Let’s get one thing straight, I obsess about a lot of important things. My job, my kids, my life. The unexplained leak in the kitchen that I discovered on Tornado Friday. But the heavy must be balanced by the frivolous, and lately, the consumer goddess in me has been singularly focused on waiting for a certain handbag to go on sale.
I know, I just bought the Rita by Lillybee, the lovely bone-colored fine Italian leather bag that pairs beautifully with every bright color that dominates my spring and summer wardrobe. But I can’t use a bag of that delicate hue everyday. Already, I’m fretting over the faint marks of use that are making themselves apparent.
The DVF Harper clutch breaks all my handbag rules. The flap closure prevents quick retrieval of one’s phone. Unless one is using the strap, it needs to be carried. Carried. That means potentially left behind. It isn’t possible to secure it on a bar hook when out having a glass of wine. I probably can’t carry anything bulky in it, like the make up bag I tote around with me on a daily basis with my 7 lipsticks in it, or my sunglass and eyeglass cases. But I love it partly for its streamlined-ness.
If there is a purse fairy, I’d like an Hermes Kelly bag. But if the purse fairy is on a budget, yet still feeling generous, this handbag in a perfectly bold Chelsea color and an effortless envelop style would continue me on my journey (its a marathon not a sprint) to embrace wardrobe components that are slightly outside my comfort zone.
And it would give me one less thing to think about at 3:00 in the morning.
One would think that the buyers for Saks, Neiman and Bloomingdales would have heard that 40 is the new 30 (ten years after 30 was the new 20).
But their dress selection does not suggest such.
During a brick and mortar excursion for the guest of a wedding style dilemma, I was struck at how the high end department stores offered two types of cocktail dresses: frumpy or slutty. (Honestly, the same could be said for their bathing suit collections.) One would think grandmothers and their teen granddaughters are their only demographic. It leads me to ask: who’s looking out for the urban professional woman in her late 30s/early 40s who works out, has a good (but not absurd) budget for clothes and an excellent sense of style?
Apparently those buyers shop for boutiques.
My goal is certainly to look amazing at this wedding, not ridiculous. The so-called flirty styles are garments I would look askance at a 20-something for wearing. (Just to clarify, I’m not a prude. I believe in flaunting assets. I just don’t believe in flaunting all the assets at one time, except in the privacy of your own space.) On the other end of the spectrum, heavy lace, too much adornment and not enough skin exposure are the dominant features of most available dresses. I struck out at Saks. I tried on one subpar dress at Bloomingdales. I had luck only at Neiman Marcus and even then, the only designer who had remotely appropriate dresses was DVF, which I’m thankful for, but I was hoping for better variety.
I made the best of it. I broke my rules to try different styles. As you have seen the pictorial evidence of, I tried strapless. I tried a maxi dress. I tried this horrible flowy dress pictured here that is best described as the female version of something Hugh Hefner would wear (in other words, it felt like boudoir attire). I could only envision myself wearing it with feathered slides, surrounded by heavy velvet couches and drapes, maybe a whip in hand. It’s a dress for “entertaining” at home, not a dress to wear to a wedding. But I’m determined to leave my comfort zone with increasing frequency moving forward, and you don’t know how you are going to react until you try something new.
As you have now read, I’m struggling between two dresses, the poppy flower shift and the black lace shift. The black lace is more forgiving of those pesky trouble zones and has an elegance that is timeless and could be worn in three seasons. Plus it has this totally edgy zipper all the way down the v-shaped back to give it a departure from funeral garb. The poppy is happy and colorful and exudes a retro vibe. But would I only wear it once so as not to hear “here comes Chelsea in her poppy dress again.”
Needing to sleep on the decision before making a purchase, I return this morning for another round of trying on these two options. I’ll be equipped with the correct underpinnings, the right shoes, and most importantly, the invaluable input of my trusted social media advisers.
Rules were made to be broken, so I tried on a strapless dress in this great pursuit for a guest of a wedding dress. It isn’t the dress I’m going to buy, but I thought I’d at least share that I was open-minded enough to try it.
Sigh. I didn’t expect it to happen this way. But then again, my predicting the future track record hasn’t been super accurate lately so I should have known better.
The navy lace Zarita dress by DVF was a big bust.
Initially, when I pulled it out of the box, my first reaction was pretty. But my second reaction (and the one that stuck with me) was matronly. I know dresses can look different on the hanger than they do on the body, thus I was willing to give it a shot. But in person the combination of the long sleeves, below-the-knee length (I want to show some skin) and the safe color lend it an older woman aura.
Not to mention, the lace on the bodice near the neckline was snagged from where the garment tag rested during shipping. Bad packing, Neiman Marcus!
So, if you aren’t yet sick of my self-centered posts about dresses, stay tuned for the fashion show I hope to share with you all this weekend.
