Back in the Saddle…and dressed to impress

DC is the land of the power suit and pearls. When I first moved here from LA back in 2003 (in my early-20s) I was shocked to go out to bars and see other women my age wearing suits or sweater sets and pearls – even on a Saturday night. My crop tops didn’t seem to fit in. But fast forward a few months and I was right there with them – black skirt, black pumps, sweater set, and big chunky pearls.

.Suit and Pearls (1)

I first realized my style had gotten a bit lame when I started working part-time at an Old Town clothing boutique with decidedly cooler-dressed women than me.  I stepped it up a bit, adding some fun DVF wrap dresses and MJ items to the mix, but after a number of years downtown, I was back where I started. I had another reawakening when I was lucky enough to spend six months in Paris. My Ann Taylor dresses and suits certainly didn’t fit the bill in the chic area surrounding the embassy! I couldn’t afford any Parisian couture, but I loved strolling the streets of Paris, window shopping, and being inspired by French women’s classic style.

After years of working full-time in an office and donning business attire (lame or otherwise) five days a week, landing in Hanoi was a shock to the system. No office. No business attire. And it was hot. And humid. Far worse than D.C. in August – and not much air conditioning. No longer did I need to wear uptight professional attire every day, so I embraced it: shorts, tanks, workout gear, and loose elephant pants most days. I became a lot more relaxed and enjoyed not having to think too much about getting dressed.

So here I am, back in D.C., plotting out my next move, and trying to figure out what to wear. While certainly not a huge obstacle to overcome, it is an important consideration while searching for a job. And it turns out the tanks, elephant pants, and flip flops that were my uniform in Hanoi don’t cut it as professional attire in the DC area.

So I was excited to learn about a new clothing delivery service geared toward working women: MM.LaFleur. Its mission? “To help modern women feel polished and empowered, without having to think too much about their clothes.” I love the idea and the clothes look adorable. To start, you complete a survey on the MM.LaFleur website. Then they’ll send you a “Bento Box” of hand-picked items including a few dresses, a top, skirt, or knit, and possibly accessories. The company gives you four days to consider the items and return anything you don’t want. After your first order, MM.LaFleur charges a $25 styling fee per box, which they’ll waive if you keep a Bento item.

The best part? The clothes are designed by Miyako Nakamura, former head designer of Zac Posen, and are machine-washable and travel-friendly.

I can’t wait to try it…maybe it will help me land my dream job?!

Shine on!

P.S. I still love me a string of pearls and a pantsuit.

Taking Hanoi Fashion by Storm

Pret-a-porteaSweets, coffee, champagne, and fashion? Sounds like my kind of Saturday afternoon! Last week, I went to Pret-a-Portea at the Intercontinental Hotel Westlake. Each month, Chula – the whimsy fashion house preferred by Hanoi expats – partners with the Intercon to host an afternoon tea and fashion show featuring an up-and-coming Hanoi designer.

Last week, the event featured Wephobia Studio, a cool new line designed by two young and adorable Vietnamese women. It was the first time I’d heard of Wephobia and I loved it. Their clothes are chic, simple, menswear-inspired, with an Asian vibe. I loved everything. I especially loved the classic black and white, interchangeable pieces. When I spoke to the designers after the show, I was surprised to learn that their flagship store was in my neighborhood – conveniently located on my walk home from work. Needless to stay, I popped in after work last week and picked up a few items!

Wephobia    Photo credit: Wephobia

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After Wephobia, Chula displayed some of their latest creations. Chula is created by a Spanish couple, Laura and Diego, who make fun, eye-catching silk dresses that are more art than fashion. Each dress is unique and made to order. If you’re an expat in Hanoi, you’re sure to see Chula dresses galore throughout the city. I have two – one black dress with a skull and cross bone theme, and one turquoise dress with a wave. I absolutely love them – fun, completely unique, and comfortable to wear.

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In between the fashion shows, we enjoyed delicious, fashion-themed nibbles. From red chocolate lipstick, to a pink chocolate pump, the Intercon went above and beyond. The highlight? Midway through the event, the Hanoi sky erupted into a massive storm – thunder, high winds, palm trees blowing every which way. I was happy to be stuck inside the lovely Intercon with friends observing beautiful Hanoi fashion.

IMG_2432     The Spread

Shine on!

