Dear Chelsea Chronicles

https://i1.wp.com/static.oprah.com/images/tows/201104/20110427-tows-obama-michelle-style-3-600x411.jpgDear 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.

the prom

http://bossip.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/picture-114.png?w=576&h=326I’m going to the prom tonight. Not as a chaperon. (I have at least 6 or 7 years before I get to torture my children in that manner.) No, tonight is the annual “Cheverly Prom,” a long honored tradition of the adults in Cheverly getting dolled up and drinking a lot of booze so that they can be hungover the next day, otherwise known as “Cheverly Day.” Cheverly Day is also an annual tradition with an early morning parade; a fair-like atmosphere; and most importantly to the kids, a moon bounce.

Usually Cheverly Day is 90 degrees and humid, thus I try to pretend that I “forgot” about it so that I don’t have to go watch the boys risk their dental work and pristine noses while I stand by sweating profusely and cursing the noise. (I know, I lack community spirit.) And thus far, I have never been to the so-called prom. But as you should know by now, I like all things bacchanalian. And I have been told that everyone drinks a lot of wine at the prom. So when my friend Kate asked me to be her date (her husband Rob is gallantly doing the NYC to DC Climate Ride this weekend) of course I had to accept.

Kate is super cute and we have a good rapport, but I’m pretty sure that at the end of tonight, my status of not hooking up with my prom date will be intact. Junior year of high school, I broke up with my boyfriend/date in between dinner and the prom. My mom was horrified, thought that he would presume I had just been going out with him in order to go to the prom. Really, I was just petrified at his suggestion that I apply to colleges in the state where he (a year ahead of me in school) was headed in the fall. So I broke up with him, spent the evening dancing with my friends, and at the end of the night, when he brought me home at 11:15 instead of the 1:00am curfew my mom had for once in my high school life set, everyone in the family was astonished.

Senior year, I got perilously close to the prom without having been asked to go. Then one of my dearest friends, a junior, not wanting me to miss this seminal event in a relatively popular high school girl’s life, mercifully asked me to be his date. We went. We had fun. But we agreed later that the funds would have been better spent on a weekend in Boston. But hey, if I hadn’t gone to my senior prom, I’d have always regretted it. Well, for at least a few years anyway. (But if you are reading, thanks for the gesture Ryan because it is only in retrospect that I have such a mature attitude about it. I owe you a trip to Boston.)

Of course, what to wear has been on my mind off and on since I accepted Kate’s invitation. Not feeling at the height of my hotness, I have been loathe to try on anything prom-worthy from my own closet. But I also am not going to accept the post-back procedure state of my body by buying a new dress. So my first appearance to the CHV prom might be in skinny jeans and a sequin top. After all, I was not rebellious enough in high school to make such a statement, so why not now?

And I promise Kate that no matter what happens, I won’t break up with her tonight.

Style This!

I asked for it, I got it. My first Style This! challenge. I have to admit two things. One, I am a polyvore novice, so really I have no idea what I’m doing. And let me just convey that there’s a reason I didn’t go into the graphic arts. Secondly, I think I’m addicted. But because I am a beginner, please be patient while I navigate how best to showcase my styling recommendations. That is to say, I borrowed the template featured here because I was scared (and too time crunched) to do my own, but once I get the hang of it, my sets will look fantastic.

(I will not work on polyvore sets until all my chores are done. I will not work on polyvore sets until all my chores are done.)

One another note, these sets are fantasy. If I see something that works, I’m going to include it even if it’s beyond a price point that is comfortable for most normal people with mortgages, kids and student loans. In the spirit of that old Elizabeth Hasselbeck show The Look for Less, if you like something I have presented, take the vision and replicate it with lower-priced items. With that said, I want to encourage you to not be afraid of investment pieces. (Sounds like a blog post subject in and of itself so stay tuned.)

My friend Kasey was not only the suggester of Style This! but also the first of my followers to make a request. Her issue? She has a self-professed crush on the Sunrise Shirt Dress from Anthropologie. But as Kasey wisely noted, while the texture of this dress is perfect for hot and humid summers days, if not styled properly, it has the potential to give a serious Anne of Green Gables vibe.

I think this muted shade of green would look fabulous with a pop of color. In the polyvore set shown above, I went with a dark pink belt, necklace and bangles and a bright yellow clutch. I could see swapping the necklace for a scarf (or nothing) if in person the necklace is too dressy for the rest of the outfit. (Even my outfit pairing ideas for items  already in my own wardrobe don’t always work out how I envision them.) A nude shoe for this ensemble is a must. I know Kasey can handle herself in a pair of heels, so I chose high, but I wanted a sandal style that compliments the dress and the season. The issue of what to wear over the dress confounded me. A sweater seems too frumpy. A blazer seems like you are trying too hard to dress up a casual dress. But a white trench coat seemed like a natural pairing here because you never know when a summer thunderstorm might roll in or the air conditioner in your office might be set on arctic.

