It warms the heart to enjoy a conversation with a young woman with whom you have history and have known all of her life. I sat down with Phoebe, who turned sixteen last month, and at first, all I could see was the adorable cherub of a baby I once knew. But as Phoebe spoke, I left the baby behind and saw only the young woman sitting next to me. And isn’t she effortlessly chic and stylish? Here is Phoebe, in her own words: on fashion, where she shops, and the need to express oneself …

My feeling about fashion is that you should dress the way you want to dress. I never understood trends. I just pick the things I like and I wear them …

My high school is big (Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, or simply, La Guardia High School), and like any other large school there is a wide range of fashion looks. But we definitely feel free to express who we really are without judgment. Sometimes students’ choices are wonderful and sometimes terrible, but at least they are their own and I think that is what’s important …

I shop at J. Crew, Forever 21 and The Gap. If I had to pick my favorite place to shop, I would say J. Crew, because their clothes are always current and classy. My friends and I also like to shop at Buffalo Exchange, a consignment shop filled with current looks and is geared toward a young, hip crowd. There really isn’t one store where I shop most, because I look everywhere for pieces that fit my style. As long as it’s not too expensive and I think I can make it work in my wardrobe, I’ll buy it …

I wonder about the connection between fashion and self-esteem and people who don’t care about how they dress or what others think. I have a certain level of self-respect and it affects how I choose to dress. From what I observe at school people care about how they present themselves, too; from their outfits, to their makeup, to their shoes and their accessories. I think it’s connected to having a more positive self-esteem …

I used to wear only jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. Now, I like to add different pieces to enhance my outfits and go a step further. I may choose a collared shirt under a sweater, with leggings and boots, for example. I’m also warming up to accessories like headbands and bracelets and I have a pair of pearl earrings that I wear with everything. I’m definitely more open to different styles.” ~ Phoebe

Phoebe, you are doing so well! I think you have a smart fashion sense and a solid perspective on the benefits of expressing yourself through your clothing choices. I love to see it and to see you too!  xx, Melissa

The story behind the photo

Natalie (11), Libby (15), Miranda (17)

Kylie is the mother of three young women: Miranda, 17, Libby, 15, and Natalie, 11. They  recently attended a fancy party. What is wonderful is that each of them felt good about themselves and their fashion choices. Before they left, they took this lovely photo. What interests me is the story behind the photo and what went through their minds getting ready for their big night out …

Miranda – I do feel pressure to find the right outfit. I want to look my best. I chose that dress because I knew it would make an impression. I like to make things my own. That’s why I chose the nude shoes – I could have chosen black or navy – but I went with nude  and the white pearl necklace, to give it my touch. I received many compliments that night and that made me feel good.

Libby – I bought the outfit the day of the party. I usually shop the day of the event because I think it’s fun to get something right before. I don’t like to buy things that I don’t love. I love to have really cool shoes and match them with a simple outfit. I chose this outfit first and then I selected the blue shoes. They were blue but they had neon, bright yellow heels. They were Vera Wang. I really liked my outfit. I thought it looked high-end. I would wear these pieces in a new way – another time.

Natalie – I was confused. I didn’t know what I was going to wear. But Libby and Miranda helped me out. (Usually they’re nice to me.) I tried on a few things from my closet and they told me what to wear. No, they didn’t force me to wear what they wanted me to wear – we came to an agreement and picked out what we all liked. I think that I looked my best and I liked what I wore.

Kylie – Whenever they need to get something for a party my job gets interesting. With Miranda, I feel that my job is to pull her back. She tends to go for more slinky looks that I find inappropriate; she may look like an adult but she isn’t and I want her to remain classy and elegant in her choices. This selection was a good compromise. Libby wants my opinion but not my advice. She really knows what she wants and makes good choices. It’s funny that she said that she likes to shop the day of the event because she is a thoughtful and discerning shopper, often pulling out pictures from magazines and collecting ideas; she is not impulsive. Natalie is my youngest daughter and I tend to dress her like a baby. It’s become a challenge and Miranda and Libby have to help me, help her. I don’t trust myself. She would end up wearing a Mini-Mouse print romper. With Natalie, my job is to let go.

“I’m not into fashion!”

Anonymous  Male

Said the young man,13, who wished to be anonymous. Yes, it is his point of view and he owns it. However, when I pressed him with a few directed questions, his answers were interesting. For instance, when asked, “Do you care about what you put on everyday?” his answer: “Well, I don’t want to wear the same thing that I wore yesterday.” And then more: I want to wear something new every day until the week is over.” Finally, I asked him if there was anything he noticed about his clothing choices since becoming a teenager. His answer: “No, not really.”

… Really? Maybe he’s into fashion just a little.

What do you think?

“I dress for myself”

It warmed my heart to spend time with Carolyn, an about-to-be sixteen year-old who is warm and endearing. She is also not what you would expect of a young woman her age. Her values are refreshing. Carolyn appreciates the value of a dollar and although she is stylish, she is not obsessive about spending money on clothes or impulse shopping. She is more inspired by her friends’ style than any trends of the celebrity-du-jour.

Carolyn has an eye for snatching the finds. Her shorts were a steal at $6 from a thrift store called Unique. Originally “mom jeans,” Carolyn bought them and turned them into a cool pair of shorts. And her shoes? Another steal. “I adore Steve Madden shoes,” and these were double-reduced at $30. Her style is beachy and casual chic and she is enjoying the current blast of color.

I would describe Carolyn as an old soul. She may be young in years but she reminds me of times gone by, when things were solid and what you saw is what you got. You go, girl!

