The Dress: A True Original (with quite a story)

Have you ever wanted to do something or try something so badly that it seems to haunt you... is the subject of many daydreams and quiet reflections?  Maybe it is running a marathon, writing a book, having a large family... for me it is designing dresses.

It all started a very long time ago.  I vividly remember "designing" all sorts of '80's looks while being discouraged from a life in fashion.  Fast forward to college - after leaving my parent's alma mater due to my unhappiness, I finally found myself in the DAAP program at the University of Cincinnati.  Immersed in art classes, patternmaking, sewing and fashion history, I was in heaven.  

On an internship several years later, one of the head designers sat a group of eager interns down (me included) and lectured us about the reality of fashion design.  The moral of the talk - life in fashion is not all that it is cracked up to be... especially if you want a family.  I thought I was being very wise as I put aside my creative aspirations for business school.  

Then life starts to move way too quickly.  Its as though you board a high speed train to middle age after college graduation.  The days just pass... I am not sure where they go... it is is a little sad at times.  I feel as though so many projects/experiences/aspirations are put on hold while you have to deal with all of the "small things".  Meanwhile, our chance to take advantage of those more meaningful opportunities pass us by.

After working, getting married and having kids, I found myself wanting (needing) an outlet.  I was craving to feel like my old creative self again.  Thanks to inspiration from my fabulous "sisters" (by marriage, but whatever) I began my closet editing and styling business.  This was an excellent entrĂ©e back into fashion and a job that I loved!  As an extension of that I started my blog - which has now taken on its own personality, but I absolutely love it!

With all of this going on there was still one thing missing... I still wanted to make dresses, but haven't had the courage to get my hands dirty and give it a try.  Then one chilly January morning, I jumped out of bed... inspired!

I had an idea for a dress to wear to an upcoming wedding.  My only drawback is my lack of sewing skills.  I just was never very good with the sewing machine.  Therefore my dress had to be very simple in construction.  I dug up my old sewing tools, but I couldn't find my hip curve.  I have a feeling it is hiding out at my sister's apartment in Columbus, so a mixing bowl will have to do...

I did my best after draping some muslin... I am extremely rusty!  Then dress my daughter's got their hands on it...

Months passed as I debated fabric color, etc.  To make a long story short, I finally decided to enlist the help of a seamstress.  I was planning on getting her opinion on fabric, but she eventually did not call me back.  So, I ordered the fabric a week before the wedding!  Of course it was delayed and I was finally able to start the dress the Thursday before the wedding.  Things were going very smoothly... 

Until I tried it on.  Apparently the form has a broader back than I do.  With muslin, this didn't matter.  When working with silk charmeuse, it makes a big difference.  I had to tear out all of the seams and start again... ugh!  So, the dress was not looking as good as it originally had, and I lost a lot of time!

My studio... otherwise known as the dining room.

In the end I finished the dress.  It was not up to the standards that I would have liked, but I had put so much into this project that I had to wear it.  

For the most part, I was pretty happy with myself.  I felt really sexy in the dress until a thread broke...

I suddenly felt a breeze where I definitely shouldn't... thankfully my fabulous sister-in-law was able to help me with some last minute pinning!

What did I learn from all of this?  First, I am taking sewing lessons.  I love making dresses, but don't want to be limited by my lack of skill.  Second, it is very easy to get up in the day-to-day issues and let the bigger opportunities slip by.  I am not going to do that anymore.  It takes a lot of effort and initiative to tackle the bigger projects, but it is so worth it in the end.  

                                                                                                             - Allison


Outfit Idea: Dressing Up Shorts and more...

Hump day, already?  Where did the time go?  The past week had been such a whirlwind!  I was hoping to be able to share some experiences day-by-day, but after a visit from Mimi (AKA my very chic mom, Patty), an adventure in dressmaking, attending the most beautiful wedding ever and exploring the Fairfield, Westport, Southport area of Connecticut... I just didn't even have a chance to touch my computer for the last 5 days.  This might be a first for me...

To begin, last week I had promised an outfit idea for dressing up shorts.  I finally got the chance to do this on Friday night.  I attended a very fun get-together the night before the wedding.  The dress code was casual chic and the weather was really nice and fairly warm.  Shorts seemed to be the perfect answer to my usual what to wear dilemma.  I was ready for a fun night!

I was very excited about my look.  My only issue was that I bought my Zoe Karssen tee a little big to wear with skinny jeans.  I wish it were a bit tighter with shorts, but I'll live.  I brought my black boyfriend blazer in case I got chilly.  It was a fab evening!

Meanwhile, I decided to put some old fashion design skills to use... I was very excited about my dress, but it would have been better if I hadn't waited until the last minute!  More on that tomorrow...

