fall foliage

Goodies Picked Up in J. Crew 25% Off Sale

Nothing says fall like hues of orange, gold, purple, red and green. Essentially, fall is represented by all my favorite colors. Autumn is truly my season. If I could find a city where it was fall all year round, with the leaves those perfect shades of change and the weather sunny but crisp, I would live there.

Instead, I suffer D.C.’s bleak winters, fleeting springs, and swampy summers just so I can enjoy a grand total of 6 (if we are lucky) beautiful days of fall. It’s the one time of year when you can comfortably walk down the street without feeling soggy and deflated once you reach your destination. It’s a time for layers. I can bring out my multitude of outwear that is not quite winter hearty but is perfect for these autumn days that reach highs in the 60s but lows in the 50s or even the high 40s.

I look forward to this all too brief season literally all year round, but this October, my closet’s offerings looked tired. Happily, J. Crew came to the rescue with a 25% off everything sale that provided me with a much-needed fall refresh. I think I nailed it with my five selections pictured here (though four of items I bought aren’t available until November, but that is literally next week so I don’t expect to wait long). The best part of the deal is that I have three pairs (at least) of fabulous shoes ready and waiting to be coordinated with any combination of my new items, and the accessories featured here are also already in my collection.

The skirt, which arrived yesterday, will pair with blouses and sweaters in hues of lilac, plum, moss, pumpkin, ivory… talk about versatile. Please excuse me if I wear it every week. But I promise I will style it differently each time until I run out of combinations.

And in November, when my Maraschino Cherry Cafe Trousers arrive, and you see a flash of color walking down the street amid the gray pallor that will have already descended upon our nation’s capitol, you can thank me for providing a burst of color to your day.

Or order me a Shirley Temple.

current obsession

today's current obsession

You know how it is when you can’t get some one or some thing out of  your mind? I don’t mean in the unhealthy Fatal Attraction pet-rabbit-boiling-in-a-pot sort of way. (Yes, that’s a shout out to you, Caroline.) (Note to readers: not because Caroline has boiled a lover’s daughter’s pet rabbit but because the reference was recently lost on a a woman of a younger generation whom she was talking to.) An obsession can sometimes be a goal on steroids. Other times, it’s a flash in the pan. But regardless of the duration or the dedication to pursuing said object of affection, obsessions are all mind (and time) consuming.

It’s safe to say that my current obsession is this pair of Rebecca Minkoff pumps. Every day for the last month I have visited them (at least once) on-line. I have created countless outfits in my head, both with items already in my closet and items I don’t yet own. These shoes have gone on dates I don’t have prospects for, and they have taken me to meetings I haven’t yet scheduled. I’d wear them with my favorite Fidelity Denim skinny jeans, a crisp white shirt and my black Smythe blazer. I’d wear them with my vibrant flame J. Crew pencil skirt. I’d sleep in them if I didn’t think I’d kick them off in the middle of the night, leaving them unprotected from kittens who seems to obsess over getting their little paws on my shoes as much as I do.

If you see my strolling down the street wearing these shoes, you will know I gave in. That or I achieved whatever task I told myself I needed to achieve in order to deserve these shoes.

Or maybe, just maybe, I have a date.

 

style me!

Brigid's Fall Event

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.

desperately seeking…

https://thechelseachronicles.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/audrey-hepburn-ballet-leopard.jpg?w=216Today I wore the J. Crew Minnie Pant. I like the Minnie and was told by Rosanna at DC Style Factory that I look good in Minnie when she audited my closet last spring and advised that I should buy a pair in every color. (By the way, I highly recommend a closet audit.) But really, while the Minnie is good for what it is, it is not my perfect pant. And I want the perfect pant.

In June when I was vacationing in New England (I love the way that sounds) and spent a day at Crane Beach with my friend Nicole, I noticed that she was wearing the Minnie. My mention of the Minnie led to a discussion about our own personal experiences in pursuit of the perfect pant.

We dubbed the perfect pant the Audrey pant, envisioning something that Audrey Hepburn would wear. But when I googled “Audrey Hepburn pants” I didn’t actually encounter any photos of her wearing what I think Nicole and I both seek.

