Archive for August, 2009

When the Best Man Is a Woman

08/31/2009

Erika's Best woMan dress(Erika/Mom) This post should have been written about a month ago, when I had the honor and pleasure of standing up for my friend David Sowell, whom I’ve known since 7th grade. He married my friend Diana Markarian, whom I’ve known since 5th grade. The two of them, however, didn’t know each other until I introduced them a little over a year ago. This apparently awarded me one of the top spots in the wedding party and I wanted to look the part.

The happy couple

The happy couple

You’ll see in a previous post I mulled over various options, focusing on some kind of tuxedo-style dress that would give the feel of tradition. But when I looked at them in the stores, they screamed “costume” and seemed overly conspicuous.

As the event grew closer I started having fits about spending a lot of money on a new dress. In uncharacteristic frugality, I began trying on dresses I already had, starting with the bridesmaid dress from my own wedding…nearly 15 years ago. I thought it looked pretty good on me and was thrilled that the size 8 my sister wore actually fit me. When I showed it to Lizzi, however, she threw cold water on my enthusiasm. She did this using only her eyes–those beautiful green eyes expressing first incredulity that I would even consider wearing such an old, outdated dress, followed by compassion for my severe fashion naivete.

So it was back to the closet, where we combed through everything I had and finally decided a light, pretty Ann Taylor sundress would work well. It bothered me that the dress was a few years old and the hemline hit me at that singularly unattractive spot above the knees, but I tried to ignore my misgivings. Because the wedding was taking place outside, I figured a more casual dress would be fine.

The day before the wedding I went up to see if I could help with last-minute details. Diana showed me her dress (gorgeous, with a small train) and David confirmed that he was wearing a very formal black tux. I also saw the bridesmaid/matron-of-honor dresses, which were silk with a large fuschia floral design. In a flash, I knew my tired summer dress was not going to do AT ALL.

I had one hour to hit the Santa Rosa Macys. As I parked, I prayed that they would have the perfect Best Man dress.

Scouring the “Occasion” section, I scooped up about 7 or 8 dresses with ceremonial potential and low-three-digit price tags.  It was difficult to walk the line successfully between dressy yet not too formal; feminine but not fussy; flattering yet complementary with the bold florals of the bridesmaid dresses.

Bridesmaids

You can see that despite the very bold pattern I chose, it still somehow looked good with everyone else’s while setting me apart as the groom’s sidekick. And for that I have to thank Jones New York. You guys somehow manage to give off that wonderful aroma of “designer” yet make the ordinary woman like me feel (and look) pretty damn extraordinary. Check out how this filmy, flowing dress hides the fact that I’m terrified I’ll impale one of the mothers as I’m pinning on their corsages:

Don't.....move.....

Don't.....move.....

The wedding was fabulous. I got to see two friends who mean so much to me find happiness together. I danced, I toasted the happy couple, I basked in the warm sunshine of a beautiful Northern California summer’s day. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

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Trend Spotting for Moms and Teens

08/24/2009

fashion sketch

When I was 12 I entered a Levi Strauss design contest. The premise was to create a product in denim that was entirely new and unique. I spent many days sketching and rejecting things and finally came up with two winning ideas: knickers and a trench coat. These little drawings were submitted with high hopes. I was going to be a fashion designer someday!

I’m still waiting for that to happen. Meanwhile, daughter Lizzi seems to have caught the same bug. She’s entered about 100 Polyvore design contests and usually sketches out her entire back-to-school outfit–accompanied by a scary-long list of items she simply cannot live without for the year. Channeling all of this pent-up fashion frustration we bring to you our first annual Favorite Back-to-School Trends for 2009. Keep in mind our demographics (47-year-old editor Mom, 12 1/2-year-old 7th grader, suburban New Jersey), body sizes (8 and 00), and personalities (conservatively creative Mom, nonconformist adventurer daughter) and don’t be shy about offering your own opinion. Fashion is a community pool with a huge deep end!

(Erika/Mom)

Trend #1: Ruffles. After years of androgynous shirts and jeans, it’s nice to welcome back the feminine ruffle. This trend is really hard to miss–it’s everywhere, from dresses to jackets to simple blouses. Here is a great plaid blazer from Free People with a relaxed ruffled lapel:

Free People plaid ruffled blazer

Trend #2: Houndstooth. I would swath the world in houndstooth if I could. And I’ve waited a long time for it to come back but it has, in earnest. In fact, I got up early so I could beat Lizzi to the punch on this one.

