Three vest trends and how to wear them

Monday, November 30th, 2015

The menswear trend in women’s fashion is all the rage this season. Ask any classic or chic dresser and they will tell you that they prefer wearing timeless pieces that epitomize simplicity and sartorial excellence. Nothing spells sophistication like flared trousers and a silk blouse, paired with either a beautifully tailored single or double breasted jacket.

Those who gravitate to menswear-inspired styles also appreciate the power of a great vest. A lifelong vest lover myself, I routinely scour sales racks and online sites for this “third piece”. In the mid 90’s I bought a hip length black suede vest trimmed in black leather at Nordstrom Rack. From a cost per wear perspective, this purchase stands as the best investment I ever made. My collection also includes a full-length faux fur vest by Betsey Johnson. A cozy and fun companion, it looks smashing with jeans and a tunic top or over a coat to provide an extra layer of protection from the elements. I found my latest acquisition on EBay, a chocolate brown suede and leather Cache vest with zippered pockets. What a score.

Why am I such a devotee of this accessory? Simply, vests elevate an outfit’s style quotient by adding visual interest and a seamless presence. Wear a puffer vest on the weekends running errands or a long sweater vest to work with an interesting top and you will always look pulled together. Why not wear an eye-catching vest to one of your holiday gatherings, as long as it isn’t of the Christmas theme variety!

Three  trending menswear vests

RED Valentino striped shirt
$550 – redvalentino.com

Polo Ralph Lauren vest
$195 – stylebop.com

Topshop vest
nordstrom.com

Theory wide leg pants
$390 – net-a-porter.com

NYDJ denim legging
$210 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Aerosoles brown shoes
bloomingdales.com

Four decorating steps to a stellar bedroom

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

If the amount of time we spend in rooms is a measure of their importance, then bedrooms, above all other spaces in our home, deserve preeminent status. Experts estimate that sleeping alone takes up one-third or twenty-six years of a person’s lifetime. When you add in all the other activities that happen in bedrooms, they should be thought of as a home’s nerve center. I begin and end each day checking emails and organizing my life from the comfort of my bed.

I chose our bedroom as the first room to decorate when my husband and I bought our historic house in downtown Greenville, South Carolina one year ago. We spent almost every waking hour of the five months leading up to our move from Washington, DC tackling the task of selling our home of thirty years. Now I fully understand why many folks prefer to undergo multiple root canals than endure one of life’s most stressful experiences. I knew I immediately needed to create a bedroom oasis that would soothe the memories of living in chaos and out of boxes.

I applied my wardrobe styling skills to help me with this decorating project, and in doing so, I discovered the similarities between dressing people and dressing rooms. The creative process I followed resembles the one I use with clients who hire me to elevate their image. Whether your boudoir requires a complete overhaul or only some minor tweaking, answering these four questions will help you construct a roadmap to transform your space into a design showcase:

1. What are the issues with your bedroom now? Do you lack adequate storage space or lighting? Perhaps your bed treatments look more shabby than chic. Start by listing and prioritizing what you need and want in your enhanced space;

2. Does your room reflect your personal style? Since we seek congruity between our interior and exterior selves, then it stands to reason that we also want to leave our style imprint on our surroundings. If you adore modern minimalism, but your duvet and pillows look like they jumped out of Country Living Magazine, then perhaps you and your bedroom suffer from irreconcilable style differences. Greenville interior designer and home stager, Karen Roberts, says that when individuals follow their gut decorating instincts, they end up loving where they live;

3. Are you holding on to items well beyond their expiration date? Although a coat of paint often revitalizes a tired nightstand, sometimes other items need to be kicked to the curb, like the lamp that dates back to your dorm room days. Editing, a stylist’s polite term for purging, frees you to advance your decorating aspirations;

4. How do I create a vision for my bedroom? Once you determine what you need and identify your authentic style, then look at home decorating books, magazines, and online decorating sites for inspiration. Browse stores for one-of-kind statement making pieces. As Roberts says, “thrift store furnishings with a fresh coat of paint or new upholstery do wonders for making a retreat unlike everyone else’s on the block.”

Having completed your homework, selecting your room’s core neutrals and accent colors is a perfect launch point for building your dream bedroom. Wearing colors that illuminate your hair, eyes, and complexion boosts your image just as choosing restful room shades sets the stage for relaxation. Let’s say you go with the new grey-beige hybrid “Greige” for your walls, and white for your woodwork and window treatments. Imagine dressing your bed in shades of blue, one of this season’s trending color palettes, and accessorizing with pops of Marsala, Pantone’s rich red wine color of the year.

