Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blogger Preview- MN Opera's 'Cosi fan Tutte'

Last Thursday, I attended a special Twin Cities blogger preview of the MN Opera's season opener - Mozart's farcical opera, Cosi fan Tutte.  The event brought together bloggers of all types, from fashion types to lifestyle bloggers to local arts and culture reporters.  There were some familiar faces and many new ones.  We all gathered at local sushi hot spot, Sakura, to enjoy a few rolls and chat with the show's maestro, Christopher Franklin. 

Dan and I took advantage of the outting and treated it as a proper date night.  I wore a new dress from Avenue; my very first piece of leopard print!

 With Daniel Zillmann, the Communications Manager for the MN Opera

Dan made the mistake of trying to give me a compliment on my outfit, which ended with, "You kind of look like Betty Rubble...you know, from The Flintstones.  With the bun in your hair and the dress..."

So we snapped a shot of me holding a meat skewer.  In homage of The Flintstone family.  

Cosi fan Tutte is one of Mozart's lesser-known operas.  The storyline is less compelling than the actual musical arrangement and the production itself.  But the MN Opera company did an amazing job with the material.  I'm not an opera expert, but I really enjoyed the performance. 

 The women really made the show...ironic, since the storyline is all about how faithless women are. 
 Apparently, the show's storyline is Mozart's commentary (and acceptance) of his own wife's infidelity.

I think that's really the beauty of the MN Opera- they're working hard to raise awareness around their dedication to making opera an accessible form of entertainment.  They do so by offering fantastic ticket prices ($20/ticket for tonight's show!) and networking with bloggers and other groups of people who might not normally be in tune with the opera season. 

Cosi fan Tutte runs on select nights through October 2nd.  It's garnering rave reviews (from reviewers far more legitimate than myself!) - and I highly recommend checking it out.  Go to www.mnopera.org to buy tickets.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adventures in Bra Fitting

I've been in a bra rut for the past six months. After being re-sized by a Lane Bryant bra fit expert last February, I discovered that I was wearing the wrong bra size. My band was too big and my cups were too small - a common fit issue among lots of women.

I could tell that my bras weren't doing me any favors by the way I looked in my clothes. My shape wasn't as defined as it could be. And I just felt a little...off. So I've made two trips to Lane Bryant over the past few months in order to buy new bras. And every time, I came out of the store empty handed.

My experience went a little like this:
  • Breeze into the Cacique department, smile and nicely refuse help from a Sales Associate.
  • Please.  I know what I'm doing here.
  • Confidently grab the first bra in front of me.
  • Start to feel unsure of myself.
  • Do I need a Balconette PlungeFull coverage?
  • Go into dressing room and try on bras.
  • Start to feel warm.  Hair begins to frizz.
  • Examine myself from every angle.
  • Are my breasts in the right spot?  Is that how they're supposed to look? Why are the straps so short?  Why are they so long?  What length should they be?
  • Break out into full-on sweat
  • Hastily put on my own (poorly fitting) bra and exit the store. Empty handed.
After repeating this scenario more times that I want to admit, I decided to do it right.  So I headed to the Lane Bryant store at Mall of America, with a new attitude.  This time, I would enlist help.

Diana Healms is one of the store managers, and she spent time guiding me through a bra fitting and all the different bra types within the Cacique line. 

Diana and I got to know each other pretty well over the course of my shopping experience, since I stood around in my underwear and boots while she checked the fit for each bra that I tried on.  I usually have to know someone for longer than 20 minutes before I'll take my pants off, but Diana made me feel so comfortable.  (She's a pro at maintaining eye contact!) 

After what felt like a transformative bra fit experience, Diana kindly pointed out that this is something she and her team do every single day.  What feels like a big deal to me and lots of other women is, in fact, simply their jobs.  Which made me realize...why the heck had I made such a big deal out of bra shopping?  If I'd just asked for help from the get-go, I could have been strutting around in bras that fit and feel great several months ago.  Lesson learned.

Diana's Top Bra Fit Tips:
  • Bras last about 12 months- unless you have a collection of 10 or more and aren't wearing the same 5 bras every single day. 
  • Not every style will fit you in the size that you're measured.  Just like I have to size up in skinny jeans, I might have size up in a skimpier bra.
  • If you size up in band size, you will probably need to size up in cup size, too.
  • Oftentimes if a bra is not fitting, the cup size is the problem - not the band size.
  • If your straps are falling down, try a bra style with convertible straps- you can criss- cross them in the back.
  • If your straps dig into your shoulders, have your band re-sized to ensure it's as supportive as it should be.  Or, place a bra pad under the straps for more support.
  • Try a bra without underwire for lounging around at home.  It's like a pajama bra!  (I tried it and can vouch for this one...so comfortable!)
  • Ask for help.  Be honest with your sales associate - tell her what you like and don't like.  Bras are not supposed to be uncomfortable. 
* After I contacted Lane Bryant, asking if I could get some bra fitting help and record the experience to share with you, they offered me two free bras.  I will be purchasing the other bras that I fell in love with during the Cacique Buy 2, Get 1 free sale that starts on October 3rd.   Available in store and online 10/3 through 10/16.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going Casual

