So, I said I’d be coming to you with quick posts during my crazy week, but today I carved out some time to share a story that’s long overdue: My Midwestern Fashion Journey.
Last night I attended a fashion panel Q&A/discussion in Madison, Wisconsin. I know that fashion exists everywhere. “Fashion is instant language.” It’s something we don’t need words to understand – it speaks for itself, it tells its own story. Fashion is something that is part of every community and culture, whether people are cognizant of it or not. So, I won’t go on to make the broad statement that I didn’t know a fashion community existed in Madison. It’s the home of online retail giant Shopbop for goodness sake. But after living in Madison for the past few years, the fashion community didn’t exist to me until last night.
I like to think of myself as one who thinks outside of the box when it comes to city searching. I grew up with a mom who was a tried and true foodie before foodies existed. Every weekend we’d get in the car, leave the confines of suburbia, and scour every corner, hidden gem, and local hole in the wall in Atlanta for the best butter, cheese, produce, and chicken. But, somehow, when I moved to Madison I fell into the classic pitfall of a GEN Y city girl.
Madison is a small town with a Midwestern culture, both of which are pretty unfamiliar to me. When I first moved to Madison, I looked for those familiar fashion faces to anchor me. I located the local Anthropologie and Sephora… and… that was about it. No major department stores at the malls? No Nordstrom Rack? No Lululemon? (Please note a Lululemon has since been built in Madison.) I immediately strapped on my skeptic hat about the existence of a fashion community here. Perhaps, I thought, Madison is a town concentrated with local boutiques. This is the case in my former college town, Athens, Georgia, but Athens is about half the size of Madison and just about an hour and a half from the heart of downtown Atlanta. Still skeptical. As a GEN Y city girl, I wanted to be inundated with options. I wanted my safe department stores for the basics, the national chains for the seasonal must-have, and the amazing local boutiques too. I felt I’d already struck out on the first two, so I had a pretty bad attitude when it came to the third.
I found Hot Mama, a Midwestern chain with closet staples like Michael Stars and Splendid and a pretty great selection of premium denim. Things are looking up. I found an awesome casual/active wear store, Neena, with brands like Beyond Yoga and Rese. Another step in a positive direction. And, of course, there’s Bop. The little brick and mortar caterpillar that later emerged into the major retail butterfly Shopbop. When my mom came to visit for the first time, we strolled in and out of several shops in the State Street section of downtown, and I ventured into the Monroe Street area one Saturday after a trip to Trader Joes, but still, the fashion community in Madison wasn’t really speaking to me. I’d hit a wall, and through inaction, put my exploration on hold.
Friends know that I’ve had a real journey acclimating to Midwestern culture and Midwestern fashion. And, yes, I do attribute some of this to my GEN Y city girl mentality. The fashion community in the South is intense. It piggybacks off the pulse of its coastal counterpart, fashion mecca New York City, while adding its own southern charm. It’s very vocal and competitive. In the Midwest, everything is more quiet and laid back, including the fashion. I remember feeling very loud the first time I went out in Madison. Not literally audibly loud, but my outfit was screaming “I’m not from here! I’m a southern, GEN Y, city girl!” Although I still wouldn’t say I feel particularly comfortable in Madison when it comes to my style and meshing with the Midwest, time has truly been my greatest ally, and over the past couple years, I’ve accepted my uniqueness in a Midwestern fashion world.
So, I come back to last night: the fashion panel Q&A/discussion. As a fashion blogger for the past eight months, I’ve revisited my desire to explore the fashion community in Madison. A new friend recently turned me onto the Wisconsin Fashion Network, which led me to the event last night. While I’m still fairly certain I was one of the only non-Midwesterners there, I was able to meet some fellow bloggers, local business owners, and other ladies with an active interest in the fashion community. It was truly a breath of fresh air. After a fairly formal Q&A/discussion, we got down to the real conversations over drinks.
My two major connections of the night were with GaBrielle Pedriani of Look Sharp, Sconnie and Pamela Wilson of Iona. GaBrielle has completely changed my perception of personal style bloggers with her very honest and unique approach to personal styling blogging that defies the typical I’m always casually standing outside this chic cafe with my perfectly on trend handbag slung over my shoulder aesthetic that many personal style bloggers take. Better yet? Her images are backed with words: rich descriptions, a clear voice, and actual writing ability – things that are sadly lacking in many fashion blogs. Then there’s Pamela. I’m pretty excited to make time for a trip to my newest retail discovery: Iona. After chatting with Pamela last night and heading to Iona’s site this morning, I’m eagerly anticipating a carefully and creatively curated boutique with some one of a kind wares. I definitely foresee a more in depth post once I actually explore the boutique, so stay tuned, and in the mean time, shop the site!
Hello readers! In case you haven’t been following along with me on Instagram, I just got back from a beautiful five-day, six-night trip to Mexico celebrating five years with my man. Now I’m back just in time to continue my fiesta with Cinco de Mayo!
There are three essentials for any Mexican celebration: booze, food, and a festive ensemble. This may seem like a recipe for any party, so let’s spice things up a little bit.
Of course you can never go wrong with a basic cerveza or margarita on Cinco de Mayo, but Bethenny Frankel has some tips to enhance your Skinnygirl cocktail. Heat up your margarita by muddling some chopped jalapeno slices in the shaker or sweeten your margarita with some frozen berries. Eating out tonight? I perfected how to order a skinny margarita on my recent trip to Mexico. Start with clear tequila or tequila blanco. Ask for the tequila blanco on the rocks with a splash of lime juice, orange liquor, and soda water. Like your margarita a little sweeter? Ask for a splash of Sprite or other lemon/lime soda instead of soda water! No matter what your booze of choice tonight, always remember to drink like a lady!
