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

Be a trail blazer!

Luxe Rachel Zoe chocolate suede jacket

Luxe Rachel Zoe chocolate suede jacket

There is something about a well-fitted modern jacket that feels like armor. If it’s cut well, it adds a dose of cool to anything you wear it with and does the heavy lifting when it comes to creating a flattering shape.” ~ Stacy Londonstylist, television personality, and author – from her new book, The Truth About Style

Do you own a blazer? Have you checked your closet recently? Blazers are so important for pulling a look together, and having a few well-fitting jackets, as Stacy London says, is necessary for feeling your best. I like the notion of a jacket as armor and I agree. Sometimes you want to say more rather than less. Sometimes you need the extra coverage; not just to complete a look, but to go deeper – to give you a sense of control and purpose when you need confidence. Sometimes, as your body ages, you simply need a little more structure and form, especially in the shoulders. And nothing, nothing gives a man or woman a sense of power and elegance like a blazer.

The expression ‘go to’ really fits when it comes to wearing a blazer. I have a few; a white and yellow for spring/summer, and my recent purchase – this Luxe Rachel Zoe chocolate-suede from her QVC collection. I chose it because of its good fit and interesting detail, including the puffed-sleeves (love!) and multiple zippers. And brown looks great with black, which makes it a classic for everything.

Take care of yourself and add your own protection with a proper jacket. Be a trail blazer!

What do you think?

Farnoosh’s sister

Farnoosh's sister Fara

Farnoosh’s sister Fara

Do you remember Farnoosh? She moved to The United States from Iran ten years ago with her parents and two older sisters. We spoke about how difficult the move and transition was for her at the tender pre-teen age of twelve, about how Farnoosh views fashion, and about the need for us to express ourselves, no matter what our circumstance; even when restrictions are placed upon us and our expression comes in the form of colorful fashion accessories, as in the case of Farnoosh’s female cousin, who lives in a modern-day Iran.

I spent the last morning of 2012 having a cup of coffee with Farnoosh and her oldest sister, Fara (her middle sister, Farnaz, lives in San Diego). Fara is 29 and is living in Chicago as she pursues her Master’s Degree in Designed Objects from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Like her sister, Fara is lovely and creative and full of energy. She has her own story and relationship with fashion. Here is Fara …

When we left Iran I was nineteen. It took me a while to get comfortable, but I was open to the move. I had already graduated from high school in Iran and had an idea that I wanted to be an artist. I stayed local when I first arrived, and for the first year and a half learned English as a second language at Seton Hall University. Immediately I knew that the school was too small for me and that I needed more. I was drawn to New York City and left Seton Hall for New York, where I attended NYIT, the New York Institute of Technology, and graduated with a degree in architecture …

I’m a city person and from the minute I came to New York I was happy. I loved the energy and the diversity and how people in NY are original, especially in the way they think and dress. My favorite thing to do became walking: I would walk everywhere! I was inspired by the streets and the windows. That might be why I dislike shopping in malls where everything is so generic and everyone looks the same. I can’t be linked to only one brand and one designer, head-to-toe. I like variety and dressing high and low. That is why I am a fan of H&M …

I would describe my look as chic enough but not too fancy. I enjoy mixing pieces and remaining eclectic. My passions remain shoes and handbags!” ~ Fara

Fara and Farnoosh have adopted their American life but also embrace their Iranian culture. We had an interesting conversation about what that means. I shared with them that I have Colombian blood and at one time I wasn’t comfortable embracing it, but as I get older, I understand that it is a major part of who I am and I treasure it. I guess that explains why I love Latin music and always want to start salsa dancing … even though I don’t know how!!

I hope I meet Farnoosh and Fara again soon – and meet their middle sister next – Farnaz!

What do you think?

