Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Truth

I've been toying with the idea of writing this post for several weeks now, but I just wasn't sure how to go about it- what I really wanted to say, how I really wanted to convey my current blogging state. In the end, I've decided the truth is what matters- I shouldn't feel bad for getting something off my chest. At the same time, I'm going to try not to sound like I'm whining.

Here's the long and short of it: I love my blog. I'm proud of my blog. Do I have the best photos? No. Is my writing poignant and witty? Not usually. Am I a major fashion industry big-wig whose advice you should care about? No on that one, too. And yet, I feel like my blog is great- not because of something specific like amazing photography or an important title next to my name- I think it's great because of all of it together- the sum is greater than the individual parts. I think it's a great blog because:

1.) My blog is prolific- In the 2 years/24 months/686 days I've been writing this blog, I have posted nearly 800 times. I've posted an average of just over 1 post per day, which I think is actually really impressive. Yes, there are the occasional posts that are just a few words, but for the most part, that's nearly 800 posts that I feel are quality. If you read my blog, you know that just about every day, like clockwork, there will be something new for your to read. Most blogs out there only post every couple of days at the most, and many are just once per week or even monthly!
2.) My blog is more diverse than any other fashion blog I've found out there. So many fashion blogs focus on one format- a daily outfit, a specific wardrobe item, etc. I write posts that cover so many different formats and topics and I have yet to see another one that does that so consistently! If you visit my blog, you'll find high fashion, bargain shopping, menswear, accessories, trends, outfit photos, street style- and more!
3.) My blog is full of original content- While I gather inspiration from around me- my coworkers, friends, fashion magazines, even things I see while walking down the street- ultimately what I post is my own. Many other blogs that post as frequently as I do are consistently using content from other sites to do so.

I don't want to sound like I'm whining, but I have to say it: My blog is great, but other than a few supportive friends and followers, I'm starting to wonder why I put so much into it if I'm going to get so little out of it? I started this blog to help other people dress with confidence, to provide them with a skill that would help them be more successful out in the world. I tweet my posts, I put it on facebook, I tell everyone I meet about it and hand out my business card for people to visit the site. I network online- with other blogs, fashion or otherwise. I've made a few connections through other blogs, and I've really enjoyed getting to know those other bloggers.

However, I see online how many other bloggers are more successful than me in terms of their readership. As I type this post, I currently have 76 followers. Not even in the triple digits. Why? I have about five times as many facebook friends as that. According to my Blogger "stats," my blog gets an average of 500 hits per day. It just doesn't add up and the only thing I can glean from these stats is that while I may have visitors to my blog, I don't have consistent followers- people who want to come back day after day. Am I just jealous of the success of other bloggers who have been doing it a shorter time than I have and yet have so many more followers than me? A little bit, maybe. But I'm jealous partly because I feel as though my blog is a quality blog to visit and so many others aren't. I'm not jealous of blogs that are great and successful- I'm jealous of blogs that are mediocre and successful. (And to be clear, I'm judging their success solely on the number of readers/followers they have, not on the sponsorships and freebies they're getting.) I resent people with thousands of followers who can barely put a coherent sentence together. I get annoyed with "personal style" bloggers who do nothing more than post their daily outfits with so little substance beyond that.

Do I need to be more gimmick-y? I don't want to be.
Do I need to hire a professional photographer every day? I don't think I need to- my photos convey what I need them to.
Do I need to be a better writer? Of course, that is something I work on all the time, but to be honest, I think I'm doing pretty good by comparison.
Do I need to engage my readers more? Honestly, I ask for comments and tweets all the time. I believe in engaging my readers with interesting content, but how can I know what you're interested in if you don't comment?
Do I need to be more vulnerable? Perhaps, but this is a fashion blog, not a life blog.

So what is the point of this post? Aside from venting, I honestly don't know, but it's been on my mind so much lately that I had to release it. If you are a regular reader, I thank you for that. If you comment on a regular basis, I appreciate that, too. Please don't think that I don't appreciate the small, but active readership I have. I just wonder what I'm doing wrong if after 2 years and nearly 800 posts, I still have just a small group of readers that consists mainly of my friends and family.

Is my blog just not as good as I think it is? If ever there was a post to comment on, readers, it's this one.

Enjoy this beautiful day, friends!

