Thursday, August 29, 2013

Virtual Shopping: Maternity for Fall/Winter

Virtual Shopping: Maternity for Fall/Winter

This week, you heard from stylish a mother of two about her tips and tricks and then got some big-picture questions to ask from me to think through what your body might look like in the coming months, how to use what you already have, and how to dig through other people's closets. Now that you've taken stock of what you might need and what you have that already works, let's get down to what I would suggest you buy if you were my client in her second trimester now before fall/winter. That's right, it's virtual shopping trip time!

Let me start with a story. Last weekend, after my shopping trip with a client, I stopped by Old Navy and Destination Maternity to shop for my friend. Since she's just in her second trimester, I haven't said her name here. Well, I felt like a teenager who is experimenting and starts to talk to an adult, "I have this friend...who..." In this case, "who is pregnant, and she's not sure what to wear..." I don't think they believed me, and I know some of you don't either! Rest assured, Pregnant Friend exists, and it's not me. If it's you, too, here's what to buy.


Dresses are going to allow for the drastic changes your body is about to make. Right now, you might still be covering up a little with a cardigan, but when you're ready, you can wear these with a belt tied over your belly. I love the un-fussy patterns and the sleeves. All from Target because you might not want to spend a lot right now until you get a better sense of your shape.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Q&A: What to Wear for A Stylish Pregnacny Part II

 Q&A: What to Wear for Maternity Part II

Yesterday, my best friend talked about what to wear during early maternity-and beyond-from a mother's perspective. I haven't ever been pregnant (and am not currently, just in case you were curious! Did you wonder?), but I have what might be an abnormal interest in maternity fashion. I just think that pregnant women can get away with things that the rest of us can't when it comes to clothes, and I love that! And there's nothing that says that you must wear clothes from a maternity store while you're pregnant. So darlin', here' are the five questions to ask yourself.

1. What can I expect to look like? 

I'm not sure how you can buy things or take stock of what you already have that might work if you're pregnant for the first time and unsure how your body will change. Of course everyone is different, but let's check out some general ideas!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Q&A: What to Wear for Early Maternity?

Q& A: What to Wear for Early Maternity?

I have a dear friend who is in her first trimester, and we've been brainstorming what she can wear now and in the coming months. Tomorrow I'll talk about what I suggest as a stylist (who has never been pregnant), but first I wanted to start with an answer from a real deal stylish mother: my best friend, Tahira. She has the most adorable infant and toddler that you have ever seen. They are curious, sweet, energetic, and smart. Oh, and also so stinking cute. Here is a sample of the recent cuteness.

Tahira is my friend who sometimes makes it hard to be my friend if you are anyone else. She is the gold standard, the best, the be-all-end-all. And, I have to say, she was the cutest pregnant person ever-both times. She has that impossibly perfect belly when she's pregnant that makes her look like a maternity model-you know, the ones that are not really pregnant but are wearing the perfect belly tied to their otherwise not pregnant bodies? Tahira had that belly. Here are some shots from her cute maternity style at different stages of pregnancies.

Tahira's non-maternity style tends to be very feminine, and this worked beautifully while she was pregnant. Long dresses, soft layers, and swooped necklines accentuated her new shape and made being pregnant look effortless. Some of my favorite things that she wore were long vests with a tighter shirt or dress underneath, a puffer vest instead of a winter coat, and sweeping maxi dresses with gorgeous accessories. Here's her take on it. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Joint Shopping Trip & Tips

Joint Shopping Trip & Tips

What a fun day. I've got the biggest smile on my face, and it hasn't budged for hours. This morning I spent about three hours with my dear friend and coworker as she found freedom in clothing. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's really what happened! Instead of feeling stuck in all of the old rules she'd made for herself (only things that match go together, or, no horizontal stripes), by the end of our time together she felt free to mix and match, to layer, and to play with clothing.

I was a bad blogger and didn't take many pictures, but between the BB cream at Origins and the blue/white stripes paired with blue/white polka dots under a tan military jacket with the sleeves pushed up, the smile on her face went on for days. She was thrilled to try on pieces that followed some basic tips for creating a wardrobe that is easy to wear-and looks stylish, too.

Like many woman, she rarely makes time for herself. I was so honored to be a part of this time today, and thrilled to see the variety of styles that she ended up buying! We joked that she finally put herself on her own "To Do" list. And the results were magical. Look out, world.