And, to attend a wedding on the beach in Fairfield, CT with a very talented and creative bride at the helm is priceless!  A perfect day doesn't hurt either...

                                                                                                                                  - Allison


Trend Alert: The Short List

My new found obsession with shorts has led me to discover some really cute styles, but I am still searching for the perfectly affordable pair.  With that being said, there is a great trend out there that you may or may not be aware of... shorts for evening.  Now this isn't some colossal discovery of which I should be awarded some prestigious honor, rather just another option to switch up your look a bit.

Shorts are such a great alternative... comfortable, versatile and a great way to show off your gorgeous gams, but beware of a few important rules.

1.  Do not wear "mini" shorts unless you are in your twenties with a really well-toned lower half.  Remember, it is not sexy to show off your cheeks or pockets.  And, a 2" inseam is short.

2.  It is okay for shorts to be a little loose.  On the other end of the spectrum from buying your jeans a size too small due to stretch - shorts look much better with some wiggle room.  You might even want to try a size bigger than you usually wear, depending on the style...

3.  Have fun with different styles, but keep the fabric dressier for evening wear.  Silk, brocade, sequins are great for evening... wrinkly chino style shorts, not so much.

I found a few great pairs for inspiration...

Elizabeth & James' Striped Ozzy Shorts - the jogger style in silk is fun and flattering.

Cacharel Coral Striped Shorts - the retro feel, the fine knit and the stripe are so versatile and perfect.

Elizabeth & James again... I can't help myself.  The Katia Shorts flirty styling reminds me of a pair of '30's tap pants... sexy and cute.

I'm not to say "I told you so", but I did.  There are so many fabulous pairs of shorts available this season.  You must try at least one.  You won't be sorry.

                                                                                                                         - Allison

*Photos courtesy of shopbop.com.


Outfit Idea: Neon Brights

Nothing beats the rainy day blues like a healthy dose of bright yellow.  I absolutely love this color, but it is so hard to find.  I recently found a fantastic of shorts in the most perfect shade of neon yellow/green, and now I can't stop wearing them.  Seriously, it is becoming a problem.

Besides the color, I have a new found obsession with shorts.  They really are perfect for running around town.  The only kicker is finding a pair that are not too short and not too long.  I can honestly say that it is next to impossible to find cute shorts with an inseam of 4 inches (my desired length) without spending a fortune.  When I discovered these Double Serge shorts at J.Crew, I had to have them ASAP.  Besides being perfect, they are a great weight and can be dressed up or down.  I'll prove it on Friday's post...

Back to my day look - I am off on an adventure in NYC this afternoon, so I thought that a chic shorts ensemble would be just right.  I added my denim shirt and my Viv's... I also love pointy toe flats with shorts.

I was ready to go and then it started raining... really hard.  I got soaked while picking my little one up at school... ugh!  

Goodbye cute flats.  Hello, wellies and pearls.  Oh well, I still love my neon shorts.

                                                                                                                                - Allison
*Photo courtesy of jcrew.com.


Outfit Idea: Shifting Day to Night

Today's ensemble consists of a few of my favorite things... the shift dress (the most versatile dress), leopard print and my Viv's.  The story behind this one is that I needed a daytime look that was chic and comfortable, but I didn't want to look like I was trying to hard.  The same night I had a very fun dinner that I wanted to dress up for, but again, didn't want to look like I was trying too hard.  In other words, I wanted to look and feel like me - just not in jeans.

I started sorting through some old jewelry for some inspiration for my nighttime look, and eventually came across a great pair of earrings from a very long time ago.  Totally perfect!  And, when one wears green earrings, there is no better complement than leopard print.  Problem being, do I go with a bag or shoes???  Since I had my leopard heels on the brain, I opted for the shoes.

Once the accessories were decided upon, I just had to come up with the actual clothing.  I mulled it over for a bit and went with my LWD... I just love that dress.  It turned out to be the perfect choice.  My daytime outfit was a no brainer... white shift, my Viv's (in other words, the most perfect pointy toe flats), sunnies, a trench and a colorful bag.  Done and done!

The ease and versatility of the shift made for a hassle-free transition to my nighttime look.

Added my denim trench for some contrast, and I was out the door... 

                                                                                                            - Allison


Fab Find: The "go with everything" Spring Shoe

My obsession with the pointy toe tends to cloud my judgement from time-to-time, but in this instance my love for this toe style has led me directly to your new best friend.  You also must remember that just as the leopard print is your "go to" shoe most of the year, snake print is the perfect substitute as the celsius rises.  As the fabrication of your clothing tends to get lighter and your choice in colors lighten and brighten, the very neutral and soft snake print is the perfect complement.

