The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Savvy Travel: Steppin' Out in Odessa

The Budget Babe's International Shopping Advisor Fifi LaMode visits Odessa, Ukraine, one hoppin' place. —TBB

by Fifi LaMode
Most of what I knew of Odessa I learned from a very old film by Sergei Eisenstein: Potemkin (silent movie about an event during the Russian Revolution).

Most of you may know of the film inadvertently through the famous scene of the baby carriage tumbling down the steps, copied many times in films by directors such as Woody Allen and Brian DePalma. These are the famous Potemkin Steps leading to the port in Odessa. Imagine my excitement when I saw them from our ship— all 193 of them (husband counted to make sure - LOL). No tumbling baby carriages though, just a pretty boulevard lined with trees and turn of the century homes, all fixed up and pretty.

Ukraine was formerly part of the Soviet Union, a.k.a. Evil Empire. Times have changed indeed. This is a very friendly country. People speak English in restaurants and shops, and the country is in the throes of a major building boom. Old stately buildings are being refurbished, wide boulevards abound, streets are clean, the city is alive and thriving, largely due to its port and the industries connected with it. Did I mention the casinos? Another sign of the times. Most of the cleaned-up old buildings turn out to be casinos.

Another thing that really stood out—and I mean REALLY stood out—are the young women. A lot of supermodel types: super-thin, super-pretty, super-long legs. They are really strikingly beautiful. Fifi hates them. (Kidding) Their uniform is a short tight jacket with big fur trim, poured-on jeans, and very very high heeled boots, very expensive looking, and not a scuff on them.

You have to realize that the streets ain't in good shape. I kept tripping on the uneven sidewalks, even in my practical fugly walking shoes (as my bud the Budget Babe calls them). But not these Olgas and Ludmillas—they just ambled along gracefully. One had red suede knee-high boots and once again, not one scratch, not one scuff. All these super-gorgeous women had shoes that looked like they w ere never worn. My theory is they wear them once, then throw them out! No other explanation is possible.

Fall Fashion: Heeled Oxfords

Old-school Oxfords can be any low shoe that is laced or tied over the instep. But this fall (as in seasons past) the classic Oxford is being reinvented with a high heel and feminine details that take this menswear-inspired shoe to a whole new, ladylike level. Wear heeled Oxfords with anything from suits and pencil skirts, to wide-leg trousers and fall frocks, or even tights and tailored shorts in a cold-weather fabric such as wool or tweed. Keep reading for our budget-friendly finds...

Delia's Maggie shoe is a sort of spectator/Oxford hybrid; $34. Looks a lot like Betsey Johnson's "Walsh" shoe but at a fraction of the cost.

Top Shop's lace-up trouser shoe in magenta will have them talking. Also available in black or silver. £65.00

Naturalizer has really stepped up their game lately, and that means fashionistas who value comfort will benefit. These "Retrolook" heeled Oxfords look so comfortable, you might actually wear them every day. Also available in black or dark brown leather. $83.95

Gorgeous black patent leather makes these Alfani "Bess" heeled Oxfords perfect for day or night. Also comes in brown at Macy's, $79.00

Trust a label called "Made By Elves" to really nail the heeled Oxford look. Also available in black, $88 at Urban Outfitters.

Ann Taylor Loft's "Sabrina" is a standout heeled Oxford that will still be stylish for years to come. $79

The Steve Madden's "Reilly" heeled Oxford is a good pick for those who love plaid. $89.95 at Nordstrom.

The shape of the Nine West "Naso" heeled Oxford is reminiscent of some of the high-end designers who set the trend in the first place. Get yours in wine, black (or gray at Macy's), $109.99 $79.99.

Hunt for the Perfect Sweater Dress

We hit Fifth Ave the mall this weekend in search of the perfect sweater dress. It's our favorite one-piece ensemble for chic winter-style that defies even the coldest, crummiest weather. In order to earn a spot in our closet, the perfect sweater dress would have to 1) look good with either tights, leggings OR skinny jeans; 2) be snuggly and warm (or suitable for layering); 3) be versatile enough to dress up or dress down and; 4) not make us look like snowmen.

Here's how the search went down...

Our first stop (based solely on where we parked) was Express. Within seconds, we spotted a rack of sweater dresses near the front of the store. Basic neutrals like black and gray dominated. We decided to try on the dress on the left (above) because the textured brown and taupe weave gave the fabric some added interest. The fit was flattering and the skirt draped nicely, but the pattern and cut of the sleeves made our shoulders look really broad. The fabric was also kinda rough and didn't seem especially warm (68% cotton, 32% viscose), so when we read the $59.50 price tag, it was easy to leave this one alone.

Next, we headed over to Steve and Barry's to see if Bitten SJP's fall collection would include a sweater dress—which it surprisingly did (above right). In fact, it was the first item on display by the entrance. It looked promising—had a Ralph Lauren vibe to it—and felt soft to the touch. Plus, it was only $19.98 so our fingers were crossed that it would work out in the dressing room. Unfortunately, the turtleneck was too constricting (it felt more like a neck brace than a comfy sweater), and the thick knit made us look 10 pounds heavier. Moreover, it was too short for anyone post high-school diploma to wear sans leggings or pants. No deal.