Email me (startclosein(at) if you'd like to take me shopping with you, too!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Personal Shopping Trip: Sneak Peek

Personal Shopping Trip: Sneak Peek

Tomorrow I'm taking a coworker friend shopping for what is essentially a new wardrobe! One of my favorite services to offer women is a personal shopping trip. While she doesn't have an unlimited budget, she hasn't set aside much time for herself for a long time, and, in her words, her clothes are feeling "uninspired." She's a mother to three adult children- and now a grandmother! She wants to feel more professional and also comfortable. I can't wait.

It was important to pick the right places for us to shop. We decided on Kohls, JCPenney (all of the tops you see are JCP!), and Macys, since they have lots of choices for sizes and are affordable. We might make it to TJMaxx if she's feeling comfortable with me since that store tends to overwhelm her, which I hear from a lot of people.

I'll share some pictures for you soon so check back! And let me know if you'd like me to help you shop for any new items.


I had a question about where to find blazers, and I found a few cute ones while pre-shopping on I like the ruffles on the black blazer above because the look is not quite as serious as a typical black blazer. Wear it with skirts, over a dress, or even with an edgier jeans look. The gray boyfriend blazer above (also Kohls) is perfection. Wear it with a tshirt, a flowy top for contrast, or over a maxi dress during these end-of-summer days.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Weekly Roundup


Weekly Roundup: Weddings Edition

I'm constantly seeing amazing deals or fantastic items that I'd love to share with everyone I know who is that size. Well, this is it! My weekly roundup will feature those items in a variety of sizes and styles. I hope they inspire you not only to shop but to shop your closet for similar items! Then, check out some styling ideas here!

This week, let's talk about two sources for affordable, gorgeous dresses for bridesmaids and wedding guests in a variety of sizes.


Target!? Yes. Thanks to Tahira on the tip for this one! Target actually is a great choice for a bridesmaid's dress because Targets are everywhere for friends who live around the country, and they're inexpensive. Plus, they carry sizes 2-28W! Here are a few favorites for a fall/winter bridesmaid-or wedding guest.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to: Closet Cleanse

How to: Do a Closet Cleanse

The transition between seasons is the perfect time to cleanse your closet. It's really tempting to buy a bunch of new fall clothes without taking stock of what you already own that can easily be worn in the fall. Here are my tips for doing a closet cleanse.

Do the Prep Work-it pays off!

all images via

Wash all of your clothes first. It's important to have everything in front of you.

Clean and make your bed (or other large surface) to be able to lay things out.

Set out containers (boxes, bags, or laundry bins) to sort clothes into categories. This makes it easy to get things actually out the door to be donated, and it makes it easier if you have to stop mid-cleanse. At least you're not left stuffing all the clothes back in your closet!

Give Yourself the Time You Need 

Set some nice lighting. Put on music. Pour yourself a glass of wine or a great natural soda. This is quality time with yourself.

Try on each item of clothing with a normal bra and good underwear. Ask yourself some tough questions. StyleBerry Blog had some great ones back in 2009, and I would ask them in this order:

Friday, August 16, 2013

UPDATE Closet Re-Do: Erika

I am beyond excited to share with you some of what I love to do: style regular people. I think of "styling" as a way of helping people to show themselves to the world. I love to dig through closets and find new and interesting ways to wear clothes together, both well-loved and new clothes. The  end result is incredible because people usually look more like the best versions of themselves. This time was no different.

And be sure to contact me if you'd like to let me into your closet for a few hours.

Closet Re-Do: Erika

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with my dear friend, Erika. Some of my favorite things about her are her incredible sense of humor, her kindness, and her jam. That's right, jam. This girl has never met or grown something she can't pickle or can, and the results are always delicious. We share a daydream where we move somewhere remote and grow our own food and raise our own animals.

I was itching to get inside Erika's closet because she is just so striking. She has a great eye for color and unique clothing, and she's not afraid to try something new. We agreed that the end of summer was the perfect time because Erika loves dressing for fall with its cozy layers and colorful tights.

The Pinterest Inspiration Board

She pinned this redheaded beauty for inspiration.
After we talked in broad terms about Erika's current style and what she would like to dress like (in her words below), I created a Pinterest board for us to share. She surprised me with some sexy pin-up styles that I instantly knew we'd have to incorporate!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

StyleLove featured me!

