THE BARE SHOULDER PHENOMENON

Ok y’all, I’m back and I’m here to tell you about a theory I have. I certainly won’t be able to explain it as eloquently as I like because when you have something to say you hardly ever have the words to say it, amiright? But I’m gonna give it a go. I’m making this all sound terribly serious and philosophical, it’s not, it’s just an observation I have.

During the rise in popularity of strapless dresses, off the shoulder shirts, and sleeveless wedding gowns (actually these have been popular for at least a decade or two) I’ve noticed a pattern. This observation came to me initially from watching far too many hours of “Say Yes To The Dress”. I’ve noticed that people never look as amazing bare-shouldered as they think they do. They don’t NOT look amazing, there just seems to be some kind of lens with which they see themselves that affects their judgement.

Often when trying on clothes, people (particularly women) can be hyper-critical of themselves, noticing and criticizing things about themselves that no one else would notice. This is the opposite of what happens when someone wears a piece of clothing that exposes their shoulders.

After watching many hours of the aforementioned tv show “Say Yes To The Dress”, I noticed in almost every episode a lovely young lady picking another boring sleeveless dress. They all looked the same to me and I found it so odd that so many seemingly fashionable women would opt for the same style of dress over and over. This is not to say that I don’t like this style of dress, they can be really gorgeous, especially on the right person. I just mean that often times, particularly on this tv show, they all look the same, at least to me.

As I watched the show, the women would put the dress on and be wowed by how they looked. They would go out to their friends and family and the tears would start. I think this has more to do with the fact that they were trying on a wedding dress, but I also think that my theory comes into play here. When you or the people you are closest too see you baring your shoulders, it evokes this kind of sexy regalness that is very striking. It’s happened to me! I’ve tried on a dress that was strapless and thought “hey shoulders…you make me look goooood”. BUT here’s the crux of the theory, when someone you don’t know (well) bares their shoulders, you’re just like “oh, now I see your ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes’ and you’re totally unphased.

I’m gonna go try on my favorite off the shoulder shirts and really wow myself and my boyfriend now…

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MAMA’S DAY

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas, grandmas, and godmothers out there! On this day of celebrating the women who have dedicated their lives to us, I thought I’d write a bit about my mama and what I’ve learned from her.

For a few of my most formative years, my mom and I were on our own, together. It was a difficult time in some ways, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. While I played hooky from school to go on business trips with her (or sometimes due to lack of sleep from watching too many reruns of Nick at Night in her bed) our bond formed and strengthened.

My mom has taught me so many things, not only through her words but also in the way she lives her life, leading by example. Here are the top three things she’s taught me:

One can be a successful professional and a wonderful mother at the same time. I learned the value of ambition, determination, and hard work from a very young age. My mother knew what she wanted to do when she was five years old and has made her dream come true, I think more successfully than she could have ever imagined. She worked her way up from being a rehearsal pianist in dinner theaters to being the Musical Supervisor of some of the biggest shows on Broadway and coaching some of the biggest names in the world.

Being a successful professional and a single mother simultaneously wasn’t easy. At times, it meant that she was gone a lot and I spent many nights with my (wonderful) babysitter Indra. This got to me a bit when I was a kid, to the point where I suggested she quit her job and work at the McDonalds down the street. My campaign for this career change wasn’t succesful, thank goodness. Despite all of this, watching my mother build her career was an invaluable lesson and one that I wouldn’t wish to have learned any other way. She was able to be the most wonderful mother in the world while also becoming one of the most successful people I’ve ever met.

You get to choose to make life beautiful, every day. When I was growing up, every morning before school my mom would wake me up with music (usually James Taylor), candles lit, and the table set for breakfast. Despite the fact that she had usually been up quite late working and could have chosen to sleep in, she always wanted to make our mornings together special. When she’d make my lunch, she packed it in a paper bag with different stickers on the bag and inside there was usually some kind of positive message she had written.

She emphasized making daily tasks feel special. When making tea or coffee in the morning she always had me pick which mug I was in the mood for that day. If she made me breakfast or a snack she would arrange it on the plate in such a way so it looked like a beautiful little treat we were indulging in. Whenever we walked down the street she would point out New York-centric sights, or beautiful flowers, or intoxicating smells.

She taught me that you get to choose to see life beautifully every day. The gift of that is, when you choose it, you don’t have to be somewhere special or to be having a particularly great day. You become accustomed to seeing and creating the beautiful things everywhere you go.

