Inside A Style Blogger’s Closet: My Birthday Style in Navy, Black, & Lace!

birthday-dressAs fashion-obsessed as I am, I have to say that there are few articles of clothing or accessories that really make me stop in my tracks. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true since there are certain qualities in a dress, for example, that are right up my style alley. I’m talking about anything a-line, with lace detail, & overall feminine in nature. In my line of work (or one of my lines of work, that is), it’s not difficult to find dresses such as what I’ve described. When it came time to think about what I’d wear for my birthday during this past Labor Day holiday, I was ready to turn to an older favorite (that I’d only worn one other special occasion time), which had a beautiful floral print in a lightweight summer fabric, perfect for celebrating on a summer weekend at high tea, a party organized by a very special small group of gal pals. However, I came across the Luxe by Carmen Marc Valvo lace fit & flare dress @Dress Barn in navy & black (available in plus size here), & suddenly my birthday outfit dreams were becoming a reality. I couldn’t stop talking about how excited this dress made me & 33 was starting to look really good!

luxe-by-carmen-marc-valvo-lace-fit-flare-dress-at-dress-barnI love the classic look of this dress, which really can be worn any time of year because of the rich navy tone with black lace details. It’s a chic alternative to a go-to little black dress for shoppers of any size, especially when navy can sometimes look dowdy, but here, it’s a modern & elegant party dress that I’m confident will find special multiple wears. For the summer, I paired my look with navy peep toe pumps & a bolero sweater (in case I needed the arm coverage). When it comes to the fall, I’ll mix up the look with a denim jacket & ankle booties for an edgy, textured take. Even in the colder months, I’d love to see how to the dress looks with opaque tights & knee boots. What’s even better about this dress is that it’s available top shop @Dress Barn in sizes 4-24!

How would you style this lace frock & where would you wear it? Do you often transform party dresses for day looks? What trends are you most excited about this fall? For more amazing style, check out more styles from Luxe by Carmen Marc Valvo, as well as model & designer Ashley Graham‘s newest crop of dresses for Dress Barn! Happy Styling!

Fab in 4 Ways: A Crochet Skirt for Day, Date, Work, & Weekend!

I recently had a conversation with a friend / coworker about the perks of our job, one being all the styling possibilities for certain items that can be worn for a variety of occasions. Thus the inspiration for this post, I couldn’t help thinking about how quickly the summer is going by, & that fall fashion is currently in stores. Blending the new with the past season while keeping a budget in mind is a very present factor when I’m considering how to build new looks from my wardrobe. Transitioning pieces from season to season is really how you can get the most from your fashionable investment, which can also surprise you when planning a day out with friends, a special date night, what to wear for an important work meeting, as well as when you’re headed away for the weekend. 

It didn’t take long before I came across this versatile crochet scalloped skirt from @Dress Barn (shop misses available in small – large & plus available in 1X – 2X here. I have the skirt from last spring (in more of a creamy ivory tone) & I was stuck on how to style it, especially since there’s so much detail in the crochet of the skirt. Gladly, this design was returning to stores in a neutral taupe, perfect for coordinating for any season. In the fall, try this skirt with knee boots & a chunky sweater, or for winter with a blouse, tights, & ankle booties. However, when thinking about all of the styling possibilities, I’m excited to share four fabulous ways to wear this skirt, including for day, date, work, & weekend. 

Crochet for day.SHOP: misses shirt @Charles Tyrwhitt, Aubrey Brooke wedge @DSW, turquoise bracelet @Charming Charlie, Gabrielle Rocha lobster tote @6PM, square stud earring @White House Black Market, plus shirt @Gap, Naturalizer wedge @DSW, turquoise bracelet @Charming Charlie, Gabriella Rocha nautical tote @6PM, & Jasper stud earring @White House Black Market.

