Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rate My Look: Something Different

I wore this outfit to work the other day and everyone kept commenting on how cute I looked and how I'd really stepped it up and stepped outside my typical outfit. I didn't think it was that different, but I guess I was wrong. You be the judge:

You've seen the sweater before. The scarf is nothing new. The pants are my new ones from Athleta (I should have taken a photo from behind because these pants work wonders for my butt.) I guess this biggest difference is my curly hair and the fact that my hat is of a normal size. I felt pretty great in this outfit, truth be told. The pants are definitely my new favorite- I'll be wearing them a lot in the near future. After hearing all the remarks about this outfit, I decided that this is the "cool Renee" look. 

It's always nice to receive compliments on your outfit, but sometimes when they are really enthusiastic, you have to wonder if maybe you've been slacking a bit... food for thought, anyway. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Accessories Anonymous: Hootie Hoo!

While this year's Newbury Street Shopping Spree wasn't quite as successful as it has been in the past, I did manage to come home with a few fabulous pieces. I scored an amazing dress (that I have yet to show you, but it's coming soon, I swear), a gorgeous pair of sparkly flats, an incredible pair of butt-enhancing black pants from Athleta and the most adorable pair of earrings I've seen in a long time. I've worn them several times already since buying them:

Unfortunately, it was hard to get a decent photo of these little guys, but you get the idea. Aren't they just the cutest? I tend to get into a jewelry rut without even realizing it. For quite a while, I haven't even shopped for earrings and I've also realized that a lot of what I have is very similar. These are a nice break from the norm for me. And they work with so many things! 

I feel like the owl trend has come and gone, and yet I'm just now finding the perfect owl accessory. In the grand scheme of things, who cares if something is on-trend or fashionably current if you love it? Wear what you love regardless of whether it's the trend of the moment or not. If it looks good and you feel good in it, then there are no other factors to consider. 

Thanks for reading, everyone! It's so awesome getting emails and comments from all of you, whether here or on Facebook or Twitter. I love and appreciate them all! Have an awsome day!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shoesday Tuesday: My New Glitter Flats

Remember my Newbury Street Shopping Spree last week? Well, I decided to hold out until Shoesday Tuesday to share my fabulous new shoes that I scored at The Closet:

How fabulous are these? I believe they're by Madewell; the "1937 Footwear" stamp is my clue to that. I've never purchased any shoes from Madewell, so I'm assuming this. If you think I'm wrong, feel free to correct me. For those of you who aren't aware, Madewell 1937 is an off-shoot of J. Crew. The prices are slightly less, and the style is slightly more quirky. Regardless of their origin, I'm in love with these sparkly flats. I know I'll wear them to work a whole lot! They will also make a great "second pair" of shoes for fancy events that might start in heels. I always have a pair of sparkly flats when I go to weddings and other events where it's appropriate to wear heels, but with all the mingling and dancing, my feet long for flats before the end of the night. 

Well, I guess that's it for Shoesday Tuesday today. Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment if you like. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting Creative

Despite the rule of all-black on Saturday, the staff at Madeleine's Daughter still finds ways to keep it fresh and cute. A perfect example is Ashley's outfit from last weekend:

I just love the flouncy, full skirt and the flirty bow belt at her waist. It's black, but it's far from boring. I'm continually inspired by the women I work with in many ways, but particularly with their fashion. There's never a dull day when it comes to the outfits that walk the floor at MD. I would post more of them, but all too often I'm busy actually working and I just don't have an extra minute to run out back, grab my phone and snap a photo. To be honest, I could have a daily photo blog with all the cuteness that abounds at that store. Our sales staff is particularly stylish, but we often have well-dressed brides and bridal parties that come through as well. 

Is your workplace a stylish one? Do you wish it was? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. And as always, thank you for reading and visiting my blog! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Celeb Style: WWZDW

Friends, I may have stumbled upon the world's most wonderful fashion resource in the history of the internet. I have found WWZDW which stands for "What Would Zooey Deschanel Wear?" Not only is Zooey Deschanel one of the most adorable people on the face of the earth, but her style both on and off camera is so perfectly quirky, feminine, and playful that I never cease to find inspiration in her attire. She favors silhouettes that emphasize her natural waist and that feature fun colors, bold patterns and striking details.

But back to this website- it's a fairly large collection of photos of Zooey from street shots to public appearances on the red carpet, at awards shows, concerts, interviews, etc. as well as screen shots from movies and TV shows and even ad campaigns from magazines and other media. Each photo will either say "exact match found" or a number of "similar items." Click on the photo and you're brought to those items that are available for purchase! Isn't that brilliant?

There's formal wear, casual wear, outerwear, even bathing suits and pajamas! I was most excited about this dress:

The exact match is a dress by Kate Spade, but the website also had two similar (and far less expensive) options as well! Amazing! I don't know about all of you, but my mind is BLOWN. Do any of you know of other similar websites? I think that Zooey Deschanel is my most spot-on style icon, but I'd certainly be curious about other similar websites for say... Reese Witherspoon or Rachel Zoe?

Take a minute to leave a comment and tell me about your style icon. Who do you love and why? 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Have a Great Bridal Experience: Part 1

As you all know, I've been working in the bridal industry for a little over two years now. I can honestly say that the vast majority of the women who walk through our doors are nothing but a pleasure to work with. I love my job mostly because I get to help other women look and feel beautiful during a very special time in their lives. Every now and then, there will be a less than pleasant day at the store, and often the circumstances involve a bride or other bridal party member who are unfamiliar with the policies and procedures of our store or the bridal industry in general. It's a tricky industry to navigate, but I want to share a little bit of insider information that may help you have a more successful experience as a bride.