Tory Tell All

Tory Burch

I enjoyed this Harper’s Bazaar interview with Tory Burch. I love her personal “preppy-boho” style, which is embodied in her eponymous brand. I also think it’s pretty amazing that she was able to build a billion dollar company in less than a decade. Some Sunday morning inspiration from Ms. Burch:

Why do you think you’ve managed to be so successful? Did you ever doubt that it would happen?

It was completely unexpected. I think it comes down to having a great idea and an amazing team and being willing to work incredibly hard. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.

Do you have a mantra or a phrase that you live by?

Negativity is noise.

We need a Tory for Target. Who’s with me? You heard it here first!

Shine on!

Lilly for Target Madness

So, I’d love to tell you I spent the past weekend reading the latest issue of The Economist cover-to-cover. But the truth is, I was otherwise engaged in the floral frenzy online. I’m a sucker for that pastel Floridian palette.

First thing’s first: I’m a long-time Lilly fan. My grandparents rocked it back in the 70s. I wore it in high school. I even made my bridesmaids wear Lilly (and most of these girls were first-and-last time Lilly wearers).

Lilly Bridesmaids

Second: I was pumped to learn Lilly was doing a Target collection. I loved the 2011 Missoni for Target collection and the Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection a few years later. And I just knew I was going to love Lilly for Target.

Third: I was right. One previously unknown benefit of living 12 hours ahead of CST (Target HQ) is access to early morning online launches. While everyone back home was staying up until 4:00 am pressing refresh on the Target browser, I was enjoying peace and quiet (and compulsively clicking refresh) while my children napped.

Despite multiple crashes and a few lost items, I succeeded in landing my top items: the Pouf – Boom Boom, Women’s Satin Jumpsuit – Boom Boom (I hope it fits!), and a bevy of insanely cute–and equally unnecessary–toddler outfits (see photos below).

Fourth: This is a genetic affliction. And I’m pretty sure my awesome mom won the Lilly for Target launch. She fought it out in not one but two Target stores. She was in line for one opening at 8:00 am then drove downtown and was first in line for the 10:00 am opening of the downtown Minneapolis store featured in this article. She’s an awesome Mimi – check out the goods below!

Lilly for Target 1 Lilly for Target 3

Hope you all had lovely weekends! Shine on (perhaps in floral)!

Great Skin = No Makeup (And Happy Friday!)

Taking care of your skin means looking great, even without makeup. Check out these great before and after makeup Heidi Klum selfies – she looks incredible both ways!

I’m no Heidi Klum (obviously), but since I’ve started caring for my skin, I find myself wearing less and less makeup. Just sunscreen, mascara, a bit of bronzer and I’m ready to go. Bonus? More time in the morning.

Fitbit Fanatic (Who Me?)

My boss recently sent me a link to this Bustle article called “19 Very Real and Emotional Struggles of Having a Fitbit (Or Does Your Fitbit Have You?).

Uh-oh. Does that mean my boss noticed that I have an unnatural emotional attachment to my Fitbit? Because I do. It’s a problem.

IMG_1280Earning my steps in Bali.

Inspired by Bustle’s article, I’ve compiled some evidence indicating I might, in fact, have emotional struggles directly to related to my Fitbit…

Exhibit 1: Last week I realized on my walk to work that my battery was dead and I hadn’t brought my charger. I nearly burst into tears – especially because I was in the middle of a Work Week Hustle challenge and realized I was going to be short 4,000 steps.

Exhibit 2: On numerous occasions, my husband has caught me doing jumping jacks at bizarre times, like just before bed, in an effort to get my steps count up.

Exhibit 3: I often debate leaving my Fitbit on in the shower…just to get those few extra steps.

Exhibit 4: I compulsively tap my wrist throughout the day, just to see if I’ve moved on to a new blinking light.

Exhibit 5: When my Fitbit buzzes, announcing I’ve hit 10,000 steps, you can hear me scream gleefully “I hit my goal!”

Exhibit 6: I find myself justifying the need for this new Tory Burch Fitbit bracelet, saying things like, “Well, it’s for fitness.” Or, “I will wear it every day.”

Truth is, I might just be a tad bit competitive. Against this silly little machine.

Shine on!

Let the sun shine (but not on you!)

Remember the days when you used to lay out with tanning oil? I used to think SPF 15 was way too high as I poured on the Banana Boat oil. And my skin has paid the price (see freckles below).

