Take Your Black Romper from Day to Night

Well, this is something that I haven't done yet: two consecutive style posts. While this journal wouldn't be "me" if I didn't include the style component, I never intend to stray too long from the heart of the matter: faith, culture, relationships, and families. Nonetheless, the September weather turned quickly here in Chicago, thus urging me to post these photos by the talented Ashley Bernet before the snow is upon us! 

Another trend that has blown up over the past few years are rompers and jumpsuits. While I was specifically in search for a floral romper for a long time, the only two rompers I ended up buying were black rompers. Why? Well, I tend to gravitate towards timeless pieces. Rompers—especially floral ones—aren't exactly timeless (but are nonetheless adorable). And while it's not always about buying sensible pieces, the neutral color helped me work this very trendy piece of clothing into my wardrobe. 

I came to learn, however, that a black romper can be worn like a LBD (little black dress—which every woman should have in her closet), only it's more versatile. More versatile than a simple LBD? Yes. Dressing down a silk black dress for daytime is a little trickier than its silky romper counterpart (though I'm up for the challenge). Let me explain. . . 

Day

At first, I didn't know how to wear this frilly, silky black romper casually, without looking like I was going out. I realized I had to let the other details of my outfit do the explaining. A hat (like my "Pharrell hat" as my sisters call it) instantly dresses down—but adds dimension to—an outfit. Bonus? It covers up your unwashed (x3 days) greasy hair. Simple makeup (i.e. no bold lip—can't believe I just said that) also helps express the informality of the outfit. Add some relatively flat shoes or sandals (animal print is a plus) and a fun pop of color (like my cross-body clutch) and you're ready for class, daytime sightseeing, lunch with a friend, shopping, or a leisurely walk in the park (or jungle). Rawr.

 

Night

If you haven't figured it out yet, the key to changing up your look for day and night is how you accessorize. Take off the hat (might need some dry shampoo for that), switch out your flats for heels (wedges are a more comfortable version) and load on the jewelry. Black clothing acts as a neutral canvas, so feel free to put on the glam bracelets and bangles, fancy watch, and—my favorite—statement earrings. A sleek, black purse or clutch, adds another dimension of dazzle, especially if it has a chain. At this point, the ensemble is glam enough without a bold lip color, but whoever said no to that? (. . . other than my husband.) As I've said before, I view a bold lip more as a part of the outfit (like an accessory) rather than makeup—and this "oxblood" color is huge for fall. It's all about wearing it with confidence. Ooh la la! 

 

So, get out your black romper for a final rendezvous before the snow and ice hit. But nonetheless, these transitional tactics can be applied to a black jumpsuit, LBD, or a black monochromatic ensemble into the winter months!

 

with a little grace,

              Kelsey

*All Photos by Ashley Bernet*

Three Transitional Looks, One Top

As the humidity and warm summer temps finally start to drop, we usually start packing away our summer wardrobe. But not so fast with those off-the-shoulder tops I saw everywhere this summer! I am never one to limit a piece of clothing to one season—what a waste! I styled three looks to save your OTS (off-the-shoulder, obviously) top from getting packed away with the swimsuits and bright colors

elegant

Whether you're heading to rooftop cocktails in the city with your girlfriends, a dinner date with your beau, or even a dressy Sunday brunch with the fam, your OTS top will provide just the right amount of sexy while the trousers keep it classy. (And yes, you can wear white after Labor Day—especially this eggshell shade!) Elegant accessories like a beaded clutch, a long strand of pearls, double pearl earrings, and nude heels pull the matured look together—voila

  • styling with a little grace: The key to this polished look is keeping both the top and trousers in the neutral color family. Steer clear of brights and bold patterns here, especially when transitioning to fall.

 

back-to-school cool

Want to make an impression this school year without trying too hard? An OTS top paired with fitted boyfriend jeans will do just the trick for class. Think: an update on the simple jeans and tee combo. Classic shades and bold earrings add interest and texture to the ensemble without distracting. And the perfect fall shoe? Blue suede shoes (er, loafers). You can dress them up or down, the color (navy) goes with everything, they're not as summery as sandals or as wintery as boots, and more versatile than flats. Win, win, win, win!

