Monday, September 29, 2014

Local Fare; French Flair!

By all accounts (at least on Yelp), the recent Diner En Blanc on Monument Circle was an affair to remember; an elegant extravaganza; a soiree to savor; a festive feast; a wonderland of white...(I could go on for awhile until my mind goes "blanc," but I'll spare you additional agony from my admiration for alliteration!) 
My thanks to 604 Studios for capturing a host of wonderful photos from the evening.
The concept of "Diner en Blanc" is French, and originated with a man named Fran├žois Pasquier, who invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne many years ago. To find each other in the park, they all wore white. The dinner was such a success that they decided to recreate it the next year. Each person invited other friends and the event grew organically into the 10,000+ dinner it is today. In Paris, this annual white party is always invitation only, and the location is kept top secret until the last minute. In fact, guests don't know where they're going until the buses arrive at the destination selected by the party's organizers, though it is always held at a very public (and often historic) locale, such as the Arc de Triomphe. If you're lucky enough to receive an invitation, you're expected to wear white, bring dinner in a picnic basket, and champagne to share with friends both old and new.
Yelp executed Indianapolis' own version of Diner en Blanc with aplomb, staying fairly true to the original concept while at the same time allowing for a more diverse and not so secret guest list. The choice of location on historic Monument Circle and in front of Hilbert Circle Theater (home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra), while not a secret, was inspired. The Monument itself provided a spectacular visual backdrop and a quintet from the ISO provided a spectacular soundtrack for the festivities. 
Studio 604 captured this fantastic image of the Monument in the background of the blanc affair
In keeping with Yelp's mission to help people discover local businesses, guests were also encouraged to bring locally sourced goods, and several generous local sponsors were on hand to provide beverages and other treats for the party's 1000 Hoosier guests. My dinner companions and I heartily embraced the local focus. We brought shrimp cocktail with St. Elmo's world-famous cocktail sauce and "Watermelon Fire and Ice Salsa" that I made fresh that morning using the last of the Farmer's Market watermelons and locally grown fresh cilantro. My friend Faith brought B. Happy peanut butter from Zionsville, which we enjoyed on fresh Honeycrisp apple slices. This rich concoction was a mix of fresh peanut butter, milk chocolate, rice crisps, and toffee bits. It is quite possibly the most decadent peanut butter concoction I've ever tasted, and I may or may not have eaten the rest of the jar with a spoon within just a few days of the party! 
My friends Faith and Stela helped create a memorable feast, which we enjoyed on my grandmother's china
My dress for the evening was a caftan (not of the Mrs. Roper on Three's Company variety!) that I purchased at a street fair in India a few years ago without a clue where I might ever wear it. It was an impulse purchase but I fell in love with the delicate gold crochet details on the collar, waist, and cuffs and remember thinking, "this would be perfect if I ever got invited to a white party...." Et voila! 
Thanks to Faith Blackwell for taking time to photograph the evening even as she dined with us (and brought the most amazing peanut butter dip!)
My earrings were a local find, however, from Grace Boutique in the Fashion Mall, which always has unique accessories. I wanted to try something new with my hair for the night, and Amanda at Studio 2000 on Monument Circle styled my hair with a waterfall braid that I was sad to brush out the next morning. It was fun to try a different style and support local business at the same time.
Amanda at Studio 2000 convinced me to try this waterfall braid - I loved it!
As you can see from the montage below, just as I decided to pull out my grandmother's china and use silver teapots to hold fresh flowers for the picnic, other revelers likewise embraced the opportunity to create elaborate and elegant tablescapes to hold lavish feasts of local fare. 
Revelers embraced the theme, and were eager to share their creativity and delicious delights with friends and strangers alike. Hoosier hospitality at its finest.
As the symphony quintet played on into the night, it seemed the party was over all too soon, but the memories of a fantastic and unique evening will long linger.
It's always fun to catch up with my friend Madison from Preppy Guide to Life
It was an occasion to catch up with old friends and make lots of new ones in a setting that defined  casual elegance. I hope, like the French original, that Yelp will make Diner en Blanc an annual affair!
Madison treated friends to "instant" mementos from the evening using a Hello Kitty Polaroid camera; I used my grandmother's teacups to hold floating votive candles and an antique silver teapot as a centerpiece to hold flowers from Fresh Market. 
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bond Girl Chic

Hat and coat (Elan) ~Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
At the afterparty for the Dress for Success Indianapolis fundraiser "Stepping Out In Style" a few weeks ago, one of the guests described the head to toe winter white look I sported for my final turn on the runway as "Bond Girl Chic." I am certain that I glowed at the compliment (and also immediately thought, "that's a good title for a blog post)." 

