travels with chelsea

There is great benefit in being friends with fashion bloggers and stylists such as Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen, Alison of DC Celine fame, Rosana at DC Style Factory and Christen, the brains and beauty behind the Alexandria Stylebook. Aside from being lovely women inside and out, they humor my angst. When I have a fashion conundrum, I can fire off a quick text or initiate a twitter conversation and get immediate advice, affirmation, sympathy.

However, there is one topic they have all opined about extensively on which I am utterly unteachable: how to efficiently pack.

I get the mechanics. Coordinate colors and pack mix and match separates. Dress in layers. Bring fabrics that easily forgive their undistinguished position in the suitcase. Assemble outfits that can survive more than one wear. Put it all in a carryon. Channel sense of ease. Voila.

But let’s get one thing straight: I like to check my bag. It’s worth $20 to not have to drag a bag through security. It’s worth $20 to not have to worry about only bringing 3-ounce toiletries or what constitutes a liquid (eyeliner? lip gloss?). It’s worth $20 to bring more pairs of shoes than I’ll probably need.

Thus, as I make my list of what to pack for my upcoming 10-day trip to California, and as I look at my standard suitcase, I realize I need to upgrade to the bigger bag. Before you roll your eyes, check out where I’m going: San Francisco, Paso Robles, Menlo Park, San Francisco, Sonoma, San Francisco. And now check out what I’m doing in those spots: wine tasting, bachelorette party activities, pool lounging, yoga, eating out with my dad and grandmother, going out in San Francisco, attending rehearsal dinner, and fulfilling bridesmaid duties. Look at the temperatures of my destinations: 50s-60s in San Francisco and 90s in Paso Robles and Sonoma (but cool at night). And have I mentioned the wedding?

Let’s just say, there’s no packing light for me on this trip, regardless of what advice my friends offer. My goal will be to not get assessed the heavy bag fee.

she’s alive…

And she thanks you for your concern.

All kidding aside, it’s been rather humbling to get so many “why haven’t you written?” or “where are you?” or even “are you okay?” questions over the last several weeks. It turns out that when I don’t write, you assume I am: sick, overworked, overworking out, in love, in a style rut, too depressed, too happy and/or in Lake Como with George Clooney.

But the truth of the matter is, I just haven’t had the inclination to share. After a relatively short period of time (in blogger years) of presenting the details of my life in a very public way, I felt like keeping my thoughts more private. (“Private: [prahy-vit], adjective, personal and not publicly expressed; not usually applicable to blogging activity.”) Of course, I’ve started posts in my head, usually as I’m about to fall asleep. They never felt share-worthy in the morning . I’ve contemplated the copycat method, building off interesting posts written by the three bloggers  (Wardrobe OxygenDC Celine and Lemmonex) I take time to read.  But what I came up with always seemed forced and weak, not complementary to the original.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write. I just didn’t want to write it. I kept my thoughts confined to my head and heart and shared with close friends in a more conventional format. That is, over dinners, wine, the phone and the occasional g-chat.

However, now a new season is upon us, and I’m going to try this writing thing again. Much like it’s hard to get back into an exercise routine after a break from the gym, I already feel this is going to be a difficult readjustment. My fingers aren’t quite as nimble on the keyboard. My brain is searching for the right words to make you want to check back to see if I’ve posted. But I want to maintain a balance between what’s going to be mine and what’s going to be yours.

In case you aren’t convinced as to why I’ve maintained radio silence, let me reassure you: I’m not sick (except a pesky head cold). I work decent hours (was oddly nostalgic for an all-nighter Senate vote-a-rama session recently). I haven’t been to Biker Barre in a week. I haven’t been on a date in awhile. I haven’t bought any new clothes (unless you count a date dress that’s awaiting the right occasion). I’m not depressed. I’m happy, but not distracted. And I’m not currently traveling with the newly single George Clooney.

Though if he plans to be in DC anytime soon, I have the perfect dress to wear to meet him for cocktails.

Hive on the Hill

There are no fashionable women’s shoe stores on Capitol Hill unless you want to make the trek to Union Station, and who shops at Union Station except passersby and Hill staffers on their lunch break?

That all changes for one brief and shining weekend (as in, this weekend) when the Old Town based boutique, the Shoe Hive, comes to Tabula Rasa on Barack’s Row.

Beginning tonight from 7:00-9:00 with a cocktail reception hosted by my favorite Alisons, DC Celine and Wardrobe Oxygen, and running regular hours through the weekend, all sorts of wonderfulness will be available. From shoes to handbags to jewelry and other accessories, they promise to have something for everybody. Need gifts? Walk away from Amazon Prime for one night to support a local small business. Looking for the perfect holiday shoe? Maybe you will find it here. While I have never actually shopped the Hive since I usually make my big shoe purchases from SimplySoles, I’m impressed by the photos I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook of not only new arrivals in their actual store, but the goodies they are busy unpacking on this side of the river. And they are super responsive on social media, which feels like good customer service to me.