Forgiveness and love are the most precious gifts you have to give. My mother is the most forgiving person I’ve ever met. There have been situations where she has been betrayed on the deepest level and she has been able to respond with love and kindness. I have watched her react to people who have taken advantage of her or treated her less than favorably, and she always chooses to diffuse their power with love and kindness. She “turns the other cheek” in the most beautiful way, never disrespecting herself but displaying to others that her loving spirit will not falter. She has taught me that this is one of the most invaluable things you can offer another person and the world.

My mom is truly one of the most special women I’ve ever known. She is not only my mother but my best friend and mentor. I am so grateful to have her in my life on this rainy Sunday.

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INKED IN NYC: Part 2

In case you missed it, I wrote all about my thoughts on tattoos and the background of my first two in this post. For your own sanity and to avoid boring my readers (and by readers I mean my mom, my boyfriend, and my grandma), I decided to break up the post into two sections. I know you’ve all been waiting on pins and needles to find out about my other two tattoos, so here you go:

3) When I was little, whenever I had to do something I was nervous about, my grandma, Mimi, and my grandpa, Papa, would tell me they were each on my shoulders helping me. Imagining them there encouraging me when I was feeling uneasy about something always helped me to feel a bit more courageous and confident. Papa passed away in 2007. In his final days, my mom sat with him in his hospital room and asked him tons of questions about life and his philosophy on it. Thinking he might have some kind of profound statement about religion as he neared the end of his life, she asked him to tell her his beliefs. He said, “heaven is at 21215 Eaton Road and anyone who wants to can join us there”. 21215 Eaton Road is the address of the house my mother grew up in and where my grandparents lived for over 60 years.

Two years after my grandpa died, I wanted to create some type of image or symbol that would represent him and my childhood with my grandparents. I came up with a multitude of crazy ideas including pencil drawings of quartered egg sandwiches which reminded me of Mimi, and garbage bags full of shucked corn on the cob which reminded me of Papa. I decided that I wanted to include their address in my drawing and started writing it over and over (as I did with tattoo # 1) in different scripts. My good friend, Pauline, suggested that I get a drawing of their house with the address underneath. She drew me an example of what she was envisioning and there it was, my third tattoo! I got it on the upper right side of my back so my grandparents would forever be where they always promised they’d be, on my shoulder.

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A week after getting the tattoo, I traveled to Ohio to visit my family for Christmas. I took a close up picture of it, framed it and left it for my grandma under the Christmas tree. When she opened it, she looked at me quizzically, wondering why I’d given her a framed drawing of a house. I started to strip for her, as you do on Christmas day with your family, to reveal the tattoo on my shoulder. Mimi started crying and laughing and said, “I never thought I’d like a tattoo on my grandchild so much”.

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In the interest of full disclosure, contrary to the picture, my grandparents’ house does not have a red front door. In fact, it looks nothing like that drawing. It’s the thought that counts though, right?

4) The Worry Tree- When I was little, my mom often told me bedtime stories. She created many fictional tales which contained thinly veiled moral lessons, this one was about a magical garden. Prior to entering the garden, you were required to pin all of your worries to the “worry tree” because worries were not allowed inside the garden. There was a mouse named “Mousy” who lived in the garden. He lived in a tree and he only ate orange foods such as oranges, orange marshmallow peanuts, carrots, etc. I’m not sure what the motive was behind Mousy’s involvement in the story besides being a cute rodent with very specific dietary needs.

Two years ago I decided I wanted a tattoo which represented my relationship with my mom and a memory we shared. We went to a coffee shop around the corner from our apartment and starting drawing images from the stories she used to tell. She combined the worry tree with the tree Mousy lived in and it was a perfect representation of one of my favorite bedtime stories.

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About a week later, on my way to a guitar lesson in an area of Brooklyn that I don’t remember the name of, I walked by a new tattoo parlor. Since I was quite late for my lesson I kept on walking, but on my way back to the subway I noticed boxes and boxes of pizza inside the tattoo parlor. Naturally I went in. I presented them with my tree drawing (which was at that point serving as a bookmark), and they connected me with one of their tattoo artists. While he drew up a version of the tattoo, I ate free pizza and pondered the idea of a full tattoo sleeve ’cause go big or go home, right?

Jon Boy hard at work.
Jon Boy hard at work.