Turning your attention to your bed is the next logical decorating step. Since it is your room’s focal point, it deserves to be dressed in the best bed coverings, like those from Parachute Home. This Venice Beach, California company offers luxury bedding at an accessible price point. At Parachute Home, you can purchase superior Egyptian cotton sheet sets, duvets, and duvet covers in five soothing colors. Parachute Home products are custom- made in Tuscany by skilled artisans “who have been weaving world class bedding for over sixty years”. The company also sells additional items to complete your sumptuous sleeping experience, like cashmere throws, pillows, and scented candles.

Upgrading your bedroom is an investment in yourself. Think of how good you will feel each night when you settle into your beautifully decorated bedroom haven. As the song goes, “Sweet dreams are made of this.”

A new year a new you

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

My New Year’s Eve celebration ritual always includes watching Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper readying the crowds for the ball drop in Times Square. I never tire of Kathy’s zany unpredictability and Anderson’s adorable giggle. As I observed last night’s revelry I reflected on the passing of one year and the beginning of another. It wasn’t until 2014 that I made my first new year’s resolution. Last year I vowed to get rid of things I didn’t want or need. In fact I blogged about this milestone in my life last January in a piece entitled “Three steps to a streamlined closet.” A year later I am happy to report that I kept my promise to own a pared-down wardrobe and an uncluttered house.

Spurred on by last year’s success, I decided to take another stab at resolutions by joining the ranks of those who commit to getting in shape. Since this resolution always makes the top ten list of resolutions most commonly broken, I admit that it is a risky choice.

Rather than focus on the likelihood of failure, I choose to think confident thoughts. Four months ago my 92 pound labrador ran head on into me and fractured my tibia. The injury that I sustained required surgery and put me on crutches until just a few weeks ago. Thanks to physical therapy and daily rehabilitative exercises, I am now walking and mending well. However, as my surgeon and therapist stressed, full recovery takes one year and requires faithfulness to a demanding exercise regimen. Considering the ramifications of not following doctor’s orders makes me even more determined to do the work. Because I am a former dancer, athlete and exercise instructor, I also abhor the feeling of not being in peak condition.

So what does all this have to do with style? My own therapeutic process has helped me realize the similarity between fitness and style principles. Like fitness, style involves setting goals, creating a step by step plan to reach them, and putting in the time it takes to experience results. Having the right mindset is also a key to positive change. Throughout the month of January, I will chronicle my fitness journey and also explore the style-fitness connection on my blog and Facebook postings. I would love for you to join me in these discussions and share how you are progressing with your resolutions.

Until my next posting, I leave you with this affirmation: “I am a warrior”. I now repeat this daily, especially when I’m pushing myself beyond the limits of what I think is possible.

What’s your Thanksgiving style?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Holiday recipes aren’t the only things that get passed down from generation to generation. What we know about style we learn primarily from our parents and family members. The wardrobe choices we make for holiday occasions are also greatly influenced by our family traditions and culture. Some families dress up on holidays, while others wouldn’t dream of wearing anything other than casual attire.

I grew up in a family that went formal on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although over the years my style has become more casual, I still commemorate these holidays by breaking out something fancy, like a sequined sweater or brocade skirt.

The following collection shows the range of outfits that might be seen around the Thanksgiving dinner table. What will you wear on Thanksgiving and how has your family influenced your holiday outfit choices?

Style tips for overworked women

Monday, August 25th, 2014

In last month’s posting, “Fashion confessions of a wardrobe stylist“, I talked about my journey through a style challenged period and the lessons I learned about how to look good when every day feels like a marathon. Here are the five style saving strategies I developed to help me during busy and stressful times:

1. Downsize your closet. Get rid of what you don’t wear, so you can quickly locate the items in your closet.

2. Uncomplicate your daily dressing routine by using fewer clothing and accessory pieces to create an outfit. The classic dress, for example, answers a busy woman’s prayer. Slip it on, pair it with a statement making accessory and shoe, and you are ready to take on the world.

