Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sugarplum Snowflakes

Clockwise, from left:  Each girl took home a pair of gingerbread cookie toe shoes; Sour candy sticks were one of many sweet treats on the menu; The birthday girl and her cousin helped make the cut paper snowflake ballerinas suspended from the ceiling (see directions and downloadable patterns here); The buffet is covered in "snow" created from inexpensive polyester quilt batting, and draped with a no-sew blue tulle "tutu" table skirt (see directions to make the tableskirt here). 
Clockwise, from top left:  A Nutcracker-themed party wouldn't be complete without a nod to the Mouse King and his minions - these little mice have chocolate-covered Bing cherry bodies, Hershey Kiss heads, and sliced almond ears (see directions to make these simple treats here);  The candy buffet is accented with custom labels and a glass nutcracker that looks like a miniature ice sculpture; Gingerbread is a good choice for cut-out cookies because it holds it shape well when baked, and edible irredescent powder applied with a paint brush adds magic shimmer to the finished product (find the cookie cutter here).
Clockwise, from top left:  We used snowflake-shaped cookie cutters to make tea sandwiches (PB&J, chicken salad, and turkey); Little ballerinas cannot live on sugar alone; A mix of glittery and textured papers make each paper ballerina snowflake unique; Cotton candy and candy necklaces were crowd-pleasers.
Clockwise, from left:  The paper ballerinas twirl beneath yards of white tulle and fairy lights suspended from a ceiling fan; A glass cloche covering the castle cake gives the appearance of a snow globe.
Clockwise, from top left:  A pair of her ballet shoes affixed to the back of a chair with blue tulle and silver snowflakes marks a seat of honor for the birthday girl; Beyond the Snow Kingdom tablescape lies the scene of "Act II," complete with 7 foot tall nutcrackers; Inexpensive fresh flowers are elevated in silver julep cups with ballerina cake toppers secured in the center; Small snowflake picture frames featuring downloadable clip art are repurposed as napkin rings, and vintage teacups await hot cocoa; Meringue cookie turret tops and powdered sugar snow around the base of the easy to make caramel castle cake complete the design (you can find the castle bundt pan here).
Clockwise, from top:  The cut paper ballerinas and snowflakes add inexpensive, hand-crafted whimsy with big impact; A special birthday necklace featuring pewter nutcracker and ballerina charms looks perfect against the birthday girl's tartan holiday dress; The "photo booth" was a big hit and a simple way to incorporate Gracie's nutcracker collection into the party decor.
 "GRACIE I LOVE YOUR BIRTHDAY, THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!"  I'm pretty sure I won't forget this joyous (if exaggerated and sugar-rush induced) exclamation from a diminutive guest at the Nutcracker Ballet-themed party I designed for the 9 year old daughter of a dear friend.  Little girls may be prone to hyperbole, but the raw honesty behind their unsolicited proclamations is undeniable.  For that reason alone, I love conversations with kids.  There is no higher praise than the compliment of a young child, and even their honest criticism presents an opportunity for reflection and growth without the defensive reaction that similar words from a peer might evoke.  It probably goes without saying, but I do not subscribe to the old maxim that children should be seen and not heard, and planning a party that resulted in peals of laughter and animated chatter over cotton candy and hot cocoa was a delight! 

Gracie is a little ballerina, and going to The Nutcracker is an annual tradition she enjoys with her mom, so a party based on the iconic ballet was a natural choice for her December birthday.  Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy has long been a favorite piece of music, but I had never seen a live production of The Nutcracker until earlier this month (see my prior Nutcracker post here).  The ice blue costumes and winter wonderland set of The Kingdom of Snow at the end of Act I inspired the party's primary color scheme and decor, while the Sugarplum Fairy's Kingdom of Sweets in Act II inspired the candy buffet, tiny "flower fairy" cupcakes, chocolate cherry mice, caramel castle cake, and toe shoe-shaped gingerbread cookies.  

We also wanted to incorporate Gracie's large nutcracker collection into the party decor, as well as the family's Christmas tree, so I designed the party in two "Acts." After feasting on tea sandwiches, sweets, and cocoa in the kitchen come Snow Kingdom, the girls retired to the family room decked out in traditional red and green for manicures and gift opening.  The family room channeled the holiday party scene from Act I of the ballet, and featured a "photo booth" highlighting an army of nutcrackers flanked on either side by seven foot cardboard nutcracker sentries.  The birthday girl fully embraced the transition, changing mid-party from her silver grey Snow Kingdom dress to a traditional holiday tartan party dress!  I hope it's a party that Gracie and her friends will always remember fondly.  I know I will!

