Tuesday, December 29, 2015


This picture with Grandma Betty and my Mom was taken on Mother's Day, 2013. I was honored to have Grandma and Grandpa Betty to the lake for an afternoon and to cook a special meal for them, as usually she was the one doing for everyone else.
Today's blog is about personal style, but not the kind expressed through fashion. It is a tribute to my Grandma Betty, who left us for the Kingdom of Heaven following one final Christmas day surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and her devoted husband of 65 years. She always took time to talk with me about clothes and shoes, but her own personal style was most genuinely expressed in the way that she loved others. Her capacity for love was immense, and an example to all in her orbit.
October 1997
Grandma Betty "officially" became my grandmother when I was a teenager and my Mom married her oldest son. I would use the term "step-grandmother" but it would be accurate in only the most technical sense. From day one, Grandma B treated me as one of her own and never like the red headed stepchild that I, quite literally, am. That's true of my Grandpa Betty, too (his name is actually David but I've always called him Grandpa Betty. He has never minded). 
I treasure family photos, and this portrait of Grandma B and the love of her life for more than 65 years has a proud place on a bookshelf.
Grandma Betty was everyone's grandmother, whether you actually belonged to her or not. If you spent time around the family, you quickly came to call her Grandma B. I have to stop and think hard to count up the actual number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren whose lives she has blessed, and even that number is not an accurate depiction of her style of grandmotherly love. Her "grandchildren" included not only those born or married into the family, but extended graciously and without hesitation to satellite families and those without families (or loving families) of their own. I have rarely witnessed a style of love so unconditional and genuine as that bestowed by Betty Reser on those fortunate enough to call her Grandma B.
Grandma B found and bought for me the polka dot scarf I'm wearing in my hair in this picture from a few years ago. I still wear it often.
Despite being a grandmother to so many, she would, could, and did give her undivided attention to each of us in due course (even if we were interrupting her while she was watching Tiger on the tour or Serena at Wimbledon - though not an athlete herself, she was beyond passionate about golf and tennis on the telly). This Christmas Day, in the midst of the chaos of 40 plus family members milling about, we sat together in conversation and in those moments she made me feel like there was no one else in the room she'd rather talk to and that her whole day was made better for having me there. Every visit with her was like this - she had an intangible knack for making me feel special.
Another portrait of unconditional love that graces our home
That didn't mean she wasn't ornery. I still laugh remembering a holiday incident shortly after she welcomed KDef to the family. I can't recall now whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas but, as was typical, the "good seats" were at a premium at our large family gatherings. Just as we sat down to dinner, Grandma B nonchalantly walked up to KDef, tapped him on the shoulder, and told him he had a phone call that he could take in the kitchen. As he left to see who could possibly be calling him at my parents' house, she winked at the rest of us and promptly took his seat. Of course, there was no one on the phone! 
My Mom and I used to have a floral and event design business; we collaborated on decor for Grandma & Grandpa Betty's 50th wedding celebration more than 15 years ago.
The love that Grandma B gave to all of us was the epitome of unconditional. She may not have always agreed with our choices but she also chose, ALWAYS, to see the best in each of us (though she was also quick to let my parents know when she saw me driving too fast or rolling through a stop sign in my old Chevy Camaro back in the day). She was a champion, a confidante, and a friend. She was everyone's Grandma Betty. She was my Grandma Betty.

Style is not just what you wear, but how you live your life.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

There is Magic in You!

Dress (eShakti); Cardigan (Modcloth); Pearl and rough cut emerald necklace (Ross Simons) (Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography)
My greatest wish for each of you this Christmas Day and every day is that you BELIEVE, not in Santa, but in yourself! 
Shoes (custom Red's Shoe Diaries design produced by Shoes of Prey)(Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography)
A fellow blogger from across the pond (thank you Mis Papelicos!) recently paid me a compliment, saying "there is  magic in you." It made my day, for sure, and resonated as something more than appreciation for a cute outfit. I think it's true of ALL of us, but believing it and recognizing it in ourselves and others isn't always easy.
Green and white spectators (Chelsea Crew; Shoegasm)(Photo by Faith Blackwell Photography)
Lately when I've felt self-doubt, I've reminded myself of her words. "There is magic in you." I'm not sure why I find that simple mantra so powerful, but I do. I've also found it running through my head in my interactions with friends and those I admire - there is a unique kind of magic in the people I've chosen to surround myself with, whether they know it or not, and I've been making a point to let them know. Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Believe in magic!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Treats