Most recently, we had a bride who made an appointment at our shop under false pretenses. On the phone, she acted as if she was genuinely interested in purchasing a dress from our store. Once in the appointment one Saturday afternoon, she made it clear that she was only there to use our inventory to get ideas for her dress that she planned to have a family member make for her. For the record, this is an incredibly rude and inappropriate thing to do, particularly in a closed- concept bridal shop like ours. Aside from the minor grievances including that salesperson working with her with no hope whatsoever of earning a cent in commission or the fact that the designers whose dresses we carry certainly wouldn't want us to merely act as a showroom for copycats, the biggest issue in this situation is that this particular bride used an appointment that could have gone to a bride with an true need to purchase a dress. With a waiting list of about 6-10 brides nearly every weekend, our appointments are highly coveted. The worst part is that the offending bride felt that our store was sub-par because we failed to live up to her expectations, when in reality, her expectations of what services we provide were dramatically skewed.

One could argue that if we gave her a good experience despite her intentions, that she would speak highly of us to her friends and family or that she might come back for future purchases such as bridesmaids, tuxedos, or accessories. One could argue that we missed an opportunity in that appointment. I disagree. First of all, I know for a fact that despite her rude intentions, her bridal consultant was nothing less than polite and professional. Letting her down had nothing to do with how our store operates. It had to do with the fact that she wanted our store to operate differently just for her. In addition, I believe that when she chose to lie to us about her intentions in order to secure an appointment, she destroyed any trust we may have had in her. And to be perfectly frank, we have had brides who have the same intentions, but who are honest with us from the beginning. In those situations, we help them in any way we can, including helping them find the best silhouette and fabric and even allowing them to consult with our highly skilled seamstresses about the best method to make the dress. We point them in the right direction, offer what advice we can and we wish them well.

I want to be clear that this story is the exception in our store. But I tell it because it really fired me up and got me thinking. The brides who walk through our doors are some of the kindest, loveliest people I've ever met. The difficulty lies in the fact that most brides are first-time (and hopefully only-time) brides. This is hopefully the one and only time in her life when she will be planning a wedding. Because it is a first-time, there is quite a learning curve and the bridal industry is very different from just about any other industry in a lot of ways. And because it is an only-time, there's a tremendous amount of pressure on them to get it right, or better yet- perfect. In the interest of helping you understand the bridal industry a little more, I've put together some basic information and advice to help you as a bride when you are shopping for your wedding gown.

First of all, despite my obviously frustrated feelings about the bride I mentioned above, if you are in a similar situation and you have a friend or family member who plans to make your dress for you, it's ok to call your local bridal shop and ask for advice. Simply be honest right away. Explain your intentions and ask if there is anything they can do to help you. In most cases, they will be happy to help! If you want to meet with a bridal consultant to discuss the silhouette that works best for you, to see and touch the various bridal textiles and perhaps try on some dresses to get a stronger idea of what you like, that is fine. My only advice for you (aside from being honest in the beginning), is to be willing to come in during the week, preferably in the morning or afternoon. Since you do not have the intention of being a customer, try to be respectful of the brides who do intend to purchase and try not to take an evening or weekend appointment from them.

This advice holds true in regards to alterations as well. I remember well- two summers ago, there was a local bride (she hadn't purchased her dress with us) whose mom had offered to alter her dress for her. It was two weeks before the wedding and the mom was beyond stressed out because she had no idea how to install a bustle. She assumed the dress came with one and when it didn't, she didn't have the first clue as to how to install one. Many seamstresses who are friends or family of brides offer to alter the gown as their wedding gift, only to discover that bridal gowns are constructed unlike any other garment  out there. Before they know it, they are overwhelmed by the process. In the case with the bustle, the mom was simply calling for advice, but instead I offered to have her bring the dress down to the store and I could teach her how to do it. I showed her a similar dress and how its bustle was installed. I pinned her daughter's dress to show her the best way to bustle it. I even offered to have our seamstresses install the bustle if she took it home and still found it to be an overwhelming task. I was more than happy to give this mom expert bridal alterations advice. All I asked of her was that she come down to the shop at a time when I wasn't already occupied with other brides. My point in all of this is simply that most people (and shops) are willing to help you if they can. Don't be afraid to ask. But when you are asking a store to provide you with a service they don't typically offer, be understanding if and when they are unwilling or unable to do what you ask. No bridal shop in the world wants you to walk through their doors and have an unpleasant experience. However, no two bridal shops in the world are exactly alike, so give your local one a call to ask whatever questions will help you to have a positive experience.

Next week, I'm going to cover some more inside bridal advice and information, but it will be geared specifically towards to bride who is shopping for her gown rather than having it made for her. Shopping for a bridal gown is different from shopping for any other garment and navigating the industry is tough to do on your own. I hope you'll look forward to learning a little more about the industry and that in the long run it will help you have a more positive and effective bridal shopping experience.

Have a great day and as always thanks for reading!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Elevate 101: 3 Simple Steps to Upgrade Your Existing Wardrobe

As part of my "Elevate 101" series, today I'm going to give you a few simple tips to help spruce up the pieces already in your wardrobe. Hopefully these basic steps will bring some of the classic, timeless pieces you already own up to a new level.

Step 1: Find a good dry cleaner
Step 2: Find a good tailor/seamstress
Step 3: Find a good cobbler

I know that dry cleaning, tailoring and shoe repair can all be quite costly, especially if you have a lot of it. However, you don't have to send pieces to them on a weekly or even monthly basis if that's not suitable to your lifestyle.