Eeek! I feel famous today. I'm featured over on Love Always Hannah! Hannah has an incredible eye for all things beautiful-whether re-imagining a space to make an unforgettable party, pairing bright color with a tough edge like camo, or lighting up the room with her beautiful voice. It is for that reason that I feel so honored that she would feature my style on her site. Here is a teaser, and visit her site for the rest!

LAH – What’s one of your favorite things about yourself and why?
Ella – I’m proud of my ability to see the potential-in people, things, and situations... Whether teaching in the Bronx, representing criminal defendants in court, or mediating with a difficult industry (my current job), I have always sought out (sometimes unconsciously) situations where I am called to find the potential there, find the good. I see that more in my life now that I’m settled into our home and our marriage – I’m excited and energized by a forgotten piece of furniture that I could paint and give new life and also by people around me. I have always made people over in my head-thinking about what they could be wearing that would be more reflective of their body or their spirit-but for a long time I felt guilty about that. I think I felt like it was a negative, like being a mean girl or something. But I’ve realized lately that I’m not putting anyone down – I’m uniquely situated to see how tweaks to clothes, some great makeup, or even different food could lift them up. I love that I can see that beautiful potential all around me.

Thanks, LoveAlwaysHannah

I'm so looking forward to our collaborations in the near future! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UPDATE: Q& A: What Do I Pack? An end of summer girls' weekend in Brooklyn

Updated live from NYC!

Thanks to the gorgeous and stylish women behind A Different Story and Love Always Hannah for sharing your pictures with us. I'm not sure if you used my tips or not, but you looked incredible and like you had so much fun! I'll take credit for the hat, basics with details (love that statement necklace, Caroline!), and comfortable shoes, m'kay? Can we all go along with you next time?

My incredible, creative, gorgeous friend Hannah is going with friends to Brooklyn for the weekend, and she's asked for my help packing her bag. Here are my ideas for a comfortable, stylish girls' weekend in the City.

all images via

Weekly Roundup

I'm constantly seeing amazing deals or fantastic items that I'd love to share with everyone I know who is that size. Well, this is it! My weekly roundup will feature those items in a variety of sizes and styles. I hope they inspire you not only to shop but to shop your closet for similar items! Then, check out some styling ideas here!

Size XL-3X. Every time I hear an ad for "back to school," I cringe. I still have first day of school nightmares, even years after stopping teaching full-time. My solution for this in-between time is to wear dresses, and I think you should, too! What better way than to celebrate the fact that it is still summer while also wearing something you can transition into the fall with tights, boots, jackets, and sweaters? I love these two from Forever21.

Size Large (only). This skirt is the perfect way to continue wearing the most comfortable piece of clothing ever (maxis) into the fall because the colors aren't too summer-y. Wear it with a t-shirt and a moto jacket, a blazer and a tank, or a sweater and boots once it gets chilly. 
Size L only, was $89.50, on sale for $49 with an extra 40% off through 8/13
Size Large Maternity (only). The color! The shape! Add a light cardigan and plan to skip tights since you'll be nice and toasty anyway!

On sale for $48.88 plus an additional 40% off
Maternity. I'm not sure of a size for this, but I think this dress would work really well for maternity since the comments say that it's fairly shapeless. Also, the little belt would look adorable worn over the top of the bump! The fall colors mean that you could wear this with a blazer or cardigan well into fall.

$59.88 Was $89.50, plus an additional 40% off

Sizes XS-L. This modal tank would hide bra straps or look adorable without a bra for those who can do that. I love the dark green for fall! This would look great tucked into the skirt above, with a blazer, or just with white or patterned shorts while it's still hot outside.

All sizes, was $34.50, now $29.00 plus an additional 40% off until 8/13
 Size Medium (only). This is a splurge even on sale, but it's also striped and cashmere, so I had to include it. I really like it with the white jeans on the CM website, but I'd also like it with a dark denim and booties for fall and some chunky, dark jewelry, maybe wood? You could also JCrew it up with a button down buttoned up to the neck underneath (and a pencil skirt!), although it would be a pity to miss having that cashmere against your skin!

XSmall or Small. This dress is available in all sizes and seems to run about a size small based on the comments, but with the thin straps, I think it's probably best for a smaller size. Flowers on black are still a strong trend and could easily transition into fall with a little jacket and tights.

Was $89.50, now $49.88 plus an additional 40% off
That was so fun! I love virtual shopping for you all!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

To Style: to look at oneself with fresh eyes

Guys, I just had the best weekend. I try to regularly carve out time to be creative, but this weekend was just beyond. Let me try to put some of it into words.