Bali Boat

Now? I wear at least 30 SPF daily. It’s hard avoiding the sun living in Southeast Asia but I try, even if it means looking like a tourist. Vietnamese women fear the sun, but instead of sunscreen, they opt for long-sleeved, floral zip-up, hooded dresses called Áo chống nắng (“sunscreen shirt”) . Since I’m not ready to adopt this fashion/beauty trend, I instead choose good sunscreen, hats, and sunscreen-enhanced clothing.

Here are some of my favorite products to protecting skin and avoiding the sun (while still looking moderately cool). Please share your favorites in comments!

SPF for Face, Lips, and Body – These Rodan + Fields Broad Spectrum SPF products are my favorites. They’re lightweight, go on easily (not sticky), have a subtle scent, and do their job. Body: SPF 30 Body Sunscreen. Face: REVERSE 50+ Lips: Lip Shield

SPF Yourself

Self-Tanner – To get a nice tan without the dangerous sun exposure, I recommend the Rodan + Fields Foaming Sunless Tan This product is amazing. No streaks, no offensive smell, and a natural looking tan.

Sun protective clothing – Every Coolibar product I own is amazing. All their products are SPF 50+ and block 98% of UVA/UVB rays. The best part? The fabrics. They’re light, cool, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and prints. I love this hat – reversible, comfortable, and folds up small so I can keep it in my purse. This tunic was a great gift from my mom (although mine is a different print). And my husband wore this shirt every day in Bali (his Irish skin really can’t handle the sun!).

Kids’ sun hats – Can’t go wrong with Coolibar! Unfortunately, we lost this one on the beach in Bali. iPlay has some cute, affordable options like this one on Amazon.

Rash guards – I’m an Old Navy addict, especially for kids’ clothes. Their stuff is affordable, well made, and always lasts longer than I expect (if you subscribe to emails there’s a 30% sale every other week and free shipping). I love these rashguard swim sets for kids but wish they came in SPF fabric. These Coolibar ones are made with SPF 50 fabric.

And if –like me — you still have sun damage despite your best efforts, you can always reverse the damage with this amazing duo!

REVERSE Lightening Accelerator Before and AfterMy REVERSE results after less than two months

Shine on (with SPF)!

Leaning in, Girlie-style

Loved this Vanessa Friedman piece in last Monday’s NYTimes about Michelle Obama’s “girlie” style. The author raises such a good point: why do we have a double standard about how powerful women should dress? It’s 2015, people. I love a great business suit, but it’s not the only game in town.

As Friedman wrote, “How do you erase a stereotype? You confront it, and force others to confront their own preconceptions about it, and then you own it. And in doing so you denude it of its power.”

When I first moved to D.C., I pretty much wore suits every day. Boring suits. Boring pumps (yes, pumps). Boring pearls. I thought that to be taken seriously as a young, female professional, I had to dress the part.

Slowly, I realized that I could ditch that drab suit but still dress professionally, “cute,” and me. And that didn’t mean people wouldn’t take me seriously. On the contrary, I think that adding a splash of style and personality tended to leave more of an impression.

I was so excited when Condoleezza Rice wore knee-high boots in 2005. I thought, If the Secretary of State can get away with wearing knee boots to the office, I certainly can! But here’s the point, why did I have to “get away” with it? Condi looked great  – classic, conservative suit and a nice pair of black, knee-high boots. She was showcasing her own style, and I loved it (still do!).

Madame Secretary at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield, February 23, 2005

A few years later, when the Obamas moved into the White House, I appreciated the First Lady’s independent style. One day, she ventured across the street to visit the OMB career staff, and I was so excited I wore a magenta dress inspired by her Vogue Cover (granted, my dress wasn’t Jason Wu, but I think I still looked pretty good).

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I tend to speak my mind. So when Mrs. Obama shook my hand, I couldn’t help but blurt out: “This is my Michelle Obama on the cover of Vogue dress!” My colleagues looked at me with horror, but the First Lady laughed and laughed and repeated, “Cover of Vogue dress!” She seemed to get a kick out of it. By the time I’d made it up ten floors to my office, the story had already made it back to my boss.

Michelle ObamaBefore the handshake

My embarrassing stories aside, I agree with Ms. Friedman’s closing point: “Think of [Michelle Obama’s style] as a twist on Gloria Steinem’s wake-up call to 40: That is what a successful, well-educated woman looks like. Carnations, acacia blossoms, full skirts and all. It’s probably about time we learned.” Bring it on.