As for dry cleaners, even if you're the type to use the Dryel sheets or even worse, just a dryer sheet in with your dry-clean-only garments, you never know when you're going to need the services of a true cleaning professional. I've always been fortunate enough to have truly excellent dry cleaners within 30 minutes drive of any place I've ever lived. It's not often that I use them, but when I do, it's great to know that my clothes are in good hands. I believe in finding a well-established dry cleaner with a solid reputation and a strong background in textiles. It's not just about removing spots, it's knowing how different fabrics respond to different chemicals or even water and steam. A good dry cleaner will know the best way to clean your clothes that also maintains them for true longevity. A good dry cleaner will not only be able to remove tricky spots from even trickier fabrics, they will also be able to complete small repairs and sometimes even offer tailoring or alterations services within their premises. Which brings me to #2:

A good tailor or seamstress is truly invaluable. Believe it or not, it's the simplest garments in your closet that will need the most tailoring. A suit that doesn't fit properly will not do you any favors in the job interview or the board meeting. Conversely, a well- tailored LBD (Little Black Dress) can be taken from average to astounding purely due to the nips of tucks of a skilled seamstress or tailor. Do you ever pass over garments in your closet because you think "these pants are just a little too loose in the waist," or "the sleeves on the jacket fall too far down on my wrist," or maybe "this skirt would be so much more flattering if it were two inches shorter." We all do, or worse yet, we don't pass on those pieces and we wear them despite the fact that they are slightly ill-fitting and therefore not nearly as flattering as they could be. Do yourself a favor and have all of those pieces tailored. It may be a bit of an investment, so do it seasonally to cut down on the cost a bit. Make sure the pieces in your closet truly fit your body in the most flattering way and you'll get a LOT more wear out of all of them.

I know the standard objection to tailoring (aside from cost) is that your weight is going to change. Either you plan to lose weight, so you figure why not wait until you hit your goal? Or you are afraid that once you have all those pants and skirts and dresses taken in, if you gain a few pounds, they won't fit at all. I think that both of these reasons are utter bologna. First, in regards to losing weight, that is a gradual process and before it's time for all new clothes that are three sizes smaller than your current wardrobe, tailoring will keep your current pieces from looking too tent-like on your shrinking body. Also, hem length is a simple adjustment to pants, skirts and dresses and has nothing to do with your weight loss. And as for gaining weight, I think that well-tailored pieces are a good gauge for keeping on track where fitness and healthy eating are concerned. We all binge a little around the holidays or birthdays, so when those pants start to feel a little uncomfortably snug, it's time to make some lifestyle adjustments to get back on track and feeling great in your clothes.

Ok, moving on to #3- a good cobbler. This is definitely a dying art, so it can be tricky to find them at all, but when you do, it's likely they've been in business for decades and really know what they're doing. A cobbler will repair your shoes, handbags, belts and all sort of other things. Repairs to shoes often include re-soling, repairing closures, elastics, buckles, etc, shining, replacing laces, grommets, replacing heel caps, fixing broken straps, and countless other repairs and enhancements. If you have any kind of foot issue, a good cobbler can help keep your shoes functioning the best for you. They are also great at repairing handbags, and sprucing up any of your leather goods. Since most offer dye services as well, you can even have fabric shoes touched up if they fade or scuff.

If you're with me in regards to "elevating" your wardrobe, you'll be purchasing higher quality investment pieces that you plan to have for a long time. A good dry cleaner, tailor and cobbler will all be essential to keeping those investment pieces looking and feeling top notch.

Do you already have garment and accessory care professionals that you use? How often do you go to them? Do you find it's worthwhile to go? Leave a comment!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Newbury Street Shopping Spree

My mom and I have a new tradition that we absolutely love. Every year, about a month or so after the holidays, we take a drive down to Newbury Street in Boston and spend the day shopping at all the consignment shops there. We try to time it just right so that all the rich people in Boston have had time to clean out their closets after getting lots of new things for Christmas. Our goal is to snatch up all the best pieces. Once we've finished our retail therapy, we treat ourselves to a nice dinner and then go home to review and enjoy our spoils.

In the past, it's been a great opportunity to stock up on discount cashmere and new boots, but we're always open to an exciting find. Last year, my mom came home with a super chic pair of tan cowboy boots that she got at a mere fraction of their retail price. This year, I wasn't on the hunt for much. Instead I was happy to see what was out there and if I found something fabulous, great. If not, no big deal.

Yesterday was the day of our 2013 Newbury Street Shopping Spree and while neither of us hauled in a large quantity of pieces, we both felt great that we'd made great purchases and found great bargains. It was all about quality yesterday and we nailed it. Every purchase was perfectly in line with my new "Elevate" theme this year.

We stopped first at Athleta, because Sadie works there now and I couldn't possibly be on Newbury Street without stopping by to say "Hi!" to her. Both my mom and I found amazing new pieces at Athleta, but unfortunately they were full-price. In my opinion, they were worth every penny, but since it's supposed to be a bargain shopping excursion, paying full price had a little sting. Regardless, the quality of Athleta's clothes is amazing. I found an incredible pair of pants that I actually plan to wear to work. They are a tiny bit sporty, but they are definitely dressy enough that I can feel confident wearing them at MD. And holy cow does my butt look great in them! Check 'em out!

Low rise dipper pants, Athleta, $79

I came extremely close to also getting the Bettona Classic Pants because they look just like a nice pair of fitted black pants, but (spoiler alert!) they are actually just like yoga pants. The zipper is a total fake-out! You just pull 'em on like any other stretchy pants! Amazing! In the end, I chose the Dipper Pants because they'll keep me honest. A pair of non-pants that allow me to eat multiple large pizzas and pints of Ben & Jerry's while still fitting into them with ease? Sounds like a slippery slope to me. I'll take the non-stretchy ones and make sure I opt for a salad instead of a steak & cheese sub. However, I could hardly deprive you of the info for these pants should you decide that stretchy non-pants are just the thing for you: 

Bettona Classic Pants, Athleta, $79

Did I mention they come in classic, boyfriend and jegging styles? I think a pair of these in the jegging style with my favorite knee-high boots and a sporty sweater would be the ideal casual weekend outfit. I also think it would be great for traveling. As soon as I got home from shopping, I found myself thinking more and more about both of these pants- the Dippers and the Bettonas. I hopped on over to the Athleta website and found a few that were on sale for less than half price! I snatched 'em up right away and I can't wait to get them! I got two pair of the Dippers and one pair of the Bettonas in the jeggings style. (I figure that since I also got the Dippers, they'll keep me honest.) Did you know that at Athleta there is absolutely no limit on returns? You can bring anything back for any reason at any time. How amazing is that? 

