Thursday, May 3, 2018

Time for Friends

My dear friend Eva (left) and I sporting our Longines timepieces - mine the prize for winning the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest in 2015, and hers the prize for winning the Longines Most Elegant Woman Contest at the Breeders Cup in 2017. 
The first weekend in May is always an exciting one for me because it means a trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. I love this weekend for the horses; the pageantry; the hats; and most importantly, for the people I've met and the friends I've made.
Hats bring people together! It was a shared style aesthetic that led to my friendship with Chicago native Eva (center), and Irish beauty Sharon (right). We connected at the Breeders Cup and have all kept in touch since.
Take my friend, Eva, for example. She started following me on social media after seeing me in the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest in 2015. We met in person last August at the Arlington Million in Illinois, and subsequently spent two days together celebrating the Breeders' Cup in California last November.
The Italian straw, one-of-a-kind chapeau I wore for the second day of the Breeders Cup was made by couture milliner Loreta Corsetti. This hat is one of my favorites and I've worn it to multiple events.
We bonded over a shared aesthetic and love for hats, but a friendship grounded in racing fashion has led to adventures in both her hometown of Chicago and my own Indianapolis.
Eva and I were both finalists in the Longines Most Elegant Woman Contest at the Breeders Cup, and Eva was awarded the grand prize in her stunning striped dress from Asos with coordinating hat and shoes she embellished herself!
This weekend's festivities at Churchill Downs will be yet another opportunity to spend time with Eva and so many other great people we see at the track year after year despite how challenging you might think it would be to find familiar faces in a sea of more than 150,000 people. 
My love of hats is rivaled by my love for shoes, and this crystal studded orange pair with metallic gold heel from Littleboutique is a favorite.They were the perfect complement to my chapeua, also trimmed in crystals and coral.
Of course it's also a fun weekend for fashion. I can't wait to see what my stylish friends will be wearing on the Longines' Kentucky Oaks Pink Carpet. Happy Derby Weekend!!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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I'm hooked up with Hat Attack!



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bumblebees, Baseballs & Bes-Ben

I love textile and fashion exhibits. Over the past several years, I've been to see collections at the Met; the Fashion Institute of Technology; the Chicago History Museum; and of course, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.
I was drawn to the yellow bumblebee hat on display at the IMA like a bee to honey, as it's so similar to my own Bes-Ben bee hat. I paired my vintage piece of wearable art with Burberry heels accented with crystal bee brooches.
The new Bes-Ben millinery exhibit at the IMA, however, is particularly close to my heart. I love hats and have an affinity for whimsical pieces of wearable art, so I've been looking forward to it for months. When I stumbled onto an original Bes-Ben bumblebee hat at a vintage fair in Chicago a few months ago, I new it was the perfect piece to wear for the museum's special Member preview of the exhibit.
A relatively sedate black military-inspired dress lets the hat make its own statement.
What I didn't expect, though, was to see a very similar style in the museum's collection! The bumblebee on "licorice" hats were apparently an iconic Bes-Ben design. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to be standing there looking at a museum piece that was so similar to the hat I was wearing!
A bumblebee brooch from Amazon serves as a "barrette" and echoes the theme of the hat.
This exhibition is also special to me because it features a bespoke piece that my husband and I donated to the museum. It's a small cocktail hat covered in tiny baseballs. A little wierd? Perhaps. But, less so when you consider that it was custom-made in the late 1950s for the wife of hall of fame Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck.
I've looked but haven't been able to find a photograph of this bespoke hat's original owner Mary Frances Ackerman, wife of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, wearing this unique piece. If only camera phones and social media had existed in the 1950s and 60s...
 My only regret is that I didn't take an opportunity to wear this little gem myself before it became part of the museum's permanent collection, never to touch a human head again. Even so, it's exciting to see it on display, and to know that we've helped preserve a little piece of millinery history.
The baseball hat's original owner, Mary Frances Ackerman, with her husband, hall of fame Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck. Mary Frances was a PR woman for the Ice Capades, and was dubbed "the world's most beautiful press agent," according to this colorful article in the Washington Post.
Believe it or not, baseballs and bumblebees aren't the most unusual themes in the collection. Over the course of five decades, Bes-Ben founder and designer Benjamin Green-Field became known as the "Mad Hatter of Chicago" in recognition of his avant-garde, whimsical creations, which were wildly popular in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s with celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland. Bespoke Bes-Ben pieces in the 1950s cost up to $1000, and were recognized as more than just hats, but as coveted pieces of art. If you're in Indianapolis between now and January 6, 2018, don't miss the opportunity to see this most unusual array of surreal wearable art! Get details here.
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

I'm linked up with Hat Attack!



