$100 Forever 21 Gift Card Giveaway

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If you’re an avid reader of Secretive Style, you probably know by now that I’m a little obsessed with Forever 21 – within reason. I love, love, love their jewelry and the way they’ve changed the  direction of their merchandising lately. Their blouses, tees, and shoes have been of better quality – even mimicking the more expensive retailers like this gorgeous pair and this top that is identical to a J. Crew version. Plus, the prices are literally unbeatable! I love them so much that I decided to give away a $100 gift card to Forever 21 to one lucky reader.

Requirements:

Be a follower of Secretive Style via email {sign up in the top right hand corner}

Follow Secretive Style on Instagram

Like SecretiveStyle on Facebook

(please leave a comment letting me know you have done so)

For extra entries:

Follow Secretive Style on Twitter and tweet “I just entered a giveaway for a $100 @Forever21 gift card via @SecretiveStyle – http://www.SecretiveStyle.com”;

OR:

Pin one of the images above and use the hashtag #GIVEAWAY #SecretiveStyle

(also, please leave me a separate comment letting me know you have done either one of these)

Giveaway ends Friday, March 15th. Goodluck!

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The Ultimate Spring Must-Haves {www.SecretiveStyle.com}
The Ultimate Spring Must-Haves {www.SecretiveStyle.com} The Ultimate Spring Must-Haves {www.SecretiveStyle.com}The Ultimate Spring Must-Haves {www.SecretiveStyle.com} The Ultimate Spring Must-Haves {www.SecretiveStyle.com}

7Bold Bags: Anya Hindmarch | Rebecca Minkoff | Rebecca Minkoff

Fab Fedoras: Metier| LOFT | Charlotte Russe

Show-Stopping Sunnies: Mango | Madewell | Chloe

Whimsical Baubles: ASOS | Bloomingdale’s | J. Crew | J. Crew

Printed Shorts: Easton Pearson | Raoul | Alberta Ferretti | Milly

While so many of you are soaking up the snow days, I’m in Louisiana basking in the sun rays and dreaming of springtime and gorgeous spring attire. I can safely say I’m totally over the dreary black, gray, oxblood, and all other deep hues and I’m ready to move forward into the bright sunny months that lie ahead for us. I’m highly considering selling all of my scarves and gloves (any takers?) I mean, I have worn them all maybe once so why not, right?

Like I said before, my New Year’s resolution is to break out of my usual go-tos such as plain colors and being a little too matchy-matchy and go for the bold and bright prints! Every time I see a Lily Pulitzer or Trina Turk design, I literally want to swoon. I feel like once you break out of your shell and try a new print or color you’ve never tried before, you just feel better. You walk with your shoulders back and your head held higher than ever before. It literally gets into your blood and changes you from the inside out. I’m hitting the mall today and I can guarantee you I will not be leaving with anything less than bold, printed, bright, and fab. I’m on the manhunt for some amazing and affordable printed shorts that can be dressed up or down and maybe even a bright pair of pumps (or two!)

What are you looking forward to most in the spring?

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Style Blogging 101: Part 2

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The first step to starting your own blog is obviously picking out a name for it. Mine just sorta clicked. I wanted an internship with an online editorial crazy bad so I decided to start my very own blog. Besides, I had always been into style and the town I was from certainly was not into it at all! I blogged by secret for about a month and then I told my hubby and best friend. In the next month or two, I had told my parents and some other close friends. Oh, and I landed that internship. It took a good year for my blog to grow even though I was working hard on it and had interviews with Jeremiah Brent from The Rachel Zoe Project and Alexis Bellino from Real Housewives of the OC for my internship. You’d think that’d pull in people but..no, it didn’t.

After I started doing amazing at my internship, I let the beans spill about my own blog to everyone I knew. Therefore, I chose SecretiveStyle because I kind of kept it all to myself..even my love for fashion. Where I’m from, those sorts of things are dumb. If you’ve yet to pick a name, check out this lil’ gem from A Pinch of Lovely. It’s pretty helpful.