Anyway, as exciting as the pants were for me, they weren't the only exciting purchase of the day. In fact, the single most exciting purchase wasn't even mine! It was my mom's! She found the most beautiful fox fur hat I have ever seen. But in all honesty, I have to admit that when she first showed it to me, I thought she was making a joke. I didn't believe she was serious about actually liking let alone buying it. But she was! And she bought it and she wore it the rest of the day and eventually it grew on me until I was thinking to myself, "I might want to borrow that..." So, without further ado, I present to you the most fabulous fox fur hat on the planet, proudly modeled by my lovely mother:

It was a beastly, bitterly cold day in New England yesterday- we were both wearing our shearling-lined boots, down feather puffy coats with fur-trimmed hoods and our warmest cashmere sweaters. The temperature hovered around 10 degrees for most of the day, and it was windy! I'm sure she'll wear it a lot in the future, but the hat has already been a worthwhile purchase since it kept her warm for most of the day yesterday! 

By the time we got home, I'd fallen in love with the hat. It makes me giggle a little, but I have to admit that I was wrong about it in the beginning. Maybe it's just because it's so different from just about anything my mom wears that I had trouble picturing it on her. When we got home, we had a little fun snapping photos of each other in the hat. The truth is that it looks amazing with my vintage fur-collar coat. 

She's such a fashionista. 

The front view. 

The side view. 

With my fur-trimmed coat and Coach sunglasses. I said this was my "movie star" look! Haha! 

So pretty! Look at all that luxurious fur! 

Side view with the fur coat. 

Love it! 

I'll be sure to post photos of the new dress I bought as well. It was a brand-new Jones New York charcoal grey dress that has lace detail on the shoulders with a gorgeous slim skirt and a matching belt. It's just stunning and I can't wait to wear it! It had the original tags still on it with a retail price of $150. At Second Time Around, I paid $62 for it! Bargain! I also snagged a pair of sparkly ballet flats for $44. A little pricey for second hand, but they are gorgeous, so I splurged. I found them at The Closet, a consignment shop that specializes in super high-end clothes and accessories including Valentino, Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin, Prada, etc. On last year's Newbury Street Shopping Spree, I scored a simple cashmere cardigan there. It's a tiny shop that's packed with gorgeous clothes and accessories. We once saw a handful of stunning Hermes ties there. Anyway, back to my shoes- I promise to post a photo on Shoesday Tuesday next week so you can see them in all their glory. (But don't get too excited- they're not a high end designer or anything. Just pretty.) 

Do you have a special shopping event at any point in the year? Who do you share it with? Where do you go? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. And as always, thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rate My Look: Another Stupid Little Hat

As you know, I have a thing for stupid little hats. I just love them. When I was blitzing through a random Baltimore mall trying to find a sparkly "hair diddy" for Jen on her wedding day, I stumbled upon the cutest little hat, but this time, it was all black and therefore appropriate for wearing to work on Saturday! I snatched it up and I couldn't wait to wear it, so this past Saturday, it made its debut at MD:

How stinkin' cute is that? I love it! It definitely had its supporters throughout the day. As expected, Juhree hated it. Most of my other coworkers seemed to like it, or at least they said so. And as for the brides I worked with, none of them said anything, but that doesn't help me. They could have hated it and were just being polite, or maybe they weren't phased by it. My favorite moment was when I walked into the morning meeting. McKenzie took one look at me and dryly pronounced, "You look like you're in a show." 

She's kind of right, actually. My sparkly skirt and hat are quite theatrical. I like to think that if I'm dressed for a show, it's for a role that might also be played by Zooey Deschanel. 

And I know this post is primarily about my hat, but can we talk about my skirt for a second? It a mini-pencil skirt with stripes of black sequins over the wool. I found it at Ann Taylor when I was on my cashmere and red pants binge. I only paid $20 for it and I love it. It's already at the top of my list of favorite winter skirts in my closet. I love the length, the fit, the embellishment- I love everything about it! 

So there you have it- a show-worthy black outfit complete with a mini hat. And if you're wondering, even though I didn't have my stellar selling hair, I still sold a whole heck of a lot of accessories that day. Perhaps if I'm not wearing my stellar selling hair, the tiny hat compensates? What are your thoughts on the matter? Maybe it's not the hair or the hat at all. Maybe I'm just getting to be decent at sales... what a strange idea. 

Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think. If you love it, great. If you hate it, telling me that won't deter me, so it might not be worth the energy to comment. But sometimes haters gotta hate, so whatevs. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shoesday Tuesday: TOMS

I have long hated the look of TOMS. I've always thought they were a little frumpy and plain looking, kind of a grandma shoe, you know? And I hate that I feel that way because for every pair of TOMS purchased, they match the purchase with a donation of a shoe to a child in need. How can I not get behind a company like that? I suppose charity and fashion don't often co-mingle. But then I met a bride over the weekend who had a pair of bridal wedges from TOMS! And they were cute! Suddenly, I started to think that maybe they weren't so bad after all.

