Coyote Pretty: DIY Decal Sweater

'Twas the night before (the night before) Christmas, and all through the house, fashion was on the brain and I wanted a new blouse. 
With Ruby in tow, Brian and I hopped in the car. Unique and stylish options for us all weren't far. 
At our favorite antique mall, we made the rounds. I couldn't wait to show my family what I had found!
Amidst the peculiar items on the shelves, were materials to a sweet look I could make myself: 
A vintage sweater with a lovely rust hue and a sparkly coyote patch too.
Ruby's eyes grew big and Brian beamed. As I looked at my family I thought, life is but a dream.

DIY Decal Sweater
I knew the coyote patch would be perfect to create my own animal motif sweater, especially since the the hunt for such a sweater in traditional stores was such a bust. I would rate this project's level of difficulty at a 1 or 2. It took less than an hour - even with an intermittently crying baby. No sewing machine needed. Want to create your own cute decal sweater? Here's how I did it:
Vintage sweater: Janet's Vintage Planet

1. Gather the materials. You'll need a patch or decal, a sweater/t-shirt/sweatshirt, a sturdy needle, thread that is a similar color to the top, and an iron. The most crucial part is finding the right patch. Luckily, they are laying in wait for a creative-minded individual to repurpose in vintage stores, etsy, ebay, estate sales, etc.
2. Lay the top on a flat surface and place the decal where you'd like it to go. Pin it in place. If you're not sure how it will look, try the top on with the pinned patch.
3. Using the standard over-under (AKA running) stitch, sew the patch on. Tip: have a glass of water handy in case the needle gets a little sticky.
4. Turn the top inside-out and iron over the decal to ensure that it sticks. (If you get an iron-on patch, you may be able to skip the sewing altogether. I sewed mine on too because wool isn't the easiest fabric for adherence. You can always iron it on first and then see how well it sticks.)
5. Wear your new top with pride!
This little coyote is howling at the moon! Decal: Green Shag Market
So, what do ya think?

PS - The poem in this post was inspired by another local blogger's tale of Christmas Eve outfit antics, Oh, Julia Ann .

Drop It Like It's Hot, 1920s Style

If I could be reborn into any fashion era, I would probably pick the 1920s! With its free-spirited and sparkly vibe, it's no surprise that the Roaring 20s is a popular theme for holiday parties. The easiest (and admittedly, super-fun) way to look like you stepped out of a Gatsby party is to don the iconic fringed flapper dress. But if you want to up the ante and not look as costumey, here are some other ideas on how to channel the era:

1. Drop-waist: The 1920s introduced the drop-waist silhouette. Featuring a longer torso and shorter skirt, the looser fit takes the focus off your waistline. Instead, it lets you flaunt your arms, legs, and chest.

2. On the Fringe: Rather than head-to-toe fringe, why not shimmy your way into a skirt?

3. Beautiful baubles: You can never go wrong with a long, classic string of pearls. The 1920s also featured fun Art Deco jewelry. What exactly constitutes "Art Deco"? Well. . .look for bright colors, gemstomes, and geometric shapes to fit in with the Gatsby crew. Add drama with a beaded headband, sequin clutch, or chic cloche hat.

4. Fancy Feet: Dance the night away in a pair of feminine t-strap heels! Look for vintage details like bows or cutouts. A smart pair of oxfords also great if you're going for a more casual look.

Check out my 1920s look:
Dress: Bar III; Cardigan: Gap; Tights: Hue; Oxfords: Urban Outfitters; Hat: Vintage (family heirloom)
The waistline is a couple of inches below my natural waist, and the skirt has pockets!
To drop it like it's hot when it's actually freezing, add some thick tights and a sweater!
This hat belonged to my grandma, who roared in the 1920s!

Artemis Vintage Shop

There are few things, aside from Ruby's *sweet* cries of hunger or need to freshen up, that will get me out of my cozy bed on a blustery Saturday morning. However, I was invited by local blogger Jillian of A Little Slice of Pye to check out the newest location of Artemis Shop. As soon as I learned that the store carried vintage-inspired merchandise, I was so there. I put Brian on Ruby-duty and made the 35-minute trek from St. Louis to the quaint town of Lebanon, Illinois.