Houndstooth dress Marc Jacobs

Houndstooth began sometime in the mid-19th century in Scotland and in the 60s and 70s tickled the fancy of Geoffrey Beene. You can even find a 1969 Camaro upholstered in houndstooth if you’re lucky!

Houndstooth upholstery-1969 Camaro
This year instead of a predictable houndstooth skirt I want something more exciting–are tights going to be in? I’ll have to check with Lizzi.

Trend #3: Loafers. Yes, loafers! Thanks probably to Michael Jackson the little loafer is making a big comeback. Macys has tables of sleek, shiny loafers like these by Etienne Aigner:

Etienne Aigner loafers
Bottom line: There’s a lot of great stuff out there. Watch your wallet!

(Lizzi/Daughter) Wow, Mom! Great trends. I had a feeling you would do houndstooth for one of your trends.

A lot of the Fall trends I get are from Teen Vogue or Who What Wear Daily or style.com. I love a lot of the Fall trends this year, so choosing my top three will be hard. Right now, I only have one in mind. I’ll start with that.

Trend # 1: Bright scarves. I haven’t been seeing a lot right now being worn, but I have seen them in stores, in magazines, and online. I love the bright colors and they can make any boring, dark, outfit into an exciting bright one by just wrapping it around your neck!

marc jacobs bright scarves fall 2009
Ahhhh, Marc Jacobs, the best designer (in my opinion) of all time. His Fall 2009 collection was full of his bright pink, green, and yellow neon scarves, but this outfit really caught my eye because the outfit had such dull colors when you look from her shoes to her top, but then you see this statement scarf.

You can get your own bright scarf this year from Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Forever 21, and more. It’s one of Fall’s biggest trends.

You can get this scarf in either color for $18.90 at Nordstrom. I think I might get one!

bright orange scarf bright turquoise scarf
Trend #2: Pretty in Pink! My favorite color has been pink ever since I can remember and I love how designers like Michael Kors are incorporating a lot of pink into their collections.

michael kors fall 2009

michael kors fall 2009

michael kors fall 2009
Michael Kors almost beats out Marc Jacobs with his Fall 2009 collection. It was full of neon colors like yellow, orange, and pink plus a bit of black, gray, and khaki here and there. But, my top 3 looks were these because of the awesome pink color. I’m so glad that pink is one of the Fall colors this year.

Trend #3: Boyfriend jeans. Loose and comfortable jeans that are also very chic and stylish if you dress them the right way. GAP’s new line of jeans has a wide selection of jeans including boyfriend jeans. American Eagle, Current/Elliot, and Levi’s also has a wide selection of boyfriend jeans.

gap boyfriend jeansgap boyfriend jeans
You can dress ’em up:

polyvore - boyfriend jeans - dressing them up
by BellaMarie on Polyvore

Or dress ’em down:

polyvore - boyfriend jeans - dress them down
cropped boyfriend jeans by popbarb on Polyvore

Either way, they’ll still look great.

So now it’s back to Polyvore and listmaking. Mom and I have a BTS shopping trip in NYC to look forward to this Thursday. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Bag’s the Question

08/18/2009

vintage schoolbag

As back to school looms (or has arrived) for most of us, thoughts of last year’s schoolbag, still bulging with tattered binders, doodled notebooks and dull pencil nubs, resurface. While these shabby bags still look servicable to us careworn and cash-poor moms, they are positively outre to our persnickety children. They always need bigger, better, cooler bags. Can the universe continue to supply these? Of course not. We look to the usual retailers and perhaps a couple of unorthodox solutions to getting the bag right for Fall 09. Lizzi, you go first.

(Lizzi/Daughter) To me, book bags are probably one of the most important elements of going back to school.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but does anyone else have trouble finding a bag that will fit all your books and folders for school? And making sure it’s affordable but stylish?