You can see more photos and details of the party design here.
Putting finishing touches on the party decor shortly before guests arrive.  My vintage-inspired dress with its storybook print was well-suited the "Snow Kingdom" party decor.  See my prior post for dress details.
The face of cotton-candy joy!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Duck, Duck Boots!

Dress (Bernie Dexter, Modcloth); Cardigan (Old Navy); Duck Boots (Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos.com); Watch (Michael Kors, Nordstrom); Bracelet (Charming Charlie); Fleece-lined Tights (Nordstrom Rack)
When was the last time you wore a dress that made you want to spin around like a little girl at a birthday party?  This vintage inspired number from Bernie Dexter does that for me, and classic duck boots with a modern heel are sure-footed enough to let me do just that.  It was perfect, then, for the nine-year old's birthday party I helped a good friend plan and execute last weekend!  (See the details of the "Nutcracker" themed party here). 

I like this ensemble so much I've actually worn it three times this month.  The cotton fabric, with its winter cottage scene, looks like it might have been hand-crafted from a 1950s tablecloth, and more than one person has asked if I sewed it myself.  I wish!  When I was younger, that question wouldn't have landed so well, but now I take it as a compliment for a unique find.  

I've also made another discovery this winter that has me giddy - fleece lined tights!  On the outside, they look like traditional opaque tights, but the insides are lined with the softest microfleece.  They feel like the wrong side of your comfiest sweatshirt and are immeasurably warmer than standard tights, making them perfect with a dress on frigid winter days.  I found these navy ones at Nordstrom Rack, but you can also find them on Amazon.com. 

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
Designing a party is one of my greatest passions.  The "photo booth" for last weekend's Nutcracker Ballet-themed party is featured here.  Read more about the party details here.
Linked up with:  Style Sessions

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry...Groundhog Day?!

Tank (Kasper, Kasper Outlet); Cardigan (Dress Barn); Watch (Geneva, Steinmart); Shoes (Lindsay Phillips Switchsnaps)
Twenty-two years ago today, I received the biggest Christmas surprise of my life.  It was not a spectacular pair of shoes, and it definitely did not come with a gift receipt, so it's a good thing I kind of liked it....

It was my Freshman year of college and I was home for the holiday break.  I woke up early to help my mom prepare for Christmas dinner.  I wandered to the kitchen to find her standing at the counter over a fresh batch of yeast roll dough, but she had a grimace on her face that did not speak of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.  In fact, she was clearly in a lot of pain.  It was not her due date, but she was in labor!  Her contractions were slightly more than 10 minutes apart but she ignored the suggestion that we should make a bee line for the hospital, determined to finish the yeast rolls first.

Mother knew best because my little brother didn't make his appearance until early afternoon, by which time I was starving and resigned to the fact that I was going to miss Christmas dinner altogether (not that Mom appreciated my bedside complaints).  But, while the rest of the family feasted on the now legendary yeast rolls and Grandma Betty's noodles, I was in the delivery room holding a beautiful baby boy while my Stepdad cut the umbilical cord.  We didn't know until the moment of his birth that it was a boy, and being in the delivery room was an experience I wouldn't exchange for 100 pair of Louboutins under the tree.

Of course, like most brothers and sisters, we like to give each other a hard time.  Six years ago, I found a greeting card that reads "Jackie finally got the puppy she always wanted.  Luckily, Santa didn't screw up this time and bring her a baby brother instead."  I bought an entire box, and I send this same card to my brother every single year, doctored to feature my own name.  The second year he got it, he thought I just forgot I'd sent him the same card the prior year.  By the third year, he'd figured out I was channeling the movie "Groundhog Day" with a reappearing Christmas card.  At this point, I think he'd be disappointed if I didn't give him the same card!

Like my brother's Christmas card, this outfit is making a recurring appearance this year.  I love the twist front of the black tank and wear it often, but this particular combination of tank and bright red cardigan is strictly holiday fare.  As for the holiday socks and removeable "naughty" or "nice" snaps on my Lindsay Phillips quilted ballet flats - they're admittedly cheesy but comfy and fun for our casual farmhouse family gathering, and they make me smile almost as much as teasing my brother.