We’re all pretty familiar with classic Mexican fare: guacamole, queso fundido, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and so on. When it comes to dessert we think of classics like tres leches cake or churros, but in the spirit of putting a new spin on things this Cinco de Mayo I’m sharing a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies with a Kick courtesy of food blogger and New York Times best-selling author Bakerella.
1½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
4 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ cup unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
2 tsp. Mexican vanilla
1¼ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In one bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cayenne using a wire whisk.
3. In another bowl cream butter and sugar. Then add eggs and vanilla and mix til combined.
4. Add flour mixture in two portions until just combined. Then stir in chocolate chips.
5. Place balls of dough on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
*Yields approximately 3 dozen cookies
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the fashion! I’m obsessed with Anthropologie’s Mexican inspired May look book. There is one ensemble that is my particular favorite, and even better, the key pieces are all under $100. After just visiting Mexico, I can assure you this would be a go-to look for a day in the city or a night on the town. The crucial article of clothing in this outfit is the sheer fringe pullover. This is a must-have for the beach breeze in Mexico. By now you also know I can’t resist a classic black and white look, and this one is pure perfection. The only addition I would make to this ensemble would be to brighten it up with some jewelry. Accessorizing this little black look with a pop of color adds just the fun and festive touch for your next fiesta!
ATTAIN the Look:
I spent this past weekend in Chicago, and of course, I had to make time for a little retail therapy. I ended up trekking around the Southport neighborhood after grocery shopping with a friend, and the Lincoln Park neighborhood near my friend’s apartment. I came upon a number of cool places but there were definitely two front runners in the neighborhoods.
If you’re in Southport, check out Cerato boutique for a mix of local Chicago designers and other awesome brands. There are two Chicago-based designers that caught my eye while browsing Cerato: Sophia Reyes and Alicia Mohr of Ali’s Collection. Cerato’s sampling of Sophia Reyes namesake collection consists of ultra feminine, flowy dresses made of 100% silk. The boutique also has an extensive selection of unique, statement making rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets from Ali’s Collection.
I can’t resist a good consignment shop, and near the corner of Armitage and Halsted, there are a few consignment stores worth hitting up. I snagged a couple gems at Second Time Around (STA). STA doesn’t quite make the cut for Chicago’s City Hot Spot because the consignment company has locations in eleven other states, but my finds are too good not to share. First I found a gray, wool Cartonnier blazer for $25.00. Cartonnier is a staple line at Anthropologie, and they make truly awesome blazers (I should know, I own two others already!). Next I made my find of the day: a double breasted Theory wool military style jacket in the Pantone color of the year, Radiant Orchid! This amazing item was a whopping $60! I must admit, I got these winter goods at such serious steals because all winter merchandise was an additional 50% off (wink, wink Chi Town ladies looking for an awesome winter deal).
The holiday parties are winding down, but there’s still one BIG celebration left this season: New Years Eve! By now, you *hopefully* have the dress and accessories, but it’s time to plan for the big day, just three days away. I’ve got 3 tips for NYE, PLUS a *bonus tip* for those of you who are a little behind on finding your NYE look:
1. Get a PINCH KIT
If you haven’t heard of Pinch Kits, get ready to be blown away. You need one of these in your NYE bag! This tiny miracle kit contains 17 essentials and fits in the palm of your hand (or your chicest little clutch!). With a Pinch Kit, you’ll have everything you need in a pinch from dinner to drinks to the stroke of midnight. Buy one from Sephora for the big night!
– Adhesive bandage
– Safety pin
– Earring backs
– Deodorant towelette
– Nail polish remover pad
– Stain remover pad
– Clear elastics
– Lip balm
– Emery board
– Hair spray
– Clear nail polish
– Dental floss
– Mending kit
– Breath freshener
– Double-sided tape
– Pain reliever
2. Have the PERFECT COCKTAIL
Take your champagne up a notch with this crowd pleaser, courtesy of Anthropologie’s blog:
3. Bring a fun and FESTIVE SNACK
P.S. I Made This does it again with this NYE snack that will really pop! They took a page from Rice Krispie stylist (yes, there is such a thing!), Jessica Siskin of Mister Krisp, who turns Rice Krispies into everything from pizzas to champagne bottles.
Rice Krispies Cereal
Green Food Coloring
Fruit Roll Ups
Edible Gold Powder
Find the rest of the instructions here!
Holiday Gifting Tips Part V – Tips for Men
In the fifth and final installment of my Holiday Gifting Tips, I’ve got tips for men. Why did I save this portion for the last installment? Because if you men are anything like my boyfriend, you’ve yet to buy that special gift for your girl. I’m gonna try to keep it simple, with 3 easy tips and 10 gift ideas all under $100 for the leading lady in your life.
You can never go wrong with jewelry, perfume, or lingerie.
If you really want to impress her, get her clothes, shoes, or accessories.
For the girl who has everything, here are some more suggestions:
iPHONE BATTERY CASE $79.95
JEWELRY STAND $38.00
GIRLS SEASONS 1 & 2 $29.92
EVERYTHING FITS GYM BAG $48.00