Monday, February 28, 2011

Lucky layers.

Unexpected glittering sweater over plaid dress.

If there's one thing I've learned from Lucky magazine, it's how to layer my clothing. I used to never layer anything about my outfits because, well, let's be honest, I'm what you call a "curvy" girl and I always thought layering just meant I'd look bigger. And while that can sometimes be the case, most times it doesn't. Especially if you do it right.

Now that I'm better at layering than I used to be, I like to really take the true Lucky approach and layer things you wouldn't normally think to layer. For one, it's just fun to put things over each other that you wouldn't normally do because can create a truly unique look. But also, when you layer unexpected things, this helps you create new outfits, without spending money. You're just adding different things together that you already own. You know I'm all about saving some money and using what you already have to create something new.

And since I live in the South, where the weather can change at a moment's notice, I find that layering is all the more helpful (side note: my new roomie from NYC calls our weather bipolar. What a genius description!). This is especially true at the beginning of spring or fall when the morning is cool and crisp, but you're sweating it out by the end of the afternoon. Enter in layers of clothing that allow you to peel off one at a time or pile back on — depending on how you're feeling at that exact moment.

Here's a look I created to help you do just that for the upcoming spring months:

1. Sparkly sweater top, Free People (on sale, $40)
2. Plaid dress, Forever 21 ($21.50)
3. Navy tights, Steinmart ($3.50)
4. Grey knee socks, Target ($2.50)
5. Tan Pumps by Oh Deer!, Rugged Warehouse ($10)
6. Michael Kors sunglasses, TJ Maxx ($9.99)
7. Thrifted bag ($6)

Photos: Laura Menconi

I think this is the perfect berry picking outfit. 

I styled this with navy tights to make it work appropriate.

I tied my collar with a sweet bow instead of letting it lay flat over the sweater.

Knee socks were added for a fun after work approach.

Sweater layer removed for the hot and humid afternoon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'd hype that.

I've had Lookbook on my queue for a while now. Just as a nice little site for me to visit for some free fashion inspiration. Especially if I have a fun event coming up that allows me to be a little more adventurous with my outfit than I usually am. I love it because I can always get lost looking at everyone's fun fashion photos for hours (it's seriously dangerous for me).

Only just recently did I decide to make the jump and join officially so that I can start posting my own looks for others to see. And oh. my. I am starting to wonder what I have done. Now that I can "hype" and "fan" other users, my Lookbook habit has the potential to get out of control. I'll try to maintain the addiction and keep it in check, but in the meantime, go check out my Lookbook account:

Oh and no pressure, but could you also sign up for an account so you can "hype" and "fan" me? :)

If you're already on Lookbook, leave me a comment and let me know your account so I can "hype" that and "fan" you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Will work for food.

You've seen people holding these signs on the street, but I'm here to tell you, I have honestly "worked for food" before. What I am talking about is bartering. Yes, bartering. I know, I know. It sounds crazy and ridiculously old school, but hear me out. It totally works. For a while, I thought I was one of the few still using bartering as a way of saving some cash, but when I saw a girl in the March 2011 issue of Lucky magazine mention that she traded her makeup applications in return for free yoga classes with a friend, I knew I was onto something.

As I mentioned here in my very first post, I love food. Again, it's a joke among friends and family because homegirl can eat. (And when I say homegirl, I am referring to myself of course). Taking this into consideration, my friend Torry, who owns his own tutoring business called Masterminds, offered me dinner in return for some tee shirt designs for his students. As a close friend — and a foodie — I thought that was a reasonable "friend rate" to give. The end result were some pretty sweet tee shirts and a couple of hilarious dinner conversations with a paid bill at Chuy's.

Chosen tee shirt designs. 

I have designed countless other pieces for friends and family in return for dinners or movies or anything else that I am interested in. I once even designed a logo for my previous hair stylist's new salon she was opening in return for two free visits with her for cut and color — now that's what I call a deal. This design bartering includes working with my own mother, who I have designed her logo, business cards, address labels etc for her business Oopsy Daisy (I even helped her name the business, too). In return, she has taken me to market numerous times (among other gifts), where I have scored some pretty amazing purchases, like this fabulous coat seen here and the jewelry in yesterday's post.

Some of my favorite design bartering examples. 

Also, as you can see here and here, I love music. I mean, I honestly struggle sometimes with whether I consider music a luxury or a necessity. Pretty sure it's a necessity for me, ranking right up there with food — especially going to see live shows. Which, as you know, can get expensive. And when you've got a mortgage, it's hard to make live shows a necessity like I really want them to be. Enter in bartering method number two: will trade babysitting for concert tickets. Yes, I am super lucky that I have a friend in the "entertainment biz" here in Bham who can usually hook me up with free tickets to a show or two that I am just dying (but sadly too broke) to see. And in return I watch their kids on a Friday or Saturday night. It's a win-win situation for sure.