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
Not sure what I'll do when I run out of these cards.  Luckily, it was a BIG box.
My brother's Merry Christmas 21st birthday, 2012 - he's not so "little" anymore.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Buttercream Cupcakes & Cocktails

The buttercream cake pop favors from "Cupcakes and Cocktails" were as pretty as they were delicious!  Coat (Guess, Burlington Coat Factory); Faux Fur Scarf and Headband (Burlington Coat Factory); Brooch (vintage)
Skirt (Lapis, Steinmart - see it styled another way here); Tuxedo jacket (Jones New York, JNY Outlet - see the black version with a black lace skirt here); Boots (Diba, Zappos.com); Collar necklace (vintage, Grace Boutique); Monogram Pendant (The Pink Monogram); Metallic leather and snakeskin clutch (Jack Rogers); Watch (Michael Kors, Nordstrom)
In the 8th grade, I convinced my mom to buy me an ivory pencil skirt and matching sweater.  I can't remember whether it came from Paul Harris or Casual Corner in the Markland Mall (anyone remember those stores? I'm definitely dating myself here!), but I remember the garments well.  The sweater was a soft cashmere blend with a jewel neckline that had a single pearl button in the back; the skirt was wool and hit just above my knees.  The fact that she bought it for me is somewhat remarkable because I am a colossal klutz (see my prior post about white pants) and this creamy number was dry clean only.

I loved this outfit and I wore it everywhere:  to Christmas dinner; to church on Easter; for "away" volleyball games (we always dressed up); and even just to school every once in a while.  It was a little "too old" for me (though not in a preteen dressing like Miley Cyrus at the Grammies sort of way).  It made me feel grown up and elegant at a time when I often felt awkward and insecure.  It brought to life for me the reality that “[t]here's more to clothing than just adornment. It does more than merely change how the world perceives us. It changes how we perceive ourselves.”  (Jacqueline CareyNaamah's Kiss).

In the years since, I've often thought about that snowy skirt and sweater.  Last week, I decided to recreate the buttercream confidence builder for a holiday "Cupcakes and Cocktails" open house hosted by a new friend.  I wasn't sure I would know anyone other than the hostess, which sometimes makes me tentative, but I arrived feeling like an extrovert and ready to make merry.  Something about wearing winter white really chases the winter blues away.  As artist Sebastian Horsley once said, “Being well-dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquility which psychoanalysis is powerless to bestow.” 

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
The iconic whipstitching of the Jack Rogers snakeskin clutch echoes the pattern of the lace skirt and adds a different texture to the monochrome look.

Linked up with Friday's Fab Favorites

Monday, December 23, 2013

Scotch (plaid), neat...

Skirt (Chetta B, eBay); Blouse (Xscape, Macy's); Belt (Steinmart); Necklace (JC Penney); Bag (Anne Klein, Macy's)
A holiday dinner downtown and a Straight No Chaser concert at the Murat was the perfect opportunity to wear this Chetta B silk shantung skirt.  I found the skirt on eBay three years ago and had to have it, but finding the right top was more of a challenge than I anticipated.  I finally settled on crisp white as a preppy balance to the beaded blackwatch plaid.  I really wanted to add a different pop of color or pattern with a red or leopard belt, but ultimately decided to wear it straight up, with only gold and pearls for embellishment.  

I love plaid for the holidays, and I love an eBay bargain.  In these things, I'm not alone.  A woman stopped me in the ladies' room to ask where I'd found the skirt, and asked me to walk back to her table with her so that she could show it to her friend.  The friend loved the bugle bead detail, but my revelation that it was an eBay find brought a high five from her husband!  

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
Watch (Elgin, gift); Gatsy pearl bracelet (Grace Boutique); Bracelet (Nadri, Nordstrom); Earrings; Sapphire and diamond ring (gift)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Buffalo Solstice

The wavy design of the silver pendant echoes the ruffles along the collar of my black leather jacket and those created by the gathers up one side of the skirt - so fun to mix modern jewelry with backwoods plaid flannel.  Sterling and neoprene necklace (Dani Fishman; Grace Boutique); Turtleneck (Banana Republic); Leather jacket (INC, Macy's); Skirt (Lauren Ralph Lauren, Macy's); Bag (Wilson's Leathergoods); Gloves (Nordstrom); Suede knee-high boots (JustFab.com). 
Well, the sweet little reindeer we met at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's annual Winter Solstice Celebration was a big fan of this ruffled flannel buffalo plaid skirt.  Apparently, it looked good enough to eat because she certainly tried.  I thought reindeer were vegetarians - who knew she'd have a taste for buffalo! (Go ahead and groan - I couldn't help myself.)

Luckily, Sami the reindeer herder came to my rescue, and we enjoyed a great night with our niece and nephew on the museum grounds and inside the historic Lilly House.  In addition to reindeer, we met a few other animals native to Santa's homeland, including a Eurasian Eagle Owl and an arctic bunny.  We also got toasty by a roaring campfire while listening to carolers that looked like they just stepped out of Dickens' classic holiday tale; we watched two local artisans use chainsaws to turn giant blocks of ice into stunning crystal-like showpieces; and we got "hands on" creating our own suncatcher art.  I love that the IMA hosts this annual, free community event that gives so many people the opportunity to enjoy the museum's beautiful grounds and experience art in an interactive, memory-making way.  

