Meet Piper, Designer for Ever After Reimagined

Vintage-lover? Check. Quirky? Check. Artistic and original? Check. Meet St. Louis designer, Piper Hutson of Ever After Reimagined:
Piper Hutson
When most people see a small pile of bones or squished bugs, "beautiful" is not the first (or second, or tenth) adjective to enter their minds. Yet to Piper, creatures that would otherwise be lost in the world are awesome sources of inspiration for wearable art. 

Top left: "Anything But Camoflaged"; Bottom left: "American Detective" hat; Right: "A Spine to Stop Time"
Piper's career as a designer began with an "obsession with all things Victorian." As she earned her master's degree in Art History, Piper found that the time period's elegant jewelry and respect for the macabre was the perfect match for her love of the unconventional. (Piper's dedication even inspired her to have a Victorian-themed wedding, complete with a harpist and vintage-clad guests!) When she saw a wet specimen by Lady Von Black at St. Louis Curio Shoppe, Piper realized that she could channel her skills into her own collection of beautiful oddities. 

Case in point: Piper combined a gifted cat skull (!), grey taxidermy mouse (stuffed by Piper herself), and estate sale vintage hat for her interpretation of the fashion industry as a game of cat and mouse. Clever! 
"Caught in the Act." Yes, it's slightly creepy, but oddly cool. Think you can pull it off? Daring ladies can find it here
Piper admits that not everyone appreciates her unusual mediums. Her mixed-media creations of bones, metal, stones, feathers, and wood have invited questions about her vision and prices. Early in her career, she was devastated when the owner of a Philadelphia shop promised to sell her collection, only to change his mind after several months without having the guts to tell her directly. Yet, Piper bravely forged on. Now, her hats, shawls, and jewelry have been featured in several St. Louis galleries and exhibitions: 33 January at The Old Orchard GalleryTrash to Art at Koken Art Factory and Apocalyptic Wonderland at the Contemporary Art Museum.  Until a few months ago, she also had her own space at the Alexi Era Gallery.

While rocking her signature Victorian pinup/sexy librarian style (think: pearls, lace, 1950s silhouettes), Piper continues to create one-of-a-kind pieces and form connections with other artists. "Being surrounded by like-minded creative people is the best part of what I do," she says. Her professional dream is to "find a market that appreciates my work and continues to offer me new experiences."  Her advice to up-and-coming artists? "Love what you do, know what you are worth, and don't let other people influence your appreciation for your work." 
"Prickly Like A Fox" shawl available here
"Ruffled Feathers" available here
This portrait of Piper (AKA "Goddess Arianrhod") was taken by Rocio Mirelis, featured on The Ruby Zipper here!
Check out more of Piper's amazing designs at!  

Gravel Pit

I'll admit that I got to a point where I was done with the high-low hemline. When they first exploded on the scene a few years ago, I was excited about the asymmetry of "mullet skirts." I DIY'ed a thrifted skirt to get the party started for my sophisticated-but-so-not-me business attire. (The party ended up being a bit too rocking for the stuffy hospital where I worked, so that skirt was reluctantly re-thrifted.) But, I was still a fan of the hi-low until the market became saturated with it. Finding a "regular" skirt or dress was a near-impossible feat. Like most trends, what seemed so fashion-forward at first became. . . common.

[Insert indefinite hiatus on wearing or buying high-low anything]

Then, I saw it. A gravelly-printed tank dress dubbed "The Darkness Dress" by its brand, Religion. The juxtaposition of the tough print with the feminine, flowy length, the ability to show some skin without feeling too bare. . .Now I remember why I (and apparently, everyone else) liked the high-low hem so much! And since I am now happily employed at a resale boutique, this hemline is tailor-made for work. :)
The back of this dress is looong, so my chunky wedges come in very handy.
Dress: Rung; Purse: Thrifted; Shoes: Steve Madden
What do you think of the statues? That one's expression is slightly maniacal.

All photos, taken outside Union Station, are courtesy of Erin of Turn Her Around.

