Hello Paris, Good-Bye Paris

Last week, I almost moved to Paris, France. My husband is finishing his doctorate degree and currently searching for postdoctoral work, which led him to an interview for a position at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (National Museum of Natural History).

Knowing these positions are incredibly competitive, I tried not get too excited at the prospect of walking Parisian streets admiring detailed architecture, begging couture houses to take me on as an apprentice, and soaking in the inspiring, intangible “French woman” style. I made my best effort not to picture the sun breaking through grey skies in the late afternoon, when we’d sit out on our balcony sipping wine, breaking off pieces of baguette to go with a variety of hard and soft cheeses, smelling a fresh bouquet of spring flowers, and practicing our French with each other. I only briefly envisioned the evenings when I’d sew and he’d cook and we’d listen to old French music at a volume that filled the house. And just once did I picture the late dinners we’d have with friends out at dark restaurants, laughing endlessly and walking back through windy streets. Yes, perhaps I got a little carried away.

On Friday we got the news; we are not moving to Paris. He was not offered the position. With this information, the rational (defensive) part of my brain kicked it. It’s alright, we’ve got other exciting possibilities moving forward. Paris isn’t going anywhere. And yet, I’m just not ready to let go of these visions of cafe stops and boutique shops. And so, please indulge me as I take a moment to fixate on the ever elusive “French style” for a moment. I’ve pulled together a collection of some items that define French style to me. They’re solid, well-made pieces that flatter without trying (think menswear). They’re sexy without being overt (think perfectly fit tee). They’re comfortable, they’re confident (cue modern, stylish flats). They’re wardrobe staples worn a million different ways (fitted black cigarette pants, silk button up shirt).

You must start with black J.Crew Pixie pants. Every woman should own a pair. They are the best fitting leggings/pants you will ever own. Wear them now with boots and change to flats come spring. Throw on some heels and a blazer with a crisp, soft Helmut Lang white tee for an evening out. Sézane is one of my favorite French companies, and you’ll find yourself grabbing for this nude “jumper” year round. The San Francisco based clothing company Everlane may be far from France, but they’ve surely captured the je nais sais quoi of it all. Their gorgeous (and nicely priced) silk shirts, like this one, are instant classics for occasions of work and play. Of course, we can’t forget Mr. Louboutin. I’m in love with these shoes for spring. And at the end of the day, throw off all your clothes and traipse around your flat in nothing but your gorgeous L’Agent Provocatouer lingerie (works for Valentine’s Day too) and Chloe Sevigny designed sunglasses.

I may not be moving to Paris, but at least my wardrobe can look like it. 

The Holiday Family Portrait


Left to right. Desiree: Dress, Lauren Moffatt, $425, Cameron Marks / Coat, Stylist's Own / Earrings, $75, Blank Verse Jewelry  / Shoes, BHLDN. Paige: Dress, Gentle Fawn, $105, Jade / Coat, Mia, $215, Jade / Shoes, Stylist's Own / Belt, Stylist's Own / Earrings, $95, Blank Verse Jewelry / Necklace, $80, Blank Verse JewelryAnna: Dress, Sally Esposito Designs, $285 / Coat, Maison Scotch, $275, Cameron Marks / Shoes, Stylist's Own / Necklace, $90, Blank Verse Jewelry. Photo gallery is here.

Some sisters seem to be perpetually in competition with each other. But these three, reunited for the holidays, always cheer each other on with innovative fashion choices: they mix patterns in unexpected ways, using plaids and old-fashioned florals, they elevate their hair styles with wild, party curls, and punch up their makeup palettes. Each complements her winter outfit with one-of-a-kind items from Blank Verse Jewelry. Snapping photos this season with family? Take some daring fashion risks by mixing prints (remember colors should complement each other), and try deep, red lips. And don't for a second tame your tresses.

Photographer: Nick Chao. Creative Director: Christa Martin. Fashion Stylist: Sally Esposito. Hair: Ginger Vaughn. Makeup: Anna Wu. Production Manager: Gina Peters. Models: Desiree Amariei, Paige Harlamoff, Anna Wu. Host: Fred Keeley.

A Fashion Essay: How and Why I made my own wedding dress


We got engaged in April and our October wedding was coming together smoothly. That is, until I decided to design my own wedding dress one month before the big day.

The original wedding plan did not include me making my own dress. In fact, the original plan did not even include me buying a wedding dress. From day one, I was set on wearing the dress my now-husband’s mother wore on her wedding day, which her grandmother knit by hand.

