Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., Speaking Up

A good friend of mine hasn’t been in the business work force for a few years.  In addition to being an active mom and volunteer, she’s a writer and has been asked for a few speaking engagements this month.  They are during the day (super hot in Houston) to exclusively female audiences.  She mentioned her wardrobe hadn’t been refreshed recently and asked what to wear.  She specifically asked “what kind of dress?”

So all you speakers out there, today’s Shopping With A Purpose is how to refresh your wardrobe when asked to speak.

While a dress is certainly a good option, my friend has broader shoulders and narrow hips, so dresses can be a bit trickier to fit.  My first recommendation is separates.  Easy, polished, fitted, and transitions easily to different audiences (business versus non business, etc.).    I also note, that if your audiences will be more faith based like hers and less business audiences, that come fall you have a zillion more options.  Knee high boots with dark denim and a cool vest or sweater are perfect for daytime audiences.

For summer separates, think pretty blouse with any number of bottoms.  I recently acquired a gorgeous blouse that would look stunning with my friend’s coloring and figure.  Now this blouse was pricey, and I only bought it because I had store credit, but it’s a great example of a top for her engagement because of it’s rich color and simple style.


For a bottom, try a neutral pant or a dark denim trouser jean.  Keep them long enough to pair with a wedge or heeled sandal.  I like these dove gray trousers, a great color for summer, or even in ivory (if you DARE!).  Or if you can stand the heat, these simple dark denim jeans are only $25 at Old Navy.  And you can always bring your pant hemline up a bit and go for the ankle pant with flats look which is cute and comfortable.


Pair this base with a lightweight cardigan for something more informal or a blazer if she wants to formalize the look.  These two staple pieces make a very versatile base.  Then add a cool tassle necklace with simple earrings and you’re all set.

However, a dress is definitely still a solid choice for summer.  And a wrap dress, with flexibility to cinch at the waist, is a great option for different top and bottom sizes.

This selection is VERY style dependent.  Here are a couple of lovely options from Nordstrom’s, but it’s really up to the speaker to know her audience and whether to go for something bright and patterned or more subdued.  The key is to buy the dress is a quality, heavier, fabric to cover any areas you might feel less comfortable about.

I personally like this wrap dress, it feels interesting to me, but I’d be nervous because it says “lightweight fabric:”
From a “best in style” perspective, look at all of Diane von Furstenberg’s dresses and get one that looks like that as most don’t have a full price DVF in our budget – seriously, everything she does is so perfect (maybe you can search eBay or ThredUp and get lucky):

The most critical component is to TRY out your outfit!  Try it standing and sitting down.  Try it moving around a pretend stage.  Stand in your shoes a while to see if they hurt.  Wear your necklace around to see if it itches or moves too much.

You must be comfortable in front of the audience or else you’ll twitch and tug.  I know because I have twitched and tugged after selecting the wrong speaking outfits.  I almost always go with blazers and trousers now simply because I feel the most comfortable and confident in that pairing.  So do what feels right for you as well as your audience.

Have fun and look as gorgeous as you are!

Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., The Beach Wedding

brandy4Ahhh, back to our summer wedding theme installment of Shopping with a Purpose (SWAP)!   Y’all – this one is SO MUCH FUN.  And since I was totally plagiarizing from my fashion back and forth with my girlfriend who recently renewed her vows in Hawaii for their TWENTY YEAR ANNIVERSARY (she was a child bride), I asked her to write the S.W.A.P. instead.

She’s been featured here once before writing about leadership, but I think we can all agree that the chance to wear a wedding gown again is way more fun.  (Anyone want to talk my hubby into letting ME renew our vows on our ten year anniversary next spring???)

So here’s my buddy Brandy with her S.W.A.P. perspective: Tips from a beach wedding at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai.

1.        THE GOWN!!!

Get a loose, flowy gown, and not a big stiff or heavy gown.  Why? Many reasons.