Indeed, I did feel very chic in white mink from Elan, crystal-encrusted Badgley Mischka heels, and an intricately crocheted and couture-constructed Byron Lars Beauty Mark dress from Enza's Boutique. There's something about winter white that always makes me feel elegant (that is, until in my infinite gracefulness I inevitably spill something on it). Others must surely feel the same, as the buyer for Enza's reported that SOIS guests flocked to the store and snatched up every one of these dresses within days of the event. Wear it well, ladies!
Dress (Byron Lars, Enza's Boutique); Shoes (Badgley Mischka); Earrings and necklace (Aronstam Jewelers) ~Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
Bond Girl Chic. What fun! That might be one of the coolest compliments I've ever received on an outfit. But, as I sat down to write this post and contemplated further, I started to think about Bond Girls and how they've been portrayed through the years. As much as I love my 007 movies, I have to admit that, especially in the early years of the franchise, the women were often no more than damaged, weak, objectified supporting characters who were powerless to resist a sexist leading man. Thankfully, more recent installments of the iconic series have featured stronger, sharp-witted female characters with identifiable skills beyond traditional "feminine wiles." From Halle Berry in Die Another Day (also the name of a great Bond-Inspired OPI nail polish color, by the way), to Naomie Harris in SkyFall and, of course, Dame Judi Dench as Bond's MI6 supervisor, M, Ian Fleming's original damsel in distress stereotype seems to be fading with the changing times. I'm thankful for this. Not all of the critics agree on the progress, though, and there are a number of articles that have been written on the topic (this one and this one, for example).
Next week, I'll have the pleasure of attending a dinner for the Women's Fund of Central Indiana (an organization that has provided critical support to Dress for Success Indianapolis and myriad other women and girl serving organizations in Central Indiana). The dinner features Academy Award Winner Geena Davis as the keynote speaker. Geena has made a life long mission of bringing gender equality into the popular culture lexicon and to working within the entertainment industry to alter stereotypical reflections of girls and women in television and film. I'd love to hear her take on "Bond girl chic," and I'm certain her speech will give me further reason to ponder the issue. For now, though, I'm going to bask in the glow of what I can only construe as a genuine and well-meant compliment on a great outfit!

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

You may also like these other Byron Lars designs:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I love it when a plan comes together...

This Byron Lars Beauty Mark dress is one of my favorites! Enza's Boutique, one of several featured in Stepping Out In Style, is the exclusive carrier of this brand in the State of Indiana. Stepping Out In Style sponsor Aronstam Jewelers also outfitted me in gold and diamonds on my wrist and ears for the evening. ~Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
In the infamous words of Hannibal Smith, "I love it when a plan comes together." Some fourteen years ago when Dress for Success Indianapolis (DFSI) was in its infancy, I hatched a hairbrained idea for a fashion show to raise funds to support the ongoing work of this organization that helps women in Central Indiana achieve self-sufficiency. "Let's get prominent and successful local women engaged in the mission by asking them to participate as 'runway role models' for our clients," I said to my fellow board members. "Let's feature locally owned boutiques and get some firemen to help us collect money," I enthused. When I get an idea, I tend to obsess about it in infinite detail....
This gorgeous lady is Karen Kennelly. Karen was a fellow founding board member of DFSI and was my biggest "challenger" when I suggested we host a fashion show as a fundraising event. It's great to work with people who push you to prove yourself and your ideas (and I say this not just because I won her over!)  ~Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
As excited as I was about the idea, I can't say the same for all of my colleagues on the board and the fundraising committee. In fact, a couple of them were quite vocally opposed and thought it would never get "off the runway" so to speak. No one would ever say I give up easily, though, and with the support of founding Board Member Tandy Shuck as my co-chair, we formed a committee and gave it our all. Our first time out, the goal was to raise awareness of the organization and its mission without losing money on the endeavor. After more than a year of planning, we pulled off the very first Stepping Out In Style, an event for 330 guests that netted around $7000. It was enough to sway the skeptics, and in year two, we doubled attendance and increased our net profit to $50,000! Working on Stepping Out In Style in those early years took more blood, sweat, and tears than I ever anticipated, but never have I been more proud of delivering on an idea.

