Fashion Fridays: Dressing For Holiday Parties, Part 1

Alright girls, it’s the MOST wonderful time of the year!

I love Christmas.  I love the reason for Christmas.  I love the smell of Christmas.  I love the hospitality of Christmas.

I even love the fashion of Christmas.  If it is done well.

So today is the first in a three part Christmas-themed Fashion Friday Series: Dressing For Holiday Parties.

1.      Holiday Party Situation 1: The casual party. 

This would work for your neighborhood, your school, your church, or your Saturday morning book club brunch.  Don’t miss the opportunity to festivize your wardrobe!  (Yes, that’s a word.  Festivize: To make festive.)

2.      Holiday Party Situation 2: The fancy party. 

My favorite!  I so should have been fashionizing in the 1950s!  (Yes, that’s a word too.  Stop judging my holiday dictionary!)  I seriously love dresses.  Never is there a better time wear fancy attire than Christmas/New Year’s.

3.      Holiday Party Situation 3: The office party. 

Now this party could fall more within the #1 camp or the #2 camp, or it could be a combination thereof or business attire altogether (bah-humbug!).

I think the casual party is the hardest, maybe it’s my sensibility or avoidance of items that actual depict Christmas items, so we’re tackling it first.  Particularly if you’re a mom, you’re going to have casual holiday parties with the kids or Christmas outings where festive attire is a must!

In the category of overtly holiday, I love this ensemble of a red cowl neck snowflake sweater with a skinny ivory trouser from Talbot’s.  While I won’t go for trees or Santa Claus, I love the nod to the old fashioned Christmas sweater that this outfit makes:

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Here’s a great way to inject color in an alternative way – with all the colored jeans out there, try selecting a cranberry red or a hunter green pair!  Add on some knee boots and a festive black and white sweater.   Macy’s offers them in red and green for less than $35 and, if you’re willing to splurge, the emerald colored jeans that Anthropologie offers are gorgeous.  While I’m partial to this particular sweater (look at those elbow patches!), for $40 there’s a fun black and white chevron sweater at ModCloth.

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The easiest solution for a casual holiday outing though is always a good pair of jeans, comfy solid t-shirt, great boots, and then add flare with the scarf and sweater.  Several of these outfits could be paired with trousers or cords as a solid alternative to jeans that can even dress it up a bit.

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I’m totally in love with the blatant Christmas pairing of red and green chevron in the infinity scarf in the first ensemble.  And I adore the red suede boots paired with Christmas plaid in the second ensemble.  Now I will say that a red flat tall boot is hard to come by, but in a pinch you could always pair the outfit with a bootie and DSW has a number of red suede booties for less than $50 just in time for the season.

Charming Charlie’s offers some really festive scarves all of which are under $20 and JC Penney offers some lovely holiday plaid scarves for similar price points.  And, drumroll please, the scarf pictured in the first ensemble is $4 through Amazon – WHAT!?!?  And if you’re in the market for a gorgeous cashmere cardigan for this particular ensemble, Nordstrom offers a beautiful, but pricey, one.

How do you festivize for holiday parties??

 

The Best Yes: My Imperfections, His Ability

 

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I’ve written about how one of the gender differences we see in leadership research is this idea that a mistake or failure somehow defines our personal value.  Women are tremendously resilient, but they can also be incredibly hard on themselves to the point of allowing fear of failure to paralyze them from progress.

In today’s study of The Best Yes, we explore Chapters 6 and 7, the latter aptly titled Analysis Paralysis.  But before we settle in there, let’s look at the incredibly sage reminder Lysa offers in Chapter 6, “Our decisions aren’t just isolated choices. Our decisions point our lives in the direction we’re about to head. Show me a decision and I’ll show you a direction.”  She goes on to cite a passage from Andy Stanley’s The Principle of the Path which underscores our direction determines our destination.

That is a powerful reminder.  Because we allow ourselves the excuse when making an unwise choice that it’s a small decision.  But that small decision builds on more small decisions and they end up setting the course for where we end up.  Foolish spending, unwise eating, distance in our marriages, inattention to work, each choice builds up to a far greater set of problems if we don’t start setting boundaries and offering strategic nos.  What is a choice before you?  Where will that one decision lead you?  And then where?  Is that the direction in which you want to head?