At my bridal shower, wearing my husband’s great grandmother’s wedding dress she hand knit.

But then the questions came in: “You’re making your own wedding dress, right?” And outright commands: “You have to make your own wedding dress.” I could see where they were coming from. As an independent fashion designer and seamstress who is trying to turn my passion into a career, I realized I had a big opportunity. I could step outside my collection of couture fitted dresses and create the gown of my dreams for one of the most important days of my life. Making my own dress would also embrace the DIY spirit that my husband and I share in our day-to-day lives­, as well as invoked in the planning of our wedding. Okay, I’ll do it, I thought. I had one month.

I sketched and scribbled on every receipt, envelope and scrap of paper I could find. In my head, I saw the dress exactly how I wanted it—couture pleating at the waist, lace straps on the back, a subtle slit in front. Thinking about the details kept me up at night with excitement. It was going to be perfect.

I set out to Hart’s Fabric in Santa Cruz and found a 1920s-style ivory lace trim I adored. To complement the trim, I picked out a silk chiffon material for the dress with a sueded silk lining. About $200 later, I had my materials and was motivated to get started.

The ivory lace trim at the bottom of the dress.

About a week later, I hit rock bottom. I was Pinteresting during work days and obsessively sewing every night when I got home. But it wasn’t working. The delicate silk chiffon fabric showed everything—holes from where I had taken out a seam, and finger smudges from tailor’s chalk. The top wasn’t pleating the way I’d intended. I would scrap one top and start on another new style and new design. At this rate, it was never going to be how I pictured it. How could I ever achieve the perfection you see on wedding blogs, magazines, Pinterest posts, and at friends’ weddings? My thoughts revolved around the dress as I compared it to other dresses, examined details, and created tutorials in my head for how I could fix it. I began hating the dress, and worse, I was almost out of fabric. Then one evening, I was.

With limited time and an unwillingness to spend more money and hours at the fabric store, I began a search through my discarded pile of tops. The fourth one I picked up seemed to have a sliver of life left in it. It was one of the first designs I had discarded. It had the original deep-V neckline design I favored, a style I’d come to abandon in later versions when I couldn’t get the pleats to match equally on both sides. I looked at my slightly asymmetric top and wondered, “Why did I abandon you?” Oh right, your deep-V was a little too, ahem, deep. Suddenly, I remembered some glam-meets-tribal trim with gold, black, and brown detailing that I had purchased in San Francisco a few months before. I could use that to line the V, thus adding more material. In the end, it wasn’t easy, and it didn’t come out perfect, but as I sewed the finished top to the bottom, I felt relief that I had pulled it off. My dress was done, I was mentally exhausted, and I didn’t want to look at it for a long time.

My tribal-glam neckline.

The wedding came like a hurricane in reverse: every day we dealt with the "joys" of a DIY wedding—countless Costco trips, constant email and phone coordination of supplies, and many late nights. 

Finally, the big day arrived. With hair and makeup done, and Advil consumed, I slipped on my dress, only to realize I had never gotten around to steaming or ironing it. At this point, all I could do was go with it.

Who says a wedding dress needs to be ironed?

In the end, the dress did just fine. The lace trim picked up sticks and moss everywhere I went and the bottom half became a filthy mess, but I didn’t care. The sueded silk lining felt dreamy as it swished around my legs and the sparkly neckline added a dash of character. Much like the dress, our wedding was full of imperfections and things we should have planned better or done differently, but it didn’t matter. The night itself was perfect: full of tearful toasts and group sing-a-longs (“When a maaaaaaan loves a woooooooman”), family and friends from various phases of life, and the best weather a Santa Cruz October day could offer. With the help of those close to us, we managed to pull off the best night of my life, all while wearing a dress made especially for that day. No one knew the dress didn’t turn out looking exactly like the original design I had imagined, and I realized that’s OK. It had evolved into a better dress, one that was perfectly me, flaws and all.

With our ring bearer.

Guests clad in Sally Esposito Designs.

See a slideshow of photos from the wedding here:

Photos by Mama-T. Makeup by Anna Wu. Hair by Missy Schnaps

How to pull off Fall's Craziest Fashion Trends

From left: Celine Fall RTW 2013, Fendi Fall 2013, Chanel Autumn/Winter RTW 2012.

Plaids? Got a million of them. Winter white? Couldn’t be easier. Menswear inspired? Done and done.

But oversized coats? Fur and leather everything? Over-the-knee thigh high boots?

