Sunday, April 27, 2014

The highs and lows of Spring

Cape (Ginger 'n Spice); Pants (212 Collection, Kohls); Boots (Karen Scott, eBay); Bag (Kate Spade, Nordstrom Rack)
In the depths of Winter (and this one in particular), I often find myself longing to live in warmer climes.  But there is something about the change of seasons that is good for my soul, and I know I savor the first blooms of Spring more for having been without them.  The same is true for the first "top-down" day of the year.  Driving a convertible would be more practical if I lived in year round warm temperatures, but the unbridled joy of that first warm(ish) sunny day, wind in my hair, music blasting, is unbeatable.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year, teasing us with a warmer day only to dip back into the 30s twenty-four hours later.  Unwilling to let the winter doldrums linger any longer, I put the heavy coats away and opted for a Tiffany blue cape.  The bright robin's egg hue makes me think Spring while still warding off goose bumps.

The accents are a mix of higher, low end, and vintage jewelry - something old, something new, something  borrowed, and something blue isn't just for weddings!  The 72 inch strand of pearls was a precious gift, but I like them even more accented with a $12 rhinestone brooch from Jo-Ann Fabric.  The semi-precious deep blue topaz, sterling and gold ring coordinates with the aqua leather band on a $15 dollar watch from Steinmart, and the earrings are a vintage heirloom that belonged to my grandmother Dorothy.  

Mixing high end pieces with bargain buys and vintage finds is one of my go to style tricks.  It's an affordable way to extend your wardrobe and create looks that are completely unique.  Wearing pieces in unexpected ways also adds interest, like a brooch worn as an asymmetrical pendant rather than in the traditional way.  So savor Spring, and don't be afraid to embrace the highs and the lows!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
Linked up with: Visible Monday!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Baking & Breaking Bread

What?  This isn't what you wear around the house when you're baking?!  Yeah, me neither.  I have a fascination with 1950s style (so this photo shoot was fun), and I actually do wear an apron if I'm cooking for a crowd.  But, let's keep it real.  I'm more likely to wear it over plaid pajama bottoms and a Ryder Cup t-shirt than a dress of any sort.  And heels?  Please.  If I'm going to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I'm going to be in socks so that I can slide around the marble floors dancing to my iPod (though I do love these Candyland shoes from

It's no secret that throwing a good theme party is one of my passions, and I always like the menu to reflect the occasion.  Sometimes that means matching the type of food to the event (eg, Mexican for a Cinco de Mayo party), and sometimes it just means creating theme-appropriate displays or shapes for classic dishes.  For Easter brunch last weekend, I baked some crusty French bread in the shape of a rabbit and Easter eggs.  So many people have asked how I made it, I thought I'd post directions. 
But first, a confession.  I would love to tell you that I ground my own whole wheat flour from my organic backyard garden, or even that I started it completely from scratch.  I did not.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  Or at least this full-time lawyer indulging in late-night baking and kitchen dancing doesn't.  Nope.  I started with a 5 lb. package of Kroger brand frozen bread dough, which I let thaw in the refrigerator for about 10 hours while I was at the office doing lawyerly things.   