  • styling with a little grace: The key to the finding the perfect pair of boyfriend jeans is to follow the Goldilocks principle: not too tight but not too loose, not too many rips but not too smooth. . . justttt right.

 

savoring summer

Floral shorts—for fall?! Hear me out: you know those September days that still feel like August (um, today)? Paired with an OTS top, floral shorts help you make the most of your last summer days. And remember that scene from The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep sneers, "Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking." Well, Miranda Priestly would be proud of us now for breaking the seasonal spring trend. Florals for fall. It's happening. 

  • styling with a little grace: While we're savoring summer, let's talk sandals. My sandal of choice to carryover into the warm fall days? These bone-colored Jacks. So many varieties, so many ways to wear them. They really go with everything!

 

shop similar styles... 

 

With a little grace,

          Kelsey

 

** All Photos by Ashley Bernet — Thank you so much, Ashley! **

Beat the Heat: Packing for a Hot Destination

August is here, which means one thing no matter where you are: it's likely to be hot! Although some students are already back-to-school shopping (what!), the summer temperatures and humidity are far from over. If you're headed on a summer vacation abroad, getting in one last weekend trip to the lake, or attending a wedding in the thick of wedding season, your wardrobe can help you manage the weather without sacrificing style—and without overpacking! 

Last summer, my newlywed husband, Anthony, and I traveled to Rome and the Amalfi Coast of Italy for our highly anticipated honeymoon. Anthony, being the romantic gentleman that he is, planned the entire honeymoon on his own, in order to surprise me. (I highly recommend this for engaged couples!) He decided, however, to let me know the location—and only that—of our romantic getaway before the big trip so that I could pack appropriately. And good thing he did—the temperatures were in the 90s the entire trip, and as we were leaving, we were told that we were "lucky to be missing the upcoming heat wave"—scusami?

Regardless if you are going on an exotic vacation in the tropics or if you are taking a weekend road trip to where the temps are equally tropical (ahem, right here in Chicago!), what clothes you pack are key to beat the heat. Take a peek into my suitcase to see what I packed for a couple weeks under the Italian sun.

brights

What better to match the scorching weather than equally hot, bright colors? There certainly is no better time for brights than warm weather, so pull out all the stops! This top, made to be a swim cover-up, was not the only bright piece I packed. You'll notice other bright ensembles in my Italian wardrobe.

 
 

 

swim cover-ups

Perfect for taking your swimsuit from beach to dinner, cover-ups can also double as a shield from the sun when you run out of sunblock on your day-long boat excursion. Not like I am speaking from experience, of course. . .
(Packing a swimsuit goes without saying if you are going to be near a pool, lake, ocean, or even a swimmable pond. Check out this post for one-piece swimsuit ideas.)

 

linen

There is a reason linen is called the "summer fabric" and is sold all over Italy's Amalfi Coast. It looks light and feels lightweight, perfect for hot and humid days. I actually bought this dress in Positano, so of course I had to wear it as soon as possible.

 

dresses

Okay, okay, you caught me. I will find any excuse to wear a dress, but dresses were made for the heat! You get to bare your arms and legs while keeping it breezy (just watch out for those Marilyn moments!) and there is certainly a dress for every occasion. Fancy dinner? Check. Lounging poolside? Check. Playing tourist in the city or sea? Check, check.

I got the headband I'm wearing as a scarf for 2 Euros outside the Vatican because I needed something to cover my legs before I went in. Being the thrifty gal that I am, I noticed it matched this dress and opted to use it to complete this outfit so the dress didn't stand alone.

Thanks to Colleen + Annie for the adorable dress + sunnies, and Erin for the monogrammed bag! You all know a thing or two about style...

Thanks to Colleen + Annie for the adorable dress + sunnies, and Erin for the monogrammed bag! You all know a thing or two about style...

 

accessories

With humidity so thick you could cut it, layering is a death sentence. So shoes, scarfs (that double as headbands or towels), jewelry, sunglasses, and bold lipstick are the best way to make your look a put-together outfit.