Who knows? Since I already indicated to the Hive-ess that my feet take a size 8, maybe I will find a happy birthday to me present.

Stacy London

Photo by wardrobe_oxygen

I first discovered What Not to Wear when I was on maternity leave after giving birth to Colin in 2004. Talk about a time to be thirsty for anything related to style. It didn’t take me long to become devoted to my time with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. As I struggled to get back into pre-pregnancy clothes, clothes that suddenly didn’t look as chic to me as they had nine months prior, I salivated over the idea of a $5000 budget to start anew. I yearned for someone to come tell me what to wear and, of course, what not to wear.

Since it seemed futile to wait for style fairies Stacy and Clinton to ambush me at work to offer their services and credit card, I started watching the show from a different perspective. I absorbed their advice. I looked for episodes that featured women who were built like me or had a similar lifestyle.

To this day, I still take fashion inspiration from them every time I watch their show.

While I adore Clinton’s cheekiness, I love Stacy’s enthusiasm, snark, and sentimentality. (If she tears up during the final reveal, I’m sure to as well.) And how could I go without mentioning her wardrobe? I also appreciate and admire that in a realm dominated by women much younger than we are, she’s my age.

Last night I attended a book signing event for her recently published book, The Truth About Style. While a rough day had almost led me to cancel, spending an evening with the likes of DC Celine, Wardrobe Oxygen, Closet Coach and Stacy London turned out to be just the therapy I needed. Stacy was generous with her time, sincere with her stories and answered every question from the audience thoughtfully. After her monologue and the Q&A, she spoke personally to each woman getting a book signed. Since I was way at the back of the line, I had time to craft a question for her that wouldn’t be too serious but yet meaningful to me.

Me: You’re 43, I’m about to turn 43, what did you buy yourself for your 43rd birthday. (Because I love birthdays. And I need ideas.)

Stacy: My God! What did I buy myself? I don’t know! (Thanks to Wardrobe Oxygen for snapping this photo of Stacy pondering my question.)

Me: Shoes?

Stacy: No! Now I remember. A Celine trapeze bag. I highly recommend it. You should do it. And by the way, I love that you’re wearing purple. And you have a great necklace. And wait, is that a leopard print coat? I think I have that coat!

Stacy London is as effusive in person as she is on TV. She looks you in the eye when she speaks. She really listens to you and her responses are thought out. She spent several minutes giving wedding dress advice to the women in front of me in line when they told her they’re getting married and one wants to wear a feminine dress and the other a more structured dress.

It’s fair to say I officially have a crush. While I’d need a lot of people to buy my 99 cent short story (coming soon) if I’m ever going to buy a Celine bag, I will live off the fumes of Stacy’s inspiration (and the lust for her fuchsia pleated flowy skirt) for a long time to come.

adventures at the district sample sale

my finds from the District Sample Sale

In a continuation of a week of DC fashion firsts, I hit the annual District Sample Sale (DSS) last night.  For the uninitiated, DSS brings together a number of high-end boutiques who offer their goods at discount prices in one big location complete with music, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and oh – the real purpose is to raise money for charity.

When DC Celine said that I had to go with her and that I furthermore had to buy a VIP ticket to allow me an hour of access before the masses were let in, I of course did what she told me. (Though I would not cut the line to join her at the front because I was afraid someone would impale me with a stiletto.)

I was warned to dress in something that would allow me to try on items absent a real changing room, so I wore a pencil skirt (my big goal was to score some jeans and I figured I could shimmy them up under the skirt or as least under enough of the skirt to be respectable) and a blouse, but more importantly, a pretty bra (do I ever wear any other kind?) in case I really wanted to take off the blouse in front of hundreds of strangers to score the object of my desire.

Luckily, it didn’t come to that.

In the end, I walked away with a hammered cuff bracelet and two fantastic necklaces from Queen Bee Designs and a wrist full of leather wrap around bracelets from Fornash. (I promise photos of these items on me when my poison ivy clears up.) I did not try on any jeans, and the only top I tried on, well, I did it over my blouse and there’s photographic evidence of it on DC Celine’s instagram feed. I had to try it on not because I was really interested in purchasing it, but because I was so curious about the construction. Imagine an off the shoulder sweater that’s tunic length. Then imagine sewing a bra into the neck of the sweater. With step-by-step instructions from the helpful Muleh sales associate, I figured out that you first put on the bra component, then you tie the sleeves around your waist. Yeah, no 42-year old mom is going to find use for this item, but it was fun to try.