3. Buy versatile pieces. A busy woman’s core wardrobe should consist of functional pieces that offer endless style possibilities. Let’s revisit the classic dress again. Wear it over a sweater or blouse and it turns into a jumper. Pair it with a trendy moto style jacket, and you’ve created the ultimate date night outfit.

4. Find your style formula. Every woman has a fashion profile, based on what looks best for their body type and suits their personal style and budget. During unusually busy periods, it’s best to stick to tried and true styles.

5. Build a personalized Look Book. Snap photos of the favorite outfits you create and store them in your phone or laptop. Keep a fashion file of looks you like and take the file with you on your next shopping trip.

What style advice do you have for the perpetually busy woman?

Fashion confessions of a wardrobe stylist

Monday, July 28th, 2014

This is my first blog piece in five months. In my January 21 posting, “Three steps to a streamlined closet”, I referenced the life changing event of relocating from Washington, DC to Greenville, SC that has occupied most of my waking hours over these past months. Those of you who have endured a major move know all too well the highs and lows of such an endeavor. No moving story is the same; some folks describe their experience as exhilarating while others call it traumatic. Mine included ample doses of both emotions and played out this way. After going back and forth between two cities for two years, my husband and I decided to permanently relocate to Greenville at the end of 2013. As a first step, we fell in love with a gem of a house in Greenville’s downtown West End and bought it. Then we immediately returned to DC and set to work to sell our DC home of 30 years. This required a quick and merciless de-cluttering campaign combined with strategic home improvement and staging efforts. Fortunately, our house sold in three days. Albeit a blessing, this development meant that we faced another herculean effort to get packed up and moved in one month. I am happy to report that we are now in our new home. Although boxes still line our hallways and there are still pictures to hang, life seems almost back to normal.

In spite of the fact that my styling business took a back seat to the business of moving this winter, I continued to work with clients and write a monthly style article for Palmetto Parent. Upon reflection, I realize that the entirety of events taking place during this time taught me more about style than I could have ever learned from a textbook or training. A Spanish proverb says that “experience is not always the kindest of teachers, but it is the best.” For starters, I called upon my design and style background every day to make difficult furniture and houseware editing choices, pick paint colors, and stage spaces to give them that wow factor.

Most importantly, I reacquainted myself with what it feels like to be consumed by something. Everyone goes through periods where your measure of success is getting through the day. During times like this, life seems like a sprint against the clock. I had to make many choices about what I could accomplish, and what things I had to let go. Although I didn’t let go of my style, I adjusted it to fit my needs. There is nothing remotely glamorous about meeting with contractors, cleaning, emptying attic crawl spaces and schlepping items to Goodwill. My utilitarian clothing selections, therefore, reflected my need to get down and dirty. I developed a fondness for “distressed” clothes and sturdy shoes that offered comfort and durability for marathon work days. My core wardrobe consisted of jeans, denim or flannel shirts, sweatshirts, and athletic shoes. I accessorized with a back brace which I wore over my clothes. Thank heavens for this attractive accoutrement, for it offered me an extra measure of support when lifting heavy things. Although I religiously stuck to my skin care regimen using Rodan & Fields products, I seriously abbreviated my makeup and hair styling routine. Fortunately my pixie style hair lends itself to the wash and wear look. When I dressed for social and work commitments, I followed my own B.E.S.T. formula and kept my style basic, elegant, simple and tailored. I also discovered some additional time and energy saving ways to look polished.

Guess what? I not only survived this temporary style challenged period, but resurfaced feeling more personally liberated and less fashion perfectionistic than in my previous life. I am also busy developing a list of style tips for all of the overworked and time pressed women out there. The list and future blogs will be forthcoming. No more five month lapses, I promise. It feels too good to blog again.

Winter weary wardrobe reflections

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
A wintry scene on 49th Street in NYC.

A wintry scene on 49th Street in NYC.

I’ve spent the last month in the Northeast, where winter just will not quit. Snow and temperatures in the teens welcomed me at my first stop, New York City. Throughout Fashion Week I stayed bundled up in a full length mink coat I inherited from my mother twenty nine years ago. I’ve donned this coat only a few times during nearly three decades because of my combined reservations about owning fur and wearing an item that seems over the top for my personal style. Admittedly, however, this godsend of a garment saved me during three bitterly cold presidential inaugurations and several record breaking Washington, DC winters.

