Thursday, January 29, 2015

SterlingSewn Giveaway and Reader Discount

SterlingSewn Giveaway and Reader Discount

Mine is the "classic" size. It has an inside pocket, too!

Hi loves! Guess what! I'm so excited to announce that Rachel from SterlingSewn has generously donated any one item currently in the shop (winner's choice!) or a credit of $75 towards a custom order for one of my readers. Since Valentine's Day is almost here, and I can't think of a better gift for the women in my life, I'd like to ask you to nominate your loved ones to win! 

Here's how you win a tote bag for a friend or loved one:
  • Visit SterlingSewn on Etsy.
  • Then, post below telling me which SterlingSewn bag is your favorite and your nominee's first name. That's right, just the first name of the one person you want to win the tote of their choice. 
  • I'll announce the winner on Tuesday here, and you will email me your nominee's contact info.
  • You can also get your nominee two more chances at winning by tagging your nominee on my instagram (@startcloseinstyling) or on SterlingSewn's instagram (@sterlingsewn)! 
Plus, Rachel is offering 10% off for you, my readers, with the code STARTCLOSE10 for the next week! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Introducing SterlingSewn

Introducing SterlingSewn

I'm thrilled to highlight a brand new Etsy shop with you today. SterlingSewn is the type of store that makes me want to buy one of its handmade bags for every single woman I know; they're functional, beautiful, and made by an incredible mother and woman. Even its tag line is adorable: "Fun. Functional.  Tote-everywhere-able." Come on! I want one. 

Then there's Rachel, the seamstress behind the gorgeous totes and baby slings of SterlingSewn. She's one of my best friend's sisters, which makes best sister? I caught up with her via email recently, got to test drive one of her bags, and couldn't wait to share this with you. 

Even better? Tomorrow I'm going to be giving away something amazing from her store, so come back tomorrow to win! 

StartCloseIn: You're an incredible baker in Vermont and a mother of two, a wife, a sister, and friend. Where do you find the inspiration for creating these beautiful bags? Who do you make them for? Is she also a creative woman, a mom, a business person?

SterlingSewn: I started making bags for myself and as gifts for people in my life. I'm a huge fan of the tote- I love the simplicity, the functionality, the stuffability. The totes I make for SterlingSewn are inspired by the totes I've been using and loving for years. I'm a busy working mom now, but I was a busy woman hauling stuff around before I was a wife or mom too. Everyone in our family has their own tote, which helps to keep us organized because every person's individual needs are contained. I feel like anyone can carry a tote, and I try to design them with enough options that there is one appropriate for anyone. (Admittedly, I haven't really made one specifically aimed at guys yet, but a lot of men end up helping carry bags for the women in their lives, so I hope they're man-friendly!) Some women might keep one in their car for the farmer's market or grocery store, some women might use it as a beach bag or gym bag, someone might use theirs as a diaper bag or to corral all the kid accessories you need to keep with you when you're traveling. Someone else might throw their purse and gym bag and lunch bag all into a big tote like my Hauler Tote so that they're not juggling multiple smaller bags on their commute into work. 

I love the look of your bags- sort of sleek on the outside and bright and creative on the inside. Tell me your thought process in creating this style bag for us!

My favorite color is gray, followed closely by navy. Personality-wise, I'm a well-socialized introvert. I have a Masters degree in art, but I always preferred to work in black and white. The colors I would choose one day always looked ridiculous the next day. I like interesting patterns and color combinations, but I can't commit to having to look at them all the time. I've only ever purchased black vehicles. Having said all that, there is something to be said for the joy that the unexpected can bring, especially when it inspires strong emotion. At my "real job" I'm a Pastry Chef, so naturally I think of slicing into a cake, or a pie, or biting into a truffle. A simple outside sometimes hides a delicious middle! This is also true for people, and all sorts of other things. I love to open one of my totes to either pack or unpack it and smile because of the lining fabric. People should own and use functional items that give them joy - whether they be clothing, bags, coffee mugs, shoes - because that's pretty much the best type of multi-tasking that exists!

The quality and creativity of your bags shows how much thought your put into each one. They're so gorgeous! How do you pick fabrics and fabric combinations? 

Quality is important to me - I am not the type of girl to treat things delicately. I respect things that are sturdy and reliable. I'm also thrifty. In order to keep costs reasonable on the making and selling ends, I buy the high-end upholstery fabrics for the exterior of the totes on clearance and through wholesalers. The lining fabrics are generally less expensive, and fabric-hunting for me is like a mini-vacation. I buy what I love, in small quantities, and then stare at my stash while I'm working to try and decide on pairings. I lay out combinations at the end of a work session or before I go to sleep and then see if I still love them the next time I see them. Since I opened the Etsy shop, I get really excited when a tote gets purchased, but I'm always a little sad to pack it up and see it go! I think that means that I'm doing something right, because I'm making what I love.

