The Little Black Dress Love of My Life: An Ode to a Car Named Peppy


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One constant in my adult life that has meant more to me than I expected is my car, Peppy. She’s the ultimate little black dress of a car: reliable, classic, and a bit sparkly. She’s the second car that I have called my own, but really, she’s the first that was solely mine and my financial responsibility, a dependent of sorts. I took out my first loan for this car, paid it off, and now nine years and about 67,000 miles later, I’m moving on to newer and superior wheels. In this car, I ventured from home to work to school to boyfriend to new boyfriend to new home to job to second job to graduate school to newer boyfriend to newest boyfriend and back (with a few more stops in between too). Along the way, I took for granted that Peppy, a glossy black 2000 Nissan Altima GLE, was an undeniably important presence, another character if you will, in my story, much like New York City is the fifth gal at Carrie Bradshaw’s luncheon with Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda. As expected for any well-mannered Style Darling, Peppy is luxuriously accessorized with a leather interior, sunroof, and seats that hug both driver and passengers upon sitting—my kind of gorgeous and accommodating ride, that’s for sure.

Getting in the driver’s seat (figuring out what I want) and taking the wheel (figuring out how to get what I want) has been a challenge to overcome (because of family, relationships, money, health, whatever), especially when the road ahead is always changing (because you don’t always end up with what you want, even when you’re trying your effing hardest). With that on-the-road-ish metaphor in tow, I’m drawn to the fact that Peppy has been the means to getting to wherever I want to go, both literally and figuratively. In doing so, the exploration of ownership and control have been difficult themes in my writing, especially over the last few years living on my own and balancing everything that comes with being an adult.

Looking back, during my childhood and teenaged years, driving was the last thing on my mind. I had friends, Barbie dolls, boys, fashion, and writing swarming through my brain like that Pokémon nonsense is flooding the nation right now. Once in elementary school, a teacher assigned our class to write a few paragraphs about something we would want to do when we turned eighteen—an age that felt like light-years away, especially as I fidgeted in a training bra. The oddball dreamer in me immediately wrote about travelling at eighteen and all the possibilities of life experience that come with that. I don’t mean travel in the commuter sense, but travel as in actually being in places where food, fashion, music, art, and people were stories in motion waiting to inspire me. To my surprise, most of my classmates wanted more than anything to get a car and drive it, a thought that never occurred to me. Not once. Some kids were seeking independence from their parents, some wanted to get the heck off Long Island, and others boasted about rocking around town in “some sick wheels.” Of course, growing up in the suburbs meant that obtaining transportation to get from point A to B to north fork to south shore was essential for basic survival.

I came to own Peppy by accident, because of an accident. I totaled my Volvo and wasn’t about to rely on my parents for long-term help. I was presented with three different Nissan models, and upon my third test drive, my neutral driving satisfaction turned into an exclamation, “Ooh! She’s peppy!” Hence, her name, which eventually evolved into other expressions (depending on the day or my mood), including Pepsi-Cakes, Peppy Girl, Peppy-Poo, Pepperoni Pie, and oh how the list goes on. We were a match, thus beginning our relationship, pet names and all.

Peppy became my vault. She heard me sing, and try to sing, the songs that inspired me and taught me that I had not just a voice as a writer or closeted singer, but also a voice as a young woman. It was therapy. Some may turn to fitness or hobbies to relieve their stress or work through problems, but I confess, I’m a car singer—a hardcore car singer. Summers with the sunroof open called for a mix of favorite female songwriters and 90s alternative tunes, the ones I’d once recorded from the radio on cassette tapes (Google those last two words if you don’t recognize them) on my father’s silver boom box. The Fugees. No Doubt. Jewel. Oasis. Alanis Morissette. Garbage. Goo Goo Dolls. There’s another list that goes on.

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My guilty pleasures were head and shoulder-bopping pop singles, and I still turn up the volume when Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” (a duet with Timbaland) finds its way back onto mainstream FM stations ten years after its debut. The confines of my car’s doors, roof, and windows meant that whatever I spoke or chanted would remain safely inside. I used my car as my own little stage when I was too afraid to sing in front of others. It was like American Idol was airing during every drive and I won every time. It should be noted that driving carefully is always priority number one (before attempts at hitting those belted out high notes in Sia’s “Alive,” which I can do!).

On long drives home from The Hamptons (for education, not luxury living), phrases for songs and descriptions for stories came to me. I couldn’t always pull over to write everything down, so I’d use the voice recorder app on my iPhone, logging hours of myself singing about everything I could. Those earlier penned melodies and hooks still keep me company years later. When, for whatever reason, I couldn’t rely on technology to save my inspiration, I would just repeat the lines of whatever I thought of over and over again, sometimes for up to an hours’ worth of driving, just so I wouldn’t lose the valuable words.

So many memories rise to the surface when it comes to thinking about how Peppy has impacted my life beyond her purpose as a mode of transportation. Nine years is a long time. I’ve told employers that loyalty is one of my strengths because I’ve worked jobs for years in a row, usually moving on only out of financial necessity. I still have close friendships from elementary, middle, and high school. I don’t enter into relationships lightly; I don’t just test the waters of people-knowing with my toes. I’m always all-in. In the end, Peppy, with all of her kinks and quirks and replacement parts and service bills, has been loyal to me.

