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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Black Tie Fabulous- Tips to Style a Formal Look

I recently asked for suggestions on where to purchase a black tie event appropriate dress at Old Orchard for an event the next day (nothing like waiting until the last minute!). I had suggestions for tons of stores- Macy's, White House Black Market, Lord & Taylor, Saks Off 5th, H&M and more. I tried all of the stores including Bloomingdale's, BCBG, Bebe, Nordstrom Rack, and the list goes on. I finally stumbled into Akira because I just couldn't find a dress that was affordable (my budget is $100....they laughed me out of BCBG....literally) or didn't make me look like a stereotypical mother of the bride. At the last minute (they were about to lock the door), I found a dress with clean lines, fit my frame, had a little pizazz and was easy to accessorize.

Here is the thing, though. I finally figured out what dresses work with my body type and what just do not. You won't ever find me in a strapless dress- my torso is too long. Short cocktail dresses rarely work on me because they are often way too short. There are parts of my body that I am totally down with, and others that I am not a fan of, and I am learning to play up my faves. As long as a dress fits you and you feel fabulous in it, that is all you need in my book.

Oh, and I wore this dress to two events. There was zero overlap of guests, and no one was the wiser (until I just shared it with a whole lot of people on my blog, but eh, who cares). It was way too long the first time I wore it, and because I procrastinated, I ended up hemming it myself hours before the second event.

This was a little risque, but hey, I loved it and figured if I can't wear it now, when will I be able to? I'm not getting any younger! The dress is all one piece but styled as a bandeau. There was a LOT of tape involved. And there was a lot of standing with perfect posture, which resulted in sore muscles the next day. What we don't do to look good...

I styled it two different ways:

Event #1: 150th Anniversary Celebration of American Hotel Register Company (Congrats to the Leahy family on 150 years of being in business!!! Can you believe that when our family started the company, Abe Lincoln was president?)

I added gold accessories and kept it minimal. I added a leather belt with a gold plate embellishment (Akira), gold spike earrings (Etsy), a structural gold cuff (Akira) and wore gold d'orsay pumps (BCBG via DSW). The purse was a second hand gold Linea Pelle Gillian Disco clutch (Fashion Project). Call me crazy, but I matched my lipstick to my ring. The ruby ring was my grandma's- I remember her wearing it every day! I also added my favorite coat, a vintage cheetah trench from Susan Wagner's pop up sale.

Photo Credit: Anthony Gardin
Event #2: University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Fundraiser (They select three amazing doctors each year to fund with a grant to work toward prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancer. Thank you to my friend Beth for having us as her guests!). 

I added a little sparkle with silver. Silver sequin clutch (Akira), Art-Deco 1920's style earrings from Ross, and silver ankle strap pointed toe heels (White House Black Market). I also added a silver pave necklace of my grandma's that I wrapped around my wrist twice to make a bracelet. Notice the new length of the dress? Thanks to my mom for showing me how to sew!

Black Tie Style Tips:
  • Invest in Fashion Tape. It can fix everything from wayward straps to unraveled hems. I always pop a few pieces in my purse.
  • Blister Block is a must. Chapstick works in a pinch (pun intended). Make sure to apply the Blister Block BEFORE you put shoes on!
  • I just bought clear heel cushions so I don't walk out of my heels. Genius.
  • I often size down 1/2 size in pumps if they don't have straps. If you shop in shoe departments like Nordstrom, ask them how certain brands run.
  • The proper length of a full length dress is kissing the tops of your shoes. Any shorter, you just look like you are waiting for a flood. Any longer, you trip.
  • For flawless makeup, use a foundation primer like Smashbox Photo Finish and a setting spray like Urban Decay All Nighter. 
  • IMHO, less is more. I don't like to pile on the bracelets or heavy necklaces for a black tie event. Simple, elegant, pieces that speak for themselves are more my style. 
  • Ever tried matching your makeup to the style of your dress? Since my dress was pretty minimal, I wanted to keep my eye makeup classy and clean instead of smoky and smudged. I kept the lipstick fairly neutral- I love a fresh-faced look.
  • Here is my first major attempt at winged liquid liner:
Hope you have fun at your next Black Tie event!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

#OOTD: Styling a Shirt Dress

If you haven't figured out your spring uniform yet, there is still time. If you have no clue what I am talking about, I'll let you in on a style secret that many fashion-forward people from bloggers to runway types share: Find a look you love that you feel good in and re-create it to cultivate a "uniform" of sorts.

My uniform last fall consisted of vintage graphic t-shirts, Forever 21 skinny jeans, black & gray checkerboard Vans, Iristocracy "geek chic" glasses and an oversized leather crossbody (that doubles as a diaper bag). It was a look that worked well with my life (carting kids around, getting down on the floor and pretending to be some type of get my drift). My "going out" look consisted of full midi skirts and crop tops. For spring, I am headed toward shirt dresses for daytime and shrunken sweaters + pleated midis for going out.

