Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hat heads are awesome heads!

Karen Morris Millinery (

Karen Morris Millinery

SJB Millinery (

Sunday, April 26, 2015

That crafty Smithsonian ...

Jeung-Hwa Park
Kate Cusack
Wendy Stevens
Ashley Buchanan

Karen Morris

I attended the Smithsonian Craft Show at the National Building Museum Friday and all I can say is I wish I was a billionaire. The jewelry, the clothes, the housewares, the sculptures, the paintings, the purses, the art and of course, the hats. Here are a few of my favorite fashion artists from the show: 

Kate Cusack -- Talk about up cycling. Kate takes zippers (they are new but she could use old ones if need be) and makes fabulous jewelry out of it. I just could not resist buying one of her zipper brooches (see the photo).

The Cordwainer Shop Ltd. -- These handmade shoes (yes, you heard me correctly, HANDMADE SHOES) from Deerfield, New Hampshire, are exquisite and unique. If you are looking for quality shoes that will last a lifetime, you need a pair of these snazzy oxfords.

Jeung-Hwa Park -- This Providence, Rhode Island fiber artists makes some of the most stunning silk and yarn scarves you can find on the market. Trendy and stylish for any age (see photo).  If you want a great scarf, e-mail her at

Grau -- This Hollywood, California, fashion designer's collection is nothing short of brilliant with vibrant colors and phenomenal lines (see photo). Check them out at

Ashley Buchanan Jewelry -- These gorgeous yet simple hand cut pieces go with practically anything (see photo)!

Wendy Stevens -- What this woman does for purses should be entered in a museum (oh wait, it just was!). Wendy takes stainless steel, punches it full of beautiful holes that resemble leaves, flowers and snowflakes, adds that steel to leather and voila, a purse (see photo)! You must visit her website at

Karen Morris -- This Minnesota based milliner sculpts the most beautiful felt, sinamay, straw, silk and tulle creations for your head. Her fascinators and hats are worth every penny (see photo).

Heather U. Widener -- The gems on these gems are exquisite. Heather's jewelry is enviable but affordable.

Bound Earth -- Andrea Williams' (Cohasset, Massachusetts) stone inspired jewelry is realistic and beautiful.

Friday, April 24, 2015

There's no place like home ...

I dropped into the Smithsonian Craft Show today to check out the country's best artisans in various mediums. Now I normally would write about the fashion artists at this show but a few non-fashion related booths caught my eye. If you are headed to the show this weekend ( you must check out these booths (#223 and #224) for the latest in home fashion!

Booth # 223 -- Gorgeous pottery by Jennifer Falter (Springfield, MO) in black and beige. I think I want to redecorate my kitchen in these colors to match her canisters and vases.

Booth #224 -- Hailing from Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Amber Marshall is a whiz at making unique glass art for the home. Her signature whisky tumblers are a must have for any liquor cabinet!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Carrying stuff on the Metro ...

I travel on the D.C. Metro every day to work and while I see a plethora of fake luxury handbags and carry-alls (I've seen my fare share of Kate Spade, Coach, Louis Vuitton and Channel) there are occasionally those very rare bags that grab my attention. Yesterday was a treat because I saw three in one day! From the top photo they are: 1) The indestructible purse, available on, is  made of seatbelt straps in different colors -- the same straps that they use for parachuting and jet plane ejection seats so you know these straps won't be destroyed by a little nail file at the bottom of your purse. 2) The trendy carry-all bag is made by Hex and is a great striped denim but has classic leather strongholds that make it  traditionally stylish and really durable -- durable enough for a laptop, a week's worth of paperwork and your running shoes. 3) Now I wouldn't wear this reinforced plastic backpack, made by Solid Gray, with my Brooks Brothers white button down shirt and J. Crew black trousers but it does make a statement doesn't it? I just liked the fact that it is really fun and durable -- I doubt you would rip this bag's lining with the stray pen or nail clippers!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Helping DMV designers through crowdsourcing ...

