Monday, September 23, 2013

I am a writer, I said.

the writer

Not long ago, I was at a dinner party at my friends' home when someone I had just met asked me what I did. I don't normally get this question because I am often in the company of people who already know me, therefore, know my story. And I have had the same job for almost thirteen years. Since I peered at a photograph of a tiny girl far away in South Korea many years ago, I have been a mother. A job I was more than thrilled to have, and luckily, it is a lifetime gig.
Prior to the coveted mother job, I was an office manager, a Medicare customer service person ( a tiny slice of hell), a temp at Microsoft, a salesperson in designer clothing, a secretary to an attorney, a guest artist, a cooking store employee, an assistant to a chef, a cooking school owner, and then a mother to two children that my husband and I adopted from Korea over the course of three years.
When our kids were in grade school, I started writing a fashion and lifestyle blog with the encouragement of my friend, Alicia Burmester, who liked my style and encouraged me to give blogging a try. And then I was hooked. I had nine whole followers, my mother included, but I didn't care. I loved it. I posted my musings on Facebook where I got enough feedback and chatter to know that I was doing ok. And the more I wrote, the better I got. It didn't matter if I had nine followers or 9000, I was happy to keep on writing.
I come from a family of writers, articulate speakers, amusing storytellers, and all around talented, smart, amazing people. My paternal grandfather Tom Astle, was the Editor of The Billings Gazette. My brother, Tom Astle, graduated in film and television from Northwestern and is a successful television and movie writer. All of my siblings, aunts, uncles, and other various family characters are among the smartest and wittiest people I have ever met.
Last spring Sarah Caples, who is the mother of one of my daughter's friends, and I started talking. She asked me what I did. I told her about my blog and she told me about her online magazine. A couple months later, she offered me the job of being a fashion writer for Vanguard Seattle, an online Seattle arts, music, culture and fashion magazine she had begun the previous year. I started writing a weekly column and since then I literally cannot wait to get to the computer each day to write. And sure, I get worried sometimes that my voice isn't valid. I am not some twentysomething living in NYC and getting media attention and book deals. But I know that doesn't matter in the end. What does matter is that I love it and it only took 50 years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. So that's worth something, right?
Back to the dinner party. "What do you do?", one of the guests asked me.
"I am a writer", I said.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

rock on


Have you ever wandered through the luxury handbag department of a store and gone into a shock when you peered at the price tag tucked inside a designer label bag? If you have, you are not alone. But understanding the artisan work, craftmanship and fine details of what goes in to making a piece from a reputable luxury brand can give you a true appreciation as to what is behind the coveted label.

Years ago, it was popular to attend designer knockoff sales held in people's homes. I myself was asked to host one, and I did (insert cringe here). Not is it only illegal to infringe on a copyright and good name, it is a support of drug trafficking and child labor through the purchasing of counterfeit goods. Several years ago, signs went up in NYC's Times Square and Chinatown to educate tourists and residents about the social costs of counterfeit and pirated goods. Now, a new law is being pushed that would make it illegal to purchase these fakes--as of now it is only illegal to sell them. Buyer beware.

Back to my blog about the real deal.  The Rockstud Collection from Valentino is a personal favorite of mine and one of the most coveted of the iconic label's designs. It is form meets fashion in its most beautiful state, with pale gold pyramid shaped studs that are hand applied, beautiful leather and a design approach that is in keeping with the longstanding vision of the Valentino label. Valentino releases this YouTube video that gives a look into the creation of one Valentino's bags.




What goes into the making of one of a reputable fashion house's beautiful pieces is fascinating to me and gives me an understanding of the hours of work and design, and the legacy that are all part of a piece like this. While I am lucky enough to own a pair of the Rockstud patent ballet flats, I have yet to purchase a bag, the Rockstud leather clutch is on my wishlist.

The bags that I bought years ago from the neighborhood counterfeit bag seller are long gone, they fell apart soon after I purchased them. After all, you really do get what you pay for. As for the Stella McCartney, the Chloe, the Celine that are carefully sitting in their dust bags on my closet shelf--they get used and appreciated for the beautiful art pieces I know they are. And someday they will be my daughter's to treasure and to use with pride. I like that part of it best of all.