I drove to meet with Laurie, a new friend to whom I greatly looked up, after 1st boyfriend (not as in the boyfriend who ranks in first place, but just first in the sequence of post-high school romances) broke up with me over the phone. We grabbed gobs of ice cream and toppings galore from the supermarket to gluttonously savor back at her apartment in Saint James (the same one-bedroom I would come to live in six years later). We bonded and wallowed in the heartache that followed so many beautiful, smart, and lovable women who are worthy of the happiness that they struggle to achieve. Also, it was my first time trying Marshmallow Fluff.

I sat in my car, crying on my cell phone to my mother on a December evening. After one tumultuous semester of graduate school, in a Masters in Liberal Arts program and private college that I wasn’t keen on, I needed to drop out. I wasn’t a quitter; I wasn’t used to feeling so not like myself, but I’d been up to my eyebrows in research papers and presentation preparations about Elizabethan writers I didn’t care about. I lost track of the creativity that I desperately needed to express in my own writing. I couldn’t wait to drive off campus and never look back on that feeling of failure again. I drove with only the plan of figuring out a plan for myself.

It was barely four hours into 2011 when my parents drove me to JFK airport. I was flying to Italy by myself to study abroad, determined to write my story, whatever I thought it was at the time. My shoulder bag, stuffed with a laptop and plenty of beauty supplies, weighed me down in the passenger seat. When we parked, I took my luggage out of the trunk, surprised that my carry-on bag was all that was tucked inside the storage space. It was like I had so much room left to fill in the world.  

On the July afternoon on the day after Amy Winehouse died, I’d driven back to Lake Grove from my first writer’s conference in Southampton. I’d been home for only an hour when 2nd boyfriend insisted that we talk about the “break” we were on, which could only mean one thing. We sat in my car in a Starbucks parking lot (neither of us had much privacy at home) when he said, “I can’t be happy with you if I’m not happy with myself.” The road beneath me sunk as my broken heart and I returned home.

In the summer, I parked Peppy in the shade of the parking lot at work (at the bank) so I could take power naps before returning from my lunch break. Sometimes I would read to relax, but the routine of “numbers and paper” (a phrase I often used to describe a job that entailed my being in the presence of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash) dragged me down. When there wasn’t any road construction on the highway across the way, I’d close my eyes, tune out, and forget that thirty-five minutes later my cell phone’s alarm would ring.

I circled 3rd boyfriend’s block over and over again. He said he’d be ready for me to come over at 9:30pm. It was Valentine’s Day, but already night time. I had work during the day and he had a night class that I didn’t expect him to skip for our new relationship, or whatever it was that we were calling our time together. We ended up circling around each other for nearly four years. The miles weighed on my heart just as much as they wore on Peppy.

After I moved into my apartment in September of 2013, I’d been working so much between both jobs and another shot at the right fit graduate school that my first do-nothing-at-all day off was in December—the blizzardy white-out kind of snow day for which the northeast is famous. I’d spent the day binging on an entire season of Mad Men because I just had to clear my mind of everything that changed over the last few months. I’d been checking on my car parked in the street through the blinds, waiting for the right time to clear it off and dig out the area around it, so I could drive wherever I needed to go when it was time to go.

On a harried Sunday night drive after work (at a retail store) and just days before Christmas, I parked next to a dumpster, the only spot available in the apartment complex’s full lot. I checked my makeup in the mirror, not wanting to look too made up, so I decided to forego lip gloss (which I never wear anyway—gasp!), but feeling and looking pretty for this first date was the confidence I needed to put myself out there for someone worth the fuss. I texted where I was parked, he appeared, and then walked me in to his place. Dinner was cooking on the stove, and all the smells of a meal made by someone very special waited for my indulgence.  

Rather than feeling like I’m letting go of a trusted companion, I’m simply choosing to believe that the new car I recently purchased, another twinkling black Nissan, is not just an upgraded version of my car, but that she’s been pampered and preened for a much-needed makeover. Peppy II (or Peppy 2, Peppy Due [doo-eh, as per the number two in Italian], Pepster, and more nicknames to come) is stylish and sleek, a good fit for upcoming adventures.

I’m not even entirely embarrassed about the sentimentality I ascribe to the vehicle. It’s not a materialistic thing, that I need a cool car to feel something better about myself. It’s just so symbolic that looking ahead is always something happening right in front of you. It was hard to say goodbye to the old wheels (even in the midst of so many other bigger things happening in life), although I know Peppy (the original) won’t be too far away, parked in front of another home, driven by a new driver (who will coincidentally be attending the college in the fall where I work), and serving her noble purpose of steering towards a better future.