Shoesday Tuesday- Open Your Eyes

I love shopping online- sitting on the couch in my PJ's, surfing through Piperlime, Zappos, Endless, and lots of other sites is so fun for me. I fall in love with lots of shoes that way. And so many of those sites offer a great interface for viewing every angle of the shoe. It's as good as it can get without actually handling the shoes. But that's the thing- it will never be AS good as actually handling the shoes. A photograph, even several photographs, will never capture the essence of a lot of shoes- how the light hits them, how the details stand out on my foot, how the leather feels against my skin, etc. I saw this pair of shoes on my boss the other day and fell in love with them:

I-Dreemy by Steve Madden, Piperlime, $100

In the photo, I find them to be unremarkable. In real life? They are amazing. So, while you may enjoy shopping online, remember it's not always the best method. And also remember, you don't have to be in a store to be shopping for the next great item in your wardrobe- look around, open your eyes to the fashions of your coworkers, family, friends, even strangers on the street. Take the minute it takes to ask them about where they got the item you're coveting. Many times I find myself doing that, and in addition to getting a great shopping tip, I end up chatting with that person and either making a new friend, or getting closer to an acquaintance. Bonus! Let your fashions bring you closer to others- we'll all benefit in the long run, not just our closets! 

Has a shoe or any other wardrobe piece brought you closer to another person? Tweet about it and use the hashtag #ShoesdayTuesday so I can find it. Have a great day, everyone! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Green Light for White

For those of you interested in following traditional fashion rules, technically today is the beginning of the season for wearing white- true white, that is. No more "winter white" or "cream," it's not time to don your favorite white pieces- especially those white shoes- and work them into your outfits. And if you're a stickler, you'll know that your time is limited- you only have until Labor Day.

To help inspire you, I've found lots of fabulous white pieces for you:

Halston Heritage Stretch Knit Dress, Saks Fifth Avenue, $325

Once you're finished at the BBQ's today, take a few minutes to pull the fabulous white pieces out from the back of your closet and start working them into your outfits! Enjoy the rest of your holiday! 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rate My Look: Mad Hatter

I couldn't wait to wear my new hat, so I made sure to work it into an outfit right away. This is what I wore yesterday and I love it all:

Dress: Target
Cardigan: Old Navy
Shoes: Marshalls

My hat, made by Cha-cha's House of Ill Repute, is so stinkin' awesome. I don't even have words. Yes I do. They are as follows: This hat has such amazing details- from the lace-like, almost cobweb-esque trim over the grosgrain ribbon band, to the feather embellishment on the band, to the suede-like trim along the brim to the perfectly tea-stained color of the straw to the folds and creases that make it appear as though it's 100 years old, every detail of this hat is awesome. I should have taken a better close-up picture. It has SO much character, it's unbelievable. And yet, at the same time, it's incredibly neutral and versatile. What convinced me to splurge on this hat was the fact that it can truly be worn with just about anything. I know there are many of you who don't think so, who think that hats are so hard to wear! I know what's you're thinking: "When on earth could you ever wear this hat once, let alone in enough situations that it could be considered versatile!" 

First, it's a light-weight straw hat, perfect for protecting my face from the hot summer sun. That quality alone makes it appropriate for a stroll in the park, a trip to the farmer's market, a day at the beach, an outdoor BBQ and an afternoon shopping in any fabulous downtown you like, to name a few scenarios. The day I bought it, I was torn between it and a much dressier fascinator. In the end, I decided the hat could be dressed up OR down, while the fascinator was specific to dressing up situations. I promise to show you plenty of outfits with this hat to prove to you how versatile it is. Of course, I may not even need to convince you. Why not leave me a comment and tell me what you think- do you need convincing that it was worth the nearly $160 price tag? I want to hear what you have to say!  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How NOT to Wear Tangerine

I had this fabulous post idea where I gave all of you fabulous outfit ideas all centered around the super trendy color- tangerine. Not just your basic Halloween orange, tangerine is warmer and brighter and perfect for the spring and summer. There are lots of ways to wear it and I will deliver with a fabulous post very soon so you can get on the tangerine bandwagon. But in the meantime consider this: I read in a fabulous fashion magazine recently (which shall remain nameless), that the ideal pairing for tangerine is fuchsia. At first, I thought, "Yeah, that sounds like a really fun, bright combo!" Then, I thought of this:

Hmm... maybe not an ideal pairing after all... 

Accessories Anonymous: The Essential Straw Tote

Summer is a time for trips to the beach, shopping excursions in quaint little downtowns and picnics where ever it's picturesque. What do all these activities require? A great straw tote bag for toting all the essentials- an extra towel and some sunscreen, or a pair of sunglasses and a wide-brim hat, or even a blanket and some plastic utensils- a great tote bag is every girls' essential item for spring and summer. And nothing is more summery a statement than a textile such as straw:

Large Bamboo Straw Tote, Land's End, $29.99

Totes are so basic, and yet there are still so many to choose from. Select a tote for yourself that will suit your needs and that will ensure you're getting the most use out of it that you possibly can. Happy tote shopping, ladies! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday

Today was the most fabulous day I've had in a while. A few weeks ago, I bought two tickets to the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School for my mom as a Mother's Day gift. She was thrilled and being the awesome mom that she is, she decided to bring me with her to the class. The menu was amazing- lobster cocktail salad, asparagus soup with a parmesan crouton, smoked salmon crepe with horseradish cream sauce and a lemon brodo over fresh arugula, and for dessert raspberry rhubarb crumble with fresh whipped cream. How amazing does that sound? I can say in all honesty that it was an incredibly delicious meal. And we got to take the recipes home with us, so we can recreate any of the dishes. As classes go, I don't feel we learned much in the way of cooking terms or techniques. We're both fairly skilled cooks, so we already knew most of what the instructor shared. Regardless, it was still a fun and delicious experience.