Crochet for date.SHOP: misses cut-out top @Forever 21, strappy heels @GOjane, beaded hoop earrings @Francesca’s, champagne stretch bracelet @Icing, ALDO clutch @Zappos, plus fringe top @Forever 21, chunky platforms @GOjane, drop earrings @Francesca’s, iridescent stretch bracelet @Icing, & Jessica McClintock clutch @Zappos.

Crochet for work.SHOP misses Dana Buchman top @Kohl’s, neutral jacket @Dress Barn, neutral pump @Payless, long necklace @Forever 21, watch @Target, stud earrings @Express, plus Dana Buchman top @Kohl’s, neutral jacket @Dress Barn, pointy toe slingback @Payless, long necklace @Forever 21, watch @Target, & knot stud earrings @Express.

Crochet for weekend.SHOP: misses pocket tee @Charlotte Russe, collar necklace @BaubleBar, printed kimono @Wet Seal, fringe sandal @ModCloth, straw shopper @H&M, plus pocket tee @Charlotte Russe, statement necklace @BaubleBar, printed kimono @Wet Seal, colorblock sandal @ModCloth, & canvas shopper @H&M.

How would you style the crochet skirt? What items do you keep handy all year long? Which staples do you like to reinvent in new ways? Where do you shop for everyday essentials? Happy Styling!

07/18/2016 Darling of the Day: Gwyneth Paltrow in Head-To-Toe Blush!

While summer (for me) is all about a good dress & sandals, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about summer outfits that go beyond the comfy Americana look of a tank & cut-off shorts (an ensemble that never really suited my shape to begin with). However, in an effort to fill my brain with as much fashion as possible (an excellent escape plan for when life is throwing a lot of heartache your way), I’m a little obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow‘s head-to-toe blush outfit in a blouse & pants by Michael Kors with Chloe Gosselin sandals (shop similar here). The actress & goop entrepreneur made a recent appearance to promote her organic Juice Beauty collection while in Toronto, looking effortless & chic in the pastel hue with minimal jewelry.

Gwyneth Paltrow in a blush silk bow blouse & skinny pants by Michael Kors Collection with pink croc Chloe Gosselin sandals at a Juice Beauty by goop event in Toronto.Usually when I dress in a monochromatic outfit, it’s all-black, easy enough for any shape to pull off since pastels aren’t always figure friendly for the curvier shopper. However, I’m impressed to see so many blush options out there, while keeping a budget in mind, for misses, plus, or petites separates to inspire Gwyneth’s look for when you’re at the office, headed to brunch with family, or a day time party event. Wearing blush as a base color also works for a multitude of accessories options, such as metallics like rose gold, gold, & silver. Also, blush is a luxe foundation for other colors & prints to pop against.

Blush misses, plus, & petites looks.SHOP: MISSES blouse @Forever 21, pants @Boohoo, sandals @Lulu’s, & bangle @Charming Charlie. PLUS blouse @Eloquii, pants @Eloquii, shoes @Clarks, & LC Lauren Conrad bangle @Kohl’s. PETITES blouse @JCPenney, pants @Dorothy Perkins, Steven by Steve Madden Valor sandals @Bloomingdale’s, & bangle @The Limited.

What do you think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s all blush outfit? Do you like to wear monochromatic outfits? What color has been on your mind this summer? For more celebrity inspiration, check out previous posts including pencil skirt options as seen on Kerry Washington & Christina Hendricks, Angelina Jolie’s nude strappy flats, & Blake Lively’s princess street style. Happy Styling!

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.

Top 10 Celeb Sightings: The Gals from Ghostbusters, Glitter, Glitz, & More!

While I’m working on a new essay based on my recent trip to New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Manus x Machina exhibit, my attention has been drawn to the latest & greatest of celebrity red carpet appearances. Just to clarify, I don’t share these celebrity images to praise the thin & privileged, or to negatively reinforce that beauty is supposed to look a certain way (like a white Hollywood actress). I’m inspired by the style in the images below, from sequins to lace to cut-outs to draping to accessories & all that. Not only do I appreciate the craftsmanship of a beautiful garment, but how an outfit is assembled (to me) is like a work of art, setting a tone & inspiring something beautiful with texture & colors.

Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander shimmered in a silver Louis Vuitton gown with Bulgari Serpenti jewelry at the Jason Bourne premiere. The Shallows star Blake Lively continued to show off her on fleek maternity style in a salmon lace dress by Jonathan Simkhai (shop similar here) with a Christian Louboutin Paloma bag (shop similar here), Sophia Webster Rosalind crystal sandals (shop here), & jewelry by Anita Ko in New York City. German actress Diane Kruger wowed in a red sheer lace Jason Wu design with a mini nude Chanel clutch (shop similar here) at the premiere of The Infiltrator. Indian beauty Freida Pinto went for a monochromatic all-white look in a beaded embellished top with white leg pants & a menswear inspired jacket by Ralph Lauren Collection & neutral pumps at the Wimbledon Men’s Finals. Julia Stiles showed off her curves in a honeycomb-patterned Rubin Singer halter gown (see runway look here) with jewelry by Amrapali & Jerome C. Rousseau sandals at the European premiere of Jason Bourne.

Alicia Vikander, Blake Lively, Diane Kruger, Freida Pinto, & Julia Stiles.SNL star Kate McKinnon was all smiles in a blue Versace gown with jewelry by David Yurman (shop similar here) at the Ghostbusters premiere, alongside Kristen Wiig who wore in a pink strapless sweetheart tropical palm print Jenny Packham column gown with pink Irene Neuwirth gemstones. Funny lady Leslie Jones stole the red carpet in a red off-the-shoulder sweetheart Christian Siriano gown with studded ankle strap sandals at the Ghostbusters premiere. Aussie actress Margot Robbie stood tall in an embroidered peach Miu Miu column gown with diamonds by Messika at the London premiere of Tarzan. Melissa McCarthy glowed in a yellow lace floral embroidered 50s inspired A-line dress by Judith B. Swartz & Daniela Kurrle with strappy cream Aldo sandals (shop similar here) at the Ghostbusters premiere.

Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Margot Robbie, & Melissa McCarthy.I love how even after so many years of following celebrity fashion & blogging that I’m still surprised & impressed by what’s happening on the red carpet. I love how classic silhouettes can work for so many different shapes & sizes, proving that fashion can not only be evolutionary, but also timeless. Dressing glamorously isn’t just for the red carpet either. Take some inspiration from these ensembles & try a little extra sparkle for your next night out. Break out some ankle strap sandals to amp up your street style. Don’t be afraid try a head-to-toe color for summer & experiment with white. Which celebrity look is your favorite? Who inspires your summer style? Happy Styling!


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Basics for a Bargain: Black Pencil Skirts for Every Body Type & Budget!

You know the old saying, “If you can’t stop thinking about it, buy it”? Well, that circulated in my head & heart all weekend… about a black pencil skirt. Mind you, I have a few black pencil skirts, all in different materials & cuts, but one particular caught my eye recently & I couldn’t stop thinking about the styling possibilities, especially for my next stylish photo shoot. It’s a staple for any Style Darling at any size, that’s for sure. This isn’t news in the fashion world. Magazines everywhere have been championing pencil skirts for every shape as a way to get the most out of a wardrobe without breaking the bank. Since I gave in to the “buy it” theory, I was simultaneously inspired to explore every which way a pencil skirt can enliven your style.

Check out the A-listers below to get inspired by all kinds of black pencil skirts & style choices, including blogger / actress Jamie Chung, designer / author Lauren ConradMad Men star Christina Hendricks, Aussie actress Rebel Wilson, the flawless Kerry Washington, & the one & only, Jennifer Lopez.