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Okay, so let’s do a little practice, shall we? Close your eyes and imagine the most gorgeous and relaxing boutique you’ve ever been in. What does it look like? Are the walls white with beautiful chandeliers and french music playing in the background (totally what I envision!) or is it insanely loud with bright pink walls and lights that could give third degree burns? Think of how you like to shop. It’s the same way with visiting a website. If you’ve ever come over a site that completely gives you a headache, it’s kind of traumatizing. If you look at Secretive Style, you’ll get a good idea of how I like things: crisp and clean.

Simple header, white background, not a ton of bright colors popping out at you. Those extremely bright colors tend to make you a blogging turn-off. Granted, some bloggers can get away with it. I..am not one of those bloggers. When I worked in retail, we did a little thing we liked to call “boutiquing.” We would add handbags, shoes, clutches, hats, candles, etc to make what we were selling really stand out. I feel the same way with my blog. I’m selling myself and I don’t want to clutter it up. I want to add just the right amount of stuff to help it pop. Add what you like and if you love it, great! If you don’t, you can always click that little edit button.

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Do you enjoy driving down the road and being completely blown away by the amount of ads that come on the radio? Yeah, me neither. That’s why I pick a select few advertisements to place on the righthand side of my website. These websites are direct links to stores that I actually love and I rotate them accordingly. When I first started blogging, I had everything on both sides from IFB to Bloglovin’ to Lord knows what else. I thought it made my blog look like it had street cred. It, in fact, does not make it look that way.

Your expected to have nearly zilch on your blog when it first starts up. It’s a right of passage we all have to go through. I definitely didn’t wake up one morning, decide to start a blog, and have a million advertisers show up on my door step. It unfortunately doesn’t happen that way. Take your site day by day, start slow, and things will happen. Keep it at a few ads to begin with and either build or take away, depending on what you feel looks best. Remember, this is your blog and the only person you have to impress is yourself. If you put pictures on your bedroom wall and you didn’t like the outcome, you’d take them down regardless of how plain your walls would be without them. Don’t feel too pressured to fill it up!

“Patience is a virtue.”

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The design of my blog was a long road but one that I feel helped me learn how to do things the hard way. It was a ton of work but since I’m a Marketing grad, it could potentially be good for my future to know the things I’ve learned from designing my own website. Don’t get me wrong, there is NOTHING bad about paying someone to design your blog for you. Heck, I certainly would have had I not been on such a budget. The only thing with that is this: there is no reason to pay $100 for blog design unless you have a steady flow of traffic and know, for a fact, that your blog will still be standing a year or even two from now.

I totally see you nodding your head right now saying “of course my blog will be going for a year or two” but, you just wait.I started and could not understand where to go from where I was to actually get a following. I was so frustrated and sometimes felt like I would just delete it entirely. (I’m glad I didn’t!) There were times I took a few weeks off to clear my head and regroup my thoughts. Blogging can be seriously stressful at times, a lot more than some people realize. Don’t let that scare you though! You can totally do it if you set your mind to it! If your a budget girl like me and you still want to pay for a designer to step in, set some goals. “When I hit 500 Facebook likes I’ll get a new design.” You know, something like that. Make yourself work for what you want. You’ll feel a heck of a lot better about it. And, if you don’t feel like spending the money – I’m always here to help!

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There are a ton of snazzy ladies out there who are crazy smart with PhotoShop and I am not one of them. I’ll be honest there. I don’t even own PhotoShop although I’d like to (see above about budgeting). Fortunately for us penny pinchers a lot of these ladies are sweet enough to give ‘em away for free! I know, I couldn’t believe it either. I kind of feel like they were worth every penny they would’ve received for them. I found my social media buttons from Her New Leaf, which is a totally amazing blog design site. From free fonts to free blog icons…you can get it all from my favorites, here. I’m also pinning a ton of my favorite freebies, you can find them here and make sure to hit the “follow” button, please!