Our third stop was Forever 21. No shortage of sweater dresses here, although interestingly enough, they were all pretty tame and classic in design. Mostly neutral shades—gray, black, cream—as well as a few in red, purple, rust and emerald green. We rummaged around for a while, happily bopping our heads to the sounds of the latest tunes from M.I.A., piling dresses high on our arm and then headed swiftly to the dressing room, determined not to get sucked into spending the rest of our afternoon there. Miss, miss, miss, HIT! The black sweater dress on the left (above) smacked of DKNY and fit like a glove; it was fitted but not too revealing, and looked as great with the skinny jeans we were already wearing (Chip & Pepper Nik Skinny Stacks, purchased for $25 on eBay) as it did on its own. The fabric was soft and the right thickness (78% cotton, 22% nylon). Sure, black is a safe color, but its always slimming and flattering. Besides, we could easily dress it up with heels, a different belt, a scarf, cute clutch, bold pendant, colored tights...the list goes on and on! We had to have it. Price: $27.80. Yeah, kinda steep for F21, but we knew we'd get a lot of wear out of it, so we bought it anyways.

As we're leaving the dressing room, we spotted the dress on the right (above) and since it was the first funky sweater dress we'd seen all day, we decided to try it on, too. While we love kimono sleeves, the horizontal design on the shoulders made us look like linebackers. Yick. The price ($22.80) was nice but not when you consider the fabric was 97.5% polyester and 2.5% spandex. Pass.

Although we had already scored one choice sweater dress, we hadn't even hit Target yet, so onward we marched. The Alice Temperley collection had been completely picked over. Xlihiration and Mossimo each had a few sweater dresses, but they were scary in cut, color and touch. Then we spotted the gorgeous purple sweater dress on the left (above) by none other than Isaac Mizrahi, and we knew we had found something special. While made almost entirely of Merino wool (the sleeves and top are 17% nylon), the dress was pleasantly soft and allowed for freedom of movement. Subtle pleating around the waistline created a flattering silhouette. We could wear it with tights and boots or skinny jeans and it would look equally fly. price tag, but we figured we'd take our chances at the check out cuz hey, it's Target, how much can it be? Well, it was our lucky day because the cashier didn't know how much it was either, and since it was the last of its kind, she asked us if $14.99 seemed like a satisfactory price. Hells yeah! And thus we scored our second perfect sweater dress.

Because no trip to the mall would be complete without a quick stop at H&M, that's where we headed next. H&M does a spectacular job appealing to a wide demographic of fashion-forward individuals. The smell of fast food wafting in from the nearby food court didn't hurt our shopping experience either. Mmmm...Johnny Rockets. Not as many sweater dresses as we had hoped, but we did see some fabulous coats, so if you're in the market, now's the time. Awesome cold weather accessories, too. But we digress: Finally decided to try on the lively geometric design sweater dress on the right (above) because we wanted something with a little more pizazz. Sadly, it was scratchy, and a tad too short to function as a dress. And on top of that, the bold design made our figure look off-balance. $29.90 for 92% rayon, 8% polyester? We don't think so. But hey, we had already copped two fab sweater dresses to keep us looking cute and feeling toasty for many months to come. Mission accomplished!

Look for an upcoming post on the hottest sweater dresses available on the web.

Patricia Field for Payless

We all know and love Patricia Field for bringing her fashion genius to the set of Sex and the City—but now we can all gush about the Oscar-nominated costume designer for bringing her badass style to Payless Shoe Source! Just take a look at these funky pumps and sexy boots from the Patricia Field for Payless collection that we discovered at, the online home of her eponymous New York City boutique...(click the pics for more info!)

The shoes are fun and the price is right, but part of us thinks we're just psyched about 'em cuz it's PATRICIA FIELD (we're powerless against the marketing masterminds at Payless!)... but hey, there are worse crimes. Oh, and we're also getting all hot 'n' bothered by the buzz surrounding the upcoming Sex and the City movie, which Ms. Field is of course costuming. Check out pics of the girls on set at Patricia's blog! >>

Here are some more must-read articles about the fabulous world of Patricia Field from around the web:
Patricia Field rocks shiny Payless heels on the red carpet. >>
Patricia Field's style secrets in the Sex and the City movie. >>
Patricia Field to design a line for Barbie. >>

"Red Carpet Collection by Patricia Field" will be available in Payless stores for the Holiday '07 season.

Fall Fashion: Fair Isle Friends

Nothing says cozy quite like a Fair Isle sweater…which may very well explain why modern takes on this classic knitting style can be found season after season. Around 1850, authentic Fair Isle sweaters were made famous by knitters on Fair Isle, part of the Shetland Islands, Scotland, for their brightly colored, patterned knitwear. Today's Fair Isle-style knits make a ski-lodge chic statement on tunics, sweater dresses, and more. Pair these pieces with dark tights and knee-high boots for an updated look that pays homage to this rich, textile tradition. Here are eight affordable ways to hook the trend:

[1] Roxy 'Hot Chocolate' Short Sleeve Sweater, $48
[2] Delia's Fair Isle henley, $48.50
[3] Heritage 1981 Telluride sweater top, $26
[4] Lux Fairisle sweater dress, $58
[5] Lands' End vintage ski design sweater, $49.50
[6] Alloy Fair Isle babydoll, $29.50
[7] Sweater Project Fair Isle sweater dress, $34.00
[8] Mossimo Fair Isle sweater tunic, $24.99