Artemis Shop's inception resulted from an eclectic box of yard sale treasures. About a month (!) after the owner, Kris Mack, visited the fateful sale, she opened a small vintage store in Spokane, WA stocked with hand-picked items from all over the world. Within two years, Kris and fellow dreamer Stacy Kraby expanded the store to a curated mix of new and antique fashion and home décor. Very inspiring!

I received a warm welcome at the boutique, complete with a musical serenade broadcast on the town's main street. (They must have known I was coming.) Most of the shop's items are from creative indie artists, so they have that one-of-a-kind, higher-quality-than-the-mall flavor. Although I saw lots of jewelry, purses, trinkets, books and clothing that I wanted, I showed incredible restraint. I can't walk into a boutique that cute and not buy something, so I purchased a mini-book of dog poetry for my sister's birthday gift and some incredibly comfortable leggings. The rest of my wish list will be outlined in detail for Santa (AKA my husband) to "accidentally" find. He won't even have to travel far, since most items from the store are available online! Here are some pics from my visit and in-store fashion show: 
Look 1: Knitted Dove Dress  (in store only); Look 2: Freeway Santa Fe Cardigan $118 (here); Look 3: Knitted Dove Moose Terry Top $48 (here) + Kling skirt $48 (in store only)
Zany prints? I'm in love.
Corey Calter Geometric Dress, $165 (order here)
Artemis Shop, located at 2088 Saint Louis St., Lebanon, IL 62254 www, 

Gonna Make You Sweat

OK, so I know I said I didn't like wearing sweats. And in their pure form, that's true. However, I am loving the chic sweatshirt trend! I found this sweatshirt dress at the Goodwill when I was looking for functional-but-still-cute garments to pack in my pregnancy suitcase. The grey dress didn't make the hospital bag because I had bigger plans for it than a maternity ward fashion show. Instead, I knew it would be much more fun and unexpected to wear it as a jumper. I paired it with a studded button-up shirt, patterned tights, and knee-high boots to wear to a special blogger event at Artemis Shop. Have you found a sweatshirt that you can glam up?
Blouse: Forever 21; Sweatshirt Dress: Goodwill ($4!!!); Necklace: Vintage
There's something quite sweet about butterflies in the snow. Purse: Retro 101; Tights: Hue; Boots: Carlos Santana

Stripe It Up

Since I get bored with most of my clothes so quick, I'm constantly looking for ways to keep my garments looking fresh. My striped black and red maxidress has been in heavy outfit rotation for the last few years since I love its edgy vibe. Today, I decided to wear the dress as a skirt by topping it with a simple black tee and black moto jacket. I added my all-time favorite piece of jewelry, a silver vintage necklace that was a gift from my late aunt to my mother. It's my go-to jewelry piece when I want to add rock-star flavor to an outfit!

Jacket: F21; Tee: Pitaya; Maxidress: Target; Shoes: Steve Madden; Necklace: Vintage (family heirloom)

(Undone) The Sweater Post

If you want to destroy my sweater. . .
The Great Sweater Quest began on around 4am on Black Friday. Excited about Macy's annual "buy one, get one free" sweater doorbuster, I was confident that I would leave the mall with at least two animal motif sweaters. But shockingly, Macy's did not get the memo that I was coming. None of the critter sweaters featured in their holiday ad were actually in the store. Grrr!
Hold this thread as I walk away. . .
I picked myself up, dusted myself off and weaved through the mall traffic with a laser focus. I was going to find "the" sweater if it was the last thing I did! And the more it eluded me, the more determined and nutty I became. By 9am, still sweater-less, my shopping spirit was on empty. The fact that I hadn't eaten since Thanksgiving dinner was also impossible to ignore.

Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked. . .
Reluctantly, I succumbed to hunger and went home, obsessing over the obscure sweater as I drove. I crafted Plan B: Kohl's and/or Old Navy. Both stores had awesome Black Friday deals and promising statement sweaters in their ads. The mere sight of my couch, however, quickly nixed that plan.