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These retro-esque sunnies and a "little bit of lipstick" take my outfit from functional (hopping on a vespa with my Italian stallion!) to fashionable.

big sister tip: Try to pack accessories that go with multiple pieces, like this red and pink necklace, so you save space but multiply the amount of unique outfits you pack.

Wedges are a great choice for heels in the heat—no sinking into the mud or grass.

 

a wide-brimmed hat

Okay, this accessory is important enough that it made its own category. Wide-brimmed hats are key for protecting your face and neck from the sun if you are going to be outside all day, especially when the sun is most intense (typically between 10am and 3pm). Bonus: These hats are also perfect for the days you want to let that beachy hair from all the time in the sea go an extra day. . . or two . . . or three? 

Donning my hat at the beginning and end of the boat ride: pre- and post-swim and sunburn.

 

 

What are your tips for packing for a sunny vacation? What would you include that I forgot? 

 

With a little grace,

                  Kelsey

 

Shopping for Classic Style

"This one is really young and fun, and perfect for spring... but I could see myself wearing this one so much as I get older," I debated, staring at two identically-priced dresses. Just a few days before the "black-tie optional" wedding I recently attended, I still had not decided on what I would wear. It was 9:00pm and the store was closing, so I had to make a decision. One dress, a silky black and floral cocktail dress with a cut-out back and higher hemline, was a high-end designer label on "super sale" (as my mom would say), making it hard to pass up. The other dress, a classic and more conservative navy blue sheath with a hemline below the knee and an illusion neckline, was pulling at my rational side. Although I felt the first dress would be flirty, fun, and perfect for the formal spring wedding, I couldn't see myself wearing it on many other occasions, and certainly not past my twenties. The cashier, patiently awaiting my decision, chuckled to herself as I processed this all externally. 

It may have seemed silly to the salesperson that I—a young twenty-something—was basing a purchase on whether I could wear the dress into the next decade. However, long-term re-wearability and "cost per wear" are always serious factors in my shopping decisions. If a dress is perfect for one big occasion, but I never wear it again, it has poor cost per wear. Rather, if I purchase a dress  like this Illusion Dress from Maggy London and wear it many times over the course of years (or decades), it has great cost per wear.

But how do you know if you will wear it for years, even decades, you ask? Well, personally I look at what my style icon—my mom—sticks to. When I asked her what she shops for, she replied just as I suspected she would, "Clean lines and neutral colors will never go out of style. I usually shy away from bold patterns because they often date the clothing." Her advice played out in my dress debacle: clean, simple silhouette in one neutral color, or a trendy shape with a floral pattern? The "clean lines" and "neutral color" of this navy dress proved to be an elegant combination that will pass the test of time better than my other option. 

We had to do a style shoot together since we were matching in classic navy dresses!

We had to do a style shoot together since we were matching in classic navy dresses!

While I have Mama T to gather inspiration from, others may be left wondering to whom they should look for style inspiration. "Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O (Kennedy) had style that carried through the ages," my mother suggests. If you look up images of what they wore back in the 1920's and 1950's, chances are they still look good today. Similarly, if you think of yourself wearing the item of clothing 10 years from now, would it look foolish or fashionable? 

Timeless, classic (and classy) styles usually are modest in nature; anything too revealing is usually too avant grade to stay stylish through the ages (though there is a time and place for that!). However, classic clothing by no means needs to look "drab" or frumpy. Classic style can be just as sassy, sultry, or even "minxy," as my best pal and classic-style aficionado, Erin, likes to say. Erin expounds, "I love to show a little ankle and a little collarbone," which has the same effect as the illusion neckline of my dress. In fact, classic style is all about being subtly minxy and confident, without overexposing oneself. This navy dress portrays that combination well; its hemline falls below the knee and has a high neckline, yet there is nothing boring or unflattering about it. The winning combination of conservative yet alluring is the epitome of classic styles: something flattering and well-fitted, yet modest and moderate. While there is no flashy or loud print, the color and fabric are crisp, rather than boring. 