Meet Rocio, Fine Art Photographer

"Fashion is art and you are the canvas." - Velvet Paper

That quote describes my style philosophy, so it is always exciting to come across local artists who express themselves in other mediums. Meet Rocio, a free-spirited, driven photographer who hopes to not only make a living with her art, but to inspire and help others.
Rocio's self-portrait. Love the eye makeup!
Although Rocio Mirelis originally planned on a career in Professional Counseling, her immense creative talent led her in a different direction. A painter since the age of 8, Rocio decided to take online courses and read instructional books to teach herself the art of photography. After researching various styles like boudoir photography, Rocio was most inspired by Brooke Shaden's whimsical fine art photography. Fine art photography uses tools like Photoshop to enhance a natural environment and create "dream worlds" that look as if they come out of a storybook. 
"Seeing the Light"
Yes, this is actually from a photograph!
What began as Rocio's Facebook fan page for Brooke Shaden's work evolved into the Fine Art Portrait Photography Guild (FAPPG) with over 2200 international photographers! Members of the FAPPG admire and critique each other’s work, host monthly challenges and prizes, and display exhibitions all over the country. As founder of the FAPPG, Rocio not only loves the independence of being her own boss, she is proud of her ability to create art based on her vision. She admits, though, that her career path has its challenges. Rocio sacrificed financial security and time with her family. She is still learning the "business" side of being an entrepreneur: marketing, paperwork, and forming the "right" connections to find collectors interested in purchasing her work. Rocio's professional dream is to turn the FAPPG into a non-profit organization, open a gallery, and exhibit her work around the world. 

For emerging artists, Rocio's advice is to "focus on creating the best and most original work that you can, market your work, network, go to every event that you can, exhibit as much as you can. Have patience. Find a support system-not just your family, but other artists that understand what you do and why. Most importantly, love what you do."

Rocio describes her personal artistic style as "magical, fantastical, and full of light and wonder." She prefers to use "happy colors" to create "epic pieces" based on her daydreams, feelings, spirituality, and visually amazing films.  
"Sleeping Awake"
This is Rocio's favorite piece. Inspired by Indian culture, colors and magic, it is aptly called "Indian Princess." She (and onlookers) are drawn to its dynamic movement, sense of freedom and beauty, and ability to tell a story.
"Indian Princess"
Want to see more of Rocio's beautiful work up-close? Her newest exhibition "33September" is on display through 9/30/14 at the Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves, MO. Visit her web page for more info or connect with her on Facebook! 

This Fit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S

You sift through the racks, getting more disheartened as the cuteness of the garments seems to deteriorate. You start to regret the shopping trip altogether, but know that you need a hot outfit. Out of nowhere, it appears: that amazingly gorgeous dress that embodies style perfection. You skip to the dressing room, so excited you can barely stand it.

Then you try it on.

It fits up top, but not on the bottom. You try on the next size. It fits on the bottom, but not on the top. Aahhh! What is a girl to do? You think, "I wish I had a dress that was custom-made for me!" 

Sound familiar? Let's face it-most of us are not a "perfect" size 6 or 12 or any size. In some brands, we're one size, and in other brands, we're a totally different size. I literally tried on every fit of Old Navy jeans until I found the sole style that worked. (I'm a "Diva" with a dash of "Rock Star" - no surprise. LOL) 

Getting every garment custom-made to your measurements is a luxury most of us can't afford, but I was recently contacted by a cool company aiming to change that. eShakti specializes in providing customized looks at modest prices. You pick the garment you want, provide your measurements, and can then choose to tweak the designs a bit. Love the dress but think it's too long? You can order it in a shorter length. Think a top would be way cuter with 3/4 sleeves? No problem. It was fun to play designer as I worked to create the right look for my dress:
Find this dress here. I added a bow pin at the waist to make it even girlier.
The original dress was sleeveless and below the knee, but I chose to shorten it and add cap sleeves.
To punk it up, I styled it with a faux leather vest from Express, my trusty Steve Madden studded boots (that go with everything) and a vintage bag.
All photos courtesy of Travis Crosby
The dress was a hair longer than I anticipated - I picked "above the knee" and envisioned more of a mini look (even though the web site pics are very clear) - but I'm loving the Clueless-meets-Gwen Stefani plaid. The customer service was top-notch and my dress arrived in about 2 weeks, as promised. Want to try eShakti for yourself? Just for you lovely readers, enter coupon code 'therubyzipper' for 10% off your purchases through October 12. The code can be combined with other promotional offers, but won't work for sale/clearance items or gift cards. Let me know what you think if you get a custom garment!

