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.

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must have monday: boot edition #1

photo credit: http://www.polyvore.com/boots_more/set?id=59029937#stream_box
so many boots, so little time

I love boots. I have brown riding boots, brown wedge boots, camel tall boots with a heel, brown tall boots with this interesting stitching up the back, black ridding boots, black cowboy boots, black tall boots with a heel, a fancy pair of rain boots (Aquatalia red patent leather) and a not fancy pair of rain boots (muddy, well-worn Hunters). I even have a pair of over-the-knee boots, though they are currently in the consignment pile. But what I don’t have are any short boots. I do not own a bootie. Nor I do I own an ankle boot of any heel height.

I feel it is time to remedy this situation.

Here’s the issue: when you are short (like I am) you’ve been conscious your entire life that you shouldn’t wear anything that makes you look shorter (hence my love of heels). After a few of what I now regard as feeble attempts to try a short boot, I gave up. After striking out, I assumed all such boots would cut me off and be unflattering.

But I admire this look on other women who are even shorter than I am (yes, I mean you, Wardrobe OxygenDC Style Factory and @travelinjames) thus, I have come to the conclusion that I might be wrong. It’s possible, perhaps, that I jumped to conclusions after trying the wrong pairs. I mean, there’s a classic short boot that shares my name, so how wrong could it be on me?

The bottom line is that I’m ready to try again. What I’m looking for is something that doesn’t go too far up my calves. I don’t want a substantial heel for this pair (sorry, guy readers, baby steps). It has to work with my bootcut jeans as well as with my skinny jeans (tucked in) and (gasp) maybe a dress. I know some of you are having a hard time with that visual, but one of my 43 by 43 goals was to challenge myself when it comes to my style. Pairing short boots with a skirt or dress would do just that.

Have you seen a boot that you think fits my needs? Please share. And if you want to go shopping with me, even better.

falling for fall

photo credit: http://www.polyvore.com/come_hither_fall/set?id=58371091#stream_box
I’ve had a love affair with fall my entire life. I’m just not a summer person. Perhaps if I could, as my friend Sarah says, summer on a lake (just the use of the word “summer” as a verb connotes leisure) or if I didn’t live in a landfilled swamp, I’d feel differently. But nothing lifts my spirits like the first nights that dip into the 60s, allowing for open-window sleeping, sweaters, and my all-time favorite, riding boots.

I’m not completely convinced that fall is imminent, but am fed up with summer. Two mani-pedis ago, I abandoned the bright shades that aren’t very me but which I feel compelled to adopt in warmer months. And earlier this week, I knocked two items off my fall wish list, though I hope the purchase of said items doesn’t have the effect of extending this dreadful summer.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I must disclose that I was inspired to assemble my top ten list by DC Style Factory and her list earlier this week. Thanks, Rosana, for reminding me on a 92-degree day that fall might be around the corner.

And because it’s never too early to wish upon a star, my list:

1. The Bettye Muller Roxy in Bordeaux: I have lusted over this shoe since style sister Austin from SimplySoles sent me a photo of it before they had it in stock. This is one item I already bought because I panicked the other night when I noticed they only had two more pairs in stock, one in my size.

2. Western Jean Shirt in Desert Willow Wash by Madewell: I was not only inspired by Rosana to make a list, but to add a dark wash denim shirt to my wardrobe this fall. I have a summer weight, chambray one, but the darker wash version appeals to my sense of fall. Except when I stepped into the dressing room at Madewell, I liked the fit of this western version better. I would NEVER in a gazillion years have ordered this shirt sight unseen. I wasn’t even going to try it on until the saleswoman suggested it, and I’m glad she did.

3. More Minnie Pants: I fell in love with these pants a few years ago, then fell out of love when I was feeling a little heavier than I like to be. I’m usually a skeptic when it comes to any pant on me that isn’t floor length, but the Minnie has been the one exception. However, the pairs in my closet, aside from looking well-loved, are actually a little too big (thank you, Biker Barre!) so new Minnies go on the list for fall. The only debate is what color(s)?