Looks like Grace doesn't need my "classic style" tips... she's already got it down! 

Looks like Grace doesn't need my "classic style" tips... she's already got it down! 

My husband hops in the photo shoot for a James Bond moment!

My husband hops in the photo shoot for a James Bond moment!

style tip:

Keep classics looking modern and updated with accessories, "Throw on a jean jacket, some lipstick, and a fun necklace or scarf to add a little flare," Erin suggests. My mom often layers multiple necklaces atop a sweater and a button-down. Here, I opted for glitzy, glamorous heels, statement earrings, and a bold lip color, such as this potent purplish-pink.

 

With a little grace,

          Kelsey

 

No Room for 'Fat Talk' in a One-Piece

Lately I’ve been loving the one-piece swimsuit trend that is coming back in style. Although one-pieces never really go out of style, in years past it has been harder to find a cute yet conservative swimsuit. Considering last year’s “bare it all” trend, I am happy to see young women donning fashionable one-pieces. When I posed the idea to do a style post featuring my favorite one-pieces for spring and summer, my husband asked if I would be modeling one. “Ha! no,” I immediately replied. While my muscular thighs may have been a good look in the 1950s, they are not exactly the “hot dog legs” we see on runways, in magazines, and on TV nowadays. My husband, reading my thoughts and aware of my Lenten promise, gave me a knowing look. 

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This year for Lent, I gave up negative body talk (and attempted to give up negative body thoughts). In general, I mostly refrain from contributing to public body self-disparagement, also known as “fat talk,” and I eat and exercise without the intention of achieving some elusive body type. Yet the physical insecurities I have struggled with throughout my life inevitably creep back. While I usually feel confident in my athletic build—despite stretch marks and cellulite—I did not realize the pervasive nature of self-critcal body talk or thoughts until I tried to get rid of them completely during Lent. On far too many occasions, I have come home from my workout class on Tuesday feeling strong and secure, only to be complaining about the way my legs look on Wednesday.

Knowing my vulnerabilities and this Lenten promise, my husband urged me to pose for this post precisely for the reason I did not want to—because I do not look like a typical model (or even a typical “fashion blogger” for that matter). While I am posting these photos with a lump in my throat, I know my husband is right. I want my sister Grace—and all girls—to see body types other than the stick-thin look that the media deems as the only worthy body type. I want Grace to see what women look like without Photoshop; women who are still healthy and fit, yet whose appearance may not fit into the mold of a “perfect body.” 

By giving up body shaming, I not only helped change my psyche, but my silence (or explicit positivity) detracted from the fat talk of women around me. “When women refer to themselves as fat, other women around them are more likely to chime in with their own self-deprecation,” a recent Verily article cites. Think of the Mean Girls scene, “My pores are huge, my nail beds suck….” Lindsay Lohan’s character, new to the American culture, quickly picks up on the need for self-deprecation in order to fit in: “I have bad breath in the morning?” While this scene pokes fun at our cultural truism, it points out girls’ and women’s inherent need to contribute to negative body talk.

So why are women of all ages and body types so programmed to contribute to fat talk? Women not only feel like they have to say something negative, but it almost feels taboo to acknowledge positive qualities about oneself. Mean Girls again hits on this fact when queen bee Regina George says to Lindsay Lohan, “So you agree, you think you’re really pretty,” after Lohan’s character simply says “Thank you” to being called pretty. I’m all for humility, but this is decidedly different. Part of our problem may be that as females we do not know how to receive compliments, especially regarding our physical qualities. We often feel the need to brush off compliments and offer self-hate instead, opening the conversation to fat talk.

Another study found that women who engage in fat talk have higher levels of body dissatisfaction, shame, and eating-disorder behavior. Fat talk is not inspiring women to be healthy, but rather doing the opposite. Our culture complains—and rightfully so—about the media’s obsession with Photoshopped and unrealistic women, but women of all ages and body types casually engage in fat talk. We might not be able to change what we see in the media, but do we even realize the power of what is coming out of our own mouths? Imagine what your home, school, workplace, or team would like if fat talk stopped altogether. We do have the power to remain silent; better still, we have the power to say good, honest words to ourselves and others about our bodies.

