bathing beauty there anything clothing related that gives a woman who has birthed two children more anxiety than having to get into a bathing suit? Even when I was at my marathon running height of fitness, I detested the trying on and purchasing of bathing suits enough that I wore one that was two sizes too big for three seasons longer than I should have just because the alternative, standing in front of a three-way mirror with that horrible department store lighting, seemed much worse. And I loved the color of the suit.

But this year, I had to face the inevitable. Last year’s hasty on-line bathing suit purchase did not pan out. I had bought a strapless one because I knew I was going to be wearing a strapless dress to a July wedding, and I can’t stand the look of tan lines. Aside from the realization mid-wedding that I never want to wear a strapless dress again, I came to the conclusion that strapless bathing suits just don’t work for moms who still sometimes get in the pool to play with little swimmers who tend to grab fabric instead of flesh when in water over their heads.

Let’s just say, I don’t need a repeat of the time I was at a “mommy and me” baby swim class with Colin at the YMCA when he grabbed a hold of me and pulled down the bodice of my bathing suit, exposing me for more than a brief second to a very shocked dad who didn’t make eye contact with me for the rest of that class or any others. Needless to say, we didn’t take lessons there again.

This year summer came faster than expected, and I’m not just referring to the insanely crazy temperatures and humidity. How can it be that tomorrow is June 1st? The last day of school is in striking distance. Summer camp time is near. Whereas usually the water in the Cheverly Pool is too cold opening weekend or the weather too rainy, this year, we made it for Memorial Day (as did every other pool member) which meant I had to put on a bathing suit just a little sooner than expected. (I honestly thought given our schedule it might be three more weeks before we got there.)

Since I donated the aforementioned strapless suit in a fit of closet and drawer purging, that left one option: the one-piece, racer-back Speedo I bought for myself back when I thought I would trade my running shoes in for laps in a pool. The tags were still on it. And if there is any style suit that was meant for function not form, it is a Speedo. I definitely did not take off my sarong.

But I can’t hide forever, so before they are completely sold out (my first choice style and color is already back ordered until mid-July) I got on the J. Crew website and ordered a couple different options to try on in the privacy of my own room, without the discomfort of unflattering lights and three-way mirrors to taunt me. Which means I will only have my doctor and his ban on activities I consider “real cardio” to blame for what I see reflected back at me. Well, that and my love of food. And wine.

I think regardless of how the suits fit, the sarong is going to figure prominently into my summer plans.


Buy This! Navy!

I know, nautical stripes are so everywhere that maybe we shouldn’t be wearing them anymore. But they’re definitely representative of summer, and when done right, they can really make an outfit. The key is to not go nautical from head to toe. I would not wear a nautical shirt with sailor pants, for example. Also, when choosing stripes, go with options that are figure flattering for you. You need to wear the stripes, not let the stripes wear you.

My first recommendation is going to shock you. I know most people don’t look at me and think “Lands’ End” but the item that I think you all need to add to your wardrobe happens to come from there. Last year, I bought the St. James nautical tee from J. Crew, and while I love it and wear it in a variety of ways, the price point is too high to justify a second color. But then I made this find (thanks to style maven Ahn of 9-to-5 chic for the idea). At half the cost of the J. Crew purchase, the Boatneck Sailor Tee from Lands’ End (I bought a size down) has already clocked a ton of mileage. I wear it with jeans (with bright tee underneath). I wear it with a mushroom colored pencil skirt (tucked in, with a colorful belt). I’ll wear it with white jeans, pants, or shorts. It goes so well with my orange Kate Spade Essex Scout. Whereas my St. James shirt is ivory with navy stripes, I bought the Lands’ End version in true navy with white. The persimmon stripe may soon join the family.

If you still aren’t convinced, go to the 9-t0-5 chic website for three styling options. Then try it with items from your own closet and go find yourself a sailor.

sex education

Fluffy takes a break on his first trip down the stairs.
Fang may be pretty but so far he is all boy.

How do you talk to your kids about sex? I guess I didn’t really think of this as a big deal. After all, I had learned myself at a young age. I remember asking my mom what a test tube baby was, and the responsible mom she was, she explained it to me. (I had envisioned a baby growing in a test tube, but was stuck on how the doctors moved it to progressively bigger vessels as the baby itself got bigger.)