Lying on the floor, I've come undone. . .
After a long nap, I found renewed strength to do one more search for my quintessential winter sweater. I hit pay dirt at 3 sweaters that I had to have! Oblivious to the fact that I still looked like a hot mess from the morning's fiasco, I kissed Ruby and Brian goodbye and hopped in the car. The sweaters were even cuter up close, and the online prices were amazing - about $13 for each one! But, the customer service rep informed me that Target does not price-match on Black Friday. On the couch once again, I prepared to order my sweaters online. I could barely contain myself. Victory was only seconds away! Until. . .the sweaters were all out of stock online. I stared at the screen in disbelief and disgust. Sweater gods, what did I do to deserve to be cursed like this?!

So, the Great Sweater Quest continues. Do you have any suggestions on where I can find an imaginative sweater with the perfect mix of cute, quirk, and warmth? Or will I have to suffer in sweater-less silence all winter long? J

Another Blazer of Glory

Blazers are one of my favorite pieces of clothing! They make even a simple top look fresh and can work-ify a borderline too-cute-for-the-office look. Although my navy blazer will always hold the top spot on my most-loved blazers list, this striped jacket from this year's Black Friday excursion is a close second. I'm not (too) embarrassed to admit that I am one of the Black Friday nuts who gets to the mall at 4:30am to ensure that I'm one of the first 100 people in line for an H&M gift card. After a 90-minute wait behind 2 girls who came straight from the club to line-jump for their scratch-off card, I was rewarded with a mere $10. (The party girls got $25 - go figure!) Luckily at H&M, ten bucks can go very far. Case in point: this blazer was marked down to a ridiculous $7.95 from $24.95, so it was basically free! It's so cute and versatile that I would have paid full price for it. I wore this blazer-tee-jeans combo to a party with my hubbie and daughter. How do you rock a blazer? 

Blazer: H&M; Tee: Gap; Jeans: Levi's; Shoes: Charlotte Russe; Clutch: Thrifted; Eyewear: Miu Miu; Necklace: from Mexico
These jeans are also a Black Friday find. $15 for Levi's! Worth the hour it took trying on jeans to find a well-fitting pair. The Magic of Macy's.

I can button something over my belly again. Yay!

3 Outfit Ideas for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for: my newly expanded family, my loyal circle of friends, finally having DVR so I don’t have to miss a single episode of Project Runway or Lost reruns, and of course fashion. It can be tricky figuring out what to wear on Turkey Day, since you want to strike the right balance between comfort (to accommodate those extra helpings of sweet potatoes) and cuteness (no explanation needed). Here are 3 outfit ideas based on your chosen venue for celebrating:

1. Fancy restaurant or catered party: A shift dress and booties is chic and able to handle a few pieces of pumpkin pie. Add patterned tights and a statement necklace to make your look more fun!

2. Slightly dressy get-together with family and/or friends: Try a pair of festive, patterned pants paired with an embellished sweater. Keep shoes and accessories simple to let the pants take center stage.

3. Small, casual gathering of food, friends and football: Leggings and a cozy sweater are perfect for lounging on the couch with turkey and dressing. If you're a sports fan, you can select your outfit in your favorite team's colors!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Mom, Happy Baby

I'm ba-ack! I am settling into my new role as mother to little Ruby Estelle, born October 29, 2013. My days are now filled with feedings, diaper changes, selecting onesies, and BH 90210 reruns. Minus the sleep deprivation, it's actually quite wonderful, especially since Ruby personifies the word "cute." Not so fun? Spending the day in boring sweats and lounging clothes. My first college roommate nailed it shortly after she met me: while she wore jeans and a sweatshirt daily, she said that if she saw me doing that, she'd wonder what was wrong with me! So, in the spirit of "happy mom, happy baby," I back to wearing fab garments - and very excited to share the outfits with all of you!