What do you think?

Too young for the salon?

Courtesy of

Seventeen years ago I took myself to a salon for my first bikini wax. I was about to get married and someone said it would be a good idea. Not wanting to seem unkempt I shaved before I went. Needless to say, my appointment lasted two seconds, as I’m sure the professional had a good laugh as I took my naive self out the door. That was my first spa treatment. A few weeks later a professional applied make-up for my big day – another first for me. Boy, have times changed!

Today teens are pros at spa treatments and apparently girls are visiting salons earlier than ever. Last week ABC’s Good Morning America spotlighted young girls visiting salons, some as young as toddlers, for facials, hair treatments and mani-pedis. I asked myself why? …

I am not saying to wait until your mid-30’s as I did to check out a salon for the first time. But really, how young is too young for the salon and what are we doing to our young girls’ self esteem when we place so much emphasis on what is on the outside at such a young age? I think it is worth asking.

What do you think?

Teen Talk


Teen Talk – Summer!

I’m back with my girls, Catie and Bridget and Catie’s mom, Christine, talking about teen fashion. Catie and Bridget are about to graduate from 8th grade and will enter high school in the fall. We have decided to meet at the start of each new season; today our conversation is all about .. summer! As always, whenever you have girls and women discussing fashion, somehow it ends up about shoes. Here is part of our talk…

Mel: Summer is almost here. Do you feel less pressure about dressing for summer?

Bridget: Summer is more relaxed and I can dress more comfortably.

Catie: Yes. Summer allows us to relax more. If I don’t have anywhere to go and I am at home, I can lounge and not worry about it. But I do still enjoy dressing up.

Mel: I just wrote about swimsuit shopping. I think it is one of the most difficult things for women to do as we get older – the bright lights, sensitivity to our bodies, etc. What is swimsuit shopping like for you? Do you run into difficulties finding what you like?

Catie: I don’t love swimsuit shopping. It is hard to find just the right suit, but when I do, it feels so great.

Bridget: Shopping for a swimsuit is easier when you are on vacation. There is more selection and options from which to choose.

Christine (mom): It is hard to shop for suits at their age; they are in between sizes that fit but styles that are meant for younger girls or sizes that are too large and grown-up for them. A good all-around style is the tankini.

Mel: Have you done any special dress shopping for your 8th grade graduation? Do you feel pressure with it – sort of like Prom? For you, Christine?

Catie: There is a lot of excitement with the 8th grade graduation. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else is wearing.

Christine: It is a special event with bigger budgets and more time spent researching the right look. However, there is not as much pressure as Prom.

Bridget: I think Prom dresses are more formal than graduation.

Catie: Most people will be wearing shorter dresses, more of a country-club look.

Christine: Shoe shopping became a big deal. Finding the appropriate shoe and height, was essential. Many shoes were off-limits because of their height.

Catie: Most girls will be wearing wedges now, as opposed to flats.

Bridget: Last year flats were popular, now it is wedges.

And one last question

Mel: Do you think about fashion in high school and what might be different?

Bridget: Seniors are almost-like grown ups in the way they dress – wearing higher wedged-shoes, etc. That will take getting used to. And we will need to carry totes for our books since we won’t be visiting our lockers during the day, so we can add totes to our wardrobe needs.

Catie: I would like to keep up with trends but protect my own identity at the same time. I don’t want to lose that.

Well said, Catie. Well said.

Until next time … what do you think?

More prom …

Not long after I wrote about prom, The Wall Street Journal carried a piece, entitled For Prom, Schools Say ‘No’ to the Dress. Apparently, certain high schools around the country are outlining for students (girls and boys) what is acceptable to wear versus what is unacceptable attire. They are issuing clear and unmistakable guidelines for students to check and re-check before they spend money on an outfit that may not be considered appropriate in the schools’ eyes. The goal: to avoid being turned away at the door, and to keep prom about the dancing.

Perhaps this will make an already difficult shopping process a little easier for everyone involved. Or will it?

What do you think?

What is age-appropriate?

This is a question we ask ourselves. Recent events have led me to think about it. I thought about it as I found myself at the BP Department at Nordstrom’s, searching for a yellow blazer. For those of you who may not know, BP is the junior and young women’s department on the top floor at Nordstrom. (I love the styles and the prices are better, too!). I thought about it as I shopped with my friend at a local consignment shop, and we noticed that the clothing could fit her 10-year old daughter. I thought about it when I met with my young friends a few weeks ago (see Styling with Mel, Teen Talk). They were contemplating whether some teens are dressing too old for their age. And I thought about it as I read an article in Sunday’s New York Times, written by Cathy Horyn (a favorite writer, by the way). The article addressed women’s love of platform shoes. Her concern? Women of a certain age (like me) could seriously hurt themselves trying to navigate the height of this spring’s high-heeled platform trend. And so I am wondering … what is age-appropriate?

What do you think?

Read more – (See Styling with Mel article)

Teen talk


Our first Teen Talk

I found my voice a year ago when I started writing Styling with Mel. And since that time, I have wanted to hear other voices and participate in other conversations. That is why I started writing a fashion blog in addition to my column. Today I met with four charming young women: Catie, Hannah, Rachel and Dana. Catie’s mom, Christine, joined us as well. They were open and forthcoming as we talked about fashion and how fashion affects their lives as middle school teenagers. I was impressed with how clearly they expressed themselves. Here is a part of our conversation …

What do you think?

Read more – (See Styling with Mel article)