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Scotch (Plaid), Neat

Plaid taffeta dress (Eva Franco)
I love the holidays. I love dressing for the holidays. And everything about this Eva Franco dress screams holidays. Subtle it's not...but then no one has ever accused me of subtlety.
Faux fur trimmed wrap (Joseph Ribkoff); Black leather gloves with red topstitching (Nordstrom)
The Scotch plaid pattern and large bow at the waist remind me of a perfectly wrapped package twinkling under a rustically elegant Christmas tree. In fact, should I come across this pattern in wrapping paper, you can bet I'll be picking up several rolls.
Safety Pin clutch (Bodhi); Crystal and faux fur boots (Lauren Lorraine)
Fur trimmed accents and a hint of sparkle add a touch of drama (the right kind of holiday drama) for cocktails and a Christmas concert to celebrate the Season with friends. It also seemed fitting to wear this dress to see a capella group Straight No Chaser last weekend - it's my own version of Scotch (plaid), neat!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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I'm hooked up with Hat Attack!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Day I Cried at Bergdorf's

An unexpected emotional reaction to a sneak peek of preparations for Berdorf's iconic holiday window displays had me scrambling for tissues in a back room.
Last month, in the belly of Big Apple icon Bergdorf Goodman's, I cried. It started with just a few tears; the kind that well up in the corners of your eyes over a particularly poignant holiday commercial. I'd have been fine if no one had noticed, but tiny tears turned to full-fledged sobs when friends remarked on my overtly emotional state of being (a poker face, I do not have).
By chance, my ensemble for the day's excursion coordinated perfectly with the dapper characters that were handcrafted for one of this year's magical holiday window displays.
I wasn't sad. I was just...overwhelmed. I was there with the IMA Fashion Arts Society for a special behind the scenes look at the historic department store that is a legitimate NYC tourist attraction in its own right. It's even the subject of a documentary, "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" (which I highly recommend, by the way).
Of course a visit to Bergdorf's called for a bit of shopping. It is, after all, a department store.
Bergdorf's is known the world over for its creative seasonal window displays. So much more than run of the mill merchandising, these dioramas are magic - they tell a visual story that delights man, woman, and child alike. You may think me silly to wax poetic about windows but, if you've ever walked down 5th Avenue at the holidays, maybe you understand.
This year's windows feature a "To NewYork with Love" theme, and each is evocative of the city's appreciation for the arts; this window pays tribute to the New York Historical Society. Learn more about ALL of this year's windows and glimpse them here.
The window installations are art. Each one is months in the making, and takes a crew of full-time professional artists and craftsmen hundreds of hours to create. The Christmas holiday windows are particularly special, and each year's designs are a closely guarded secret until their unveiling in mid-November. And so it was that I found myself tearing up in the basement of Bergdorf's amidst mannequins and a well-dressed minotaur...elements of this year's windows in the making. 
Like kids in a candy store, we sang and danced our way through the in progress art installations.
I was overwhelmed that we were getting such an intimate look at the creative process. I was stunned at the level of detail and craftsmanship that goes into each exhibit. I was shocked that we were getting the inside scoop on the HOLIDAY WINDOWS, of all things, and even more so that we were permitted to take some pictures with a promise that we wouldn't divulge any images before the windows were unveiled (which was just last week).
For Autumn in New York, I chose a Fall color palate. The simple burgundy dress is from Amazon; the scarf was made by my Mom; the watch is Michael Kors; the bag is from Burberry's Limited Edition Beasts Collection; the hat is from an Austin boutique; the embroidered Mia boots are from Nordstrom.
This special Bergdorf's experience wouldn't have been possible but for the Fashion Arts Society, and the women who accompanied me on the trip have woven a rich tapestry of friendship in my life that is far more valuable than our mutual appreciation of textiles and style. I was, to be honest, a bit embarrassed to be inexplicably emotional in the basement of Bergdorf's. But even as I tried to hide my tears and dab my eyes, I was surrounded with hugs and tissues and good-natured laughter that allowed me to simply embrace all that I was feeling, the top note of which was...joy. 
My tiny tears turned into full-fledged sobs...
It was an experience I'll never forget, and last week my Fashion Arts friend Dawn brought all those same emotions to the surface when she presented me with a handkerchief embroidered with the store's initials and the date of our visit. Her thoughtful gesture once again had tears welling up in my eyes, but I resisted the urge to use her gift to dry them - I'm saving it for my next visit to Bergdorf's!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!


I'm linked up with Hat Attack!






Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Elegance is an Attitude

The Breeders' Cup was just over a week ago, but I'm still savoring a great weekend at Del Mar. Southern California really does have the perfect weather, and the setting was truly beautiful. It was easy to see how the track touts the slogan "where the turf meets the surf."
Custom chapeau (Abigail Aldridge Millinery); Crystal peacock purse (Fawziya)
It was also an honor to be selected as a finalist in the Longines' "Most Elegant Woman" contest on both Friday and Saturday. The iconic Swiss watchmaker sponsors racing and equine events all over the world, and usually invites celebrity representatives to help select "best dressed" winners at such events. 
"Most Elegant Woman" celebrity judge Carson Kressley was both gracious and funny.
This year's Longines' celebrity judges included reality star and style guru Carson Kressley and "10" superstar Bo Derek. It was great fun to meet both of them, and chatting about fashion with Carson was a hoot. The man has a great sense of humor! 
The shoes are from Amazon; I added the peacock feather clips to coordinate with the rest of my ensemble.
My ensemble for Friday started with the dress. Sometimes it begins with the hat; and sometimes with the shoes, but this time it was a Banned Apparel peacock and fan print dress I found last year on clearance at Unique Vintage. 
My stylish friends Eva (left) and Sharon (middle) were also finalists in the Longines' Most Elegant Woman contest.
I didn't buy it with the intention of wearing it to the races. Yet, when I saw a photograph of a "fan hat" created by New York milliner Abigail Aldridge, inspiration struck. I scoured the web for the perfect folding cloth fan to complement the fan pattern in the dress, ultimately finding that "just right" piece on Etsy. 
I wouldn't typically go with purple nails and toes, but it the official color of the Breeders Cup, after all; I always like to make sure my hats look good from the back, too, since people are staring at the back of your head in the stands all day.
Once I had the fan, I worked with Abigail to bring my millinery vision to life. It was so much fun to collaborate with her. She was also a dream to work with, even though she was in NYC and I was in Indiana. We exchanged many late night emails and lots of photographs along the way, but it really paid off because I could not be happier with how her creation completed my Breeders' Cup Day 1 look.
You'd think Eva and I coordinated our looks with each other in advance, but it was total coincidence that we matched both each other and the Del Mar art installations.
Beyond the ideal weather; stellar racing; and fun fashion, however, the best part of the Breeders' Cup, for me, was making new friends. I met the beautiful Chicago native Eva Irena, pictured above, at the Arlington Million in August. We connected immediately over a shared love of chapeaus, but last weekend gave us a great opportunity to make some great memories (and plan some future adventures). 
KDef brought his own style game with a purple seersucker suit.
We also met up with a fantastic couple from Ireland in town for the races. They are planning another trip across the pond in May for the Kentucky Derby, so hopefully we'll reconnect at Churchill Downs. Once again, it was a mutual appreciation of racing fashion that paved the way for an introduction...I can't say it enough: great hats bring people together!
We toasted early and often with Irish couple Sharon and Tom in the G.H.Mumm champagne garden.
Of course, a well-coordinated ensemble may lead to an initial conversation, but the substance and style beneath are what make the (wo)man. The Longines' slogan "Elegance is an Attitude" fits our new friends perfectly!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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I'm linked up with Hat Attack!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A "Million" Hats

Cheers from the champagne tent at Arlington!
Hi friends! I've had a bit of a blogging hiatus lately as I've been wearing a few too many hats - in the metaphorical sense, that is. One can never wear too many hats in the literal sense!
When a teapot is really a purse! This Kate Spade wicker bag really is "my cup of tea."
You can also never wear the same hat too many times if you find creative new ways to style it. This royal blue, hand formed silk abaca chapeau from Spirit of Harlequin in the UK has been an unexpected "go to" topper for me this year.
I first saw this faille dress at Nordstrom but it was more money than I wanted to spend...a few months later I found the same dress, new with tags, on eBay for a third of the original retail price. 
I got it specifically to wear to this year's Indianapolis 500 Snakepit Ball (see the look here). But in August, I discovered to my surprise and delight that with the addition of a vintage brooch and black embroidered lace at the base, it was also just right for the Arlington Million in Chicago.
These stylish ladies and I bonded over our shared love of chapeaus and novelty purses!
It actually turned out to be such a great complement to my azure Arlington sundress that I won the weekend's "Fashion at the Races" best-dressed woman contest! I was honored to receive the award (and who am I to look a gift horse, or a Nordstrom gift card, in the mouth). But more importantly, my oh so blue ensemble also led to a new friendship with a fellow hat lover and racing enthusiast.
If these shoes look familiar, it's probably because I have them in multiple colors. The heart-shaped heels are fun, but also wear like a wedge, which is great when you're on your feet at the racetrack all day long. I added the clips to further coordinate with the rest of my ensemble.
We bonded over champagne, chapeaus, and novelty purses on the backside of the track, and now we're both headed to California this weekend for the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar!
KDef gets styled for the races, too... check out the thoroughbred cufflinks; jockey's hat tie; and those shoes... I really love those shoes!
I'm looking forward to sunshine and catching up with my stylish new friend on the West Coast. I've said it before, hats don't just pull an outfit together; they bring PEOPLE together!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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