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.

Unpacked:

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).

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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.

 

#gadfly

Mint Fringe face hide.jpg

Gadfly:
a fly that annoys horses and other livestock
a person who upsets the status quo

Apparently, it can be a little unnerving to have a style blogger for a friend. At a party, someone once confided to me that they get a little nervous when they know they’re going to see me, concerned that I am critiquing every aspect of their attire during our time together.
Rest assured, I do not go around secretly evaluating people’s fashion choices (unless you wear scrunchies. I have a preternatural hatred for scrunchies).
However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little internal leap of joy when I see someone dressed in a way that showcases all the best of who they are. There’s nothing like seeing someone’s essence expressed in art, and if I may be so bold, I consider personal style an art.

grey dress kick

Art Is Personal

In college, I had a roommate whose parents lived in a charming country house not far from campus. My group of friends spent many idyllic weekends at their house, studying in a hammock on the spacious front porch, wandering with the dragonflies and carpenter bees through the gardens, and savoring late breakfasts while watching deer contentedly chew through the daffodil fields.
None of this halcyon lifestyle happened by accident. As it turns out, my roommate’s mother had completely designed the house and its grounds from well, the ground up. Every nook and cranny was intentionally crafted to evoke a particular feeling—from the compact but well-appointed library in the nook at the top of the staircase to the perfectly positioned laundry chute (the laundry went straight from the master bedroom into the washing machine—talk about an efficient process!). Creativity was king, and while some aspects of her home represented significant monetary investment (I can still remember her quite comprehensive set of Wedgewood China in a design run over by wild strawberries), small touches like elaborate and expensive-looking table decorations conjured up from willow branches commanded an equal amount of territory.
In a rundown town where the biggest form of entertainment was people-watching at the Waffle House (closely followed by activating the entire Walmart aisle of then-popular Tickle Me Elmo dolls simultaneously), she had instead opted to dedicate time and resources into ensuring her sanctuary reflected her self perfectly, and it was deeply felt by everyone who darkened the doors. Being in her house or gardens was like getting to know her, and like her home, she was irresistibly intriguing.

 

Mom and Corsten steps

We adore climbing steps.

Defy the Status Quo

My friend’s house so clearly stood out to me as art because its very essence defied the mass production with which our society seems to be so comfortable, not only in buildings but also clothes.

Our yoga pants epidemic is completely understandable; with all the other stuff being thrown at us ALL DAY EVERY DAY, it’s a wonder we remember to leave the house wearing pants at all! However, in my daily travels, I still encounter those brave souls who proliferate joy by expressing themselves through their clothes. At first glance, I may not immediately cognize every aspect of their person, but I do get a pretty good read on who they are (Artist? Minimalist? Drama-lover? Conservative? Whimsical?)

By spurning the path of least resistance, by proclaiming their truest selves instead of sending the message currently approved by the “style authorities,” they are gadflies that remind us how piercingly we touch others when we embody the best version of ourselves.

#Gadfly

In honor of these irrepressible Devil-May-Cares and the joy they bring to my world, I’ll be highlighting them on the blog and GAD’s  Facebook and Instagram feeds, and tagging them #gadfly–a nod to their blithe disregard for whatever anyone else is wearing and also to the name of this blog (see what I did there?).
I’d love to see pictures of the #gadfly’s you encounter, so feel free to use the hashtag yourself when snapping pics and tagging Girl About Downtown so I can pay homage with you.

 

Bunny tail

I have an “audience” for nearly all my photo shoots.

Unpacked:

Pleated Tunic, Ya Los Angeles via friend’s closet sale (I replaced the shell buttons with glam glass ones for a totally different look!).

Over-the-knee boots, Michael Kors via Zappos.

Tiger’s Eye earrings, Sorrelli via Anna’s.

Tiger’s Eye pendant, Polk Museum of Art Gift shop (unfortunately, I lost the paperwork naming the artist).

Mint Fringe bag, gift from my BFF picked out by my adorable Goddaughter.

Silver Fingerprint Charm bracelet, custom-made gift from the two handsomest men in my life. 🙂

 

Casual Cashmere

 

navy cashmere

Break the mold, not the bank.

You might assume that since I’m always preaching the gospel of buying fewer articles of clothing made of the highest quality that I advocate racking up zaftig credit card bills in chi-chi boutiques.

NONSENSE!

Interior designer Vincente Wolf said,

“Glamour doesn’t have to break the bank, but it should break the mold.”

(I love this quote so much I framed it on my bookcase).

I scored this navy cashmere classic v-neck sweater at a consignment store for $10 several years ago. I bet the cost-per-wear of this baby is something like 3 cents.

I love the way this sweater “breaks the mold” with its details. Upon close inspection, it appears to be sewn inside out with longer ribbing at the wrists and the perfect balance of slouchy and fitted cut. A classic item that has carefully thought-out details will become a cherished find; train your eye to look for exceptional details (have I impressed upon you the importance of “detail” enough yet?).

