Everything

Alterations can make an average piece outstanding. Even a $1,000 Prada creation looks sloppy if it’s ill fitting so imagine the effect with a $30 dress. Luckily, you can upgrade a budget buy with a relatively low cost visit to the tailor. Keep in mind: You have more leeway to take a garment in than to let it out. These alterations yield the highest payoff.

Lowering the hem. The most flattering skirt hemline is at the knee. If you have two inches folded at the hem, a tailor will be able to extend the length by an inch.

Narrowing a bodice. There shouldn’t be excess fabric under the arms or the bust.

Stitching up bulging pockets. Have the linings removed and the slits sealed for a streamlined look.

Shortening pant hems. They should stop just short of kissing the floor.

Taking in a saggy waist. You should be able to slide only two fingers inside the band.

Tacking up long shirt cuffs. Full length sleeves
replica Michael Kors handbags should hit your wristbones.

But don’t bother with these pricey fixes: A droopy crotch area, too big shoulders,
Michael Kors handbags outlet and any problem that’s in an area with a zipper or pleats. These will require a complete overhaul, which in the end will cancel out the money you’re saving.

Real Simple: Avoiding wardrobe blunders

Find Costume Jewelry That Wows

When in doubt, go with the best imposters. You’ll have the most luck with reproductions of turquoise, coral, abalone shell, black jet, and silver tone metal. Weigh your options: Jewelry that is heavier hangs better.Articles Connexes?

Articles Connexes?

Te Chirrepeco

As a lover of tea (especially chai), I was pretty ecstatic when Krista mentioned a cinnamon tea grown on a local cooperative in Guatemala. At her suggestion I asked our lovely host mom, Sonia, if she might be able to tell me where to buy Te Chirrepeco, and she was quick to tell me that she would buy and prepare it for Tom and I. I tried my best to dissuade her from actually buying the tea but she refused to listen—and every morning till the day we left there was piping hot cinnamony-goodness waiting for us!

This little box makes twelve cups of tea and costs about twenty cents. All that’s required is to boil some water with a few cinnamon sticks, add a few leaves and let it steep for a while. Not only does it taste amazing but, according to the cooperative website, some of the health properties include:

1. Strengthens mental capacity
2. Increases energy
3. It eliminates the bodies absorption of heavy metals like lead and mercury
4. Helps to reduce cholesterol levels
5. Contributes to the decrease in uric acid and much more

It is an absolutely divine tea and great for cold mornings in Xela. If you are interested if buying some I believe you should be able to order it here.

After 5 weeks of serious Spanish immersion in Xela, Guatemala we headed south to the colonial city of Antigua. Excited to be on the move again we packed up Marlin, said goodbye to our lovely host family (there were even a few tears) and set out.

Antigua was just what our Spanish laden minds needed. We chose to stay at Posada La Merced, a small hotel owned and operated by Gail, a lovely woman from New Zealand. She gave us a great room and let us use her parking space while she was out of town.

Despite the fact that our Lonely Planet gives Antigua a bit of a ho-hum review we both felt it was definitely worth the visit – it’s not the cheapest place in Guatemala and three to four days is more than enough time to get a feel for the area.

Climb Pacaya
Seriously…you get to see real, hot, flowing lava after a pretty painless hike (around 2 hours up and maybe 1.5 down). This is one of the coolest things to see in Antigua, take the afternoon hike, watch the lava as the sun sets and then see the red hot liquid rock flow down the volcano as you hike down at night. Wear good shoes or risk melting your soles and bring a walking stick, you will want the extra support, or you can rent one on the volcano.

Climbing Pacaya from Kels M on Vimeo.

Walk the City

Well-kept haciendas, immense churches and stunning ruins can all be found in the ancient city of Antigua, a true photographer’s paradise. The city is small enough for a well-organized traveler to see quite a few ruins and museums in one day or, for the more low-key wanderer, take a few days and enjoy the city’s cafés and restaurants in between. Don’t miss Casa Santo Domingo, a luxury hotel created around a former convent, which housed the order of Santo Domingo de Guzmán. The hotel design incorporates the ruins in creative and innovative ways. It costs 40Q to visit the grounds and explore the galleries, both Tom and I were very impressed with the use of raw ruins juxtaposed against modern museum techniques. The sprawling grounds are beautiful and immaculately maintained; we had limonadas in the garden and relaxed in the tranquil setting.

