Totally not worth it

Last year, I wrote a column Worth every penny, which highlighted, in my humble opinion, fashion staples that are worth spending a few extra dollars on.

Today’s article is the opposite. Over the years, I’ve wasted money on both very inexpensive and very expensive items.

No matter the cost, I feel these are things you should think twice about purchasing:

Cheap silver, especially piercings

Many of us have been there — on a tropical beach where a vendor comes by selling inexpensive silver baubles or at a fashion store advertising 925 jewelry at an incredible price. But think twice.

Silver can make gorgeous and affordable jewels, but if it’s not made of the proper mix of alloys, it will tarnish or turn your skin green. Worse, cheap silver can actually cause infections in pierced ears.

Stick to quality jewellers such as Tiffany, Tacori, Pandora, David Yurman and John Hardy for silver that you intend to wear regularly.

Expensive costume jewelry

On the other side of the spectrum is costume jewelry meant to be worn for special occasions or with certain outfits. For this type of bling, I find it doesn’t make sense to shell out a bunch.

I love the look of Hermes’ leather cuffs and Marla Aaron’s chunky gold hardware, but cannot justify having thousands of dollars sitting in my jewelry box to only be worn a few times a month.

In these cases, it is worth finding look-alike (but not counterfeit) styles at accessories shops. I’ve also found great costume jewelry on Etsy and in Value Village.

Expensive T-shirts

About a decade or more ago, a curious trend started with cotton basics being elevated to premium status with a correspondingly high price tag.

Brands such as James Perse and Velvet supposedly made softer and better T-shirts.

I’ve worn $10 tees and $100 tees, and my experience tells me there is no significant difference in quality or durability. In fact, most of my premium shirts ended up with holes in them after a few washes.

It’s true that designer cotton tees used to be crafted in more interesting shapes and cuts, but now companies like AE and Old Navy have followed suit.

Designer denim

On that note, the same trend happened with jeans. And yet again, I didn’t find my Nudie or 7 For All Mankind denim fit significantly better than my Gap jeans. They just cost four times as much.

However, if you prefer designer denim, don’t buy new. You can find it at great discounts and already worn in at Frock & Fellow and Value Village.

Cheap workout wear

One type of clothing worth investing extra funds into is workout gear. From shoes and socks on up to tops and bras, the adage “you get what you pay for” fits here.

I’ve tried to curb my exercise-wear budget by buying inexpensive tights and shorts from Gap and George, but sadly they just weren’t up to the task. They stretched out, or just weren’t comfortable, and become useless within a few workouts.

Meanwhile, I’m still using the same Lululemon shirt I bought a decade ago.

Pleather shoes and accessories

Shoe manufacturers save a bundle by using plastic-y faux leather for footwear. But I will never again buy anything that goes on my feet composed of pleather.

It doesn’t breathe and it doesn’t stretch. It’s a recipe for blisters and pain.

Even if the soles are made of synthetic materials, always look for the leather symbol for the uppers.

While pleather handbags and wallets won’t cause you physical distress like shoes, they will cause pain to your budget when they fall apart within months.

If you do prefer vegan accessories, I’d recommend the brand Matt and Nat who specialize in quality faux leather goods instead of cheap fast fashion brands.


Red carpet ready

The fall signals the beginning of the glamorous celebrity awards season, with the recent Emmys and the MTV Awards leading up to the Oscars in February.

Similarly, ‘tis also the season of many black tie and holiday galas in the Okanagan.

If you have a formal to go to this year, take a cue from the most iconic looks of red carpets past. Check out some of the best looks in the picture above, along with current ensembles for sale at BCBG under their celebrity counterparts.

Striking colour 

Black tie evenings allow us the freedom to don unusual and vivid hues, as Nicole Kidman did at the 1997 Oscars (yes, that was 22 years ago). Her Dior gown was part of the first collection by designer John Galiano and remains as current today as it was then.

You too can go with head-to-toe chartreuse, or peacock blue, or hot pink - colours you probably wouldn’t imagine wearing during the day. Whatever you fancy is doable on formal nights.

Deep V-neck dresses

Jennifer Lopez’s naval-baring plunging neckline at the 2000 Grammys made headlines around the world. This year at the Emmy’s, Game of Thrones’ star Emelia Clarke channeled JLo with a barely-there top on her midnight colour gown.

While most of us wouldn’t go to these extremes, the deep V-neck is a classic sexy evening look. This is a great option for highlighting a statement necklace or earrings. Just ensure you have appropriate body wear underneath to keep everything in place.