Maybe those kids from my class that time weren’t too far off the mark in their excitement about driving. I, someone who’s prided herself on being a bit different from the crowd (liking the color green instead of pink, for example—I know, so radical!), just took a little longer to realize and appreciate the value of driving and owning an automobile. Whatever it is that you choose to do, wear, say, think, be, and drive, there’s always somewhere amazing to go. It’s in those moments, when I’m behind the wheel, when life is happening. With that, the soulful 1994 hit “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree is the empowering anthem I choose to end on. Because… why not be everything?

Brooding with Grace (Because Negativity is Not My Style)


_MG_3306As a writer, and more specifically a memoirist, self-reflection is the name of the game, like wine goes with dinner and feet belong in heels. Much of my past writing was derived from experiences that left me disappointed and feeling like half of a person, where I questioned my place in the world on a verbose journey towards self-discovery. My stories about past relationships always revolved around the role I filled in them and their aftermath. I couldn’t be myself, nor could I admit that there was a self to be.

All ambiguity aside, my relationship status has changed, meaning that the relationship I was in is something of which I am presently out. Perhaps it’s the numbing blur of a heavy Sunday masked as inspiration to write some great epic essay about self-respect and identity, but all I want to write about is that I deserve to receive the love that I give. Waiting for someone to catch up with you when they admit that they don’t see it happening is an unhealthy waste of lovely home-cooked meals, planning weekends away, as well as cuddle-filled movie nights and Game of Thrones binges. Speaking of, I’m writing this while about to embark on my first single girl night’s sleep in a long time after escaping into a season four marathon of Orange is the New Black (because fictional misery and prison trifles oddly seem very calming at this point). I’ve consumed more green tea than is probably a good idea, but maybe I will rest easy with the clarity that I am responsible for the life I build for myself and anyone who I invite to be in it.

In the last enlightening twenty-four hours, I’m reminded that even when life takes a turn for the seemingly worst, it’s up to only yourself to feel bad about it. Turning a very negative negative into a positive isn’t necessarily something that can happen overnight (although inevitable manic cleaning fits of the Swiffer and Clorox variety help). I just can’t stay quiet. At the same time, I don’t want to rant about heartbreak or what a bad guy he is because neither will serve an intelligent or proactive purpose (especially because I will always see the good in him, even if he doesn’t see it for himself).

I’d hoped that most of my current blog writing would focus on questions about defining beauty and body image, style and fashion, being a 2016 woman, confidence, or friendship; this post is a culmination of all aforementioned themes. Even if I haven’t covered them all yet, they’ve been circulating from my heart to my head and now to my hands and onto the screen. I am a better woman because I can love and I know the kind of person I want to love. Before I entered this relationship, I’d abandoned the whole planning-a-future-with-someone thing and the what-comes-after part (partly because I was a grad student in thesis mode, but also) because I’d obsessed about all that happily ever after stuff enough in my twenties, getting let down much too much by plenty of poor choices in partners. Now love is awake inside of me and rather than letting it torture me, I’m returning the love onto myself, one that is stronger than ever.

I am a more beautiful woman because I can look in the mirror and believe that I’ve been good to the people who I care most about. I have loved in the only way I know how to. I am enough and no one can convince me otherwise. I’ve stated before that I have the life I want in the home I’m living in. I share my life with friends who light up my heart with their support and joy; they have given me a larger sense of family. I have gained the power of using words in a way that can (hopefully) inspire creativity and beauty (even if I’m writing about relationship woes). While nothing in life is wholly perfect, I would not profess that I am without flaw. It takes a long time for me to stop loving someone, even when I know it’s better to move on and upwards (which is essentially what I’m trying to write about here), but these things take time, so brooding with grace it is. That’s more my style. Grace goes with a-line dresses and maxi skirts anyway. This is just something I know.

My greatest fault would be overprotecting myself for too long in ways that my partner will never know, but it’s a regret that I can live with since the in-the-long-run picture is coming into focus with solely my curly-haired smiling selfie and any opportunity ahead that I can seize. It’s with a deep, thoughtful breath that I remain positive (despite the tearful waves of panic and loss that will sneak up on me). What is meant to be will be and the strength I have inside of me will take me there.

It’s probably a good idea to delete some of those Gwen Stefani songs from my iPhone and revamp my playlist with some tunes a little less based on having a significant other. With optimism in mind (and maybe the fact that I know our paths will cross again), here’s a little song I wanted to end on: “Maybe” by Birdy.

Cover Craze: Amy Schumer Conquers Vogue’s July Issue!


For no real, legit, justified reason at all, I was hesitant to jump on the Amy Schumer-loving bandwagon. In retrospect, the thought of it now is insane because I’m all about strong, confident, smart women who have a lot to say & say it well. Since I’m not a Comedy Central watcher (perhaps another flaw I should seek to rectify?), I didn’t know what Inside Amy Schumer was for the longest time. My first exposure to the Long Island native & comedy pioneer (shame on me as a fellow LI gal!) was during that one scene on HBO’s Girls during the season 3 premiere when she yells at Hannah & Adam at Grumpy’s after Adam broke it off badly with Shiri Appleby’s practically perfect catch character, Natalia. Watch it here. I digress.