When we joined the IMA as members for the first time this year, I had no idea there would be so many opportunities to engage beyond just viewing the exhibits.  I've been to films, taken classes (read about one of them here), been on a field trip (read about it here), and gone to several events that "artfully" combined the museum's collections with social opportunities (and by social opportunities, I mean cocktails with friends)!  You can learn more about the benefits of membership here.

I also have the IMA to thank, indirectly, for the sterling silver and neoprene necklace I wore to the Solstice Celebration.  I first met the designer of this piece, Dani Fishman, at an IMA screening of Versaille '73: American Runway Revolution (read about it here), where I was captivated by a similar piece she was wearing.  Our paths have since crossed on a number of occasions, and I recently picked up her uber cool modern design at local boutique Grace.  My niece remarked that the hand-formed pendant reminded her of a Sun Chip.  That's no coincidence - the artist herself told me they were her inspiration for the piece!  
Here we are with Sami the Reindeer Herder and the sweet little pregnant reindeer that tried to eat my skirt!
 Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rudolph the Red-Nosed "Renne"

Jumper (Parisian Signature, circa 1997); Blouse (Pendleton); Shoes (Naughty Monkey); Smoky Quarts and Garnet Pendant (Ross-Simons); Cuff links (Van Heusen); Watch (Aqua Master)
I don't speak French, but I do speak French cuffs.  There is something about cuff links that I just love - it's a finishing detail that I always notice and appreciate.

Cuff links add just a touch of personality to an otherwise conservative or traditional business look.  When I was a litigator, this charcoal grey wool jumper with its chalky pinstripe was a tried and true courtroom staple, and I always wore it with a French cuff blouse.  Other than small earrings and a conservative watch, cuff links were the only jewelry I wore to court - you never want your accessories to overpower your argument.  But, cuff links were just understated enough to add polish without taking the focus off the case at hand.

They're also a way to add a bit of holiday spirit to your office attire without looking cheesy.  For example, I'd never wear these little silver renne (that's French for reindeer) on my ears, but as cuff links, they're festive rather than garish.

French cuff shirts for women aren't always easy to find.  I overcame that hurdle with this cranberry silk blouse by having a tailor remove the buttons at the wrist and replace them with a second button hole.  I've done the same with several other blouses (see examples here, here, and here).  It's a simple and inexpensive way to add extra panache to pieces you already own!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas "Wrapping"

Silk blouse (Lauren Ralph Lauren, Macy's); Leather skirt (Maginn, Nordstrom - see it styled differently here and here); Shoes (Poetic License - see them with a different look here); Citrine and freshwater pearl torsade (Ross-Simons)
A friend of mine recently mentioned that the 1981 song "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses was her all-time favorite Christmas song.  I had no idea what she was talking about, but I was reminded of her comment when I put on my favorite wrap blouse for a recent holiday open house.  So I googled it.  Ah yes, I do know that song.  It's pretty catchy, and will now be stuck in my head the rest of the day, I'm sure. Here's a link to a video with the lyrics, just in case you'd like to get it stuck in your head, too....

As for the blouse, something about the ruffly mix of plaid and paisley in rich, jewel-toned silk feels just right for holiday celebrations.  I found it a few years ago on clearance at Macy's and fell in love with it.  There was only one left, and it was really too big for me, but the genius of the wrap styling affords some flexibility.  The sleeves were also too long and too big around the wrist, so I asked my favorite local tailor to create French cuffs.  I love the result, which shows off more of the contrasting patterns in the fabric, and allows me to wear a favorite pair of cuff links I received as a Christmas gift from my husband several years ago (all my blouses would be French cuff if I had a choice).

In the past, I've always paired the blouse with navy trousers, but this pleated leather skirt is a favorite right now, and I'm always looking for new ways to wear it.   I donned navy riding boots with the outfit for the office, but dressed it up with ruffled satin shoes for the after-hours open house.
Bag (Dooney & Bourke, Nordstrom); Boots (Steven by Steve Madden, Burlington Coat Factory); Watch (Charming Charlie); Cuff Links (Off 5th)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Silly Penguin, Tux' are for Girls!

