Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Bridesmaid's Dress Restyled

Many of you may laugh at the suggestion of restyling your bridesmaid dresses!  Yes, I do have some in my closet I could never imagine restyling.   I think my sister, Anne,  may laugh very hard at the suggestion of restyling the ice pink satin bridesmaid dress she wore in my wedding.  However, if you are lucky enough, you may have one (or maybe a neutral dress in your closet) you can restyle for several different occasions.   My sister-in-law Grace had the smart thought to allow us to select our own style of navy bridesmaid cocktail dresses.  Her thought was that we could wear the dress again and again.  Here is a similar navy dress restyled four ways. 

Bridesmaid Dress Restyled

The Bridesmaid's Dress Restyled

The Bridesmaid's Dress Restyled

The Bridesmaid's Dress Restyled

Bridesmaid Dress Restyled

NLY Trend open back cocktail dress, $32 / J.Crew espadrille wedge sandals / Stella Dot perforated handbag / Stella Dot cuff jewelry

Here is the original navy blue bridesmaid dress.
I have numerous plans for it!

Here are my pink satin bridal party dresses.  Honestly, they are not so easy to restyle for regular use.  I don't expect to see any of my friends/family wearing this dress out for a cocktail party or dinner.  Perhaps they could wear the dress to a black tie event. Or perhaps they are better suited as fabric for Charlotte's ice pink room :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bridal Style: Completing the Look

Bridal Hair Styles

I wanted my bridal hair to look like a more glamorous version of how I frequently wear my hair.   I love to part it then pull it back out of my face.   I looked through numerous bridal magazines and found similar bridal hair styles I loved.  (Now, I would use Pinterest!) I took them to my good friend and trusted hairdresser, Lauren Messina.  Lauren took one look at my very damaged hair and first devised a plan to get my hair healthy in the months before the wedding. 

I used a real orchid from my florist, Royal Bouquet, for the reception.
I wanted a different look after I took the veil off.
Photo by:  Studio One

My hair never would have looked as healthy as it did in any of the pictures if it weren't for regular glossing treatments and cuts.  We also did several trial runs, which was an excellent idea because it helped us perfect the style.  Lauren was so committed, she even came to my parents' house after one of our sessions so she could perfect the last trial run.

Photo by:  Studio One

Photo by:  Studio One

Lauren attached both my veils for me before the ceremony, which was a huge help.  She also took them out after the ceremony, fixed my hair, and then attached the orchid.  I couldn't have asked for a more committed and phenomenal hair stylist!   You can read more about Lauren here, formerly of Vibe Salon and the Loft Salon and Day Spa in Manchester, N.H.

Photo by:  Studio One

Photo by:  Studio One

Photo by:  Studio One

Photo by:  Studio One

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bridal Style

The Sweetest Thing  
Styling My Wedding Dress To Make It My Own 

When I first tried on my wedding dress, I knew it was the one.  It was exactly the fabric I wanted (pure white Chantilly lace) and the shape I wanted (strapless, form-fitting with a train).  I fell in love with it instantly.  However, there were a few details I wasn't so sure about.  The Melissa Sweet gown had a dusty rose silk sash around the hip area that flowed down the back of the dress.  It was beautiful but I had always imagined my dress being all white.  I thought about keeping it but ultimately, I knew I'd regret it later.  

The makeup tips each day from celebrity makeup artist Kriss Blevens of Kriss Cosmetics are in the main bridal section here.

All Wedding Photos Below by:  Studio One

Here are the changes I made to my dress to make it my own:
1) Added a Crystal Sash:  I had my seamstress remove the dusty rose sash and eventually found a sparkling crystal sash at another bridal boutique (Madeleine's Daughter in Portsmouth, NH, which was extremely impressive).  It was just more my style.
2)  Changed the Neckline.  When I bought the dress the neckline was straight.  I had always wanted a gown with a slight sweetheart neckline, so I had my seamstress alter it.
3)  And, of course, the dress was about a foot too long even with heels.  It's incredible just how long most wedding dresses are.

In finding a dress, I think you have to be true to your style.  My dad accompanied me on my first (and what turned out to be my only shopping trip) and we saw exactly what happens when too many people get involved.  A bride-to-be stormed out of the fitting room arguing with her mom about dresses shouting the stereotypical line, "It's my wedding, my dress - not yours!"  I also don't think there's an exact price you can equate with wedding style.  I know brides who have spent $100 to $200 on their dresses and look absolutely stunning and I know brides who have spent what some spend on an entire wedding and looked equally as stunning.