I love everything that Amy Schumer is about & I can’t wait to read her book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (read an excerpt here), which hits bookshelves on August 16th. It’ll fit in perfectly with my summer of humor reading by female authors, but what’s really the best of both worlds is that Amy is July’s cover girl for Vogue!

Amy Schumer for Vogue July 2016The article (by Jonathan Van Meter) is nothing short of fabulous & funny, inspiring & honest, & chalk full of quotes & one-liners from the Trainwreck star (Golden Globe-nominated too, by the way) you’ll walk away with still bouncing around in your head well into the later hours of the night. The comedian / actress / writer / producer / cover girl / Jennifer Lawrence’s bestie / all around badass of feminism bluntly & endearingly discusses her love life, the reality of her sexcapade past, her admiration of the late Joan Rivers, her feelings about the worlds of fashion & Hollywood, Hillary Clinton, & the importance of family.

Amy Schumer for Vogue July 2016 01 Amy Schumer for Vogue July 2016 02 Amy Schumer for Vogue July 2016 03 Amy Schumer for Vogue July 2016 04If Amy’s words on the page (or website) aren’t enough to give you a giggle or smirk, check out the video below of Amy & Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s hijinx when they hilariously swap their respective comedy club touring & high fashion lives.

If you don’t subscribe already to Vogue, go buy the issue & support the print industry, if not for the glossy photos (by none other than Annie Leibovitz) of an elegant Amy traipsy through New York City in glamorous gowns & designer duds, then at least for the free perfume samples. Check out when & where Amy is touring this summer (her upcoming Madison Square Garden gig is SOLD OUT!)! Happy Styling!

Tales of Retail: Do You Hear Yourself?


Tales of Retail: Do You Hear Yourself?I’ve always worked in some kind of retail and/or customer service capacity. It’s provided me with the most surprising life experience when it comes to interacting with the public (and their attitudes). However, this essay is by no means a rant to condemn the ill-mannered Long Island shopper. Surely, I’m not the only person who can attest to plenty of OMFG-moments at work when the individual with whom I’m speaking is a weirdo or disgustingly offensive.

I can’t say that it’s all been a bumpy ride of rudeness and bad behavior. After all, I’m an optimist, a wine glass half full kind of gal, always hopeful that my kindness will be equaled with polite treatment. One of the perks of so many years of clothing retail under my patent leather belt is that I’ve developed my voice as a woman passionate about fashion while in the field, even when my first department store job responsibility was essentially to just hang up clothes and keep the racks neat before closing time. Currently, my position (dream job, really) at the local community college is on hiatus for summer break, so I’m primarily working at my second job (surrounded by dresses and tops and earrings, oh my!) until the end of August divides my schedule between writing and fashion once again. While I long for the days when I can return to tutoring young minds about the importance of classic literature and language clarity, the classroom of life in which I’m currently enrolled is my retail job, where there’s no shortage of education (one much different than you’d expect to find in any textbook).

Lesson #1: The Beauty Debate is Real. Like Really Real.

On a sunny Thursday morning, I was ringing up a customer’s purchase with all the usual chit-chat that makes for an enjoyable, hassle-free shopping experience. Never afraid to participate in conversation with women in my mother’s demographic, I started with a “How did you find everything today?” and added an “I love the colors in this blouse you’re buying!” with all the manners and enthusiasm that my mother taught me to impart on others. The customer was a sweet, 60-something strawberry blonde who reminded me of a giggling Dianne Weist from Practical Magic (minus the 90s interpretation of a middle-aged New England witch). She adjusted her scarf and smiled at me with the same genuine pleasantry that I’d expect she’d show to her grandchildren when offering them dessert after big Sunday family dinners.

When it came time to pay, said lady unfolded the bills from her wallet and asked, “Did you hear what they are doing to money now?” They meaning society? The people who run the Internet? The government was likely the answer, but I didn’t ask to her clarify the they.

“No. What?” I was hoping (again, there’s that glass of hope getting gulped) to hear something refreshing from her. I knew well and good enough about arguments surrounding which female or individual representation of diversity should replace a dead Caucasian male president on U.S. currency. I accept this change—no matter who will be illustrated as the face on money—simply because change is inevitable. If the bank accepts the cash, I will spend it. Also, I believe everyone should be represented everywhere (diplomacy much?) since this is a melting pot nation.

They wanna put Harriet Tubman on the ten dollar bill. I mean, I know she did a lot of good things, but she’s so ugly. Who wants to look at her ugly face on money? Certainly not me. I think it’s a bad idea.” This woman, content in her stance, looked to me as if vying to win my vote.

I took a breath to count out her change, gather her receipt, and hand her back both items. I wasn’t one to engage in political conversation (people pleasers like me rarely do). My reliable “Change is crazy” and “Who knows what’ll happen?” replies satisfied an end to the conversation before we mutually wished each other a nice day. I doubt Dianne Weist’s doppelganger gave her commentary a second thought.