But my new favorite babysitting bartering story is with my good friend Laura. She is an amazing photographer who has obliged to take my photographs for this blog in return for free babysitting services. (psst, I think I'm getting the better deal here). Apparently free babysitting is a hot commodity! I'd highly suggest offering that service if you're willing, cause you can nab some pretty great things in return.

Me and my photographer, Laura, and our off-beat visual interpretation of success after a photo shoot.
This might be the one time I get her to step out from behind the lens and to the front of the camera.

So now that I know I'm not alone, what's your craziest or favorite bartering story? I want to know! Leave me a comment below. And if you want to barter with me, I'm game...let's talk!

Validation: The Civil Wars & Paste

Hi guys! Just a quick validation post...because as I said in my post yesterday, I love feeling validated! (but who doesn't, right?!) As I mentioned here in this Grooveshark post, I can't get enough of The Civil Wars. However, I never explained that I first heard them over a year ago on a local radio station when Reg played Poison and Wine (sadly that radio station no longer exists, but you can listen to the Birmingham "solution" to that problem here at Bham Mtn Radio). Then last summer, my friends (including Amy over at To Do! who has been raving about The Civil Wars for a while now) invited me to see the duo play a free show (yes, free show, so you know I was there!) at Samford University here in Bham at the caf. And let me just tell you, hearing The Civil Wars live is a whole other magical experience than hearing them on the radio. I was hooked. Fast forward to less than a year and a Jay Leno appearance later and I would say The Civil Wars are taking off!

I also recently posted a couple of days ago about how much I love the Paste e-newsletter. Well, imagine my delighted surprise when yesterday's Paste homepage featured The Civil Wars playing in their new studio. So there you go! Validation on two accounts: The Civil Wars and Paste. And now thanks to Paste, you can see The Civil Wars perform a couple of songs (for free) on their website, here - just in case they aren't touring in your area. But if The Civil Wars are coming to your town soon, take it from me - a cheapskate - and fork over the money to see them. You won't be disappointed.

Ok, a full "real" post to come later!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back of the closet: '70s style jeans

I feel like surely Joni Mitchell would approve of this tribute to the '70s.

In case you haven't heard, '70s style jeans are back. This can be seen here, here and here. And might I say, thank you! As much as I do love the skinny jeans trend (I mean, hello, nothing makes you look more like a rock star than a pair of grey skinnies, right?), I am sure my waist line and thighs will both be thanking me for the extra wiggle room when I occasionally reach for my much roomier '70s cut wide legged pants.

I have always loved anything to do with the '70s (well, and '60s for that matter). Whether it be fashion or music or decor, I sometimes feel like (and my mom has told me several times) that I was born in the wrong decade. In fact, my friends and I like to joke that I am a "wanna be" hippie. I say "wanna be" because while I love braids and flowy tops and bangles, I am seriously way too Type A to truly be a hippie. Sigh. At least I can dress like one though right?!

So feeling a bit of inspiration from Rachel Zoe, who I think does the boho hippie look quite well, I decided to create this little number. I started by reaching for my '70s style high waisted jeans that have been on hiatus in the "back of my closet" and then pieced the rest of the look together accordingly. And then what do ya know, but linked here off Lucky's weekly e-newsletter, I saw that top handle satchel bags are officially "in" right now because they fit well with the '70s vibe this season. I love feeling validated!

I feel very "Brady Bunch" in this shot with my thrifted 70s style jeans.

I love all the pretty details in this pic. 

My disco glass heart necklace I scored at a recent trip to the ATL market. 
Thrifted shoes.

The front pockets on this consigned BCBG girls bag are great for tossing my keys into.

Wouldn't be the '70s without some braids.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My five favorite e-newsletters

The best part about most advice? It's free of course! As a self-proclaimed cheapskate, this is just one reason why I love e-newsletters so much (which, btw, I unashamedly admit to being subscribed to about 20 e-newsletters). Besides being free, e-newsletters are also great because they come directly to you. There's no work at all involved on your part except for the initial effort of supplying your email address. I usually get ideas or inspiration or learn new things from the e-newsletters that I subscribe to, so much that I like to either archive them in my email for review later or print them to paste into my lookbook (yes, I have taken the time to create a tangible lookbook). But on the off chance that I don't like that particular edition, it's just one click away from being deleted.  There are also e-newsletters designed to bring you great deals or contests and giveaways. Looking at all these amazing reasons for subscribing to e-newsletters, I'm starting to wonder why I don't subscribe to more!

Here are my top five favorite e-newsletters. In no particular order, of course....I had a hard enough time picking just five, I can't narrow them down to which one is my favorite!

