hard as nails

https://thechelseachronicles.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/chanel_vernis_fall2011.jpg?w=300When the going gets tough in this city, well, often, the tough get a manicure. I know it seems like a shallow thing to think, do and write about in these dark and sweaty times. The world economy is on the brink of collapse due in total part to the partisan posturing of political leaders in DC. This weekend, bombs rocked Norway, the home of the Nobel Peace Prize. And in case you hadn’t noticed, a massive heat dome has been sitting menacingly over our country.

Sometimes you just need to get away, even for 45 minutes.

Those who see me on a regular basis probably have not missed that I like dark nail polish. I can’t quite go as far as the black shade that my friend Kara carries off so well, but I usually wear polish as dark as I can get that isn’t black. This obsession started nearly 20 years ago. I was recently out of college and read in some fashion magazine about Chanel nail polish in Vamp. Oh, how I coveted Vamp. But my post-college budget did not have room for a $25 nail polish. So I admired from afar. Then a friend of my dad’s heard me mention Vamp and surprised me with my very own bottle.

Even today, equivalent shades at a better price point like Essie’s Wicked or OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark are my go-to when I am having my nails done. But in the summer, sometimes I feel pressured to at least try to embrace a brightness of color. Sometimes that color is coral. Sometimes red. But usually after a few “happy color” manicures, I revert back to my old ways. After all, I am a self-professed creature of habit.

I had just that kind of manicure a few weeks ago. I loved the bright purple in the salon. It looked great on my toes with sandals. (I am one of those people who wears the same nail color on toes and hands.) But after about two days, I was done with it. I was sitting in a meeting, distracted by my own nails, wishing I had taken the polish off that morning. As if to torment me more, I then ran across a post announcing Chanel’s new limited edition fall nail color line-up. I became singularly focused on wanting the greenish color pictured in the middle. Peridot. I’m no more a green nail polish wearer than I am watermelon, but I had to have it.

After about three days of thinking such, I gave in and on a whim, drove out to Nordstrom to buy Peridot. I didn’t even try the sample on in the store (was still wearing the hated purple). I contemplated a manicure on my way home, but it was getting late and I wanted to get home and cook dinner. I was slicing a baguette to toast into croutons when the great slip of 2011 occurred. Let’s just say multi-tasking with a serrated knife is not smart. That knife cut right through my thumbnail, about half way down the bed of my thumb. It took days to stanch the bleeding, and even now, two weeks later, despite all my yogurt eating, my nail is not yet in a manicure-able state.

So Peridot, along with tall boots and sweaters, will have to wait a little while longer. Let’s hope in the meantime for a deal on the debt ceiling and a break in these sweltering temperatures.

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love’s labour’s lost

https://i0.wp.com/www.shoeblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/madonna-chanel-gun-shoes.jpgSome people work hard and play hard. I work hard and shoe hard. As if you hadn’t figured it out by now, I have a slight shoe obsession. The number of shoes in my closet does not reach three digits; I am choosy. I like unique shoes that work for my professional lifestyle and budget. I don’t buy crazy impossible-to-walk-in styles that I will only wear once (like the pictured Chanel gun shoes that I would have bought if money were no object). I like designers that can construct a shoe that will really be comfortable, a shoe I won’t look at next year and say “what was I thinking” and most importantly, a shoe that can withstand the horrible DC sidewalks designed by men and the marble halls of Congress. That doesn’t mean that I don’t buy shoes with a stiletto heel, it just means I don’t wear them if I know I’m going to be walking on perilous ground.

So if you have been reading my musings, you also know by now that I am a big fan of Simply Soles. I found a “soul mate” in founder and owner, Kassie Rempel, and there are days that number in the too many to count that I wish I could be her.

One day last summer, she and I were meeting for drinks, but as she had just opened a new store in Georgetown, I wanted to come by and see the new digs. She had just received the fall shipment and boxes were everywhere (in the back of the store, of course). Now, I had already memorized the fall catalog and had my eye on a pair of shoes that in person, just didn’t pan out for me. But then Kassie showed me the latest Chie Mihara’s. (Disclaimer: if you are passionate about funky but functional shoes and don’t have a pair of Chie’s in your closet, I cannot be held accountable for any purchases this post inspires you to go out and make.) The Fabiola was (is) my perfect shoe. The camel-butterscotch shade is the perfect neutral hue that works for literally all seasons. The origami detail on the toe of the shoe makes it interesting. I had a store credit. I had “sole savers” points. The purchase was a no-brainer, and I never looked back.