The dough is already separated into five 1 lb portions.  It's oblong and boring in the package, and there's no joy in that (though it tastes good regardless of what it looks like). I'd made Santa-shaped bread at Christmas using directions from Taste of Home.  The Santas turned out pretty good, so I thought I'd attempt to make bunny bread for Easter.  
The Santa on the left was my first attempt.  For the one on the right, I modified a few things (like twisting the beard pieces) and thought it came out better.
I didn't have a pattern to guide me this time, so I just used my imagination and played with 2 loaves of the dough until I was happy with the bunny shape.  I used almond slivers for the bunny's eyeballs.  I then brushed the entire loaf with an egg wash.  To give the bread it's color accents, I mixed a tiny bit of food coloring into the egg wash, which I brushed on top of the dough using varying sizes of small artists' paint brushes.  
If I'd made a second one, I'd have modified the eyes and teeth a bit.  It gets easier with practice to know how the bread shapes will rise during the baking process
I used a super simple egg shape for each of the remaining three loaves, rolling and pinching small pieces of dough to create three dimensional designs.  Again, I used tiny amounts of food coloring in the egg wash to add color accents.  I baked the bread at 350 degrees for about an hour, covering it loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes to keep the top from browning too much.  A tip:  depending on the shape and thickness of your bread loaf, you may need to bake it longer. My egg loaves looked puffy and perfect when I took then out of the oven, but they fell a bit as they cooled because the inside wasn't completely done.  I popped them back in the oven and finished them easily enough, but they didn't puff back up so I wasn't as satisfied with the finished loaves as I could have been.
You can see in the top photos, which were taken just after I finished them, that the bread is puffy and smooth on the top.  In the bottom picture, you can see the loaves fell a bit as they cooled.  Next time I'll know to bake them longer
Once the bread cooled slightly, I used artists' paint brushes to apply edible lustre dust in various shades to add shimmer and sparkle to the bread.  Lustre dust is by far my favorite embellishment for baked goods.  It's completely tasteless, easy to apply, and adds unmatched dimension.  In fact, I often use it to decorate bare sugar cookies in lieu of icing.  It's far less messy and there's no worry of messing up the design when you stack them.  It also adds decoration without any added sugar or fat.  It can be found in the baking aisle of Michael's or Hobby Lobby, and a single small vial goes a really long way - you definitely need to use a light touch when applying.
These gingerbread cookies I made in December have no icing on them at all.  The color and shimmer is color-tinted lustre dust;  The top photo also has crushed, melted hard candies in the cut outs (the candy melts as the cookies bake, and creates a stained glass effect); The ballet slippers on the left were a big hit for a 9 year old's Nutcracker ballet themed birthday party.
So there you have it.  If you're feeling creative, try making shaped French loaves the next time you break bread with loved ones.  If you have more time on your hands than I do, you might even make your bread from scratch.  But, whatever you do, I recommend you forego the 50s housewife high heels in the kitchen and dance around in your socks!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you BAKE with it!
Even I draw the line at an Eiffel Tower made from hot dogs, but it made me smile.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good Hare Day!

Dress and Shoes (; Cloche and bracelet (Charming Charlie); Necklace (The Limited); Watch (Michael Kors, Nordstrom)
I may be anti-holiday sweater, but Peter Cottontail shoes for Easter?  Yes, please!  I couldn't resist wearing these British bunnies from Irregular Choice to Easter church and dinner with my family.  They were a big hit with my 18 month old niece, but my 22 year old brother called me Alice all day (as in Wonderland).  Wish I'd had them when I threw a Mad Hatter party two years ago!  The funniest comment came from my cousin Nic, who chided me not to rub my heels together lest they multiply.  Clever boy.

It made me happy to see so many people "dressed" for church.  In the last several years, I've noticed a significant relaxation in "appropriate" Sunday dress.  I know it sounds old-fashioned, but I would never dream of wearing jeans to church.  I know full well that God doesn't care what I wear, but dressing up a bit is a sign of respect, and also adds to the celebratory nature of worship.   I realize that I may be in the minority here.  That's perfectly okay.  I don't mind being the only person in a dress (or bunny shoes).

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I hope each of you enjoyed the wonderful, warm Spring weekend!  

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
For more fab shoes, check out Sheila's Shoe Shine!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Toe to Toe: Photographer Faith Blackwell

Photo courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography
I love photography.  It's both an art form and a skill, and while I like to think I have an eye for pleasing composition, the technical and mechanical aspects of great photography are not my strong suit.  At least I'll never be accused of photoshopping my blog pics - red eye reduction, auto color correct, and instagram filters are pretty much the extent of my capabilities.  I am not a photographer.  