When I had my own kids, one of the first decisions that I made was to call all the body parts by their real names. A penis is a penis, it isn’t a pee pee or a wiener or thingy. Then, when I was pregnant with Colin, we explained in very rudimentary terms to Jack how it was that this baby came to reside inside of me. But of course, at age two-and-a-half, he didn’t get it. Shortly after Colin was born, Jack asked his dad, “did Colin used to live in mommy’s belly?” When dad responded in the affirmative, Jack followed up with, “did Mommy EAT Colin?” Thus a more detailed description of how he got there was offered.

When the boys’ dad and I decided to separate, we went to a kids’ shrink to ask her advice on how best to convey to the boys what was happening. A key part of her advice was to make sure that they understand what sex is so that we could distinguish “romantic love” from the love that parents have for their kids. That is to say, describing this intimate action between adults would prevent them from thinking that someday we could fall out of love with them and want to divorce them. (I didn’t buy it either, but we followed her advice anyway.)

With a book on a procreating alligator family in hand, we explained what happens in a more detailed way when grown ups take off their clothes and bump into each other in the dark. Even though he had heard it before, Jack’s response was an indignant “no way.”

You still wonder what your kids get and what they don’t. It’s like some big intricate game of post office. What comes out of their mouths after you have explained it to them is very different than what went in to their ears in the first place. And since you know that Jack is going to tell Miles who is going to tell Ritzer and so on, you have to be particularly judicious about what you say. They are both sharp and clueless at the same time. When several years ago Jack asked how one of his friends could be born from two moms (sharp), I called the moms to ask what they had told their daughter so that we’d all have our stories straight. But then this week, after bringing boy kittens home, when he asked if we could please let our kittens have kittens (clueless) I had to not only remind them the kittens are male, but explain the process of neutering.

Jack’s response? A very indignant “no way.”

they’re here… knew the cool mornings and breezy evenings wouldn’t last forever, no matter how much we hoped that DC would miraculously find itself with weather less swampy and more typical of San Diego.

But I didn’t expect to walk outside this morning, after hearing it was a mere 68 degrees outside, and feel like I had stepped smack into a hot washcloth. While I know that 3 months from now, a day like today (mid-80s with moderate humidity) will be a relief, today it felt oppressive. The days of only wearing a dress once before it goes to the dry cleaners start now. Heat and humidity are officially here.

What’s a woman to do? I’m not prepared to embrace a shiny face for the next four months. But I also don’t like the look or feel of over-powdering. I mean, who are you kidding? No one is so perfectly composed, even if you were born and raised in the south and have humidity in your bones. And secondly, how much product can one’s pores take?

I’m not normally one to reveal all my secrets, but those of us who live in a steam-room four months out of the year need to stick together. Aside from my primary goal, which is to dodge from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office to air-conditioned bar, and ignoring the obvious (like eschewing foundation) here are five things that I can’t live without in the summer. But the deal is you have to share back.

The number one thing that I reach for in my office drawer when I have a meeting or need to to freshen up is the Bobbi Brown Blotting Papers. Especially if you need to de-shine before noon (because, come on, it’s just wrong to have to reapply make-up when the clock still reads A.M.) one of these babies goes a long way.

My second summer must-have is a relatively new product: the Trish McEvoy Instant Pick Me Up Lips. I’m normally more of a lipstick girl, but this time of year, lipstick can feel so heavy. This product, which adapts to your own body temperature for the perfectly glossy pink, gives you a healthy glow that looks pretty even if you feel like you are melting.

The third thing I can’t live without relates to something I can’t live with. I cannot and will not wear panty-hose, and since black opaque tights just don’t work in the summer, I must have a pedicure at all times. If I haven’t had time, I wear close-toed shoes. No exceptions.

If we are going to be hot and sweaty all summer, we might as well embrace the glow. I am newly fond of a fresh take on an old standby. The Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer has long been part of my morning make-up ritual, but her new (to me) Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer really does provide the radiant glow it promises.

Last, but not least, summer calls for a cool and crisp rosé. Copain Wine Cellars produces a lovely one and if there were ever a reason to open a bottle of wine, the arrival of heat and humidity seems like as good a reason as any. After a glass or two, you may forget that you feel like a puddle of tepid water with perfectly groomed toes.

little league mommy chic

Soccer moms have a bad fashion rap. I think we should blame election pollsters. But we don’t have to take it. We can prove them wrong. Or, if you find yourself guilty of the stereotype, it’s possible to tweak yourself. Reject the label. Take back our image. And since this season, my boys are playing little league, the first step in reclaiming my identity is to declare myself a little league mommy.

I don’t drive a minivan. I promised myself when pregnant with my second child that I would not buy a one. I know they work for some people and I don’t judge you (though I do judge that one guy that took me out on a date in one). I’m grateful for the other parents who do drive them and can help cart my kids around when carpooling makes schedules more tolerable. But my driving a minivan would be like my wearing Uggs. It’s just not going to happen. Ever.