Tux Jacket (Jones New York); Lace Skirt (Lapis, Steinmart - see it styled a different way here); Necklace (Pretty Woman - read more about this Southern Indiana boutique here); Shoes (M by Marinelli, Steinmart); Clutch (Alexander McQueen, Zappos.com)
When it comes to cocktail attire, I usually gravitate toward slightly retro looks and fit 'n flare or a-line shaped dresses.  But, I've always liked the idea of women in tuxedos - it's unexpected and sophisticated. This year, they seem to be quite popular, and just yesterday InStyle Magazine dubbed Julia Roberts' tuxedo-clad look for the premier of her new movie as the "look of the day."

I'm no Julia Roberts, but for a recent event for the Indy affiliate of independent arts organization RAWI decided to shake up my own traditional martini garb with a satin-lapelled tux jacket that's been hiding out in the back of my closet for about a year.  I have the tuxedo pants, too (along with a similarly styled tuxedo in ivory), but the matching pants and jacket felt a bit too much like a basic black pants suit that I might wear to the office.  I wanted something more unexpected, so I mixed in a decidedly feminine texture with a black lace skirt, and topped it off with crystal studded strappy heels and an ultra modern statement necklace in stainless steel, brass, and crystal.  My favorite part of the whole ensemble is the Alexander McQueen butterfly clutch.  Its vibrant colors really pop against the all-black outfit, and the stained-glass patterned fabric echoes the circular design of the lace skirt and the curves of the necklace.  It's the female equivalent of a patterned cummerbund!

I did not purchase any of these pieces with the intention (or even the thought) of wearing them together, but it's always gratifying to come up with a new look using pieces I already own.  The result left me feeling like a female James Bond, and I ordered my martini shaken, not stirred (though I also ordered it with raspberry vodka and a splash of cointreau, which isn't nearly as cool but, hey, I like what I like).
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Clearly" My Favorite Boots

Boots (Miista, Modcloth.com); Watch (Michael Kors, Nordstrom); Scarf (Betsy Johnson, Steinmart - see it styled differently here and here); Eggplant velvet jacket (Facconable, Nordstrom Rack) 
I love boots.  Short boots, tall boots, cowboy boots, riding boots, flat boots, platform boots, even snow boots - I love them all!  Well, almost.... I do not love moon boots.  Moon boots may be my least favorite footwear of all time.  In the 5th grade, I had a pair of silver and peach moon boots.  I did not ask for them. I did not want them.  I hated wearing them.  I did not have a choice.  Sure, they kept my feet warm and dry, and I'm sure mom really did know best when it came to practical winter footwear choices.  But, there's a reason that moon boots were the funniest part of Napoleon Dynamite's wardrobe - they are heinous!

I'm sure some of the other kids in my elementary school also had moon boots, but they must have carried other shoes to change into once they got inside.  Not me.  I had to keep my moon boots on all day.  I distinctly recall trying to sneak into the mini-van sans moon boots one very snowy Friday night as we headed out to watch a varsity basketball game (well, my parents watched the game - I just wanted to get a strawberry-banana Lifesaver lollipop from the concession stand and hang out with my friends in the upper corner bleachers).  I didn't make it out of the house - my choice was "wear the moon boots or don't go to the game."  So I wore the boots, and spent nearly all four quarters trying to hide my feet underneath my coat.  Oh, the tribulations of a preteen shoe connoisseur!

These satin, floral print boots from Miista are about as far from Moon boots as you can get.  They were my birthday present to myself this November, and the geometric, translucent acrylic heels have made them a "clear" favorite in my closet.  I will admit they don't have the insulating, sure-footed, practical qualities of the moon boot when the snow flies, but I know I'll never feel the desire to hide them under my coat!
Skirt (Insight, Pretty Woman - read more about this locally owned Indiana boutique here)
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Linked up with Citizen Rosebud's "Shoeshine" - check it out!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Weekend with Wonder Woman (aka, my Mom!)

The IMA is so much more than a traditional art museum!  We had a great time making succulent Christmas trees during a class in the greenhouse last weekend, and I was so happy with my finished piece.
It's no secret - there's not much I love more than planning a party.  My mom and I used to have a little custom floral and event decor business "on the side," which we called Faery Dust.  I think a lot of my creativity comes from my mom (one of the most talented women I know), so collaborating with her to design beautiful showers, receptions, retirement parties, and other celebrations was a true joy (we also once created a custom floral arrangement for Playboy magazine, but that's a different story...).  Alas, my burgeoning professional career in the law, coupled with the fact that we live in different cities, ultimately made it challenging for us to continue to produce larger scale events.  