What's special about making bags and slings for you? Why choose these to launch your Etsy store?

I launched SterlingSewn with bags and slings because those are the items that I use the most, give most frequently as gifts, and they're things I love making. A Ring Sling is basically the closest thing there is to a tote bag in which you carry a baby, so it works! There are tentative plans to add other items, really put some work into the website, start to blog about projects, etc, etc.  I'm waiting to see what I can make happen (and trying to find more time!) When I'm not focused on specific projects, I end up making a lot of tiny dresses and things like toddler tepees and Elsa capes for my kids, so it's best if I have a plan!

How did you come to start an online business? 

SterlingSewn is still a little tiny tadpole of a dream! It might fail in a very ordinary and unspectacular way, and if it does, then I will try to find comfort in my attempt. I am always sad when someone says, "I always wanted to..." So, why didn't you? Why don't you? There are no expiration dates on dreams. There are obstacles, obviously, but there are also solutions. I completed college and grad school and worked interesting jobs and then later finished culinary school, but I'm still struggling  to find a work/life balance. Having a family has complicated the way I feel about how I spend my time. So, taking small steps towards being more entrepreneurial seems like a good thing to do. 

Who or what inspires you? 

I look for inspiration everywhere, and I find it! I look for color combinations on my commute to work, in the messes my kids make when they pull out every toy we own and scatter them across a room, and in the piles of dirty laundry. On a good day, I am inspired by my daily struggle - from trying to figure out what I can do for work that brings me joy but also helps pay bills to simply getting everyone dressed and out the door! I claim small victories whenever possible. I'm inspired by my husband, who is an exceptionally giving and supportive person who does his absolute best to keep up with my quirks. I'm inspired by the women in my life near and far who remind me through their actions to continue to seek solutions for circumstances that may be less than ideal, to find beauty and humor in the mundane, and to smile through stress. Mostly I try to make decisions in my life that round out the stories of strength and spirit and love and generosity I want to one day share with my children.  

Is there anything else you'd like to share? 

Thank you so much for offering to introduce me to your extraordinary people! You are such an incredibly giving and strong and inspirational woman, and I'm so thrilled to be able to connect with you on your blog. May 2015 bring all of us unexpected successes!

Cheers to that, Rachel! And thank you so much!

*SterlingSewn gifted me a bag to try out. All opinions are my own. And-spoiler alert-I'm going to have a giveaway from SterlingSewn for one lucky reader tomorrow! Stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Secret Accessories Spot

My Secret Accessories Spot

Want to know where I buy most of my favorite scarves, earrings, and accessories? World Market. I know-so random, right? I'm not talking about heirloom quality or fine jewelry or anything here, obviously, but I've found that World Market consistently has affordable pieces that I like. They're a bit hippie, sort of "gathered," like you had actually traveled to Indonesia or India or Morocco over the weekend to find a few pairs of earrings. 

I went there this weekend in search of a comfy chair for guests to my new office, and these are some of the favorite things that I spotted. 

The scarves above are divine because they're inexpensive and relatively good quality. I recommend that you take a scarf from here home, wash it gently, and iron it flat. I'd like for their scarves to be a bit bigger than they are in width, and ironing them helps. 

World Market has recently started carrying more clothing, and it's really interesting. I particularly like their kaftans. They're thin, perfect for the beach or lounging around at home. Anyone pregnant this summer should check them out because they'd be perfect.

Then there's the jewelry. My ears are extremely sensitive, and I've found that I can't really wear their silver, but the golds are just fine for me.  Be aware if you're sensitive, too, and don't buy more than one pair before trying them out in your ears.

I like some of their more unusual smaller earrings for work to funk up some of my business casual outfits. It helps remind me that I'm not always a professional, I just play one at work.

Then there are a bunch of bags that they carry that would be perfect for doing just that-making a basic t-shirt and jeans or all one color outfit much more interesting. I have a backpack from World Market that I use to carry stuff on my bike, for example, because it won't matter if it gets some strawberry juice on it or something.

Today, they had beautiful clutches and also little drawstring bags.

I also got some things for my gift closet. I have corner of my craft room closet where I put things that interest me throughout the year; then, when it comes time for a co-worker's birthday or a hostess gift for a friend, I don't have to go searching for something last minute. I already have them in my closet! 