Occasionally, however, I get the benefit of working with excellent photographers.  Faith Blackwell is one them, and I'm honored to call her my friend.  Faith is a woman who followed her bliss and turned a passionate hobby into a career.  Senior portraits are currently her favorite subject, but she is also regularly booked for professional headshots, families, parties, and charity events (I first met Faith as the runway photographer for Dress for Success Indianapolis' annual Stepping Out In Style fundraiser, where she managed to make me look good modeling an outfit that was so far out of my comfort zone I was shaking when I stepped on the catwalk - thanks, Faith!)  I also have her to thank for the photos featured in a couple of prior posts (see her work here and here).
Photo courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography 
Faith and I also have a shared passion - for SHOES!  When she's not shooting clients, she is constantly honing her craft, trying new ideas and pushing boundaries according to what inspires her.  A couple of years ago, she began shooting subjects in their favorite footwear - shoes that showed the "souls behind the soles," if you will.  As the project grew, the idea of a coffee table book took shape, and I was honored when she asked me to collaborate with her, interviewing the subjects and sharing their "sole stories."  We expect the process will take some time, but we're both excited about the prospect of meeting fascinating people and capturing on film and on the page a bit of what it's like to walk in their shoes. 
Photo courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography
Faith is always the woman behind the camera, unobtrusively capturing moments great and small, but I wanted to learn more about what it's like to be in her shoes, so I asked her to go "toe to toe" with me in an interview (after which we took a "shoefie" and went shopping at Queen Bee Vintage!)
Post-interview, pre-shopping Toe to Toe "shoefie."  Those are Faith's super cool orange brogues on the left, and my Poetic License spectators on the right.
Q:  What motivated you to become a professional photographer?  A: Photography just happened for me. I did not go to school for it. I'd worked in marketing for 10 years. By the 8th year I could see things changing and started making plans. Photography had been a recent hobby and I could tell this was my passion. 

Q:  What is the most rewarding aspect of your chosen profession?  A: Getting to work with a diverse group of people who are creative, passionate and motivate me to step my game up everyday. 

Q:  What is your favorite subject matter to shoot?  High school seniors. I can combine fashion and photography to a group that is up for anything to make themselves stand apart. 

Q:  What is the most challenging aspect of the business?  A: Educating clients on the importance of photography and why you may feel like you're paying a lot. This is indeed a skill. 

Q:  How do you feel about the "selfie" phenomenon?  A: At first I didn't like it. I'm still not a fan of the bathroom selfie or using selfies for a professional profile image. But if used to capture a group of friends or family moment, I'm all for it. We can't have too many photos of loved ones. 

Q:  Any tips for choosing clothing that photographs well?  A: Choose something you feel confident in and that compliments you. Oh and bring plenty of options!

Q:  How do you stay motivated and creative?  Being around others who are passionate about what they do keeps me motivated. Creativity comes from any and everything. A: I just try not to fear attempting the unknown.

Q:  What was your inspiration for the shoe project?  A: The shoe project derived from an exhibit I was entering, the pump exhibit. I was racking my brain trying to think of subject matter when it dawned on me. SHOES!  I don't know any woman who don't love shoes. (And most men although they may not want to admit it). 

Q:  What is your vision for the finished product? The sky is the limit!  A: What I'm seeing now is a book with a collection of portraits. Shoes are just an opening. Wherever this project leads me, I'm willing to follow. 

Q:  What is YOUR favorite pair of shoes and why? A: The orange ones pictured. I've gone through a long journey and am still going through it. I used to LOVE my accessories and had lost that feeling for awhile. These are the first fun shoes I'd bought in awhile. Sort of a reintroduction. Getting back to me. More of who I want to be. 