But, we still like to put our creative heads together when the opportunity arises, and she's usually the first person I call if I get "stuck" on the execution of a creative design, whether for a party I'm hosting or some hair brained holiday decorating idea I've fallen in love with. Whenever my "vision" exceeds my skill set, I can usually count on her to help me implement it.  For example, I can barely sew a button, while she is a master seamstress; I am likely to cut my hand off using power tools, but she once asked for a miter saw for Christmas.  I must admit I have taken great advantage of both her sewing prowess (see the fab madras napkins and pillows she made for our lobster boil here) and her miter saw over the years (which I did buy for her, at least).  Truly, this woman has tools and knows how to use them!

She also rarely takes a time for herself, and we don't get the opportunity to spend as much time together as we'd like.  Neither one of us are big fans of talking on the phone, either, so sometimes we'll go for long periods of time without catching up.  Consequently, we try to make the most of the time we do spend together, and more often than not it involves doing something creative.  We are definitely not ones to sit on the couch and watch a chick flick together, my mother and I.

So, I was very excited when she accepted my invitation to come to Indianapolis last Saturday to take a succulent gardening class offered by the Indianapolis Museum of Art (which has acres of beautiful gardens).  The class was held in the greenhouse on the museum grounds, and we both enjoyed the opportunity to create succulent Christmas tree topiaries.  After the holidays, we'll transplant the succulents so that (hopefully) we can continue to use them to make other creative centerpieces.  I'm really good with the design end of things, but not so great with the actual gardening part, so I'm hoping these hardy little hens and chicks will be something even I can keep alive! 

Thank you, Mom, for a wonderful weekend.  We walked away with beautiful little trees, but more importantly, we made another beautiful memory.
Watch (Zodiac, eBay); Hat (Kroger, of all places!); Cords (Liz Claiborne, Macy's); Boots (Diba); Scarf (JC Penney); Jacket (Snozu, TJ Maxx)
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peppermint Twist

Coat (Guess); Hat (vintage); Bag (Wilson's Leather); Skirt (Talbots); Watch (Michael Kors); Shoes (Steve Madden)
Bracelet (Nadri); Boots (Diba); Faux Fur Jacket (Yaprak)
Ivory Tuxedo Jacket (Jones New York)
Who says redheads can't wear red?  This red and ivory lace skirt from Talbot's was a total impulse buy last month, but hey, I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket!  I feel a bit like a giant candy cane, and so much red and winter white might be over the top, but I love it anyway.  I've already worn it to two different holiday parties and styled it two different ways using only pieces that were already in my closet, so no buyer's remorse here.

I paired it with red pumps and an ivory tuxedo jacket for a holiday open house and fundraiser last week; then with a turtleneck, faux fur jacket, and ivory boots for my husband's office party on Saturday night.  It's also the second time out this month for the faux fur jacket (see it here paired with a little black dress).

The heavy, embroidered lace detail of the skirt is exquisite, but I'm afraid it won't be terribly versatile after Christmas.  Perhaps I can tone it down and make it less "holiday" with a navy or black top.  If that doesn't work...well, there's always Valentines Day....

Do you dress "festively" for the holidays?  How festive is too festive?  I have holiday pajamas (custom-made by my mom using a vintage pin-up print fabric I found on eBay), but I draw the line at themed sweaters and sweatshirts...unless participating in an ugly sweater competition, in which case I'm all in!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tough Nut to Crack

Dress (INC, Macy's); Jacket (Yaprak); Broaches (Jones New York, Macy's); Boots (Shoedazzle.com); Bag (Boden); Earrings (Nadri, Nordstrom); Watch (vintage 1940s, G. Thrapp Jewelers); Jet beaded necklace (vintage, handmade by my Grandmother) 
Last Friday, we went to the Butler Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.  I've long loved the music (and even had some of Tchaikovsky's score played at our wedding), but I had never seen a live production.  It was mesmerizing.  Though Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy remains my favorite piece of music, I have to say that The Kingdom of Snow was my favorite set, and I loved the icy blue costumes of the Snowflakes and the Snow Queen.  I had reason to pay close attention to these details, because I'm in the midst of planning a Nutcracker themed birthday party for a friend's soon to be nine year old daughter.  Seeing the ballet this year was a must to provide ideas for the party theme and decor!  I was definitely inspired, and have had visions of sugarplum fairies dancing in my head ever since.

My own ensemble for the evening was a bit of a tough nut to crack.  I picked up this creamy winter white faux fur jacket in 2011.  It was marked down 75% at a now defunct little boutique because it was out of season and missing one of the decorative buttons on the shoulder.  The missing button was fine with me, because the remaining buttons were plastic, and I wanted to replace them with something a bit more elegant anyway.

I thought that replacing the buttons would be a snap, and I envisioned marcasite and pearl brooches as the perfect compliment to the vintage looking garment.  As it turns out, finding acceptable replacements has been a two year quest.  I finally chose these crystal snowflake brooches two weeks ago while shopping with a friend in Chicago.  They aren't the vintage marcasite pieces I envisioned, but they seemed appropriate for The Nutcracker on a cold and snowy December night.  

