Your Next Perfect Outfit is a Cat Haus Harness

“I know I’ve been a perfect bitch, but I couldn’t help myself.”

–Bette Davis

cat-haus-harness

Every so often, I get bitchy. Usually, it’s because I haven’t eaten in 6 hours, or the driver who just pulled out in front of me can’t seem to find their gas pedal, or someone omitted a serial comma in their latest Facebook post (I take that last one back—that is a totally reasonable cause for offense). But every once in a while, it’s because life conspires to keep me busier than I should let myself get, and I drag other people down with me (I apparently have never read that “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” sign).

This “drowning person taking their rescuer down” vignette most recently played itself out in an attempt to procure THE OUTFIT for a weekend getaway to New York, where my husband was attending a work conference, and I would spend the day bumping into Tiffany’s and Manolo Blahnik and calculating (and recalculating) how much money I’d need to make in order to live comfortably there (I think we all know the answer to that question—way more than I make now). I needed THE OUTFIT, however, because we were going to an underground party. An underground party full of New Yorkers, (or, as they are known by us mere mortals, The Style Bulletproof).

THE OUTFIT came to me in the form of an inspired strip of metallic leather.

Earlier this year, I had been introduced to Cat Haus harnesses through a friend whose daughter is one-half of the bad-ass creator duo. I immediately adored them, and owning one of these lovelies catapulted to the top of my short list of “NEED.”

However, if you hang around my Instagram feed at all, you might have noticed I have an almost-2-year-old. So it goes without saying that I have almost no time. Procuring a harness fell to a lower priority on my to-do list until the week of my trip, when I called formerly-mentioned friend in a panic and annoyingly asked if Cat Haus might be willing to ship one of their harnesses to me overnight so it I could wear it to a party that weekend (told you I’ve been a perfect bitch).

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I had some help changing out our decorations.

She put me in touch with Lady Miaou, who, instead of returning my bitchiness with (what would have been a well-deserved), “Girl, you crazy,” informed me that while Cat Haus harnesses are custom-made according to the wearer’s measurements, she would check to see if they had the leather in stock and make me one to be shipped out the next day. She even created a special shipping option for me on the website (told you they are badass).

The best news? Should you want one of these delicious little delicacies, Cat Haus is running a 40% off sale through Monday in celebration of Shop Small Saturday (check out their Facebook page for the promo code).

So you don’t have to be a bitch (even if you’d be a perfect one).

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The Ultimate Guide to Designing Your Dream Bag {with Boondock Studios}

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Image credit @boondock_studios

Have you heard the style authorities wax poetic about that legendary bag that is everything one could ever want or need?

This mythical creature stands up next to your most polished work attire, but looks right at home with your casual weekend clothes. It’s a classic, but one that makes a statement. I’ve even heard that it can give you a fashion pass on the days when the rest of your outfit veers toward the schlumpy.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen designer logo bags proferred as the end-all-be-all answer to the legendary bag search, although I never quite figured out why–perhaps directly advertising “I am willing to pay good money for a bag hundreds of other people carry” equals style for some? There are very few “It” bags that will cause me to assign style points (although, I will admit, I’ll endure a tiny twinge of benign jealousy upon encountering a real Birkin).

What will cause me an outright pang of jealousy (sometimes even accompanied by downright swooning)? When I see a bag so perfectly, so lusciously designed and crafted that it seems to be an extension of the wearer herself. With this bag, you notice the style, the luxurious craftsmanship, and the sheer beauty of the bag, but you might have to sheepishly inquire as to the designer, because the bag isn’t a name dropper.

After spotting a few of these beauties in the wild, I decided to hunt down my very own trophy. I was ready to spend a bit more to capture my prey because I planned on having this bag FOREVER (also, you all know my life philosophy–buy less, buy better).

Alas, after a couple of years (yes, years) of looking, I lost hope. I had already formed quite a picture of what I wanted in my head, and couldn’t find a bag that exactly matched it.