A piece of advice: make sure to credit them somewhere. I usually like to put them in my “Daily Reads” section.

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While we’re at it, let’s get legal. I mean, in the sense of copyright protection and plagiarism. For legal reasons, and for purposes of well-behaved ladies, always..always..always credit the photos that you, ahem, “borrow.” So many women spend countless hours putting together outfits, beauty sessions, blog posts, etc and for you to simply grab their photo and pretend the person who made it never existed..well, that’s just not fair.

There is totally nothing wrong with having an uninspiring day and deciding to make a blog post around fellow bloggers and stylish ladies alike. Heck, we have all done it. If I see a huge trend over and over again, I love making a post about it and showing the bloggers (and even celebrities) that are sporting it. But, please credit where the photo is originally from. If you find an outfit on Pinterest and can’t seem to find out where you can credit it to, it’s best to leave it where you found it. Even I seriously could learn from my own words. Pinterest can be a small death trap at times when it comes to copyright issues, so be extra careful. Truth is, hath no furry like a woman scorned. You’ll end up ruining your own credibility by not crediting someone else’s..if that makes any sense.

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Who can tell me what SEO stands for? I seriously hope that right now you’re waving your arm in the air. Otherwise, I’m going to be incredibly disappointed. Okay, maybe I won’t be because I only learned from being a Marketing grad. I also learned from my internship with Chic Galleria. My boss lady, Beth, was incredibly inspiring and made sure I knew all of the ins and outs. She was my mentor to the blogging world, so to speak. You could benefit from one too but we’ll save that little gem for later.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s natural or unpaid search results.

In better words, SEO is when you use that little “tags” field in the right side of WordPress. It’s tagging your blog post with tons of search terms. Think about it like this: when you visit google, what do you type in? Are you a sentence questioner or do you use key terms? In my experience, I’ve learned that sentences are a no-go and key words tend to really stick.

Example: Say you post an outfit with a plaid J. Crew button-up, a Madewell sweater layered on top of that, Rag & Bone black leather skinnies, and some seriously amazing black booties from Donald J. Pliner. You’d probably post tags like this: Donald J Pliner, DMSX (which is a brand of Donald J Pliner), black booties, Donald J Pliner black booties, Madewell sweater, Madewell, winter layering, style, southern style (or wherever you’re from), Rag & Bone, leather skinnies, black skinnies, J. Crew, plaid button-up, plaid. Okay, you don’t have to use all of those but it seriously helps at times. I can be a little OCD.

Another useful tool is Google Trends. You can use it to see what’s being searched for the most frequently, from which country/state, and even see which words are directly correlated with other words. In the below image (click to zoom in) I entered the term “fashion blogger”. You can easily see that the term was rarely searched for and in 2007 it literally spiked! Makes sense right? Fashion blogging is on the rise, obvi. You can compare certain terms to each other to see which one is more popular. It’s actually quite interesting.

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Take it back to English class.

Remember when you were forced to write an essay on something incredibly boring? You started and finished the first page and thought, “hey, I’m on a roll!” and then your teacher walks up to your desk, frowns at you, and reminds you that you have to start with a brainstorming session. You then have to start from step 1, crumbling that pretty already written page and tossing it into the trashcan. Yep, blogging is no different. If you’re simply making an outfit post, no biggie..but if you’re writing a mile-long essay like I am right now, you seriously need to considering brainstorming.

It inspires and sometimes reminds you of the amazing thoughts you came up with in the shower that could be flying out of your head at this very moment only to never be seen or heard from again. And, if there’s one thing my mentor ever taught me the best, it was to proofread, proofread, proofread. Oh, and did I mention proofread? Pull out that imaginary red pen and mark the mess out of your blog post. Nothing is more unattractive than a messy post with run-on sentences and misspelled words.

Sidenote: I always enjoyed writing essays and analyzing poems. I guess it’s the nerd in me.

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