Yes, some of Fall 2013’s runway trends are quite intimidating (and that’s coming from someone who prides herself on taking fashion risks). However, let’s not let a little intimidation (and feathers and large round buttons and big chunky heels) stop us.

In the slideshow below, you’ll find wearable pieces that incorporate even the scariest runway trends of the season along with some tips on how to pull it off. Dive in and you’ll find yourself looking fashionable and current this fall, while still looking perfectly like you. 

Surfer Gals: This is your one-stop shop

Actually, that headline is a lie. Sawyer Land & Sea Supply in Santa Cruz appeals to much more beyond surfer gals and guys. It’s for travel seekers, weekend warriors, camping comrades, outdoor adventurers, yogis, dog lovers, sea farers, eco-maniacs, Sunset magazine readers, appreciators of local goods and the craftspeople that make them, and even fashionistas (hey what are you going to wear when you’re out in the wilderness?). It’s for anyone who wants to take home a little part of the Santa Cruz lifestyle.

Sawyer Land & Sea Supply is less than a year old, but the aesthetically pleasing shop is fully stocked with an impressive list of local designers, rare brands, and well-made goods, resulting in a strong client base. Stacy Forrester, founder of Sawyer Land & Sea Supply, opened the shop to bring together her love of surfing, travel, and the outdoors.

As I’m writing this, I keep thinking about that recent report which finds Santa Cruz is one of the happiest places in the U.S. And really, Sawyer Land & Sea Supply does seem to capture some of that happiness. Forrester says on her website, “For me, Sawyer is about doing what brings us joy and inspires us." Well, if that isn’t the Santa Cruz lifestyle in a nutshell.

I recently interviewed Forrester to learn more about her shop, starting a business, and her future plans. Be sure to stop by (with your pup!) and check out the shop the next time you’re in Santa Cruz.

What made you want to open Sawyer Land & Sea Supply? 
I was ready for a career change and felt strongly that my store concept to supply quality apparel, surfboards and accessories addressing the Santa Cruz outdoor lifestyle in and out of the water could work. In addition, I wanted to create a venue that would bring a community of like-minded people together to support the arts, music, environmental causes, etc.

What were you doing before? 
I spent the last 12+ years working as a sales rep in the outdoor industry.

Starting a business isn't easy. Any advice for others interested in pursuing the same path?
1) Write a business plan! 
2) Be passionate about your business. 
3) Find balance for yourself, otherwise the business will consume you. You own it, it doesn’t own you.

What makes Sawyer Land & Sea Supply different from other clothing and surf shops? 
Sawyer is different in that we blend outdoor and surf creating an offering that speaks to an active outdoor lifestyle. One can find clothing from Patagonia, Prana, Beyond Yoga, Horny Toad, Aviator Nation, Seea, Ibex, Polar, Kuhl, Marmot, Woolrich, Alternative, etc. We also have custom surfboards from Travis Reynold, Ward Coffey, and Ashley Lloyd. Handplanes and Paipos from Long Ship Designs, and Patagonia wetsuits.

How would you describe your typical customer and his/her style? 
Sawyers customers are amazing people with a love for being outdoors. Some of my customers might need to dress up during the week but when the weekend arrives they want to chill and be comfortable.

What’s your vision for Sawyer Land & Sea Supply five years from now? 
An additional door, launch Sawyer’s clothing line; ten years from now ­sell it all and move to a tropical location where I can surf and swim daily in warm water. 

Any favorite pieces in the shop? 
1) Surfboards—they are beautiful and remind me to get out on the water every chance I have. 
2) Polar Knapsack: it's the best gift ever, especially going into fall/winter. 
3) The local goods ­from Strawfoot bags, Long Ship Designs wood workings, art, jewelry and the Sawyer logo items.

What are you looking forward to for fall? 
Creating a new look for the store with new styles, brands, colors, etc. 

What’s your favorite brand of denim? 
Mother Denim.

What’s your favorite skin care item? 
Bamboo lotion. I don’t know the brand name, but I purchased it after my amazing facial at L’Atelier Day Spa.

What style tip would you give to someone for the upcoming season? 
Be yourself. ­Rock your look, whatever it is.

You’re traveling, and can only bring one bag: what favorite beauty/fashion items stay home, and what must go with? 
My must-haves for a summer get-away include ­Rainbow flips, a favorite T-shirt, usually a white cotton V-neck, a good pair of jeans, sunglasses, toothbrush, skin trip coconut lotion, shorts, swimsuit, a sweatshirt, light jacket, or denim shirt.

Mani or pedi?

Lip gloss or lip balm? 

Heels or flats?