How to Put Together a Outfit in Black That Stands Out

blue top black pencil skirt 2

Confession: I love black.

I think it started in high school when my 21-year-old drummer boyfriend told me that brunettes didn’t look good in black. My rebellious heart said, “Oh, yeah?” and promptly considered changing my name to Jet (I did, at least, get wise and dump him).

blue top black pencil skirt

I definitely don’t have the stomach for the multiple-piercings-Hot Topic-angstiness or the corporate mausoleum look that often accompanies black, so I’ve learned to get creative with wearing head-to-toe black.

Mixing different textures and cuts (I adore black sequins at any hour of the day), adding analogous colors like charcoal or navy, or injecting a shot of bold color like the cobalt here adds dimensionality to black and keeps the look refined but intentional and  creative.

To add a finishing touch, rock nearly any shade of lipstick you damn well please (I have yet to see one that doesn’t pair well with black) and give a mischevious wink to your ex.


Cobalt Silk blouse, Elie Tahari.

Black (leopard-lined!) pencil skirt, Express.

Sequined jacket, Banana Republic Heritage Collection.

Heels, Cole Haan.

Black pearl necklace, T.J. Maxx.

Shades, The Loft.




Pumpkin, Baby!

orange pants black linen jacket

When I was little, my mom’s nickname for me was Pumpkin Baby (apparently, I had rolls like a pumpkin ♥). It must have subconciously imbued me with a love for the shade, because now I can’t get enough of it.

Here I’ve paired the hue with neutral basics (leopard is a neutral, right, Jenna Lyons?) to let the wide-leg pants be the star.

Also, I finally bit the dust and bought a paper planner. I’m still adjusting to carrying something around the size of a small dictionary, but feeling more organized and reading an inspirational quote each day (yes, I’m a dork like that) helps soften the blow.Update: While setting up the links to this post, I found my “Happy Stripe” planner has a matching pen, so I may survive after all.


Pumpkin wide-leg pants, Whimsy Boutique.

White Tshirt, Target. Buy Now.

Black Linen Blazer, vintage Elie Tahari.

Leopard calf-hair belt, vintage Saks Fifth Avenue.

Black and tan wedges, Michael Kors.

Planner, Emily Ley (monogrammed to help me remember my name on the crazy days).

Ode to Pockets

If you’re a man, pockets are such an innocuous commodity that it may surprise you to learn just how strongly women feel about them.

I’ve heard designers malign them as the great ruiner of the lines of women’s garments, and when I dropped into the tailor’s before a recent trip overseas and asked her to create an internal pocket in a coat I had just purchased (a luxury that comes standard on men’s coats but seems conspicuously missing from women’s coats), she looked at me a bit askance. Indeed, sewn-in pockets seem to have long been the sole proprietorship of men, with women resorting to exterior bags tied to their petticoats, which eventually morphed into the modern day handbag, according to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

So when my friend Jessica recently took to Facebook with an appreciative post about pockets, I was barely surprised at the flurry of comments that ensued. Complaints about  faux pockets (“fockets,” as one friend dubbed them) and musings on their mysterious purpose mingled with invectives against the desperate among us who have resorted to storing life’s ephemera in our bosoms, along with teary exclamations of the joy experienced upon discovering that a garment had the type of hidden pockets men take for granted in their clothing. It was finally determined that women are so pocket-starved that we’ll buy any garment with pockets regardless of how well it fits (a sentiment echoed in multiple friends’ messages over the next several days), and I can’t say I disagree.

Years ago, I read about an exceptionally elegant woman who had a series of pockets sewn into all her coat linings so that she could forego carrying a bag (brilliant!). That started me on a quest, snatching up garments with what I had been terming “bonus” pockets (a naming practice which shall cease immediately; equal pay for equal work and equal pocketing practices, I say). When the pockets I wanted didn’t come standard in a garment (almost always), I whisked them away to the tailor’s to be retrofitted (often much to their chagrin–see above lament about ruining of garment lines).

With the tenuous hope that useful pockets continue to resurface in women’s clothing, here are a few current examples of my love affair with pockets.