One, you gotta fly it there. Do you really want one entire suitcase taken up by your gown?

Two, beaches have wind.  A breezy gown looks nicer in the photos and gives you a bit of motion around your ankles.

Three, ahem, beaches can be warm.  My gown from 20 years ago still fit (Gindi note – how cool is that?), but it was hot and heavy and made for an indoor ballroom wedding.  I’d have been sweaty and uncomfortable outdoors in it. No one wants a sweaty pink faced bride.  Not to mention my fashion sensibilities have changed over the years.

Four, a heavy dress will literally drag you down if you do in the water or “trash the dress” shots (more about that below). Many designers have a specific destination wedding or beach wedding gown collection, and my gown was one of those.

2.       SHOES!


This is harder than the dress. Do not wear normal high heels. You will sink into the grass and fall over in the sand. Promise, I tried it out to check.

Also don’t wear flip flops. As we all know, they tend to kick sand up the back of your legs and in a long gown you’ll be throwing sand onto and under your dress and on your guy. Not comfy, plus it doesn’t look good in the pics!

You need pretty wedges. And lucky you they are all the rage right now.  They still give you some height, if you want it, and you do not sink in the sand or kick it up. After much looking, I got mine at DSW for $40!  If you simply must have stilettos, get your wedding planner to build you a little wooden “aisle” to walk down, and then scatter sand over it so no one can tell.

3.       HAIR!

This tip applies to any family beach photo shoot also.  Get the local salon to do your hair.  They know what products will hold up to the level of wind and humidity at your particular beach. Why sit there stressing for an hour over getting it right when the pro can make it perfect and make it last while you sip tea and chill!

Also, wear your hair up.  You’d hate to have your perfect shot ruined by wild hair in your face, lipstick, etc. An up do is cooler as well and, in the case of my wedding, having an up do kept it from getting tangled in my lei.  Finally, skip the veil.  They just tend to fly away and get in the way of your photos.

4.       THOSE WATER SHOTS (and the undergarment shopping)!


You really should do water shots.

First, they are SO fun! When else would I get to splash around the Pacific in a wedding gown!?! I felt like a mermaid.

Next, the photos looks stunning and are so much more memorable then standard posed wedding pics.

Finally, contrary to the phrase trash the dress, the dress doesn’t get ruined! At least mine didn’t, nor did my friend Patricia’s dress. I just rinsed it out after, then sent it to the cleaner, and you would never know!

I will recommend you ask your wedding planner or beach photographer how crowded the beaches are and go with the lightly trafficked one.  We had no one in our shots which was really nice and private.

And in a related crucial fashion tip, you need very like-color-matching underthings. If your gown turns a bit see through when wet, that’s ok (as you can see, it actually looks good around the calves –  you can tell the fabric is a bit sheer when wet which makes it look real), but the color of your undergarments must match perfectly.  And it’s better if they’re minimal.  Spanx or the like would really show when wet.  (I dieted before hitting the water in my wedding gown…)

5.       The Groom’s Clothes (I mean it does take two to vow renew).

We went local, meaning I got my hubby and son matching Aloha shirts, linen pants, and sandals.  They were so comfy and happy, and they looked great!  And revisiting the comments about being hot and sweaty; the same goes for your man, if not more so.

Why stuff your guy in a suit? If you are doing a beach wedding, I say look like you are at the beach! Hilo Hattie online sells tons of grooms and kids matching beach wedding attire for men.

6.       The Second Dress/Clothes.


If you are going to do in the water shots, you might want a second DRY dress to go out dinner or the reception after.  That’s what I did.  It also gives you a fun excuse to buy TWO wedding gowns. My second one only cost $70 so it was less than a festive sundress.  And don’t forget to buy the love of your life two sets of clothes too because he’s going to want to be fresh and dry.


So who’s ready for a beach wedding?  Whether it’s vow renewals or your first time around, this S.W.A.P. will have you saying I, Do in style!