4. Essie Nail Polish in Stylenomics: I suffer corals and fuschias in the summer because I technically live in the south, but my northern sensibilities want to wear dark nail polish all year round. While I normally default to OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark or the Essie version, Wicked, the color I have in mind now is a dark green, and Stylenomics looks to fit the bill.

5. Opera-length Fingerless Gloves: I first coveted a pair from DVF that cost a shocking $350 more than this affordable pair. I love fingerless gloves to allow for easy access to my touch-screen devices, as well as for the fact that they won’t cause wear and tear on my manicure. I want to wear these with jeans as much as I do a fantastic dress. And at this price, it’s a no-brainer that you will soon find them in my possession.

Other items that round out my top ten wish list include (6) a new LBD, object of my affection yet to be identified; (7) more bracelets and bangles to stack on my wrists; (8) new jeans, maybe even the sexy boyfriend style Wardrobe Oxygen swears by; (9) the Marie Jo Carole Bodysuit, or at least the Avero plunge bra in raisin since I’d slightly intimidate myself in a bodysuit; and (10) a new wool coat. My old ones are on the verge of being threadbare; I needed to invest in a new one last winter. I can’t decide whether I want a reliable neutral shade or pop of color. I will try to not let indecision get the better of me this season.

There’s so much more I covet, but these essentials will work with my existing wardrobe and get me into and through the glory days of what I can only hope will be an extended fall.

fashion night out

Yes, I went to Fashion Night Out.

I can hear you saying to yourselves, “of course you did, Chelsea. Isn’t that your scene?” But the truth of the matter is, it’s totally not my scene and here’s why.

First and foremost, I hate crowds. I have a rule about not standing in line to get into bars and a similar rule applies to shopping. Is J. Crew really going to have anything this one night that I couldn’t get on a regular day with much less pushing, oh-my-god-ing, and waiting to check out? I mean, Madewell did offer free hair braiding to customers, but I’m not the boho braid type, so that feature didn’t make the experience more pleasant (though I did buy a great shirt). The champagne and other cocktails most stores offered were nice until someone bumped into me and my ivory Magaschoni sleeveless top with a Hawaiian punch-colored concoction.

Secondly, I hate Georgetown. The cobblestone sidewalks are killer on your feet even when wearing my version of a practical shoe. There is no easy way to get there either. It isn’t exactly metro accessible, which means I had to drive. And park. And drive home. Maybe if all the stores I like were conveniently situated all on the same block, I’d shop there more. But on second thought, no, even that wouldn’t make Georgetown more palatable to me.

So why did I venture out on this night? I was purely motivated by the desire to spend time with the amazing Rosana Vollmerhausen of DC Style Factory. She was a first-timer to FNO as well and had asked last week if I wanted to check it out together. The verdict? We had a great time. It helped that we (1) have great energy together (2) only hit four shops (Madewell, Tari, Urban Chic and Alchemie Forever) and (3) share the same sense of snark.

For example, I wish I had snapped a photo of the skirt that was so short and tight that I swear I saw cheek. (Rosana is convinced it was meant to be a shirt.) If only I had captured the ball gown skirt that looked like it belonged more at an Inaugural event in cooler temps than at a glorified shopping festival on a 91 degree day. My favorite outrageous outfit can best described as modeled after I Dream of Jeannie if she had worn all black. (Yes, there was exposed midriff.) While I don’t have these images saved for posterity, they provided bonding moments for me and Rosana, who instead focused her lens on other highlights of the night, which you can see here.

Other FNO bright spots: meeting the Closet Coach, seeing my sole sisters from SimplySoles, and the free pedi-cab ride we took for three blocks because we are not as young and sprightly as the other revelers.

All and all, I had a good time, which had little to do with fashion, but much to do with the women I shared the evening with.

all the news that’s fit to print

Yes, I have been missing in action. Well, not missing in a dropped off the face of the earth sort of way. But I didn’t spend any time during the week of Chelsea doing any writing that is worthy of sharing (I blame the heat) and this week has been a dizzying cascade of work, kids, camp, heat and stress, all without my daily dose of Biker Barre to keep me sane and balanced.

