Happy Holidays!

Photo c/o Rung; Photographer: David Kilper
Ruby and I wish you a wonderful holiday season, no matter what you're celebrating. Keep an eye out for lots of exciting posts in 2016 - and a big announcement. :)

Comfort & Joy: Jimmy's On The Park

Photo c/o Jimmy's On The Park
Two years ago, my holidays were a blur. Ruby had not yet figured out the difference between day and night. I had not yet figured out the whole "mom" thing. (Full disclosure: I'm still working on that one.) Showering before noon - or at all - was a major accomplishment. My bleary eyes could barely focus on our haphazardly decorated tree, and going to holiday parties was not exactly a top priority

#STLFW Outfit & Special Events Roundup

A few members of The Blogger Crew. Photo c/o Ashley Kuenstler
One of the best things about being a fashion writer is that I get invited to special events with amazingly creative, sweet, and talented fashion bloggers. For Saint Louis Fashion Week, local bloggers and I got play tourist at local hotspots with some lovely ladies from across the country. I'm recovering this week, but it was exhilarating! Per usual, I curated each look at my trusty thrift stores. Here's the scoop:

#STLFW Wear It: Fashion Challenge

The Luminary on Cherokee St. is an incubator for artistic ideas. Photo c/o Monti Hill
The next show at Saint Louis Fashion Week was in a new format this year: a presentation hosted at The Luminary aptly called the "Wear It: Fashion Challenge." Unlike a traditional fashion show where each artist sends several looks down a runway, this event was comparable to an art gallery featuring live models. (In other words, very cool.) Onlookers were able to appreciate each look at their leisure while sipping cocktails and bopping to unexpected-but-enjoyable club hits. (Bone Thugs N' Harmony was among the musical selections, much to my delight.)

#STLFW Caleres Emerging Designer Competition

Some of my favorite local blogger babes: Julia from Oh, Julia Ann, Cassie from Style Cassentials, and Psyche from Economy of Style; Photo c/o Alec Wallis
Saint Louis Fashion Week got off to a phenomenal start with a runway show at Union Station featuring 5 talented, up-and-coming designers. A snazzy crowd of over 1200 people was wowed as each artist presented their unique points of view. To add to the excitement, the runway show was a competition hosted by Caleres (formerly known as Brown Shoe company). One designer took home a whopping $25,000 presented by the Saint Louis Fashion Fund. Which artist won the prize? First, I'll give you my thoughts on the collections and let you be the judge:

#MWIN Style Lounge

Photo c/o Grayward Entertainment
The Midwest Influencer Network Style Lounge is one of the most spirited events for St. Louis bloggers, and last week's event was definitely worthy of my waited-months-to-wear-it vintage blouse. Presented by the Missouri Eating Disorders Council, the festivities took place at Ballpark Village. In addition to chilling with some of my favorite people in the fashion industry (AKA the Blogger Babes), I met lots of cool local brands that I'm excited to share with you:

Take A Chill Pill

Life is so crazy sometimes, it can be hard to relax. Especially with an almost-2-year-old live wire whose curiosity knows no bounds. Add in my efforts to build a career in the uber-competitive-but-so-worth-it fashion industry, difficulty turning down invitations to hang with friends, thrifting addiction, and desire to spend time with my man, and you know what? I'm exhausted. So, the message of this hoodie really resonates with me: CHILL VIBES.

Modern Classics: Fringe & Leopard

Jacket: Avalon Exchange; Tights & Socks: Macy's; Cutoffs & Blouse: Rung; Shoes & Necklace: Bronx Diba
Unless you've been living under some sort of style rock (and you've been kind enough to read this post, so I highly doubt that's the case), you've probably noticed the massive fashion moment fringe is having right now. Moment is probably a misnomer, as fringe has been mega-hot for the last few years. It's readily available on tops, shoes, purses, jewelry, and. . .jackets? Yep. I was almost out of Avalon Exchange, semi-proud that I managed to make it out of the store without buying anything, when I spotted this fringe blazer. A little bit country, a little bit boho, and a whole lotta cool. Avalon 1, Carmen 0. (I'm so weak.)

5 Reasons to Love Plaid

Let's stop for a moment and talk about plaid, shall we? It's having a fashion "moment" this season, meaning that it's the print du jour to have in your closet. You've probably already got something plaid folded up in a drawer somewhere, but if you've somehow managed to survive without this style staple, here are 5 reasons to add some plaid to your wardrobe, pronto:

'I Like Your Shoes'

No matter what kind of day I'm having - fabulous, average, I-just-want-to-start-over, or I'm-a-few- moments-away-from-complete-meltdown - there is one phrase that puts a smile on my face: "I like your outfit." I remember sitting in my office on a particularly bad day a few years ago, feeling very down and discouraged about my future. I defied company policy and checked Facebook. When I saw that 6 strangers had "liked" an outfit I put together, a sense of pride and excitement washed over me. The rest of that day wasn't much better, but my confidence was buoyed. (Like, I may not feel that great about what I'm doing now, but at least I can style my buns off!) Sometimes, the simplest gestures have the greatest impact.