Chilling in Casa Santo Domingo

Chilling in Casa Santo Domingo

Eat at Café Condesa

Best Breakfast Ever.

Best Breakfast Ever.


Needing a break from 4 weeks of Spanish immersion we decided to get out of Xela for a weekend. Seeing Lago Atitlan seemed like the way to go and, for once, we traveled without Marlin. We caught the direct chicken bus to San Pedro from the bus station at 2pm though there are buses which leave at all hours – you just have to ask around. Sonia, the best home-stay mom ever, was appalled that we were skipping almuerzo (lunch) and packed up a tasty meal for us which we devoured on the bus.

Chicken buses are not the most comfortable transport but they are the cheapest way to get around Guatemala. There are tour companies that offer direct transport (with probably more comfortable seats) all over Guatemala but they charge you for it. It costs $14 USD/person one way to San Pedro whereas taking the chicken bus was only $3 USD/person one way. Personally, I don’t think the private buses are worth it as you take the same bumpy roads. Save the cash, experience typical Guatemalan transport and stay in a nicer hostel.

During the Vietnam war, Lago Atitlan (particularly the town of Panajachel) was a place where war-dodgers fled to avoid conscription. Once the civil war in Guatemala started most foreigners left the area while the battle for human and civil rights raged for nearly thirty years. In 1996 the hostilities ended and the Lake slowly returned back to a tourist destination.

Lago Atitlan

Lago Atitlan

The lake is beautiful. And it was warm! After freezing in Xela we were pretty excited to be in flip-flops and t-shirts. We spent the Friday night in San Pedro, a popular hangout for the bohemian set. Marijuana and coffee are the main crops and we were approached by more than one young guy trying to sell ‘the lake weed’. We did see signs for pretty cheap Spanish classes, about $55 for 4 hours a day, 5 days per week and accommodation is relatively inexpensive. Personally I think it would be a bit boring after a week or so but there were a number of bohos who looked like they had been there for a long time.

Boat Trip on Lago Atitlan

Boat Trip on Lago Atitlan

The next day we took a boat over the lake to the esoteric San Marcos. The small community is home to mediation courses, reiki, yoga and many other holistic therapies. People come here to complete courses in new age theology which last from 1 to 3 months, or just to participate for a few days. The most famous center in San Marcos is called, Los Piramides, a place where you can take the Moon-course or the Sun-course, both which end with compulsory periods of silence. We had a look around and wandered into their herb garden, in the shape of a pyramid of course, where just about every type of medicinal plant is grown and they can be purchased in the small store for fairly hefty prices.

Las Piramides

Las Piramides

Astral Travelling sounds interesting...

Course Options at Las Piramides

Lakeside in San Marcos

Lakeside in San Marcos

We had to head back to Xela on Sunday and were lucky enough to catch a bus. On Sundays the bus leaves at 8am, we had been told 10am, and when we reached the bus station we were told there were no buses to Xela. Luckily, we met some people from Xela who knew the route back. We grabbed the bus headed to Guatemala City and then switched buses where the road meets the main highway to Guatemala City. Turns out the bus to Xela wasn’t in the best condition as the seat Tom and I had was broken and had slid forward making it a tight squeeze for two long-legged gringos!

Tight Fit on the Bus

Tight Fit on the Bus

Driving in Central America seems to have more to do with adrenaline and divine intervention than it does with other mundanities like being able to see where your going or who’s going to run into you.

If you own a car here tinting your windows is pretty much obligatory—in fact it’s so standard there’s a verb for it polarizar (to polarize). Not wanting to miss out on the fun, under the excuse of making it harder to see our gear and because we’re not allowed to at home, we took the $45 hit and put some shades on Marlin… just to fit in.

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