First, I wanted to get a couple more wears out of an adorable romper I found this summer at the Goodwill for $4. I topped the romper with a vintage sweater scored from a garage sale for $4 and added knee socks and booties for warmth. I think this look will be perfect for brunch or coffee in the near future. For right now, it works for spending quality time with my daughter and husband, even if it's just a trip to Target. I'd love to hear your thoughts - does wearing a cute outfit make you feel better, even if you're not going anywhere big?
Sweater: Thrifted from garage sale; Romper: (NY & Co) Goodwill; Knee socks: Hue; Booties: Macy's; Eyewear: Versace 

To Be Continued. . .

Well, baby time has finally arrived! The Ruby Zipper will be on temporary hiatus while I recover from giving birth to my amazing little girl. I am so touched by my fabulous readers' support. You have made my first months as a blogger an incredible experience and I can't thank you enough! Please stay tuned - the best is yet to come!

Fictitious Fashionistas I Wish I'd Gone To School With

Junior high and high school struck the ultimate blow to my creative expression: uniforms. School was already tough - I was one of only two African Americans in my class. I was also difficult to pigeon-hole into any particular clique. My CD/cassette collection consisted of Ace of Base, Tori Amos, Beastie Boys and Nirvana; I was president of Math Club and Dance Club; I was vocally gentle but fashionably loud. Of course, I now think I was a pretty rad kid, but it didn't always feel that way at the time. Planning outfits and jewelry was my solace. Having a stylish sidekick like one of these fictitious fashionistas would have made things so much more fun! 

Punky from "Punky Brewster"
Punky was that fearless, spunky kid that brightened everyone's day with her smile and shenanigans. And her wardrobe of mismatched shoes, denim vests, and colorful layers made her a girl you didn't soon forget. Punky and I would have had some amazing fashion adventures together! (Sorry, Cherie and Margot.) 

Lisa Turtle from "Saved By The Bell"
Bayside High was the perfect school with its clueless teachers, hapless principal, and of course The Max. My best friend would have been Lisa Turtle, president of the Fashion Club and Screech's witty, unrequited love. She epitomized the early 90s style with her crazy patterns, ruffle skirts and fun earrings. Even watching reruns today gives me fresh fashion ideas.

Clarissa from "Clarissa Explains It All"
Clarissa was the girl-next-door who was always a step ahead of the trend. I couldn't wait to tune in each week to hear her life lessons and see what she was wearing. Ripped jeans and pink tights? I'm all over it!

Claudia Kishi from "The Baby-Sitter's Club"
I never enjoyed babysitting as a teen, but would have happily been an alternate member of the BSC to hang out with the artsy VP, Claudia. Not only did she have her own private phone line (way cool), she had arguably the best style at Stoneybrook Middle School. Her best friend, BSC treasurer Stacey also had an enviable wardrobe. My favorite part of each book was reading the descriptions of Claud's outfits and hand-made jewelry.

Cher, Dionne, and Post-Makeover Tai from "Clueless"
Clueless is perhaps the most quintessential fashion movie of all time, rivaled only by the later "Sex and the City" series. At Bronson Alcott High School, there is no question which Betties I'd be rolling with! The plaid ensembles are of course classic, but I'm equally awed by the knee socks, fuzzy backpacks, over-the-top hats, and Mary Janes. I did have a crush on Murray though, so Dionne and I may have had a clash. . . 

Who were your favorite TV land trendsetters?

Autumn Dressing

I can't decide what I love more about this dress - its suede placard, the tribalish print, the fall color palette, or the way it flatters my new curves. It is the perfect autumn transition garment, since it looked just as cute with sandals as it does with camel-colored boots. This dress has been my go-to for special occasions: my baby shower, brunch with my parents and husband, and for girls' night out. As an added bonus, this dress was made to go with my fringe handbag! If you've got a favorite summer dress, adding a cardigan sweater or jean jacket and boots will help it fall into place as the seasons change. How do you transition your dresses from one season to another?  
Dress: Rung Boutique; Purse: Steve Madden; Shades: Boots: Rampage