Friday, May 10, 2013

right on track



My friend and Parisian fashion go to girl Monica Brown filled me in on the look from when she was in living in Paris last year, the track pant, and well, an obsession was born. Of course the French girl is always one step ahead of us, case in point, Isabel Marant featured track pants in her spring 2012 collection that went perfectly with the coveted wedge sneaker she is well known for.
The key element clearly is how it is styled, with special attention to the shoes, which can make or break the look. The pic above features all Rag and Bone, one of my favorite lines, that have a double stripe pant that looks amazing with black booties and a jacket.
I love my black wedge sneakers with my WAYF black track pants, but for a patio party last night I wore tall black and white polka dot wedges with them instead. This pair has an awesome cuffed pant bottom and also comes in a brilliant blue, with a similar look to this Lanvin pair, but at a more modest price point. My Vince silk track pants makes athletic wear sexy with a blue contrast stripe down the outside legs, paired with my tall cage sandals--it is a great look for a night out with a silk top and a cropped blazer.
Vogue's article previewing Fall 2013 is showing that these great pieces are going to continue to be prominent into fall. In that issue, Carolyn Murphy is wearing the 3.1 Phillip Lim lambskin blue track pant with a killer ankle boot & boxy sweater, showcasing the perfect way to wear this look. Why do I love this so much? These pants are both sexy and comfortable, they show your shoes off perfectly, and you can be dressed up and down at the same time. That's a style that I can make my own.
The track pant comes in fabulous variety--in silk, suede, and leather, printed, and with a fun athletic feel that is far from the Juicy tracksuit or Lululemon attire. Its luxe, its hip, it is a new way to be a cool girl in a laid back way. Get a jump on a trend that will follow you from spring right through fall. And by the way, it's nice to be back. I missed my blog and am happy to be back writing at westfultonstreet again. Happy Friday.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the list

I started this over two weeks ago, then life got in the way. I am trying, truly, to write more because I love it so much.  I got half way done, so here it is finally, finished.
After weeks of watching and reading about various Fashion Weeks, online shopping trends, spring magazine issues, as well as the change of season in stores, I have compiled a list of my favorite things for the new spring season. So, maybe its not THE list, but its my list for certain. Not quite ready to give up my cozy gray sweater yet, but I may mix it up with one of these coveted items.
  1. Florals are big this season and I have two favorites. The thing I like about this trend is you don't necessarily have to be girly to wear them. I like them best mixed with a stripes or toughened up with a bit of leather, maybe an unexpected pairing that works because its in the same tone, or it just is a little bit of pretty. This Madewell blouse is my favorite, and I read later the tea rose print was inspired by a vintage Paris painting...so now I love it more. I am layering it now and it will be floaty and free by itself when the weather warms up.  My second love is the Etta glitter heel in hummingbird floral but they sold out during pre-order, which I don't understand because I have mine already...plus, they marketed them in every major magazine so of course they sold out during the mere pre-order period. Oh, JCrew. I still love you, though. Take heart, these Matiko Jasper Rose Print Chelsea Boot are extra fun and I have seen ballet flats and all sorts of other styles sporting spring flowers. 
  2. Speaking of ballet flats, I am liking the pointed toe ones again. They look so sharp with a cropped pant or a skirt. The Valentino Rockstud Leather Ballerina Flat are just about the most gorgeous ones out there. Gold standard. Also, this Miu Miu pair with the neutral/pink combo are something that you would wear five days a week!  And if you are looking for something stylish that would cost a little less than your rent, this gorgeous blue Mia pair have that great capped toe and a darling ankle strap.
  3. Tuxedo jackets are a little obsession of mine these days. Its such a fun alternative to the cropped jackets that I have been pairing with everything. I bought the sleeveless version for spring. They are so cool over a dress or denim--a great little twist on the vest. This lilac version from 3.1 Phillip Lim is a bit longer so is a dressier look of this classic coat. If you want to combine a couple of trends, go for the Mural Floral Print Tux Vest in black with a fab floral back. 
  4. I love lace especially when its paired with a worn pair of slender cut boyfriends, or leather. Don't go too far into the sweet and you will look modern and feminine at the same time. This Ella Moss one is perfect. 
  5. Mixed media. You have to want to stand out, but its not a matter of throwing something together, it is thought out. This is one of my all time favorites right now that is trending from winter into spring. It made me realize how little pattern I have in my wardrobe, so I am set on remedying that. I did find my plaid skinnies and pair them a floral blouse and shorts boots. 
  6. Loafers. I got a pair in the most beautiful gray snakeskin print leather by Robert Clergerie for Christmas from Totokaelo--I love the all the shoes at Totokaelo, but this Dieppa Restrepo pair would be a year round favorite for certain. Roll your pants up about three skinny times so everyone can appreciate your good taste. :)
  7. Black and white, baby. The dramatic contrast has a mod 60's vibe to it when it is blocked and can also be gorgeous in a sublte way, as in this Alice and Olivia dress. It is a the perfect thing to wear with my last favorite....
  8. Pink lips. I have been rocking the red throughout fall and holiday, but its time for a new look. I bought Tom Ford's Cherry Lush for my birthday party last year and it is rock star gorgeous. I still love it to pieces, which seems to be the case with everyone else in the world..there is a notice on the Saks website saying that you may order no more than six of these in a 30 day period. So funny! Flamingo is also eye-popping fab, but the Spanish Pink is equally lovely and less of a statement. 
These are just a few of my favorites, there was so much to look at and love this spring. Looking forward to a new season just around the corner. Cheers!