Got some extra cash in your pocket or just receive your tax refund and want to know how to spend it? How about helping a local DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) fashion designer with funding. Here are a few of the many designers who need support and their Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaigns:

Silent Society Clothing Company, D.C. --

Dawn by Day Jewelry, Virginia --

Canvas Clothing, Maryland --

Mei' Naa Fashion Line, D.C. --

Porsche Stubblefield's Women's Fitness Apparel, Maryland --

Hat Head Academy, Virginia --

That's The Point Yarn Shop (so you can make fabulous fashions!), Maryland --

Leigh Evans Law (legally protecting creative fashion designers), Virginia --

Better hurry. These campaigns won't last long. Some of them end this week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Closet staples with tax day dollars ...

White linen trousers by LL Bean (
One of my favorite stores Wardrobe Rescue in Vienna, VA (

On tax day, April 15, I want to give a shout out to all those who got refunds and should be out shopping right now! I also want to give a shout out to all those who didn't get refunds (or worse, have to pay more taxes) who will not get to shop today. This blog's for you and includes a few tips to stretch your wardrobe. Now, I know I said in my introductory blog that I would never tell you what fashion was or was not. But what I am providing below is just a suggested "basic list" list of what I consider the main staple of an elegant woman's closet (you're welcome to disagree with me):

  1. Black A-line skirt
  2. Simple little black dress
  3. White button down blouse
  4. Bright colored blouse (think classic colors like red, blue, green, yellow, purple -- not faddish colors like neon, chartreuse or hot pink)
  5. Beige knit sweater
  6. Taupe or beige blouse
  7. White trousers (preferably linen or cotton)
  8. Black trousers
  9. Black blazer/jacket (preferably wool)
  10. Beige or white skirt

You notice I didn't mention jeans in there? That is because, in my humble opinion, an elegant lady reserves the denim for casual, sporting or weekend wear. Jeans are not considered office apparel unless your office happens to be at Levi's or your job entails manual labor (landscaping, construction, woodworking, etc.). And as much as I love my jeans, I don't think I can dress them up enough to pass them off as anything but casual street wear.

What I am suggesting above is a simple list of 10 items you can mix and match. There are more than two dozen looks you can create with the 10 pieces above. Toss in belts, jewelry, scarves, shoes, handbags and outerwear and you have even more looks you can achieve.

You can use your tax refund wisely, too. For example, one of my favorite consignment shops (Wardrobe Rescue in Vienna, VA) has a plethora of white button down, quality-made shirts for $20-40. And you can stop in Marshall's or TJ Maxx for a simple black skirt by a quality, name brand for less than $30.

And don't discount your friendly online stores as I find lots of things for my closet staple list at, LL Bean, Neiman Marcus' Last Call/Cusp and Amazon. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The lady's handbag ...

Margaret Thatcher, former prime minster of Great Britain once said (paraphrased), "Being a leader is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are one, you aren't". The ideal symbol of a lady? Her handbag. I don't mean the price tag on the bag but moreover what's in it. A non-lady will show anyone what's in her handbag, she will empty its contents in public and not think a thing about it. But a lady is discrete, she is secretive about her handbag's contents.

Yes, a lady's handbag is a sacred place. For example, no one knows what is in the Queen of England's handbag and my mother would have tanned my hide had I gone into her handbag without asking first. When a lady decides to allow you into that sacred place -- her handbag (if you thought differently, get your mind out of the gutter), you should take heed and feel privileged! So what is in my handbag (along with my phone, lip balm, identification card, hand lotion, comb and money)? Just this once, I will give you a peek:

Gum and/or mints: I especially like Choward's violet gum and Les Anis de Flavigny mints (from France).
A collapsible bag: You never know when you might want to go shopping and carrying your own environmentally friendly reusable bag is handy.
A powder compact with mirror: I don't carry a full arsenal of make-up with me because it's tacky to "fix your face" in public. A lady applies make up at home or (if needed) at the office, in the ladies room. But a lady should always have a compact with a mirror and possibly a tube of lipstick at all times.
Reading glasses (if needed): Because I usually opt for a neutral colored handbag (black, tan, white), it is difficult to find things easily if they are not various colors so my reading glasses case is bright polka dots.
A business card holder with calling cards: Business cards are such a wonderful thing. They stemmed from the time when a person would go visiting friends and neighbors and would leave a "calling card" if the person they were visiting were not home or able to meet with them. If you have a business, you should be carrying business cards (in a business card holder so they do not get dirty or bent) in your handbag at all times.
Tissues: Because you never know if you might run out of toilet paper in the public restroom or get a nose bleed, these little packets are essential in a lady's handbag!
Pearly wipes: These are not necessarily mandatory but they are my little luxury. I am an avid coffee drinker and have been known to meet up with other women for "LNO (Ladies Night Out)" for a cocktail. These little gems are fantastic for ensuring you wipe the red wine or coffee from your teeth and mouth before they stain the enamel or your lips.
Miscellaneous: A few things that are sometimes in my handbag but not always and not pictured here are bobby pins, nail file, umbrella and safety pins.