Fashion Fridays: Hold The Phone, THE Sale

Alrighty girls, I’ll return to our regularly scheduled shopping with a purpose when it’s NOT the day that Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale launches.  I love them so much.  Primarily because I can find a cocktail dress for any occasion every single time here.  But they have so much good stuff and the semi-annual sale reminds me to consider their other stock.

If I had a budget, here’s eight things I wouldn’t miss at the sale (that starts today!!!):

1.  I’ve done posts on boots before, and I love me some Frye boots.  I do not own a pair because I can’t bring myself to spend the money.  But these are marked down over $100 for the sale and are just beautiful.


2.  You may remember my obsession with blouses.  Well this blouse is a steal, and it comes in almost TEN patterns so you can pick the color and style right for you.  For under $30!  What? I also love how they styled this blouse from weekend casual to workday chic.



3.  If I pick a pricey handbag, I pick Kate Spade.  Her clean lines and simple styles are timeless and classic.  But then she throws a fresh modern twist in like this deep purple shade in a handbag.  Beautiful addition for fall.


4.  Y’all, this dress is $64.  I can’t even wrap my head around it.  This is such an interesting fabric, pattern, design, but yet still completely appropriate to wear to work.  I can’t pull it off without dropping a size, but you girls that are slimmer than me should pick it up!


5.  Sam Edelman leopard print pump.  There is nothing else to say.  You should own these.  And under $100.


6.  This gray and ivory striped and belted cape is an awesome addition to your wardrobe.  Pair with a casual shirt and jeans for weekend or pair with a blouse, pencil skirt and pearls for the office.  Another mark down priced under $100.  (There are several cute capes on sale.  It’s quite the statement for fall!  Here’s another super cute one in twill.)


7.  My girlfriend loved the batwing dress I featured on the blog last week so I couldn’t pass up this super cool batwing pantsuit (which would also be awesome for a super chic wedding guest!).  And three words: Diane von Furstenberg.  (On sale!).


8.  I have to end on a total blow the budget item.  For winter, this combo wool-leather coat is JUST COOL!  I love the edgy ways they’ve styled it from colored jeans and booties to a chic plum short date dress!  If you’ve got $500 to blow on a winter coat, this is for you (even on sale, mercy!).


So if you wander over there, make sure you stop and tell me what you found.  I’m curious what I missed!

Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., Chic Wedding Guest

Ahhh.  It’s the season of weddings.  I love weddings.  I would totally buy a new wedding dress for every five year anniversary mark if my husband would let me.
Our next two Fashion Fridays “Shopping with a Purpose” (S.W.A.P.) posts are about weddings.  One is a fun one about selecting a beach wedding dress which my girlfriend just did for her 20th wedding anniversary, but the ideas would easily work for a first time wedding.  The other one is today’s topic and is specifically for you friends attending a wedding.
Here’s the question I got from a dear friend of mine’s mother:
My cousin is getting married in October at a very high end property in North Carolina. She has been living in New York City a long time and all her elegant friends will be from there.  She chose North Carolina because her parents have a home there.  The wedding is at 7 pm, the mother is wearing a  floor length gown, I don’t know the colors, and the men are wearing suits, so it’s not black tie.  Keep in mind I am most comfortable in pants and never wear short dresses.  Do you have any suggestions on appropriate attire?  
First of all, I encourage everyone to at least TRY a cocktail dress if they’re not fans of shorter skirts.  I have several friends who don’t like their legs and try long dresses or pants but often times the super chic look requires a knee length cocktail dress.  Next, when it comes to a super chic wedding, if you’re feeling uncomfortable STAY CLASSIC.  Go with classic styles and neutral colors like black, midnight, and gray/silver (I still avoid whites).
Here are a few options if you’re willing to give a knee length dress a try.
This classic lace overlay dress is simple and sophisticated and for a fall wedding.
I love this dress!  It is simple, chic, and sophisticated PLUS it address those upper arm concerns.  I realize it looks short, but it’s because the model is tall. It warrants trying if you’re not super tall as I would imagine it will fall closer to knee length (and even if not this dress, this idea for the crepe top half and lace bottom half in a dark color is spot on).
This fun look combines funky with sophistication, texture with pattern.  By using separates, it’s easier to fit your body and the skirt runs longer so you don’t end up as self conscious about the length.
Finally, you can always go with a simple, classic little black dress (or it would be just as beautiful in midnight or gray).
For those particularly uncomfortable with a cocktail dress length for a wedding (or who just end up cold), there still are some wonderful ways to feel modern, sophisticated and beautiful and stick to pantsuits and long dresses.
Pantsuits are all over the place and are a wonderful option for simple sophistication.
This is my favorite of all the options, but it’s St. John’s which makes it completely unaffordable even when priced 60% off!  However, if you use this style as your guide, this look and fabric could be the perfect look for an autumn affair.
Nordstrom’s is about to have its big sale and this simple Julia Jordan is a good look but jersey fabric can be a little iffy and not look high end so you may end up ordering and returning (some things have to be seen up close).
In the alternative, this is a lovely wedding perfect pantsuit in crepe which wears beautifully and could be topped with brighter accessories to personalize and finish off (this is pricey but check other websites and sales for a similar look).
Because this is floor length, it could read formal, but it is unadorned and solid colored which means simple jewelry could make this a beautiful option (paired with a wrap for those with upper arm worries).
This color block gown hits the right notes: it’s simple, sophisticated, and covers your arms and legs.  If you’re not comfortable in high heels, you can wear lower heeled shoes and just hem the gown.
 As you can see, there are a lot of options for a sophisticated chic look for a fall wedding.  My general approach to a particularly fashion forward wedding is to stay simple.  Black is universally sophisticated and you can personalize it with your hair and accessories.
Have fun wedding-goers!

Fashion Fridays: Happy Fourth!

Are you off today?  Well I am and I’m taking the kids down to Kemah!  But not without a nod to the upcoming 4th and your inevitable appearance in parades or backyard picnics fast upon you.

So let’s take a break from our career focus, and have some fun with fashion this summer!

How do you make Fourth of July casual wear work without looking too hokey or overdone?

We start with the obvious: the color palette is red, white and blue.  But you can incorporate those colors without plastering a flag on your chest.

Here was my look for the 4th of July parade last year at the farm:


Start with a staple – BLUE jeans!  (Although I know it may be too hot here friend, I went ahead with it to avoid my legs being eaten by mosquitos).  I topped it with a short sleeve knit top that was navy with white polka dots.  My favorite is that lightweight white cotton jacket I’ve had for a million years – it covers my arms, but is so light weight, and brightens up any casual outfit.  My red – it was the pop of color in my wedges and a beaded necklace strand.  Simple makeup and accessories and voila!  It was still plenty easy to chase kids around (and the rest of the family used blue as the primary festive color and the boys gave their look a cowboy spin!).

Layering allows you to incorporate festive colors without it all having to appear on one garment.  If you really want a nod to the flag, think about incorporating a lightweight striped jacket or skirt – my colleague was wearing a blue and white jacket yesterday with a small flag pin which was adorable!

Sundresses are also a great option in the summer.  You could sport this adorable Chevron sundress (imagine it’s one piece) in navy instead of black, or this two piece more overt Fourth look.  These are lightweight in the heat but still easy to move and sit in.


These simple shorts outfits could translate to a barbecue or boat ride (although you folks with littles may want to avoid that all white top!):

casual1 casual

Where are you headed for the Fourth?  How do you infuse patriotism in your look?  Have a wonderful long weekend and I’ll see you back here on Monday!


Shorts outfits courtesy of Love, Elizabethany.