Faith can be contacted through her website.  To see more of her work; meet the woman behind the lens; and check out her chic shoes, visit her at her studio April 25-26 at the Stutz Artist's Open House.  If you're a fan of art and photography and live in Central Indiana, this event is "can't miss" - great artists, unique galleries, live music, and classic cars in a historic downtown setting!
Photo courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vintage: A Book Review and Shopping, Too

Vintage dress and brooch (N. Rue - sadly now out of business); Photo courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography; Photo Styling courtesy of Murph Damron; Vintage Cadillac courtesy of The Stutz.
I'm one of those people who gets sucked into the imaginary world created by a good book and can't put it down.  At midnight, I'll tell myself "just one more chapter and I'll turn off the light and go to sleep."  Who am I kidding?  My self-delusional statement is as fictional as the characters that dwell within the pages.  Consequently, I don't allow myself to read what I call "pleasure books" near as often as I'd like (no, by "pleasure book," I do not mean of the Fifty Shades of Grey variety - I simply mean books selected purely for enjoyment and not because I need to digest them for my day job).

My taste is fiction is wildly eclectic, from my favorite classic, To Kill a Mockingbird (predictable for a lawyer, I know), to The Art of Racing in the Rain (a 2008 novel by Garth Stein that uses driving a racecar as an extended metaphor for a husband and father's journey through family tragedy, as narrated by the family dog!)  The recent Kindle publication of a new book by Susan Gloss titled "Vintage: A Novel" caught my eye simply because of my love for vintage clothing, and I decided that a little light pleasure reading was perfect for a rainy, cold Saturday afternoon.  

Set primarily in a vintage shop and featuring colorful descriptions of clothing from the early 1900s through the 1980s, the story focuses on the intersecting lives and personal journeys of three women: a middle-aged single shop owner from the Midwest; the pregnant 18 year old math whiz she takes on as an intern; and an older seamstress from India with a failing arranged marriage and an unnurtured talent for fashion design.  Despite their diversity, the three women find common ground through their shared interest in fashion and the challenge of difficult circumstances. It was a pleasant read, though I really didn't feel invested in the characters until I was nearly halfway through the story, and the ending was a little too abrupt and tidy.  Still, I'm not sorry I read it, and if you're fascinated by the history and stories behind classic couture garments, you might enjoy it, too.

The book also had me thinking about the vintage shops I like to visit, and lamenting that some of my favorites are no longer around.  The dress above is from one such store, N. Rue, a former Broadripple staple.  The black and grey 50s frock is what's considered in the vintage world as "new old stock," meaning it came directly from a department store or manufacturer and was never sold to a consumer.  The horizontal stripes on the inverted pleats are my favorite detail, and though it clearly channels a prior era (especially paired with frilly gloves and a classic Caddy),  I've worn it to church; to a wedding; and to a party and felt completely comfortable and modern.

On the hunt for new "vintage haunts," I turned to my friend and fellow blogger Crystal Hammon at Dressed Her Days Vintage.  Crystal is a long-time collector and seller of vintage fashion.  Remember the "Traveling Pink Sweater?" We have Crystal to thank for the chic 1960s cardigan that still looks au courant on women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s and is raising money for a great cause.  

Crystal has some wonderful tips on what to look for when shopping vintage; how to discern quality and wearability; and how to distinguish the truly "vintage" find from something that's just plain old.  I'll share her advice on those topics in a future post, but for now I wanted to share her local vintage hot spots:

"We've lost some good vintage stores recently, and that grieves me. Even the great ones don't seem to last here, and I think that tells you something about this market. There are very few left that are offering the type of clothes I'm interested in. I try to support the ones that are still standing. In the city [Indianapolis], I don't think you can beat Queen Bee Vintage. [Owner] Jennifer Shirk has a real eye and she knows how to spot and buy what I consider to be truly vintage. She's also got a track record of longevity, which is something you have to respect when you know how difficult retail is. I've made a few good discoveries at the Midland Antique Mall, too.

I also shop Goodwill. I'm very excited about the new Vintage Vogue store they are opening at the corner of 62nd and Keystone in June. It will be similar to the one in Bloomington, but adjusted for this market. That should be a very well-curated collection, especially at the beginning when they'll be hoping to make a splash locally. Goodwill has trained people in all their locations to spot high quality vintage items that are right for this store, but if you're someone who likes the thrill of the hunt, it will still be possible to make discoveries in their regular stores. They have a small space and can't stock every vintage donation that's made in the area. For people who want to go straight to the good stuff, this should be a wonderful resource.