This interaction took place months ago and I’ve probably thought about it every day since (along with the next zinger of a lesson I’m writing about). For anyone who follows fashion or beauty blogs, then you know the debate about beauty is really real. Additionally, saying that Harriet Tubman “did a lot of good things” is a very obvious and grand understatement (see that juxtaposition there?). Of course, in these complicated United States of America, people have the freedom of speech to say what they’d like about how they feel, just like I’m doing with this essay (and I’m realizing now that what I’m writing has become political and I’m not portraying my people pleaser side accurately). Had the chains of necessity to pay my bills and survive comfortably as an unmarried woman living on my own, I would have posed to the customer this question: “How does Harriet Tubman’s beauty, or lack thereof in your opinion, even become a legitimate factor in her eligibility to serve as a symbol of this country on our money?” My next question would be to this woman about another woman: “Do you hear yourself?”

Lesson #2: Style is What You Make of It.

As sales associates at my store, we are encouraged to ask customers questions to gauge their clothing needs, build a dialogue with them, and thus a relationship that they will return to for their next shopping trip. Most of the time, I like this part of the job. I offer specific options to meet a customer’s desire and more often than not, we cohesively come to a stylish solution. It’s very satisfying to help other women express themselves through fashion and style. In a way, it’s not very different from tutoring writing. In this case, words and punctuation are replaced with outfits and accessories, all serving the purpose of articulating our identities and ideals with visual symbols.

No more than a week after encountering the anti-Harriet Tubman customer, I was working on the sales floor, recovering the dressing room during a crowded Saturday afternoon rush. With an armful of recently discarded merchandise, I passed a woman who was searching through a color story sea of blue and green tops and coordinating bottoms. Before I could ask her if she needed help finding anything, she exclaimed, “I used to love to wear plaid!” Instantly, and because of the way she so forlornly spoke, I thought of plaid as a beloved television show that was prematurely cancelled, leaving the viewing public on a melodramatic cliffhanger forever (Nashville anybody?).

“Why don’t you wear plaid?” I asked. I looked at her full figure and roots with whispers of gray, prepared that she’d say something about how the lines of plaid designs were unflattering for her shape and size, or that plaid was for kids and Christmas pajamas (all of which are factual explanations that have been confessed to me in the past).

“Because only gay people wear plaid,” she said stone-faced. I was suddenly caught in another exchange in which I didn’t want to be, just as my tongue was caught wanting to say, “Do you hear yourself?”

“Oh that’s not true,” I replied with the playful disposition of someone who’d just heard that a Sasquatch walked into the store. “Anyone can wear plaid.” I, a heterosexual woman, have some plaid pieces in my wardrobe, but I wasn’t about to get myself and my style choices involved.

“No. It’s true. I went to California and learned that only gay people wear plaid. Now I can’t wear plaid anymore.” She slumped her shoulders with surrender and regret in the belief of a pattern that dates back to circa mid-18th century Scottish tartans.

“Ooo-kay.” When I don’t know what to say, I say “okay” in a way that sounds more like a question than a response. I continued, “We have plenty of nice tops at the front of the store. Lots of new prints and colors for the summer. If you’d like, I can show you.” Talk about chugging right along to a new subject. Even after I presented her with a table of t-shirts that were on sale, she continued to unhappily wander through the store’s selection. Perhaps she felt marginalized in her misunderstood self-imposed ban on plaid, just like she was marginalizing homosexuals with her homophobic statement. I could chalk up this woman’s offensive stereotype as a filter malfunction, but that’s really too gentle of an excuse. Despite the fact that I vehemently disagree with the spreading of generalizations, I was compelled to look past her ignorance and do my duty as a loyal employee of retail. My hope (geez, hope is spilling all over the place here) was to open her mind and style to something that made her happy to express who she is in her own way (by more graceful and appropriate means like flattering clothing). After all, style is what you make of it, not what others make you believe it is. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fun to get dressed in the morning.

 

These are two examples that made me stop in my espadrille-marching tracks to wonder not just what the world is coming to, but how I can use these experiences to lead a more positive life. In my previous essay (#SelfieTherapy: Confidently Breaking Through), I encourage readers to spread positivity when it came to beauty. I’d like to reiterate that sentiment in an even larger sense, sharing positivity about life, especially given the recent horrific shooting that took place at an Orlando night club where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender patrons were targeted and murdered.

I say, wear what you want to wear. In doing so, contribute something fundamentally positive to society. Teach future generations something valuable about respect and kindness. Celebrate the differences we have because we all have differences and we’re all here in this country because of those differences. It takes a stronger person to embrace those differences and a weaker one to use them as ammunition against someone else.

Hope is always present in my writing, as is strength (when it comes to acceptance and all that jazz), which is why I decided to end this essay with a song that readers might not be familiar with. Sara Bareilles’ “Hercules” sends a powerful message about overcoming weakness to become a better person. It’s a gives-you-chills kind of song when blasting it in the shower.

#SelfieTherapy: Confidently Breaking Through



Confession: I believe in selfies. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I am a fashion blogger, therefore posting images of myself and my style come with the territory. At first, my mission was to focus solely on talking about what I observed around me: bargain deals on stylish must-haves, current fashion industry trends, and of course, I wanted to dish on the best of the best dressed in the celebrity world. Looking back on six years of blogging, here I am now, a veteran of the selfie. I snapped pics of myself on an old flip phone before the term “selfie” was a blip in the 21st century tech-savvy lexicon. I did this partially because my vision is so poor without my glasses, and I hardly knew what the real, natural me looked like to the world. Essentially, I was trying to see myself.