Jamie Chung, Lauren Conrad, Christina Hendricks, Rebel Wilson, Kerry Washington, & Jennifer Lopez.Pencil skirts aren’t just for the office either. Mix up your pencil skirt look with a graphic tee, peplum top, button down shirt, turtleneck, or body suit, for example. Wear one on a date night, going out with girl friends, or when running daily errands. The possibilities are endless for the basic bottom, especially if you’re looking to dress down something glitzy or elevate a casual top. Play with minimalism or menswear, perhaps even utilitarian or bombshell styles all when wearing a pencil skirt.

Misses, Plus, & Petites pencil skirt looks.SHOP: Misses cold shoulder top @Charlotte Russe, graphic tee @Nordstrom Rack, floral blouse @ModCloth, Plus plaid shirt @Forever 21, embellished top @Dress Barn, printed peplum top @Old Navy, & Petites ruffle tank @JCPenney, denim t-shirt @ASOS, & lace trim tank @Gap. Misses skirt @TJMaxx & skirt @H&M, Plus skirt @Eloquii & skirt @Kohl’s, & Petites skirt @Lord & Taylor & skirt @The Limited.

When it comes to the fitted skirt, look beyond a pump & to special details in your accessories. A black pencil skirt is a great foundation & neutral for any special extras, including playing with patterns, metallics, sparkle, cut-outs, & luxe textures. The suggestions below barely scrape the surface of what you can do with your ensemble, especially when you can wear a pencil skirt any season. 

Pencil skirt accessoriesSHOP: ankle strap pumps @DSW, metallic heels @GOjane, ankle booties @Lane Bryant, embellished flats @Topshop, belt @Lulu’s, rose gold tote @Payless, leopard clutch @6PM, & tortoise sunglasses @Target.

How would you style a pencil skirt? How often do you wear one? Where do you like to shop for staple wardrobe pieces? How much would you invest in season-to-season separates? Which celebrities inspire your everyday style? Happy Styling!

06/24/2016 Darling of the Day: Angelina Jolie’s Easy Breezy Summer LBD & Strappy Flats!

I can talk (or write, in this case) for hours about shoes. That’s always been the case for me. Yeah, I’m that girl, a shoe girl! I have to say (or write, in this case) that my relationship with shoes has evolved over the years in the most strangely sensible way too. Once I transitioned from working a job in an office (where sitting meant I could really wear any & every shoe I could stick my feet in) to a commuting job in the city & most currently as a sales associate in the retail world, my shoe needs have drastically & painstakingly changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still gasp in admiration & find high heels sexy as hell. However, my everyday shoes are usually flats that I can actually walk in (go figure!). I save the heels for special occasions of going out with my boyfriend, days in the classroom during the semesters (not much walking to do there), & specific photo opportunities (when I’m really digging an outfit combination). 

During one recent & busy night at work, I had a conversation with a lovely but frustrated customer for whom I was helping put an outfit together. Once a top & skirt found, our conversation turned to shoes. Of course, any kind of black pump (slingback, stiletto, or wedge) would make for a party-ready look, but then I suggested a nude shoe, which time and time again, has proved successful, especially when it comes to a summer ensemble. By now, you’re probably wondering what this anecdote has to do with the title of this post about. While I rely on a nude shoe as my go-to for many stylish summer outfits, my fashion world was rocked once more scrolling through social media, discovering that during a New York City day with her son, Knox, Angelina Jolie simplified a classic LBD-wayfarer shades look with nude ankle tie flats by Gianvito Rossi (shop here). 

Darling of the Day - Angelina Jolie's Easy Breezy Summer LBD & Strappy FlatsI was instantly inspired by this delightful & obvious (really!) style choice that I had to share its versatility with my readers. Speaking of evolutions, the ballet flat has come a very long way & as a result of that journey, shoppers don’t have to break their budget (even when there’s a time crunch) to achieve this level of style perfection. Really, this sort of shoe would amplify a belted cotton frock with a cardigan, a cargo vest & skimmers, or a sheath mini & blazer.