How to Stay Cute with a Baby Bump

Pregnancy has been a wonderful, scary, and exhilarating time. I was lucky enough to escape morning sickness, but still paid my dues with shortness of breath, bad sleep, and an embarrassing number of trips to Pizza Hut. I also discovered how tasty hot sauce is on salad. (Don't knock it until you've tried it!) One of the greatest challenges has been maintaining my signature style while eliminating virtually any garment that requires an exposed waistline. But, it can be done! Here are my tips on how to keep your bun warm in a cute oven:

1. Show a little leg. . .leggings that is! Leggings are not only versatile, they are inexpensive. You can wear them just below your bump for comfort. Printed leggings are fun and totally on trend. If solids are more your style, you can never go wrong in black leggings. They also have special maternity leggings that are perfect for the last trimester. When your belly feels larger than life, showing off sleek gams gives you a dose of "I'm sexy and I know it!"

2. Take girliness to the max: Maxidresses and skirts are perfect for pregnancy. As your bump grows, wearing short skirts with a top tucked into an exposed waistline may not be the most flattering look. Instead, think long. Buy cute maternity maxiskirts (here's one). Tip: strapless maxidresses make excellent maternity skirts since you can use the tube top as a cushion for your bump!

3.  Top shop: The maternity section is full of practical empire-waist blouses and basic tees. But wearing what's practical isn't exactly my forte. So, I wore "regular" tops in a larger size. Make sure to choose flowy or stretchy fabric and try everything on. Skip the button-up tops unless they are specifically designed for moms-to-be. And look for tops that hit at least mid-thigh because your bump will make any regular top shorter. If larger sizes don't work for you, no need to panic. I did eventually find some maternity tops that did not look "maternity" (see one here). In the later stages of pregnancy, a few maternity tanks or tees, topped with a "regular" cardigan or scarf to keep it fun, is probably a smart idea.

4. Embrace mom jeans: I'll admit that I was stubborn and wanted to hold onto my pre-pregnancy wardrobe as long as possible. But by 5 months, I could no longer button any of my pants. You could put a rubberband around the buttons or buy a stretchy band of fabric that holds up your pants. My suggestion? Invest in a nice pair of maternity jeans. Well-fitting maternity jeans can be expensive, but you really just need 1 or 2 pairs to mix and match with other items. I found a pair at a resale shop for a very reasonable price that are even more flattering than some of my regular jeans! I also distressed a cheap pair of bootcut maternity jeans (find out how here). What size should you get? Look for whatever your pre-pregnancy size is, so if you were a size 8 before, go for size 8 maternity jeans.
5. It's a beautiful life: Don't get too hung up on the number on the scale or the size you're (temporarily) wearing. It is weird seeing your body change. It sounds nuts, but for a few weeks, my first thought when I looked in the mirror was, "I need to hit the gym." Then it hit me that, um, my body was supposed to be changing. So be proud of your new curves and upcoming role as a mom! That tiny life (or lives) inside you is truly beautiful, and so are you.

Professor Bootie

This vintage Beastie Boys tee has sentimental value for me: I wore it the night I met my husband. Ironically, I had decided that I didn't want to meet any guys that night so I wasn't getting too dolled up. (I still had to show off my licensed-to-ill style, so I wore the Beasties top, a camel suede blazer, jeans, and brown booties.) At the start of our girls' night, a friend told me about this "hot guy" she wanted me to meet. I just sipped my drink and smiled, putting no stock in the potential blind date since she hadn't actually talked to him in months. By the time we reached our next stop, her longtime friend and "great guy" were all but forgotten. But as we walked into O'Malley's Pub, a local watering hole I had never heard of, my heart almost stopped. Sitting there with his friends watching a boxing match was the elusive "great guy" AKA Brian AKA Future Soul Mate. Brian is a Beasties fan and insanely smart (and just as handsome as promised, always a bonus), so he was clearly a keeper.