Just imagine for a moment that you combine the very chic pointy toe pump with one of the most perfect snake print colorations available... it would be magic.  Well, what if I told you that Sam Edelman makes a very cool and simple heel - the Portney Pump.  Even better, Edelman has come up with the most fabulous snake print this spring  The combination of the two equals a must have for me and you!

I actually have this exact style of heel in the leopard print and love it.  I love mixing and matching the leopard as seen below...

This shoe might be the only thing that excites me more than a chic leopard heel.  How can you resist a beautiful (and affordable) snake print?

The print is so subtle that you could literally wear them with everything.  They would look fantastic with bright colors, pastels, prints... you name it.

For a special Mother's Day treat, this Fab Find is twofold.  These shoes are available at my favorite source for shoes... Endless.com.  And, Endless is offering a Mother's Day Special - 20% your order of $100 or more, just enter MOTHER20.  So, hop online and take advantage of this fab offer before the weekend is over.  You won't be sorry!

P.S.  Endless carries some great jewelry too!

                                                                                                                             - Allison

*Photos courtesy of endless.com.


Trend Alert: Lesson Learned - Met Ball 2012

The Fashion world's equivalent to the Oscar's came and went on Monday night rather quietly.  Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute's annual gala does not get the television coverage that the various awards shows receive throughout the year, and therefore, it was missed by many.  From a fashion perspective, it is the event of the year.  It is held to celebrate the opening of the new spring exhibit at the Met.  Last year it was Alexander McQueen, this year it is "Impossible Conversations" (running through August 10th) - an examination of the affinities between legendary designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.

With this being Fashion's big night out, it is a chance for the designers, models, fashionistas and celebrities to let loose and get all dolled up.  I find it hard to judge best and worst dressed, due to the fact that it is all about self-expression, right?!  However, I do believe we can take some pointers from the many different looks that were spotted on the red carpet.

As I glanced through the many photos online, the first thing that came to mind was the conversation that I had with Mark Badgley and James Mischka not too long ago...  They felt that the most important item a woman should purchase this spring is a colorful cocktail dress.  And, I completely agree.  Whether or not the dress is a true cocktail dress is based on your lifestyle, but you need a great dress in a bold (complementary) color!

Just take a look at how radiant these women look in their colorful dresses...

Emma Stone in Lanvin
Solange Knowles

Diane Kruger in Prada

Another fabulous choice is this season is a white (or whiteish) dress.  The LWD (little white dress) is fresh, classic and always chic.

Amy Adams in Giambattista Valli

Claire Danes in J. Mendel

Ashley Greene in Donna Karan Atelier

Their has been a big focus on silver this season, and now you see what all the hype is about... the silvery metallic dress is beautiful.  Softer than gold, it is has an ethereal quality that is quite breathtaking.

Sophia Vergara in Marchesa

Kate Upton in Michael Kors

Camilla Belle in Ralph Lauren

Sheer done right can be quite cool.  Sheer done wrong is just plain bad.  Some of the ladies on Monday night did it just right... 

Karlie Kloss in Jason Wu with Jason Wu

Renee Zellweger in Pucci

and some did it very wrong...

There is no elegance to this look - it seems very awkward.
Heidi Klum in Escada

I am not sure what to say about this... it probably would have been best to leave this as a runway dress.
Beyonce in Givenchy Couture

There you have it - a little inspiration for dressing up from the fashion set for the spring/summer season.

                                                                                                                          - Allison          

*Photos courtesy of hollywoodlife.com.


Outfit Idea: Audrey & the Vintage Tee

Due to some crummy weather lately, I have been wearing my jeans a lot.  So much that I am starting to get a bit tired of dark denim.  I even pulled out my "vintage" sevens (thankfully they fit, or that would have been another story completely!) to change things up a bit.  Yesterday I woke up and just couldn't do it.  I had to wear something else.

I started digging through my closet, waiting for inspiration to strike... and sure enough, it did!  I yanked out my trusty Minnie pants and suddenly got very excited.  My Minnie's always make me want to channel Audrey Hepburn.  How can you not think of Audrey when wearing black ankle-length skinny pants?  It's just like Jackie O, white jeans and Jack Rogers or peanut butter & jelly... they just go together.

I decided the perfect complement would be my new "rock n roll" tee and a different pair of pearls (a much chunkier pair!).

And, then I just needed a jacket or sweater of some sort... I pulled out a sweater jacket from J.Crew.  I have had this for years (it worked really well when I was pregnant).  I loved it for this ensemble due to the styling... it gives me the feeling of the ladylike feeling of the late fifites/early sixties - the neckline has a slight funnel shape, it has large buttons and 3/4 length sleeves.

(P.S. Sometimes your head gets cut off when your daughter takes your picture...)

The perfect outfit for a lunch date, a meeting, pickup or the playground!