As an alternative, Kasey could also try this dress with an orange shoe and a neutral belt. But then I would ditch the yellow clutch and add a cross body bag in a shade just a bit deeper than the dress. Keep the same bangles. In fact, talking it out here, I think I might like the second set better than the first. So now, I should probably delete the first and pretend this was my original vision, but I really want you all to know that style is a process.

Style This! take two

I mean, even da Vinci drafted and redrafted.

do as I say (and as I do)

https://i1.wp.com/www.pics-site.com/wp-content/uploads/Lady-Gaga-Meat-Dress-10.jpgThis morning I got an email from my friend Rayanne. The subject line was “Dear Chelsea Chronicles” and the message included a fashion question. At first I thought that I had accidentally published my last post sans the great photo I was still in the process of tracking down of Seersucker Thursday and my super long hair. But it turns out she just wanted my advice. Minutes before I was about to take Dear Chelsea Chronicles live, here I was getting a question from another friend who values my advice.

Her timing was almost impeccable. An email yesterday would have yielded inclusion in today’s post, but regardless, the continued requests are making me look forward to including Dear Chelsea Chronicles as a weekly entry. And for the record, while I answered Raye’s question right away, she did indeed provide fodder for next week’s edition.

Then at lunch I talked to my friend Tom (although he isn’t necessarily in my demographic) about adding a weekly feature called Buy This! where I highlight one recommended item to buy. The item might be something that is on super sale. It might be an investment piece. Maybe something I already have and love. Or covet. Whatever the case, so many women tell me they want to go shopping with me that I consider this my own way of virtual shopping with all of you, but without the hit my budget would inevitably take if we hit the stores in person.

The conversation with Tom was still a bubble in the air when another mind-reader made herself apparent. I got an email this afternoon from my friend Kasey recommending a regular Style This! feature where YOU, my readers, send me an item, and I style it for you. (It looks like I am going to be getting well acquainted with polyvore after all.) I love it. A challenge. Bring it on.

But please, don’t ask me to style a meat dress. Or sweatpants.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles

Seersucker Thursday 2008

There is nothing that quite makes you feel like your own little universe’s fashion icon than to get questions from friends on what to wear. Lately, a number of you have suggested ideas for new blog posts, and most of these ideas come in the form of questions, such as “do you think it’s okay to…” or “how would you recommend styling…” Not to mention, “I have a wedding to go to…” As a result, beginning today, I am going to include a weekly post dedicated to your burning questions. So bring them on.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

When is it okay to wear linen? On that note, when is it okay to wear white?

Sincerely: Your Office Mates

Dear Office Mates:

You wouldn’t be asking me this question if you weren’t looking for a response that allowed both items to be worn outside the traditional Memorial-to-Labor Day window. And you are in luck, as the rules of fashion have been not only bent, but completely broken over the last few years. For example, while we were always told that white was only to be worn during the aforementioned time frame, I read a blog recently that advised women to wear white jeans in the early spring. The key is to make the outfit more seasonably appropriate by pairing the white jeans with a darker hued top and adding a cardigan or blazer. That is to say, white jeans and a sleeveless pink silk shell look out of place in March, but white jeans with an orange tee and a nautical striped shirt (and camel colored shoes) would pass my pre-Memorial Day test.

Part of the answer is in the styling, and part is in the weather. Last week, I saw a woman wearing a seersucker suit on a 62 degree day. Texture fail. It was just too breezy and cool of a day to pull out the seersucker. Even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who founded the tradition of Seersucker Thursday, would have looked out of place. If you’re going to don linen, seersucker or poplin fabrics, make sure the weather is appropriate for it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to wool until May 31st, dearest office mates. Opt for lighter fabrics and play with color. When in doubt, you know where my office is if you need a personal consultation.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Is there a red lipstick that doesn’t make teeth look yellow? I hate to have to bleach my smile every time I want to opt for a sexy red pout.