So what did I do with my time off? I shopped. I spa-ed. I worked out. I ate (a lot). I drank some nice wines. I took the kids to Philadelphia. We went to a Fourth of July parade, derby car race and river raft regatta. Then our hostess in Philadelphia – my roommate from college – came down to DC with me. We shopped more. Ate more. Drank more. I introduced her to the barre-spin double. We napped. We saw Magic Mike. We watched movies at my house.

It was a good week.

In terms of my styling projects, Chani did not end up wearing the Kate Spade dress to the wedding in Charleston because while it was 105 here in DC with a heat index of 115, it was 145 degrees with 300% humidity in South Carolina and the fabric was just too heavy and clingy for an outdoor affair. She will wear it a lot this summer though, so no regrets, and bought dangly purple earrings as I recommended. She still doesn’t have the perfect shoes to go with the dress, according to what I heard yesterday, so I’m going to work on getting her into a snakeskin pair as suggested by Rosana from DC Style Factory.

Terra did wear her green dress to the wedding and paired it with a bunch of gold jewelry: stacked bracelets, necklace, earrings. Apparently there is no picture that captures the entire look though so you will just have to envision its greatness.

I got eyelash extensions and I.Love.Them. I asked my technician to give me a length that doesn’t scream hooker, and I’m extremely pleased with the results. Now no matter how hot and sweaty I get or how much I cry, my eyes are never smudgy. I’m not sure it’s a sustainable budget practice, but I plan to at least maintain them through the hot and sticky summer.

Which given the way the climate is changing, could mean until November.

must have monday: the great white blazer

I have to admit, while it is a must have, I haven’t found my perfect white blazer yet.

Two years ago, when Rosanna Vollmerhausen, owner of DC Style Factory, came to my house and performed a closet audit on my spring and summer wardrobe, her immediate observation was that one of my gaps was a great white blazer.

I have spent the last two years on an mission to find it.

I know it shouldn’t be this hard, but I’m very particular about my blazers. They cannot be boyfriend style, for one, a cut that is (sadly for me) ubiquitous. Given how unforgiving white is, the material has to be of a certain quality. Cheaper fabrics might be passable in black but white shows all flaws. And speaking of flaws, given what a complete and utter klutz I can be, I really don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on this piece. I’m bound to bump into someone with a glass of red wine or have a kid with a nutella mouth give me a hug when wearing it. In other words, this will not be an investment piece for me like my black Smythe blazer was.

So the hunt continues for an affordable but not cheap looking great white blazer with a good shape. If you have any leads, you know where to find me.

men’s wear wednesday

Gentlemen, are you tired of reading or rather, skimming my blog for tidbits of juiciness like the words nude or milf? Do you wish I didn’t spend so much time on women’s fashion, my dress dilemmas and don’t wears that clearly have no relevance to you unless you are willing to share them with the woman in your life?

Fret no more.

In an attempt to continue my effort to make the world (or our little slice of it in DC) a more fashionable place, I have advice for you too. And dearest female readers, don’t avoid Wednesdays just because they will be tailored to the guys. I know you’ve had the experience of dressing up for an event, looking at what your husband or boyfriend was wearing, and cringing inside because his ensemble looked like it came from the (dirty) laundry basket not from an actual hanger in his closet. Or maybe you’re tired of the khaki-pants-blue-button-down uniform so omnipresent in DC. At the next BBQ, perhaps you can get him to wear something other than cargo shorts and a t-shirt from college (a note to the guys: just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s vintage).

Ideally, just like my women readers do, my male readers/skimmers will reach out to me with a wardrobe dilemma. Since I didn’t decide on this post until last night, today’s advice for those guys who hate to shop or don’t know what to look for is this: hire some help. A personal stylist such as DC Style Factory (who will start by auditing your closet and compiling a style profile) is well worth the investment. Or did you know that you can call (or email) Nordstrom, tell them what you need, your size and your price range and they will make an appointment for you to come in to a dressing room already full of items for you to try? No scouring the racks for outfits you don’t know how to put together or searching to find what section of the store carries the items you need. By the way, this service is free.

And so is my advice, so take it or leave it, but if you leave it, don’t say I didn’t tell you so the next time your significant other looks you up and down and lets out a heavy sigh. It might be because she can’t wait for you to get those clothes off, but not for the reason you think.