Now, 4.5 years later, I'm still rocking the tee. . .with a sparkly wedding band and a baby bump! The original suede blazer and booties have long since been donated during one of my "I'm bored with this stuff and want to go shopping" moods. Today, I paired the tee with a black pencil skirt (that's actually a maxidress pulled up), black moto jacket, and totally on-trend black booties. Who knew this tee would end up changing my life?
Here's the Sure Shot.
Jacket: F21, Tee: Urban Outfitters; Skirt: Old Navy; Booties: Macy's; Clutch: Vintage
I'm as cool as cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.
Triple Trouble: Moto jacket + Rock tee + Booties
She's Crafty. . .just like her mom
She's the cheese and I'm the macaroni.
Mustache earrings: Claire's Boutiques
Professor, what's another word for [fashion] treasure? Well, I think it's bootie.


A quick tour of my closet reveals a rainbow of colors, sequins, studs, tribal prints, florals, stripes, and plaid. Noticeably absent is a lot of solid colors. It's strange - when I see solid-colored garments on other people, I often think the look is stunning. But I have this weird fear that too many solids make me look . . .  plain? (In my opinion, a fashion fate worse than death.) Ironically, I feel safer in a wild print like this one. At the very least, I crave chunky jewelry, a printed collar, or interesting textile effects to feel like "me."

My daughter's impending arrival has required and inspired me to explore different fashion styles. I've actually been wearing lots of solids lately. My monochromatic coral outfit for St. Louis Fashion Week's Project Runway Show made me feel very sophisticated. The consensus among fellow bloggers at the show was clear: coral is a chic, upbeat color. Is wearing solids going to become a habit for me post-baby? Who knows? Fashion is all about taking risks, even if that means wearing (gasp!) just one color. For fun, I also styled the dress with a cheetah print sweater and knee socks. Which look do you like better?

Dress: H&M; Clutch: Bakers; Shoes: Urban Outfitters (left); Dress: H&M; Cardigan: Delia's; Shoes: Payless; Socks and Arm Candy: Macy's (right)

How have you stepped outside your fashion comfort zone? Are you a prints-cess or solid stylista?

INSPIRE Fashion Show - Runway Debut!

This September, my little bump and I made our runway debut at the 4th Annual INSPIRE Reception and Runway Show, benefiting the United Way of Greater St. Louis! The aptly named fashion showcase co-sponsored by Monsanto is truly inspiring because it celebrates style in all shapes and sizes. Individuals typically absent from high-fashion runways (myself and my "too short" legs included) have the opportunity to wear innovative designs and take center stage. So, at 8 months pregnant, I happily signed up to strut my stuff.

My afternoon started with a makeup transformation by an artist from by Paul Mitchell-The School. I then bonded with some of the other models over our mutual love of fashion as we lined up for the show run-through. As I got dressed in my outfit, I prayed for two things: that I wouldn't go into labor and that my outfit would still fit. Thankfully, my daughter stayed put and we fit snugly into our maxiskirt and tank top. (I think she wanted her time in the spotlight too, and had no intention of going anywhere!) After waiting anxiously in the holding/dressing room for what felt like hours, we finally got our call to line up backstage. Showtime! 

The evening's entertainment kicked off with Diversity Models in authentic cultural outfits. Next, over 70 male and female volunteers rocked the runway in eclectic designs. Much to the delight of the models and the audience, no one had to adopt the aloof, slightly angry, no-teeth-allowed runway "look." At INSPIRE, smiles were standard, laughs were not uncommon, and cheers of support erupted. I have officially scratched "model in a fashion show" off my bucket list. But, I had so much fun that I'm already planning to model again next year!

The show featured designs from BachrachBanana RepublicExotic Skin FootwearHoney’s Child Boutique, Kenzie Young, LB by Lauren Bander, Mesha!, Ola Style, Shukuru2 and Vuvu Stone Collection. My outfit was designed by Katie Kantley Shibori Fashions. Katie's garments are all hand-dyed using ancient Japanese techniques on natural ingredients like berries and plants. (Think: boho-chic tie-dye in sophisticated silhouettes and colors.) She is extremely talented with textiles, so it was a treat to wear her one-of-a-kind garments and jewelry.
In the dressing room with some of the other Shibori Models
Photo courtesy of the United Way of Greater St. Louis
Wooden Bracelets designed by Pam Gumper
A sampling of Katie Kantley's Designs