For my gift closet, I got Mclures Blood Mary mixes,  mango salsa, and a dipped Mason jar vase. I also got a trifle bowl (is that the right word?) and a book of People's Pops for myself so now, of course, I'm dreaming of the trifles and pops I'll make in the coming weeks and months! 

I hope you had a great weekend and have a nice start to your week! This week, I'm looking forward to hosting some of my husband's work friends for dinner at our house. What about you?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reader Question: Where Can I Find Great Boots for Wide Calves?

Reader Question: Where Can I Find Great Boots for Wide Calves?

When I posted about boots for narrow calves, Kate commented to ask me about boots for wider calves. I'm so glad that you did, Kate, because I have done some searching in the past for personal shopping clients, but I hadn't posted anything about it here! Thank you!
Here are some of my favorite sources for where to find boots that will fit stronger, wider calves than the average boot. First, where to go and how to find them. 
 Nordstrom is where I always start looking for shoes or boots of any kind because they have stylish choices that are neither too trendy nor too old-fashioned. Search by "wide calf." I sometimes look at Nordstrom and then look to find a cheaper alternative if I'm not 100% sure on the choice. Next I'd go to Zappos to see what they have. Both places offer free shipping both ways so it's kind of like shopping at home. Search for "wide calf" on Zappos, too. I don't recommend going super cheap if you're looking for a wide calf boot since you want quality and something that will last. Remember, if you wear a $50 boot for one season it's not cheaper than wearing a $200 boot for 8 years.

You can do the same for Macy's and DSW. Now is a perfect time to buy boots because there are so many winter sales going on. I also strongly recommend that you make a mental note to shop for boots for next fall/winter this spring because once the weather gets warm, they'll go on deep sale. 

My Choices for Tall Wide Calf Boots

Ok so I love this boot by Naturalizer, thiscustomer favorite in black, this expensive looking little
brown by Fitzwell, a brand that I love, this sassy little number also from Naturalizer, this gorgeous one by Born, I love the details on this Naturalizer, and there's nothing better than a great wedge boot! If you're looking to invest in a boot that will last, try this Frye boot that actually got high marks in comfort, which can sometimes be an issue for that brand. This is a great basic that will be in style for forever, and don't forget a Hunter boot, too.
For what they're calling an "extra wide calf," what about this classic riding style boot?

Mid Height Boots I Love

Sole Society
You might also consider boots that don't hit the calf at all. Mid height boots are very modern and a bit more trendy than knee height boots. Here are a few of my favorites in this style.Sole Society has the most gorgeous shoes, and this boot is no exception. If you like the look of that one, do check out the rest of their boots because they're gorgeous. If you need a bit more warmth, but not too much since you're in New Orleans, Kate!, then what about these beauties by Sorel?

Don't Forget Short boots!

Short boots, or booties, are here to stay and worth an investment. I find them to be farm more comfortable to wear under pants, and I absolutely wear them with skirts, too. I like to wear tights with booties, though, since I think they can cut off your ankles if you don't link the feet to the legs.

Try these gorgeous boots from Sundance or these really cool ones that look very fresh, or these
incredible mocs! If you want some height instead, my goodness are these ever gorgeous! These Clarks are a great basic wedge that you could wear with everything. And on a more funky note, I'm in love with the Tom desert wedge high booties in every color, including the metallics. They would transition well into spring, too!

So that's it! I hope you guys found some fun boots if you're looking. Comment away if you have other questions I can answer for you!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things Blogs

One of my best friends is always cracking me up by saying "I didn't know such things existed!" It's kind of a running joke that we now apply to most anything useful. It started with blogs about clothing and fashion-she didn't know they existed! Well, in case you don't know about some of my favorite blogs, I want to share a few with you today. These are the blogs that I read regularly, that I turn to like a familiar friend, and I think you might enjoy them, too. Some are even written by my in-real-life friends, too!

Keiko Lynn

Via Keiko Lynn

Keiko Lynn is a well-known blogger, but in case you haven't heard of her, you must visit her site! She's my favorite blogger to read when I feel like I'm in a rut, wearing the same things or seeing the same things on every site. Here she is dressed up to go to Disney, for example. I love it! She has incredible makeup tutorials, too, and she has the best style. Even though it's not my style, she always inspires me to wear something more fun.  Think modern vintage style that you can borrow elements from no matter what your look.

Faith, Hope, Love & Luck Survive Despite A Whiskered Accomplice.

This blog is written by my dear friend, and it should be your go-to place for recipes when you want everyone to love what you've made and be really impressed. Her recipes are manageable but pack a huge flavor punch. Think things like multiple incredible variations on deviled eggs, "Blow Your Kilt Off" samosa ice cream, and endless wisecracks about her wild cat.