P.S.-This dress was gifted to me by eShakti, but all opinions are entirely my own.

NYFW Outfit Round-up

Remember earlier this year where I planned my dream looks for NYFW? Well, as fabulous as those outfits were, I am quite proud of the real looks I put together. During my outfit-planning sessions, little Ruby giggled at everything I modeled. That made narrowing things down a bit tougher. . .

Day 1
I figured an artsy look would fit right in at the tents at Lincoln Center for the Arts. The only flaw in the dress is that it has no pockets. Good thing I've got a fanny pack!
Dress, shoes, fanny pack from Rung
Day 2 
Being my main day at NYFW, I wore a studded blouse that easily transitioned from day to night:
Blazer: Target, Blouse: H&M (from Avalon Exchange), Shorts: Rung, Shoes: Steve Madden, Socks: DSW, Purse: Vintage
For the evening shows, I wore "the money vest." To give my faux leather skirt more oomph, I wore my DIY tulle skirt below it. (The black skirt has nearly imperceptible imprints of Hello Kitty on it, significantly increasing its rad degree.) This is my favorite look of the whole weekend!
 Vest: Free People from Rung; Blouse: H&M from Avalon Exchange; Skirt: Target ($8!); Shoes: Steve Madden; Socks: DSW; Purse: Vintage
free people moneymaker coin vest

Day 3
I had just one show on this day, so I really wanted something that was chic, comfortable, and easy to sight-see and shop in. A jumpsuit definitely fits that criteria, and you know I love floral-on-floral looks:
Jumpsuit: Jessica Simpson; Purse: Rung; Shoes: Urban Outfitters; Necklace: ?
For the Cesar Galindo after-party, I felt like going a lil' rock & roll:
Top: Marshall's; Suspender skirt: Rung; Shoes: Steven Madden; Purse: Vintage; Necklace: Family Heirloom
On a side note, I found an eclectic vintage thrift store near NYU called Monk Vintage. (Leave it to me to thrift even while on vacation, right!) There were lots of swoon-worthy designer vintage duds like furs and Chanel shoes, but I restricted myself to just one item. And I have to say, it's awesome. Zany, whimsical, truly a one-of-a-kind dress. Don't worry - it will make its debut at Saint Louis Fashion Week. :)

Day 4
OK, so I'm on little sleep, too much Dunkin Donuts (since there are, on average, 2 per city block, it's nearly impossible to avoid), and my comb was already packed. LOL. Nevertheless, I still love this blouse:
Blouse & Purse: Rung; Jeans: Material Girl; Shoes: Steve Madden; Eyewear: Versace
P.S. -Like the looks you've seen? Vote for The Ruby Zipper as "Best Personal Style Blog" and "Best Event Host" for a St. Louis Fashion Blog Award! Thanks a bunch!

NYFW Day 4

On the final day of my trip, I had one goal: shop at quite possibly the awesomest fabric store on the planet, Mood. Made famous by the Project Runway designers' frantic, frazzled treks before each challenge, the web site boasts that 1200 people come through the store each day. Now that I've been to Mood, I have a new appreciation for the designers able to find the "perfect" fabric and embellishments in under 30 minutes (and extra empathy for the designers who wind up with unfortunate fabric choices). There are multiple levels, and sooooo many beautiful fabrics! I planned to buy fabric at Mood and make myself a special dress, but there was simply not enough time. Instead, I bought a white and pink "Thank You, Mood" tee and some playful trims for an upcoming sewing project.
We got there right as it opened, so there were no Tim Gunn, Swatch, or up-and-coming designer sightings.
We saw fabrics used by designers like Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui for affordable prices. Decisions, decisions. . .

Although the trip seemed to whiz by, I got time for reflection (and Sudoku) on the plane. Here's my advice for bloggers planning to attend NYFW:
  • Pack lots of snacks! With a crazy schedule, eating full, wholesome meals won't happen. Save the peanuts and pretzels from your plane ride.
  • Most people will tell you "bring comfortable shoes," but for us fashionistas, comfort is relative. My advice: make sure your shoes have at least a 50-50 ratio of cuteness to comfort. Avoid any type of stiletto heel, unless you're willing to pack lots of band-aids and OTC pain meds.
  • Get creative when trekking around the city. Use the Subway, cab, cell-phone apps like Uber and Lyft (who typically offer a free ride when you sign up), and the cheapest option: your own 2 feet.
  • Carry your phone charger everywhere. My phone's battery developed a serious case of anemia and needed frequent boosts of energy throughout the day.
  • Go during the week, if at all possible. I had a blast, but there are tons more events during the week than on the weekend.
  • Bring the best camera you can afford. I felt very official wearing my camera around my neck! 
  • Focus on quality over quantity. It's easy to get disappointed and jealous when you get denied access to see designers. Remember that even seeing one fashion show is a marvelous experience that scores of other people will only dream about.

