meet Katie…

If you don’t go to Biker Barre, you might not have met co-owner Katie Fouts. She’s a badass on (and off) the bike. And the woman can dance, if her spin room moves are any indication. I suspect she teeters on the edge of crazy fun to go out on the town with. She’s inspiring. (I’m a sucker for the whole “I was unhappy in my previous career and made a complete change” storyline.) She’s energetic, smart, and gorgeous.

I was most honored when Katie approached me a few weeks ago and asked if she could engage my services in finding her a gown (make that two) for Inaugural festivities in January.

By way of an aside, let me note that Katie plans to attend the balls regardless of who wins the presidency, though she assures me she does have a preference as to who emerges victorious. Attending an Inaugural ball just happens to be something on her DC Bucket List.

Initially, we met to discuss strategy, over wine of course. We decided she needs a black dress for Inauguration Eve and a spectacular dress for the big night. She set a budget. She started a Pinterest board, Cinderella Time. And we scheduled our initial date to shop.

Who knew our shopping date would fall on Frankenstorm Eve? Being ever the cautious one, I questioned the sanity of heading out to Tyson’s after her Sunday Brunch Spin class as planned. We discussed rescheduling. But the endorphin high after her class pushed us both to go for it. (I mean, it wasn’t even raining yet.)

We hit two stores: Neiman Marcus and Saks. At Neiman, I suggested we look at every dress. I pulled gowns we had pinned and gowns we were unsure of on the hanger because I wanted to push her boundaries.

Of the ten gown we brought into the dressing room, the first three I suggested she try emerged as favorites.  I will hold back on sharing a photo of the top contender for now, as we want to see her in a different style by the same designer. (We may stage our own little public opinion poll.) While we loved the David Meister Animal-Print Gown on her (pictured at the top) I feared that she’d be yanking up the strapless bodice all night and that the sequins would chafe her underarms. We also loved a Catherine Dean gown (pictured below) for its edgy factor, but it was way over budget. (I don’t normally endorse trying on dresses over your budget but in this case, we wanted to try something out of the ordinary.) Both dresses were flattering, but neither was our favorite.

Our Inaugural Gown Pursuit continues. Stay tuned for the next update.

In the meantime, if you can introduce Katie to an eligible bachelor who’s tall, hunky and able to match her dance moves step for step, maybe she’ll comp you a spin class.

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don’t lie to me, Neiman Marcus

I’m a sucker for the makeup counter, which is why back in April, I got talked into trading my beloved Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer for le Metier de Beaute Peau Vierge, which unfortunately for my budget, rings up at three times the price.

But it is so worth it.

Only a small amount is needed for as flawless skin as one might get when one has, well, flaws. I still use Laura Mercier for weekends and when I need a reapplication, but I have become a huge fan of the Peau Vierge.

My only complaint is that it comes in the kind of vessel that doesn’t reveal it’s about to run out until it’s actually out. And last week, I ran out.

On Saturday when Emily was in town, we were in Friendship Heights, and I asked her if we could pop into Neiman Marcus so I could pick up a replacement bottle. We walked in, and I immediately saw the Metier de Beaute make up artist/rep who initially sold me the product. I was a little taken aback that he was so dismissive when I told him what I was there for. Instead of helping me himself, he beckoned to another counter for a sales associate. After several minutes, his makeup minion came over and when I told her what I wanted, she broke the sad news that they were out of my shade. Mr. Metier Makeup Artist immediately chimed in.

Mr. Metier Makeup Artist: Actually, it’s the manufacturer who is out of that shade so you can’t get it at all.

Me: For how long?

Mr. Metier Makeup Artist: Three weeks. It’s the manufacturer, not us.

(Yeah, I got that.)

Me: Well, that’s sad.

I turned to walk away.

Mr. Metier Makeup Artist: You should try a shade darker. I’m wearing the next shade and I have a lighter complexion than you.

Now maybe this guy doesn’t remember how the first time I was there, he gushed that 01 was the perfect shade for me. So I protested that I’m an 01 not an 02. He told me again that the manufacturer was completely sold out and I’d have to live without the product for at least three weeks.

Except when I got home, I ordered it from Nordstrom.

A message to Mr. Metier Makeup Artist: I know you want to make a sale but the thing is, don’t lie to me. Tell me your store is out, not the world. Be nice to me. Apologize profusely. Offer to apply some lipstick. Give me a free sample. If you had done any of those things, I probably would have used the Laura Mercier product I still have until you could get me Peau Vierge. But you screwed up. The lesson for you? Don’t try to sell me the wrong shade and don’t tell me it’s the manufacturer who is out. Now, I’m not going to buy makeup from you again. I’m sure it won’t put a dent in your sales, but you won’t have the pleasure of my company in a makeover chair, drinking in all your recommendations.

must have monday: nude pumps

I know this seems like an overstatement of the obvious to anyone who owns a pair (or in my case, multiple pairs) of nude pumps and/or wedges, but I get asked all the time, “what color shoes should I wear with this?”

The answer to that question can always be nude.

I wear nude (or its sister shades of blush, clay, and beige) with any and everything. Are you one of those people who tries to match the navy blue of your suit/dress/skirt to a navy pump? It’s impossible, so give up and get a nude pump or wedge to wear with your navy ensembles (save your navy shoes to wear with green). Do you wear black shoes with red? Unless you are color-blocking or mod, please stop. A nude shoe looks so much more sophisticated with a red dress. I even wear nude with black so as to elongate the leg and not look too funeral-y. They even work with jeans (but no floating hems, please).

Luckily for us, nude shoes have saturated the market, so you really can find one at any price point and in a variety of subtly different hues.

My current favorites are the Mai suede wedge in tan from SimplySoles, but I also have my eye on the Platswoon in adobe. Piperlime has pages worth of results if you plug the right coordinates into their search engine, including the Flax in light natural. When in the dressing room ready to model options for the guest of a wedding style dilemma, the cunning women at Neiman Marcus let me try on dresses with a gorgeous pair of nude patent leather Prada pumps that I have spent way too much time daydreaming about the last 48 hours.

This particular shoe might not fall into the “must have” category but they are squarely on the “will lust after” list.

Brick and Mortar Shopping

Taking a step outside my comfort zone.

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.

Operation Chelsea: Dress Reject #2

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.

I promise to show some skin.