Monday, January 28, 2013

boot camp

On Saturday my friend Amy and I headed out to do a little shopping have lunch, a rare treat for me these busy days, midway through a full blown house remodel, mother to two busy children, plus a couple of freelance jobs means I am not as much of a shopper as I'd like to be.  It is January so I am perusing the online sales most evenings, trying to fill in the gaps with things that I know will have longevity, or a fun trend that I love and can translate into my spring wardrobe.  I could not give my money away that day, sadly--my Christmas gift card came home unspent. Why is it that when we have the money & time we don't ever find anything and when we are rushed or low on cash that perfect thing always appears? I know, such a problem, right? ;) Nevertheless, I did discover a few things, thanks to Kacy and a Saturday night at home.
Right now for me the footwear of choice is boots.  Over the knee, riding boots, and short boots, I love them all. It is a good time of year to buy them, because despite the wonky sizes available in some larger stores, you can great prices if you know where to look. Here are a few great websites that have lots of great choices to spruce up your closet. Even if you are edging out of boot season, there are great pairs out there that will be perfect for next fall.
Yoox.com.  Kacy told me about this website after I was debating over a pair of boots I had seen in NYC that I could not decide about (see above photo) and she searched by brand and discovered that at Yoox you can get two pair for less than the price of one. They have Costume National, Barbara Bui, Fendi, Mui Mui, Marni-- it is a shoe lovers paradise. Let me know how you do. You are welcome. :)
Shopbop is a favorite of mine and they have some cool kicks that I couldn't resist after seeing them on Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele after the Valentino show in Paris this past October. The Elizabeth and James Paul boot will rock with my skinny cropped denim or one of my maxi skirts this spring.  And they are on SALE!  Yay!  
A great site to check out as well is 6 PM, another Kacy discovery that has cozy favorites like UGG Australia, plus L.A.M.B., Frye and other department store brands. Want to price compare? You can go to Amazon and find many of the boots from the department stores there for less, I was surprised how often I discovered a coveted sweater or shoes for a better price.  And of course Zappos is the king of instant gratification so if you are in a hurry, its a good way to go.
Timing is everything and now is a great time to get some new kicks that won't do in your spring clothing budget. Make sure to check the return policy before you buy, it can vary.  Happy shopping.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