This last tidbit was a revelation - I had no idea that Goodwill had specialty vintage boutiques.  You can bet I'll be headed to Vintage Vogue in June, and I'll be checking out the Bloomington location next time I'm down there, too!

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

If you're interested in vintage, you may also like:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Support the Sisterhood!

Clockwise from top left:  Madison Hanulak (photo courtesy of Studio 505); Leslie Bailey (photo courtesy of Michelle Pemberton, Indianapolis Star); Crystal Hammon; Jody DeFord; Megan Giannini; Maggie Connor
If you've been following Red's Shoe Diaries, you may remember the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater. When we started this initiative last October, my friend and fellow blogger Crystal Hammon and I had one goal:  to raise awareness and money for the critical breast cancer support services provided by The Pink Ribbon Connection while at the same time highlighting vintage fashion and its relevance in today’s world.  If you're new to the blog or this is the first time you've seen this 1960s Barbie pink gem, check out my original post. This cutie of a cardigan has a fascinating history!  It also travels in style from woman to woman in its own vintage pink suitcase.

Breast cancer affects women of every age and in all walks of life.  So, it seems appropriate that the sweater's journey to date has included a diverse group of women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s.  Our lives, our experiences, and our personal styles are different, but the Pink Sweater is a common thread that unites us in support of a cause that matters to each of us.  

...and who knew that one little bubblegum pink sweater from the 1960s could look so different, but so current, on blondes, brunettes, and redheads in so many different stages of life!  Maggie and I both paired the sweater with leather skirts, but her thigh high boots and suspenders are rocker chic where my navy pleats and monogrammed candy-stripe Mary Janes are more modern prep. Madison channels a modern day Jackie O with her ballet flats and classic pearls; while Leslie looks mod in pink and black with sleek riding boots.  Crystal's vintage brooch highlights the unique neckline of the sweater but denim keeps the look unfussy; and Megan styled the sweater in not one, but three completely different, modern ways.

Here's a travelogue of the Pink Sweater's journey and all the sisters who have joined us on this project so far.  Click on the links to see details of each woman's unique way of wearing our "sweater with a cause!" 

1. Crystal Hammon, Blogger at Dressed Her Days Vintage
2. Jody DeFord (that's me!)
3. Leslie Bailey, Reporter and Adventuress at the Indianapolis Star and blogger at The Adventures of Lesalina
4. Megan Giannini, Loxa Beauty Blogger
5. Maggie Connor, Blogger at The Haute Hoosier 
6. Madison Hanulak, Stylist and Blogger at Preppy Guide to Life 

7. KimAnn Schultz, Illustrator and blogger for the Huffington Post (coming soon!)

We'll keep you updated as the sweater's one year journey continues, at which point we'll bring all of the sisterhood together in celebration.  I can't wait to meet all of my "sweater sisters!"  You can also follow along on social media by searching "#sisterhoodofthetravelingpinksweater."  Of course, as Crystal so aptly put in her recent post, this sweater is about so much more than the women who wear it: "It’s about raising money to support women who are on one the most difficult journeys life can throw anyone—an assault on health."  With that in mind, if you know one of these dedicated "sisters," we hope and pray you’ll honor their effort with a tax deductible donation and help us spread the message by sharing this post and the sweater's journey with your friends! Visit Crystal's post at Dressed Her Days Vintage for more details, and to learn about an incentive for donors!  
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hats Off!

Do you have your tickets yet?!
I'd really love to see you at the Indianapolis Museum of Art for

Hats Off - Hat Over Heels!
The Fashion Arts Society’s 3rd Annual Hats Off Lecture and Luncheon
Thursday, May 8, 2014
11:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography; Photo styling courtesy of Murph Damron; 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster courtesy of the Stutz

In March, I couldn't wait to share my excitement about chairing the Fashion Arts Society's Third Annual Hats Off Luncheon (see my original post here for a different "hat over heels" look).  The big day is just a month away - are you ready to kick up your heels with us?!