There is one pair of shoes, however, that robs me of any "I like your outfit" compliments. That's because observant people are too busy looking at my feet. At random times, I hear a chorus of "I love your shoes!" "I really like your shoes." "Those shoes are so unique!" And I couldn't be happier.

It is nearly impossible not to notice these Luichiny oxfords, with their blue and green iridescent mermaid-like scales. Despite the bold hues, these shoes go with several outfits. One of my favorite pairings is with cropped black skinnies and an 80s denim top.

I genuinely appreciate any compliments I get on my clothes or accessories, so I am sure to return the favor. Whenever I see a gal wearing a sweet outfit or pair of shoes, I let her know. Who knows? She may just be having the kind of day where she really needs to hear it.

What's your guaranteed-smile phrase?
Top: Avalon; Jeans; Old Navy; Shoes: Luichiny
I love the fierce tiger on this top!
Please forgive the lack of a good shoe pic. My camera decided not to cooperate with my pitch-dark photo shoot.
You can seem the Luichiny LUCKY GIRL oxfords with another look right here.

Parsimonia: Vintage For the Modern World

Parsimonia Vintage 3194 S. Grand Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63118
Sweetly tucked between a barber shop and a post office sits Parsimonia, a store specializing in vintage threads and accessories for women, men, and children. Located in the heart of the South Grand area (known for its eclectic community of international foodies, crafty cocktail imbibers, bikers, and gelato-samplers), Parsimonia's delightful wallpaper invites both vintage enthusiasts and passersby to take a gander. 

Tribal Vibes: My Go-To Dress

Dress: Avalon; Shoes: Caliente; Earring: from African Festival booth
Every gal needs a "go-to" outfit - something that can be worn to a multitude of events with minimal styling or effort needed. While many of my clothes have a high turnover rate, I found a veritable wardrobe staple: a vintage-y tribal print maxidress. To add to the amazing factor of this dress, it cost me a mere dollar at Avalon Exchange during one of their blowout sales. I would happily have paid much more for the dress, though, considering that I've worn it at least 5 times in the last few months. (That may not sound like a lot, but for me, that definitely qualifies it as a "staple.")

I Heart Hearts

Dress, Shades, Platforms: Rue 21; Earrings: Thrifted
"Heart!" Ruby exclaims triumphantly with a smile as she looks at my dress. Her daily lesson plans include identifying shapes and colors, with my clothes and jewelry acting as surrogate teachers. (She's also said "flower" while pointing to my tattoo and "circle" when looking at my smiley face vest. She's well on her way to an A+ in my home-school Art Appreciation course.)

Floral on Floral on Floral

Dress (worn as top): Material Girl; Earrings & Skirt: Thrifted; Belt: Hot Topic; Boots: Steve Madden
One of my all-time favorite outfits was my floral-on-floral fashion crime at the first Midwest Influencer Network VIP Blogger's Lounge. I loved it because it was floral (duh) and it allowed me to do some edgy print-mixing. I've been eager to recreate the look with a fresh crop of floral duds. After I sifted through an overstuffed, unsorted by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet bin (casting off quite a few thorns in the process), I found it: a flowery midi skirt. A birthday flea market outing yielded some floral earrings, and my new outfit was ready to bloom.

On Thin Ice

I'd been waiting for it for months: the semi-annual $1 sale at one of my favorite stores, Avalon Exchange. My mom even had it on her calendar, planning to watch Ruby so I could actually shop. When D-Day (aka Dollar Day) arrived, Ruby giggled her way through my parents' house while Brian and I had a rare, delicious day date. We munched on fried bologna at Salt & Smoke and hit the sale. 

Turtles Slay Garbshare Open House

If it's quirky, retro, colorful, or all of the above, it's always welcome in my closet. My latest acquisition: a playful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dress. Remember how each Turtle was named after a Renaissance artist? The ensemble elicits fond memories of their nunchuck-wielding shenanigans, innovative in the 1980s. That playful spirit made it the perfect dress for an Open House to celebrate a modern innovation called GarbShare.