The key to scoring great items like this on consignment is to shop with a supremely critical eye and buy items that have a classic shape or can be altered easily. Don’t shop when you’re under pressure to procure something specific (ever!). Also, be ready to be pleasantly surprised by your finds–you never know what gem you’ll uncover!

 

Unpacked:

Cashmere Sweater, Aqua via What’s New Consignment

Skinny jeans, Level 99 via Hattie’s Branches

Over-the-knee boots, Michael Kors via Zappos

Bruges

After a year of intense focus on keeping another human alive, Shane and I decided it was time to take a little trip as a couple. He had a work trip in France, so it was decided that I would meet him afterwards in Bruges and we would spend a little time in Europe.

My flight suit was super comfortable, but after 17 hours of travelling in it, I decided to change into “real clothes.”

Christina against teal door navy coat

 

The weather in Bruges (pro tip-the locals call it Brugge; pronounced like Brew-hu with a rolled r) was pretty grey, but to make up for it the doors were brightly colored. Since I have a thing for cheerful doors (orange on a grey building is my favorite), most of my photos involved standing by a door that I found intriguing for whatever reason.

Christina white bldg navy coat

At one point in our first day in Bruges, Shane asked if I’d like to get a hot chocolate. I said no, but he insisted I try one.

PEOPLE, a Belgian hot chocolate is unlike any hot chocolate you’ve ever had. It is heaven in a cup. They melt the solid chocolate into the milk right in front of you, and give you a spoon encased in chocolate to stir it with. I’m converted.

lace spools

Belgium is known for its lace. I was really hoping to tour a lace-making factory before meeting up with Shane, but this was as close as I got. Apparently, the art is not as widely-practiced as it once was. I wouldn’t call my personal style particularly lacy, but found the painstaking process of crafting the intricate designs intriguing.

christina bridge

Bruges is full of canals, and there are interesting bridges everywhere. I fantasize about living over the water; can you imagine hearing the water lap underneath you as you lay down to sleep in this house?

dragon vane

The Maison le Dragon is officially my favorite place in the world. Next time I visit (and there WILL be a next time!), I plan to hole myself up in the sitting room next to the fireplace (or perhaps on the private patio, or in the mammoth four-poster bed), reading and writing to my heart’s content. Its golden weather vane topped with a dragon is like a beacon leading you back home from anywhere in the city. Boasting a select four suites, the owners Emmanuel and Maka ensure it’s the most peaceful little sanctuary.

Check out Girl About Downtown on Instagram for some more fun pics from Bruges.

Next stop, Ghent.

 

Unpacked:

Navy Wool Coat, MICHAEL Michael Kors (via Burlington coat factory and tailored within an inch of its life).

Gloves, Leopard calf-hair, Banana Republic.

Jeans, Level 99, Hattie’s Branches.

Nude Flats, Franco Sarto, TJ Maxx.

Earrings, Silver (I don’t remember where I bought them).

Shades, Betsey Johnson, TJ Maxx.

Handknit hat, Boondock Studios.

 

 

It’s Fall…Kinda?

Pumpkin Silk

Fall is here–my favorite sartorial season! Host a bonfire! Mull some cider! Put a pumpkin on your porch! Pull the sweaters and boots from the back of the closet–er, wait–hold up on that last one for a minute. You see, I live in Florida, and the temperature still rises to 80 degrees by 10 a.m. here.

Understandably, many of my fellow Floridians reach for their knee boots at the first whiff of a 60-degree morning. Why should our northern neighbors have all the fun? We want fall, too, darn it! But while initially gratifying, those boots can be a little warm when the clock strikes 2 p.m.
But if we can’t don a sweater in October, how can we get into that pumpkin spice latte mood?
Here are my tips for weathering the Florida fall weather elegantly without looking like you’re holding on to your summer clothes:
  • Wear autumn colors in transitional fabrics. Instead of looking for fabrics traditionally associated with autumn (leather, suede, fur, wool), look for pieces in fall colors rendered in lighter fabrics. (Silk Pumpkin blouse)
  • Wear heavier fabrics sparingly. A wide leather belt, suede heels, or a light bomber jacket can bring a feeling of fall to any outfit without overheating you. One of my favorite tricks for lightly tripping into the season is to switch out my pumps for ankle booties; I get the look and feeling of wearing boots without the sweat of wearing knee boots.
  • Dress in light layers. That way, when the sun appears later in the day, you can shed the jacket or cardigan and remain comfortable (a little more difficult if you’re wearing a chunky fisherman’s sweater).
  • Add autumn colors to your beauty routine. A swathe of wine nail polish or lip color can make you feel more “fallish” even when your sweater is short-sleeved.
I’ve posted a bunch of examples of these on Girl About Downtown’s Pinterest board “Autumn in Florida.” Check it out now for a few wardrobe inspiring ideas!
Now tell me in the comments–what do you do to stylishly participate in fall in a climate that doesn’t seem to want to take part in the festivities?

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.