What is the perfect pant? Well first of all, it’s black. And it has a flat front. And it has a straight leg. But it isn’t capri, which for us shorter women does not hit at the right point of the leg since all pants seem to be designed for the woman who is 5’11”. It isn’t that I am afraid of the tailor. I like the tailor. I use the tailor. I need to visit the tailor and soon. But the tailor, while good, is not capable of hemming my pants to that perfect fashion forward length that Nicole and I both desire. I don’t want the hem to drag. I don’t want the hem to be too high-watery. No floating hems (ugh!) or worse, a mullet scraping the ground behind your shoe when you walk. (Actually, maybe the floating hem is worse.) Essentially, we want an inseam that is longer than 27 inches and shorter than 31. No flare. No skinny. No bootcut. Just straight and classic. Oh, and please. I have birthed two babies so I prefer that the waistline fall somewhere between a high-waist reminiscent of the 80s and hang-off-your-hips-navel-revealing.

Nicole’s method for finding this perfect pant is to write to J. Crew and hope Jenna Lyons listens. My method is to appeal to my female readers to see if anyone is enlightened (and lucky) enough to own this pant. I’d be willing to buy the perfect pant in multiples just to ensure I always have it. If you direct me to the perfect pant, there is most certainly a reward. Or at least, a shout-out.

bathing beauty

https://i1.wp.com/photos2.fotosearch.com/bthumb/CLT/CLT003/s4744.jpgIs there anything clothing related that gives a woman who has birthed two children more anxiety than having to get into a bathing suit? Even when I was at my marathon running height of fitness, I detested the trying on and purchasing of bathing suits enough that I wore one that was two sizes too big for three seasons longer than I should have just because the alternative, standing in front of a three-way mirror with that horrible department store lighting, seemed much worse. And I loved the color of the suit.

But this year, I had to face the inevitable. Last year’s hasty on-line bathing suit purchase did not pan out. I had bought a strapless one because I knew I was going to be wearing a strapless dress to a July wedding, and I can’t stand the look of tan lines. Aside from the realization mid-wedding that I never want to wear a strapless dress again, I came to the conclusion that strapless bathing suits just don’t work for moms who still sometimes get in the pool to play with little swimmers who tend to grab fabric instead of flesh when in water over their heads.

Let’s just say, I don’t need a repeat of the time I was at a “mommy and me” baby swim class with Colin at the YMCA when he grabbed a hold of me and pulled down the bodice of my bathing suit, exposing me for more than a brief second to a very shocked dad who didn’t make eye contact with me for the rest of that class or any others. Needless to say, we didn’t take lessons there again.

This year summer came faster than expected, and I’m not just referring to the insanely crazy temperatures and humidity. How can it be that tomorrow is June 1st? The last day of school is in striking distance. Summer camp time is near. Whereas usually the water in the Cheverly Pool is too cold opening weekend or the weather too rainy, this year, we made it for Memorial Day (as did every other pool member) which meant I had to put on a bathing suit just a little sooner than expected. (I honestly thought given our schedule it might be three more weeks before we got there.)

Since I donated the aforementioned strapless suit in a fit of closet and drawer purging, that left one option: the one-piece, racer-back Speedo I bought for myself back when I thought I would trade my running shoes in for laps in a pool. The tags were still on it. And if there is any style suit that was meant for function not form, it is a Speedo. I definitely did not take off my sarong.

But I can’t hide forever, so before they are completely sold out (my first choice style and color is already back ordered until mid-July) I got on the J. Crew website and ordered a couple different options to try on in the privacy of my own room, without the discomfort of unflattering lights and three-way mirrors to taunt me. Which means I will only have my doctor and his ban on activities I consider “real cardio” to blame for what I see reflected back at me. Well, that and my love of food. And wine.

I think regardless of how the suits fit, the sarong is going to figure prominently into my summer plans.

Style This! Business Formal

Style This! Business Formal

Style This! Business Formal by chelseahenderson featuring a cashmere shawl

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.

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.