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Independence Day at Monticello

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 Ray Ban Sunglasses//J.Crew Blazer (similar)//Petit Bateau Tee//Citizens of Humanity Jeans//Steven Madden Wedges//Ithaca Cuff (similar)//Essie ‘Bikini So Teeny’ Nailpolish//Tom Ford ‘Scarlet Rouge’ Lipstick (similar)

It’s become a tradition in our family to go the the Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello on the Fourth of July. There’s just nothing like hearing first hand why new citizens wanted to become Americans to put you in the spirit. The scenery and free coke floats don’t hurt either.

When I was thinking about what I might wear for the ceremony, I knew it needed to strike the balance between the casualness of the holiday and the seriousness of being a witness to 70 people from 40 different countries becoming citizens at an American landmark. For this reason, I chose my most comfortable pair of jeans, walkable wedges, and a sharp blazer to punctuate the look. To make a gesture towards the holiday, I added my favorite red lipstick and painted my toes in my favorite blue polish.

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The First Secret of Dressing Well

In 1819, Mary Brooks Picken wrote The Secrets of Distinctive Dress and one of her secrets was that “To know happiness we must appreciate beauty, and to appreciate beauty we must develop it within us.” I found this quote resonated with much of my own thinking about how-to dress. I think what is so appealing to me about clothes is that they are one of the ways we can physically embody beauty in our everyday lives. And when I’m wearing something I like, I can’t help but feel a little happier.

About the time I was reading The Secrets of Distinctive Dress, I was looking at one of my favorite blogs, Garance Dore, which tends to focus on what women are wearing today. Garance had an interview with the fashion stylist, Laura Ferrara. When Laura was asked, “Any secrets that you take from the shoot and use in your everyday life??” She says, “Shoots are a beautiful fantasy; it’s not real life – there is lighting, hair, makeup and everyone working as a team to produce a great picture. I think the secret is to know how to be happy in your everyday life and not live like you’re in a fashion shoot.”

I thought it was really intriguing that two women, almost 100 years apart, were discussing the same themes of beauty and happiness. Which made me realize that there is something universal about the female desire to find happiness and create beauty in our everyday lives, yet very few of us know how to do this today. When it comes to clothes, I think there are two barriers to this. The first is that there is a dearth of modern resources that really explain how to dress in a straight-forward and practical way, and second is the unattainable expectations set by the media. While I hope to eventually remove the first barrier, it’s the second I’d like to focus on today. I think the media often produces two kinds of women – women who try to dress like they live in a fashion shoot and then end up looking out of place in their own lives, and women who don’t even try because they think they could never live up to the ideal they see in the media. So we end up with two extremes – women who wear heels to their son’s soccer game and women who wear sweatpants to the very same game. However, I think there is beauty and happiness to be found in appreciating the kinds of things you do in your everyday life and dressing in a way that is appropriate for those activities.

Thus the first “secret” of dressing well is to consult your own life. What kinds of activities do you do on a normal basis? It is not until you know the answer to this question that you can even begin to answer the question of how to dress well.

A Little Happy

IMG_0344I’m a sucker for the sleek packaging of the iphone.

We got six inches of unexpected snow this week coupled with many gray, rainy days, but there was still lots to be excited about. I got a new iphone after two years of the galaxy. Yes I switched back, mostly because the iphone just appeals to my senses more. I also ran my first ten-miler and got an invitation to a good friends wedding.

20140329_112725A nice reward after running ten miles.

IMG_0310Looking forward to using these pickled peaches to make a pie.

IMG_0283I found this invitation so striking – both modern and glamorous.

IMG_0330I’ve been looking for a buddha and this is one of the best I’ve seen yet.

Why Decorate?

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On one of my mom’s recent trips to see me in Charlottesville, she brought along a copy of Shannon Fricke’s book How to Decorate to share with me. Recently I’ve been investigated the “why” behind some of the things I love, and have not found a better example than Shannon’s words:

“Decorating is a form of creativity, an opportunity to express our unique style of seeing things in a legitimate way. I say legitimate because sometimes the world can look upon the act of being creative as a pastime, an indulgence of sorts, for those who have too much time on their hands and little else in the way of ‘real work’. What a shame, I say, that we don’t give the act of being creative the credit it so definitely deserves. Creativity in any form is a clear window into our soul, into who we are and how we see things. It inspires us to know ourselves — from our head all the way through to our heart. The experience of using our minds, our hands and our inner spirit in tandem is an opportunity to achieve a kind of peace. To just be…How lovely to have such a chance in this crazy, fast-moving, ever-evolving world!

The lovely thing about engaging with decorating as a form of creativity is that the outcome can be both functional and beautiful. It’s easier to navigate the footprint of a well-decorated house, and all who live among its virtues feel its influence on an aesthetic and spiritual level. And on top of all this, good decoration adds value to the property, which for some people is reason enough. For me, however, the true joy of decorating, the heart of the experience, will always lie in the act of creativity itself.”

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Shannon for your words of wisdom and validating why decorating is so important to us.