There, I've let the secret out of the lady's handbag. I wonder if the Queen carries the same luxuries and necessities as I do? Like the Tootsie Pop commercial always said, "The world may never know."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sell, give, up-cycle, toss ...

I spoke about becoming a fashion minimalist in my last blog post and that I would discuss what to do with all your discarded clothes as you free yourself from too much "un-fashion junk." First and foremost let me say that an elegant woman is not a wasteful woman. Your unwanted items could bring you some cash if you sell high quality items (so you can go shopping again). Or, help out a charity -- something an elegant woman should always try to do often!

While going through your closet when slimming down your wardrobe, you might have looked like the tasmanian devil on old Bugs Bunny cartoons. When you finally stopped spinning you were looking at a pile of "stuff" on the floor of your bedroom. Not to worry. Step away from the pile, sit down in another room of your house for a few minutes (make a cup of tea or coffee) and develop a plan. Your plan of disposal should look something like this:

1) Create four piles of "stuff"-- sell, give, up-cycle, toss

  • Put anything that is of worth (designer labels, unique items, high-ticket clothes) in the "sell" pile
  • Put anything that is not salable but still in good condition in the "give" pile
  • Put anything that can be repaired or repurposed the "up-cycle" pile
  • Throw things that are severely stained, torn, moth eaten or threadbare in the "toss" pile
2) Decide where to sell

  • Consignment shops -- one of my favorites is Wardrobe Rescue in Vienna, VA (www.
  • E-bay as a back up

3) Decide where to give

  • One of the best thrift stores is The Twig, an organization that donates funds raised through the thrift store to the Inova Hospital (
  • Dress for Success (call 202-269-4805 for the Washington DC location)
  • The Lupus Foundation and Disabled American Veterans will pick up your donations
  • There is always Goodwill and Salvation Army as a backup

4) Try to up-cycle any clothing before throwing it in the trash

  • Cut up clothes into squares for a local quilting club. A good one to try is Project Linus in Fairfax County ( contact JoAnn at 703-581-4270). 
  • Try your hand at making shorts out of trousers with a frayed hem or dying an old faded shirt to a new vibrant color.
  • Clothing with missing buttons or broken zippers might still be saved. Perhaps you could try bartering your mending with a skill you possess (someone mends your clothing while you run errands for them) through 
5) As the old Kenny Roger's song goes "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Know when clothes are beyond repair or use and should be tossed in the trash. This step should be reserved for moth eaten or severely damaged clothes and especially used under garments (I don't know why I needed to even add that!). 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The French connection ...

More is not always better

As disheveled as it appears, this is my closet. My only clothing closet (I do have a closet for coats and winter outerwear and a chest of drawers). Genevieve Deveraux tells us in her book "A Guide to Elegance" that American women would be shocked at the French woman's vastly smaller wardrobe than their counterparts in the U.S.A. As an American woman, I am not shocked, but I am also a minimalist (only in the matter of clothing)  and an exception. I must have a little French blood in me because I don't believe in giant walk in closets that resemble a clothing store or so much stuff in my style arsenal that I have to keep a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet inventory on my clothes and  accessories.

When a female friend comments on a dress she has seen me wear before, that truly is a compliment because it made such an impression that she remembered it (now wether it made good impression or bad impression, I can't say, I hope it was good). Too often, we think we must always be seen in a new outfit to prove our worth or importance. Why?

Sunday is Easter and religious or not, you can use the Easter holiday to become more French. For the past 40 days (the timeframe of Lent) I have been purging my closet of one item a day. If I haven't worn it in a year, it goes. If it doesn't fit, it goes. If it is stained or damaged, it goes. If it is a horrible idea of a fad-like item, it goes. Easter is a time of resurrection, so to speak, and I, for one, am resurrecting as a fashion minimalist! It's amazing how liberating it is to "decide" to limit your wardrobe. In essence, to connect with that fabulous French woman who lives inside you.