Who would have imagined I’d be blogging about winter clothes in March instead of colorful spring dresses? My thoughts keep turning to the boring subject of weather. Just yesterday, freezing rain followed by a snowstorm turned our back door steps into a ski slope. Fashion fills my mind only as it relates to staying warm. Because my thin frame provides little protection from the elements, I dress myself daily in giant wool scarves, thermal underwear, and thick knit pants, even when I don’t intend to leave the house. A desperate attempt to stave off my frosty environs has also led me to make some uncharacteristic style choices. Please keep this revelation a secret: I’ve found some comfort in fleece.

Ushering in orchid

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Radiant orchid gets top billing as the color of the year. If you are having trouble visualizing this shade belonging to the purple family, it is a tad darker and rosier than lavender. According to The Pantone Color Institute’s Executive Director, radiant orchid “emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”

The list of those who love purple is long and includes followers like free – spirited folks and ethereal, romantic types. Thanks to the popular poem, “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple”, wearing purple is now emblematic of a fearless attitude toward aging. Perhaps purple’s connection with spirituality also accounts for its enduring popularity.

I’m eager to get on the radiant purple band wagon for several reasons. First of all, I can see it against core colors like navy, black, grey, green and brown. One of the guests at a party I went to in celebration of King’s Day looked gorgeous in a radiant orchid sweater set with black leggings. The color illuminated her large brown eyes and brunette hair. Although orchid may not wear well on everyone, chances are most people can find a shade of purple that flatters them. I also look forward to seeing print tops and scarves formed from accent colors like yellow, deep purple and teal. Since my husband and I just bought a house in Greenville, SC, I can’t wait to add an orchid print throw pillow to our grey couch or paint an occasional table in orchid.

If you’re timid about donning this year’s “it” color, then I suggest you test the waters by accessorizing with orchid. Now that much of the country is engulfed in arctic like weather, a bit of orchid may be what we need to keep our spirits lifted as we trudge through snow, feeling the sting of icy wind against our faces.

I wish you a Happy 2014, and may radiant orchid comfort you and keep you healthy this year.

Ushering in orchid

Tis the season to be stylish

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Has the Grinch stole your style? if you’ve dressed down and dowdy for this season’s festivities, there is still plenty of time to go glam. Give yourself permission to defy convention by dressing up. Wear beads, sequins, brocade skirts, and high heels. I guarantee that others will notice and enjoy how you look.

Perhaps Santa will bring me this outfit on Christmas.

Holiday Chic

Fall boot bonanza

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

I just returned from a nine day stay in Washington, DC, my second home. Highlights of the visit included my grandson’s birthday party at Earth Trek’s Climbing Center in Rockville, Maryland. This state of the art rock climbing facility provided the perfect party venue for highly charged ten year olds. I also enjoyed a birthday celebration with my sister at one of our favorite haunts, Lyon Hall, my buddy Lynn’s glorious quiche, and dinner with friend Anneliese at Chez Billy, a French bistro in the Petworth neighborhood of DC.

Naturally I found time to do a little shopping with my daughter. O.K., I confess that the word “little” might not exactly describe my retail experience. In truth, I restocked my closet with fall clothing basics and boots. How could I resist the unbelievable boot bargains at Nordstrom Rack and the latest trends from H&M? My shopping good fortune continued on the drive back to Greenville, where I hit pay dirt at the Gaffney, South Carolina outlet mall. Those of you who watch the T.V. series House of Cards will appreciate the mall’s proximity to the infamous “Mr. Peach” – a 135 foot tall peach shaped water tower that some say resembles giant buttocks. I stopped at the BCBG store there to check out evening gowns for a client, and ended up buying a taupe suede cropped jacket and a stunning grey blazer, each for $72.

Sam Edelman biker/equestrian boot hits the runway.

Sam Edelman biker/equestrian boot hits the runway.

Since I wear boots constantly during the fall and winter, I choose them carefully and keep them for many seasons. I bought my last pair of tall black riding boots in 2007, and they still have life left in them. I purchased the two tone biker equestrian hybrid boots by Sam Edelman pictured below because they fit like a glove, stood out from all the other boots, and were reduced from $275.00 to $44.97. I admit that these kickers also bring out my inner rockstar. I also found another short black boot with two side buckles by Franco Sarto at Nordstrom Rack. I love the boot’s 2 ¾ inch heel height, and I foresee wearing them with just about everything I own.

Have you landed any amazing boot buys lately?