It's been quite a few years since I chaired the event, though I'll always be a staunch supporter. I've delighted in watching it grow into a hotly anticipated annual extravaganza for nearly 1000 guests that raises more than $200,000 each year. It's also been exciting to see the brilliant new ideas that the event chairs and volunteers cook up each year to keep the evening fresh and evolving.
Of course, I had to show off Karen's shoes - those zebra print ribbons are interchangeable with other colors and patterns! So very Red's Shoe Diaries!  ~Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
If you've been to Stepping Out In Style, you already know how much fun it is. But as much as I love a good party (with firemen), that's not what makes it a great event. Stepping out in Style is a great event because of the two beautiful women pictured below. Gwendolyn and Jewel are both lifetime members of DFSI's Professional Women's Group (PWG). Gwendolyn and Jewel and 11,000 other women that have received services from DFSI are the reason Stepping Out In Style exists.  Gwendoln and Jewel and every women DFSI will be able to serve because of the money raised by the event are the reason it matters. Gwendolyn and Jewel and the community that has been enriched by their success are the reason the event is great. 

Let me introduce you to Gwendolyn and Jewel. Gwendolyn is married with two sons. She works at Indianapolis Public Schools as a Parent Involvement Educator and is currently working on a certificate in health care support with a concentration in medical office administration. Recently, Gwendolyn was honored as one of only ten PWG participants across all of the Dress for Success affiliates in the country to receive a competitive scholarship to continue her education! Gwendolyn was so committed to the PWG program that she graduated to Lifetime status in just six months, and she’s a current participant in the Personal Financial Literacy program. Outside of work, she has a passion for community service, spending time at local hospitals, being involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, mentoring pregnant teens, and assisting the elderly with their personal errands. To top it off, she's also going to lead a PWG Community Action Project this year! 

That's Gwendolyn looking regal as she's escorted by the Indianapolis Fire Department's finest; Jewel exudes self confidence as she walks the runway in a lace dress and snakeskin patterned coat.  ~Photos by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
After experiencing discrimination for her appearance during job interviews, Jewel was introduced to DFSI through community resources. She was able to find employment using the services offered through the DFSI Career Development Center, and she’s now an office assis­tant with accessABILITY Center for Independent Living, Inc., an organization that helps give people with disabilities the support they need to ensure full inclusion in community life. She now uses the Professional Women’s Group for ongoing support and career development guidance as she continues with her success in the workplace. And speaking of success, Jewel was just named employee of the month and received a promotion!
Murph Damron, on my right, has been an integral part of Stepping Out In Style since the beginning. A former professional model and fashion icon, Murph coordinates the fashion show with expertise and precision. This year, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her as a co-emcee.  ~Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography, LLC
This year, I was honored to walk the runway with Gwendolyn and Jewel, and to break bread with them backstage. These women inspire me. They also inspire the myriad of sponsors who help make Stepping Out In Style the successful fundraiser that it is (check them out here). I hope Gwendoyn and Jewel inspire you, too! 

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

You may also like these DFSI-related posts:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

~Robert Frost
The changing of the Seasons, especially from Summer to Fall, always brings to mind this Robert Frost poem featured so prominently in S.E. Hinton's classic novel "The Outsiders" (Did you know the author was only 18 when her iconic story was published?!) Oh how I loved that book when I read it in high school, not to mention the film version that starred just about every teen heartthrob of my generation. The movie is probably the only one that I have ever loved as much as the book, and not just because Cherry Valence was a feisty green-eyed redhead! 

Embroidered and beaded skirt and top (Kohls); Sandals (Meijer); Leather and turquoise cuff (Steinmart); Beaded bracelet (gift); Ring (David Yurman)

This weekend was the last "official" weekend of the Summer and, with the exception of a brief midnight storm on Saturday, it was, indeed, golden. We were blessed with sunshine and temperatures that provided opportunity to squeeze in a few more days of warm weather wearables before we usher in Autumn. In fact, we celebrated the Autumnal equinox at an outdoor "white party" hosted by Yelp Indy. I told you here that old "no white after Labor Day" rule was passe, and judging by 1000 Hoosiers enjoying "dinner en blanc" on Sunday night, I am not alone in that opinion! (Look for a post on that Gatsby-inspired soiree soon).  