They're not the prettiest shoe I've ever seen, but they're also far from hideous. And they are even available in a lovely petal pink as well, not to mention plenty of other non-bridal colors and prints. The price is reasonable, the look is simple and everyone says they're the most comfortable shoes ever. All of that coupled with the amazing charity work they do and I say, "Get 'em!" I could see these shoes at a casual barn wedding or a backyard reception. And while I personally still can't get behind the look of their flats, I think the line of wedges are just adorable! There may even be a pair in my future like these, perhaps: 

Serena Wedges, TOMS, $69

What's your take on TOMS? Do you love them? Hate them? Are you ambivalent like me? Leave a comment- I'd love to know what you think. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

More Bow Tie Bonanza

As you know, in the last month or so I've made quite a few bow ties, mostly using random fabric I had lying around from previous sewing projects. Brance was the recipient of quite a few of them and I'm happy to report that he was pretty darn excited about the new collections. He even bothered to name them and snap some photos for me.

The first he dubbed "Rhapsody in Blue Tissue," the title inspired simply by my packaging:

I was most excited about the two on the left that are made in contrasting fabrics. You will recall from my previous post when I made these ties that I was a dismal failure at tying them. Fortunately, Brance is an expert when it comes to tying a bow tie and he made sure to send me a photo of one of the two-tone ties in all its glory: 

Isn't it so cool? I love how it adds that fun little contrast of color to the tie! I had a gut feeling that two-sided look would be a winner, so I'm very happy that I made a bunch like that! 

The second set was made in response to Jen and Brance's texts requesting I make a "dark plum purple" bow tie for the wedding. Since I had no swatch to go by, and only about 48 hours notice, I made a range: 

Brance aptly dubbed this set the "Purple People Eater Collection." Clever, right? For the record, the bright geometric design on the far right was never intended for the wedding, but it was a fun fabric that I thought Brance would enjoy, so I threw it in with the rest just for fun. The floral print (second from the right) is the one he ended up wearing for the wedding and I think it was a great choice. 

Maybe I'll spend some more time digging through old fabrics- this bow tie spree I'm on seems to be working. In fact, I'm thinking of hosting a bow tie contest either here or through Facebook, so leave a comment if you think you'd be interested in some kind of contest. I'll be looking forward to your responses! Enjoy the rest of your day!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Versatile Shirt Dress

Last week, Ashley wore an adorable outfit to work that consisted of a black shirt dress with black leggings, boots and a bright mustard-yellow blazer. She looked absolutely adorable. I started thinking about the winning combination she created and found myself at polyvore creating a shirt-dress-inspired set to share with all of you:

The Shirt Dress

My first look consists of a soft chiffon shirt dress in olive green. The accessories are balanced with both hard and soft elements, feminine details like the printed tights and edgier pieces like the layered bracelets. Definitely the quirkiest of the three looks, it demonstrates how a shirt-dress doesn't have to be too buttoned up (pun intended).

The second option takes the more stiff shirt dress and softens it with chambray, a casual, comfortable textile that feels like well-worn cotton. The leather boots and fun pops of color in the bag, watch and earrings keep it casual. This look would be great for a Saturday afternoon running errands, or a casual date.

Finally, the third look is the closet to my inspiration- Ashley's outfit. The bright blazer pops like crazy against the black dress and tights. I mixed it up a little and added another fun element with the shoes. I'm a sucker for an oxford shoe, and these with their amazing color combination were just irresistible.

I hope this post inspires you to pull out your old shirtdress and put something fun and funky together. Or any dress, for that matter. Leave a comment to tell me what you think and as always, THANK YOU for reading!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rate My Look: Slimming Style

Remember the magical optical illusion Stella McCartney dress that Kate Winslet wore a while ago? I posted a picture on the blog back in December, but here it is again:

See the black bands on the side? Do you see the magical optical illusion that creates such an incredible slimming effect? Outstanding, right? I found a Calvin Klein dress on sale at TJ Maxx not too long ago that has a similar effect. And the best part? It only cost me $23! 

My dress only has a small detail, but the effect is quite similar. Strangely enough, on the same day I wore this dress, my coworker Meghan wore something similar! Check her out: 

Ain't she cute? 

Our dresses are quite different, but they both possess the same magical optical illusion that creates a slightly slimmer silhouette. I believe this may be a brilliant break-through in fashion technology. And if you're looking for a magical dress of your own, here's a few to get your started: 

Remarkably similar to my dress from the holiday party and Jen's wedding, right? 

Have you tried wearing a dress with this type of optical illusion? If not, has this post convinced you that you ought to? I hope so! I'll leave you with one that photo of Meghan and I in all our optical illusion glory! Have a great day and thanks for reading! 

We are such babes. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Elevate 101: What to Own

If you recall from this post, my new mantra for 2013 (and beyond) is to "elevate." This means improving the overall quality of everything in my life. Perhaps it might only be a small improvement, but my intent is to incorporate this idea into all areas of my life, including my fashion and style choices.

For any of you who may want to try to "elevate" along with me, but who don't know quite where to begin, I've decided to put together my own personal "Top Ten" list of what every woman should own. This is far from everything needed in a wardrobe, but it includes the building blocks of great outfits that are versatile and timeless. Let's begin!

10 Wardrobe Must-Haves

1.) The right bra: It all starts with undergarments. We've all heard the statistics about how so many women wear the wrong size bra. Go to a specialist and get properly fitted. Find the right style for your body and your lifestyle. Buy that bra in the correct size and in black, nude and a color. Without the correct bra, your clothing will never look as good as it can. My personal favorite bra (that took years to find) is the Victoria's Secret "Body by Victoria" Demi-cup bra. I own six total- two nude (one plain, one lace), one black, one grey, one red and one bright fuchsia. I hope this bra style is around for many years because it is my favorite bra I've ever worn. I literally wear it every day. (And my boobs look great!)