Casual is not something I do well.  In any area of my life.  I invite friends over for a laid back dinner and we wind up with place cards & tea lights.  I go watch football with my friends on Sunday afternoon and show up wearing a Vikings tee-shirt with a belted circle skirt.  It's not necessarily a bad thing.  I like being hyper feminine and taking time with the details.  But Kiyonna has me rethinking my casual style.

I clicked onto their New Arrivals page a couple days ago and it felt like the world around me stopped.
(See?  I can't even be casual in telling a mundane story). 

Kiyonna's fall lineup marries the best of two worlds, perfectly.  Casual but a little romantic.  Easy-going with sophisticated details. 

The Inspiration

Featuring the Love Ya Sweetheart top, Rylan Ruched top, & Ashton Twist top   

I've ordered a few pieces from Sealed with a Kiss & Avenue with these looks in mind.  And since the Ashton Twist top is on sale, I'll probably order that one too.  I know casual-wear is a no-brainer for most people but for some reason, it's something I really struggle with.  I'm really excited to feel like I have a vision for how I want to do this look.  It's time for me to try something new. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

For as much fun as it can be to mix up new combinations with the clothes in my closet, sometimes it's just as much fun to put on a tried-and-true outfit that I know will get the job done.

My makeup experimentation continues. I'm doing a friend's makeup for her wedding and am trying to perfect the look on myself before I try it out on her. She wants a soft eye in shades of pink - but with enough definition to show up on flash film. I think I've almost got it...

The Outfit:
Light gray sweater blazer- Gap Outlet
Wine Gloria Dress- Sealed with a Kiss
Cream lace-trimmed tank- Gap Outlet
Snakeskin stretchy belt- Lane Bryant Outlet
Black cutout slingbacks- Jessica London
Sterling silver monogram necklace- Tiffany & Co.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall Fashion Event- Christopher & Banks/CJ Banks

This weekend, I attended a Fall Fashion Event at the Mall of America's Christopher & Banks/CJ Banks store.  Prior to this event, I'd never set foot in a CJ Banks (the plus size arm of Christopher & Banks.).  My impression of the brand was formed by a conversation I once had with an aquaintance about a "really cool denim jacket with teddy bears embroidered across the back" - which she'd purchased at CJ Banks.

Apparently, I'm not the only one whose perception of CJ Banks included vision of appliques and old ladies.

(To be fair...it's not my intention to belittle the fact that older women need a place to shop.  And I also recognize the fact that the fashion needs and wants of a woman who is 45 or 55 or 65+ differ from someone who is in her 30's.  But I don't think anyone of any age needs to wear appliques.)

When I stepped into the combined Christopher & Banks/CJ Banks - which is a new store model for the company - I was struck by two things:
  1. The clothes were stylish- not trendy, but stylish.
  2. Not an applique to be found.  Anywhere.
I spent quite some time speaking to Monica Dahl, the Sr. Vice President of Christopher & Banks/CJ Banks.  She explained to me the brand's style philosophy - modern, stylish clothing for women over 40 - and we talked about  CJ Banks' place within that philosophy.  I told her I was impressed by the fact that the plus size section had the same footprint as the straight sizes; which is to say that there were as many plus size racks in the store as straight sizes.  This tells me they're invested in their plus size customer.

Monica also talked to me about the buying and development team for CJ Banks - it's not the same team of people who are doing the buying for the straight size customers. I like that because, again, it shows an investment in making sure the cuts and styles they offer are right for a plus size woman. 

I walked out of the event with a newfound appreciation for what Christopher & Banks/CJ Banks is doing.  They're not trying to be trendy or go after a younger customer. They're not trying to be high fashion or dress the Real Housewives of Wherever.  They're creating clothes that fit the average woman over 40 - that will let her express herself through prints and color, and go about her daily life: work, volunteering, parenting, etc. I could see my mom and I shopping here together because it fits her lifestyle and sense of style perfectly.  And there are plenty of pieces that I could incorporate into my own wardrobe, too.

Still skeptical?  Check out this video montage of shots from the fashion show, pictures of clothes that caught my eye on the racks, and a few snaps of me in the dressing room.

