The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Prints and Patent Leather

This spring's trends include something for everyone. Bold prints, especially those with a vintage feel, are especially appealing, as is glossy, glamorous patent leather. Enjoy both sparingly, however. You run the risk of having too much of a good thing with both these looks.

If prints frighten you, start with simple designs in black and white, like this perfect Bisou Bisou® Belted Dress., was $70.00; now $49.99.

Kill two birds with one stone when you carry this yummy canvas tote. Covered in a multicolor tulip design, it also features patent leather straps., $12.99.

We burned our corneas just lookin' at these sizzling Madden Girl™
Patent t-strap sandals
. HOT. They look suspiciously similar to some Dolce & Gabbana's we've seen—a definite plus., $49.

I Dream of Fashion

You know you love fashion when you dream about it. As a child, I used to have recurring dreams where I would go into my closet or open my dresser drawers to discover a limitless supply of gorgeous clothes in all colors and shapes. However, they never came in my size, and so I would struggle to put together an outfit, tangled in a mess of lace and polyester and elastic, tugging on zippers, and fumbling with fasteners. A frightening scene, I know. What would Freud say...?

But last night was different. Last night, I dreamt I was wearing the dreamiest white, eyelet lace summer dress. Heart shape neckline, delicate spaghetti straps, fitted through the bodice and slightly flared skirt. And (promise you won't laugh) I was running effortlessly through a field of flowers, the wind blowing through my hair, the sun shining on my smiling face.

I'll take it as a sign. A sign that the fashion angst from my childhood has subsided, and that I should head immediately to the nearest mall to find this white dress I dreamt about last night. Finding such an item even five years ago would have been difficult, but now-a-days, I've seen eyelet lace popping up EVERYWHERE from the runways to Target. Is there some new technology that's making it easier than ever to produce? I'm curious to know why it's so readily accessible. And, so easy to wear. Take this breezy, floral lace headwrap from, $4.80, a simple way to integrate some lace into your outfit (and pull back those bangs you're trying to grow out). Or, check out this fabulous sleeveless "India tunic" with eyelet lace trim hem, $27.80. We find this salmon pink tunic, also from Forever21, to be just delicious, too, featuring crochet lace trim. Very Freepeople or Anthropologie, at a fraction of the cost ($22.80). Finally, this gorgeous Nicole® by Nicole Miller Eyelet Jacket might have just been yet another cropped jacket, but the lace transforms it into something special ($58.00).

Give it try. Today's lace options aren't overly girly and can be worn day or night—not just on Easter Sunday. Soon, you'll be dreaming of lace, too.

What makes a style icon?

Style icon. We hear the term thrown around so loosely these days. It would seem as though a true style icon could only come along once in a blue moon, and yet, everyone from Jessica Simpson to J.Lo seems to have garnered the title.

I could continue my litany of complaints about the misuse of this term that should be reserved for individuals who truly embody style, but I highly doubt the people at Extra will take heed. Yet we the people should at least be able to come to some reasonable consensus. What then, is a style icon?

According to some flogs, you have to be a designer or a stylist to be a style icon. I beg to differ. Case in point: Jackie O. To the best of my knowledge, she was not a schooled fashion designer, professional stylist, skilled seamstress, etc. Heck, I doubt she ever did a load of laundry. And yet, she embodied elegance, refinement, beauty and exuded femininity in a manner that made her public take notice and crown her style icon. Who can argue that?

Nevertheless, such was the case against Sarah Jessica Parker as style icon, which I discovered while reading flogs where naysayers bashed her decision to create a clothing line for Steve & Barry's, saying that she's not qualified and that she's no style icon. Rather, they suggest she owes every iota of style to her stylist, Patricia Fields.