Some may argue that taking a selfie is narcissistic, shallow, shaming to other women, Kardashian-like even (I shudder to drop the family name, by the way). In an era where social media is the landscape on which it’s a natural reflex to announce updates of our lives, so many questions appear under the public lens, especially when it comes to the appearance of women. While I’ve been fortunate not to encounter too many haters as I’ve developed Style Darling Daily, my exploration of selfie culture started with #selfietherapy and ends with positivity in the fact that I am who I am, I know who I am, and it’s something that cannot be negatively influenced by any outsider. And honestly, the more I listen to Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too,” the more I want to talk about celebrating the self.

I’ve had many conversations with my female friends about the times in our lives when we’ve felt unattractive and out of touch with our worth. We equated happiness with our images to whatever our relationship statuses had been at the time. Then, we discussed the vocabulary associated with our physical selves, which helped me further understand the negativity women (including myself) put themselves through when it came to our faces, weights, bodies, and general ideas of beauty. The words “cute,” “pretty,” “beautiful,” and “sexy” each ranked very differently. During these discussions, it was agreed that “cute” was overall the most frequently identified term for our appearances, and the safest adjective to admit to each other (without exposing our insecurities). We could accept ourselves as “cute,” but not always “pretty,” and hardly ever “beautiful.” “Cute” became such a security blanket that it might as well have meant “okay.” I was never okay with looking “okay.” By the end of the gab session, it was clear that so many women rarely achieved feeling “pretty,” “beautiful,” and “sexy” on their own terms and for themselves. These are friends of mine who are successful, intelligent, and by no means anything less than beautiful (#truth!). I greatly admire these women; they inspire me both personally and professionally, and in some instances, I have a major case of hair envy that I secretly explore in an internal monologue (but you know, in a healthy way… haha). All of this “beauty labeling” prompted me to look closer at myself because after all, I am in control of how I see myself. My face. My body. All of it.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it was that I began to attach #selfietherapy to my selfie posts on Instagram, but I can tell you about how I recognized that posting seflies became a strategy for positive reinforcement. I’d been in a dragged-out-of-my-mind-for-I-don’t-know-why-or-how romantic situation where my worth was constantly being questioned—not outright using language, but through neglectful behavior of which I was unfortunately on the receiving end. I spoke up often about how I needed to hear from my partner that he cared about me since his behavior showed otherwise; I pleaded that I deserved better treatment. I believed that I’d earned respect, love, and kindness from him (after years of complicated on-and-off-and-on-and-off-ness). I was in my thirties, living on my own, pursuing a Master’s degree, balancing two jobs, and constantly (desperately, really) going above and beyond to cling to whatever there was to salvage with my connection to this person. Life was intact (albeit there was a whole lot of denial happening in there too) and I deserved the obvious reward of acknowledgment. However, after too many breakups and fake-makeups, I realized that what I thought was lacking in what I wanted from my partner was actually displaced. I really needed love, attention, and care from another source: moi. By prolonging this going-nowhere romance, I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I wanted. I was expecting someone else to do it for me, facing perpetual disappointment and lowering my self-esteem in the process.

Simultaneously, I was completing my second year as a graduate student, preparing for the thesis crunch-time on a memoir project. At this point, I was so in touch with my feelings and how to communicate them that the chapters of my memoir were practically falling off my fingertips, onto the keyboard, and appearing in Times New Roman on the screen as fast as I could blink. During one workshop, I admitted to a professor (slash-genius-slash-mentor) that my relationship with said no-good-boyfriend had ended. In return, I was given the infallibly appropriate advice: “The best revenge is to live well.” I snatched up those seven words and with my next selfie, I posted confidently that my life was about living well. That meant I would feel good about me as a person, as well as how the person in that selfie looked. I was taking the time to gain the strength to become a whole and beautiful individual, inside and out.

It’s been well over a year since I’ve been in #selfietherapy, making it my mission to not just capture a good hair day or when being tired and makeup-free reveal a surprisingly healthy, happy Alissa-selfie. I’ll be honest—I’m currently struggling a great deal with what to do with my time now that I’ve graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, that the memoir is complete, and what it means to not really have a plan for myself for the first time in three years. I keep coming back to the idea that I have something bigger to say with my blog, something more than about shopping tips for women of every size or the designer duds that celebrities are wearing on the red carpet. While these sides of blogging still interest me, I know now that I’m meant to do something more important with all of these experiences, especially when women’s style, bodies, beauty, confidence, and empowerment are each so presently intertwined everywhere you look. Just google anything about Sports Illustrated cover model Ashley Graham (who is killing it!), Oscar-winning actress Renée Zellweger’s fortysomething face, Emilia Clarke’s petition for nudity equality on Game of Thrones, or Modern Family’s Ariel Winter about her recent breast reduction. The world (and Internet) would be a better place if we concentrated on celebrating the sparkle of being women, rather than spreading any more toxicity for younger generations to absorb.