                                                                                                                  - Allison


Fab Find... "Hello, lover"

Do you ever feel that you need to completely rebuild your wardrobe?  I am not talking about the feeling that you have nothing to wear.  Rather, a change in lifestyle that leaves you feeling completely unprepared clothing-wise for the activities that the new lifestyle presents???  Well, if you said yes, you are in the right place!  This means you will completely understand where I am coming from today.

For me, my daughters are getting a bit older and are becoming more independent.  I can wear nicer clothes and not worry about getting spit up on, peed on or all dirty at the playground (most of time).  This goes hand in hand with the fact that I am working more (yay!), which means I can't wear jeans everyday.

This may not seem that important to some, but it is a very big deal when it comes to clothing.  To really understand what I am trying to say, I will compare it to graduating from college.  In college you really didn't need much... pajama pants for morning classes, jeans and flip flops for the afternoon and some fun "going out" clothes.  Then, BAM!, you graduate and those clothes aren't getting you anywhere.  All of the sudden, the pj pants are only good for sleeping, jeans are for the weekends and the "going out" clothes should probably just be pitched.  Now that you have entered the real world, you will need (gasp!) "professional clothes"... suits, pants, blouses, pumps, pearls, "Oh my"...

Anywho, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Before children, I was prepared.  I had my assortment of Jackie Twinsets, Express Editor Pants in every color (don't laugh!) and a large collection of extremely pointed toe flats and heels.  Then the babies came... enter yoga pants, tunics and Uggs.  Now, the babies are starting to grow up.  The clothes that I have been wearing for the last 6 years (can you believe it!), aren't as appropriate/needed anymore.  Yes, this means that I only really wear the yoga pants and Uggs at home now - the tunics are still used very frequently.

As you can imagine, this is going to be a long journey that we can take together.  Today it is all about the shoes...  

I am in desperate need of flats!  I kid you not, the few pairs that I have are falling apart.  The most embarrassing are my leopard print flats.  I can't say that they were very expensive (I bought them at the Gap - on sale), but it is really sad when the hair has completely worn off the heels.  So, I tried not to wear them (which is very difficult when they go with everything) while I found a new pair.  

However, I never really found a pair that grabbed me.  I loved the Madewell version, but they have been on backorder for as long as I can remember.  Plus, I have been a bit weary of purchasing another pair made out of calf hair (or whatever they use) due to the wearing out factor.  The only issue really keeping me from making a purchase was the price, but isn't that always the reason...

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was scrolling through J.Crew's sale page and discovered that these beauties were on sale!

On a handful of occasions, the voice of Carrie Bradshaw comes to haunt me, and this was one of them. When I finally opened my delivery the other day, the only words that came to mind were... "Hello, lover"...

Indeed they are a perfect pair of shoes.  They are elegant, chic, and ladylike.  They are extremely flattering, go with everything and I can wear them in the rain.  In other words, I am in love!

I absolutely love the feeling of making a smart buy... this was definitely one of them!

                                                                                                                              - Allison


Trend Alert: The Classic Clutch

Every season the powers that be proclaim the "it" handbag of the season.  While all of the fashionista's bury themselves in debt trying to keep up with all of the latest proclamation, the rest of us search around for the perfect lower priced version. The never ending cycle of the fashion world... exhausting!

For this exact reason, there was a collective sigh of relief when the news started to spread late this winter that the clutch was the bag to have this spring.  Why, do you ask?  Well, for starters, the clutch is something that I would say 99% of us already own.  Plus, if you would like to add a new a clutch to your collection, you won't break the bank - great clutches are sold at every price point.  Last, but not least, the clutch has some serious staying power.  This is a classic style of handbag. It is not going anywhere... ever.

With that being said, the amount you use a clutch is based on your lifestyle.  If you are just a nighttime user of the bag, you probably don't need too many... black, animal and/or python print, a metallic, possibly a color, and a summer version (i.e. straw or cork).  If you are a daytime and nighttime user, you might need a larger variety of styles... oversize, small, structured, etc. in a well-chosen assortment of colors and prints.

Now, that you are going to be noticing clutches everywhere you go for the next few days, I want to introduce you to Claire Vivier.  She is a French handbag designer who lives in LA.  She started her handbag line due to the fact that she couldn't find functional laptop cases that were also stylish.  Now, she has a fabulous line of handbags that are bold yet clean and classic.  They are well-crafted, but still affordable.  In other words, a must have this spring!

Just to give you an idea of why I love Claire Vivier so much, here are a few fab images I found online...

For a full assortment of colors and styles, you must check out the Claire Vivier website.  You won't be sorry, promise!

                                                                                                                      - Allison
*Photos courtesy of seevivier.com, paloma81.blogspot.com, pinterest.com.