2.) Nude undergarments: It doesn't stop with the bra. In addition to the right bra, it's essential to have an arsenal of nude undergarments for pretty much every occasion. This includes: a full slip, a half slip, panties, thong, shapers such as Spanx and various bras. For any slightly sheer garment and especially when wearing white, nude is the only appropriate color undergarment. Do you know how many people I've encountered over the years who still think that the right color undergarment for white clothes is white? WRONG!!! You need nude undies in as close in color to your actual skin tone as possible. Don't believe me? Put on a white shirt with a white bra, then a nude bra. Tell me which one you can see through the shirt. I'm not wrong on this one. I mentioned above that you need the right bra and that's true for everyday. However, there will be plenty of occasions where your every day bra is not appropriate. A low-cut formal gown or a strapless dress may require something different. Buy these specialty bras in nude as well. It makes them far more versatile.

3.) Pencil skirt: Now that you have all the right unders, you can begin to build upon them. Start with a pencil skirt. It's classic, universally flattering and timeless. Start with a basic black one and expand from there. Invest in a high quality one and have it tailored to fit you perfectly. (Don't forget to wear the right unders to the tailor, too. It makes a difference.) If you are not the "skirt" type (or a man), then this item can be replaced with a great pair of dress pants. Again, start with black and build from there. Find a pair that is classic, flattering and timeless.

4.) Fitted woven shirt: Choose a color and style that suits you- your body, your personality and your lifestyle.  This type of shirt can be paired with your perfect pencil skirt for a great office-ready look. It can layer over a cami with jeans for a more casual weekend look. It can layer under a blazer or sweater for the cooler months and be worn on its own in the summer. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? This piece is classic, timeless and versatile. It can (and should) be worn year round.

5.) The right jeans: I will not lie to you- the right jeans are hard to find. You will try on dozens and dozens of jeans before you find the perfect pair. You will visit countless shops and boutiques. You will find countless washes, cuts, lengths and styles before you find what works best for you. Persevere. And when you find the right ones, buy them in every color, length and wash that suits your lifestyle. Buy them short to wear with flats, buy them long to wear with heels. Buy them in a light wash for casual weekends and a dark wash for a night on the town.

6.) Cashmere sweater(s): Cashmere is better than all other wools and textiles for a couple of reasons. It is lightweight making it ideal for layering and it is remarkably warm with great insulating capabilities. Also, have you every touched cashmere? You will never wear any other kind of wool again once you've felt cashmere against your skin. Typically, cashmere sweaters come in fairly standard, classic silhouettes and styles. Buy a couple in neutral colors- a black cardigan, a beige pullover, etc.

7.) The perfect LBD: I recommend an LBD in either a brushed cotton sateen or a matte dupioni silk. Either of these fabrics will be comfortable to wear in any season because as natural fibers, they will breathe well and fit beautifully. The right LBD can be worn on a nice dinner out, to a wedding, to a company function, to a cocktail party, to basically anything vaguely formal. Have it tailored. Little nips and tucks make all the difference and can bring your look from basic to show-stopping with minimal effort on your part.

8.) Nude shoes: I love shoes and own heels in nearly every color of the rainbow. But if you're not like me and you only pull out heels for special occasions, then make sure they're a classic nude pair. Even a basic pump in a nude patent leather can easily work with your LBD, a pair of jeans, your pencil skirt or  a business suit. Versatility is best demonstrated by a timeless pair of simple nude heels. 

9.) Overcoats for all seasons: A fall trench, a spring jacket and a winter overcoat are the three most essential coats you need to own. Just like everything else in this list, classic, timeless, flattering styles are what to look for. Start with a beige trench, a blush spring jacket and a black wool overcoat. Invest in quality garments and care for them properly; they'll last decades.

10.) Neutral bags- I recommend one large and one small. The small bag should be slightly more formal and therefore can be used with your LDB for a more fancy event. Carry the small one within the large one and you'll always have a bag that works, no matter your outfit. For the large bag, invest in something leather that is timeless and well-made. The better the craftsmanship, the longer it will last. Treat the leather to protect it from the elements and from drying out and it will last a long time.

So there you have it- my top ten must-have wardrobe items for every woman. With these basic pieces, you can incorporate a handful of other pieces and always look fresh and stylish. A trendy blouse paired with your pencil skirt or favorite jeans will breathe new life into them and make them look current, even if they are very traditional and classic. I'm sure you noticed that the polyvore set at the top and the descriptions at each point all seem very basic and neutral, but that's purely for demonstrative purposes. In every one of these items, you should (and must!) incorporate your own style and point of view. If your woven shirt needs to have ruffles, then so be it! If your winter overcoat is a bright tartan, great! Let your personality shine through these items and you can't go wrong.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think of this list. Do you agree? Disagree? Is there something I left out that you would have included or something on the list that you think is ridiculous? Tell me what you think! And don't forget to check back soon for my next installment of "Elevate 101!" 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rate My Looks: DC Edition

Remember the polyvore sets from last weekend? They were inspired by the outfits I'd packed for my time spent in DC/Virginia for the wedding, etc.

And here are the looks as they actually came together:

This outfit inspired the polyvore set in the "Museum Style" post from Saturday. The cashmere sweater kept me perfectly warm in the 50-degree weather. It was unseasonably warm that day, and I didn't even need another layer. We ended up going to the Holocaust Museum, then visiting the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and finally the Spy Museum. We had a quick lunch before the Spy Museum and after that we were beat and decided to spend the evening relaxing in the hotel room.

At the reflecting pool with the Washington Monument behind us. 

Lincoln Memorial

Rubbing my uncle's name from the Vietnam Memorial Wall. 