Christopher & Banks/ CJ Banks is offering a special promo code for Bombshell Beauty readers - I plan to pick up that tweed skirt and the watercolor printed top in my slideshow.  Here are the details you need to redeem the offer:

Bombshell Beauty Blog Offer
Offer: $10 off your next purchase of $50 excludes clearance
Disclaimer: Offer valid September 20 – 25, 2011 only. VALID FOR IN-STORE AND ONLINE PURCHASES. Not valid on clearance merchandise. Not valid on prior purchases, purchase of gift cards, applicable taxes, shipping charges or at our outlet stores. May not be combined with any other coupon, offer or discount, except for Friendship Rewards Certificates. May be combined with any in-store offer. Other exclusions may apply. Not redeemable for cash. Non transferable, not for sale, void in such event.  One coupon per guest and redeemable one time. Original coupon required. Sales Associate and online checkout please use promo code 14000. Refunds for actual purchase price printed on the receipt.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

Today's outfit was about maximum comfort- comprised completely of soft, stretchy pieces. But I am a strong proponent of the idea that comfortable can still be stylish.  Trust me...after all the time I spent at Mall of America this past weekend, and all the sweatpants, tee shirts and track suits that I saw...there's no need to pass up the act of actually getting dressed even though you want to be comfy all day.

The Outfit:
Gray boyfriend cardigan- Sealed with a Kiss
Turquoise Laura Top- c/c Sealed with a Kiss
Black leggings- Lane Bryant
Corset belt- c/o Torrid
Gunmetal dangle earrings- Lia Sophia
Mixed metal necklace- Lane Bryant
Black cutout slingbacks- Jessica London

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sale = Impulsive Purchase at SWAK

Sealed with a Kiss is offering 15% off anything on their website this weekend (use coupon code wkend15).  That sealed the deal for me - I just ordered a top that I've been eyeballing for a few weeks now:

The Serres Top in Poppy is going to look perfect over leggings or jeans; tucked into a pencil skirt or layered under blazer.  I don't have anything red in my closet right now which, being a Nebraska Cornhusker fan, is kind of against the law. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SWAK Style Board SALE!

I love to plan out what I'm going to buy and wear almost as much as I love actually putting the clothes on. Okay, maybe more. I have a big, thick notebook in which I create photo collages of clothes that I like...maybe sometime I'll show you a picture of it. It's a totally nerdy pasttime, cutting pictures out of magazines and pasting them into this book. But I love it. And it made me love the idea of being part of the Sealed with a Kiss Style Board!

Every few weeks, I'm going to update my style board to share which Sealed with a Kiss pieces I love right now. And I'll tell you here how I would style them with the rest of the clothes and jewelry already in my closet. It's a virtual version of my dinky little notebook.

Today only, you can save 15% with the coupon code SB15 on a purchase of any of my current Style Board picks. There are four other super stylish women who are part of the Style Board - and you can save on their picks, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

I needed a little extra oomph today. No particular reason...It was just another workday. I just woke up and thought, "I want to feel a little unique today. Something special!" For me, it all starts with the hair and makeup. I diffused my hair so it was wavy, then added more curl definition with a 1" curling iron. Then I created a day-time smokey eye with a combination of pink and gray shadows.

And finally, the whole package - my open cardigan(more pink seemed like a good idea), belted to create a ruffly effect over my basic gray tee shirt, skinny jeans and boots.

The Outfit:
Pink open cardigan- Sealed with a Kiss Designs
Gray pocket tee- Target (2 years ago)
Skinny jeans- Torrid (3 years ago)
Boots- Jessica London (exact pair no longer available, but similar styles are)
Silver double feather earrings- Forever 21
Brown belt- Gap Outlet

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Favorites: Nail Polish

Here's a look at the nail polish colors I'm wearing this fall (oldies and newbies). What's on your tips and toes this season?

mark Nailed It Trend Mini Lacquers
Essie Merino Cool
OPI Chicago Champagne Toast
OPI Vodka & Caviar

Monday, September 12, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

Last week, I gushed about how much fun it is to swap clothing with my swap buddy,Tina. Well this week, I'm reminded about the inverse...how much fun it is to receive clothes back that I sent her. I wore my favorite LucieLu dress non-stop last year; so much so that I needed to take a break from it. I sent it to Tina to test drive down in Texas.

Fast forward a few months and it arrived back on my doorstep. And upon opening the package and pulling the dress out, I felt the same rush of excitement and happiness that I used to feel when wearing it.

The Outfit:
Tatum dress- LucieLu
Espadrilles- Jessica London
Gold hoop earrings- Lia Sophia
Cameo necklace- Grandma Ruth

Friday, September 9, 2011

Virtual Shopping Spree

I went on a virtual shopping spree today, snapping up everything that caught my eye. The nice thing about a virual shopping spree? No major credit card bills and my closet doesn't become over-stuffed!

Comfy- Cozy - The perfect combination of soft, snuggly separates. This is what I want to wear on the couch, watching football this fall and winter.