Don't know what to wear?  Maybe you'll be inspired by this year's "best dressed" categories:
    • Hat Over Heels: The most stylish coordination of headwear and footwear
    • Haute Headware: The most fashion-forward, cutting edge chapeau
    • Hattitude: The most audacious, attention grabbing derby or church hat
    • Bijoux Chapeau or Shoe: Making a statement with sparkling, jewel-like embellishments on hats or shoes
    • Hatta Boy: A tip of the hat to the gentleman who dons a vintage or contemporary hat with finesse
    • Hatastique: This Best of Show Award recognizes this year's best all-around ensemble
We're honored to have fashion designer Nikki Blaine, Nikki Blaine Couture; Tracy Forner, co-host of WISH-TV's Indy Style, and; Elizabeth Semmelhack, Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, as our esteemed panel of judges, and winners in each category will receive a gem of a prize.  

Whether you favor a vintage chapeau from the 1950s like the one I'm sporting here; an avant garde piece you've created yourself; a wide-brimmed beauty; or no hat at all, you're sure to enjoy a feast for all the senses – a lecture that feeds the mind; a meal that pleases the palate; and a visual fashion feast for the eyes.

Tip your hat for a good cause - all proceeds benefit the FAS' Acquisition Fund, and all but $20 of each ticket is tax deductible.  For special early-bird pricing, reserve your ticket before April 25, or get a group of friends together and fill a whole table!   You can purchase tickets online here.  See you there!
Photos courtesy of Faith Blackwell Photography; Photo styling courtesy of Murph Damron; 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster courtesy of the Stutz
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Visit Style Crone's monthly Hat Attack for chapeau inspiration!
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 Hat Over Heels!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In Like a Leopard

Red jeans (mid-90s vintage - see them styled another way here); Cowl Neck Sweater (Soft Surroundings); Bag (Michael Kors); Shoes (Bandolino - see them styled another way here and here); Belt (Ralph Lauren,; Watch (Charming Charlie); Fedora (vintage)

How many times have you heard that the month of March "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?"  This year, the old Farmer's Almanac idiom seemed particularly apt, though I wish the lamb had showed up a little earlier.  With no "spring break" trip to warmer climes this year, I'm ready for some serious sunshine and the chance to break out my golf shoes.  Until then, it's neither lions nor lambs, but leopards I've got on my mind (or my feet, as the case may be).  I'm also taking advantage of the low key atmosphere that permeates my office this time of year (when it seems almost everybody but me is on vacation) to wear jeans to work, albeit in red rather than traditional blue.
With less people in the office for the last couple of weeks, I also decided it was the perfect time to try out one of several treadmill desks available for use throughout the building.  I'd been wanting to do this for months, but if you know me at all (or if you've read this post), you know I'm one of those people that is sometimes challenged to walk and chew gum at the same time.  So, I really wasn't all that sure I could read and work while on a treadmill, and I didn't relish the idea of becoming another highlight for "Ultimate Redhead Fails."  Yep, that's right - a whole video dedicated to gingers falling down.  A friend told me about it a few weeks ago.  When I shared it with Kevin, his immediate response was, "Oh, I don't need to see a video for that, I witness it in person all the time..."  Thanks, Kevin.

Despite my trepidation and lack of grace, my treadmill desk experiment was a success, and I found it pretty easy to spend an hour working while plodding methodically toward my 10,000 steps per day minimum goal.  It's no substitute for my regular work outs, but it's a lot better than sitting at my desk all day, and it actually gave me some additional mid-afternoon energy.  Doing it in these calf-hair, leopard print shoes, however, was not my best decision.  I'll be tucking a pair of tennis shoes into my briefcase tomorrow. 
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

If you're a fan of hats like the vintage fedora I'm wearing in this post, visit Style Crone's monthly Hat Attack for inspiration.

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Linked up with Style Elixir.