jeanius

One of my favorite trends over the past year or so has got to be all the incredibly fun denim.  I mean, sure, that true blue pair that look perfect with sassy heels for a night out, tucked into boots or worn with favorite sneakers--will always have a place in my closet.  Like a basic white tees, cashmere sweaters, and riding boots--they are must haves that never go out of style.
But holy cow, never before has there been so many fun choices in denim.  Colored denim hit the streets a couple of years ago, and it was fun to show your attitude in a pair of cherry red Current Elliott jeans, and that sapphire color that was everywhere was the perfect pop of color for those who wanted to stay true blue, sort of.
When I bought my JBrand coated wax denim in venom two years ago they were a fairly new concept as well.  I loved that they were not leather but still had a rock and roll attitude, even for this mother of two.  Now I have wax denim in gray, metallic copper and dark wine.  Did someone say I was 50? ;) Ha!
This spring you can bet you will see more girls on the street in floral denim, from in your face flowers to more demure shy daisies, animal prints, geographics, checks, and lots of solids in green, orange, yellow and peach.  This floral pair from RVCA would look great with a white tee and a bright motorcycle jacket. 
One of the most interesting denim to date is from Hudson Jeans, who are using Photoreal images to make digitally printed jeans.  They were all over everyone's radar this fall but could be dangerously close to a cheesy print jean you'd buy on one of the Hawaiian islands gift shops if you aren't careful, let's just say they have to be styled and worn by a fearless chick who can make it cool even though its crazy.
This time of year, I think everyone is craving a little pop of color to go with their uniform of neutrals, grays, blacks & tan. Spring may be a bit far away on the calendar, but adding some green, coral, or even printed denim is a great way to chase away those winter blues.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

new beginnings

Happy 2013!  I am ready to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new, literally when it comes to my home sweet home.  We embarked on a long awaited remodel this past month, which includes a new master and walk in closet (hurrah!) and a new kitchen (double hurrah!)
In the interim, while we attempt to cook in the dining room with the Cuisinart Multi Cooker, a toaster and a microwave, my closet has been sent to rolling racks and cloth bins in the home office. Cringe. I consider myself a great organizer as well as a consistent purger in my closet, but this major clean out and transfer was a challenging one.  I always keep my clothes by style and then by color within that--white to black, so that putting together something new or finding my fav grey sweater is a little easier while I was dealing with the challenges of a 1920's house closet.  Rolling racks and bins are sure not my ideal, but getting everything to that space helped me see what I had and what I should part with.  Here are a few tips for making things work for you in your closet, no matter what you have going on in there.  And what is better than the new year, to get things together in your wardrobe.
First, invest in black velvet slimline hangers. Its a must. You can get them from Amazon, or from Costco in boxes of fifty.  It will not only save you a ton of space, and the velvet material keeps clothes on the hanger, not on your floor, and won't make pokey marks at the shoulders.  The consistent look will add to the organization of your things.
Second, get your things in order by color then by style.  As in white blouses, then cream, etc. While you are organizing you can purge.  And speaking of purging, it is best to do this task while you are in the mood, coffee in hand and ready for a fresh start. Don't start this task late at night when the sofa is beckoning you or you won't be as ruthless as you need to be.  Also, anything that doesn't fit goes into a pile of either alterations or giveaway.  If you have a classic blazer you love that you want to update, that can be easily done at a great tailor shop and is cheaper than investing in a new piece.  If you are waiting to fit into those skinny jeans again from a few years ago, let them go.  Trust me on this.  Unless its a tiny bit until they fit again, let it go. The style of denim will probably be totally out of date or you may not even like them anymore and then you are just wasting room in your closet. Not that I don't want to encourage you to have goals, just be realistic. :)
Same goes with fashion mistakes that are hanging there taunting you. It will be a relief to get them out of the closet and make room for the things that your really love and wear. Plus maybe some lovely new things that you buy with the money you made at the consignment shop!
A trip to Ikea for some cool cloth storage boxes on the cheap will help get your shoes, scarves, belts and other things that cause mayhem in the closet stored together beautifully.
Get going and get organized--and here's to new beginnings.  Happy happy new year my lovelies!