Finally, I had a stroke of genius and contacted local leather artisan Boondock Studios about helping me craft a bag that met all my needs and wants. If I was going to invest the amount of a rent payment, I wanted it to be designed precisely to my specifications.

Well, I can’t say my dream was realized, because my dream was too dang small, people! I brought my hieroglyphic design sketches to a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Boondock (not their real names, but seriously-nothing is sexier than a husband and wife artist duo), who I first met at our local farmer’s market when they were new designers churning out the most fantastical leather masks. Now they make the leather, knitting, and woven dreams of people all over the place come true.

The discussion became very animated as we excitedly bantered about leathers, seams, linings, and studs, while Mr. & Mrs. B threw out design suggestions I hadn’t even dreamed of. I knew they “got me.”

I’ve had this bag for a week now, and I am over the moon. It has exceeded my wildest expectations, and the more I use it, the more I love it, because I’ve realized just how much of my life is spent on the go (and therefore lived out of my bag), and how much easier and enjoyable having one designed just for me has made my life.

I have been plied with so many compliments on it, that I decided to write a post about it and give you:

The Ultimate Guide to

Designing Your Very Own Dream Bag

with Boondock Studios

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Think about your REAL life.

Being a mom to a small child is a huge part of my life now. If you have a small child, might feel, like me, that there’s never enough time with your child. I want to BE WITH my family when I’m with them, which meant designing a bag that not only looked amazing, but had all the practical amenities that would make my life easier.

A few design factors that emerged from that reflection:

  • Backpack style-great for Farmer’s Market, cycling, or errands.
  • Drawstring opening-To have a bag that I could easily get in and out of, I asked Boondock to create mine with a drawstring opening so that I can get into it without taking it off my shoulder (without a flap–who has the coordination for that?).
  • Deep interior pockets-I was so tired of my sunglasses and lip liners falling out into the main portion of my bag. With deep pockets, where I put things is where they stay (including sippy cups and bags of cheerios!).
  • Exterior pocket against my back-When I travel, I wanted a place I could keep my phone and wallet that couldn’t be pickpocketed.

 

backpack back

Be open to new ideas.

If you’re collaborating with an artisan to design your bag, they will have ideas that are born out of working with materials that are familiar to them. They know how the leather or fabric will behave in certain situations, so it’s best to listen to their ideas. They also have resources you may be unaware of, so they may be able to create things you couldn’t anticipate.

Ideas from Boondock Studios that made my bag SO MUCH BETTER than I could have dreamed include a curved base (it’s like a backpack hug), exquisitely knotted leather rope drawstring, high-quality features like saddle stitching and heavy-duty rivets and screws so that my bag could take the constant beating of being drug around by a child, and using custom-printed fabric for the lining (how cool is THAT?!)

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Remember what you love.

Being a mom didn’t cause my style personality to change. Designing a bag with rock n’ roll details like studs, fringe, and skulls expresses my style and makes me smile every time I look at it (and really, that’s what a phenomenal bag is all about, right?).

backpack skull

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Image credit @boondock_studios

Don’t punk out.

You want to create a quality bag that you’ll adore for years to come. It’s worth the discipline of saving up for (and totally worth forgoing those 5 H&M shirts you’ll only wear once).

Don’t cheap out and forgo craftsmanship that will make your bag stand apart from the crowd and bring you joy.

Let everyone else carry a Speedy. You have a {insert YOUR name here}.

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Image credit @boondock_studios

 

The Newbies

After an especially productive consignment shopping trip this weekend, it occurred to me that you might like to see how I decide what pieces to add to my wardrobe (yes, there is a method to the madness).

Most of my clothing choices are made quite deliberately. I’m usually looking for very specific pieces (or at least pieces with a specific vibe).