Here is what I pulled together yesterday for the SEVENTY degree weather we had in the Chicago area!

This dress is Laundry by Shelli Segal, and her shirt dresses fit me to a "t." If you find a designer who has the right proportions for your body, hit up every store that carries them when they have a sale. Laundry is usually found at Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc... for around $30. They hold up well in the wash, don't wrinkle, and the material has a lot of stretch in it. It originally came with a fabric belt of the same print, but...

TIP: When you purchase a shirt dress, snip off the thin rope belt rings and replace the original fabric belt with a coordinating color.

I found this belt in the Men's clearance section of Old Navy for $1.49 this winter.

TIP: Don't just stay in your department, try Men's or Kid's departments for accessories!

I found this leather structured purse at Village Thrift in Chicago for $3.99. I adore the minimal gold hardware and trim, the suede interior, and the ladylike frame.

I am not a pro stacker of bracelets, but I love the look of mixed materials. The bracelets are (from top to bottom) Francesca's (around $7 on clearance), Gap ($3.99 clearance), Kate Spade (gift), and thrift from Savers ($2.99).

How cute are these SE Boutique heels? Not very practical, but they work if you are popping in and out of a cab. (I swapped them for gold flat sandals as soon as my photos were done...shhhh). I purchased these at DSW for $9.99 a few years ago. Their secret sale is the best thing ever- make sure to check out my post for details.

What will your spring uniform look like? Do tell!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Style: Host a Clothing Swap!

Hello, my name is Cheryl and I am an impulse sale shopper. Quite often, I will grab something that is on sale but isn't 100% what I am looking for. It is either too short in the sleeves ("But I can roll them up!!"- But then they don't fit right), too short of a hem ("Of course I can wear leggings under it!" -Except that I won't), or just not me ("Seems like everyone is wearing corduroy...why don't I own corduroy??" -Oh yeah, because I detest it). And the ultimate justification? IT IS ON SALE. I AM ACTUALLY SAVING MONEY.

Well, I have amassed a sad little pile of clothing that for one reason or another doesn't make it into my regular rotation. So imagine my delight when my lovely blogger friends at Sisters Marie invited me to a clothing swap party!

Swap 'Till You Drop

If you aren't familiar with these two gals, they are sisters-in-law (Lisa married Kaitlyn's brother) and they have been swapping clothes and collaborating on fashion posts ever since. They also own the websites BISTM (Because I Shop Too Much) and BTGTF (Because They Grow Too Fast), a marketplace for individuals to buy, sell and swap women's and kid's clothing and accessories. 

I gathered up my pile of scarves, shoes, clothing and jewelry and hauled them to Kaitlyn's home in the 'burbs. They designed her living room to resemble a "mini pop-up shop" boutique, and they totally hit their mark. I walked in to find professional rolling racks adorned with velvet hangers that had tags with our names on them.


After hanging my swappables up, I sent shopping in the other "closets" and saw a ton of adorable items! Here is what I love- we all have different styles so it forced me to try something new. We took turns swapping- if we liked something in another closet, we asked the owner if they liked anything in our closet. It worked incredibly well, and we all went home with a bag full of new to us clothing and accessories!

Lisa and Kaitlyn set up an amazing sit down lunch for us (and since we are all bloggers, we took photos before we dug in!). Cute cookies were provided by Tiffany of the Etsy shop Dough and a Dear and flowers were provided by Bloompop.

Spring Clothing Swap Party with Sisters Marie #SwapInTheSuburbs

 I couldn't WAIT to get home and style my new pieces with existing items in my wardrobe. I swapped with most of the girls, including some great spring break styles from Lisa:

Clothing Swap

They also gave us adorable Sisters Marie t-shirts (and yes, you can order your own, they are super soft vintage) and bags to haul our goods home in.

T-shirts from Sisters Marie

Here are some tips that I learned for host a clothing swap:
  • Bring more clothes than you think you need- you just might find a ton of items you can't live without!
  • Get creative- iPhone cases, jewelry holders, etc... You don't have to stop at just clothing and accessories!
  • Get a feel for everyone's sizes beforehand- shoe sizes, ring sizes, clothing sizes, etc...
  • Find a charity to donate all leftover clothing to. Sisters Marie gave our "unswapped" items to the Children's Cancer Society.
  • There were 6 of us- a good number to swap with, and I would limit it to 10 or 12.

Swap in the Suburbs

Cocktails like the signature drink the sisters put together always make an event more festive:

Pink Cherry Lemonade Signature Drink

And most of all, have FUN with it!

Kiss Cookies- Swap in the Suburbs with Sisters Marie

A HUGE thank you to Sisters Marie for hosting this amazing event...can we make it an annual thing please!!?? Make sure to head to their online stores to see what else they are swapping!