Why I Blog

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I was lucky enough to grow up with two amazing women in my life. Some of my fondest memories as a young person were spending my weekends with my mom and my aunt. A typical Saturday might find us starting the morning over a long breakfast at a local brunch spot in order to fuel our souls and our bellies for the rest of the day. Our afternoons might be spent browsing local boutiques, re-arranging our furniture for the 12th time, playing in my aunt’s closet that also housed her collection of vintage clothes that once belonged to my grandmother and great-grandmother, getting our nails done, pouring over our favorite shelter magazines, or going to an estate sale. These activities might seem somewhat indulgent, but they were not. For us, it was more about the creative process, about thinking about how we wanted to dress and the environment that we wanted to live in and also sharing these things with each other. Now that we all live in separate cities, thousands of miles apart, I find myself craving those Saturdays that were just our own where we could be creative and explore the world around us together. For me, this blog is a way to continue the conversation with these amazing ladies who mean so much to me even though I can’t spend every Saturday with them and hopefully to widen the circle to include other women who are also craving the same kind of creativity and connection in their lives.

Consistency

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Consistency. It’s one word that I’m not very good at using. One day I love the minimalist designed house in the country, and the next the house in the city with the baroque influence. Sometimes I really think I have design schizophrenia. However, my struggle with consistency is ultimately good because it reminds me how important it is to be consistent.

Well, what is consistency exactly? Consistency is a noun meaning conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy or fairness. From the definition, we can assume that consistency is important because it gives a sense of logic to the space and helps us understand it. When there is consistency a house, collection, wardrobe or outfit feels pulled together. It can be said to have a ‘style’.

I really noticed the importance of consistency when I was looking at Mark. D. Sikes’ work. In fact, in a blog post he wrote about his feature in House Beautiful, he mentions that it’s part of his design philosophy. He says: “The Design Philosophy was based on carrying consistent threads throughout to create a flow.” He mentions that in his house, these threads are “beautiful lighting, symmetry balanced with scale, and an eclectic, artful arrangement of furniture.”

Whether you call it consistency, common threads, or good bones, in order to have a successfully executed space, wardrobe, or collection you need sameness. You need something that pulls it all together. In today’s day and age, it can be very hard to settle on sameness as there is so much new and different to be had. Yet it is picking consistency over schizophrenia that ultimately allows one to be stylish.

Mark D. Sikes – Lesson 1

Every so often I fall in love with a designer’s aesthetic. Usually when I do, there’s something that resonates with my own style, while also elevating my own design thinking. I stumbled on Mark D. Sikes’ home that was featured in an article on the new traditional in House Beautiful, which did just that. One of the things that resonated with me in the article was that Mark mentioned that “the interior is almost a literal translation of my wardrobe.” This spoke to me on a number of levels. First, my own design thinking comes out of my experience of working in a retail environment. When I worked in a retail store, and first started blogging about style, I realized I had the formula all wrong. I had always bought things I loved, but there was no consistency or common thread that ran through what I was buying. One day it might be bohemian, and the next lady-like and formal. I soon learned that while disparate elements were a part of creating a great style, they could not be the only elements — these disparate elements needed a base, something to hold on to. While most people view classic, traditional style as something your grandmother might aspire to, I see it as something else. I see it as creating a home base from where you can work. If the bones of your wardrobe or your room are simple, classic, and understated than you can easily incorporate elements of the exotic, bohemian, or lady-like without it appearing like you are wearing a costume or designing a theme house. As Mark says it’s all about the formula. The formula that I see in Mark’s work is classic bones, suffused with common threads, and adorned with unique, personal objects. It is this layered approach that creates a stylish wardrobe or interior.

Bringing Inspiration In

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Sometimes I am so attracted to color, like this indigo that I saw in a recent issue of Elle Decor. Yet its not very realistic to redesign my kitchen or move to Patmos just so I can use this color. But I can still incorporate the color into my life. I went to my local CVS and bought this Essie nailpolish — not too far off, right? How do you incorporate the things that are inspiring you in your life?

Chair Repair

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I’m in the process of repainting and recovering my dining room chairs. Step 1 in this process is to keep the chairs from breaking apart and making them less squeaky. My usual MO is to try to do everything perfectly, but I wasn’t ready to learn woodworking and complete take the chairs apart or make the trip to Lowe’s and spend a lot of time and money buying a drill to repair them with a syringe like Martha suggests in this hilarious video. So I used what I had lying around — wood glue, q-tips, hammer, and straps. While maybe not perfect, the chair isn’t about to completely fall apart. Lesson of this endeavor — while the say the good is the enemy of the great. In home chair repair, good is great.

Carytown Details

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We headed to Richmond for my popa-in-law’s birthday this weekend. My in-laws live in between Carytown and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. We took a walk down Cary Street, and while Tom was wrangling Mosby, I snapped a few quick shots of some of the details that I think really make Carytown unique. Right next to some street art and a vintage movie theatre there are high-end eateries and boutique shops. I love that everything is jumbled in together. Yet, without these aspects – vintage signs, peeling paint, the obvious hand of the artist, this street could be anywhere, but these aspects make it Carytown. Some might think these are imperfections, but it’s exactly these imperfections that give Carytown it’s vibrant personality. Where are some of your favorite streets? What gives them personality?