Last year, being my first year in middle school, I had no idea how many books and things I would have to bring home everyday. So, I bought a good-sized LeSportSac that was 50% off and thought it would do fine. But every day when school ended, I’d find myself jamming hundreds of books, folders, jackets, lunch bags, etc. into my what-seemed-to-be-tiny book bag. Sure, the bag was cute and all, but by the middle of the year, I was tired of it.

It looks big here, but that's because it's stuffed with some old folders I still haven't unpacked.
It looks big here, but that’s because it’s stuffed with some old folders I still haven’t unpacked.

This year, I want to make sure not to make that mistake again.

Instead of having a tote this year, I want a messenger bag again, like I had in 3rd and 4th grade:

JanSport messenger bag 3rd and 4th grade
Of course, I want it less sporty and less, well, “fourth grade.”

I found this leather messenger bag a few days ago from J. Crew.

J. Crew leather messenger bag

I fell in love with it… until I looked at the price. $595?! Wow, must be real leather! I looked around for less pricey ones, but found out that most of the bags were too small. And not just the leather bags, all of them.

To be honest, I thought that finding a school bag this year would be easier because I knew what I wanted. But now that I’m looking, I can’t find anything. Mom! Help!

(Erika/Mom) How ’bout Mommy’s old Coach briefcase c. 1995? Just kidding. For cool stuff I tend to look across the Pond for inspiration. I found a few neat-looking messenger bags at Miniseri that seem roomy enough. This one is leather, with a fun plastic window in front for a photo:

Miniseri messenger bag
And I really like these bags, but seen through the cloudy lenses of mom-dom, I have no idea if they are cool or not:

travel bag
Besides,they might be a bit hard to shove into the narrow slits they call lockers. Personally, I love market bags–deep and roomy and oh, so malleable. You can shove these bags anywhere. Here’s a pretty blue floral one from April Cornell:

April Cornell market bag
When in doubt, though, it doesn’t hurt to fall back on the good ol’ Army/Navy store. We used to buy our peacoats there, when they were in style, er, awhile ago. They have these authentic Danish schoolbags that look like they would survive a war or two:

Danish messenger bag
And judging by the way kids abuse their bags–cramming them in closets, flinging them on as they run like mad to the schoolbus, dragging them along questionable cafeteria floors–well, durable isn’t such a dirty word.

Mad Rush for Mad Men

08/13/2009

Mad Men

(Erika/Mom) Ever since I heard about the casting call for Mad Men’s new season, my reason went out the window. I was determined to try, even though it meant a lot of work. You had to actually go to a Banana Republic store to get the brochure, the discount card, and the secret code for entering. That alone took a week. Not to mention dressing in your “best mad man or woman style.”

I finally made it to a Banana Republic and then didn’t bother to study the deadline until, well, the day of the deadline. Aaagh! Today. Any thoughts of getting hair and makeup done to resemble a 60s femme fatale faded into black. I looked down at my very contemporary skirt and tank top, my decidedly un-retro curly hank of hair and almost gave up. Then I had an idea: How about a headshot accompanied by a Polyvore set that showed what I WOULD wear if I had my act together? Brilliant! With considerable help from Lizzi, here’s what I came up with:

My Mad Men Polyvore set

So is that groovy or what? I began looking for decent headshots when Lizzi came by my desk and asked what I was doing.

“Looking for something to submit to the Mad Men casting call,” said I.

“But don’t you have to dress up?” inquired Lizzi.

“Um, no, I don’t have time for that,” I replied. “I’ll just give them an idea of what I could look like.”

Lizzi wasn’t buying it. “Mom, you have to dress up! C’mon, I’ll help you.”

It takes a very well-adjusted mom to accept wardrobe assistance from a 12 year old. We went upstairs and started going through my dresses. I was looking at a full-skirted vintage dress I wore to my brother’s wedding when Lizzi had the winning answer.

“Mom, what about this one?” she asked.

Oh man, this was perfect. She pulled out my Oscar de la Renta gray dress, the one I bought for all of the New York editor interviews I would be going on. It never landed me the job at Conde Nast, but I have to say I look pretty good in it. Brilliant! I had officially forgotten all of the things I was going to do that afternoon and was obsessed with my chance for Mad Men fame.

Dress, belt, hose, eyeliner, lipstick...check

Dress, belt, hose, eyeliner, lipstick...check

Ready for my closeup?