After you’ve “chased down that decision,” it’s time to ban analysis paralysis and the fear that we’re not enough.  This quote I led with is one of my favorites this week; all too often we worry that if things don’t turn out perfectly, or worse yet, exactly as we imagined, then it’s the end of that dream or opportunity.  But it’s just an error NOT the end.  You redirect.  Recalibrate.  Revise your course.  The verse builds this concept around is from Proverbs 3:

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all of your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Before you make the decision, you have to trust God to direct your course.  And then AFTER you’ve made the decision, you have to trust Him to carry out the course.  Or as the book puts it, “If I’m trusting myself, I will stare at all the possible ways I could fail. If I’m trusting God, I will stare at all the possible ways He’ll use this whether I fail or succeed.”

All to often, what is holding us back from making a decision, whether it be a yes or no, is fear.  Fear of failing or fear of succeeding (and yes, that’s a real thing, I can attest).  Fear of looking foolish or being rejected.  Fear of setbacks and or wrong timing.

We’ve got to release that fear that paralyzes us from acting.  Because nothing we ever do will be perfect.  We will make wise choices that still have flaws in them.  We will make poor choices that won’t foreclose all opportunities ahead.  And while we shouldn’t act rashly, we do HAVE to act.  We do the best with the facts we have in hand knowing the direction we need to go.  A season of career growth.  A season of time with our kids.  A season of focus on health or relationships.  I think we Type A perfectionists think the world hinges on whether we say yes or no.  It doesn’t.  There’s freedom in embracing that:

My imperfections will never override God’s promises.
God’s promises are not depending on my ability to always choose well,
but rather on His ability to use well.

So what about you?  What paralyzes you when it’s time to make a decision?  What frees you up to act as wisely as you can in the season you’re experiencing?  What did you read that helped you chart your course this week?

Fashion Fridays: Holiday Runway to Home Closet

I had my three part holiday party series ready to debut on this Fashion Friday until I went to the most fun holiday runway show with girlfriends yesterday (at the Nutcracker Market for you Houstonians).  So I decided to use all that fabulous material for today’s post, and it sets me up PERFECTLY for the holiday series kick off next week!

Saks hosts the style show, and while there were some outlandish items, there were also some absolutely lovely pieces that I’d snatch right up if they didn’t have the little Oscar de la Renta label sewn into them forever keeping them out of my budget.

But you can absolutely take the concepts featured and run with it in less expensive ways.  My apologies for the quality of the photos, there was a spotlight right behind the models from the angle where I sat, but hopefully you’ll spy some ways you can incorporate one of these four simple style ideas:

1.  Embellished black. 

These were some of my favorite pieces of the whole show.  This first piece was super simple except for the exquisite shimmer and feathers on the bottom of the satin capped sleeve blouse.  The second piece (while blurry) is crazy fun and edgy as a combo motorcycle jacket/feathered skirt.  It’s nuts but it works!

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2.  Black and white. 

Quintessentially classic.  Always chic.  I love the ways they played with black and white.  From a traditional white sheath dress with gorgeous black embroidery to a white chiffon-like top half of a dress married to a black shimmery skirt and a pleated dress that’s a cross between tweed and mirrors.

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3.  Metallics. 

Oh y’all, I’m going to preach this in the series, but I love metallic.  Especially silvers for the holidays.  (And I couldn’t resist including the one with the guy sporting metallic – I’m going to vote no on my hubby stepping out looking like he’s bedecked in Reynolds Wrap…)

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And oh there were several gorgeous pewters too, which I may have even preferred to these silvers – delish!

4.  Jewel tones. 

Any skin tone can find a jewel tone to compliment.  Maybe it’s a purple or a red or a teal, but one will work.  And all of the evening gowns in the show were in the vibrant shades that would certainly turn heads in a party.