Lucky Daily
A fantastic fashion snapshot that usually includes a link to a fabulous Lucky giveaway. I love the "daily" edition simply because it's a quick read. Just a couple of pics and links to look at and boom, you're back to work.

Sign up to receive this gem of an e-newsletter here. (hint: scroll down to the bottom of the home page, they have more than one great e-newsletter you can subscribe to)

I usually get great trend advice or inspiration to create new outfits from the girls WWWD feature on their e-newsletter.

Sign up to receive this daily fashion boost here.

Veer Visual Elements Update
As a "creative," I love to look at whatever Veer sends me. There's always great design inspiration waiting for me in a Veer e-mail.

Sign up to receive this dose of design inspiration here.

Paste Lifeline
Why take the time from your busy day to look up the latest on upcoming bands and A-rated movies when Paste does it for you...and delivers it straight to your inbox?

Sign up for this instant-piece-of-cool-knowledge e-newsletter here. (hint: scroll down and look on the right hand side for the box that says "Follow Paste" and click on the letter icon)

NPR Song of the Day
It's kinda like the Lucky Daily for music, offering you just one new song to check out a day. If you like that song, then you can go look up the band on Grooveshark to see if you like the rest of their music, like I told you about here.

Sign up for automatic bragging rights to claiming you heard the band first via this e-newsletter here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Awestruck and inspired.

Yikes. Proof of my terrible handwriting. 

Confession time: On occasion, I have a tendency to be somewhat cheesy. And sentimental. Very rarely, but sometimes, something I read or see will inspire me or hit me just right and I have to write it down, or tear it out or print it. Most of the time this happens, I just write whatever inspires me on a post it note and stick it on my computer until my OCD gets the best of me and the clutter drives me crazy enough to take it down.

Such an occasion of inspiration happened recently when I heard the song "Awake My Soul" by Mumford and Sons. As I stated here, I can't get enough of the album Sigh No More by this band. One reason is because when I was listening to the lyrics of "Awake My Soul" for the first time, I heard "In these bodies we will live, and in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life." I was awe struck. It seemed so simply put, yet so monumentally stated as well. I don't know why, but these lyrics hit me. And hit me hard. I immediately wrote the words down on a post it, stuck it to my computer and haven't taken it off since. In spite of the messy handwriting and that it's half peeling off, I don't plan to take it down either. I need it there as a constant reminder to invest my time in things and people that I love, because time is precious and fleeting and unknown.

And if it's really confession time, these words are what inspired me to start this blog! As mentioned here, I realized that what  I love most is music and fashion and designing stationery, and that I needed to find a way to combine them all, while mostly focusing on building my stationery portfolio for my design company, Fashionplate. I needed a fun side project to invest my time in that I could be completely creative with and in control of and that would motivate me. And that's just what my blog has created for me so far.

So as my first stationery unveiling on this blog, I created a piece with the Mumford & Sons lyrics that I love so much. It might be a little too deep and intense for someone to use as a piece of personalized stationery every day, but maybe it could be used on certain occasions? Or maybe just as a pretty inspirational piece to post in your office somewhere? Either way, here's hoping it will inspire you too!

ps. the heart seen in the first picture was a sweet and crafty Valentine gift from my very talented friend Amy over at To Do!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back of the closet: Handmade, Vintage Poncho

One of my coworkers recently said to me, "Christen, I would love to see inside your closet. I don't think I've seen you wear the same thing twice."  I laughed and said I didn't think she'd be impressed. As much as I love my house, if there's one thing I could change, it would definitely be the closets. While decent-sized, they certainly aren't walk-ins and the doors slide so that you can only see one side at a time, which makes creating new outfits more difficult than it should be. Sigh. If only we could all have fabulous closets like Emily over at Cupcakes & Cashmere, seen here. (who, btw, I like to refer to as Emily Cupcakes. I mean, isn't that cute?)

But since neither my closet space — or my wardrobe for that matter — are anywhere near close to that of hers, I gotta do the best I can with what I've got! So I like to make my wardrobe only seem bigger by rotating out certain pieces and mix-matching different items together. One way to do this is to pull something from "the back of the closet" that you really haven't worn in a while and rockin' it in a new way.  Hence my new column: Back of the closet. I think I'll devote this column to Thursdays since that seems to be the day of the week that I need the most fashion motivation.

Today's "Back of the closet" actually came out of the very back of my mom's closet. Apparently my great-grandmother on my dad's side had made this poncho for my mom when my parents were still newlyweds back in the 70s. I still can't believe my mom had been holding out on me with this piece of clothing. Luckily it somehow came up in conversation around the holidays and I still consider this piece to be my favorite Christmas present from last year. It's an instant vintage addition to any ensemble I'm currently wearing.  I prefer to wear it with jeans, but here I decided to mix things up and rock it with a dress.

