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

News on the little black dress

Ralph Lauren Collection, Fall 2011
Black silk embroidered art deco evening dress
(Chrysler Building) – “Little Black Dress” Exhibition, SCAD

I turned on the television last night just in time to see Entertainment Tonight feature a story on Andre Leon Talley, Contributing Editor at Vogue, and his exhibition of the timeless Little Black Dress” opening to the public on September 28 at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art. This exhibition spotlights the evolution of the classic and beloved little black dress and remains on display through January 27, 2013.

The exhibition includes about 80 dresses and features many of today’s well-known designers, including Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford and Norma Kamali. The dresses vary, reminding us that it doesn’t have to be a little black dress to be a little black dress! Dr. Talley was curator for the project and lovingly put together the collection for more than a year. In his own words: “The black dress can liberate one. It can set a new style standard or adhere to old standards. It can be rebellious, reckless, elegant or establishment.”

In addition, Dr. Talley, himself a SCAD trustee, is interested in helping young SCAD designers and has featured dresses from two recent SCAD graduates, because as he says, “The point of view is to show that there are young designers who are doing black dresses in a new way.”

It’s all very exciting for a little black dress lover like myself!

What do you think?

“Little Black Dress” Exhibition, SCAD Museum of Art – Photo courtesy of SCAD

Jean’s tuxedo

Jean’s tuxedo
Brooks Brothers circa 1991

I found a kindred spirit in my next-door neighbor, Jean, when I moved to my house 13 years ago. We became fast friends and even though Jean is now in her mid 80s we have much in common and speak often – about life in general and fashion in particular. Today the subject was Jean’s tuxedo. It is an interesting story and one to which I definitely relate. Jean bought her tuxedo (a classic Brooks Brothers with satin trim, sans cumberbun) in 1991 for a New Year’s Eve party. Classic man-style tuxedos for women were just starting to trend and Jean was always up on what was en-vogue. She intended to wear it to the party but her husband had just passed and she decided against it. She kept it anyway, tucked in her closet, and year after year would check on its condition, always imagining herself wearing it to a special event. To date, Jean has not worn her tuxedo. But she would never think of selling it or giving it away because as Jean says, “it has found its home with me.” Jean also says that there is a personal exchange with your clothing – a realization that when you find the right pieces you know “you are going to be good friends.” In addition, there is the magic and the imagination to consider, picturing yourself transported and having a great time in an outfit, and many of us cannot let that image go. I, too, have favorite pieces that speak to me of festive parties to come. They have found a home with me just as Jean’s tuxedo has with her. I hope she has the occasion to wear it soon. It still fits.

What do you think?

Getting in at the beginning


Getting in at the beginning …
My vintage Kate Spade floral handbag

In the mid 1990’s I bought two handbags from new designer, Kate Spade.The first was a brown nylon diaper bag for my baby, and the other was a whimsical, floral straw handbag, perfect for spring and summer. I had seen the original square handbags with her classic, American name sewn on the outside; they were fresh, simple, chic, and ultra-sophisticated. And when I discovered she had designed matching diaper bag totes, I was hooked!

After both my babies outgrew the need for diaper bags, I passed on the tote to another new mother, but my floral handbag is here to stay! I absolutely love it. It is unlike any other handbag and is completely fun. I feel like my best self whenever I wear it.

Thank you, Kate Spade. I am happy to have one of your first and I look forward to more …

What do you think?

Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon creating his famous geometric-shaped bob

I just heard that hairstylist and visionary Vidal Sassoon passed away Wednesday, May 9th, at the age of 84. Last November I saw a documentary about his extraordinary life and contribution to the world of fashion. I was inspired to write about it in my column (Styling with Mel, Vidal Sassoon, November 10, 2011). It feels appropriate to share his story with you now.

What do you think?

Shop your closet first

There is magic when you shop your closet first. You have heard me talk about the excitement of finding old treasures as well as the necessity of cleaning out and purging. It is worth mentioning again. At the first signs of a new season, you will be tempted to run to the mall, local boutique or larger retailer, but before you do, take a moment to pause and shop your closet first. You will be happy that you did and your clothing budget will thank you …

What do you think?

Read more – (See Styling with Mel article)

Looking back


My mom found this photo of me and my younger brother (dating back several years!). Not only would I wear this outfit today (love the lavender-striped sundress), but I would go crazy for those taupe espadrilles! They are the perfect base for all things colorful, and they have a low-heel for optimum ease and comfort. A rare combination today.

This brings back happy memories and reminds me that my taste has not changed.

What do you think?