I’ve written this as a declaration to embrace myself: my strength, voice, beauty, confidence, identity—all of which can be seen in a selfie. Even if nobody reads this post, or I get slammed with spam email because of it, I will continue to participate in the act of posting selfies because I’m not afraid to say that I love myself for who I am and what I look like. There were too many years where feeling like that was basically nonexistent. Also, I want to reinforce to others that self-love, though it can be difficult to achieve and accept, is worth the screen time it takes to get there, minus the shaming or bashing from the less enlightened public.

In case you or someone you know needs some inspiration (and for your viewing pleasure), watch Meghan Trainor do her thing in the music video below for “Me Too.” (If you didn’t know, the Grammy-winning artist removed a previous cut of the music video after her curvy shape was unrealistically edited to a slimmer size. Talk about taking control of your image and sending the right message!)

Watch This Style: Michelle Williams & Alicia Vikander Star in Louis Vuitton’s Cruise ’16 Ads & Short Film, ‘The Spirit of Travel!’


Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of TravelFor some more fall fashion inspiration, I thought I’d share the latest, gorgeous ad campaign from Louis Vuitton, starring three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams & it-girl Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E. & The Danish Girl). The actresses & spokesmodels are showing off the most elegant design’s from the brand’s Cruise ’16 collection, set in the Palm Springs desert, featuring 70s inspired clothing & luxe luggage & bags. 

I’m all about fashion for function & affordability, but from time to time, it’s also important to be aware of what’s going on in the industry for the easiest inspiration, where high-end glamour can influence your street style. Watch the video below for the full experience of The Spirit of Travel.

The gorgeous ad campaign plays off the setting with rich neutrals & refreshing pops of color, perfect for any shopper of any age & style.

Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 01 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 02 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 03 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 04 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 05 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 06 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 07 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 08 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 09 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 10 Michelle WIlliams & Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton Cruise '16 - The Spirit of Travel 11What do you think of the Louis Vuitton campaign & video? Do you follow brands & their ever-changing campaigns? Are you inspired by the direction of the line? For more fashionable posts, check out affordable flats for the office inspired by Emma Stone & Karlie Kloss, fall plaid must-haves like Taylor Swift & Reese Witherspoon, fall capes for every style inspired by Jamie Chung & Gwen Stefani, & Olivia Palermo’s newest jewelry collaboration with BaubleBar. Happy Styling!

Watch This Style: 5 Must-See Movie Trailers Coming This Fall!


This is the time of year when big things start happening. Fashion Week is just around the corner, followed by a stellar awards season for film & television. There are already some major contenders in the awards race, but there are plenty of great films on the autumn horizon with trailers that recently hit the web. 

The Intern

The Intern opens September 25th, starring Anne Hathaway, who’s running her own online business & gets a few life lessons from her senior-aged intern, played by Robert DeNiro.

Suffragette

Suffragette is a period drama about women fighting for their right to vote, starring Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, & Helena Bonham Carter, opening October 23rd.

By the Sea

By The Sea might just be one of Angelina Jolie Pitt’s final on screen films, about a married couple in the 70’s who take a vacation to Malta to save their marriage. The actress not only stars in the movie (with husband Brad Pitt), but she also wrote & directed the drama, which hits theaters on November 13th.

Sisters movie still

Sisters stars Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, following the hapless misadventures of clueless sisters who throw one last party before their parents sell their childhood home, just in time for the holidays on December 25th.

Joy

Joy marks the reunited unstoppable quartet of director David O’Russell, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, & Robert DeNiro in a film that follows a family of four generations, building a family dynasty, opening on December 25th.

Which movies are you dying to see this fall? Who do you think is up for some serious awards this season? For more stylish posts, check out the latest red carpet & street style looks from Gigi Hadid & Zendaya Coleman, how to wear a chambray shirt in 4 ways for summer, Kate Mara’s pixie cut & fashionable frocks, & affordable maxi skirts inspired by Miranda Kerr & Jennifer Lopez. Happy Styling!

Ad Madness: Eva Mendes for Estee Lauder’s New Dimension Skincare!


Eva Mendes for Estee Lauder's New Dimension Skincare

Eva Mendes is one busy woman- not only is she a mother, girlfriend of Ryan Gosling, fashion designer (for New York & Company), & cosmetics mogul (for Circa), she’s also a spokesmodel for Estee Lauder‘s New Dimension Skincare line, including serums & cosmetics to enhance the look of your skin. The Cuban-American beauty is flawless in the ads, featuring her warm honey complexion, killer cheekbones, & natural glow. When talking about her interest in representing the products (ranging in price from $58-$89), Eva shares with Estee Lauder her own experiences getting to know her face as an actress with, “I have an angular face and I kind of had to learn which angles were which, and how I could work that into a scene,” she continues. “It’s probably what was attractive to me about becoming an actress—the art of transformation.”

Eva Mendes in a red Halston Heritage dress at a mall in Miami for Estee Lauder New Dimension skincare & a belted floral dress at the airport.