Lessons learned? If you’re going to the DSS, go with a kick ass woman who clocks in at close to six feet tall and can wear Union Jack skinny jeans because you (or rather she) will get noticed. As I was forewarned, do not hit the food and drinks until afterwards as it’s hard to balance shopping with treats. Have a plan, but have fun too. You probably won’t score exactly what you come in expecting to find, but you may discover a hidden gem.

Operation Chelsea: 24 hours later

Alison did it. She got the guest of a wedding style dilemma dialog going. It’s amazing how I can feel so close to a community of women who for the most part don’t know each other and in some cases don’t know or barely know me. Regardless of whether they are strangers or dear friends, they understood my style needs immediately, suggesting dresses that I adore as well as making suggestions that push my style envelope a little. They were honest when they didn’t like something, and even Kaitlan (the Bride) weighed in.

Since I am on a deadline, I need to start narrowing choices, and today will be about doing that. My goal is to choose three dresses to ship (not keep) to me. From the comfort of my own room I will play twitter (and Facebook) fashion show. The rejects will be returned (even if I love them all) and a winner will be declared. While I know it would be more traditional to gather some locals with a good eye and have a shopping excursion, my schedule between now and the wedding looks something like this:

Today: kids

Sunday: kids

Monday-Wednesday: Boston (no shopping time)

Thursday: New York (no shopping time though wouldn’t it be great to take a later train back and carve some such time out?)

Friday: Kaitlan’s last day in the office (i.e. work)

Saturday until ten days from Saturday: kids

This 21st Century version of brick and mortar shopping will have to do.

I know you are dying to know the top contenders, so here they are:

1. The Nicole Miller Open Back Jersey Sheath Dress: This dress was pinned to my board in a couple of different colors, including this gorgeous red version. In the spirit of full disclosure, I own this dress in black and wore it to the first #BlackChampagne fake funeral event where I first met Alison and other valued pinners in this community fashion building experiment. It feels a tad anticlimactic since I have this dress and know it works, but it’s also a relief to have an option regardless of what happens with the other selections.

2. Navy lace: After getting the blessing of the bride that a navy lace dress is fine even though I happen to know her bridesmaids are wearing navy, this dress jumped to the top of the contender list.

3. Wildcards: I haven’t narrowed down a wildcard yet, but in a nutshell they range from pink and swingy to totally vavavoom (but hopefully not too MILF-y) to channeling the esteemed Jacqueline Kennedy’s classic style. And I still can’t get this one out of my head.

Contributors, you have until mid-afternoon, when I hope to place an order, to bring new options to my attention.

For the moment, I’m burned out on dresses. It’s time to start contemplating shoes.

Operation Chelsea

Remember a year ago when Kaitlan got engaged under the cherry blossoms? Remember when I said I was going to be entirely focused on helping her find a dress but that I had plenty of time to find my own?

Yeah, well, that wedding is in two weeks, and I have nothing to wear.

With nothing appropriate in my closet (I swear) to wear to a wedding such as Kaitlan is throwing, a few weeks ago I started my on-line search for the perfect dress. Rather quickly, I identified a particular DVF as being “the dress.” I already own shoes that would work perfect with it. Within days, it went on sale at Bloomingdales, but by the time I tried to order it in my size, it was sold out. But luckily, it went on sale on the DVF retail site and was available in my size. I nabbed it.

But it was wrong. So very wrong.

Yesterday, I issued a call for help to my favorite DC “I’m a smart and savvy mom who loves style too” blogger, DC Celine. I tweeted her. She tweeted back. We took the conversation to email. Our messages were flying back and forth so quickly (yes, we have jobs, but we are great multitaskers) that I suggested g-chat. She asked if I’d be game to take the project one step further. Of course. I’m always up for a challenge. She advised that I needed to create a public board on Pinterest. Check. I immediately set up a new board, The great “guest of a wedding” dress search, and if you want to be part of the conversation, I can ordain you contributor privileges. We (and by “we” I mean she) created a few #hashtags for those who want to follow the discussion on Twitter (#guestofawedding #styledilemma). There will be Facebooking for those who do not tweet or pin. But most special to me of all, DC Celine wrote this post: Style Dilemma: Guest of a Wedding. I’ve never been anyone’s social media project before (at least not that I’ve been told).

She promised readers I’d post pictures (twitter fashion show anyone?) and I can’t let her public down. But I need to get on it. I need help. I need suggestions. I need a dress.

Help me rock Kaitlan’s wedding.

Then Kassie and the angels at SimplySoles can help me find the shoes.