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

Orange Crush + Hat Trick

So, are fedoras "in" or "out" this season? Does it matter? These textured pants called for a crush-worthy vintage tee, but I also felt the outfit needed some extra oomph. Throwing fashion caution to the wind, I defiantly donned last year's possibly-no-longer-on-trend fedora. I think it makes the whole outfit! I'd love to hear your thoughts: do you avoid wearing something because it's "out," wear something specifically because it's "out," or just make up your own fashion rules as you go along?
Jacket: Charlotte Russe; Fedora: Dots; Tee: Avalon Exchange; Pants: Scholar Shop; Shoes: Bakers


Style in the Loop

This year, the annual Style in the Loop fashion festival partnered with Alive Magazine to join the Saint Louis Fashion Week lineup. Held in the eclectic entertainment and shopping district lovingly referred to as "The U City Loop" by locals (AKA the neighborhood in which I grew up), I knew this show would rock. The Loop is typically an informal parade of innovative garments, ink and piercings, street performers, vintage fashions, and fearless trendsetters. In other words, anything goes. Refreshing, right? True to form, the Style in the Loop showed an exciting array of local designers' collections.

Here are the designs that would be perfect additions to my wardrobe:
A super-cute romper designed by Michael Shead
Photo by Amber JoIvan for ALIVE Magazine 
A pop of orange from I Am Sly by Jessica Affsprung
Photo by Amber JoIvan for ALIVE Magazine
A classy yet sassy shimmery outfit from Mekhat
Photo by Amber JoIvan for ALIVE Magazine
Funky mirror prints and a rad denim jumpsuit by Whitney Manney
Photos by Amber JoIvan for ALIVE Magazine
Quirky and retro designs by Project Runway alum AJ  Thouvenot
Photos by Amber JoIvan for ALIVE Magazine

Flowy prints and edgy leather from Conjetta
Photos by Amber JoIvan for ALIVE Magazine

For my look, I went for a classic girlie-grunge combo with a leather vest, ruffly dress and studded boots.
Vest: Express; Dress: Macy's; Clutch: Thrifted; Necklace: Vintage Family Heirloom; Boots: Steve Madden
On a side note, I deliberately attended the event with very little money to force myself not to buy anything. But how can I go to a shopping district and not shop? I have next to no willpower when it comes to thrift store and vintage bargains, so I did make a couple of purchases at a sidewalk sale. I spent a whopping $1.50. ;)