Do you know what else is great about minimizing your style arsenal? The fact that a small wardrobe forces you to be creative and put some real thought into your attire. When you have a minimalistic wardrobe you have to really think about an outfit, to get imaginative, to explore unique ways to make the same pieces outstanding and fresh. When you have a limited wardrobe you have to plan and you can't just throw on some dress and shoes and call it a day. Being elegant is not necessarily being quick and easy. Being elegant may be simple and uncluttered but it is never thoughtless!

I encourage you to find your inner French woman and minimize your wardrobe*. For one, it will feel really liberating and, second, it will awaken those creative fashion styling genes (not jeans) that will help you be a seasoned and elegant woman. Voila!

* Next week, we will discuss great ways to dispose of your discarded clothing and accessories.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's not nice to "fool" with Mother Elegance ...

There was a great commercial as I was growing up about Parkay Margarine "fooling with Mother Nature." I liked to quote the commercial sometimes and say "It's not nice to fool with Mother (insert funny word here)." Well, I am a worshipper of Mother Elegance (ME as I like to call her) and I'm here to say on this day of pranks and tomfoolery that it is most definitely not nice to fool with her.

I am certain ME is rolling her eyes at things like polyester,  pleather (oh don't even look like you don't know what that is -- leather looking plastic), clam hats, cigar box purses and meat dresses. On the other hand, ME is probably digging Polyvore, Pinterest and blogs like this.

Anyway, fooling ME is wrong and it carries with it a certain karma to be administered on you when you least expect it. I was constantly fooling ME when I was younger by wearing 16 colors at the same time (talk about a patchwork quilt), wearing dollar store bead necklaces at dressy dinner parties and sporting cheap pleather shoes without a pedicure (eeewwww) -- these were just a few of my fashion atrocities committed against ME, there were many more. And now that I am older and can afford stylish clothes (and know better how to wear them), I am finding that its harder and harder to find things that fit -- DAMN YOU KARMA!

So, let me take this blog to remind all you young ones of the top 10 things ME wants you to know regardless of your budget:

1) Take pride in your clothes -- repair ripped clothes, toss stained ones, keep them clean and pressed.
2) Purchase quality over quantity -- if an item that you would never have looked at twice when it was spotlighted in the store window is now on sale for 50% off and you know you will only wear it once or twice, is it really a bargain? Instead, look for things you really like, you think look fabulous on you (not just "ok") and are versatile and classic.
3) Choose fabulous over fad -- fads like jelly shoes and bell bottom pants will come and go. Choose timeless pieces that show your elegance and style, not fly-by-night fashions that you will need to replace the next time a designer gets a whim to create the "next best thing". Trust me, the next best thing is usually the next "forgotten" thing in fashion.
4) You can make a statement with elegance as quickly as you can with quirky -- having the most gorgeous little black dress that all your friends envy you for and wearing said dress to many an event is elegance. Wearing quirky, cheap, faddish outfits  (only one per event because heaven forbid you be seen in the same outfit twice) makes you look like you are trying to hard to be fashionable and like you are wasting money. You want to be seen as elegantly efficient, not squandering quirky.
5) Never try to fool with cheap knock offs. Style honesty is imperative -- we all know that Hermes bag will never go on sale to fit in a college student's budget so stop trying to pass it off as the real deal. Elegant women may be thrifty or budget conscious women, but never cheap and never liars!
6) Don't brag  -- Elegant women don't brag about getting a "deal" at Ann Taylor, we simply wear our clothes and when asked, say, "I bought it at Ann Taylor." Enough said.
7) Elegant women don't scrounge -- They don't root around bargain bins and fight other women for some jersey knit sweatshirt, not even at after-Christmas sales.
8) Try tailor-made -- have at least one dress or suit tailor made to fit just you. Yes, it will cost you about $200-$300 but it will be worth it.
9) Read -- Put down that Cosmo, Vogue or Elle and read a real book about elegance and style. Two of my favorites are: A Guide to Elegance (Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, photo below) and Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris (Jennifer L. Scott).   
10) Wear local instead of luxury -- some of the best items in your style arsenal can be found at local craft fairs, local tailors and local designers (need a list of locals, see the blog below).

Follow these top ten bits of advice and I can assure you that style karma will not be so hard on you in later years.