With its new crystal snowflake "buttons," the jacket was finally able to make its debut with this embroidered dress that I've also had for a few years.  The fabric of the dress is quite heavy, and it has always seemed "wintry" to me despite its spaghetti straps and sundress shape.  A vintage jet beaded necklace (handmade and worn by my grandmother decades ago), and knee-high boots (Mother Nature dumped 4 inches of snow on us the day of the ballet) completed the look.

I also found a second set of brooches on the Chicago trip, which I used to change up the look of the jacket for an office holiday party Saturday night (see it here).  It was fun to wear two days in a row after it had languished in my closet unworn and missing a button for so long.  But, I'm still on the look-out for the vintage marcasite pieces in my mind's eye....
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Poetic License

Shoes (Poetic License); Necklace (Yaprak); Skirt (Anthropologie); Bag (Lauren Ralph Lauren)
Shoes (Poetic License); Skirt (Steinmart); Necklace (The Limited); Bag (Ralph Lauren Blue Label)
This British line of shoes delights
With comfort, style and colors bright.
In a crowd they will stand out,
These lovely shoes I rhyme about.

They’ll kiss your feet with style so grand,
You’ll fall in love with this quirky brand.
Winter, Summer, Spring, or Fall,
With Poetic License you’ll stand tall.

I’ve paired them here with skirts of lace
A romantic nod to Victorian taste.
If Downton Abbey was set today,
Lady Mary in these shoes would play.

I’ve several pair of these soles so dear,
You can see more looks here, here, and here.
And two more in stripes, both camel and blue,
Or pink and orange for a change of hue.

Here's one more from a prior guest post,
and also these, which I love the most.
If you have a pair, I'd love to see
Send a pic and share with me!

They're harder to come by in the States,
But across the Pond, they're all over the place.
If a UK trip is not in your plans,
Use Amazon and eBay to find the brand!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Friday, December 6, 2013

IN Fashion Friday: Ginger 'n Spice and Everything Nice

Jacket (Ginger 'n Spice); Skirt (JC Penney - see it styled another way here); Boots (Anne Klein - see them styled another way here); Scarf (Betsey Johnson, Steinmart - see it styled another way here); Bag (Coach, eBay); Watch (Fossil)
For the past several years, I've been going to the same nail salon.  It's on my way home from the office and always has my favorite OPI nail color ("OPI Love This Color", if you're wondering).  The salon is situated in an unassuming, older strip mall on the far west side of Avon.  There really isn't much else there, and I would never consider this particular little center as a shopping destination (though there is a good pancake restaurant).  As a result, I probably passed by local, independent boutique Ginger 'n Spice a hundred times without going in.  And then, one Saturday last summer, I had some time to kill while waiting for an open pedicure chair so I wandered inside with absolutely zero expectations.  What a pleasant little surprise to find clothes I liked, and an owner I could sit down and talk to for hours over a glass of wine (or three)!  

As I mentioned in a prior post (remember my favorite red leather jacket?), this boutique has been continuously operated by local owner Cleda Janke for the past 37 years.  Despite a lack of significant advertising and unusually eclectic stock driven primarily by the tastes of its owner, Ginger 'n Spice has developed such a loyal clientele over the years that even customers who've moved out of state return a few times a year to update their wardrobes.  I suspect that is due in no small part to Cleda herself, an old-school fashionista with a passion for the little details that make a garment stand out.  

This denim jacket is a perfect example.  I was wearing the ecru lace Betsey Johnson scarf the last time I visited (Cleda approved, and I think would have bought it from me if I'd offered!), and I couldn't resist this faded, fitted jacket with its crocheted lace pockets when I saw how well they coordinated.  I have other, more casual jean jackets, but this one is a cut above the ordinary and also feels work appropriate with the scarf and a skirt.

Sometimes that little place you've walked by a hundred times and never dreamed would have stuff you'd wear will surprise you!  If you live in Avon or further west of the city, Ginger 'n Spice is worth a visit.  You can find directions and store hours here.