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Now I realize that normally I would tell you where to find the affordable alternative but today is me just providing some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.  Between the Nutcracker Market yesterday and then Disney Princesses on Ice last night with little bit (oh yes, we did, and we had a blast!), I’m a little bleary eyed just getting this much info to you.  But stay tuned for the holiday party series, and I’ll have plenty of shopping tips and tricks to tackle the onslaught of events on your December calendar.

The Best Yes Study: The Courageous No

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If you are joining us in our book study of Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes, we’re looking at Chapters 4 and 5 today.  (If you want to catch up, just click that leadership link – because making room for your best yes is definitely a hallmark of a successful leader.)

I don’t know where you’re at in the process of setting the boundaries God would call you establish, but because of the particular place I’m at in my journey two passages struck me in particular.  One, was this last call to action from the end of Chapter 5 that I’ve quoted above – The Courage To Say No!  Because friends, sometimes it takes some serious bravery to say no to seemingly good things in order to carve space out for the best.

The second passage was right there at the beginning of Chapter 4 aptly titled, Sometimes I Just Make it All So Complicated (is that just me? do you complicate things too?):

There are other decisions we simply need to say yes or no to and move on. Find that courageous yes.  Fight for that confident no. Know it. State it. Own it. And move on without all the complication. Sometimes it just comes down to that deep whisper within that says, “Uh-huh, yes.” Or a simple, “No, not that.”

This just happened to me this past week.  I had an opportunity that had all the hallmarks of what should be a “YES!”  But something didn’t sit right.  I didn’t say no but I also didn’t say yes.  I said, “we’ll see.”  I really wanted it to be a yes.  But something far deeper inside of me said that it wouldn’t.  Then I received a letter with a request and every single cell in my body sang out, “YES!”  It was undoubtedly a yes.  It was a yes that was in direct conflict with the first opportunity.  I immediately turned down the other choice and sent in my yes to the second request.  Something in me had known.  Many of my decisions are not that easy.  But this one, instinctively, was completely straightforward.  Don’t complicate the easy decisions, even if it seems contrary to what might “appear” on the outside to be best.  There will be plenty of hard decisions ahead.

Lysa shares a passage from Philippians that tells us we are capable of discerning what is best if we layer knowledge and insight on top of the discernment: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best… (Phil. 1:9).

Wisdom makes decisions today that will still be good tomorrow.  As we seek knowledge and insight, we will make wiser choices in our yes and our no.  And don’t allow your fear or your emotion about what the choice is or might appear to others to complicate an otherwise clear choice you have discerned.

In Chapter Five, Lysa asks a question that all too often we skip over when the decision isn’t clear, Could this fit physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally? 

She goes on to share what to do when you are conflicted, as I often am, about whether your response is Yes or No: Whenever there is a conflict between what we feel we’re expected to do (anyone been there? their yes is a slave to their expectations?) and what we feel we should do, it’s time to step back from the decision.  Seek clarity from the only source free of the entanglements of misguided opinions and unrealistic expectations. God.

All too often, those around us bring their own expectations to our decision.  And if we care about them, it clouds what our choice should be.  We do the same things to others.  We bring our personal wishes and perspective to try to influence others yeses and nos.  Sometimes, you must step back from all of those competing demands to clear your head.

I have had a series of choices in the past few weeks.  Ones that historically I would have embraced with a resounding yes.  However, there are several reasons my no has issued instead.  The first question is does it fit physically?  I have committed to so many yeses this year, that I have had no time to work out and I am completely and utterly exhausted.  Very few yeses fit physically in this season of my life.  Next, financially?  Often, the yes would be a financial plus so there is no drawback there.  Spiritually?  This may put me in conflict because I know God put a desire in me to connect and encourage other women.  So the yes would enable me to do that.  But it can also drain my alone time with God. As an introvert, I need alone time to build my faith.  Finally, does this fit emotionally?  Ahhh.  We fly by this need too frequently.  Once again, after a year of too many yeses, I am emotionally drained.  I have so little bandwidth and that reserve I must save for my husband and children.

When I evaluate my decision on this scale, instead of an external measure of success, it frees me to make confident nos.