Do you have any other tips on how to survive your first NYFW? Please share in the comments!

P.S.-Have you enjoyed these recaps? Show some love by voting for The Ruby Zipper for a St. Louis Fashion Blog Award! And be sure to check out Style Notes for recaps of the NYFW shows I didn't get to see. (Trust me, you won't want to miss these pics!)

NYFW Day 3

In order to get into fashion shows at NYFW, you have to "request" an invitation to each show. I sent out countless emails to PR people, kindly requesting admission to view designers' collections. As a newbie, lots of the designers turned me down. (The nerve!) So, I was delighted to receive an invite to see the CZAR by Cesar Galindo Collection near Lincoln Center. When my husband and I researched his previous work, we knew I was in for a visual treat! The Spring/Summer 2015 collection did not disappoint, with its use of exquisite fine details, eclectic mix of placement patterns, and variety of tactile fabrics. The wearable-art spirit of the garments no doubt inspired the handful of artists furiously creating sketches of the looks.

There's Cesar at the top. He kindly wanted to take photos with as many fans as possible, 

When I attended the After Party later that evening, I was greeted by Cesar's partner. He expressed his pride in Cesar's talent and asked me what my favorite piece was. (The multicolored, beaded jumpsuit, of course.) He then complimented my purse! High praise from someone who clearly appreciates fashion. I left before Cesar himself arrived, but his is definitely a showcase I would attend again. . .if invited. :)

NYFW Day 2

Today was jam-packed with designer showcases - hope you enjoy the highlights!

8:30am Adam Lippes/Cutler/Redken Salon at Washington Square Hotel
Thanks to the fabulous team at ALIVE Mag, Brittany of Love.Style.Transform and I got backstage access to the ADAM by Adam Lippes presentation with Cutler/Redken Salon! Despite the early call time, it was cool to see the models get glammed up. With a small group of press, we interviewed the friendly lead makeup artist, Tiffany Johnston. To best pair with the designer's structured clothing, she wanted the models to look like "androgynous, fun girls who just got back from holiday." She dabbed a lip gloss stick on the models' eyes to resemble a "tea stain." Tiffany's vision was for the makeup to look "easy."

The charming lead hairstylist, David Cruz, wanted a "cool, downtown" vibe for the models' hair, so he pulled each model's hair back in a ponytail. He used Cutler volumizer for texture and finger-teased each ponytail so that the overall effect was "a little rough, but still pulled together." 

We were unsuccessful in crashing the actual show LOL, but at least we got a sneak-peak at the featured looks in the show:

6:00pm Harbison at Milk Studios
This showcase was the highlight of the trip, since Alive Mag set me up for a one-on-one interview with the talented, refreshingly down-to-earth Charles Harbison, founder and creator of HARBISON! (If that name sounds familiar, it's because he showed his fall collection at Spring Saint Louis Fashion Week.) With the help of Harbison's sweet PR coordinator, Life Coach Hope McGrath, and Market Coordinator for STLFW, Marisa, Charles was gracious enough to chat with me and share cool tidbits about his Spring/Summer 2015 collection. He envisions a "relatable" woman who is "in touch with her femininity" wearing the pieces. As the diverse collection reflects, he likes the juxtaposition of "hard and soft." When I asked if he faced any challenges while developing the collection, he quickly laughed and replied "Yes!" He had difficulty finding fabrics that held structure, but were still light and colorful. Clearly, Charles overcame these obstacles to create a bold, sophisticated-with-a-wink collection.
My fave piece from the collection-an edgy silhouette with playful flowers. That's Charles at the bottom. Check out my Instagram for an awesome pic of our interview!
A perk of backstage access is seeing the space before the models come in.
Don't you heart that furry bag? I love the diversity of the collection - each piece has its own personality.
6:30pm Jonathan Simkhai at Milk Studios
Pastels, black & white with classic silhouettes and subtle details permeated this collection. I can't wait to see his fashion showcase at Saint Louis Fashion Week this fall!
7:00 Koonhor at Milk Studios
The serious, single-file lines were a surprising contrast to the geometric patterns, handwoven appliques, tapestry details, and bright hues. The program for the showcase described the collection as "eclectic" with a "graphic robustness." The Koonhor woman "wants looks to carry from day to night, and a pair of customized Nike sneakers to provide the finishing touch."
7:30pm Isa Arfen at Milk Studios
This collection featured structured, tailored separates in modern hues. The tropical staging of the showcase conjured images of a chic but slightly eccentric woman at an upscale resort. Probably in a fabulous location with equal doses of sun and rain. . .
9:00pm VENEXIANA by Kati Stern at Lincoln Center
Set to unexpected rockabilly music, the models strutted down long runways in floor-length, sparkly gowns in a rainbow of hues. The rather large hairstyle of the person in front of me made taking photos an awkward task, but here's a sample of what I saw. 
Photo on left courtesy of Devoe Magazine
Now, it's off to sleep to prepare for day 3. . .