After the lunch-time class, we spent a while walking around downtown Portsmouth where I spent WAY too much money on some super fabulous things. I bought two items- a hat and a dress. The hat you may remember from exactly two weeks ago:

When I saw today that the hat was still there, I tried it on again and just couldn't resist it for a second time! Maybe the sunny day (our first in WEEKS) influenced my need for a straw hat, or maybe the saleslady was particularly persuasive today. Regardless of why I bought it, the point is, it's mine! I've been wearing it ever since I bought it and I truly love it and I know I will get a lot of use out of it. I love that it's an neutral color and although it has very special details that make it more exciting than your average hat, it's still going to be versatile and easy to dress up or down. I can't wait to wear it to work, but that might not happen for a day or two. I'll be sure to show you what kind of outfit I create around it. 

As for the dress, you'll have to wait for a picture of that, but hopefully not too long. I will likely wear it to work right away as it's going to be ideal for the shop- comfortable, but stylish. 

What about you? What did you do with this fabulous Wednesday? If you're in New England, I hope you got out into the sunshine- we certainly needed a day like this! Regardless of what you've done so far, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shoesday Tuesday- Tapas Blogging

As much as I love my weekly Shoesday Tuesday, I know I'm not the only one out there creating fabulous blog posts about shoes. Today I want to share some other shoe-related sites from around the interwebs:

Styleite says there are 10 Shoe Vocabulary Words You Should Know and Probably Don't

Sea of Shoes is exactly that and Jane makes sure they are always beautifully photographed. Also, the vintage pieces that girl finds is unreal.

Manolo's Shoe Blog cracks me up every time. Humor AND shoes? I'm swooning!

The Shoe Goddess has a section of her site known as "In Her Shoes" with fabulous interviews with various shoe designers and other shoe-industry people. Trust me, it's a good read.

While Shoe Blog may not have a very interesting blog title, there isn't a lack of interesting and entertaining posts like this one calling out flatforms for the ugly shoes they are, or this post where I learned that there actually are Crocs out there that aren't hideous. Who knew?

While there are likely an infinite number of fantastic shoe-related blogs and sites out there on the interwebs, the above links are a few that I personally enjoy visiting. What about you? Do you have  favorite shoe blog or site? Share it in your tweet this week and don't forget the hashtag- #ShoesdayTuesday

Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rate My Look: How to Beat a Case of the Mondays

Need to know how to beat a case of the Mondays? Wear an adorable outfit:

Seriously, there isn't a single thing I'm wearing here that I don't love. Sometimes I find myself wanting to pair certain items together simply because I love both of them equally and can't decide which one I want to wear. That was the case for this skirt, vest, top, shoes, ring and necklaces. Fortunately, when combined, these items created a stylish, comfortable, professional outfit that I absolutely can't wait to wear again. Maybe next Monday? 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rate My Look: Thank You, Royal Wedding

A few months ago, I purchased a super cute little fascinator and wore it to work. It was an adorable look, but I understood that it might not be for everyone. In fact, while most of my co-workers loved it, I knew some of our customers thought I was a complete loon. How do I know? There are mirrors everywhere in our store, so even when my back was turned, I was often able to see people pointing and giggling. It never bothered me, mostly because I rarely concern myself with what others think of my outfit choices. Of course I like to see the reactions people may have, but regardless of whether it is a positive or negative reaction, what I care about is whether or not I like it. And if I like it, I'll wear it.

But I digress...

My point was really to tell you that ever since the Royal Wedding, whenever I wear this headband, I get a completely different reaction from strangers.

Instead of snickers and giggling when I'm not looking, strangers now approach me and say such things as:

"I love your fascinator!"


"You look very royal today!"


"Your fascinator is so great!"

At first I was annoyed by this- I thought to myself that I've been wearing this and other fascinators for months and many people mocked me for it. Now that people have seen hats and fascinators at the Royal Wedding, suddenly they've decided they are acceptable. I hated that it was not socially acceptable to wear something so outlandish until then. Up until the Royal Wedding, the best thing that would have been said about my fascinator would have been a back-handed remark about looking like a wanna-be Carrie Bradshaw. As much as this might have initially frustrated me, in the long run, it's actually a good thing. 