Farnoosh and Fara

Fara with Farnoosh

Fara with me

Fara with me

Elle: Eating, styling, playing

Elle, styling in her Asos shimmer pencil skirt and Belle by Sigerson Morrison eskimo booties

Elle, styling in her shimmer pencil skirt by ASOS and her Eskimo Clog Booties by Belle/Sigerson Morrison

Elle writes a fashion and lifestyle blog ( we enjoy reading some of the same fashion blogs and that is how I found her. She is in her 20s and lives in Washington, D.C. There is an ease and an openness to her writing. On the face of it, Elle’s story is very different from my own, and yet … is it really? Aren’t we all connected by fashion and life? Here is Elle …

What inspired you to start a blog? How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging on and off for about four years. I was first inspired because I needed an outlet, I loved fashion, and when I shopped I was told that I knew how to select and find unique items. I also spent a ton of time online searching for things that the stores didn’t carry. My blog was more of an inspirational fashion blog. Then I lost my job, and I started blogging about the food I was cooking, which became a big hit. I then started venturing out into my personal style and covering events around D.C. As I continue to search, I find more things that inspire me everyday.

Your blog is focused on lifestyle. Why are you inspired to write about both fashion and food?

Growing up my grandmother was always in the kitchen and she and I were joined at the hip until she passed away when I was about 14. I helped her, literally, from the time I was two years old. I love to cook and I hadn’t realized how much I cook for my family until my mom pointed out that I have a “gift” for seasoning. I have made my own season kits, jazzing up even the blandest of foods. I wanted to somehow let that shine in my blog. My girlfriends told me that they loved to see me write about the basics of cooking, so that’s what I’ve been doing, or at least trying to do.

In the past year I have been inspired to write more about fashion from a plus-size woman’s perspective. Finding hip and trendy clothing has been so hard. I would often notice that someone else was often wearing my outfit! I want to show women that it’s possible to find unique clothing and be just as trendy as so-called “regular” sized fashion bloggers. Like other plus-size bloggers, I want to know that there are choices out there for me. This year I have been focusing on my health, which may result in moving out of the plus-size range. But that will never stop me from wanting to help and inspire women.

You know about style and designers. What influences you when making a clothing purchase?

I’m influenced by classic pieces, and trendy styles. All of the clothing I wear must be flattering. If I feel like something is too tight, I pass on it because the clothing will become bothersome and give the impression that I don’t know what works for me. There are some things I simply can’t pull off. I am motivated to buy items that I know will last and transition well; I have some pieces that I can wear in all four seasons. I buy the highest quality when it comes to shoes, handbags, and jewelry. Mostly, I want to wear clothing that makes me feel great, and adds to my confidence.

Do you think fashion affects our self-esteem?

That’s a hard question for me. At one point I noticed that women who looked like me didn’t exist in the media. And there was nothing out there for us to wear and feel good about. But I do believe that selections today have improved and are making many women feel better about themselves. I know I’m excited and happy to see more fashion options available to me and to women like me. 

What is it like to be a 20-something living in Washington D.C? Is the style conservative?

I have a love/hate relationship with D.C. I grew up here, and D.C. is changing all the time. I don’t think that all of D.C. is so conservative. I think the Hill is conservative and with good reason, but once you explore different areas there is a wide variety of people from all walks of life. It’s not New York; not everyone is comfortable stepping outside of their creative box. There are still people who will judge those who are different. I love certain things about D.C., though. I love Eastern Market, U Street, the lounges, and the smaller circle of blog networks here. I know that I will eventually leave and explore elsewhere, but D.C. is my home.
Thank you, Elle, for this conversation. I am grateful to you. Maybe we can meet someday! Keep on styling! Check out Elle’s blog:

Stacy’s Truth …

Stacy LondonQVC Presents "FFANY Shoes"

Stacy London
QVC Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale” – fall 2012

Many of you know Stacy London as the co-host of the hit television show on TLC’s What Not to Wear. Did you also know that she has written a book called, The Truth About Style?

I picked it up today and by all accounts it looks to be honest and forthcoming, and in the spirit of helping nine women transform their lives, focuses on the person inside rather than simply ‘what to wear.’ I can’t wait to read Stacy’s book, because I agree that your style choices affect your self-esteem. You know I love that!

What do you think?


Dress for Success Morris County - December Meeting

Dress for Success Morris County

I returned tonight to Dress for Success Morris County to share in its December monthly networking meeting (part two of the three-step process to help women in need pursue an independent life). DFSMC hosts this monthly meeting for the women, to have a chance to stay connected with friends (I was told that some have been coming for at least eight years) and to feel empowered to continue moving in a positive direction. It’s an evening that includes dinner, an informational keynote speaker and babysitting for their children. What I witnessed was an overwhelming outpouring of love and uplifting energy.