In preparation for each season, I like to check out my local consignment shops to see what pieces on my wish list I can recycle into my wardrobe. Then I fill in the gaps online and in stores. Not only is it a little more ecologically responsible, it leaves me more money for shoes. 😉

leather skirt before alterations

I have been looking for a leather skirt for a while now, so I was especially excited to find this one. It’s a no-namer that has been worn in quite nicely (I love buying vintage leather and denim-someone else has done all the work of beating them up into perfection for you).

While it’s gorgeous, the length is awkward for my tastes, so I’ll have it hemmed to the knee before autumn.

Pro tip #1: A lot of leather can look software-programmer-at-bike-week really quick, so I like to pair leather clothing with suede or fabric shoes to soften it up (like the grey suede sandals here).

Pro tip  #2: When you thrift, you’ll often find pieces that are nearly perfect. Look for pieces that will be bumped into closet rock star status with an easy alteration or two.

ivory forever21 blouse

This Forever21 shirt still had the tags on it and is in perfect condition. It’s unlikely to be a long-lasting staple (it’s made of polyester, and I really like my summer tops to be silk or cotton), but it’s great for adding a jolt of “new” to the closet. I LOVE ivory and have difficulty finding pieces in that color that I adore, so I jump at any chance to pick it up.

tan blazer express

This camel blazer is from Express. It’s a great stand in for the tropical wool one I hope to eventually own.

Pro tip #3: Any blazer will automatically look more expensive with working buttons on the arm. This one’s buttons are already functional (props, Express!), but if your favorite one doesn’t, it’s an easy fix for your tailor.

Black BCBG party dress

Soooo, yeah. I didn’t really have an excuse for this one (and it was the most expensive piece I bought that day), but it has a glam rock n’roll vibe and is so beautifully cut, I couldn’t help myself.

Pro tip #4: Always go for a marriage of love over reason.

In the end, I spent less than $130 and scored 5 items (I’ll show you my favorite one soon). All four items here came from What’s New Consignment.

Unpacked:

Leather A-line skirt, $36.

Ivory blouse, Forever21, $8.

Camel blazer, Express, $4 (SERIOUSLY!).

Black Party Dress, BCBGMAXAZRIA, $50.

 

 

Know the Deal: how to shop at an outlet store

Coach Weekender

This mustard Coach weekender has been on some grand adventures with me. When shopping for bags, look for labels with identification numbers to verify authenticity. Coincidentally, most of my outfit in this photo was purchased at an outlet mall. Shoes and shades, Cole Haan. Necklace, Kate Spade.

Everyone loves a good deal. Hence the appeal of the “outlet mall,” a phenomenon we fully exploit here in Central Florida. People traveling from all over the world work a trip to the outlet mall into their itinerary, and leave with enough merchandise to clothe a small country.

Many people think that just because they’re buying something at an outlet mall, it’s guaranteed to be “a deal” and less expensive than buying it at a regular store. We get caught up in the thrill of the score, and wind up going for broke (literally and figuratively) by the end of the day (c’mon—how many of us really need a fancy garlic peeler?).

Here are my tips for making sure that your next trip to the outlet mall produces items that will be workhorses in your wardrobe:

Have a list (at least a mental one) of what you’re looking for.

Not only do I like to have a general idea of what specific pieces I’m looking for, I like to map out my route to certain stores once I arrive. This ensures I visit the stores that are most likely to have what I need. Once I get everything I need, I can visit other stores for extra fun. That way, I stand a much better chance of coming home with pieces that fill in the gaps in my wardrobe.

Know what’s the real deal.

I’ve seen too many friends disappointed in their search for designer items (especially bags). It’s not impossible to score a good deal on a designer bag, but you need to know the hallmarks of that designer and the materials they use. Designers usually stamp each bag with an identification number and the particular bag style should be recognizable from brand marketing. Shoddy zippers and linings or off-kilter or oddly colored logos are usually a good sign that you might not be getting the real deal.