Thanks to all the fabulous (and not so fabulous) hats worn to the Royal Wedding, so many people have been exposed to a fashion accessory they might never have known about. Seeing all those fashion headpieces on all the wedding day guests has helped educate an enormous number of people. So who cares if I had to endure a few snickers and strange looks before- now, thanks to the Royal Wedding, I might not be the only one proudly wearing an ostentatious headpiece! I might even see this trend take off! 

As if my fascinator wasn't enough, I also pulled out my "spats" booties to put together this outfit for church today. I love these booties, and they look just darling with my pencil skirt, chiffon blouse and fascinator. 

What do you think? Do you see the fascinator trend taking off even more now because of the Royal Wedding? Leave a comment and tell me what you think! 

More Fabulous "Thank You's"

Remember when I wrote about my day volunteering for a friend's school for "Career Day?" Well, I had another similar experience last Wednesday that I want to share with you. You may remember that prior to my current job, actually even prior to my job at AMT, I worked as a musician, both performing and directing and also teaching. In fact, my career started off as a middle school music teacher. Obviously, things have changed, but now that I'm back in New Hampshire, there are quite a few connections that have been re-ignited since I came back. One of them is with my friend Helen, who was a year above me in high school. She's now the choral director for a local middle school. Shortly after I moved back to NH, I heard from Helen asking if I could accompany her middle school chorus groups for their holiday concert. I happened to be available, so I did it. I suppose I did a good job because she asked me to come back and play again, this time for their spring concert. Anyway, the concert was last Wednesday night and the kids did a great job. I could see and hear how much work they put into the performance. What caught me off guard a bit, though, was the way they chose to thank me. It was so nice- Helen told the audience what she thought of me and how she was happy we re-connected, etc., but then the students presented me with an ENORMOUS "Thank you" poster. Not just a "Thank you" card- a "Thank you" poster!

I had to use the "Panoramic" setting on my camera to get the entire poster in one shot! 

Isn't that so sweet? I was so touched that they took the time to do that for me! As for what I wore? Well, I neglected to take a picture- it was a gloomy, rainy day, so it wasn't exactly ideal picture-taking weather. On top of that, I wore a basic black outfit, as most musicians do when playing a "gig." So rather than photograph my fairly dull outfit, I chose to photography my enormous and exciting "Thank you" card! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rate My Look- Not exactly creative...

Remember my outfit from yesterday? Today isn't all that different!

Jacket: Ann Taylor
Dress: H&M via thrift shop
Shoes: DSW

Honestly, you'd think I could get a little more creative! Even the print of the dress is similar to the one I wore yesterday! I suppose I can't be creative every day. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stella and Dot Virtual Trunk Show

Hey everyone- here's a quick reminder that the Stella and Dot Virtual Trunk Show is still going on. Hostess Natalya and I decided to extend the trunk show through the ENTIRE month of May! What does that mean for you? It means you still have time to participate and purchase any of the fabulous Stella and Dot jewelry for yourself or as a gift for a loved one. So many people have told me they dread the "home party" concept, and while I believe Stella and Dot is truly different from all the other "home party" based businesses, I respect your opinions. That's partly why I decided to do this virtual trunk show- you get to shop without having to even leave your house! 

As the hostess, Natalya is earning 25% of the trunk show sales towards her own purchases in jewelry. That is true for ALL hostesses, of course. Should you decide to host a trunk show, virtual or otherwise, YOU would be eligible for that fabulous amount. The average hostess earns about $250 in free jewelry, plus up to four items at half price- not a bad deal, right? 

So please hop on over to my Stella and Dot e-Boutique and make your purchases! It's so simple- just click on "find your hostess" in the upper right and then type "Natalya Steindler" when prompted. See how simple it is? 

Feel overwhelmed by the choices available? Well, let me make some recommendations for you. All of these pieces below are ideal for spring and summer: 

I love these pieces for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they will work with so many outfits. The earrings are bright and cheerful- the perfect little pop of color to make any outfit fill summer-y. The bracelet is a perfect touch of sparkle- it's subtle, and mostly neutral, so it will literally work with every outfit. The necklace is such an amazing statement piece that's truly timeless and once again, it's neutral enough to go with just about anything. Seriously, you could wear it with your favorite LBD, or a simple white t-shirt and jeans, or just about everything in between! 

What is your favorite of these pieces? Leave a comment and tell me! And if you have any other questions about anything to do with Stella and Dot, whether it's about participating in the virtual trunk show, or hosting your own trunk show, or even becoming a stylist, please don't hesitate to email me! 

Rate My Look- Where is Spring?!?!?

At this point, we're more than half-way through the month of May and it has yet to feel like spring around here for more than 48 hours. It definitely makes getting dressed in the morning a little more difficult. I've been getting some use out of my spring jackets, particularly my trusty short denim jacket.