On Friday night, I got the chance to fuss over my dear friend, Erika. For years now, I've helped friends and family members out with their clothes by suggesting different ways they could wear the clothes that they already own and by really focusing on what items they might need to add. I'll write more about it this week over on my styling website later this week, but it was so much fun. Erika really loves fashion, has a great sense of what looks best on her body, and is a 6' tall redheaded beauty. Basically, it was the most fun ever.

On Saturday morning, I headed over to our dear friend Andy's house. We spent a few hours looking at his house through fresh eyes. What I discovered was that his house was full of gorgeous glasswear, vintage record players tucked away inside of built-in cabinets, and amazing artwork. The thing is, it was all hidden away out of sight! Mainly, we tackled his front room, which was either empty or a storage space. I'll write more about it here this week and as we continue to work together, but here is an idea of where we're headed (don't mind the boxes in the corner).

The Library

Then! Then! To round out the weekend, my beloved friend, Hannah, came over to do a photo shoot. Who does that? And can we have one every weekend?! It was the best. Hannah is an amazingly talented woman, and I basically want to make a pocket-sized version of her to bring around with me so she can make my life look prettier. She can transform any space into exactly where you'd want to live or have a party-or both! Here is one of her shots of me, and I can honestly say I felt prettier than I had in a long time with her on the other side of the camera!

After the shoot, we sat brainstorming creative ideas together, and my head is still buzzing. I can't wait for what the future holds! Including more of this!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Closet Re-do: Erika's sneak peak

I am incredibly excited to show you some of the fun new looks that I put together with Erika. Here is a sneak peek of the before and after with the obligatory sad "Before" face and blurry photo!

Check back this week for how Erika and I got her wearing not two but three patterns at the same time!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Who you think you are, you are.

Body Party

For many, many years, I thought of my body and myself as two separate entities. Isn't that weird? I freely thought about and talked (at least to myself) about my physical body in ways that I would never have talked about "myself." My body was weak, a failure, too much of one thing and not another. I would never have described myself as weak or a failure, but this body I was living in? I threw it under the bus on a regular basis, as though the two were not the same thing. I have since come to learn that the way that I think about my body reverberates throughout my life-I can't be proud of myself without being proud of the part of my self that is my physical body. It's impossible.

Part of loving to help style other people and create a closet space that reflects who they currently want to be-and are- is a celebration of our physical bodies. Part of separating this blog from my personal Cheddar N Grits blog is wanting to create that space for us to show off our physical bodies in a way that we don't often get to. I am blessed to have friends who look incredibly different from me, and I have so much fun dressing them (in my head or in real life!).

My best friends represent the variety and beauty of the female body, but so often our shapes are not the ones that are represented in magazines and even online. There is this strange uniformity to the type of female body we celebrate as feminine and beautiful, and it's typically a skinny, but busty, taller,but not "too tall," form. Today, I'd like to move away from that shape, and I'd like to celebrate that shift here over the weeks. 

It's strange to live in a culture where famous people are assumed to want to have breast re-construction, where women continue to get breast implants, and where we freely talk about "real women" as those with an hourglass figure as though other women are...fake? So today, let's start the body party with these incredible looks for my friends with petite, perky boobs-those who don't always have to wear bras.  I salute you!

Find links here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

True Life: I'm A Badass (Who are you?)

You know that trashy MTV show "True Life?" As in "True Life...I'm an international spy" or "True Life...I'm an alien." Ok, maybe the plot lines are not that interesting, but you get the idea. Today's True Life is about me, but I have a feeling it might be about you, too.

A few months ago, I started wearing pearl earrings ironically. I thought it was funny because I don't see myself as a pearl earring kind of girl. Then I realized last week that it's become a thing, and likely no one around me realizes that I think it's funny. It makes me wonder how other people think we see them. What are they wearing in jest?

Because deep down, I think I'm a total badass. Like this. All images via.

 Or on a mild day, maybe this
And that's what's inside when I'm dressed like this after a day at the (conservative) office.

So today, take a look at what you look like inside, and bring a touch of that into your regular "costume," whether it be a leather jacket, stud earrings, more pink than you usually "let" yourself wear as an adult, a tomboyish nod to your childhood self, or just that old glint in your eyes. You might find that some part of you rejoices in embracing the inner you.