Tuxedo dressing

Diane Keaton is the absolute icon when it comes to fancy suiting. Several times she has adorned jacket and pant ensembles for awards shows, sometimes even including a necktie.

Emulate the look with a lux suit. This look can be played up or down with different shirts underneath, from a classic button up to a jewelled bodysuit.


While some don’t think short skirts are proper for black tie, you can appropriately show off great gams like Jennifer Lawrence did at the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar party.

The key, as with her Tom Ford-designed dress, is to keep modest on top with a high neckline and/or full sleeves. Minidresses also are great for highlighting statement sandals.

Other classic red carpet looks include:

T-shirt and full skirt

many celebrities have played with this look over the years such as Sharon Stone, Diane Keaton, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Take a floor-length skirt, in anything from fitted satin to brocade to tulle, and pair it with a simple white tank, T-shirt, or button-up on top. The juxtaposition of luxe and simple signals effortless chic.


Beyonce announced her pregnancy at the the MTV Video Awards in 2011 wearing a one-shoulder Lanvin gown.

Dresses with asymmetrical necklines or hemlines bring an unexpected twist to evening wear.


Both Nicole Kidman and Emma Stone donned red gowns with huge bows at the neckline (to different events of course) while Eva Mendes’ dress at the 2009 Golden Globes featured a large white bow at the hip.

If you are wearing a bow to black tie, go big or go home, as they say.

Open back 

When Hilary Swank accepted her Oscar for Million Dollar Baby in 2005, she was wearing what looked like a modest dress from the front. But the completely open back revealed all skin.

Like V-necks and mini dresses, this look needs to be balanced with coverage on other parts of the body plus appropriate undergarments.


For her first red carpet appearance at the Golden Globes in 2014, Lupita Nyong’o chose a stunning red Ralph Lauren gown with a shoulder-to-floor matching cape.

A long cape or shawl with your dress oozes glamour, and is also practical for warmth and coverage.


Julia Roberts’ black and white gown for the 2001 Oscars has been hailed as one of the most iconic of all time, and was labelled “vintage” because it came from the 1992 Valentino archives.

While I don’t necessarily deem nine years old as vintage, many evening wear looks from yesterday have stood the test of time. They simply don’t date as quickly as day wear.

You may find one in your own closet or at a second-hand store, and some simple adjustments will have you looking resplendent in 2019 and beyond.

Your back-to-school uniform

Back to school is big business. According to the latest Stats Can census, $690 million was spent on boys and girls clothing in fall 2017.

But it’s not only children that head back to class in September.

More than two million Canadians are enrolled in post-secondary educational institutions, about one in every 15 adults of all ages.

If you’re one of those students, I have an ideal uniform for the classroom that is all about comfort and ease.

My No. 1 pick is T-shirt and sweatshirt dresses.

These are the ultimate transitional pieces for fall and the epitome of comfort. Nothing pinching around your waist as you slide into those tiny seats.

Soft as a hug, these dresses are just as easy to take care of as they are to wear. No concerns about expensive dry cleaning and they come wrinkle-free out of the dryer.

As the thermometer drops, just add a pair of leggings underneath.

You will find great styles this fall at Roots and Gap.

The second key to back to school dressing is layers.

You’ll be running between sessions in weather that will be balmy one day and freezing the next. Some classrooms will feel like a meat locker and others will be blasting heat.

Over that dress, you’ll need a shawl or cardigan that can easily be thrown on or off depending on the temperature.

I’ve always had very positive experiences with sweaters and cardigans from Lululemon. Their fabric is cozy, breathable and non-pilling.

Recently, I discovered a brand from Norway called Karigar that specializes in wool shawls. They created ethically-sourced and manufactured capes in gorgeous hues that can be worn in a multitude of ways.

For a similar look at a lower price point (because they are made of acrylic), Joe Fresh is selling nice capes called ruanas on their website.

Scarves are also a fun and easy way to keep you warm on campus.

What about footwear?

The great news is that the sneaker trend is still going strong and they look great with pretty much any kind of outfit. Nothing better, and safer, for dashing from class to class.

Shop classic styles that have been around for decades from Converse, Adidas, and Vans at SoftMoc.

If you want buy Canadian, try the Liteknit sneakers from Native Shoes.

E-retailer Everlane has also gotten into the game by introducing their Tread line of shoes, promoted as the world’s most environmentally low-impact sneakers.

Coming in a rainbow of 14 colours, one pair is sure to complement your wardrobe.

The final piece in your back-to-school uniform must be a backpack.