Elie Tahari blazer pocket

Barely discernible in tweed, I love having pockets on a blazer when I meet new people. My business cards go in the left pocket, so that I can discreetly slip theirs into my right pocket.

blue trench with hand lotion

Outer pockets on a trench allow me to go for a walk in cooler weather while still keeping my phone and lotion handy.

trench with passport

Often overlooked in women’s outerwear, an inner pocket is perfect for preventing wallets and other valuables from being easily stolen. I was so excited when I found them in this and the blue trench above–I usually have to take my jackets and coats to the tailor to have them added.

catepillar in pants pocket

All pants have pockets, right? Nope. I need more pants pockets for important things like dancing caterpillars.

camel leather pockets

To me, it’s not a real moto jacket unless it has pockets. The more, the better. and bonus if they’re zippered.


black moto pockets

Exhibit B: Even the more polished version I wear to the office has zippered pockets (REAL pockets, not “fockets”). Of all the clothing items I wish had pockets, moto jackets are the ones I’m most particular about.


black skirt pockets

Seriously–I get texts from the dressing room all the time about skirts and dresses  exclaiming, “It has pockets!” Designers, please take note.

chambray pockets

I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I love pockets for no other reason besides looks. I rarely keep anything in shirt pockets, but I still want them to be functional, just in case (I know, I’m so demanding!). I love the look, and am always searching for great camp shirts and tees with pockets.


Unpacked (in order of appearance):

Tweed blazer, Elie Tahari, similar style here.

Trench Coat, Samuel Dong via Ooh! Ooh! Shoes!

Trench Coat, Gallery, purchased at a shop in the Nashville airport.

Wide-leg cropped pants, Banana Republic, similar style in white here.

Camel moto jacket, Michael Kors.

Black moto jacket, Ann Taylor.

Bubble skirt, Bitte Kai Rand.

Chambray camp shirt, Girl Krazy via TJ Maxx.


Action, Boys, Action

blue trench black white windowpane

I adore a dramatic collar.

According to Charlotte Bronte’s character Jane Eyre, people “must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.” I think Jane was onto something, because whenever I anticipate having a run-of-the-mill day, I feel obliged to wear a little something special, and this trench, with its oversized collar, front pockets, and bubble skirt, usually does the trick.

You would think that a punchy color like this would enjoy limited use in a wardrobe, but when you buy things in your favorite, most flattering colors, you’ll find yourself reaching for them over and over again.

White black windowpane

Along with my fondness for nearly theatrical proportions, I possess an incorrigible love of white and ivory pants. I insist on buying them, even though I have never been able to keep them clean or in good repair (we all have our vices). They do not pair well with park benches, coffee, pens, babies, or being in any sort of rush. I find it imperative to commute with a dark outer layer extending past the derriere for impromptu outdoor lunches, diaper changes, coffee on the drive in to work, etc.



Black and White windowpane top, Merona via a friend’s closet sale.

Pants, Elie Tahari.

Shoes, Cole Haan.

Earrings, ?.

Necklace, via Polk Museum of Art Gift Shop.

Bubble-skirt trench, Samuel Dong via a charming little shop in Charleston, SC called   Ooh! Ooh! Shoes

Sophisticated | Polished | Rebel

In my last post, I recommended choosing three descriptive words to hone your personal style. Mine are sophisticated, polished, and rebel. These are the things I want people to resonate with when they meet me.

As you might surmise, each of those words features in varying levels of prominence depending on the situation. Today’s outfit is one I would wear to work, so sophistication and polish take center stage, with just a bit of smoldering rebel in the accessories.

Navy Dress Hooded Trench Bucket Bag

The demure pleated neckline, lightweight wool fabric, and navy color of this Elie Tahari dress reads “sophisticated,” while the chocolate-piped trench and tasseled bucket bag add polish.

Nine West Navy Bow Shoes

Add a bit more polish with bow-topped blue suede heels.

Gothic Ring

Just because you’re dressed for work doesn’t mean you can’t show off the edgier aspects of your personality. The SFW method involves showcasing them through your accessories. This claw-encased ring lands squarely in the rebel camp…

Pyramid Studs

…while these diminutive pyramid studs further the rebel theme.


Three distinct words, but it all adds up to a cohesive look.
Have you been thinking about your three words?

Photography courtesy of Emily Plank Photography.

Never Have Nothing to Wear Again

Photo courtesy of Emily Plank Photography.

Photo courtesy of Emily Plank Photography.