Yours Truly: Stuck in the Capitol

Dear Stuck in the Capitol:

Finding the right red lipstick can be harder than securing a date with an unmarried man over 5’8″ with a good head of hair who is gainfully employed and isn’t living with his mom. I have heard it said before that the “blue reds” will minimize the yellow tint caused by love of red wine and coffee. A quick Google search of “red lipsticks with blue base” revealed several hits for M.A.C. Ruby Woo. (I never knew there were so many blogs dedicated to red lipstick.) I myself am devoted to Chanel’s Rouge Allure in Lover, although recently I was seduced by Tom Ford’s Private Blend Lip Color in Smoke Red. Any make up artist should be able to steer you toward the so-called blue reds. The best advice I read though is that if you are testing lipsticks at the cosmetics counter of a department store, take a moment to step outside and see how you look in the natural light instead of relying on what the overhead lights (or self-absorbed bloggers) may tell you. Though given that you may be wearing your perfect non-teeth yellowing red lipstick while confined in the U.S. Capitol complex, perhaps natural light in this case is overrated.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Is it okay to wear black to a wedding?

Warm Regards: What (Not?) to Wear.

Dear What (Not?) to Wear:

In my opinion, the only color it is not okay to wear to a wedding is white (or shades thereof) unless it happens to be your wedding. Or you are maid of honor to the future Queen of England. So if it is an evening wedding, wear your black dress, but make sure the fabric, cut and accessories (in particular, your shoes) don’t scream day at the office or funeral chic. And while you’re at it, try a lush red lipstick.

So, my dear readers, bring on the questions, the more challenging the better. I may even attempt a polyvore set for you.

war and rememberance

https://i1.wp.com/voodoo-publishing.com/games/games/images/pentagon.jpgWhen the news broke last week that Osama bin Laden was dead, it was hard for me not to reflect upon my own generation’s “where were you?” moment.  And the answer is that on September 11, 2001, my nine-month pregnant self was at work in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

It was a crisp fall day. I remember the sky being a vivid blue when I opened my eyes after the 40-minute nap I routinely took in the car on the commute into the city. (Did you catch that I was nine months pregnant?) I remember driving (well, riding) on D Street, NE, approaching 2nd Street, heading to the Hart Senate Office Building where my now ex-husband used to drop me off because the lines weren’t as long there as they usually were at the doors to my own building. As always, that morning I lamented the end of the nap, and this particular morning, I marveled on the perfection of the weather.

By the time I got to my desk, I was greeted with a chorus of “oh my god, did you hears” as the first WTC tower had just been hit. We all promptly congregated in one office (mine) to follow the live coverage on CNN. We had no idea that we were watching the worst terrorist attack on American soil occur. But then that second plane hit and reality quickly sank in.

We were numb. Our first reaction was “back to business as usual”  but then there were smoke plumes reported at the Pentagon, mysterious reports of car bombs at the State Department, the internal “hotline” announced evacuation of the Senate complex, and my contractions were coming on strong, albeit erratically, every 5-9 minutes. As my colleagues and I were about to leave our suite, my ex bounded in, and we made an executive decision that retrieving our car, three floors under in the parking garage of the Rayburn House Office Building, made us sitting ducks since we didn’t know if there were other planes headed for more DC destinations. With uncharacteristic calm we quickly reached a unanimous decision.

Call Brigid.

Brigid lived on the Hill, but far enough away from the epicenter that we figured if a plane was heading for the Capitol, we would not be in the carnage. Again, in retrospect I marvel at our relatively detached demeanor in such a tense moment.  After 16 or so tries on my cell, walking as we speed dialed, we finally reached Brigid and got the green light to head to her place. As I lumbered from the Senate-side to the House-side, past Eastern Market, I pleaded with my baby to stay put and not be born on this terrible day. I also hoped that at Brig’s there would be space for an enormous pregnant woman to sit down.

We made it to Brigid’s. I was given a seat on the couch. And history unfolded before our eyes. I found out later that the 25 Hill staffers crammed into her tiny apartment secretly took bets on whether I’d go into labor. The contractions stopped (adrenaline suppresses pitocin) but the day perpetually plays in my mind, like the black and white films that run on a loop at Ted’s Bulletin. As we all know now, there was indeed a fourth plane. And to this day, I believe that plane was destined for the U.S. Capitol. The passengers of United Flight 93 saved not only my life, but the life of my unborn son.

Four days later, with a newborn in my arms, I wondered what kind of world awaited him. As I have grown to begrudgingly accept over the years, I can’t protect him from everything, and for this reason, I applauded the President’s decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. My kid reads the paper. He has an email account. He is observant. Had that photo been released, he would have eventually seen it. The greatest generation didn’t need to see pictures of Hitler’s charred body to believe he was dead, but my child is growing up in a YouTube world that has to see, hear or google everything to believe it. As for me, even though I loved 24 with its crazily unrealistic conspiracies, I’m going to take the Administration’s word for it on this one.

While I can’t say I have closure on 9-11 or feel that the world is a safer place, at least the success of this mission reaffirmed for me that sometimes, the good guys still win. And that’s the kind of world I want for my sons.