Dress: BCBGMaxAzria via Marshalls
Jacket: Ann Taylor 
Shoes: Payless
Ring and Necklace: Stella and Dot

I've struggled with finding sandals for this summer. I'm not a fan of gladiator sandals- they just don't work that well with my wardrobe. Unfortunately, that's really all there is out there right now! I spent an afternoon shopping for shoes last week and I managed to purchase four new pair of shoes for the summer including the sandals pictured above. Since it was BOGO, I also got a pair of cute, white ballet flats. Here's a better view of the sandals and a picture of the ballet flats for you: 

Feebe Bow Flat, Payless, $22.99

The other two pair of shoes I bought were from Marshalls- a pair of flip flops and a pair of basic black sandals in a smiliar style as the ones from Payless above. Outfits will come with those shoes soon. As for the dress, this is one that is at least a year old, but it is SO comfortable- I really love wearing it. The jewelry is of course Stella and Dot. On this particular day, I wore the Sofia Pearl Bib Necklace and the Camilla Ring.

I can't tell you how much I love these two jewelry pieces. They were two items that I knew I would like, but that I didn't necessarily expect to become every-day pieces. But that's exactly what they are! I wear the Camilla Ring ALL THE TIME! It's very comfortable and it really seems to go with just about everything. The Sofia Pearl Bib Necklace is such a classy, elegant statement and it really elevates every outfit to a completely different level. I've even worn it with a simple t-shirt and jeans and a great pair of heels. I love it! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shoesday Tuesday- Leopard, Cheetah, and Zebra, Oh, My!

I've always been a fan of pops of animal print- it's so much easier to incorporate a little bit of a bold print into an outfit than to try to wear it all-over. These shoes are perfect for exactly that! They're also perfect for spring and summer, so why not try a pop of leopard, cheetah or zebra today?

A Shoo In Shoe, Modcloth, $67.99 

Prada Zebra-print Calf Hair Sandals, Saks Fifth Avenue, $895

Do you wear a lot of animal print in your outfits? If not, would you consider adding a pop of print at your feet? Tweet your opinion on this look and don't forget the hashtag #ShoesdayTuesday

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rate My Look- Inspired by Brittan

Today was an absolutely fabulous day, and I'm not talking about the British sitcom. I started off my day by picking an outfit to wear out with Gigi- we had plans to get our nails done at a little salon in Portsmouth. I pulled out a dress that I haven't worn since last summer and felt instantly inspired:

Dress: Target
Shoes: Burlington Coat Factory? I think...
Sweater: Old Navy 
Ring and Earrings: Stella and Dot

Remember Brittan and her fabulous polka-dot dress with the citrus-y accouterments? Well, she was truly my inspiration for this outfit. I wish it was exactly the same color scheme as hers, but sometimes you need to make do with what you have. In my case, I had the polka dots and I had the citrus-family colors. Rather than the lemon and tangerine she sported, I had just a splash of lemon with a bit more of lime and grapefruit. Overall, it works and it's a super fun, bright, spring-y outfit. 

My mani/pedi with Gigi was also great and afterwards we had a nice afternoon shopping in downtown Portsmouth. She went home with several new pairs of shoes. I went home without a single new purchase, but it wasn't because I didn't find anything fabulous. On the contrary, I found several super fabulous items, but all of them were selling for a lot more than I was comfortable spending. For example, take a look at me in this AMAZING hat: 

I LOVE IT!!! It's like a super chic version of a mad hatter top hat and I had a lot of trouble leaving it behind. At $158, it would have been a major splurge. Maybe I'll go back in a few weeks and see if it's on sale. I have to say, this hat would be worth every penny and if I were made of money, I'd have snatched it up in heartbeat! I found it at an adorable little shop called Puttin' on the Glitz where there are dozens of equally fabulous hats as well as gorgeous handbags and tons of jewelry. The hat itself comes from Cha-cha's House of Ill Repute, but I would caution you against clicking that last link unless you are prepared to either drop a few hundred dollars on some amazing hats, or to have your heart broken because you can't drop a few hundred dollars on some amazing hats. Seriously. 

After leaving behind that amazing hat, we stopped in to a few shoe stores, another serious weakness of mine. I found these incredibly comfortable and incredibly chic sandals:

Sorry for the poor quality of the photo.  We were in the "outlet room" at JL Coombs when I found these babies. (P.S. How cute does my pedicure look?) Heres a better photo of them from Zappos: 

Pikolinos Gomera, Zappos, $155

Super fabulous, right? And the most amazing part about these wedges is that they feel like they are flats! It's magical and I really don't understand how it's done. They felt so amazing on my feet, I nearly purchased them. At $155, even buying them in tax-free New Hampshire was still out of the question. Although, much like the hat, I believe they would have been worth every penny. I suppose that was the theme of the day- finding absolutely fabulous items for around $150. 