After much deliberation and internal questioning over my guest of a wedding style dilemma, I went with my gut and ordered the top contender: the dark teal (navy in my book) DVF Zarita Lace Dress. I had also intended to order the dress that was runner-up in my head all day, the red Alice + Olivia Esme Ruched Dress, but then some late night activity had me second guessing this as my sure second choice. By way of backup, the Nicole Miller Open Back Jersey Sheath Dress had been running a steady third place (safety school position) if neither of these options work, but now it has easily slipped to fourth place. (See, Alison, I can depart from my comfort zone.)
What dress has jumped ranks to grab my attention? The Black Halo Alexandra Sheath Dress, pinned by two contributors, Elizabeth, a childhood friend I haven’t seen in probably 20 years (but she gets my style nonetheless) and KC, my DC fashion crush for her gorgeous yet effortless chic.
How did I narrow down 79 pins (with a few repeats) to a handful of dresses?
First I eliminated silhouettes that I didn’t think would be totally flattering on me (though I appreciate the aesthetic of the pinners who thought they would work on my frame). And while a number of orange dresses were presented as options, the shade didn’t feel right for the occasion. (And remember, green is my new orange.) I considered for about 45 seconds a totally budget-busting option suggested by Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen, but the financial planning gods mercifully ensured it’s no longer available in my size. (Although their rivals, the fashion gods, did in the process lead me to my future second wedding dress, if I ever go down that road again.)
I thought for a long time about the Xscape Ruffle Collar Stretch Satin Sheath Dress but I was afraid the taffeta combined with the style was too bridesmaid-y. I’d have considered it if I could have also bought these ridiculously out of the question shoes to go with it. Of these Prada pumps the financial planning gods would most certainly not approve.
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.
Pantone decided that tangerine tango is the color of 2012. I have one response to that: I found it first.
Who sported a neon orange cross-body bag all last summer? That would be me.
Who owns two orange (okay, I’m going to call tangerine tango by its given name) silk blouses, an orange cashmere sweater, orange (coral) espadrilles, orange suede wedges (a new addition, granted), an orange DVF from a few years ago, two orange scarves, and various orange t-shirts?
You know it.
While there is some personal satisfaction in knowing you are ahead of trend, it’s also annoying when the one color you are most drawn to is apparent everywhere. I will still buy it because it is my color. For example, I just have to have the orange version of my favorite dress, known affectionately as the zipper dress, but if it’s navy sister is any indication, it’s a classic piece that will outlive fashion whimsy. Otherwise, when available, from now on, green in my new orange.
Still fresh in shades for spring (this is not your St. Patrick’s Day kelly or the early 90s forest) and honestly something that will pair well with my existing sweaters and shoes, green is still eye-catching. And it’s so versatile, working with many of its friends on the color spectrum.
But if Pantone’s 2013 color of the year is cilantro or grassy knoll or tulip leaf, I’m going to be green with pissed-off-ness.
Finally a challenge that doesn’t involve entertaining a kid in the ER, beating the national average on the Constitution Quiz or explaining what a dry scrubber is.
My dear friend Brigid, who has been there with me at so many seminal points in my life ranging from my first purchase at the Bobbi Brown counter to 9-11, is in charge of an important upcoming event at work. As is often the challenge in work-related events, she needs to strike a balanced evening look that is professional, yet elegant, and a daytime (outdoor) look that is casual but demands her to look office-appropriate nonetheless.
For the evening portion of her event, Brigid has to dress for Mass, a reception, and a benefactor dinner at the university where she is director of communications. Given that she will be attending Mass, she needs to be conservative. But I want her to stand out appropriately and highlight her beauty. So I found this gorgeous DVF in a bottle green color that will make Brigid’s beautiful green eyes pop (and distinguish her from all those wearing black, but without the ostentatious message that red can sometimes send). The Maidey is long-sleeved, has a high-neck, isn’t too form fitting, but highly flattering. I’d pair it with simple pearl earrings and nude pumps.
For the day look, considering that Brigid doesn’t have much time, I stuck to options from J. Crew, a store she shops. I know I am spending a lot of Brigid’s money here, but I also have confidence that she can replicate any of these items at a lower price point. I’m just here to provide some direction.
For Brigid I love this viridian green wool skirt (okay, I have it, and the color is so much richer in person than it appears on-line) and an ivory blouse. I gave her two sweater options (after all, Brigid lives in Wisconsin and daytime temps might demand an extra layer). If she’s feeling bold, I’d pair the plum cardigan with the green skirt. If she needs to err on the side of conservative, the camel cardigan provides a neutral alternative. I couldn’t help picking out a leopard print flat (not just because it’s named after Brigid’s daughter) just for a little edge and some extra personality. The orange necklace options were another wildcard for if she chooses the camel sweater but wants an additional punch of color.
So there you go, Brigid. I wish I could come shopping for the day. Next time, give me a little more notice and I will see what I can arrange.
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.