The original Melissa Sweet dress with the pink sash.

The new sash from Madeleine's Daughter in Portsmouth, NH

Other Things I Learned:  
Seamstress:  I did not use the seamstress from Priscilla of Boston where I bought the dress.  First, it just wasn't convenient.  Second, I have always had more luck working with an independent seamstress recommended by friends.  In my experience, they've always been much more timely and have cared about the fit a lot more. (But I am sure other women have the opposite story, so you just have to do your research.)
Sample Dresses:  I bought my Melissa Sweet gown at a sample sale in Boston, which means the dress had been on display.  The dress was in mint condition, so it didn't bother me, and I saved thousands of dollars - more than $4,000 off the original price to be exact!  (I also couldn't get this dress made anymore, so this was really my only option for this particular dress.)   One of the best things about buying a sample dress is that you can take it home that same day; you don't have to wait several months for it to arrive at the store. (I opted to have it hand cleaned rather than having Priscilla ship it out for cleaning for $500.   I was worried it would be damaged because of the delicate lace, which turned out to be a valid concern based on other reviews.) 

Veil:  I also didn't buy the veil and dress at the same location.  Priscilla of Boston wanted a small fortune for the veil.  I looked and looked and finally found a cathedral length veil with delicate lace on the edges that matched the lace of my dress exactly at David's Bridal.  The one thing I wish I'd done is weigh down the edges of the veil.  I always pictured walking down the aisle with the veil perfectly flowing behind me as it does in pretty much any bridal movie you can imagine.  That didn't happen; the veil pulled towards the center rather than flowing out to the sides.  If that's the most of my worries, I certainly can't complain!!
Shoes:  Although I wouldn't change the shoes I wore because I loved them, they were unbelievably uncomfortable.  I had blood blisters all over my toes on our honeymoon.  I should have taken the shoes off or switched into more comfortable shoes after our first dance was done.  The things we do for shoes...


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bridal Style

A wedding day is a cherished memory.  As many of you know, it goes by in an instant.  It's months and months of hard work for a split second.  But that split second is a piece of heaven.

Photo by:  Studio One

My wedding to Ben was more than I could have ever imagined.  I'd dreamed about my dress and every detail of my wedding since I was a little girl.  I still get chills replaying the moment in my head I walked down the aisle with my dad and locked eyes with Ben.  In the end, all that mattered was our love, our vows, and family and friends.  Beyond that, I absolutely cherish our wedding photos that captured our emotion that day.

To make those pictures perfect, celebrity makeup artist Kriss Blevens of Kriss Cosmetics made sure I looked flawless. Each day, you can check out her bridal makeup tips in my main bridal section here.

The Dress
Photo by:  Studio One

Photo by:  Studio One

When you're a bride, most people will tell you, "You'll know it's the dress when you start tearing up."  I didn't believe this.  I had a very good idea of what I wanted - a pure white lace dress and a long dramatic veil.  I wanted my look to be feminine, elegant, glamorous and ladylike.  (I think it's always helpful to define your look to narrow it down.) I'd been collecting pictures of dresses I loved and saving them online for months (and capturing them in my head for years!).   I didn't, however, expect to find the dress the first time I went out shopping.  I went to a Melissa Sweet sample sale in Boston with my dad thinking I'd just take a look at some dresses and get a few ideas.  After the fifth dress, I found the dress.  And just like everyone said, I put it on, walked into the showroom and paired it with a veil, and the tears started flowing. I knew it was the one.  It wasn't perfect yet, though.   Tomorrow, I'll share how I made the dress my own with some changes and alterations.

Photo by:  Studio One

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lessons Learned: Rose's Style Enhancement

Rose probably doesn't believe it, but she taught me a great deal during our "Your Style:  Enhanced Session."   And she certainly kept me laughing.  As we started our journey, she got in my car and told me with a laugh that Charlotte's gray zebra carseat cushion was more stylish than her entire wardrobe.  The truth is, Rose has always had incredible personality and style.  If you listen to her original music here, it's easy to see that.  She just needed some assistance bringing out her true style and putting it into smart, fun and quirky outfits.