To that, I say, you must not truly understand style, because if you did, you would know that it's 1% what you wear and 99% how you wear it. (I made up those percentages just now for dramatic effect.) But my point is this: a style icon does not have to be a fashion designer. Style is born based on the way someone pulls off a look, the way they make it their own, the way they make others believe in the style. And SJP did just that. She embodied the cultural and artistic ethos of a Certain Type of Woman in New York City at a Certain Time, and she did it so well we couldn't avert our eyes. We wanted more. We wanted to look like her, even if it just meant wearing a pair of 5 inch stilettos around our own apartment.

And so I've concluded that to me, a style icon is someone lauded by both the public AND the fashion world as being representative of the zeigeist, primarily through their clothing and attitude. And they are rare.

Of course I respect Patricia Fields, and admire her for dressing SJP, but one could not have thrived without the other. And as luck would have it, SJP happened to be the one in front of the cameras, the one who could act, and the one who therefore became the visible "style icon."

I'm certainly not saying everyone with a great stylist is a style icon. Almost every celebrity today has a stylist behind them, and we're not fooled nor are we impressed nor do we give the star credit for their carefully fabricated "good taste." I just don't think you can separate out the fact that SJP wasn't just another star—she was at the center of an influential, pop culture phenomena, and as such, she legitimately made her way into the ranks of style icon.

Now, as far as who should be permitted to design clothes, I'm not making any hard and fast rules here. Obviously, you don't have to be a style icon to design clothes (or at least that should be obvious. All designers have to start somewhere.)

The fact is that the celeb-cum-fashion designer set is here to stay because, as much as it pains me to admit this, not everyone takes their fashion cues from top designers. Sad, we know, but true. Some people do look to J.Lo and Jessica Simpson, so naturally, businesses are going to capitalize on that. While I've been tempted to buy a J.Lo hoody at Marshall's more than once, I've resisted on principal. But if SJP does a line of clothes, I'll be interested because I see her in a--dare I say--different league.

Maybe I am just fooling myself. Maybe without Patricia Field's helping her out, the line with be a disaster. But I'm keeping my mind open…afterall, if Jackie O. had come out with a line of clothes, we would have been all over it.

M for Mundane

So we said the Madonna for H&M collection (part deux) was "highly-anticipated" we are feeling "highly-disappointed." It didn't totally suck, but it didn't stir up any awe, either. Judging by the lack of crowds and the fact that all the sizes were still available, we're guessing you thought the same, too.

The predominantly black and white palette was classic and contemporary...but also boring and too safe for Madonna. We expected more "oomf." Yes, it supposedly reflects her personal style and taste today, so perhaps others who grew up with Madonna will appreciate it, but again, we found it to be lackluster.

And expensive. The H&M clientele doesn't want to spend $300 for a white leather trench. Nor are we willing to cough up $39 for oversized sunglasses with the M emblem. Why should we when we can get Marc Jacobs at Nordstrom rack for $60? Or better still, about 10 pairs from Forever21 or Target for the same price (and quality)?

So the verdict is this: we want more sizzle, and we want to pay less. H&M, hope you're taking notes.

Madonna's clothing line for H&M goes on sale TODAY at stores worldwide

The highly-anticipated line of clothing co-designed by Madonna for Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (part deux) made its launch in select stores worldwide today.

While we're very excited to see how the pop diva has reinvented herself this time, we don't expect the "M by Madonna" collection to be anywhere nearly as popular as the Stella McCartney collection that launched back in the fall of 2005—but it's just a hunch. Budget fashionistas were lining up before the break of dawn to hit the H&M flagship store on Chicago's mag mile for Stella, with much of the good stuff selling out in a matter of a few hours.

So we'll get back to you...we've taken the day off work and will be heading there this afternoon. Wish us luck!

What we've seen so far in zines and online looks fabulous. We'd expect nothing less from the material girl herself, who co-designed the collection with H&M design chief Margareta van den Bosch. Pieces include a white trench coat, sequined shift dresses, cream-colored pedal-pushers and matching cropped jackets.

Prices range from $15.75 to $295.
Visit for more info.