NYFW Day 1

Yep, that's me on my first day at New York Fashion Week, ready for a whirlwind weekend of fashion shows, shopping, eating, and rocking my best looks! I arrived on Friday afternoon with fellow blogger Brittany of Love.Style.Transform and local stylist Latoya of Latoya Elnora. After we hurriedly checked into the Gem Hotel in Midtown, I attempted to pull off a 60-second outfit change, hail a cab, and jetset downtown to catch my first show. It proved to be an impossible feat (perhaps the one time in history that there were no cabs around), so after sending a disappointed cancellation email to the show's PR person, I went back up to the room to regroup. 

The perfect antidote: people style-watching at Lincoln Center. Latoya and I saw denim, leather, lace, and everything in-between. Here are a few hot looks:
That's Latoya on the left-love the flower headband! That denim skirt was HUGE, and hugely cute. The other two gals look quite chic.
My OOTD: All from Rung!
Next, we linked back up with Brittany and one of Latoya's NYC friends for some delicious Thai food at a swanky-but-affordable spot in Times Square called Qi. For all NYC Newbies, Times Square is peppered with individuals moonlighting as Hello Kitty, deranged-looking babies, Superman, and naked cowgirls. The gold-statue perched on a sidewalk ledge? Um, that's a real person. And if you're up for double-dutch in the middle of the night, you can relive your playground days - for a nominal tip, of course. 
Brittany, Latoya, and me with friend Mario peaking out at the H&M.
After a quick trip to the multi-level H&M, featuring the hip-hop classic "No Flex Zone," we went back to the hotel. Visions of a fashion-filled Saturday danced through my head as I quickly fell asleep. . .

This quote says it all.

To be continued. . .

Dancing Queen

  "5, 6, 7, 8!" Those four numbers were imprinted on my brain as I danced my little heart out as a child. My parents had wisely enrolled my sister and me in jazz, tap, and ballet classes, and I worked hard to learn each step. I particularly looked forward to performing - and not just because of the sparkly costumes. :) I loved the feeling of expressing myself through dance. Even when there was no stage, my family was treated to private performances of jazz and tap routines set to Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson tunes. Through high school, college, and grad school, I took whatever dance classes I could fit into my schedule. My last formal performance was in Irvine, California during a grad school internship: a tap routine to a Ray Charles song. (It's on a VHS tape somewhere. . .) My dancing days have now dwindled into random, rare nights out at the club. And of course, mini-performances for my biggest fan, little Ruby, who is becoming quite the little dancing princess.

This one-of-a-kind dress makes me want to do a little jig! The artsy vibe of the painted dancers brings back fond memories of my days as a dancing queen. The dress even inspired me to do some ballet poses:
I'm a little out of practice, but it's starting to come back. . .
Dress & Shoes: Rung; Purse: Thrifted

P.S.-All photos were courtesy of my talented friend Erin of Turn Around To Me. Check out her blog - it's a really fun read!

P.S.S-Don't forget to cast your vote for The Ruby Zipper for "Best Personal Style Blog" and "Best Event Host" for the St. Louis Blog Awards. Your support means everything!