Two Blue Lemons.

Via Two Blue Lemons
Two Blue Lemons is written by my cousin, actually, and it's the most amazing blend of good-for-you food and images of their life on Martha's Vineyard, where they live full time. Her recipes, like Moroccan lentil stew with sweet potatoes or dark chocolate pudding with coconut, always make me stop and say "I want to have THAT for dinner tonight." For me, they're easy to adapt to gluten free and dairy free, and she often indicates how to make those swaps. This is where you want to go for family-friendly, vegetarian, soulful meals.

LaTonya Yvette

LaTonya's blog is a new one for me; I saw her on Cup of Jo earlier this week, and I have been reading her past entries like a fiend. Her incredible style and sense of place living in NYC have caught me in a way that few blogs have lately. I can't get enough of her. Think bright, colorful clothing and homey, small space living in the wonderland that is New York.

What about you? I'd love to know what inspires you on the web.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I'm Really Into All Gray Lately-And Here's Why

I'm Really Into (Mostly) All Gray Lately-And Here's Why



It feels warmer, softer than all black or all white but still looks clean and modern. It's versatile-as you see here, you can wear all gray in a preppier way, in a more androgynous way, casually or dressed up. All gray lends itself to being worn with other neutral friends like white, brown, or black. All gray also loves to show off with a pop of color like a pink lip or bright bootie.

Here's what to do: pull out everything gray that you own. Put it on together, then add a second neutral color or a pop of color. Done and done!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Client Question: How Do I Wear a Black Blazer in a Fresh Way?

Client Question: How Do I Wear a Black Blazer in a Fresh Way?

Happy Tuesday! I ended up not going to NYC this weekend. My mom was here to pick up her car, and we were supposed to drive up together, but she got sick! She's on the mend now, nothing serious, but we spent a weekend at my house watching documentaries and eating soup instead. I hope you had a good, relaxing weekend, too! 


One question I often get asked by personal styling clients, readers, and friends is about how to wear basics in a way that feels fresh or different. Even those clients who don't ask me should be asking me. I see women all the time with perfectly good black jackets (whether blazers or top halves of suits) that just aren't being worn enough.

Today's post is about taking a basic that you may already own out for a spin in a new way. It's about getting that black jacket out of the closet!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Have You Watched TransParent?

Have You Watched TransParent?

I just spent the last few nights binge watching the Amazon series, Transparent. It is so good. It is absolutely an adult show, though, with nudity, sex, and even marijuana so don't watch it with your kids and get mad at me. That being said, wow is this a good show. It gets better and better with each episode, and by about halfway through Episode 3 I was hooked on these characters. They absolutely endeared themselves to me and also broke my heart. Just like family does. 

I can't remember the last show that felt so real to me, like such a real dynamic between spouses, siblings, and family members. There are these moments that we've all had-moments where we look at people we've known and lived with and loved for so long and think "do I even know this person?" Have any of us ever really even met our parents? It's just incredible.

On a lighter note, the fashion is also incredible-the whole show has this amazing look. With so much focus on what's happening inside these characters' hearts, it's clear that a lot of attention was also paid to what they wear on the outside. And I love that the women on this show get more and more stylish and beautiful as they age.

If you're looking for a similar perfect androgynous white shirt, try Garnet Hill's tunic or any of the perfect weight shirts by Madewell
All images via Google search. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What to Wear in January in NYC

What to Wear in January in NYC

My sweet boy helped me pack.

I'm spending the long weekend with a dear friend from college in New York City. I lived there after college (in Manhattan) and again for a summer during law school (in Brooklyn). We decided between moving there and to the DC area when we moved here in 2011, and I love it so much more now that I don't live there, actually!

I can't wait. However...I'm not looking forward to the cold. Although I live only a few hours away, there is nothing like the cold of New York City except where I moved to DC from-Chicago. In New York City in January, I can expect to stand outside waiting for cabs, trains, and buses in weather that anywhere else would have you cowering in your car. Not usually an option in the City.

I remember my first winter in NYC, standing waiting for the crosstown bus back to the East Side from grad school; I found it so odd that the normally uber-stylish New York women around me were wearing these hideous coats that looked like sleeping bags. As the minutes ticked by and my legs got cold and colder, I asked the one closest to me where she had gotten hers. I went in search of a knock off the very next day. What had she told me? "It's called a boyfriend," she said, "because it's big and tall and keeps you warm at night."