The vintage style cupcake dress (with pockets!) is by Retrolicious, an affordable and fun retro-inspired line.
I love preparing special treats around the holidays (be it Christmas, Easter, July 4th, or my beloved Halloween) because it's an excuse to get creative with presentation. 
The leather cuff with holiday charm came from Hobby Lobby. The charms are interchangeable, so the Christmas themed quote can be easily switched to something less seasonal.
This Retrolicious dress covered in sweet little cupcakes has me thinking about what to bring to my parents' house for Christmas dinner. 
Strawberry Santa hats couldn't be simpler to make; Santa bread is one of my very favorite things to bake this time of year (see how I did it here); In the past few weeks I've made about 4 dozen sugar cookies featuring my custom Christmas shoes printed on thin sheets of edible frosting layered over buttercream.
In the past three weeks I've already made about 4 dozen shoe-themed sugar cookies and 4 pounds of chocolate covered strawberries (a Red's Shoe Diaries signature dessert), so it's time for something different. 
The fabric of my Retrolicious dress is baking inspiration.
In search of inspiration, I thumbed through pictures of past projects and thought I'd share a few contenders. The "Santa bread" I made a few years ago was one of my all time favorites. It looks spectacular, but is actually fairly simple to accomplish (see how I did it here).
Chocolate covered strawberries are my quick and easy "go to" dessert; cheeseballs in holiday shapes are easy to make but always inspire smiles - this one was perfect for an ugly sweater party; "ugly sweater" cookies are also fun to make and decorate but they're time consuming.
My ugly sweater cookies are always a hit, and super fun to decorate, but they're pretty time-consuming so those probably won't make the cut this year.
I swapped out the green band from this watch for a red one that belongs to a different watch - the dress and leather cuff are already full of tongue in cheek holiday kitsch, so I figured I might as well go all the way and make my timepiece "merry" too.
Santa hat strawberries are super simple, but don't travel well. So maybe I'll go with a holiday-shaped cheeseball - also easy to make (and can be made in advance), but packs a big aesthetic punch.
My Mom made this snowman cheeseball for an event I hosted a few weeks ago. It may be the only snowman we see this Christmas Season since the weather has been unseasonably warm (not that I'm complaining).
Then again, maybe I'll do something completely new and different...Letting my creativity run wild with a holiday theme is my own little Seasonal joy. 
This snow globe ring was an impulse buy from Silver in the City, a favorite local Indianapolis gift shop for all things unique and unexpected. I can't stop shaking my hand to make it "snow."
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Monday, December 21, 2015

It's a Red's Shoe Christmas

I don't do moderation well. I am neither proud nor particularly ashamed of that aspect of my personality. It is simply a statement of fact. It serves me well in many respects; it has also created challenges for me about topics far heavier than holiday decorating so I'll leave it at that for now. 
When it comes to decking the halls, I am a nine Christmas tree, different theme in every room of the house kind of girl...and trees aren't even the half of it. There are wreaths to hang and duvets to change, not to mention the pictures on the walls and juniper branches draped across chair backs festooned with monogrammed crystal ornaments.
Holiday decorating on a Red's Shoe Diaries scale takes a lot of time and planning. But these last few months have been unusually busy, and just after Thanksgiving I found myself agonizing over my calendar as I tried to carve out time to do it. As I weighed my desire to decorate against prior commitments and plans with family and friends, it occurred to me that it was incredibly silly to feel such anxiety over Christmas trees, and I certainly wasn't going to miss out on time with friends and loved ones for the sake of it. So I decided not to do it. At all. 
Someone better at moderation than me might have settled for one or two Christmas trees in lieu of nine. But I struggle with doing things "just a little bit." I'm generally all in or all out, and once I made the decision not to decorate, I felt the needless weight of my own perfectionist proclivities lift. It was a relief.
But Saturday evening, I unexpectedly found myself home relatively early with no commitments for the first time in ages. And I really do LOVE to decorate for the holidays. And I had really been wanting to do my own version of the "ballgown trees" that have been floating around the internet of late. And I am also not very good at sitting still...
So I decided to spend the evening indulging my desire to decorate. I knew I didn't have time to do all of my traditional tree trimming, but I was excited to do something entirely different and fashion focused. It was so much fun to put together, and I didn't buy a single new ornament, or even pull many of my existing ornaments out of storage.
Who needs traditional Christmas ornaments when you have a wardrobe of sparkling shoes on your shelves?! Satin and crystal Badgley Mischkas are at least as beautiful as any holiday specific bauble, and they were much easier to get to. So this year's design features eight beautiful pairs of heels, all of which are little works of art in their own right, as well as three Swarovski encrusted evening clutches tucked amongst the white-lit branches. Most of those accessories are showcased on the smallest tree, which is actually the top of the largest tree (I removed it to accommodate the dressmaker's mannequin, but couldn't let it go to waste...)
The central tree features a red dress from Chi Chi London, and the deep crimson color is carried through the "skirt" of the ballgown with flocked red velvet "branches" whose lacy vines echo the heavily embroidered design of the bodice. The bodice of the smaller ballgown tree is a decorative piece that normally graces a corner of my hat room, which I accented with a vintage crystal butterfly brooch at the neckline. In lieu of a traditional tree skirt, I used a leopard capelet I actually wear often (including twice last last week). Gold accents tie all three trees together into a cohesive vignette.
The whole "shoebang" took the better part of the night to pull together, and I enjoyed every minute of it, even more so because I did it wholly out of the desire to create rather than any misguided sense of obligation. The evening may or may not have also included a bit of solo pajama dancing to Christmas tunes...Baby it's cold outside!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Friday, December 18, 2015