Hair? The reputation is that soccer moms always wear their hair in a pony-tail or a bob or a short older-lady haircut. While I recently cut my hair short, it’s stylish short, not mom-on-the-go short. (I swear it takes me longer to style it now than it did when it was long, though not for these early morning games, when it is fabulously tousled.) For the record, I didn’t see any ponytails on the bleachers today. Nor did I see any bobs weren’t of a fashionable length and styling.

I’m sure that I speak for other moms when I admit that I cannot always promise to take a shower before heading to a Saturday morning game. But there are a few things I do try to find time to do. I always apply some tinted moisturizer, because primarily, I like to moisturize in the morning. And because it has SPF. And because a little tiny bit of coverage after a night of (usually) restless sleep goes a long way. If I plan to be going somewhere after the game, I might throw on some mascara. And I am devoted to Fresh lip tinted treatment in plum.

I must own up to having something of a Saturday morning little league mommy uniform. This look won’t transition into summer. It’s really only appropriate for spring mornings that start off cool. But yoga pants, a v-neck tee (maybe two contrasting colors layered if it is a little chilly outside), my j. brand denim jacket and a scarf make a passably chic mommy sporting event ensemble. The other night I traded the denim jacket for a cardigan (though I wish I had brought both). While I’d like to throw my Tory Burch Eddie flats into the look, these baseball fields are generally muddy, with the path to the bleachers perhaps being the worst. My running shoes (which don’t exactly get to be used for running anymore) are completely appropriate for the nature of the setting. It isn’t like I am going to wear them around Europe or anything.

But really, the best look for a mom on an early Saturday morning is the one reflected by the big smile on the face of her kid when he gets on base.

Style This! Business Formal

Style This! Business Formal

Style This! Business Formal by chelseahenderson featuring a cashmere shawl

Last night, I was texting with my BFF Nancy when she posed a fashion question I couldn’t answer. Nancy is the owner and CEO of Belmont, Inc. in Alexandria, and she is often invited to business networking events. Usually these events are either formal, themed, or occur after work and thus business attire is de rigueur. But she was invited to an event this weekend, for Saturday evening, and the invitation reads “business formal.” So Nancy’s question: WTF is business formal?

In my mind, I was envisioning something less than a cocktail dress but more than a business suit. After offering to put together an appropriate business formal outfit for Nancy, I did a Google search to see if my instincts were correct. I found numerous descriptions for business formal for women as being a suit with a jacket of the same color, close-toed shoes, and panty hose. Panty hose? Really? And tell me, etiquette goddesses of the interwebs, how is this look different from straightforward business attire?

I went to bed discouraged with this news because I was hoping to suggest that Nancy invest in a silky (slinky) DVF. (She could really rock the Della in cadet blue.) But then I woke up and had an epiphany. There is no reason why Nancy has to look like she’s going to a board meeting. She can wear a dress, though of the wool sheath professional variety, have fun with some accessories and look totally business appropriate.

Nancy is tall, thus she can wear just about anything, and since she is blonde, I love the idea of her in the peacock blue town hall dress from J. Crew. Since the color is so vibrant (like Nancy’s personality) I recommend she accessorize with neutrals. Her legs will look even longer than they already are (damn her) in a beige pump (close-toed, but still sexy) and the gold bag will offer a little evening shimmer (I mean, come on, it’s a Saturday). I added a white silk and cashmere wrap because it’s either cold outside or cold inside. As for jewelry, since Nancy doesn’t do earrings, I suggest she opt between the necklace or the bracelet. (I had to work a pop of orange in there somewhere, and it’s engraved “stand tall” which is so appropriate for Nancy.) She could potentially wear both if they work together. Fashion is about trial and error, I just prefer for that trial and error to be worked out in the confines of your own dressing room and not in public.

I wish I was wearing…

green with envy

green with envy by chelseahenderson featuring a linen shawl

We all have those days where we wish we had worn something else. And for me, today my something else is an outfit that I don’t actually own. While today’s heat and humidity prompted me to opt for a hot pink sheath with a suede white and mustard belt and beige patent leather wedges, my color scheme today does not match my mood.

As I finish up two memos that I need to get done by COB, my mind keeps wandering to this other outfit that I mentally created for myself. This look is effortless, yet perfectly put together, would work for the type of schedule I have today, and would transition well to drinks on a patio in the early evening. I’ve been hot for the green Stefania wedge by Butter for months, and may have to bump them to the top of my shoe wish list. But for now, I’m stuck at my desk in a pink dress. Luckily I don’t have drink plans tonight on a patio, where I would just wilt in this weather anyway.