I won't wear them to work, but yeah, I might be buying these.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Closet Re-do: Erika (Classic Beauty/Tomboy/Pin up)

I am so excited. This Friday, my dear friend, Erika, has agreed to let me into her closet. On my first day working for The Government, Erika took me out to lunch. I didn't know it at the time, but she was checking to see if I was another crazy co-worker come to ask her awkward and inappropriate questions. I'm not sure she was listening quite carefully enough because she seemed to want to hang out with me again after that...

Here's Erika!

Oops! Sorry. That wasn't Erika, but her adorable kitten, rescued from a parking lot in classic Erika style. Erika (Dr. Erika, to be precise) is one of my favorite people.
A shot from the shooting range-stolen from her Facebook and, I believe, taken on Valentine's Day?
She is one of those friends who convinces me that we have past lives-I have known this woman before! There is no other explanation for the ease of our conversations, the instant trust, and the similar (warped) sense of humor. I talk to Erika most days, and whether it's about canning, relationships, or "Mandatory Fun," I always look forward to hearing what she'll have to say. She's brilliant, kind, creative, and the perfect person to kick off this new venture because she is unbelievably gorgeous-and open to playing around in her closet.  Before knocking off for a gluten free dinner adventure, Erika said she'd like to cull through some of the clothes that she'd like to donate and/or sell, look at ways to combine colors/patterns/textures, and put together an outfit to wear to a wedding she'll attend soon. I can't wait to see what she has in her closet because she has some incredibly gorgeous pieces that she'll only wear every so often-I want to get them in a heavier rotation! And, I can't wait to free up some space in her closet and hang some outfits together so that she can practically fall into days' worth of clothing options that makes her feel as gorgeous as she is.
For now, the style that I've coined for her is Classic Beauty/Tomboy/Pin Up. I'll explain more about why that helps me and how it evolves when I post about Friday's fun! For now, check out the Inspiration Board I made for us!

I also might have an another incredible styling opportunity coming up in the near future that I'm so beyond thrilled about. I can't believe this is all happening. Eek!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nordstrom Sale-Shopping a Great End-of-Summer Outfit

Hey! Did you see that Nordstrom is still having their summer sale? I've seen it on a few blogs, but I kind of assumed that I had missed the boat. But, I didn't! I will preface my favorites by saying two things: many items have limited sizes left BUT read the reviews because Nordstrom shoppers seem to be very dedicated about reviewing their clothes, and you might need to size up or down even by 2 sizes.

This is an easy format for a great outfit.

Start here.

These two pants are the perfect end-of-summer length. Either could be worn down or cuffed, with flats or wedges. The bottom style shows off the the butt with those back pockets. I don't think mint is too spring-y to buy now; just wear it with neutrals or fall colors (orange!) as the summer winds down.

 Add a fun "t-shirt." I mean that loosely.

The shirt above is technically a t-shirt, but it's so much better! This shirt with those pants almost kills it for me, but if you can ignore the pants then the top is actually great. This kind of detail in the back adds a little style to office clothing-or playground clothing! But, I'm thinking that this seems a bit tight across the chest and might be better for a smaller chest.  

Or add a loose, comfortable t-shirt in a contrasting color. 

I love the contrast of wearing a boyfriend tee with a more structured bottom, like the chinos above. Of course we can all wear jeans or black pants like these two are doing, but I love when women tuck a baggy shirt into a pencil skirt or throw a structured blazer on top. 

Most of us have t-shirts that we love and would love to wear everyday. These two alternatives capture the ease of wearing a t-shirt but add a bit more style. Both could be dressed up or down with a skirt (I would love to see these in a monochromatic look with a skirt or pants in the same color family) or blazer or funked up with skinny jeans and ankle boots for the fall. 

Top it with a blazer. And ohhhhh, the blazers themselves could take up an entire post! Here are some favorites.
This blazer comes in a few colors, and it looks so adorable! The double buttons are good for those of us with bigger boobs, and the sleeves are a nice length to show off bracelets or pull the sleeve of another shirt through. 

 Go wild and swap your pants for a dress. I love this for fall with one of the blazers above.

Or, keep this in your office or take it with you to the movies for when you get chilly and your "t-shirt" layer isn't enough.

This is fleece. I have a friend who will die that I'm advocating for fleece after all the crap I gave her about her fleece addiction, but there it is! I like the button, the drape, and the fact that it would keep you warm in the office or at the movies.

Happy dressing!