Do you ever have days like that, when you wish you could buy really nice things, but you know your budget just won't allow for it? The shoes were of course far more practical than the hat, but still not entirely necessary. It's hard to walk away from something I know I will wear a lot, even more so than walking away from something a little impractical, but that I absolutely adore (like that hat)!

I may have gone home empty-handed in terms of shopping booty, but I still had a wonderful girls' day with Gigi and that is really what matters. Time spent with loved ones- friends, family, etc. is so much more important than any pair of shoes or mad hatter top hat. Don't you agree? 

Accessories Anonymous: 1154 Lill Studio

There is an amazing handbag company I've wanted to blog about for a while now, but I had to wait. My bestie Beth is a handbag aficionado, so when I found 1154 Lill Studio, I knew I'd found the perfect gift for her. And since Beth is a regular reader of the blog, I knew I had to wait before posting anything about Lill because I didn't want her to get any ideas before she got her gift! Now that I've given it to her and I know she's started shopping on their site, I feel comfortable tell all of YOU about it!

I found this shop on Newbury Street in Boston and I instantly fell in love. The concept behind this shop is custom handbags. They have a large variety of styles available and what feels like an endless supply of fabrics to choose from to create a custom bag. It's simple, or at least you feel that way at first- select your favorite style bag, then choose fabrics and voila! You've got a custom-made handbag! Sometimes having so many choices is actually more difficult, though. I lost over an hour just playing with different fabric combinations the other day and I didn't even move beyond a single purse style! Here's one of the combinations I created:

"Lexie" Custom Bag

Why not click the link above and start designing your own custom handbag? I can speak from personal experience that this type of thing makes an excellent gift for your girlfriends who die for handbags. Don't be surprised if you find yourself clicking away for hours! If you come up with something fabulous, email me and I'll share it here on the blog! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yet Another Fashionable Co-worker

Have I mentioned before how incredibly fabulous and fashionable all my co-workers are? They seriously are. I especially love how each woman at the shop has her own unique style and isn't afraid to show it. Kate, one of the alterations staff, looks adorable every day, but last week she wore an outfit that made me drool:

Her ring was my favorite part of the outfit: 

I love it! Although she did mention that the pointy wings on the bird can be a bit hazardous, so she wears it on her left hand to avoid injuring anyone when she shakes their hand. Beauty hurts, even spectators, I suppose. 

Last year I posted more than one blog about pairing a floral sun dress with boots and as you can see from Kate's outfit, it not only works, it's actually a really awesome combination. To see my other fashionable co-workers, Gigi and Sadie, click their names and you'll be taken back to those posts. Also, feel free to leave a comment telling Kate exactly how great she looks! Thanks for letting me post your photo on the blog, Kate! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Career Day Follow Up

You may remember that about a month ago I spoke at a friends' school for their "World of Work," which is essentially career day. She works in a middle school and every year they find volunteers to speak on their careers- what they do, how they got there, what type of background/education is required, that type of thing. This year, my friend- Danielle- asked me to participate and of course I obliged. I was a bit nervous. You may remember from my frantic post. If you don't, you can review it here.

In the end, the kids were great- very attentive with excellent questions. I spoke to them mostly about my career path, as opposed to my current job. I explained how I started as a music teacher, then worked in an office that eventually fired me (yup, I've been fired). After that I worked in theatre mostly as a musician, but also as a costume designer. I told them how that led to my position in Pennsylvania at AMT and then how that job prepared me for my current position as the Alterations Manager for Madeleine's Daughter. It seems like a strange progression, but to me it makes perfect sense. My goal was to explain to the students that careers can be ever-changing and that just because you decide you want to do something one day, you may find your interest in something else growing down the road. And it's okay to make that change. If I hadn't been open to the opportunities presented to me, if instead I had said, "I have a degree in music education, so I must stay in that field," I would never be where I am today. And where I am today is a great place- I am the happiest I have ever been and I have great balance in my life. As content as I am right now, I also know that things could change, and that if and when they do I'll hopefully remember the lessons I've learned about being open to new and different possibilities and opportunities.

While the story of my career is one that can help young students understand their futures a bit more, it is also relevant to grown adults. Just because you went to school for a specific career; just because you have been working in a single industry for the last few years; just because it is what you've always done- none of these are reasons to stay in a position where you are unhappy or discontented. It may take a bit of courage to step out and do something new. It may mean revisiting your short-comings and figuring out how you need to grow in order to move up. It may mean the scary process of quitting your job to go back to school. It may mean all sorts of uncertainties and what-ifs. But if the end result is better for you and your family, don't you think you owe it to yourself to try?