A Little Red Dress Affair

I couldn't decide which dress or which shoes to choose for the inaugural Little Red Dress fundraiser, and ultimately went with something entirely different, but I'm still in love with this embroidered lace dress by Maggie London from ModCloth. The red satin and crystal shoes are Badgley Mischka and the black and red d'orsay pumps were designed by Isabel Toledo. I've owned both pair for a few years now and relish every opportunity to wear them. The three strand jet beads are vintage and once belonged to my Grandmother Dorothy. (Photo courtesy of Jason Jones
Though the name of this blog is a reference to my childhood nickname and ginger locks rather than crimson hued footwear, I do in fact have a soft spot for the perfect red shoes, so much so that sometimes it hard to choose. The same can be said of red dresses...I have a few. So, I was honored when invited to provide social media coverage for the inaugural Tots and PawsLittle Red Dress event at The District Tap few weeks ago,even if I did change my mind about both my dress and my shoes at the last minute.  
I don't like to go bare-legged in winter, but opaque tights don't look right with a cocktail dress and strappy satin sandals...fishnet tights bridge the gap and add an interesting contrast to the sheer embroidered lace of the dress. (Photo courtesy of Jason Jones)
Proceeds from the Friday evening fundraiser benefited the Hamilton County Humane Society and each guest also brought a new, unwrapped toy that was donated to Toys for Tots. Puppies and kids - if you can't support those causes you probably have green skin and your heart's an empty hole; your brain is full of spiders; and you have garlic in your soul. I also think you're just a little bit cooler if you caught that classic Christmas movie reference.
Sometimes you just can't tell which shoes work best with a dress until you try them...(Photo courtesy of Jason Jones)
The night was an unmitigated success, especially for a first-time event in the midst of a busy holiday season, raising more than $3000 and three truckloads of toys for underprivileged children. Revelers in rouge were treated to complimentary beer tastings from Sun King Brewery; bourbon tastings from Old Forester; a bountiful buffet courtesy of the restaurant; and an inordinate amount of exceptional door prizes from generous local businesses. I dutifully shared live details from the festivities on Instagram and Facebook, though when the Flatbed Twitch Trio started jamming, I have to admit I put my camera away to join the red sea on the dance floor.
The crimson color is dramatic, but the real allure of this dress is all in the embroidered details. (Photo courtesy of Jason Jones)
I'll be honest - the Little Red Dress affair was my second soiree of the night in a week full of evening commitments so I expected to kick off my shoes and hit the hay long before the party ended at midnight, especially since I had nearly an hour drive home. That said, the band was so good and the energy in the room so infectious that I stayed until the very last song (which should have been Lady in Red, but wasn't - just a note for next year, lol). I for one, am already looking forward to an even bigger event in 2016.
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
(photo courtesy of Jason Jones)
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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Silver Belles and a Holiday Angel

Last week I was invited to attend a holiday gala for the Indiana chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. The theme was "Silver Belles of the Silver Screen: An Old Hollywood Holiday Celebration." If you follow Red's Shoe Diaries at all, you know I am all about a theme party, and it was the perfect occasion to wear one of my favorite vintage 1950s hats and a dream dress from retro designer Candice Gwinn.
The beaded dress and bolero are by designer Candace Gwinn; The shoes are from Nina, and are on sale now at Amazon.com
I found the ivory faille dress in an online sale last Summer and had to have it. The full skirt, pleated bustline, detailed beading, and matching bolero (so prevalent in the 1950s) truly evoke vintage Hollywood style. The only problem - the dress was a few inches too big through the bodice. This might not have been a big deal save for the low cut of the dress. The jacket, on the other hand, was a tad snug in the arms, which would have significantly inhibited my ability to dance the night away (and with a dress that swirls and twirls so well, dancing the night away is an absolute must).
The full, twirly girl skirt on this dress had me spinning 'til I was dizzy on the dance floor.
I've said it before, but the most beautiful dress in the world is ruined by a poor fit; and even the simplest frock can look exquisite when perfectly tailored for the woman wearing it. As much as I loved this dress, it simply did not look the way I wanted it to look...until I found my very own holiday Angel. I'm not speaking metaphorically here. An Angel literally came to my rescue and helped bring my Old Hollywood Holiday vision to life.
This vintage 1950s hat looks like it was custom designed for the dress, but they were created more than 50 years apart. For more great hats, check out Style Crone's Hat Attack.
I'm talking about Puerto Rican born, Indianapolis basedcouture designer Angel Olivera. I met Angel at a fashion show in the Fall, and we bonded instantly over a shared passion for vintage silhouettes and fine tailoring. Though humble when asked about his history, Angel is an experienced, award-winning designer whose custom creations have graced Miss Universe and Miss World contestants. To my great delight and benefit, he made Indianapolis his home base several years ago, where he continues to design couture garments and rework existing garments into beautiful, new creations. It is thanks to his fine work that I felt like I stepped out in a dress from the set of my very own White Christmas. If you're interested in working with Angel, you can reach him through his website, which also includes a beautiful gallery of his couture creations.
Both the decor and the guests channeled the Silver Screen theme of the Silver Belles gala.
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
This pretty little pearl and rhinestone clutch looks vintage, but can be found here at Charming Charlie!
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