The actress made an appearance at a Miami mall to promote the line in a timeless Grecian-inspired Halston Heritage dress with pink ankle strap heels, discussing her experiences as a new mother & turning 40. Later in the day, Eva was spotted at the airport, looking every bit elegant as ever in a belted printed shirtdress & sandals. Though she’s known for her sexy roles & stylish magazine covers, any Style Darling can appreciate the busy day-to-day life of the working woman who’s just trying to take care of herself. For more on Eva’s beauty philosophy, check out Estee Lauder’s interview here.

What beauty products do you trust with your skin? Are you a fan of the New Dimension line from Estee Lauder? What concerns do you have about your skincare? Shop around for the best deals on Estee Lauder at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, & Neiman Marcus. For more posts, check out the newest from The $100 Challenge featuring an affordable summer dress for every size, the latest red carpet looks from Halle Berry & Olivia Palermo, Dress Barn’s Calvin Klein design for less, & Taylor Swift’s fashionable music videos from her 1989 album. Happy Styling!

Watch This Style: Congrats to Taylor Swift, Nominated for 9 VMAs!


Taylor Swift 1989 featuring Shake It Off, Blank Space, Style, & Bad Blood.Clearly, there’s no stopping Taylor Swift, the most influential & famous pop star on the charts right now. On top of the wild success of her 1989 album, the country-turned-pop singer has just been nominated for a total of nine MTV Video Music Award nominations, for her ultra chic & high profile music videos, “Bad Blood” & “Blank Space.”

Taylor Swift Bad Blood music video poster

The star-studded “Bad Blood” video, set in futuristic London when tough girls (á la Sin City) rule the world, features an ensemble slew of Taylor’s a-list gal pals like singer Selena Gomez, models Karlie Kloss & Gigi Hadid, Girls showrunner Lena Dunham, The Honest Company entrepreneur Jessica Alba, singer Zendaya, Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld, British pop sensation Ellie Goulding, model Martha Hunt, Empire actress Serayah, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams, Grey’s Anatomy‘s Ellen Pompeo, Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, Victoria’s Secret model Lily Aldridge, Paper Towns actress Cara Delevingne, supermodel Cindy Crawford, as well as collaborator on the song, rapper Kendrick Lamar.

Taylow Swift Blank Space style

“Blank Space” is certainly my favorite of Taylor’s 1989 singles & music videos, not just for the fullness of her lyrics, but also the super stylish wardrobe changes Taylor undergoes while performing the song about love gone bad. She’s dripping in decadent jewels & takes risks in bold animal prints, romantic chiffon, sultry lingerie, all while running her heart out in some enviable footwear.

Taylor Swift Style music video

1989‘s first & third singles are worth sharing too, & why not? “Style” is one of Taylor’s artsier music videos, taking on new “stylistic” feats when putting her songs in motion to tell their stories. Also, there’s that ever-catchy “Shake it Off,” which rings true for anyone who has ever been told that they’re wrong for doing what they want.

Taylor Swift Shake It Off

Calvin Harris’ sweetheart isn’t going anywhere & that’s a good thing! Let’s hope to indulge in more Taylor Swift-inspired style choices & embrace life for all of its highs & lows, making something positive from it all. Which Taylor Swift song + video is your favorite? Are you a fan of 1989? Will you be watching this year’s MTV VMAs? For more stylish posts, check out this summer’s ankle strap sandal trend inspired by Rihanna & Kiernan Shipka, Chrissy Teigen’s menswear style, great buys on earrings from Express, & Reese Witherspoon’s southern Draper James street style. Happy Styling!

Runway Rundown: The Eddie Borgo Accessories Collection for Target Lookbook!


The Eddie Borgo for Target CollectionLast month, Target announced its newest collaboration with accessories designer Eddie Borgo, & now the entire lookbook has hit the web. The collection includes tons of modern jewelry, clutches & bags, as well as whimsical home decor, set to hit stores on July 12th, ranging in price from $7.99 to $49.99. The face of the line is none other than the always gorgeous model & designer darling, Poppy Delevingne.

In the retailer’s press release of the new line, Borgo’s designs are hailed as “the designer’s signature aesthetic – geometric shapes and symbols inspired by sculptural art and architecture – and on-trend textures, colors and finishes (think silver, gold and rose gold combined with materials like hand-poured resin, brass mesh and chains).

Also, Borgo shares, “When designing this collection, I was inspired by the idea of modernizing the 1960s and 1970s craft culture and empowering people to be creative… It’s been exciting to bring the spirit of this collection to life, and I can’t wait to see how Target’s guests make it their own.”

What do you think of Target’s newest collaboration & designer? Are you fan of Target’s previous designer campaigns? For more on the success of these brand name collaborations, check out galleries from 3.1 Phillip Lim, Altuzarra, Prabal Gurung, & Kate Young. To check out more stylish posts, click through the latest red carpet looks from Gigi Hadid & Emilia Clarke, Cara Delevingne’s recent look while promoting Paper Towns, gold wedge espadrilles from Steve Madden & Dress Barn, & my newest summer favorites from Old Navy & H&M. Happy Styling!