I felt great when I left the school that day, but I felt even better when I came home to an envelope full of "Thank You" notes from the students today. I realized that my imperfect career path will have an impact on the lives of these students and I felt so honored to have been a part of it. It reminded me of a friend whose daughter will be going to college next year. Her daughter was in middle school when I met her and I helped her through some of her first experiences performing in professional theatre. Now she'll be attending NYU in the fall and studying musical theatre. Her father said to me, "You helped make that happen. You had a hand in raising her to be the person she is now." Is there anything more special than that?

The "Thank You" notes I received today gave me a similar feeling. I want to share some of what the students wrote with all of you:

"Dear Renee, 
I thought your story was really cool and interesting how you went from a music teacher to a fashion designer... made me realize you can do anything you put your mind to. -- Brianna"

" Dear Renee Bouchard, 
Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to s. I found your job very interesting and fun to do. I like how you told us about your experiences with different jobs. I really do appreciate what you did for all of us. Thank you so much again!
Shae-Lyn W." 

"Dear Ms. Bouchard, 
Thank you for your time coming to our school. I was really excited of what you had said. I feel people should create their emotions in making clothes that come from their self. I'm looking forward to becoming a designer. Thank you. -- Chelsea M." 

And this one is my favorite:

"Dear Renee, 
Thank you very much for telling us about your job experiences! Not that long ago I wanted to make my own clothes, but I didn't know how I would like it. But you made it so easy. :) And your dress was beautiful! But now I am hooked on being a nurse. Maybe I will make something of my own! Thank you for coming to spend your day with us! 
Serena M." 

Overall, I have to say it was a very rewarding experience and I'm proud to know that I may have influenced these young students, even just a little. If you ever have the opportunity to volunteer for a local school system, please do it. The experience will be more rewarding than you can imagine. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shoesday Tuesday- Amazing

Can we talk about how freaking amazing these are:

This week, tweet your favorite summer shoes- a picture, a description, a memory- anything will do, but don't forget the hashtag #ShoesdayTuesday

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kate Middleton Wedding Gown Replica

Take a minute to watch the video above. It's certainly an incredible feat for the design staff to have re-created Kate Middleton's wedding gown a mere 48 hours after the world first viewed it. As a professional in the bridal industry, I have to admit, I'm a bit baffled. I understand the idea behind emulating celebrity styles, but an exact replica of a wedding gown? I think it's going too far.

Everything you choose to wear should be selected because of YOUR personal style and taste. Yes, Kate Middleton is a snappy dresser and yes, we all want to wear Alexander McQueen if we can, but we should want to wear something because it is appealing on a personal level not because the future Queen of England wore it. If I choose to emulate a celebrity's style, it is not because of who that celebrity is, it's because I like the look. I'm not saying that all the brides who choose to wear a replica version of Kate Middleton's dress are doing it to be like a princess for a day. I do believe there are other women out there who want to wear a lace bodice/satin skirt gown because it is what they love the most and what will ultimately make them feel the best on their wedding day. However, I also feel there is a bit of a craze over everything the Duchess of Cambridge dons these days. I love her style as much as the next person, but that's exactly what it is- HER style. Perhaps there are elements of her style that you may want to incorporate into your outfits, but to completely replicate her dresses- the engagement announcement dress, the engagement photo dress, and especially the bridal gown- seems to be abandoning your own personal style in favor of hers.

I've mentioned before that it's a good idea to select a style icon- someone whose fashion choices you can emulate to help improve your own wardrobe selections. I still stand behind this advice because the goal is not to replicate a celebrity style. The goal is to find your own unique look- to incorporate ideas you see in others in a way that is flattering to your body and that suits your unique lifestyle. Emulate, don't replicate.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My First Stella and Dot Trunk Show Tonight!

I'm sure you all know about the virtual trunk show that I'm currently hosting with Natalya Steindler as the gracious virtual hostess. But I'm still super excited about my first LIVE and IN PERSON trunk show tonight hosted by my friend and coworker McKenzie! I hope to have a group of 8-10 ladies who will be viewing my collection and shopping for fabulous jewelry of their own!

One of the great things about Stella and Dot is that they are completely online in terms of support, trunk shows, shopping, etc. Once a trunk show is booked, I put it on my online calender through the S&D website. Once it's online, it's technically considered "open," which means anyone can purchase something and help earn that particular hostess points towards her free jewelry credits. So even though McKenzie's party is tonight, her trunk show has been open for over a week. If any of her friends were unable to attend, they could still purchase some jewelry, but they don't have to wait until a certain date or time to do it! I love how convenient it is.

Another thing I love about Stella and Dot is the packaging of their jewelry. Take a look at the packaging on my first shipment of jewelry:

The inside of the shipping box is printed with a bright Stella and Dot pattern and even the tissue is lovely blue stripes! 