Lesson #5:  Make a Plan

I hate to admit it but shopping for clothes is a lot like shopping for groceries.  Ideally, you always need a list with your "ingredients."  There are of course the staples you need:  a great pair of jeans, work pants/skirts, smart blazers, basic tanks and tops for layering and a great dress.  Then, there are the extras you can add to "spice" up your look:  fun shirts with pops of color, lots of colorful accessories and shoes.   Before shopping with Rose, we talked and made a list of ideal finds  or ingredients - great jeans, a black or khaki blazer, a dress or dresses to wear to weddings, some colorful, fun tops and great accessories.  

If you're like me at the grocery store; however, you always end up with something different extra in your cart (or several extras).  Sometimes you find something so new and exciting you can't live without it.  Rose and I found the navy polka dot blazer while looking for a black blazer.  It was not what we had planned for but it was perfect for her personality and such a great deal we couldn't pass it up!   Make sure those "extras" are worth it, though.  Is your last-minute splurge near the register a must-have / phenomenal find or is it an irrational impulse buy you won't ever wear?  My impulse buys at Macy's, the Bloomingdale's Outlet, etc. have cost me far more than an extra pack of gum or candy at the grocery store :)  

Lesson #4:  Accessorize

The accessories truly do "spice" up your look.  They add the "flavor" and personality to your look.  You can take a basic shirt and great pair of jeans and give it your own personal look with a traditional, eclectic, edgy or feminine accessories.  Now more than ever, you can find reasonable accessories at so many great stores - Charming Charlie, Bauble Bar, Forever 21, J. Crew, Banana Republic and the list goes on and on.

Lesson #3:  The Shoes Have It

It's not just about accessorizing with jewelry; great shoes complete an outfit too.  Rose is on her feet a lot at work and is always on the go in her personal life, so she wanted some great flats.  Flats don't have to be boring, though.  We found striped, bright coral, and laser-cut flats at Payless.  Of course, going back to your grocery list, you always need basic ingredients.  In this case, it's a basic black flat you can wear with almost anything. 

Lesson #2:  Editing Your Closet:  Rose's "Frump Dump"

Rose calls this pile her "Frump Dump" and gave her old clothes to charity.  I'll be honest; I have a hard time getting rid of old clothes (just ask my husband!).   However, I have become a lot better.  I think many of us need to follow Rose's lead and get rid of clothes so easily and freely.  As soon as she got back to North Carolina, she made her "frump dump."  (It makes me smile every time I write that!)  She had no hesitations about getting rid of clothes that were no longer flattering and/or just didn't fit her style so she could make room for her new clothes that do fit her style.

Lesson #1:  Live & Embrace Your Style

Everyone has style (even if they don't know it or believe it).  It's just a question of finding and defining your style.   That can take some self exploration, which is incredibly rewarding.  Rose first told me her style was "frumpy and nerdy."  I think you can tell by Rose's great sense of humor, she is anything but frumpy and nerdy.   She is confident, fearless, fun, quirky and smart.  Our mission was to reflect that in her clothing. We knew we needed certain ingredients to show that - fun and quirky blouses (enhanced stripes, above),  statement necklaces, and a great pair of sunglasses.    I know, and I think Rose will tell you, style goes far beyond how you look.  When you define your style, love it and live it, you feel great because it's you and no one else.  And that's why Rose's mom made me cry tears of joy after our amazing journey.  She said it wasn't about all of the stuff.  It was ultimately about confidence.  I love that.  Cheers, Rose and Maria!  You've inspired me! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Your Style: Enhanced

Rose's Final Looks:  Polka Dots & Blue Intrigue

One of our main missions while shopping was to find Rose a smart blazer.  We originally wanted black or khaki but this one jumped off the rack when I saw it.  It's a jersey cotton fabric so it's extremely comfortable and we love the polka dots!  Plus, it was on sale and it was an extra 50 percent off at Banana Republic Factory.  

The blue sweater is intriguing to me.  I absolutely love it.  Rose looks stunning in it!  It was the first look Rose wore to show her mom and she said her mom's reaction was priceless.  Actually, Rose said it looked as if she'd won the Publisher's Clearinghouse :)   Rose received more compliments on the look while out shopping that night from other shoppers.  And clearly Banana Republic Factory shoppers loved it too because I went back a few days later and there weren't any more left in the store.

Blazer:  Banana Republic Factory
Aqua Top:  J. Crew Factory
Necklace/Earrings:  J. Crew Factory
Sunglasses:  Banana Republic Factory
Pants:  Marshalls
Yellow Clutch:  Awesome Thrift Shop Find by Rose!