Ready for my closeup?

The hair isn’t quite authentic but I felt really good about this. After my hasty photo shoot I went online to send in the winning entry.

At AMC’s website, here is the message I got:

amc casting call

I MISSED IT! Lizzi and I looked at it, stunned. “Mom, can’t you do something?” Lizzi asked.

Nope; I blew it. All that work and excitement, down the drain. Still in my gray wool dress, sweating in the humidity of a New Jersey August afternoon, I questioned my attempt to capture the attention of AMC’s casting team. They had so many entries, their server nearly crashed. Why did I think I had a chance?

The answer is, I don’t know. There is something about losing yourself in another identity, another time, another place, that is irresistible. Mad Men is a smart, compelling show that I love. Every once in awhile, each of us loses our minds and we do something impulsive. We forget about laundry, cooking, dusting, unanswered emails. We just run up to our closets and begin to dress like someone else. Another time, another place.

So here I am. If there is a God, AMC will find me. And I will be ready for my closeup.

Sneaky Friday: Broadway Edition

08/07/2009
Greene Street Consignment in Princeton and Lambertville NJ

Greene Street Consignment in Princeton and Lambertville NJ

(Lizzi/Daughter) I was invited to go to NYC to see Wicked with my friend. The night I went to sleep over at her house, I asked Mom to help me pick out what to wear. I had not a thing to wear. So, I had an idea to wear one of her shirts as a dress, and it turned out to be a good idea, because I found a satin top that I thought would work well as a shirt. So I turned it around and wore it backwards, tucked into a pair of black pin-striped shorts and a black velvet cardigan to cover the droopy armpits that were too big. I have to say, it looked pretty good.

broadway outfit picture 1

top, bought at Greene Street consignment shop, Banana Republic; shorts, bought at Pac Sun, Hurley; cardigan, bought at Greene Street consignment shop, Betsey Johnson

broadway outfit picture 2

broadway outfit picture 3

You can see that the back of the shirt is really the front.

Oh, and by the way, the play was great, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good musical.

(Erika/Mom) This satin cami is an absolutely gorgeous shade of ruby. I bought it last spring at Greene Street Consignment in Lambertville. Lizzi was in one of her “everything I have is OLD” rants and I tried to help her with suggestions. Some of the suggestions were dismissed with an inimitable stare that oozes the words “you’ve GOT to be kidding;” but I made one or two hints that garnered a bit more interest. We brought several of my shirts out for consideration. The trick is to hide the fact that it is several sizes too large, which Lizzi did by wearing it backwards and topping it with a Betsey Johnson velour cardigan (also my size!).

The shop in Lambertville is fantastic; we’ve gone several times and spent a couple of hours in there scouring the racks and trying stuff on. I spotted a great little plaid purse a few months ago that in a rare fit of frugality I bypassed. I’m still regretting it. Lizzi has been to the Princeton store a few times, and doesn’t think it has the same wealth of choices. We were informed by our informed neighbor that you have to “know when to go.” Things move fast in Princeton. For now, we’ll stick to our lesser-known jewel in Lambertville.

Blogging for Bliss

08/04/2009
Blogging for Bliss by Tara Frey (Lark/Sterling)

Blogging for Bliss by Tara Frey (Lark/Sterling)

(Erika/Mom) We are proud to be participating in the official book release party for Blogging for Bliss. As the Good Book says (and I’m going to botch this) we are not fit to touch the sandals of the blissful bloggers who are featured in the book and others who are participating. They are amazing creatives who have collectively turned the plain old blogosphere into a Shangri La. But we aren’t ashamed to hang onto their coattails and hopefully learn lots in the process.

Tara Frey is mistress of the camera and a veritable modern-day Jane Austen with her witty prose. Catch her at Typing Out Loud and I dare you to click away without subscribing. She is better than a cup of coffee in the morning. My partner (Eileen Paulin at Daily Courage) and I helped give birth to this book and we’re about as proud as a couple of hens in the rooster house. It’s times like now I wish I grew up in the South and learned all those great sayings. Help me, Paula Dean!