To help steer our youngest sister, Grace, away from fat talk, my 19- and 20-year-old sisters and I have attempted to ban words like “fat” and “skinny” from our vernacular. We emphasize adjectives such as “fit” or “healthy” rather than glorify thin sizes or lament bigger builds. While we may not be able to control what Grace is exposed to in the media, we can control how we talk about ourselves and each other. One woman’s self-critique can spark an avalanche of self-disparagement, but another woman’s choice to love herself—despite her imperfections—can inspire a radiance of self-worth unbound by body image.

one-piece style tips

Part of loving your body is knowing how to dress it! Check out my one-piece favorites (all under $100) for your body type:

  • Fuller Stomach: A one piece with ruching across the middle helps disguise the tummy. 

  • Small Chest: A ruffle or contrasting fabric across the chest "confuses the eye," as my mom would say, and helps your chest appear more proportional.

  • Fuller Bottom Half: Try a one piece with a fun pattern that keeps the eye drawn upward.

  • Fuller Bust: A halter neckline helps balance the bust with the rest of the body, or try a suit like that supports without sacrificing style

With a little grace,

                    Kelsey

oscar style

Despite all the hype surrounding the Academy Awards, I am always most excited for the fashion. In fact, yesterday Anthony and I were driving back to Chicago from Kansas City (an eight hour drive!) and I made sure we left in time to be home for, not only the Oscars, but the red carpet premiere. I love tuning in an hour and a half ahead of the actual broadcast so I can see the enviable gowns celebrities flaunt on the red carpet. But I have to confess, I was quite underwhelmed by most of last night's fashion considering this is "Hollywood's biggest night." Despite some fashion faux pas and lackluster gowns, here are the stars who still wowed + the tips you can learn from them.

Priyanka Chopra in Zuhair Murad

Maybe because I’m a recent bride (and not-so-secretly still wish I were in search of a wedding dress), but I adored Chopra's bridal-esque, embellished, lace, white and ivory gown. Her ensemble highlights what I think all bride’s should strive for—to flatter their best features. Chopra didn’t let a gorgeous gown take away from her even more stunning natural features: she used a belt to accentuate the waist of her hourglass figure and elongate her legs, and she pulled her hair back and opted for simple makeup so as not to distract from her beautiful face #thatsmilethough

  • stylist tip: When wearing statement earrings, like Chopra’s, forgo a necklace (even with a strapless gown like hers!) to let the earrings speak for themselves. Add statement rings like this actress's to add another element of glam without making your jewelry compete.

 

 

Chrissy Teigen in Marchesa

The bump? The back? The braid? Where do I start? Her fuss-free hair, open back, fabulous train, and adorable belly were but a handful of the factors that added to the jaw-dropping effect that was Chrissy Teigen. As you may remember from my last style post, I have a thing for red dresses, so I especially loved seeing the glowing mama-to-be don the cranberry red floral gown that complemented her olive complexion so well. 

  • stylist tip: Like Teigen, balance V-necks and keyhole backs with long, elegant sleeves to show just the right amount of skin.

 

 

Olivia Munn in Stella McCartney

Some of my favorite red carpet gowns throughout the years are those with simple, clean lines (à la Emma Stone in Calvin Klein). Even in unexpected orange, no one can go wrong with a classic silhouette like Munn’s Stella McCartney stunner. For such a bold dress, Olivia wisely didn’t mess with statement jewelry, but stuck to simple stud earrings. I love how the swooping one shoulder almost looks like a shawl. While most celebs seem to be in an arms race for who can show the most skin, I highly appreciate a classy and classic (yet updated) look.

  • stylist tip: When trying a daring color, keep the silhouette simple and avoid distracting prints, like Munn. Choose makeup to complement the bold color, as Munn bares lipstick and cheek stain with orange undertones to complement her dress.