I arrived just in time to see the women finishing dinner and enjoying each others’ company. Everyone looked polished and professional, as they wore outfits that they had selected from their suiting and styling session with a DFSMC volunteer. But what was most noticeable were their genuine smiles being among friends and supporters. I met Simone, who told me that she had just landed a job and “felt like a queen!” To Simone, this job means freedom. “When I first came to Dress for Success Morris County I had no confidence. Now, I am full of confidence and this new job is power.” Similarly, Nancy described her remarkable transformation: “I had given up on myself and now, I feel like a professional again. By coming here – they give you anything you need – you get over your negative feelings and find your strength again.”

With a warm introduction, speaker Ceylone Boothe-Grooms took the floor; from the moment she spoke she made a connection with the audience. Ceylone’s message rang true for these women, all of whom like Simone and Nancy have had much to overcome: Believe in yourself. In Ceylone’s words, “We are women. By design we are fierce and fabulous! Confidence is powerful!” Perhaps Ceylone struck a cord with everyone when she told her own story; growing up in The Bronx in an environment filled more with drugs than dreams. She was forced to leave college early to work and help support her family. But she had strong parents who saw her potential and she herself began to dream big. It was then that she decided to hold her head high and change her thought process. By chance, she landed her first job in Alexander’s Department Store and later advanced to Macy’s as a makeup artist, all because of this belief in her dream and her unwillingness to give up. Today she is a national make-up artist and image consultant, performer, speaker, and former Mrs. New Jersey America (2011).

She was as if a spiritual leader, and the women reacted with applause and appreciation. There was something so moving about Ceylone’s message: first, believe in yourself and then, give yourself the best chance for success by dressing the part. When she finished, she answered makeup questions and provided makeup lessons.

I think we were all transformed tonight.

What do you think?

Simone: feeling confident

Simone: feeling confident

Speaker Ceylone Boothe answering questions and giving a makeup lesson

Speaker Ceylone Boothe-Grooms answering questions and providing a makeup lesson


A good tailor is a fashion essentialPhoto credit: Google images

A good tailor is a fashion essential
Photo credit: Google Images

I need to find a good tailor. There is a basic fashion truth: the right color and a good fit cannot be overlooked. Even a beautiful outfit will miss the mark if it doesn’t fit you properly. When you find a good tailor, one with skill and expertise, you will have found a fashion partner for life! For a reasonable fee, a tailor’s attention to detail will give life to almost-right pieces and add confidence. Watch things like: the length of arm sleeves on shirts and jackets, the length of trousers and slacks, and a well-defined shoulder and waistline. These elements are critical when it comes to a good fit and proper proportion. I notice that when we feel a little heavier, we tend to choose clothes one-size up from our regular size. This is a mistake because the clothing makes us look larger than we actually are. A fitted look is much more slimming.

I am off to find a good tailor. Do you have one in your arsenal?

What do you think?

Lisa: A visionary

Lisa ImageAre we ready for warm weather already? Lisa Curran is the owner and creator of Lisa Curran Swim, founded in 1997. An entrepreneur in the truest sense with a passion for fashion to match, Lisa is always visualizing ten-steps ahead. Lisa was a young girl who practically lived in a swimsuit growing up on the beaches of Cape May, New Jersey, who later dreamed of making a difference as she would discover a void in the design of women’s swimwear.

I sat down with this extraordinary woman. Here is Lisa, in her own words:

I always loved fashion, since I was a little girl, but I was more interested in the artistic side of fashion. I’ve always been drawn to that, rather than owning something with a label …

I started as a student at FIT which was near the old Barney’s downtown (New York). On my lunch break, I loved checking out the windows at Barney’s. At that time, they featured small and up-and-coming designers …

It turns out that my first job was an assistant buyer for Barney’s. It was a special experience for me. Barney’s was still owned by the Pressman Family and there was an intimacy about it then; they were truly interested in promoting brands. After my time at Barney’s I became a buyer for Gucci, just six months after Rose Marie Bravo hired Tom Ford. It was an exciting time to be in fashion. I could easily have stayed there and I loved my job, and yet, I always wanted to do a swimwear line …