Eventually, we decided on a size and location for the worry tree and the tattoo artist started scratching it on. We got to talking and it turned out we went to the same church in Manhattan. In the hour that it took to draw the tree and the mouse on my leg, “Jon Boy” and I talked about Christianity, Jesus, interpretations of the bible and our personal experiences of Faith. He said he felt he was meant to be a tattoo artist to spread a message of love in an industry that was often lacking it. Since tattooing me, Jon Boy’s career has blown up and he is now tattooing celebs like Hayley Baldwin and Kendall Jenner. You’re welcome, Jon Boy. (Jk, this obviously has nothing to do with me and everything to do with how talented and wonderful Jon Boy is.)

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So there you go. Now you know why you might see a tiny mouse peeking out from the hem of my shorts or a little house on my right shoulder. What about you? What do you have? What do you want? What do you seriously regret? Let me know!

 

INKED IN NYC: Part 1

When I was in high school it was really cool to go down to St Marks and get your belly button pierced, your cartilage pierced, or a small, questionable-in-taste tattoo, without your parents permission. Somehow I got through these formative years un-inked. This is good because at the time I wanted either a fish or a sea-horse tattooed somewhere on my body…most likely my lower back, as you do when you’re 17. I did however leave high school with 6 piercings and have since obtained four tattoos.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they could never get a tattoo because they fear they would regret whatever it was they permanently inked on their body. I get this perspective, however it hasn’t been my experience. One of my tattoos doesn’t feel relevant to my life anymore, but it reminds me of a special experience and group of people so it still holds a lot of meaning.

I love hearing what people’s tattoos mean to them and I always have people asking what the significance of mine are. Here’s a little bit about each one in order of their acquisition:

1) “Jump” When I was in high school I was one of 7 seniors to lead the annual junior retreat known as “Kairos”. As a Kairos leader, I had to give a speech to the Junior class about a meaningful experience that changed my life. The retreat itself was full of tears and sentimentality, so you really had to be ready wear your heart on your sleeve. While I prepared to leave for the weekend retreat, I was a bit nervous about sharing something that was so personal with fifty 16-year-old girls. My step-dad, Larry came into my room and said “Imagine you are on the dock in Maine” (oops back track, I used to spend my summers on a tiny island in Maine…ok back to present-past time). He said “Whenever you are getting ready to jump, you are always nervous about the fall and how cold the ocean water will be. But after you come out, the sun warms you and you feel so refreshed. Imagine this experience is like that. You will be nervous at first but once you’ve done it, you’ll be glad you did”.

Mom mid "jump".
Mom mid “jump”.

After Larry said this, I immediately wrote “jump” in sharpy on my wrist and looked at it throughout the weekend. A year later, while on winter vacation from College, my mom, Larry, grandma, aunt, uncle and I were eating at a breakfast spot in Greenwich Village.  While we ate I scribbled the word jump over and over on the paper table-cloth. I decided on a version that I liked and Larry and I walked around the corner to a tattoo parlor on Bleecker (which no longer exists). The tattoo artist looked at me funny when I handed him my scribble because 1) he wondered why I didn’t want to choose a typed font since my hand writing isn’t so gorge and 2) he wondered if I was perhaps suicidal or just crazy? But I stuck with my paper table-cloth version. Ten minutes and $70 later I had my first tattoo!

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2) Here is the one that doesn’t feel so relevant any more. I’ll give you some background. In my junior year of college I took the advice of tattoo #1 and got up the cajones to audition for the university’s annual musical. This year’s  production was “Hair” and I was dying to play Chrissy. I was cast in said role and had one of the best experiences of my life spending two months with an amazing group of people. Being that “Hair” was set in the ’60s and was meant to embody love, peace, and heavy use of hallucinogens, we were encouraged to work hard at bonding with one another and developing a “tribe”. We did develop that tribe and really felt close to one another, spending every day together rehearsing, meditating and eventually getting completely nude on stage.

"Let the sunshine..."
“Let the sunshine…”

When the show closed, a group of us took a road trip to NYC for the weekend. Three of us out of that group felt strongly that we wanted to remember our time doing “Hair” and what it embodied for us so we went down to the village to get matching tats. We each got an “om” sign tattooed over our rib cage. This is my favorite part of the story: after getting our matching tattoos we went to one of our friend’s older brother’s apartments in Bushwick. There were 7 people living in the dirtiest loft you’ve ever seen with graffiti on the walls, ladders leading up to bedrooms you didn’t even know were bedrooms and makeshift wooden doors separating each “room”. When we got there, the girlfriend of the brother of the friend looked at our tattoos and said “wow…that’s sooooo cliché”. I was initially pretty offended but then I thought “lady, you live in a hipster loft in Bushwick Brooklyn. You couldn’t be more cliché if you were drinking kombucha out of a mason jar”, and I quickly got over it.