 

 

Mindy Kaling in Elizabeth Kennedy

A classic LBD with an updated royal blue cape—what’s not to love?! I love how the edges of the cape created a contrasting off-the-shoulder look—one of my all-time favorite styles that oozes old-time elegance. The jewel-tone cape completed the regal look. Again, a sleek, pulled-back ‘do was definitely the cherry on top.

  • stylist tip: Kaling mixes a closet staple (a simple black dress) with a fashion risk (a colorful cape) for a winning combination. Keep this duo (simple + risky) in mind when adding in fashion elements that are outside of your comfort zone.

 

 

Daisy Ridley in Chanel

Ridley continues a trend among my faves—a sleek, pulled back hair style, natural makeup, and understated jewelry to let her dress dazzle! I loved this simple silhouette with the added peplum flare. She maintains Old Hollywood glamour but gives it a fresh, modern twist with an ankle-grazing hemline and sheer peplum frill. 

  • stylist tip: Even when an event has an accepted style, don’t be afraid to go against the grain, like Ridley did at the Oscars. When everyone else wore the classic floor length gowns, she dared to stand out with a shorter hemline, and the payoff was huge! Ridley kept the formality of the dress with an all-over metallic color and embellishment.

 

 

Tracey Edmonds in Lorena Sarbu

As a lover of all things timeless, including pearls and cap sleeves, I had to include Edmonds on this list. Yet again, bridal elegance radiated from this sparkling ivory stunner and Edmonds’ polished waves. From her nail polish to her understated jewelry, Edmonds lets her natural beauty and the shimmering, form-flattering dress do all the talking, which said “Oscar favorite for years to come.”

  • stylist tip: Cap sleeves—an element that I added to my wedding dress—add class, coverage, and support to a strapless dress’s sweetheart neckline. Edmond’s cap sleeves add Old Hollywood elegance to her form-fitting gown, making it equal parts sweet and sassy.

With a little grace,

                           Kelsey

Love + Red Dresses

As my last two posts have been a bit heavier, I thought it was time for something a little more fun and light-hearted. In honor of St. Valentine's Day tomorrow, what better excuse to share our professional engagement photos—wearing a classic red dress nonetheless?! Our photo shoot took place in my beloved Harbor Springs, MI (where we were married in July) and we were photographed by the incomparable Cory Weber (the man behind the lens for many of the stunning professional photos on this site). I could not think of a better occasion or outfit to showcase another major aspect of this journal—classic, graceful style.

 

the red dress: I decided to wear a classic red dress for the occasion, not because it was near Valentine's Day or Christmas (though those are both perfect for donning the festive color), but because I believe in a red dress's potency and power. Red is a color many women feel uncomfortable wearing because it attracts attention or they feel the color doesn't flatter them. However, I believe red is a striking color that oozes confidence because it stands out against the blues, blacks, and neutrals in the room or in the landscape. I also firmly maintain that red does look good on everyone—it just depends on the shade! Think you could never wear a cherry red like my dress? Try a burgundy or marsala color that is more neutral, or a more tomato red (orange undertones).

stylist tips!

  • unsure which shade of red looks best? Pick a color similar to your favorite shade of red lipstick. If it looks good on your skin as lipstick, the color is bound to flatter you as a dress
  • uneasy about wearing such a striking color from head to toe? Start with pops of red in your accessories such as shoes, handbags, jewelry, or a belt (like mine, which I added to the ensemble), or of course red lipstick!
  • Red is an attention-grabbing color, something to keep in mind when selecting the style of the dress. I chose a dress with more coverage (higher neckline, cap sleeves) and looser fitting (A-line so it didn't hug my curves) to compensate for the color's strong qualities. I do love its V-back though—it shows just the perfect amount of skin!
  • Red is a good base color for neutral accessories: black or nude pumps, a blingy or pearl necklace, and gold or silver jewelry. I also love to wear this red dress with a leopard belt (instead of a matching red one) for a more fun + edgy look.

While my dress and coat are both vintage Banana Republic, check out similar styles currently being sold (or available for rent)! I added various shades for various skin tones + preferences.

With a little grace,

                        Kelsey