At that time, I was newly married and without children. I knew that this was my moment to make the leap: I couldn’t understand why the swimwear industry wouldn’t sell separate pieces, and I saw a huge void in the market. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and swimwear separates needed to reflect that. I left my secure position at Gucci and in 1997 I began Lisa Curran Swim. I soon discovered that my previous business experience helped me to better understand what to do and what not to do. I began by shipping to three-to-four stores, and soon caught the eye of Sports Illustrated and Elle Magazine. That is when my business started growing …

Today, I am a mother with three children. I have created two separate collections for Lisa Curran Swim: the world of bikini separates and one piece bathing suits for moms whose needs may be changing but still want to look and feel sexy. I have always used the highest quality fabrics and linings, and everything comes from Italy. No other swimsuit company is doing that. We also design our own prints. My customer knows what she is getting when she purchases a swimsuit from the Lisa Curran Swim collection …

I continue to push myself and strive for perfection in all that I do. I have a great team. It is a nice-size business and remains privately-owned. I love working and I always have my eye on the next challenge …” ~ Lisa Curran

We are so glad that you do, Lisa. On behalf of women everywhere, thank you for thinking of us when designing the one article of clothing that can make us feel the most vulnerable. We’re glad that the little girl on the beach grew up to see her dreams come true!

What do you think?

You can find LIsa Curran Swim at Bloomingdale’s and coming shortly to Everything But Water in Short Hills, New Jersey.

Lisa Curran Collection

Lisa Curran Collection

Lisa Curran Collection

Lisa Curran Collection

Lisa Curran Collection

Lisa Curran Collection

Beyond skin deep …

Bobbi Brown: The Studio

Bobbi Brown: The Studio

Lindsey applying my makeup

Lindsey applying my makeup

Why is it that when someone touches our face we feel safe and loved? There is an element of the divine in that expression. Several weeks ago when we were without power (this was Day 10, I believe), I had a tender moment at the Bobbi Brown makeup counter, after losing my concealer in the mayhem of the storm  …

I was feeling and I’m sure looking, forlorn. Two associates at Bobbi Brown helped me by selecting a proper, more moisturizing concealer. But it was not about the cream. When one of the women held my face in her hands and told me that I would be okay, that was the moment that transformed me. A week later I was a new person; our power had returned as had the moisture on my face, but it was the kindness of a touch that made all the difference.

Today I am back at the Bobbi Brown Studio, in need of new blush and lipstick. Lindsey applies the makeup and once again, I am grateful for the gentle touch. This feeling of gratitude goes far beyond the skin and settles in the heart.

What do you think?

Lindsey, Makeup Artist

Lindsey, Makeup Artist

Lezli’s thoughts on fashion …

Lezli Salz-Bradley

Lezli Salz-Bradley is the owner of Willow St. Boutique located in both Summit and Morristown, New Jersey. Her boutiques reflect her creative and adventurous style and carry a variety of interesting designer choices. When you walk in there is always someone ready to help with informed styling options. I love Willow St. because it reminds me of my time as a child in Southern California; chic dressing yet with a casual and bohemian edge (and much like the Ann Taylor-of old that I remember as a seventh-grader, shopping with my mom). Unplugged, here are Lezli’s thoughts …

My father brought fashion into our home at an early age; he owned several women’s clothing stores in Denver, Colorado. I have always felt that fashion is one’s self expression and my way of exploring my inner self, good or bad.

I knew that I always wanted to be my own boss and if I could incorporate my love of fashion it would be a win-win!

I love bringing new designers and new styles to our clients. I can visualize certain customers in particular colors and styles. I love introducing newness. It’s a sort of high when I find a designer that offers something original. I love to wow my customers!

One of the things I notice is that women are hesitant to try new things. That’s where my staff shines; getting them to be adventurous and make the outfit their own. I love it when I hear ‘I would never have tried that if you didn’t suggest it, and I was the hit of the party!’

I think clothing does affect our self-esteem; whether it is hiding a bulge here and there or just bringing a smile to someone’s face with a sparkling necklace or earring.”

~ Lezli

Excuse me while I run to Willow St. to find those great pants that Lezli is wearing! Is that pleather with velvet trim?