Anyway, many thanks to Kari Ramstrom at Artsy Mama for hosting the party. This sure beats handmade nametags and hovering shyly at the door. As soon as someone figures out virtual champagne I’ll be completely happy. In the meantime…POP! goes the cork. A toast–to the pioneers of pretty, the blissful bloggers who have proven to the world that when you look good, you write good. 🙂

Coolifying Dad

08/03/2009

Picture 1(Erika/Mom) I married Tim 15 years ago. He was and still is the love of my life. He’s also handsome, in great shape, and very, very smart. He works in a field where safety and comfort, not style, is paramount.

So one day Lizzi and I found ourselves in Urban Outfitters (how did that happen?) and we decided to coolify Dad. First, the pants. No Dockers, no pleats! We found a great pair of straight-leg black jeans. Next, a soft T-shirt with varying threads of cranberry and cream. Cardigans are hard to do without looking geriatric, but I think this one pulls it off nicely.
The piece de resistance? Converse sneakers. No kidding. These may look sort of ordinary to the casual observer but if you saw the clunky New Balance shoes Tim normally wears, his new black sneakers are a huge departure from the status quo.

(Lizzi/Daughter) I really do love my Dad, but his style sometimes, not so much. He’s always in Levi’s that all look the same, Nautica Polos, and big, clunky, steel-toed shoes. Some of the Polos I like (the ones I bought for him, for example, a bright fuscia polo), but I really want him to branch out. But, Dad’s not the worst I’ve seen.

One of my friend’s Dad wears white socks that go all the way up to mid-calf. I HATE that. A lot of boys in my grade do that, so I got used to it on them, but little did I know that grown men wore them. I don’t mind it if they are wear trousers, because their socks are covered, but in the summer, when all they wear are shorts, they look like those nerds from movies and TV shows. Seriously.

Dad's got a couple dozen of these. Yikes.

Dad's got a couple dozen of these. Yikes.

Some other Dads wear t-shirts constantly, which is okay if they’re clean. But, I know a couple Dads that wear dirty shirts, full of paint splatters holes every day when they get home. They should separate their work t-shirts from their nice t-shirts. It’s that easy.

What I would like to see on Dads are cool sneakers like Converse or Vans, snazzy cardigans, and cool, straight leg jeans. Or in the summer, shorts that cover their knees, but also aren’t below mid-calf. It’s really simple if you get a variety of those things that they can wear every day, after work, or on the weekends. Maybe add some cool accessories like a scarf. (Can you tell we’re big on scarves?!)

Like this Dad:

baby bjorn stylish dad

photo credit: babybjorn.com

Even though are Dads are the coolest men in the world already, they can be even better if dressed in the right clothes.

The Fashion Show Recap: Bravo, Bravo TV!

08/02/2009

the fashion show judges on bravo tv

(Lizzi/Daughter) Mom and I always looked forward to a new episode of The Fashion Show on Bravo. I found an ad for this show in one of the People issues and immediately decided to record it. The first couple of episodes, the contestants were separated into 4 teams. But as the show went on, they finally got to be individuals for the rest of the show. Each contestant was to make a design based on the elimination challenge. At the end of the show, the designer’s creations were put into one fashion show. The judges, Kelly Rowland, Isaac Mizrahi, Fern Mallis, plus a new guest judge every week (i.e. Charlotte Ronson, Editor in Chief of Haper’s Bazaar Glenda Bailey) chose the winning design of that week (the winning design is sold on bravotv.com) and the designer who was going home. Finally, the four remaining contestants had ten weeks to make a collection for the most important fashion show of their lives (judged by AMERICA). Each of the final contestants (Reco Chapple, Daniella Kallmeyer, James Paul Ancheta, and Anna McCraney) did a great job in their final collection and it was tough seeing three of them go home. Each week got more and more exciting and I can’t wait for the next season!

My favorite episode was “The Shoe Must Go On” (Week 4) because 1. it was the first episode the remaining contestants were doing their own individual designs and 2. the challenge was to do a design based on… SHOES!