RAW:natural born artists Presents GLIMPSE

RAW:natural born artists is an indie arts organization that provides exposure and tools for the creative community in music, fashion, film, photography, makeup, hair, and performing arts. Each month, they hold a "circus of creativity" in 60 cities across the country and internationally. I attended the RAWards a couple of years ago and was blown away by the level of undiscovered talent on display. A designer featured on The Ruby Zipper, Yoro Creations, was a 2013 RAWards National Winner - and she's still killing it on the jewelry scene! So, I was amped when the St. Louis chapter of RAW invited me to check out the July St. Louis showcase, cleverly entitled GLIMPSE.

Held at the Ready Room, a hip venue with an underground vibe, GLIMPSE featured St. Louis artists in sculpting, digital art, photography, painting, and drawing. While the eclectic crowd sipped cocktails, hip-hop artists showed off their lyrical skills. I had a blast coloring in my own magnet at one of the artists' stations and trying on the incredible fascinators from MaryAlice's Palace. (Remember when I served as a judge at the Forest Park Forever Hat Luncheon and lamented my decidedly uninspired millinery? That won't happen again - I am stoked to wear one of her zany, whimsical toppers next year!) Mary Alice's work is available at Butterfly and Moon Designs, a gift house filled with original jewelry and accessories by fellow RAW artists like Brenda Fraser. I ran out of steam fairly early and missed the fire-hoop performance (!) and swimsuit fashion show, but managed to snag some pics of the festivities. Check it out:
Photos c/o RAW Artists St. Louis
Photos c./o RAW Artists St. Louis

I'm modeling one of MaryAlice's hats. It looks sooo yummy! I'm also wearing my fave music note dress.
Looks like a rad time, right? RAW St. Louis puts on these events monthly, so you should come out to the next one! With so much inspiring innovation, I am proud to be part of the creative community in St. Louis.

These Shoes Were Made For Running

My husband loves to get on my case because I don't have any true "running shoes." (Technically, I have one pair of Pumas that he insisted I buy, but they are so old and worn I'm not sure they count.) He offers to buy me a pair of Jordans regularly because: a. they look cool and b. they fit in with his theory that I should be able to run at any time if I have to. While I appreciate his enthusiasm at buying me footwear, I usually respond to his proposition by refuting both points.

Living In the 90s

I'm a total 90s girl. My MP3 player (still got an old-school Sony, no i-anything for this gal) is loaded up with Alice In Chains, Ace of Base, Snoop Dogg, and random 90s one-hit-wonders (remember that cool alt-rock song "Friends of P"?). Most of my favorite movies came out in the 1990s: Clueless, Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, Titanic, Scream to name a few. It is not unusual to find me curled up on the couch, deeply immersed in a Melrose Place marathon. So, 90s fashion is an obvious purchase, especially when it's located in a thrift store.                                                                        

Ruby Swan

Ruby Swan. It has a ring to it, doesn't it? Kinda sounds like a hip clothing brand or the stage name of a rock star. For a brief moment, it was almost the name of my beloved daughter. After Brian and I consulted our "Cool Names For Babies" book for the thousandth time (I'm proud to say that "Carmen" was apparently cool enough to be included) and decided upon Ruby for the first name, we spent weeks deliberating on an equally spunky, vintage middle name. The other names we fancied, like Claudia, Stella, and Lila just didn't work with Ruby.

Don't Dream It's Over(alls)

Shortalls & Clutch: Goodwill; Blazer: Rung; Tee & Choker: Rue 21; Shoes: Ziezo
One of my greatest fashion regrets was donating my beloved, perfectly worn-in overalls about a decade ago. After enjoying "trendy" status throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the new millenium's arrival practically erased overalls from stores and closets. I held on for a couple of years, hoping I could wear them again without looks of confusion or disdain, but eventually accepted that the trend was over. . .right?


Romper: Avalon Exchange; Shoes & Shades: Rue 21; Earrings: Thrifted
I take fashion very seriously, but I also approach it like a challenging, exciting game. I first devise a strategy: I write down what's in my wardrobe to see what I'm working with. (You should try it - it's quite enjoyable, especially during boring meetings.) I then come up with a plan: I select an outfit for each event I have coming up, trying not to schedule the same outfit twice with the same people. I use trial and error: I see how different pieces look together to decide whether I should wear it or forget it. Of course, there are a few misses. (Even a cute dress couldn't remove the lab coat look of this long white jacket I mistakenly bought - I shudder at the memory.) When I have an outfit triumph, I feel positively giddy. Like, finally-beating-that-ridiculous-level-in-Super Mario Bros.-good.