In addition, some designers put out diffusion lines that have a similar aesthetic to their main line, but sometimes sacrifice a bit of luxury in the manufacturing process. The leather might not be as buttery soft, the hardware might not be as hefty, or the stitching may not be quite so even. You can find incredibly fun diffusion line pieces, but I do caution against overpaying for a diffusion line piece (this is easy to do because many times, diffusion line pieces are sold side-by side with main line items in the outlet stores with little to no differentiation. I say again: Know your designer).

Michael Kors moto jacket

After searching for years for the perfect leather moto jacket, I finally happened upon this one at a Michael Kors outlet.

Know what’s a real deal.

This generally has to do with your style aesthetic. The expression “Know thyself” has never rung more true than when applied in a sartorial sense. Snagging a purple sweater for $10 is $10 wasted since I don’t wear purple. Conversely, I love moss green, so paying $35 for one in that color (I like a silk-cotton blend) is a much better deal for me.

Similarly, since I don’t really wear sneakers, the 2-for-1 sale going on at Adidas isn’t going to be the best use of my finances. But I love leopard, and the utter abandon with which I pair it with everything imaginable completely justifies picking up two pairs in differing heel heights (the men in my life may disagree, but I’m standing by this one).

I find that wardrobe demise does not sneak up on you through well-thought-out investment purchases, but by frittering away your budget on things that appear to be a good deal at the time (This t-shirt in every color because it’s only $12!).

These guidelines may not completely safeguard you against the odd errant purchase (Oh, like I’M the only one with pool slides in my closet?), but they should at least ensure that you make good use of most purchases from this weekend’s ventures.

Know what is important to you.

I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but there will be times when quantity will be more important than quality (pregnancy reigns fresh in my mind; so do newly-minted college graduates entering the job market). But barring a few exceptions, I tend to look for a very few (thank you, Lilliputian closet) quality pieces over volume.

Is prestige or living on the edge of the fashion scene more important to you? Does your weekend wardrobe read “sporty” or “party”? Do you prefer frequent shopping fun or a few big trips a year? These are all things that will affect how and when you spend your clothing budget.

1932 Lincoln Judkins Coupe Hood Ornament

2014 Lake Mirror Auto Classic

“As far as I’m concerned, clothes shouldn’t make women into stereotypes; they should represent us, express what we really are. Traveling influences me, as do ballets, books, music, encounters with other people; in fact, just about everything influences me except what I see in the fashion world.”

–Alix Petit, creator of Heimstone

 

1934 Buick 60 Series Coupe Hood Ornament

1934 Buick 60 Series Coupe Hood Ornament

I love my glossies as much as the next shoe-obsessed girl, but there’s one source of style inspiration that the glossies, with all of their (coveted) glitz and glamour, can’t top–and that’s life. Usually, I am most enduringly influenced by the same sources as Ms. Petit, and this month, inspiration came in the form of the 2014 Lake Mirror Auto Classic in central Florida.

Rivets prompt me to add a bit more metal to this fall's outfits.

Rivets prompt me to add a bit more metal to this fall’s outfits.

For a girl who generally passes over details like broccoli on the way to a chocolate factory, I sure do have an affinity for them in clothes, dwellings, and cars, and it was the detail that caught my eye at this month’s show, inspiring some aspect of every ensemble as of late.

1938 Bugatti Type 57C

This 1938 Bugatti Type 57C makes me want to add a dose of rich cognac to every ensemble.

The Auto Classic showcases everything from American muscle to British roadsters, but every year finds me lingering over the exotics and Pre-war models.

Morgan Hood

Details such as hood ornaments and gear shifts conjure up the grace and elegance of bygone eras, driving the desire for those elements in my current wardrobe.

So if you notice me eschewing sporty pool slides and cheeky sweatshirts in favor of smooth leathers and shiny metals this season, don’t be surprised. Art imitates life (or perhaps vice versa?).