The next day, I had to leave in the morning to get to the airport, but I made sure to travel in style in the outfit that inspired the "Jet Set" post from Sunday: 

So there they are- maybe not the most exciting outfits I've worn, but you can't accuse me of looking sloppy! It was a fabulous weekend- from the wedding to the museums, I have no complaints at all. We made a lot of great memories and I'm glad I even thought to snap a few photos, too! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Best-Dressed Wedding Guest

I mentioned on Monday's post that there were some very well-dressed guests at Jen and Bryan's wedding Friday night. Surprisingly, there were quite a few dapper gentlemen sporting bow ties! I was impressed with the number of guests who made that particular style choice. In my opinion, David did it best because he didn't stop with the bow tie- he had a fabulous hat and even more fabulous shoes that finished off his look. And I think I may have a new gentleman to serve as my bow tie inspiration. He was a little jealous of the set I made for Brance (particularly the double-sided turquoise one), so I promised to make him something similar.

Anyway, without further ado, I present David:

Not sure where the bow tie is from, but since I didn't make it, do we really care all that much? ;)

Even his shirt is interesting with the subtle monochromatic texture and the dark buttons. It's all fabulous.  But get a look at these shoes! 

Shoes from Aldo

They're a little brighter in the photo than they are in real life, but either way, aren't you impressed? I was. Don't you love it when guys put a little extra effort into the details of their outfits? Nothing over-the-top or too flamboyant, but just subtle details that make the look so polished, so set apart from the crowd of gabardine and khaki. Well done, David. I applaud your style. Keep it up.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shoesday Tuesday: Joann's Heels

We have a handful of amazing new stylists at Madeleine's Daughter these days. You've already met Ashley, but we also have another Ashley as well as Jessie and Joann. All three are super stylin' ladies who will now doubt all end up on the blog at some point. Today it's going to be Joann because she wore the most fabulous pair of heels to work the other day and I was drooling over them.

What a babe! Am I right? Of course I am. 

Joann is one of those women that just makes you feel great when you're around her. She has a light hearted, warm presence about her that I just adore. She has been at Madeleine's for a little over a month and I'm already so impressed with how quickly she's caught on, how well she works with brides and just her overall demeanor. I'm a fan. 

Now, for a closer look at those pumps: 

At first glance, you might think those were just a pair of basic black heels. But then you look closer and you start to notice all the amazing details- the ombre heels, the fabric bow on the toe- aren't they fabulous?

I want to also point out (and I hope Joann doesn't mind), but she wears about a size 10 1/2, which admittedly is a difficult size to wear. Shoes that are adorable when they're a size 6, often look less and less cute the larger the size. And I can't tell you how often I've heard women with larger feet complain about how it's so impossible to find anything cute over a size 7. Well guess what- Joann does. Joann finds fashionable shoes and she wears them to work every day. I've seen cute leopard print flats, stylish boots, and then these gorgeous pumps. So for all you nay-sayers out there who say that there isn't anything pretty in those hard-to-find sizes, I say, "You're wrong. Look a little harder."

We all have a body part that is difficult to dress, something that makes shopping more of a chore and that often throws a wrench into our perfectly planned outfit ideas. There is no denying that if you have a size 5 or 11 foot, then finding good shoes will always be harder for you than it will for me and my size 8 1/2's. Maybe that's not fair, but Joann is a shining example of someone who clearly didn't let anything get between her and a fabulous pair of shoes. Isn't that inspiring?

Happy Shoesday Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekend Re-Cap: Wedding Related Shenanigans

I flew out of Boston on Friday morning for Jen and Bryan's wedding. My plan was definitely hinging on everything being on time and running smoothly. A delayed flight, a long line at the car rental counter, or a bunch of traffic could each derail my schedule. And if I got hit with all three of those delays, I would have had to attend the wedding in my travel clothes. I didn't have a lot of wiggle room since I needed to first stop at the venue before heading to my own hotel to meet the Professor and get ready.

When I landed, the bride texted me and said, "T Boo! Total last minute but do you have time to pick me up a little hair diddy? Something to match my dress? I wasn't going to wear one but it might be nice? Just thought I'd see. No worries if you're swamped!!!!!!"

Here's the thing: I love a challenge. Remember the fruitcake? And back in my costuming days, when a director made a last-minute change that effected wardrobe, it was always my mission to make the change immediately and in time for the very next costume run-through (even if that run through was going to start in an hour). I'm a planner and I tend to get things done ahead of time. So for people who know me well, that means if you need something done at the last minute, I'm probably the best person to call. I asked at the car rental gate if there was a mall nearby and fortunately for me there was a huge one just two miles down the road. I blitzed the entire building as if it was Thursday of tech week. Twenty minutes and about $40 later, I had five different "hair diddy" options for Jen. I was back on the road and still on schedule!

Did I mention that in addition to the "hair diddies," I also had her bridal veil in my suitcase as well as a half dozen bow tie options for Brance who was in the bridal party as a "Bridesman?" I shouldn't have been all that surprised about the "hair diddy" request, since Jen and Brance had texted me on Wednesday asking me to make him a bow tie for the wedding in "deep plum purple." No preference as to it being a solid or a print. I zipped on over to Joann Fabrics and soon I had several options:

My time frame was going to be fairly tight even without the addition of shopping for a "hair diddy," but through some miracle (or the powerful engine in my rental), I made it to the venue with enough time to drop everything off, help pick out a "hair diddy," give Brance his bow tie options, get back to my own hotel (20 minutes away) and complete my own beauty routine and get dressed. I even had a few minutes of downtime in which the Professor and I may or may not have done a little snuggling and smooching.

It was a little hectic, but in the end, everything worked out. I was even impressed with Brance's bow tie choice. You can barely see the fabric in the photo above. It's underneath the lightest purple print and it's a deep shade of plum with a subtle floral print. And here he is rocking it:

I didn't get a good photo of Jen in her veil and "hair diddy" but I promise you she looked stunning. Her dress is of course from Madeleine's Daughter. She lives in NYC and drove up for an appointment with me where I helped her find this stunning dress by Alvina Valenta. I can't believe it was back in August that we picked it out. At the time, it felt like her wedding was so far away! 