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

InFINITY and Beyond

The jacket has an equestrian vibe when paired with a long plaid skirt (I also wore the skirt as a dress with my grandmother's leather jacket earlier this Fall - see it here).  Skirt (Willi Smith); Boots (Nine West); Mexican fire opal and diamond pendant (Master Jewelers, St. Maartin); Bag (Brahmin)
The same jacket has a retro, 70s vibe when paired with bootcut plaid pants, my Annie Oakley pendant from eBay (the little pistol actually comes out of its holster!), and a cable knit bucket bag from Michael Kors.
In the mid-90s, I moonlighted as a sales clerk at Parisian (now Carson Pirie Scott) while I finished law school.  I'm pretty sure I spent more than I earned while I was there, but it was a great way to build a professional wardrobe on a budget (we're talking BIG employee discounts).  Though I loved trying on the newest trends, I made a point of investing in quality staples that would stand the test of time and coordinate readily with other pieces.

One of my "go to" clothing lines during that time was Finity, which was on the higher end of Parisian's brand offerings, but still affordable for a struggling law student (especially with the discount).  In Finity, I found the perfect black suit and the perfect, dark chocolate brown blazer.  Though I've acquired multiple black and brown suits and blazers since, those from Finity are still my favorite, and they are still in rotation some 15 years later.  I stay on the lookout for replacements, because I know one day these wardrobe basics will wear out but, to date, I've not had luck finding the perfect pieces.  Sadly, it also appears that the Finity brand is no longer being sold in stores (though there is an abundance of it on sites like Tradesy and eBay). 

When I bought this chocolate brown jacket, I knew it was a solid, seasonless, and well-tailored piece that I'd be able to wear both at work and in more casual settings.  I can't even begin to recount the many ways I've styled it over the years, but it's probably safe to say that no other jacket in my closet has been worn so much.  In addition to the looks above, I wore it over the summer with an ivory lace skirt and spectators (see it here), and last month with an autumn-hued boucle skirt (see it here).  I'm actually kind of amazed that it's still in such good condition, though I have to admit it is starting to show signs of wear.  I may have to step up my search for a replacement...  

I also managed to dig up a few photos of the jacket in its early life with me.  Wish I could say my hairstyle in those days stood the test of time as well as the jacket!  

Do you invest in "boring basics" that last?
Top left and bottom:  I took the jacket to Australia with me in 1998, where I wore it with dress pants for my internship and with (bad) Guess button fly jeans on the weekends (I can neither confirm nor deny that these jeans are still in my closet somewhere).  Top right:  I also wore it for some family portraits in (I think) 2001.
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Apropos Apron

Yes, I did base the whole outfit around the apron!  Apron (Homegoods); Corduroy Goucho Pants (Soft Surroundings); Sweater (Dress Barn); Belt (Nordstrom); Mexican fire opal and diamond pendant (Master Jewelers, St. Maartin); Booties (Frye, Zappos.com)
 Aprons have always reminded me of my days as a waitress (Pizza Hut and Waffle House during high school and college, respectively).  Hence, I've pretty much stayed away from donning them no matter how messy the cooking, and despite the fact that I am a colossal klutz and often end up wearing part of the meal I'm making.  It's not that I have bad memories of my waitstaff days (with the exception, perhaps, of an unfortunate incident involving a crisp white shirt and an entire gallon of Thousand Island dressing that left me smelling like a Big Mac for the better part of a 12 hour shift), but there was certainly  nothing glamorous about the work or the uniforms.

Last year, my attitude toward the humble apron changed when I stumbled across a cache of vintage-inspired pieces featuring tiers of coordinating fabrics and interesting details (like the ruffles at the neckline).  At only $10 each, I was sold.  This deep brick "Jody orange" apron with polka dots and poppies is one of my favorites, and I was actually excited to wear it during Thanksgiving preparations last week. 

Perhaps I should be slightly embarrassed that my choice of Thanksgiving day attire was based around an apron (which I took off once dinner was served), but I am who I am.  Whether it's my outfit or the table settings, little details are important to me.  This was our first time to host a Thanksgiving meal, and I relished the opportunity to create a visual and virtual feast for our 14 guests. 

Multiple family members always pitch in with delectable, traditional dishes - my sister-in-law is an ace noodle maker; my niece makes a mean stuffing; my aunt brings the must-have pumpkin pie and persimmon pudding; and my mother-in-law's multiple dishes are always drool-worthy.  This year, a big shout out also goes to Kevin for peeling all the spuds for the mashed potatoes, even though I very nearly boiled them into oblivion!  This much-appreciated division of labor made it possible for me to spend a bit of time creating an edible centerpiece overflowing with Honeycrisp apples, grapes, nectarines, and navels; pull out the copper pumpkin napkin rings and heirloom candlesticks; and find butter carved in the shape of a turkey.  Love, love, love the turkey-shaped butter, which I never knew existed before this year!  Aunt Gloria quipped that it brings a more literal meaning to the term "butterball turkey."  I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your own loved ones.
Creating festive table settings and centerpieces brings me such joy!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!