What do you wish you were wearing?

Dear Chelsea Chronicles Chelsea Chronicles:

I have been eying this Tory Burch belt for a couple of weeks now, but I am nervous about spending so much money on one accessory. I know that I’ll wear it at least 2-3 times a week though. So my questions are: how much is too much to spend on a belt, and if I do buy this belt and wear it several times a week, am I going to be known as That Tory Burch Belt Girl?

Appreciatively: That Belt Girl

Dear That Belt Girl:

For years, I never owned even one belt. Then I transitioned into belts to wear with jeans. Then Michelle Obama became First Lady and rocked the belt world off its axis. I bought skinny belts. I bought studded belts. But always on sale at J. Crew during their “take an extra 30% off sale items” offers because it was hard for me to justify paying a lot for something that seemed extraneous. After all, I had lived without them for so long, and I assumed some day I’d tire of the look.

But then, about 18 months ago, I found myself in a similar situation as you, pondering the purchase of a belt that was more comparable to the price of a pair of good shoes. After talking it through with my fashionable friend Janna, I decided to make the investment. And let me tell you, I wear that belt at least 2-3 times a week. I wear it with jeans. I belt dresses. I belt pencil skirts. Sometimes I mimic the FLOTUS and wear the belt over my cardigan. Or I might belt the shirt I am wearing and throw on a cardigan or blazer. I even belt blazers. I love the belt I splurged on; my cost-per-wear ratio has justified the purchase. And as far as I know, no one calls me by any belt-inspired moniker. Buy it. Belt it. Enjoy it.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Are Spanx really more comfortable than the girdles our grandmother’s used to wear?

Breathlessly Yours: Constricted

Dear Constricted:

My only basis for a Spanx vs. girdle comparison is a story I recently heard from my grandmother. She faithfully wore a girdle (with garter and pantyhose) everyday. Then one day, while in the ladies room at the office where she worked, she complained to a colleague about the constricted nature of her undergarments. The woman exclaimed, “what? you still wear a girdle?” and my grandmother, shocked (but pleased) to hear they were no longer a fashion requirement, promptly took hers off and threw it away, even though it was brand new, never to don one again.

I imagine we all have a love-hate relationship with Spanx, but I have to guess that today’s modern version of what our grandmothers wore is indeed more comfortable or the girdle would have made a comeback by now. Sorry that I can’t always be the bearer of brighter news. Beauty can be painful.

Don’t forget to send me your Dear Chelsea Chronicles questions and your Style This! requests.

Buy This!

Buy This! Color EditionIf you buy one thing this week, be sure it comes in color. After all, bright colors are the new black. That’s why today’s feature is actually going to highlight three items (because I believe in options) that will add a splash of color to even the most cynical northeasterner’s wardrobe.

My first recommendation is the Coral Bib Necklace by ZAD, available at Simply Soles for under $50. I would wear this necklace with a white tee shirt and jeans or a navy sheath dress. Or a chambray button down and white jeans, shorts or pencil skirt. This necklace would make an excellent addition to any wardrobe and given the many styling opportunities, the cost-per-wear ratio definitely warrants your adding it to your collection.

If you don’t have the huge orange crush that I do, the necklace also comes in turquoise, a color which I find stunning with black.

My second recommended item is also available at Simply Soles. (How’s that for promoting multi-tasking?) Having just been on an over-air-conditioned airplane without even a scarf (I was trying to pack light) all I could think of is how I wish I had this great Eternity Loop I saw in Kassie’s National Harbor store when I was there a few weeks ago. While I highlight the green one because it is my personal favorite, I find all the colors to be beautiful and vibrant. Wear this to the office for when you lose the battle over the thermostat or use it to ward against a breezy night that doesn’t quite call for a sweater. Don’t be afraid to pair this shade of green with orange.

And last, but not least, what outfit is complete without a colorful shoe? While I have been leaning more toward a neutral-hued shoe these days because as many of you have seen (you can’t miss it) my Kate Spade Essex Scout purse is neon orange, who can resist the Band Over Band Heels in Tiffany blue from Anthropologie? These heels, even though they are stacked and have a slight platform, are not for the faint of heart, but the color is spectacular, and they would make a great outfit component for color blocking.

But if you want a suggestion for how to incorporate them into an outfit, you have to present me with a Style This! challenge. Let me just warn you now that my pairing is likely to involve orange.