Is she gorgeous or what? She kept saying, "I want to be lovely. Just lovely." I think we nailed it. We added the cap sleeves afterwards, but I think they look like they were there all along. Her husband, Bryan told me no less than three times that I'd done an amazing job with the dress. And somehow, everyone at the wedding kept referring to me as "the girl who made the dress." At first, I corrected people. I said, "Oh, no. I helped pick out the dress. She came to the bridal shop where I work, but I didn't make it. I only made the veil." Towards the end of the night, I just started owning it. "Yup, that's me. I made that dress." It was easier than explaining and since she looked so great, I figured it was a good thing to Bogart. Sue me. 

Despite being so focused on making sure everything was perfect for Brance and Jen, I managed to clean myself up pretty well, too. I wore the dress I got for the Madeleine's Holiday party back in December and pretty much kept all the accessories and hairstyle the same as well. It worked, right? And if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I chose a different pair of earrings, but the hairpiece, shoes and bag were all the same.

Me with the blushing bride. 

The Professor looked pretty dapper, too: 

We're a good looking couple. 

There were quite a few well-dressed guests at this particular soiree, and I plan to share the best outfits with you in a future post. I'll also be back with photos of my outfits from the weekend (the ones that inspired the polyvore sets in these posts). Leave a comment if you like and don't forget to check back soon! There's always something stylish to look at here! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jet Set Style: DC Edition

Today I'm flying back home after an amazing weekend in Virginia/DC for my friend Jen's wedding and some relaxing time with the Professor. Putting together a traveling outfit is always fun. Back in the day, people used to dress to travel. Not so much anymore. You'd be amazed at what I've seen people wear to the airport. (Hint: Tights are not pants. They never have been. They never will be. PUT ON SOME PANTS, LADIES!!!!)

But I digress... my point is: I want to be stylish, comfortable and TSA-approved when I travel. Wearing a dress is the most comfortable option 100% of the time, so I usually try to fly in one. Unfortunately, if it's too full or billowy, I tend to get flagged down for the TSA pat-down to make sure I'm not smuggling anything under all that fabric. I consider it a small inconvenience and pretty much a fair exchange for being comfortable over the next several hours while I'm waiting in the terminal or sitting on the plane.

I put together another look on polyvore inspired by my traveling outfit this weekend. It's a simple red sweater dress with tights, flat boots and of course all my traveling gear. And yes, that is a ukulele case in the set.

Jet Set Style: DC Edition

Side note: My uke goes pretty much everywhere with me nowadays. My repertoire is up to about 6 songs now, but two of them are seasonal, so I don't really count them. I've had a request to learn "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" in the style of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (can ANYONE pronounce that?!?! For serious?!?!). I'm pretty decent on the uke, but it's the vocals that I just can't seem to do justice. His voice was so rich and deep. Mine just sounds shrill compared to that. So of course I enlisted the Professor's help in performing this particular song. Perhaps there will be a YouTube video in our future. If you have any songs you think I should learn to play on my uke, feel free to leave a comment.

But back to the fashion: the colors are pretty much all over the place, but that's mostly because I have a hideous purple suitcase (more easily identifiable than black at baggage claim), and my coral Kate Spade bag is awesome, but doesn't go that well with my red dress. But it's so fabulous, I could care less. The boots are kind of a pain at the security gate, but I'd rather wear them and have that small hassle than take up valuable suitcase space. Am I right? You know I am.

What do you wear when you travel? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Museum Style: DC Edition

I'm in DC-  well, actually northern Virginia- this weekend. Last night my good friend Jen got married and it was a total blast. I will definitely post photos from the wedding soon. It was gorgeous and oh so much fun.

Today, the Professor and I have the entire day free to hang out in DC, so we've decided to go to a couple of museums and see some of the monuments. We've both been to DC several times, but there is still so much to see! Despite having been here about a half dozen or so times, I've still never been to the National Holocaust Museum, so we are definitely going there this morning. After that, we'll likely have a light lunch, see a few monuments and then we're toying with the idea of going to the new Spy Museum.

So, with all this walking around outside and inside in mid-January, I needed to put together an outfit that would be warm enough for being outside, but not too hot when we're in the museums. Cue the cashmere! It's lightweight, but warm and when layered under my winter coat, it will be perfect for the day. I'll take an actual photo of my outfit, but until then, here's a polyvore set inspired by my museum-hopping look:

Museum Style

Skinny jeans (although my legs look NOTHING like that in skinnies...), a soft cashmere sweater, flat boots, a fun colorful statement bag and simple accessories are all it takes to be chic in this city. (Or just about any city, actually.)

Stay tuned for more photos from the weekend! And thanks for reading!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fabulous Friday: Eye Candy

Every now and then it's fun to indulge in a little virtual window shopping and just spend some time admiring the gorgeous designs that are out there, whether or not they fit into your budget. This inspiring set features bold colors and patterns. Enjoy!

These are sophisticated polka dots, right? The dress is by Jonathan Saunders and you can find it at net-a-porter. Yum! 

Is there anything more cheerful than a bright yellow handbag? I doubt it. You can find this one at Forzieri

Clearly inspired by the Mondrian patterns of the 60's, this Kate Spade skirt is loads of fun. Get yours at Neiman Marcus

These DSquared pumps are to die for! I love them! If only I had an extra $600 lying around, I'd hop on over to Zappos Couture and put them right into my shopping cart. 

Time for me to digest all this loveliness. What kind of fashion eye candy have you seen around? Have you noticed any trends? Leave a comment- I always love hearing from you!
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