Sweater:  Banana Republic Factory
Necklace/Earrings:  Charming Charlie
Crossbody Bag:  Charming Charlie

Top:  J. Crew Factory
Belt:  Charming Charlie
Earrings/Bracelet:  Banana Republic Factory
Blazer:  J. Crew 

Scarf:  J. Crew Factory

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Finding the Perfect Summer Dress

Finding dresses to wear to weddings and other events can be fun but it can also be stressful if it's last minute.   

Some key things to consider include:  
Fabric:  I love traditional cotton or seersucker (all cotton) during the summer because cotton breathes well on those scorching hot days.  I got married on a 90-plus degree day, so I felt the pain of my wedding guests standing in our reception line outside.  Plus, I love it when I can find a dress I don't have to dry clean for  once!
Color:  I mostly love light colors for the summer.   Try colors you might not wear in the winter like light yellows, aqua, lavender, etc.  I stay as far away from any shade of white or light pink or light silver when I attend a wedding because it's the bride's day.  I also try to stay away from black because I think it's always the stereotypical wedding guest color.  (That being said, yes, I've worn black before!  But I like to try to have more fun with summer colors.)
Versatility:  How many other ways can you style the dress?  Can you add a light tan blazer and wear it to work?  Can you style it with different jewelry and wear it to another summer event?  This is a key question for me!

Sweet Summer Dresses

Rose's Look #3

Rose Gray's Look #3:  Finding the Perfect Summer Dress

Rose really wanted a summer dress to wear for a few weddings and to also wear for her music gigs.  We found this dress at the Tahari factory store within the first 30 minutes of our shopping trip.   We love the print of it and it's a great style because it has an attached belt around the waist that is very smart looking and flattering.  Tahari is by far one of my favorite stores because the quality is very good and the fabrics are beautiful. The prices are higher than Banana Republic Factory, for instance, but that being said, you can still find some great deals.  The Tahari factory store this past week has ranged from 50 to 70 percent off the original prices.

Dress:  Tahari Factory Store
Necklace:  J. Crew Factory
Earrings (below):  J. Crew Factory

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Your Style: Enhanced

Enhancing a Fun, Smart & Quirky Musician's Look

Rose Gray is a beautiful, talented musician/professional with a quick sense of humor and fun, quirky personality who grew up in Groveland, Mass., and now calls Chapel Hill, N.C. home. However, Rose describes her lifelong style as nerdy and frumpy.  The words nerdy and frumpy do NOT fit Rose's lively, smart, fearless personality   I immediately knew we had to get her style and personality in line.  Check out the pictures below each day and the Your Style: Enhanced section to see Rose's complete transformation this week!

Rose Gray's Look #2:  Lace, Lyrics & Leather

One of our key goals for this style enhancement was to find Rose some amazing outfits to wear for her music gigs.  The Rose Gray Band currently plays at coffee houses in the Chapel Hill, N.C. area.  Rose, who writes ALL of her own songs (amazing!), would also like to play at larger outdoor and indoor venues.   I think Rose's calendar will both fill up with music gigs and also more dates :)  

While we were on our marathon shopping spree, I spotted this ivory lace dress at J. Crew Factory on the clearance rack.  I knew Rose had to try it on.  Paired with a faux leather jacket or cargo jacket, I thought it would reflect her fun personality.  Also, Rose really wants a pair of cowboy boots, so I thought this would go perfectly with them!  Plus, this beautiful dress was already a great price and it was an extra 40 percent off.  

Dress:  J. Crew Factory
Necklace:  J. Crew Factory
Earrings:  J. Crew Factory
Jacket:  Marshalls

Sunglasses:  Banana Republic Factory

Cargo Jacket:  The Gap
Necklace:  Charming Charlie

Rose Gray's Look #1:  Enhanced Stripes

This look is exactly what Rose and I wanted - it's smart, fun, quirky and confident - exactly like Rose's personality.  It definitely channels this musician's style icons, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  There is nothing frumpy or nerdy about it.  Bye bye, shapeless, faded striped tops :)  Hello, stylish, gorgeous and confident Rose (the real Rose)!   See the rest of here looks here:  Your Style: Enhanced.

Top: J. Crew Factory
Black Jacket:  J. Crew Factory
Trouser Jeans:  Banana Republic Factory
Sunglasses:  Banana Republic Factory
Nautical Necklace:  Charming Charlie
Shoes (below) :  Payless