I love fashion as art; I love seeing the creativity spill off the runways into the stores each season. But here’s the ugly truth:

Clothes shopping can get overwhelming, even for a junkie like me.

How do we distill the array of offerings down to a collection that truly expresses who we are?

We begin with the end in mind.

After hearing an interior designer describe the method she uses to create and decorate spaces, I began using her interior design philosophy to define and refine my personal style.

She explained that when designing a room, she chooses three words to describe the feelings she wants people to experience when they enter that space, and then funnels all of her design decisions through the filter of those three words. The end result is a nuanced but cohesive look that stirs an emotional response.

So if you’re tired of spending more time shopping for your clothes than wearing them,

Choose 3 words to define your personal style.

These words should get to the very heart of who you are as a person, the words you feel best describe you.

Now orchestrate all of your clothing purchases through the filter of those 3 words.

It takes a little more thought up front, but a lot less work from then on.

When you carefully consider your three words and build your wardrobe accordingly, you will always have something to wear that perfectly reflects you as a person. And guess what?

People will get the message of who you really are.

Are you ready to feel madly confident every time you get dressed?

It’s time to feel good in your clothes again.

P.S. Over the next few posts, I’ll give you some tips for choosing your 3 words in case you’re feeling a little stuck. I’ll also divulge my 3 words and show you how I execute them in various aspects of my life.

Justina’s Five Tips for Aging Beautifully

Villacomma lounge1

Sunscreen and Vila, shades are an integral part of my age-defying arsenal.

On one of those dreadful days during my pregnancy when my skin was uncooperative, I had eaten more watermelon than I cared to admit, and even my yoga pants no longer fit, I hauled myself down to the walk-in manicurist at the mall to get a pedicure on the feet I could no longer reach myself. I needed to control something, to engage in some sort of comforting beautifying routine, and since I couldn’t do anything without feeling the guilt from all the all-natural mom articles I was reading at the time (“Could Your Mascara Be Killing Your Baby?!”), an emergency pedicure it was (I specifically avoided reading articles on how nail polish would certainly cause birth defects).

I signed my name on the login sheet, and went outside to wait and read on a park bench (I should at least get some brownie points for avoiding some salon fumes, right?).

A friend happened by (because of course I see one of the most stylish people I know when I’m wearing my now-mostly-elasticless gym shorts from 7th grade), and then just as I was settling in to my book, a lady, appearing to be in her 50s, settled herself primly beside me.

Noticing I was pregnant (as older ladies are wont to do), she asked me “Are you having a baby?” (as older ladies are wont to do). I replied, “Yes” and our conversation began.

It turns out that Justina (as I later learned her name to be) was a sprightly young 80-something-year-old, and I firmly insisted she divulge her most effective strategies for staying young. Without hesitating, she gave me several pointers, most of which I’ll pass on here (I have to keep a couple of tips to myself!).

“Take care of your skin.”

Justina insisted that most people put too much “stuff” on their skin, and not enough sunscreen (I immediately logged on to amazon and ordered a new tube).

“Don’t gain a lot of weight.”

This directive was accompanied by an impressive bicep flex and a rundown of Justina’s current gym routine. I’ve been trying to think of an acceptable excuse for not going to the gym ever since. Unsuccessfully.

Corsten is my current gym routine. Shades, Vila,. Earrings, Repeat Offender via Polk Museum of Art (3-D printed--how cool is that?!). Blouse, Elie Tahari.

Corsten is my current gym routine. Shades, Vila,. Earrings, Repeat Offender via Polk Museum of Art (3-D printed–how cool is that?!). Blouse, Elie Tahari.

“Have good posture.”

Thank goodness my mother wasn’t with me to hear that and elbow me in the ribs, since she spent most of my childhood with this admonishment on her lips.

“Rub oil on your belly every day.”

I assume this was a pregnancy-specific piece of advice, but just in case, I still use oil moisturizers.

“Stay marketable.”

As my jaw dropped, Justina maintained that she had been able to keep her husband interested over the years by remaining a hot commodity (his interest was evident as he offered his arm to escort her into the nearest store). After a half-hour’s conversation with her, I was thoroughly convinced that if he had half a brain at all (I’m sure he had quite the brain-women like Justina rarely tolerate men who haven’t), she never had to remind him just how marketable she was; it was undeniably evident.