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.

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!)

Cover Craze: Olivia Palermo Channels Victorian Style as Holt Renfrew’s Debut Muse!


Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 01The world’s style crush / obsession on Olivia Palermo is stronger than ever, & what better way to celebrate the modern-day style icon than continue to feature her impeccable fashion sense in the debut feature for Holt Renfrew, not a print magazine like I usually feature in Cover Craze, but an online magazine premiering with Olivia. The photoshoot was inspired by fall’s best Victorian-inspired pieces, from designers & labels like Altuzarra, Manolo Blahnik, Lanvin, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce & Gabbana, Chloe, Self-Portrait, Valentino, & Michael Kors, as well as beauty brands that furnished Olivia’s look including Bobbi Brown, Tom Ford, Nars, & more.

Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 02The article features Olivia’s own words about her where her flawless style comes from, her goals for the ever-changing world of fashion & technology, as well as her personal work ethics in building her brand.

Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 03 Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 04 Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 05 Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 06 Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 07 Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 08 Olivia Palermo for Holt Renfrew 09What do you think of Olivia’s elegant photo shoot? Do you follow her fashion lifestyle on social media? For more posts featuring Olivia Palermo, check out her recent jewelry collaboration with BaubleBar, as well as red carpet looks in chic leather overalls, a Tibi tuxedo dress, & a stunning Valentino gown. Also, get inspired by a 300+ image gallery of Olivia’s street style & special occasion outfits. 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 / Beauty Buys: Behind-The-Scenes With Kate Winslet for Lancôme!


It’s no surprise that Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has a cosmetics deal. The timeless beauty really knows how to pose in front of the cameras & I love how she’s always standing up for her shape. However, the spokesmodel for Lancôme has returned as the face of the brand, promoting their newest anti-wrinkle cream, Renergie Lift Multi-Action Reviva Concentrate, which sells for $120.00, which is pretty pricey, but perhaps there’s something to it!

Kate Winslet for Lancôme

The cream hits stores in April & while some of us still under 30 might not have to think about wrinkles, it’s always impressive to see how strong & inspiring women like Kate are celebrating their beauty. The actress recently told In Style, “A good eye cream is really important when you’re traveling, busy, &stress.” She adds, “That’s when the dark, puffy circles can get you!”

Watch the video below to get a sneak peek at Kate behind-the-scenes in London, shot by Miguel Reveriego. To shop Lancôme products, check out Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, HSN, Harrods, & Dillard’s! For more fashion videos, check out previous posts from Watch This Style, including the Fall 2013 Ready-To-Wear Collection by Alexander McQueen during Paris Fashion Week, Chanel’s latest watch collection, La Montre PREMIERE, Lena Dunham discussing Season 2 of Girls, & Beyoncé’s Vogue March 2013 cover shoot! Happy Styling!