the Rita by Lillybee

I bought a white purse. Okay, it isn’t exactly nursing shoes white, but more accurately, a soft cream color that my kids just happen to call white. It has lovely dove-colored handles, the length of the drop on which is perfect for me and my on-the-go needs.

In three weeks, I may be wondering why I went with such an unforgiving color. It’s only a matter of time before it catches the nip of my ink pen, rubs up against something sticky, or just starts to accumulate a city hue from being carried to and fro in an urban environment.

But I’m going to diligently protect it from such evils because I love it.

I love that it looks just as good with black as it does with my brightly colored dresses and skirts for spring and summer. I love that it works with jeans. I love that it isn’t matchy matchy with my spring and summer shoes, but it also doesn’t clash with them. And most of all, I love that it’s from the Lillybee inaugural Italian handbag line, designed by local shoe goddess Kassie Rempel. That means my purchase not only supports a dear friend, but a woman-owned, DC-based small business.

On the first day I broke it out, I was mainly confined to my desk, but the three times I stepped away from the office, I received compliments on Rita. She makes a fine addition to the Lillybee family, and with any luck, maybe I can talk Kassie into offering it in eggplant for the fall.

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.

desperately seeking…

https://i0.wp.com/media20.onsugar.com/files/2010/12/49/0/1254/12546250/a757cea79ba11d62_chanel_255.larger/i/Most-Iconic-Handbags.jpgI always know what I want, and usually I get it. Occasionally I’m paralyzed by indecisiveness, but rarely. If you have lunch plans with me, and I ask where you want to dine and you say, “I don’t care” then I’m going to choose my favorite place. Only when I’m very tired or my creatively levels are low (or I’m trying to decide between two pairs of shoes) do I demure.

So it’s with a great sense of shock that I’m having a hard time choosing a new purse. I’m not a switch-your-bag-everyday kind of person. I like to buy one handbag and stick with it. Usually the way this happens is: I buy a new bag in the fall that I use through winter, then a new bag in spring that takes me through summer. Not exactly shopping rocket science, but it works. That’s how I justify splurging on some of my favorite designers and why I embrace today’s anti-matchy-match world where almost any color and texture combo is fair game. (Honestly, I hope color coordinated shoes and purses remain a relic of the past.)

But back to my inability to commit, the most perplexing part of my problem isn’t even that there are two bags I’m deciding between; I can’t find what I want at all. (Well, within reason.)

This summer, I had my eye on a purse called the Pippa (isn’t everything of “it girl” quality called the Pippa these days) by the British company Modalu. But back in August, when the color I wanted wasn’t going to be available until mid-October, I took a pass. (Now that it’s mid-October, of course I’m ruing the decision.) Then I had a crush on the Isabella Fiore Demi-Satchel but when I gave it a test run around the store, it felt a little too boxy (a-la-diaper-bag) to me. (This was one of those instances when Kassie, who was present for said purse try-outs, told me that she didn’t think the item I was considering was the right look for me.)

I’ve scoured my usual haunt, Kate Spade, but the problem there is I keep gravitating toward styles I’ve already owned. I want something different. I want a bag that screams Chelsea. On that note, I did contemplate a purse from the Chelsea line at Coach, but I just can’t help but feel like the Coach brand and my personality are not super compatible. A weekend shopping trip with girlfriends a few weeks ago to assist in the finding of the perfect purse only yielded frustration, not retail glee.

In case you have some suggestions to pass along, here are my specs: It has to have a zip or clasped top that can be easily accessed when I have a cup of coffee in one hand and a kid’s backpack in the other. I’m not afraid of color (after all, I just ordered two pairs of red-hued pants from J. Crew) though I prefer my purse fall in the “bold but neutral” category. (Too many brights in one ensemble and I fear I resemble a bowl of Skittles.) I learned my lesson with the Kate Spade Essex Scout this summer that I’m really not a small purse woman (though I did grow to love the hands free nature of a crossbody style). My purse must be large enough for my working mommy lifestyle (though I got mocked yesterday by my former boss for the moderately large bag in my current rotation). Seriously, a purse has to be able to hold my eyeglass/sunglass case, iPhone, wallet, small make-up bag, notebook, keys and whatever “treasure” the kids hand me to hold onto for them (sometimes rocks).

So if you see something along those lines, let me know. But if instead you come across my sugar daddy, let him know that the one purse I have seen and love is the Valentino Demetra. Yes, the price is equivalent to my first year’s salary when I first came to Capitol Hill. Yes, it’s the price of a small car.

But maybe it comes with a cute guy who would carry it for me when it’s full of rocks.

why I love Lillybee

The shoes that started it all
The shoes that started it all

I remember as clear as day the first time I heard of Lillybee, Simply Soles founder and owner Kassie Rempel’s self-designed shoe line. I was a busy Hill staffer, on my feet all day long, which meant that when I wasn’t focused on policy, I was focused on how my feet felt. (Although on some days, how my feet felt definitely distracted me from focusing on policy.) At the time, I was working full time on one issue (a luxury, even for a Senate staffer) and I worked on that one issue (climate change, if you must know) with an office that could not have been farther located from my boss’s office in the Senate complex. That meant a lot of shuffling (sometimes running) between our respective suites, always clad in three-inch heels.

One night, after such a long day of back-and-forth meetings, home, feet up on the coffee table, catching up with personal emails, I read with interest that week’s Daily Candy Deal: a discount for readers on any pair of Lillybee shoes. I had never heard of Lillybee but immediately clicked on the link to the Simply Soles webiste where there was a small but gorgeous new collection of shoes called Lillybee, designed by Kassie Rempel, a local woman (I call her Goddess) who also owned a shoe store (I call it empire).  I knew I would have to own at least one pair of these shoes. Where had Lillybee been all my life?

After designing mental outfits with each shoe Lillybee had to offer, I bought the Hilary, a vibrant blue patent leather pump with a chunky heel that would help soften the blow as I stomped through the marble halls of Congress. But weeks later, I couldn’t get the Angelina out of my head. A little black dress in shoe form, I just knew that I had to make it part of my collection as well. (I did.) I also coveted the Gwyneth, a silver pointy-toed wedge, but sadly it didn’t come in my size, leading me to a desperate step-sisters of Cinderella moment when I contemplated what measures I was willing to take to squeeze my size 8 feet into the available size 7s. (I now own two pairs of Gwyneths, appropriately sized.) All the shoes in the 2008 collection, the Jessica, the Halle, even the vegan Natalie (Kassie is probably scared that I remember the names of her Lillybees like they are children) would not only have coordinated well in my wardrobe but would have kept my feet stylishly happy.

What sets Lillybee apart for me is not just that the line offers shoes that are unique, affordable, comfortable, and fashion forward, though all those qualities are certainly reason(s) enough to love a brand. I love Lillybee because through this shoe obsession of mine, I grew to know Kassie, who has quickly become a “sole sister” to me.  Today, when I need (or want, which in my book can be the same as need) a new pair of shoes, I immediately consult Kassie. I know that her advice is going to be honest. She has stopped me from buying shoes that she didn’t think looked right. She has introduced me to designers I now can’t live without, including Lillybee. She kept me upbeat during the Beatrix days. Her opinion means the world to me. But mostly, it’s her friendship that I value.

That I might get to help create a new Lillybee is just extra heel on the shoe.