The winning design was by Reco and the design was based on cage heels by Yves Saint Laurent.

reco's winning design yves saint laurentThis I absolutely adored, but my favorite design from the top 3 was a shirt dress made by Angel, which was inspired by a nautical pair of heels by Stella McCartney. She wore it to the Finale and also said, “It’s the shirt dress I made in Episode 4. A lot of viewers, they really liked it and asked me to to remake it!”

angel wearing her shirt dress

angel's shirt dress on the runwayWhat was really cool about it also, was she was given the shoes by the judges because she didn’t choose a pair of shoes she liked in time.

stella mccartney nautical heelsMy favorite winning design out of all the episodes would probably be Anna’s design from Week 9.

ana's dress week 9

I love this dress so much because of the fabric, colors, and style! The little cups on the waist make the dress so unique and cute.

My least favorite winning design is Merlin’s design from Week 6.

merlin's design week 6This was my least favorite winning design because the whole design looks like something you would buy at JCPenny. There were much better designs than this. Although the shoes are cute.

When it came down to the final four, I was happy with the people. Reco, Daniella, James Paul, and Anna. My favorite collection was Daniella’s because it was very modern and the shoulder pads were very Balmain-esque. I’m really glad the was the judge’s choice because she deserved it.

My favorite designs of hers were the ones with hints of leather and metal. It was very cool.

daniella final collection 1

daniella's final collection 2

daniella's final collection 3

daniella at the final fashion showI also really liked her skirt!

In my opinion, Anna didn’t deserve to win. She had very cute designs, but I would’ve liked to see Reco, Daniella, or James Paul win because they seem to deserve it more and have more of a passion. I did really like some of Anna’s designs though. My top three are:

ana's final collection 1This dress is hot! The color is my favorite color (HOT pink) and I like the idea of a pleated mini dress. It sort of reminded me of Blake Lively’s Michael Kors dress at the CFDA Awards.

blake lively at cfda awards

ana's final collection 2Look how gorgeous this gown is. The different colors are cool and calming yet fun and exciting. The detail reminded Isaac Mizrahi of a dress she did in Week 8. How gorgeous!

ana's final collection 3Nudes and browns are very in right now, and Ana took it to the next level by adding a dash of neon green. Great job!

In conclusion, Anna’s designs were great and all four of the finalists came very far in the competition. I wish all of them the best of luck in the fashion business and I hope that they all make it big some day. I think America voted for Anna because she had the most wearable designs, which is a plus, but they are not as artsy as the other three. I loved the finale because some of my favorite designers were there (BETSEY JOHNSON, I LOVE YOU!) and James Paul shared a quote that Vivienne Westwood told him. “You have all your life to make pretty things, but you have only one chance to make an impression to the world.” That I thought was a great quote.  I cannot wait until the next season! What about you, Mom?

(Erika/Mom) I liked The Fashion Show because these guys really design. Grabbing bolts of fabric, sticking themselves with pins, getting mad when their model wasn’t “hanger size” and all that good realism stuff. Of course, this is TV; you don’t see the tedious hours of cutting, sewing, making mistakes and starting over…oh wait, that’s me when I’m trying to make something. Anyway, the sewer and fashion enthusiast in me really enjoyed every episode.

The show always threw one of the designers out of his/her element. For Daniella, it was the time she had to design something for a sort of drab woman with a boxy figure. (She actually ended up nailing that one with a fabulous black dress!) Johnny was pissed when he had to actually sew and do all of the technical stuff that his assistants would normally do. Reco had to “give homage” to Halston and his resulting gown gave homage more to Shakespeare. (Isaac Mizrahi liked this episode the best–he was in love with the word “homage,” using it liberally and with great glee.) The mini-challenges and bigger challenges were all creative and tested the designers’ skills and ingenuity. I could have done without the tarot card reading, though. That was stupid.

I really liked the “High School Cliques” episode (week 6) when all the designers had to pick a personality type of a girl at school (skater girl, “B-girl,” mean girl, etc.) and create something to reflect it. I cringed when Angel was excoriated for not knowing what a “B-girl” was or what she would wear. I didn’t know, either! Angel talks about the experience on her blog.

I was sorry they didn’t make anything for the P-girl. You know, prairie dresses and laceup boots. Aren’t those in style anymore? Just kidding.

I agree with the outcome–Anna is a talented designer who is both creative and in tune with what “real women” would wear. Go Anna! And Anna, if you’re visiting our blog, we want to let you know that we would be happy to be your real-life models. No attitude, no fancy bottled water, no big checks. Just Erika and Lizzi. Think about it.