Now it’s your turn?  Do you ever complicate an easy decision even though you know deep down what the choice should be?  And are you measuring the complicated decisions on the right scale?  Share what stood out for you in Chapters 4 and 5.

Fashion Fridays: Styling Your Family Christmas Photo

I’m a little OCD about family photographs.

First of all, I love them.  I would have them taken four times a year if Bray would give me the budget.  As it is, we do a professional photo shoot once, maybe twice, a year.  This year, we had to forego my beloved pumpkin patch photo shoot but I was NOT going to miss the Christmas photo shoot.  They only get that dressed up at Christmas and Easter and, by heavens, I want proof of it!

Here are some basic ground rules for our family that may not make my tips as workable for your family.  One, I don’t like everyone wearing the same thing – like those photos with everyone in white shirts and jeans.  They are great, but I just need more individuality in my pictures.  Additionally, Bray does not want the kids to match.  So despite all the fun matchy things you can do with triplets, I have to go with “coordinating” rather than “matching.”

With those basic principles in place, here are my styling tips and lessons learned for the family Christmas photo shoot:

1.  Buy the boys clothes first. 

Boys ALWAYS have the most limited selection.  It is particularly dire if they wear sizes 4 to 6 because, unlike girls, that age is clothing-nowhere-land for boys that want to wear something other than t-shirts with weird graphics.  Dress clothes will completely evade you in that wilderness of sizes between preschool and size 8.

Yet all too often we allow an adult outfit or a GIRL’S outfit (who has a thousand choices) dictate the style/color scheme/formality of the picture.  I made the huge mistake this year of falling in love with a silver dress for little bit and having to move heaven and earth to find appropriate boys outfits (because of point #2).

2.  Pick holiday themed colors.

Now I am a seriously classic Christmas girl.  But I realized this year that all of our Christmas photo shoots were green and red.  They also often involved plaid and a sweater vest.  I wasn’t kidding – CLASSIC!  However…if I’d like to have any differences from year to year, it was time to mix things up a bit.

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With red and green out the window, and having fallen in love with the silver dress, I decided on silvers and blues for the color scheme – still classic enough of a Christmas color scheme for little ole me to sign off on.  Plus, how hard can it be to find silvers and blues for boys?  Like, the easiest boy color on the planet!

That is a myth.  Dress clothes are completely mythical if you want boys size 6.  Here are the places to shop for boys: a) department stores, b) zulily if you have a zillion years to wait (yes, my adorable gray fedora came in the week after the pictures), c) Gymboree, for pants, d) the Tie Shop for accessories, e) eBay.  I shop more and more on eBay because I can never find what I want in mainstream stores.  Etsy and eBay are life savers.  Just check shipping speed and cost – no two day Prime there.  I finally did find the silver/blue combo in reverse order for each boy.

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3.  Give yourself more than the week of the pictures to do everything else. 

In my case, with the boys/men in pants and dress shirts and little bit in a super fancy dress, I felt like I needed a nice dress, preferably in jewel blue and black tones to go with the color palette.  I tried, and returned, everything.  I then found a patterned gray and black skirt I loved that I tried to plan an outfit around (ahem, never plan an outfit around a skirt).  Still on the DAY of the pictures I had multiple options strew about the bed, none of which were terribly flattering.  (Luckily, because of the meltdown mentioned below, we barely got one family shot and you just see my head – whew!) I also ran around the day before finding silver and blue themed Christmas props (gorgeous Nutcrackers, which we NEVER even used!).

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4.  If you have nappers, don’t schedule the photo right after the kids wake up.

Enough said.  Seriously.  I know photographers like late afternoon photos but if your kids nap til nearly 3 and then you have to get them ready and out the door by 4, you will have a terrible photo shoot.  You can only pray the last five minutes turn out, as ours did, since the rest of the shoot will be an epic meltdown.

5.  Relax.

I’ve not mastered this one.  Maybe next year?

 

* Photos courtesy of the lovely and talented Julie Shochat.  She’s a saint.  The photos used are not the ones featured on my Christmas card in case you thought I was spoiling the surprise.