But lately, they were showing the effects of my love. A slight denim stain on the back heel led me to take them to the cobbler. I just wanted them cleaned. I didn’t expect the entire denim stain to come out, but figured they would come back looking a little fresher. And I asked them to replace the heel pads to boot. Well, on Monday when I went to pick them up, somehow they were dirtier… like they had lived in a bin with some shoes recently polished brown. I complained that the shoes looked worse than when I had dropped them off. They asked for one more day. At COB today, as instructed, I went to pick up my babies. They still looked bad, like they hadn’t touched them at all. They asked me to come back tomorrow. No-can-do. On my way to San Francisco in the morning, and the shoes are integral to my plans to pack lightly. So they asked me to give them two hours. Fine. I had a lot of loose ends to tie up at the office before leaving town, so I gave them 2.5 hours. But when I went to pick them up, they did not hand me MY shoes, my beautiful camel shoes. No, they handed me a pair of shoes that they had dyed a color they call “sandalwood” but which I call “high gloss ugly.”

I started to cry.

Me: “I won’t wear these.”

Them: “We want to make you happy. We will give you credit for a future repair.”

Me: “I am never fucking bringing another pair of shoes to you again.” (Okay, I didn’t say that, but I thought it and rejected their credit offer.)

In the end, I asked them to dye them black. But I am sad. I have struggled with these feelings, which seem so indulgent. There are a lot of problems in the world. I know because I work on some of them. But I loved these shoes and when I wore them, it gave me the confidence to do my job a little better.

Given my mood, I guess it is appropriate that I’m getting them in black.

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.

seeing red

The Valentine's Day Trench Coat

As anyone who has read my posts since I left Beatrix in the dust knows by now, lately I have been embracing color. This is very unlike my typical Northeastern default to wearing black most of the time. Black is usually my go-to color and certainly was the color of choice to camouflage Beatrix those two dark months of back brace confinement. But after ten days of being able to integrate more color into my wardrobe, I can honestly say that I have been pleasantly surprised.

My spirit is definitely a bit brighter when wearing color; I don’t miss that sickly glow that black can often cast on your skin. Don’t worry, I’m sure this is not the end of my relationship with black clothes. I have too many black dresses, sweaters and blazers in my closet to eschew my beloved black forever. But for now, I am obsessed with red.

Recently, the DC metro area has been plagued with a tug-of-war, not between political parties (well,  yes, between political parties) but between winter and spring. And the end result has more often than not been rain. Some days, the rain is accompanied by sticky humid weather. Other days, the rain is cold, steady and miserable. Both types of weather events call for my perfect red trench coat that I bought for myself (from Janna) for Valentine’s Day.

However, Thursday in DC was in the mid-60s and sunny, so the red trench stayed home. But feeling of festive spirit — and knowing I had three sets of drink plans — I pulled out of the closet archives a dress (same cut as linked here but different fabric and slightly different shade of red) I bought from Betsy Fisher a few years ago to wear to the happy hour that celebrated my 40-minus-one birthday (or 35-plus-4, depending on how you like to do your math).

Observation number one: nothing attracts compliments more than wearing red. It never ceases to amaze me how wearing a red dress (or a red trench) captures so much attention. Especially when said dress or trench is paired with the perfect shade of red lipstick (Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Rebelle). More strangers make eye contact. More random people offer you wishes for a good day.

Observation number two: red is empowering. There is certainly no fading into the woodwork when one is wearing red, so you really do have to own it. As one of my guy friends put it yesterday, “you look like a little red sports car in that dress.” People make way for you in a crowd. You get what you want.

Observation number three: I need more red in my wardrobe.

While I still have 9 days left until Lent is overt (I gave up shopping for Lent) I am already contemplating how I can incorporate more red in my life in a way that accommodates the fact that I have a list of home improvement projects to fund. And did I mention that I had to pay taxes? A lot of taxes? As my friend and accountant Kara put it, I need to invest in something other than my pretty clothes and good wine.

I’m guessing she didn’t mean a little red corvette.