These carryalls have definitely gone upmarket in recent years, with premier designer versions costing thousands of dollars.

While that’s probably not feasible on a student budget, you can still find durable leather versions at Roots and Coach.

If you prefer vegan leather, check out styles from Matt and Nat at The Wardrobe and Bia Boro.

Mountain Equipment Coop has a great selection of quality lightweight fabric options, including Pacsafe brand which are theft-proof.

While none of these are cheap, a solid backpack is certainly one thing worth investing in. If you buy one at the beginning of your studies, it will last you through your degree and beyond for travel.

And when shopping for a backpack, always check the men’s section as there will likely be more options there.

With your comfortable and easy-care back-to-school uniform, you can focus on your studies and getting that “A” grade.


Embrace your curls

There is an old picture of me on a beach vacation with my wild undone mane blowing in the wind.

When I posted it to social media, no one commented on the blue of the water or the brightness of the sun. All comments were about the giant halo of frizz surrounding my face.

Some friends even called me Mufasa (the patriarch from “he Lion King).

I’m sure everyone with naturally curly hair can relate. Whether it’s mildly wavy or positively kinky, most of us curly girls have spent a great deal of time trying to force our hair to behave.

  • We blow dry.
  • We flat iron.
  • We use chemical straighteners and frizz-ease formulas.

When it gets too bad, out come the hats. All hail the messy bun.

It’s estimated a majority 65% of women around the world have naturally curly hair, so where did this mindset that “straight is more pretty” come from?

Growing up, I remember my mother cursing trying to detangle my rat’s nest and my father insisting that it all be chopped off. The lead role in our Grade 2 production of Cinderella went to the girl with long, straight, blond hair.

For those of African descent or other cultures prone to tight curls, this whole issue is a minefield of history and emotion I can’t even begin to properly explain.

Chris Rock did an amazing and hilarious documentary in 2009 called Good Hair about the $9 billion a year business aimed at straightening African American women’s hair. I highly recommend watching it.

For some reason in the middle of this summer, the daily fight to straighten my hair just went out of me. There had to be a better way.

A few quick Google searches led me to CGM. It stands for the “curly girl method,” introduced by hairstylist Lorraine Massey in 2001.

While those with corkscrew locks have found ways to manage their hair since the beginning of time, Massey was the first to espouse a particular regime that includes saying no to shampoos, brushing, and heat styling.

After seeing incredible before and after photos from those using the CGM, I quickly went down the rabbit hole viewing tutorials and blogs about the method.

And then to the local drugstore to find conditioners and gel without sulphates, silicones and alcohol. I even got Massey’s book, Curly Girl: the Handbook, at the library.

There is so much information.

  • Websites
  • YouTube channels
  • Facebook support groups

It almost seems a bit cultish. But there is no denying the results.

After a few weeks of experimenting with the CGM I started to see gentle waves emerge from the frizz, and then decided to do a big chop to get rid of unhealthy ends and heaviness.

Some CGM purists insist you only get your hair cut by a certified curl specialist, while others have had success with their regular hairdressers. But they agree that the traditional method of pulling wet hair straight and then shearing isn’t meant for curly girls.

Kinky hair should be cut dry so the curl pattern can be taken into account.

With six inches gone, my hair now has so much more bounce and softness. I’m officially retiring my straightening wand.

There’s no need to chronicle the detailed CGM regime here; you can find all that and more at naturallycurly.com.

If you are considering going au natural with your curls, here are the top tips I’ve learned over the past month.

  • Practice patience. If you’ve been heat styling for a long time, it’s going to take a while for your hair to recover and get used to a new routine. Don’t expect shiny ringlets immediately. Some say the awkward transition period can take months.
  • Experiment. We all have our tried and true products and techniques for how we’ve styled our hair thus far. Now you’re ditching all those and starting fresh. You’ll discover some things work great and others not. Try something different each wash day and soon you’ll have new go-to products and routines.
  • It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Many inexpensive drugstore brands are very popular among the CGM crowd, especially good old Dippity Do Sport gel.
  • Don’t be intimated by the lingo. You’ll hear bizarre terminology like “plopping” and “no-poo” and “squish to condish” but you’ll pick it up quickly.
  • Videos help. It’s hard to imagine how to “finger coil” until you see someone actually demonstrating it. I especially like the videos done by Curly Susie on YouTube. Not to mention her Nova Scotia accent is fun to listen to.
  • Find inspiration on social media. Join the Canadian Curlies group on Facebook and #curlygirlmethod on Instagram.

I’m looking forward to seeing more curls around town.

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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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