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To be continued…

THE WEEKLY COVET

It’s possible that I have a slight shopping addiction. I blame this on my mom because 1) she too loves to shop and has more shoes and bags than anyone I’ve ever met, and 2) she loves to help ME shop. This post is intended to be a series that appears weekly with the top 10 things I’ve been wanting to try/buy. Let’s be honest though, this could very well be the first and last of the series because I’m noncommittal that way.

This may be a bit selfish on my part as this list primarily benefits me. I tend to see a million things I want online and in stores and then never remember what they are/where they were. So this series is really great ’cause I can now keep track of all the things I’d like to waste my paycheck on. You can see where everything is from by clicking on the pictures. Here we go.

  1. RMS Beauty Living Luminizer: OK the only things I really care about when I do my makeup are my lips and my eyebrows. I’m obsessed with lipstick and I love to make my eyebrows look as big and natural as possible (my boyfriend LOVES this). I would definitely not know how to use this stuff but it’s supposed to make you look dewy and who doesn’t want to look nice and dewy right? 41rGnI-ZzCL._SY355_
  2. Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black Dry Shampoo: when you have very thin hair like me, you know the importance of dry shampoo. This particular one evidently smells like violet, sandalwood, and vanilla. Sold.

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3. ‘Holly’ Lace-up Sandal: I’ve really been loving the lace-up look. These are a great fresh take on the old lace-up ballet flat and I think they would be perfect for summer in the citayy.

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4. Everlane’s Slim Crew in Pink: I’m always looking for the perfect crew neck t-shirt and I am kind of obsessed with this one. I’d take the whole outfit actually.

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5) Athena Mauve Tonal Set from Outdoor Voices: I would DEFINITELY work out more if I had an adorable exercise outfit like this. Right?

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6. Glossier’s Generation G lipstick in “Crush”: I bought this lipstick in “Jam” a few weeks ago and have worn it every day since. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the other three shades. (Did I mention you can get 20% off if you use this link?)

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8. Old Navy’s Clog Boot: I saw one of my fashion gurus last night and adored every single thing she had on. The next three items are all from the Gayle Rankin collection.

Gayle had on these killer clogs that resembled ones I’d been pining over for months. I’m embarrassed to say that I mistook Old Navy clogs for Swedish Hasbeens as I don’t tend to like much from Old Navy. But that is the truth and these are the amazing shoes. So cute and so cheap.

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9) Buxom True Nude Lip Foundation: Gayle had this lipstick on and not only was the shade understated and gorgeous, but her lips actually looked fuller than usual as well. I’m told the lip plumping effect is due to ingredients that give your lips a tingling sensation and make them swell. Is that safe? Pain is beauty though, right?

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10) Maison Louis Marie’s Bois de Balincourt: Not only did Gayle look fab, she also smelled amazing. I have always wanted to have a “signature scent” but can’t ever commit to one. I also find that when I put on perfume I either a) over do it and feel nauseous from how strong it is or b) don’t use enough and can’t smell it at all. This perfume oil was the perfect combination of fresh and earthy and wasn’t overpoweringly strong, just pleasantly present.

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That’s what I’ve had my eye on this week. What have you guys been lusting after? Let me know!

I DRESS TO IMPRESS…MYSELF.

Last week I read an article about men who like women better without makeup on. The article was all about how women actually don’t wear makeup to impress men but wear it to feel confident and beautiful. This got me thinking about my own ideology on how I present myself and how other people’s opinions affect me. As I started brainstorming about this, I came up with tons of grand statements outlining my philosophy on fashion. It turns out most of the things I came up with were not entirely true and the more I thought about each one, the more exceptions I came up with. Here is the truth that I was able to find amongst the hallmark statements I initially came up with:

1) I don’t like to dress to try to impress men. I think what I actually mean by this is that I tend to dress in a way that isn’t necessarily what most men would find attractive. When I get dressed to “go out”, I don’t feel most confident in a mini skirt, spaghetti straps and heels (does anyone over the age of 20?) I don’t generally blow out my hair and wear tons of “sexy” makeup. Perhaps this has been my way of weeding out the kind of guys I DON’T want to attract.