So let's start there: a warm outer layer. I'm going to need one, and, in fact, I just replaced the jacket that got me through the cold of Chicago winters. It was worn out! I went a few places and then defaulted to my gold standard for jackets-Macy's. They have so many options and always a sale. The one I got is by Calvin Klein, it's down, it's tested to -10 degrees, and it's not hideous.

Next up? Layers. One of the particularly difficult things about a winter trip to NYC is that you will be extremely cold outside, then extremely hot in the subway, then potentially either one in whatever restaurant you end up in. If it's a popular spot, prepare to sweat. Get a table near a doorway? You may freeze every time someone blasts their way through the double set of winter doors. You need to be ready to strip layers off and add them back on.

Here's what I did: pull out every layer that I want closest to my body. This includes the softest, best undershirts by Cuddle Duds, and silk long underwear. Then, pants. I decided to stick with a couple pairs of black pants because I don't want to haul a lot of clothing with me. I might have worn fleece-lined tights and skirts if not. Then, SmartWool "lifestyle" (ie not the thick hiking boot style) socks. I'll wear warm winter boots and bring an optimistic pair of wedge boots if it's a cab it to a nicer place kind of night. If they're too heavy, I'll ditch that option.

Now my base layers are all set. I looked around, and my pants are black, and my shirts are gray and white. Time to add some more neutrals or some color. I added a gray scarf and gray wrap cardigan. Lots of I threw in a bold lipstain (Lively by Tarte). For the other options, I added an Aztec print sweater with neon colors on it, a deep red wool hat, and a reddish, long sweater with zippers on the shoulders, and a HUGE fleece, plaid scarf that I made.

I'm not going to any fancy events like shows or anything, otherwise I'd have added a dress and some warm Wolford tights.

That's it! Layers and layers, waterproof boots, and warm socks. I'll resist the temptation to compare myself with all of the gorgeous NY women around me and just know that I fit in more than I realize in my blacks and whites and grays. And guess what I will be? Warm.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bras That Don't Squeeze You

Bras That Don't Squeeze You

David Whyte, the poet and author whose poem inspired the name of this blog and my business, says something funny in one of his CDs; he says a woman once came to hear him read and speak and told him that she'd put her bra back on to come out and hear him. He was confused, and she explained what all women know-once your bra is off for the night, it's unlikely you're going anywhere! He was honored once he understood.

I've been suffering with a different sort of problem, you see. I've been undoing my bra left and right-mostly while driving home-but sometimes in less convenient places, too. I found that no matter how many times I got a bra fitting (even with the new, more accurate way of bra fitting!), my bras just seemed too tight! Do you ever feel like you're in a vice grip, like you can't breathe? I did. I even got a nursing tank top one time to wear down to New Orleans under my clothes because that was the only thing I could figure out that wouldn't press on my shoulders (like a sports bra) and had a band that I could shift around on my sides and back so that it wouldn't squeeze me. 

Then, about a month ago, I tried on a bra (actually a "bralette") in a very unlikely place: American Eagle. So random, I know! But it had something I thought could work-really wide sides. I ended up buying this one with the racerback and another with the adjustable back. I prefer the adjustable because you can hook the little hook it has and make it a racerback, but sometimes that hurts my shoulders and so you can undo it, too. Also, the straps show under some of my shirts with the racerback. I like them so much that I bought two more adjustables this weekend. 

Now, let me be clear. This is a wireless, unlined bra without padding. It's not super smooth under clothing. But, it's very comfortable. Check the sizing online if you get one. They go from XS-XXL. I went up one size from my tshirt size, but I didn't want any tightness around my back at all. My regular tshirt size fit me but just a bit tight. It might be worth going to try one one if you're considering it. 

I think this style bralette would be a great at home bra for most women, even if you want more support outside of the house. And, I've searched around for a variety of sizes for us since originally all I could find were for A-B cups. Which, if you are a AA-A cup, this is so gorgeous! And this one! 

Hanky Panky makes incredibly soft underwear, and I bet their bralette would be incredible; I love those wide bands around the front and back! I'm seeing them at a few stores like this one for A and B cups at Neiman Marcus and this one by Free People for A and B cups at Nordstrom. I love the look of this one, best for A-C cups at Nordstrom, too. Modcloth has some adorable ones, like this one that's out of stock but worth checking back in for! 

Torrid sells a crop lace bralette with a lot more structure in sizes 1-3, but it still sits nice and low on the body so I think it would similarly take pressure off the mid back. They also make a push up style that has a thick band, too. Very sexy! 

If you're having middle back pain, I'd strongly recommend that you try out one of these easy bralettes even if it's just at home.