The Outfit:
Faux-fur cardigan- Lane Bryant
Basic leggings- City Chic
Plunge neck tunic - Sealed with a Kiss

Casual Chic - A glamorous alternative to jeans and a tee shirt, I would wear this outfit to go shopping with friends or out to dinner with my husband.

The Outfit:
Venus top in burgundy - Sealed with a Kiss
Trouser jeans- Lane Bryant
Gwyneth booties- Monif C

Sweetly Suitable - This romantic mix of a shirred-waist skirt and quilted bolero jacket would fit in nicely at my creative office.

The Outfit:
Quilted bolero jacket- Eshakti
Essential cami in baby pink- Sealed with a Kiss
Barroque belt- City Chic
Smocked skirt- Lane Bryant

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

I love it when things turn out exactly as I'd hoped. The tiger-print skirt I ordered from Talbots a couple weeks ago fits just the way I wanted it to.

I wanted all the focus to be spot on the skirt, so I paired it with a neutral top and shoes. But I know it's going to look great with shots of color like bright green, pink, and yellow. This was definitely a great buy.

The Outfit:
Black boyfriend tee- Target
Brown belt- Gap
Tiger-print skirt - Talbots
Mixed metal necklace- c/o Lane Bryant
Gunmetal bracelet- Lia Sophia
Nude sandals- Jessica London

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

The best part of today's outfit is on loan from Tina, of T Minus T Plus. I gotta tell you girls - having a clothing swap buddy is the best thing ever. Growing up, I never had the experience of sharing clothes with friends. They were all 8 inches shorter 5 sizes smaller than I was.

So sharing clothes with Tina is gratifying and fun! Sure, she lives in Texas and I live in Minnesota. Yes, it requires a trip to the dreaded post office to make our swaps. But getting a package every few months is like receiving a fabulous grab bag at the end of a birthday party (do you remember those?). Ok, enough babbling about how much fun swapping is. (It really is...give it a try!) Here's the outfit.

After seeing Tina wear this blush skirt on her blog, I immediately began sending off emails. "Uhm, wow! You look great in that skirt!" "You know, I've been looking for a skirt exactly like that blush one..." Luckily, Tina understands subtlety and offered to send it in my next package.

This is also the official debut of my new fall jacket, the Grey Military Jacket with Tails from City Chic. I love the way it fits. Especially the cute "tails."

The Outfit:
Striped tee shirt- Apt 9 from Kohls
Military jacket with tails- City Chic
Snakeskin and stretch belt- Lane Bryant Outlet
Blush chiffon skirt- on loan from Tina
Necklace- Entourage boutique in Athens, GA
Black cutout slingbacks- Jessica London

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Style Inspiration- Last Year's Hits

Fall is officially in full swing here in MN - and I couldn't be happier! The crisp air, cooler temperatures, the promise of a new season; all contribute to my happiness. So too does the idea of remixing (or just rewearing!) my favorite outfits from this month in 2010. Here are a few of my style hits from September of last year:

I love the nautical mix of navy and white stripes with a punchy green cardigan. I don't have this exact cardigan anymore, but I do have a new cropped version - and a new green blazer. This will be a fun look to recreate.

I just packed this pink and blue jungle-print tank top away in my box of summer clothes. However, I am going to pull it right back out again because I love it with my high waist skirt and a cardigan. I might swap in a blazer or a different cardi this year.

This outfit is featured in the Fab Finds Under $50 September Inspiration Calendar; so why shouldn't I be inspired to wear it again? It's a great fall outfit because the blue & white print is nice and bright, but the black accessories keep it from seeming unseasonable.

And what would fall be without jeans tucked into boots? It's time to retire this green striped shirt thanks to pilling and old age. And I don't have those black slouchy boots anymore (they died at the end of the winter). However, I have lots of great ideas for recreating this look with a few updates- and that very same red rose pin. Ladylike details like that are always in style every fall.

Now if only I could suddenly will my hair to be as long as it was a year ago...!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Everyday Bombshell

Last night, I received the dress I won from T Minus, T Plus's Shabby Apple give-away...which ocurred 6 months ago! Certainly not Tina's fault, but for some reason the Shabby Apple team was a bit loathe to actually provide the dress they'd offered for a give-away. Thanks to Tina's tenacity, they finally followed through on their end of the bargain.

The dress is so cute, in theory. It's poorly made (the seams don't line up, etc) but I do really like the style. It's a little bit Kate Spade-inspired. With that in mind, I decided to do Kate proud and add the (somewhat over-the-top-for-work) pink tulle flower. I kinda love this.

The Outfit:Pink flower pin - Lily Star
Dress- Shabby Apple
Corset belt- Torrid
Espadrilles- Jessica London