When I went away to a big state college in Maine, this proved to be a challenge for me. My best friend would come over to get dressed to “go out”. He would roll his eyes at me when I put on my LL Bean snow boots (IT WAS SNOWING OUTSIDE!) instead of heels or something a little more “presentable” to go out to the bars. On one occasion, I decided I was going to try to dress to impress. I wore a VERY short skirt, heels and no jacket. I didn’t feel like myself at all and I was freezing. On my way past the line of girls who were dressed exactly the same way, a girl driving by singled me out and said, “put some clothes on, it’s winter.” I immediately burst into tears. I felt like I was selling out in order to impress people I didn’t even care about. Since then, I’ve done my best to dress in a way that feels authentic to me, whether other people find it attractive or not.

I think in a way, dressing in a less conventional manner also serves as a litmus test when meeting new people, particularly potential love interests. I don’t have to worry about dating anymore because I already found my lobster, but when I met him I definitely put him through a few tests of this sort. On our first date, I wore a beanie all night and Dansko clogs. On subsequent dates, I attempted to scare him away with Harem pants, dropped crotch jeans, the most bohemian baggy shirts in my closet, and my nerdy bright red glasses. Roman seemed to like me regardless. That’s not to say my boyfriend is with me because I’m the most fashionable chick in town, but I think he was able to get a better idea of my personality because of the way I presented myself.

On many occasions, when I’m feeling unhappy about my appearance, Roman will say, “But I think you look great, isn’t that enough?” My answer is always no. I think many people can relate to this feeling. It’s not that I DON’T care what he thinks. It just doesn’t affect how I view myself. If I feel uncomfortable with how I look it doesn’t matter what he says, I’m going to continue feeling uncomfortable. That is the heart of what I’m getting at when I say I don’t dress to impress men. It’s important to me that Roman finds me attractive, but it’s not what motivates the choices I make.

2) I’d rather look “interesting” than “hot”. This isn’t entirely true but let me expand upon this topic before diving into how it pertains to me. I think this is actually a pretty common approach to style in New York City these days. Pre “Man Repeller“, you primarily saw people challenging fashion norms in two places, on the runway or in more creatively inclined communities. Now that Leandra Medine has branded this as an ideology, it has become trendy (among certain types of people) to dress in a way that “repels members of the opposite sex”.

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–noun

she who outfits herself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.

–verb (used without object),-pell·ing, -pell·ed.

to commit the act of repelling men:

Girl 1: What are you wearing tonight?

Girl 2: My sweet lime green drop crotch utility pants, of course.

Girl 1: Oh, so we’re man repelling tonight?

*DISCLAIMER: the above conversation took place in this room 5 minutes ago.

I can totally identify with this approach to dressing myself. As I said above, the looks I find most appealing are generally not very provocative or revealing but rather an interesting juxtaposition of shape, texture and color. Often these types of looks are more thought-provoking/ awkward than they are attractive. For some reason, that is what I am drawn to style- wise. Not always of course, sometimes I like to go to a fancy party and wear a nice dress. Other times I don’t have the energy to devote to coming up with an interesting “look”. However, on a day-to-day basis, I tend to gravitate toward this style of dressing.

Times I tried to look “sexy”:

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Aiming high.
Aiming high.
This was for trashy/classy night. Pretty sure I nailed the classy look.
This was for trashy/classy night. I think I looked pretty darn classy.
This is very likely one of my first date looks.
This is very likely one of my first date looks.

3) I get panicky if I feel I’m not executing my vision accurately. Is that the most first-world kind of problem or what? This is hard to explain but I’m going to give it the old college try. Essentially, I very clearly know what I like and what I don’t like. Around people who have a similar type of style to mine, I feel at ease because I know they get what I’m going for and vice versa. However, when I’m around people whose personal style doesn’t quite align (or is completely opposing to mine) I feel the need to try to prove that I’m not attempting to look one way and failing at it.

Here’s an example of what I mean: I have a pair of light-wash, boyfriend style Levi’s that ride the line of horrifically ugly and effortlessly cool. If paired with the right shoes and top they can look exactly as old-school intentionally ugly as I want them to. But with the wrong combination they can quickly make me look like I’ve forgotten what decade I’m living in and should be driving my kids around in my van somewhere in the midwest. Does that make sense? Is that offensive?

Those are just a few musings on my ever-evolving thoughts on fashion and personal style. I’m not an authority on the subject, I often get it all wrong, and I frequently second-guess every word I say. So don’t take any of this too seriously.

Recent inspo:

http://www.cosstores.com/us/

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