The Girl With The Fringe Earring

Last month, while Brian was tied up with a friend's pre-wedding shenanigans, Ruby and I were having our own "wild" weekend of shopping, music, food, and more shopping. First, we soaked up the sun at the St. Louis African Arts Festival. In between watching impressive double-dutch jump rope and dancing to classics like "Wobble Baby" (Ruby does this cute lean that's just behind the beat, but she's clearly got skills), we wandered around the booths. Gorgeous, colorful African fabrics, hand-carved sculptures, books - lots of temptation. I was on a mission for unique jewelry, though, and found exactly what I was looking for: a pair of leather shoulder-skimming earrings. 

When I got home and tried them on, the two earrings felt like a bit much. Never one to shy away from a fashion risk, I decided to see how just one earring would look. Yes! I used to do the mismatch earring thing in high school and college, and can't believe I forgot how awesome it is. I've already gotten several compliments on my one-earring look, so if you're feeling a bit daring, try it! Just make sure the earring is a "statement" earring (read: long and/or made out of an unusual fabric) so it doesn't look like asymmetry-by-forgetfulness.
Top: Rung; Jeans: Forever 21; Shoes: Goodwill; Purse: Retro 101; Shades: Leopard Boutique
These feathery, delightful shoes were a mere $3. Isn't thrifting fun?
We finished the weekend at the St. Louis Swap Meet, where Ruby greeted other shoppers with a smile and an excited declaration that they each had a "nose." I scooped up a "World's Best Grandfather" plaque for my dad's Father's Day gift that made him smile. (A mini-meltdown courtesy of Ruby made me miss out on an Eazy-E tee, but some overalls from Janet's Vintage Planet made up for it.) All in all, it was a great weekend of mother-daughter bonding. Brian's weekend was fun too, but some of the activities proved to be too much for him, as he fell asleep just as the "entertainment" arrived. Can't say I'm too sad about that. :)

Forest Park Forever's 25th Annual Hat Luncheon

I recently attended the 25th Annual Hiram W. Leffingwell Award Luncheon at Forest Park, AKA the beloved "Hat Luncheon." Over 1100 of St. Louis' finest topped off stylish outfits with fabulous fascinators, fedoras, and fancy hats! I had the pleasure of serving as one of the judges for the best part of the luncheon: the Stifel Hat Contest. There were so many gorgeous headpieces that it was difficult to choose just 3 in each category, but hat's off to the wonderful winning looks!

Romantic: This category is comprised of hats with a sweet, feminine, and nostalgic flair. I fell in love at first sight with that red number.
Winners: Marilyn Gooch-Hill, Andrea Topps, Ashley Parks
Whimsical: Always a delightful category for judges and guests alike, the creativity displayed by this year's winners was quite impressive.
Winners: Marsha Schuman, Anacleta Steffen, Shonte' Moore
Vintage: Of course, I was super-excited to see the vintage hats. I love the ones worn by these ladies! I want to place that floral hat on my head, right now.
Winners: Becky Ulses, Lee Riggs, Merle Freed
Fascinator: These fancy, small headdresses typically made of feathers or flowers and attached with a headband have been gaining popularity thanks to Princess Kate Middleton. I'm pleased that fascinators are having their well-deserved moment in the fashion limelight.
Winners: Valerie Kennedy, Chelsey Oliver, Beth Davis
Silver 25th Anniversary: This year marked the 25th annual Hat Luncheon, so a special category was added to honor the best silver or anniversary-themed hats. Definitely saw some show-stoppers!
Winners: Dianne Isbell-O'Brien, Diedre Gray, Cathy Dunkin
Best Male Hat: This gentleman's hat was beyond dapper. I'd happily wear a feminine version!
Winner: Everett Dietle
Best In Show: This year's winner looked peachy-keen.
Winner: Sue McCollum
Best Table Theme: Although several tables had cute and clever themes, the winners were clear as soon as they sauntered into the luncheon. The Broadway-themed toppers (in honor of the St. Louis Muny) were crafty and colorful. Can you guess which musical each hat represents?
Winners: St. Louis Homes & Lifestyles Magazine
For fun, I've also included some honorable mentions:
I really, really wanted to rock a fascinator and/or vintage hat to match the whimsy of my vintage parasol dress. An unusually barren search of my usual thrift stores (and an unusually fussy Ruby) led me to begrudgingly don a straw cloche. (Classy? Yes. Carmen? Not exactly.) I am determined to find a frilly, feathered or floral, one-of-a-kind hat for next year. If you have any suggestions on where I can find such fine millinery, please let me know in the comments!
Dress: Avalon Exchange; Hat: Macy's; Necklace: Gift
As an exciting footnote, the event raised over $400,000 for park restoration maintenance. Want to learn more? Check out the Forest Park Forever website to see how you can help. And, if you want to join me in getting an early start on your search for the perfect hat, next year's luncheon will be held on June 9, 2016.