The boxes are absolutely precious! Each piece of jewelry is nestled in foam to protect it. 

I also love how each box builds up your self esteem. Or states the obvious, however you want to view it. 

As always, please let me know if you are interested in hosting your own Stella and Dot trunk show- I'd love to be your stylist! Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 

P.S. Don't forget that today is also DERBY DAY! Wear a hat! Drink a mint julep! Watch "the most exciting two minutes in sports!" Want to know what I did last year on Derby Day? Click here and here and you'll see! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rate My Look- Another Lost Outfit

I'm not sure how I missed this outfit, but I managed to take the picture, but never actually post it on the blog! I distinctly remember the outfit, though. I put it together the same week I wrote about self-inspired outfits. I know this because the dress pictured above is one that I wore a lot last year, and I remember howe it inspired me to create this outfit this year. Last year, I wore it with a thicker, black cardigan and heels. This time around, I opted for flats, a new cardigan and a fun hat. 

The weather has gradually been warming here, so I will likely be putting this dress away for the summer. It's a little too short to wear it without tights or leggings, so for me it's a fall/winter dress. Also, something about the fabric and the cowl neck in combination just seems to work better for colder weather. But don't worry, I have lots of bright, printed dresses to wear all spring and summer, provided the seasons cooperate and actually arrive in New England. Until then, consider me a layering queen. (P.S. Just so you know how cold it's been- I STILL have not gotten my first pedicure of the season.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Accessories Anonymous: Moop and Environmental Fashion

If you're environmentally conscious, you might have a problem when searching for a new handbag. Whether you want a basic cotton tote, or a "vegan" leather handbag, you're often forced into choosing the lesser of two evils. For example, with most "vegan" items, the leather may be faux, which means it wasn't obtained in a cruel manner, but that doesn't insure that it wasn't produced in an environmentally destructive way. The same goes for cotton- are you aware that cotton accounts for about one quarter of the pesticides used in the United States? "What about organic?" you ask. Well, the cotton itself may have been organically grown, but what about the dye and manufacturing process? Most cotton is shipped overseas to China to be milled, woven and dyed before being cut and sewn into garments. The fashion industry is unfortunately one of the most environmentally destructive industries there is and while we may not be able to change that overnight, there are steps we can take to have less of a fashion "footprint."

One such way is to purchase items that are not only created in an environmentally sustainable way, but to also make sure those items will stand the test of time both in terms of fashion and wear. In a time when "fast fashion" is all the rage, consider buying something classic and durable. A white button-front shirt, a black pencil skirt, a basic cardigan- these are all items that will always be in style. If you invest in classic pieces that are also well-made, they will survive many uses. If you purchase inexpensive, poorly-made versions, you'll just end up replacing them in a couple of months when they fall apart. That classic piece will have gone from wardrobe staple to disposable fashion.

I admit, it's not always easy to find these classic, durable pieces, so when you do, share the wealth! Let your friends and family know where you got it and why it's so great. I recently found what I think is a company worth mentioning for their manufacturing practices and textile choices and of course for their classic style: Moop.

Moop is a small handbag company based in Pittsburgh, PA and not only are their bags stylish and beautifully crafted, but they source their cotton and waxed canvas from within the U.S. and make all their bags by hand in their studio in Pittsburgh. I asked owner and designer Wendy a few questions about the cotton and waxed canvas they use and here is what she had to say:

Me: First, can you tell me a little bit more about the materials you use- I'm curious about the environmental impact of the materials. It seems you use a lot of organic cotton, but can you tell me more about the waxed canvas? What are its benefits in terms of use and durability? Also, is it organic like the cotton you use? I also saw that it is neither washable nor dry-clean-able. Do you consider that a drawback with that particular textile? 

Wendy: We use a 100% cotton canvas (some of which is organic, grown, milled and dyed in the US) and nylon cordura (also made in the US).  The waxed canvas we use is produced by a 7th generation family business operating in the United States.  The material is very durable and highly water repellant due to the wax finish that is applied to the canvas.  This makes it unable to be put through the washing machine, but it does not need it as it does an amazing job of repelling dirt and grime as well as water.  It's our favorite material and we love how well it works with our designs!

Ultimately, I think this is a brand I could get behind, partly for their manufacturing practices, but also because of how GORGEOUS these bags are! A few of my favorites:

(I like it in Gunmetal Grey, but it's also available in Black, Brown and Rosewood)

This bag makes me smile. Provincial Blue is definitely my favorite color, but there are several to choose from.

I'm also a huge fan of the Porter, the Very Useful Tote and the Letter Clutch. For more information about Moop and their products, visit their website and blog

If you know of any companies and/or products that are sustainable, or who try to minimize their environmental footprint, please leave a comment below- I always want to know about more great companies and products!  
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