A sneak peek of what's underneath the poncho.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Get your (free) groove on...with Grooveshark

Checking out new music in a record store this summer in Seattle. photo: Natasha Richardson
If you've seen The Social Network, then you know there's a part in the movie where Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, says that he changed the way people think about music when he created Napster. It's so true. For better or worse, Napster changed a lot of things about music, mostly concerning consumers' decision to pay for the play.

That being said, I'm not trying to ruffle any feathers about purchasing or not purchasing music. I fully believe in supporting artists, but I'm thinking that financial "support" might have to start coming from other ways, like live shows, only because technology has changed a lot of things. And since technology has changed some things, I'd like to introduce you to a great free site that my friend Casey clued me in on. It's called Grooveshark.

At first I resisted Grooveshark. Why did I need this new website when I had itunes? Well, I clearly had a lot to learn. My favorite thing about Grooveshark (besides that it's free of course!) is that you can easily search for just about any artist and check out their music before deciding to purchase. It's so easy to create playlists and listen to them over and over again before plunking down your lunch money on a new album that you aren't so sure about. Another great thing about Grooveshark? It makes sharing bands and playlists easier than before. All I have to do is send a link to my friends and say, check out this new band. They click on the link and instantly they can hear for themselves and decide if they dig the music or not. Plus, it's like Twitter in the way that you can "follow" someone and keep a constant eye on what they're listening to. So if you've got a friend who is always on the front end of the best underground bands, you can follow them and be one very close step behind on who's gonna hit it big soon. (side note: if Reg from Bham Mountain Radio had a Grooveshark account, you'd better believe I'd be following him)

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and sign up and start following me on Grooveshark. You can find me under the username christen.lewis

Top 4 bands I can't get enough of on Grooveshark right now:
1. The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
2. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
3. April Smith & the Great Picture Show, Songs for a Sinking Ship
4. Lucy Schwartz, Life in Letters

 (FYI: I broke down and bought The Civil Wars album the other day and I am sure I will purchase the other 3 fav albums soon)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

There's no day like a snow day.

It doesn't snow often in Alabama. Wait, let me rephrase that. It usually doesn't snow often in Alabama. But this winter we've had a decent amount of snow, which I actually enjoy. Well, I enjoy it as long as there's no ice on the roads to shut the city down. Anyway, when I woke up to snow last week, and saw that the roads were clear for once, I was super excited. Not excited because it meant that I still had to go into work, but definitely excited because I knew the snow would make for a great — and rare — backdrop for a photoshoot. 

Such an occasion calls for a cute and, ahem, cheap outfit. Most of the items I am wearing have been hanging out in my closet for at least a year, but I'll still try to give a breakdown of where I bought each item and an approximation of how much each one cost. 

1. Flower Headband, Urban Outfitters ($9.50)
2. White Dress, Forever21 ($21.50)
3. Black Shrug Sweater, Rugged Wearhouse - I miss this place! ($7.99)
4. White Lace Tights, Charlotte Russe ($2.50)
5. Grey Bootie Shoes, Target ($21.99)
6. Purple Peacoat, Mac&Jac, (bought at sample sale at Market in ATL for $40)

I heart the snow...and this fabulous ring given to me by friend Emily over at Redesign That

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's never too late to say I love you.

Another thing to know about me? I am usually running "fashionably" late. I'm not sure when I picked this habit up, but it was probably about the time I picked up the habit of trying to do a million things in one day. Ok, I digress. Anyway, the point is, this post is a little late in coming, seeing as it's already Valentine's Day night. But I figure it's never too late to say I love you, right? Well, here's a free, and adorable, way to do just that.

I absolutely love mail. Sending mail, receiving mail, doesn't matter. I just love mail. So this year, I thought I would design some old school (read: elementary school), hand-made cards-of-love for my friends. I'm talking pink, red and white with cut out hearts. You know the ones. Some of them I wrote funny things on them like "You cut out my heart when you moved away" and included a cut out heart...hence why it's funny. And on others I wrote a sweet note to my closest girls. Overall, I was pleased with this simple and inexpensive gesture of love for Valentine's Day.

Then it came time to volunteer for sending cards to people within the church. Clearly, as I have already mentioned, I consider sending cards one of my "gifts", so naturally I signed up for this act of charity. I was given a list of eight people and wrote a Wal-mart list to buy eight Valentine's Day cards. Then it hit me, why purchase these cards when I have already made some cute ones for my other friends. So I took a clever saying a friend of mine once received from her friend and added a Bible verse (the greatest love story of all time: God giving up His son for us), used an exacto knife to cut out the heart so that the saying would show through...and voila! A super cute, sweet, thoughtful and free card. All it took was some time, love and cardstock paper.

I even saved the hearts that were cut out and used them to make other cards.