Please note: All photos are courtesy of J. Elizabeth Photography/Forest Park Forever

The Mod Squad

Psyche from Economy of Style, Yasmin of Bangles & Bungalows, & me
The sixties were dedicated to peace, love, understanding, and totally groovy fashion. I figured it was the perfect time period to channel at ALIVE Magazine's We Heart STL Celebration. So, I selected a vintage playsuit that was sure to make a splash. (On a funny side note, I'd actually been crushing on this ensemble ever since it turned up in a donation bag at Rung Boutique--nearly a year ago. I am very fortunate that it waited for me, as the floral print and whimsical silhouette clearly make us kindred spirits.) The playsuit contains matching shorts and a top, but I pulled up the shorts higher to give it a more mod, mini-dress vibe. I added retro-inspired platform sandals with a modern lug sole. Check it out:

What To Wear: #WeHeartSTL Best of the City Celebration

With warm temps and sunshine comes parties. And with a party comes the need to craft an outfit that reflects the fete's lively spirit. ALIVE Magazine's We Heart STL Best of the City Celebration is going to be one of the hottest parties of the season: drinks from Cruzan Rum and Bud Select, shopping from local vendors, live music, and dancing. Here are some ideas on what to wear, inspired by the exciting lineup of entertainment and refreshments.

The Ruby Zipper Shoetique

OK, you're either going to thank me or be less-than-thrilled with me (temporarily), because I'm about to introduce you to an amazing, fun, and utterly time-sucking online activity (as if any of us need another one of those!): designing your own shoes. I recently joined the marketing team at a shoe company, which inspired me to think about which shoes I would design and sell. Visions of funky, fresh kicks with zany prints strutted through my head, but my paper scribbles did them no justice. I did some internet searches for "free shoe design apps" and after a few software sites that were most definitely not free, I stumbled across Shoes Of Prey.

Have A Nice Day

Back in the day, my friends and I used to go to a cheesy-but-fun nightclub called Have A Nice Day Cafe. Adorned with pre-Emoji smiley faces and other 1970s paraphernalia, we shook our groove thangs to retro music and tried to collect some digits. (Admittedly, we did a lot more dancing than digit-collecting--the pickings were usually quite slim--but we always managed to stay upbeat.)

Giveaway: 2 VIP Tickets to #WeHeartSTL Best of the City Celebration

Everyday, I'm shufflin'. Baby, job, feeding my Lifetime movie habit, baby, hanging out with the hubbie, baby, impromptu trips to the thrift store where Ruby refuses to stay in the cart. . . whew. I'm ready for a party! You with me? Good, because I've got super-exciting news.

The Ruby Zipper has teamed up with ALIVE Magazine to offer 2 free VIP tickets to the hottest fete of the season: We Heart STL Best of the City Celebration! In addition to filling up their cups with Bud Select and Cruzan Rum, guests can shake that to live music from The Free Years, shop from local vendors, and ham it up in Sara's Social Booth. Did I mention there will be food from yummy local spots like Lucas Park Grille? Yeah, party rock will be in the house - and you don't want to miss it!

Here are the details:
Date: Friday, May 29, 2015
Time: 7p - 11p
Location: Old Post Office Plaza in Downtown St. Louis (enter at 9th St. and Locust St.)
Tickets: General admission $15, VIP $30 (purchase tix from Eventbrite here)

The best way to roll at the celebration is VIP. You get early entry at 6:30pm, free cocktails in the VIP balcony, and a $15 gift card to Central Table. Of course, you don't want to party alone, so invite your friends to the We Heart STL event on Facebook. Follow @ALIVEMagSTL on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for up-to-date info and use the hashtag #WeHeartSTL to share what you love about St. Louis! 

Now for the fun part: enter to win 2 free VIP tickets ($60 value):
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck in the giveaway! Can't wait to see you there! 

Dada Bash: (Anti)-Gala Fashion Inspiration

I am lots of things: a fashion writer, a skydiver, an actress with a major film under my belt (OK, so I was an extra with no lines, but it counts), and a proud mama. On May 16, I can add one more title to that list: Dadaist. I will be attending the Contemporary Art Museum's quintessential anti-gala party, the Dada Bash and Ball at the Koken Art Factory. To prepare for the festivities, I got insider info from Dada Ball pro and CAM board member, Dorte Probestein. Here's the scoop on why you should attend, what to wear, and what the spirit of Dada is.