Fall is actually my favorite season, and I'm looking forward to cozy cardies, campfires, and colorful crunchy leaves, so the end of Summer doesn't bring me to tears (unlike Johnny's poetic goodbye to Ponyboy). But, I will miss wearing this favorite embroidered cotton skirt, and may just pull it out again if we're blessed with an Indian Summer!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Orange is the New Black

Dress (Boston Proper); Belt (Nordstrom); Bracelet (Global Gifts)
Are you a fan of "Orange is the New Black?" I have to admit that I've yet to see a single episode of the wildly popular series, now in its third season. But, It's definitely on my list for potential binge-watching some snowed in Winter weekend. 

In contrast to the apparent longevity of the TV show, each new season in the fashion realm brings a different iteration of "X is the new black." I've even heard the refrain "black is the new black" on more than one occasion. 
Coral torsade necklace (Mexican street market); Shoes (; Bag(Bodhi); Earrings (Grace Boutique); Ring (Aronstam Fine Jewelers)
If you know me or follow Red's Shoe Diaries, however, you probably know that orange has always been my new black! My favorite shades skew toward the deeper rusts and burnt oranges, or "Jody Orange" as so many of my friends refer to the color. But, with the exception of the neon, day-glo varieties, I'm also a fan of the brighter hues. Of course, that doesn't mean I have any desire to don a prison uniform - they're just too hard to accessorize!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
If orange is your black, too, you may also like:

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Pinking" Up Steam!

I bring you today's update on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater with a mixture of grief and smiles.  I grieve because on Saturday I received the news that a friend and former colleague, younger than I am, succumbed to the miserable beast that is breast cancer. Like me, she was a fan of fancy footwear - I knew the moment I walked into Shelly's office and saw her shoe themed wall calendar that we'd be friends. She leaves big (and stylish) shoes to fill, and she will be missed.

I smile because, despite a few bumps in the road, the Pink Sweater seems to be picking up steam of late, traveling more quickly from one new sister to the next on its journey to raise both awareness and funds for the Pink Ribbon Connection. If you're new to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater, you can find out the history in my original post. Below are just a few members of our growing group!
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
I also smile because the peppy pink cardigan has acquired its first male model. Check out this handsome radiologist at the St. Vincent Breast Center looking very GQ with the sweater tossed nonchalantly over one shoulder, his leg propped on its vintage pink traveling case! In fact, Domestically Single's Nikki Capshaw, a Certified Medical Assistant at the Indianapolis based Breast Center, got her whole office in on the fun. Check out her perspective on the pink sweater (and more fun photos) here.

Adding yet another smile to today's post is Fourth Frog Blog creator Amy Megan, who shared the sweater with her friend Mary, a 42 year survivor! Mary (pictured below) reports triumphantly that her own experience with breast cancer was so long ago that she barely remembers having it. You can read more about Mary on Amy's blog, here. Mary's story is an important reminder that a diagnosis does not define us - it is but one facet of our lives.   
 photo DCE66A95-A69B-406C-A811-97D584B6979A_zpsuhhubjtt.jpg
My friend Shelly also never let her diagnosis define who she was. Though her cancer story doesn't have Mary's happy ending, she nevertheless lived her life fully and triumphantly and with joy. It is in her honor that today I will make an additional donation to the Pink Ribbon Connection.

If someone in your life has been touched by breast cancer, consider making your own donation to the Pink Ribbon Connection in her honor. This organization assists undeserved women in Central Indiana with emotional support, bras, wigs, prostheses and education to help them live life undefined by their diagnosis. Groups like the Pink Ribbon Connection give us all a reason to smile, even when we're grieving.

Want to follow the Pink Sweater on its travels? Read about more of its recent adventures here (including a trip to the State Fair!) You can also look for regular updates from Crystal Hammon, my co-creator of our pink sweater project, over at her blog Dressed Her Days Vintage. We look forward to introducing a new "Sweater Sister" very soon!

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