SHOP: Misses tee dress @Old Navy (available in sizes XS – XXL), black sunglasses @Icing, lace-up pointed flats @Charlotte Russe, Plus dress @Forever 21, Betsey Johnson sunglasses @Nordstrom Rack, Wild Diva ankle strap flats @Aeropostale (also available in black), Petites Worthington dress @JCPenney, ELLE sunglasses @Kohl’s, & ankle strap d’orsay flats @GOjane.

Do you like to wear ankle strap or lace-up flats? Where do you shop for your summer shoe must-haves? Do you like Angelina Jolie’s street style? How do you like to style a day-ready little black dress? How does summer inspire your style? Happy Styling!

06/21/2016 Darling of the Day: Blake Lively’s Yellow + Denim Combo Inpires Summer Style in New York City!

Blake Lively is making the style rounds to promote her latest film, The Shallows, taking advantage of every opportunity she can for a beautiful fashion moment. The actress donned her baby bump (#2 on the way for her & hubby Ryan Reynolds) like a prom queen / prep girl straight out of Gossip Girl (that’s really a compliment, folks!) after completing an appearance on NBC’s Today (in a stunning Elie Saab beaded frock & strappy Stuart Weitzman sandals seen here). While waving to photogs, Blake played up her yellow embellished Jenny Packham gown (see it here on the runway from the designer’s Fall 2016 collection) with a light wash denim jacket from Madewell (shop it here), printed Christian Louboutin ‘Kate’ chevron pumps (shop them here), as well as tons of turquoise, blue, & silver jewelry layered on to stay true to her bohemian aesthetic by Jennifer Meyer, Alison Lou, Mociun, & Lorraine Schwartz.

Blake Lively in a yellow Jenny Packham empire maxi dress with a Madewell denim jacket & printed Christian Louboutin pointy toe heels.What I especially love about this look is that it inspires new life into those gowns we all have from special occasions in the past. Since summer is all about maxi dresses, why not play with the styling possibilities & mix up your look with a staple like a denim jacket & fun footwear? That goes for classic prom dresses, perhaps something not so ball gown-shaped, as well as that bridesmaid dress tucked away in the back of your closet. Chiffon is a breezy, light weight material perfect to try on any look this season, maybe when you’re meeting with girlfriends for lunch, or headed to a museum or vineyard this weekend. Check out the inspiration below in dresses (not as glam as Blake’s but still hitting the sunshine-y notes of yellow) & accessories for budget shoppers who wear misses, plus, & petite sizes.

outfitsSHOP: Misses embellished neck maxi dress @boohoo, denim jacket @H&M, Steve Madden cork heels @DSW, Plus maxi dress @Forever 21, Westport denim jacket @Dress Barn, Christian Siriano Wide Width Kathryn pumps @Payless, Petite maxi dress @Dorothy Perkins, Style & Co denim jacket @Macy’s, & Jackpot pointy toe pumps @Nine West.

jewelrySHOP: stud earrings @Charming Charlie, silver tone ring @Kohl’s, turquoise ring @Bebe, circle round stone bracelet @Charming Charlie, & elephant tassel bracelet @Charming Charlie

If pictures & links don’t quite do it for you, be sure to check out this short video of Blake in action, flaunting her look with confidence & elegance, something I practice even when walking from my front door to the car & from the car to wherever life is taking me.

While we’re on the subject of one Blake Lively, it would be a waste not to share the gallery below of Blake’s flawless maternity style this spring during press appearances, hitting the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, & maintaining her #styleicon status at the 2016 Met Ball.

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What do you think of Blake’s Jenny Packham-Madewell-Christian Louboutin ensemble? Can you envision something like this for yourself? How would you dress down a super fancy dress like hers? What do you wear in the summer to make you feel ultra confident? Which celebrities inspire your street style? Happy Styling!

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.